20 January 2016

The Home Stretch

Let us ignore my dirty mirror
Well, I'm finally in the home stretch of pregnancy. I've dealt with an international move, the night shift, illness, cellulitis, homeschooling, and a host of other rather stressful situations. I've dealt with feelings of letdown and loneliness, happiness and excitement, and a lot of exhaustion. I've been apathetic, nervous, and oblivious to most of this pregnancy. I'm sure that happens when you get to your third kid. I am now, just in the last week or so, finally getting a few things together to take to the hospital and prepare for baby.

Now, I am in the home stretch. It is a matter of days until I meet this little guy (who has been confirmed to be a boy by several ultrasound techs at this point). I am tired, swollen, and not well these last few days. I've had some pregnancy-related issues, which have confirmed my decision to return to Oregon as the correct one. There hasn't been anything too major, nothing that rest and close monitoring can't really help alleviate.

I just placed an online order for the last baby item that I wanted, and now I am just in a period of waiting. There's not a lot to actually do: my mom is knitting Baby a blanket, because my carpal tunnel has made it pretty much impossible to hold the needles. All of Isaias's baby clothes, plus the clothes I've received as gifts have been washed, folded, and sorted. The car seat is all set and ready to be installed into whatever car I might be in when we come home from the hospital. There is a bassinet for baby to sleep in until we head back home to Tijuana.

Isaias is ready to meet his baby brother. We talk about the things babies can and can't do, how they cry, and how much attention they need. He insists that his brother's name is "Friend". There is a name picked out, but it is Top Secret; I haven't told anyone what it is, in case there is a last minute change, and it is completely Hector's decision. Isaias is ready to go back to Mexico; he says that 'Baby Brother will be born on the last day, then we'll go back to Daddy's world'.  He misses his sister, Emilia, and his dad. He is ready to go back to the life we had, and frankly, so am I. I have LOVED being home for this pregnancy, and am so grateful for my parents to let me back into the house for this, plus all of the help they've given me. However, I do miss the life we had in Tijuana. That feels like home, too. And for Isaias, it kinda is. That is his hometown, where he is growing up. So, I'm getting more and more anxious, not to have this baby, but to get back to Tijuana. Is it weird that I am more excited for that, than to have this baby?

12 January 2016

Día de Los Reyes Magos {Three Kings' Day}

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. Take a look around, and if you also have a South Of The Border post to share, feel free to link up your post!

I love Three Kings' Day. A lot of people assume that after the 25th of December, Christmas is over. And for a lot of people, it is. However, as a Catholic, Christmas is just getting started on Christmas Eve. And it lasts all the way into January. We get the whole "12 Days of Christmas" thing.

Christmastide officially ends on the Feast of the Epiphany, traditionally on January 6th. In the US, this feast day is usually moved to the Sunday closest to the 6th (this year that day was January 3rd). The Feast of the Epiphany commemorates the arrival of the three wise men from afar who came bearing gifts for the Christ child. In Mexico and many other countries, this is the day for gift giving, not Christmas day, which is a religious day. Traditionally, a King's cake (Rosca de Reyes) is eaten with hot chocolate. Whoever finds the Christ child hidden in their slice of cake has to make the tamales for the last feast of the winter holidays, La Candalaria, Candlemas, on February 2nd. In fact, many people who have now put away their Christmas decorations, will leave their nativity sets up until that day.

Last year, I bought a rosca at the local grocery store bakery in Mexico and we split it with some friends. Since I was alone this year with just the kids and my American family, I decided to try to MAKE my own rosca de reyes. It is a little like making bread, which, I had never done. Also, I had to make the dough twice, because the first batch never rose until hours later. I apparently didn't activate the yeast. Also, I didn't know where to find the baby Jesus figurines. I went to a Mexican bakery and they had them for about a dime a piece. I got two, just in case I screwed something up. The baby figurine is hidden inside of the cake to remind us that Mary and Joseph had to hide the Christ child from Herod by escaping to Egypt.

I searched and searched for a recipe that I might try, one the didn't seem too intimidating for a novice bread maker. I found this one on Pinterest after doing a search, but even then, it didn't seem quite right. So I improvised. Anywhere in the recipe that it called for lemon juice or lemon zest, I substituted vanilla and almond extract. Now, messing around with recipes the first time you try them is not very good advice. I lucked out, but I wouldn't do it again. Especially since, as I mentioned before, I had to do this twice.

Before baking and all of the fruit
The King's Cake recipe above calls for icing and colored sugar. Traditional Mexican rosca has candied fruit on it.  I don't know where to buy candied fruit and  So again, I improvised. I bought several types of dried fruit and sliced almonds. I was going to make a pretty design with the almonds, but Isaias decided to help me.

Before baking, but with the dried fruit added
I tried to make a design with the dried fruit, but it didn't want to stick to the dough very well. I used dried figs, Craisins, and dried apricots. There was not really any rhyme or reason for these fruits except they were available at the store. The colorful fruit is supposed to remind us of the jewels on the crowns of the Three Kings.

Freshly baked. It expanded much more in the oven.
I baked the bread, and I had no idea what I was doing. Fortunately, my mom was available to check everything for me, because I would have burned this things silly. The bread itself expanded much more inside of the oven; I was not expecting that. I would have used the bigger cookie sheet and made the rosca wider had I known that it would do that.

We set the nativity up with the cake, to remember why we were celebrating.
On the morning of January 6th, we woke up and I made some Mexican hot chocolate (basically hot chocolate with cinnamon), read the Bible story of the visit of the Wise Men, and we sliced open the cake. The kids wanted to dig through the whole thing trying to see who could find Baby Jesus. But, it was my dearest dad, who found him by nearly swallowing the Baby Jesus. After eating the rosca, which wasn't nearly as dry as a store-bought, we spent the afternoon taking down the Christmas decorations and the tree. I am always a little bummed by the end of Christmas, but I am also glad that everything is now put away in time for Baby's arrival in just a few short weeks!

11 January 2016

Christmas Recap

Hello everyone, and happy new year!

This is just a little Christmas recap, finishing up 2015 before I dive right in to 2016.

I have made sugar cookies in some way, shape, or form, since my first Christmas memories. This is my mom's old recipe, found in an ancient Betty Crocker cookbook that's older than I am. However, this year was special because I managed to NOT burn a single cookie. There's a first time for everything, I suppose. Cecilia enjoyed helping me mix the frosting and decorating. Isaias made three cookies, and decided he didn't want to do that anymore.

We went to the mall to see Santa. Cecilia is still a believer at nine, and I really wanted to make sure that continues as long as possible. I know a lot of people don't do the Santa thing. We do, just like I did growing up. Cecilia asked for the Wii U, and Isaias asked for Legos, his newest obsession.


We attended Christmas Eve Vigil Mass on Christmas Eve at our local church. Cecilia was so excited because it was a bilingual service, and she could sing a long to all of the Spanish songs. Her Spanish is markedly improved since her arrival in Mexico. On Christmas morning, we woke up, opened presents, then put on our newest Christmas PJs, and lounged all day long. That's my kind of day since I am still pregnant, still huge, and very tired.

How was everyone else's holiday?

01 January 2016

One Little Word 2016

Hello 2016.

This year is going to be BIG. There are many changes coming to our family very soon: Baby Boy will be arriving within the month, and we will be returning to our life in Mexico as a complete family.

Every year since 2009, I have followed the lead of blogger Ali Edwards and picked a word that I try to live throughout the year. It is similar to a New Year's resolution, but without all of the pressure. Sometimes, the word stays with me throughout the year, and sometimes, I let it go and just live the way that I need to live to survive.

My past words include:

Downsize- in 2009, I was all about "downsizing". I wanted to get rid of a lot of extra baggage I was carrying around, both physically (I was carrying around a lot of weight and was taking an insane amount of work out classes), and emotionally. Hector and I were in a rough spot, even though we stuck it out and got married that year. It was a really difficult and dark period of my life.

Pray- In 2010, I was searching for God. I was away from the Church, and I was trying to find him. Praying became my lifeline. I prayed for a son, and I received him.

Learn- I dropped out of college in 2011. I really felt sad about this, and was trying to find other ways to keep my brain from going nuts. My goal was to start reading again. I managed a few books this year, but instead I became a CNA, got a job, and Hector got deported. I had to learn, very quickly, how to be alone, how to survive, and how to parent and work. 2011 was the year I began to really become an adult.

Shine- in 2012, I wanted to improve myself. I had realized that all of those years of fighting with Hector, raising babies, and being exhausted, I hadn't taken time to polish myself. I began to make friends at work, networking and reaching out to the people around me. Some people might find this strange, but I was on a path of self-discovery that turned out to be somewhat self-destructive and selfish. However, I learned a lot about myself.

Adventure- in 2013, I was going to move to Mexico. I had it all planned out. I was ready to go, packing up, and even turned in my two weeks at work, and then I backed out at the last moment. I let fear take ahold of me, and that fear ended up hurting the people I love the most.

Brave- in 2014, I was ready. I was not going to make the same mistakes as before. I was going to move to Mexico even if it killed me. I missed out on a year of Adventures because I let fear control me. So in 2014, I took that step, I put my trust in God, and I took the leap to move to Mexico, even if the process wasn't ideal.

My word for 2015, was humble. After putting myself up on a really high pedestal back in 2012 and 2013, I fell down. HARD. Mexico was a slap in the face. Everything that could go wrong really did. I felt like my life was over. We were poor (not as poor as some, but poorer than I had ever been in my entire life). I didn't know how to survive, or cook, or even live with my husband because we had been apart for so long. If I hadn't spent a year practicing being brave, I don't honestly think I would have made it through that first year. I had learned to live without most amenities that people in TJ and the US have. I learned what was necessary in life, and what wasn't. And I learned to depend entirely on Christ's mercy, forgiveness, and faithfulness.

I learned to like to be humble. When I returned to the US, my main goal was NOT returning to be the person I was before Mexico. The spoiled child could never return- I am 27 years old, not 17. I managed to keep a rather low profile upon returning. I worked and came home. I prepared to have a baby. I go to church. I come home and homeschool my son. I grocery shop, comparing prices and thinking about Hector and Cecilia and what they are eating the entire time. It is not about me, I am not the main focus of this world. I am but a tiny, miniscule part of a larger human story.

I am a little sad to see humble go; learning to embrace humility has brought me so much closer to Jesus and has allowed me to receive graces that I didn't know I could have ever needed. But, a new year is upon us, and it has been difficult to find another life-changing word that would keep me going on the course that I am already upon. I have learned to embrace the uncomfortableness that humility brings, and I want to continue in the uncomfortable feelings. Usually, a word pops into my head in September or October, and I let it mull around in my brain for awhile. However, that did not happen to me this year. It wasn't until almost Christmas that a word finally showed itself to me.

My word for 2016 is Small.

When I think of small, I think of two things: First is the Bible verse, John 3:30. It really wouldn't leave me alone during the process of choosing a word, so I've decided to go with it. The verse says:

"He must increase, but I must decrease."  (John 3:30, Douay-Rheims Bible)
I must decrease. I must become smaller, like a small child, and let Christ really take center stage this year. The second thing that I think of when I think of the word small is of St. Therese de Liseux and "The Little Way". I honestly don't know much about this great saint that so many people have a devotion to. Her feast day is my birthday, so I figure I should learn something about her. That is my goal this year, to learn about St. Therese and all that she had to say about being small and doing small things. I hope to get a couple of books about her, and start my journey there.
What are your goals for 2016? What is your word? What are some ways that you could benefit from becoming smaller? Let me know in the comments below!