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.


  1. That comment about the cakes not being competition and then the pictures right after is so perfect. I love it. You have the most adorable kids, I love the picture where they are showing off their spoils. And those pictures at the bottom! Did you take those in Mexico, or before you left? I don't really have any answers to your other life-philosophical questions, but I am sure as you navigate your way through you will figure it out. I think the very fact that you are considering it and thinking it through honestly and sincerely means that whatever you decide will be the best decision. It is the people who never stop to pause and consider who make the biggest mistakes, I think. And maybe it will end up being a case by case situation, where sometimes you feel good about giving to a beggar, and sometimes you don't feel right about it.

    1. The pictures were taken in Ohio, the first week of December. Due to Christmas, driving across half of the US, and moving to a new country, I didn't receive the CD until sometime in January. So now I have all these adorable Christmas shots of my kids that I'm not sure what to do with. But zoomed in like that, you can't tell it's a Christmas picture. :)

  2. Hmmm... I just wrote a big ol' comment, and then it disappeared. Ugh! So here is basically what I wrote:
    Beggars: I rarely give to beggars on the street. I only have X amount of money to donate to charity, and while we try to make X a big amount, I want it to make a big difference in the world. If you were to hand out money to everyone you met on the street, I have no doubt you'd have a lot of takers. But it wouldn't make much of a difference in the world. On the other hand, fast offerings, donating items to be sold for fundraisers, and actively supporting charities that make a difference in the world are ways I feel like my dollar makes the most difference in the world.
    Preschools: I sent Penny to preschool in China at age 2. And now Naomi hasn't gone to a day of preschool, and she's 3 1/2. It's different for each kid, and that's okay. Penny's preschool in China was all day every day from 8-4. They had no plans for half day or every other day or anything like that. So we just paid for the whole week and only took her 2-3 mornings a week. It didn't make a difference to them, and seriously, it's preschool! Who cares if she misses a day?!

  3. Your kids are adorable. I love your conversations with Danny. He is hilarious.

    I remember all the vendors in Mexico when we stopped there on a cruise we took a couple years ago. They can be very persistent! (I'm guessing more so closer to where the cruise ships come in.) I remember Zach saying something about his mission president in Argentina telling them not to give money to beggars for some of the same reasons you listed here. There were kid vendors at our cruise stop and they were some of the most forward ones! It was tough. It made me grateful to not encounter it everyday.

    Alice's cake made me laugh out loud. I love it! You are an example to me of just going with the flow. I am way too much of a control freak these days I'm afraid.

    Major props to you for finding time to volunteer! You are awesome.

    I will be sending baby turning vibes your way! My c-section, even with it being an emergency, was not too bad. They really aren't the end of the world and it sounds like you have very capable doctors there! It will be a few tense weeks leading up to his arrival, but once Gordon is here (no matter how he gets here) it will all be in the past and you won't have to worry one way or another about it. I know you know that, but sometimes it's good to keep it in perspective. All this stress will pass eventually and you'll even get a baby at the end of it! Good luck!

  4. I love reading the things Daniel says. And regarding Alice, is there a way you could volunteer at the school so that you could experience some things with her and get the interaction you desire? I can't even begin to imagine the things you deal with (other than those that you share here) and I just want to say how awesome you are for being so flexible. I'm sure you have really difficult times where you just want things to be easier, but I'm so proud of you and Jeff. In regards to baby G, I know several women who have had c-sections due to the size of the baby or induction medication failing. Their experiences were completely fine and no big deal according to them- just longer recovery time, obviously.

  5. oh no, breech c-section! i know it's not your ideal but it's really not at all.. —Kim

  6. I'm a bilingual teacher and taught Enlgish to first and second graders. We did bilingual immersion which is basically teaching English through content on not explicitly teaching grammar. I can help you if you'd like. is a great website for resources and also pinterest. —Oli

  7. I kind of know how you feel about the preschool. My son started preschool sooner than I would have wanted, because as soon as a child turns 3, the Early Intervention stops and the school system takes over. But it's like you said, "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)..." Just remember that and don't worry about it. Every child is different; every family is different; every place you live is different; and you do what works.

    For me, avoiding guilt is easiest when I make a firm decision to avoid it. You sit down and say, "I made this choice on purpose, because I thought it was the best choice, for these reasons. So I will not feel guilty about it." Then the next time you feel guilty, you just tell yourself, "No. I don't feel guilty about that. I've already dealt with that idea," and replace the thought with a different subject. Of course, it's easier said than done, but it helps.

    "Are there many people who still know how to take the heads, skins, and bones off a fish??"

    I was with my mother-in-law at Costco (in Utah) and she bought a whole fish. It was on a tray with plastic wrap over it, like other meat. I was surprised, but I guess it's not uncommon.

    The thing that works best for me, for getting a cake out of a pan, is to put wax paper on the bottom. (I don't know if they sell wax paper where you live; if they have parchment paper, maybe that would work.)

    I don't even grease the pan at all. I trace the bottom of the pan on wax paper with a pencil, cut it out, and put in in the bottom of the pan. Then I pour the batter right on top of it. When it's time to take the cake out, I run a knife around the sides to loosen it and then flip it upside down. The paper sticks to the bottom of the cake, but it peels right off.

    —Heather Kimball

  8. I have c-sections and they are not bad. I realize I haven't ever had a regular birth/recovery to compare it to, but in my case they have not been hard to recover from. Take the drugs they give you for the first 3-5 days, and then stick with motrin for a week or two and you are good to go. I frequently have to remind myself that I'm not supposed to be doing things, because I really do feel pretty good by 1 week out. I would plan to have help for a minimum of two weeks if you do have a c-section, just so you have someone else around to remind you not to pick this or that up, and help with the big kids. I've had friends that have been through both, and they also agree that people make a bigger deal out of c-sections than they really warrant. One thing everyone agrees on is that emergency c-sections suck (traumatic, horrible recovery), especially if you've pushed, soo vaginal birth or planned c-section seems to be the way to go. Good Luck! —Liz Campbell

  9. Parchment paper also works. —Rachel

  10. After 4 c-sections, I am a firm believer that all that really matters is a healthy baby and mama at the end. My advice is to just embrace it, plan ahead (no emergency!), and take it slow. Don't eat solid foods for at least 24 hours after (trust me on that one!) and plan on taking it easy for 6 weeks! The slower you go- the better you heal! —Emily Anderson

  11. You can check out I did one of the inversion exercises and a stretching exercise once a day at the end of my pregnancy because I could tell my baby's head was tilted to one side which could make labor slow and painful and was pinching my nerves as well. The nerves got unpinched, and I had a quick labor. I've heard it works well for flipping babies as well.

    You are well suited to be an English teacher in my opinion. When I was in third grade, we had a Spanish lesson once every other week as part of the gifted program. The teacher focused mostly on learning songs, and it stuck with me for years! Sometimes I didn't understand all the words we were singing, but later when I learned more Spanish, I was pleased I remembered the right words and could figure out what it meant. Maybe That is a good way to make good use of the short time you have with them. If you find any good sources of Spanish kids songs while you are in Mexico by the way, let me know! I'm trying to make school more fun and less contentious. . .
    —Sara Richins

  12. Walk walk, i heard of a mom who could do jumping Jax and that helped. But how you do jumping Jax at 8 months pregnant is beyond me!!. My mom had 3 sections and she thought I was crazy for not having one. She had very positive experiences and would do it the same if she could do it all over again. —Julia Bouley

  13. Sounds like you guys are adjusting well. Excited for you to have your fourth and praying all goes well whether he flips or you need a csection. —Chelle Belle

  14. I haven't read any of your thing yet but Samuel was breach for about a week and I did some of the exercises on and also went swimming several times and he flipped right around. My midwife said to do handstands in the pool, which was hard to do because I couldn't get a lot of air before hand but it did add a nice challenge to it. —Tina

  15. I had an "expert" OBGYN who worked w/ my nurse midwives "flip" Keilani just before I was induced (Keilani was already over a week late). (Of course, this is the expert who had listened to her heart and assured me that the exercises that I had done had worked and she was already turned - not the case. The exercises do not have a high percentage of success - insist on a sonogram) I was able to have her vaginally, but it was absolutely the most painful and difficult labor ever, although it didn't last tremendously long. Her head was so big and flat that it was hard to get through - It looked perfect though! If you don't have someone who is experienced with manual manipulation, I would be hesitant to have them try it (the cord is an issue) Everyone was congratulating the doctor for the successful manipulation, but he said the fact that it was my 5th baby and I had no abdominal muscles left made it much easier :{
    Truth about teaching - most people don't realize that it takes at least as much time out of class to prep and then for most classes, assess work.
    Agreed w/ everyone else about preschool - each of my children got something different, although I tried doing some kind of at-home preschool for each -- they got it different years and at different degrees of organization - and I was in the states. Mom's sanity comes first! —Rachel Murdock

  16. Emily was in preschool when she was one, when I was working down in Indiana. So I still have you beat And your little are still home most of the time, so no, your not a stay at home mom with kids who aren't home It sounds like Jill isn't gone very long either; Emily's kindergarten is about 7 hours, she is gone 8 because she rides the bus. So you are running around picking up and dropping off kids, of course you are tired! Good luck with your delivery! My friends who have had scheduled c sections think they are better than normal delivery, and the recovery is fine. If you end up having one, your mom will be there to take care of you. My mom helped me for the first week, which helped a lot. —Rachel


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