Memories of the Windy City

Time – again – has flown by and I have struggled to find quiet time to  write a small entry about this trip with the kids, mid July this year.

The purpose of our 10 day vacation was to visit my in-laws; have the kids spend some equality time with their  grandparents and some of the cousins they almost never see. The plan, also, was to spend the last 5 days in Chicago, a city that I had been to before with my mom and sister, and where my husband used to live for a couple of years.

We mentally prepared for some hot sticky and humid weather; coming from the desert, I was not exactly looking forward to it, but the words trip and vacation made the weather loose priority in my short list of travel inconveniences.

When I found out it might rain a little, I  actually looked forward to it. This California drought has made us change our perspective towards rain.

The only big cities our kids knew before going to Chicago where San Diego and Los Angeles, and L.A. not so much the chaos of downtown, but rather the surrounding areas and of course, the endless stop and go traffic.

So the extremely tough traffic,  the dozens of people honking horns, the endless streams of homeless people walking down the busy streets,  even at the fanciest areas of downtown Chicago, were a bit overwhelming for them at times.

We stayed at a hotel in the middle of everything, right by  Michigan Avenue, so we saw the many stores, restaurants and hotels, museums mixed with this large population of homeless mixed in everywhere, from the subway stations to the doorsteps of Department Stores.

I told them, “this is part of your travelling and learning experience. You need to know how other people live, what problems other cities have , even the challenges that the weather presents for them”.  In our home town we don’t really have “weather”, it is mostly the same year round, except for 3 or 4 months where the heat can reach -and pass- triple digits.  Other than that, it is actually boring weather -and too dry.

To think that traffic, pollution and homelessness gets worse with feet of snow or inches of rain is also something to consider -and maybe even value when we get tired of our Perfectly Sunny California Days.

My daughter was excited about  shopping and about the different stores she saw there – like the Nutella Cafe and the most adorable Candy Store, a big two story shop dedicated entirely to candy.

My son said that one of the things he liked the most about Chicago was the diversity of its people. He said, “I see Asians, Hispanics, African-Americans, people from India, and the middle east, Europeans, etc”

I had meant to make this a trip that was cultural and educational  as much as it was fun and entertaining.

So my husband and I had come up with a list of places we did not want to miss:

The Art Institute of Chicago.  The place is big but safe enough for the family to disperse, so my son went on his own most of the time; I took my daughter to the most interesting and popular exhibits (for a 12 year old). She had asked if there were any paintings by Degas, with Ballerinas in them, so we started the tour at the Impressionism Wing. She took many pictures of the pieces she liked. She had never heard of pointillism, so when she looked at the magnificent masterpiece by Georges Seurat (A Sunday afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette) she stood in awe in front of it, for a full ten minutes – maybe more.  We had arrived early to beat the crowds so we had a lot of room to admire the art from different angles without a rush.

 

Clearly uncomfortable with nude figures still, we breezed through the exhibits of the earlier European Art and the Greek, Roman and Byzantine Art.  Towards the end, we visited the  Modern Art wing, where, no matter how hard I tried to be open and appreciative, I had  a difficult time finding pieces that amazed or moved me.

Trying to appreciate this Modern Art...
Trying to appreciate this piece of Modern Art…
We did find some interesting Modern pieces

 

Millenium Park:  we walked along this park and it’s different sections. The Symphonic was practicing for an evening performance at the Jay Pritzker Pavillion, so we sat for a while to listen. It was strange to see an orchestra playing in jeans and T-shirts, and abruptly interrupt their playing, cutting off short their pieces as the director indicated to restart or skip to another piece that needed polishing.

As my daughter observed the structure of the venue, she said to me “Mom, this place looks a lot like the Walt Disney Symphony Hall in L.A. Maybe the same Architect did it?”  I had to agree , it was exactly the same style and material used. So I quickly googled it and found that , in deed, Frank Gehry had designed both venues.

 

Jay Pritzker Pavillion

I felt proud of her , of the fact that at age 12, she noticed and pointed out  these things.

I realized then, that I was doing the same thing my mom always tried (and accomplished) with us: made travelling both didactic and entertaining.

The Museum of Science and Industry

We hesitated a bit about this visit, because it is not near the city center and the majority of the other attractions, but I am so   glad we went. The place is huge, big enough to be there a full day or even two.  So we had to pick and choose the exhibits that were not appealing the our kids.

There was everything from Climate and Weather,  with a very cool tornado simulator, airplane simulators, exhibits related to the human body:  the development of an embryo into a fetus and finally a baby, as well as other exhibits explaining the benefits of exercising and healthy eating;  optical illusions (mirror maze), Oceans , Coal Mines,   Ships and Train Galleries, it went on and on.

In my opinion, it is a must see for any family with kids in Elementary or Middle School, we left that museum out of tiredness, not lack of interest.

Mirror Maze at the Museum of Science and Industry

 

Chicago Aquarium

We have seen pretty decent Aquariums here in Southern California, but none of them compares to this one. The location is prime, the views of the lake are amazing. The exhibits are so well planned and designed and the live show we watched was an amazing learning experience for all – kids and adults.

This was probably the most crowded site, there are dozens of field trips , we could barely walk at times, so we had to be super patient getting places.

Even though I had already taken the Architectural Tour with  my mom years ago, I took it again and enjoyed it quite a bit. Chicago’s landscape is unique and beautiful and a lot of its buildings carry many years of important history. We saw what once was Marshall Fields, the Stock Exchange, The Wrigley building , the Tribune Tower . The contrast between the old and new is dramatic, yet it pleases the eye. There is nothing better than to see it from the river.  I highly recommend it.

The Merchandise Mart

Chicago was fun, wet, colorful and delicious. I want to believe that the kids are old enough to remember this trip for many years to come and also that it helped them appreciate our weather, drought or not, as well as the many  blessings they have:  having a warm home and a full stomach when they please, after seeing so much misery in some of the streets of the windy city.

Next up: Alaska!!

Summer Break and the Midwest

School ended the first week of June and for the first time since I have kids, there were no summer camps,  babysitting, rushing to find people to help me watch the kids, nothing at all.

Mixed feelings : I loved saving the hundreds of dollars in overpriced camps that desperate parents pay so they can go to work.  I knew our trip to the Midwest would come soon and I wanted to save as much as possible. On the other hand, realizing my kids were old enough to stay home alone and not burn the house down was one more little stone added to my heavy bag of feeling older lately. Liberating and yet it hit reality.

My son says the 2 days a week I leave them home to work are his “favorite days of the week”. He confessed this with a smile trying not to hurt my feelings. He explained those are  his “break” days, where no one makes him eat fruit or eggs and he has total freedom, no questions asked. My daughter truly hates those days. She feels lonely and bored.  Every now and then I pay our 15 year old neighbor to come for a few hours and be with her. They bake together, make things out of clay or play board games.

The World Cup (Soccer) started soon after school ended; I tried watching the games.  This is the real football of Mexico (…and Latin America and Asia and Australia and most of Europe!) so I grew up watching games occasionally with my Dad on TV or with friends at the Stadium.  I know the rules of the game  better than I will ever know or understand American Football or Basketball or Baseball (yawn) and I am no expert. Anyway,  I do not watch Soccer year round, but the World Cup is THE WORLD CUP, so I watched some of the games on the weekends with my husband. I believe he actually enjoyed it :).

Mexico did not make it to the quarter finals, but I felt proud watching the team play as well as the huge fan base cheering loud; I got goosebumps when I heard the crowd loud and clear singing “Cielito Lindo ” live from the Russian Stadium.

On July 13th we left California to visit my In Laws  in the Midwest. We had planned to see Chicago too, since most of them  live within a few hours of driving from there.

It had been a year since our last Family Vacation so some changes were evident:  I had to purchase 2 seats on row 1 of the plane so that my 6’4″ husband and 6″ son could sit comfortably during the 4 hour flight. My daughter and I sat in the back  but it made me think that soon I would probably be sitting by myself in the back …alone? I am 5′ 8″ and I will be the “shorty” one soon.  Kind if strange since I am the tallest of my side of the family.  I swear airlines keep crowding seats together- closer and closer as they are financially more strangled.  I feel like a sardine in a can in there. I already wrote once about the unpleasantries of travelling:  it is very stressful and frustrating.  The only playlist I have downloaded in my phone to have available offline is my New Age and Meditation list.  Because that is what I need to cope with the crying babies or the snoring guy or the non stop talking girl behind me or the movie being played by a toddler on his tablet at full volume with no headphones (is he travelling alone I wonder?)

Another evident change: when renting a car,  we need to make sure it has leg room for all tall people.  So we chose an SUV that was decent, not great,  but decent. With knee caps an inch away from the dashboard, my  husband drove us around for 6 days through the endless cornfields of Illinois.

One more change, our music selection for the ride all week was more scrutinized, criticized and judged by….all of us. My son usually has one ear plugged to his Iphone and the other one open for discussion and listening to us. I told him I wanted him absolutely unplugged. We had several hours of driving ahead of us those days and I wanted him “both ears in”.  So, after pairing my phone to the little Mitsubishi SUV (which my daughter initially called Mistu-bishi  (would this be the end of her  cute grammatical mistakes?), we took turns queuing up songs to listen to.  So we would have something like  Johny Cash, Duran Duran, The Cure, Arianna Grande, Neil Diamond, ABBA, Pet Shop Boys,  John Denver, Eminem,  and just for fun, I would throw in songs from their childhood like the Backyardigans Soundtrack and the awesome song “The Dissapointing Pancake” by Lisa Loeb- which is a silly kids’ song and a metaphor about how we are all good for something, not for everything but we all have our positive side and strong suit.

Again, my google account algorithm tries hard to guess my music taste but every time we have family shuffling it gets very confused. So every now and then I get a notification “Hey! There is a new song by Kanye West you might enjoy!”  And I am thinking – Not really, but thanks for offering.

We first drove first to Gurnee, Illinois, where we visited  a brand new indoor Water Park . The  Great Wolf Lodge. 8 water slides, a lazy river and a wave pool. Fun for all with no sunburn and lots of humidity in the air. At first it felt like I walked into a huge bathroom where someone had just taken a shower , after a while I forgot about it and  went on several slides with my husband and kids and had some fun. There was also a pretty cool ropes course that my daughter went through that made my dizzy just to look at.

Indoor Waterpark

The next day we went to the Chicago Botanic Gardens.   Notes here:

It was so green, my pictures look like I put a filter on them, but I did not.  The place is beautiful and peaceful. There are bikes for rent and a nice bike path, so the grounds and trails can be covered more easily that way. It was raining a bit so we bought overpriced umbrellas at a mall close by  and just walked the beautiful area.

My mom used to love gardens so this place made me think a lot of her. Now that I travel without her, I can’t help but look for the blue familiar sign, the parking spaces, the ramps, the over sized bathroom stalls, and I sometimes find myself taking the ramp instead of the steps. I miss her,  a lot.

Twice I heard bells announcing the time,  a clock tower from a distance on the 30 minute and the 45 minute mark, finding it very odd to hear this at a garden -with no church in sight.  Later we came across a tower with all the bells exposed. It immediately took me back 40 years to my grandparents house in Chihuahua where every 15 minutes it would produce the exact same notes I was  listening to, which I knew by heart.

At the gardens, we attempted to walk a little bit through a dense , lush trail and  I was immediately reminded of 2 things:

1, the Midwest is infested with mosquitoes in the summer and 2, I have a blood type that apparently is irresistibly delicious to mosquitoes. So 2 minutes into the walk in this thick path, and I could hear them by the dozen around my ears and I started feeling the bites on my neck and arms and legs.  It gave me chills it was so bad.  Six mosquito bites later I sprinted away from there and managed to get a couple of good pictures of this intensely green area.

The Mosquito Path (no filter)

After this, we headed to our next destination:  Moline, Illinois.  There we stopped for a night and visited with my brother in law, his wife and 5 children -ages 4 to 12. They treated us to a delicious breakfast that reminded me of how good and proud they all are of making their own bread from scratch.

We had waffles , biscuits with gravy , fresh fruit, and a peach crisp (like a cobbler) that I could not get enough of. Five kids and my sister in law baking from scratch.

Sitting in the passenger seat during this leg of the trip (Chicago > Moline ) made me realize what a huge difference it makes to live in an area where it rains, a lot. Everywhere we looked it was green and thriving. While here in California, any patch of green you spot, means there is irrigation paid by someone. This area of Illinois is beautiful. Flowers bloom and fill every planter you see, trees grow big in different shades of green. And you don’t have to count the seconds while running a faucet or rush through your shower because water is almost a delicacy in California.

Our next stop was Nauvoo, Illinois.  Nauvoo is a small town founded in the early 1800s, after going through several name changes, it was named Nauvoo  in 1840 by Joseph Smith, founder of  Mormonism who lived here before moving to Utah along with his followers.  Despite the very small population of this town, it has great historical importance. And even though the majority of its population today is Catholic, the fact that the founder of the LSD Church lived here and that a beautiful temple was built here attracts many tourists interested in the Latter Saint Day History. Many historic buildings remain open and different guided tours are available that provide an insight on how life was in those early years.

My kids went to a couple of demonstrations on masonry, blacksmiths and rope making.  Very educational and informative!

 

The Mormon temple sits on top of a hill overlooking the Mississippi, it is so grand and majestic, it overshadows the Catholic Church of Sts. Peter and Paul a block away, which is also beautiful but looks tiny next to it.

Nauvoo Temple

 

One of the afternoons we were there, I ventured and dared to take the rented SUV and go to Nauvoo’s main Street on my own (also referred to as “town”). It was a 10 minute drive from my in laws. I needed to walk around, to explore, take pictures, be alone for a while.  Before leaving the house, I marked it on my Cell Phone Map so I would know how to get back.  I knew cell phone reception was a bit spotty there and I did not want to take chances. So I drove through the huge grids of cornfields, where every block is a mile long, the roads are numbered, so 800, 900, 1000  going North to South. And the roads going form East to West also!  1100, 1200, 1300. So yes, a true grid. It reminded me of elementary school graphs and the x and y axis.  All the roads there look exactly the same, the corners? Exactly the same. The barns and silos? Exactly the same. So if you miss a turn, you will never know.

I got to town no problem. Parked my car and took pictures of the temple. Then I found a coffee shop and bakery (The Apron) which I thought would be empty because to my knowledge, Mormons don’t drink coffee, right? Wrong! The place was packed with tourists. I stood in line and took a good look at the delicious pastries, then I spotted an old Coffeemaker machine with an almost empty carafe- its contents probably cold.  It was like an antique piece displayed in a museum, but not proudly displayed, more like forsaken and neglected. I walked up to the cashier who greeted me all bubbly and smiley and  all I could think of was…if I order coffee, every single person in here will know I am not Mormon. It is an actual statement. The mug is the statement. How silly was that?  The truth is, I felt like a fish out of water, I really did.

I ordered my coffee and a  piece of banana bread. The lady looked at the ancient coffeemaker, pitiful as it was and said to me “Of course, I will brew a new pot for you”.

Happy with the WiFi code provided by the same lady, I sat down to check my 24 hour old messages. Ten minutes later she came with a steaming hot cup of coffee and my bread. I sipped it slowly and enjoyed looking around at all the families that were having sandwiches, pies and  shakes. Breakfast for Dinner was featured, so half the people were having Omelettes and Waffles. It was a totally happy place.  The lady came with the carafe and offered to top me off, and I said “Yes, thanks” -thinking…if she doesn’t serve it to me, she will probably end up tossing it away , because who in this town drinks coffee? She asked if I liked it, because it was the first time ever she made coffee– no kidding! It was actually pretty good. I am just still wondering why the place is called a Coffee Shop.

When the sun started setting I immediately got nervous thinking of the 800, 900, 1000 grid with no street lights at night and spotty cell phone coverage. So off I went, back to the house, relying solely on the Google Maps Navigation lady. This lady does not have a clue on which of these roads are paved and which ones are pure gravel, so I drove on 100% gravel roads all the way home with the SUV fishtailing on me. I tried to change roads to get on pavement more than once, but I started loosing track of the grid numbers and I got really nervous, because this is what all the roads look like:

I made it back fine – of course. Took me 25 minutes instead of ten. But it was worth it.

After loosing both my parents in the last couple of years, it was really nice to see my kids spending good quality time with their grandparents as well as their cousins, who they only see every couple of years. I don’t want them to grow up without the sense of belonging, the feeling of being part of a big family that loves them and cares for them. I  don’t want them to feel isolated in California. During this trip in particular I felt sad when it was time to say good bye. I noticed how my father in law specially has gotten slower and more tired, with more aches and pains and I almost didn’t want to leave. The night before we left Nauvoo,  I could not stop crying that night, it was sudden and uncontrollable. It just hit too close to home. My son too was sad, I could hear it in his voice and see it his eyes that refused to shed tears. I suppose it is not “cool” for a 13 year old to cry about it, at least not in front of me.

The morning we left I gave my father in law a hug that was tight and needy, a hug that was asking to be hugged. I was already weeping inside and had a headache that was splitting my head: tears held back, I thought.

 

Grandma making Fudge at her place of work

 

After visiting family, we made our U turn to head back to Chicago, were we planned to stay 4 night. And that, -was a completely different adventure!  To be continued…

 

Too see more pictures of this trip click  here.

 

Links for the curious…

The Dissapointing Pancake Song

https://blacktoprecords.bandcamp.com/track/the-disappointing-pancake

 

The Great Wolf Lodge

https://www.greatwolf.com/illinois

 

Chicago Botanic Garden

https://www.chicagobotanic.org/

 

Nauvoo, Illinois

https://www.beautifulnauvoo.com/

 

 

 

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

Even though I could not call you on Mothers Day as always, to tell you what a wonderful Mother you are and how fortunate I am to be your daughter, I thought about you a lot all throughout the day.

The truth is, I think about you and Dad a good part of my waking hours. There are triggers everywhere I look, in a lot of the things I do, hear, say and listen to, that remind me of the beautiful expression of your face, your laughter, your tears, your wittiness, your motherly scent.  So, Mother’s day wasn’t all that different, it just had a different sentiment.

It has been just over 8 months since you left, and time hasn’t healed much, like the cliché phrase says. The kids miss you, I can tell, specially your granddaughter.  I have found her crying softly at night in bed, after she says her prayers.  Last time it happened, she said, almost angrily that even her grandparents’ house was demolished. “It is terrible”- she cried, saying that she would also miss the park across the street. Sometimes I forget that I am not the only person in this family that suffered a loss.

I have felt more stable  lately, for lack of a better word. During these months that have passed I often go  back in time in my head, re-living all the trips we did together, the long meals we sat for which were more about talking than eating, the excitement of seeing you every time I visited, the sickening heartache and your teary eyes and broken smile every time we parted, and I said goodbye to fly back home.

The lazy hours in bed late at night watching TV when you stroked my hair (on the same spot always, until you almost made a sore spot and I made fun of you) .  I am fortunate to have many moments in time where I can go, and live it all over again.  I don’t want to forget the details, so I find myself drilling down to the silliest details to almost engrave it in my mind like a photo album only for me to keep.

These last months, with Dad’s departure as well, have also changed my perspective of some aspects of life. I try not to focus so much on the children’s grades, but rather the quality of the time I spend with them. I like making them laugh, singing completely off tune and dancing how ever I want while I flip pancakes in the kitchen. That always gets them laughing. Their laughter feeds me, fills me, and I find myself realizing I am making THEIR own photo album for their little minds.

They have both become more affectionate, both with words and physically- maybe because they know I need it, maybe because they see that’s how I am with them their Dad, like a lifestyle.

When I am feeling a bit sad, I try to keep busy, reading, gardening or cooking crazy all in one day, which I later regret feeling too tired.  The house work alone is enough to keep me busy, but I always find something else more fun to do, rather than do laundry.

Everyone at home has been so patient and flexible with me, with my swinging moods, with my spontaneous crying or super bad temper. This helps quite a bit. I don’t feel guilty, I feel understood.

I have also tried to focus more on doing things instead of buying things, and by this I mean going out more, on hikes, on walks, on short trips, to create precious memories while we still can.  You taught me the great value in traveling, so I am trying to instill the same in my kids. To see it as education, as a life investment and not as an expense.

There was a list of things I wanted to buy or add to the house, and that list is slowing fading and loosing hierarchy in my mind. If find it liberating.

My health hasn’t been all that great, I feel like have aged 10 years in the last 3, which is also a reason why I am more encouraged to live now as best as I can, instead of planning so much for when this or that happens.

Time really is going by so fast; I feel like I am already losing the kids, a little bit every day, as they get older, they get a step farther away towards their own independence. Like sand falling through my fingers no matter how tight I hold my fist. And it hurts!  It hurts a bit to remember when they were toddlers and asked for my hand for support to walk. When they needed help to eat, when I read them a 10 page book at night before tucking them in, whereas now, I knock on their doors before entering their rooms and often find myself fearing they will say “no, thanks” when I offer help with silly things.

As I think of this, I think about how it must’ve hurt to see all your 3 children leave not only the house, but our hometown. One by one, we all left Monterrey.  And still, you always had a smile on your face for us and supporting cold-head to be on board with whatever plan we presented to you.

Last weekend I went to mass and saw all the families together celebrating Mother’s Day, and I imagined the brunches they must have had. Grandmas, Moms and daughters, nieces, uncles and aunts. Big, loving family feasts which I have always missed so much.

And I felt pain and guilt, and I thought:  Why didn’t we give you and Dad your last 20 years of life with Sunday Family gatherings? With Mothers’ Day luncheons, with Grandma and Grandpa recitals at school? With celebrations of each one of your grandkids graduations, 1st communions, promotions?

Instead, you spent them mostly alone, Sundays alone, eating meals alone with no kids or grand kids close enough to visit often. And with your physical limitations, not so much freedom to travel and come see us.

Yes, it’s the expected cycle of life for most families, but the “what ifs” inundate my mind as I try to imagine how life would have been for you if we had all stayed and lived in the same city.  Well, the “what ifs” can be a waste of time. What does comfort me is to know that my two siblings and I are happily married to 3 amazing persons who -in their own time and in their own way- learned to love and admire you almost as much as we did.

It comforts me to know that both of you left this world knowing how happy and grateful we are, how we carried into our own families the values you taught us; it comforts me to know we made you proud. Also, that you met every single one of your grandchildren and from a distance and through many precious visits, watched them grow as well.

I spent Mother’s Day feeling very special and pampered too. We went out for dinner the night before and then Brunch on Sunday. The kids gave me a hand made card each and I got a present as well: another lens for my camera to take close up pictures.

Wherever you are Mom, I know you are watching over us, I know we connect every time I think of you and ask for your guidance on motherly matters; when I am desperate for patience and wisdom, so I can instill discipline and respect in my children.

I hope I will keep making you and Dad proud as I mature into other stages of my life, not only as a Mom but as a sensible woman.

I love you Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

September 2015.

 

A new type of hug and…News for comfort.

After realizing  I lost at least 2 post drafts I had in my old computer  I am trying to gather some of the most relevant thoughts from the last 2 months.

I did not really feel a winter pass us by (just like last year and the year before)- actually is there such thing as a winter in this part of California? I would say, certainly not.

Once again, my winter coats did one thing:  collect more dust. I might even take them to the cleaners, with last year’s tag still on them!  My consolation is…SPRING!

Spring fills the air with the scent of orange blossoms for several months.  Our grapefruit trees and all the orchards around us have endless rows of trees, loaded with oranges and grapefruit.  The weather is extremely pleasant – despite an occasional heat wave.  Taking our small dog -Cinder- on walks is actually enjoyable and -on some days- something I look forward to .

The school year end is fast approaching. The realization that our youngest child is already in Middle School is just sinking in, and before we know it summer will be here.

My body feels like it has aged 20 years in the last 5, really. But my health is not going to be the focus of this post, so I will just say that with that accelerated ageing feeling, also came more conversations about drugs, vaping, sex, etc with both the kids and it just added up to feeling 60 sometimes.

Certain days, I believe the kids do enjoy being with us, being home or out dining, or on a trip, but some others I see and feel the beginning of the phase in which  they’d rather be alone or with friends or wherever except home.  So I am doing as much as I can to enjoy those days when they are mentally and physically with us. A couple of years ago, I was obsessed with getting rid of every single stuffed animal in the house due to the dust and allergens they carry. Today, I find myself smiling and getting a fuzzy feeling in my heart when I see them in the kids’ rooms. Just half a dozen or so that survived the most brutal spring cleaning during 2017.  Once a week I have a sleepover  with my daughter and her favorite one is always in her arms – Maggie-.  A bunny that I don’t believe will ever leave the house. Even though those nights I wake up with a sore back or kinked neck for not sleeping in my own bed, I enjoy her company , reading and chatting with her, and laughing at the zillion silly faces she makes when she talks, and one of the last thoughts in my head is usually “how many more sleepovers will we have?”.

My son will not let me anywhere near his territory at night. His bed is like his personal haven. Blankets included. So I take whatever I can get:  a hug, a barely brushed kiss, an “I love you mom, can you leave now?”. I save it all in my head and my heart and keep it there , safe, so I can remember it in those moments when they are not with me, or when they are making me so mad, it calms me down to remember how tender they can be. And helps me remember  they do love me.  Even when they are rude and testy.:it is all part of the Hormone package- that is what I tell my self.

My son is 6 ft. tall now, and he is only 13. So I have also had to get used to the idea of look  up at him, as I ask him what he wants for breakfast , or as I yell at him for not picking his messes up, or – to hug him. A new type of hug has officially started: the arm position has been swapped:  he hugs my shoulders and back, I hug his chest and waist.  Just like I do with my husband, except this is my little boy we are talking about.  My little boy with brand new pimples every week or so, with a voice deeper than his Dad’s. With hairy legs and a goofy demeanor.   Such a bag of mixed feelings and attitudes, this early teen age.

The electronics crisis continues, not only within our family, but in every other family I know. Devices, with their ever changing sleek designs and alluring apps for social media and games of every imaginable type, keep numbing our children’s brains and totally absorbing their attention, which is already a challenge to get.  Time goes by  with the speed of light when it comes to sitting down and watching You Tube videos, playing games or posting the most irrelevant, random or hilarious  comments or photos on social media.  I myself, am having a hard time grasping the speed and magnitude of this digital era.

I recently went to watch a play in Mexico City called PRIVACIDAD. The original production is English, by James Graham (Privacy, 2014).

The point of this audience-interactive production is to raise awareness about the lack of privacy in this day and age, specifically attributed to the use of social media and texting, online shopping, etc  I totally got it and agreed with it’s lesson: be careful with what you share.  But I really doubt that the younger generations ( not to mention really young kids I see in strollers already using Ipads and smartphones) will get for a while.

The whole scandal with Facebook is part of the point that is presented in this play: what we are, what we like,  what we know and who we know is all data,  and for someone out there it is worth millions of dollars.   But I guess some bad things -or inconveniences- need to happen before regulations get tighter and we , as users of social media,  get more knowledgeable  with our digital behavior.

This country seems to be going through a complex political mess;  so more reasons for me not to listen to the news. And when I do turn on the radio during my commute to work, it really sounds like a looping recording where I think “didn’t I hear that last week? or last month?” ; not only that, but the international news are just as depressing as always.  The sad part is, sometimes those news are what puts my own chaos in perspective:  I am in a crisis worrying about college, and taxes, and retirement savings, and then I listen to interviews where  mothers crying in Syria wondering if they will make it one more night and it they can keep they kids safe.

But I don’t have to go very far to feel sympathy for the younger ones. The controversial DACA program going under a revision where parties can’t seem to agree on, is also causing great anxiety among these young adults and their parents as well.  (By the way, I applaud the producers/writers of Grey’s Anatomy for  featuring this difficult subject in the most recent episode of this medical drama).

Anywhere we look there is a lot of trouble and challenges that (should) make us appreciate that our path and our current situation maybe aren’t so bad.

To end my post today, I have to say that I miss my Mom and Dad tremendously. There is not a single day that goes by when they are not in my thoughts. The simplest thing will trigger a memory, or a photo, or a word or even the sound of my own voice.

And I have to admit, the older I get, the more I feel like I am adopting my Dad’s ways:

  • I now keep a flashlight in my bedside table (he kept about 4 for reasons unknown, as of today, I only have one).  I also keep sleeping pills there, just like him.
  • I  have a long wood back-scratcher that was actually his.
  • I have acquired a likeness for gardening  and have become very proud of some of my plants/trees.  My Dad was in love with his fruit trees and actually sent us photos of him next to his trees loaded with fruit- a bit too much at times, like 3 photos of the same tree, one standing, one sitting, one  holding a lime.  LOL
  • I am SO loud on the phone, even I get annoyed. Just like him.  I shout.
  • I hug and kiss my kids a bit too much, the older I get the needier I seem :/

But I actually accept these things and find some of them funny , others not so much…

So with the true resolution of trying  not to be so loud on the phone and mushy with my kids, I wish you all a happy Sunday, a happy spring.   I am looking forward to some more cleaning- all Teddy bears aside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like birds flying in a V

As the Holiday season ends and the kids’ School resumes, my life slowly but surely goes back to its routine that –although sometimes I complain about- gives me some emotional stability which, right now, I really need.

As part of the Christmas common things to do in our house, my daughter and I watched a dozen or so Hallmark movies about Christmas: family, the appreciation of life and traditions. Even though these movies frequently fall into the “cheesy” category for me, I have to agree that most of them (not all!) have left me a small lesson, a warm cozy feeling, a yearning to do some good and mostly to appreciate all I have- which is a lot.

Also, I baked a dozen and a half batches of Maple Walnut Blondies. Yes, it is non-stop work in the kitchen, but the sweet homey scent that fills our home for 2 or 3 weeks and the time spent with my little assistant is something I actually look forward to. Not to mention to share them with our friends and seeing the smile on their faces as they open their box and smell the maple.

On December 18th I put away all the ingredients I usually keep out handy during baking season; I replaced the small bottle of Maple extract last- closed the door of the cupboard and thought “I am not taking this little bottle out for another year…who knows that 2018 will bring!”  Last time I used it, my father had passed just weeks before , and it would’ve been hard to believe if someone told me then ,that the next time I would bake blondies my Mom would be gone too .

We might not have many traditions in our family, but baking is definitely one of them, and I will keep doing it while I can.

The Holidays were hard, but not hard as in super depressing with constant crying, but more like melancholic, numb, lacking.  We spent Christmas together, my siblings and I with each of our families. It was the very first Christmas with only two generations at the table. Us and our kids, that is all.  It felt strange, as if we were waiting for someone to arrive and they never did. But I know our Mom and Dad where present in their own way, feeling so very happy to see we are together, the three of us, in heart and soul.

After Christmas my brother and his family flew back with us and spent 10 days here at our home in California. That gave me immense comfort; it was like a continuation of the festive season with family members so dear and close to my heart. It was hard to feel lonely, our house had 5 kids and 4 adults and our puppy. I loved every minute of it.  Being away from my hometown – and my husband’s as well- is hard.  Especially for the kids. Weekends and holidays it is always only the 4 of us, so having the extended family so close and feeling that sense of belonging is a gift.

The kids are 12 (almost 13) and 11 now so my husband and I have started to go out on short dates without hiring a sitter. They are still getting used to it…and me too.  We recently went to watch a Movie (The Shape of Water). Despite of the fact that is has been nominated for half a dozen things, I have to say it is not my cup of tea.  When I go to the movies, I prefer not to be reminded about the brutality and perversity of human nature.  I can turn on the news for that. But I applaud the creative way in which the director presents symbolisms of what we are, what moves us, what fulfills our most inner self, through the use of his “monsters”.  Just the next day, I was pumping gas, standing next to my car as a flock of birds passed over me lined up in a perfect V. As the leader slightly moved and turned the rest followed like a perfect choreography.  And I wondered, how come we cannot all drive on the freeways like that? With synchronicity and common sense.   Why are there crashes every single day and people injured or dead? I smiled to myself as minutes later I embarked on one more commute to San Diego, thinking….Well, birds fly and focus on their flight. They don’t change radio stations or text or call people while they drive, and specially, THEY DON’T DRINK!

This was just another reminder of how wild life is often more civilized than humans.

2018 is just starting and although I do not believe in resolutions I unconsciously have been more determined about being in touch with people I love and care for, here in town or far away, it doesn’t matter.

Like I have mentioned in my blog before, I totally disapprove of the way technology was messed with (if not ruined) the way in which we reach out and communicate with our loved ones.  Happy Birthday wishes, congratulations for a new born baby, a graduation,  Get Well wishes, and unbelievably , sympathy over the loss of a loved one, are often reduced to a Facebook public line, (or even worse a thumbs up on someone else’s line) or a Whatssapp message. I find it pretty sad for our little ones that already think it is awkward to make a phone call so say hello to someone.

I have made more calls in the past 2 months or so, than I have made in years to people I care for, or I rarely see. In two cases, the recipients of my calls have said to me “You made my day with your call”. If that is not motivation to reach out, I don’t know what is.

We need to teach our kids verbal skills! It is ridiculous what the lack of human touch or conversation has done. So that I guess is one of the things I am working on.

Once I read or heard a line that said “When you are gone, what will people remember of you? That did they learn form you?”  How true that is. Now that both my parents are gone, the most valuable things I have kept and cherish everyday are the lessons they taught me, the advice, their laughter, their discipline and most of all, their affection.

How important it is to show people how we feel while they are alive. Giving a compliment has turned into something less common nowadays. I guess we are all too busy to notice the good?

My Dad still has 3 brothers and 2 sisters that live today and I have enjoyed their company during this Christmas break, I feel a little bit of my Dad through them.  I intend to be in touch with them as well.

Being close to family is something my kids observe, learn from and get used to.  If not teaching by example, then how?  There are things in life that no book or classroom will ever deliver.  Last night my daughter was praying and she said “Jesus, help me be my brother’s best friend one day”. They are fighting a lot lately, mostly due to their age, but deep down they love each other and to hear this prayer come out of her mouth really moved me.

2016 and 2017 will be always years that I won’t forget. They hit me hard but they also made me stronger and showed me that I don’t crumble so easy , which is great news J.

 

2018…  I intend to  blog more often!  That too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Memory of my Mother- The Gift of Time.

When do I write?

When she is still so fresh in my mind? When it still hurts so deeply to remember her smile, her laugh, her touch?

Or when the pain subsides a little bit and I won’t cry a river with every sentence that reminds me of her?

I am afraid, I have been afraid of writing this very blog entry for months; when I knew my mother’s health has deteriorating faster as the months passed by.  For the past two years she had been the biggest fan of my blog. She not only read every single piece, but commented, congratulated me and passed the link on to dozens of friends and relatives who would otherwise never had read me.

Today I feel like I am writing to a silent audience, writing a blog entry that will lack my mom’s watchful eye and appreciation. But I want to believe that she can hear my inner voice and almost listen to my words as I type them.

On September 16th 2017, my mother Olga Victoria Lozano passed away. One month ago, today.

For those of you reading this blog for the first time, I will say this much. My mother had a stroke at age 27.  She was married to my father and had 3 children, all under age 5, me being the middle one.

After a very pessimistic diagnose and almost dying, she proved how strong willed she was, and took on her paralysis and all the limitations that came with the stroke, with her head held up high and a dignified and optimistic attitude towards life that became my motivation and still is, even now that she has left this world.

For years she did physical therapy, speech therapy and went through at least half a dozen surgeries. She regained strength on her right side.  Her left side never recovered and she was never again able to move her left arm or leg.

Many health problems surfaced during the 43 years that followed. She was bound to a wheelchair and her sedentary lifestyle lead to more complications.

After several years of having problems with kidney stones, these became more serious during the last 3:  kidney infections, severe pain, stones blocking the flow, etc.

On the morning of  September 15th, she was undergoing a laser procedure to dissolve several kidney stones. At that time, I was visiting Portland, Oregon on an anniversary trip with my husband.

My brother, the youngest of us 3 was there with her; he was supposed to call me and my sister letting us know how it all went, once she was in the recovery room.

But 3 hours after my mom had gone into the OR, I still had not heard from him and I knew something had not gone well.

He finally called and told me there had been complications and my mom was not well. It was serious.

All I could imagine was my mom laying in a hospital bed, fading, and me, thousands of miles away, as was my sister, who was also travelling.  I was so desperate and broken up inside in small tiny pieces. My husband and I managed to cancel all that we had booked and flew back home that same afternoon.

We got home on the 15th at night, and explained to our kids why we were back so early. They were both worried about their grandma.  During the flight I had recorded a voice message for my brother to play for my mom. I wanted her to hear my voice, even if she was sedated.   And he did play it, 3 times he later said. In it, I told her I was on my way to be with her, and take care of her.

The next day, on the 16th, I took a direct flight to Chihuahua. I was picked up and transferred to the hospital immediately. Upon my arrival, my brother, surrounded then by family and friends, pulled me aside to a private room and told me so tenderly and lovingly that we needed to remember that my mother had always instructed us to never ever authorize any form of artificial life support on her, such as a tracheotomy, feeding tubes, etc.  I did not understand why he was telling me this.  My mom was still breathing and her heart was beating, so why this seriousness?

I asked him directly between sobs “Isn’t she going to make it?”  He shook his head and calmly said “No”.

I wanted to scream and run somewhere, but all I did was cried as loud I have ever cried in my life. And he held me and I could tell seeing me like that was hurting him. He had known my mom’s condition for the last 24 hrs. but had not wanted to tell me over the phone, so he had some time to process the facts and prepare.

I didn’t. I felt like it was all a dream and I was only half awake.  I couldn’t stop shaking and I was having a hard time breathing. A lady from the staff came in told us we could go in to see her.

I walked in her little room with my brother, feeling with every step so much pain and desperation I thought I wouldn’t make it to her bed. Then I saw her; I couldn’t believe only 2 months before I had visited her, on the same stupid hospital, and said goodbye to her with a big smile and warm hug, assuming we would see each other in October- when she had planned to visit me.

She laid there, aided by a respirator, monitors and IVs all over, sedated, pale. I immediately laid right next to her and hugged her tight. And sobbed, cried so much I felt bad to bring so much sadness and pain to her. But how could I to bring strength with me if I was supposed to say a last good bye to my mother? To the woman I have loved the most in my life? To the woman who gave me life and had adored me unconditionally for 46 years. Who taught me life lessons like no one ever had?  I could not say good bye to her. I wanted to feel her warm hand stroke my head like she used to do.  Hear her low soft voice. I wanted to breathe her motherly scent and fill my lungs with it. And all I could smell was the horrible bleached gowns and bed sheets. My brother broke down as well, just looking at the sad picture, looking at his sister completely falling apart and losing all reason and strength.

I talked to my mother then, I said thank you to her, for all she had been, for all she gave us, for being so generous during her life.  I told her to fly away to all those cities she dreamed of visiting, to be free at last. Free of her crippled body, of her damned wheelchairs.  I told her everything would be alright.  I saw the tiniest movement in one of her eyelids.

My brother stood there next to the bed, and helped me wrap my mom’s arms around me, as if she was hugging me, because I needed one last motherly hug.  I don’t know if 10 or 15 minutes passed, but I heard a nurse come in and my brother asked her if her heartbeat was  slowing fading. I don’t remember her answering. She just adjusted the monitors and muted them, and quietly left the room.

My brother then told me “She is leaving now”. I panicked at the thought of not feeling her warmth any more.  I stood up and kissed her feet, her hands, her head, as much as I could. My brother then laid next to her and sobbed and hugged her.

I kept holding her hands, being as close as I could to her. I felt her forehead getting colder, then her neck, then her hands and I felt as though the life in me was draining as well.

This was not supposed to be!  She was already planning to come visit me in California in 2 weeks. We were going to spend Christmas with her in only 3 months. I had just ordered her some sandals online for her.  This was all wrong.

But there she was, peacefully lying there, letting go of this life, letting go of her tired and sick body that for so many years kept her from being the free spirit and the adventurous soul she always was. I want to believe she had been waiting for me, just to give me the precious gift of some minutes with her, still warm, heart still beating and listening to my voice one last time. A gift of time, that’s what she gave me.

My brother left the room and gave me some more time with her. I kept trying to find warm spots on her body. I wrapped my hands around her back and found that it was still very warm.

I leaned in and hugged her, feeling her warm back, and cried softly, finding it impossible to let go.

The same lady that had led us in came again and took my shoulders. She pulled me back; as I refused, I begged for more time. She gently said,  “You will never be ready, you need to let her go”. She hugged me tight and let me cry all over again.

Breaking the horrible news to my sister -who was desperate, flying back home from Europe- was extremely hard too. I refused to lie to her the dozen times she called or texted asking how she was, so I decided to tell her the truth. I have never heard her cry as that morning. It broke my heart to be the  bearer of the bad news, but we are very, very close and I felt I was the one who should.

September 16, 2017 has been, as of today, the saddest day of my life. When my father died, it was hard yes, because it was sudden, totally unexpected, a heart attack. Just like that.

The painful part was getting used to the idea, processing the absence and accepting it.  But there was no painful goodbye. No horrible hospital experience (for me anyway) with total strangers among you in your worst moments.

It has been a month now, and I am afraid of thinking too much of her. Of smelling her perfume -Boucheron-on someone else.  Of looking at her pictures for too long, because it hurts.

In my head I have plans of dedicating one of the walls in our home to pictures of my Mom, my Dad, and my siblings, and yet, I can’t find myself ready to get started.

When I think of those days where I had to take anti-anxiety pills during the day and sleeping pills at night, I think of my close friends that have lost a husband or even worse, a child, and can’t even imagine how they do it.

“Time heals” they say- I sure hope it does.

Just some days before my trip to Portland, I had started to read a book that my mother gave me: Dying to be me, by Anita Moorjani. She never read it, but had given me and my sister a copy each.

The book is written by a woman who had a Near Death Experience. What she felt, what she saw, what she heard. How she decided to give life a second chance in her cancer-invaded body, turn it into a healthy one and share her experience with the world.

Even though I am not done reading it, the book has helped me tremendously; not only with the comforting concept of the peace, love and liberation that comes as you leave your body, but it has encouraged me to be in a good, stable and almost happy state of mind when I think of my mother, because I believe she can sense it, feel it, and I do not want her to see me in a state of depression or deep sadness.

Now that my mother is gone, I feel a sense of responsibility as a mother, to fight as hard as she did, to enjoy life every day as much as she did, regardless of any circumstance. Responsibility as a mother to pass on these values to my own children. To be humble and charitable, as she was. To focus on the Yes, instead of the No. To be strong and yet to cry when I need to.  To mind my own business; to be careful when stating opinions or giving advice.

My Mom and Dad are together now, and I know it will give them peace to see us – my siblings and I- happy, very happy with our lives, our spouses, our children.

The gift of time is what we all have today, time to live, to appreciate, to give, to love, but specially to share it with others. Sharing our time is in a way sharing our life. In this hurried world and even more hurried lifestyles one would think time is is sometimes unattainable.

I know that even though their absence will always hurt, time will help me remember my parents with a smile on my face, with pride, with a lot of love.

Guera and Chofin, rest in peace forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Family Vacation – From Kids Meals to steaks among waves of nostalgia.

After several months of planning our much needed summer vacation, the day finally came.

On June 11th at 1 am our plane departed from Tijuana to Cancun. A red-eye, non-stop flight that I had mentally prepared myself and the kids for. And I say mentally because I am a very light sleeper.  So the idea of sitting on the middle seat (I was the buffer between the kids to avoid any possibility of a fight), with the  miserable 2 inch recline that the tight rows allow in planes these days for 4 hours, was discouraging to say the least.

I am sure many will agree that the worst part of traveling is the one to two hour wait at the airport, the annoying security lines, and especially those 20 minutes while you have taken your seat, but others are still trying to figure out where they are going, or placing their bags in the overhead compartment with their butt on your face, or fighting with the flight attendant because their seat number is duplicated.  Or having to unbuckle your seat and get out and start over because the guy on the window seat was late.  To make it worse, usually the A/C is not on while boarding so all kinds of human scents and sounds float in the air. By then you either start to regret ever considering the trip or you close your eyes, stick your earbuds in and pretend you are there all alone.

I can be a little bit of a Germophobic so I feel truly grossed out in planes and airports sometimes.  I was going to include swimming pools too (yuk) but I was headed to Cancun! I had to take the Germophobia out of my mind!

Needless to say, I got no sleep at all.  But the flight was very smooth and felt short. Four hours later we landed at the Cancun Airport, groggy, with our backs aching and terrible morning breath: mints can’t do miracles! It was only 8 am.

Being closer to 50 years old than to 40 now, and accepting the hard cold truth that my body doesn’t look that young anymore, I had packed a one piece swimming suit so I wouldn’t have to worry about sticking my stomach in, while inhaling and then forgetting to breathe, so my tummy would look flatter. To hell with it! I thought. One piece suits are probably not the coolest item to wear, but I preferred breathing.  A bikini made it to my suitcase “just in case” I dared, or just in case the humidity and heat made wearing the one piece feel like a sausage casing.

After arriving at the hotel, we had an exquisite breakfast, buffet style. The kids were amazed with a real honey comb that was displayed to provide the Honey, no jars.  I told the kids “you won’t see this very often in the US , do you?”. My Mexican pride started to kick in. Honey Comb @ Breakfast Buffet

I was amazed myself just by the beauty, color and sweetness of the fruit, the sweet breads and the freshly made Mexican brunch items, such as tamales, sopes and chilaquiles.  I inquired to a waiter about the sweet breads containing nuts: my son is severely allergic. Ten minutes later a (very) short man with a tall white chef’s hat came out and introduced himself as Felix, the pastry chef. His forehead was covered in beads of sweat, which was a beautiful indicator that he spend his time mixing, kneading, decorating and filling pastries and a sad indicator that the kitchen where he probably had been since 4 am  was very hot. Still, he had a smile on his face as he walked me and my son (a whole foot taller than him) through the pastry table and pointed out which breads to stay away from. I thanked him and walked back to my table with Felix’s smile now on my face. It was contagious.

I think the idea of a whole week without cooking or doing dishes also had something to do with my early morning smile.

My husband and I commented on how service in Mexico, especially in the Hospitality Industry is so much warmer and accommodating than in the US. How servers will NOT bring you the check unless you ask for it. How they will serve with an attitude that makes you feel welcome and important. How they go the extra mile to get you what you want even if it means combining 3 dishes into one, because your ridiculous diet requires it.  This is not always the case – of course; rude waiters can be found across borders and beyond, but generally speaking, the way salaries and tips are managed in Mexico, encourages the Industry employees to earn their monetary rewards, call it bonuses, tips, gratuities with more enthusiasm.

I believe that is why Mexico if one of the top destinations for travelers across the world. Not just the beauty of our country, but the warmth and friendliness of the hospitality services play a huge factor as well.

After breakfast we toured the hotel for a short while. It was very noticeable that 90% of the guests were from the US or Europe.

The School year in Mexico was not over yet, so most Mexicans start travelling later in June.

I am not going to say anything rude here. I will just say I saw enough women of all ages and sizes with such confidence carrying their bodies around in tight swim suits, with a self-assurance that many women would be happy to have a fraction of.  So I went wild and dug my bikini out of my suit case on day 1!

At home we don’t own a pool and our neighborhood doesn’t have a community pool either, so the kids were really enjoying the huge pool at the hotel. I enjoyed watching them play just as much as they did swimming.

After a while a server came carrying around Ice cream bars in a variety of flavors, these were the authentic Mexican “Paletas Heladas”, ice cream bars in the US.  My mouth watered just looking at the tray. I quickly picked a Coconut one and enjoyed every bite so much, I almost went to grab another. When I reached out for my wallet the guy said, “They are complimentary”. I thought…What? Free ? In Cancun? Can I have three?

But I didn’t.   I am on “sugar control mode. After lunch another guy came with Fruit kabobs, delicious, fresh and chilled, also complimentary.   These are the small details that make a difference from one hotel to another.  This was at the Coral Beach Hotel.

Evening at the Coral Beach

Next morning, I went to the gym, I needed a good workout if I wanted to continue wearing the one bikini I had, and eating all the delicious things I knew I would eat that week.  So I got up early, quietly got dressed, and exercised for a good hour. Afterward, I went to wash up to the ladies locker rooms at the gym and as I was leaving, I discovered that inside the Gym there was a full complementary bar of fruit, juices, whole grain (disguised as healthy) pastries and….COFFEE!!!!!!  Seriously? I just worked my butt off on the stationary bike and now this?

Delicious Mexican Coffee, fruit and baked goodies at the gym

But again, I behaved and just had a tall glass of Green Juice, lots of good strong Mexican coffee and lots of water.

That afternoon we moved to the hotel where we would stay for the next 5 nights. We purchased a Time Share about 5 years ago (despite all the warnings from friends and family of not getting even close to a Time Share sales person) . We chose Cancun as the Home location. It is a nice Property that is just under 10 years old and is very well located.

The next day we spent it all at our hotel just relaxing and swimming both at the pool and at the beach.

The color of the Caribbean Sea seemed to lure you in. A turquoise color than no paint can match. The water was crystal clear and with the perfect temperature to be cool and refreshing and warm at the same time.

 

Beach at the Westin Lagunamar
Cancun Beach

I mostly relaxed and read a book I started the same day our trip started. (1)

Reading became a bit of a challenge because I was distracted by all the things around me, so close:  I observed all the young American teenagers still traveling with their parents, especially girls, with bikinis that left absolutely nothing to the imagination. It made me wonder, is that bikini too small because it is from last summer and the girl doesn’t realize it doesn’t fit anymore? Or is it that uncool to have your whole butt covered these days? Or…do they sell the fabric by the square inch and that’s all she could afford?

My husband even commented one day and said, please don’t ever let our daughter wear a bikini like that, ok?

Our daughter -11- was wearing a cute blue one piece swim suit with silver pineapples all over. If this wasn’t girly enough, it had one little bow on each side. I wondered, how long until she stops wearing these cute one piece suits and wants to wear those “other ones”. I could perfectly visualize me and her, arguing about swimming suites in the years to come. :/

Well, I did feel old that day. Old and conservative look a school librarian.

Older women were included in this “daring” group too. I also wondered if there was a Who has the biggest boobs contest somewhere. I have nothing against big ones, but there is a point where it all falls into the grotesque category-in my opinion. My kids were not blind to all this. My son gave me looks now and then and couldn’t help but smile or giggle.  They really got to see it all: G strings, girls (European I guess) with no tops, teenagers with tiny triangles they call bikinis, gay guys hugging each other at the pool. No inhibitions whatsoever. And I am fine with that.

They need to learn that there is more than their hometown out there, and more than the US in this world. Other cultures, tastes and likes. Deal with it and respect it.

Other cute little kids, American too, would walk along with their parents by the pool to the Towel Booths and show off their little bit of Spanish they  knew to the Mexican pool staff.

– “How many towels? “

-“Treis porfavor”.  The proud mom would encourage their girl to say… I loved it.

I have personally met people that don’t seem to feel the need to get out of the US to see other beaches, try other food, learn another language and see how others live. I will never understand it, never.  So to see American families travel to another country with little children, where a different language is spoken and a different currency is needed puts a smile on my face. It is educational to say the least. Too bad some people don’t see it this way.

There was a DJ at the pool most of the day, so that made reading a bit hard as well. The entertainment Staff was always trying to accommodate the interests and likes of the crowd, so they played mostly music in English and played trivia games that were geared 100% to Americans.

One afternoon, I guess the DJ got tired of Pop Music (as was I) and started playing Latin music.

It made me want to dance, and I realized I didn’t remember the last time I went dancing. L

The hit song Despacito (Luis Fonsi) started playing and I thought it was almost comical that absolutely no one reacted. No one moved to the beat of the song, no one danced or even mouthed the words.

Clearly they had no idea what the song was. The discouraged DJ let the song end and went back to Katy Perry and Justin Beiber to which at least a dozen teenagers where singing nearby.

During the week we visited 2 ecological parks.  One of them, Xplor and Xcaret.

Xplor is for the adventurous. It has more Zip lines than I could count, there is also underground rivers that you can swim in and Amphibian buggies you can drive on paths that go through caves, slushy muddy waters and a dried-out jungle. The Zip lines were a lot of fun, but my favorite part was swimming in those cold rivers through caves with beautiful stalactites. It is mostly in the dark that you swim, so the experience was very new and a bit scary for the kids.  The depth was between 6.5  and  7 feet, so while everyone was swimming, my husband was walking J. And the kids decided to tag along, holding on to his life preserving vest, they looked like a train going along the river.

Zip lines @ Xplor
Underground rivers @ Xplor

 

A buffet lunch was included in the admission, and honestly I did not expect much. When the word buffet is in the sentence, it has an immediate sense of downgrade for me. But I was very pleasantly surprised.  The facility that served lunch for the adventurous that extremely large.  It had plenty of food for the hundreds of hungry zipliners and it was organized in a way that you could avoid crowds and lines.

The seating –on the other hand- was designed for you to eat fast and leave, allowing for quick table rotation: picnic style seating, it also felt like a German Beer-fest.

They had everything from Hamburgers and hotdogs for tourists who refused to try anything else, to Mexican traditional dishes, and lots, lots of seafood.

Lunch Buffet @ Xplor

I loved that everything in this park screams NATURE COMES FIRST. The buildings and structures are built around the trees, as opposed to chopping down trees to build. This tree caught my attention, it was right in the center of the restroom area, but it was intact.

Building around nature @ Xplor

No one chickened out and no one got hurt, so that day was fun and successful. Except for the part where I left my son in charge of a bag with gifts I had just purchased while I took my daughter to shower. When I came back, he was on his phone playing and the bag was gone. I was furious to put it mildly. Again, I was disappointed at the human race. Why would someone just take something that is not theirs?  UUGGHH!!

The next day we went to Xcaret. This ecological park offers a variety of animal exhibits (Aviary, Butterfly pavilion and an Aquarium) but also portrays the Mayan Culture in different exhibits and shows.

There are swimming and snorkeling areas, and hammocks too if you just want to relax.

There is a Mayan Cemetery, built in a spiral form with 365 tombs, 7 levels and 52 steps to go up and down (all elements of a Calendar).

The food, which you could choose from 6 or 7 restaurants, was –again- very good. Since no one in my home eats seafood (my son occasionally), I ate a lot of seafood that week.

These 2 parks were in the Riviera Maya, not in Cancun, so we had to rent a small car to get there both times. Several years ago in Cancun, I got pulled over by a cop and got a speeding ticket. So this time I was very careful to avoid one.

I drove all the way to the parks (about 70 miles) and back at the allowed speed limit. And I swear, I was the slowest car in the Yucatan Peninsula. I felt ridiculous and everyone gave me a look, and maybe not the finger because there were kids in the car, but seriously!  The speed limit was ridiculously slow. Anyway, mission accomplished: I got us to the parks and back, twice, with no ticket.  If I was going to get a ticket, it could have been for going so slow.

The nights were a bit slowed because the heat, the sun and the parks made us very tired.

When we packed for this trip, I asked (almost demanded) that the kids brought a book they liked. So on a couple of occasions, after dinner, the four of us would lay in bed and just read. No phones, no TV, just read. We call it Book Club time. I was in disbelief, in a good way.

One night we went out to a superb steak house called Cambalache. It was the one time we all got dressed up and wore something other than flip flops. Everything was excellent, the place is new. The Architecture and décor were very chic and modern. The service, as usual, extraordinary. And the steaks, oh my…

This was not a “kids meal” type of place, so my daughter, who absolutely loves steak (like her Dad) had some of his Rib eye. I had salmon, “from Norway” the server had said. I don’t know much about fish but I will say this.  Salmon from Norway and Salmon from Alaska are almost like different species. It was the best salmon I have ever had, period. My son, who thinks chewing meat is too much work, had pasta. This year we have mostly said goodbye to the kids menu and watched our children grow with the increasing appetites of the pre-teen years, as well as tastes buds that are clearly maturing. Slowly- but surely.

We are definitely going back to this restaurant.  I was so pleased, I posted a review about it on Yelp when I got back to the hotel.

The last day at Cancun, we planned to spend it relaxing by the pool or beach.  I swam for a while with my husband at the beach. The kids refused. I felt it was a waste to spend all week in a pool and not get into the warm, clear water of the Caribbean. Pools you can have everywhere, the Caribbean, no!

But I didn’t push it. The currents and waves were strong, there was actually a red flag by the Lifeguard Booth. The water felt like it was trying to tangle up your ankles and pull you in hard, like claiming all the swimmers as its own.

It was quite a workout to swim in there just for 15 minutes or so. My daughter settled for a ziplock bag full of white soft sand and some shells I collected for her.  She recreated the beach in a small mason glass jar that today sits by her bathroom sink. My son only knows that there are Great White sharks in California beaches that have attacked surfers and that –according to him- it can also happen in Cancun.

That last day I was almost sad, not because I was going back home the next day; back to reality, to working, to cleaning and cooking, to ending arguments and fights between the kids, to sitting most of the day either at my desk or in my car; but sad because this time, Cancun reminded me so much about my teenage years and my 20’s. When I was as young as the girls by the pool, when I went out to party and dance every single night. When my life was about school and friends and fun. When I could walk for miles touring or clubbing without backaches or foot aches. When I travelled with my siblings and my parents.

This trip made me look back and reflect and feel nostalgia, for my friends, the ones I don’t see anymore. Nostalgia for the healthy body I had then, for my Dad. It reminded me too of 3 years ago, when we invited my Mom to Cancun and I helped her inside the pool and she enjoyed it so much it brought tears to the back of my throat.

That afternoon, my sister in Law forwarded a message that –in a nutshell- said we should enjoy our children as much as possible while they are still with us, living with us, wanting to travel with us without rolling their eyes at the thought of spending time with the family.

So I thought, what am I doing here feeling sad by the pool in this paradise?. I can be sad and nostalgic tomorrow. I put my book and my sadness away and jumped in the pool with the kids. We swam, played catch with a water polo ball we took and watched my daughter do gymnastics in the pool. Even my husband joined us for a while as we played “Monkey in the Middle” and had a lot of fun.

Later that afternoon, my son noticed a group of people (kids and adults) playing beach volleyball. He watched them for a long time as we stood by the edge of the infinity pool that overlooks the ocean.

“I wish I could play with them”, he said.

“Go ask if you can join them!  They clearly don’t know each other, they are form different families or groups ” . Sometimes it is painful to see how shy he is; how he is shelled up and will not speak up or even ask the staff for help or directions to the bathroom. It is something I don’t get, but my husband always helps me understand and deal with, because he was just like that as a child.

Considering it was our last afternoon and I saw in his eyes how he really wanted to play, I offered him $100 Dlls (yes, One Hundred Dollars) if he went down to the beach and ask if he could join the game. He looked at me in disbelief and I explained that I was offering so much because I knew he wouldn’t do it.

“I know you, so there, the offer stands” I said. “And you have to actually play, and serve and all, not just stand there”- I added.

About twenty painful minutes later of watching him take baby steps towards the Volleyball net, I watched as he approached one of the male adults, exchanged some words and then patiently waited to be called once a new game started.

My jaw dropped –for real- as I saw my ever-so-shy and introverted son, entering the game with a group of 15 strangers or so. When his turn to serve came, he asked someone else to do it, and the second time around he actually served. The ball made it perfectly to the other side of the net. It took me a while to take it all in. He had never played volleyball.

My daughter and I cheered for him all the way form the pool, yelling his name while he turned occasionally at us with a look that said “Mom, please stop that”.

The game ended, he came back to the pool standing 2 inches taller than before. I told him how proud I was of him. The best $100.00 spent that week!

So that is how our summer started. There are no trips planned for the rest of the summer, so it will feel a bit long for the kids.

I am looking forward to switching to -and staying in- summer relaxation mode while it lasts. To enjoy our home, stay cool in this desert heat and watch the kids grow an inch or two before they start middle school – together this time!

For now, Happy 4th of July everyone!

 

 

  • DIASPORA, by Gerardo Cardenas. Ediciones Vaso Roto.

This is a book that is comprised of 25 stories written by Authors of Hispanic descent or Latin themselves that are immigrants in the United States. Even though the stories are fictional, they have an underlying sense of reality in them. As an immigrant myself, I enjoyed this book very much. It made me cry and laugh too.  I could say it is mostly an easy ready, but because the authors use Spanish from Mexico, Peru, Spain, Cuba and Bolivia – among others- the text becomes very deep and it pulls you in to interpret or even research some of the words that can be alien to your own Spanish. I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys short stories and has empathy or even a slight interest in the experiences and feelings of an immigrant in the US.

https://smile.amazon.com/Diaspora-Narrativa-Espanol-Estados-Spanish/dp/8416193754/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498672621&sr=8-1-fkmr1&keywords=diaspora+caso+roto