The 10 Favorite Posts of 2015

I write a lot of posts. Over a hundred in 2015. So it's fun to look back over the year and recall the posts that were popular or connected most with readers. I hope you, too, enjoy this list - either to catch up on fun posts you missed or to reread favorites from the year.

Most Read Post of 2015:

My Favorite Post of 2015:

The Favorite One with GIFs:

The Favorite Bilingual Kids Post:

The Favorite Immigration Post:

The Favorite Cross-Cultural Marriage Post:

The Favorite Travel Post:

The Favorite Race & Culture Post:

The Favorite Faith & Ministry Post:

The Favorite Multicultural Identity Post:

Thank you so much for reading A Life with Subtitles and sharing posts with others. I'm grateful for the readers here who are so encouraging and funny. You all are living out your own global, mashup, multicultural lives, and it's a joy to swap stories with you!

What were your favorite posts of 2015? Let me know in the comments! I'd love to hear what you enjoyed on this blog or elsewhere on the Internet. If you're a writer, feel free to share your favorite post you've written this year. I need some good reading to start out 2016!

The Double Click: José y Maria, Extended Family, and more

Sometimes time zones, laundry, and the algorithms of Facebook mean we miss each other online. So I'm sharing my recent, favorite links for you to read when you get a chance.

Here's some fun articles to make you laugh and make you think. This week, we're taking a look at TV's immigrant stories, Las Patronas, José y Maria, and more.

My Muslim Problem || Omar Rikabi

I reminded him of my family’s background, and told him I found the joke theologically tasteless and unfunny. My friend said he understood, but “we’re at war,” and as a Christian I should be more concerned with being on “God’s winning side.” This is a problem.

TV's Challenge For 2016: Taking Immigrant Stories To The Next Level || NPR

It's all straight out of the Immigrant Kid Handbook — the other kids finding your lunches radioactive, your name unpronounceable, your parents' rules bizarre, your house otherworldly. For many of us who grew up living these scenes, it's been a delight to watch immigrant coming-of-age stories get the mainstream American TV treatment this year.

Director Arturo González Villaseñor On Telling The Story Of Las Patronas, The Women Who Feed Immigrants || Remezcla

The film tells the story of Las Patronas, a group of women in a small town in Veracruz who help immigrants as they cross Mexico on their way to the U.S. Perched on high-speed trains, the young travelers reach out to grab the bags of food that the women have ready for them. Llévate mis amores skillfully combines interviews with action shots to construct a moving, heartfelt story.

Interracial Marriage And The Extended Family || NPR

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, about 15 percent of new marriages in 2010 were between people of different races or ethnicities — nearly twice the rate from 30 years prior. Though interracial marriage is more mainstream, the unions may still cause tension among family members.

José y Maria || Everett Patterson

This was our Christmas card for 2014, depicting Jesus’s parents in a modern setting. I was inspired by a number of evocative “imagine what it would have been like”-type sermons I heard earlier this year, and also (as usual) by the work of Will Eisner, who so often depicted, with religious reverence, noble individuals enduring the many minor discomforts and petty indignities of urban America.

12 Things Latinos Will Never Say During the Holidays || BuzzFeed

“The holidays are boring,” said no Latino ever.

To Wait: What Spanish Says About Waiting [Advent]

It's sort of strange for an Advent series focusing on language to be written by a person who - for all intents and purposes - is basically monolingual. (Although, my emoji game is strong!)

So I've invited my friend Michelle to write today's post on Spanish. She is bilingual and insightful, and I am so grateful for her perspective as we finish this series on Advent, and prepare for Christmas. I wish your family a wonderful celebration!

For most of my life I have had a negative association with waiting. Perhaps we all do?

Some waiting can be compartmentalized. It has a clear beginning and end. When you choose the longest line possible at the grocery store is it frustrating? Of course, but you know the waiting is temporary. It will end, maybe not as quickly as you like, but no one waits at the grocery store for eternity.

But there are other kinds of waiting. Seasons of waiting that are less concrete, where the feelings of longing and yearning may stretch on for months, or even years. It’s often hard to pinpoint exactly when the waiting started, and even more difficult to explain because there is no guarantee of when it will end.

This is the longing for a spouse when the rest of your friends found theirs years ago and on your better days you wonder when it will be your turn and other days you worry, if.

This is the yearning to become a mother or a father, but each month there is just one pink line on the familiar pregnancy tests that you keep stashed in the bottom bathroom drawer.

This is the waiting for healing, when the person you love most can't fight the cancer that has taken over their body and you are left to care for them and yourself without any idea of how long.

This is the waiting for reconciliation with the sister, or son or best friend, whom you haven’t talked to in years, but pray for every day because you have nothing else you can do.

These kinds of seasons of waiting encompasses all of who we are. The lines between who we are and what we wait for blur. And that is such a hard place to be. I know because I have been there.

A large part of my 20s were filled with elements of waiting; the kind of waiting that is marked by unknowns and fear. The kind of waiting that makes you doubt God and yourself and why life is not going the way you planned. And if you’re not careful it’s the kind of waiting that can paralyze you with worry.

When I moved to Guatemala 5 years ago I sometimes joke that not only did I find my husband, but I also found a new understanding of the verb, “to wait.”

In Spanish, esperar actually means to wait, to hope and to expect.

If you’re a native English speaker you’re probably thinking, hey, those are three separate words how can they all mean the same thing? But stay with me. In Spanish they just do. And you can usually only tell which idea is being expressed by the context.

Take for instance:
Espero que todo salga bien. (I hope everything goes well.)
Esta no era lo que yo esperaba. (This is not what I was expecting.)
Estamos esperando por el bus. (We are waiting for the bus.)

They say when you begin to learn a new language you not only develop a new way to understand an unfamiliar culture, but also  new way to think about your own. Certain words and ideas change connotation in a new cultural context.

The differences and meaning in Spanish are slight. Because you could say “Estamos esperando nuestro primer bebe” and mean “We are expecting our first baby” or “We are waiting for our first baby.” See, they both work!

In English those two sentences have very different meanings. For most people, “expecting” has a positive connotation, where “waiting” automatically assumes a negative one.

Reading the bible in Spanish has also given me a new, dare I say, appreciation for the idea of waiting. In the English NIV translation, this verse reads: Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him (Psalm 37:7).

Now how does the meaning change when I read this verse in Spanish? Guarda silencio ante el Señor, y esperar en él con paciencia (Salmo 37:7).

Is it Wait? or Hope? or Expect?

Do I wait in the Lord with patience? Do I hope in the Lord with patience? Or do I place my expectations in Him? Maybe the answer is yes. All three.

Traditionally during Christmas, Christians celebrate Advent, a season of waiting and preparing for Jesus. Sometimes I wonder how our understanding of Advent and Jesus could be expanded if we also saw this season as one where we are not just passively waiting for Christmas, but actively hoping and expecting.

If you find yourself in a hard season of waiting this year, can I invite you to try something new this final week before Christmas? Whenever you read the word wait or tell someone that you are waiting, try replacing it with hope or expect. Because the Spanish definition of “wait” might just be a more accurate description of the process we move through as we wait, hope and expect.

Michelle is a born and raised California girl who now calls Guatemala home. She and her husband work in community development and are committed to raise a bilingual and bicultural daughter who currently says things like “mas beans.” Michelle writes about motherhood, marriage, and life in between two cultures and countries at simplycomplicated.me. You can find her on instagram | facebook | twitter

My Intercultural Love: Interview on Madh Mama

One phenomenon that Billy and I have consistently marveled over during our years of marriage is the connection we feel to other cross-cultural couples. Regardless of their specific cultural mash-ups, we find there's almost an instant high-fiving when we meet other couples working out marriage mixes.

And it's so fun! After all, we both love other cultures, so we enjoy connecting with new people. And one of the ways I do that is via the Internet.

I recently met Alexandra Madhaven. She is Canadian and met her Indian husband in Savannah, Georgia, so we were practically neighbors for a spell. She writes at Madh Mama and asked me to participate in an interview series she hosts for intercultural couples.

She asks questions like, "What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?" You can read my insightful response: Oh, I imagine us growing old together and laughing at our own private jokes at the retirement village.

To learn more about my underground DJ career, our intercultural island, and that one time I told my MIL I wished someone was dead, CLICK OVER TO READ TO THE WHOLE INTERVIEW.    

How Do You Celebrate Multicultural Holidays? [VIDEO]

Holidays are filled with expectations. Whether good or bad (think Chandler hating on Thanksgiving), most of us have some ideas about how the holidays should go.

When you're in a cross-cultural marriage or multicultural family, you may have an added layer of expectations. Culture influences the foods we eat, the traditions we include, and even the people around us during the festivities.

Billy and I are coming to you via video today, talking about our family holidays. You'll hear some gems like:

*** Billy's first Noche Buena as an immigrant to the U.S.

*** That one time I almost injured an unsuspecting child.

*** And some ways we incorporate both cultures with our kids. (Spoiler alert: Billy isn't thrilled about some of my "adaptations" of Guatemalan festivities.)

If you're reading this via email or RSS, you may need to click here to view.

How does your family celebrate multicultural holidays?

To Wait: What Emojis Say About Waiting [Advent]

Language is always evolving. As society changes and grows, our lexicon expands to cover new topics, ideas, and concepts. Some recent examples: photobomb, grammable, or jeggings. At the end of the day, there is no 'right' way to communicate. Language is simply sounds and symbols that are understood by both parties in order to share a message. 

This year, Oxford Dictionary's Word of the Year is an emoji. It's one of my personal favs, the pictograph officially called "Face with Tears of Joy." Since I am exploring the concept of waiting in different languages this year for Advent, today's post features Emojis. Hey, if Oxford can do it, so can we!

What emoji do you use when you're waiting on someone? Maybe the fear and trembling emojis if you're worried something's happened? Maybe the mad and blowing steam one if you're angry? Maybe the elderly woman if you're growing old? Maybe the poop emoji because waiting stinks? Or maybe the praying emoji if you're holy like that?

I don't believe I have a specific emoji on my phone for waiting, although a quick Google search suggests there are some. But a recent experience made me think about emojis and technology and waiting in a new way.

I was actually waiting in the checkout line, minding my own business and checking out Pez dispensers in the shapes of Frozen characters when I missed something really important. I was reflecting on the situation later with my mom, and I heard myself say, "You know, I was waiting. So I was distracting myself."

Distracting ourselves.

Of course emojis allow us to communicate. (And they can be lifesavers in bilingual group texts when I'm never quite certain what is going on. Insert: Pizza Slice, Running Man, Smiling with a Halo) But emojis and texting and Facebooking and pinning and gramming and all the rest can also of course be ways to distract ourselves.

How do you prepare for something as significant as the Christmas story? I'm asking, but I don't have a pat answer for that question. I read something recently about taking time to lay on the floor and gaze at your Christmas tree. Taking a moment to reflect on God's entrance into the human world.

And honestly, I haven't made time for anything remotely like that. And maybe the idea of being fully present in the waiting isn't all that appealing. I'd rather find something amusing or fun or social to do while I wait. Something that helps the time go by. Something distracting.

So maybe the next time I'm pairing a cup of coffee with bulging heart eyes, I can stop for just a minute. Focus. Pay attention. Look around with eyes open to seeing God's presence in the moment.

Maybe emojis can remind us to listen to the sounds and take in the images that God uses to communicate with us.

What sights and symbols focus your waiting attention on Christ? 

Posts in this year's Advent series:
Week 1: Sign Language
Week 2: French
Week 3: Emojis
Week 4: Spanish

The Double Click: Emojis, Advent, and Refugees

Sometimes time zones, laundry, and the algorithms of Facebook mean we miss each other online. So I'm sharing my recent, favorite links for you to read when you get a chance.

Here's some fun articles to make you laugh and make you think. This week, we've got mind-blowing insights into emojis, Advent reflections, and tips for parenting bilingual kids.

10 Things Parents of Bilingual Children Should Avoid || Multilingual Parenting

No matter how proud you are about what languages your children know – never ask them to say something in front of others just to prove they can. I would even recommend diffusing situations where another adult asks your little ones to say something to show off their language skills. If you are bilingual yourself, you know how annoying it can be when someone asks you to “say something.”

Advent Matters || SheLovesMagazine

We don't get to have hope without having grief. Hope dares to admit that not everything is as it should be, and so if we want to be hopeful, first we have to grieve. First we have to see that something is broken and there is a reason for why we need hope to begin with.

Refugees and Me || D.L. Mayfield

How refugees, more than any people I have ever met, have extended the kindness of Christ to me. But also: how razor thin the margins of survival are. How lonely so many feel. How there are families like this everywhere, everywhere, who just want someone to talk with for a little while, they want to drink tea and share what they know. But we have to be close enough to knock on the doors.

9 Emojis That Look Completely Different On Other Phones || Mental Floss

Subtle emotional messages that in person we might convey by gestures, facial expression, or tone of voice can be conveniently summed up with tiny cartoon faces. But different platforms display the same emoji specification in different ways. You might think you’re saying “This is awkward…” while your friend is getting “I am shocked and appalled!”

Why Random Acts of Kindness Are So Important || Scary Mommy

I cried harder, telling her I would pay it forward. She told me to go take care of my dad and my baby, and that would be paying it forward. Then she hugged me tightly and said, “I love you, and the Lord loves you.”

5 Gifts for World Travelers

Who on your list has wanderlust? Our family loves to travel. My daughter's first year, she visited at least five states and three countries! So we have learned a lot about flying with babies.

But whether the persons on your list are family jetsetters or solo travelers, we've got gift ideas for them! Check out five here:

#1 - Passport Cover

Help your world traveler keep their head on straight with this beautiful, leather passport cover. There's a color for everyone! This is surely a step up from shoving your passport in your back pocket. (Guilty!)

#2 - Wanderlust Print

This Etsy print hangs in our living room, and we get compliments on it all the time. It's a twist on a more traditional world map with a modern design and shout out to our friend Wanderlust. Etsy, of course, has a million lovely options. This is one of our favorites!

#3 - Globe & Maps

You can never go wrong with globes and maps for your world traveler. It's like a "Bucket List in a box" to spin a globe and run your finger along the places you hope to someday visit. A search on Amazon or Etsy can also help you find stunning, unique maps of places your traveler already loves.

#4 - Kids Suitcase

If the world traveler on your list is young, this riding suitcase may be a perfect gift! Help little ones catch their connected flight or zip through the train station when they can jump on their luggage and ride through the terminal.

#5 - Airplane Tickets

This is the Big Daddy gift for world travelers. I didn't even know you could buy gift certificates for airlines! But you can. And those people on your list who are carrying the travel bug will flip when they find one of these gift cards in their stocking!

These are five favorite gifts for world travelers. For more ideas (more than 95, in fact), download my Global Gift Guide for the holiday season. It's packed full of our favorites, as well as reader recommendations. From infants to adults, there's a little something for everyone! Download your free copy below.

To Wait: How French Expresses Waiting [Advent]

Language influences how we perceive or understand concepts. Think, for example, about how you may prefer different translations of the Bible for certain verses because the specific words transform your understanding of the meaning.

For Advent this year, I'm exploring the verb "to wait" in different languages. You can read the first post on Sign Language here. Today I'm talking in French. Oui, s'il vous plait.

I took almost seven years of French. I loved it. The fullness of the language in my mouth. The whimsical notions of a European life. It was a familiar language, and yet uncommon.

Then, I moved to Los Angeles and married a Guatemalan. And I've spent the last nine years trying to forget all the French I know.

It's just similar enough to Spanish to keep me generally confused. Once, while working with a Spanish language tutor, I kept triumphantly announcing vocabulary only to have her tell me no. I was getting frustrated (and more baffled) until I realized I was shouting out the French translations.

But in considering the words of waiting for Advent, I returned my French roots. The verb "to wait" can be translated into French as attendre. You may recognize a word in there: attend.

If you read far enough down in the English definition of wait, you will find a similar explanation related to waiter. Wait can also be defined as waiting on someone, or attending them.

In fact, another way to translate "wait" into French is to use the French verb servir. To serve.

As I wait on the Christ child, what does it mean to attend to him, to serve him?

I feel like this is a question best answered at the source. What does God say?
You shall be richly rewarded, for when I was hungry, you fed Me. And when I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink. I was alone as a stranger, and you welcomed Me. I was naked, and you gave Me clothes to wear; I was sick, and you tended to My needs; I was in prison, and you comforted Me. I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me. (Matthew 25:35-36, 40)
We are living in times when others' hunger and thirst is often characterized as "not my problem." When the sick are told they should tend to their own needs. When it's acceptable to say the prisoner deserves any suffering he experiences, including loneliness or death. When strangers are being turned away in the name of fear.

How do we wait on the Christ child this season?

I'm not talking about donating clothes as we clean our closets in preparation for New Year's. I always want to consider these questions in the context of relationship. If I am attending Jesus and he needs a drink, I don't want to assume someone else will hand him a glass.

My heart for immigration draws me to the words of welcoming the stranger. Who are the new arrivals in our country, our city, our neighborhoods? How do we invite them in this holiday season? How do we make room for them at our tables?

Let us consider how can serve others this Christmas as wait on Christ.

Posts in this year's Advent series:
Week 1: Sign Language
Week 2: French
Week 3: Emojis
Week 4: Spanish

To Wait: How Sign Language Expresses Waiting [Advent]

Advent is one of my favorite times of year. And each year, I write an Advent blog series during December. I'll post past years at the end, if you're interested is reading those reflections. 

This year, I'm focusing on the verb "to wait." Advent is a time of waiting. But how do our languages express waiting? Each week, I'm looking at the verb through the lens of four different languages. 

First up: Sign Language.

My son is almost two and a half. And he's obsessed with squeezy applesauce. (I mean, who isn't?) As we waited in line to order our food at Smashburger (which I'm obsessed with), he noticed a pouch of apple-y goodness on display behind the drinks.

He freaked. He started grunting and whooping like Curious George. He started pleading, "A-ppo Saaahhh!" He was pointing with passionate agitation.

"Yes, I told him. I hear you. We are ordering. You must wait." My fingers instinctively wiggled in the sign we've used with our kids for years.

I have been struck by this sign. It's not how I would instinctively think to communicate "wait" non-verbally. I'd likely choose instead to tap my wrist (remember watches?) or stare into space while tapping my foot.

But my non-verbals communicate impatience, where as the actual sign - though stationary - conveys movement. It's active waiting.

As I reflect on Advent, I wonder what it means to wait actively for the Christ child. Actually, I get a bit excited. Activity is my jam. Let's wait for Christmas actively! Let's go to lights displays! Let's see a live pageant! Let's embark on a daily reading plan!

But there's a difference between "being active" and "being busy." 

I was recently considering a packed Advent calendar of my own creation. I'd come up with a family-friendly Christmas-focused activity for every day from now until Christmas. But honestly, just the idea of writing all that down was making me a little bit tired.

So how do I wait actively without just filling the December calendar full of activity? When I think of active waiting, I think of eagerness, not impatience. What does it mean to be eager for the arrival of God?

For me, it means opening my eyes and looking for Christ's presence in the day-to-day. Am I eager to see God's bursting into the human world? Am I looking for that to happen?

Active waiting also speaks to me of preparation. Am I preparing my heart and mind for Christ's birth? What wrongs am I holding onto and refusing to forgive? What sins need to be confessed? What wounds need to be cleaned and dressed so they can begin to heal?

This eagerness and preparation for Christ can actually be lost is we surround ourselves with busy-ness. A crammed calendar or a daunting list of Christmas to-do's (no matter how fun) can distract us from the activity of waiting.

So my hope this first week of Advent is to pause and wiggle my fingers. To wait with meaningful movement that is ready for the baby to come.

You may be interested in Advent series from past years:
2014: The Journey - a 4-part fictional account of the Christmas Story
2013: Advent Rest (one post only)
2012: Please Come
2011: Expectations
2010: Waiting for a Baby
Posts in this year's Advent series:
Week 1: Sign Language
Week 2: French
Week 3: Emojis
Week 4: Spanish

A Few of My Favorite Things {November 2015}

The holidays have begun. In fact, one day in November I was swept over by the spirit of Christmas, and I purchased almost all my gifts in 24 hours. I also ordered our Christmas cards during this gift-buying extravaganza. I was literally using a Veteran's Day coupon. Weird.

For an indecisive person like myself, though, I felt so empowered and alive. So I'm trying on a new persona that makes quick decisions and simply goes with it.

But this post is about November, not Christmas. So let's dive in! Decision made.

Favorite Road Trip

We were so pumped to visit Memphis for the CCDA Conference. Billy at first questioned my hotel booking skills when we arrived to a green swimming pool (check it out in the background) and this amazing view from our hotel window.

But all was well. And we had a blast seeing friends, listening to some amazing speakers (I was so delighted to hear Christena Cleveland!), eating yummy food, and listening to live music. Oh, and we led a workshop on multicultural marriage that I almost missed because I was with our co-presenter David many blocks away mere minutes before it was supposed to start. But we made it - only a little disheveled - and I'm so glad. You can read some of my takeaways from the time together here.

Side note: Favorite thing I learned about road tripping? You can listen to comedians on Pandora! So continuing our comedy theme from October, we cued up a few stations for our late night drive home. It plays in 6-8 minute snippets, so it was easier to stay awake when we were laughing. We particularly enjoyed the Jim Gaffigan station. But fair warning, it shuffles through comedians, so not all tracks are family-friendly.

Favorite Facebook Convo

Speaking of comedians, Cristela is now on Netflix.

I was delighted to share this news on my Facebook page because I feel a commitment to help people watch more TV... apparently. But several folks have messaged me that I got them into Jane the Virgin, so this Facebook convo steered itself towards me appearing on the show... naturally.

Favorite Instagram

I'm doing two Instas again this month because first of all... this.

A photo posted by Sarah Quezada (@sarahquezada) on

And secondly, it's not every month that we find ourselves outfitted in mobster costumes. Please note Billy's cardboard guns that he had our four year old color for him. He didn't tell her what they were exactly, so we just kept saying "part of Papi's costume." She was thrilled.

A photo posted by Sarah Quezada (@sarahquezada) on

Favorite App (aka Favorite Podcasts)

Okay, so here's the thing. People have been telling me to listen to podcasts for probably a year. Everyone's like, "You will love Serial. You will love podcasts." And for some reason, I nodded, I smiled, and I never pursued them. Partly because I work from home. I think commuting lends itself to podcasts more easily.

But a combination of a dear friend proselytizing me and another friend trying to convince me to create a podcast, and I downloaded Podcast Addict. Aaaaand now I'm all in. Well, I listened to two in one day. I'm still trying to figure out how to fit them in since my kids don't love it when I walk around in headphones, not hearing when they are (yet again) asking for snacks.

I listened to this interview with Father Gregory Boyle, which was so encouraging and fun and inspiring. I liked it so much, in fact, I downloaded his book on Audible because he reads it himself. (If you want to listen to it, you can click here for a free Audible trial that includes two free books!) I also tried out The Popcast because I like some good banter on holidays and The Mindy Project and what not.

So I guess I'm saying... give podcasts a shot. You just might like 'em!

Favorite Book

I am having a weird reading relationship with Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She is saying stuff about creativity that I haven't necessarily heard anyone say before but that is resonating deeply with me. I'm actually reading it slowly because I don't want to miss anything, and I don't want to finish the book. Also, it's been stirring up all these ideas and thoughts in my heart I've been unable to articulate. So I'm having to stop and think.

I've recommended Big Magic to several creative people I know, and I encourage you to check it out as well. I'd be interested to hear what others think. (For the record - this always seems to come up - I wasn't a huge fan of Eat, Pray, Love. So don't let that book push you or keep you away from this one. It's really different. But it's interesting to hear her talk about the commercial success of that memoir.)

Favorite Posts

Finally, here are November's popular posts on A Life with Subtitles:

[Free Download] The 2015 Global Gift Guide - Some of our favorite multicultural gifts and reader recommendations. Books, toys, clothes, games, and more!

58 Thoughts You Have While Trying To Take A Baby Passport Photo - If you've ever given this a shot, you may be able to relate!

What I Learned Teaching on Multicultural Marriage - 3 things I learned about folks who marry across cultures.

Thanks to Leigh Kramer who hosts this monthly link-up. What were some of your favorite things in November?

The Double Click: Parenting Advice, Gangs and Kinship, Spanish Texting, and More

Sometimes time zones, laundry, and the algorithms of Facebook mean we miss each other online. So I'm sharing my recent, favorite links for you to read when you get a chance.

Here's some fun articles to make you laugh and make you think. This week, we've got touching stories with airport strangers and Japanese fathers-in-law, pithy parenting wisdom, gangs and kinship, and tricks to text in Spanish.

Gate A-4 || Live & Learn

"We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours."

My Father-In-Law Made Me The Mother I Am || Brain, Child

"I may have loved my father-in-law, but I was terrified of having his grandchildren—or any child, for that matter. Not because of who or how Otosan was, but simply because having children is terrifying if you go into it with eyes-wide-open. At age 40, the year Toru and I wed, my eyes were pretty wide open."

Winners: The Best Parenting Advice In Six Words || The New York Times Motherlode

"Someday they'll grow a frontal lobe."

"What doesn't kill you - tries to."

"Pay attention, but not too much."

The Calling of Delight: Gangs, Service, and Kinship || On Being

"A Jesuit priest famous for his gang intervention programs in Los Angeles, Fr. Greg Boyle makes winsome connections between service and delight, and compassion and awe. He heads Homeboy Industries, which employs former gang members in a constellation of businesses. This is not work of helping, he says, but of finding kinship. The point of Christian service, as he lives it, is about 'our common calling to delight in one another.'"

Spanish "Netspeak" || Latinaish

"Learning a second language in the days before the internet was probably more straightforward. You learned how to speak, understand, read, and write it. Aside from the standard vocabulary, you may also have learned some slang. However in the age of chat, text, and social media you must also learn the “netspeak” or “chat language” of your second language."

5 (More) Spanish Cartoons on Netflix

5 Spanish Cartoons on Netflix from A Life with Subtitles

It's Thanksgiving week. Here, that means no school for the entire week. (Wha??? I do not remember that happening when I was a kid.)

And no school often means more TV. For us, I mean. I'm sure that's not the case everywhere. I mean, I want to be a Pinteresting mom, but I'm often more of a frozen-pizza-and-Netflix kind of mom.

But hey, TV can be educational, right? And for those of us raising bilingual kids, it's the perfect opportunity to up that second language exposure.

Netflix doesn't make it easy to find its Spanish-language shows, though I am learning some tricks. Disney programs (not Disney Jr.) and Netflix Originals are more likely to be multi-language than others. Sadly, I have yet to find a PBS show in Spanish.

But I've compiled several lists of Netflix options, and here are five cartoons to check out:

#1 - Strawberry Shortcake: Berry Bitty Adventures

My daughter is big into this one right now. Interestingly, plain 'ole Strawberry Shortcake (also on Netflix) is English-only, so you have to go with the Berry Bitty Adventures version. 

#2 - Masha and the Bear

Truth be told, this series doesn't have much dialogue at all. But for some reason, my kids (4 and 2) LOVE it. It's available in English, Spanish, Russian, and French, so it's a multilingual dream come true!

#3 - Inspector Gadget

I loved Inspector Gadget as a kid, so I was excited to see this Netflix Original cartoon pop up. It's a touch old for my kiddos, but I'm sure we'll watch it more in the future as it's geared towards the 5-7 age category.  

#4 - Justin Time

This is new one for us. I'm always on the lookout for fresh shows, though, because I find it's easier to introduce a cartoon in Spanish than to convince my kids to switch over from English on their favorites. Once they discover it's also available in English... game over.  

#5 - The Gruffalo

A reader recommended this short film and it's companion, The Gruffalo's Child. I'm always interested to hear about your bilingual finds, so feel free to share in the comments!

How to Watch Spanish Cartoons on Netflix

Switching your shows to Spanish is a different process depending on your device (Roku, FireStick, AppleTV, online, etc).

To get started, select the program you want to watch. To my knowledge (or at least on the devices I have), there is no way to switch the audio settings on your overall system. I tried that once, and it just changes the languages of the menu, profile, etc. It doesn't affect audio on the shows.

After you choose your movie or show, find the menu "Audio & Subtitles." On our Roku, it's listed in the menu once you select the show. Online, though, I have to actually start the program first and then select the speech bubble from the pop-up menu.

Once you find that menu, though, you're good to go. Just select your language and let the bilingual screen time begin!

How do you get your kids to watch bilingual cartoons? Other Netflix recommendations? Let me know in the comments!

What I Learned Teaching On Multicultural Marriage

Here's the thing about marriage: no one is an expert.

At least, I can't imagine ever calling myself an expert on this crazy ride that is trying to do life with another person. On top of just the regular give and take of relationships, we've got cross-cultural communication, expectations, and differences to layer on top. Like a delicious tiramisu.

Last week Billy and I attended the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) Conference in Memphis. CCDA is a gathering of folks committed to people on the margins and community transformation. Attendees travel from all over the U.S. (and internationally) to learn about justice issues, reconciliation, practical ministry insights, soul care, and community development best practices.

We led a workshop on multicultural families with our friend David, who is Korean-American and his wife is Indian-American (South Asian). It was so. much. fun. I can't even tell you. I am constantly struck by how much I enjoy meeting and hearing from other cross-cultural couples. (Super cool party people in the hiz-ouse!)

Can I just say that we're a fun group of people? And actually, that's kind of true. I learned a couple things through our research for the presentation and our conversations that really stuck out to me. Here's 3 of my takeaways.

#1 We're an adventurous crew.

Billy really jumped on this one, reminding everyone no matter how boring your marriage is now, you were originally excited about the differences and the excitement of joining in with a new culture. I kept asking him to revise the part where he said, "I GUARANTEE it'll lose some of that original thrill," but he said it anyway. Ha!

But it is interesting that people who enter cross-cultural marriages tend to be open to new experiences and a little risk. I'm not going sky-diving or anything, but it's helpful to remember that we share that desire for adventure.

#2 Self-reflection is a valuable skill.

David noted that in much of his research there was a theme about the importance of self-reflection. Of course, being able to assess your background, perspective, and influences is helpful in any marriage. But there was a particular emphasis that cross-cultural marriage will be significantly more challenging if you struggle to self-reflect.

I love to over-analyze, so this seems right in my own wheelhouse. But I actually really like this quality being named because I think it helps to identify what's needed in particular marriage moments. Sometimes a call to step back and evaluate can be game changing.

#3 We can't stop laughing.

This workshop was filled with non-stop laughter. It helped that David and Billy are two of the funniest people I know and someone gave them a microphone. But I'm not even joking when I say that there was so much fun and laughter in the workshop, and I was reminded of a book I read that listed "10 Factors for a Successful Intercultural Marriage." Humor was #10.

At the end of the workshop, an attendee pointed out how much we'd all laughed. He gestured towards our slide presentation and said, "My wife and I have cried together over every topic you all brought up. It was really good to be with people who understand and we can all laugh about these things together."

I was so grateful for the opportunity to attend CCDA and connect with other multicultural couples and families. There was definitely a desire among the group to stay connected, so the three of us are currently brainstorming some ideas to continue conversations and laughter among multicultural families. Stay tuned!

What do you think? Do these characteristics sound familiar or not so much?

My Thanksgiving Epiphany

We have always been terrible at planning for the holidays. For whatever reason, our fall calendar each year tends to have a few trips scheduled. This timing leaves us feeling a little like homebodies by the holidays.

Sometimes our lack of plans means we do practically nothing, especially on Thanksgiving. In fact, we've had a few Thanksgivings where our plans were minimal at best. And then the day comes, and I feel sad.

Because I grew up with Thanksgiving song books and pumpkin pie and often, skits. Because no family gathering is complete without performances, right? RIGHT? Are you telling me Billy is correct and that all families don't do this???

But here we are. Approaching our 9th holiday season together. And I've had an epiphany about Thanksgiving.

Here it is. You're going to be shocked.

Billy did not grow up celebrating Thanksgiving.

I know. It's mind-boggling. Turns out the whole pilgrims, Mayflower, New England celebration is not very big outside the U.S. But it seriously has taken me nine years to realize that this is why he rarely feels like we need plans. This is why he thinks staying at home alone and chilling is acceptable.

This year, I straight up told him: "Thanksgiving is a thing."

I realize this all may sound ridiculous, but it really has changed my outlook on the whole season. I finally recognized that he does not associate warmth and tradition and delicious food with the fourth Thursday in November the way I do. So if it's important to me, I will need to take the lead on how we will celebrate.

That doesn't actually mean we've done any better this year about making plans, but I've seriously been thinking about it. Ha! Because Thanksgiving is a thing, ya'll!

The Double Click || Nov 14, 2015

Sometimes time zones, laundry, and the algorithms of Facebook mean we miss each other online. So I'm sharing my recent, favorite links for you to read when you get a chance.

Here's some fun articles to make you laugh and make you think. This week, we're talking Dia de los Muertos, most awkward moments (hysterical - I mean, you will have to take a break while reading), adult friendships in today's modern world, soccer balls that light up your house, and modern day questionable ironies.

Dia De Los Muertos: What Guatemala Has Taught Me About Death and Grieving || Simply Complicated

"There is such beauty in remembering because it gives permission to grieve. For some, grief is a very private thing, but in Guatemala, grief is something that is shared. There is often something powerful about making it public, about letting others share in your pain and in your memories.

How Our Housing Choices Make Adult Friendships More Difficult || Vox 

"Point being, each of us living in our own separate nuclear-family castles, with our own little faux-estate lawns, getting in a car to go anywhere, never seeing friends unless we make an effort to schedule it - there's nothing fated or inevitable about it."

And then that one time on twitter we all just became human and I laughed until I gave myself a headache || The Bloggess

"Someone had the wrong number and dialed me on accident. I asked if I could take a message..."

"A friend thanked me for coming to their husband's funeral. My reply? 'Anytime.'"

"My mom once told someone who'd asked her if she could borrow a magazine 'Sure. Go to hell'... 'go ahead' + 'help yourself'"

"Went out to eat and the greeter said would you like to eat inside or outside. My wife's response? 'Eat.'"

Soccket Video || Fast Company

"Soccket is a soccer ball that, when kicked around, stores energy that can power small appliances in underdeveloped villages."

Alanis Morissette has updated her hit 'Ironic' for this horrible modern age || some entertainment

"So many websites and apps got name-dropped in that. Netflix, Amazon, Snapchat, Uber. Remember simpler times, when dying in a plane crash on your very first flight was all you had to do to be totally full of irony?"

5 Gifts for Multicultural Kids

5 Gifts for Multicultural Kids || A Life with Subtitles

All the year, we are seeking ways to raise bilingual and multicultural kids. We bribe them to speak Spanish and we set them in front of Spanish-speaking cartoons. (I'm basically an A+ educator!)

So when we buy books and toys and gifts for our kids, we also hope to encourage their language and cultural fluency. To that end, here are 5 multicultural gifts for kids you may enjoy:

#1 - Ellie Elote

You can see our "I Love My Papi" shirt pictured above. I just love this one! It took us a while to settle on a name for dad, so it's sweet to see it represented in her closet. Also, I think this one is so clever!

#2 - Everybody Cooks Rice

Jody recommended this book to me, and I love the story idea! A young girl walking through her neighborhood at dinnertime is introduced to both the diversity of her neighborhood and the commonality of rice in all the cultures she encounters.

#3 - Our Generation Dolls

My own daughter has not yet graduated to these types of dolls, but I love the diverse look of Target's Our Generation Dolls. If you're searching for a unique gift for the doll-lover in your life, check them out here.

#4 - Guatemala ABC's

We have loved this book and the way it shares snippets of Guatemalan culture to correspond with each letter of the alphabet. This book is part of a series and you can find them for many other countries as well. Here's Mexico, New Zealand, Brazil, and Canada, for example.

#5 - Where In the U.S. Is Carmen Sandiego?

Remember "Where In the World is Carmen Sandiego?" Oh man. I loved that show. I may or may not have applied to be on it only to receive a generic postcard that read, "We're no longer filming this show. You are watching reruns." Boo. But I don't hold a grudge, and this game seems like a good time!

These are five multicultural gift ideas for kiddos. For more ideas (more than 95, in fact), download my Global Gift Guide for the holiday season. It's packed full of our favorites, as well as reader recommendations. From infants to adults, there's a little something for everyone! Download your free copy below.

58 Thoughts You Have While Trying To Take A Baby Passport Photo

  1. Hi, teenage employee at the drugstore. Can I call you Toby? We need a passport photo!
  2. How long is this going to take?
  3. Oh man, they have to be awake?
  4. So awake, but not crying or hungry?
  5. Please, if you know how to make that happen, Toby. Fill me in.
  6. Okay baby, wake up now, honey.
  7. I can't believe i'm doing this.
  8. I spend most of my life now trying to get this kid to sleep.
  9. Now I'm waking him up?
  10. Hello, sugar! Yes, there's those beautiful eyes!
  11. Okay, Toby. Take the picture! Take the picture!
  12. What do you mean something's wrong with the camera?
  13. It'll just be a minute? Do you know how much could go wrong in a minute?
  14. I hope he's not hungry.
  15. Oh, precious baby yawn!
  16. Uh-oh. He's getting squirmy
  17. Do I even have what i need to feed him or is everything in the car?
  18. Oh, please don't be hungry, bud. Just hang on for your photo shoot!
  19. This teenage boy is working a moderate pace and will one day have this camera fixed.
  20. Oh thank goodness. He got it!
  21. So I can't be anywhere in the picture? Like nowhere?
  22. So I guess I just hold him above my head or...?
  23. Ah, yes. Lie him on the floor. Point for the teenage boy!
  24. Oh, honey. don't cry. don't cry. We need your eyes open!
  25. I mean, also don't cry because everything's okay.
  26. But seriously, we need your eyes open.
  27. Okay, don't turn your head to the side, hon.
  28. You have to look directly at the camera. Think mug shot. 
  29. Baby! Yoooo-hoooo. Look over here.
  30. Okay, let's get those hands out of your mouth.
  31. Baby! Look at the camera.
  32. Wait. Is he falling back asleep? Should I bang a tambourine? 
  33. Alright, I know you're staring up at the brightly lit ceiling, but I'm going to need you to open your eyes!
  34. Oh great. Now the head's turned again.
  35. Why do I feel like I'm on some weird, family Minute-to-win-it game?
  36. Look at Mommy! LOOK at Mommy!
  37. Wait. Is he about to roll over for the first time? While on this mat? With a teenage boy hovering above with a camera?
  38. Awh, that's so cool.
  39. But no.
  40. Really, baby. Let's get it together!
  41. Okay, don't cry. I'm not pinning you down. 
  42. I'm going to hold you just a little bit. Camera won't even notice me.
  43. I just need you to look up in a "full-face view, looking directly at the camera with eyes open."
  44. Is that TOO MUCH TO ASK????
  45. Okay, yes. It's kinda too much to ask.
  46. But if you ever want to see your grandparents, you will do it.
  47. Okay, I'm sorry. That sounded threatening.
  48. Just please, baby. I'm literally on my knees now. 
  49. Please, please, please, look up at the strange boy with the camera.
  50. Ah-ha! He did it!
  51. Did you get that, Toby? Did ya?
  52. Please tell me you did or I'm collapsing on this mat.
  53. You did? Hooray!
  54. Does it matter that his hand is in the frame like that?
  55. You don't think so?
  56. Then neither do I!
  57. We did it!
  58. Should I hug you or would that be... okay, yeah, we don't have to do that.

[Free Download] The 2015 Global Gift Guide

Shopping during the holidays can be one of the most fun or frustrating experiences, depending on your preferences. Personally, I love to stay up late and participate in the Black Friday mayhem, but not really buy anything. I'm too indecisive for flash sales, but I love the hype!

The 2015 Global Gift Guide from A Life with Subtitles - 95+ multicultural gift ideas for kids, travelers, culture lovers, and more!

This year, with the help of readers and friends, I'm excited to share the 2015 Global Gift Guide with favorite multicultural products. Inside, you'll find more than 95 multicultural gift ideas. Here's a few examples:

     * Unique, bilingual clothing for kids
     * Experience-based gifts for culture lovers
     * Fun, Etsy prints for the home
     * Diverse books for young readers to adults
     * and more!

Get your free 2015 Global Gift Guide when you join my mailing list! 

When He Is Away On Our Anniversary

Today is my anniversary. Eight years Billy and I have been figuring out how to be a family together, and I can't decide if that feels like a long time or the blink of an eye.

Billy is out of town again this year - as he has been for the last three anniversaries - due to an annual work trip. That's cool with me. And he took Gabriella with him, so maybe time at home alone with just the two year old is the best gift a mom can get!

But having a day to reflect on your marriage when your husband has been gone for a week reminds me of the things I miss when he's away. So here's a few things that have come up while it's just me and the little guy.

Who goes into that creepy crawl space?

Isaac started climbing out of his crib a couple weeks ago. You can imagine my excitement [insert sarcasm]. But for his safety, I figured it's time to move to a toddler bed. Only I have no idea where it is.When I asked Billy, I heard the fated words: "crawl space." Well, I immediately tossed that plan.

I've heard there is a storage area underneath our house. In the six years we've lived here, I have actually never been inside, nor do I know where "we" store the key. Thankfully, I had stashed the toddler mattress inside the house, so Isaac now sleeps on a mattress on the floor. Perfect.

Who will listen to my random musings?

Billy doesn't have consistent internet while he's away, so I've been making lists of things to ask him or tell him when we do get a chance to chat. He encouraged me to go ahead and vox whenever I need something because he can catch up later when he has access.

I think he now regrets telling me that.

Now, whenever I have a thought or a question, I just vox away! Some things, of course, I actually need to tell him. But I'm also just used to having him to talk to. It's weird and lonely without him here to ask important questions like "Have you seen Isaac's drum anywhere? Because our entire Halloween costume was built around that drum and now it is missing in action!"

Who will decide if our kids are sick?

I have never been able to operate a thermometer. Even for myself. They always mysteriously break, and I have decided I have a chemical force field inside that destroys them.

Add to that all the convoluted ways you are supposed to take a child's temperature... I cannot master the forehead swipe or that crazy ear thing. And then I break the thermometer. So temperatures are Billy's department.

I was reminded of this as I tried to get Isaac to hold it under his tongue this week when his head scorched me at night. When the reading came back at 103, I freaked out. Which is also usually Billy's role. He always first thinks the temperatures are in Celsius. So he screams, then does some quick mental math, then asks me if we should be concerned.

Who will make me laugh with cultural ridiculousness?

This is a screen shot of our anniversary morning conversation. First, Billy said how glad he was to have been married to me for 8 years. Then, I said "ditto." And it basically sums up our crazy, bilingual marriage. I miss these moments when he's gone.

What do you miss about your spouse when they are gone? 

A Few of My Favorite Things {October 2015}

October is a divine month in Atlanta. So I decided to set aside the impending doom of winter and embrace fall this month. See, here are my kiddos next to pumpkins. We're totally fall.

So here's the skinny on October. 

Favorite Awkward Experience

The month kicked off with me and the hubs at a stand-up comedy show. Now, this is not our regular type of gig. Nothing makes me sweat more than sitting in the audience while someone holding a microphone tries to be funny.

I have always had a very strong empathetic heart, and stand-up comedy just crushes it. I want you to be funny. Maybe more than you want to be funny. Not so I can laugh, but so you don't embarrass yourself. It's very stressful for me to watch stand-up.

But one of Billy's friends was performing. (Oh my word. Someone we know? I'm never going to make it through this.) Then, to really top off the situation, I saw this:

Oh no. I don't think so, buddy.

But I must say, we had so much fun. People were actually funny. (And a few just rambled, but I made it.) And the environment just created laughter. Even if a joke was meh, how can you not laugh when someone's mom is cracking up hysterically in the audience? And only once did a guy ask, "Do we have any interracial couples in the audience tonight?" and we did not raise our hands. No, we did not.

If you want a little Netflix comedy, Anjelah Johnson has a third show out called "Not Fancy." I enjoy her in general, but I thought this show was one of her stronger ones. Happy chuckling!

Favorite Facebook Convo

Over on my Facebook page this month, we had a couple of fun conversations. My favorite discussion was this one where we shared expressions that don't really translate well into English.

One of my favorites added was "fregando la pita," which means "goofing off." Literal translation? Messing the string. If you want to like my page, click here. And I'd love for you to add your examples of expressions that just don't translate.

Favorite Instagram

We took our kids on their first camping trip this month. Well, we went "glamping" (glamour + camping). I gotta tell you... I'm never going back. We slept in a yurt, which is like a canvas cabin, that had bunk beds, a heater, and a back porch overlooking the lake. The kids had an absolute blast, and Ella was thrilled to sleep in her very own sleeping bag.

I'm including a second one because it's a tie this month. Our neighborhood got a brand, spankin' new library, and I fell in love.

Favorite App

I've used the YouVersion Bible App to, you know, read the Bible. But I recently discovered their Plans menu. They have topical devotional series, as well as Bible reading plans. Every day, it gives you some devotional content to read and accompanying Scriptures.

I thought I'd share because I've been using this app for so long without realizing that these plans existed. Even when I clicked over, I saw just a few featured and thought that was it. But there's a whole library of options. I'm currently reading through "STAY FIT: Strengthening Your Connection To Jesus," and it's had some terrific content.

Favorite Photo Shoot

October is Picture Day at my kids' preschool. Last year, I accidentally sent Isaac in his pajamas.

I feel like it's worth noting that this is the only day the boy has ever gone to school in his pajamas. And it happened to be Picture Day. Ah, well. It's one of my favorites!

But this year, I decided to go the more traditional route, and actually dress Isaac up for his photo. I gotta say, little boys wearing little man clothes are so adorable!

All the Links

Here's a few favorite links I shared this month:
(For all the links all the month, I'm on Twitter or Facebook.)

15 Hilarious Parenting Comics That Are Almost Too Real - If you're a parent, you'll relate to this funny comics. You'll laugh, and then you may cry just a little bit.

My Life in Japan: A Very Awkward Fireworks Festival - This hilarious story of intercultural dating and cross-cultural life was one of my favorites this month!

Gilmore Girls Limited-Series Revival Set at Netflix - This Is Not A Drill - Basically the best news I heard all month.

[VIDEO] Things Bilingual People Do - It's basically my life dream to be able to eavesdrop on people. **Must buy Rosetta Stone.**

Costume Ideas for the Church Halloween Festival - This one took me back to the days of balling up aluminum foil and paper clipping it to my ears. Queen Esther in the house, y'all!

How To Make Your Last Name Plural This Christmas Season - To apostrophe? Or not to aprostrophesize?

And here are some posts on A Life with Subtitles that readers enjoyed:

What NOT To Do: 3 Cautions for Monolingual Parents In Bilingual Families - I find hassling people is not as effective as I'd hoped!

Who Am I? The Ultimate White Girl Question - Language can be tricky, but I find there is value in both the individualization of identity and collective identity.

When Naming Your Child Is Your First Mistake - I was excited to write this guest post for Coffee + Crumbs about walking with our daughter as she develops her bicultural identity.

Shout out to Leigh Kramer for her hosting this link-up monthly. What did you love in October?

3 Spanish Worship Leaders To Check Out

Spanish worship leaders you gotta hear!

Whether you're looking for ways to include more Spanish in your life or you want to praise God en español, worship music is a great resource. Here's 3 Spanish worship leaders you may enjoy. Please include your favorites in the comments, too!

[If you're reading this via email or RSS, you may need to click here to see the videos.]

Julio Melgar

Julio is one of my personal favorites. He recently released a new CD that I haven't heard yet, but here's one from his album Vuelve.

Hillsong United en Español

If you listen to Hillsong in English, you'll recognize many of these tunes. I love the song Oceans, and it's beautiful in Spanish.

Marco Barrientos

This recommendation is from Billy. (I promise it's not a hardcore worship band - is that a thing?) I also really enjoyed Marcela Gandara featured on this track.

I'm always looking for great suggestions, so I'd love for you to share your favorites in the comments!

A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.