Being Mexican American surrounded by Trump Signs

Next week is our 2nd year anniversary living in Georgia.  I’ve had no regrets about the move. My blog is filled with words and photographs of my love for Georgia’s landscape and weather. From the very day we moved to Georgia we’ve felt welcomed and accepted.  I have to admit, before the move, I had little knowledge of The South. I was nervous about the cultural differences there might be, and if I would be accepted as a Hispanic or a northerner. I think our friends back in Chicago were nervous for us as well.  We often get asked by family and friends if he we have encountered any racism in our Atlanta suburb.  I explain to them the stereotype of The South being racist is not accurate, at least not in our town.  I had to explain to them that strangers would say hello to each other on the street, and I was invited to play dates by the second week of moving into town.  People were extremely polite and kind.

I had thought we found paradise.  I was excited for my children to say “yes ma’am” and enjoy a childhood where they would have the freedom to be outdoors year around.  If only I could stay living in that rose-colored world, but it is an election year, and my perfect suburb is not immune to the divide that the country is experiencing.

The contrast from living in a blue state to living in a red state is very visible now.  Being a Mexican American in a red state is an eye-opening experience. Mexicans were brought into the forefront of the political arena by Donald Trump during his presidential announcement speech when he said, When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

It was insulting to hear him call my parents and relatives that immigrated to the US rapist and criminals.  What is that you say? He said some are good people so that makes it ok. No. He said he “assumes” some are be good people. You see, to assume is to say you are guessing, you are really not sure.

My relatives are citizens now, thanks to Ronald Reagan’s Amnesty program, but I can’t deny our history.  I know they all came to work, and I know they are not drug dealers or rapists. I know most immigrants work in factories, agriculture, hotels, landscaping, housekeeping…not drug dealing. I know that although they may not become rich working in blue-collar jobs, they are giving their children a better life than they lived. I know, I don’t assume.  Trump did not have to walk in my shoes to know this.  It is statistically accurate. It is for that reason that I dislike Donald Trump. I can never support his use of racism to fuel his campaign. Over and over again he paints Mexicans as the enemy, and to me his name is synonymous to a hate symbol.  To discuss securing the border or enforcing immigration laws is what civil people do, but to name call and create an inaccurate portrayal of people that look like me is dangerous and irresponsible.

Currently, Trump signs could be found on front lawns in my Atlanta suburb. Trump bumper stickers are on cars, and people wear “Make America Great Again” hats. At first it made my heart break every time I saw a Trump sign. For the first time since I had moved here I felt unwanted.  I felt that these people must all agree with Trump, who said he could not trust a Mexican American judge because of his Mexican heritage and Mexican billionaire is conspiring with Hillary and the New York Times to create a sex scandal against him.  When in trouble he finds a Mexican to blame. Seeing the vast Trump support in Georgia I wondered if we made a mistake in moving here. Don’t get me wrong, I have to say that there are many other people in my suburb that feel like I do about Trump. It just seems that by the look of the lawn Trump signs we are outnumbered.

If I lived in Chicago,  I would most definitely write these Trump supporters off as crazy.   It is so easy to think of people as crazy if you don’t know them.  Now they were my neighbors and friends.  I could read their posts on Facebook, where they expressed their distrust in Hillary Clinton and their desire to protect their conservative values.  They are not voting for Trump. They are voting for the party. There are a few who truly do like Trump and insisted the media was to blame for my taking offense to Donald’s Trumps comments, as if it all his comments were not taped on video for all to replay, however, for the most part, as I heard Trump’s supporters reasons for supporting him I found out they care about taxes, the security of the country, gun laws, abortion laws, etc.  They did not like Trump for the racist things he said.  Those comments were just irrelevant to them.  It was something to accept or rationalize in order to protect something higher in their priority list. They don’t hate me, they hate Hillary. In fact they hate Hillary as much as I hate Trump.

Last week I was at my kid’s soccer game.  A man was wearing a Trump shirt.  I read his shirt and looked up and our eyes met. I looked away. I don’t know how that man feels about me, but I do know how the friends I’ve made feel about me.  They reach out to offer help if my kids are sick.  I see them tell their kids to stand up for other kids that get bullied. I see them do their best at parenting.  I no longer think we made a mistake in moving to this suburb of Atlanta.  I realize that it is important for me to be here.  Just like it would have been easy for me to call Trump supporters crazy if I lived in Chicago, it would be easy for Trump supporters to not care how Trump’s words affect me if they’ve never met anyone like me. I can’t defend some of the claims against Hillary and they can’t defend some of the claims against Trump. We have limited choices. We are forced to make the best choice for our family.  I needed to write this and be at peace.  I needed it to make sense to me. No matter who you support politically being able to look at issues through someone else’s eyes can bring a feeling of peace and calm.  I am now glad for this opportunity. My political stance is unchanged, but at least now I can respect the opposing views, and I hope that by being in Georgia I’ve helped someone else respect mine.

 

Time is Now

My sister had a great idea for our mother’s birthday this year.  She suggested we get our mom tickets to see Juan Gabriel, one of the most legendary composers and singers in Mexico.  She thought it would be great to coordinate with our cousins so that our aunts could join her.  It was going to be amazing.  Growing up my mom would play his music as we cleaned the house on Saturday mornings.  I remember singing along with her.  I currently have a Juan Gabriel Pandora station on my phone for those days I might want to go back to my childhood, and sing to the top of my lungs.

Sadly, my sister called me today to inform me that Juan Gabriel passed away.  Selfishly, at first, I was very upset that my mom would now never be able to see him.  His concert was scheduled for this fall. We should have bought her tickets last year!  Once I got over the fact that my mother’s surprise was ruined, I thought about what a great loss Juan Gabriel’s death is to the Latin American world.  His death, I am sure, feels like a personal loss to so many.  He has been making hit songs since the 70’s with “Querida” and “No Tengo Dinero”.  Since then he has composed hundreds of songs. A wiki page claimed he wrote over 900 songs for 300 artists.  I am not sure if that is accurate, but finding exact numbers is not possible. I tried. I guess we can say he wrote countless amount of songs.  His songs were remade to different genres, including Spanish Rock, bachata, salsa, banda, etc. He recently collaborated to sing, some of his most popular songs, with young artists. The music videos made of those duets gives me the chills.  His lyrics are gold.  His songs are timeless.

It was the kid’s bath time at home, but I just wanted to sing so I turned on my Pandora Juan Gabriel station.  I bathed the kids with the music in the background.  I told the kids that Juan Gabriel was an amazing artists, and that I would listen to him when I was a child. Why didn’t I do this sooner? Ugh! Time is passing by.  My kids don’t know about Juan Gabriel. They barely understand Spanish at all.  My mom will never see Juan Gabriel.  Time all of a sudden seems so precious. My sister said she would now be on the look out for tickets to other Mexican legends that are aging like Vicente Fernandez, Marco Antonio Solis and Joan Sebastian.  I promised myself to start putting on music and singing while I cleaned the house, instead of putting a Frozen DVD for my youngest so that I could clean more efficiently.

As I listened to his music, I came upon “Abrazame Muy Fuerte” (Hug Me Tightly).  It is a very emotional love song about time.  It was a very fitting song for how his death was making me realize time is NOW.

Spanish lyrics:  “Abrázame que el tiempo es malo y muy cruel amigo, abrázame que el tiempo es oro si tú estás conmigo, Abrázame fuerte, muy fuerte, más fuerte que nunca”.

English translation: “Hug me, that time is a bad and cruel friend, Hug me, that time is gold if you are with me, Hug me tightly, very tightly, more tightly than ever.”

We don’t have time, especially with kids, parents and aging legends.

 

We lost a legend. We missed our opportunity to see him in person, but his music will be forever.  From now on I will give more than just my love and attention to my kids. I will share who I am, what I listen to, what I like.  They should know who I am besides mommy. How else will they know what concert tickets to buy me?

May Juan Gabriel rest in peace.  He will live forever in our hearts and through his music.

 

Juan Gabriel Duet with Juanes

 

Here is a mesmerizing Juan Gabriel Duet with Natalia Lafourcade “Ya No Vivo Por Vivir”

 

Mana singing Juan Gabriel song “Hasta Que Te Conoci”

 

Selena singing a Juan Gabriel song “Costumbres”

 

 

Kindergarten: Big Boy Status

It is the first week of August, and although we still have several months of warm weather in Atlanta, school starts next Monday!  THIS is a big deal because D starts kindergarten!  He is going to his next stage in life.  He is a big boy! There are so many changes. This summer he learned to swim, he started to lose his baby teeth and he even wears boxer briefs now! He is five years old, and apparently he is becoming a man!  I am excited. I am happy. I am a little scared.  Grade school will be a whole new world for both us. From what I have heard, kindergarten is like 1st grade now.  Kids learn to read and they have homework.  It means less fun and games and more expectations and responsibilities for both D and I. It was quite fitting that I just watched the Bad Moms movie as I start this new journey in motherhood. I loved the movie. I loved that it pointed out the impossible expectations we have of ourselves as mothers and the stresses of grade school.

From the time D was a baby there was high expectations. After taking a lactating class and reading a Dr. Sears book, I felt that if I did not breast feed my child I was a failure as a mother.  Now I am buying school supplies for Kindergarten and I feel as if it is the first test.  The school asked for 12 count pre sharpened Dixon Ticonderoga pencils, but I could only find 12 count unsharpened or 18 count sharpened. Was this my first test?! Why do they have to be sharpened? When I was growing up and the school list included pencils my mom could buy any pencils she wanted!

There are different expectations for our generation of moms and there are also different expectations for our kids.  D actually took a test BEFORE he got into Kindergarten.  The school privately evaluated him to find out if he knew how to identify letters and count to 20 among other things.  In 1985 my classmates and I did not know our alphabet in Kindergarten.  In fact I did not even know English! It was intimidating, but by the end of that year I knew English.  Learning a different language is not a small task, but I would have been extremely behind by today’s standards of Kindergarten!

Honestly,  I think my son will meet and exceeds his generation’s standards. He is smart and confident.  I know he will wake up and get dressed by 6:20 am, while I am still putting snooze on my alarm. He has always been a morning person, and finally that is a good thing.  He is so ready for this stage.  It is bittersweet for me, but motherhood is not about mom.  Motherhood is about loving someone with all your heart and teaching them to be without you. I am excited for this new stage.  I look forward to the many more new experiences to come.  I hope not to be swept away by the competiteness and stress that comes with grade school.  I will continue to try to keep it real: balance the old style with the new style; only do what feels right and don’t sweat the small stuff. I ended up buying the 18 count packages of pencils. It was not the right count, but it was the right brand and they were sharpened. I hope I past my first test!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catchy Phrases (Child Hypnotism)

In parenting some things need no translation, like the mom glare.  In English or Spanish (and I imagine any other language), the mom glare instantly tells a child that mom means business, and that they must start behaving or else!  It took awhile for me to master this look.  It was very hard for me to try to look mad and serious when a cute 11 month old was staring back at me smiling, but eventually parenting is more than just cuddles, diaper changes, feedings and raspberry kisses.

Eventually, I found my inner mom glare in addition to other disciplinary tactics.  My parenting strategy is a combination of ideas I picked up from my childhood, parenting books and teachers, but sometimes my ideas have come unexpected places like cartoons.  For example, my favorite, was saying “Swiper no swiping” when my kids would snatch things away from other kids (thank you Dora for the idea).  It was nice to have a specific phrase to repeat whenever my child took things from other kids.  Because it was short, specific and consistent it made sense to my child, but better yet, I was armed with a plan for that scenario.

A few months ago a friend’s child was crying because she wanted a different color cup.  My friend calmly told her daughter, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset”.  It was a cute and catchy phrase, but I expected the child to continue crying like my children often did when they really wanted something, but instead the child instantly stopped crying.  Her mom’s explanation apparently made sense to her. You get what you get and you don’t get upset.  I liked it and I stole it! I tried it out that same evening when it was time give my kids their gummy bear vitamin. Usually, I would try to find their favorite color to avoid whining, but this time I purposely gave them the wrong color.  They cried as expected and I said “you get what you get and you don’t get upset”.  They stopped crying, paused and then ate their vitamin quietly. Wow!  Since then I use that phrase whenever fighting, crying and whining starts about who has the biggest piece of cake, and why can’t I give them a different color straw.  It works every time no matter the circumstances.

I was happy to have a new idea to file into my mommy game plan.  I was new to this American mommy parenting thing. I was parented in Spanish and there was little rhyming involved, but there is one Spanish poem I remember and often use with my children when they fall.  My mom would say this to me after a fall, and somehow it made it all better:”sana, sana, colita de rana, si no se sana hoy se sana mañana” (heal, heal, frog booty, if you don’t feel better today, you will feel better tomorrow).  Not only does this poem make the pain go away, but it puts a smile on your little one’s face.

I like to find patterns in life, and it is obvious that we just need phrases that are catchy or rhyme. It seriously, falls short of hypnotism! I am on to something! If there are more rhyming parenting lines I must know them all! Bwahahaha (evil laugh)! Last week I asked local moms to share the catchy or rhyming parenting phrases that they’ve heard or currently use.  I made a list of these phrases, and added a few that I made up. Thank you to the local mom Facebook page for sharing some of these!

Catchy Phrases (Child Hypnotism)

  • “Criss cross applesauce”
  • “Crisscross applesauce with hands on your laps and bubbles in your mouth.” (so they sit still, keeps hands to themselves and don’t interrupt)
  • “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”
  • “You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit.”
  • “Get a tissue for your issue.”
  • “It’s time to clean your pits, your sits and lady bits.”
  • “God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt.”
  • “Take a break before you make a lake.”
  • When your kid is whining ask “what do whiners get?” pause and answer “nothing, whiners get nothing”.  I LOVE this one. My kids understand they need to use a different tone when asking for something.

I made up a couple of my own:

  • “Take a nap or mommy is going to snap” (ok, maybe this is not a nice one)
  • “After eight it is too late” (when they ask for snacks after bedtime).

If you know of more phrases in English or Spanish please share in the comments!  

 

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I caught them red handed, but I took a photo and laughed. Sometimes it is best just to laugh at the moment.

 

 

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We are making it up as we go!
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This happens once a week at least. Sometimes moms and dad don’t know what we are saying, and our kids will gladly point it out.

 

A Mexican, Colombian, American Christmas

I can’t function without a plan.  I find that I get lost, I forget things and I don’t complete tasks.  I know this about myself, and therefore I am usually armed with a list and detailed plan.  Currently, I feel like I have failed to plan Christmas, and I am behind. In my defense we spent Thanksgiving in Hawaii, and when we returned our Christmas tree was not up, my son had an ear infection and my daughter had hand food and mouth disease. It took us awhile to get ourselves together and back on track. Our tree just went up last Sunday, December 6th.  I decorated the kitchen, dining room and living room. My husband decorated outside and put up the stockings. He found the Elf on the Shelf, but has only moved it twice. I bought a snowman clock that tells us how many days are left for Christmas. It currently says there are 20 days, but there are actually 16 days left until Christmas.  I feel like I suck at Christmas.

I wonder if my disorganization this Christmas comes from the fact that the Christmas that my husband and I are creating for our kids is a mishmash of  traditions from our Latino upbringing, American traditional Christmas and some new traditions of modern times.  It is like creating a new recipe as you go — add a little of this and a little of that and hope that it all turns out good.  We are making it up as we go, creating a new Christmas for our family that is Mexican, Colombian and American.

Growing up my family use to celebrate Christmas with my mom’s family or my dad’s family.  They took turns. They each had 10 siblings.  At that time not all of them were in the US and not all had children.  We all fit in one house.  The house was still packed, but somehow us kids had room for running around, and the adults had room for dancing. Those were fun times! We ate traditional Mexican Christmas foods: tamales, ponche (Mexican spiced punch) and bunuelos (dessert that looks like elephant ears) and the families all brought additional dishes to share.  From ribs to chile rellenos, rice, spaghetti, you could find it all at our Christmas buffet style dinner.   The party started Christmas Eve at around 6pm and lasted until 2am.  Everyone would stay up to wish each other a merry Christmas at midnight and open gifts.  It was awesome opening gifts at midnight.  Only once did the adults pretend that Santa Claus dropped off the presents (it was my Godfather in a Santa costume).  The rest of the years everyone brought the gifts over.  My mom would label some from Santa and others from Mom and Dad. She used the same wrapping paper. That is the extent to which the adults kept the Santa fantasy alive.  Maybe I was just very gullible, or maybe I suspected the truth and decided to pretend like everyone else. Whatever the case, celebrating Christmas was always fun, and one of my favorite holidays.  It was the perfect celebration.

I thought Christmas would always be celebrated like those days of my childhood, but in marriage each family redefines their traditions.  Some traditions are passed on, others are dropped and new ones are added. Here is what Christmas looks like for my family now.

Keep:

It is a breeze to pass along the core of what it means to be hispanic to me: music and food!  I make sure to play Spanish Christmas songs at home and the smell of cinnamon, cloves and orange from the ponche fills my home.  I make the Mexican bunuelos, and have added Colombian bunuelos to the table to represent my husband’s culture.  I am happy to have kept these traditions even if we are far from family and our party only includes my husband, my children and I.

Drop:

There are other traditions, however, that are harder to keep.  I refuse to dedicate two days to making tamales.  Maybe when my kids are older I will have that luxury.  I could even invite friends to help me!  For now I will buy them if I can find them, but it may not be possible in my suburb where hispanics are only 7% of population. Another tradition that has been dropped is staying up past midnight on Christmas Eve.  I loved this tradition as a child, but my kids are 3 and 4 years old. I don’t think they could stay up until midnight even if it is for presents.  The truth is that I like the idea of the kids opening up their gifts Christmas morning….it makes it easier to explain that Santa brings the presents, it allows us to go to church on Christmas Eve and it takes the focus away from the presents.

Add:

Besides waiting until Christmas morning to open presents we are incorporating other American Christmas traditions like mailing Christmas cards.  It makes sense with living so far from family (family: you won’t all get one because there are a zillion of you). We also now put up Christmas stockings, count down to Christmas on a Snowman’s wooden face and do Elf of the Shelf. At first I did not like Elf on the Shelf, but after I discovered that the Elf watches the children and reports back to Santa on their behavior, my husband and I decided it was worth a try.  It could not hurt (and we can use the help). Also, the kids will pick out one ornament a year.

This is my new recipe for Christmas. A little of this and a little of that. I think it will come out alright!  As I speak with other moms I am starting to understand that being a frazzled mom in December has less to do with trying to redesign our Christmas, and more to do with just trying to keep up with all the American traditions. Being frazzles is a something that comes with the territory. My mom friends in the suburbs have their A game out:  awesome cookie recipes, the most clever Elf on the Shelf poses, DIY Pinterest Advent Caladers and I have just discovered keeping the Santa dream alive requires different wrapping paper and pen for the gifts from Santa. I am taking notes.  Next year I hope for a smoother running Mexican, Colombian, American Christmas!

 

 

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Mexican Bunuelos and Colombian Bunuelos look and taste nothing alike
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I put the Elf on the Shelf at the table so my kids would be encouraged to eat…it did not work 😦
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This is how we are keeping track of Christmas, except I can’t keep track of the tracker. Next year I hope to get it together for Christmas :-/ Snowmans remind me of Chicago 🙂

Why My Hispanic Children Don’t Know Spanish

Revised Version

When Hispanic people realize my Hispanic children do not know Spanish I can see that they are surprised and disappointed. When American people can’t understand what my son is saying they assume he does not know English. In both these instances I have to explain that my son has a speech delay, and that we decided to focus on English when he started speech therapy. Afterwards, people then tell me that a speech delay is common in bilingual children because they are confused by the language, which is really frustrating to hear because my son could not say mama or momma until he was almost four years old.  It is the same word in both language and yet he could not say it. I find I have to explain myself. I feel I have to tell them the whole story. For this reason I am putting it in writing.  This is for the Hispanic moms that get judged because their children do not know Spanish. This is for the people that think raising bilingual children is easy.  This is for the people that think all Hispanic children know Spanish.  This is for the Hispanic children who’s speech delay does not get taken seriously.

Before becoming a parent I assumed I would teach my children Spanish. How else would they sing along to a Mariachi song or watch one of the classic Pedro Infante movies?  Those are experiences you just can’t translate. Most importantly I knew first hand how speaking Spanish had helped me obtain two job offers after graduating college during a recession. One of those job offers was to be a bilingual account executive for one of the biggest English radio stations in Chicago and the other one was to be a statistics analyst at Mexicana Airlines. I took the latter. Neither of those job offers would have came if I did not know Spanish.  My husband and I both agree that being bilingual helped us in our career, and it was a benefit we wanted to pass on to our children. Teaching our children Spanish was never a question for my husband and I.

When I became pregnant with my first child I decided to inform myself about raising a bilingual child.  I found out that there are many ways to teach children multiple languages.  All of the methods had one thing in common, they made sure that there was a clear separation of the two languages. In one method the parents speak to the child in one language and the child learns the other language at school. This is the method most used by immigrant parents, and it was the one used in my case when I was a child. I started Kindergarten only speaking Spanish, but by the end of the school year I could speak English as well. Another method to raise a bilingual child was to have one parent/caregiver speak in one language and the other parent/caregiver speak in a different language.  This method, again, aims at separating the languages to eliminate confusion for the child. The third method suggested was to only speak one language indoors and speak the other language outdoors.  It seemed real simple! Just expose the baby to both languages, but keep them separate by person, place or time. That was great information, but I did not finish reading the book until the baby was five months, and we had already been speaking to the baby only in Spanish.  By default we chose the first method. We felt more comfortable speaking English, but we wanted to lay a good foundation in Spanish.

I had decided to be a stay at home mom so we were not going to have a two environments with two separate languages. We did not have grandma to teach the baby Spanish during the day while we spoke English to him in the evening, and we did not have a daycare that could speak English to him so that we could focus on Spanish at home. Nope, it was just us…that is until we left the house to go to toddler music class where everyone spoke English.  Outside our home I had to translate for my child. I had to translate to my child in class, during play dates, at doctor visits…I started to feel terrible that he could not communicate with people first hand. The world around us was in English. We lived in a suburb where the Hispanic population is 7%. Our family that speaks Spanish lived an hour away and we saw them once a month. My son could not understand the people in our community, and it was my fault.  Teaching my child English became a bigger concern once we attended Babygarten classes. I realized I could not send my child to Kindergarten not knowing English. This was not the 80’s! We lived in a time and place where children in kindergarten could write their names and could count to 20 before even setting foot into class.  Kids would be working on learning to write and my son would be working on learning to speak. There were so many realities making me doubt our decision to only speak Spanish to our child.  We tried having my husband be the English speaking parent, but he only saw the baby two hours a day. I tried speaking Spanish at home and English outside, but that was hard to remember. It turned out raising bilingual child was not as so simple when one is living outside the Hispanic community and far from family.

Despite my doubts we continued to speak to our son only in Spanish. By the time he was two he would only make animal/vehicle noises and say dada, but he could not say any other words. His pediatrician initially said it was normal and that boys are usually late speakers, especially bilingual children (even though he was not bilingual, we only spoke to him in Spanish). The doctor was not concerned, but I was.  You see, my son still had not said mama or momma…it is the same in English or Spanish.  Upon hearing this the doctor set us up for an evaluation. The evaluation results confirmed my suspicion. Our son had a speech delay and would need speech therapy.  The evaluation results also indicated that due to our son’s tendency to avoid looking people in the eye, dislike of being held or contained, running off into the street, hitting other children, having no sense of fear, trouble transitioning from activities, extreme picky eating and need for routine, concluded he had some sensory issues and he had some signs that indicated he should be screened for autism at a later date.  The last part of the news was unexpected and it was terrifying. It was recommended that he meet with a speech therapist once a week, and that he would need a translator since he only spoke Spanish.

It was at that moment that I no longer worried about my child being bilingual. I would be grateful if he could just say momma and speak one language.  At that moment I decided I would speak to my son only in English. I wanted him to receive speech therapy directly from the speech therapist and not from a translator. If my son has a speech delay I could not make it worse by not teaching him the language he was going to need to survive in the US.  If they thought he might have autism I needed to prepare him the best I could for the world he lived in. I told the therapist we would not need a translator. Abruptly, we stopped speaking to our child in Spanish.  After speaking to my son only in English for a month he started speech therapy.  Not only did he understand the teacher, but he started to say words. It was amazing!  The only consonant sound he could make were V, B and P so it was still hard to understand, but we were so happy he was talking.  A year after speech therapy he finally said momma clearly for the first time. It meant the world to me!

Currently he is almost 5 years old and he can tell you a story, name planets and name endless amounts of dinosaurs. He is brilliant. He still attends speech therapy because he continues to have problems with articulation, but he is improving every year.  He went through an autism screening at age 3 and passed although he was diagnosed with social communication disorder.  He is currently going through another evaluation, but I feel confident his diagnosis will be dropped.  He has matured with time and we had great teachers and therapists to help.

Teaching the next generation Spanish is complicated, and not just for parents with children with a speech delay. It is complicated for families who do not live in a Hispanic community. Never is the term “it takes a village” most appropriate to when it comes to language and communication.  Immersion is the best teacher in language, and in a village where most people only speak English it is not so easy. It may have been easy for me as a child to be bilingual, but my children are not growing up in a similar situation as I was raised. I am proud of my culture, I minored in Latino Studies, I started an online Latino community group for our suburb (300 members) and I blog about passing on my heritage to my children. This is my way of creating that village. I still plan on teaching my children Spanish for the benefits in the workforce, and also because my children look Hispanic. When people realize they don’t know Spanish they act as if I told them they have a third eye. I explain to them that I intended to teach my children Spanish. I tell them about the speech delay. They ask if the speech delay was caused by confusion of the two languages and I want to scream. I was so cautious to only speak one language. My son was not confused. He could identify letters at 18 months, he knew all the words he just could not say them. English speaking children get taken seriously when they have a speech delay.  Hispanic parents get blamed when their children have a speech delay.  The Hispanic community assumes I am not proud of my culture and therefore don’t teach my children Spanish.  So much judgement from different directions.

If my children do not know Spanish I will not feel like a failure, instead I will be grateful for all the abilities they do have. I will forever be grateful for having a healthy and happy boy and girl! In the end it does not matter if your child speaks one language or twelve. You are already winning if he can speak one language clearly.

 

Update (1 year later):

My child no longer has a social communication disorder diagnosis! His speech delay, however, is now being called a speech disorder. He works very hard with speech therapist and with me. We make progress every year.

How Georgia Made Me a Runner

I’ve fallen in love with the natural beauty in Georgia.  I am impressed everyday with the forests, lakes and peaceful countryside.  I can take pictures all day and often I do, especially when I am running.  It never gets old. With every season there is new beauty in the forest to distract me.  It is difficult not to stop to take pictures of the same scenes every week.  The beauty and peace in the forest is enough entertainment, and I don’t need music on my runs. I listen to silence…and the birds.

In Chicago I had no desire to run, especially outside. I had a gym membership for a decade. I would force myself to go even if it was 17 degrees outside, and no one could see if I was fat under my big bubble coat and chunky sweater. Exercise is not something I did for fun. It is something I did because it was easier than eating healthy. Now in my mid thirties, it turns out I have to eat healthy and exercise just so I can maintain my weight. When I arrived in Peachtree City, Georgia I tried to join a gym, but none could compare to the mega healthclub that I was a member at in Chicago. I was disappointed, but I decided that with 90 miles of golf cart/running paths I did not need a gym. Since then I started running and I found running in the forest is like a retreat –so peaceful and energizing. I have found that I may be addicted to running, which is great because I am still addicted to sweets.

I sprained my ankle walking a week and a half ago. The doctor told me to rest my ankle, and thankfully I was walking fine three days later. It has been over a week, and I thought I could run today, but I twisted my ankle again! I am so sad to realize I probably should not run for two more weeks.  As a short Latina in the mid thirties with two kids I am hanging to a thread to being semi in shape, and I feel I am working against natural order. I don’t like taking breaks!  I am sad I can’t run, but it made me realize I am officially a runner. Below are the pictures that I have taken on my runs. They are the reason why running is no longer a task, but a treat. I don’t think I would be a runner if I did not live here. Georgia made being a runner irresistible. The forest is my gym now. It is my mini retreat.

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Differences Between the Suburbs in Atlanta vs the Suburbs in Chicago

It is almost a year since we traded our Chicago suburb for a suburb in Atlanta.There are many similarities with living in a suburbs in the southern part of the US vs north. There are cul-de-sacs, neighborhood pools and moms in minivans taking kids from one activity to another.   They both have great schools and rank high in safety, but there are some differences as expected. This is my list of differences I have observed since our move from a suburb in Chicago to a suburb in Atlanta.

  1. Teenagers are so respectful! Seriously. They refer to me as ma’am, and call me by my last name. At first, I admit, it made me feel old, but I was very impressed.
  2. No indoor malls in Atlanta suburbs. There are few indoor malls in Atlanta area and none near my suburb. In our suburb in Chicago we had 3 indoor malls within 25 minutes of our home.
  3. There is this thing called Mother’s Morning Out! Mother’s Morning Out are day cares where moms can register their babies and toddlers to attend a few days a week for about 3 hours. These are intended for stay at home moms who want to have a morning free to rest or get things done.
  4. There are so many faith based schools. Even though our area has some of the best schools in Georgia there are lots of private schools (mostly for mother’s morning out and preschool).
  5. We are not allowed to buy alcohol on Sundays before noon. It is most obvious that we live in the Bible Belt when my family goes out to breakfast on Sundays and we are the only customers. On Sunday mornings, when people are at church, our town feels like a ghost town.
  6. People are friendly and genuinely nice. Strangers smile, say hello and even start to chat sometimes. If you are not friendly back they will call you out. They will ask you if something is wrong, or ask if you are in a hurry.  I always believed people from the Midwest were down to earth, but the south is down to earth on a whole other level.
  7. It has been easier to make mom friends. I believe this is due to a combination of southern hospitality (locals), and also to the high percentage of people that have relocated to Atlanta who are looking to make new friends.  There are many organized mom clubs. The saying “it takes a village” is put into practice in our suburb. Moms support each other, offer to babysit, come over for play dates and are there for a much needed mom’s night out.
  8. Chick-Fil-A is like a community center. People are there for play dates, school spirit nights (fundraisers), daddy daughter Valentine date…there seems to always be an event or social gathering.  The employees feel like friends. On a rainy day they go to my car with an umbrella to escort me and the kids inside the restaurant. Amazing!
  9. People have beautiful properties. The houses in Atlanta suburbs are amazing inside and out.  For an affordable price you can get a mini-mansion with a large private wooded yard.  Even a home that is not big and fancy can have a private pond, waterfall, forest, acres of land…an oasis.
  10. There is natural beauty everywhere. Lakes, ponds, ducks, forest, birds and deer are a part of our everyday life. Sure, a few of the parks have playground equipment that is made of iron and pretty run down, but it is in the middle of a forest that feels like a secret hideaway. At the park my kids discharge their energy while I recharge mine.
  11. Kids can be outside all year around! I know you think they can do that in Chicago as well, but no, especially not toddlers.  It is too freaking cold, and you can only throw snowballs for so long before you can’t feel your fingers. No thank you!
  12. There is no park district. The suburbs in Chicago have a park district that offers swimming lessons, dance lessons, fitness facility, day camps, preschool, soccer, karate, etc. In Atlanta there is no central place for these activities and services. Parents have to search for these activities on their own. There may be some activities held by the town’s recreational center, but it is not as extensive as Illinois.
  13. Kids have days off of school for “snow days”, but there is no snow. You see, snow in Atlanta is rare, and therefore the city does not have sufficient snow removal equipment. If there is even a small chance of snow the city would rather cancel school for the protection of the children.
  14. Pine straw is everywhere! It is used as mulch in landscaping. I had never seen pine straw before so when we moved to Georgia in the fall I thought it all fell from the trees. I started to rake it and put it in bags. Before I threw it out I found out it was placed on the ground on purpose, and so I had to put it all back. True story.
  15. Garbage removal is a private business in Atlanta. In Chicago I was used to the garbage truck coming once a week and taking everyone’s garbage away on the same day. Well in Georgia, homeowners are responsible for hiring their own private company for garbage removal. This results in garbage day being  EVERYDAY in my neighborhood. Different garbage removal companies come to different homes on different days.
  16. The city feels far. Even though our suburb in Chicago was 45 minutes away from the city I still felt we belonged to Chicago. In our suburb in Atlanta we are 45 minutes away from the city, but I forget we are in Atlanta. Maybe this is because I don’t go to Atlanta much. I would love to visit Atlanta more, but unlike Chicago, there is no train connecting our suburb with the city. Another issue is that I am a chicken. I am nervous about driving in a highway that has 7 lanes! I know, I know, I need to just do it!
This the view from my favorite park in our Atlanta suburb. It is very peaceful and beautiful.
This the view from my favorite park in our Atlanta suburb. It is very peaceful and beautiful.
Playground hidden in the forest
Playground hidden in the forest

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Sanctuary for Moms at Walking Dead Cafe

I am not into zombies, but in my experience as a mother I have felt like one. It was mostly during the first two years of my children’s lives where wiping butts, faces, tables and floors took up most of my day and a good nights sleep was not a guarantee.  In those days walking exhausted and drained with disheveled clothes and hair was a normal day. In fact, one year for Halloween I dressed up as my “old self”, I put on make up and nice clothes. If I was going to wear makeup for Halloween, it might as well make me look pretty, not scary! Nowadays, I look halfway decent. I mean I try to coordinate my clothes, put on make up and do my hair. Not all on the same day. I can usually do two out of three. Jewelry? Lol! Yeah, I am not there yet. Maybe next year. Now, however, with one child that is in school full time and the other goes to school three days a week, I can take a step closer to regain my identity. I can go out of the house during daylight hours to places that are not the grocery store or the park. For example, there is this cafe that I saw next door to my hair salon the last time I got a haircut 5 months ago. It is called the Walking Dead Cafe, in Senoia Ga., Yes, it is the town where the Walking Dead is filmed. It is 10 minutes from my house and everything in this town is adorable, including this cafe with French country decor and the zombies peaking out of the Walking Dead museum next door. I have wanted to visit this cafe, but I did not want to go with the kids. The place is so beautiful and relaxing. I wanted to wait for the perfect time to enjoy the experience.

Today was that day! I set up a date with one of my favorite mom friends after we dropped our girls off at school. The experience was all I ever dreamed and more! I almost did not want to tell anyone about this place and just keep it for myself.

Apparently putting on lotion is something else I should aim for next year.
Apparently putting on lotion is something else I should aim for next year. Can you see my ashy knees?

I felt they made this cafe for me and all other moms. This sign below greeted us at the entrance. It said: “Sanctuary for all community, For all those who arrive, survive” . They are talking about motherhood, right? It is the sanctuary for all the mommies that have survived the zombie stage of motherhood and can now come to a cafe alone and drink warm coffee in silence? That was my interpretation, but then again I don’t watch the show so coffee, sanctuary, survival just mean something different to me.

Walking Dead Cafe: Sanctuary for all community, for all those who arrive survive
Walking Dead Cafe: Sanctuary for all community, for all those who arrive survive
Flat screen TV, fireplace and couches. Perfect sanctuary!
Flat screen TV, fireplace and couches. Perfect sanctuary!
The decor! It's like Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper came to decorate herself!
The decor! It’s like Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper came to decorate herself!IMG_3412
The Walking Dead Museum next door has a jail cell with a bed
The Walking Dead Museum next door has a jail cell with a bed.

The coffee was great, the atmosphere was incredible and with free wifi I sense I have found a great place to write, a sanctuary underground where I can contemplate how I am no longer a mom zombie. I am a blogger now. I taught a Spanish summer class, coached soccer, started an online group of more than 200 members for the Latino community in our area…I am doing more. I still don’t get paid for anything I do, but I am at least following some passions and getting my feet wet before going out into the working world.

Living in bubbles

The concept of living in a bubble first crossed my mind when we lived in a suburb in Chicago. We were 45 minutes away from the city.  I was a stay at home mom with the same routine as many other moms in town. I dropped off one child to school and then dropped off the second child at the gym’s daycare so I could go to an exercise class.  The gym was our socialization center/country club, complete with pool and day camps for the kids. Outside the gym we visited parks, took the kids to soccer practice and of course visited Target frequently. It sounds like any other suburb. The average person would not think of it as a bubble, but I thought it was a blissful bubble where the downtown workforce could vacation to everyday. It was a life like in a tv sitcom.  In this bubble no one worried about violence, gangs or locking their doors. Those shootings that happened in Chicago, sometimes a few dozen shootings on a warm weekend, had nothing to do with our little suburb. We were living in one of the safest suburbs in the country in one of the most violent cities in the country. We were sheltered from the rest of the world and I was grateful. My biggest problem in the suburbs was people mowing the lawn during my kid’s nap time (grrrr). It was nice, but it felt superficial. It was a big contrast to life in South Chicago where I grew up.

In the south side, being street smart is a subject learned in high school just like Algebra, it is probably even more important for ones immediate safety and survival. My biggest problem growing up in South Chicago was the occasional shooting. I witnessed three as a teenager. That was the real world to me. When I would see teenagers in the suburbs trying to be tough I wanted to go up to them and ask if they would like for me to take them to the real hood. Their attempt at looking tough was laughable to me. Now, after having lived in the suburbs seven years I came to a revelation: South Chicago was a bubble too. It is not normal to know gang members and witness shootings, or at least it shouldn’t be normal. The culture in South Chicago could only be understood by the people living inside. The outside felt like a different world living by different rules.

I realized, maybe we all live in bubbles and each have our own definition of normal. I am grateful to have experience two extremes. I am able to appreciate the great schools in our suburb, but also understand the reason why inner city schools have low reading and math scores. I can understand why gangs exist and how important teachers, coaches and programs are for these at risk children. 

Currently we live in a suburb who proudly calls itself “The Bubble”. It has 90 miles of golf cart paths that connect the whole town. Residents take their golf carts through the forest to get to restaurants, school, parks, etc. There are beautiful lakes, streams and the friendliest people who always say hello. It is different, it is beautiful, it is great. It is something I don’t take for granted. I love that the residents here know our situation is unique. Being aware you are in a bubble is a revelation that will help us have more compassion for others or allow us to dream of bigger possibilities depending our situation.  Whatever bubble you find yourself in ask yourself what life is like on the flip side.  Every perspective has something to teach us.

Driving golf cart in our suburb
Driving the golf cart in our bubble

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