You Are So Hot

Lately, I have not been able to kick THE BUG. I don’t know if it’s pregnancy or Atlanta’s wild temperature swings or what, but I have been rockin’ the fever more than ever. Not awesome.

The experience has, however, reminded me of one of those amusing cross-cultural marriage moments that snuck up on me. 

The first time our daughter was sick, I decided to try and take her temperature. Oh… me and thermometers don’t get along. I think I have a chemical imbalance in my skin that breaks them. They never work. It’s ridiculous.

And we got this cool forehead thermometer before Ella was born. I did not have the right kind of degree to work that bad boy. So, I went back to the simple digital and stuck the little gadget under her arm. (Yeah, I’m not really a committed enough mother to go for the anal thermometer. I know… it’s more accurate. I’ll accept an estimation.)

Her temp rounded out about 100.7 or something. Nothing really alarm worthy… or so I thought. Billy, however, was more than alarmed. (Overreact much?

Naturally, he assumed (and he has the majority of the world to back him up on this) that I was giving her temp in Celsius. That would be the equivalent of me telling him her temp was approximately 213 degree Fahrenheit. Yeah, he was alarmed. 

Ah, the metric system. So logically simple, yet it escapes me because I’ve grown up with every convoluted measuring system except that one. Occasionally, Billy would mention that something was such-and-such kilometers away. But that never mattered much because I actually measure distance in minutes, so I needed a translation anyway.

But the thermometer keeps coming back. In Argentina, we had to buy one because (surprise, surprise) the one I brought broke. The new one ONLY measured in Celsius. It was basically worthless to me. 

As recently as a couple weeks ago, Billy was bringing me a thermometer and after pushing several buttons, he announced, “I put it on Fahrenheit for you.” I mean, I really thought that went without saying. But I guess not. 

When it comes to illness and when to be alarmed, we both need the information in our first language!

Are you on metric or standard measuring systems? Are you able to switch back and forth?

Our Muddy Freedom

It's with sheer delight that I introduce you to my sweet friend and Mission Year co-worker Jenni Shaffer. She is the mom to four of the cutest kids in my Facebook News Feed and an incredible mentor to so many young adults seeking to live in community and love the poor. She graciously agreed to share her reflections on my blog today. Enjoy!

The forecast was calling for rain, a 50% chance to be specific, and we needed to burn some serious energy. As a homeschooling mom, rainy days are tricky. The main reason I keep my crew of four at home for learning and discovering the world around them is because I passionately believe we need more exposure to nature in our technological, cubicle-happy society. 

We were born to learn and explore. Learning is not a skill that is taught, it is an instinct that is nurtured (or squashed). I am keenly aware of the gift it is be able to stay home with them. I’m not sure this will always be the case, but I am going to do my best with the gift it is in this season. 

My kids will ask the most thoughtful questions about life and the earth while simply playing soccer in the backyard at dusk. 

“Mommy, why do mosquitoes always bite me but not my brother?” 

“Mom, how come the moon is a different shape each night?”  

“Mama, how come the salad is growing well in our garden, but all of the tomatoes are dying?” 

“Mah, what kind of habitat should we make for this caterpillar I caught and can I bring it inside to sleep in bed with me tonight?” Um. No. Seriously though, we often shape our days around their questions and I find myself learning more than them most of the time. 

While technology certainly has its place in our weekly routine with on-line keyboard lessons, Spanish computer games, Backyardigan Episodes during bath-time meltdowns and ipod play lists for sibling tension relief, my kids thrive in the outdoors. So, when a rainy day arises, I either panic or embrace the MUD! 

Sometimes I just do not have the energy it takes to clean up their splashing, muddy mess, so we rely on games like Simon Says, fort-building, free-style painting and things like that. Other times I just say, “Do you guys want to play in the rain?” and the crowd goes wild. And you know what? The rain never damages them. 

Why don’t adults play in the rain? In those moments of skipping through the slippery mess outdoors my children embody a physical picture of freedom. Freedom: the power to determine action without restraint. 

It’s a beautiful sight. It’s almost as if they know in their hearts that this breaks some sort of unnecessary code of restraint on them as they glop mud by the fistfuls on their exposed skin. They squeal and giggle and sing and march with peaceful unity around the backyard. They are good kids, but they are normal and unity is something we notice and celebrate among them (sibling rivalry is a real thing, people!).

This rainy day was like most of them in Houston, Texas. Our typically cloudless, big, blue sky was gathering patches of suspicious gray. The wind was picking up intensity, but it was still dry out. It can stay like this for hours before a torrential downpour ensues. However, once the sky breaks open sheets of tropical rain begin to smother the ground around us. It’s phenomenal.   

No matter how many times my little ones witness this, they always react with enthusiasm as if it’s their first time seeing something so powerful. Running to the bay window they smash their four faces up against it to see and watch the magical rain fall from the sky.   

I envy that. To repeatedly witness a miracle, without losing the awe of it, is a treasure children instinctively carry with them. 

I want to be like them. 

After all, freedom and unity are two of the most important qualities of my faith to me. I believe these two things can change the world and further the Kingdom. As we unify ourselves by loving when it’s hard, forgiving when it’s undeserved, sharing without reciprocation, and befriending when it’s inconvenient we change the world.   

When we accept the freedom we have to be our most authentic-self, we become more alive. In fully living, we reflect our Risen King. When we can re-visit Christ’s death during Lent and His resurrection during Easter with fresh awe and true wonder, no matter how many times we’ve heard the story, we are changed.

This Lenten season I’m extremely thankful for my little mixed up family. We’re not all the same race and not all of my children are biological. Yet they are equally loved and adored and I need them to keep teaching me about the things that matter: like unity, freedom, and wonder. 

After all, this is what I believe life is about no matter where you’re from.

Jenni lives in Houston TX with her husband and 4 kids in their co-owned, community house that they share with another family of 4, plus a dog. She is passionate about nature, nutrition, adoption, hospitality, diversity and spicy food. She loves reading, biking, camping, cooking, writing, and dating her husband...although she has little time for most of it. She adores her children and the constant activity they bring to her daily life. She blogs at Embracing the Moments

It Ain't Over 'Til Someone Jumps On Your Head

I hate winter. Like with a passion. And yes… I consider 40 degrees winter. It’s not warm. It’s cold. If a hoodie won’t cut it, I’m out.

My distaste for winter has only increased with the arrival of a kid. It’s a cold Saturday… what exactly are we going to do all day?

This weekend we decided on an indoor play place with inflatables… us and a thousand other Atlanta-area families. May not make for the best jumping conditions for a 2-year old, but did serve well in the “people watching” department.

First, Ella seemed overwhelmed by the giant castles, masses of children, and the incessant birthday party announcements over the intercom. Her first reaction in new, chaotic situations tends to be to take a step back and observe. 

On this occasion, I found myself thinking, “Why are we all sitting on a bench eating hummus? We could’ve done this at home…”

But alas, she eventually warmed up to the environment and was ready to tackle the big slides. Of course, inflatable slides come with inflatable steps to climb them… no easy feat. She carefully and deliberately climbed her way up, alternately holding up an entire line of children or being trampled by the less patient. 

Eventually, she was gleefully sliding and laughing happily after jumping and jumping until she fell down. It was all fun and games… until it wasn’t.

Billy noticed first that she was in the center of a giant ring, face down and sobbing. He sprung into action, sprinting towards the bounce castle entrance. Ever practical, I found myself merely thinking, “Oh no. He didn’t take off his shoes! I hope he’s not planning to go inside!”

Since I was looking at his feet, I saw the next scene unfold completely before my shocked eyes. A mom came from out of nowhere at warp speed and dove into the child’s sized entrance next to my husband. She was hollering furiously and scrambling wildly to basically beat Billy inside the castle.

I could tell by his legs that he was being pushed and prodded as she was essentially climbing up his body to gain quicker access. I was simultaneously laughing hysterically and thinking “At what point do I get involved?” Four legs – two belonging to my husband and two to this stranger – were now sticking out of the inflatable. 

I peaked at Ella and could see she was being dragged out by her feet, so I figured Billy still had the situation under control. When they emerged, his first question to me was an incredulous, “Where did that lady come from?”

Words could not come since I was laughing so hard (oh, and simultaneously soothing my sobbing toddler). My thought was more “What on earth was she doing?” Billy gave me the scoop that this woman’s son was actually the perpetrator jumping on Ella’s head. 

Ah! Well, that puts a few things in context. Namely, why she was clobbering my husband and where her child learned to jump on people’s heads.

Bounce houses just seem like fertile soil for injuries, funny stories, and whiplash. Any tales of your own?

Mother of the Year: Valentine’s Day

Last year Valentine’s Day scarred me.

While I was busy writing whimsical posts about cross-cultural terms of endearment, what I was not doing was preparing to be a good preschool mom.

First of all, I was shocked and appalled by the email from her class with a list of the kids’ names. It had never crossed my mind that my fourteen-month old would need to send Valentine’s. I mean, we hadn’t celebrated when she was two months… why now?

So I ran to Target, swiped a box of Valentines with dogs and cats wearing angel’s wings. Creepy… but kid-friendly. They each came with a small sticker. Wait. That’s a tattoo I just handed out to a classroom of one year olds. Awesome.

Little did I know that providing a room full of infants with body art was the least of my offenses. Party day arrived and when I picked Ella up, I realized a small Valentine was only the beginning. There were little toys, handmade cards with clever (mildly uncomfortably romantic) phrases, and loads of candy.

What?! Candy? When did Valentine’s become Halloween’s little sister?

This year I was so on it. I had an Amazon order a couple weeks ago that was just under the “free shipping” mark, so I found packs of Valentine’s stickers. Two year olds go wild for stickers. It’s ridiculous. (That and I didn’t really want to support the candy-ization of Valentine’s.)

But I didn’t get the email with the kids’ names, so quite frankly, I forgot about preschool Valentines. Until Wednesday… when Billy brought home her love tokens from some other kids. Oooh no! Are you kidding me? I have packs of stickers! Seriously!

She’s in a different class Tuesdays and Thursdays than the other days, so I had my game face on for The Day. I still didn’t know the kids’ names, so I debated what to write. I considered “Let’s stick together” or “I’m stuck on you,” but ultimately decided on “Love, Ella.” It was quicker.

I was flying high when I dropped her off on Thursday. Score! No tattoos for these toddlers.

But then today happened... back in her Wednesday class where I'd already neglected to tell 2-year olds how much my daughter loves them. I thought it was over. I’d missed the boat.

When I returned from work, Billy informed me. “Vos, she got more Valentine’s today!! I felt so bad. I just scooped them into her lunchbox and ran out with my head down!” 

AH HAHAHAHA! Are you kidding me? I have packs of stickers, people!!! 

Alright my Parents of the Year... what did you do for your kid's class on Valentine's Day?

The End of the World As We Know It

Remember in December when everyone on Facebook was talking about the end of the world? 

This was kinda a big deal for the Quezada family. So big, in fact, I was shocked to discover today that I never wrote about it! Apparently, I was too busy blogging about Advent, London, and Nochebuena to have time to acknowledge the end of the world. Boooo.

Billy had been forewarning me since approximately April 1st that the indigenous Guatemalans (the Maya) had constructed a calendar and a 5,125-year-long cycle was coming to an end. The world was on its way out. 

I am always up for some good drama, so I bought right into it. I watched his YouTube research on the sounds of the earth groaning… of prophecies… and of the clear and unshakable evidence that December 21st was, at the very least, the beginning of the end.

It was exhilarating. Why I purchased Christmas presents I have no idea.

Naturally, I decided to throw a party. I assumed that the perfect celebration would be the fateful evening of the 21st. My Facebook friends, however, all seemed in agreement that awakening on the dawn of the 21st was the true accomplishment indeed.

It turned out the true drama really did lie in the evening of the 20th. Basically, I am not even exaggerating when I say it was a dark and stormy night. Billy and I were in our living room watching TV when around 10 o’clock, the power went out.

The. Power. Went. Out!

Billy and I both tried to play it cool, but that’s not really our nature, so we overreacted. Well… him more than me.

The lights flickered back on about 3 minutes later. Billy looked at the clock, calculated the time remaining until sudden death at midnight and came to a startling conclusion.

“We need water and batteries. I’m going to Kroger.”

We quickly decided on a meeting point in case things got out of control before he could return home, and he left. Left me… alone… with a sleeping toddler. I would have to fight off the zombies and get us to high ground by myself… you know, if it came to that.

Thankfully, it did not come to that. In less than an hour, he returned with batteries and 24 bottles of water, which I found surprising. This really seemed more of a “gallon” situation than individual bottles, but whatever. Sadly, the packaging was weak and bottles were rolling all over our driveway and yard. We don’t need this kind of busy work when the world is ending, people!

Back in the house with arms full of water, we began to ready ourselves for the night. Midnight neared. I’m brushing my teeth. It’s 11:50. The power goes out AGAIN!

Billy and I freeze in terrified silence. I am biting off my fingers. We are FREAKED.

Well, spoiler alert… we (and the world) survived. The power returned minutes later and seemed to be primarily storm related more than “certain death” related. Ah well… maybe next time. By the way, I still have two giant bags of bottled water sitting in my dining room floor if you’re thirsty!

How did you celebrate the end of the world?

This Spanglish Family

When Ella first started picking up words, it was so exciting to hear her name something. We loved saying any new word she added over and over.

Then I started giving Billy a hard time for sentences like “Ponete tus shoes.” (Put on your… shoes.) I worried that she’d never learn the corresponding Spanish word if we simply substituted English ones she’d already mastered. I imagined she’d have one, complex Spanglish vocabulary. But she just said “shoes” so cute…

So Billy graciously appeased me and kept working to be intentional about speaking to her fully in Spanish. But then she learned a few words in Spanish, and it’s just so cute to hear her talking. I want to say the words over and over.

Which is how I suddenly realized I was saying sentences like “I’ll get you some more agua” and “We’re going outside. Put on your chumpi!” I especially realized it when a friend heard me and was like “chumpi”? Oh… um… yeah. It’s Spanish for “jacket.”

Well, sort of. Then I started thinking how the actual word is chumpa… and it’s really only used in Guatemala. And chumpi is the sort of toddler-esque, diminuative version. I think anyway. 

I actually don’t really know Spanish. I’m just saying it because my kid says it, and I think it’s cute…
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