Monday, December 19, 2011

Dinner Options

Our first week here we heard about the man who sells tamales outside the Oxxo (Mexico's 7-11) down the street. He shows up a little after 6 with his silver pot of tamales and sells them until they're gone. I never think about him, though, because I'm often home before he gets there, or I just don't notice him. I saw him tonight on my way to buy dinner at Pechugon, the rotisserie chicken/yummy spicy potatoes joint. After purchasing a whole chicken/potatoes/rice combo (108 pesos), I decided to stop for some tamales. Tamale Pot Guy turned out to be a woman (the guy's wife, maybe?) The tamales, which come in several varieties, are 9 pesos each. I got two of the green sauce kind for Narra and I to try.

We just finished eating all of the aforementioned vittles, and I was inspired to come in here and write an ode to dinner options in Mexico, which are varied, tasty, and exquisitely inexpensive. At current exchange rates, tonight's meal cost about 9 bucks. The tamales were dellllicious. I predict we'll begin visiting tamale pot lady about once per week.

If I were a dedicated blogger, this post would feature a picture of the tamale vendor. To my own dismay, and as you may have noticed, I am not such a blogger. Fortunately, I married well.

Until next time. Which at current blogging rates will be sometime in mid-April.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Favorite Thing

Elote = Corn. But as I mentioned in a previous post, it's different than the sweet corn we're used to back in the States. But man do I love the stuff. It's often sold by street vendors on the cob, roasted on the spot, seasoned with sal (salt), limon (lemon), and a mayonnaise-based cream sauce if you'd like. (I have yet to try the cream sauce.) Or, you can have it my favorite way -- in a cup with the warm broth it was cooked in, with a little sprinkling of rock salt, a squeeze of fresh lemon, and chili. Ooh la la! Delicioso!

Funny how I'm writing about corn and fail to mention all the other stuff we've been doing. We spent Thanksgiving weekend at the beach for goodness sakes! And did we write about "camping" in Tapalpa? And I hosted the girls in Birdie's class for her birthday with the help of my friend Ani. It's amazing how hard it is to keep up with a blog.

So for now, I write about corn.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

By the way...

The Cena de Las Papas for Birdie's class was a very good time. There were only 9 couples there, so it was rather intimate - and that intimacy did not lend itself to much English at all. (At Deevie's dinner, there were 5 round tables of people, with an animated hum of conversation from all sides, so Pedro wasn't out of place talking to me in English as others at our own table had their own discussions.)

All of us sat in a circle, as one large group. Thank goodness N and I were together on this one :). I understand some Spanish, but man, regular conversation with its speed, pause-less transition of topics, ups/downs of emotion...not very conducive to little ol' Narra comprehending mucho! At one point one of the dads was going on and on with a very animated story that I wasn't getting at all -- until he said the word "carriola". It felt like my brain stopped.

In Narra's head: "Hey! I know "carriola"! That means "stroller!"

And with that one ping of recognition, I smiled and laughed with everyone else. The dad went on with his story, and then said the word "cacahuates."

In Narra's head: "Cacahuates! That means "peanuts!!"

More smiling and nodding of my head. "Stroller and peanuts! He's talking about strollers and peanuts! I GET IT!" I was positively giddy.

And then he said both "carriola" and "cacahuates" again. I was laughing so hard in my head that I'm sure my exterior expression seemed like I understood every bit of the overall story.

"NOT! It's all strollers and peanuts in here, people!"

N and I had a good laugh at that in the car home. "Strollers and Peanuts" has sort of become our family mantra whenever we don't fully understand what's going on. Even Birdie and Deevie are in on it. For example, yesterday we went to Tonala to buy a mirror for the living room, and pick up bar stools I'd ordered last week. Birdie kept asking me if we could find a place to make doll furniture. I asked a store owner, who went into a longish response with full hand gestures and pointing in all directions. After I said "Gracias!" Birdie asked, "What did he say?" Me: "I'm not sure. It was mostly strollers and peanuts to me!"

Why do I feign comprehension?! Why is it that when someone asks me a question in Spanish, my first impulse is to respond with a big, happy "¡Sí!"?!

ANYWAY. The cena was truly lovely, and both N and I were so happy to be a part of it. Our first "date night" since arriving! :)

It's very easy to stay within the Consulate Family here in GDL -- which is a necessary comfort and something else I'm so thankful for, but branching out like this when we can is a true blessing as well.

Play Date

Birdie was invited to her first after-school play date with a Mexican classmate last Friday. Play dates are a big deal here, so we were pretty excited about it. Birdie's friend Mari is the daughter of Ani, one of the mom's who has become my legitimate friend after we sat next to each other at the "Mother's Breakfast" for the class moms. (We signed up as a team to make the turkey dinner for the class Thanksgiving party, another long story.) Ani is a "Chilanga" - which means that she is from the "D.F." (what "Mexico City" is called in Mexico, sort of like how we call Washington D.C. just "D.C."). Anyway, Ani has been the coolest, telling me that she too had a hard time when she first came to Guadalajara last year, and how we can hang out as "outsiders" together.

Chilanga = Mexico City native
Tapatia = Guadalajara native
Gringa = me

The good news about this whole play date situation is that Birdie was invited, along with me, Deevie and Cubby - we often come as a packaged deal. (Birdie can be a little overwhelmed with new situations she has to face alone, and Ani totally got this. She told me she wanted to have a play date with me as well!) So after school Friday, I wrangled the whole crew (thinking back, images of wild cattle come to mind) into the van and took to the crazy GDL traffic and streets to follow Ani's driver to their house. When we arrived after 3pm, delicious smells were coming from the kitchen. "Are you ready to eat?" Ani asked. They had a full spread of grilled meat, rice black beans and fresh green tomatillo salsa - all so good and nothing like anything I've tasted in Mexican restaurants back home. But that isn't to say that eating lunch at 3pm is still pretty strange to me! (Side note: The girls' teachers tell me I'm one of the very few moms who pack an actual lunch for my kids, who have breaks during what Americans would consider "lunch time." The Mexican kids tend to bring very light snacks, because of the cultural norm to eat a real lunch with their family at home. No wonder dinner is after 9pm, huh?)

The kids had a great time. We rode bikes to the neighborhood trampoline, where Birdie, Deevie, Mari and one other play-dating classmate Maite jumped for a good while. Ani has three kids like me, so she and I spent our time talking in between pushing our little boys around on push-cars (her youngest son is 2). Cubby kept wanting to get bigger and better cars he saw in a neighbor's garage.

It felt so good to be doing something so normal. Just an afternoon hanging out with another mom, while our kids played around us. At one point Mari showed us all how well she can hulahoop. Ani gave it a shot and was terrible. Then I did, and the thing literally fell right down to the ground as I gyrated insanely. Ani laughed so hard -- and even having someone laugh at me that unabashedly felt good! Hard to explain, but it was refreshing to feel walls of formality and politeness come down.

I kept feeling like we needed to go, but Ani said that a normal play date lasts til around 7. Long day for four of the five Gs! We finally hit the road around 645 (Cubby and Deevie were starting to get that crazed, nearing-meltdown look in their eyes), and with traffic, got home just before 8pm.

Long, but great day.

Friday, November 11, 2011

La Cena de Las Papas

I always Google Translate all the Spanish emails I get from Birdie and Deevie's school room mothers, and some of the attempts at translation are pretty funny. "La Cena de las Papas" was at first "A Potato Dinner." I clicked on the "other possibilities" and it became, "A Dinner of the Pope." And then the body of the email kept saying things that "las mamas" (or "the breasts") needed to do. The breasts need to prepare potatoes for the Pope? Ugh!

Anyway, thanks to the babysitting of our lovely fellow consulate neighbor, I was able to go to Deevie's "Dinner for the Parents" last night, hosted by the parents of one of her classmates. Some of the finer points of the wonderful evening:

1) Holy hotel lobby! That's what the living room looked like, with the dinner tables set out on the patio, under the glorious purple, flower-scented Guadalajara evening sky. Full service staff was on hand in formal uniforms.

2) Beginning time for the dinner...NINE P.M.?!? I still can't get used to the late night events around here. We started eating at 1045, and introductions around the room started at 12:05am. I finally got home just before 1am -- on a school night.

3) After initially feeling extremely intimidated by the gorgeous, very dressed up moms I saw at the school, I now love, love, love the parents around these parts and have only been treated with the upmost kindness and warmth. For one thing, they are so involved in their kids school and activities, many of the moms dropping off and picking up their kids every day. Deevie's teacher (from Minnesota, this is her first year in Guadalajara) has taught 20 years in the States and in her introduction she hit on the fact that as an educator, it is so wonderful and refreshing for her to be so in-tune with the parents of her students, working together on the kids' behalf. "I don't know where the parents are in the States. But I never saw many of them when I taught there!" she said. I chimed in and said, "They were working!" (Like me!)

4) I sat at the greatest table of parents. (N, by the way, was not with me. He was rockin' out at the Aerosmith concert, you see. :)) To my right was a couple from Argentina, who had moved to Guadalajara in June. The father, named Pedro, spoke very good English, and helped translate things I didn't understand, and together with everyone at the table, kept me laughing most of the night. "So is Spanish that different between Mexico and Argentina?" I asked the table. "I mean, can you tell that he is not from Mexico?" Pedro turned to me and said, "Can you tell when someone is from England?" Aha. Of course. I've never thought about these things before, as lame as that sounds!

There is so much more to tell, but overall, it really was a wonderful evening. I'm sorry N missed it. We met up at home and compared notes on our evenings. He'll get to experience another Cena de las Papas TONIGHT when we head out to attend the one for Birdie's class....starting at a las 9 de la noche.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


At a recent birthday party in Deevie's class, one of the Mexican moms asked me what these are called in English:

Party blower thingy? I had no idea! Anyway, she told me that in Spanish they're called "espantasuegras," which literally translates to "scare the mother-in-law." She blew one out and said that the action, easily associated with blowing up a lady's skirt, is a daughter-in-law's way of saying "humfph!" to something annoying the "suegra" does or says. So much tied up in a little thing! I love learning things like this.

And for the record, both N and I have very cool and loveable suegras. ;)

Friday, November 4, 2011


I talked to my grandma yesterday and one thing she said struck me. "It sure sounds like you're having a good time!" she said. "Is anything hard at all?" I laughed, because of course things are hard. We just don't blog about it for some reason. As you can see, it's hard enough for us to blog when things are great!

Guadalajara on a whole is a fantastic place. But it's still not home. An American mom friend from school mentioned a statistic to me - that living out of your home country is like 30% harder on top of all the other crap that makes life hard. We thought it was funny and sort of ridiculous that anyone would even try to quantify an actual percentage. But I do understand the general cloud of stress, pressure, something hanging over all of us as we go about life here.

Sometimes I just want to ball up and stay at home all day. But of course with a household to run, dinner to get on the table, kids to cheer up and be an example for, I can't do that. I worry about the kids and their ability to make actual friends. And then I worry about leaving in two years and them having to leave any friends they've made in the first place. I worry about missing out on things back home. I stress about not being as supportive to N as I could be, and worry about us dealing with our issues individually instead of communicating. I worry that I trust people too much - our household help, the construction workers in the neighborhood, the guys who deliver water. Not being able to speak fluently, and not understanding cultural nuances, is very frustrating. I feel like an imbecile a lot of the time, even while doing things that you'd think were normal -- like getting groceries, or getting gas, or even taking a walk with Cubby. Tipping! Goodness, that is a big one. I never know when or how much to tip, and often feel sweat forming as I fumble around in my purse for money. Even swiping my credentials to get into the school makes me think twice. "Do Mexicans do this a different way?" I ask myself. "Does my jalopy of a stroller just scream 'American'?" "Is my internal discomfort manifesting itself externally?" These are the crazy thoughts that often run through my head, as pathetic as it is! But in good moments, this is all fodder for laughter with N and other friends who are going through the same thing. In bad, it's all reason for me to buy comfort stuff online. (Just kidding, N! Ha

My friend back home asked how things were going here, and as I told her, "Well, it's still just life. I still have to figure out what to cook tonight!"

Plus or minus 30% more stress :).

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fun, fun weekend

On Saturday we tagged along with some friends for a visit to Chapala--actually, a bit west of Chapala--to another little hot springs pool place called Hotel Balneario San Juan Cosalá.

On the way in a woman was selling raspberries in 1 liter cups for 20 pesos--about 1.60usd. We bought two and stuffed ourselves. 

There are two main pools, one with waterslides, both with great views of the lake. (And I think there might be other pools just for hotel guests--not sure.) The food was good, the kids wore themselves out, Narra got a massage... everyone had fun. Definitely planning to go back.

And today we met up with work peeps for our first (and maybe only) Pan American Games event: fútbol--Trinidad and Tobago vs. Ecuador at Omnilife stadium. We got there about 45 minutes late and then took our time (first stop: cotton candy) because the girls never have any staying power at sporting events. But they were enjoying this one and it turned out our tickets were good for the next game, too, so we stuck around and watched the first half of Cuba-Argentina.

Attendance was super low, so all the food lines were short, etc., and somehow our 30 peso tickets put us 4 rows from the field. Cubby even had a good time! We walked him around the concession area, which had a perfect view of the field. Win-win. He stayed in good spirits, mostly, and fell asleep in the Baby Bjorn on the way out. Charmed day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Oktoberfest, Guadalajara Style

The whole family went to an Oktoberfest festival (is that redundant?) last Saturday and enjoyed a perfect weather evening outdoors. There was bad booming music, bratwurst, fries (with lots of chili and lime of course!), beer, and these awesome free balloon-type things that kept the kids busy all evening. One especially cool thing was the fresh pine needels that cushioned the "family" section (right by the Telcel moonbounce). It was wonderful to picnic and sit about with that amazing scent wafting around us. Not sure if that's a Mexico thing, but what a great idea.

Initially we weren't going to go into the festival grounds because the long ticket lines (separate from the long line to get into the venue) looked terrible. The kids were cranky, and the music really sounded like bad death metal. So for almost an hour, we instead rented a surrey bike and pedaled around the park. Best idea ever.

But a call from a friend in the ticket line, and other calls to families already within the fence, made us decide to rally.

At one point N laughed when he got off the phone, relaying to me a comment from one of the other dads already fest-ing away. "He said they're getting hammered." Obviously this was sarcastic, since the dad in quesiton was with his 2 year old daughter. But later as we made our way toward the entrance, Deevie tugged on my arm and asked:

"When do we get our hammers?"

Monday, October 17, 2011


Where we live is a newer development. There are still a bunch of houses under construction, which has never really bothered me because it felt nice to be amongst people during my days at home.

UNTIL NOW. They broke ground on the lot NEXT to our house! Ugh. Our view blocked. Dust in every open window. Noise, noise, noise. I just hope it is done by the time N's parents visit for Christmas!

On a positive note, it's nice to feel like we're in an up and growing neighborhood. I'll keep telling myself that...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Do Not Question the Deevie

For the past few weeks, Deevie has been breaking into song, saying something that sounded like "Papa Americano!" All the rest of the family would correct her, saying that it MUST be "Pan-Americano" or something affiliated with the Pan American Games that start tonight in Guadalajara.

So this morning, as I drove with Cubby to a yoga class, listening to 98.7 (my favorite Guadalajara radio station that often plays some of my old staples by Depeche Mode, the Cure, Morrissey, etc), on comes a song that distinctly sings "PAPA Americano." I was curious enough to Google it when I got home, and this video is what I found.

I apologized to Deevie immediately. She was very happy that she was right.

Deevie: "We watched this video at school! It's funny!"
Me: "Why in the world would you watch this video at school?!"
Deevie (rolling her eyes, as if I'm the most clueless person in the world): "Because of the Pan-American Games."

And now Deevie is of course singing the "Papa Americano" part over and over as she scoots around on her EZ Roller.

Deevie: "Why did you guys keep correcting me?! Now I get confused between Pan-Americano and Papa Americano! I was right BEFORE!!!"

Sorry, sweetie! :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Lots of hatch-battening going on east of us. I was surprised to see us in the pink zone. GDL is a mile high city, so you'd think that would help. Hopefully we'll see a bunch of rain and nothing more.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


The girls have been watching old school Scooby Doo shows (thanks for the DVD, K+C!) during their TV time after school. During one episode about a spooky fortune teller:

Birdie: "Mommy, there is a boy named Crystal Ball in my class."

Me: "Really?! Are you trying to trick me?"

Birdie: "No! I'm serious! But he pronounces it 'Chris-toh-bol'."

Sure enough when I checked the class roster, there is a "Cristóbal". :)


Birdie: "Mommy, do you know how to say "burning" in Spanish?"

Me: "No."

Birdie: "Quema."


Birdie: "Mommy, maybe you should go to Special Spanish with me."


Our friend Kristen was visiting. Kristen is taking Spanish classes at a local college, the first time she's studying this language.

Kristen (looking at Birdie's Spanish homework): "You're probably learning a lot, huh? Like I bet you know what "tarea" means."

Birdie: "It means homework. And you pronounce it tah-reh-a." (Kristen's American accent was apparently lacking by Birdie's standards.)


I got so, so terribly lost yesterday while driving home from the school with all three kids. Yes, while driving home from a place I go to ALL. THE. TIME. What can I say? I spaced for a second and suddenly found myself on an UNESCAPABLE Mexican highway! Oh it was terrible. And stressful. Birdie kept whining from the back, saying things like, "I wish we weren't with you right now, Mommy!!" Gee, thanks! N thankfully was home and was able to locate us through our combined calculating (I had the Gudalajara street map with me, which was a blessing since our powerless GPS (malfunctioning chord will not allow charging) was useless), and walk me through the streets over my cell. When we finally got home:

N: "Hey, at least this wasn't Mexico's fault. I mean, you do that kind of thing all the time in the States too."

Ah, the sweet, sympathetic words of spousal support.

Monday, October 3, 2011


We went to Parque Metropolitano yesterday, which is like a 5 minute drive from home. Score! What a great place. Bike paths, trampolines for hire, zip wires for Birdie, Deevie and N to try out, dogs for Cubby to say "Wuff! Wuff!" to, food stalls with fish tacos and fresh ice cream with chunks of fruit, and perfect Guadalajara weather. Aaahh, the weather. It really is superb. Someone told me that planning an outdoor wedding here from October through December is a no-brainer because it's always outdoor-wedding perfect.

Trampolines. We didn't do it this time because of the 20 minute wait.

Brave Birdie Zipping solo!

Deevie clinging to Daddy for dear life. All sorts of dogs were having crazy fun splashing in the pond below.

Blue skies, sun, food.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


For Deevie's b'day present, our neighbor took the girls to get their hair braided. They were prrrrretty excited about their 'dos:

They got them Saturday morning and kept them until Monday night. I think they could have stretched it another day or two. The things are practically bullet proof.

HHE! (aka. Our Stuff!)

The HHE--aka, the big shipment--arrived yesterday. I wasn't looking forward to it, to be honest. It actually arrived last week, but we decided to hold off until after Deevie's birthday. There were just a few key things I was looking forward to--piano, TV, the printer--but it turns out, getting all your stuff is fun! Being surrounded by familiar things marks a return to normalcy. It puts you at ease... makes your situation feel permanent...  makes toy clean-up take three times as long. Normalcy.

I stayed by the door checking off box numbers and telling the guys where to take things. Narra was upstairs unpacking and making sure they took stuff to the right places. We have a spare room since the girls share a room, and that's where I had them take anything I couldn't identify, thought we wouldn't need soon, or wished we hadn't brought. At this point, the whole house is feeling fairly put together-- except for that room.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Black Widow

We saw our first black widow spider tonight - crawling in the runner of the glass sliding door to the backyard. Yes, black widow spiders are apparently quite prevalent in these parts. (My sentiment exactly.)

As N's co-worker at the Consulate said, "If you're going to worry about safety in Mexico, worry about black widow spiders." How's that for reassurance?

Anyway, it was very freaky to see an actual, unmistakeable black widow spider, IN OUR HOUSE. My first reaction: "But I thought they weren't supposed to be where people are! I thought they were scared of us!" Even as I whimpered this, I know our neighbors found four in their front yard a few weeks ago.

N got the ant spray, gave the spider a few squirts from a distance, and then smacked it hard with his slipper. We did some internet research afterwards, and found that we completely followed the recommended way to deal with this situation. You're never supposed to just whack at a black widow because you could misjudge it's speed or position, and it could bite you. You're first supposed to weigh it down with any liquid spray you have near by. N was pretty proud, saying things like, "My instincts kicked in. That's right. Go tell your spider friends!"

But please, if you talk to your spider friends, just tell them to stay away. Ack.

I'm SO glad the girls weren't awake to see any of this!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Deevie!

Lots to write about today, but right now N and I have to plan for the small neighborhood party we'll be having for Deevie tomorrow. I took cupcakes and goody bags to the school today (an entire adventure all on its own), and tried my best to live up to the crazy expectations I pretty much set for myself after hearing so many stories about Mexican birthdays. The room moms could not be nicer though, and the kids all loved the cupcakes the lovely, wonderful, God-send K came over and made with me and Deevie on Tuesday. Thank you so much K!

Deevie's class bought her a really cool "Ezy Roller" scooter thing, in PINK. I know, right?! But each mom will be assigned one kid to buy a gift for, with around a $100 limit. When in Mexico... It really is so nice though, and Deevie loves it.

N just said I choose the strangest times to blog. He is right of course. Off to plan for the fiesta.

We love you Deevie! Happy Birthday!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

¡Viva México!

Tomorrow is Mexico's Independence Day. I should write what I think are the facts, and then check and see how much I got right. I think that would be a good laugh for everyone. I do know that a man shouted at night for everyone to rebel against the occupying Spainiards. I think it was Benito Juarez Miguel Hidalgo, and maybe the "grito" was more about finally being victorious? I swear I'm going to learn something about this very important and festive holiday!

The kids get tomorrow off of school, and N, because the Consulate celebrates both American and Mexican holidays, gets tomorrow off too. Yippee!

Word on the street was that kids were encouraged to either wear the colors of the Mexican flag (red, green, white) or traditional Mexican clothing today. Because we seem to be lacking anything pure red or pure green, I went to an outdoor market last night with our wonderful neighbor R, and bought the girls each a Mexican dress to wear to school today. They looked just adorable. Eva ("Eh-vuh") our housekeeper got here in time to do trensas in their hair again, so they really couldn't have been cuter.

Tonight we are going to our coto's (gated community) celebration, just across the street. There will be tacos, and drinks, and music, and lots of festivities apparently. Cubby and I walked over there earlier to buy tickets for some friends, and the decorations got us all excited. "Bbbuu!" shouted Cubby. (That's Cubby for "balloon", we've come to realize. Not very far from the beginning sounds of "Biibiibiibii" for "binkie" and "Bbbiibiibii" for "baby." He's certainly got the "b" sound down.) There is a rumor that they might televise President Calderon giving the "grito" of "Viva México!" live at 11pm, from near the city of Guanajato, where the original grito took place. I think 11pm is when the festivities officially begin, but I think that is when MY personal festivities will be back home and in bed. We'll see!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


We need to post more on here like crrraaaazzy. But for now, quick quotes from the girls.

Birdie one afternoon last week, describing what she's like at school:

"Mommy, I'm like a 'no sé' robot."

Deevie, making an observation about the mothers of some of her classmates:

"People here really dress up. But not you, Mommy, cause you're an American. Right?"

Guadalajara is gearing up for hosting the Pan-American games next month, and there are a lot of billboards, advertisements on taxis, etc. Everyone is very excited. One entire street is newly lined with all-weather exercise equipment and sport sculptures for the occasion. Anyway, the street is very recognizable, and I know I always feel very secure when I'm on it because I've known that street since my first day here. Apparently the kids are very familiar with that street too, because one longish day in the car last weekend, a very frustrated Deevie had this to say:

"We've been on this road like eleventy times already!"

Friday, September 2, 2011

Back to school!

The car got here on Wednesday afternoon and there was much rejoicing. "Hooray! Freedom!" Then it just sat in our driveway for two days... until this evening's elementary school open house. I took a taxi from work and Narra met me at the school in the minivan having just conquered GDL rush-hour traffic.

[Side note: Narra's last "I did something!!" post is ridiculous. She has been "doing something" every minute since our arrival. She's been amazing. Her job here is far harder than mine, she's been making things happen every day, and I have three happy kids to prove it.]

Deevie's open house will be next week, but we still had two teachers to meet tonight. Por que? Well, the Bird started off the year in pre-first, which is an extra grade they throw in, partly to help the Mexican children (the vast majority of students) catch up in English. Although most of them start there in pre-pre-K, they still speak Spanish in their homes, so the extra year makes sense... for them. For our book-devouring bird, not as much. After a couple of weeks, and some homework assignments that Birdie found sort of funny, the school and we concluded that a move to 1st was in order. Making the decision easier was that she's old for her grade in the US, so a bump up will mean she's still with kids her age.

Through this pre-first/first decision the school administration proved to be accommodating, caring, and great to work with, and we met several people we might never have spoken to otherwise. As icing on the cake, Birdie will be in the same Spanish section as before (same teacher and classmates for 1.5 hrs) AND have the same recess as her old class, so I hope the transition will go smoothly. Her old teacher and new teacher are working together to ease her in.

Meanwhile, the Deevster is all smiles in Kindergarten. She likes her teacher and classmates. Narra says there is one little friend, a French girl, who runs up and gives Deevie a kiss on the cheek when they see each other at recess. They bring a toy from home every Friday; today she was thrilled to bring in her daughter, Carol (a.k.a. the rather frightening looking doll in the post below).

There have been a few topes along the way. Each girl shed a few tears the first week--and we may still have a few to go with next week's transition--but I think things are smoothing out.

Tonight, when it comes to school in the GDL, we exhale.

Fancy school hairdos, courtesy of the other Eva.
(More about her later.)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I Did Something!!

I just made a 12-month appointment for Cubby with a Gudalajaran pediatrician!!! What an adrenaline rush. Using my best crap Spanish -- and Google Translate (thank you Google Translate) -- I pieced together enough sentences to make an appointment. And yes, this is my "primera vez" with this pediatrician, gracias (that was one of the off-the-cuff questions I hadn't prepared for. That and my telephone number.) Ha ha!

It's amazing how happy understanding the simplest things can uplift my spirits. I didn't even know my spirits needed uplifting until I made that call.

Oh, and N just called. The van is here!! Being delivered at 5pm!

Now Cubby and I have to prepare for a "Welcome Home Mommy" party I promised that baby doll Carol would have for Deevie when she returns from school. It was the only way I could get her to willingly get in the carpool this morning. Of course after I made the promise, Birdie chirped up saying she wanted Sally to have a party for her too.

I wonder if bouncing around in Grandma's hand while singing, "Yay! Mommy's home! Mommy's home!" will pass as a party?

Last Weekend

Last weekend our wonderful neighbors (and social sponsors from the Consulate) took us with their family to a place that sounded like Balnearia "Wheats-lah". Obviously I don't quite have the spelling right on that last word, but that's what it sounded like. The actual word had an X in it, and any Spanish word with an X confuses the heck out of me. Except "Dos Equis" -- but I don't think that counts.

"Balnearia" literally means "seaside resort." The place we went wasn't a resort by any English translation I know, but instead was a very hidden collection of hot springs that feed into each other. There were concrete stalls for changing, and concrete bathroom stalls, along with barbecue stands for guest use. We had to drive on a mostly-dirt mountain road for a ways before reaching the quaint village (we're talking 5 houses-ish plus a "tiendita" (small store)) that lead to the gate of the balnearia, passing Mexican burros (donkeys) on the way, and catching some breathtaking mountain scenery. "This looks like Hawaii!!" Birdie kept saying. The hot springs were natural springs, but in order to serve the local public, concrete pools had been built around them to allow for varying depths and temperatures. The girls loved it. (Have we mentioned that they are both swimmers now?! Crazy how quickly that has happened.) On a bathroom break to Wheats-lah, Nick ran to buy some fresh Mexican corn on the cob (I differentiate because the corn wasn't what you'd expect back in the States - it's tougher and heartier, almost yelling to be ground into a tortilla) from a roadside vendor. We grilled that along with the sausages and other food everyone had contributed for the barbecue.

It was so great to do something! N told me about the Saturday plan on Thursday, saying that we'd been invited to tag along on an outing. "Where?" I asked. "Does it matter?" said N. That is sort of where we are :). Our van has yet to arrive, so we basically only go to places we have to go to -- like work (N shares a taxi or gets a ride with neighbors), or school (we have a permanent driver for the girls now, so no more hauling car seat and cranky Cubby around every day!). Seeing parts of Guadalajara beyond those two destinations was thrilling to say the least.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The house

Here are some pics of the place from the day we arrived:

Back yard/patio:

The girls' room. (They want to share--it's what they're used to.)

Master bedroom:

Master bedroom closet (!) and Exploring Birdie:

Our bathroom. Really nice. The house is full of showers but this big tub is our only tub. To bathe Cubby, we do bucket brigade from the sink because it would take about 5 hours to fill otherwise. Once we get some water pressure to the big tub, we'll be sittin' pretty.

The view from our bedroom. There are lots of houses still under construction all around us. Note the playground on the right. Through that white building on the other side is a swimming pool. Having these things so close is amazing.

The living room/dining room: (it was getting dark)

...and the outside. We had pictures that came out better, but I think this one captures the chaos of the day.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Unaccompanied Air Baggage

It arrived on Thursday! Christmas in August! And as our neighbor warned me, even though we were very much looking forward to getting some of our stuff, in the end it didn't feel like a whole lot. But we were and are still very happy about it, and the kids were dancing around squealing with delight at each box opening.

Best things about UAB arriving:
- The girls' bikes!
- The grill! No propane yet, but hopefully we'll get some soon so we can cook out.
- Our own sheets and towels!
- More silverware!
- The art/craft center!
- Cubby's crib! We had a crib in the welcome kit, but the mattress seems smaller than standard, and therefore leaves gaps around the edges. And the side rail doesn't come down like ours. Don't get me wrong -- we very much appreciate there even being a crib in the welcome kit, but it's nice for Cubby to be back in a familiar bed.
- My shoes! So now I can bring the girls to school in something other than my running shoes. Not that I'll ever fit in with the fancy, beauty queen-esque mamas, but at least I look a little more put together. Or so I think! Ha ha.

Things we wish we had put in UAB:
- A mini-stero system so we can plug in our ipods/laptops to play music. We thought we had, but it must've been put in HHE because all 7 of our packed-to-the-gills UAB boxes got here without it.
- Bed covers! We packed sheets, but not the duvet covers or our quilt. It would've been nice to have that instant familiarity and homey-ness in the rooms. Our neighbor lent us covers for the girls' beds (colorful ones from Ikea), and that has been wonderful.

I'm sure there's more stuff we miss, but I can't think of it now. We were smart to pack bathroom rugs in our luggage because we needed those immediately. We packed shower curtains too, but all our showers have glass doors so we ended up not needing them. The GSO rep came by last week to inspect the house, and mentioned that we are welcome to paint any walls if we want to (yay!) just so long as we paint them back to white before leaving. I think a little color here and there (I'm thinking accent walls) will make this place feel a lot more like home. Bright yellow? That would seriously clash with some of the furniture, but I do want something bright to fit with Mexico. N has yet to chime in about this issue.

One piece of advice we got before arriving was to have the shipping company reps open our boxes and unpack our stuff for us, and take all the trash away. Wonderful advice! There is such an urge to just do it yourself and be alone with your things, but with small kids around and no tools, it makes so much more sense to have the pros do it. I also asked the guys to put together the crib (cuña (Found out it IS actually "cuna" without the trill! Apparently "cuña" has several non-crib meanings, one of which is "bedpan.") - with a trill over the n - don't know how to do that on the Mac [-thanks Craig!]) and the bikes, which was also great advice we got -- have them put together everything so we can use them immediately.

I'm also so thankful for the Exersaucer that another neighbor gave us so Cubby could stay put and watch the commotion from a safe distance, eating his Cheerios.

Friday, August 19, 2011

First Week of School

I could never capture the roller coaster of emotions we've been through this week with school starting. This being an "Eligible Family Member" (EFM -- basically a "trailing spouse" as it is also called) with three other EFMs in tow (i.e., our dependent children) is definitely a Full Time Job. Caps intended.

Now that we're at Friday night, I can hardly believe what Birdie, Evie, Cubby and I have been through! Yes, we've been a complete team through this, taking the same unairconditioned hired taxi the whole week through the streets of Guadalajara. Cubby and I at least have been back and forth, back and forth, more times than I can count - mainly because Deevie and Birdie are dismissed at different times. Good gracious.

Long story short, Birdie had a rough beginning two days (the second day started with her crying so hard that she didn't want to go and just wanted to stay home with me and Cubby), but ended the week running around the playground and saying she loved school. Deevie never cried and already is one of a pretty tight threesome of little pigtailed girls (one is American, the other is French - but she is constantly stopping our gang to say "Hola!" to her Mexican classmates). Both girls' main teachers are from the States (and obviously speak and teach in English), but only one of Birdies's classmates is American (that I know of) and the other kids are always speaking Spanish. Birdie's PE teacher is Mexican and teaches in Spanish, and this is what she shared with me in the cab home:

"Even though everyone spoke Spanish, I understood what to do! The teacher called out different numbers in Spanish, and we had to run around and get into groups with that many people. Thank goodness I know my numbers in Spanish!" (Yes, thank you Dora!)

Ms. Ali always gives me a report on how Birdie did during the day. Today was the first day where there were no tears at all! She basically cries when people talk to her in Spanish and don't realize she doesn't understand them (like when they had picture day, and the photographer's assistant kept giving her instructions. Ms. Ali said I can reorder the pics if they don't turn out :).). That second day was very hard for all of us -- writing about how things are better now almost makes me forget how awful and stressed I was about it all. While she was clinging to me saying she wanted to go home, I knelt down and held her shoulders, looking her in the eye. "If someone speaks to you in Spanish," I said, "just nicely say 'No se, English por favor.'" (I wanted to make is as simple as possible - not focusing on correctness!) It was awful trying to pry her away from the stroller into her teacher's arms as she sobbed. I was trying so hard to keep my own tears in. Then the school psychologist touched my arm and said, "Short and sweet, mom!" That made me feel even worse! Like I didn't get it! But of course I know to make is short and sweet, but it's so much more difficult in practice.

At pick up that day, Ms. Ali said Birdie had some rough parts, but overall the day went very well. Birdie was smiling and happy by that point. As we walked out of the school, she said, "Mommy, I said that thing you taught me."
Me: "Oh yeah?"
Birdie: "Yeah, this girl started talking to me on the playground and I said, "No se, English por favor."
Me: "And what did she do?"
Birdie: "She just went away."
And then she added, "Mommy, you know you're actually supposed to say 'ingles' not 'English'." That totally cracked me up inside. What a strong and observant Birdie.

Deevie starts the days shy, but seems completely warmed up and so happy by the end of the day. The kindergarten set up is awesome, with all three classrooms connected by one awesome playground. Ms. Karen has given nothing but great reports on Deevie, and the only complaint I've heard so far from Deevie herself is that I made her sandwich with the wrong kind of cheese. She was mad about that though!

Many more details to write about - like trying to figure out how to buy the required art smock! There were about 6 steps in that process, one of which involved waiting 40 minutes in line at the "caja" to get a receipt - so I could bring that to a completely different part of campus as proof. But of course when I tried to pay for the required PE uniform at the same caja, thinking "Hey, I'm finally understanding this!" they were completely confused at my request. Finally a mom behind me said, "Oh, for the uniform you can just pay at the window where they're selling them."

The school list of supplies in general is pretty funny. Things like "large wooden beads." Or "sturdy house plant." But we've had so much help from the wonderful Consulate families in our neighborhood, and from American/French mom-friends I've made at the school. And also from Elias, our driver - whose wife lent me her cell phone this week since I didn't have one! I'm so thankful to everyone. It is such a blessing to have this community in place upon arrival - and so essential, especially given how short our stay will be here in the larger sense. I'm already feeling two years zipping by, as crazy as that seems.


I find that every time I want to say something in Spanish, out comes Japanese. It's like my brain can only handle one second language at a time and Japanese has overtaken a lot of what I learned in my high school and college Spanish classes.

The streets of Guadalajara belong to automobiles. Pedestrians don't have much place on them! Yesterday I asked Elias (our hired driver for the week) in my choppy Spanish if there are places for people who want to walk and not use cars - because even the sidewalks are often taken over by parked cars. He agreed and said that cars basically reign the streets. We've heard that you'll be ok driving (or walking) as long as you have eye contact agreement with other drivers, allowing you to go or cross or whatever, BEFORE you do what you want to do. No one follows the stop signs - and I've been told if you do, you'll be hit from behind. There are tons of "topes" (speed bumps) on even the major roadways, which apparently is the government's way of forcing people to slow down and retain some order on the city streets.

Anyway, back to the language thing. I was observing a mother trying to cross the street with her child and said to Elias, "Trafico es muy aburrido." In hind sight I said, "Traffic is very boring." But what I was trying to say was "PELIGROSO" which means dangerous. Why would I say "aburrido"?! And then it came to me. "Danger" in Japanese is "abunai." I made "abunai" into a Spanish word! Ha ha. But still, Elias agreed. "Si, trafico es aburrido." He is very nice.

It's hard to look Latina and not be pera-pera (another Japanese word) in the Language. I'm sure lots of people think I'm strange and didn't do well in school!

Monday, August 15, 2011


No tengo lo!

Taking care of three kids here -- especially when two of them have to start school this week, and we don't have a car, and I don't speak Spanish (aside from what I remember from high school and college 15 years ago (i.e. un poquito)), is even more challenging than in Virginia. Holy cow!

I wish I could record every detail of what we've been through since arriving, but it's just not possible with everything else going on. It really is amazing though. The weather alone! Wow. We have the windows open all the time with the breezes blowing through the house. At night it cools down and is the perfect temperature for sleeping. We're in the rainy season so it does tend to rain through the night, but strangely the days are blue-skied with big puffy white clouds.

One thing we could use a lot more of is rugs. The house is so big, and tiled throughout, so by the end of the day Cubby's knees, hands, and tops of his feet are FILTHY. He is like our own little floor cleaner!

I've been through the school twice, and so far really like what I see. Birdie is very excited to start actual classes tomorrow! So that is very good. Parents are required to drop off Pre-1st (the grade Birdie was evaluated at - long story) students, and pick up, each day this first week. And remember how I mentioned not having a car yet? We've hired a driver for the week, and I understand probably 20% of what he is telling me, and I'm probably getting across about the same amount of what I THINK I'm getting across. We muddle along with lots of smiles though.

And now Cubby is trying to crawl up our death stairs. They are treacherous! Gotta go.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A soft landing in Guadalajara

So, we're in Mexico! I've been to my first day at work, Narra and the kids have visited the school, and we're all working on getting settled in.

Our house is pretty ginormous. I'm not sure of the square footage but it feels twice as big as our place in Annandale. I'll post a few pics at some point, but it's a two story townhouse. I seem to remember department vets saying that their houses are often packed full of furniture and they tend to send some back to GSO. In this case, we'll be keeping it all, thank you, and looking for some more.

Narra is on the couch behind me with Cubby, and Birdie is reading him Pat the Bunny. (He loves to put his finger through the ring.) Cubby woke up crying this morning; he still seemed tired, but wouldn't go back to sleep. I blame teething. At 11+ months, he still only has the one bottom tooth, so he must have quite a few driving him crazy. This morning he keeps losing it completely and we keep walking him back from the edge.

And now, a word from about our sponsors. The welcome we have received here has been just amazing. Our first night here, our sponsor family had us over for dinner. They have three kids, including a daughter who's in between our girls' ages. We had a great time chatting and then took a walk around the neighborhood. They have been invaluable to us and I look forward to the chance to pay it forward. There are several consulate families in this "coto," and they all just couldn't be nicer. We have flowers on our dining room table from one, cookies from another, and baby stuff on loan from another.

We've been here for about 40 hours but it seems like much more, and this place already feels like home.

On the docket this weekend: trip to Costco/Home Depot (yeah, that's right--it's FS-lite), trip for school supplies, and trip to get tiny photos taken for our Mexican IDs. As our car will not arrive for another week or two, we will continue to depend on the kindness of neighbors for rides and info.

Alright, time to get this day rolling.

Friday, August 12, 2011

We are in Guadalajara

The flight was smooth. The house is awesome. The neighbors are friendly. And by some miracle, we already have internet. Off to a good start!

Thursday, August 11, 2011


The bright Texas sun is coming through the hotel room curtain. Birdie is up wanting to draw. Deevie and Cubby are still sleeping in the adjoining room. N is showering.

The kids and I had a wonderful day yesterday with the Mezas while N had a full, good day of meetings. It was so nice having a home to hang out in -- filled with toys and friends, instead of a hotel room. It was another sad departure for the kids at the end of the day, with us yelling, "We love the Mezas!" and Albert yelling "Vaya con Dios!" Cubby was doing his little clenched fist open-close waving-good-bye move.

Our two hour flight to Guadalajara is around noon. The day is here!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Last Night In Virginia

So much to pack before morning (10 checked suitcases! Plus hand carried!) but I wanted to get something down for the record. What a Whirl. Wind. It has been.

- Yes, we sold the red car. Funny memory of how N handed Dad and I the cashiers check from Bank Of America and asked us to "make sure it's real" before heading out to finish up the sale. We were holding it up to the light and looking really closely at it, laughing at our inability to ensure its legitimacy.

- I still can't believe we emptied that house! Holy cow. And when I say "we", I really mean EVERY ONE involved in the pack out. Thank you just doesn't cover it for how much Dad and Mom helped us out. Everyone sort of took on an area of the house, and as I scurried after the kids, I kept seeing things being dealt with that I hadn't even thought of. The fridge! The shed out back! The attic! Ack! It's really hard for me to believe that we just can't go back there and see all our stuff around - laundry on the way up the stairs, kid art galleries on the wall, wet towels from swimming on the doors. Sigh. We threw out so much stuff I can't even begin to explain. Mom gave me kudos at the end saying that she was a little concerned about my ability to give stuff up (because I am so sentimental, like her) but that she was pleasantly surprised. Believe me, there is still going to be a lot of stuff showing up in our HHE that I'll certainly question our thinking in shipping it! In the end I think I found 17 nail clippers. That is but one small example of how an unorganized life can lead to sickening amounts of overpurchasing.

- The professional packers who came (Fernando, Elizabeth, Bobby and Michael) were awesome. Seriously awesome. I really enjoyed talking to them while they worked, and couldn't help but give them big hugs when they departed after 3 days. We way underestimated our UAB (air shipment) and ended up throwing a bunch more stuff in at the end - including the grill! The girls got to add their bikes to UAB too, so that'll be fun.

- Our HHE allowance was 7,200 lbs and we came in around 5,200 which was very good to hear. And that includes the piano! We were tempted to add things from storage to that group but in the end decided against it and just went with the weight we had.

- Thanks to Mom's great idea, we designated the upstairs bathroom as the "NO" room, and put anything in there that was NOT to be packed. Like the passports. N had all the important documents and papers in a yellow bag nicknamed "the football", and if he didn't have it on him, he had it in the No Room. I should've put my shoes in the No Room. Yup, the one casualty of the pack out seems to be the two pairs of shoes I meant to put in my suitcase. Until the mall trip on Sunday, I only had flip flops to my name.

- We are now in the Residence Inn, where we've been through the weekend. We fly to Houston tomorrow, where the kids and I will hang out with our wonderful friends we met in Strathmeade. N will have meetings during the day but will be joining us for dinner. On Thursday we fly to the Guad.

- Jenny came by to pick up her newly strung guitar and some bins she'll be holding in storage for us. I cried when she drove away. :( I love our friends and this place so much.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


- House: rented. Tenants found. They move in a week from tomorrow. (!)
- Red car: almost sold, I think.
- Back yard: full of stuff headed to the curb.
- Clothes: massively pared down. (Good job, The Bee.)
- Toys: sorta pared down. (Sorta good job, me.)
- Furniture/stuff: covered in red and green dots denoting whether it's storage or HHE (Household Effects, aka, the big, slow shipment).
- UAB (Unaccompanied Air Baggage, aka, the small, fast shipment): mostly isolated in Cubby's room.
- Cubby: sleeping MUCH better. The almost 11month old is finally pulling his weight.
- Girls: Excited. Behaving well, for the most part.
- ToDo list: unfortunately... still kinda long! For everything I cross off, I think of one more.
- The Cavalry: arrived Thursday and Friday in the form of my parents and brother, who are a tremendous help, have some experience with this whole international move thing, and can run interference with the wee ones.

Our next-door neighbor held a good-bye barbecue with the rest of our neighbors on our lil' road tonight. Love our street. The kids were running around like crazy.

Tonight is the last night that all of us will sleep in this house. When we arrived here we had one 5 month old lil' Birdie. Six years is a long time. I wonder when (if) we'll be in one place that long again.

Tonight we sang the Weebster song to the girls, which we've sung most every night since...oh, probably since Deevie was born. I told them we'd keep singing it in Mexico. Deevie, mostly confirming, slightly questioning: "And we'll sing it in English."

"Yes, Sweetie, we will. A lot of things we do are going to stay just the same.”

One more full day, then the movers will descend. I think we can, I think we can...

Friday, July 29, 2011

Rally Time

The seasoned FS grandparents are here - yay! They just took the girls to the store, and I just put the boy down for his nap. Time to empty out/organize at least ONE thing/area/section/category.

You should see our house. Actually, no you shouldn't.

I want to tear through it like the Tazmanian Devil and throw everything away. I have bouts of feeling like this, SUPER NARRA TIME, etc. But then I tend to have a change of heart later in the day and find myself picking through the big black plastic bags. "Gee, I could really cut up this old skirt and use the bits for crafts with the kids!" Awful.

But time is a'tickin' Time to rally.

It is very hard to believe that we only have 4 more nights in our home. It makes me want to cry. I told the girls last night that when I was a kid and had to say goodbye to my grandparents house after staying the summer there, I'd dash around blowing kisses to the lamps, the walls, the pictures, right before departure. I have a feeling we're going to see some of that before we leave here as well.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


We are overwhelmed with STUFF. And although we've managed to give away so much of it (9 bags of girls clothes just yesterday! And several bags of stuff to the Salvation Army!) there still is always more.

I've been pretty good at being ruthless with clothes and toys, but there are certain things that are like cement walls for me:
- photos
- old letters
- CDs
- art projects. So many cute little art projects.

We do have the option to just put anything in storage (since our assessment of weight limits came in under), but when I have something in my hand and it's heading toward the storage pile, I stop and think "Am I really going to want to see this in 15 years?" and realize I should just throw/give it away.

I've been reading other FS blogs the last few nights and am overwhelmed at how organized some people are. At the same time that it instills a fire in me to be better, it also has the effect of making me feel USELESS and really dumb for not jumping on the bandwagon earlier. So far I have not been a very good FS housewife, and I am so sorry about that.

And now I must get some sleep so I can (try to) be (more) useful tomorrow.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

a shot in the arm

[wrote this yesterday but it wouldn't post.]

Well, we are all one-third inoculated against rabies. And we have a travel itinerary. And I know the difference between an B1 visa and a B2 visa. All of which is to say, things are happening, baby.

But many more things must happen before early August pack-out and travel, and I'm really trying to keep it together. I wish I could stay digitally organized, or even maintain a respectable looking planner, but that's not how I roll. My system is a sheet of 8.5"x 11" white paper in my pocket. It is torn and sad looking because I pull it out countless times per day and add reminders, phone numbers, etc. Every now and then, when enough things are crossed off, or when the paper's about to fall apart, I transcribe whatevers not crossed out and begin anew.

And that, inshallah, is how we're gonna get to Mexico.

Actually, there are plenty of to-dos that aren't on the list at all--house chores, things to fix, etc. Seeing it all in one place would give me a heart attack.

Incidentally, the girls did great with the vaccinations last week. Who knows what kind of inner turmoil was going on, but they were outwardly very brave. I'm ashamed to admit that neither The Bee nor I have informed them of the two rounds of shots still to come. Before the appointment was not the right moment--I was absolutely certain of it. But afterwards I didn't want to spoil their "we did it! it's over!" euphoria.

Cubby did not get inoculated--too young. We will remain vigilant lest he become rabid.

Went out for beers last night with some guys from work--I rarely do this and it was great. Turned out the place they chose was doing Karaoke. I know, right? I sang Rocket Man and the old stand by, Kiss, by Prince. Good times.

We have some old friends coming in this weekend, and a party on Saturday, and it's possible we are going to completely blow this move. :) Oh well, we'll arrive in Mexico one way or another, and I'd rather hang out with friends than sort through our junk.

We spent the rest of the day yesterday prettying the yard and sorting through the aforementioned junk because our house went on the rental market yesterday.

bye bye, house.

I will say, having a For Rent sign in the front yard has upped the urgency level in a big way. T-minus three weeks until packout.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Where did June go?

First things first: passed my Spanish test with a 3+/3+. It was the best I could have realistically hoped for, so I felt elated (and a bit lucky). The question is, will I continue to improve, maintain, or begin to slide? I need to find a new book to read.

Now I'm a couple of weeks into ConGen, the training class for consular work, which is what I'll be doing in the GDL. The mission: "to protect the lives and interests of American citizens abroad and to strengthen the security of United States borders through the vigilant adjudication of visas and passports." So if you come visit us, rest assured that I will be able to protect your life and interests, and, if necessary, vigilantly replace your passport.

What else? I am home alone at the moment while the other four FiveGs are at the big family wedding in Hawaii. They've been gone for a week. Saturday morning without the family is WEIRD. The lack of chaos is disconcerting.

Suddenly, I have many more hours in the day. I've been fairly productive but I need to check tons of tasks off the list while they're gone, including (but in no way limited to) The Great Toy Purge of 2011, "Operation: Reclaim the Backyard," "Operation: Hey, What's All This Stuff in the Attic?" and finishing a pesky paper for the Mexico area studies class.

When the family gets back we will have exactly one month until packout. Here comes the crazy.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Happy days, and a little pressure

I'm in a really good mood (made even better because I just scrolled through a few of these young me, now me pics. Wonderful.) The original good mood was because the children were delightful this evening, and...I dunno. Just looking the bright side of life, I suppose.

Language learning at the Foreign Service Institute has been a great experience. It's a little like college. Given that this is intense-ultra-mega-rapid language learning, class time is actually kind of light--4 hours per day--and it's up to you to do your language lab/outside work and learn the language. For me this involves reading news, watching news, reading Milagro en los Andes (aka "Alive!"), listening to Spanish radio (here's a news podcast that's been helpful), lunchtime Spanish conversation with compadres, and frequent talking to self, in the car or around the house.

It's fun, it's been a privilege, and now there's just the tiny matter of passing my test this coming Wednesday. I will need a 3/3 (speaking/reading) to be off language probation. Feeling a bit of pressure.

I'm also feeling some pressure in my ear, strangely enough. If I had to guess the cause, I'd say it's an ear infection, hearing damage, or some nocturnal bug that has crawled into my ear Star Trek-style and nested. I'm pulling for an infection. Ojala que las gotas funcionen.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Guadalajara bound

So, the *reason* for the aforementioned need to clean/sort/organize/throw is our impending departure for Mexico in August. Guadalajara will be my first post as a foreign service officer for the U.S. State Department and the FiveGs' home for the next two years.

We are really, really happy about the assignment:
  • I already spoke some Spanish, so I get to nail down one language before befuddling my cabeza with another.
  • Guadalajara is the cultural center of Mexico. There is a ton to see and do. People seem to love it there. (State Dept people, I mean. I trust that the Tapatíos enjoy it, too.)
  • No winter for 2 years.
  • Dora and Diego hail from Mexico...
That last point really was one of our selling points to the girls on Flag Day. (Flag Day is when the career development folks clue you in on where you're headed for your first post. They call out a city, then your name, and then hand you a flag. I found it... kind of stressful! I even get anxious watching other training classes go through it. "Maseru! Oh, MAN, she is going to Maseru! Wow! ...and where is that, by the way?")

But yes, Guadalajara. Things are getting real. Spanish training is nearly over--I test June 8--and then we will have exactly 2 months until departure. The Bee's last day of work is June 15. Shortly after that she and the kids will go to her sister's wedding in Hawaii while I stay here and learn how to be a consular officer. [Yes. It hurts.] When they get back we will have ONE MONTH.

...which sounds like a lot, but you need to understand that on the average day we accomplish NADA. We just try not to move backwards. Any type of forward progress is a bonus. Not enough hours in the day...

So that's why I chose right now to start bloggin'!

I feel the need...the

...and to *organize* all the things. Unfortunately, after all these years, I still have a wee bit in common with the affliction described here.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cool video

Echoes from U.S. Embassy on Vimeo.

Things like this are one reason why I'm looking forward to my new career.