30 November 2015

Holiday Weekend Recap

It was a pretty uneventful Thanksgiving weekend here:

I am, and have been a HUGE Black Friday shopper. I awoke bright and early on Thanksgiving morning to pick up my paper. I was rather disappointed in this years deals- some things were advertised as being on sale when I knew for a fact, they were regular price. I did not shop on Thursday or Friday for the first time since I was 13.

Baby is trucking right along... about 10 weeks to go.

My mother and I made an entire meal to take to my aunt's house. However, my aunt also cooked an entire meal, so we had plenty to go around to everyone.
*I spent Friday avoiding humanity*
Treated my son to a Happy Meal. I did venture out to go shopping Saturday evening, but Baby has decided to sit very funny in the womb and it feels like my leg is being ripped off slowly every time I move it, and walking and I just do not agree.
Today is the First Sunday of Advent, and the beginning of the new liturgical year for us Catholics and most Protestant faiths. So, today after Mass was spent preparing the house for the upcoming season of preparation and anticipation for the coming of Christ.
We lit our Advent wreath here at home. I'm trying to teach Isaias the verses, or at least the refrain of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" but I am finding that he does not really like singing.
This ugly hunk of miniature tree is a least as old as I am and I found it in my mother's basement, full of cobwebs and spider eggs. After a very thorough cleaning, I put a string of lights on it. This is going to be our Jesse Tree. If you've never heard of a Jesse Tree, don't worry- neither had I. Each day, there is an ornament (craft for us since I don't have the ornaments made) and a Scripture reading that traces Salvation History from Creation to the birth of Christ. I plan to include this in with our daily homeschool routine.
 Well, I hope every one of you had a peaceful and wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

24 November 2015

A Different Kind of Thankful

Thanksgiving is a holiday that I've never really cared for. The idea of stuffing ourselves silly till we literally fall asleep, then waking up to go rip each other apart on Black Friday just seems ridiculously silly. I am a Black Friday shopper, but only because I am poor and really need the sales on stuff like warm kid's pajamas. For the past several years, I've tried my hardest to work on Thanksgiving and have Christmas day off. I've tried to avoid my extended family, and ignore the fact that my family was split apart into two countries.

Part of Thanksgiving Dinner 2014; it was the only picture I
had taken that day. 
Last year, Hector and I had Thanksgiving with two of his friends, also deported, who hadn't had a Thanksgiving in years. I made the entire dinner, and it fed not only my kids, my husband, and his two friends, but probably six other people who may or may not have had enough to eat that whole week. That Thanksgiving changed me. It changed my perspective on the holiday, and it changed me inside.

I began to be humbled that day. I had been fighting Mexico. I had been fighting to hang onto the person that I became when I was alone in the US, making "money", and doing everything "on my own". I put those in quotation marks, because I wasn't really doing anything except being a selfish, spoiled brat. I was unhappy in Mexico, unhappy in my life, unhappy with Hector, but really, I was unhappy with myself. I had no phone, I had very little money, and our little apartment felt more like a jail cell. But, after that Thanksgiving,  I began to see differently. After 4 months in Mexico, I began to see people around me, who were a lot less fortunate. I had looked at them before, but I had never really seen them. My kids may not have had their own bedrooms, but we were not sleeping in the park. I may not have been able to make a turkey for Thanksgiving, but we had food to eat every night, and some of those people I shared the ham with might not have. I didn't have a stove to cook on, but I had friends who did and were willing to open their home to me, regardless of how selfish and insufferable I may have been before that day.

This year, I will gather with part of my family, and stuff my face. Not because I am a glutton, but because I am thankful to have enough food this year. There were times in Mexico where we really didn't have enough to be really full. I have put my kids to bed hungry. This year, on this day, I will not have to do that. I hope and pray I never have to do that again. A lot of people talk about being "grateful" for having a roof over their heads or having enough to eat, but most of them don't know what that really means. I didn't before, but I do now. My entire perspective on what "being thankful for my blessings" has changed. Not because I know what my blessings are, but because I know what it means to truly be thankful. Being thankful isn't talking about it without trying to experience the other side.

This year, I am thankful that I have enough to eat. I am thankful for my mom's always open doors that allow me to go back and forth between Oregon and Mexico without ever feeling like a burden. I am thankful that my children have food and a roof over their heads, even though we're so far apart. I'm thankful for my fertility, that God has given us another healthy child. I am thankful that I am Catholic, because without God and His Church I would never have made it through that first year in Mexico- I probably would have killed myself. I am thankful that I see people now. I'm thankful for my blankets, because I am not cold at night. I'm thankful for the amazing nurses and CNAs that I rub shoulders with on a regular basis. I'm thankful that I still have my parents with me to help me navigate adulthood, because at 27, I still don't really have the hang of it. I'm thankful for my mother-in-law who loves on my children and keeps them Mexican and who gave me my husband; without her, I wouldn't have my kids.

And mostly, I am thankful for Mexico, the beautifully diverse country that opened it's doors to me and my family when I felt like the US turned it's back on us. I now accept that Hector and I will not be returning to the US as a complete family unit, but Mexico has created a brand-new type of freedom that we could never have had in the US.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving everyone. Truly be thankful for every situation, good or bad that you experience.

19 November 2015

All The Things That Won't Be

Hector and I once had a dream to retire in a little Eastern Washington town. It's a beautiful little town with minimal population, full of fruit orchards and cows. We had lived in the Yakima, Washington area for some time on and off through the years, fluctuating between Yakima and Portland. But our happiest times really did happen in Yakima.

Yakima is not what some people call a "nice" town or a "nice" place to live. It has a pretty ugly crime rate, and we never went out very far after dark. A lot of the people were plenty poor, money wise, but I found that the people who live there are some of the kindest, richest-in-heart people I would ever hope to meet. In Yakima we could drive out old dirt roads, through an apple orchard, and just admire God's creating. Mt. Adams, in the Cascades mountain range, loomed in the background of every happy memory. It snowed all winter, and our favorite activity was "making Subaru commercials". In the spring, the crop work would restart and the fresh fruit and vegetables started pouring in from every friend in every direction. Asparagus season began in March, and everyone was busy throughout the summer into the late apple season of November. Fresh cucumbers, chiles, beans, apples, pears, peaches, tomatoes, onions, and almost every kind of fruit or veggie overflowed everyone's tables every summer and fall. We'd spend every Sunday afternoon with good friends and their families, laughing, eating, and enjoying life.

Taken on the road to Yakima, US Highway 97, just entering into
the valley. It used to be a place of excitement for me; I knew we
were almost "home".
Even when Hector and I were in Portland, we'd find ourselves in Yakima, visiting for a weekend, hanging out at the local pool hall/bowling alley, or just stopping in to say 'hello'. Nothing made us happier than driving out of the city, into the country, past fields of flowering trees that stretched on for miles and miles. For a moment, everything was right in the world. Then that moment ended.

I've ventured back to Yakima a few times alone, to visit old friends, but the place has lost the same feel. Hector and I had plans to be there forever, and now our forever home is somewhere else. It is heartbreaking to smell the dirt, the clean country air, and know that I will never return to live there. The Rattlesnake Hills that roll down the valley, the sight of Mt. Adams- both bring back an aching nostalgia for all the plans that we had that will never be.

Sometimes I am okay with losing these plans, and am excited to live in Mexico and just live whatever life the Good Lord has in store for us. Other times, I mourn the loss of country living; the idea of living in a huge city for the rest of my life repulses me. Often, I find myself feeling this feeling of hiraeth, being homesick for the plans we had, the life we could have lived. The friends we had, the sense of belonging, the hope that came with the spring every year- those dreams and feelings now have to be found somewhere else. It's a sense of loss that I had never expected to feel through this whole process. I've mourned Portland, I've mourned what we literally had. I've mourned the experiences that we had and shared. I've mourned the loss of my family and the loss of my childhood home. I never expected to mourn the loss of the home I had hoped to have had, the memories I had hoped we would have made. Sometimes these things are easily pushed to the back of my mind, other times these things are brought to the forefront.

This November I'm thankful for my time in Yakima, and I'm thankful for all of the experiences that Hector and I got to have there. But I am now more thankful for Mexico, which has given me the ability to maintain my family together, and has given me the opportunity to create a new home, new dreams, and a new life. Perhaps Hector and I are meant to live in Tijuana forever, and I will have to accept that I may be a city dweller for life, or maybe some day Hector and I can move the country. It will not be the same country. There probably won't be white Christmases or rolling hills covered in apple orchards or wineries, but the ideas for a country home might still be feasible. Only God will let us know through time.

17 November 2015

28 Weeks Pregnant

Hello baby bump
Well, this pregnancy is trucking right along without too many complications (at the moment). I am about to enter into the third trimester, which means time is going to simultaneously speed up and slow down. According to Babycenter, the baby is about the size of a large eggplant (2-1/2 pounds and 15 inches long), and can blink his eyes and follow light around my belly.

Physically, I am feeling fine (at the moment). I've gained about 25 pounds so far: more than I've wanted to, but I'm not super worried about it. My doctor hasn't really mentioned it much. Heartburn, sciatica, carpel tunnel, and morning sickness have not really left me alone at all this entire pregnancy, and at this point I am just living with the discomforts of growing a human. I had to do the three-hour fasting glucose test a couple of weeks ago, to determine whether or not I am diabetic. After spiking my blood sugar, then crashing it, it took me almost two days to recover from that test, which included extreme weakness, violent vomiting, and dehydration. Fortunately, I do not have gestational diabetes, and I am eating a lot healthier now that I am at home all of the time, no longer working nights. I am able to function like a semi-normal human being, most of the time. Baby Boy is moving almost constantly, sometimes painfully. The more pregnancies I have, the less pleasant baby movements feel. Sometimes they are downright painful. I am now experiencing Braxton-Hicks contractions almost every afternoon (a reminder that I should probably drink more water).  The only "unique" symptom to this pregnancy I am feeling is that my skin has become horribly sensitive (wrinkles in my blankets or clothes can cause me pain if I lay on them too long) and ITCHY. I itch all over! I don't really think it's my skin stretching since it's pretty much been stretched out for years after Cecilia. However, some days I cannot stand it. Regardless of how much I moisturize, shower with cooler water, or how much water I drink, I cannot stop the itching. I just want to cry from it sometimes or peel all of my skin off, because I feel like I'm going to go crazy from it.

Emotionally, I am all over the place. I have come to terms with having another boy, but the pain of being away from my girls and Hector is sometimes more than I can bear. I have emotional ups and downs all of the time, completely fine one minute, panicking the next, and crying five minutes later. This is not unusual for me; I battled depression the last time I was in Oregon. The pain of being separated from my family, plus the serious Vitamin D deficiency that occurs here I suspect are big players.

Also, I have recently realized that I have done almost ZERO planning/preparations for this baby! Both Cecilia and Isaias had immaculate crib sets and nurseries, and this kid has a car seat and all of Isaias's baby clothes. My older kids had amazing scrapbooks all set up and ready to go, and I haven't even scanned this kid's ultrasound images or taken that many "bump" pictures. Isaias and Cecilia both have huge bedspreads that I knitted for them, ad currently I have two half done Christmas throw blankets instead. It's not that I am not excited about this baby, because I am. It's more of a "oh, I can take care of it later" kind of thing and now it's later and I haven't taken care of anything. I do realize that this kid probably won't have an amazing crib set. Both Cecilia and Isaias never used their cribs and I am not outing that expense again. I don't need to get all of the latest gadgets; there are a couple of things on my "want" list. I'm not sure if it was Mexico, or that this is my third/fourth kid that makes me not want to buy "stuff". Perhaps I'm threatening to become a minimalist (I severely doubt it). However, reaching this point has kinda kick started my "nesting" urges, meaning it's probably time that I got on to getting ready for this baby, who will be here sooner rather than later!

05 November 2015

Chiles Rellenos {My Cooking Adventure}

I'm going to start this post by saying that I DESPISE cooking, cleaning, or doing anything remotely domestic. I can't figure out why my house just won't clean itself! My poor, patient Hector had to force me to learn to cook. I am perfectly content eating out my entire life, even if my bank account doesn't agree. When Cecilia was born, my cooking skills extended about as far as French Toast, which is where they were when I was 12. Being married to a Mexican man who suggestsdeamands that I learn to cook some Mexican food, I have tried to oblige and move outside of my comfort zone. The first thing I cooked for him was Caldo de Res, or beef soup. I first watched his mother in the kitchen for a few hours, then moved on to attempting this one on my own. Then tortillas, which I've finally mastered after 10 years. Then sopes, then mole, then tamales. But Chiles rellenos have always been a challenge for me, mostly because my mother in law swears up and down that she cannot make them. Whenever I have attempted these in the past, the chiles are never quite right, the egg batter falls off, or they simply fall apart.

But this week, after watching countless YouTube videos, asking numerous Facebook friends, and just walking out into the great unknown, I made them for myself.

Step One: Prepare the chiles

I used 5 chile poblanos for this experiment. I put them on my comal on medium-high heat until they were cooked through (soft and easily cut with a fork. The outside will be a bit charred, just scrap that off and the dark green will be a lighter green color.

After I grilled the chiles, I let them cool a bit before I split them open and removed the seeds. Chile poblanos mostly have their seeds at the wide part of the top, by the stem. I cut them open in a T-shape, which allowed me to spoon out the seeds in one motion. A few straggling seeds were either left behind, or I washed them out with a bit of water.

Step 2: Fill the chiles and prepare them for batter

I suppose that you could fill chiles rellenos with any kind of filling, but the kind I'm most accustomed to is cheese. I used sticks of Monterey jack cheese, because it's my favorite kind of cheese, relatively inexpensive, and it melts really well. I squeezed two sticks into each chile.

You can flour the chiles before or after you add the filling. I did it before, mostly because I was in my own la-la land trying to not screw everything up. Give the chiles a good coating of flour. This will help the batter stick to the chiles when you fry them.

After doing this step, set the chiles aside. I was so proud of myself at this point. Some people like to close their chiles up with toothpicks at this point, so that they don't come apart while you cook them. This is probably a good idea, but I don't keep toothpicks on hand and it isn't going to change the flavor of the food. I managed to keep mine together (most of them) without poking them. Look how pretty they are....

Step Three: Prepare the batter

The batter is the step that brings me the greatest anxiety. I get that you have to whip the egg whites and slowly add the yolks back in, but I am not good at this skill. I used my mom's electric mixer to help me out (*Memo to me: find my electric mixer and take it home to TJ).

 I separated five egg whites from the yolks. A good rule of thumb is one egg per chile. I beat the egg whites till they were fluffy, then added the yolks back in, one by one. I don't know if I should have added all of the yolks, as the batter did get a bit runny and I had to re-beat it half way through the frying step.

Step Four: Batter the chiles and fry them

I was ready for frying and assembling. I first heated some old bacon grease (yes, I save it in a jar) and Crisco in my fry pan. It was mostly Crisco, but I love the flavor the bacon grease gives food).  I do almost all of my cooking in cast iron; I think food cooks better this way. I heated the grease over medium-high heat, not all the way up. If the grease is burning, it's definitely too hot.

I carefully submerged the chiles, with their filling, into the batter mix. I made sure they were coated completely. I carefully laid them in the cooking oil on the stove; they began to bubble. I started them with the slices up. Some of the egg batter slid off, exposing the openings that I made in the chiles. I spooned a little bit of the batter into the openings and they were fine.

To flip the chiles and keep them from falling apart, I used a large spatula. When I successfully flipped my first one, I about cried. I knew I had done it! I fried them until they were a golden brown color, then (again with the large spatula) I lifted them up from the grease and set them on the plate, while the chorus of "We Are The Champions" played in my head.

To humble myself a little bit here, I did have one fall apart, which I ate first and it was super delicious. I can't believe I made something without my mother-in-law's help. I hope that I can repeat this success in the future, so that Hector can actually eat something besides beans and rice!

I'd like to thank the Academy for my success..

03 November 2015

Halloween 2015

If you're coming over from another blog linked in the SOTBS blog hop, welcome! In an attempt to blog more often, a few women and myself, the "South of the Border Sisters" as we call ourselves, have decided to start a monthly blog hop. This month's theme is Day of the Dead. Take a look around, and if you also have a Day of the Dead post to share, feel free to link up your post!

Halloween has always been Hector's favorite holiday. In the US, we went all-out, decorating with lights, cobwebs, and other shenanigans. But since arriving in Mexico, Halloween has lost a lot of it's flavor. We still try to dress up and celebrate, but we are competing with the holiday celebrated in Mexico, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). I always appreciated this holiday, but we rarely celebrate. We have had zero close family members die. We are lucky, I guess. Tijuana is such a mixture of the US and Mexico, that there are people running around trick-or-treating all over town, then heading to the cemeteries on November 1st and 2nd.

This year, celebrating the holiday was even more difficult since our family is split apart. For costumes, Cecilia and I painted our faces as catrinas, the traditional skull-face paint that has become so over-stylized in American pop culture recently. Isaias begged to be Iron Man. In past three years, he's now been 3 different Marvel super heroes. Cecilia told me that she attempted to paint Emilia's face, but she couldn't stick still. In Tijuana, Hector took the girls out for trick-or-treating. In Oregon, the biggest rainstorm of the year hit, and Isaias and I barely made it around the block before the clogged storm drains began to flood the streets. In Oregon, we did carve some pumpkins that I had bought at the store; I plan to take my pumpkin carving tools back to TJ so that we can do this next year. Isaias was most concerned about the candy he was getting having chile on it.  I guess old habits die hard.

However, as a Catholic, I appreciate the importance of praying for the dead. Día de los Muertos is a celebration of this. Not only does it remind us that there is something awaiting us after death, but it also reminds us that we on Earth need to remember those who have gone before us and pray for those awaiting Heaven. Día de los Muertos conveniently falls on the Catholic solemnities of All Saint's Day, where we remember those who have made it to heaven and are with God, and All Soul's Day, where we remember those who have been baptized and are undergoing purification to be welcomed unblemished into Heaven. All through out the world, families are visiting graves on this weekend, praying for the souls of their loved ones who have passed away. While Day of the Dead is a colorful, celebratory, fun celebration of life and death, it should not be forgotten the true message of the day: that we need to pray for the souls of our dearly departed, and for those who have no one to pray for them.

Have a Day of the Dead themed blog post? Link it up here! An InLinkz Link-up