Archive for June, 2014

26th June
written by Michelle


Last week Gerber and I were waiting with Elena for her 1-year checkup. We sat in the shared office space taking turns bouncing her and offering her Cheerios. An older man walked up the stairs and began waving and making baby sounds. Elena stared at him. (which she often does). The he reached over and started tickling her belly. Elena flinched and seemed uncomfortable. Not because he was necessary a creeper, but you could just tell she didn’t know him and felt well…unconformable. Like who is this stranger touching my tummy?

Gerber and I sat there, also feeling somewhat uncomfortable, trying to refocus her attention on the Cheerios and ignore the man.

A few days later we were driving somewhere and I said, you know I don’t why but I didn’t feel very comfortable with that old man in the doctors office. 

He agreed, yeah, I didn’t either.

But, I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t have a prepared response in English…or Spanish.

And he didn’t either.

.  .  .

I had read this post earlier in the week by Glennon over at Momastary. And she talks about how often someone will ask her to do something, or volunteer for a project or event and she feels stuck in that moment and doesn’t know what to say so, she ends up saying yes. Not cause she wanted to, but because she didn’t have a prepared response. Have you ever been there? (oh, no..wait, just me?)

And then she makes the connection how our kids or in her case, teenagers, often do the same thing. We give our young ones language when they’re little. We name things and tell them what they’re seeing “yeah, look that’s a doggie.” “yep, a doggie.” “you want, ahh-wa?” “Agua?” “yes, who is that?” Dah-dee.” “yep, Daddy.” We give them appropriate phrases and responses, “say bye-bye.” “say, please.” In essence we are helping them learn what to say and when.

However, she points out that often as our kids get older we forget that they still need our help with knowing what to say, especially in uncomfortable situations. They need us to give them language so they have a prepared response when they get asked something on the spot. She and her husband brainstormed with their pre-teen some actual responses to say when a friend offers him weed. Or when someone offers to drive that is visibly too drunk. They helped him have some prepared responses, so he’s not left just saying, “yes” because he has nothing else to say. For parents who have older kids, you’ll love this post. 

But it also got me and Gerber thinking. Right now, Elena can’t really verbalize when she feels uncomfortable or doesn’t like something. It’s our job to protect her and help communicate for her. In general, Guatemalans lovvvve babies and I’ve been pretty lax over the past year about strangers touching her. I never really minded if someone in the park walked over to squeeze her chubby arms or if one of our neighors kissed her head while walking around the block. I just went with it. Elena never seemed to mind and I didn’t either.

But last week, she minded.  And I didn’t have a response.

.  .  .

Now, I am fairy sure that old man was trying to be friendly. He probably even had grandkids of his own.  I know there are weird, creepy people out there, but in general I believe most people are kind and have good intentions. And this man probably was the latter. But it reminded me that I needed a phrase to say, something that’s already prepared, so I don’t have to think when we’re in an uncomfortable situation.

I came up with:

“Creo que a ella no le gusta cuando la toca. Elena, quieres ensarle su juguete?

 I don’t think she likes it when you touch her. Elena, do you want to show him/her your toy?

.  .  .

This may seem simple, but it was a reminder for me that I need to have something prepared and in this case, in spanish. So I don’t get stuck saying yes or worse, nothing, because I don’t know what to say. As she get’s older I am sure she won’t need to us to point out every doggie or water fountain, but I have a feeling she will continue to need us to give her the language to respond to situations where she feels uncomfortable.

What about you? What do you say when a stranger touches your child and you’re not comfortable with it?

Do you ever find yourself saying yes to people because you don’t have another response prepared?

Have you ever thought about giving your older kid language for how to respond in certain circumstances?

Please share your ideas.

21st June
written by Michelle



Dear Mija,

Tonight like most evenings I gave you a bath and wrapped you up in your turquoise towel, but I held you a little bit longer. I nuzzled my nose under your chin and you giggled. We sang Head & Shoulders Knees & Toes as I wrestled your legs and arms into your striped pajamas. We read one of your favorite books, On the Night You Were Born.

I can’t help but think about this night one year ago.

Elena, the night you were born the rain pattered against the window. And I remember watching the moon raise higher and higher in the sky. My summer sostlice baby, it’s like you too wanted to enjoy the longest day of the year before you made your appearance. After 17 hours of labor, you finally arrived at 8:35pm. Hannah placed you in my arms, wrinkled, wet and slippery…and just perfect. You opened your little eyes and looked right at me. My heart burst open with a mix of joy, pain and unbelievable responsibility. I am your mom?!



Mija, the night you were born changed our lives in a thousand ways. You ushered me into motherhood at that moment, but it is going to take me a lifetime to keep learning how to be your mom.

I spent the past week in the wee hours when you were soundly sleeping on the floor going through thousands and thousands of pictures. Yes, thousands. So the fact that I’d dwindled this video down to 200 is pretty dang good I think. When I look back over the past year of pictures I remember how dark you were when you were born and how your little tongue almost seemed too big for your mouth. I remember how since day one your preferred place to sleep was (and still is!) wrapped up tight in some one’s arms. Man, I carried you around everywhere because it was the only way you’d nap. I forgot how bald you were for a while and how intent your deep brown eyes were. It’s still the thing people comment most about. Your eyes and your gaze and your ability to stare down anyone.

Elena, I look at these pictures and see how loved you are by grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends. People here and people there have loved you and me and your Daddy well this past year.

So, tonight, June 21, I pause and remember one year ago.

I remember the night you were born and I have a new appreciating for the word birth in “Birthday.” 

Elena, it has been the greatest privilege to be your mama during this past year.

Happy 1st birthday mija!

All my love,


13th June
written by Michelle

We have been back in Guatemala for almost 2 weeks and I juuust feel like we’re getting back in the swing of things. We came back from a whirlwind 3-week-loving-summer-trip to a rainy, cloudy and flooded Guatemala. Then the baby got sick, I got mastitis (again!) and we welcomed our first group for the summer.

I have realized all the coming and going doesn’t really get easier the more you do it, I just now know what to expect. And I can expect that it always takes me a week or so to settle back into Guatemala life. It’s a rainy Friday night and the baby is sleeping (on the floor nonetheless- but whatever, she’s asleep!) so here are five quick things before I too fall asleep (in my bed, not on the floor: )

1. My iphone is gone. I tried to bring it back to life. But sadly after it’s 2nd toilet swim and intense rice treatment it’s officially dead. And I realized just how much I miss it. Is that pathetic? I miss my phone. Like a lot. I use my phone like it’s part of me. I keep my notes, my contacts, my pictures, my email, my calendar, basically my entire life in that phone. God bless Steve Jobs and whoever created istream because I think all of those things are backed-up somewhere. But for now I am using my frijolito and cursing myself just a bit for keeping my phone in back pocket. Do tell, where do you keep your phone so it does not fall into the toilet??

2. I’ve had to say good-bye to THREE dear friends in the past month. One friend left in May, another last week and another one leaves on Monday. Needless to say I’ve been a little sad. When I moved to Guatemala 4 years ago I was prepared to say good-bye to friends when I left Santa Barbara. I was prepared to set-up skype dates and write emails and work to maintain  friendships. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the revolving door of good-byes here. I think since moving I have had almost 10 close friends leave. That’s been hard. I loved this post about Staying Well: 10 Tips for Expats Who Are Left Behind. And for my friends who are leaving I liked what he said,  “Leaving is a PROCESS- not an event.”

3. You may have already seen it, but an article I wrote was published over at Relevant Magazine last week. One of my favorite writing instructors said writing and publishing is kind of like dating, you have to keep putting yourself out there. It has to be the right piece and the right time. I think this piece was both. So thank you for those of you who shared it or commented on it. One of the best parts has been some new connections & friends like Tim over at and Maria who lives in Haiti and blogs at I love how social media works like that.

4. The World Cup! I know, I know…you’re thinking, Michelle, I didn’t know you were a soccer fan?! Shh.. I’m not, really. But I live in a country whose love language is soccer and my husband and my first date may have been to watch a World Cup game 4 years ago. I have loved being part of my friend Sarah’s group of #worldcupwives. Follow along on twitter for some hilarious commentary. Also, if you still don’t know who is playing who and how the teams and groups work use THIS!  It has helped me make sense of the whole World Cup.

5. Our afternoon walks have been replaced by Baby Einstein videos. It’s true. I have given in to the world of television and technology and I must admit it’s kinda wonderful. The rains have made it tough to take our usual afternoon walk so I have been setting Elena in her high chair with an array of food options on her try and Baby Einstein on the computer. And guess what? She loves it! I have never seen a little one so engaged with the screen before. When the teddy bear or kitty cat comes on the screen she starts pointing and yelling, “ahhh, ahhh.” These are her current two favorite: Babies! and Music! I would have taken a video but alas no iphone (see #1) She watched 20-30 minutes of this and I make dinner. #winwin

ok, one last one….I made brownies this week for an afternoon play date and I forgot how you’re supposed to use a plastic knife to cut them. Have you ever heard this? I have no idea why it works, but I swear it will save you and your brownies from frustration. Use a plastic knife to cut brownies, always. You’re welcome.

ok, so maybe that was 6 things on a Friday.

Happy Weekend!


8th June
written by Michelle


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If you’re new here I have been writing letters to my daughter each month titled, Dear Mija. It all started with this letter I wrote over a year ago on Spanglish Baby’s site.


Dear Mija,

People often ask me how old you are and I keep wanting to say, oh, she’s 10 months. But the truth is, it’s June and you’re almost a year old! (ah, I can barely believe it!?) But since I am behind on these letters, in my mind you’re still just 10-months old.

At 10 months you discovered the wonderful world of pointing. And you do so with such an intensity about you. Your finger may be tiny, but your will is strong. You will keep pointing until someone takes you to what you want to see.  9 times out of 10  you are probably pointing at a water fountain, an animal, someone’s eyes or when you want me, your mama. This is all cute and fun until we are sitting tightly wedged in an airplane-window seat and you think it would be fun to point at and then poke the eyes of the poor man sitting in the middle. Sorry, kind sir.

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Your favorite things are playing with water, pulling books off of the shelf and laughing with Daddy. You like to eat whatever we are eating and clap along when we start singing your favorite song “los arboles se mueve.

Elena, we spent most of your 10th month traveling. First in Ohio, then in Chicago and then in California. When I think of this trip the first 2 things I will remember are:

One, how you squealed with delight whenever we let you walk.

You’d wrinkle your little nose and grip your hands around our fingers and just GO! You walked around grass fields, and church buildings, down the cement streets of Chicago, on the sands of California beaches and maybe your favorite, on the soft carpet in people’s homes.



And two, how every night we put you to sleep on the floor.

Yep, we tried the pack n play, but you preferred the floor. So there we put you, right on top of the carpet, wrapped tightly in the Guatemalan cargador your abuela gave me before you were born. We placed some pillows all around to make you feel cosy and left the baby monitor nearby to hear when you woke up. Somehow I am sure the SID police would not approve, but hey, it worked.

But there is something else I became astutely aware of on this trip. As your mama, I spend lots of time thinking about the kind of world that you’re growing up in and in your case, the two worlds you are a part of. The Guatemalan world where we live and do life, and the US world that we visit and buy things from. I realize your Daddy and I probably will feel this tension more than you, because for us it’s new. We’re trying to navigate two worlds and two cultures and although we do it just fine most days, without giving it much thought. I know deep down, it’s like the static of an old radio. It’s always there. Quietly humming in the background. And some days it feels louder than others. The awareness that how you’re growing up is so different from how both your Daddy and I grew up.

And often I wonder, what will feel normal to you?

Elena, you’re growing up with more pairs of shoes than your Daddy ever had. And you’re barely even walking. Your Daddy had one pair of shoes for the whole year and those were for school. So when he came home from school he had to take off his black leather shoes and walk barefoot around the dirt floor. And your Daddy’s family didn’t have hot water, or even running water like we do. So the fact that I give you a warm bath every night before bed is still such a foreign idea to him. And he’s probably right, most little kids in the world don’t get a warm tub of water to bathe in every night.

But I did growing up.

Nana gave me and my sisters and brother a bath almost every night. So it seems totally normal for me. Growing up it was normal to run outside on the grass barefoot because we wanted to. And when we had to put on shoes, we had a whole closet to choose from. It was normal to have lots of choices about everything: from toys to ice cream flavors to which backpack color we wanted for each new school year. But when your Daddy was little he didn’t get to choose his backpack color each year. When your Daddy was just starting school, his older brother was going to jr high school and your Daddy remembers how his brother gave him his old backpack. It had a hole in the bottom and a broken zipper and your Daddy had to sew it so it would work. And he told me that even then, he could only open it half way or everything would fall out. There was no choice about it, it was just all he had.

One of the biggest challenges your Daddy and I have faced is deciding how we want to raise you because you see, we grew up so differently. Usually he wants to give you nice, brand new things. Things that he didn’t have growing up. And I want to get you borrowed toys or gently used hand-me-downs because I want to be resourceful and thrifty. This is part of the two worlds where you come from. Two very different socio-economic worlds. Socio-economic is a fancy word that adults like to use when talking about money.  So instead of saying rich and poor, we say different socio-economic levels.

Will you appreciate running water and hot water at that? Will you know what a dishwasher and a garbage disposal are? Will you feel comfortable walking the aisles of Target one week and then walking to the tienda the next?


Mija, to be honest sometimes I wonder, will you feel more comfortable with the luxuries of the rich or the simplicity of the poor? Maybe both? or maybe neither? These are questions I ask myself.

As I write this, I realize many things that I have had to learn about life in Guatemala, will just be normal for you.

When we take walks in our neighborhood, I realize it will be completely normal for you to hear megaphones blaring “zeta gas, zeta gas” around town. And you will know how to wash your hands in the pila without someone having to show you. You will think it’s totally normal to see 3 or 4, or even 5 people piled on one motorcycle.  You will understand the nuisances of vinieravine and vengo better than I ever will and you won’t ever have to ask someone to explain to you the meaning of the national anthem. You will just get it. Because you are Guatemalan. And I hope you feel Guatemalan.


But I also hope you will feel American. I want you to learn the pledge of allegiance, and get excited for the 4th of July. I want you to know the joy of seeing the mailman put a letter in the mail box addressed to you and the excitement of coming home and finding a package at your doorstep. For as silly as it sounds I want you experience good customer service and be able to return something that didn’t fit. I want you to be able to check-out books from the public library and visit The Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park. I want you to feel connected to the United States, because it my country. It’s where I come from. But it’s also your country.

I often wonder, if we live in Guatemala, will you feel American?

They say there’s a word for kids like you, kids who grow up in more than one culture or country. They call them third culture kids because they often identify with a way of life and living that is different from both of the cultures of their parents. I know this can he helpful in making sense of the blending of countries and cultures, but I don’t always love the idea because it sounds like an “other.” Like you’re not from either place, or either culture. Instead you’re from some other third culture.

But as I’ve watch you grow and observe the world around you, I realize there is something that transcends national identity. It’s your spiritual identity. And one of my hopes and prayers for you is that you would come to know Jesus, but not an American Jesus or a Guatemalan Jesus. But a Jesus who loved people, all people. A Jesus who lived simply, befriended outcasts and challenged the status quo. A Jesus who forgave people instead of wanting to get even. A Jesus who loves you, even more than I do.

Elena, that is where I want you to get your identity. First, as a child of God, a follower of Jesus. And then second, as a a blended-beautiful-bi-cultural-American-Guatemalan girl with probably a bit of third-cultureness.


Mija, it is both a wonderful and terrifying thought that this; our family’s life, will become your normal.

All my love,