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.

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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.

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.

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).

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.