Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Paranoia and Parenting school aged children

How did you do it? Send them off to their first day? Please tell me the paranoia goes away....

Toddler C is actually 4 yrs old now , which puts her a year "behind" most other Mexican kiddos, who start "school" at three. I was well aware of that fact, and purposefully didnt send her to school last year for several reasons. Unfortuntely, I can't hold her out any longer, the girl is 189% ready to be in school.

The problemita is not her, it's me. Are you aware of how many ways there are to kidnap a child? I can imagine several hundred, which is in fact the ONLY thing I can think about when I try and force myself to tour another school or two for her. 

I wish I could blame this on Mexico, but  this paranoia thing started before C wsa born, in the safe ole Midwest. My Dad brought inside a "She's Here!" balloon he had put out the day she was born, at my insistence that someone could see the balloon and target our home for babynapping. 

I cried the first time she was out of my sight for longer than the time it took me to shower at the age of 3 days. Dad gently reminded me the nurses said new mom horomones could cause crying.

I bawled uncontrollably when I was forced to leave her (2.5 yrs old) and her sissy (11 months) with my MIL and SIL for 6 ridiculous hours the day I went in for slipped disk (and passed out in the examination room, that pain was worst thn giving birth I promise you!).

My point is, I know this isn't Mexico's fault.

But Mexico does make it worse.

In the States, are people constantly asking you where your children were born? Where you live? Exactly which street did you say? What school do you send them to? Do you have family left in the States? Do you visit them often($$$)? How long are you planning on staying here? Where does your husband work? What hours/how often?

Every single one of those questions would be innocent enough, if not all asked together. I get asked ALL those questions at least once a week by someone new. Doesn't that seem a little odd? I have been told to and have started to lie about the girls nationality. Tat

I have had non-American neighbors before, specifically from Saudi Arabia India , and several Latin American countries. Did I ask them if their children were American? If they had papers? Which school do their kiddos go to? Do they have family left in their country and do they (have the money to) come visit?


So my question is.....

Besides hiring a bodyguard to attend school with my 4 year old, how do I do this? 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Dear M.O.M.

Dearest Mom on a Motorcycle:
Please forgive me if I sound condescending. I know, I come from a culture of five point harnesses and extended rear facing carseats for children in cars. A culture that requires helmets on motorcylces in most states. A culture that is obsessed with safety, where hospitals won't let you take your baby home before checking to see if your babys car seat is installed correctly.

However, judging by the looks of other drivers around you, even your fellow Mexican drivers are shocked at your choice of vehicle. Please hear me- I get it. Motorcycles cost less to run. They are easier to find parking spots for. You couldn't pay me to drive a motorcycle in Mexico City and surrounding areas, but I am trying hard to understand your point of view. I long ago accepted that people here take their children, even babies, on their motorcycles. Some things I can not change, nor is it my business even if I could somehow change it. Less than 20% of motorcycle riders around here wear helmets, I have stopped making comments about it to my husband in shock.

Judging by the looks of it, you have a lot of baby related costs going on right now. Perhaps that is why you can't afford the bus instead, which even as perilous it can be riding the bus would surely be a better choice in your situation.

Even with all of that in mind....

Your twin babies under one and your older toddler under three are all begging you - "I don't want to die mami. Please don't ever load the three of us on a motorcycle again. You dont have enough arms to hold us all on, while maintaining control of the motorcycle."

The toddler especially, holding on to your back for her dear life is in great danger. Your twin babies can barely hold their own heads up in the curves of traffic.

Perhaps there was an emergency? The apocalypse arrived at your home only and you are trying to escape it? Your husband was in an accident and you are the only one in the country with a compatible blood type to save his life?

Whatever it is, I hope you made it to your destination with all four of your lives intact. Hopefully this was a one time ride for your family and you will never chance their lives like that again. I am trying to understand, but the looks on your babies faces aren't helping me.
Concerned Fellow Driver and Mother

Monday, September 23, 2013


We had several things to celebrate in past month.

The girls helped me make a birthday celebration in their Grandpa's honor:

We joined in on the 15th of September to celebrate el patria:

We celebrated my Dad again, on the third anniversary of his passing by making a fancy Peking Duck dinner:
And we accompanied my brother in law to formally ask for his fiance's hand in marriage with all of her family:

 Hope your families are celebrating each other whenever they can!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Missing person in California

If you are in CA or surrounding states please have a look! It's a friend of a friend. He could be your friend or loved one.

You could be the person to bring someone's son, brother, friend, loved one home, please have a look.


Thanks for checking the page, hoping it all resolves with Jefrey safe and sound soon.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dreaming of Home

I hate rain. With my entire soul. It would be accurate to say that if I never again had to live in a place with daily rains my life may just be complete. [pictures of rain below as proof how lame it is.]

That being said, I don't think it is just the rain.

There are a million things I love about Mexico.

Unfortunately, I have just come to realize that there are a million and one things I loved about living in the States. The fact is, what it boils down to is I really just prefer it there. For too many reasons to list here.

When people here ask me what I miss from the US, I always say the exact same two things: my family and the green grass and trees everwhere. They laugh, but that's because they have lived in this urban wasteland their entire life. Now I can finally admit what I truly miss about the US: everything.

Today wasn't the first time I woke up, thinking I was in KS. It wasn't even a spectacular dream. We were getting our suits on to go swimming nice and early, to the public pool within walking distance of our house back home. Lunch was packed to have a little picnic in the green lot next to the pool.

That was it. And then I woke up in the wrong country.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Smart food shopping in Mexico

Revisiting the cost of living in Mexico

After being here for over a year and a half, I have finally found our groove on how and where to shop for our pantry and fridge needs. While many of you reading really only tune in for toddler pictures (hi family and friends back home!) , my stats page tells me many of you tune in from other expat/Mexico blogs. So on the hunch that many of you reading along are preparing for a big move to Mexico, considering it for the future or are already here, I am continuing the conversation on cost of living.

We lived with my inlaws (four of us, and four of them) for over a year after moving to Mexico. While I may have had my share of complaints, on the whole it was an amazing, educational and beneficial experience. My MIL took the girls and I along to el mercado almost daily to buy groceries for meals. She introduced us to her preferred vendors, showed us the daily rythmns of browsing the stalls, and who and how to saluda. She also mainly showed off her nietas guapas, who everyone still goes nuts over!

While I like to give credit where it is due, it must be admitted. My MILs method of meal planning (or lack there of) and the daily trips to the mercado are not the best way to save your money. She has a fridge and freezer, uses modern appliances and has no reason to go to the mercado daily. We hadn't been here very long when it dawned on me - she doesn't like to sit in the house all day and likes the daily banter of going through the mercado. Heck, I don't like to stay in my house all day! It is understandable. It also has a price though. She spends between 400 and 600 pesos DAILY at the mercado. Daily. 400-450 are spent on food and pantry items. The rest is spent on special candles, things for my SIL (beauty items, clothes, shoes etc) and other various wants.

Now that we have been living in our own place for a good while, I can safely estimate that a family of four can live and eat pretty well on a food budget 200 pesos daily, or much less depending on your dietary needs. We buy lots of fruit, and my girls like the fruits that arent cheap here. So while I could just buy the ugly kind of apple or bananas, we continue to buy pear, plums, various berries etc. Our meals follow pretty closely the suggestions by the USDA "My Plate" campaign. We don't always include a grain at every meal, but sometimes the girls have homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast so it all evens out ;) The man eats more carne than the girls and I combined, but he also weighs more than the girls and I combined so that is to be expected.

Where to buy food:

Fruits and Veggies - almost always better priced at the mercado.
-Listen for "Miercoles at the Plaza" commercials on TV and other promotions for supermarkets though. I have paid as little as 8 pesos for a kilo of avocado at Chedraui. Right now they average between 30 and 40 pesos per kilo in my area, so paying attention to those annoying commercials is worth it.

Meats and Dairy- often times better priced at supermarkets
-everything comes with more of a waranty of food safety at big bix stores. You are issued receipts at supermarkets, and can view the package date and expiration date. In the mercado the meat may be fresher & "never been frozen" , but it also sits at room temperature all day and perhaps until the next day if it doesnt sell on day one. However, room temperature isn't always a bad thing. There are = healthy ways to prepare and sell fresh meats safely without refridgeration within a certain time frame of being slaughtered (I'm talking about the chicken vendors, most beef and pork butchers have giant fridges and freezers for storing the meat overnight.). If you know someone from your nieghborhood and they can tell you who they buy fresh meat from in your mercado, that would be best. Although we are being overcharged, we have never been sick from our chicken ladies and neither have my inlaws in 20 plus years of buying from them.
-Get what you paid for. Since meat proteins are often the most expensive food item on our list, it is important we are actually getting what we paid for. I own a scale for baking. Yeah. I have checked when I got home if I got my full kilo. And our pollo vendor that is supposedly so " trustworthy" and very popular in the mercado has a scale that is a good 18% off. In their favor of course. I know, everyone has to make a living. Just not at my expense. Sorry!
-Different of cuts of meat should have different costs. At one butcher in the mercado, they charge 105$ pesos per kilo for every cut of pork. Not every cut of pork is worth the same peso amount! At Walmart right now for example, pork chops run around only 50 pesosper kilo. Big difference.
-Also, consider buying in bulk. For example , an entire chicken will only cost you 30-35 pesos per kilo. One chicken weighs 2-3 kilos. So for 3 kilos of chicken you can pay 100 pesos. Buying just the breast would cost you 65-75 pesos per kilo, and the breast usually weighs a kilo+

Household items - better to buy in big box stores.
-I have been told and suspect that many soaps (liquid laundry detergent, fabulouso, bleach etc.) are sold watered down in mercados. Can I prove this? No. Is there a better selection of soaps and household detergents in supermarkets anyway? Yes. You pick.
-Things like household items are often purchased at a supermarket first and then resold in the mercado. I have actually seen one of the mercado vendors at Walmart, buying Fabulouso and other detergents to resell. They add a peso or two to each bottle. It adds up.
-Like I mentioned in the Costco post, some things like toilet paper and toiletries are cheaper at the big bulk stores. Some you are paying for the American brand. Do a little comparing and shopping around on this one.

Special Treats & Snacks - mercado!
-street food vendors have got the art of food prep down, baby! I have tried pambasos at Chedraui, and can you say "gwacala!" . Gross. If someone has been preparing sopes her entire life and selling them in the mercado, I garantee you she has learned a thing or two and her food is way better tasting than bulk prepared Walmart c-r-a-p
-Don't believe in street food? Look for vendors that have a line, who put on a glove or uses a food tissue to accept payment and who have hand sanitizer out for the public use. If someone is smoking a ciggarette and making your food, would that be appetizing to you? Use your noggin and dont be afraid to ask for a prueba. Things like sandwiches and sopes can't be given tastes of, of course - but if you want to try a bite of fruit, or the meat they are selling (carnitas for example) - just ask! If they say they can't , don't be embarrassed. Just like in the States attitudes vary from person to person. It doesn't hurt to ask though, many are super willing to give tastes! Enjoy the picture below of a wonderful street food snack- fruit cocktails!

Grains, Beans and other pantry items -either mercado or big box stores
-This one is harder to generalize. I dont know what grains you like? Will you ever find quinoa in a small mercado? Not likely. Cotsco has a quinoa mix, so that is where I buy it. I am still searching for a better bulk proce on quinoa and other grains, my hunch is the Central de Abastos will be my golden goose egg once I make it there. Are you picky about your rice? If not, just buy whatever they have at the mercado.
-Dried beans are almost always sold in season (meaning they werent dried 2 years ago and have been sitting on a shelf since then, waiting to be purchased.) at mercados, the problemita is I have no idea of knowing which vendors actually have fresh beans or not. It is pick and choose I suppose. Buy one bag from a vendor and see how they cook up! The problem with this theory is I like to have a fully stocked pantry at all times. So I don't like to buy just one kilo of black beans, or quinoa , or rice etc.
-There is almost always more of a variety of flours, sugars, and baking needs at big box stores. The exception is if you happen to have a baking tienda nearby, which we do! This also has to do with how picky you are however. Do you care if the flour you use is bleached? Most flour brands in Mexico have bleaching agents in them. I know. I'm on a search for one that doesn't. Yes, I have a label reading addiction.

So, that is my take on where to buy food and household needs in Mexico. There is one major exception - if you live in a town or area that has a FARMERS market, all comments above are out the window. The kind of mercado I am writing about is where the vendors wake early, drive the the central de abastos, buy food in bulk and resell it in their neighborhood for a slightly higher price. These vendors are NOT farmers. There are occasional people who sell their own grown fruits or veggies. Like the nopale man and corn truck near us.

By all means PLEASE buy directly from a farmer whenever you have a chance.. They don't charge any higher than other vendors, and they need to be supported by their communities. This is another post, but there is a horribly cruel reason which fruit and veggies prices are generally so low here in Mexico. I will touch on it another time, but it is a big problem for the farming community here. Support these small farmers if you get the chance!

And as a reminder, I live in northern Mexico City. Prices and availability of goods vary throughout the country, just like in the USA.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The view from up here

The girls and I are loving finally living in our own house!! We owe you a "pictures of where we live now" post, but in the meantime - a snacktime view.

The girls must still be American, they enjoy people watching as much as I do. I tried to explain "people watching" once to the inlaws and they just asked "why?".

The bonus picture is of the super vicious neighborhood gang. It is always the same group of dogs, I swear! Maybe they are siblings ;) Let's stick with gang members, that sounds more interesting.

What about you? Have you found any habits of yours (like people watching) that are unexplainable to people here?