Thanksgiving: The New Christmas?

Yes, Christmas has snuck up even earlier this year, basically steamrolling Thanksgiving. Yes, this season is ridiculously commercialized. But I’m not talking about that.

This week Billy told me Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday. This amused me since it’s not widely celebrated in Latin America, and I find it unusual that a holiday can come off the bench and be number one.

“It reminds me more of Guatemalan Christmas,” he said. “You have a big meal, you spend the day with family. People don’t seem to do that as much here for Christmas, so I prefer Thanksgiving.” Sweet.

Approximately two hours later, I vox’d him and suggested Ella and I go out of town and leave him and Isaac behind. Even as I was saying it, I had an inkling this wasn’t my best idea ever.

His response? Nope. If I wanted to go, we’d all go. Of course, Isaac would scream the whole road trip and be up way past bedtime. But we’d all be miserable together.

What a beautiful Thanksgiving sentiment.

I hope you have a beautiful day with good food and non-miserable moments together! Where are you spending the day? At home or traveling?

Photo credit: Tom Gill

That Time We Stormed the Embassy

While in Guatemala, we decided to “stop by” the US Embassy.

After all, we are all citizens now and we wanted to see about the possibility of Billy’s parents being able to renew their visas. It’s not that we don’t love taking two kids under three on an airplane and through customs… but you know…

Isaac at the GUA airport... his hair shining like the noon-day sun...
Before we got inside the building, we were quickly assured that no one would be able to help us.

We almost turned away at that point, but Billy asked me, “Should we go inside?”

And I uttered those fateful words, “Well… we’re here. Might as well.”

We entered and began the security process, which involved confiscating our electronics (including ear buds) and Billy’s driver’s license. We poorly maneuvered a too-big stroller through old school turnstile/revolving door type entryways. (Overall, the place was very "prison-like.") 

We sat in the waiting area, our carseat, bags and stroller strewn over about seven chairs. I fed Isaac. Billy and Ella bounced from window to window trying to asking someone a question.

It was amusing to watch, actually. Billy would wait in line and when he reached the front, the person would walk away. Once he finally did get someone, they directed him to a back room. I watched him and Ella go.

They returned with the news that yes, sometimes parents of citizens are granted visas. We should apply online. Ha!

We prepared to go and headed towards the exit to retrieve our electronics. They asked for our pick-up card. Hmmm…

We’ve got a lot going on here… “Keeping-up-with-cards” isn’t really our thing.

“I think I saw Ella playing with it?” I asked Billy.

“Oh yeah. I gave to her to play with.”

In my mind: “Hmmm… that was not a good idea.” Out loud: “Ella… what did you do with that card you were playing with?”

She began a lengthy story with obscure, unrelated details. I revised the question: “Can you show me?”

“Yes, mama.” She marched back up the steps towards the waiting area. I followed.

She led me into the back room where she and Billy had been directed earlier. And then she proceeded to squat down by a window where I presume Billy was speaking with someone.

She pointed out a gaping crack between the wall and the baseboard. “I put it there and I can’t get it out,” she told me matter-of-factly.

Yes. Just as I suspected…

The next hour involved a lot of us continuing to look through our belongings, hoping beyond hope that this very specific explanation from Ella was inaccurate. It also involved a lot of scrambling from Embassy employees who basically said they couldn’t return our stuff without that blasted card. Ella was eating a granola bar.

Every new person called to handle the situation would be like “Yes, we can return your stuff. May I have the card?”

“We lost it.”

“The one with the number on it.”

“Yes, that’s the one.”

“What is your number?”

“We didn’t notice.”

“Okay, well if you give me the card, I can look it up.”

And this is how it went…

Eventually, they agreed to record the situation in a large book of incidents and return our belongings to us. All they needed was Billy’s passport number.

He chose this moment to ask about the security of that information in “the big, bad book of incidents.” Honestly, at this point, identity theft is the least of our worries. The kids haven’t had lunch. Isaac’s ready for a nap. And I don’t want to get on the return flight without that PSP programmed with Elmo episodes.

They assured him it was secure by flipping through the pages to show us how other people had put their information there, so it must be secure. Okay, then…

And so we emerged… happy, unscathed and ready to apply online.

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Bilingual Kiddo: The Verdict?

Our plane touched down back in Atlanta, and those who know me well asked me one question about our trip to Guatemala, “So… did Ella speak Spanish?”

They have witnessed my dramatic anxiety over my daughter’s dual language development and knew this trip was a bit of the rubber saying “hello, road!”

The short answer is no. And it was a bit crushing.

Naturally, I find myself ready to throw in the towel. “We’ll just raise us a good monolingual, American girl and be done with it. I know a lot of those, myself included, and we’re not so bad.” Did I mention I can be dramatic?

It’s just that I really thought this trip would unlock her secret vault of Spanish language. After all, we’ve been really working to increase and diversify her sources: preschool Spanish class, church, her babysitter is a native speaker, and then there’s, you know… her papi!

But there she was, talking to her “Lita” (abuelita) in rapid-fire English. (Since she and I shared a room, I can attest that the chattering began promptly at 5am when I opened my eyes to meet hers and hear “Mama, what is this picture on my sheets?” Lord, help me!)

We started this bilingual journey with her, and Billy and I are both committed to it. But man alive, I underestimated how delayed the pay off of seeing her converse in a second language would be.

It was hard to watch her frustration as she wasn’t always understood and to know the desire our family has to communicate with her easily.

Although, I also recognize that no one communicates with a toddler seamlessly. Just this afternoon, she backed me into a conversational corner and I heard myself saying, “If our car is at home, what are we inside of?”

Overall, the trip was a wonderful time for her (and all of us) to enjoy time with family, eat a lot of frijoles and to have many conversations about seat belts: who was wearing them, who wasn’t, why people were or were not wearing seat belts.

As I keep learning, raising bilingual kids requires constant recommitment. So we stocked up on books and once again, we are looking for ways to keep up the Spanish and eagerly looking for those moments when she lets us know she’s getting it.

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2 Important Lessons I Learned in Washington

Photo: Creative Commons

We are standing in front of the representative’s office, mustering the courage to knock. A friend jokingly pantomimes kicking in the door, and I laugh because I almost wish we could storm the place with our impassioned plea for reform. In reality, I’m wildly intimidated.

We are, after all, on Capital Hill, one of the most powerful places on earth… right?

First, Lobbying Ain’t No Thang

Once inside the office, we were ushered to a conference room, where a young woman in her early to mid twenties sits down with a notepad, ready to hear us out. Wait… what? I came here to talk to my congressperson…

Turns out “meeting with a congressperson” is really “meeting with an aide.” I found myself both disappointed and relieved.

We visited multiple offices and never once met with an actually representative. I had no trouble telling my story to aides and scribbling notes, documenting how many people were present, where they lived and what they wanted. And I was glad to feel that my being there was being logged in a way that might lend support to the movement.

Also, thanks to Evangelical Immigration Table, I’ve realized how easy it is to simply email my representative. In many ways, politics are a numbers game and the squeaky-er our wheel, the more likely to receive attention.

Second, We Are Not Alone

I have always approached immigration from a relational justice perspective and a faith view that instructs us to welcome the stranger. I was stunned to realize how many others care about immigration reform, maybe for reasons I’m not even sure I agree with, but want to see it passed all the same.

To give you an idea, Wal-Mart was a sponsor of this event to push reform. Wal. Mart.

Yes, Wal-Mart. And the Agriculture industry was well-represented, speaking from the stage of the economic impacts of immigration. “Even farmers aren’t raising their kids to be farmers. We need workers.”

On the bus, I sat beside a woman from the Food & Beverage industry in Las Vegas. She explained to me how she’s a die-hard Republican and all her Facebook friends were railing her for attending. She was certain this issue is not counter to the Republican agenda and must be addressed for purposes of the economy.

A super cool woman from the Tech industry in Houston told me how much talent is being excluded because we won’t allow young immigrants to work. She also was wearing a Google glass, which is like a tiny, headband computer that I’d never heard of before in my life. She let me try it on because… well, she was that cool.

I came away from this event wondering who on earth is against immigration reform.

The opportunity to go to Washington was unexpected and truly blessed me. I write on this blog and Billy and I share our story whenever we are invited, but it felt empowering to actually approach elected leaders and remind them that residents of Georgia care about immigration reform.

Because we do. And we are not alone.

Have you ever approached your national representatives? What was your experience? 

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Soup, 7-Up, and Somewhere In- Between

I met Carrie in the blogosphere and now, on our trip to Guatemala, I have met her in real life! I am so grateful for others' stories of cross-cultural marriage. When she shared this post with me, I was reminded of so many incredulous looks Billy and I have shared as we execute our culturally-influenced home remedies. Enjoy Carrie's guest post, and be sure to check out her blog!

Photo: Creative Commons
In a cross-cultural marriage, there are things you expect to be different. The food you eat, the language you speak, the soccer team you cheer for (although that might be a deal breaker, at least here in Guatemala). 

I didn’t have too many surprises in those categories. Luckily my husband will eat just about anything, I am pretty fluent in Spanish, and as for the soccer teams, well, sometimes you just agree to disagree.

There is, however, one thing that did surprise me. It is the way we feel about illness, medicine, and home remedies.

My family’s philosophy growing up was always “rest and fluids.”  The cure to any stomach ache is drinking a little Ginger Ale or 7-Up. Hiccups means a spoonful of peanut butter or drinking a glass of cold water while you plug your nose (or to get really fancy, your nose and ears). 

We rarely went to the doctor or took medicine other than a little Ibuprofen or grape Dimetapp here and there. Most of the time my mom let us eat whatever sounded good while sick (which I distinctly remember because once I asked her to make me Snicker Salad). Unless of course we needed to follow the BRAT diet, because, well, you know…

My husband on the other hand (whom I affectionately refer to as “Mexi-malteco” since he is ½ Mexican and ½ Guatemalan) grew up with an entirely different set of home remedies and way of dealing with sickness. 

His mom always made te de manzanilla or te de limon (chamomile or lemon tea). Guatemalans are prohibited from eating or drinking cold things while sick (in fact, they aren’t even supposed to open the refrigerator!), so he always had a strict diet of soups and broths. There are 24-hour pharmacies stocked with pills to cure any ailment you might have, and the clinics are always full of patients.

Over the past two years, Mexi-malteco and I have had to learn and adjust to how we each manage being sick. He is learning to come home bearing 7-Up and Saltines, and I am learning to make soup and hot tea. He is sitting next to me and watching a movie, and I am going to the pharmacy for Tabcin and Panadol. 

Since having our first baby, we have had lots of discussions on how to best care for him (Public or private vaccines? Is he cold or hot? Yes or no to the gas drops?) Most often we end up comprising somewhere in the middle.

That’s the thing about cross-cultural marriage. It is a coming together of both cultures to form a new hybrid third culture. It requires being open to new ways of doing things. I have to let go of my way being the “right” way and instead make an effort to see things through his lens.

Even if means drinking steaming hot tea in 85 degree weather.

I am curious to know - what are your home remedies? If you are in a cross-cultural relationship, how are they different from your spouses?

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U-Pick... Or Not

I have sweet childhood memories of picking strawberries. (Yep, that's me!) Riding in the truck bed out to the fields and squatting until my legs hurt to search for berries. Of course, we always stole a few juicy bites before we lugged our baskets to the scale to pay.

Since Ella’s been born, every summer I throw out the idea of taking her strawberry picking. And every autumn, my desire to visit a farm piques again.

The air in the South finally takes on a cool undertone. Leaves change and float to the ground. And typically, the sun is brilliant, creating this perfect “fall-y feeling.” I start suggesting we go to an apple orchard. It just feels right.

Anytime I mention these activities to Billy, he is incredulous. It turns out asking an immigrant to pay someone else to do recreational farm labor doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to him!

So far, I haven’t gotten Ella out to the fields, but I think next year it’ll happen. I did get everyone to a pumpkin patch, though. We had a blast feeding goats, going on a hayride and posing with crops rather than picking them.

Maybe I can get us back here again next year. After all we have to measure Ella against the "How Tall This Fall?" corn!

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October: What I'm Into

October in Atlanta is simply divine. So when it comes to what I’ve been into this month… fall tops the list. In fact, the last several years we have been traveling nearly the entire month, so this year it was so wonderful to be in town.


To celebrate fall, I convinced my family to head to a pumpkin patch (more on the cultural-ness of this later). It was so fun watching Ella feed goats and experience a hay ride. She also happily hopped up on a pony, which was a pleasant surprise. Turns out she’s a better Kentucky girl than me.

I completely failed at jogging in October. It just didn’t happen. To avoid being a complete lazy bones, though, we did have a couple family biking trips, which were incredible. 

And even when things did begin to unravel, there’s something quite funny about peddling a bike trailer with two wailing kids inside while passers-by look on curiously.

TV & Books

TV-wise, I started watching shows on my phone while at work. This proved to be a dangerous habit, but oh-so-fun. 

I watched a lot of Hart of Dixie this month. I can’t really recommend it because it’s kinda ridiculous. Still, as one friend texted me, “Why is a show about the Deep South and a completely not believable doctor character so good?!”

I also enjoyed the season premier of Scandal, which was ushered in by a good ‘ole premier party. A gaggle of girls piled into a living room to gasp together as we begin another shocking season. Thank you, Shonda. Again, this friend told me her husband saw the party on the calendar and said something to the effect of, “What is this? Do we have a scandal scheduled for next week?” Love it!

I did read some books this month. When We Were on Fire was released by Addie Zierman, a blogger I have enjoyed. I participated in her synchroblog, writing on my evangelical rebellions. She is a fantastic writer, which I really appreciated. And her story, while different than I expected, is important. The book is a vulnerable and thought-provoking memoir. 

Our monthly book club tackled Lean In, which I had actually read this summer, but I was reminded again how much I appreciated this encouragement from the female CEO of Facebook. You don’t always know what you’re going to get when it comes to books about women pursuing leadership, but this one just connected with me in deep ways.

Her tone is gracious and truly encouraging, and messages from the book have been stirring in my heart 
and mind since closing it. Our book club conversation included a beautiful array of diverse female experiences and was uplifting and hilarious as we shared together.


In other “womanly” news, I got bangs in October. I have this amazing hair stylist who comes to my house and we invite all our friends over to eat baked goods, peruse Pinterest for styles and cheer each other on when we do things like get bangs.


October was an unexpectedly political month for me. It all began with a neighborhood candidate forum, where I became convinced of the importance of local politics. These folks were actually talking about things that affect me and my family!

Billy was so excited to participate in his first election. Unfortunately, we discovered we had not registered and there’s a cut off before voting day that we’ve already passed. So Ella and I went yesterday. As I explained to her the importance of voting, she responded, “I want to choose my leaders!”

I also got unexpectedly and heavily involved in the immigration reform movement this month. It was an incredible experience. First, Billy and I worked to involve our church in the Evangelical Immigration Table’s Pray4Reform gatherings

Then, I ended up traveling to DC to meet with Republican Representatives. More on this coming soon. All in all, though, it was a joy to be involved, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. Keep praying!

Rock Stars

Finally, October ended with Halloween. Such a fun day that boasts so many of my favorite things: glitter, candy, costumes and neighbors. Again this year, we helped with our neighborhood festivities. And even though I had grand plans of a family of four costume, that did not happen.

Instead, Ella joyfully played the part of a rock star, making her rock star Papa so proud. We gave Isaac a rocker look as well, but no one even noticed because his hair always looks like that!

November is starting off with a bang as we head to Guatemala to visit family. I'm expecting a beautiful time of food, laughs and discount DVDs. 

What were some of your favorite things about October? 

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

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