Monday, September 29, 2008

Shana Tova

Isn't it a beuatiful Challah! My Sweet Friend made it for our Rosh Hashanna erev dinner tonight.

While I am sad to be in the USA and away from my family on this holiday, I am very happy and grateful to spend the evening with special friends in the USA. We had 8 adults and 4 children for a traditional Jewish dinner including prayers over the candles, wine and challah.

I had a lovelyl time visiting with Sweet Friend's parents. They are so friendly and welcoming.

I send a wish for a Sweet New Year to all ...

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year) starts tomorrow night and I will be in USA so our family did Tashlich today.

It was awesome to be able to cast away our sins from the prior year into the ocean (see little white spots in picture below.) Husband looked handsome in his swim trunks saying prayers from our white Tanach. We each took turns tossing a bread crumb into the sea while saying what we are sorry for that we may have done in the last year. Youngest Son said "I am sorry for knocking over your army men this morning."

And You will cast into the depths of the sea all their sins; You will show kindness to Yaakov and mercy to Avraham, As You did promise to our fathers of old." Book of Michah (Micah) 7:18-20
Tashlich is preferably recited alongside a body of water containing fish, to remind us that just as fish are protected by the water in which they live, we pray to be protected by G-d. Also, just as fish swim freely and can suddenly be caught in a net, so too we can just as helplessly fall into the net of sin. And even as the eyes of fish are always open, so do we pray that G-d too will keep vigilant watch over his people.

Another special Mexico memory.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Overheard: Email

I have written about Other American Family in Mexico. They moved from our same city in USA to their house in Mexico this summer. They have 3 boys (5, 6, and 8) and our kids have gone to school together and been in activities together for several years. It was not a coincidence that we decided to move to same place at same time. It has been so GREAT for our families to have this adventure together.

Other American Mommy says last night "I check my email once per month just to stay on top of things."

Ba da bing! The irony cracked us up.

For those of us who check email every 2 seconds just to stay on top of things, this statement is - well - funny and enviable. Other American Mommy has so embraced the Mexico way of things: Manana!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Captain Underpants

The good news is Oldest Son got through his first Spanish chapter book this week.

The bad news is it was Captain Underpants (translated.) Not exactly a classic and not even a book Oldest Son would be drawn to in USA.

Oldest Son is a voracious reader. In 2nd grade, read all 7 Harry Potter Books! Husband and I are thrilled that he has this inclination. We both love reading as well.

Flying to Mexico today - happy, happy, happy!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Overheard: Travel

On Sunday, I board my plane in Mexico. The plane attempts to leave. LOUD THUMP. JERK. STOP.

The plane hits the towing device after it malfunctions. This causes damage to front landing gear. Off the plane we go to load onto buses which take us back to terminal.

Passenger happily says to Pilot: "I guess we can say we have been in a plane crash now."

Pilot to Passenger: "That is not funny."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Movies in Mexico

So after the zoo last Saturday, we all went to the movies.

The kids had hoped to see Clone Wars but we could not find it playing. So we did a divide and conquer instead. Oldest Son and Husband went to Journey to Center of the Earth. Youngest Son and I went to High School Musical El Desafio. Both movies were in Spanish.

Journey to Center of the Earth was supposed to be in 3D but no glasses. The reel had some problems so I think there were moments of dialogue but no visual. Even so, Youngest Son really enjoyed the movie.

High School Musical El Desafio was made by Disney with Mexican actors. Instead of basketball, it is futbol. The music and dancing were entertaining. I did not understand much of the Spanish but still had a good time. Youngest Son liked it as well.

Experts say that exposure to television and movies will help with the Spanish comprehension. I guess I believe it. The kids do not mind the Spanish dialogue at all. I know they do not understand it all but they never complain. Interesting I think.

After the movies, we let the kids play 30 pesos ($3 USD) worth of arcade games. The games were 54 - 69 cents (USD) per game. It was loud and obnoxious just like a USA arcade.


I am back in USA working ...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Interactive Zoo Experience

Our first excursion today was to visit the zoo in Mismaloya south of Puerto Vallarta. It was definitely the most interactive zoo experience we have ever had and we have visited lots of zoos!

Finding the Zoo
Anytime we set out to a new destination In Mexico, we assume the logistics will not be straight forward. Today was no exception. We wound around small cobblestone streets and winding mountain roads. Upon arrival - my first question was "is it open?" There were 3 (yes 3) cars in parking lot. It was open.

Food Bags

As you pay to get in, you have the option of purchasing a food bag for the animals. It has carrots, peanuts, cookies, pellets and corn. The bag is printed with lists in Spanish and English on what to feed to each kind of animal. It was $400 pesos ($40 USD) for admission for 2 adults/2 kids and 2 food bags. Kids are already thrilled at the mere thought of dispersing all this food.


As you may have surmised, the distance to the animals is a bit more relaxed if you are able to hand feed them. I would not call it dangerous but Husband and I kept close tabs on boys and the animals. It was really fun to approach the animals and then find the right food - educational too. I got a bit nervous about the grey wolves that had the shoulder height wall that you could peer right over to see them right there (there is no zoom on this iPhone shot)! The kids fed goats, lamas, fish, geese, camels, bears, monkeys, birds, rabbits and the list really goes on - see the list on bag!

One particular primate gave quite a fright. Oldest Son was easing a peanut to him when he jumped at cage, screeched and showed a mouth full of sharp teeth. I screamed, Oldest Son screamed. We moved on quickly and got a good laugh afterwards.

Lion Cub
The highlight of the day was the 6 week old lion cub the kids got to hold, pet and feed. As Youngest Son frolicked around with her, the little cub nipped him on the bottom! It was interesting that they had a puppy with the lion cub to keep her company.

The zoo was at the foot of the Jalisco mountains and just beautiful. The zoo is undergoing a multi-year development initiative that will make this a world class destination someday. The conditions are great for some animals and not for others but overall it seemed like a humane and wonderful place. They have been able to breed quite a few animals including species in danger of extinction. We will definitely be back again during this 1 year adventure.

Next post - the rest of our day ...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Futbol and Play

I arrived back from USA (again) and another green light at customs!

Well, I am working on a project that requires me to be in USA more than I anticipated. So till end of October, I may be commuting more than originally hoped.

It was great to see Husband, Oldest Son and Youngest Son at airport to pick me up. It reminds me of when I would pick the kids up at preschool when they were toddlers - we are just so happy to see each other.

Oldest Son was a Chatty Cathy. He had lots of news to tell me. Most importantly he scored 2 goals in the futbol game this week at school. It has taken a bit of playground adjustment for him to figure out the futbol dynamics - normal little boy stuff - accentuated with being in Mexico. Oldest Son and 3 other boys have formed a team and worked out who plays what position when.

Army Men
Remember the army men that boys have played with for generations. I picked up some at the Dollar Store to bring to boys. They are in play heaven! Their room and all items in it have turned into their strategic map for conquering the bad guys.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Husband Gets a Mexican Fire Lighting Lesson

Husband goes to local Super to get lighter fluid for our charcoal grill. He keeps trying to explain in Spanish to woman in the store what he wants. She has that look that shows I do not understand you.

Finally, she grabs Husband by the hand and guides him behind the store where her husband is lighting a fire. He is soaking a paper towel in corn oil and putting under the charcoal to light his grill. (It is not clear if he is in shorts or underwear) He explains to Husband how to do it. Gracias Amigo!

So we no longer have to get lighter fluid - see the fire!

I have realized in last few months that we are obsessed in USA with having a "separate specialized something" for every need. This is a logical consequence in an increasingly consumerist society. So mark lighter fluid off our grocery list - one less item taking up space, packaging and resources.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pot of Gold Civics Lesson

I arrived back in Mexico this afternoon - so far all green lights at customs!

We went to dinner in next Mexican village tonight for pizza at a locally owned restaurant. It overlooks the town square with a view of the church and the ocean. It is quite wonderful. You are able to watch them make the pizza and cook it in the brick stone oven.

The owner's son, Eduardo, was our waiter. He grew up locally, went to public school and spoke beautiful English. He allowed the kids into the cooking area and they made their own mini pizzas. I can not describe adequately how excited they were - suffice it to say that Eduardo has Rock Star status with them.

As we are eating on the balcony we are watching Mexican life around the square. There are taco stands packing up for the night, an inebriated older man stumbling around barefoot, a bride in coffee colored taffeta having her picture taken, street dogs nipping at each other and kids playing in the gazebo.

Then we see it. The most perfect rainbow. It is beautiful. We discuss the pot at the end of the rainbow. I ask Oldest Son what he would do with the pot of gold. His reply is "We would have to give half of it to the government since it is on their land." Husband and I just burst out laughing. We have no idea what made him respond this way but it is basically true. He will be such the model citizen.

The rainbow is gone within 2 minutes ... a message to savor the moment and slow down enough to see the beauty right in front of you.

Shabbat Shalom

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Proud Parent & Conduct Award

Oldest Son received the Conduct Award yesterday. There were 3 awards given: Participation, Effort and Conduct.

Oldest Son was very excited. It was an unexpected and wonderful bit of positive reinforcement for him.

There are so many learnings when one enters the world of parenting. One emotion that I did not fully understand until I had kids was Pride. The Pride is an overwhelming feeling that can ultimately be positive or negative depending on how the parent handles it. I have found it helpful to have a few select, close friends that you can unabashedly "brag" to and they are genuinely happy to share the moment.

I am feeling lots of Pride right now. It feels nice. I am so happy for Oldest Son.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Kids Sick & Last Weekend

USA: I am in USA. Working. Working. Working. Did I mention Working? I am staying with with my Fun Friend and daughter. So much nicer than hotel.

Mexico: Husband in Mexico and both kids sick with fever and virus type symptoms. Husband had to miss 3rd Grade Meeting tonight. I went to K3 meeting last week which was 2 hour meeting in all Spanish. I understood VERY little but was glad to be able to attend.

Last Weekend - Saturday
Saturday night right after dark, we went to look for crabs with our large, new bucket and flashlights. The big surprise was hundreds of Hermit Crabs everywhere. Hermit Crabs are so cool because they have so many types of shells. The highlight was the crab living in a red bottle cap. We saw something red moving across the beach - so funny. We also saw thousands of ants carrying bits of grass and leafs across the walkway - Oldest Son was impressed.

Last Weekend - Sunday
Husband took Youngest Son to first Mexico Birthday Party (I flew out earlier in day.) Husband said food was amazing - chicken, peppers in a sauce, etc. The house was 2 bedroom and the family had set up a tent type cover in front and provided a small bounce house. There were two pinatas, a birthday cake and music new to our family. Husband and Youngest Son had a really good time. Husband was able to meet a couple of the families of boys Youngest Son has befriended. I was bummed to miss this experience.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Local Crime at Checkpoint

Crime. I have read and heard lots about Mexico Crime recently in news and on other blogs. Protests. Killings. Burglaries. Kidnappings.

I am not educated on the statistics so have no real evidence of how Mexico compares to the USA and other places in the world.

Of course the visibility of law enforcement and firearms is different from USA. Even our kids are getting used to the checkpoints and large rifles we see daily.

We live in a small Mexican coastal town north of a large Mexican vacation spot. Last week, some men decided to shoot a couple of law enforcement officers at the checkpoint instead of stopping. These two officers died. Military policia shut down main road and any access in or out of our town. They went door to door till they found the shooters. Executed.

This is what I heard happened. Feels surreal.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday and Friends

Feeling very content, peaceful.

Music playing from Husband's iPod shuffle.

Kids upstairs in their room (completely voluntary) reading books.

Friends on their way over for Shabbat dinner. Husband made dinner.

I am drinking some frozen concoction with tequila I made in our blender that we just discovered works really well.

View is beautiful. Surf, mountains across the bay and sailboats. Not another person in sight.

Work can wait till tomorrow ...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

It Is A Mexico Thing - Mexico Cell Phone

Our life in Mexico is definitely less structured and less predictable. We live more by the "learn as you go" philosophy.

Latest Learning: 100 Free Minutes for 1st Month of Mexico Cell Phone Service is measured at the end of each Calendar Month. So if you purchase your phone late in the month (like us) then the minutes expire on August 31st - not 1 month from acquisition.

How Did We Learn This? Cell Phone mysteriously stopped working.

How Did We Fix? After internet research, 3 phone calls and 2 trips to local Oxxo, we purchased another 100 minutes. It is $100 pesos ($10 USD) per 100 minutes.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

All Back to "Good"

So we are back to school being "Good." Husband talked with Spanish Teacher this morning and apparently there was a substitute teacher yesterday and Spanish Teacher heard from other parents as well. Oldest Son used the English to Spanish dictionary today to help. We have appointment set up with Director next week to do a "check in." School is going to provide us a list of tutors.

Whew. Done all we can for now. Oldest Son is his happy, playful self this afternoon. Although I did get a chuckle that his homework was practicing the numbers 1-20 in Italian! As if Spanish was not enough ...

I have been asked the question "How is work?" My answer is pretty boring - it is work. Good work but work. I still have an intense job that requires lots of focus. I work all day from my desk just like before the move. I am going to commute a bit more than expected but that will be easier now that the USA house is rented. I am very, very grateful for this flexible job and my great work colleagues/friends.

My existence is different from Husband and Kids because 50% of my life is still rooted in the USA through work.

S0, "How is Husband?" He is happy and busy. Husband is still getting caught up and taking care of finishing the Move Checklist. He is spending allot of time with the Mexican/Spanish part of our life. There are many parts of our life that require speaking Spanish thus Husband does them all - school, homework, telephones, utilities, money, housekeeper, property repairs, food, policia (just had throw that one in), immigration papers, etc. He has been the only family member hit with various intestinal/stomach issues. Ugh. You would think he would have lots of free time but that has just not happened yet. Taking care of kids is time consuming wherever you live.

Do we like it? Yes. Yes. Yes. Loud Yes. Today, Husband purchased a Mexican Flag for our car for Mexican Independence Day. We are enthusiastic about exploring this wonderful country including places, foods, history, culture, nature, people and religion. It is just exciting to experience completely new things. We are a fortunate family.

Monday, September 1, 2008

1st School Challenge - Probably Not Last

Well today was the day we knew was coming.

Oldest Son expressed strong sentiment about his 3rd grade Spanish class. Not positive. His complaint was he did not understand his teacher and his teacher did not understand him. Both fairly accurate statements. Oldest Son is still learning Spanish and his Spanish teacher does not speak English.

We started probing. Good news is all other areas of school are going fine.

So what prompted this today? The Spanish class was asked to write a story. For the first time in his entire life (all 8 1/2 years), he did not complete an assignment nor did he even discuss with his teacher. Oldest Son is a good student and a very compliant, "follow the rules" person so this was hard for him.

Husband and I went into parenting high gear. The three of us "brainstormed" by writing our ideas on post-its.

We did have to eliminate Oldest Son's ideas to go to the American School and for his teacher to learn more English :)

One idea all three of us shared was to get some extra Spanish tutoring after school. Husband will follow up on tutoring resources at the school and their ideas to make sure we are doing all we can.

We provided him with a small dictionary that can translate English to Spanish (his school dictionary only translates Spanish to English.)

Husband will help write out some key phrases for him to communicate with his teacher in these situations.

We did the assignment together to help him organize an approach to writing stories. Today's story is only two sentences. It is not elaborate or long. We want Oldest Son to know that we expect him to always try, do the best he can and it is okay if there are mistakes. Husband will go with Oldest Son in the morning to see if teacher will accept the story late.

All three of us shared a few tears and a big group hug. My head knows this will make him a stronger person but my heart hurts for him. I was so proud of him. It was difficult for him to express himself to us and stay calm throughout our discussion.

Oldest Son is now happily playing checkers with Youngest Son ...