How I️ Came to Love Art -and the recent movie that took me back in time

It has been a while since a movie enchanted me as much as Loving Vincent did. As I️ was seating there perplexed by the beautiful imagery, I️ was taken back to my first encounter with Van Gogh’s paintings.

My grandparents lived in a different city when I️ was little; however, my parents took us every Friday to spend the weekend there.

I️ remember entering the garage door to be greeted by our grandma who was always baking something special for us. As we got into the house, we were reminded by her motioning with her finger on her lips, to be quiet until we were away from my grandpa’s study.

He took classical guitar every Friday afternoon so he was always in his class whenever we arrived. One sees this weekly occurrences like nothing more than routine when one is young.

However, when I️ think back now, I️ feel the warmth and love of the maternal grandparents’ house. I️ can hear the guitar notes clearly in my head and almost taste the galletas de nata that my granny used to bake us.

From all the many things that brought me joy through the years from that home, the one that I️ remember to be the most exciting, was my grandpa’s study, his library.

That library is where the Loving Vincent film took me to. It was the quirkiest of places with a giant map of the State of Michoacan in Mexico right at the entrance. Two horse saddles flanked an old wooden desk that I’m sure was an exquisite piece of furniture in its prime because my grandpa was very particular of who could seat by it.

A wild boar head rested a top the area where the TV was, and in a corner, a pensive wooden statue of Don Quijote safeguarded my grandpa’s precious Tequila barrica.

There was a painting of my great grandma across the desk, right next to a glued-back-together statue of Buddha that my eldest cousin had broken once -almost having him banish forever from that place of sanctuary. Everything else was a collection of marvelous books.

It was an eclectic place for everything, all the contents of this space were so randomly chosen that I’m sure makes no sense to the reader. For me is a slice of my childhood. The place where I️ played and where I️ learned about Da Vinci, Van Gogh and World War II.

The bright colors of the paintings highlighted in Loving Vincent placed me back on my grandpa’s lap, as he carefully showed me his book about a crazy painter who had cut off his ear to give to someone as a present.

I️ was too little to really care about his life, but boy, was I️ entranced with his Sunflowers, Starry Night and Café de Nuit. That book opened my eyes to the art world. My very own love for Vincent began then.

The Loving Vincent film gifted me with a glimpse into my childhood. It reminded me of my grandpa and his study, the place where I️ understood him most. It gifted me with some precious space back in time and with the presence of my grandpa who no longer is with us.

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More Than a Paycheck

Without planning it too much, my children are surrounded by young adults who act as excellent role models for them.

Some of them are their babysitters and some others are their music and athletic instructors. They came to our lives because we needed their services but what they don’t know, is the tremendous impact they have on my children.

Take one of my babysitters. She has been helping us out for six years now. When she first started coming over, she was in high school. The kids have seen her graduate from high school and from cosmetology school. They have seen her working hard to buy her own car as well as struggling and overcoming obstacles in her life as a young adult. They adore her and we have developed great trust in her. But what she doesn’t realize is how the kids talk about her like a little hero of them.

Another of the young ladies who watches our children is in college. She has many jobs and a scholarship to pay for college, yet she manages to do so much more for herself. She studied abroad and travels whenever she cans. They see her balancing her education and all other responsibilities masterfully and think of her as mighty and kind.

We also have the great luck of having young musicians in our lives. They are piano and guitar instructors for our family but they also are an inspiration for my children’s imaginations and dreams. When we get to watch them perform, I can see my kids’ eyes widening as they are impressed by the talent of their teachers. My 7-year-old tells me how she wishes to play like her teachers one day. My 6-year-old tells me that he can picture himself playing the drums on a stage. And my 3-year-old dances with excitement when she listens to the music from “her friends”.

This summer was also very inspiring for the older two because they were part of a swim clinic led by college students. They learned a lot but they also saw all the “cool” things their instructors could do. They set themselves to learn more and to be like their instructors.

The kids see, they want, and they do everything they can right now (mostly dream) to become more like these wonderful group of young people who touch our lives. These great role models get a paycheck but what they might not know, is that they also get my gratitude for inspiring my children. For modeling what hard work looks like and showing them that applying yourself gets you closer to your dreams.

 

A Tribute to Love, To the Love of My Life

There I was, a young college student looking for love. The kind of love that makes your lungs be fuller, covers your skin with goosebumps, and tastes like hope. Then you were there with your smile and your soft hands, with your dazzling eyes and your plans.

I didn’t even know that I was part of your plans until one day, I figured out what the tingling sensation I felt in my hands every time I was around you was. Attraction? Admiration? Love? Yes, that was it, all of it! I had fallen in love with you, you were in love with me and there was no turning back.

From that time forward, life was you and I as a nucleus and then everybody else. I had never been as convinced of anything as I was on January 20th of 2007 when we said “I do” and began this wonderful life as husband and wife.

Now ten years later, I have innumerable “collectable moments” stored away in my heart, my pores, and my smile. Life with you is full of love, of laughter, of tears that find relief. When we got married, I never thought I would ever be more in love than at that point in life, but the truth is, that my whole world has expanded with you by my side. My soul has broadened so much that I wouldn’t know hot to explain to my younger self just how much more I love you now.

You are the perfect companion in this world away from our families. Together we have found our own traditions, we speak our own language and we are raising our children to find belonging in three different countries. I love your eagerness to travel, your sense of adventure, your constant plans. I melt every time I see you pouring all your love over our children. I am so proud of all of who you are today and I am thrilled to have you next to me whenever I have a new project.

Thank you for all you give, thank you for all you are, thank you for being here.

Happy anniversary! I adore you.

What if We Made Time for Ourselves?

I sometimes wonder what would life be if we didn’t follow blogs, read magazines and books on parenting. Would we be as “knowledgeable”, as equip to raise our children? How would we learn about safety recalls and what the latest guidelines on sunscreen applications are?

I don’t want to generalize, maybe it is just the women that I surround myself with to perpetuate the obsession that I started as soon as I found out I was pregnant with my first. There’s a plethora of information out there and information, in my mind, is power. So to keep up-to-date, so to speak, I devout a great deal of my time to read about parenting and my children’s different growing stages.

Last month I managed to carve out some time to read for other purposes and I found a book by Jorge Bucay called To Love With Eyes Wide Open that had been recommended to me years ago. It talks about knowing yourself and your needs as you enter and you are part of a relationship. Though it is not a great literary piece, the message behind it touched me in a powerful way.

We often think that when we get married, we are “tied” to this person for the rest of our lives. However, we don’t take into account that people are constantly changing, evolving and therefore, my husband of almost 9 years isn’t really the same man I married almost a decade ago. Nor I am the same woman.

The book encourages you to find your passion and connect to it as a way to grow emotionally in an internal way so that then, you are ready to continue to give and grow in your life as a couple. This sometimes means looking for other people that are just as passionate about what makes you tick. The book reminded me that my husband can’t be everything to me because just as he had to find someone else to discover his new passion for jogging, I may have to find other people that share my passion for Latin American literature. It isn’t about excluding each other from certain activities but to know that even if we look for someone else’s company to share one of your passions, you can still go back to your life partner to share the ones that both of you enjoy together.

It goes without saying that as years pass by in a marriage, many things have to be reassessed and that we have to remind ourselves of that daily choice that is to stay together and continue to grow in a marriage and individually.  If only there were as many magazines, blog and Facebook posts on marriage and how to love your life as part of a couple…

Ever since I read this book, I have begun to pay more attention to myself and how I chose to spend my time and of course, realized that perhaps I’m spending too much time and energy in “being a mom” rather than being myself: a woman in her 30’s with some forgotten passions that are desperate to be a part of my day; a wife who really wants to spend more time with her husband discovering the “new” things that he dreams about; a mom who besides making sure her children are fed and to school on time, also wants to spend more time coloring and playing with them.

So this post today is part a promise to myself of making more time for passions (like cooking, like photography, like reading, like having deep conversations with great friends…), part allowing myself some time this week to do something I really enjoy (writing this blog), and part a way to start a conversation about how our life would be if instead of having a monthly parenting magazine arriving to our door, we had one about life as a couple with tips and ideas of how to keep your identity while being a fun and loving wife and a caring and compassionate mother.

Don’t Pity Us for Having Daughters

When my husband and I fell in love and dreamed of a family of our own, we always hoped to be lucky enough to be able to raise both girls and boys. Eight years into our marriage and some kids later, our dream has come true having two daughters and a son in our family. 

We couldn’t be happier and prouder. But very often we both hear from strangers and friends words of discouragement and almost pity. “Poor you having girls in your house. Think about their attitude as teenagers!” As if boys were perfect angels or if personality had nothing to do with the way teens behave.

So I decided to write this today to clear any doubts. I’m very happy to have the chance to be a mom, period. I love my children and feel privileged to be able to influence their lives and help them find their passions.

I feel extremely happy of having daughters in our family because my husband is a feminist and I know my girls will always be encouraged to follow their hearts. They will be treated as equals to their brother and will have the opportunity to have a male role model who cooks, cleans, fixes things around the house, treats every member of the family with love and isn’t afraid of showing his emotions.

When growing up, my life was deeply influenced by the teachings of Saint Enrique de Osso and Saint Teresa of Jesus from Spain. Their words forever resonating in my heart. One of Saint Enrique’s most famous quotes: “to educate a boy is to educate a man, but to educate a girl is to educate a whole family” is one that I have had with me since I was 4-years-old. One that I live every day being the main caretaker of my children and their first teacher. 

What a great gift from life to have the ability to guide young ladies through their ups and downs and to find their true selves without ever hearing the words: “you can’t do it because you are a girl”. What a special role we have as parents to raise a family with both genders included! How great to be able to show my son that he can love and cuddle and still be manly! How wonderful it is to learn from them and their different reactions to the same experiences!

We love our mixed family!

So please, next time you feel like bashing teenage girls’ attitude or pity us for having two girls who would be teens, just know that my only answer to you is that I feel deep gratitude for having every single one of my children in my life. You can keep your pity to yourself.

Any Moment is a Teachable Moment

As a mom of two very impressionable preschoolers and a baby, I feel that is my job to chime in every time that I see the opportunity to shape my kids’ views of the world. After all, our first ideas of how things work come straight from what we see and hear at home (and those hours spent at preschool).

My comments are sometimes premeditated, like when we go to a certain exhibit or any pre-planned activity. But other times, the opportunity to teach the kids a life lesson creeps up and catches me by surprise. Like when we went to watch the new Disney Cinderella movie last weekend. 

My daughter is your typical princess-wannabe 5-year-old and as such, she wants to imitate the behavior modeled by her heros. Not surprisingly, she loved every moment of the movie (except, of course, the tragic and the mean ones). 

As I sat there watching the movie and watching my little girl lost behind that smile that only children have when they believe in magic, three thoughts came to mind:

  1. Wow! I hope that she doesn’t believe that kindness equates to letting people walk all over you.
  2. I hope she doesn’t believe that Cinderella married the prince solely because he’s the prince and lives in a castle (or as a way to escape her situation).
  3. I hope that if anything sticks with her about the movie, is that forgiveness takes both courage and kindness.

As soon as the movie ended, I began my way into imparting my “motherly wisdom”. To my surprise, my 5-year-old was happy to engage in a discussion about what great and not-so-great traits her new hero had. 

When I told her that being kind didn’t mean to let people mistreat you, she asked me if it was true even when someone else’s feelings would get hurt. She caught me by surprise. I wanted to say YOU COME FIRST. ALWAYS! But I understood where her innocent question came from. So instead I said: when people truly love you, they will do their best to never hurt your feelings or mistreat you. And when they do upset you, they will have the courage to say I’m sorry.

She looked at me nodding her head as a way to let me know the message had been received. But her question made me wondered how many times she had been in a situation where her feelings would be getting hurt and she didn’t stand up for herself fearing of hurting someone else’s.  

I thought about the time when I picked her up from the play area at the gym in tears after her hearth had been broken by a little friend. Or when she had been sad and too quiet after a play date. While these encounters are part of growing up, I don’t want her to just sit there and let the behavior that is bothering her happen. It is also my job to teach her how to defend herself when the situation requires it. 

The only thing that came to me was the motto of the movie. I told her that even when life gets hard, I also wanted her “to have courage and be kind”.

Putting the Perfect Mom Act On

I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a household where everything had a place, all things were neat and organized, the clothes were perfectly pressed, food was homemade and my parents were always put together and dressed to the T.

My parents and brother are all Type A personalities and always knew where everything was. I was always the one with the somewhat messy room. Then came college and my longing for home made me be more organized than ever before and it was then when my path to domestication began.

By the time my kids came along, I was almost a neat freak and a “housewife from the 50’s” wannabe: I cook, clean, organize, challenge myself by baking my own bread… I only need to take on sewing and to do crafts to perfectly impersonate the image of what’s homey.

However, now that I have 2 kids to chase, feed and look after, my housekeeping isn’t what it used to be. I try not to torture myself with the thought of not having the perfectly neat home -most times I manage to shrug it off successfully.

This month I’m unable to let it go though. My mother is coming to visit for two weeks and I feel like in front of her everything must be perfect, the kids well-behaved, our clothes all pressed, the kitchen organized and well-stocked… I feel as if I was being inspected. I definitely want to pass the test.

My mom isn’t coming till the end of the month and preparations for her visit have already started. It isn’t that I pretend to be someone else while she’s here, is just that I feel that I can’t allow myself to sit and chill -just like she didn’t when I was growing up.

I have never talked about her expectations as a mother and why she did all she did and still had time to obsess over the little details. But this time I will and I will ask her how she managed not to seem tired ever.

Reconnecting with my Religious Affiliation

I normally don’t write about religion, which to my friends from school may seem a bit odd since we all grew up in a very religious atmosphere. But to be honest, since I went to college and had that journey where I found my own identity, a big gap grew between many religious teachings of my Catholic faith and my actual life. An example being the forbidden use of contraceptives to plan your family.

Though my husband and I don’t share the same religion, we got married in the Catholic church and baptized both of our children, but our religiousness has stopped at that. I am a believer and there isn’t a day in which I don’t find time to say a prayer, but going to church and listen to the rules and expectations that no longer seem to match my life or the current times in which we live, made me walk away and have this distant relationship with a church that basically was all around me growing up.

I know I am the woman I am today in great part because of the moral guidance that my Catholic school provided, yet, I don’t seem to find much room for it in my current life. There has been too much corruption, too many conspiracies and secrecy and a huge disconnection with Pope Benedict XVI who followed the widely beloved John Paul II for me to find my place at church.

Religion (not faith) had become more of a game of politics to me. That was until today, March 13, 2013 when a Jesuit from Latin America got elected to be the new Pope. My faith and religious views were shaped very close to the Jesuit teachings, which are more liberal than others, so I am excited about the prospect of perhaps having a little modernization of the church.

The election of a Pope from an order that is so close to my heart makes me feel hopeful and proud at the same time. I just hope that it actually revives the religious affiliation that was so dear to me when growing up. I want my kids to grow up in the same type of religious environment in which I grew up, it was just hard to imagine how I was going to reconnect with the church, until today.

Good luck Pope Francis, you have a lot of Catholics to reconnect with!

Me Time

Everyone needs to have a little time to be herself, to worry only about one person, to do the things she likes. As a stay-at-home mom turned into housekeeper, it is very difficult for me to find more than 20-40 minutes a day where it’s only me that I’m focusing on.

Going to the gym and being able to drop the children off is a great escape but sometimes, I need a little more. That is why when I told my husband about doing a weekend getaway with other mom friends, he fully supported me not hesitating to take on all responsibilities related to staying alone with the children.

My friends and I didn’t care that it was the middle of the winter, we just wanted to escape to the great food, wine and shopping that one can only find in Chicago. We had a great time but it wasn’t because we did a million things. The fun laid on the simplicity of not having to follow a schedule, to haul other people around or worry about who needed a nap.

I was very happy to have had that time to relax but when I came home, I learned that my husband was just as happy to have been able to spend some extra time alone with our children :).

I can’t wait for the next time I get to have a whole day of me time!

Comidita!!!

I think that is long overdue for me to show my friends in the US what some dishes of the Mexican cuisine look like but because a picture speaks more than a thousand words, I have decided to make this post photo exclusive.

I am sure that after you see the dishes below, you will understand my nostalgia for a good Mexican meal when I am back in the States. But do not worry, I will not judge you if you look up a recipe of any of these delights and decide to take a chance to replicate it in your kitchen. The only thing I request is to please invite me over for lunch.

Enchiladas de Aguascalientes

Chilaquiles Rojos

Chilaquiles (tortilla chips bathed in a salsa) with cubed potatoes and carrots, topped with fresh cheese and avocado, accompanied with refried beans… a traditional breakfast

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Salpicon (shredded beef with tomato, onion, cilantro, olive oil and lime juice) with tostadas and guacamole

Carne en su jugo (traditional dish from Guadalajara), refried beans with corn and tortilla chips, tortillas with fried onions, and onion and cilantro to garnish it. The drink you see in the cup is horchata -rice water

Queso frito en salsa verde (fried cheese) with fried onions

Now, I couldn’t really show you why I miss real Mexican food so much without showing you what REAL tacos look like. No sour cream, no hard tortillas, no ground beef. Instead notice the small corn tortillas being made right in front one’s eyes, the different types of meats, cilantro, onion and the variety of salsas to choose from. Yum! I want some tacos al pastor.

Tacos, the real deal, the meat in the back is “al pastor” made in the same fashion than gyro meat but with a nice bbq type sauce

Grilled serrano peppers, onion, a stake that is about to be chopped up for my husband’s tacos, and there is some chorizo on the top of the photo.

Salsas!!! The first one from the left is avocado and tomatillo, then tomatillo with red peppers, then tomatillo or salsa verde and then salsa mexicana -the one is usually used here for dipping tortilla chips.

My mouth is literally watering right now. This is how the “taquero” gives you your taco. The meat here is called carnaza and is usually steamed. It is tender and very juicy.

The last thing one does before biting into a taco is adding some salsa to it. Here I have two cow tongue’s tacos with avocado and tomatillo salsa and one al pastor with pineapple and salsa verde.

After showing you all the great food that makes me miss Mexico even more, I think is time for me to go to my kitchen and see what I can do to remedy my cravings.

As we say in Mexico: ¡Buen provecho! Enjoy your meal.