A Letter to My Baby-No-More


Dear Sweet Little Girl,

When did you become such a big girl?  One minute, you’re my little baby looking up at me with a big smile and twinkling eyes…I turn around for a second and that baby is gone.  Now, in her place is a big girl who is always running, laughing, and talking.

“I lub ew, Mama.”

“I love you too, Jojo.”

“Gra-chias… Gra-chias, Mama.”

IMG_3062Ahh, my little Jojo… the little rainbow of our family.  I hope you know how much you are loved by us all.  Your sissy couldn’t wait for you to stop nursing.  I think it was partially because she wanted to be the one to take care of you.  She told me the other day of how you hug her when you get upset.  She’s your lighthouse, isn’t she, Sweet Pea?  She’ll be there for you forever–showing you the way to keep from crashing into the rocks.

“Qué es? Qué es, Mama?” you ask me all the time.  What is it? What is it?  You want to know about everything.  I see that curiosity, and I know it will keep you searching for more and more knowledge.  (Just go into some other field, please, my dear…don’t choose education!)  Maybe you’ll be a scientist…an inventor…a discover of new cultures…  I can’t wait to see what you become, little luz mia.

My favorite thing about you is the way you steal the show.  Your sister doesn’t even mind.  You march into a room, command the attention of everyone, and make them fall in love with you.  You shake hands at meeting, as you twist the ladies around your little finger.  You wave to the guards and say, “Gra-chias! Adiós!” as we walk out of stores…and their gruff expressions melt away to show something tender.  You grab ahold of us SO tight with the biggest squeeze around the neck, and we all just hold on.


You are the morning light in our family.  Ale is more like a sunset…She’s quietly beautiful.  She’s the calm after the storm.  You are the storm.  You aren’t the kind of storm you hide from–more like the storm that you snuggle under blankets on the front porch to watch.  And oh! how you love to snuggle!

You, my baby, are just what our family needed.  You make us laugh.  You make us love bigger.  You keep us guessing…keep us smiling…  You make us “un poco loco,” and we love it (just as you love to sing it!).

You’re asleep now.  Snuggled onto the bench of the double rocker after falling asleep in my arms.  The room is quiet, which gives me a minute to write my love letter to you.  In a few minutes, you’ll wake up.  You’ll kick up the dust and get everyone hopping.  I love you like that, but I love you like this too.


You’re are our sunshine, baby.   I am starting to see the light peeking around the edge of the mountains.  The sky isn’t quite lit up yet… you are the glorious light.  You light up our lives, and we are happy to have you as our center.  And aren’t you our center?  We all revolve around you…

Mami loves you.  Papi loves you.  Sissy loves you.

Gracias, baby, Gracias…


When Life in Mexico Just Becomes Life

When I quit my job (six years ago) and moved home to Tennessee, it was with the plan that I would spend a few months with friends in Mexico.  That plan went quickly from spending a few months to actually getting a job in Chiapas–but still with the plan to return to the United States in July of 2012.

You know that trite saying that if you want God to laugh you should tell him your plans?

My six months in Mexico has turned into (nearly) six years in Mexico.  My sabbatical-of-sorts has given me an amazing husband who serves the Lord and two little girls who keep the laughter and love bubbling in our home.  My trip-turned-life has allowed me to grow in my professional life as well, although that is perhaps the less important of these three gifts.

Somewhere along the way, Mexico stopped being funny writing material, and just became normal.  Now it’s the United States and their customs, way of thinking, and lifestyle that seem so foreign to me!!!  The people in the United States live to work and the people in Mexico work to live.  The people in the United States fill up their time with screens and activities that keep them away from their families–and even when they are with their families, the screen is a buffer of distraction.  The people in Mexico have family at the core, and everything else is secondary.

Our life in Mexico is peaceful, which is ironic considering my state is on a restricted travel list for government employees.  Our days are spent with my girls playing with their babies, the rooster crowing at all times of day, and the smell of something yummy wafting through the house.  During the week we buzz to school and daycare, but the evenings are our time–and we aren’t too tired to enjoy them!

When I write, the core is usually a place of great emotion.  When I have emotion that I can’t quite process, it’s hard to put that down into words.  This summer was full of surprise for us, as I found out that I will have to return to Tennessee to teach in order to keep my license.  As I prepare for my final year in Mexico, I no longer am experiencing Mexico firsts, but rather my lasts.  My last conventions. My last first day of school.  My last Independence Day. My last…

And so I find myself coming to this place again to write with a different lens: Yes, life in Mexico is just life, but it is coming to an end as our future unfolds before us.  I am trying to stay positive, as I know that God has good things planned for us.  (And how fitting that the same message that comforted me when I came here is comforting me as I prepare to leave here…)  I know that there are opportunities in the United States that will be good for our family, and that God is taking us back in his time.  I know that there will be ups and downs as we face the challenges of this year.  I know that someday, we will look back on this time as if it were a minor series of events.

Ah, well, what is life if it isn’t “a fine mingling of holding on and letting go?”

At the End of a Life (a Reflection)

I remember as a little girl that going to Grandpa’s house was always proceeded with a lecture about behaving.  This was out of the ordinary for us, as we were always so well behaved.

Just kidding.

I am sure that people talked about us the way I’ve heard people talk about other big families.  Six children.  Loud.  Unruly.  Traviesos. 

We didn’t have a television, so Grandpa’s house was a real treat!  We would wait until one got up the confidence to ask if we could watch tv.  We would play by running around the circle that was created by a bar in the kitchen.  We would stare up at the huge grandfather clock and the swords hanging above the fireplace in wonder.  After all, who has swords in their house?

Jacinda, the littlest, would crawl in the space of the coffee table.  And the rest of us would with glee get glasses of ice water, kool-aid, or lemonade.  Any excuse to fill our cups with the ice from the freezer door ice maker.

Grandma Carol would make delicious treats: casseroles, peanut butter balls covered in chocolate, cookies with M&M candies pressed in the top…

I can compared us then to my nieces and nephews now, and I see such similarities.  We must have been such brats, and yet we always had some kind of treat waiting for us.  I know that was largely Grandma Carol.  She was more tender when Grandpa was still perched on his throne as the king of our family.  That’s what it felt like! Not because he was unkind to us.  I never remember Grandpa being unkind.  But he always had “a chair” that was his!  And as the patriarch, there was a level of aloofness that even children could recognize.

You know what I think?  Grandpas and Grandmas shouldn’t have to be “bad guys.”  They should get to enjoy their grandkids then send them back home.  Grandparents should get to fuss at their own children for their unruly children, with their grandkids blissfully unaware.  And parents should be conscious of the difference in tolerance of older people.

I haven’t been there for each family reunion.  I don’t get to see the ups and downs of waging wars on health like my family does.  I get to see differently–as if observing my parents and grandparents age through a series of photos rather than in real time.  I get the yearly visits (if I am lucky), and reminders to email.  I get to see the tenderness of an old man, without much of a memory of who he was before.

I hate the photo that was chosen of my Grandpa for his obituary.  That’s a man I don’t remember–one I have only heard stories of in whispers of virility and pride.  I love the picture I have in my mind: my Grandpa sitting in his arm chair, waving us over for hugs, or cradling his great-grandchildren with unspoken tenderness.  I see him in my father’s face, the best parts of him there, kindness and gentleness that multiplied with age.  At the end of a life, it’s the kind memories that matter most of all.

A Letter to My Youngest (on the Brink of her First Birthday)

img_4658Dear Little Jo-Jo,

My sweet, rambunctious, bien traviesa daughter… it is hard to believe you will be one in two weeks.  And at the same time, it’s hard to believe that you haven’t been part of our family forever.  You sure did take your time getting here–and we waited anxiously for your arrival.  I should have known then that you would be stubborn and ready to take us by storm!

I love seeing you light up, my love.  Your face is like a thousand suns when Sissy and I come home from school.  You twinkle and scream Dada! across the meeting when you see him glance your way.  Even other people you see in the street, in meeting, at the store… they can’t resist your charm!  I hope you stay this friendly forever.

img_4581Sissy sure does love you too, but sometimes it may not feel like it.  And you know what, sometimes you agitate her to the point her patience!  I just watched as Sissy arranged her toys, then walked outside.  As soon as she turned her back, you ran over to the little table, grabbed the Barbie, and proudly took off with her.  Poor Sis didn’t even know what was going on when she walked back into the room–but you did!  Oh! you little tootie!  I hope you and your sister will always be this inseparable!


Papi says you won’t let him rest during the day, and I tend to believe him.  He said you stand at the door and scream at him until he brings you outside to his work area.  And then when it is time to rest, he swears that you won’t sleep without him cuddling you.  What a cuddle bug you are!  I love seeing how you look at your Papi, and I hope that adoration last forever too!


You’ve filled parts of my heart I didn’t know were empty, little girl, with your rat-a-tat-tat feet and your toothy smile.  And I sure do look forward to another year with you in our lives.

Love always,
Your Mama


A Lesson From My Child: Go With It

Last week we left our friends and family again to make the trip back home to Mexico.  As I sat in the airport listening to another announcement of a flight delay, I looked at Allie.  There she was:  happy as a lark, playing with her baby doll, and wearing a smile.  I decided then that I would try to be more like her.  It’s a good thing I made that plan early in our trip–because we arrived home a full 24 hours after we should have.

The thing is, life doesn’t always go the way we plan, but everything has a way of working out.  It often doesn’t work out the way we wanted, but what does that matter in the end?  This has been a common theme of this blog.  I make plans.  They don’t work out.  I make more plans.  They don’t work out.  Then I get surprised by the better ending to a chapter in my story.

Today we came home from school, and Victor was away working.  It is nearly 100 degrees here, and I became a little frustrated.  Allie was digging in the bag, then she looked up and said, “Nope!  No key!”  When I asked her if she would like to go get a special drink at Starbucks, she said, “Oh, yes! That sounds good!”  I love that my sweet girl is too young to complain about the heat, being locked out, Mama not being responsible, etc.  She just goes with it.

Often we hear people talk about seeing the world through a child’s eyes–my little two year old has taught me the most important lesson.  I haven’t fussed at my husband, complained (out loud), or pouted about not being about to get inside our house until 7 tonight.  I am just going to go with it.  After all, if you can’t change it, you might as well accept it!

Food is My Love Language

I have a friend who always tags her foodie pictures with #foodismylovelanguage.  And I get it!  Because there are a few of us who show others how much we love them by feeding them every opportunity that arises.

I love preparing special meals for our visitors–surprising whomever I can with a meal from their homeland.  I had a game night for Minnesotan friends from work where I made Tatertot Hot-dish.  Ick.  They loved it.  I didn’t.  When our visiting worker from the Dominican Republic vetoed Italian food, I cooked an all day affair which turned out to be Sancocho.  Sometimes I like to ask if anyone wants something special–and I have whipped up everything from chocolate chip cookies to cornbread and beans.

I don’t just cook foods from other places for other people though–often I will think of someone, then cook a food that reminds me of them.  For example, I have been really homesick for Chiapas lately.  I normally visit there during the summer months, but we are skipping our trip this summer.  What came out of my kitchen as a result was black beans and salsa–which we ate with tortillas and fresh cheese.  I roasted the onions and peppers on the stovetop before adding the blacked parts to my tomato pulp (procured by “shredding” the tomato flesh on the cheese grater).  The more time consuming the project is, the more time I have to think on them!

This morning I made homemade cinnamon rolls–too many!  I still have a pan of cinnamon rolls sitting in the kitchen!  There’s a gallon of iced tea on the counter-top, and buttermilk just waiting for some biscuits to be made tomorrow.  Our basil plant needed to be cut back, so I made a friend’s pesto recipe a couple days ago (and shared the frozen pesto leftover with another friend who stopped by to visit).

I may not be able to be all the places that I am thinking of today: Virginia, Tennessee, Chiapas, etc.  But each memory inspires something new to happen in my kitchen.  Memories of those places are taking over my mind–and dancing across my plate.  Oh, yes! I do believe that food is my love language too!

Shop ‘Til You Drop

Wow!  I had such an adventure this weekend!  A friend and I took a shopping trip across the border to McAllen, TX.  They have these buses that leave on Friday evening, take you shopping all day Saturday, and return you on Sunday. Whew!  It is as exhausting as it sounds!

I came back home with my bank account significantly lighter, but my suitcase was back breaking heavy!  As you travel from shop to shop, you stop and fill up your suitcase.  I nicely fit in my suitcase some clothes for my family, new toothbrushes, tooth paste, pistachio pudding, an electric water kettle, new sandles, a new face regime from Dillard’s, party supplies for Ale’s birthday, 9 porceline ramekins, 7 new books, some toys to give out for daycare birthdays, and way more than I can remember!  Basically, now I know this is a legit operation, I don’t have to stress in the summer to get my suitcase packed properly with purchases for the year!

You can tell by this picture that it was a rough trip…

More than anything, I was so happy to come home to my sweet baby and husband.  It was like Christmas showing off what I found for them!  I am already planning a return trip–well, when I recover from this one!

A Letter to My Exes

Dear ________ (Insert Ex-Boyfriend’s Name),
I am writing this letter to thank you. It occurred to me today that, without you, I wouldn’t be the woman I am. Your choices, while at the time were heartbreaking, have led me down a path that has been lined with sweet-smelling roses.

See, _______, I was young when I met you. I didn’t have much confidence in myself as a woman. The one thing I did have confidence in was my brain. It didn’t take long for me to realize that you were smarter than me. More worldly. You spoke about travesty and human rights, and I listened. My heart grew to love people that spoke other languages. And my desire to travel the world became a number on the bucket list that you critiqued. “Why would you put this on your list?” you questioned, reading “Swim with dolphins.” “This one is good,” you continued, adding a star beside, “Run a marathon.

The thing is, while breaking up with you never crossed my mind, it was always on your mind, ________. I was a bandaid. You held me tightly to keep from bleeding out, and I learned another important lesson. Stitching up one’s wounds can leave you with your own scars. Scars are a sign of strength though, and in giving to others, I learned take what I needed along the way. That wasn’t robbery–merely a silent system of bartering. You taught me that no matter the pain, sharing a father meant that we forgive. Family ties made in heaven can’t be broken along with hearts.

And broken hearts, __________, they may never completely heal. But that is okay. Because without being broken, I may have never made the choices that led me to where I am. You inadvertently taught me to trust in God with each painful lesson I learned in not trusting you. Praying for you was easy, _________, because I saw you in each Proverb I read. Praying for you was easy, because I knew that if our relationship wasn’t forged in heaven it wasn’t one that I needed. Praying for you was what I did every time you ran across my mind–and that was easier than crying for you, pining for you, waiting for you…

See, dear ___________, I look upon my time with you fondly. It was with you that I learned more about me. This letter, written from that cracked and bruised heart, is to thank you. Cracks and bruises aren’t anything to be ashamed of. You gave me courage, because being broken was never an option. I woke up this morning with a grateful heart. I snuggled my baby, kissed my husband, and sat down with the workers to eat breakfast. My life is different than it was when I was with you, ____________. It isn’t the thing that dreams are made of–because never did I dream a life like this.

When I say, I wish you the best, please know that I am wishing you the same pleasure with your families that I get from mine.

Thank you,

Footnote added February 13, 2015 FYI: While I never thought my exes would ever read this, it isn’t anything I am ashamed of. It isn’t written to one ex in particular, but rather references several of my most memorable boyfriends. It isn’t a note declaring my undying love, but rather this letter was inspired by my realization that without my exes, I wouldn’t be here (in Mexico with my family).

Happy Thanksgiving!

What I am thankful for:

10). Work
I love that I get paid to promote literacy. Which means if ever I need to read something no one thinks it is strange to walk in my office and see me with my nose in a book!
9). Selflessness
Our workers just walked out the door after spending the night with us. I won’t see them again until February or March. I appreciate what they do…
8). Land of my birth and the land of my choice
‘Merica and Messico.
7). Health
<I watched a video clip about this teenager with MS. She would run into the arms of her coach at the end of racing long distance. I take for granted my health–and I don't do enough to take care of my body.
6). A strong mind
Learning is what makes me ‘tick.’
5). My family
Supportive, somewhat crazy, so loving
4). A healthy and happy baby
Despite her newly found ability to throw hissy fits, she is a happy little girl. Rarely sick. Smart as can be. My treasure.
3). A loving husband
More loving when he is fed… Glad God led me to him and him to me!
2). God’s plan
So much better than my plan for myself.
1). Jesus’s love and sacrifice
No words needed.