Posts Tagged ‘Elena’

30th July
written by Michelle

If you are 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 a year ago I wrote this one. I seem to write a lot about raising a bilingual and bicultural daughter and about the hardest part of motherhood . You can read the rest of the Dear Mija Letters here.

Dear Mija,

We celebrated your birthday last month and I still can’t believe you’re two. I have finally accepted that I may never actually start or finish anything that resembles a traditional baby book, so these letters will be what I hold on to for you. I write so one day you will remember what you were like and what kind of things you did, but perhaps equally important I write so I can remember what I kind of mom I am learning to be.

First, I am learning to be the kind of mom that doesn’t compare. The first year of your life I was so eager to know, Am I doing this right? So I looked to see what other moms were doing. I used their routines and parenting philosophy as my gauge. Oh, your 10 month old sleeps 12 hours straight through the night. Great, why isn’t mine? Or your kiddo can be left with loving caregivers and not scream, really? So, why can’t mine? I think I was asking the wrong questions and in turn getting answers that were not helpful. Elena, I don’t want to be the kind of mom who compares your growth and development or my choices as a mama to other moms.

This year I have been paying extra attention to you and less on what everyone else is doing. I know that you have always been active, but now I see how central it is to who you are. You get excited to climb and jump and hang on the end of our table with your feet swinging in the air. And when you get angry or upset you often need a physical response to calm down. You need a tight hug or some swaying back and forth or the natural comfort of nursing. Physical movement calms you down and I smile now, when I think about all of those days and nights bouncing you on the gray exercise ball that we kept in your room or walking with you in the ergo just so you would fall asleep. You didn’t have words to tell me, but you sure made your needs known.

I joke that it took you two years before you felt tired. Because that is just about when you started sleeping well. Right about a year ago we placed you on the floor and you slept better than you ever did in a crib, but there was still lots of bouncing and nursing and waking-ups. Now we have a small foam mattress in one corner of you room. And you nap there once a day all by yourself and sleep through the night. It’s quite amazing. Sometimes at dinner, you’ll even rub your eyes and tell me, “I’n tie.” It still shocks me that the child who took so much work just to get to sleep for two years, now tells me with two simple words that she’s tired. After a quick bath and nursing session, I lay you on your bed, wrap you up in the woven blanket that I carried you with for so many months and we pray. As soon as we say “amen” you start telling me exactly what will happen the next day. I think you’re asking me and reassuring yourself in the same breath. “Mama? Mama, close door..go downstairs…listen Lena…morning come get you in bed…open door….sticker??” Yes, sweetie, that is exactly right. Mama is going to close the door and go downstairs. I will listen to Elena in the monitor and in the morning Daddy or Mama will come get you and open the door. ” After we’ve been through that a few times, I kiss you goodnight and close the door. And you fall asleep. The magic of that is not lost on me.

Elena, you have always been physically strong, often oddly so. Like to the point where I am like, how are you able to do that? Like lift your head up as a 3-week old baby while on your tummy or hang from the monkey bars by yourself at 18 months and lift your legs straight out? But sometimes I think that your spirit is just as strong, maybe even more so than your body. I think the experts and books call this “strong-willed” or “persistent” I just say you have a quite an internal strength. It is both a wonderful thing to watch and a challenging thing to understand.

For instance, you won’t let go of my leg or let me put you down without screaming, if I you know that I am going to leave,  but if I stand next you I have watched you stand up for yourself even to other adults. And you do it, in both English and Spanish. The first time was at a birthday party for your friend Keila. You were 20 months old and wearing the cutest little yellow dress. Our friend Megan touched your back and said something like “Look at your cute dress.” I watched as you quickly reacted and motioned to me that you didn’t like it. I half-seriously told you, honey, tell her if you didn’t like that. And you turned right around and looked up at the adult standing a full 5 feet taller than you and with your arms crossed said, “Dis is Lenas.” She being the kind friend and wise mom that she is, responded, “yes, I am sorry, that is Elena’s.” I just stood there shocked and kinda proud. Where did my almost two-year old find the strength to tell an adult that you didn’t like something? We have talked to you a lot about how you’re the boss of your body, and I guess that idea really stuck.

Then you did it again a few months later at a restaurant when Nana was visiting. When our waitress came to the table to take our order, she greeted you as is quite common in Guatemala, “Hola, Nena.”  You looked at me again with that passion and distress in your eyes, “Mama, no BIG girl.” I nodded, affirming what I already knew. You did not want to be called a baby or nena. I pattered your back, You can tell her, sweetie. And with that you turned around with your head raised high and in perfect Spanish announced, “Soy nina.” 

And I smiled, yes. Yes, you are my girl. And my prayer is that you use that strength to stand up for yourself and for others. I am learning to be the kind of mom who stands next to you and encourages you to stand up for yourself.

Elena, one of my favorite things this year has been listening to how you think and remember things. It amazes me the things that you remember. One our trip to the states in April, I pulled out a bag of chocolate chips and almonds, a treat we don’t have often. You saw the bag and asked, “treat?” I gave you a few and then put it away in order to avoid melting chocolate fingers all over the airplane. In fact I put it away so well, that I forgot about the bag of almonds for the rest of our three-week trip. When I was unpacking one night back at home I found the bag at the bottom of my backpack and placed it on my desk. The next morning you saw the bag and pointed “ai-plane, ai-plane..treat?!” I couldn’t believe that you would remember something you saw once, there weeks ago. Unless of course you are like your mother, and have an extra affinity and memory for good chocolate.

Right around this time on our trip was when I started telling you stories. You were 21 months and it was the only way to pass hours in the car and eventually you’d fall asleep to the sound of my voice because I guess my stories have the kind of effect on people. But what amazes me is how well you actually listen to these stories and remember them! When I use the wrong name you correct me, “No, Mama fue Elsita. No Elsa.” Or when I tell a story about Mama and Elena taking the “green train” (which is really a shuttle) up the hill to the new playground, you correct me and say, “No, Mama white train.”

I am learning that you are watching and listening to me, and not just when I tell stories, but all the time. I have since stopped saying “Oh crap” for that very reason.

Elena your favorite things right now are babies, airplanes and beans. Maybe in that order. We got you this baby for you at Christmas time and she goes almost everywhere you do. In fact, we often “feed” your baby and sometimes you hold her up to my shirt for her to nurse and lately we’ve been bringing your baby to the bathroom to go pee-pee. Like I said she goes everywhere.

You have been fascinated with airplanes before you could even talk. I think I count it as one of your first words, right after “ma” (mas) and “agua.” Whenever you heard an airplane you would run to find us while blowing your lips together and pointing upward. Right around 15 months you started asking to look at these two books, No Jumping On The Bed and I’ll Love You Forever. You could care less about the words, but you would flip through the pages to look for the airplanes! Somehow you found a small wooden airplane that made an appearance on each page of No Jumping On The Bed. And I have read I’ll Love You Forever a hundred times and never once noticed that there are airplanes on the wallpaper. But you noticed and pointed them out each time. Elena, you are helping me pay attention and notice new things.

When went to the fair a few weeks ago you played one of the games where you got to choose any prize hanging on the wall in front of you. Even with Frozen stickers staring right out you and soft squishy teddy bears, you chose a plastic airplane as your prize. I smiled. My traveling girl, I have a feeling airplanes will always be part of your story. In your short two years of life you have flown on just shy of 20 flights. It’s no wonder you like airplanes.

If you had to live on just one food group it would be black beans, maybe a close second would be avocado and then some smoothies and Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed thrown into the mix. I think your food preferences represent your cultural backgrounds quite nicely. You are actually a pretty good eater, particular about how you eat, but not too picky about what. You love my soups, which makes me happy because I put all kinds of yummy vegetables in there. And my pesto pasta with broccoli (which you started eating as soon as we called them baby trees) is also one of your favorites. Much to your Daddy’s surprise you don’t really like meat. Every now and then you’ll try some fish or chicken, but you are mostly a vegetarian girl, which I can’t lie, makes me smile. You absolutely love your Mama Hiya’s pepian, which makes her heart proud. And I hope one day she’ll teach you how to make it.

Elena, you are one lucky girl to have a Daddy who loves who like he does. No one makes you laugh as much as he does. You constantly announce through your giggles, “Daddy being silly.” The two of you started going to Bagel Barn together for breakfast this year when you both were up early. You call it the “vaca” (cow) and always order “guac-cay” (guacamole), “beans” and “jugo.” And you later tell me that Daddy ordered “cafe.” I think you are becoming his favorite breakfast date probably because you are almost always ready on time. :)

I am learning to be the kind of mom who trusts and let’s your Daddy take care of you in his way, even when it’s different from how I do things.  I can be controlling and so often think that my way is the right way. I don’t like this part of myself. And I think I spent a lot of your first year of life expecting Daddy to do things in a certain way. And that wasn’t fair for anyone. Don’t worry your Daddy and I are always on the same team. We agree on the big stuff, but I am learning that there are some special things that you will do just with Daddy, in Daddy’s way and that is okay, even good.

Elena, you are making us better parents and better people. I feel like parenting the first time around is like starting a new sports team. You’re still figuring our which position you play best and where you need some coaching and you both spend a good deal of time just running back and forth. But I hope the next time around, one day when you have a little sister or brother, we’re going to know so much better what to expect of each other as parents and as partners.

This past year I have loved watching how you connect with people. You learned the names of your first friends and you talk about “Lucy” and “Stella” and “Baby Juni” often. You know the names of everyone on both sides of your family and you often ask me to tell you stories about your cousins, Emma and Sofi. You ask to FaceTime Bean and Bobo and Tia Stephie and you get excited when Nana and Papa call.  You ask about our friends in Coyolate, mainly “Lolo” and “Don Tomas” and “Dona Ruth” and “William.”

Mija, you are an anticipator of what’s to come and always aware of what’s currently happening. If you don’t understand why someone is laughing or why mommy swerved in the road you immediately ask, “What haaappened??” You are cautious in the pool, playful on land and could be equally content feeding your baby or climbing trees and throwing rocks. And I want to foster a love of both. You pick flowers for Mama and Daddy and also really like taking apart the screws on your toy airplane. Sometimes you even bring back screws that you find on the ground at our playground. Which I am not sure if that says more about the status of our local playground or your ingenuity and observant eye. Maybe both.


Elena, I know as a girl, you will often be praised for how you look; for you curly hair and your deep brown eyes or the cute dress that you happen to be wearing. Those things aren’t bad per se. It’s what our culture will notice first, and I do hope and pray that you develop a deep sense of  confidence to know just beautiful you are. But I am going to work so, so hard to always remind you that who you are and how you use your mind and your strength and your words matters so much more than how you look.

You have always been the kind of kiddo, where it’s a more a battle of will than a question of whether or not you are capable. My sense is this will be one of your greatest gifts and one of my biggest parenting challenges. Sometimes my first response as your mom is want to teach & train you, but every so often I remember sometimes the best thing I can do is pray for you (and myself!) Because more than anything, I hope that I can give you a tangible picture for how God loves us with a mother’s heart; loving, nurturing and guiding us.

Elena, sometimes I feel like being a mom is the best never-ending job there ever was. My sense from talking to moms with older kids, like ones who go the bathroom by themselves and even mom’s who own “kids” are adults and have their own kiddos, is that the conversations change and the needs change, but a mother’s love only grows. I don’t think a mother’s love can be static. I think it gets deeper with each passing year as the ache to hold on and remember is tethered by the growning-up and letting go. Granted you’re only two, so I have a lot more years to practice this. But I can already anticipate it. (geez, I wonder where you get that fine quality?!!)

Here’s the thing, Elena you are my first-born. My journey as a mom began with you and so many of these milestones we will learn together. In the process of loving and caring for your soul, I find my own is being changed. And for that I am grateful. So, from one strong woman to another…Elena, I love who you are becoming and I hope one day you say the same about me.

Happy 2nd birthday, Mija.

With All My Love,


26th April
written by Michelle

Well, this post is a week late but…heeey, that’s how life is going right about now? If you’re not familiar Semana Santa (Holy Week) is the week leading up to Easter and it is thee craziest, busiest, most touristy time of year in Antigua. Actually, it’s really 40 days of crazy all through lent, but that week being the craziest.

For my Santa Barbara friends, imagine 40+ days of FIESTA. Yeah. You get the picture.

I’ve decided Semana Santa is like having an entire country on Spring Break…the SAME WEEK. Yep, all the schools, all the universities, everyone, has that week off! Banks and stores usually close from Thursday-Sunday and the entire country goes on vacation. It’s actually a pretty fun vibe, unless you’re stuck sitting in traffic for hours!

Gerber and I have tried to travel around Guatemala before during this week, and it always goes pretty well until about Wed night when we’re sitting on the highway not moving, trying to make it to the coast with the all of the other 13 million Guatemalans. Ok, I’m exaggerating. Maybe. Coming from SoCal I’d like to think I can handle traffic…but traffic during Semana Santa is like no other.

All this to say, this year we had the week off, but we decided to just stay-caion it right around town. And it was delightful. I did a grocery store run on Monday and stalked up for the week and then we used the motorcycle to get around the rest of the week. We did a day trip to the beach with G’s family, went to Antigua to see some the lovely alfombras, and spent lots of time hanging out in our front yard. Gerber and I did a few movie nights and were usually in bed before 10pm. Because let’s be honest vacation is a relative term when you have a cute, squirmy, hungry 5:30am alarm clock.

You know what made it feel the most “vacation-y“? (is that a word?) I pulled put my “old” (from 2006) DSLR camera. I don’t know why I have not taken it out in the past year?! I guess the handy little iphone is always right there in my pocket. Oh, how Steve Jobs has changed the world. Anyhow, somehow choosing to be intentional about bringing the “good” camera made me feel a bit more like a tourist in my own town. And I must say the quality of the photos really is so much better. I might even lug it around on our upcoming trip to Ohio.

So with that said, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Here was our Semana Santa 2014:







still her favorite way to sleep. #godblesstheergo



Guatemalans are serious about the shade. He said he bought it for “Elena”



my two loves.



She loved the water. Probably because it was warm. Just wait Elena, till the cold of the California ocean.



Our sweet niece, Emma.



If we weren’t at the beach, we were in this pool.




She may not be the best sleeper on the block, but she’s got this eating thing down.




She fascinated with all things water.



what? you don’t let your child chew on the hose?! #momfail #guatemalawater

So, basically Semana Santa consisted of lots of pictures of Elena :)

7th March
written by Michelle


I briefly mentioned in a few facebook and instagram posts over that past month about hiring a sleep consultant and have gotten lots of questions. So I figured I’d take a minute to explain. (clearly, as you can see in the photo Elena thinks it was a great idea)

I am firm believer in asking for professional help when you need it. I hire an accountant to do my taxes because all the numbers and forms overwhelm me. I have seen a counselor at various seasons of my life when I needed help processing and working through tough stuff. So I figured why not pay a sleep consultant when I realized I was spending more time working to get Elena to sleep, then she was actually sleeping?

I reached a point where I was stuck. Baby sleep felt confusing and stressful and what I was doing wasn’t working, so I asked for help.

{Let me give you a little disclaimer:  I don’t claim to know a lot about baby sleep nor do I think there is one right way to get babies to sleep. I write this only to share what’s been working for us and if you’re in the middle of baby sleep woes know that you’re not along. And if baby sleep means nothing in your world right now, you can just skip over this whole post. }

So a little background:

Elena has never been a great sleeper. Or maybe better stated she has never been a great sleeper when sleeping alone. Since day 1 she has really only slept well while being carried or bounced or in someone’s arms. She slept well while nursing to sleep. And she slept really well while being curled up next to me. So like most new moms, I did whatever worked. And to be be honest it worked well for about 3 months. I was on maternity leave and getting rest, she was sleeping 7-8 hours through the night and we were all pretty happy. We didn’t have a nursery or a crib at that point so she napped on the bed and slept next to me at night.

Then right around month 3 or 4 something changed. Call it the 4-month sleep regression or growth spurt or whatever. But getting her to sleep became my full-time job. And then she’d wake up every 45 minutes. And we’d start the process all over again. There were literally days that I would spent 5-6 hours of my day holding her in the rocking chair. I wrote this post which gave you just a little insight into our days. I started to feel like what I was doing was not sustainable, for me, or for her or for our family.

After reading this book: The Sleepeasy Solution, recommended by a good friend of mine and on Cup of Jo’s blog, I felt ready to try sleep training. Elena had just turned 5 months old. In short, it went horribly. Looking back I think it was too much too soon. We were trying to transition her from our bed, to a new room, to a new crib, etc. We found out we had a quite a persistent little girl. And she didn’t just cry, she screamed. I was trying to so hard to “follow the book” but I felt stuck whenever she woke up before the “set” feeding time or cried longer than the book said. She wasn’t the baby in the book.

After three days, I threw in the towel. Something wasn’t working. I went back to nursing her to sleep and holding her for all of her naps. Our evenings were stressful. Gerber and I would eat in shifts, taking turns rocking and maybe get in a 10 min conversation.

Then in December I found Nicole and the Baby Sleep Site. And I gave myself a Christmas gift of a sleep consultant. Best $90 I’ve ever spent.

Right away what I appreciated about Nicole and her team is her philosophy- she says “nothing’s a problem, until it’s a problem.” So you wanna nurse your baby to sleep? Go ahead. You wanna drive your little one around the block to nap, sure thing. You wanna co-sleep and snuggle, go for it. And when you want help changing some of those habits they’ll help you.

So I spent one evening filling out a detailed sleep history form on Elena, her temperament, our parenting philosophy and what were our short term and long term goals. Then I emailed it in to the company and a few days later I received a personalized sleep plan and was assigned a sleep consultant who was available to ask questions along the way, follow up on new situations that arise and be a resource once we started.

And we decided that since Gerber can’t stand to hear Elena cry, he could best support me by not being in the house when we started. So we started one of the weeks he was gone.

Here’s what I appreciated most:

-They gave me a step by step plan based on what we had tried and what they knew of my sweet girl and they offered support along the way when what they suggested didn’t work (this was HUGE for me).

-They talked about how important consistency was, and yet they acknowledge that YOU as the mom or parent know your baby best and sometimes you or the baby may will have an off day or night. And it’s not a reason to get discouraged.

-They celebrate small successes, and acknowledge that all babies and kids “learn how to sleep” in different ways.

- There are tons of FREE resources on their website and her newsletters have lots info about baby sleep patterns, pacifiers, traveling with babies, nap-time vs nighttime sleep, etc. All things I knew very little about.

-They take into account your baby’s temperament and your parenting style and preferences. They offer a gentle approach or a more traditional cry-it-out or a combination.

-It was like having a supportive friend right there next to you saying, “you’re doing a good thing. You’re teaching your baby how to sleep. You’re not a horrible mom.” And I needed to hear this, because there were many nights I thought, ahh I can’t do it.

So, where are we are now:

-It’s been about 5 weeks since we started sleep training. Granted we probably had an extra challenge, given that our little girl had never slept the whole night in her crib before and had never, ever fallen asleep on her own. And she’s quite particular and persistent. So we had a long road ahead of us.

-The first few weeks were the hardest, but we were consistent. And they got progressively better. We did baby steps: At first we just focused on her falling asleep by herself, then any wake-up after that I nursed and held her like I always did. After a week or so, we started letting her sooth herself back to sleep and only went in at the set feeding time.

-Elena now goes to sleep EVERY night by herself in her crib! It still amazes me, because there were weeks and days where I imagined myself rocking and holding my 8-year old child to sleep. So this has part has gone great!

-If she wakes up around 8pm or 9pm and cries she usually will go right back to sleep. Again, huge improvement!

-There were about 2-3 nights she slept through the whole night! And I was ecstatic. But then she started teething and I wanted to be able to nurse her at night so she’s been waking up 1-2 times at night again. But I trust we can get back on a good schedule.

-She still wakes up super early…(like 5am early) and is not one of those babies that will play happily in her crib. So we’ll keep working on this little by little.

-She still naps while being held by me or our sitter. However, since she’s learned to sleep better at night she has also started learning to fall asleep in her carseat and stroller. Which I know isn’t ideal long term, but again, she never did this before. So the week Gerber is gone we’ll start working on naps. I tried it early on, but it was too much while also trying to work on night time sleep. The sleep consultant recommend we work on night sleep before naps, because they can affect each other.

There you have it.

More than you probably ever wanted to know about baby sleep. Somehow I think I had this idea in my head that when you lay a baby down in their crib they just magically go to sleep. I never knew that it could be so much work to get a little one to sleep. Now, I recognize living in Guatemala, this is really all so cultural. Most Guatemalans that I know don’t own a crib and babies are usually carried everywhere by their mom, or grandma or the niñera, so babies sleep whenever and wherever. Obviously this way works, too. But I must say it has felt so good to be able to leave Elena at night and know that she is at home resting and sleeping.

So if you’re struggling and feeling like you don’t know what else to do to help your baby or toddler improve their sleep I cannot recommend this service enough. Here’s their homepage where you can sign up for the FREE newsletter and here’s the page for a sleep consultant.

Cheers, for sleeping babies!


** I was not paid or compensated by the BabySleep Site in anyway. I am just really thankful and appreciate the service. And hope if you’re exhausted and struggling with getting your baby to sleep that you’d know there are resources out there.**

6th December
written by Michelle


In case you’re new here, I started writing letters to our daughter each month after I wrote this post for  before she was born. Last month her daddy wrote a letter and the previous months you can find here. Enjoy this little snapshot into life with our little girl.

20131201-140215.jpgDear Mija,

I’m typing this letter to you on my iPhone because you are asleep in my arms. You and I have spent lots of time together like this: you sleeping, me on my phone. Sometime around 4 months you decided that the world was too interesting and you didn’t want to miss out. So we’ve had a long month or so trying to get you to sleep and stay asleep. Lately my motto has been “do whatever works”  and what works for us right now is for me or Daddy hold you in our arms or in the ergo for e.v.e.r.y. nap. Everyone says I should soak up these moments and enjoy them, and don’t get me wrong I do, but sweet girl I sometimes want someone to reassure me that one day you will nap all by yourself in your crib and sleep through the night. Whatta ya think? Maybe a good goal for 6 months, eh?

 Just to be fair, even though you really haven’t been the best sleeper, you’re still eating like a champ. For that I am thankful. Breastfed or bottle fed, you don’t seem to mind as long as its mamma’s milk. And one morning with the babysitter we realized you’ll even drink it cold! Lately you have been so interested in what we are eating. You try to grab the scrambled eggs of my plate and when Daddy drinks his coffee you reach your little hand up as if it say, where’s mine?  We let you suck on a banana last week. You seemed to enjoy it. But then again you enjoy putting plastic bags in your mouth. I think next week we’ll try giving you some mashed up avocado just because you seem so eager. Our friends let us borrow their bumbo seat you like sitting up high and watching me make our morning smoothie. You even were a great helper when I made banana muffins.

Elena, my love, it has even be fun to see your personality shine through these past few weeks. I feel like we are getting to know YOU so much better. And YOU, my dear, are not a baby in a book, or a certain temperament to be figured out. No, you are uniquely wonderfully, you. You my dear, are persistent and perceptive. You observe so closely new faces and places. You love being out and about. Your favorite places so far seem to be: parque central en Antigua, walking around Santa Maria de Jesus and any place with loud motos and live music. When someone new talks to you, you usually stare them down for 3 seconds with your big brown eyes and then if you’re pleased, you give them the biggest grin. It’s pretty cute. You are active and strong and rarely lay still. You are babbling up a storm and are very good at exercising your vocal chords.

In the past month or so you also discovered toys and it’s been so fun to watch you play. You really like Sophie the Giraffe and anything that makes a crinkle-plastic bag sound. You seem to like butterflies and anything that is small enough to fit in your mouth. Sometimes you reach for one of your books, and I get so excited, “oh my daughter already loves books” and then you proceed to suck on the corner. Sometimes when I show you two toys and say “which one do you want?” You grab both. I like that about you, mija. You seem to know what you want.


And have I told you that you have the sweetest little laugh?  Yes, you do. You laugh the most with me and Daddy, especially when we play peek-a-boo. (But we usually say it in Spanish and it sounds something like “chee- wa”) You are also at a stage where you are grabbing and reaching and putting anything and everything in your mouth- my hair, your fingers or the corners of pillows, tend to be among your favorites. When we lay you down under the activity mat, you get really frustrated. You grunt and lift your shoulders and head off the mat trying so hard to sit up. You’re almost there, but you you still need someone’s hand on your back so you don’t fall over.


Elena, I have loved watching how you see the world. I can see you taking it in, trying to understand how things work.  When you take a bath I use a little plastic cup and pour water out in front of you. You reach out your little chubby hands and try to grab the water. I can tell you’re confused. Why can’t I hold the water? It’s a very good question. I can see how that’s confusing, huh?




You and your Daddy have a such a sweet relationship. You love grabbing his beard and spending mornings together. One morning I came down the stairs and in walked Daddy carrying you in the Baby Bjorn.. You were still in your pajamas, bundled up with a hat on and Daddy had pan frances in one hand and eggs in the other. He made us breakfast. Mommy loves those kind of mornings. Some afternoons I find you two on the couch, you arching your head backwards so you can see the TV!  On Saturday morning I get to go to yoga, because Daddy wants to spend time with just you! I foresee lots of breakfast dates with you and daddy in the future.


Mija, this month:
-you discovered your toes.
-had your first cold and ear infection : (
- slept with us almost every night after 12am
-went to your first water park and played in the pool
-spent lots and lots of time in the ergo and the cargador.
(I have decided that always wanting to be carried makes your a great little traveler, but not the best crib sleeper)
-you spent a weekend at one of your Daddy’s and my favorite places: Lake Atitlan
- you started blowing spit bubbles and your learned how to squeal with delight.
(and sometimes you like to wake-up and practice at 5:30am)


Elena, I like this age. You are so curious and interactive, but not yet mobile. You are still in the lay on a blanket on the floor stage and cuddle in bed stage. You’re not scooting or crawling just yet. And you’re acting more and more like a little person, but you’re still tiny enough to by my baby. Sometimes while we sit in this chair I smell the top if your head and breathe in the sweet, soft baby smell . Your soft, tender fingers rest on my chest and sometimes when you get startled the reach up and grab my chin.

I never want to forget how soft and smooth your little fingertips feel against my skin.

Or your chubby thigh rolls

Or how your brown beautiful eyes get so big when someone talks to you

I sometimes stare at long dark eye lashes when you sleep.

I love watching how your little mouth knows right where to latch on even when your dead asleep.

And how you fit right between my shoulders and legs, curled up like a little c, when I lay next to on my side.

I want to remember how your skin tends to change shades depending on the light or what color you wear and which Instagram filter I use :)

Guatemalans think you’re “bien canche” and gringos say you’re “tan,” but I think you’re just perfect.

You’re hair is darker than my hair ever was as a little girl, but not as black as your daddy’s. I’m still hoping it grows.

Your Auntie Christine is a little worried you may have inherited the Acker baby-bald-gene.

I’m hoping you’ll at least have a little pony tail by the time you’re 5!


Elena, I really love being your mom. It is by far one of the greatest joys, and hardest things I’ve done so far.


With all my love,
9th October
written by Michelle

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 9.31.41 PM

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 : )

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 9.37.22 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 9.30.41 PM Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 9.31.01 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 9.34.25 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 9.25.09 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 9.28.09 PM

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.


Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 9.21.05 PM

….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.

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 9.35.29 PM

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

-you officially became a US citizen

-and you felt carpet for the first time!

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 9.26.00 PM

-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.

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 9.20.14 PM

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,





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,


22nd July
written by Michelle

 one month

Dear Mija-

You’re a month old today! Sometimes its hard to imagine life before you were here. You have come into our lives and kind of taken over in the best possible way. We find your baby socks on the table, burp cloths draped over every chair in the house and your blankets in our bed. It’s funny how a little person so small can suddenly take up so much space. Yes, my dear…for the past month you have captured our attention and filled up our hearts and our home.

They say parenting has a steep learning curve. And your Daddy and I couldn’t agree more, but you are helping us a lot. You let out this tiny, but mighty shriek when you’re hungry and you grunt and start to wimpier when you seem uncomfortable. You really, really like to eat which means you’re often attached to me, but that’s ok. I’m just thankful you’re healthy and gaining weight. And you’re a really good sleeper. Well, let me clarify you’re a really good sleeper only when one of is holding you. You sleep best nestled on my chest or when Daddy rocks you in the cargador. And at night we just bring you to bed, right next to me. I tried swaddling you and doing all the things I’ve read about, but you my dear know what you like. And you most certainly do not like you’re arms swaddled in too tight. So now I just leave them out so you can suck on your little hands all night long.

strong one

Mija, from day 1 you have been a strong one. I don’t know where you get it from. But you do crazy thing like hold your head up and roll from your stomach to your back. Your Grandpa says, it’s your Mayan strength. Which since you’re half Mayan, I guess he could be right. : ) You have these bright little eyes that are alert and watching and sparkling. And when I lay you in your little crib you like to look all around, even though I know you probably can’t actually see that much.


Elena, I love watching you and just talking to you. I have been talking to you only in English and Daddy just in Spanish. But sometimes we get confused and we switch. But I’m not too worried yet about language delays. Daddy, says if you’re anything like me you’ll have no problem with your verbal processing : )

You met all your Guatemalan family the first week you were born. Every time they see you they say “ay, que bonita la nena!” and they often tell me that your feet are cold because I don’t always put socks on you. Tomorrow you’re gonna meet your Nana and Papa for the first time and hopefully the rest of your US family in September. They know you and adore you through videos, photos and skyping. Yes, Mija, you’ve become quite good at our morning videos : ) I take a video of you most mornings and send it to your Nana in California. I title them: Mornings with Elena. They wish we lived closer, but I think it just means we’ll have to visit more often.


You’re a month old and part of your newborn-ness if wearing off. You’re out of “recien nacidos” diapers and up to size 3 month onsies!

Mija, I don’t want to forget:

Your soft elbows and smooth feet

Your long toes that curl up when I touch them

Your rosy pink lips

Your fine eyelashes

Your long fingers and how you seem fascinated by your hands

I don’t want to forget how you smell;  a sweet mix of breast milk, and newborn warmth

The little grunting & snorting noises you make when you sleep

Your bright eyes and how you love looking all around like you’re just taking in the world.

The fine hair that covers your back.

Your beautiful skin- we still can’t decide what exactly color it is. Maybe lighter than Daddy’s and darker than mine???

How you always sleep with your right hand curled up in a fist by your cheek. (We even have a picture if you from an ultrasound where you were doing the same thing!)

I don’t want to forget how you sneeze, usually in small bursts of 2 or 3 like me.

How you wake up ever so slowly and kinda grouchy.

How you pucker your little lips and bob your head when you’re looking for my nipple right before you latch on. And yes sometimes you accidentally latch on to my arm. It’s cute for all of 2 seconds, before you let out a wail of disappointment.

I don’t want to forget the sweet smiles you make while you’re sleeping.

Or how you turn your head when you hear Daddy’s voice.

Or how you finally give in and lay your head on my chest to sleep.


Elena, this month you had your:

- first bath in the sink

-first time holding up your head

-first dr. visit

-first breakfast date with me & Daddy

-first time rolling over from your tummy to your back

-first trip to Antigua

-first trip to the US Embassy

-and you became a dual citizen (well, technically not until you set foot on US soil, but we’ll still count it)


Elena, I love being your mom. And can’t wait to watch you grow each month.


With all my love,


20th July
written by Michelle


Months ago I had mentioned to a friend of mine that I really wanted to take newborn photos of our daughter after she was born. But we live in Guatemala and I knew that newborn photos are so not a thing here. Granted it wasn’t really a thing 5 years ago in the US either.

While I was pregnant I had a hard enough time explaining “maternity photos” to a few photographers here that I didn’t even try explaining “newborn photos.” What would I have said, umm…can you take pictures of my baby? I’m going to undress her, lay her in a basket and place a bow three times too big on her head.”

yeah, probably would not have gone over well.

But a dear friend offered to come over and help me try to get some pictures while Elena was still tiny, sleepy and all curled up like newborns should be. So we did a little online research about how non-professionals can get some good newborn shots. For any future moms who want to take their own pictures, this site was particularly helpful! (Thanks,

So, here are some of my favorites of 1 week old Elena:




Little Feet








mama y hija

She is so very loved!

And of course…here are some of the best outtakes- cause it takes a lot of hands, a hairdryer and quite a few shots to get some good ones  :)