I Like That Man

“I like that man, Nini!” my three year old nephew told me the other day.  This is after he and his sister decided that they wanted to Skype with Victor.  Of course, that really consisted of them sitting on my lap avoiding talking to him–except with short mysterious answers.  “Where is your dad?” Victor asked in Spanish.  “He’s at work all day long,” replied Orlando.  All day long is his new addition to every sentence.  i.e. “I love chicken all day long!”

When all the family was in, it really warmed my heart when my brother’s two oldest sons wanted to talk to Victor too.  I finally went and laid down as he asked them about their family, etc.  When the Spanish lessons began, the connection went out.  “Aww, man!” exclaimed Jacob, “It was just getting good!”  When we recovered the call, the kids hopped back on the computer and the conversation went on.

See, Skyping with your husband in Mexico is always a family affair.   Half of the time, Victor will position the computer so that I can chat with his mom, sister, or the niece of the day.  Yesterday his niece, Paola, sat beside him the whole time, resting her head on his shoulder, occasionally asking questions.  That was the first time I had met her.  Later I called his cell, and she asked, “Is she teaching a class right now?”  “No,” Victor replied, “she’s busy with other things.”  “Well, can she call on the computer?” she suggested.

When his sister is around, I get questions like, “When are you coming back?”  Turns out that they are all still pretty apprehensive that I will choose to return to Chiapas…

I don’t mind the family calls really.  I think the only time that we’ve had a private call was in the middle of the day last week.  Everyone in both houses were gone, and it was almost strange to not have a niece or nephew walk by and wave.  The beauty of Skype is that the call is more personal–And my mom will tell you that she feels like she already knew Victor when I announced my new husband.  (She likes to “read” people, and apparently studied his every move.) Getting to know new in-laws via a computer might actually take some of the pressure off, huh?

I love that he takes the time to talk to these kids he’s never met–and I know that he will be just as attentive in person.  He sure is charming Mexican with a heart of gold.  I like that man!

 

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My Ah-Ha! Moment

Yesterday my nephews were sitting at the table arguing.  Because I am 1) nosy and 2) a teacher I stuck an ear out first to listen.  Umm hmmm…intervention needed.  They were playing Monopoly, but they were missing 1) one die 2) a Pennsylvania Railroad Property Title (no one was allowed to buy it in their version) 3) the rules 4) me.  I helped solve all of those problems.

I remember playing Monopoly for days when we were younger.  My brother had this friend (on whom I had the biggest crush), and they would play for weeks.  The games never ended–they would just pick up where they left off the next time Sam came over to our house (This was probably because we didn’t have a TV–they also spent a lot of time exploring the woods outside).  Occasionally we were allowed to disturb the saved game, and we would play a family game of Monopoly.

Keep in mind, this is not that new-fangled Monopoly game.  Some third graders were playing that in Mexico, and I was appalled.  Gone is the money.   Gone is the adding, the subtracting, the math.  It’s basically a teacher’s nightmare.  They have credit cards for crying out loud!  Sigh.  What’s the matter with this world we’re living in?

Well, let me tell you:  I think I know why Mom hates this game.  Who in the world would make a game about real life?–and not the parts we enjoy about real life!  Forgive me if you’ve played the game recently, but I must rehash:  You pay income tax.  You pay utility bills.  You pay fees for everything under the sun.  Granted, the game is based on the idea that you “buy” property.  When people land on your property, they must pay “rent.”  Therefore you can also earn money, but if your nephew owns three railroads, you must pay a lot of rent…

Like the real game of life, I lost when it came to accruing property and money.  Turns out that even the board game likes to leave me broke.  Go figure.  I believe I will follow my mom’s example, and avoid future games of Monopoly.  That is, I will until I really CAN collect $200 just for coming back to where I started–and taking off again.

A House Full of Kids

Mom made the comment the other day as my nephew thundered up the stairs, “That’s like music to my ears.”  She told me, “That house was built for children…”

Having the kids here has been a blast (although I now never have Mama to myself).  My nephew is currently wearing my Mama’s scarf, and my niece is wearing my rather large “C’est la Vie!” shirt.  She’s being a monster.  She goes back and forth between wanting to be pretty and growling at me.

Earlier my other two nephews played a rather long game of hide-n-seek.  I was pretty impressed.  At least I was impressed until the oldest “hid” in the locked bathroom.  What a cheater!  I also employed those two to lug all my things up two flights of stairs.  A couple weeks ago Mama had my brother’s two oldest carry all my boxes that I’ve left at her house for years downstairs.  She wanted everything in one room so that I could “purge.”  Yesterday, in an effort to get their own bedroom, the boys volunteered to clean out the room I used pretended to use last fall.  I threw away or gave away half of everything I owned.

My oldest niece even lets me do her hair!  That’s amazingly rewarding–as she has enough hair for three people easily.  She also doesn’t micromanage whatever I try to do to her, and lets me play beauty shop!  Where was she when I was ten?

A Legacy of Love

I used to love playing with the skin on my Mamaw’s hands.  She was probably in her 70’s and I was her unofficial charge.  At meeting (church), I would sit with my arm hooked in the crook of her arm, and my head rested constantly on her shoulder.    She (for some reason) let me pinch the skin on her hands and squish it back down.  There wasn’t much she didn’t let me do if I sat quietly (including sleep…)

Today I sat on the couch with her.  I held her hand, and gently rested my head on her shoulder.  It’s bonier than it used to be.  Her hands are cold, and I said, “Cold hands…”  She continued, “Warm heart.  Dirty feet...”  I finished, “And no sweetheart!”  She has these sayings.  It makes me feel closer to her when I can repeat the words I’ve heard all my life.  And somehow–it seems to bring her comfort too.

Just like the hymns.  Today I sang my heart out.  She drifted in and out of sleep.  Occasionally she would comment, “Oh, that’s a pretty hymn.”  “Where do you go to meeting?”  “That’s just beautiful.”  Understand that she wasn’t remarking kindly based on how well I carried that tune in my bucket–she just loves the hymns.  All My Springs Arise in Jesus is one of her favorite, and we sing an old tune that isn’t that common.  “All my springs arise in Jesus, he my in-most needs supplies.  Satisfies my heart’s deep longings, quells the fears which oft arise…

She asks often about her kids.  She wants to know if they have been there–and when they’ll be returning.  “You haven’t lived until you have children,” she would say when we were young.  I reminded her of that today, and she said, “Well, they’re all you’ve got.”  Maybe that is why I’ve always felt like life would truly begin when I had children.

She ate two bowls of ice cream today.  My mom says when you make it that far, you get to eat whatever you want.  I remember her sweet tooth when I would spend the night.  She would often pull sherbert or ice cream out for a late treat.

“Lets go to bed,” said old Sleepy-head.”  “Aw, let’s wait a while,” said old Slow.  “Put on the pot,” said old Greedy-knot, “and we’ll eat a bite before we go.”

My daddy used to say that,” she would finish.  We would say our prayers (on our knees), and I would peek to see if she was finished.  If not, I would think of more things/people to pray for.  We would rise together, snuggle into bed together, and I would warm up her cold feet.  “You’re like a heater,” she would always say.  We would drift off to sleep peacefully.

Ninety-one today, and her life has been so full!  She has five children.  Eleven grandchildren.  Sixteen great-grandchildren.  Oh, she’s had heartbreak and disappointments.  She has lost more than any one person should, and her natural body has weakened.    But we can rest assured that she will dwell in the house of the Lord for the rest of her days.  What more could we wish for someone we love?

Happy birthday, Mamaw!

Cades Cove Fun (Family Vacation Day Seven)

 

I remember making trips to Cades Cove when we were younger.  We would pile gingerly place our bikes in the back of Daddy’s truck, and head up to the Smoky Mountains.  It is understood that in order to see the most wildlife–and beat all the traffic–you must leave at the crack of dawn.

We failed.

I blame this on several factors: 1)  My brother took a shower that seemed to last forever.  2)  I wanted to stop for a biscuit.  3)  Early morning Starbucks is hard to resist.

When we finally arrived to Cades Cove, the parking lot was full.  We had decided that we would rent the bikes to complete the eleven mile bike loop.  Unfortunately, we didn’t count on one small hang-up.  See, the information on the website says that they rent bicycles to all ages.  My six year old nephew was just a wee bit too small for the bike they had for him.  And bikes with training wheels aren’t rented for the loop.

I willingly stayed behind with him to bike the camp ground instead…

As we passed campers in tents and rather large monstrosities, he waved and said, “Hello!”  Most of the campers were rather friendly, and even if they weren’t–I don’t think he would notice.  He did, however, notice every single squirrel.  And he stopped at every stop sign.  We loaded his cargo pockets with the keys to the car and my money.  He was quiet a sight:  A tee shirt proclaiming, “What happens in Pre-K, Stays in Pre-K!”, cargo pants sagging under the weight of change and keys, and a perky smile!

Before my sister headed out, I handed her the backpack I had brought along.  It was complete with a water bottle and a box of Band-aides/Neosporin.  Yeah, I know.   I blame that on being a teacher.  Turns out that it wasn’t for naught.  When the kids and adults arrived back to the meeting spot, we heard that my oldest niece became quite adept at wrecking.  As we enjoyed our ice creams, Landon (my riding partner), was stung on the face by a bee.

Over all, it was a success!  The kids exclaimed the need for a repeat excursion next time they come to Tennessee.  I have a feeling that won’t be an issue…

 

Rainy Day Fun (Family Vacation Day Five)

Well, it’s my oldest niece’s birthday, and in preparation last night we made a cake.  A big cake.  A thirteen layer cake.  My niece is thirteen, and this was her request.  What kind of aunt would I be if I refused to attempt a 13 layer cake?  A smart one…

Actually, it looks pretty cool (and tastes delicious!).  We added food coloring to half of the layers, and the kids helped stir it in.  The cake is a simple white cake, and in between are layers of cooked strawberries and butter-cream icing.  Que rico!  How rich (or yummy)!  I had a bit of a problem assembling the cake–and had to rely on my trusty sidekick, Mama.  Mostly she tends to calm me down and offer solicited advice.

After a delicious lunch of chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, and homemade rolls (Yes, I did say lunch…) the kiddos were herded outside to play.  In the rain.

Mama about had a conniption fit when she found out that a resourceful group of seven grandsons had turned on the water hose to aide them in the building of a canal in her gravel driveway.  Quickly she did what any other reasonable grandmother would do:  She directed them to fill in the canal, and take their waterworks to the red clay.  She then joined them in dragging her bare-feet in the mud to make gullies  for the rainwater to gather.  Abuelita mejor!  Best Grandmother!

Soon after the kids Mom and the kids played in the mud, they began washing off.  I think it at least started that way…  Anyone who knows my mom knows that she has this thing about water fights.  This turned out to be a water fight of epic proportion.  She (of course) was armed with the water hose, and the kids were trying to get their hands on anything they could that would hold water.  My nephew, Landon, was filling up a bucket with water that he first emptied from the wagon to the pool–then from the pool to the bucket.  He was sneaking up on the porch to get Jenny.

The natural progression was a mud-fight, followed by another cleaning.  After the cleaning Mama stood at the Slip and Slide and kept the water going for the kids.  (Keep in mind that it has been sprinkling the whole time…)

The kids were dried and changed.  The clothes were collected to be washed.  The children (and adult, Mom) began to calm down…

Ahhh…another exciting day at the Blakley house.  This is way better than Dollywood could ever be!

Who’s Your Boss? (Family Vacation Day Three)

So, I am back at home in Tennessee.  I have faced the firing squad–I have answered the countless questions my family insists on asking about Victor (no surprise).  It isn’t hard to talk about someone who is so amazing though.  I just wish the family could actually meet him right now too.  Algun dia Someday…

Our house is an exciting place to be:

We have 12 children under the age of 13.  Five adults.  Two significant others.  One dog.  And the Mumsie and the Popsie of the family.  Ten children and six adults are all sleeping on four beds, one cot, one hammock, and two couches.

Ah, yes.  Family time in Tennessee.  Just as nutty as I expected it to be–but fun, none-the-less.

So, the kids are really getting along fabulously.  The adults are the only people who’ve threatened the peace (myself included).  We have entertained with a trip to the pool and yesterday the aquarium.  Today we are heading back to the pool–as that really seemed to be a hit.  I just don’t know if I have the energy.  I am exhausted already, and it is just day three.

Part of the exhaustion comes from the kids.  I have been waking up early and fixing breakfast.  My brother decreed tomorrow cereal day.  I am grateful.  Two days I have made biscuits and gravy.  This morning I made breakfast burritos.  My sweet Mama helped me yesterday, and my darlin’ cuñada sister-in-law helped be today.  I am tired.

Today a power struggle has begun, and I kinda can’t wait to watch it play out.  I know who is boss here.  WE ALL know who is boss here.  My Mama.  (Sorry, Daddy.)  And my nephew has tangled with the wrong jefa boss.  Unfortunately, he actually thinks he will win this one.  So amusing.  He doesn’t know how my Mama works.  Or just how stubborn she is.  Especially if you dare to lie.  But, he is finding out the hard way.

He has been separated from the other chamacos kids for a couple of hours.  And my Mama can keep a punishment going until you break.  It’s been a good example to the other kids who might think that they will get away with things the way they might with other adults.  Mama Blakley is not someone you tangle with.  Not unless you plan on sportin’ some nasty battle wounds (to your pride) as you crawl back begging to be accepted back into the Circle of Trust.  And you will crawl back.  Everyone does…

Silly boy.  This will be one family vacation you will never forget.

 

Teacher Let the Monkeys Out

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School’s out! School’s out! Teacher let the monkeys out!

Today is my last day in Chiapas. Tomorrow morning bright and early I hop on a plane to Tennessee. It’s so strange that it is all over. I am tired and ready to go home, but I will miss my friends at The American School Foundation of Chiapas (and, of course, my other friends!).

Today is a good day to really love students. There were only six out of 52 there the last two days–that helps me love them more. Plus, I don’t have to calm the down and scare woo them into submission at the end of the year.

Andrés was pretty cute today in his angry birds gettup. Not quite as cute as when he proposed to me last week–on one knee, I might add!

My favorite is that he dances with me. When we play the dancing game, he whirls me around. He talks in Spanish about loving me, and pushes his friend away when he tries to cut in. He really lays it on thick–kissing my hand, holding my hand while we walk to Salida (dismissal). What a cutie! Imagine what he will be like when puberty hits! Watch out world!

Before we left he ran up for a beso. I hope you can see the rotten all over him!

Keep Calm (And Trust God)

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These are my favorite verses, and I wanted to share them with you today.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

These verses have been special to me since I left Tennessee back in 2007. My sister pointed them out with an emphasis on in all thy ways. She said, “We should look to God for guidance in all things: relationships, jobs, etc.” It was then that I started praying about my relationship(s).

I think that’s what helped me in my last breakup. I prayed the entire time we dated that if it was God’s will–it would work. And if it wasn’t God’s will–he would help me to accept it. He did too. It was rough. I won’t lie: I really wanted it to work. But, it didn’t.

When I met Victor, it wasn’t planned. I was so excited when I saw that there weren’t any young singles in my meeting. The last thing I wanted (in January) was to fall in love with a Mexican. I was happy when we hit it off though.

Two days later, I wanted to see him again. My phone was not functioning, and I hopped on a bus without a word to him. Imagine my surprise when he walked up to me as soon as I left the bus station. It was like something from a movie. That town is way too big for something like that!

I guess what I’m saying is that I feel like Victor and were brought together. Too many things had to work out just so for us to meet. Many years of praying (on both of our parts) culminated in that weekend in San Cristóbal. And it feels right.

I know that my family and friends are a little shocked and in awe from yesterday. Keep calm. And know that those verses mentioned before have been the prayer of my heart for years. I can trust that my feet have been directed–and who knows where God will lead when he’s allowed to guide?!

Six Months and All Is Well!

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Today is my six month mark that I’ve been in Mexico. It has gone by so quickly, it is so hard to believe!

If you had told me six months ago that I would be moaning come July, I would have thought you were crazy. I will be leaving Saturday morning–just a little over five days away. Instead of getting ready for my own departure, I find myself planning Fourth of July parties–and one last trip to see Victor’s family.

Actually, there are a lot of “lasts.” Today was my last Sunday Morning Meeting. I went to the market for the last time. I rode the bus to Coilta for the last time. I spent my last weekend with friends for one last get-together.

Despite the countless mosquito bites, Mexico has been good to me. It’s given me the time I needed to recover from my quarter-life crisis. It has given me valuable language knowledge as I struggle to communicate with all the Mexicans around me. I’ll be glad to leave the heat, crazy skin rashes from the sun, and kidney infections behind. But there’s someone to whom I will be sad to say goodbye… Meet the best thing Mexico gave me:

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Mi esposo!
Surprise!