Archive for August, 2013

28th August
written by Michelle


Dear Mija-

I planned on writing this letter last week when you actually turned two months, but Mama’s felt a little behind…on well, everything. But I think that comes with being a new mom. Don’t get me wrong I love being your mom, but it’s been an adjustment for sure. Our days feel full, but not productive. Our life and schedule have slowed down, but I still feel tired. And sometimes I feel like my whole day is focused on just getting you to take a nap.

           This month you had lots of visitors who came with extra arms to hold you and extra hands to help me. Your Nana and Papa came for a week at the end of July and then your Aunt Christine came last week to meet you. They rocked you, and talked to you and took lots and lots of pictures. They love you so much and wish we lived closer. I think it means we’ll just have to visit often.


So, the 6 week mark is no joke. People talk about some kind of wonder weeks or developmental milestones. I still don’t know what happened. But it was like one day you woke up and your sleepy newbornness wore off and you decided that you’re a real baby. You were extra fussy and I kept wondering what I was doing wrong. When you’re fussy usually I immediately blame myself: Did I eat something that made you gassy? Did I put your diaper on too tight? Did I not put you down for your nap early enough? Thankfully we have good friends who offered to bring over meals and come over to help hold you. And your Nana reminded me that you and I are still finding our rhythm.

Speaking of rhythm, Mija…boy, do you like to move! You like walking and bouncing and being held. When your Aunt Christine was here she would would do Zumba steps while trying to get you to sleep. But you still sleep best when we’re out and about. I am convinced when you’re curled up in your little sling we can take you anywhere: Dinners out, church, meetings, afternoon walks. As long as we’re moving, you are usually content.


After two weeks of trying really hard to put you down for a nap, I gave up. Ironically, some of your best naps have now been at a local coffee shop. One week we went there almost every day. Elena, you seem to really like it when we do errands in Antigua; walking from the bank, to the grocery store with motorcycles driving by and loud music blaring from the park, you sleep through it ALL. But why, when I try to to lay you down in your bassinet, nicely swaddled with white noise in the background, do you pop open your little eyes, “ha. Mom, did you really think that would work?”

So even though you’re not much of a napper, you are a champion nighttime sleeper. Which I guess in the long run really is better. So thank you.

Sweetie, you may be half Guatemalan, but I dress you like a California girl. Most days you wear just a onsie and a headband….because onsies are comfortable and headbands are cute! Sometimes, sometimes I may put pants on you, but I almost never put socks on you. I don’t really mind when people ask to hold you. Friends at church, or our neighbors and sometimes las señores where we buy fruit ask to hold you. But any time another Guatemalan holds you, they always look at your bare feet and exposed arms and exclaim, “ay, que frio.” How cold! I just nod, smile and silently disagree. I know they are not used to seeing a little 2-month old with so much skin showing. I think you’re probably just fine…but if you grow up having cold feet I guess you can blame me.


One of the best parts of this month is sometime last week you really started smiling- and it is the sweetest, toothless grin I’ve ever seen! I think you even have a dimple or two. I usually get really close to your face and say, “Hiiiii! Hiiiiiii, Elena” and then you give us the biggest smile. It’s one of my favorite things. I could sit and watch you all day when you smile.


oh and yes, you often sleep with our ipad… thank you, whitenoise app : )

Mija, I’ve never been a morning person, but watching you wake up may be the best thing that has ever happened to my mornings. You squirm a little bit and then your eyes pop open like you’re saying “Mom, let me out.” I reach over and undo the Velcro from your swaddler and you stretch your little arms high above your head, arching your back. Then you bend your legs up toward your chest and start kicking. Ahh, freedom. You just started cooing and making all kinds of adorable baby sounds. And you seem happiest in the morning nestled between me and Daddy in our bed.


I love watching you and your Daddy. And I think you especially like his voice. When you’re lying on your activity mat or on the bed and you hear Daddy’s voice, you turn your head and look his way. He usually repeats this with you: “Advinda que?” -Yo te amo. “Sabes cuanto?” -muuucho. It melts my heart every time.


Mija, usually when you’re nursing, I’m multitasking. I have one hand holding you and one hand holding my iphone. Let’s be honest, I check facebook, type emails and messages and scroll through twitter and instagram. But sometimes I put my phone down and just look at you. I look at your beautiful long eye lashes and your sweet lips that sometimes keep making sucking motions even when there is nothing to suck on. I watch you sleep and I stare at your sweet, chubby hands. I pray for you, Elena. I pray for the little person you are becoming. I pray for your protection and that you would grow up knowing how much your Daddy and I love you.

I am so glad that I am your mom.

With all my love,


13th August
written by Michelle

It’s a rainy afternoon here in Guatemala. And I should be used to this.

June, July and August are the height of our raining season. This year it actually hasn’t been very rainy, so I have nothing to really complain about. Guatemalans actually call the months between May-October invierno (winter) because it rains and then verano (or summer) is between Nov-April when the weather is dry. So in Guatemala there are just two season, the wet season and the dry season. Even though I grew up in southern California, not exactly the land of four seasons, I still have certain memories for each season, especially summer.

And since moving to Guatemala, three years ago, I always get a little homesick for summer. The summer I remember from my childhood.


The summer of warm nights where the sun stays awake until 9 and dinner was eaten out on the patio. The summer of running through sprinklers in the backyard with popsicles dripping down our faces. The summer of pool hopping in Palm Dessert, taking late night golf cart rides and giggling way past our bedtime. The summer of beach days, searching for sand-crabs and having mom brush off our sandy feet before getting in the van.

Then when I moved to Santa Barbara and the schedule of a teacher gave me a similar childlike joy for summer. The end of a school year brought celebration from recent graduates and teachers alike. There were Wednesday night runs at Nite Moves, the smell of BBQs on the beach and eucalyptus in the air. I remember 4th of July’s bundled up in sweatshirts sitting on the sand, watching fireworks above the pier. There were concerts in the park with picnic food spread-out on blankets and wine in disposable glasses. The days of Fiesta with crowds and confetti eggs and tacos from De La Guerra Plaza.

Somehow summer seems to give room for adults to play and enjoy. And I miss it.

You can call it homesick or nostalgia. Anyone who has moved away knows this longing. It’s subtle and easy to ignore, but there a slight ache in the heart for something that once was. It could be summer, your mom’s home cooking, the sounds of the ocean or the familiarity of running into people you know from a small town. Whatever it is, it is there. Sometimes buried between life’s celebrations and to-do lists and piles and piles of laundry. And probably given the nature of how our minds work, it’s easy to glorify the past. To only remember the pleasant memories and forget all of the hard or lonely or boring. But that’s ok. I think that’s how the heart works. It’s full of feelings and longings, not leaving as much room for the reason, rationalized memories.

It’s probably one of the things I miss most while living in Guatemala. We don’t really have the same kind of summer. The sun light is different. We live closer to the equator so the sun sets around the same time year-around. And the school calendar follows a different rhythm here. Back-to-school ads and the lists of school supplies come out in January. Spring Break happens over Semana Santa and students and teachers get vacation between October and December. The months of June, July and August get swallowed up by the rain, short-term volunteers and that middle-of-the-year-syndrome that most US teachers probably feel in February.

But in many ways my body and heart are still on a US school calendar. And every June, July and August like a little kid, I long for summer.

Maybe having a daughter awakens part of this longing. Maybe part of me mourns the fact that her idea of summer will probably be very different than mine. I know living here we will make new memories as a family. Maybe sitting on the upstairs patio listening to the rain or having indoor picnics. But I think next year I may need to visit California just once during the summer. I want to show Elena how the days are long, and the light is different and that little things like ice cream and beach days and backyard sprinklers just feel better during summertime.

What are some of your favorite memories of summer? Have you ever longed for something after moving away?


3rd August
written by Michelle

I didn’t cry at Elena’s birth. The pure joy and sweat dripping from my forehead replaced any potential tears, but last Monday morning I sat at my kitchen table with big tears rolling down my face. It’s been 6 weeks since Elena’s birth and my body has mostly healed, my milk has come in and our days (and nights) have a new rhythm. But motherhood stretches your heart and makes your tender and fragile in ways you didn’t know possible.

•  •  •

My parents were just here for a week. It was such a good visit. They got to meet Elena and I got to watch them become grandparents. They rocked, changed and loved our little girl. They took turns holding her so I could shower. My dad sang songs to her with made-up lyrics. My mom made us dinner with enough leftovers to freeze and we even took a mini-family road trip to one of my favorite places in Guatemala, Lago Atitlan. My parents treated us to dinners in Antigua and helped around the house. It was so good to have them here, but we had the worst kind of goodbye.

Gerber had gone to work in the morning and was running late. Meanwhile our contractor asked to stop by for just “cinco minutos.” My parents suitcases were packed and sitting near the door. Somehow the “5 minutes” turned into a much longer conversion about counter tops and paint colors and left Gerber and I arguing about the difference of 15cm. We went back and forth in English, then asked the contractor a question in Spanish.  My parents stood waiting, listening to the half of the conversation that they understood.

I was still trying to convert centimeters to inches in my head, Gerber was concerned about hitting traffic on the way to the airport and Elena was starting to get fussy. I gave my dad and mom a quick hug good-bye, some i love yous and thankyous were exchanged in between me ssshhh-ing the baby girl.  I watched as the grey pickup pulled away.

Then just like that they were gone.

And just like that, the tears came.

Looking down at my own daughter, I have never wanted my mom more than in that minute. I wanted her to come back, to take care of me, to tell me I’m doing an ok job and to help me take care of this tiny little human who somehow made me a mother.

•  •  •

My mom is wonderful. She has an empathetic heart, a deep love for each of her 4 kids and actually means it when she says, “I’ll pray for you.” She can tweet, text and order the book you mentioned from amazon all at the same time. Since getting married and moving to Guatemala my need for my mom has changed. Or maybe just looks different. And part of that is probably a healthy aspect of growing up. However, there is something about becoming a mom that has made me want my mom in a new way. I now completely understand why its nice to live close to family when you have kids. We live about 20 minutes away from Gerber’s family and I am grateful. They love and adore Elena and help us greatly, but it’s not the same as having my mom here.

•  •  •

I sat at our kitchen table, my eyes still wet with tears. I picked up my cell phone. “Gerber, can I talk to my mom?”

Mom? We said goodbye too fast. I don’t want you to leave….We didn’t make banana muffins, or finish the headbands. Elena still isn’t napping.

She listened. Said, it wasn’t a good goodbye. She reminded me to be gracious to myself. And told me I’m doing a great job.

•  •  •

Rocking my daughter in my arms, I looked down at her sweet little face. My first born. Motherhood fills you up and then deflates you. This rhythm of breathing in a deep joy and satisfaction one moment and then a nagging self-doubt that I must be doing something wrong.  As I sniffled though the tears, I felt incredibly thankful for my mom. And I imagined that she had probably rocked me in her arms like this and had maybe felt something similar.