Still ForeignMom

It is only fitting that I write this post on Mother’s Day week as I reflect on why I started this blog eight years ago this month (yeah! Eight years, friends).

It all began as a place to pour out all the ideas, questions, thoughts and words floating around my mind. All of them related to motherhood and to my experiences as a woman not only learning how to be a mom, but how to do so in a country other than her own.

As a new mom who had decided to stay at home with her baby, I found myself living on an island where my only adult interactions consisted of the conversations with clerks at stores, my monologues with my husband at the end of the work day, and the time spent with the occasional friend who’d pop in for a visit.

The isolation and silence were driving me crazy when a dear friend told me about the baby story times at the public libraries and how to connect with local groups of moms. The pursuit of the interaction with other new moms initiated an endless adventure on how to maneuver through the cultural nuances plus the learning curve that implicated to be a mom for the first time.

Motherhood became my reason to exist. All I read about, all I did through the day, all the new friends I made were to support this wonderful new stage. This blog was born alongside to help me dissect my feelings, to bounce off ideas, and as a place where I could write things that I could not otherwise explain.

As you may have noticed, I don’t edit my writing before I post and though that may seem a bit lazy, trust me, is not because of lack of interest. If you have stayed at home taking care of children, you’d know that is more for the lack of time. So please read knowing that if I did not edit before pressing “Publish” is because, otherwise, I would never find any post good-enough to end up on the blog.

Now, you may wonder if after three kids and having lived in the U.S. for close to two decades, I’m still feeling like a foreigner. The answer is yes, always yes. Every stage of motherhood with each of my children keeps bringing me new lands to explore, new places where I still feel very much like a foreign mom trying to make sense of the situations.  The name of this blog is something that I definitely identify with, and that it is very much applicable to my current situation. Living in a new state has definitely made me feel extremely foreign lately.

Luckily, and as a result of this blog, I have found answers to many questions related to motherhood. It has not been the blog per se but rather, the situations that I have experienced and later reflected on before they end up as a story over here. Many of the posts end up being great conversations with friends and what’s even better, they have brought many people closer to me.

I have had a great time reading back through many post prior to writing this one. Reliving wonderful and painful moments alike. Realizing how lucky I have been making a network of moms just like me, growing our families together.

From all the people in my network, my first mom friend keeps popping up in the sweetest memories. I love knowing that we have been friends from the beginning of this wonderful journey called motherhood.

She has been my shoulder to cry on, the one pouring me a glass of wine and coffee alike in so many of the bad times. The one who trusted me with her daughter to start a summer tradition with my oldest daughter. The one whose family grew almost (I have my limits, S!) at the same rate than mine. My companion from the very beginning. Thank you for being a topic of conversation in so many of my posts! I love you!

After reading back so much, I realized of how lucky I have been to be surrounded by a great mom-support group from the beginning. I have breastfeed and changed diapers alongside them; I have jumped into cold lakes with them to play “lifeguard” as we have let our children show their newly-acquired swimming abilities; I have carved time to go out for adult time with them; We have cried a river of tears and laughed so much together that our sisterhood is undeniable. Now spread out across the country, the unbreakable bond remains.

Reading through this, I have also noticed how the years that have come and gone have left their mark on me and how today, I am definitely a much more comfortable writer than when I started this. It’s pretty funny to read about the things that used to worry me so much (i.e. breastfeed at the circus) and that now seem so silly.

I hope to keep this up for many years to come. Thank you for reading me. Thank you for your input. And a very special thank you to all of the people who are the source of so many stories being told here.

Happy Mother’s Day to my tribe.

Advertisements

Every Chaos Finds Its Order

As the boxes have been unpacked in our new home, I find myself constantly arranging and rearranging things. I still don’t find my way around the new house, much less around the new city.

I long for so many things of my hectic routine of the past. I miss the vast network I had around me. I also miss having adequate furniture and a place for everything in the house.

Still mourning many things, I am reminded that this is a clean slate. A revival of sorts. The opportunity of truly find the things that I want to do without the social obligations acquired through time.

I’m living a process of metamorphosis that hopefully will conclude with me growing a beautiful pair of wings that would take me places.

The problem is that I want so many things to be in place at the same time, that I’m not sure I’m ready to make my chrysalis and just patiently wait in there for things to take their natural course.

It’s so hard to live in constant chaos. Perhaps that is my main lesson here. To learn to let go, to practice patience, to slow down and wait for things to settle on their own.

Two different friends told me the exact message yesterday: be patient, it takes about a year before one settles in a new place. Then before bed, I read a quote on a friend’s Facebook wall: “Every chaos finds its order”.

I felt like the universe was conspiring to help me let go.

Maybe is time for me to find something to start weaving my chrysalis with and let my metamorphosis begin.

I Guess This Is It…

The time for the move is here and though I knew about this day for months now, nothing prepared me for the feeling of having just taken a cold shower that struck me when I saw the “SOLD” sign outside my house, my home.

There is something to be said about the first home in which you felt you had built a family. We brought our babies here; we have celebrated birthdays and holidays; we have created traditions and collected memories within its colorful walls.

I have spent the last month saying goodbye to everyone and everything. Little by little, not knowing in many cases, when would it be the last time that I would see the acquaintances and knowing for sure when I would be giving the last hug to a close friend.

Emotions have been so intense that I feel as though I am hangover. Tingling hands and pounding heart, I had been able to “manage” things. That was until that gigantic moving truck in the photo below showed up in front of the house that, on paper, is no longer mine. The same house I’m finding impossible to say goodbye to.

As hard as saying goodbye to the building itself is, it doesn’t compare to the gaps in the heart that I have acquired as I have said goodbye to my friends, my tribe, my people.

All those friends who have been my companions through these early years of motherhood. The ones that have consoled me, who have nursed their babies as I nursed mine, who have my back always.

I’m going to miss all you dearly and terribly. How do I even begin to explain how my heart stings? How the tears choked in the back of my throat prevent me from talking clearly, from expressing love and gratitude?

I feel like I’m leaving behind a part of me with each of you. I will miss you and your smiles, your teachings, our discussions, the feeling of being surrounded by friends who are like family.

I guess this is it.

As I see many friends these last days, I know that it is the last time I will see them in a while and I can’t help it but to feel this pit in my stomach

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.

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.