11th August
written by Michelle

If your new here, these are series of letters I started writing to my daughter before she was born. This was the first one, and this is one her Daddy wrote her. I wrote about her birth story here  and I seem to write a lot about raising a bilingual and bicultural daughter and hardest part of motherhoods . These are my way to capture and remember parts of her life and I invite you to read along. This may be last “Dear Mija” letter for awhile, but I am sure I’ll come back to it.


Dear Mija-

In June we celebrated your first birthday. (And our first year has parents! Let’s be honest, both are equally important.)

Elena, you say “Dada” first thing every morning, you are starting to give real besitos and you would eat black beans by the spoonful if we let you. I am convinced the Guatemalan side of you will always prefer to sleep right between me and Daddy and it’s a good thing we live in a country where no one bats an eye if you breastfeed your walkin’, talkin’, toddler because that very well may be us. Your favorite things are doggies, agua and signing “more.” Maybe in that order.

Anytime you see a doggie you make the cutest little “ruff ruff” sound. Oddly in Guatemala, the toilet paper brand Scott has a cute golden retriever as its logo. So you often walk down the supermarket aisle pointing and barking.

Before you said “mama” or “dada” you said “agua.” And it’s still your favorite thing. Washing your hands, taking a shower, playing in the pool…as long as there is water involved you’re a happy camper. We’ve started teaching you signs for “more” and “all-done” around 7 or 8 months and I was convinced that you could care less. And then one day around 11 months or so you ago you just got it! It’s like it clicked and you started signing “more” ALL. THE. TIME. More aguaMore beans. More nena. More books. More, more, more.

When I tell you it’s time to go “night night” you grab your monkey or your nena and start to pat their back and say “shhhh.” It’s pretty much the cutest thing ever. You now sleep in a small corner of your room on the floor, surrounded by pillows and blankets. We call it your nest, and ironically you sleep better now then you ever did in your crib.

You wave to people we see on the street and you love playing with and poking other kids. We’re working on more of the former and less of the latter. You have always liked noise and activity and being out and about. When we go to a birthday party or out with friends you’re as content as can be. But the moment I get you in the car you start to fuss and cry and basically melt down. When you meet someone new you usually give them a stare down at first. When someone talks to you, you listen with your eyes. Serious, focused and intent. When you trust someone you usually grab their hand and a cautious smile comes across your face.

Without intentionally planning it we got to celebrate your first birthday in both countries. First in California with your US family and then a few weeks later with your Guatemalan family. At Nana and Papa’s house your Auntie Christine and Stephanie decorated with an etsy banner that matched the circus theme.


Nana bought Animal Crackers and delicious cupcakes and everything was red, white and yellow. We ate grilled cheese sandwiches on sourdough bread with onions and veggies and drank fancy drinks through pretty straws.

You sat on the floor in your red birthday dress and loved trying frosting for the first time. You opened gifts and tore paper and played with the envelopes while I read your birthday cards.


You are so loved by your family in the states. Your Uncle Andrew was there and Grandma Charlotte came by. I so badly want you to have memories in that home where I grew up. I look forward to the day when you say, “I want go to Nana and Papa’s house.”

In Guatemala a few weeks later, I picked up some balloons and a “Feliz Cumpleanos” banner at the Bodegona. I had you dressed in jeans and little blouse, but when we got to Mama Hiya’s house she surprised us with a huipil and corte that she made just for you. Your Aunt Mimi got you dressed and everyone said how beautiful you looked.


You didn’t look so sure about your new wardrobe, but you were a good sport. Your abuela made pepian for the whole family and we drank rosa de jaimca.


We had a huge Winnie the Pooh piñata, which I think your cousins were more excited about than you were. We sang to you and ate cake and drank Pepsi.

I made your “cake” with banana bread and cocoa date frosting and gave you water. Sorry, Mija…if I can hold off giving you soda for a little bit longer I will.


And you are so loved by your family in Guatemala.

I love watching you grab your cousins’ hands and walk around the home where your Daddy grew up. I look forward to you learning things about your Guatemalan heritage, things that I can’t teach you.

Elena, as you get older we’ll probably have our own birthday celebrations here at home. And I have a feeling we’ll take some traditions from both families. I imagine you may always want a piñata and ya know, the Bodegona has some half-decent decorations on the 2nd level. Your Daddy and I may get you a gift or two and let you choose a new birthday outfit. I will probably make some half-healthy snacks and I think pretty straws are sometimes fun. I imagine as you grow up we will keep finding ways to honor and celebrate you, and where you come from and who you are.

Elena, each year on your birthday I want you to remember three words:

strong, kind and grateful.

These are three words I hope to teach you and model for you. Three words that I pray over you and the one day you’ll look back and say, my mama taught me how to be strong, kind and grateful.

I want you to be strong in who you are. I want you to have an inner strength to know where you come from and how deeply loved you are. I pray that your strength comes not from what you do or what you achieve but from a deep trust in God. My hope is that your strength allows you take risks, and be the kind of girl who who stands up for what you know is right and is willing to sometimes do the hard thing.

I also want you to be kind. This is something that I have had to learn how to be. Sometimes I think being a first-born means we learn to be bossy and brave, but kindness gets buried underneath being in charge. Elena, my sweet girl I want you to be kind to people, kind to the boy or girl at school who other kids make fun and kind to the old lady you see in the park. Kindness is kind of like of a muscle, the more you use if the stronger it becomes.

Lastly, and maybe more most importantly, I want you to be grateful. I want you to be grateful when we sit on plastic stools and are served caldo de galina, even if it’s not your favorite. I want you to be grateful for the home we have and the privileges that will have. I think you can either choose to live life complaining about little things, or being grateful for the big things. I hope we can always choose the latter.

Elena, I know if I want you to be a strong, kind and grateful girl, then I need to model that. So on your birthday, this is also a reminder to myself, too. Because the truth is I want to be a strong, kind and grateful mother.

Whenever Daddy asks you, “Cuantos anos, Elena?” you hold up your little pointer finger ever so proudly. Uno!

Yes, my dear you’re one. And sometimes I want to bottle up your little finger, and chubby legs and sweet smile and say, stay my one-year-old baby forever. But then I remember what a gift it is to watch you grow and change and learn. And how being your mom is one of my favorite things ever. So here’s to a lifetime of celebrating your birthday…and making me a mom.

I love you, Elena.

 All my love,



P.S. Here’s a little quick 15-second look at the past 12 months, month-by-month!

19th July
written by Michelle

101 secrets

In case you were worried that this was becoming a baby blog, not to fear. (although, I am in fact wearing the baby while I try and type this :)

Paul Angone is a friend from Westmont who just published his first book: 101 Secrets For Your Twenties. I’ve followed Paul’s journey on his blog www.allgroanup.com over the years and watched as he has tapped into something I think most 20-something feel: this longing for reassurance that I am not alone.

I think everyone in their 20s at some point asks, “Is this what life is supposed to feel like?” There is this underlying feeling that makes you wonder, doubt and re-evaluate well, everything. I know when I look back at my 20s I think about how often I moved, how many different roommates I lived with, how many awkward dates I went on and how often I wondered what I was doing wrong? I wrote a post right before I turned 30 about What I learned in my 20s.

To be honest, Paul’s book is the kind of book I wish I would have had when I graduated college and began navigating life in my 20s. He writes with an honest, hilarious and wise voice of a friend who has been there, a friend who gets it. He interweaves part of his own story into each secret. It’s the kind of book you could pick up and read in one setting, or read just a little bit over several weeks. The 101 secrets are succinct, insightful and so, so right on.

These are a few of my favorites:






See, so good! Did you find yourself nodding along?

Seriously, I think this could be a great book to read with 5-10 other 20-somethings. Get your friends or college group or church small group together and read it and then spend time discussing it. I think part of the journey for our generation of 20-somethings is to connect with other people in real life, not just via social media sites. But in real life where you can sit, touch, listen, see and talk about this funny thing called life in your 20s.

Paul’s book is available at Amazon: Amazon and Barns & Noble. Don’t miss out!


P.S. For anyone who doesn’t understand Stuff 20-Somethings Say…check out this hilarious video


10th July
written by Michelle

Yesterday was Gerber’s birthday and he was gone the whole day and the whole night….working.

He had already committed to start building water filters with a new community in the southern part of Guatemala and he had four eager volunteers waiting to go. So at 7:00am he left with his truck bed piled high, four guys seated in the cab and our Guatemalan technical nestled in the back between shovels, sifters and a wheelbarrow. I did at least send him off with a birthday smoothie.

Antigua has relatively mild temperature year around- and yesterday was one of those perfect, mild-75-and-sunny-with-a-slight-breeze-and-volcanic-views, kind of days. Where they drove to is almost always HOT and HUMID. Temperatures hover around 90-100 degrees. And when you add in the humidity and some manual labor, it’s a recipe for constant sweat dripping down places you didn’t know could sweat. This is where he went to spend his birthday, my brown skinned, dark haired boy who complains when I ask for a table in the sun!?!

I talked to him last night on the phone and he seemed happy. The kind of happy that comes from somewhere deep within, because you’ve spent the day doing something you love- working with Guatemalan families, sweating and laughing and lifting. Watching kids still too young to attend school help wash sand and carry shovels three times too big for them. Helping teenage boys from the states learn how to mix cement and take a shower without running water. Attending the evening service at the local church and wondering why with so little resources they are so welcoming and sometimes our big, fancy churches with entire committees dedicated for “welcoming” don’t feel that way. I know there is something he loves about setting up tents and mosquito nets and working hard and being thankful.

One of the reasons why I love this man so much is that he is passionate. He is passionate about helping people get access to clean drinking water. He enjoys serving others, and maybe even more so, teaching others. He has vision, ideas and goals and he’ll even give up a birthday so he can be a part of making these things happen.  His passion and direction make me proud and excited, but also, they give me a sense of security. I know that the same passion he feels about bringing clean water to communities, he also feels about me and about being a dad one day. And I know that he’s the kind of man who will sacrifice a birthday, or his own plans or needs to take care of something or someone that he is passionate about.

 {a little dating advice if I may: I think having a spouse who is passionate about something is one of the most attractive things. And when what they are passionate about happens to align with what you are passionate about I think you have a pretty good match. }

I love this man because he would rather work on his birthday doing something he loves, than be celebrated and taken out to dinner*

Happy Birthday, mi amor! Te amo.



*I did make a little dessert last night in his honor and tasted it to make sure it was fit for a little belated birthday celebrating.

20th July
written by Michelle

I’ve been a little blog absent lately, but my friend and author, Paul Angone at All Groan Up, just published an article I wrote a while ago.

•  •  •

“Dating by definition is awkward.” Has there been truer words?

Michelle Acker – the guest postee on All Groan Up of Do We Have the Wrong Expectations as Emerging Adults completes the guest post two-fecta with this fabulous piece about the woes and joys of dating.

If you’ve ever dated, Eharmonied, or “grabbed some coffee” with the opposite sex to only to wonder the entire time if you’re even on a date, you will be encouraged from the recently engaged Michelle Acker.

•  •  •

you can read more here: