Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Enjoy it while I can

It hit me the other day that I have friends here.

Maybe that sounds like a silly revelation, but it really made me stop and think for a while.

We're almost at our halfway mark. We've almost been here for a year and only have a year left, and then we'll be off to who-knows-where, adjusting to a new home, new school, new food, and possibly a new language.

And a piece of my heart will stay here in Juarez. There will be friends that I miss and people who will miss me.

It made me wonder whether I could keep this up.

A month or so ago, we were at a birthday party for a friend we had met at church. Another friend there mentioned how cool she thought it was that Jeff and I were so involved, that we didn't just sit through three hours of church and then go back home, but that we had made friends in our ward (congregation) and that we socialized with them.

It didn't seem like anything special to me. What would be the point of living in Mexico if I never made any Mexican friends?

But then I think about those friends. And leaving them. And making new friends. And leaving them. And making new friends. And leaving them.

I suddenly start to see the appeal in just not making friends at all.

But.

I'm me.

And that doesn't work for me.

So, I'll keep my making and giving each place my all until I have pockets of friends all over the world. People who may say fondly, "Oh, remember Mimi? She would always . . ." or "Remember the Collett family? They did such and such with so and so . . ."

And likewise, I'll remember them, too. And I'll be grateful for the role they played in shaping my experience here.

But saying that that's what I'll do because I'm me doesn't mean that it is easy to do. It isn't easy to open up over and over, knowing the hurt that will come every time I leave and start over again. It's actually harder every time, because I already have so many friends that I love, and I remember very well how much it hurt to leave them and how hard it is to keep in touch.

But happiness is relationships, so onward I'll go.

But not onward yet. I still have thirteen months left in my current home, so I'll settle back in to just enjoying them. There will be time enough to miss Juarez after I'm gone.

Just like I miss what I had and what I could have had in
Virginia
Ohio
Utah
Maine
Indiana
Brazil
Michigan
and
New York.


In other news, we enjoyed a lot of Halloween, Day of the Dead, and All Saints' Day festivities a few weeks ago. Depending on whether the party was American or Mexican, my children wore the exact same costume but switched between being regular skeletons or Catrinas/Catríns.

I also now have the great memory of . . .

"That one time in Mexico, when the school had a Day of the Dead party that included an All Saints' Day mass. The children had been invited to dress up. Most chose not to. The remainder dressed up like saints or angels. Except for my kids. Mine were dressed up like death. Oh, those embarrassing Americans . . ."








Me: "Who threw that??"
Jill: "Daniel. But only because Alice told him to."
Me: "Well, even if Alice told him to, Daniel is old enough to know not to throw that."
Jill: "But Danny had to throw it. Alice was lecturing him."
Me: "Lecturing? Do you know what lecturing means?"
Jill: "Yes. It is when someone little tells an older person what to do. I learned that on Liv & Maddie."
Me: "That isn't quite right Jill . . ."


Jill: "Let's adopt a baby from China."
Me: "From China?"
Jill: "Yes, a baby from China. Or from Paris."
Me: "Do you know anything about Paris?"
Jill: "Yes!"
Me: "What?"
Jill: "Bonjour!"
Me: "Are you going to adopt these babies?"
Jill: "Mom! I'm too young."

Jill


Daniel: "After you grow a new baby inside of you, Gordon can be a big brother and teach the baby everything I teach him."
Me: "Grow a new baby? But, Danny, I think Gordon will be my last baby."
Daniel: "No, but for the next one."
Me: "Sweetie, I don't think there will be a next one."
Daniel: "But I'm teaching Gordon how to be a big brother."
Me: "Gordon will most likely just always be the baby brother."


Daniel: "When your tummy gets fat again, we'll have another baby!"
Me: "Daniel, I don't think we're going to have another baby."
Daniel: "Well, not now, but when your tummy gets fat."
Me: "I hope my tummy doesn't get fat again. Don't you think we have enough babies?"
Daniel: "No."


Daniel: "I made robot humans in my hideout today. The parents always obey the children, because they know the children will cry if they don't get what they need to want."

Daniel



Every time that I try to brush Alice's hair, we have this conversation.
Me: "Alice, if you just stay still, then this doesn't have to hurt."
Alice: "No! NOOO! No!!! I don't want to look pretty!"
Me: "Alice, I'm not going to do ponytails or anything; I just want to brush the tangles out."
Alice: "NOOOO!!!! I don't want to look pretty! Owww!!"
Me: "Just stay still! This doesn't have to hurt!"
Alice: "No! STOP! I don't want to look like Mommy! I want to look like me!!"

Alice


Before moving here, I had never given tumble weed much thought. And if I ever did spare it a thought, it was some fleeting shallow idea that tumble weed existed in old Western movies but were now extinct, because surely everything was too built up now.

Well, then last December, we packed up our car and drove from Virginia to Ohio to Nebraska to Mexico, and I discovered that there is still lots of tumble weed! I really had no idea that it still happened.

This morning, I was driving along the border, and while stopped at a red light, my car was hit by the largest tumble weed I've ever seen. This photo doesn't really do it justice. But seriously. HUGE!




When we drive on this border road, there is an intersection that has a bridge for part of it instead of a stop light. When we are at the top of the bridge, you can see across the dry, cracked river bed and see into El Paso. My kids like to yell, "Howdy, Texas!" Alice's little voice proclaiming "Howdy, Texas!" is pretty sweet.


I spend a lot of time in my car these days, and yesterday I listened to three children argue that his or her mother is his or her mother. They don't seem to realize that they were talking about three different people who all have the same name: "Mommy." First kid: "something something something Mommy something." Second kid: "No, that's my mommy. Not your mommy." Third kid: "I have a mommy." First kid: "No, my mommy." Second kid: "No, that's not your mommy! My mommy." Third kid: "Mommy! My Mommy!" Etc. It is amazing how long they can argue about this. And some of them are quite emotionally involved in the argument.

It's listening to a ten minute argument like that that helps me realize why my brain has essentially melted and is barely capable of the feats it once knew. I honestly don't know if I could still get into college with the mommy brain I have now.

Tell me my brain will come back to me once the sleep deprivation ends.

And then lie to me and tell me my waist line will come back as well once I'm done having babies and breastfeeding.


The other day, I was leading choir practice. And I asked everyone to come up front and pretend like it was Sunday, and they were going to sing. Everyone started laughing. I had no idea why what I said was funny. Later I learned that while the word I used does technically mean "pretend," here is it more often used to mean "fake." So, I can see why it would have been funny for me to tell them to fake that it is Sunday.

Some days I never figure out why what I said or did was funny.

What is really rewarding though is when I'm funny on purpose. Figuring out the humor of a different culture while using a different language is more complicated than you might imagine, and whenever I achieve that, whenever I can get a Mexican to laugh when I was actually trying to be funny, well, that's a very proud moment.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The usual

Here are some conversations I've had with my children that I wanted to share. Some you'll have already seen on Facebook.

Alice

I was putting away laundry. Daniel and Alice had my iPhone and were listening to music. I heard an unexpected song while in the closet, so I came into the room to check if my ears were tricking me. Daniel had some how started playing Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady."

Me: "How did you find that song?"
Daniel: "I don't know. It just started playing."
Me: "Did you like that song?"
Alice: "Me was shaking my butt."

Haha. Oh my. Upon further investigation, apparently back in March 2005, I purchased three Eminem songs through iTunes. Thanks to the Cloud, they're still around for my preschooler and toddler to find.


Some on Facebook requested a video of Alice shaking her bum. This was the best I could do.



I'm on a soccer team right now, and I had a game the other week when Jeff was traveling for work. A friend and her husband came over to watch the children, so I could play. After the game (victorious, by the way!), I pulled into the garage and heard crying. I assumed it was Gordon, but as I got closer to the door I could tell it was Alice. I went inside, and my friend told me that for a significant amount of time Alice had been walking through the house crying "Mi mamá! Mi mamá! NOT YOU!" I thought it was a pretty cute mix of Spanish and English. I did feel bad for my friend though and grateful for her.



Daniel

We were sitting at the table eating dinner.
Me: "Danny, do you want shredded cheese for your tortilla?"
Daniel: "Yes."
Me: "Okay, go get it out of the fridge."
Daniel: "Which fridge?"
Me: "Sweetie, we only have one fridge. It's in the bottom drawer."
Daniel, laughing: "Oh yeah. That would be funny if we had more than one fridge."
Daniel walks over to the refrigerator and gets out sliced sandwich cheese.
Me: "Daniel, is that what you want? It's sliced."
Daniel, surprised: "What?! This is not shredded."
Daniel walks back over to the refrigerator, puts the sliced cheese back, and grabs a bag of shredded Parmesan cheese.
Me: "Daniel, is that what you want? That is the Parmesan cheese that we put on spaghetti."
Daniel, surprised: "Agh! I don't want this!!"
Daniel walks back over to the refrigerator and rifles through the bottom drawer, finally locating the shredded Mexican cheese.
Daniel: "THIS IS SO EMBARRASSING!"



Daniel: "When you have a baby girl—"
Me: "Daniel, I'm not having a baby."
Daniel: "Well, not today!" (If he knew how to roll his eyes, he would have.)
Me: "Danny, not at all. Would it be okay if Gordon is my last baby?"
Daniel: "Yeah, okay." (pause) "But how can you NOT have a baby?"
Me: "Well, I'm a mommy, and I have lots of teeny tiny eggs inside of me. Every few weeks, I drop one down, and if it doesn't meet any of Daddy's sperm, then it just comes out of me when I go potty, and it stays an egg and never turns into a baby."
Daniel, silent for a moment, and then: "Okay. That. Is. AMAZING!"



Daniel had a play date, but his friend had gone home. I went into the family room where Daniel was playing. Next to him was a lot of popcorn pieces on the floor.
Me: "Daniel, you and your friend were pretty messy with your popcorn."
Daniel: "How did you know that?? I didn't even tell you that!"



We were watching Studio C clips, and the "Prince Charming's First Kiss" sketch came on.
Narrator: " . . . and the princess could only be woken by True Love's Kiss."
Daniel, curious: "Who is 'True Love'?"



Jill

Jill: "That guy has a really long name."
Mimi: "Who? Tanner Lewis Ready Danger?"
Jill: "No, the other one. Here's he's Brady—"
Daniel: "But on Austin & Ally, he's Austin!"
Mimi: "Oh, well, those are his characters' names. His real name is Ross Lynch."
Stunned silence.
Jill: "Mom!! Do you KNOW him?!"
Mimi: "Haha. No, I just know what his name is."
Jill: "Could we MEET him?!"
Mimi: "Well, he lives pretty far away. He lives in California."
Jill: "Oh. Could we meet her?" (Meaning Maia Mitchell.)
Mimi: "Well, she's from even father away. She's Australian."
Jill: "Oh. Well, we might live there someday."
Mimi: "That's true. Maybe."
Jill: "I want to live by a beach." Pause. "Wait, we live by a beach! We live in a desert! We're surrounded by beaches! Can I learn to surf?"
Mimi: "Actually, living in a desert doesn't mean we live near a beach. A beach needs water. Deserts and beaches both have sand though."
*clearly disappointed* Jill: "Oh."
Mimi: "But if we ever live near a beach, you can take surfing lessons, okay?"
Jill: "Okay!!"



Jill: ". . . 80, 85, 90, 95, 100!"
Me: "Wow, Jill. That was impressive. When did you learn how to count by 5s?"
Jill: "You taught me."
Me: "Really? . . . oh."
Silence for a moment.
Jill: "Oh, wait, actually I learned it from Mickey Mouse. The ladder crank went by 5s. Mickey stopped at 50, but I just kept going by counting by 10s and adding the 5s in between."



Jill: "Mom, where will we live when Gordon turns two?"
Me: "I don't even know. Where would you like to live?"
Jill: "Ummm."
Me: "China? Madagascar? Brazil?"
Daniel: "Brazil! Brazil! Brazil!"
Me: "Argentina? Zambia? Germany? England?"
Jill: "England! Then we can learn how to speak England!"
Me: "Wait, what? What do you think we are speaking right now?"
Jill: "We speak English."
Me: "They speak English in England, too."
Jill: "What does their English sound like? Bonjour?"
Me, laughing: "No, sweetie, that's French, which is spoken in France."
Jill: "Oh. Well, do I know how to speak their English?"
Me: "Yes. Their English is very similar to our American English."
Jill: "What is the difference?"
Me: "Well, their words sound different." Then I tried and failed miserably at some sort of generic British accent.
Jill: "That sounds like our English."
Daniel: "Brazil! Brazil! Brazil!"


Daniel was proudly wearing his new Captain America costume.
Jill: "Daniel, do you love your costume? Do you want to marry it??"
Me: "Jill, that wasn't very nice. You shouldn't tease. Where did you learn to say that? At school?"
Jill looks at me kind of confused.
Jill: "No, Mommy. I learned that from Daddy."
Pause as I fumble for a response.
Me: "Oh. Well. Okay. You can say it. As long as the other person doesn't mind, a little teasing can be fun, right?" Parenting failure . . .


Jill has money from the "tooth fairy" or "Ratóncito Perez" (whichever it is that comes to Americans living in Mexico). She has talked to me about how she isn't going to spend it, because she's saving it in hopes of getting more money from other teeth and then being able to buy something special. She's been saving it for about four or five months now.

The other day, we were waiting in the drive-thru line to get pizza from Little Cesaer's. Yes, Little Cesaer's is in Mexico, or at least in Juarez. Friday night is pizza night, and I didn't have the time/energy to make one from scratch. We sat in our air conditioned car, isolated from the heat and sunshine around us. To our left, there was a dumpster, and my children noticed a man was digging through it. Bless their innocent hearts, they had never seen anything like that before, and they had no idea what he was doing.

I had to explain to them that some people don't have homes or cars or families or air conditioning or showers or clean clothes or even food, and I told them I assumed that man was looking for food. I was proven correct as we all watched as he did indeed find pieces of pizza and starting piling them together on a piece of trash.

It was such a humbling experience to be separated by only a few feet and soon to be eating the same food, but mine would be purchased at the window and handed to me in my comfortable car, and his was coming out of a dumpster, placed on trash, and would be eaten on the curb.

Same pizza.

Both human.

Completely different lives.

I tried to explain to my children how lucky they are to have a mom and dad who love them and take care of them, but it's hard to say how much they understood.

I couldn't escape the guilt, so I called to the man, and he came over, and I gave him money. He didn't seem to speak Spanish; I couldn't actually understand any of the sounds he was making, and his demeanor frightened me a bit, but he took the money and went back to his belongings and stack of pizza.

My children asked me if I bought something from him (they see me buying things from street vendors quite frequently here), and I told them no. I just gave him money, hoping that maybe his next meal won't come from a trash can, or maybe he could rent a hotel room to take a shower and sleep in a safe place.

The kids were silent after that.

Two days later, Jill got in the car before church with money in her hand. It is the same amount of money that she had "earned" from her baby teeth.

Jill: "Mom, I want to have this in the car, so I can give it to someone who needs it."
Me: "Are you sure, sweetie?"
Jill: "Yes. I'll just stick it right here."

After church, Jill rushed out to the car and got her money. She told me of a family she wanted to give it to. I told her I wasn't sure, because I knew that the daddy of that family had a good job. She looked so disappointed. I asked her if she really wanted to give the money to someone today, and she said she did. We thought about it for a while, and then I asked her if she wanted to give it to the Bishop for him to give to someone who he knew needed it. She brightened at that suggestion.

We went back into the church, and I helped her fill out a tithing slip. I asked her if she wanted the money to go toward helping missionaries, printing scriptures, people who were recovering from hurricanes and floods (humanitarian aid), etc. She chose floods.

Jeff came by, and I explained to him that Jill wanted to give her tooth money to someone who needed it more than her. Jeff was impressed.

Jill: "Wait. This isn't my tooth money."
Me: "It isn't? It looks like your tooth money."
Jill: "No. My tooth money is in my box in my bedroom. This is different money."
Me: "Jill, did you take some of my and Dad's money off the alcove?"
Jill: "Yes. But, please, Mommy, I really want to give it to someone."
Me: "Okay, sweetie."

So Jill went and found the bishop and gave him the money. I explained to Jill on the car ride home that she had a really good idea, but that she shouldn't take money from us without asking.

After we had been home for a while, Jill came up to me and handed me her tooth money.

Jill: "Mom, here is my tooth money. I really want to help someone, and I'm sorry I took your money."

I hugged my beautiful, thoughtful daughter.



And, Gordon hasn't said much recently, but he is very cute and chubby. And he did grow two teeth! What a guy!

Gordon

Monday, September 21, 2015

Gordon's Birth Story

I'm finally blogging Gordon's birth! The following are excerpts from my journal written April 1 through April 5. It is long. Enjoy!

It has been an interesting week. Monday morning (March 30), I thought my water broke with a slow leak, so I spent most of the day waiting for labor to start. It never did, so I realized I must have been mistaken. It was quite discouraging. I texted my doctor and set up an appointment for that evening. I told him I was getting nervous about still being pregnant, because my two early babies (Jill and Daniel) were 6 lbs 9 oz and 6 lbs 11 oz, and my term baby (Alice) was 9 lbs 2 oz. Since I wouldn't have a tub of water to birth in this time around, a 9 lb baby was pretty intimidating. I asked him what my induction options were. He said that since Gordon was in position, I had already successfully vaginally delivered three times, and my due date was a week away, he was willing to give me a prostaglandin to see if it would get things started. He gave me 1/2 of a dose of Cytotec and told me to swallow it the next morning (Tuesday, March 31) at 10:00, walk for an hour, then come to his office around noon. I agreed. That was much better than being stuck at the hospital, away from my home and children, possibly not progressing, and getting stuck on Pitocin.

So, I did it. My mom, the kids, and I were at Walmart, and I thought it would be a good place to walk, but it ended up being mostly standing, and labor didn't start. I went home and ate lunch. Jeff came home from the office. I texted my doctor, and we moved the appointment to 1:30, so I could have more time to walk. Jeff and I went on a walk in our neighborhood. It was hot—in the 80s. I started to feel contractions, I thought, but I wasn't too confident, because they weren't painful. It was just a tightening feeling.  They were regular though, so I figured they maybe were contractions.

Jeff and I went to the doctor's office. Gordon still looked and sounded great, and he had moved lower, and I had dilated to a 1. The doctor sent me home and told me to walk more. (I should add that his office was closed for lunch during this visit. The level of care received by Mexican doctors is amazing. He came in during lunch and let me text his cell phone directly!)

So, we went back home. Mom and Jeff engaged the children in kite flying, sand playing, and chalk drawing while I walked in ovals around the cul-de-sac, timing my contractions and enjoying watching my children enjoy themselves, wondering if this would be the last time there would only be three of them. My contractions were becoming more pronounced, about a minute long, a minute and a half apart, so we went back to the hospital about 15 or so minutes early, so I could finish walking there. We saw the doctor in his office around 4:30. I had progressed to a 2, but my contractions lost their intensity when I stopped walking.

The doctor asked me if I wanted more prostaglandin and whether I would prefer to swallow it orally or have it inserted vaginally. He also recommended that I try nipple stimulation for a minute every five minutes (along with continued walking). I opted for the vaginal insertion (Cytotec again), and he inserted a 1/4 of a pill.

Jeff and I went downstairs (the doctor's office is attached to the hospital) and ate at the restaurant. I did not have any contractions during dinner. I started walking again. I took the stairs up and down the hospital floors and walked laps on each floors incorporating the nipple stimulation while hiding in the stairwells. (Haha. I wonder if there were security cameras?)

Then we decided to try walking outside for a while. The breeze that had made my second walking bout so pleasant was now a strong wind, so it wasn't as nice (I was getting a lot of sand/dirt in my eyes), but the contractions became regular again, so I switched to just walking back and forth along the side of the building protected by the wind.

When it came time to see the doctor again at 7:30, my contractions were lasting 30 to 40 seconds with a minute and a half in between. I had progressed to a 3. The doctor stripped my membranes (did not break my water) and told me to alternate between walking and resting and to return at 10:30. (I had spent almost the entire day on my feet at this point!)

Jeff and I went home. Mom had all the kids in bed already, but Alice was a little restless, so Jeff soothed her. Each kid has been exhibiting some anxiety about me being gone in the hospital for Gordon's birth. Mom braided my hair and then went to bed. I sat around a bit, then Jeff and I started watching "The Good Lie" while I paced back and forth in the family room. (It was a great movie, by the way.) Jeff gave me a priesthood blessing, and we returned to the doctor's office. My contractions at this point were now lasting a minute each and were about a minute apart, very regular. We saw the doctor at 10:30—he opened his office for us (because it was definitely already closed for the evening). I was only at a 3. He told us to go home and sleep and then come back at 9:00 in the morning the next day.

There went my dream of a March baby and Gordon sharing his great-grandmother's birthday!

We went to bed around 11:00 pm. My feet were so tired from all the walking. I woke up at 2:40 am and laid in bed for an hour or so trying to fall back asleep, but I couldn't, so I decided to get out of bed and time my contractions and write in my journal. It is now almost 5:00 am. My contractions are lasting around 45 seconds and coming about every 2 and a half minutes. I felt pretty nauseous for a while but never vomited. My plan is to go eat some breakfast and start walking again since I can't seem to fall back asleep. I had naively thought my fourth baby would come the quickest, but this is definitely my longest labor so far. I wonder a little if my water has broken again, but I was wrong once about that already, so I probably am again. Maybe the contractions are just putting pressure on my bladder that it can't handle. Hopefully the next time I write, I will have Gordon here! My contractions are currently about 40 seconds apart every 2 minutes 15 seconds.

--------------------

Jeff and I saw the doctor around 10:00 am. I had only progressed to a 4. I found that to be discouraging, but the doctor remained very positive. He wanted to give me a muscle relaxant (Panclasa) to help continue to soften my cervix and relax everything. Then in two hours, he wanted me admitted to the hospital, checked, and given the option of Pitocin if needed/desired by me. He checked his medicine cabinet, but didn't have any oral Panclasa, only the IV form. That was disappointing for me, because I hate IVs and had been planning to avoid that as long as possible, but a bit of medicine to encourage the dilating faster would be nice, because I was tired. I'd been in labor for a long time.

So, we went home for a few hours. Alice was super cuddly. Jill was tearful. Daniel vomited on Mom and me. Awesome. Poor little guy. He actually fell asleep on the bean bag holding the vomit bucket on his belly. I took a break from walking while I was home (so tired!), but I couldn't sleep, so I kept up the regular nipple stimulation.

Jeff and I went back to the hospital for admission around 12:30. The contractions were becoming more and more useful (as I like to say when they get more painful). The IV hookup and blood draw was pretty unpleasant. I was poked five times just looking for my veins. There is nothing quite so unpleasant (okay, that's an exaggeration) as having someone fish around under your skin, looking for a vein. Ouch. My hand is pretty bruised. Eventually they called down to the hospital laboratory, and two phlembologists came up. They hit the vein on the very first try. It seems silly to complain about the pain of finding a vein while I was in labor, but it was very unpleasant.

After an hour or so, I convinced the nurse that the doctor really had given me permission to eat and walk around instead of being hooked up to a monitor. (Vaginal deliveries by choice are not very common in Mexico. From the conversations I've had, pretty much if you can afford a C-section, then you have one. So the nurses were not used to women who wanted a vaginal birth instead of being scared by it.) So I started walking small circles in the hallway. There were only three labor rooms, so the area I had to walk in was not very large, but I was the only woman there, so I had it all to myself!

Around 3:30, I was finally given the Panclasa. I walked on. The contractions continued to grow more and more powerful and effective, and when the doctor checked me, I had made it to a 5! At this point, I was trying to not be discouraged that I was still only at a 5, but for some reason my doctor was still really positive and declared that I definitely would not need Pitocin, that my body was doing it, and the baby would come that day!

I was a little confused how I was going to birth in such a small room. I didn't think it would fit all of the people who join you when you're actually giving birth. I had started out in the "habitation" room, but at this point I was in the "labor" room. I asked and learned that next I would go into a "delivery" room.

The contractions were becoming very serious, and I told the doctor that, in my opinion, it was getting close, so we got ready to move into the delivery room. Jeff had to dress all in scrubs, and my hair and feet had to be covered. (Very different from how little I wore to birth Alice in the birthing tub!) I did get a little ornery and refused to sit in the wheelchair. Contractions are difficult enough to manage walking; they are even more difficult to manage sitting down.

I entered the delivery room, and it was terrifying, because it looked like an operating room. Jeff and I were dressed for surgery, but I had tried to ignore that, but walking into that room, I couldn't ignore the room. My very, very active labor completely stopped. Completely. No more contractions, and I was trying not to freak out. (I had asked weeks prior to tour the facilities, but they did not allow touring of the delivery rooms. Something about cleanliness or something.)

The doctor checked me, and I was at a 7, but my contractions were still stopped. I admitted to the doctor that I found the room to be very scary and distressing, and he comforted me, explaining that the laws required all births to occur in an operating room in case an emergency C-section became necessary. He let me walk around the room, and I told myself over and over again that it was the perfect place for Gordon to be born. A nurse made a joke about birthing in frog positions, so I did some squats into a kind of frog position (very low to the floor). You should have seen their faces! They really had no idea what to think of this American woman who kept walking around instead of screaming for drugs.

The talking to myself and walking (and froggie squats!) must have done the trick, because the contractions came back with gusto. The doctor told me to push during the contractions to continue stretching out and dilating further. I was still walking around the operating room at this point and ended up peeing all over the floor. (You try being in active labor, walking around, and pushing and not peeing your pants. I dare you!) I had had the IV in for many hours by that point, so I was full of liquids and had lots of pee to come out. Delightful. I tried to stop it and went to the bathroom to relieve what was left in my bladder.

Then it was back to the delivery room. I continued walking. (I wonder how many miles I walked in total this labor?) Finally, I really, really couldn't walk anymore, because Gordon was so low and just really there, so I asked if I could climb onto the operating table.

The doctor had me push through some contractions, and I finally stretched out to a 9. Jeff was by my side for the whole process, making me laugh and encouraging me.

For a large portion of the delivery, it really felt like he and I were alone in the room. No one else was touching me except for Jeff (and very occasionally the doctor), and I was listening only to him. He had to repeat to me what other people were telling me. I was very focused. It's hard not to be focused when your body is doing what mine was doing.

After some pushing, I was really, really tired and discouraged. I had been in labor for over 18 straight hours and had had almost no sleep. I wanted to give up. I didn't think I could push Gordon out. Jeff stood by my side and told me that I was amazing and that I could do it. He said it over and over again, so I decided to believe him. I think that I subconsciously realized that it was a little late at this point to back out. I really, really wanted to quit though. This was way more intense than my water birth with Alice.

For this birth, I was strangely adamant about music playing. I didn't have music for any of my prior three births. For Alice's, I had the hypnobirthing CD on in the background. But for this one, the doctor was playing music on his iPhone, random Spanish music. I got upset whenever the music would stop (like if the doctor received a text or something). Almost the only thing I said during this part of the birth was "¿A dónde fue la música? En serio, quiero la música ahora!" The nurses thought I was being funny, but I was being serious. Jeff understood and always got the music back on for me.

Finally, finally, I reached the point where I received no relief or rest between contractions. Prior to this, I would take little breaks in between to gather up strength, but at this point, even if I didn't push, it was still excruciating and unbelievable, so there was no point in resting, because it wasn't restful. I had to push. I had no choice. This part was actually painful. Very painful. I made lots of guttural sounds, not high screaming, but low noises. During these pushes, my water broke, which was a really odd sensation. I don't know how to describe it. Imagine having a balloon inside of you and popping it and feeling that pressure release. Yeah, that description doesn't do it justice. Just take my word for it—weird feeling.

At this point, Jeffrey told me that I needed to take a really deep breath before pushing, and I needed to push as hard as I could while he counted to ten for me. This was really, really hard, but Jeffrey kept telling me how amazing I was and how close Gordon's head was, and since I got no relief when I wasn't pushing, I decided to do it. I moaned/yelled/groaned and let Jeffrey talk me through the pushing and pain.

There was one nurse who kept telling me to not push with my throat and to relax my throat muscles. That was probably really important advice, but she was interrupting my "Mimi Jeff" bubble, and I found her annoying. I wish she had told Jeff and let him tell me. (Although in hindsight I am impressed that I could still understand Spanish during it all.)

Gordon finally crowned, and then his body plopped out. I'm not going to try to describe the pain of crowning. Wow. It's really something! And the feeling of the body just kind of plopping out after the unbelievable crowning is very hard to describe also. You'll just have to try it sometime for yourself. ;)

The cord was around his neck. I wonder if that was why his descent was so slow. He was laid on my belly for skin to skin, but he wasn't breathing very well, so they whisked him away. I then delivered the placenta—what an amazing organ that is! And I required no stitches! Yay! My doctor's stretching while I was doing little pushes had not been comfortable at all, but apparently it worked, because I didn't tear!

Gordon was 8 lbs 4 oz and 20 inches long. Jeff went with Gordon to the nursery where Gordon was examined, given oxygen, and placed in an incubator.

I was wheeled off to yet another room: the "recovery" room. I had to stay there for an hour, drifting in and out of sleep, while a nurse monitored me. I was given Pitocin, just in case of hemorrhaging. I didn't want Pitocin, but Jeff was with Gordon, and I was in no state to argue at that point. I had already "bucked" their system enough; I decided to just go with the flow and accept the Mexican laws regarding birth. I already had the IV in anyway. I was also given some light pain medication. I was awake enough to decline the strong stuff. ;)

Finally I was deemed fit enough to return to the first room I had started in, the "habitation" room. Jeff was there waiting for me. I was given some delicious food, but it was not enough. I needed more food. I was also told that I was not allowed to go to the bathroom and that I could not have my IV removed yet. I was trying to decide whether I had the energy to contact my doctor and fight the system some more. Jeff went off to request to have Gordon returned to us. Apparently the standard here is to have the baby observed in the nursery under care of the doctors and nurses for the first three hours of life, but I wanted to hold my baby and start nursing, and I'm a feisty American, so we pushed. I had to sign a waiver, but they finally gave me back my baby.

Gordon was beautiful! Newborns usually aren't all that attractive, but Gordon really, really was.

My doctor came in to check on me and inform my nurse that, yes, I was allowed to eat, move, and have my IV removed. I don't know if he had failed to tell her earlier, or if it was just so different from the norm that she didn't believe him or didn't check the notes or something, but she hadn't believed me when I told her those things earlier.

She still moved slowly. It felt like hours later that she finally removed the horrible IV and scavenged up more food for me.

At this point, I was about as exhausted as I've ever been, so I let Gordon go back to the nursery and slept for a few hours. I got him back in the morning. He was all right at nursing, but I'm still a failure at getting newborns to open their mouths wide enough to not hurt me so much during the initial latching. Or maybe it just always hurts at first. Who knows. It is baby number four, and I still don't have that figured out. At least I have the experience to know that nursing stops being painful after a while and becomes easy peasy.

So, I thought my water broke on March 30, but I was wrong and contractions never began. I was nervous about Jeff's upcoming trip, about having a huge baby, and about having a "land" birth (rather than a water birth), so I talked to my doctor. Contractions started on March 31 around 11:00 am or so. I was admitted to the hospital on April 1 around 12:30 pm. Gordon was born at 6:40 pm, and we were discharged from the hospital on April 2 at 1:30 pm. Wow!

One of the things I loved about this hospital is that they let me sleep instead of waking me up constantly like they do in American hospitals.

What I didn't like as much was the assumption that I was just like all of their other patients. It wasn't fun to frequently disagree/fight with them. (But I guess I am a little picky when it comes to my birth experiences.) I am glad that I had my doctor on my side!

All of the other children love Gordon already, which is a relief. I was a little nervous. Unfortunately, there is a lot of sick in the house. Alice on Monday and Tuesday, Daniel on Tuesday and Wednesday, Jill on Wednesday and Thursday, and Jeff on Friday and Saturday (today). I hope Gordon, Mom, and I don't catch it. It is a fever and vomit bug. Gordon has been an amazing sleeper so far. Thank goodness, because I'm very tired. But I DID IT!!! [End of journal entries: April 5, 2015.]

And now for some pictures. :)

Courtesy of Kimberly Fritz, here I am still pregnant

My last picture as a mother of only three children

Laboring at home, taking a break from walking

 So much sickness in the house

Laboring at the hospital. Oh how I hate you IV! Walking, walking, walking . . .
(Pioneer children song, anyone?)

I did it! I really did it! I honestly could not have done it without Jeff. Call me crazy, but Alice's and Gordon's births were times when I have never felt closer to or more loved by my husband. I cannot describe what it is like to feel the physical experience I was feeling and to have my husband's voice  guiding me through it.

Gordon Philip Collett Boling
(Boling is included only on his Mexican documents; 
we removed it for his American documents, but I like using it!)

My wonderful friend Liz came over while I was at the hospital and decorated my house 
(with some help from my older kids).

Mama, I couldn't have done it without you. 
Thank you so much for coming to Mexico and caring for my other babies, so I could birth one more!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Roots and Wings

The vast majority of my yard is concrete and rocks. (Attractive rocks, but still rocks.) Other than the rocks and concrete, I have two planters. Both were empty when I moved in. The one in the backyard has been completely overtaken by an impressively healthy weed.

When it started growing, I didn't think it would amount to much, and I had a newborn and bird mites and a husband going on work trips, so it just wasn't a priority. Also, the planter is very deep, and the ledge is wide, and it just seemed like a lot of trouble to go after it.

A few months passed, and now I have this. It's kind of pretty in a wild way, and it has totally taken over. Apparently it needs almost no water, because I've never watered it, and it certainly doesn't rain very often here, and it is very, very hot.


The planter in the front was much easier to work with. While my parents visited after Gordon was born, my dad and mom bought me some dirt, peat moss, and magnolia plants. My dad and Daniel planted them. I've been watering them faithfully, and I have so far been rewarded with one flower. In hindsight, I wonder if I should have chosen a more desert-like plant.


The children were required to each bring a plant to school to keep there throughout the school year. While the kids were picking out plants, I decided to buy two more plants to put in the planter with the magnolias to see if they were hardier and happier in the heat.

I had four magnolias, but one of them was just barely hanging on, clearly dying, so I decided to finish the death process and chuck it.

I dug it up quite easily and threw it away. It appeared to have an even smaller root system than the potted plant I replaced it with.

Next I wanted to move one of the other magnolias so that the plants would be somewhat evenly spaced. After having removed a magnolia so easily, I didn't think this would be a difficult task.

I soon discovered that this magnolia had an extensive root system. It was much wider and deeper than that of the magnolia plant resting at the bottom of my trash can.

I did finally dig all the way around the roots and move it over.

That was over a week ago, and I am happy to say that the magnolia I moved did not shrivel up and die. It did lose some leaves and no more flowers have bloomed, but the majority of the plant is healthy, and I see some promising leaf clusters that could give me flowers in the future.

Later that day, I thought about the plants. They were the same kind of plant, purchased from the same nursery, planted in the same planter box, receiving the same amount of water, sunlight, and nutrients. Yet one died, and the other thrived and even survived a second move.

The difference?

Their roots.

I have moved a lot in my life, and now it appears that I will continue moving a lot. There are many difficult aspects of moving: finding new schools, figuring out where the grocery store is, making new friends, (and with our current life situation) learning new languages, and trying to navigate new cultures.

Some might think it is impossible to grow roots in just two or three short years.

Some might say that you can either have roots or wings, but not both.

But I am going to follow the example of my magnolia plants. Both were removed from their original location and placed in a new one. The first was in stasis. It did not grow. It did not change, did not adapt. It did not attempt to put forth any new roots.

And it died. It was tossed in the trash can like it was trash.

The second altered its life. It changed; it grew. It put forth roots and spread them down and out and deep. It thrived enough to grow me a flower.

And then when I moved it again, because of those strong roots and its ability to grow roots, it is now surviving in its new location, and it is showing promise to thrive and flower again.

And that is what I must do.

Grow roots everywhere I go.

Because the alternative is not pleasant to think about.

And because I want to thrive.

It hurts to think of all the friends I've loved and left (or who have left me), and it especially pains me to think of my family that is too far away, but even more unbearable would be to have never had those relationships at all. To move from place to place and never gain anything except new mailing addresses.

1985–1989: New York
1989–1993: Michigan
1993–1997: São Paulo, Brazil
1997–2004: Indiana
2004–2009: Utah
2009–2013: Ohio
2013–2014: Virginia
2015–2016: Ciudad Juárez, México
2017–2018: Who knows? But it will be great!

I know how to move, how to love a new place, how to make friends, how to find new hobbies, and how to put down roots. And I know how to do it again and again and again. I know how to flower. I may lose some leaves, but I will blossom.

And now I just need to figure out how to teach this skill to my kids.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Could a girl wearing a mustache climb a palm tree better than a dog?

Well, I missed an entire month. That hasn't happened in a while. My apologies to February 2015. You were too short, and I was too busy.

Alice has acclimated to preschool. It took almost exactly two months. It is still kind of . . . uncomfortable with me that she is going to a preschool at all. I am having trouble not judging myself. Do you ever feel that way?

The pre-Foreign Service me would never have put my two year old in preschool. (And she wasn't even quite two when I started the process!) I don't work; I'm a stay-at-home mom. What is a stay-at-home mom without kids who stay at home? (Please know that I am not intending to place any judgements on moms who do have their children in preschool or daycare. You are not me; I am not you. I can only talk about my personality and how I feel about things for myself.)

I did at-home preschool with Jill, starting when she was 3. It was a lot of fun, mostly. Sometimes frustrating, but usually really fun. And there were lots of other activities to do. She had swimming lessons, gymnastics lessons, cooking classes, and different kinds of art classes. We had many, many playdates. We attended play groups, music classes, and story times. I planned outings to the firehouse, to museums, to zoos, to gardens. It was a blast.

I did almost the same with Daniel, except that I hadn't started at-home preschool with him yet, because when he was 3, life was a little crazy getting ready with this move. But he had all of the other activities: story time, play groups, play dates, "field trips," swimming lessons, gymnastics, music class, etc. There was something to do almost every day to get us out of the house and out into the world.

Now Alice is 2. She tagged along, of course, on all of the outings with her older siblings, but she wasn't really able to enjoy or understand them yet.

And here we are in Mexico. There is no mommy-and-me gymnastics class. No story times at a library. I actually haven't seen a library yet. I've heard they exist, but that they are not like American libraries. Most Mexicans I have met buy all of the books they read. There is a really great Children's Museum that I am planning to attend. There are not a lot of play dates during the day, because I actually have met almost no other stay-at-home moms. The vast majority of the moms I have met work, and their children are all at daycare or preschool or at home with a nanny. And I'm not saying I couldn't be friends with a nanny, but I haven't figured out that hurdle yet. Do I set up plans with the nanny? Do I set it up with the mom who then orders the nanny to have a play date with me? It just seems awkward. I'm having fun; she's working (and having fun, hopefully, but still working). What are the boundaries? I don't know. Anyway, I haven't figured that out yet. I don't know of any music classes. I have not heard of any art classes. I have not seen any cooking classes or gymnastics for her age like I did with the others.

Everything is tied into preschool here. So, no parental involvement.

My choices were to try to find out how to replicate all of those activities in my home by myself while 7 months pregnant (now 8 months!), or put Daniel and Alice in preschool.

And preschool here comes with the added bonus of presumably learning Spanish.

So, Jill started school when she was almost 5 1/2.

Daniel has now started school a week after turning 4.

And Alice started school two months before turning 2.

I know it is impossible to parent all of your children the same and give them all the same life (especially now that I'll be moving countries every two to three years), but this just seems like such a drastic difference. And sometimes I feel like a failure. But then I give myself a pep-talk about how it is much better for them to be learning (and the younger two are at a Montessori school) than it would be for them to be at home while I am so tired.

On the note of being tired, I've been trying to decide whether this pregnancy is more exhausting because I have three other children in my house already or if it is because my body is 29 this time around instead of 23, 25, or 27. But, alas, it would be impossible for me to compare being pregnant at 23 and 29 without having an older child in the house, so I will never know. Nor will I know if the being tired has anything to do with moving to a slightly dangerous place. I have also not exercised since we moved here, so that could play into being more tired. Whatever the causes—it is what it is. I am more tired this pregnancy.

And thus Daniel and Alice are in preschool every day for four hours, doing the same activities I did with Jill, just without me there. And Jill is in what Americans call kindergarten but what Mexicans call the third (and last) year of preschool for five hours and fifteen minutes every day.

Jill goes to the consulate with Jeff in the morning, where a driver takes her to school in an armored vehicle. (She's so fancy pants!) I drive Alice and Daniel to school. Daniel was really on a roll this morning—he was a great conversationalist. Here is a sample.

Daniel: "Mom, there are a lot of beach trees around here."
Me: "Beech? I don't think so . . . Could you mean palm trees?"
Daniel: "Beach trees."
Me: "Oh, like at the beach. Yes, there are a lot of those here. I think they are called palm trees."
Daniel: "Some have coconuts. Some of the beach trees are bigger. Do you think they are pokey?"
Me: "I'm not sure. They might be."
Daniel: "A dog has claws; A dog could climb that beach tree."
Me: "Well, a dog does have claws, but they are not exactly sharp claws for climbing trees like a cat's claws."
Daniel: "What about a girl wearing a mustache? Could she climb a beach tree?"
Me: "Um, haha, I don't think that wearing a mustache would affect her climbing abilities. So maybe or maybe not."
[Pause in the back seat as the climbing abilities granted by fake mustaches is pondered.]
Daniel: Mom, why is Diego always with his girlfriend?"
Me: "His girlfriend? I don't think he has a girlfriend. Oh, girl friend. Well, Dora is his cousin, and Alicia is his sister. There's also a Baby Cheetah, I think. Did you mean Dora or Alicia?"
Daniel: "Yeah, Alicia."
Me: "Well, Alicia is just his big sister, like how you are always with Jill, and you are friends."
Alice: "Puppy!"
Daniel: "Where is the puppy?!"
Alice: "My win! My win! Puppy!" ("win" means "window")
Daniel: "I don't see a puppy."
Alice: "Puppy! Puppy!"

And then I drove on, leaving behind the possibly imaginary, but very distracting puppy.

On another topic, I have been pulled over again. Still no ticket though. And I was pulled over at the exact same intersection. Apparently I ran a red light again. This time I was sitting at the first set of lights, waiting for my light to change to green. I thought it did, so I went, but the police officer informed me that it was the other set of lights that turned green, not mine. Gah. So dangerous! I need to get my act together. I have been in a lot of almost-accidents here. Nothing like an almost-accident to get your pulse racing! (And I didn't cry this time!)

At almost every intersection, there are a lot of vendors. They sell peanuts, gum, candied apples, baked treats, Clementines, newspapers, cigarettes, kites, puzzles, hats, balls, eggs that turn into dinosaurs after soaking in water for 24 hours—lots of things. Sometimes I buy from them; sometimes I don't.

There are occasionally people fundraising at the street corners. I always feel uncomfortable about this, because I don't feel like a poster with pictures taped on it and matching outfits really let me know that you really are legitimately fundraising, but I also feel guilty, because I have, I assume, more money than the average person fundraising on the street.

And sometimes there are beggars. This was awkward the first time, because I thought she was trying to sell me a woven container, but she refused to tell me how much she wanted for the container. She actually wouldn't talk to me at all. I finally figured out that she was not selling the container, but that she was begging. It is interesting that they bother with the container at all, because you can see them slip the money into their pockets, so the container always looks empty. I actually did want to buy the woven container.

Anyway, so in the United States, when I have cash, I gave money to the very few people I ever saw begging. And I was doing that here, too, but then I started thinking about the possibility that the beggar might live next door to the vendor. How would it make the vendor feel if the beggar made more money for simply standing on the corner holding a container out, when the vendor went out every day, purchased a product and then actively tried to sell the product? The vendor is actually working, and he too was standing in the heat or the cold or the brutal wind that blows stinging dirt and sand in your eyes. The vendor actually had a product and was trying to work. But then what if the beggar made more money?

How would that feel?

It made me feel like giving to the beggar was sending a message to the vendor that his efforts at doing something had no value.

Do you have any thoughts on this? Obviously, I feel like the best efforts are achieved when donating to organizations that can provide food, shelter, and job skills. But some beggars are really old and past learning job skills, or are handicapped, or might have mental illness. Should they starve on the streets because they are past the help of an organization? Not all beggars can be con artists, surely. And I've never seen children begging here, so that is wonderful. It makes me happy that they are in school. Other countries have so many children begging, and that is just a devastating cycle. Without an education or job skills, how will they ever grow up to be anything other than beggars?

Along with the vendor, there are other enterprising people who earn a few coins by working the parking lots. They hold up traffic so you can get in and out of your parking spot, they direct you when you are backing up, they carry your groceries, sometimes they clean your car while you're in the store. And then you decide how many coins to give them. This impresses me. They are not just begging. They are actually doing something. And parking lots are always clear of shopping carts here, because these men take your cart and return it to the store for you. As a pregnant woman who often has three children with her in the parking lot, I really appreciate their help.

How have you handled your treatment of beggars? I'm still trying to figure this out.


Let's move on.

Piñatas are a birthday party staple here, but from what I've learned, they are not filled with candy in this part of Mexico. I've been told filling them with candy is more common in southern Mexico. But, here the piñatas are ENORMOUS, so I was glad to hear they were not full of candy. You already are given a huge bag of candy at the end of the party, so we couldn't have handled much more. Even without candy, they still appear to be fun to beat upon with a bat, which is kind of interesting when you consider that the piñata is usually a replica of the child's favorite character or thing.

Here is Alice in front of the largest piñata I've seen so far.


A few weekends ago, we went to the children's soccer game. They usually play at 11:00. We arrived a little before 11:00 and were told their game would be at 12:00. Finally at 1:45, their game began. I could tell from the get-go that something was different other than the start time being so delayed, because there was a procession before the game, complete with women in high heels carrying trophies out onto the field. There are often banners, flags, drums, parents in matching shirts, noise makers, and huge hats at all the games, but that day there were even more of all of those things in the stands. (May I remind you that my children are in the Under-6 league?!) So something was definitely up.

Apparently the game was actually the end of some sort of tournament or season. My children's team came in fourth out of four teams, but there was still an award ceremony, and each child received a medal.

Here is a picture of Jill and Daniel holding their team's fourth place trophy.

Me: "Hey kids, your team came in fourth place!"
Jill: "That's almost first!"
Daniel: "We won! We won!"

The kids love their medals.


A little while back, I started seeing a lot of billboards for a grocery store with beach scenes on it. I was confused and had never seen the word before that was displayed prominently on the beach scene. I thought it was some sort of strange "go to the beach for spring break" poster, but why would a grocery store advertise that? I have since learned that the word "Cuaresma" means "Lent," and the billboard displayed that the grocery store would be stocking even more seafood than normal.

Here is merely a sample of the seafood available. 
Are there many people who still know how to take the heads, skins, and bones off a fish??
(Other than fishers, of course.)


I started volunteering at a school here in January. I teach English for three hours a week. It is more fun than I expected; although I am still trying to figure it out. At this point, I'm really only teaching them vocabulary, not grammar. But I'm not sure how to make that jump, because the prevalent theory at the school is that language is best learned by hearing it spoken correctly, not by diagramming sentences, and I agree with that to a certain extent, but it doesn't seem like I am there enough hours for them to ever learn from just hearing me.

If I had known in college that my life would be an international one, I think I might have chosen Teaching English as a Second Language for my bachelor's instead of (or perhaps along with) what I did choose, English Literature.

Oh, and I have been surprised how much work outside of the actual teaching this entails. I didn't realize that lesson plans and worksheet creation, etc., were so time consuming. I can't imagine how long it must take for first-time teachers who have seven hours to fill every day.

Here I am teaching the oldest group of children.


Somewhere in the midst of that quick month of February, Alice turned two. She had a cold on her birthday and was a little miserable, but she did smile for me in the picture! It was a pretty big day for a few people in our household actually. Alice's birthday, of course. Also, Daniel somehow danced into the window on the door (the more details he gave about his accident, the more confused I became) and managed to give himself a huge goose egg on his forehead. And Jill pulled out a loose tooth; that's her second baby tooth to go. And for me, it was the day that I noticed that my belly is now big enough and low enough that it hits my thighs when I walk up stairs. Yay for me! (I think Jeff's day was a normal day that day.)

Here are the three, showing off the spoils of their day.

Do you remember Daniel's birthday cake experience? (I wrote about it down near the bottom of my last post.) Well, Alice's birthday cake did not fare much better. I turned the oven on all the way, heated it up to 400 or so. I put the cake pans in and saw that merely opening the oven had lowered the temperature down to 350 or so. I set the timer and waited. The timer beeped, I checked on the cakes, and they were still completely liquid. Apparently I had blown out the flame when I opened the oven. My kitchen definitely smelled like gas. So, I turned the oven back on (and nothing exploded—yay!), and the cake eventually cooked.

But then the cakes refused to leave their pans. I had sprayed them and let them cool, so I am not sure what happened there. So, the cakes had some missing pieces. Then Jeff had the idea that maybe we could flip the cake over and have the smooth part show. He tried to flip it over, but the cake stuck to the plate I had put it on, and then it was completely broken. It was truly a group effort in destroying the cake. I somewhat tried to frost it, but that just made it worse. So, I threw some marshmallows and sprinkles on and put a dab of frosting in the middle for the candle. I then served the cake with frosting on the side instead of ice cream. It tasted fine, but it sure wasn't pretty.

When Alice was no longer sick, she went back to school, and her teachers had bought her a tres leches cake from the nicest bakery in town.

Good thing it wasn't a competition . . .

Alice's cakes

And, last but not least, Gordon should arrive next month! Yay! :)

Gordon is currently in breech position, which is unusual for me; my past three babies have all been head down by 33 weeks, but there is still time for him to move into the proper placement. I'm trying to be very positive about it, but I can't help but think about my sister's fourth baby who flipped to breech last minute and had the cord prolapse.

But I do know that I still have a whole month for him to move, and I've been trying out a few different exercises at home that have varying degrees of success in convincing babies to flip around.

If you have any advice about flipping breech babies, please share. Or, if you have any positive Cesarean section stories, those would be nice, too. The thought of recovering from a C-section with three older children in the house seems daunting to me, and my sister's emergency C-section was wonderful in the life-saving sense but pretty traumatic in all other senses.

So, please, send me positive stories. I am still hopeful to avoid surgery and have him move as he should, but should he not move, I need something other than horror stories to base my decision on.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pulled Over

Tomorrow marks three weeks in our new home. I have learned a few things in these past three weeks. I will impart that wisdom to you, because I'm generous like that.

Driving.

Oh my goodness—driving.

Until this month, I have always considered myself a cautious driver. A considerate driver. A I'd-rather-add-ten-minutes-to-my-trip-and-take-the-next-exit-and-turn-around driver. I always use my blinkers. If I can't get across the lanes of traffic to make my turn or my exit, I'll just miss it and try the next one. I drive under the speed limit. I do not accelerate quickly—I just wait my turn. I always felt that if you waited long enough, a window in the traffic would appear perfect for you to fit in.

That doesn't really work here.

The motto here seems to be that "if it fits—well, it will fit." I thought I was driving in a one-lane street. Well, the other cars didn't get the memo. If they can squeeze next to me, they will.

I wouldn't have thought a biker or cyclist could get through that space safely, but they obviously knew better than I did.

I really didn't think there was room for a pedestrian to cross safely there, but I have been proven wrong, time and time again.

I wouldn't have thought that curbs were a great place for sitting, but apparently car lanes do have enough room for cars and feet.

I am also becoming much more acquainted with how much space my car actually takes up. My old motto was that I had to see the entire front of a vehicle in my rearview mirror before I would change lanes and get in front of that vehicle. That rule is out the window now.

You have to be aggressive. Or you don't get anywhere. And a lot of people honk at you. I get honked at more often when I am being cautious than when I am being aggressive.

Jeff said a few days ago, "I think I would leave Juárez happy if we just don't get in a wreck while we're here."

I'm not sure if that is going to be possible.

Drivers make double turn lanes out of single turn lanes (sometimes they make them triple turn lanes!). They drive the wrong way in one-way areas. There are potholes big enough to eat my entire tire. And there are millions of unmarked speed bumps just waiting to take me out. And U-turns are happening everywhere.

That said, I wouldn't say I am surrounded by bad drivers. It is more like I am surrounded by incredibly confident drivers. I don't actually see that many accidents compared to the United States.

And I am getting used to looking at my kilometers per hour rather than the larger numbered miles per hour on my spedometer.

Along the theme of driving: left turns. There are lots of different ways to make left turns here. I don't even have words to describe all of them. But I am doing a lot better now that I am familiar with which streets do left turns in which ways.

There are also various roads that split into two but are still the same road. Sometimes they converge again; sometimes they don't. It's more that you just need to know way ahead of time where you are going to turn and which of the road options you need to be on.

And then there are the red lights that say "permitido con precaución." Those are what I am still not used to and that still kind of scare me. There are places where you can go straight through a red light if there is no oncoming traffic. Also places where you can turn left at a red light when there is no oncoming traffic.

So these lights scare me even when I have the green light, because I worry that people won't notice me and they will go through the red, because they would be allowed to if I weren't there.

I'm sure I'll get the hang of them, but they are pretty intimidating to me right now.

I've learned that my favorite lane is the middle lane. It tends to have fewer potholes. Also, in the left lane, you never know when you are going to slam on your brakes because someone has come to a complete stop to do a U-turn or turn left. (There are a lot of U-turns here.) And in the right lane, it seems like the buses stop constantly.

(The city buses here are school buses that have been painted colors other than yellow (usually white). And the "stop" sign on their sides have been deactivated, so the sign just sits on the side of the bus not doing anything rather than extending and stopping traffic.)

Oh, and I mentioned potholes. To be fair, I must also mention that I have seen potholes being repaired. So the city is at work fixing the road, a lot of construction. It just appears to be an uphill battle.


And while I'm still talking about driving, I should share another experience I had.

The younger children's school asked for pictures of the children to put on their boxes. I have no pictures of them currently (other than tiny passport type photos), because the majority of my stuff has not arrived. So I decided to try and print them off through walmart.com. Well, first I kept getting sent to walmart.com.mx. (We have the VPN thing-whatever set up, but I don't know how to do utilize it.) Walmart.com.mx is apparently separate from walmart.com, because it wouldn't let me log in; I didn't have an account with it. So then I finally got it to switch to walmart.com, and it let me log in, and it had my pictures saved, and I went to order them, but walmart.com would not let me choose the Walmart store closest to me in Juárez. It only gave me El Paso options. (I know I could have just created a Mexican Walmart account and uploaded the photos again, but I was frustrated at this point, and my internet does not upload very quickly.)

So, I chose the closest El Paso option.

I thought the kids and I could just drive over there, get the pictures and a few other things, and come back over the bridge. Easy peasy.

Well, the photos weren't ready. I ordered them 1-hour, but they were not there when I showed up. So I shopped a little longer, and the photos still weren't there. The photo lady actually said my order didn't even appear as existing. Great. (I received an email a few days later saying they were ready for pick up; I don't know why my 1-hour turned into 3-days. Maybe they could tell I ordered from a different country.)

So I had driven to El Paso and paid the bridge tolls for nothing.

Then I got lost. And I had no cell phone reception, because we had canceled our American service and gotten Mexican service and hadn't done yet whatever we needed to do to have our new Mexican service work in America.

I don't know how long I was lost, but it became night, and my vision is not that great, so it was incredibly difficult to read the street signs from far away, and it was just really difficult in general for me.

I finally found my way back to the bridge, and narrowly avoided ending up with the trucks (again, it's hard for me to read street signs from far away and even more so at night), and crossed back into Mexico.

I could barely tell where the lanes are during the day, and I had no idea where they were during the night, so my plan was to just follow the car in front of me.

We came to a very wide intersection with two sets of lights. They started blinking green, so I had the green blinks and the yellow to make it through before red, but it was still red before I made it all the way through. I totally ran a red light.

And then I totally got pulled over.

Now, I have a somewhat irrational fear of Mexican police officers. I know the vast majority of them are honest and brave and doing a very difficult job, especially in my tough town. But you've probably read in the news, as I have, that some of them are dishonest and work for the drug cartel instead of the government.

So I was very scared to get pulled over, in the dark, in a part of town I was unfamiliar with.

The police officer was very kind though. He did nothing to scare me; it was all my head and all of the emotions I had leftover from not getting my photos and then getting lost and then not being able to read the signs and all of the extra emotions I always have right now from being pregnant.

He wanted my driver's license. I told him I didn't think I should give it to him and asked him if I could call the consulate. (I have been told that I am supposed to make a photocopy of my driver's license and give police officers the copy, because they keep your license until you pay your fine, or they will take your license plates off your car and keep those until you pay your fine.)

I called the number I had for the RSO (Regional Security Officer), but I think I wrote the number down wrong, or maybe it is because it was after-hours, but I ended up getting a native Spanish speaking person. A guard, I think. I confused him quite a bit, and, embarrassingly, I cried.

The police officer apparently decided that this emotional American diplomat was not worth it, because he drove away. But he drove away without saying anything to me, so I wasn't sure whether I was allowed to leave or not. There was another car pulled over in front of me, and I couldn't tell if my police officer had just gone to go talk to that police officer and get advice about what to do with the uncooperative pregnant woman or if he had actually left.

I continued to thoroughly confuse the consulate person I had on the phone until the pulled-over car in front of me drove away, and I could tell that all of the police officers were gone, and I was just sitting in the right lane, blocking traffic, in an unknown part of town, at night, for seemingly no reason. So I told the person on the phone that I guess I didn't need his help anymore and drove home.

I got to my garage and just completely lost it. Lots of crying.

Jeff, mind you, had no way to get ahold of me during most of this time because of the lack of American cell phone reception, so he was worried about us. All he knew was that we had gone to El Paso a few hours before and had no idea why we weren't back yet. We had plans with a friend to meet up at 6:00, but I got home so late we missed it, so he was worried.

I finally got out of the car and calmed down, and then my doorbell rang. I was a little confused (and slightly worried the police were still coming for me), but it ended up just being more Consulate guards following up on the phone call. They wanted to make sure the police officer hadn't bullied or threatened me. So I had to reassure them that the officer was completely nice, and that it was all my own ridiculous fault for crying—that the officer had not made me cry.

It was nice of them to follow up though. Made me feel safe.

A week has passed since that incident, and now I just feel guilty. I really did run a red light, and I would be happy to pay my fine to society and be an upstanding citizen again, but I don't know how to do that without making things really complicated. I doubt I could just show up and ask how much it costs to have run a red light. I would have been happy to accept a ticket; I just didn't want my license taken away. But now I feel kind of like a jerk, like I've used my well-I'm-a-fancy-diplomat excuse to get out of a traffic violation. But I'm not that kind of person. Except that apparently I am.

So it is a frustrating memory.

And I don't think I'll run any more red lights. I fully respect the blinking green light now and have learned that the yellow light here is very short.


In other news, Daniel turned four shortly after we arrived here. I thought I would be all fancy and pretend I had already conquered the grocery store and cooking in Celsius and make him a cake.

I had him pick out a mix from the store. This is what he chose. Easy peasy, I thought. I may not always conjugate correctly, but surely I can follow the instructions on a cake mix.


I followed steps one and two perfectly, and then I got to step three. What in the world?? Has anyone else ever seen that before? Baking a cake on your stove top?


I decided to ignore the instructions and bake it in the oven, but after 45 minutes, it was still much more liquid than solid. (I have since purchased an oven thermometer and realized that it takes a really long time to get the oven hot enough, and you have to set it for even hotter than you want.) Jeff and I were already nervous about the whole stove versus oven issue, so we decided he should take Daniel to a bakery and pick out a cake just in case.

Daniel was thrilled to pick out a bakery cake, as you can see. (And my cake did end up working. So we just had a massive amount of cake. We took it to the consulate the next day, and Daniel shared his fancy cake with all of Jeff's staff.)


In other news, Jill and Daniel are enrolled to play soccer. I signed them up on Wednesday, and they had a game on Saturday. Their team had just lost two players this season, so Jill and Daniel were allowed to play even though they had never practiced.

Now I could be wrong, because I've never had my kids in soccer in the United States, but I'm going to go ahead and say that little kid soccer in Mexico is at a different level. I expected to see a lot of "bunch ball" playing, but there was actually passing and even a header. Apparently most of the teams in our league are "soccer academy teams," which I think means they practice a lot. Our team is just through Jill's school, so they only practice for an hour on Mondays and Wednesdays and then have a game every Saturday.

My kids' team was creamed 0 to 8. My kids didn't seem to mind though.

A few highlights: Jill was the only girl on either team. My kids are super easy to find on the field, because they are the only blonds.

At one point, somehow, miraculously, the ball was all alone, and Daniel was the closest player to it. It should have been a beautiful moment, a perfect chance for a nice kick. Instead, Daniel ran up to the ball and . . . tackled it. He jumped on top of it, completely covering it with his body. (Perhaps he should play goalie??) This gave the other team a PK, because it was within the box, but impressively our goalie blocked the shot.

Later in the game, after one of the other team's many goals, Jill was given the ball by the coach to take it up to the middle to start the game again. Presumably the mix of never having played soccer before and not understanding Spanish yet combined, and instead of taking the ball to the middle and giving it to the referee to begin again, she dribbled the ball all the way to the other goal and scored. It didn't count, of course, but she is still pretty pleased about her goal.


I thought their uniforms would have their school name on it, but they don't. The uniforms make me think of race car drivers, because they are covered in advertisements, which makes me think they should have been free, since my kids are going to be billboards, but they weren't free. Apparently the uniform is modeled after a popular Mexican soccer team (C. F. Monterrey). (And after a quick google search, I can attest that is true.)

The kids were very excited to see "Home Depot" on their right arms. (They love it because of the kid workshops.)

And I chuckle to myself every time I see the jersey, because the main sponsor across the front is "Bimbo." It is a Mexican bread and sweets company, like Hostess or WonderBread. But it still seems funny to me to see Jill being a "blonde bimbo." I don't think I'll tell her what the word means in English.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Settling

Well, we're here. We made it. The "homelessness" of December came to an end. And our new house is great. A little overwhelming, because I've never (as an adult) had a home this large before, and I'm not convinced that four toilets are really necessary (especially not if I'm the one who has to clean them), but I do like the house. It is nice to not have to shush the older children the entire time the youngest is napping, because I finally have a home where the upstairs is just for sleeping and the downstairs is for living, and the family room is not at the bottom of the stairs making sound travel easily. So yay!

I also really like that the closet in the master bedroom is actually in the bathroom. It is nice to already have your clothes where you get dressed after a shower. So convenient.

The laundry room is on the second floor, which is pretty fantastic.

There are lots of windows and sunlights in the ceiling, so during the day I don't need to flip light switches, which I also really like about the house.

The house is super noisy right now—all of the children's noises echo massively. We're planning on buying some rugs, and once our stuff arrives, we'll get our pictures and paintings hung. I'm hopeful that will cut down on the echo.

The entire house is floored in tile. Entire house. I assume this helps the house stay cool during the months of 100+ weather. Right now it is making me grateful that I own slippers. Jeff just ordered some for himself online. It is pretty cold.

It may be because we moved here in the winter, but it is very brown. Lots of dirt, sand, and rocks. It is a desert, so perhaps I will just get used to the brown, or maybe there will be more color in the spring and summer. However, the Mexicans have compensated for the lack of color in the landscape by having very colorful homes. I love it! I love all the reds, yellows, greens, oranges, and blues! These houses are so pretty. Our house is a neutral color, but our garage is a bright color that really pops. It makes it easy to direct people to our house, because it is the only one on the street with that color garage. So cheerful. The kids love it, too. Jill has proclaimed it to be her new favorite color.

We attended our new ward (congregation) today, and everyone was really nice. Jill was pretty nervous during sacrament meeting, but after primary and Sunday school, I asked her how it went. She said, "It was good. I didn't understand what they were saying, but it was fun. My teacher knew some English words." Alice and Daniel seemed to do fine as well. Being older, Jill has been the most sensitive this move, so I am glad that she declared church as "good." I am curious to discover how long it will take them to learn Spanish.

I'm trying to think of some of the things I have noticed about Mexico that are different from the US, or at least things about Ciudad Juárez that are different from the parts of the US that I have lived in.

Happy meals come with pineapple slices instead of apple slices.

You can buy apple yogurt and grape yogurt.

The green traffic lights start flashing to warn you they are about to turn yellow.

The street lane lines are either faded or nonexistent, so I'm not always sure how many lanes there are or where my car is supposed to be.

The street name over the intersection in green is the street coming up at the next intersection. The street name over the intersection in white is the street you are currently crossing.

Police officers have their lights on at random, seemingly all the time; it does not mean you are being pulled over.

Strangers ask to have their pictures taken with my children or just pictures taken of my children, because they think my children look like dolls. I have to admit that I find this flattering. Ha.

That's all I can think of so far.

Oh, here is something I need to google or ask around about—the grocery store had a large display of fresh cactus being chopped up and bagged. What dishes do you cook with cactus? I wonder if I would like it.

The grocery store was also full of hundreds of cakes for January 6, a holiday called Epiphany, or Day of the Kings, or Three Kings' Day. Originally a Catholic holiday, it celebrates when the magi found the baby Jesus. Apparently it was traditionally the day in Mexico when gifts were exchanged, but American gift-giving on Christmas has rubbed off, so now they give gifts then as well. Or perhaps instead, I'm not sure. But January 6 does still (from what I've heard) mark the end of the Christmas holiday season, and it is when you put your Christmas decorations and lights away. Another part of the tradition is the ring-shaped epiphany cakes we saw at the grocery store. From what I've heard, you have a Kings' Day party and serve the cake, which has a figurine baked inside. Whoever discovers the figurine in his or her slice of cake gets to (has to?) throw a party for everyone present on February 2. (Mexican friends, please educate me if I'm getting any of this wrong.)

Some of our belongings are supposed to arrive in about two weeks. The remainder is supposed to arrive in two to three months. I'm hoping that since we only moved to Mexico, as opposed to Turkmenistan or Saudi Arabia or wherever, that it won't take the full two to three months. Right now, we are living off of what we had in our van and the "welcome kit" provided by the Consulate, which includes linens, dishes, kitchen items, trash cans, etc. The house is also fully furnished, so we are quite comfortable.

We are looking forward to our next two years!

The view as you drive into Mexico from El Paso.

On a sadder note, I am quickly becoming acquainted with one of the harder aspects of Foreign Service living. I had a taste of it last year while we were in Brasilia. My sister had a complicated birth with her fourth (umbilical cord prolapse), and it was very hard to be so far away, feel so helpless, and not know whether she and her daughter would make it through unscathed. Thankfully, their story has a happy ending—modern medicine worked as it can, and they are both healthy. But the waiting was so hard.

Three days after arriving here, I received an email from my mom saying that my aunt had had a heart attack. Then that afternoon, I received an email from my dad saying that my aunt had died. The viewing and funeral are later this week in Indiana, and my mom will be giving the eulogy. My mother has five brothers, so some of her sisters-in-law have been like sisters to her. This particular one, my aunt Ramona, became a Homer the same day that my mom traded in Homer for Boling. (They were married on the same day in the same temple.) So, they began with that fun connection of a shared experience and shared anniversary. Then they both had kids who were the same ages as each other, and since Aunt Ramona and her family lived near my grandparents, we got to see them a lot while I was growing up.

I got to see my aunt the day before Thanksgiving. She and my uncle had made cute little Santa Clauses for my kids with applesauce heads, juice box bodies, meat stick arms, and raisin legs. My kids ate them during this long road trip we had in December, and I was grateful for the gift and my loving aunt and uncle. I meant to tell her and Uncle Steve how much their treats were enjoyed after we arrived, but I ran out of time.

Her health has not been the greatest in recent years, but she always valued family time and made the effort to travel. She came to my wedding and the blessings of my babies.

Here is a picture of Aunt Ramona and Uncle Steve at my home in Cincinnati for a family gathering after Daniel's baby blessing in 2011.

You will be missed, Aunt Ramona.

I wish I could be closer and hug my mom on what will undoubtedly be a hard day for her. I have a feeling that this is just the beginning of wanting to be closer during hard times but instead being very far away.