Archive for May, 2013

24th May
written by Michelle

A Million Ways

Last night we had our first hard rain of the season. I sat in bed listening to the water bounce off the plastic lamina we have covering our patio, thinking I need to soak up these moments. Quiet, uninterrupted, restful, early-to bed moments. Days feel longer and if I don’t take a nap then crawling into bed is early is about my favorite thing these days. Usually I make lists. I have lists for everything:

lists of things we need to get: hydrogen peroxide, a little bedside lamp, olive oil for her, super absorbent maxi pads for me

lists of things to put together before she comes: set-up co-sleeper, paint dresser, assemble Rocker Glider

list of work stuff to get done before I go on maternity leave: schedule for summer teams, flight itinerary, make final exams for students, email all site leaders,

and then of course lists of all the really practical projects I want to finish before a baby enters the picture: print wedding pictures, make photo books, organize all our receipts from 2013, get folders for medical info, visa & passport papers, etc

But last night I didn’t make any lists. I just sat, propped up with 4 pillows and listened to the rain. I watched my stomach jiggle up and down as this little one likes to stretch out in all directions at night. I talk to our little girl and tell her how excited we are to meet her. How I’d like her to stay in there for a few more weeks, even is she feels cramped and I tell her how loved she is.

These past few weeks I have been overwhelmed with people’s generosity and love. Friends near and far have sent gifts for me and the baby, other moms have offered perspective, advice and support and one friend who has little girl a few months older than our girl sent us a huge box of her out-grown newborn clothes. (I love, love hand-me-downs!) A dear friend through a lovely baby shower last weekend (pictures to come), co-workers from school had a lunch and shower in our honor this week and we are looking forward to one more shower this weekend. It’s been so special to see how many people already love this sweet little girl and are committed to supporting Gerber and I as we learn how to be her parents.

And perhaps one of the most meaningful parts has been to see how my mom already adores this little girl. I don’t quite understand the entirety of it- but I know there is something unique and deep about a mother’s heart. It’s like a mother’s love keeps multiplying, it doesn’t run out and nothing is held in reserve. I know my mom loves me and each of my siblings. We are her babies, no matter how big we get. But  I have loved seeing how she has even more love for this yet-to-be born little girl, her granddaughter.

Something about having a girl of my own in a few weeks makes me a bit more aware and sensitive to what it must feel like to have your grown-up daughter move far away. My parents are nothing but supportive and we joke, launched us 4 kids very well. At one point, they had one daughter living in Italy, another settled in Boston, me in Guatemala and my brother holding down the fort, at least within driving distance of their southern California home. But I don’t think a mother’s heart was meant to bridge long distances. Moms instinctively want to be close. I can feel it. And I know in 30 years if my daughter moves far away I am sure my heart will ache a bit and wish she was closer.



I am grateful became my mom came to spend a week with us last week. She came to be close; to get a little picture of our daily life here in Guatemala, to spend time with me before the baby comes and to be present. She joined us for a staff meeting and dinner with one of our teams and she came with me to school one day. We spent a lot of time in our little home- making cookies and quinoa salad, some hummus to eat now and lentil soup to freeze for after the baby is here. She taught me how to make apple pie, which somehow in my 30 years of living and eating I had never learned. We spent one sunny morning lounging at my favorite pool in town and some afternoons getting coffee, running errands and driving through the cobblestone streets of Antigua.


For 30 years my mom has shown me how to be a mom. How to love unconditionally, how say I am sorry and how to sacrifice and wait and pray and admit that you can’t always fix things for your kids even when you want to. She has shown me that moms too need nap times and coffee breaks and that calling a babysitter can be one of the best choices ever.

For as long as I can remember my mom has always had her nails painted. In fact I don’t think I even have a memory of her without nail-polish covering her nails. I never gave much thought to it, until recently. Moms’ hands have to deal with a lot. Poopy diapers, soapy water, spit-up, throw-up, clean-up, snotty noses and messy mouths and dirty toilets and I’m sure the list goes on. I kinda like that my mom dealt with all of those things (times 4!!) and somehow still made time or space to get her nails painted. Maybe it was her saving grace or a small way to take care of herself…and in turn her hands and her heart that spent mostly every other waking moment taking care of us.

I’ve never really asked her about it, but this week as I have been missing my mom and thinking about becoming a mother I went and got my nails done. With dark purple polish on my nails I thought I’m going to make this a tradition. I want to a good mom and I want to take care of myself so that I can take care of my daughter and our family. I think having painted nails may help…or at least make me remember my mom and feel utterly grateful for all she has done for me.

My thoughts and this post feel scattered, but maybe that’s what 35 weeks of pregnancy and approaching motherhood does to you.

Happy Friday to each of you!

Did your mom have any unique or fun traditions that you have kept? How have you learned to be a good mom, not a perfect one?



8th May
written by Michelle

 las mamas

If you’ve followed along here recently then you definitely know that I have a baby on the brain. And it’s true our Baby Girl is coming soon and her pending arrival has opened up a whole new host of feelings. My heart is thrilled and beyond excited to meet her and learn how to be her mom. I waver back and forth between feeling calm, like the timing couldn’t be better, to panicking and making frantic lists of things we have to buy or get done before she comes.

I hear motherhood has a quick learning curve. And lately I have been fascinated by how cultures and mom’s around the world learn how raise their children. I never planned on living in a country different than the one I grew up in or raising my children bilingually. I am like a sponge soaking up information, noticing how moms care for their babies, respond to a cry or don’t, and realizing how different our cultural upbringing shapes how we think about parenting and kids.

I’ve been reading books on this topic. I find myself nodding along when moms describe things that other cultures do and how our first response if often to raise an eyebrow, give a stink eye and judge. But how there is often something to learn, maybe first and foremost about our own cultural values. I just downloaded and started I reading this book: How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between) thanks to my friend, Sarah, who is also raising a bilingual daughter. And I loved French Kids Eat Everything and I even put this book: Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent on my registry because it looks so interesting to me.

{I am kinda counting on hours and hours of breastfeeding time to read. Is this totally unrealistic? just tell me now…}


A few days ago an article I wrote appeared on InCultureParent, a great online resource and link for parents anywhere.

This quote by Nicholas Day, author of Baby Meets World, influenced the whole piece:

“every society has what it intuitively believes to be the right way to raise a child.”

Here’s an except from the article:

In a few short months I will be a first time mom. So, like any U.S. mom-to-be, I have been doing my reading; bits of BabyWise and Attachment Parenting, WebMD and my favorite mommy blogs are always open on my browser. I mean what new mom doesn’t want to have the Happiest Baby on the Block? I am a firm believer that our U.S. culture convinces us if we read and plan ahead of time then we will be better parents. And yet somehow I know nothing in these books or websites will totally prepare me for the birth of our first baby.

Read the rest here.


Have you ever thought about how much of your own ideas about parenting and raising kids are influenced by our culture? And I wonder if even two US parents, bring their own sub-cultural expectations into raising kids? Thoughts? Do share.

{photo: taken in 2007 without permission of these two moms… If I were to re-take it I would probably ask their permission first and their names and how how old her baby is : ) }

6th May
written by Michelle


Last week a friend from Texas came down for a few days to visit, before heading up to volunteer at an orphanage in another part of Guatemala. I love having visitors.  For one it reminds to enjoy and appreciate where I live. It’s so easy to just do life- go by the bank, stop at the market, get a haircut, etc and not notice what’s around me. I rarely ever bring my camera when just walking around town. Things like colored walls, tuk-tuks and cobblestone streets all seem normal. But having a friend here allowed me to see things with a fresh perspective- the beauty, the fresh food, the delicious coffee, the slower pace of life.


These are some pictures from my town. Antigua, Guatemala.


All taken by the lovely, Julia.


Walking still feels pretty good for me and the bump. And since we didn’t have a car for the week, we spent a lot of time waiting, walking and…waiting, some more : ) But I guess that’s what you do when you’re a tourist in your own town.

el arco

The things you miss when you just drive by…screen-capture-29

Don’t these pictures make you want to come visit?


Thanks Julia for coming to visit, being super patient and taking lovely photos!


P.S. While waiting for our taxi one afternoon….

the bump

I may have made her pose like this…she’s practicing : )

just to be funny...

Have you ever gotten to take a few days to be a tourist in your own town?

1st May
written by Michelle

A few days ago my sister wrote a great post about Curly Hair Tips on her blog. She is smart, funny and finds some of the best recipes and drink mixes on the web. Seriously, check out her blog. Did I mention she also has GREAT hair…perhaps the best curls of anyone I know. And she knows how to take care of them.

In fact she taught me how to “do” my hair.

Let’s face it. My hair has always been “curly,” but I just never knew what to do with my curls. In high school I brushed them to form a weird frizzy wave and in college I cut them short and let it poof. Neither look was a winner.

See photo for evidence:

sisters circa 2003

sisters circa 2003: BEFORE curly hair help

Then one New Years Eve everything changed. My sisters and I were all in Santa Barbara and had decided we were going to go out this year instead of staying at home, falling asleep before the ball dropped.


sister circa 2010: and AFTER

Steph, introduced me to two things:

1) The right Shampoo  and Conditioner  (the main indigent you want to avoid is anything that ends in -SULFATE. It drys out curly hair, or really any hair, but it’s especially bad for curly hair folks)


2) The right technique (NO brushing, lots of scrunching, extra gentle)

And voilà. The results were instantly better.

Pregnancy has done a number on my curls. On good day they get swept back in  a pony tail; on a lazy day twirled into a messy bun. Neither of which is particularly flattering.

But whenever I take the time to wash my hair (hint: if you read her post you’ll learn, it’s NOT every day) and apply the right stuff and scrunch my curls I always think of my sister.

Thanks Steph!