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Christmas Update 2015

December 24, 2015

I showed up at the Live Different base without much information about the group that is spending their Christmas break building houses for two families. My friend, the leader, was sick and needed someone to lend a hand so he could rest. I haven’t done a lot with the organization this year but I know how to chat, eat some yummy Mexican food and lead a discussion about their first day of building. Turns out they are from the same area that my family lived in during my high school and university years. And they sing like angels. I have been missing four-part harmony and Christmas carols and the other night I got treated to some good old Southern Manitoba Mennonite singing that warmed my heart and had Lyla joining in.

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Sisters. So much love between these three.

It has been a year like no other. I had a baby and became a stay-at-home mom. There have been many ups and downs. It has been a joy to be a part of the three girls growing up. A baby’s first year is quite incredible plus I have two girls that are entering the transition to teenagers. So nursery songs and tween boy-band music are both regulars on the playlist here. But to be honest, going from independent career woman to stay-at-home mom hasn’t been all roses and rainbows. It has been an adjustment learning to live on one income and not getting ‘paid’ for all the work I do. Lyla spent a scary week in the hospital at two months with pnuemonia and we are constantly on the watch for the tiniest sniffle as she has been prone to respiratory infections. The monotony of cleaning and cooking and cranky kids gets to me some days but then moments like Lyla leaning over to kiss me on the cheek for the first time happen. Or seeing Yiria get into the Narnia books, or listening to Genesis excitedly chatter away about basketball practice that day, or the big girls voluntarily turning off the tv and begging me to play a few rounds of Phase Ten with them, or Lyla giggling as Pedro swings her. Those are the moments I live for and remind me that my labours of love are worth it.

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Same place. Six months later. We got a chance to return to Winnipeg in July to introduce Pedro and Lyla to a Canadian summer and spend time with my friends and family.

In the fall I helped teach some of the social justice classes with the Live Different Academy. It was strange not being as involved as I have been in the past but it was great to be able to be part of it in some way while still getting to be part of Lyla’s first year.  I am so blessed to have been present for almost all my baby’s firsts. Even if it means I didn’t have money for a frappe on a hot day or that Lyla has a bump on her head from falling or that I had to dislodge the toy blocking the toilet. It has been a year to remember and treasure.

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At 11 months, Lyla is happily walking around the house and exploring everything she can get her little hands into.

After Christmas my family and I will be helping lead a house build with a Live Different group. I am looking forward to getting more involved with them again whenever possible and am thankful that I am able to do many of these opportunities with my family. Because these days I am all about family.

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My apologies that I have not been able to update my blog regularly this year. My computer died and my blog updating options now are time consuming which with a baby that demands my attention, it was easier to just take a break. But I wanted to send Christmas greetings and let you know that we are doing well. May God’s love fill your hearts with peace and joy this Christmas and throughout the whole year.

 

 

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Newborn Cuddles

February 12, 2015

When I held up the adorable outfits I received at a baby shower in the fall I couldn’t believe that I would soon have a baby small enough to wear them. Some of them in particular were teeny tiny! I doubted I would get much use out of those ones – I figured with my genetic pool my baby would be too big for them. And yet those tiniest of onesies ended up being a bit big and have been the main essentials these first five weeks.
newborn cuddles Five weeks?! Where has the time gone? On one hand it seems like Baby L just made her appearance and I often sit in awe, gazing at her perfect tiny-ness and it all feels wonderfully surreal. And on the other hand I can’t imagine our lives without her. It seems like a far-off dream and vivid at the same time. Hoping my baby wouldn’t be born before my husband arrived in Winnipeg, then as time passed worrying that she would come so late that he would have to return to work and miss her birth, pacing the house for hours with contractions, rushing through the icy Winnipeg streets to the hospital, waiting for a doctor to come into my room so I could finally push, her slimey beautiful body nestled on my chest, the blue glowing light of the phototherapy light for her jaundice, the disappointment of larger than ideal weight losses, the frustration of learning to breastfeed, the stress of supplementing her feedings and the worry of what the extra time in the hospital was doing to our medical bill. Our baby was small for being born full-term. Eating took so much of her energy that it was hard for her gain weight initially. But she is a fighter and we are grateful for the help that we received from the nurses in and out of the hospital. She’s still small – in fact she is the size I thought she would be when she was born – but we have got the breastfeeding thing figured out and she has grown into her skin and newborn clothes.
These days I have stopped stressing about her small size and am trying to just enjoy her tiny perfection while I can. Visits with 3, 6, and 10-month old babies this past week have reminded me how quickly babies grows. So even though my house is a disaster, whenever I can I just soak in her soft breathing as she sleeps on my chest after the umpteenth meal that day. Cuddles for the win every time.

5 on 5: February 2015

February 5, 2015

It’s been a busy couple months. I spent two months in Canada, my sister got married, my husband got to visit Canada for the first time, we had a baby, and I traveled with a three-week old to introduce her to our Mexico home and her sisters. Busy will all kinds of wonderful things as you can see. Hence being absent from my blog for a while.

While I was home in Canada for two months, my little sister got married. It was a joy to stand at her side as they said their "I do's" and I was thankful that I was able to do this at 38-weeks pregnant.

While I was home in Canada, my little sister got married. It was a joy to stand at her side as they said their “I do’s” and I was thankful that I was able to do this at 38-weeks pregnant.

My husband was able to visit Canada for one month - he experienced the cold, a white Christmas, built his first snowman, met many of my friends and family and most importantly, was their for the birth of our daughter.

My husband was able to visit Canada for one month – he experienced the cold, a white Christmas, built his first snowman, met many of my friends and family and most importantly, was there for the birth of our daughter.

Baby L was born on January 5 after 19 hours of labour. She was small for her gestational age so we spent some extra time in the hospital getting her weight up and learning how to supplement the breastfeeding for the first little while. She is still a small package but is healthy and adorable.

Baby L was born on January 5 after 19 hours of labour – only an hour of that in the hospital. She was small for her gestational age so we spent some extra time in the hospital getting her weight up and learning how to supplement the breastfeeding for the first little while. She is still a small for her age but is healthy, adorable and growing into her skin and newborn clothing.

So in love with our little package. Just wish her big sisters could have traveled to Canada to have been part of this great event.

So in love with our little package. Just wish her big sisters could have traveled to Canada to have been part of this great event….and yet so grateful to have had Daddy there for this special time.

Together. We were able to get the passport needed in time to unite the three sisters by the time Baby L was three weeks old. Let's just say she has been smothered in kisses and there have been fights over who gets to hold her or sit beside her in the car. Am enjoying that and their offered help while it lasts.

Together. We were able to get the passport needed in time to unite the three sisters by the time Baby L was three weeks old. Let’s just say she has been smothered in kisses and there have been fights over who gets to hold her or sit beside her in the car. Am enjoying that and their offered help while it lasts.

The December 5

December 6, 2014
Got to spend an afternoon chilling on the beach with some of the Live Different Academy students. It was great to have some time to enjoy the beauty of the Baja, the warmest fall I can remember and chat about their experience so far in Mexico.

Got to spend an afternoon chilling on the beach with some of the Live Different Academy students. It was great to have some time to enjoy the beauty of the Baja, the warmest fall I can remember and chat about their experiences so far in Mexico. Today is their graduation from our three-month gap program, which I am sadly missing.

Me at 20 weeks and 33 weeks pregnant with our little Mexican jumping bean.

Me at 20 weeks and 33 weeks pregnant with our little Mexican jumping bean.

Relaxing on the grass in a park on our trip to California. I sure enjoyed the green grass and the trees with fall coloured leaves. This week we received news that Pedro was approved for a Canadian visitor visa!!! He's becoming quite the world traveler.

Relaxing on the grass in a park on our trip to California. I sure enjoyed the green grass and the trees with fall coloured leaves.
This week we received news that Pedro was approved for a Canadian visitor visa!!! Which means he will be joining me in Canada closer to Christmas for a month to be a part of our daughter’s birth. He’s becoming quite the world traveler. But instead of hanging out on the grass, he will be experiencing a Manitoba winter for the first time.

Decorating our tiny Christmas tree and home with the decorations that we made last year. It's starting to feel like Christmas even though I can still drive on the highway with the windows open.

Decorating our tiny Christmas tree and our home with the decorations that we made last year. It’s starting to feel like Christmas even though I can still drive on the highway with the windows open.

It was a brief but good visit with my previous co-worker. He is the one that kept telling me I needed a man like Pedro.

It was a brief but good visit with my previous co-worker. He is the one that kept telling me I needed a man like Pedro. Guess he was right. He arrived on his trip on my last night in Mexico before starting the journey to Canada where I plan to have our baby. (Am on route right now so pray for safe travels for the second leg of my trip today.)

Long Weekend in Cali

December 1, 2014

Last weekend my family had the opportunity to go to the States. This was the first time we used their newly acquired American visitor visas. I had a flight booked for Wednesday out of San Diego so we figured we would make it a long weekend and made the 4.5 hour trek north to the border as soon we could after school on Friday.

We wanted to travel further than 25 miles into the country so we asked the border crossing officer for the permits required to do this. Only to discover that they only issue those to people crossing on foot and not in the car lanes. Which doesn’t make any sense – people in cars are more likely to be going further than 25 miles than pedestrians. But we found a place to park and I waited in McDonalds with a friend that we were giving a ride to while the other three walked back to Mexico to cross the American border again. So on their first trip to the States they entered twice within the first hour. By the time they found the right line, got their permits and we made it to the hotel it was after midnight. I was beat but the girls had questions about everything. “What is this? Wow, look there’s even a little fridge! Why would we need a closet? What does this say? How does this work?”

The next morning we dropped our friend off at the airport and headed north to the other side of Los Angeles to find Pedro’s family. He hadn’t seen the two families since they had been in Baja California ten years ago and we discovered some cousins he had never even met before. It was exciting for him because he grew up without any cousins or extended family nearby. No matter where we went we were greeted warmly and it was if we visited often.

On the Sunday, everyone’s day off, we roasted beef, chicken and chorizo sausage over brickets for hours while we visited at one house. We stuffed ourselves with this grilled meat on fresh corn tortillas slathered in fresh salsa and guacamole. After a break at the park and an hour drive through California farm country, we arrived at another house where we proceeded to visit with all kinds of cousins and grill more beef, chicken and chorizo sausage over mesquite wood. I don’t know the last time I ate that much meat in one day. By nine that evening the two days of traveling followed by visiting with new people in Spanish had caught up with me. I must have looked wiped because the next thing I knew I was being whisked away to bed. I wanted to resist so I wouldn’t miss a thing but the tears welling up in my eyes told me that I was over-tired and needed to rest.

We spent most of our six days either driving or visiting in families homes. A highlight was going to the aquarium in Monterey where we got to see all kinds of creatures that my three had never seen before and there were people from all over the world – probably the most diverse crowd they’d ever been in. They were introduced to an In ‘N Out Burger joint, a classic in California, as well as frozen yogurt with choose your own toppings and a grocery store with endless options for fruits and vegetables. Many times they were still able to communicate at stores and such due to the high population of Spanish-speakers in California. Then there were other times where the girls would just stare wide-eyed and confused as people jabbered away in English.

I asked them what the strangest thing they saw was on their trip and they said ‘Everything!…..Everything is in reverse here. You put your toilet paper in the toilet instead of a garbage can. And you can drink from the tap even though it tastes funny.” They couldn’t wrap their mind around the purpose of a shower cap but thought it made a fun hat. The rice at the restaurants was not what they expected – in fact the youngest informed me today that she was never eating rice in the United States again. There were so many lanes of traffic and almost all the cars were super nice. And they thought it was strange that the people that Pedro helped with their car insisted on tipping him. “Do people here always give you money if you help them?” Everything was so clean – either paved or grass with no sandy dust or litter to be found. We did find some red fall leaves that they thought kind of looked like a Canadian leaf. When asked what the greatest, coolest thing was that they saw on their trip, their response once again was “Everything!”

In the end I didn’t end up flying to Canada as planned (but that’s another whole story and I now hope to be in Canada by next week). We are still glad to have had the chance to do some traveling as a family and experience new things together. In many ways I didn’t feel like we had left Mexico sometimes but it was fun to see them take in the things I consider normal. They are anxious to plan another trip to ‘the other side’ as soon as possible and hopefully that will involve meeting the newest family member and I at the airport in the new year. We are grateful to have discovered an extended family and their hospitality but for now we are happy to be sleeping in our own beds.

Water

November 18, 2014

The other night I sat around a fire chatting with the Academy students about their experience so far living like many families that have arrived in the area looking for work. The fire wasn’t just to stay warm in the cool evening, it was how they were cooking their supper after a day of manual labour. One of the girls shared about how difficult it is to adjust to bucket showers. For those of you that are not familiar with how many people living without plumbing and with limited access to water bathe, here’s a run-down. You fill a bucket with water. If you are lucky it has been sitting in the sun for a while so it is not freezing cold. Then you use a cup to splash water on yourself, soap up and then rinse off with more cups of water. She was finding it particularly difficult to get her long, thick hair cleaned properly. And all this is done within whatever structure you have been able to put together – in their case some plastic wrapped around a flimsy wooden frame. Needless to say you feel a little exposed as people chat nearby while the plastic flaps in the wind and the wind assaults your wet body – well it’s a tad chilly. Yet versions of this bathing experience are reality for many people around the world. We had talked about the lack of clean water in our social justice class the other week but now living it out, it’s so much more real.

When I got home I smelled like campfire smoke and decided I needed to shower before I could sleep. I am lucky to have plumbing, hot water and a big cistern of water. With the evenings getting cooler now it was tough to get out of the shower – I just wanted to stay under the flow of the hot water. The problem with that is that even though we are blessed to have a water cistern, we live in an area that deals with chronic water shortages. The reason for the water cistern is that the town water isn’t on all the time. At times this summer it came on as little as an hour or two every three to four days. In fact sometimes the water pressure is so low that it can’t make it up the hose into the barrel so you have to fill small buckets close to ground level and then empty them into the big barrel so that you will have enough for the next few days. This makes life challenging if your water storage system is a barrel and you aren’t home during that one hour to turn on the tap and fill every barrel and bucket you own.  There have been many times when neighbours and family have come to fill a bucket of water from our cistern so that they can wash their essentials.

A Canadian friend of mine suggested a water fight as one of the activities to do with her Canadian/Mexican family during summer holidays and her kids were horrified that she would suggest an activity that clearly wasted water when so many people didn’t have enough to bathe regularly. And yet to her and I, a water fight is normal part of a summer childhood.

And so I try to conserve water, knowing how little water there is in the valley. Or for people anyways. There seems to be enough to irrigate all the crops of berries and vegetables. It is a catch-22 because without irrigation there would be no crops, and without the crops there would be no work. Agriculture is what sustains this area. But I often wonder, don’t the people tending and picking those crops deserve to have enough water to wash their bodies and clothes full of field dirt and pesticides? Yes they do and yet there are no easy answers about how to make it all possible.

Some people that have shown me how to conserve water are my husband and his family. For example, water from the washing machine and dishes is used to water the gardens. Laundry water is used for two loads instead of one. Dishes are not washed in big sinks full of soapy water but with a small amount of concentrated soapy water and then rinsed sparingly with water. One day my sister-in-law came over to wash her clothes at our house because they hadn’t had water in days. I convinced her to use our shower instead of lugging a bucket of water home for that purpose. I thought it would be a treat for her to be able to shower with hot water. But she didn’t wait for the hot water to arrive. In fact I barely heard water hit the floor of the shower because she opened the tap just enough to allow herself to get wet enough to soap up and then reopened it to rinse off. To be honest, I am still puzzled by how little water she actually used. Puzzled and embarrassed when on nights like last night I couldn’t even bring myself to turn the water off like usual while sudsing up. And I definitely took more than enough time to rinse off. I wrapped myself in a bath sheet whereas she dried off with a hand towel because she explained to me that it would take less water to clean it than one of the big towels I had offered.

Water is a precious resource that I have taken for granted growing up in Canada. There I thought I was being pretty good at conserving water. But now I think a lot more about where my water comes from and how I use it than ever before. How do I wash my filthy car when I know that some neighbours haven’t washed laundry this week because they don’t have enough water? Who am I to tell my step-daughter that it’s ok to wait for the hot water? It’s admirable that she doesn’t want to waste water but maybe she wouldn’t fight bathing so much if she had a hot shower instead of a cold one. I hate all the styrofoam dishes used at family get-togethers but I know that there is limited water to wash all the dishes we would use. I might be blessed with a water system that didn’t leave us hanging even during the driest weeks this summer, but I see the impact of the water shortage on my family and neighbours and know that I too have a responsibility to use the water given to us wisely. The way to do that isn’t black and white, but it is something I am working through.

The November 5

November 11, 2014
To make the statistics we learned in class about hunger more real, I helped facilitate a 'hunger meal'. The students and staff were divided into three groupings based on what the world would be eating. 10% were served pasta, salad and juice, 25% were served rice, beans and water while the rest of the 60% were served rice and water which they ate while sitting on the floor.

To make the statistics we learned in class about hunger more real, I helped facilitate a ‘hunger meal’ at work. The students and staff were divided into three groupings based on what the world would be eating if we were all in one room. 10% were served pasta, salad and juice at a nicely decorated table, 15% were served rice, beans and water a plain table while the rest of the 60% were served rice and water which they ate while sitting on the floor. Here we are drawing our new lot in life to find out what and where we would be eating. I ended up eating rice on the floor which was really hard for some of the students to accept but it was a great teaching opportunity – pregnant women in lower income groups do not receive much, if any, special treatment. Check out Oxfam’s Hunger Meal package for more information about hosting your own event.

In October our sister-in-law gave birth to a little girl. We are looking forward to our girls playing together and sharing this journey of motherhood together.

In October our sister-in-law gave birth to a little girl. We are looking forward to our girls playing together. My sister-in-law and I have swapped many a pregnancy story so far and I look forward to sharing this journey of motherhood with her as well.

My friends hosted a baby shower for me - complete with traditional Mexican food, cute decorations, games and gifts. My favourite parts are the notes my friends and in-laws wrote me, and the greatness and awkwardness of bi-cultural, bi-lingual baby shower. And that my step-daughters were so excited to be part of the evening.

My friends hosted a baby shower for me – complete with traditional Mexican food, cute decorations, games and gifts. My favourite parts were the notes my friends and in-laws wrote for me, and the greatness and awkwardness of the bi-cultural, bi-lingual baby shower. And that my step-daughters were so excited to be part of the evening.

These three women and I have been getting together almost every Friday for just over a year. We share our joys and struggles living in another culture, raising the children we have acquired, being in bi-cultural relationships and serving our communities. I am so thankful to have these good friends to share life with.

These three women and I have been getting together almost every Friday for the past year. We share our joys and struggles living in another culture, raising the children we have acquired through various means, being in bi-cultural relationships and serving our communities. I am so thankful to have these good friends to share life with. (Me at 7 months pregnant)

Nothing like encouraging dumpster diving. It's that time of year again that the Academy students build their own houses with materials they find (hence the dumpster) and experience a week in the life of a local.

Nothing like encouraging dumpster diving. It’s that time of year again that the Academy students build their own houses with materials they find (hence the dumpster) and experience a week in the life of a local. I helped facilitate the search for materials and have to say, I was impressed with how excited they were to find garbage.