Never-Ending Transition

Transitions come in all kinds of timelines. Some are pretty defined like when you move up a grade level at school. Some others are so personal that it’s hard to pin point how long they will take to complete (or if they’d ever be completed at all).

As you know by now, I moved from Michigan to Pennsylvania. This change and all what it has entailed has definitely been one of my top topics of conversation these days. Frankly, it is pretty hard to avoid talking about it, considering all the energy that it takes from my every day.

I guess as far as the kids go, things are moving along. They have found direction by being in school. We have found some extra-curricular activities of their liking. We have their doctors, dentists, a Spanish tutor for the summer months, and even a few reliable baby sitters. Even if they aren’t completely adapted yet, they have definitely made a good transition and continuously make progress in their assimilation. My son has even embraced the local love for the NFL team, the Eagles (and what better year than this one to do so?).

Although I would love to say that I am also assimilating quickly, I still find myself in the state of waiting that I was when I posted some time ago that I just needed to chill out while my metamorphosis was going on. I guess the time to come out of my chrysalis is not here quite yet.

In this period of waiting, however, I have challenged myself to practice patience. I have put “myself out there” by attending a few mom blind-dates. In the process, I have met great people and have found that my calendar keeps getting things added to it all the time. I am close to feeling as active and involved as I was at home. Home in Michigan, that is.

The transition also showed me how much of a Michigander I really am. I guess Michigan is where I assimilated into the U.S. culture, where I get quite a bit of my English-speaker accent and where I lived many winters buried deep in snow. My tribe is there and how I miss them! I was in-the-know back there, an active member of the community, the kind of person you could ask about any local happenings.

Here I know nothing, relying completely on my neighbor and a few other friends. They are the ones reminding me to sign the kids up for their activities, the ones who keep me informed of the places to go and the activities to do. I’m lucky if I don’t get lost at least once every day while driving places. This transitioning is both a humbling and exasperating process.

Overall, though, I think I’m doing pretty well. Have I turned the corner? No, I don’t even know if the corner is close by. However, my whole family is growing closer. We are having fun exploring our new surroundings. And we have learned to be ever so mindful when we drive around and when we visit every new place as we take everything in.

So I guess I will end this by saying that I have no idea when my transition will end (if at all), but I’m here giving it my best shot.

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A Splash of Color

We have been at our new house 9 weeks now and the adaptation process has taken a quick turn for the better. As the parent staying home with the kids and in charge of helping them find activities that they enjoy, it isn’t easy to turn the attention inwards and figure out what is that I need during this period.

As you may have read, at the beginning, it felt like I was living in someone else’s house. I had the feeling of being in a vacation rental where nothing was just right for my family. My husband was not in love with the new space either (even though he was the one who picked it). So at least I wasn’t alone in this sentiment.

I don’t know if knowing that I wasn’t the only one mourning our previous home helped me or worsen things. What I did know is that being the obsessive, Type A personality, overachievers that we both are, we were not just going to sit by waiting for the love for this new house to grow in us.

So we teared up magazine pages, went to furniture stores, dove into decorating blogs and finally decided to call in some painters to switch things around… dramatically, I have to add. My husband was absolutely convinced that paint was all we needed to improve things but I was skeptical. I didn’t think that some color here and there would have the magic we needed to turn this house from “theirs” into “our new home”.

Nonetheless, I was pretty happy to pick out the colors because having Mexico in my heart, I knew that bright and bold would at least make the house a feel little bit better, a little bit more like us.

The crew came in hauling all their drops, ladders, brushes and paint cans. Nothing overly exciting to see, I thought, but with every room they have covered in a splash of color, I have grown to care for this house more and more.

First the light green and the blue, then the silver grey and the peachy. The cozy spot by the foyer in teal; the formal dining gold. I have seen the magic happening in front of me in the last three weeks making the house more ours. Going from colonial and classic to mid-century modern and trendy. This explosion of color has turned out to be the inspiration we needed to find the right furniture for the right spaces and to start calling this house our home.

I’m excited to see the transformation continue to evolve.

Friendships Are Made in Unexpected Ways

By now you probably know that friendship is an intrinsic part of my life. That is why one of the most challenging things of this move out-of-state was leaving my friends, my different networks, my community, my tribe.

It takes a lot to cultivate those relationships and even more so when we are apart so I’ve been moping about on-and-off these first weeks in Pennsylvania. Then of course, as soon as you stop thinking about it, the universe seems to sense what you were in need of and surprises you with it.

Last week something pretty cool and rather unusual happened to me as I finished a yoga class in high spirits. I was headed for the showers at the gym, distracted and thinking of the day’s to-do list in my head. I forgot my shampoo and when I returned to fetch it, I saw a shopping bag from a Mexican department store on the bench!

I looked up in search for the owner and ventured the question: ¿Eres mexicana? (are you Mexican?) and yes! Of course she was, and she belongs to a big community of Mexicans living in this state, and she has children the ages of mine, and she stays at home. So yes! I had found the holy grail of friendship as the newby in town. How lucky and how unexpected but how welcomed this encounter has been for me.

Naturally, I’m very excited to getting to know her. I also, once again, was reminded that it takes time to get adjusted and is just matter of exercising patience and to be attuned to what the universe throws at you.

Broken Spanish

In many occasions, I have used this blog to express my ups and downs in raising multilingual children. It is something that I’m passionate about not only because speaking more than one language in a globalized society makes sense, but because I want my children to have a deeper connection with their extended family and our roots.

Time and again, I have compared how my oldest daughter’s grasp on the Spanish language is far superior than my son’s -the middle child- or my youngest daughter who is only in preschool. My son is just not as interested in the Spanish language as his older sister, or so I thought.

As you have probably read, we recently relocated from Michigan to Pennsylvania. The move has obviously come with plenty of opportunities for the kids to adjust and adapt to a new environment. Nowhere has it been more evident than at school. Our former environment was quite homogeneous making us stand out as the mixed family we are. Here however, not only is the student body rich in diversity, but also the staff.

My children were welcomed in a warm way making them feel safe and empowered. My daughter has five classmates of Mexican heritage in her classroom. She was happy to discover that like her, they are all bilingual but English is their stronger language.

Among my son’s classmates, there is a boy from Puerto Rico who does not speak English (yet). To my surprise, my son has happily taken the role of an interpreter between his Spanish-speaking friend and the English-speaking ones.

You cannot believe the amount of joy this makes me feel! My son, using his broken Spanish, is experiencing first hand how bilingualism bridges the gap between two people. Furthermore, he’s the one building that bridge and helping his new friend become a part of the dynamic of the classroom!

I am thrilled at the opportunity that my son has to see the value of bilingualism but more importantly, to have a friend to learn Spanish from and to teach English to. I could not have imagined that such a relationship could spark my son’s interest in the language that so passionately I have tried to teach him since he was a baby.

We shall see how this friendship brings both boys closer to the relative unknown worlds that they now both share: this English-speaking one where we reside, and that of Hispanic heritage that is far away.

Vacation Rental

Have you ever stayed in a vacation rental property? We have come to really like them. It’s kind of nice to be able to eat a simple, inexpensive breakfast from the comfort of “your” space in a different city or to have drinks and munchies after the kids go to bed without having to hire a sitter. I also like how you have the ability to do laundry in the middle of a longer trip. I have come to appreciate the whole sense of having a “home away from home”.

For all the great amenities that these vacation rentals offer, I have to say that it feels a little silly not knowing which switch turns what light on, or how to work the coffee pot or how to run the laundry machine. You can’t shake the idea of being in someone else’s house as some kind of intruder.

I want you to picture that feeling of being an intruder in your mind as that is exactly how I am feeling right now in our new house. The kitchen is designed so differently than in my older home that I have no idea where to organize the tools and utensils. I feel a little bit clumsy trying to cook a meal, figuring out if the oil should go in a cabinet or the pantry.

The kids can’t reach the closet space to hang or get their clothes, the youngest can’t even reach the switches to turn the lights on and off. We haven’t found a place for all of our furniture and even our organizers don’t seem to be the right fit. Every room we enter has either an assortment of boxes or many items that need to find a permanent spot. Some days it has been easier just to close the door and go and explore the new city.

Talking with a friend this week, she helped me realize that things will take time (I kind of knew that already), but also that I am going through my mourning process and that I should allow myself to feel sad for what was lost (brilliant! I needed someone’s permission to validate my feelings). Isn’t that so true? When I moved, there was so much anticipation and excitement for all the new things, that I  forgot to think of how leaving all the familiar would affect me.

In trying to be a rock for my children, I swallowed my emotions, but now that we are all here (and just around Christmas of all times), every little feeling of loss and sadness is pouring out of me as quickly as the cereal came out of the box my kid broke this morning. My instinct was to contain the emotions, my friend reminded me that I am allowed to have bad days and let them spill all over too.

It will be a different kind of Christmas for our family this year. Perhaps all the newness and exploration will take over the feeling of being an intruder living temporarily in a vacation rental. Perhaps the feeling will stay for a while. In all cases, I know that at least I am happy of being in this adventure all together.

The Season of Goodbyes

If you know me in person, you know that the reason why I ended up in Michigan was a series of opportunities and open doors that presented along the way. You also know that while we love West Michigan and have created a community and a presence where we reside, my other half has an adventurous heart that keeps him constantly exploring possibilities.

It probably came to no surprise to those who know us when we announced our move to Pennsylvania. A job opportunity, a new place to explore, an adventure to embark on. It came to us as a gift box that once, opened, it engulfed us in excitement and anxiety.

There are so many things to figure out, from where to live, to putting our own house for sale. I guess at some level, we expected this aspect to be difficult and stressful. What we did not anticipate was the sadness and the heartache that would come with every goodbye said to the people who have been a pretty big part of our lives.

All those friends who have been like family members in a country that was not our own. But even the relationships built with our pediatrician, the staff at the school, the ever-weaving support system that we have knitted around our family. It has been everything but easy to begin to say goodbye and to imagine how things will be “on the other side”.

I have been keeping everything bottled up inside this far, shedding tears only here and there. Is almost as if I fear that once the floodgates open, I will not be able to control the current. I simply don’t want to allow myself to crumble just yet. There’s so much to keep tabs on still: the showings of the house, the daily activities of the children, the passing moments of fear-of-the-unknown that the children experience in relation the to move… I have to be strong and help them maneuver this.

However, there are some days when a sappy show would just bring some of those emotions to the surface and I would allow myself to feel. During one of those emotional TV-watching times, I heard the phrase: Bloom where you are planted. It really hit me hard. Wasn’t that what I did by coming here in the first place? I was planted in this community and found fertile soil to bloom. Could I not be transplanted and continue to grow? And just like that, both nostalgia and incertitude found a cozy spot in my heart.

Reminiscing on my college years and how my husband and I came to be together; our children being born; the achievements and the obstacles; the process of building a home and a community. Am I ready to leave all of that? Or will all the memories come with us packed away between photo albums and heirlooms?

Wondering where would we live? How are the schools? Will the children adjust well? Will I find friends easily?

So here I am, in the middle of this season of goodbyes that while sad, helps me understand how wonderfully lucky we have been to have been planted here and how much we have bloomed as individuals and as a family.

When Tragedy Strikes

In my last post I talked about the holes dug in my heart from not partaking in the joyful moments of my friends and family who live away from me. Today I want to talk about the heart-wrenching feeling of uselessness after the terrible crisis following this Tuesday’s earthquake in Mexico City.

My husband called me after he received the notification of a 7.1 earthquake affecting Mexico City. He had already connected with my brother, who lives there, and he was fine. However, he was unable to locate his wife and his son’s school was not responding either.

I called my brother who at that point was filled with anguish as he was trapped in the gridlock of traffic with all the other people trying to get to their loved ones, knowing that he was on the opposite side of town from his son and wife and having just learned that some of the collapsed buildings were right in the areas where they were. His desperate voice: help me reach them!

For about an hour I tried without success calling the school, looking for any updates on the social media, getting a hold of my sister-in-law. I even reached out to a friend who I know works closer to the area where my nephew was, to learn any information she would have to offer. Nothing, just more news updates of the devastation, of collapsed buildings and of gas leaks.

My heart sunk to the ground, but even more, thinking about the eternal wait for my brother. He reached out, he’s son’s school had been evacuated but all the children were safe. His wife was able to connect soon after. As he grew desperate to reach them, he parked his car and proceeded to walk 12 kilometers in the chaos and massive hysteria of a city too immense to let help reach their destinations.

It took them five hours but finally they were together and reached out to us. They were safe but not their apartment building, which suffered the kind of structural damage that warns you not to stay there. They headed to my sister-in-law’s aunt. Her place was safe.

My brother who is a doctor recruited during emergency situations, such as this horrid day, had to head to the hospital where he learned of tragedy after tragedy. He worked through the night and well into  Wednesday afternoon when he called me to tell me was safe, his family safe, him and his wife ready to help.

I haven’t been able to sleep well and cannot stop thinking about the terrible images, the fear and the unanswered questions of when things would calm down. However, I’m forever thankful for their safety and for having a brother willing to give it all to others.

As I read of the news, I find this weight on my chest that doesn’t let me breath, I wish I could help more but not being physically there prevents me from being actively involved. So I come to this blog to share of some ways in which people like me (away but willing to help in any way) can make a difference.

Consider donating to the following organizations:

MEXICAN RED CROSS (monetary gifts): https://www.cruzrojamexicana.org.mx/sismo-19-de-septiembre-2017

MEXICAN RED CROSS (wish list): https://www.amazon.com.mx/registry/wishlist/H4XK3LNWVOPB/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_ep_ws_mMXTzbP50RRF6/ref=s9_acss_bw_cg_CR_6b1_w?pf_rd_m=A3TO6F13CSVUA4&pf_rd_s=merchandised-search-1&pf_rd_r=53V28WVM26EX859A3147&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1a8a2582-90fc-40f6-8a49-5d772a879f13&pf_rd_i=17290014011

BRIGADA DE RESCATE TOPOS (Moles Rescue Brigade): PayPal donations at donativos@brigada-rescate-topos.org

 

A Heart Full of Holes

I love baby arrivals! It is a time of entrancing joy and love that I really enjoy being a part of. It is especially joyful for me to visit my close friends in the first few weeks or even before they leave the hospital. I just cannot get enough of that.

Unluckily, many of my closest, most adored friends either had their babies before we met, or live so far away that I’m not able to go see them. I can’t bake my traditional butter cookies for them or hug their little one as they tell me the story of the baby’s arrival. I have to be content with a brief exchange of WhatsApp messages filled with emojis and to wait until we can find the time to FaceTime and visit a little bit more “proper”.

You would think that after living away from my home country for 17 years now, I would be used to not being around for the life-transforming moments in my loved ones lives but, sometimes it isn’t that easy.

Recently, one of my soul sisters -my youngest child’s godmother- had her second baby. With half a continent between us, it is not entirely feasible for us to see each other so the whole weekend, I walked around with a hole in my heart and a need to bake cookies.

I had anticipated my lack of physical presence in such a momentous time, so I was able to send a little care package with her mom. Though I know she loved it knowing that it was my way to be with her, I still find myself a little sad.

It is hard to be away from the people you love. The holes pierced in my heart are due to those milestones missed in the lives of my friends but also the ones they have missed in mine. Sometimes, distance is just hard.

 

I’m Sorry Teachers

Summer is at an end… Well at least as far as the season is concerned, because our summer break ended about four weeks ago. Don’t worry, my kids were ready and happy to go back to school. They go to a school with a year-round calendar in which they only get 6 weeks of summer break but then get several recess weeks during the school year.

This system has been working great for our family! The shorter summer break makes us take full advantage of the days off from school; and while we do love our academics, we take take the opportunity to disconnect from them.

I’m sorry teachers, I must confess that I’m one of those parents who throws the suggested exercise sheets in the recycle bin as soon as they come home. I know your intentions are great and please know that I don’t do it to be a rebel, but I think that the summer break is better taken advantage of, if the kids have time to do things that otherwise they can’t fit on their schedules.

I let them veg around, they watch some TV, we go to the movies, and the beach, they tag along during my errands and I try to catch them up in their Spanish as much as possible. While we do go to the library and visit museums, I don’t make these outings academic ones. I let them explore and enjoy. We use math when we bake and cook, we read the things that catch our attention at the times that we feel like reading them, we observe nature for the pleasure of it and not with an educational agenda to get through in mind. We have fun.

In the midst of all those activities, we have time to grow and to learn in a very organic way and I am thankful for that. However, I’m also thankful that the shorter summer break allows for the kids to retain a great deal of what was learned during the school year (without me having to break out those suggested academic activities).

Too Late for Coffee, Too Early for Hard Liquor

I was having one of those terrible summer-break mornings that any Stay-At-Home-Mom knows: the dishes had been piling up for days, the dishwasher in need to be emptied, mountains of laundry to be put away, hungry kids begging for a snack (only few minutes after having eaten a huge breakfast)… you get the idea.

We rushed out the door “only” ten minutes later than when we needed to go to meet up with my old playgroup. But then, because of course we are already late, I take a couple wrong turns and make us really late at that point. When we FINALLY reach the beach spot where everyone is waiting for us, I jokingly ask if 11:30 am is too early for vodka and looking at each other we all laugh in complicity. We all have been there. We know the struggle.

One of my friends reminds us of the many times we find ourselves in need of something… anything to boost our mood, to give us energy, to keep us going, and how it totally sucks when you find yourself in that window of time when it’s too late for coffee but too early for hard liquor. The phrase made me laugh so hard that I had to write about this phenomenon.

I love my chosen occupation of a Stay-At-Home-Mom, I truly do. I really enjoy cooking, playing games, and going places together. I love to be the arms that console, and the “voice of wisdom” to their endless questions. I love their kisses and hugs, I love to be present in their routine as an anchor. I adore this precious time when magic is still present in everything and I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.

However, no matter how much I love my little kids and how many fun activities we are involved in, there are many moments every day when I need a little mental escape. When I need to break lose from those thousands of questions and quiet everything else, except for my mind. As many of my SAHM friends would tell you, we signed up for the raising-children end of the deal, unluckily, most of the domestic tasks also fall on us. And those, as much as I like to keep an organized home, are not fun whatsoever.

Who really likes to fold laundry for a household of 5? Even when my 6-year-old wrote it as my hobby in his Mother’s Day Letter to me this May, I wish I didn’t have to do any of that. And then when you have days where nothing goes smoothly, you just feel like screaming… instead you opt for coffee or if it’s a socially-acceptable time, a glass of wine, or a shot of Tequila (honestly, there are just some crazy days).

But what happens when you are in between both of those times? Like my friend pointed out. When you are on the verge of bursting into tears because you just need that mental and physical escape that you cannot get? Then you just plug along and hopefully find a worthy popsicle (or any other snack your kids are having) and try to keep it together until you can actually take a break.

As I mentioned before, the struggle is real! But, weren’t we the ones choosing to be the main caregivers? Don’t we all say how much we love being home with the kids? Well, nobody can love anything a 100% of the time (unless is chocolate)! It’s hard to be all unicorn and rainbows when it comes to parenting. The bickering between siblings only makes the task of the happy mom ever more challenging. And then there’s that whole isolation situation. If you don’t find other moms to go on a playdate with, then you find yourself not having any adult conversation for hours and hours.

So please understand that while we do not have an unhealthy dependence on pharmaceutical substances, such as coffee and hard liquor, it is nice to be ready to tackle the day and to end it on a high note.

Cheers!