22 August 2014

Third Grade

I'm a mom and an expat, which makes my kids expats, too. And because my kids are a part of this story here, I will share their experiences a long with my own.

Cecilia has officially started third grade! That itself in incomprehensible to me because I don't know how I went from having a roly-poly little baby to having a tall 3rd grader who likes Monster High and the color purple. This is Cecilia's first year not at her old school, the same one I attended as a child. It is her first year at a Mexican school, which terrifies me beyond all belief.

Even though I am fluent in Spanish, Cecilia speaks almost none. As a small child, she was bilingual, speaking in English to my parents and in Spanish to Hector's mother. But as we lived more and more years with my parents, she lost her Spanish, and it's proven difficult for me to teach her, because she doesn't want to be taught anymore (another post altogether!).

Anywho, we took her down and enrolled her in the local public elementary school.

On the first day, we still hadn't found where to buy her uniform; we drove all over Tijuana looking, and apparently it can only be purchased from the school, or one little tiny store not far away, but easily missable. They are more expensive that way. Every school in Mexico has a uniform; it helps promote equality and all of that jazz. Most school's uniforms are available at a big uniform store, but I'm not that lucky. It doesn't bother me so much except the laundry part of it. It's a constant wash and wear. I wore a uniform when I started at my private school as a child. Cecilia looks MUCH cuter in hers than I did in mine.

I was nervous to leave her at the school; unlike in the US, they don't let the parents into the school or the classrooms except for certain things. I am used to staying with Cecilia at school for a few minutes while she gets settled. Here they discourage that, and with exception of the first day, don't let you in the gates to go in with your child. The principal stands at the gate and stops you. The school supplies are ridiculous here and they make your wrap everything in clear contact paper. They make you label everything. The supplies include a hula-hoop. I was terrified they'd treat her badly for me being white (I know that it sounds ridiculous, but add on the fact that she can't speak, read, or write the language and it's not that far-fetched of an idea).

However, by the time I picked her up (at noon, because kids only go to school for 4 hours a day!), she was happy and content with her school, her classmates, and her teacher. She had proudly announced that she had already made a friend. I was relieved.

 The difference this year is that Hector was able to come along on her first day.  He has never had the chance to take Cecilia to school before. These are the things that are taken for granted. He missed so many of her "firsts". He was deported right before she started Kindergarten. But this is why we are here in Mexico, living our lives here: we are being a family. He doesn't have to miss anymore firsts, or parts of his kids' lives. He gets to participate and we get to be together. Mexico is being good to us.

19 August 2014

Project Life Tuesday: Week 24 & The End of Album One

Welcome to Project Life Tuesday! When I was in Portland, I was able to print my pictures that I had been saving up since we got here. I was so excited to have all of my pictures! I missed doing Project Life. I have a terrible memory, so documenting my life like this, a week at a time, has been a big blessing for me.

When Project Life was first released in 2009 or 2010, I was having NO part of it. I thought that it was completely taking away from "real scrapbooking". I didn't see how you could just reduce one special day, like Christmas, to one photo. I thought that it was an incomplete documentation. In 2012, Becky Higgins realeased the Cobalt Edition of Project Life, and I was in love with the kit. I was already slowly gravitating towards Project Life-style scrapbooking for Cecilia and Isaias's albums. I was alone, Hector had been gone for about a year, and I was overwhelmed with my work and my life. I needed something simpler- so I used Project Life to document events/a month at a time. The idea of documenting a week at a time still seemed overwhelming; for 2012 and 2013 I was able to get 2 years into one 12x12 album. I knew as 2013 progressed that I would need a new core kit for 2014, and that I would switch to weekly documentation. 2013 was full of multiple inserts of me, trying to tell all of the stories. I knew that if I switched to weekly, I would be able to tell all of the stories I wanted to tell.

So here I am in 2014, and in week 24, I am ending my first album. The thought of having a year spread across 2 whole albums is too much for me. However, I decided to end my album here, because after week 24, I moved to Mexico so it seemed like a good idea.

Week 24 was our very last week in Portland. I didn't take a lot of pictures because I was so busy getting ready to leave. However, this was also the week that Cecilia finished up 2nd grade and turned 8. There was a lot going on in our lives.

I have decided to use only Design A page protectors now that I am living in Mexico. It's not that I don't LOVE the other designs, or because I don't have any other ones. It is just simpler for me to make a collage that is a horizontal 4x6 than to try and do them any other way. It is simpler for me to print.

I wanted to get a big 12x12 picture as my last page in the album, but I didn't want to have to pay shipping on one photo. So, I ordered an 8x10 from Walgreens. This picture was the very last picture I took in Portland. The background paper is from the Turquoise edition Designer Paper pack, which I believe is discontinued. I thought it went well with the Rain core kit that I use. I used some purple Washi tape to bring the whole color scheme together, then I mounted the photo onto the a few of the "Last Page Cards" from the Rain Core Kit. The "Real Life" circle is from one of the filler cards in the kit. I just cut the design out and pasted it on. Then I cut the page up and slipped it into the page protector.

Volume one is for 2014 is now finished. Volume 2 is not only the beginning of a new album, but is the beginning of our lives here in Mexico.

18 August 2014

Oregon Trip Recap

My trip to Oregon was one that was completely unexpected and actually needed. I think that going home provided me with some much needed perspective about my situation here in Tijuana. It was super nice to see my parents, to enjoy the beautiful pine trees, and see some friends. The kids and I did a lot of the same stuff that we used to do. It was difficult to not slip back into my life that I had there, so I kept telling myself that I was leaving Oregon and going home to Tijuana.

Here is a photo recap of our time in Oregon:

Our last-minute tickets meant a 2-hour layover in Phoenix. I had never been to Arizona and I really wish I could have stayed and explored a bit, but I knew that I had things to do.
The pilot let us know we were flying over the Grand Canyon. Before Hector was deported, the Grand Canyon was on my Bucket List. I wanted to see all of the Utah-Arizona national parks. This is just the very beginning of the canyon; my phone died after I snapped this picture. I must say that the Grand Canyon is pretty impressive from above.
My dad was home when we arrived; and the first thing he wanted to do was take the kids to the park. I didn't have a lot of battery on my phone, but I did get this picture. This park is special because it is the park where I met Hector all those years ago. 
See's Candies is apparently the place to be. We went twice on our trip. My mom loves taking the kids here.
Isaias freaking agreed to a haircut! That itself is a miracle. Of course, it was only if his Tita could do it. He loves Hector's beautiful mom. She is a queen and it was great for the kids to see her and for me to visit with her. She has always been a very good friend to me.

My mom's garden has gone nuts! I think these are the biggest carrots she's ever grown. Once Isaias realized that he could pick his own fresh carrots, that is all he wanted to snack on. They were so sweet and juicy. I was rather impressed. I know it is because Hector's mom helped her- I love my mom but she kills grass.
Our Chudo! I miss our dog so much. He didn't make the trip south with us because I don't think that we can have a dog in our apartment. It's nice to see that he is still being taken care of. I've had him since he was weaned and I just don't think I could part with him completely.
We went to OMSI since I still have my membership. They have the Dinosaur exhibit right now with the animatronic dinosaurs. The kids loved it. This was Cecilia's second time seeing them and Isaias's first time. He didn't freak out and was a real trooper.

Isaias finds trains no matter where we go.

 I miss having a yard. In Tijuana, houses are practically stacked right on top of each other. There is no room to send your kids out to play, except in the street. The grass and trees and the space of my backyard at my Portland home is something I took for granted, but now I relish in them. Oh yes, and drinking out of the garden hose. I miss that, too.
 The train tables at the mall. It was HOT in Portland, almost 100 degrees. So I went to the mall with the kids because it is air conditioned. My favorite place to take them is Barnes and Noble bookstores because they have the train table, plus I can be among books. I miss books so much. I miss my home library. I miss having time to read.

 We went to Mass at our old parish. I miss this Church so much. This is the church and congregation that brought me back to the Catholic Church. This place is like a haven to me. It is a place of renewal. It is also the parish where Cecilia was baptized, but that is another story in the scrapbook.

 My mom took the kids out for frozen yogurt at TCBY. This was where we said good-bye to my mom since she would be at work when we left. It was nice to just be out with my parents and my kids, watching them enjoy each other. That is something else I used to take for granted. I used to not realize the importance of this family, of our time spent together.

 My parents arranged for us to come home on the bus. It was the cheapest option, but not the most ideal. This is the same bus terminal where I said good-bye to my dad on June 15. We came with only a backpack to Portland, but left with 2 suitcases, 2 backpacks and a load of other tote bags full of stuff we left behind the last time. As I had all of the stuff with me, it felt again like I was abandoning my parents and there were tears all around. It was painful and sickening to watch my dad drive away. I love him so much.
 Riding the bus with an almost-4 year old and an 8 year old is not a lot of fun, if you can't imagine. We were miraculously able to sit together the entire ride, sitting in the back of the bus next to the bathroom; however, the kids were able to sleep all right, I was not. The bus was crowded. We got off the bus at Huntington Park, California, where we were huddled into a van that took us to San Ysidro. Driving through the state of California is always interesting- I watched the sunrise over my beloved Sierra Nevada moutains. Maybe one day I will write a post about why I love them so much. We drove through the San Joaquin valley, through the Grapevine, and then finally, along the coast.
It was nice to be home; when we were coming up the 805 and then all of a sudden, Tijuana (the big Mexican flag and the Arco) is right in front of you. I breathed a sigh of relief and knew that I was going home and my life would go back to normal. It was nice to walk in my front door and see my niece and nephew and of course baby Emilia.

I would love to make a trip back to Oregon again soon, but I am ready to go on with my life here. Home truly is where your husband is.

12 August 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain!

I will just say it: I am absolutely devastated about the death of Robin Williams. He was such an integral part of my childhood and stars in many of my favorite movies. To hear that his died from suicide is just another heart break all its own. As someone who has stood on that brink, who has been so hopeless that I really thought dying was my only way out, it is painful to hear of others suffering in that way.

I can only know that to contemplate suicide or do complete it is to not be of sound mind. I pray that God has mercy on his soul, because he did so much good in this world, brought so much light and laughter. He made me laugh, slipped in bits of wisdom, and became part of my world.  I know that I serve a merciful and loving God, who knows the heart of every single person. I pray that Mr. Williams finds peace and liberation of suffering wherever he may be.

If you, or anyone you know, is depressed or thinking about suicide, please feel free to contact me, your local priest/religious leader, your doctor, or even call 911. Depression is a serious and misunderstood disease, and education and information are our greatest allies. You are not alone, and you are loved by a merciful God in Heaven. He loves you, even when you can't see it. You just have to reach out to Him and let Him work in your life. 

11 August 2014


It's odd sitting at this familiar computer, typing on a familiar keyboard, listening to the familiar white noise of traffic outside this familiar window. It's odd because it doesn't feel familiar anymore.

I am in Oregon.

Wait, what?

Yes, you read that right. No, I didn't give up on Tijuana. My father, God love him, is quite ill, and my mother flew us home to visit him.

The backyard that I grew up in feels like the Amazon jungle
these days; it feels weird to be here.
However, this house, these walls, this furniture, these dishes; all of the things of a previous life of mine, no longer feel familiar to me. My fingers are looking for the keys on the Mexican keyboard. I wash all of my dishes right away, not for cleanliness, but because I have a (semi) irrational fear of the water not turning on. I have to remember to speak English to my mother. I am shocked every time I open the refrigerator, and it is FULL of food.

As I lay in my familiar bed, the one I didn't want to leave behind, I am reminded so much more of how I don't need it as much as I thought I did. (I won't lie, I am excited to have all of my scrapbooking stuff- I did miss that). My precious books that I love so much, they are still right here in the boxes that I put them in. I have clothes here, clothes that I don't really need. My children have toys here; in Mexico they play with sticks and rocks and are happy with that.

As I'm caught up in the whirlwind of a last-second trip, I am struck by the excess that is life here. There is so much stuff. The toys, the clothes, the gadgets- things that I have forgotten about. There are things, like a clothes dryer, that seem foreign to me. I made spaghetti without having to go to the store and buy water. It's not a reverse culture-shock as much as it's looking at my life with new eyes. I see things through a different lens than before. I'm not sure what kind of lens I'm looking at things with now, but I know it is not the same.

The thing I miss about Oregon the most: grass.
I do know that I hope to return home to Tijuana as soon as possible. I spent enough time without my husband and I miss little Emilia as if she were my own flesh. Being away from her is just as painful as being away from Cecilia or Isaias.

It was a nice treat to get to come home, put my toes in the grass, and spend time with my parents, because I have missed the people here. I am not missing the life I've left here. I'm not missing my stuff as much as I swore I would. Mexico is a simpler life. It is a life without all of the excess. I'm quite ready to go back to it.

05 August 2014

Project Life Tuesday: Oaxaca Trip Mini-Album

In January of this year, Hector had to make a trip down south to the city where he was born to cring some paperwork. That is one of the things about Mexico- if you don't have your paperwork, it is faster and probably cheaper for you to go halfway across the country to get it yourself, than to hope someone will bring it for you for an astronomical fee. Hector's bus ticket down to Oaxaca cost about $100 USD.

Hector knows my love of documenting everything, and he took my camera down south with him (before he broke it...) to capture his little adventure. Then, when he returned to Tijuana, he emailed me the files, and I had all of the pictures printed at Persnickety Prints. There was no real reason for choosing Persnickety, I just really like their customer service, and they did a fabulous job (as always).

I knew that I wanted to make a mini-album of Hector's pictures and I knew I wanted to do it Project Life style. I had falled in love and bought the Michael's Exclusive Vintage Travel Edition when it first came out. I had bought it and hoarded it. When I got the pictures from Oaxaca, I knew that this was the perfect Project Life edition for this album. As for the album, I knew that I wanted a 6x8 Simple Stories album. I had used one for my December Daily project in 2013 and they are the perfect mini album. This brown one was the perfect feel for these pictures and this Project Life kit. I bought some extra pages, but I found that cutting down my Becky Higgins design A pages also worked well for what I needed them to. I also found that the Becky Higgins pockets fit the Persnickety prints better than the Simple Stories page protectors.

Here are some of the spreads. I'm sorry that my camera is not taking very good photos right now, I'm not quite sure what is going on with it.

For the title page, I took my favorite of Hector's photos and printed it as an 8x10. Then I trimmed it down. I wrote "Oaxaca 2014" on the corner with a Sharpie because I don't have any stickers here and I wanted it there.

I love the cards in this kit. They are perfect for travel andfor every day photos. I love how they blend the modern Oaxaca with the Old Colonial pictures. 

I can't wait till I get to go to Oaxaca or get to make another mini album. I love this book and I find myself looking at it often. I left all of the cards blank for Hector to fill in, but he hasn't. Hopefully he will. 

04 August 2014

Settling In

Many days here in Mexico are everything I've ever dreamed they would be. Many days when I wake up, my kids are in a good mood, we spend some time at the beach or the park, we have a good dinner, we all go to bed happy. I can get all of my job search stuff done in a reasonable manner, the kids aren't fighting, and I can hope that I can sit beneath a palm while the sun sets.
Sandy toes = happy life

However, many days here in Mexico feel more like a nightmare. I can't afford gas or any extra food, so we have pancakes, beans and rice, and top ramen. I can't shower or wash my clothes because of the water. There are bugs everywhere. My kids spend most of their day screaming, or in Cecilia's case, back-talking.

The trolley is my preferred mode of transport around San Diego
On the worst days, I have to cross into the US to look for a job. The line is long and nasty, and lately it has been even worse. I've heard of 5-hour wait times to get across. The most I've waited is 3, and that was the night I was so sick. After I cross the line, everything changes for me. I am in the US. I am a different person. Everything is in dollars. I usually have to go into very weathly areas on my job search; it amazes me how many people have yards. My phone becomes my lifeline as I can actually use it away from my house. I realize how much I do not fit in with a lot of the people on the bus or trolley because they are all going to work, and I still don't have a job. I'm not living a laid-back life in Mexico when I cross the line, I am living a fast-paced circus of a life in San Diego.

Crossing eats up your entire day, and it is hard for me because I'm exhausted by the end of it. When I get home, I do feel relieved that I don't have to be going anywhere else. Then there is all of the home matters to deal with: cooking, laundry, cleaning, and dealing with the kids who can't seem to get along anymore. By the time I get home, Hector is horribly swamped and needs a break, so I try to help him. However it is hard for me to remember to do this, because we have to re-learn how to be married.

After being separated for so long, we've forgotten what it is like to live together. I used to come home from work and my kids would just play and I'd make them dinner eventually and I could unwind. Here, I am not working, so there is nothing to unwind from. I have to take into account Hector's parenting style and wishes for our children after three years of doing it all by myself. I have to make partnered decisions rather than solitary decisions. I have to re-learn how to be a wife. I have to get used to making dinners other than macaroni or spaghetti. It's very frustrating and very hard to get to know someone I already know. When Hector was deported, I was very-much dependent on him for decision making and guidance. In the last three years, I've had to learn to do all of those things by myself and it is not fun to have to share that responsibility. I love Hector more than anything else, but that doesn't change the fact that I have to give up some of the control I had and learn to compromise on a lot of our issues. It leads to a lot of arguments and a lot of strife between us. It's like we're newlyweds again, learning to live with each other, but there is no "honeymoon" feeling, because we already know eachother's quirks and hate them.

Many days are a dream, where we function as a 'normal' family unit. But most are not. Most days here are real life, and I am just figuring out how to maneuver this reality codependently with my husband that I missed so much for those three long years.

02 August 2014

La Casa del Migrante

When I got deported this time,  (after all I am a career criminal), on the plane down here (well handcuffed- I was just happy that I was going to be released), all I was thinking about was getting some taco,s and making it out of that plane alive. When the plane landed they unhandcuffed us and put us on busses; I forget if they said "Sherriff" on them or "DHS". Any who, I thought that I was going to just stay a week and be back in the US, so it did not bother me to come to TJ. When I touched down, I did not even know where to go. Everyone else was teaming up, and I was like,"F--- it. I am going to go on this myself." I did not know anything. It was getting late walking around by El Arco, so I decided that I had to find somewhere to go. All I heard on my trip in the Northwest Detention Center and on the plane was this 'Casa de Inmigrante' place. I told the taxi take me there.

It is funny when you don't know about anything. I mean, just hopping on the bus or that twenty bucks here is a lot. Basically I could have taken the bus for ten pesos instead of paying the taxi 200 pesos. I arrived at the Casa del Migrante and some dudes from the plane were there, asking where I took off to. Here I came from a jail cell where I can't stand to hear dudes joke around, to a place where it is just like a jail, or so it seemed to me

First of all, I am really thankful for this place. It is a church. They gave me a place when I had nowhere to go. They took all my info of where I was coming from. They asked me questions about my family and if I wanted to go back. They gave me a card with my info and told me I had a 2 week stay. I was like, Yes! I knew I wanted to go back to Oregon. They feed you, clothe you, and you get showers if you are fast enough to get the hot water, if not cold it is, Buddy. They give you razors to shave, baking soda to brush your teeth. In the front, there is a metal gate separating us from the world. My head was in the media that same night. I tossed in and out the bunk bed and they had like 8 bunk beds in a room. I mean, this place is stacked- like an 8 floor building that is filled up with deported people!

It's funny how when you are locked up and it's like, "Oh you are a paisa? Let us ride together!", but then when you are sleeping that same dude that said that you was stealing your stuff. Stay solo.
At 5am, you gotta be up to get your cup of coffee and your piece of bread and you can't come back til like 5. If you do go into the building, you are in for the night.If you are not back by a certain time, you cannot come in. If you are on drugs, of course you lose the privilge. So at 6, you have to grab all of your belongings and out the door you go. It's almost like a set up with the police sitting on the corner asking you for your ID. You have to try to make it all day without being harrassed by the police. They know who is deported; there is a way we look that they know. Casa del Migrante made us go to church each Sunday- part of the process of staying there.

I thought i could play it off, but soon this place was taking a toll on me. The fact was, I was realizing this
place sucked at that moment. They even give you a phone call a night to let your family know that you are OK. I ain't gonna lie; I ran for the hills. I had 2 days left to stay and I was like, "Damn! What the hell am i going to do? I ain't got no one in this place!" I took off, hiked eight hours and they (Border Patrol) caught me in the hot-ass sun. I came back to La Casa del Migrante for my last night. I do not know where I would have gone to. Yes, there are hotels and all, but with all of the media I was like, it dangerous up in Tijuana. I basically told my family that there was no way I could cross back and that I had to find a place to rent and to call Tijuana my new home.