Posts Tagged ‘bicultural identity’

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,


27th December
written by Michelle


Dear Mija,

You’re 6 months old and doing fun things like siting up all by yourself, babbling and trying to pull yourself up. We spent a week in California at Nana & Papa’s and you seemed to especially like the lights on the tree and the big closet door mirrors. You weren’t so sure about Santa Claus, but you loved the extra hugs and kisses and I loved that there were extra arms to hold you for your naps. (yes, you still prefer to nap while being held. I have a love hate relationship with this fact)

This year we celebrated Christmas in Guatemala with Mama Hia and Papa Choyo and your tios and primos. In Guatemala Christmas means tamales & chuchitos, warm ponche and plates of grapes and red apples. There are fireworks for sale on every corner and your cousins know all the different types. There are fosforitos and chiltepitos, bombas and pistolitas and my personal favorite, estrellitas. I imagine one day you too will learn all the names for the different types. We went to Christmas Eve service at the church in San Antonio where your daddy grew up. You dressed up as an angel and had your first stage debut. We sang glo-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-ria (and by “sang” I mean lip-synced because mama’s voice really can’t do too many glorias). And then you slept nicely in my arms through the rest of the service.


Your Daddy and I haven’t really decided what Christmas traditions we want to keep as a family. Will we get a big tree and decorate our house? Maybe we’ll just do 3 gifts each? Most Guatemalan kids just get one gift- if that- and it’s usually something like new shoes or a new outfit. Will we do fire works and stay up till midnight on la nochebuena? I can make ponche, but haven’t yet mastered tamales. I like the idea of having stockings and cinnamon rolls and staying in our pjs on Christmas Day. Daddy likes the idea of giving gifts that are an experience, like going or doing something together as a family.


Mija, what I want you to know is that no matter whether we celebrate Christmas in Guatemala or in California or weather we eat cinnamon rolls or tamales or both, Christmas is really about something so much bigger.

It’s about a little baby. A little baby who came into the world just like you. A little baby boy who was born in a humble stable, probably surrounded by animals and hay and a tired and very sore mama. A baby boy who was Emmanuel, God with us.
It’s about how God sent his son, Jesus.
Sweetie, I won’t tell you I understand how all of this works. But I will tell you, that when you have faith to embrace this mystery you’ll realize that this little baby Jesus, really is the best gift.
Because if you want to know what God is like, you can look at Jesus.
There is a writer I really like. She has written a few books, but this is one of my favorite things she has written. It’s a Christmas Apology for what we have made the Christmas season into. And she writes about the Jesus that I hope you one day know:

“Jesus, who was born as an oppressed minority in an occupied land,

Jesus who was an immigrant,

Jesus, who surrounded himself with the poor, the sick, the marginalized and the “untouchables,”

Jesus who was criticized by the religious for hanging out with sinners,

Jesus who treated women with dignity and respect,

Jesus who taught his disciples to love their enemies,to give without expecting anything in return, to overcome evil with love,

Jesus who suffered,

Jesus who wept,

[and] Jesus who while hanging on a Roman cross said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Elena, I hope and pray that your daddy and I can show you who this Jesus is. And that at Christmas time while we’re eating tamales and cinnamon rolls, we will celebrate his birth.


Merry 1st Christmas, Mija!

With All My Love,










22nd December
written by Michelle

When you live far from family, hellos don’t come often enough and goodbyes are always hard.

I know so many of you get it. Whether its a a 4-hour drive or a 4-hour plane flight, there is just something that is lost in the day-to-day absence. And I feel it more now than I ever.

. . . 

I moved out of my parents house when I was 18 and although I had a hard time adjusting to college, I knew I never really wanted to move back. I spent most of my college and post-college years wanting independence and an identity different from my family. When I was single and living with friends in Santa Barbara going home for the holidays and family birthdays was filled with tension. On one hand it was familiar and comfortable, but at 27 I felt like a little kid going back to mom and dads. The more time I spent at home, the deeper my heart ached for my own family. I wanted a husband and kids; the people who would make me into a “we.” I wanted to feel like a grown up, instead of like an adult sitting at the kids table.

And now here I am with my own family. A husband who I love and a daughter who brings me more joy than I knew possible. I am a grown-up, if there is such a thing. And yet I have yearned for my family more in the past 6 months, than in the past 6 years. Is that normal?

I know my parents they have always taken good care of me, but I probably wasn’t always in a season of life where I was able to receive it. But things have changed. Somehow being a new mom makes me tender, and tired and vulnerable in ways I didn’t expect. And it also makes me need my family in new ways.

. . . 

My sisters have become aunts who want so desperately to be a part of Elena’s life. One flew down to Guatemala just to help us and spend time with Elena while Gerber was gone. And the other flew out to California the only weekend she had free to meet her niece and see us. And I bet my brother would do lunch dates with us every day if he could.

I have loved watching my parents become grandparents. They adore and love my little girl, they push pause on parts of their life just to be with her and sing to her and hold her. But maybe even more than how they love my daughter, it’s how they love me that makes me miss them.

My parents came to visit us in July and meet their granddaughter. And when they left I sat at my kitchen table in tears, my 6-week old baby in my arms. I flew to California in September for a 2-week visit and on the night they dropped us off at the airport I walked toward security, pushing the stroller, carrying Elena, and tears dripping down my face.

. . . 

And last Thursday was no different.

We said good-bye upstairs by the elevators. My mom held Elena, my dad hugged me and my sister kept biting her lip to keep from crying. I took a deep breath and tried to swallow my tears.

I felt like a kid who just wants to go home. And home is a hard place to define when it’s straddled between two countries.

One home is with my sweet husband and baby girl in a country whose language and culture is still new to me. And the other is in California, in the same house and on the same street where this little girl grew up. And somehow I want my little girl to feel at home in both places.

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” -Miriam Adeney

9th October
written by Michelle

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Dear Mija,

I realize these letters may be as much about you, as they are about me. It’s my own little way to pause and reflect not just on how you’ve grown or changed, but what I’m learning about motherhood.

What I’ve learned this month is that I can’t wait to do things until everything feels “done” or “put away” and “finished.” Because I have a feeling that from now…oh, until you’re about 18, there will be things undone. I kept saying I’ll write this letter once the kitchen gets finished, oh, and the boxes get unpacked, and I have my own nicely organized little work space.

Buuuttttt, none of that has happened yet.

So here I sit at our dining room table, scattered with the plastic cups we’ve been using until the kitchen is done, my make-up bag from our recent trip to the states and a spray bottle filled with water and tea tree oil because I’ve been fighting mold like crazy.

3 months

The big thing that happened this month is we moved! Granted it was only 2 blocks away from our rental house to our newly remodeled place, but it might as well have been across town. Your abuela came for the day and held you in the cargador while your Daddy and I moved boxes and bags and carried furniture to the new place. We painted your room a light shade of teal. The name of the paint was “minty jade” which seems appropriate for Guatemala. I can’t wait to decorate it. We’re hoping to get you a crib one of these days and help teach you how to take nice long naps in there : )

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Mija, 3 months is good age. You’re smiling and so much more responsive, but not yet mobile or teething. You seem so much more comfortable in the outside world and you’re just pretty happy as long someone is interacting with you. Whenever I get close to your face and smile you give me the cutest little grin and stare right back at me with your big brown eyes. And then you start coo’ing and blabbing as if we were having a real conversation. It’s one of my favorite things, even though I can’t quite understand you yet.

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This month you also discovered mirrors. And you love looking at yourself. Well, I think you just love looking at faces. I’m not sure if you’ve figured out that thee adorable face in the mirror is yours. In fact your Daddy and I have learned that you seem happiest when there is someone talking to you and lots of faces to look at. We sometimes try to leave you on the bed or sitting in your swing by yourself… and you play with your hands for all of 5 seconds before getting fussing.

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But when we’re out and about with lots of people and noise you just seem to do better. In fact last month we celebrated your first Dia de Indpendancia. But in Guatemala everyone calls it “el quince.” Your Daddy carried you all morning as we made our way through crowds of people in el parque and listened to loud bands march down the streets. And the whole day you didn’t fuss once! I think Mommy was more tired than you were.

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Your Daddy and I have realized that there are things about holidays, especially cultural holidays, like Independence Day that we will never quite understand or totally get. He might celebrate 4th of July with us, but it just doesn’t mean as much. He doesn’t have memories of summer BBQs and watermelon, and waving American flags and hearing the Star Spangled Banner sung as fireworks shoot in to the night sky. And it’s the same for me in Guatemala. I’ll go and appreciate the bands and excitement of Independence Day. But I don’t totally understand the antorchas and the acto civicos. It just doesn’t mean the same to me. But Mija, we hope that somehow you’ll develop an appreciation and identity with both. That you’ll have memories and roots in both cultures and both countries.

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Sometimes I just want to keep you little. I love your soft fingers and toes and the sweet rolls on your thighs. I love how your chin rests so comfortably on your chest, making your neck almost disappear. I love watching you stretch and wake up each morning….and then, I give you to Daddy. Yep, you and Daddy have so much fun in the mornings. Usually he makes coffee and sings to you and then against my wishes he holds you on the couch and watches the news and sportscenter. And you know what, you love it. I’ve never seen a 3 month old so fascinated by the TV. I mean all of those colors and lights… (sigh) I worry about your little eyes and looking at screens, but you know what I think I just have to let it go.

I don’t know if we can take any credit, but we are quite thankful that you really are a good sleeper at night. Daddy’s guess is because you don’t sleep well during the day, then you’re so tired at night you just crash. Maybe? I’ve decided that I just don’t know that much about babies and sleep. I’ve been reading about the difference between daytime sleeping and nighttime sleeping. But I still haven’t figured out how to get you to nap beyond the 45-minute sleep cycle.


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….you are being carried!

You my dear, could be the poster child for baby wearing. And because you’re close to 14 lbs now, this month we switched from your beloved little sling, to the ergo. (you can thank your Uncle Andrew for this great gift) You nap in there, I walk around Antigua with you in there, I go to the grocery store and the market with you in there, I bring you to the office in there and most days I’ve decided it doesn’t matter what shirt I wear because all people will see is the ergo : ) Good thing I like green!

This month:

-you started rolling over all the time from you’re tummy to your back.

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-you had your first (of many) plane flights to California

-you officially became a US citizen

-and you felt carpet for the first time!

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-you started putting anything and everything in reach into your mouth.

- you are fascinated by your hands and ceiling fans

-and you’ve been drooling like crazy.

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Elena, thank you for being do patient with me as I keep learning  how to be your mom. It’s been a hard month for me as I try to figure out how to be your mom and keep working and spend time with Daddy and somehow still try to make dinner and send emails and do laundry. Sometimes when you look at me with those beautiful eyes, I imagine you saying, “Mom, it’s not that complicated. Just love me.

My sweet girl, I do. I love you mucho, mucho, mucho!

With all my love,





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 : ) }

29th April
written by Michelle

Dear Mija,

Your daddy and I have been talking more about you recently because you are kicking and moving quite a lot these days. We wonder what you’re going to look like? Will you have a head full of dark hair? Will you have light skin like me or dark skin like your daddy? Your auntie Christine thinks you’ll be caramel colored. We talk about what it will be like with a newborn in our lives? Your daddy imagines all three of us going for breakfast and walking Pepe at El Cerro. I just imagine being really, really tired.

Mija, we are excited to be your parents, but we know we’re going to mess up. You will quickly learn that we’re not perfect. You’ll see me get frustrated and make loud exaggerated sighing noises from the kitchen when I find more dirty dishes in the sink. Daddy might get mad when I pepper him with a hundred questions as soon as he walks in the door. You’ll see us arguing and sometimes we disagree about what we should buy or where we should go.  But we love each other a whole lot and we hope you’ll see that, too.

In fact I think one of the greatest gifts we can give you is a healthy marriage; not a perfect marriage, but a healthy one. One where you’ll hear us say, “I love you” and “I am sorry” frequently. One where you see us having fun and laughing together, but also one where you know how our voices change when we start arguing and disagreeing.

We are fortunate that this is something our parents gave and modeled for us. Yes, Mija both of your grandparents, still love each other a lot and showed your daddy and I what a lifelong partnership looks likes.

Look at these pictures of your abuelitos:

Hilda y Roduel

They got married 40 years ago on April 7, 1973. They raised four kids and adopted one more. Your daddy says they showed him what sacrifice and commitment looks even when it wasn’t easy. Your abuelo, Papa Choyo, tells me that your abuela was always the strong one of the relationship. She trusted and prayed when he doubted and wondered how God would provide. Your Mama Hilla just smiled when I asked her if she was the strong one. She said, “No, no fue asi. I just supported him and squeezed his leg under the table whenever he talked too much.”


Now, these are my mom and dad, your Nana and Papa.

Mom & Dad

They got married 31 years ago on November 28, 1981. They also had four kids and a few dogs and cats and fish in the mix. I remember Nana and Papa always being honest with us kids about God, money and big family decisions. They didn’t hide things from us or sugarcoat answers. And they didn’t hide how much they loved each other either. My dad, your Papa, would write scribbled, barely legible, post-it notes for Nana, and leave it on her car just to say I love you.  And your Nana would plan and prepare meals and activities for us four kids, so that they could get away just the two of them for a few nights. Something I never realized was probably essential to their healthy marriage.

Your daddy and I are still learning how to do this; how to have the kind of marriage that endures for 30 or 40 years. But I hope you see how your daddy adores me. How he kisses me on the lips before he leaves for the day and how he reaches across the car to grab my hand and say “Yo te amo, Michelle.” How he gets gas in my car and fixes the shower when there’s no hot water and never complains when I ask him to pick up something from the tienda.

And I hope you see how much I love him, too.

Mija, there is a verse in 1 John that says something about you will know they are my disciples by how they love each other. And your daddy and I believe this with our whole heart. We want you to see God in us and in our marriage. We want you to see how much we love each other by how we treat one another and talk about the other person even when they’re not there.

So it may mean we leave you for a weekend with friends so we can have a few nights away. Or it may mean we take time as a family to rest and play and remember how to love each other well when we get tired, grouchy and short-tempered. And it will most definitely mean that we’ll need lots of grace as we figure out how to be parents to you and keep loving and serving one another well.

Our Wedding Day

My prayer is that one day you’ll see a picture like this from our wedding day and say, “oh, the best gift my parents gave me was that they loved each other well.”

Mija, we can’t wait to meet you and be your parents.



(Mija is a Spanish word that literally means “my daughter.” It’s actually written “mi hija.” But when said quickly together it sounds like “mija” and it is said with endearment, kind of like sweetie or sweetheart in English. Female teachers often use it with little girl students. Mijo being the equivalent for little boys. It happens to be one of my favorite Spanish words.)

This is the second letter in a series of letters to my future daughter. The first can be read here.

4th April
written by Michelle

Dear Mija

Months before we were ever pregnant I begin wondering and reading about how to raise bilingual and bicultural kids. I soaked up any stories, tips and ideas from other moms and families that I could find. Then my friend Sarah, from a A Life With Subtitles, introduced me to SpanglishBaby. Let me say it is a GREAT resource for parents, teachers, or anyone who works in a bicultural/bilingual setting. It feels like walking into a friend’s living room and finding 10 other moms who are navigating this unique territory, nodding their heads along with you, saying “yeah, me, too.”

I like how the internet can bring people together and sometimes make you feel a little more connected, despite the miles between.

I was honored yesterday that they posted one of my pieces; a letter I wrote to my future bilingual and bicultural daughter. You can read it here on SpanglishBaby’s site.

{photo credit: Dave Christenson}


16th January
written by Michelle
There is a baby

yes, there is a baby in there { 16 weeks }

Being pregnant has many perks. I now have a great excuse for even more snacking, my boobs have grown at least a cup, and people genuinely seem so excited when they find out we’re pregnant. I kinda have a feeling those same people may not be quite as excited when they have to sit near us on a long flight with the crying child, but that’s for another time.  For now, I’ll take the excitement and the slew of questions. Over the past few weeks these have been the 12 most common.

So in case you were just sitting at home, dying to ask us these questions…ta-dah, now you don’t have to. See answers below : )

1. Do you guys want to find out what you’re having?

yep. Partly just to plan and prepare for either a little girl or little boy….but the real reason is because we want to eliminate half of the name conversation. Once we get back to Guatemala we’re hoping at one of our next appointments to be able to find out.

2. Do you have a preference? boy or girl?

Nope. I will be happy with a healthy little baby doesn’t matter the gender. Gerber says he has a feeling it’s a girl, but who knows.

3. Do you have name ideas?

Oh, do we ever….but one of our requirements is that the name has to be pronounced the same in English and Spanish. So we’re trying to stay away from names with r, j, y, and th. We’ve both had to let go of names we used to like. For instance, I’ve has to accept that Ethan (for a boy) and Madelyn (for a girl) are just not gonna work in Spanish. And Gerber had to give up Joaquin (for a boy) and Maria-Jose (for a girl). Our litmus test has been to see if a Starbucks barista can pronounce the name. So you know when you go to Starbucks and the ask for your name? Well, I may have been a “Gabriella” or “Elena” and Gerber has tried out “Mateo” and “Elias.”

4. Will you have the baby in the States or Guatemala?

Guatemala. It just makes sense. We live there, we don’t have insurance in the states and we have found a great midwife and birth center in Guatemala City. I mean women have healthy babies every day in Guatemala so I figure I can too.

5. Why did you chose a midwife?

I love the philosophy behind midwifery and probably would have chosen one if we were having the baby in the states as well. I mean women have been having babies for centuries with midwives and the whole idea that God made our bodies able to do this just fascinates me. I wanted a woman to attend my birth because most likely my mom and sisters will not be able to be there. Hannah, our midwife, has been a great support so far- available for phone calls, emails and all of my random questions. She’ll do a birthing class for us and 40 days of post-postpartum care. And maybe what sold me is that the birth center has a warm water tub- which I kind of imagine will be like a jacuzzi during labor. (yeah, yeah…just let me by a little naive for now, the idea still sounds lovely). And for those of you tend to worry… no need to be alarmed, there is a hospital close by that she partners with if at any point me or the baby is in danger.

But really, to each her own. I know wonderful women give birth to healthy babies in hospitals all the time. I think the last thing moms-to-be need is judgement from other women.

6. Will you baby have dual citizenship?

yep. The US embassy in Guatemala will grant US citizenship to our baby because one of it’s parents is a US citizen. So a few months after birth we’ll take the little one in for his/her first passport picture so we can come visit the USA. (yes, you can expect a picture : )

7. When will you guys come back to the states to visit?

Well, I am trying to hold all plans loosely for next year- but our hope is to come back sometime in August or September. We’ll see.

8. How have you been feeling?

Thankfully, really well. Just hungry…I feel this ravenous need to eat every 2 hours. But, I really can’t complain. Besides being super tired the whole first semester and noticing an increase in hair-growth (on my chin!), I have felt really healthy and happy. Don’t hate me. I sometimes feel bad, because I know some friends have had such difficult and nauseating pregnancies, but maybe I can blame it on good genes?

9. Have you had any weird cravings?

Nothing, too particularly weird. Baguettes with cheese have never tasted better and for as cliche as it sounds, I may have sent Gerber on a few pickle runs. Why do pregnant women like pickles???
10. Are you going to keep working after the baby comes?

well, that’s the plan. (see answer #7 for a reminder that all plans are held loosely: ) Gerber I agreed before we got married that because we both have flexibility with our work and ministry we both want to be able to keep working and spend time at home with kids. So we obviously we will have a lot to figure out. I’m sure our schedule will change (probably even more than I realize) and especially at the beginning because I plan on breastfeeding. Thankfully, our organization is super flexible for families and parents.

11. What about your the home remodel you’ve talked about? Is that still happening?

yep. That’s what we’re hoping. It will probably mean moving out of our home for a few months while construction happens. So we may rent for a while and probably won’t be doing an nursery decorating, but that’s ok. Most families in Guatemala have babies and never decorate a nursery or buy a crib before a baby comes. I figure we’ll do all of that later. I don’t think the baby will mind.
12. What’s been the best part so far?

When Gerber cuddles me at night, kisses my head and says “I love you both.”

22nd November
written by Michelle

I have learned since living abroad that holidays just look different here. And instead of trying really hard to re-create what I am used to do, sometimes it’s just better to make new traditions here. I can get sad and nostalgic that no one says “Happy Thanksgiving” when I leave the store or I can chose to be thankful that I work for an organization that cares about the work we do and that we have a place to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner.

Gerber and I are still trying to figure out our traditions as a married couple, but also as a bi-cultural, bilingual family that wants to celebrate and recognize where we both come from. Needless to say we are still figuring it out. But this afternoon while sitting in our car we decided to pray a simple thanksgiving prayer together. And I think it’s a tradition we can keep.

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As we acknowledged the abundance of things we have to be grateful for, I felt particularly thankful for one thing.

The way Guatemala treats it’s foreigners, immigrants and visitors.

You see, I am an immigrant. I live in Guatemala, but I am not from here. I immigrated here. Now, immigrant has so many connotations in our country. But really…

So, I live in Guatemala as a foreigner and I feel constantly thankful that this country treats me better than my own country treats our immigrants and foreigners.
I have so little to complain about. I am allowed to drive, open a bank account, own land, and fly in and out of the country without fear of ever being questioned or deported. I know I can walk into any restaurant or store and be served and treated fairly. I have access to any doctor or dentist I desire because I can pay for it. I don’t know what it feels like to be denied service. I have never had any one accuse me of stealing. I can rent an apartment and landlords tend to trust me because of the color of my skin or the money in my pocketbook. Maybe both. Sure, I have felt frustrated when I saw a Guatemalan get charged Q80 leaving the doctor and I had to pay Q180. It wasn’t fair. You could call it reverse discrimination. But then I stop and I remember how many privileges I have here as a foreigner. And I choose to be thankful.

Now, I know there are lots of  economical, political and social reasons as to perhaps why Guatemala treats and accepts foreigners so well. A lot has to do with money and access and wealth. I know that. It’s not fair, but it just is.

This Thanksgiving I feel grateful that Guatemala has welcomed me and allowed me to make a home here. And I pray that immigrants and foreigners in our country would feel something similar one day.

May you be thankful for wherever you have made your home. Happy Thanksgiving!

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P.S. Have you traveled or lived abroad? Do other countries treat immigrants/foreigners better than the US does? Why do you think that is?
1st November
written by Michelle

Yesterday I had the chance to Guest post over at Sarah Quezada’a blog A Life with Subtitles.

Sarah is a blog-friend-turned-real-friend who writes about multicultural life with her Guatemalan husband and bi-cultural daughter. One of the things I love about the funny world of blogs is the opportunity to connect with people who I might not have otherwise ever meet. If you have ever doubted that you can form an online community and connections through blogs here’s your proof.

Thanks, Sarah for a chance to share part of my story with your readers.

Being White and Looking for a Brown Doll

Last month I was visiting the States and my sister-in-law asked if I could look for a soft, cuddly doll for her 9-month-old daughter, my niece. I googled “dolls for babies” and about eight different blond haired, blue eyed dolls popped up on my screen. But my niece is Guatemalan. She has milk chocolate skin and dark brown eyes and jet-black hair that barely fits into two little pigtails. I wanted to buy a doll that looked like her. I wanted to find a cute, brown doll, but I couldn’t find one.

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