An Interview with Eren Hays San Pedro

This week’s interview with an inspiring mama is with Eren Hays San Pedro, author of the amazing blog Vintage Chica.  This interview had me sobbing while reading it.  I am just so moved by who Eren is, what she is doing to make a difference in the world and her perspective of how us mamas can help others.  I hope this interview inspires you as well and motivates you to get out there and do something that makes a difference in the world!

Hi Eren, why don’t you tell us a little about you and your family.

Well, I am a mother to three little boys.  Ian and Zane are twins and are 7 and my little one is Wyatt and he just turned 5.  I am a military wife to my husband who is currently on active duty with the U.S. Navy.  Oh, and we have a dog named Scout and a very bad cat named Reggie.

What would you say your big dream is? 

My big dream is to raise compassionate, caring boys into men who care about the world around them and know they have the power to make an impact.

We would love to buy an RV and visit each of the 48 contiguous states, then the other two by plane or boat.

But even bigger than that would be to bring the plight of the poor and forgotten children of the world into clearer view.

Once we know a problem exists, we can begin to fix it.

Have you always wanted to make a difference?

The women in my family have all been amazing role models of women involved and making a difference in their communities.  So, it was natural for me to follow suit.

Back in the 1980’s, I watched as the world began to wake up to the tragedy in Ethiopia.  I remember Sally Struthers on the Feed the Children Telethons.  Michael Jackson organized We Are the World and I remember wondering why we had so much in this country and others had so little.

As I got older, I idolized Madeline Albright and wanted to work for the U.N. or become an ambassador.  But inevitably “life” happened.  I got married, I became a mom and decided to stay at home with my boys.  I began to think, that maybe those lofty ideas were just too far out of reach.  I settled on the idea that maybe the dreams I had were not really for me – that maybe my purpose was to raise them to make differences in the world.

You are doing some amazing work in Nicaragua.  How did that come about?  What gave you the courage to do it?

In 2004, while volunteering with our church youth group, an opportunity to travel to Nicaragua to work with orphanage children was put in front of me.  Luckily, I am married to a really great guy who pushes me out of my comfort zone all the time.  He encourages me to do all sorts of things (like learning to surf and experiment in cooking).  He told me I needed to go.   After much thought and prayer, I did.

Luckily my mother-in-law was able to come watch the boys.  I was actually pregnant with my third child while I was there, but did not know it yet.

That trip changed my life and the lives of my children as well.

I am a better person and in turn a better mama for going to Nicaragua.

Tell us more about about the work that you do in Nicaragua.

I have now traveled to Nicaragua four times with an amazing organization called ORPHANetwork.  We work directly with an orphanage outside of Managua called Casa Berbabe.  We also assist ORPHANetwork in supporting other orphanages and two feeding centers in Nueva Vida and La Chureca.

You can read more about why Nicaragua children need our help here.

Last summer, with the wonderful help of Craft Hope, I was able to deliver over 400 handmade cloth dolls to children at Casa Bernabe and three other locations.

In January, I co-lead an all women’s trip where we poured into the girls at the orphanage by providing training, medical checkups and lots and lots of fun activities.

Not only do we do work projects and provide funding, but the most important part of what we do is to develop relationships with these children.  These kiddos do not have parents (or their parental situations are not good).  And I am a mother…a good one.  I don’t pretend to be these children’s mother for the week, but more of a mentor or older sister.

So when I am in Nicaragua, I tell these kids the same things I tell my own children.  “You are amazing.  You can do anything you put your mind to.  Do you know how beautiful you are?  Keep up your grades.  You have special gifts that the world needs to know about.  Be honest.  Don’t let life get you down.  I traveled all the way from the US to see you.  I care about you.  I love you.”

I am proud to say I have friends in Nicaragua…Rina, Jose, Carlos, Eddie, Eveling.

Do your children go with you?

No, not yet…but they will.  My husband’s schedule is a bit unpredictable, so it has not worked out for all of us to go at the same time, but we can’t wait for the day we will all be able to go together.

Watching children from different parts of the globe connect is an amazing thing.  They don’t let language or culture get in the way of making a friend.  If you can kick a ball, you are my friend.

My boys know about the children in Nicaragua and have even met a few of them through skype.  We send letters and pictures back and forth.

Seeing my own children play with the kids I have come to love at Casa Bernabe would indeed be a dream come true.

What do your children think of their mom traveling across the world to make a difference?

I don’t know…let’s ask them.

Zane:  “I think it is good.  She helps kids that don’t have families.”

Ian:   “I miss her when she is gone, but it isn’t that long.  The people there need to know that we care about them.”

Wyatt:  “I like it because Fia (my MIL) comes to stay with us and she gives us treats”.

There you have it!

So cute!  What did you want to be “when you grew up?”

Oh, lots of things…When I was little, I wanted to be a teacher, an auctioneer, a veterinarian, a truck driver, a lawyer, a marine biologist, a writer.

How does that compare with your real life now?

Really, it is pretty close when you look closely at my life today…I write a blog, I teach my boys, I explore the beach almost every weekend, I still have a love of antiques and vintage items, etc.

My life looks much different than I could have ever imagined or planned.  But all of my interests are still reflected in my life in some way today.

I love how you make time to help others, are super crafty and take care of your little ones, and you do all of that while your husband is away.  How do you manage it all?

He, he…I don’t manage it all.  There’s no way to do it all.

Some days the laundry doesn’t get put away.

I only do dishes in the evening after dinner, so if you come by my house a noon, the breakfast dishes will still be in the sink.  But there will be flowers on the table and something coming out of the oven, which means more to me than laundry anyway.

I write a lot after my boys go to bed.

I work on projects that I can generally finish fairly quickly.

And I am surrounded by a wonderfully supportive community of friends.

It’s a constant balancing act and I find myself always on one side of the line or the other.

But I want to share one thing that I think is important for (especially) mothers to remember.  Just because a blog shows pretty pictures of smiling kiddos in cute handmade clothing sitting on a family quilt with a neatly planted garden in the background that there might be pile of laundry sitting on the couch inside.  Because that is what it looks like at my house.  My blog is a place where I choose to focus on the beauty and the awe I experience in the world around me.  We have plenty of meltdowns and frustrations.  But by making an intentional choice to see the small pleasures in my day, I am a happier person and a better mama.  I would encourage anyone to do the same.

What things do you let yourself neglect to make sure you are spending time doing the “fun stuff” that nourishes your own creativity?

I cut corners in lots of areas.

I clean my house only when it gets dirty.  I don’t make our beds, we’re lucky if the covers get pulled back up over the sheets.

I let the boys pick out their own clothes…which can get interesting at times.  And has resulted in my boys not wearing pajamas.  After evening bath time, they put on the clothes that they will be wearing to school in the morning.  I thought it was just a  phase, but it took.

I wear jeans almost every day and mostly wear black shoes…except I do have one pair of vintage red wedges that were given to me and are now my sassy shoes.

Oh, and we don’t watch T.V.

When you are really in the zone, being productive, and doing all the things you want to be doing, what does a typical day look like?

He, he…If I were doing all the things I wanted to do, I’d be at the beach all day scavenging and exploring.

This is a tough one…I stared to answer it, but then realized there isn’t really ever a day Im doing everything I want to do.  I always have way too many things I want to do and never enough hours in the day to do them all.

Do you feel like parts of yourself have been neglected since becoming a mom, or like things have moved to the backburner, so to speak?

Absolutely.  My former career is non existent.  And yes, there are parts of me I feel I have neglected…like getting my hair colored.  I think most mothers feel this way.  But there is amazing personal growth that comes from such selflessness.

How do you feel about that?

Really and truly, it is a gift.

Motherhood was a difficult transition for me.

I fought giving up my own plans for my life every step of the way.

The true gift comes once you get over your former life and hand it all over to something bigger than yourself.  Once you realize you are not in control, your REAL life…your authentic life…begins to blossom.  Motherhood is really not about you and your children, it is about moving one step closer to becoming the person you were created to be.  I am still figuring it all out, but I owe a huge piece of  that knowledge to my children.

What do you wish you had more time for?

There are lots of silly things I wish I had more time for.  I wish there was more time to follow up on every “Why” question my boys ask.  And more time to sit and wait while they take 22 minutes to tie their shoe.  I wish I had more time to learn to play the guitar.  I wish I had more time to follow through on every crafty idea that pops into my head.

But seriously, I wish there was more time to spend with my husband.  Because I really believe that one of the best gifts we can give my boys is two parents who love each other.  Finding the time to connect with each other is the most difficult thing for me.

How do you tap into your own creativity and passions in those times when you feel tired and worn out from your mama duties?

I get outside and into nature!  Even if I take the kids with me, I always come back home feeling inspired and more energized after going for a walk in the woods or to the beach.

And if I can’t do that, I grab a decorating magazine or browse the design blogs.  My mind immediately gets pumped up and I have to jump up and get back to work.

And if it is a particularly rough day I read a journal entry from one of my trips to Nicaragua that is taped to the inside of my closet door.

It was the last day of our trip and one of the other women and I ran up to the main orphanage to put all clean new sheets on the little girls’ beds before we left.  She and I flew through making 22 beds in no time flat.  And with big grins on our faces thinking about how they would feel when they came back from school that day to new pink and purple sheets on their beds.  My friend commented on how fun it was to make those beds and how she wished she could change her own kids’ sheets with the same joy.  That notion has stuck with me.  It was a joy to do such a mundane task for the kids at Casa Bernabe and it should be no different for my own boys.  It is a joy to be apart of the lives of such great kids…even if I am changing sheets.

I know it sounds hokey, but that thought has always stuck with me.

Not hokey at all.  I think that is THE KEY to finding peace as a mom.  Do you ever feel guilty for wanting time away from your family?

Nor for a second.

First of all, I don’t get much time away from my family.  Time away is a luxury.

And maybe if I were spending a lot of time sitting in the sun in Cabo I would feel bad, but most of my “time away” is in service others.  I will never feel bad about taking a week to speak words of encouragement to the people who are working so hard to change the lives of children.

And here is the honest truth.  I think as mothers we are “called” to help in this way.  Who is more perfectly suited to encourage these children and their caregivers than those of  us who make an art of motherhood everyday?  And as a Christian mother I am called to model a life of service for my boys.  There is not a better way to learn compassion than watching it in acted out in front of you.

What would you say is the single most important thing that helps you balance who you are as a mom and who you are as a woman?

This is the million dollar question, isn’t it?  Whether we work or stay at home, whether we home-school or send our children to pubic school, whether we share a family bed or not, all mamas struggle with balance.  I find that if I listen to myself, my body, my own words I can tell when I’m getting out of balance.  I’m feeling pulled one way or another too much.  But schedules get crazy and little boys are pretty loud.  So sometimes I can’t even hear myself think…literally.

So the only way to find balance is to build quiet time into my day.  Making time to be with my own thoughts and emotions is the only way I know what I am really feeling.   I get up earlier than the rest of my family.  I recently began running again.  I write. Every week or so the dog and I take a walk on the beach.  Of course, I don’t get all of this alone time into one day and I am not as consistent as I would like.  But I am much better about this than I used to be.

What gives you hope and inspiration?

My children give me hope.

The rhythm of the natural world gives me hope.

My faith in God gives me hope.

What are your biggest hopes and dreams for your family?

My biggest dream for my family is that we would be able to take a year off, travel to Nicaragua and spend the time devoted to the children there.

How does you expressing your self and being creative help make those dreams come true?

Taking photos, sewing, playing in the clay with my boys, walking on the beach all helps me remember who I was created to be.  It helps keep me connected to the person God created in me and to my purpose here on this Earth.

Anything else you want to tell us?

I think we all make up excuses for why we can’t take this action or that.  We see others making an impact in their world and don’t think we are capable.  Especially busy mamas like us.  But we are in fact the very people that MUST get out of our comfort zones and get into the world.  It is not only our duty to the world, but to ourselves.

Start small.  Make a meal for someone.  Make a phone call.  Write a letter.  Smile.  You never know where it might take you.  You might end up half way across the world.

WOW!  Such great advice and so true, I think.  Thank you so much, Eren, for taking the time to talk with us.  I am really inspired by your words.  They hit home for me, as someone who is always wanting to help and make a difference.  I know I will be taking your advice to heart.

Eren Hays San Perdro is a mama and a wife and a home+maker.  She believes in traditional mothering, cooking most of their meals, sewing, crocheting, knitting, playing outside, exploring nature and documenting is all with her camera.  You can find her on her blog, Vintage Chica.

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