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The Superlatives {October 2014}

October is all fall, baby. And even though summer is my favorite season, this is definitely a fun one!

FAVORITE SPORTING EVENT

In true World Cup Wives fashion, I headed to an Atlanta Silverbacks game this month with Billy and some friends. I believe some soccer was played.


What I can tell you more definitely is that we sat behind the "cheering section," which is full of some of the most interesting, complicated characters you'll meet. We were particularly struck by one tall, skinny boy who appeared to be in high school.

While the drums banged and drunk people danced, he remained stoned face while his shoulders did all the talking. It was the most amazing of shoulder dancing routines, if such a category should exist. We could not stop laughing.

It brought great joy to the crowd. In fact, the guy in front of me videotaped it. Which I know because I was openly watching it over his shoulder. Which became incredibly awkward when he felt my presence, turned around, and then kindly tried to hold up his phone for me to see.

I just kept apologizing, but also watching. I have no idea what proper etiquette is for these technology-related moments. He also posted it to Instagram. I stopped short of asking for his account name. (It was just far enough away that I couldn't read it myself!)

FAVORITE CELEBRITY STALKING

Since I'm on this awkward train already, next stop is BJ Novak's book tour. Yes, Ryan from the Office wrote a children's book. My friend Katie and I attended the book reading... without any children... even though we both have them.

So he read the book to a group of hilarious, outspoken children and then answered their questions, which were plentiful. He also spoke to the adults, and I was really intrigued to hear about his writing habits and general writer's lifestyle. I did not ask a question because I knew if I raised my hand I would be able to say nothing except, "Please talk to me about Mindy."


They did not allow pictures with BJ. Naturally, Katie and I thought we'd be stealthy and take a photo of ourselves which a suspiciously large gap in between. What made this experience even more awesome is that it took us an inappropriate amount of time to reverse the camera. We were holding it up, shouting, "Where are we??? Who is that girl???" Only to lower the camera and see said girl waiting behind us in line. Yep. Let's flip that camera around, please.


FAVORITE TV

Okay, y'all. I started watching Nashville. I've always stayed away because I felt I needed to start this one from the very beginning. (Thank you, Hulu.) I'm hooked.

FAVORITE FOOD

This is not earth-shattering, but I've become obsessed with roasted vegetables this month. Normally, I over-oil the veggies, which makes it all kind of slimy. When I asked Billy how he made them so amazing, he gently explained how he mixed the EVOO, salt, and pepper in a bowl and brushed it on.

But seriously, friends. I hate broccoli. I only ever buy it because Billy and Ella love it, and someone once said you should eat vegetables. But roasted broccoli???? Oh my goodness. I was eating it like candy after the kids went to bed.


FAVORITE BOOK

This month I ordered Amy Poehler's book Yes Please. I can't wait to read it!

FAVORITE FALL FUN

A haunted maze has been on my bucket list for a while. I don't like gore, but I love suspense and nervousness and getting freaked out. Billy graciously agreed to drive me an hour out of the city to visit a haunted corn maze.


Yes, being outside the city can sometimes freak us out a bit. It was super fun, though. Very low-key. Basically high schoolers wandering out of the corn at unexpected moments. Me using Billy as a human shield. The usual.

Of course, a close runner up was taking the kids to a pumpkin patch. They had a ball, and enjoyed watching them have such a good time.

FAVORITE POST

We had some fun here on the blog with this video post. It was the most popular post of the month. Billy and I will likely do some more videos together we had such a good time!

FAVORITE READS

Best on Multicultural Identity: I am a Triangle and Other Thoughts on Repatriation

Funniest: 20 Gifs Only Gringas Married to Latinos Will Understand

Best on Immigration: An American Dream Deferred

Best Ode to Guac: 15 Signs Your Life Is Actually All About the Guac

Best onMexico: Under the Volcano

What were you into this month?

A Grandparent's Guide to Facebook

This was a fun little post I put together after some hilarious conversations with friends. The content was "crowd-sourced." And don't worry, my mom already knows they're not ALL about her.



Facebook launched when your kids were in college. You never paid much attention because it was a college-kid thing. But now anyone can join, and you have logged in with the masses for one reason and one reason alone: grandkids.

Your kids had babies and refused to email you a daily photo or a monthly mailer of candids. That's okay. There's Facebook.

Now that you've been clicking around the site for a while, you've learned a few things. And there are some tricks of the trade that all grandparents need to know.

1. Set your profile pic.

Get out that choice photo from a vacation fifteen years ago or maybe a college glamour shot. And don't be afraid to change it frequently, if you want. Like every day.


2. Like every photo.

Otherwise, how will your grandchildren know you love them? You joined Facebook for access to these gems, so make it count! Leave no child unliked.

3. Out-comment your in-laws.

If they write "so sweet" on that pic of your shared grandson, you'll post "precious." Don't reserve in-law battles for the holidays. Facebook lets you compete for affection year-round!

4. Share every photo.

Your kids post a grandbaby photo you love? Share it! They upload an average, blurry photo? Share it!

5. Share inspirational quotes.

There's so much negativity in the world. Don't be afraid to brighten your corner of the world with sunsets and bold script.

Image source: Pedro Szekely ~ Text: Sarah Quezada

6. Talk to your kids publicly.

They won't answer their cell phone? That's fine. Just ask them anything or share any news in the first text box you come across. It may be your status update or a photo comment, but they'll get the news that your Aunt Carla is starting a new job next week.

7. Throw Back Thursday.

Have you heard of #TBT? It's the perfect opportunity to share baby photos or kid pics of your adult children... and their friends! Tag away, good people. Tag away.

8. You can never use too many emojis.

Nothing says "that toddler is so hilarious" better than a giant face laughing with tears. Emojis (Or as my mother calls them... e-motives) can be your new best friends.

9. Overshare.

Feel free. It's Facebook!

Isn't it wonderful that we're all on Facebook?

Where Is God In the City?

I'm delighted to have Shawn Casselberry guest posting today. He is Executive Director of Mission Year, the volunteer ministry so near and dear to my heart. Also, he recently released a book sharing stories of God's presence in the city. Spoiler alert: Billy makes a cameo in this book, so you should definitely get a copy!


Image Credit: Hernan Seoane
When I went to Chicago, I never expected to encounter God.

I relocated to the Chicago in response to a call. A physical phone call for a job offer for my wife and I to work with Mission Year, and a two-year inner calling I felt to move to the city after reading John Perkin’s book Restoring At-Risk Communities.

I wanted to do something about the pain and injustice I had learned was deeply embedded in our country’s urban cities. I wanted to contribute. I wanted to be a light. You know, all the things us Christian do-gooders want to do. After a decade of living and working in the city, I can honestly say the city has done more for me that I have done for it.

In actuality, the city has done something to me.

I have been changed inalterably. I have been transformed by the city, the neighborhoods, and the people I’ve met in urban communities across the country.

For the last decade I have lived in Chicago. A beautiful, historic American city. We are known as “the city that works.” Yet we are also known for political corruption, failing schools, high violence, and the notorious distinction of being the most racially segregated city in America.

Seeing these grim realities has led me to ask the question, “Where is God in the city?” Sure, we can imagine seeing God in the developed downtown areas, lakefronts, and nature preserves where, “God is good!” so effortlessly slips off the tongue. But I have found that God can be experienced in the neglected parts of the city too.

Too often, news outlets give us a daily rundown of crimes across the city’s struggling areas without reporting any of the good that is going on in those neighborhoods. Although poverty, violence, and injustice abound in the city, that is not the whole story. There is also deep faith, authentic community, and courageous struggle.

When we look at the city with new eyes, we see that grace is present under the surface, on the margins, in the background, and sometimes right in front of our faces. Developing new eyes helps us see potential where others only see problems. When we develop new eyes, we see that God is in the city – and if God is in the city – the city becomes a sacrament capable of transforming us.

I now see that God is present in the city and in everyday people, places, and events. I don’t see urban communities as hopeless places to be avoided but places full of people with heroic faith with much to teach us. I see that God is not distant or outside of our everyday experiences, but accessible and ever-
present, ready to be encountered in the city.

I see that God is in Chicago.

Shawn Casselberry is an advocate for justice, author of God is in the City: Encounters of Grace and Transformation. He is Executive Director for Mission Year, a leading Christian ministry dedicated to bringing hope to the city through faith, community, solidarity, and justice. 

Shawn’s book, God is in the City, is available now. You can follow Shawn on twitter.





Interested in sharing your own travel post? I'm accepting submissions to be published in November. You can learn more and register here.

Everything You Need to Know About Flying Babies



Gabriella was on 14 flights in her first year of life. Her initial assent into the clouds was at six weeks. We flew to San Francisco for work meetings. She got her first passport stamp a few weeks later on a 10-hour, overnight flight to Buenos Aires.

So when a friend emailed me recently about tips for flying with babies, I was remembering those days. I can't say that I'm the best person to ask for advice. After all, it was just me and Ella on that 10-hour red eye. I swaddled baby girl, laid her in the seat next to me, and promptly fell asleep!

But there were several helpful ideas I read or have experienced, so I thought I'd share. Have a good time with your baby in the friendly skies!

People Won't Yell at a Cute Baby

One of my strategies for flying with infants is to dress them in their cutest little outfits. I have no proof that this earns us favor with flight attendants and passengers, but I figure it can't hurt!

Packing Tips

I make sure to put lots of extra diapers and change(s) of clothes in the carry-on. I don't want to be caught without if there's a delay or unexpected layover or anything. Also, I put a few of the jingly toys and bottles in my purse so I don't have to stand up anytime I need something.

My understanding is that you can always check a car seat for free and it doesn't count as one of your luggage. I believe you can put it in the plane seat if you buy your child a ticket. A kid under 2 can be a "lap child" or you can choose to purchase their own seat.

We always checked strollers planeside, and it was no biggie.

International Baby Tickets

Domestic flights are free for kids under 2 who sit in your lap. Not the case for international flights! They are deeply discounted, but you do pay a portion of the ticket price.

Also, you may need to check in with the infant at the ticket counter. This process is sometimes very lengthy for no clear reason.

And sometimes, because a person flying with a baby has nothing going on, they will give you the baby's return flight ticket when you check in for initial flight. If you lose it, they will make you re-buy the second ticket. Don't even ask me how I know this!

Choose Your Seat.

You can't sit in a exit row with a baby. They seem to think you'll be less-than-helpful in an emergency. (Go figure!)

However, if you talk with the agent at the gate, you can request a bulkhead. On large planes, they may actually have a little basket that's attached to the wall in front of the seat. It's like a little floating, pod crib with a cover. Kinda creepy, but I used it once. Ella didn't love the cover closed (which I understand), but it was handy.

Talking to the agent, though, is key. One on of my flights, the bulkhead was not available. Still, she changed my seat assignment so I had an open seat next to me. Score!

Little Baby Ears

You may have already heard that babies ears can pop during take-off and landing. Go-to strategies are to encourage babies to suck during this time. Nursing, bottles, or passies can help them transition.

Naturally, my kids were always famished during boarding. They'd gobble their milk and finish just as we'd start rolling down the runway. Thankfully, neither one has seemed to be particularly bothered by the pressure changes.

Bathroom Surprise

No, I'm not going to get gross. But until I had a baby, I never knew that some of those airport bathrooms actually hide a changing table. It pulls down over the toilet. It's not spacious, but it works!

Lamaze for Flying Babies. 

I've always had pretty good flying experiences. And people are generally kind and understanding. If the babies do start screaming, I just remind myself that the people around me will survive.

They may shoot me dirty looks or complain. But in reality, the situation is more painful for me than for them. And if I get too panicky or worried about what people are thinking, it only amps my kids up more. So I have to breathe deeply and relax. Usually, that act alone helps the kiddos calm down.

Have you flown with babies? What's your secret?

7 Celebrities You Didn't Know are Half Latino

My ears always perk up when I learn that someone in the public eye is half Latino. I'm the mom of two half Latino kiddos who most assume are white based on skin tint. So I love to discover others rockin' a similar multicultural background.

Here are a few that surprised me:

James Roday


We are big Psych fans, and I was intrigued to learn that the lead, James Roday, is half Mexican. "My father is Jaime Rodriguez from San Antonio, Texas, and I've got one whole half of my family that's Mexican through and through," he says.

Roday changed his last name because another actor in the Screen Actor's Guild had the same name. He joins our white Latino discussion, saying, "They just think I'm a white dude. Every once in a while someone thinks I'm Jewish. I get a lot of stuff, but never Latino."

Sarah Ramos


I recently found myself Googling "What happened to Haddie Braverman on Parenthood?" and learned more about actress Sarah Ramos. She is of Spanish, Jewish, and Filipino decent.

Alexis Bledel


Gilmore Girls is on Netflix! (Raise the roof, my friends!) So get this - Rory's first language is Spanish!

She was born in Houston, and her father is Argentine. Her mother was born in Arizona, but raised in Mexico. Bledel learned English during school, and then I suppose she learned to speak it like a speedster on the GG set.

Vanna White


Who knew Vanna's dad was Puerto Rican??? She was born with the last name Rosich, but eventually took her step-father's name, White. Can I get an ñ, Vanna?


Aubrey Plaza



Turns out deadpan April on Parks and Rec actually is half-Puerto Rican as well. She says, "I was like the only diverse kid in my high school, and I'm half-Puerto Rican. But yeah, I have a huge family and tons of cousins in Puerto Rico."

Jessica Alba


Alba was born in California. Her father is Mexican, and her mother is of Danish and French Canadian decent. Remember that movie Honey? Classic. I just love it.

Nicole Richie


There is possibly no better way to complete this list than Nicole. She was born with the last name Escovedo and has Afro-Mexican, Creole, and Spanish ancestry. She was later adopted by Lionel Richie and changed her last name.

So there you go! Seven celebrities you may not have known are half Latino. Who surprised you? Who did you already know? Who should be added to the list?

Usted y Tu y Vos [VIDEO]


It's video post time! This one got a little off track as we discus when to use the varied versions of "you" in Spanish.

If you need a little Spanish 101 refresher, usted is the formal "you," typically used to show respect. Tu is the informal version. Guatemalans also use vos, which I'll describe as a common slang. Kinda like if we all said "dude" a lot more often. Maybe?

I had some questions about how these pronouns influence DTR conversations. Billy's responses are fantastic (and not at all what I expected)! Check it out.



So, seriously, is this crazy? How do you decide which "you" to use?

Surprise Fries in Peru

Brandon and I have been friends for ages... ages, I tell you. I'm so glad to have him posting today in this guest series on travel. Enjoy his story from the beautiful country of Peru. And for my lovely coffee addicts out there (guilty!), you must check out Brandon's business, Caneland Coffee.

Image Source: Daremoshiranai
When I went to Peru, I didn't expect to be eating french fries.

I mean, that shouldn't be entirely unexpected, right? At this point, french fries are a pretty universal food. Even so, they still caught me off guard.

I love traveling and learning about new cultures, and by cultures, I mean food. It could be accurate to say that my preference for a country or region directly correlates with how much I like the typical cuisine of the area.

Latin America? I'm a huge fan of the beans/rice combo. It's pretty much the Big Boi/Andre 3000 of the side item world. Throw in some chicharoon or chorizo, and I'm golden.

England? I'm sorry, but I'm just not that in love with shepherd's pie. Please don't cry in your tea.

About five years ago, I landed in Peru, home of Machu Picchu, the Nazca lines, and Lake Titicaca. The town where we were headed, Trujillo, is also the northernmost place you will find penguins in the wild.

Don't get me wrong. All of that is cool and all, but I was excited for my first taste of South American food, and my team kept hyping this restaurant along our bus route where we would eat our first meal.

Early in the morning, we boarded our bus and took off all the Pacific coast with barren desert on one side and spectacular ocean views on the other. We stopped to eat about halfway through the journey.

I was ready for my first Peruvian meal. The group was adamant we try the Lomo Saltado: steak fresh off the grill, roasted onions, tomatoes and spices, sliced up and served over rice... and french fries. Wait, what?

That led to surprise number two: Peru loves them some Chinese food. I mean loves it. Chifas (Peruvian Chinese restaurants) are all over the place. Conservatively, I will say there are one billion in Trujillo alone.

Checking the interwebs, they told me that Chinese immigrants came to Peru in the late 1800's. While they tried to maintain traditional recipes, traditional Chinese spices were hard to come by. Their cooking became infused with the local Peruvian meals.

Okay, so why french fries? Even though Lomo Saltado was originally served with potatoes, my guess is someone realized french fries were delicious and made the switch. Speaking of, I need to go find a good recipe. I'm hungry.

What is the most surprising food you've eaten in your travels?


Brandon Spencer is a husband and dad from Lexington, Kentucky. When he's not chasing his kids around, he is chasing life, looking to be more awesome. He is also the Owner and Chief Troublemaker at Caneland Coffee where he roasts magical coffee to fuel those who dare to do big things.

You can learn more and buy coffee at www.canelandcoffee.com. Find Brandon across the interwebs. Except for MySpace. Definitely not there. 


Interested in sharing your own travel post? I'm accepting submissions to be published in November. You can learn more and register here.

3 Strategies for Raising Bilingual Kids


There are several ways a family can pursue bilingualism. However, I remember reading once that the worst approach is to randomly speak to them in both languages, going back and forth any 'ole time. Whoops!

If I'm honest, "Spanglish immersion" probably best describes our bilingual style. Billy switches back and forth between English with me and Spanish with the kids. But Gabriella ain't no fool. She refuses to respond to him (or sometimes even listen) in Spanish because "Papi knows English."

And going back and forth for Billy can be tiring and confusing, so he, too, often speaks the them in English. And then there's me. Not really fluent in Spanish, but that doesn't stop me from uttering, "Cuidado con tu coco!" ("Watch your head!" or literally... "Careful with your coconut!")

But if you want to be a little more strategic with raising your bilingual kids, here are some strategies I've read that help kids distinguish between the two languages. We have always claimed #1, but as it becomes more challenging, we're considering branching out.

#1 - OPOL (One Parent, One Language)


This is often the go-to method for bilingual couples, since each one can speak in their first language with the kids. I've even heard of couples who, even though they share a first language, will have one spouse speak in a second language to accomplish this method. It's highly regarded as a great way to teach two languages. For us, though, I'm just saying... it's hard.

#2 - Choose a Location


Rather than associating language with a particular person, you can attach a geographic marker to the code switching. I feel like when I read this method, the example they gave was "speak the minority language in the family library." However, if you don't have a library in your home, you can pick something else.

You might consider the backyard or kitchen or parent's bedroom. Hey, with that last one, at least if they don't want to speak in the second language, they might give you just the tiniest bit of privacy in your life. If you figure out how to make that happen, let me know!

Of course, it doesn't have to be in your own home. Perhaps church or the coffee shop or, hey, a community library could be good spots for language practice. Ideally, it should be a location you visit frequently.

#3 - Choose a Time


This strategy is similar, selecting a set time that kids can expect a switch in languages. You can do something as extensive as "On Tuesdays, we speak French" or more limited like "cooking dinner on Fridays."

Whatever method you choose, consistency seems to be one of the most important factors. It's one reason we're considering trying to focus on something like Spanish family dinner. We know we're not as consistent at OPOL as we'd like to be, but just "trying harder" isn't working. So we might throw in another strategy to bolster our minority language skills.

Of course, our most effective bilingual strategy still seems to be bribing. Ella earns rewards for listening to books read in Spanish, saying sentences in Spanish, or sometimes even watching Spanish cartoons. Because, yes, we reward our children for watching TV. We totally got this!

If you're interested in reading more, you might like this book:7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child.

Have you tried any of these strategies? What's worked for you?

No Money. Mo' Money. A Wee Bit of Problems.

Image Source: Tax Credits
When I was a kid, I received one dollar regularly for an allowance. Ten cents was carried to church and dropped in the offering plate, and another dime clinked into my piggy bank. The other .80 was mine to party. (Don't spend it all in one place!)

I have always grown up budgeting my money. From paper record-keeping to Excel spreadsheets, it's just been a part of my life skills set for as long as I can remember.

When Billy and I met, he assured me there is no word for "budget" in the Spanish language. Ha! I know this is not true because Google told me so, and our church uses the word. But, suffice it to say, it was not popular in Billy's vocabulary.

Everyone has likely heard how much money can be a source of tension in a marriage. And ours was no different, especially in that first year. My attempts to budget our family money often came across as controlling or limiting the fun. Billy once bought a $125 amp without telling me, and my reaction was as if he had said, "I have second family living in Texas."

For a while we agreed not to budget. It wasn't long before I was standing in the grocery store, wondering if I should wait until the next paycheck to buy shampoo. Needless to say, things weren't going awesome in the finances department.

Multicultural Perspectives on Money

The money struggle is not unique to multicultural marriages. However, family, culture, and socioeconomic history can all interact and play a role in how a person perceives money.

I was once part of a multicultural discussion on the topic of money. We were asked to share our family's history with finances. A Japanese friend told how his grandparents had been sent to internment camps during World World II. The experience of having all wealth and security forcibly removed had influenced his family for generations.

A Latino friend who had crossed the border shared how limited resources and watching family members work so hard to provide affected his understanding of money. Growing up budgeting my one dollar allowance wasn't necessarily uncommon for my white, middle class experience. (Can I get a "what, what," Larry and Dave?)

Money Talk

In our marriage, finances required a lot of conversations. Ultimately, the Quezadas did return to budgeting, which has helped with the whole "when do we buy shampoo" question.

That move didn't come without some changes, as well as trial and error. Discussions on tithing, saving, spending, debt, retirement (oh my goodness... this one!) have been visited and revisited.

I think it's important for any couple to have open and frequent conversations about money. And I think it's good to ask questions about our family of origin's money habits. In multicultural marriages, you may find unique influences play a role as well.

Can you relate? How do you and your spouse talk about money? What areas do you have similar views? Dissimilar?
A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.