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.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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.