Simply Complicated
1st June
2015
written by Michelle

 

Hi! It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of the posts and I had so much fun putting this one together. Some good stuff for summer and traveling with little ones and some of my favorite links around the web. Plus, a few healthy recipes for the kitchen and some of my other favorite things:

On The Road: Traveling with a Toddler

We spent most of April traveling with a toddler. I mean we spent hours in the car and stayed in different people’s homes every few nights. We attempted eating at restaurants and waited in airports for flight delays. It was wonderful, and really exhausting.

Best kid-friendly iPad caseMy mom got us this traveling kid-friendly iPad case which velcros to the back of your seat for the perfect movie watching set-up. And older kiddos can hold on to easily because of the “grips” on the back for playing games or with apps. Obviously, you know, that we primarily used it to watch Frozen 17 times a day. Thank you, Disney for brainwashing my almost 2 year old.

Invisible coloring book + Marker: When Elena wasn’t watching Frozen, she was coloring. My sister, who is a preschool teacher, is always thinking of the most thoughtful gifts. The best thing about this is that 1) no markers stains on their hands, the rental car or you! and 2) little ones who are still learning how to hold a maker can actually do it because the “colors” just appear when you scribble. Win all around, Elena got the Frozen one but they have lots of other options, Nemo, Thomas the Train and Doc McStuffins. I wish we had more because this is seriously the easiest thing to pull out while waiting at restaurants.

Smallest, cheapest bath time entertainment: I had to google these because I don’t really know what they’re called. I remember playing with them has a kid though. I call them, “sponge animals” I think amazon calls them grow capsules. Either way best $5.50 you can spend for your next trip. They’re super tiny and so easy to pack, but kids find them mesmerizing. Perfect bathtub entertainment especially because we were in different people’s homes every night and i was not about to bring any bath toys. We plopped one of these little guys in the tub and Elena watched it “open.” We still bring some of the ones who made back with us into the bath every night.

No-Spill Bubbles: I’ve mentioned these before, but they are seriously the best bubbles we’ve found, because little hands can do it all. by. themselves. which we all know is so much more fun than us holding the precious bubble container or worse, them holding it and us saying “now be careful, be careful, don’t spill the bubbles” on repeat. Ahhh. NO more. Seriously, these are amazing. And you can refill it anytime.

In the Kitchen

My parents had the Coolest garlic peel remover and my mom sent me home with one! No more stinky garlicky fingers.

Green Soup: I posted this pic on instagram and got lots of questions about this green soup. My friend Laura posted the recipe for Broccoli-Cheese Spinach Soup, but in our house we just call it green soup. What I love is you can really add ANY vegetable in there, cause it all gets blended up. And you add as much or little cheese as you want – depending on your preferred level of cheesy-ness.

These zucchini muffins + mini chocolate chips. You guys know me I totally altered this a bit and used what we had on hand and threw in some shredded carrots, too. Do you see my cooking strategy…throw in extra veggies or chocolate chips when in doubt?! :)

I still make this Spinach-Basil Pesto almost weekly because its the only way Elena eats broccoli and Gerber and I love it too.

Have you heard of Chia seeds?! Here they’re called “chan” (rhymes with shaun”) and Elena likes to poor them her our smoothies. They get blended up and you can’t even see or taste them, especially if you make any kind of berry smoothie. They are loaded with omega-3s and protein and all those good minerals like magnesium and iron. I get ours at the local mercado, but if I could I would order these. I always feel good that when Elena only eats pasta and Cheerios the rest of the day, at least we’ve got some healthy stuff in her system from our morning smoothie!

On the web

This post from The Toast is one of the most beautiful and poignant pieces on bicultural identity. Of course it makes me think of my little girl and I try to imagine if she writes an essay in 20 years, what will she say?

Have you ever wondered how to explain privilege: These comics do an excellent job.

The is one of the best posts’ by my friend Anna, about debunking the motherhood myth that you can have it all.

I also loved this post by my friend Ashlee because I am SUPER interested in trying a capsule wardrobe. Although we don’t really have seasons in Guatemala so I think I’d have to make some adjustments.

In this post, Do Kids See Color? Cara shares how she is “not passionate about racial equality because [she] married a black man [but she is] passionate about racial equality because [she is ] passionate about human beings.”

Along the same lines, this was a super interesting (and very long) piece from the nymag about racism, education, and asking if racism be stopped by third grade? 

The founder of The Root Collective, Bethany Tran, makes me want to be a more conscious consumer with her piece, Where It Was Made MattersYou know how much it cost you, but do you know how much it cost the person who made it?” 

Also, I loved this video about how cities are making us sick. For anyone who cares about city planning and development and health this is a must watch.

On The Kindle

First, did you now most library have an online check out site? My expat and international friends you will love this. I go to my local Santa Barbara library website and type in my library card # (you have to already have a library card) and then I can search the available titles, and “check them out” for 3 weeks electrically. Then book appears in my kindle, just like magic. The only bad thing it also disappears in 3 weeks like magic even if I’m not done with it.

For book club, All the Light That Was Not Lost

For me, Raising your Spirited Child

Making my way though, Jesus Feminist and Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes

I really miss reading real books, like holding it in my hand underlining with a pen, folding corners, etc. Reading is interactive for me…but I won’t complain, the ease and convenience of being able to download any book, anytime is not lost on me. I can’t imagine living overseas away from book stores and internet even 10 years ago.

On Netflix 

Parenthood: ok we’re only on season two and it’s just taken us a while to get into it. Does it get better? Gerber describes it as emotionally overwhelming. I just smile, and am like welcome, to white-upper-middle-class American life.

We watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and loved it. Just funny, cute and easy to watch.

We watched Wild. Didn’t love it…or hate it. But I bet the book is better.

We are making our way through movies that got nominated for Oscars. We’re like a year behind. But, still. We watched Imitation Game on the plane. Two thumbs up. Next up on our list is, Selma and American Sniper.

On My Wishlist

Do you ever keep a personal wish list? Since we try to keep a budget and only buy things that fall more into the  the needs list than wants, sometimes I make a virtual wish list. It’s kinda like fantasy football, but only fantasy shopping. I click and save and imagine how well all the players…I mean, pieces would look together :)

One of these Made by Mary gold bar necklaces. I think I would get the word amor. What about you?

Cup of Jo posted about this nail polish and I love that it seems simple, versatile and one coat is enough!

I’m in love with these SonnetJames dresses.  This one and this one are my favorite and I have heard wonderful reviews of these sandals. So cute and comfy for summer, right?

I’ve been in the market for some kind of brown leather purse/bag that is big enough to hold my laptop when I go to work, and can also just be a cute purse with a few toddler essentials thrown in. Any ideas? We’ve been done with the diaper bag for while now, but somehow I have ended-up just carrying around Elena’s monkey backpack all.the.time. Not anymore. Mama wants a real purse. Maybe I can gift myself one for her birthday? You know like my 2-year becoming a mother anniversary gift? Is that a thing??? I may just start it.

What have you been into recently? And favorites I should know about? Do share!

Linking up with the lovely Leigh Kramer.

*Affilante Link Disclosure: When you click on some of the links and buy something, it means I get a teensy tiny percentage that supports my coffee fund or maybe even a wishlist purchase.*

 

27th May
2015
written by Michelle

 

On Monday my mom posted this photo of my Grandfather in honor of Memorial Day. I knew that he had served in WWII, but I had never paid much attention to the dates. He left for Europe, less than year after he and my grandmother has been married. It’s hard to imagine my grandparents as newly weds, in-love and holding hands and probably sharing books. I don’t have any memories of them together nor do I remember hearing many stories about those days. And sadly, they are no longer here for me to ask.

I wonder what it felt like for my Grandmother to say good-bye to her husband after being married for less than year? She had only been in the United States for five, maybe six years? I wonder if she still felt like a foreigner, leaning a new system and language all while completing medical school? I wonder what she did during those years they were apart? Did they write letters? How did they stay in touch? What did she do on lonely Saturday mornings? Did he think of her often or was his work in intelligence so consuming that he didn’t have time to miss her? I don’t know the answers to these questions. I can only wonder.

You know what else I wonder, how was it when he came back? Was it a hard adjustment for him? Or maybe for her? Or perhaps, for both?

Maybe it was seamless. Maybe they were so happy to just be back together. But my hunch is that it probably involved some transition.

Because when you do life apart for a while, you have to re-learn how to do life together.

For the past year or so Gerber and I have been trying to learn this rhythm of coming and going, of doing life apart and then together again. By no means are we separated by wars and deployment for years at a time. I don’t want to compare or undermine the kind of sacrifice or pain that many military families know too, well.

But on a much smaller scale, because of the type of work we do, we do have this weird rhythm where he’s gone for a week and then home again. Apart and then together. Together for another week and then apart. You see how it goes. In May and June, Gerber’s gone for a total of 4 weeks, just about every other week, including this one. Granted, this is our busiest season, but still, usually he is gone at least one week a month.

What we’re finding out is that the weeks he’s gone, we both do fine. He is taking care of a team of volunteers and coordinating water filter and stove projects. He’s translating and mixing cement and sharing his heart. He’s in his element and doing meaningful work 24/7. And even though the extreme heat and lack of alone time, drain my introverted husband, he loves doing what he’s doing.

The weeks Gerber’s gone, I gear up for solo-parenting and managing life at home. I re-arrange my work schedule, I make time for grocery shopping and fixing the curtain rod that falls down again. Elena and I eat dinner picnic style outside so there’s one less thing to clean in the evening. I arrange play dates or we visit my in-laws or find a new playground to explore. Anything to make afternoons and evenings a little easier. I ask our sitter to come early one morning so I can go to the gym. We eat leftovers a lot. I try to skype with a friend in the evening. We make it work. And in general, we have developed a pretty good schedule while Daddy is away.

But the tension and arguments come in the transition. When we go back to life together. Gerber comes home after a very full, intense, sweaty week of work with people. They sleep outside, use a latrine and bathe by buckets. He’s physically tired and emotionally drained. He needs some downtime and a shower. He would love a nap and then just wants to be with his girls. Probably, in that order.

Maybe you can already see where this is going.

I am so excited he’s coming home because I want to talk. I want to hear about the week and what happened and tell him about mine….what cute thing Elena did and what new words she said. I want to tell him about work and my friend who is having a baby. I want to plan something to do, a family trip or breakfast out perhaps? I have lists in my head and already have an idea of what we can do for the weekend. I’ve been thinking about it since Wednesday, of course, because I have been home every night. I am tired, but not so much physically tired, as emotionally empty.

He comes home and feels overwhelmed. And I get disappointed. And then we go through this cycle. Whose week was harder? Who is more tired? We know the answers; we both are in different ways. No one wins in the ugly game of comparison. We know this. We are both working and parenting and taking care of our family and in some seasons the scale tips more one way or the other. We make sacrifices and say I am sorry and start again.

Maybe this is common for other couples, or maybe it’s just us. I am not really sure.

People always ask me, oh it must be so hard when Gerber is gone? And yes, it’s true I don’t like it when he’s gone, but honestly we manage ok. The harder part is often we he comes back. For us, that transition is tough. I used to feel embarrassed about admitting this. I worried people would think, it should be so wonderful once he’s home. Why on earth would it be hard? What’s hard about coming home?

A few months ago I was sharing this with a woman who came down with one of our groups. Her own kids are a bit older than me, and one of them happened to serve in the military. As we sat waiting for dessert to be served, she asked me directly and sincerely…So how is it when Gerber comes home?

I confessed, “I just don’t understand why it’s so hard to come back together after we’ve been apart.”

She nodded, “Do you know that most military spouses say that saying good-bye to their husband was hard, but that it was actually tougher when their husbands returned home?” She put her hand on my leg, “Don’t underestimate how hard the transition can be.”

Obviously, we’re not a military family. Gerber is not gone for months or years in undisclosed locations. But it has been helpful to have a framework as to try to understand why the transition can be hard.

It makes think about my grandmother, has a young woman of 26. What it was like for her and my grandfather to be back together again after almost 3 years apart? What was their transition like? I can only hope that it was sweet and that they gave each other lots of grace. Because that’s what any transition needs, right? Grace to find a new rhythm and routine. And the thing about grace is you don’t just give it once. No, grace must be extended again and again. Like a good cup of coffee, you need more each morning.

So we get to keep learning and listening to one another and trying to show grace. And we will get to try again this Friday, when Gerber comes home after a week away. I am getting my grace ready and am going to try and keep some of the lists in my head, in my head, at least for a little bit :)

P.S. How do you and your spouse handle the transition of coming and going when you have different needs?

 

30th April
2015
written by Michelle

When we were in the states a few weeks ago, a sweet mom, whose own kids are earning drivers’ licenses’ and college degrees, pulled me aside one afternoon after seeing how much Elena talked about “Frozen.” (which she affectionately calls, “Oafen” and may or may not have watched a total […] Continue Reading…

14th March
2015
written by Michelle

 

 

Last December as we cruised down 101 freeway, enjoying the rare moment with Elena asleep in her car seat and one of not signing wheels-on-the-bus, I started talking. Gerber drove and started listening. A usual pattern we find ourselves in; the talker and the listener.

I want to write more, I […] Continue Reading…

20th February
2015
written by Michelle

This one has been in my draft box for-ever. In fact, I would be embarrassed if you knew how many half-started  blog posts are sitting in my draft box right now. (ahem. maybe close to a 100). I figured maybe part of my goal for the year should be to publish some […] Continue Reading…

19th February
2015
written by Michelle

Sometimes it’s hard to write about things when you’re in the middle of it, like with marriage. I haven’t written much about our marriage recently because well…one, it’s not just my story to tell. Even though I am more of an open book and will gladly share what I’ve […] Continue Reading…

3rd February
2015
written by Michelle

I am so excited to be guest posting today over at Rachel Pieh Jones’ blog. I kind of think of Rachel as an expert in cross-cultural living, mothering & writing as an expat living in Djibouti. And if we’re ever in the same country I would jump on the chance to grab […] Continue Reading…

19th January
2015
written by Michelle

 

Yikes. It’s January 19th. My computer tells me I started this draft on January 6th– so, here we are 13 days later.

I remember well in my years before moving to Guatemala and becoming a mom that I would carve out a few hours at the end of each year […] Continue Reading…

3rd January
2015
written by Michelle

 On Monday night we boarded a redeye flight from California to Guatemala. We’ve done this numerous times before, the difference being this time the little baby we thought would sleep was wide awake. We sat on the runway for a while before being giving the clear to take off. […] Continue Reading…

20th October
2014
written by Michelle

I was talking to my Gerber on the phone tonight because he’s gone working for the week with a team from Canada. He asked, “Are you excited about your birthday?”

I am, I replied.

I could hear him smiling through the phone.
I know he loves me dearly, be he doesn’t totally understand […] Continue Reading…

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