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One of my favorite memories as a little girl was the old, light blue VW bus my late grandfather used to own. I not only thought it was the coolest vehicle on the planet, but I also had very specific plans for it. To this day, I remember asking my grandpa at the age of 5 or 6 years old to please hold on to the bus for me so that one day, when I was old enough, I could fit all of my ten kids in it. It’s a story my entire family still loves to tell. My name is Paola, and this is the story of how that little girl born and raised in Asuncion, Paraguay, in the heart of South America, came to fulfill that dream almost twenty years later in the beautiful city of Lakeland, Florida. Well.. at least halfway!

As I was finishing high school at Asuncion Christian Academy, a new dream of coming to the United States for university became more and more of a reality. Through scholarships and the many prayers of friends and family, I was able to come to Southeastern University in Lakeland as an international student and obtain my undergraduate degree in psychology. Even better, however, Southeastern University gave me the opportunity to meet the love of my life, Christopher. Having met the first night of freshman year, we were married one week after graduation in 2014.

In hindsight, we were so incredibly young and I don’t know that I would recommend this slightly hectic way of ending a last semester of college! We were trying to finish school, figuring out what we would be doing next to help us pay for bills, planning a wedding, finding a place to live together, planning a wedding, and on top of all that, staying on top of my immigration papers. Remember, I had to come to the United States on a student visa, so there were lots of paperwork and hurdles we actually had to go through to make sure my stay in the U.S. was legal. (But that’s a story for another day!)

But there is no denying that this was God’s plan for us. With the full support and love of both our families, we were able to go through every challenge gracefully and it always only brought us closer together. We were both more than ready to become a family, and actually, to grow our family. You see, one of the things that had brought us together even as we were dating, was the fact that we both wanted to have babies.. and lots of them, and soon! I couldn’t believe that that little girl in Asuncion, Paraguay, had found someone with the same desire to fill up a whole VW bus with kids! It truly felt like a dream come true, and now, three kids later, and two in heaven, it still feels like a dream.

Motherhood has been something that’s just been at the core of my existence and identity ever since I was a little girl. It’s one of the things that even my husband says he values most about and comes alongside me with in full support. Through every other role I’ve played in my adult life here in the United States (a university admission counselor, international student coordinator, church administrator, lifestyle blogger, etc.), none of it has compared to the pride I hold in being Maya, Valentina, and Christopher II’s mom. It’s what I love sharing about on social media, and bring joy to others through the blessing of my children. I may have never been so tired and drained physically, emotionally and mentally than in this season of my life, but the joy and love these three little humans bring to me and out of me is actually nothing I could have ever dreamed of and makes all of it more than worth it. It’s simply unexplainable. As far as the VW bus we still need to fill up? The jury’s still out on that one.

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