Wise men, a very personal tradition

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Sadly our holidays and well deserved vacations have come to an end, yet there is no better way to say goodbye than celebrating with the three 👑👑👑 Wise men.  

For some reason my father has taken this tradition to his heart, by now everybody knows that around January 5th he and my mom will throw a party to write a wish letter and send it up to the Wise men in a well inflated helium balloon.

This requires some preparation, preparation for a party of more than 100 people that joined us this year, most of which are family members, friends, neighbors, friends of our neighbors and everybody that has heard about it. Some of them were even asking about it before the date was confirmed.

All starts by getting the right size of balloons, #20 I think, not less not more. Getting the helium tank for 300 balloons just in case we have an overflow of requests to the Wise men, paper for the wish letters and a little cord to tie each letter to their respective balloon. 30 Abuelita chocolate bars, 24 liters of milk, 3 Roscas de Reyes, pastor tacos for 100+ people, drinks, tables, chairs, etc.

One or two hours before the guests arrive, inflating the balloons is a task my dad owns, nobody else, except for me when he is distracted. One balloon at a time, until the whole living room ceiling is full of them, doesn’t matter how many or how much time it takes he is in charge. Attaching the little cord to each balloon can be done by anybody else, his staff obviously, this time it was assigned to CG’s mom and me.

  
VaLu is normally in charge of mixing the Abuelita bars with the milk to make us a delicious hot chocolate, same deal as with the balloons, my dad and VaLu are in charge and everybody else is an observer. In this ocasion the observers noted that half of the kitchen wall had chocolate on it before VaLu realized it. Probably she was so focused on the quality that she didn’t pay attention to the messy kitchen she was creating – it was fun though.

As guests came in, my mom kept working on the final details, where to put the food, drinks, chairs for the elders, etc. Aligning all activities for the night, diner first, then making sure that everybody has paper and pen for their wish letter, balloons throwing at the count of three and finally Rocas de Reyes with hot chocolate – like a well coordinated concert.

Kids of all ages and adults of all sorts of life come together this special night, all get to write a letter, all get to dream, all get to ask for anything they can imagine as all of it will come true.

 In some parts of the world people organize parades with the Wise men, in my world my wise man and woman organize a party that makes us come and dream together, a celebration that everybody is waiting for and that for the first time CG enjoyed as she wrote her wish letter, released her balloon to the sky and said bye bye as it was flying away.
This is our tradition of the Wise men, I want to thank mom and dad for keeping it alive and making it so personal, I love it and I’m not the only one.

  
PS. I wish CG gets the four things she asked for. 👍🏼

Family, family, family…

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Some time has passed since I enjoyed the warmth of all my family getting together, it happened few months ago during a trip I have tried to describe in this blog before, yet still pending in my drafts. While many people share dinner or play board games with their families every weekend, for us getting together requires more planning and coordination.

We decided to spend this holiday season with our family, every single day, every major event and every meal, I bet these holidays will create very long lasting memories.   Less than a week ago CG (yes, working on a nickname for my little one) was very curious during a little ceremony we had to place the Christmas tree star, she was amazed with the colorful tree, the Nativity Scene, the brightness of the star and grandpa climbing a little ladder to do the honors, she started to feel the real meaning of Christmas. Later that night CG met her new cousin, she was looking at her like a big sister would do, touching her gently and making sure she was taken care of, seems that CG understands that there is a family connection just right there.  

Later in the week we traveled to the beach to meet the other side of the family, sun, sand, water and a plastic swimming pool it’s all they needed to have fun, laugh, play hot potato and share snacks like they see each other every day. 

CG swam for the first time in a huge pool next to the beach and built sand castles, she spent countless hours playing with her cousins, uncles, aunts and grandpas, she is really getting to know her entire family.

Watching CG enjoy her family like this and creating these amazing moments reminds me how important is to stay close to each other and spend quality time with the family.

I am speachless when I see how they make her feel part of the same “circle” even when she lives far away and has very little contact with them. FaceTime works but it is not the same.

If I had to pick the best thing during this trip, I would say the sense of ownership, safety and care for each other has been the best, to me that describes the meaning of family right now.

At some point we will go back home, will be physically far away again, will miss each other touch, but we will keep the memories of these days to remind us how important our family is.

Every day since I moved out from my parents home and then to another country, I think about these family ties and the physical distance between us. It is part of growing up, building a professional career and a family of my own. During these holidays I am rediscovering that our family is the escense of what we are today and will be the heart of what CG will become in the future. 

If there is anything I can do for her, is to keep her close to our family and teach her the importance of staying together.

 

Getting ready for the holidays…

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Living abroad far away from your family has its ups and downs, pros and cons. Your new friends become family and family your first thought when planning vacations. 

Last spring, I enjoyed a one month long sabbatical earned after five years working at PayPal. Visiting our family was at the top of the list, same as traveling to new cities in the world. It was a no-brainer, let’s travel to new cities with all our family, I thought. It was the best trip ever and I will write about it in a later post, just check this pic. This time around is different, this season is one of the most important in our culture, thus we have decided to spend it celebrating posadas, Christmas, singing carols, drinking “ponche” and sharing time with the ones we love the most in the place that saw us grow.

I’m sure our little girl will enjoy it big time, she and her cousins will be at the center of everything, during Christmas and on New Year’s Eve. This is the first time they will meet, they will touch their hands and most likely will get a Hi or Bye from my little one. This is our next generation, the next from both sides of the family, the next that will carry our blood and names, the next that will enjoy the world we live in today.

As always, there is some sense of uncertainty and stress when planning these trips, but I’m sure that it will go as smooth as the one back in Spring. I think everything is about respect, dialog and making sure that everybody’s voice is heard. 

For sure we will miss our family in the Silicon Valley, we have shared one more year of laughter, feasts, hard training and early morning races. We will be far physically but close in heart. We will be back to share stories about the trip including two weddings, one baptism, some posadas, baby Jesus birthday party, year end celebration and Acapulco baby.

For me a sign of complete success will be our families getting together once again, the little one learning about our traditions and getting back recharged for 2016.

Traveling with our family has been always the best decision, something that should always be at the top of anyone’s list.

Before saying good night, I want to send a message to my friends and family. #Goya

And yes, those ugly sweaters in the picture are meant to be ugly and win a contest.

Heritage, heredity and heir

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According to the Oxford Dictionaries,

Heritage: Valued objects and qualities such as cultural traditions, unspoiled countryside, and historic buildings that have been passed down from previous generations.

Heredity: The passing on of physical or mental characteristics genetically from one generation to another.

Heir: A person legally entitled to the property or rank of another on that person’s death.

It’s not a secret that my heir’s heritage is full of beautiful traditions like Semana Santa, Posadas, Día de Muertos, tamales,  mariachis, guacamole, mole, tacos, chiles en nogada and much more. It is something that she will grow up with, that I hope she takes as her own and passes over to the next generations. This is what make us who we are, how we think, how we see the world and act every day of our lives.

I’m sure that as a Mexican-American kid she we will also grow with other traditions, like Independence Day on July 4, Veterans Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving or the NFL Super Bowl.

Nonetheless, there are some things transmitted by heredity, those that come in our DNA and can’t be taught. The name of the game is win, the rivalry Pumas – América. It’s hard to explain, may be like a Celtics vs. Lakers, 49ers vs. Seahawks or Yankies vs. Red Sox. There is no game between these two teams that is not entertaining and nerve-racking.

Sunday’s 10am Pacific Time are becoming a tradition, just after swimming class the family gets together to watch a Pumas game, today we played America and beat them in the Liga MX semi-finals. 

The best part of beating America is reminding them about it, I’m not encouraging hate or bulling, just a friendly reminder of who is who. Yes, not always has been like this, yes, today was not our best game, but we will enjoy the moment and get ready for the Liga MX Championship games.  

Dear heir, I know you already enjoy soccer, are passionate about it and cheer for our local team, but I’m sure one day our DNA will pop to show where your soccer futbol heart really is. #Goya

  

What is Thanksgiving?

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After some research on the true meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday, I found this website which I think describes the celebration holisticly, from a Native People of North American perspective, the Pilgrims and even from a religious point of view. Below is an excerpt for you, however you can read the full story here.

Giving thanks for the Creator’s gifts had always been a part of Wampanoag daily life. From ancient times, Native People of North America have held ceremonies to give thanks for successful harvests, for the hope of a good growing season in the early spring, and for other good fortune such as the birth of a child. Giving thanks was, and still is, the primary reason for ceremonies or celebrations.

The arrival of the Pilgrims and Puritans brought new Thanksgiving traditions to the American scene. Today’s national Thanksgiving celebration is a blend of two traditions: the New England custom of rejoicing after a successful harvest, based on ancient English harvest festivals; and the Puritan Thanksgiving, a solemn religious observance combining prayer and feasting.” 

For me Thanksgiving means expressing gratitude and sharing. Gratitud for my friends in this journey, friends I consider my extended family and have shown their care for my two girls. Sharing everything, our home, time, food, laughter, more food and even prayers. 

This year we continued the “tradition”, Thursday at 8am everyone ready for the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10k. Probably the little one doesn’t have a clue why we are doing this, however I am sure than one day she will appreciate the fact that she has participated in it since she was born. Yes, we were sleepy, hungry, it was cold, windy, but it was also the continuation of something we started a year ago – and our friends were there too. 10k is a small sacrifice for all the eating that was ahead of us, a mix of traditional Thanksgiving turkey with a Mexican spin, including guacamole, mole, wild rice, salad, spaghetti, cranberries sauce and some desserts.   As the host, I was honored to cut the turkey, a task that might seem easy but in reality turkeys have some body parts very oddly placed. Obviously I had the help of two of the best chefs I have met, that made the task very easy to tackle. But the most important part of the day was sharing the table with those I love the most, our friends, our extended family which is always there while we are far away from those that gave us birth.

The feast started with a very gentle “Gracias” from the youngest in the room, my dear daughter who played with the other kids until she heard “Can’t feel my face by The Weeknd” opening the dance floor. We shared stories of years past, we created new stories for years to come like the stolen pecan pie and we sang along with a Kareoke night.

This is what Thanksgiving means to me, expressing gratitude for what we have “harvested”, friendship, love and sharing it with those I care and care for me.

Oh, and if you wondered, the little one can rock till late hours, she went to bed at the same time as the last one at home. I hope that at 16 she goes to bed before me, ha.

Music lessons for your infant

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All starts every Saturday at 7:30am, everybody up and getting ready for music lessons.

Some say music is good at all ages, even when your heir is still inside the womb. I have read a lot of articles about it, some say it is good for their brain development, others say that its real benefits haven’t been confirmed, there are even articles about how infants respond to music  and Youtube videos like the Emotional Baby.

While the direct benefits of music are yet to be confirmed, we decided that music lessons in her early life were a good idea. My problem was not paying attention during the music class selection process – you snooze, you lose they say or for my Spanish speaking readers “camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente”.

I’m going to leave aside the singing skills of our music teacher, she plays the guitar, she has fun with the kids, she is patient with them and the parents,  she dances with the class and she prepares her lessons in advance, we were even given a CD with all the songs and a book with the lyrics to sing along.

I thought these lessons were meant for our kid, to develop her brain, her senses, her fine motor skills, but no, these lessons give me the impression that are for parents with no musical or fine motor skills whatsoever.

Kids don’t pay attention to anything for 45 straight minutes, don’t dance, don’t sing along,  they don’t even speak yet, they just run and jump around the room. Meanwhile, moms and dads make music with their hands following the teacher playing guitar, some of us have learned the lyrics already, we dance to the music and fly like butterflies – imagine a group of adults flying around a classroom like butterflies extending their wings – while small bugs run behind you thinking: what’s wrong with my dad?

Doesn’t matter how early we need to wake up, or how ridiculous I feel singing and dancing to this music, I will keep coming. This is one of those things I do because I believe in the positive impact it will have on her and on me, I see it in her smile, her eyes, her moves and the five bees in the beehive she likes mom to sing.

If you have the opportunity to join a music class with your kid go for it, it might develope her or his brain, it might help with fine motor skills or improve their memory, but for sure it will be an opportunity for you to connect with them and fly like a butterfly –  here it is socially accepted.

A new definition for the word “museum”

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A couple of weeks ago we joined the San Jose Children’s Discovery Zoo Museum. Amazing exhibitions, interactive activities, a lot of fun for kids and even for adults playing music tones as we climb the stairs up and down. The membership has its privileges, three adults plus all your kids for a full year, we can bring two guests every day, 50% off general admission on participating museums and more.

It seemed to be a great idea, what is better than spending every weekend with your kid playing around in a Musuem? The first day was a huge celebration of Día de Muertos, we enjoyed great story telling, traditional dances and music, including live mariachis. We were all excited about our new membership, let’s come back every weekend we thought.

Today, as we were showing off our membership card at the main entrance, like we were VIP members of a Yatch club, BAM! What is this? Is this BuyBuyBaby? Is there a stroller sale here or what?

My senses went to DEFCON 1 immediately, nuclear war is imminent. This place was packed like a parking lot in a playoffs’ football game, strollers all over the place, small, big, for twins, all possible brands and colors. How bad  can this be… I thought. Let’s go upstairs to the infants’ section, that’s going to be better.


 What? I felt trapped, without oxygen, like in a coffin.
Who cares? I thought again, this is not for me, this is for kids and she will enjoy it. And she did, she played with everything, the dinner set, the carrousel, the tunnel, stairs up and down, huge plastic cubes, she had a blast. What about me? Avoiding crowds, staring at mean kids pushing my baby, with my face of “get out” to those taking things away from my daughter’s hands, having a blast too.

It was not as bad as it seems, mom, curly hair and I spent an awesome day together. I would do it any day, this is priceless and I’m sure this is creating those experiences that make our live together the best.

If you ever have the opportunity to join a children’s museum, go for it, these are the things worth living for.