Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas in Parral

At some point over the years we had fallen into a Christmas routine that blended both of our family's traditions. We would stay up late on Christmas Eve and drink and eat tamales and listen to music and then have a movie marathon on Christmas Day followed my idea of a traditional ham dinner with all the fixings.

We would always call his family shortly after midnight on Christmas Eve and the phone would be passed around from person to person as they wished each other a Feliz Navidad. And inevitably the phone call would end with Ray feeling homesick and nostalgic. He isn't a man of many words though so we never talked too much about it and I never really understood why he would get so sad. I don't come from a small family really but we are pretty spread out geographically and I've lived far enough away for long enough that I don't have many holiday memories of everyone together.

Last year, after being with my husband for nearly 10 years, I finally got to visit his hometown of Hidalgo del Parral, Chihuahua. I met his entire family for the first time and got to see what all the fuss was about with this town he lovingly refers to as Parralito. I still don't know why they call it "el capital del mundo," but it turned out to be a trip of bucket list proportions. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you did get to see some pictures and commentary of the trip as it happened and you might remember that we had a bit of a rough time getting there to begin with. As it turns out, holiday bus schedules in Mexico aren't as reliable as the flight schedules in the US are. We were told we couldn't even buy tickets for December 24th until the day-of because a lot of times the drivers don't show up for work on Christmas Eve so they have to cancel trips entirely.

Needless to say there was quite a bit of uncertainty as we got our tickets but once we had them in hand the rest was gravy. We traveled via Chihuahuenses Select and I absolutely loved it. When you got on the bus they gave you a little bag with a pillow, headphones, a sandwich, chips and a pop. Each reclining seat had leg rests and it's own touch screen TV where you could choose from a variety of movie and music channels to occupy yourself during the trip. I was exhausted because packing, planning and a last minute midnight trip to the ATM in El Paso meant I hadn't slept the night before but between the beautiful scenery and my little touch screen I didn't get a wink of sleep on the 9 hour bus ride.

We arrived in Parral in the late afternoon and his family was more welcoming and accepting than I could have ever hoped for. Aside from one of his brothers that had lived in Mesa when we met, I had only met my mother in law and his youngest brother when they came to Juárez days after our move to Mexico. That visit was overshadowed by the stress of my initial adjustment to life South of the border though. I didn't have time to really appreciate our time together because I was so caught up with trying to find a job and a home that I could barely see straight. This time together was completely different. Special.

Ray (center) with his parents and siblings

We freshened up from our trip and then one by one family members started to arrive. Everyone seemed to have a hand in helping my mother in law to prepare the food, which was tamales and a rice with rajas de chile, corn and crema. They talked and laughed and listened to music while they cooked and it was all so overwhelmingly comforting to me. I instantly felt like I had known them my entire life and oddly enough, I felt at home. I went into the trip assuming I'd feel uncomfortable because I'm kind of a set-in-my-ways type of gal, but that couldn't have been further from the truth.

As the night progressed I saw more and more new faces, each one just as welcoming as the last. I met sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles and friends and friends of friends. I was amazed at how many people you could fit in the humble one bedroom home that my husband grew up in but as he had always told me, space was never an issue. We all danced and sang karaoke and played card games and No Te Enchiles and laughed and laughed and laughed. I honestly don't think I have ever had so much fun in my entire life. 

Ray playing 100 Mexicanos Dijeron (Family Feud) with his nieces and nephews

When midnight rolled around, everyone began to hug and kiss each other, one by one. I had never seen or even heard of such a holiday tradition and as I sat back and watched it all before me, the tears began to flow. There was so much love in that room. I really don't know what to say to describe it but it was just the most amazing, heart-warming thing I think I have ever experienced. 

My suegros

We saw a lot of things that week in Parral. La Mina Prieta, the site where Pancho Villa was killed, La Puerta del Tiempo, El Palacio Alvarado... Those things were all cool, but nothing could top that moment of los abrazos de La Noche Buena for me. It made my entire trip.

Iglesia San Jose in downtown Parral

Artwork on the walls of the Centro de Documentación

El Palacio Alvarado

My cuñado Javier and I on a tour of La Mina Prieta

La Puerta del Tiempo

Statue of Sr San Jose at the top of La Mina Prieta

Obviously I wanted to blog about this a year ago but I guess life got in the way. That happens sometimes. We reluctantly decided not to go to Parral this year because I'm saving our money and vacation days for maternity leave. I'm really too far along to be traveling at this point anyway so we were back to our old tradition yesterday with the late-night family phone call. We had so much fun at dinner last night with our friends here in Juárez but for some reason as the phone was passed around at midnight, I found myself feeling that same sadness that Ray has always felt each year. That feeling I had never understood before... I finally get it. I found myself wishing we were in Parral dando los abrazos and celebrating with his whole family. It's a bummer that we missed out on the fun this year pero ni modo.

Next year it's on. And with our newest family member in tow!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Baby Talk

I always had a plan in mind for how I wanted things to go if we were ever blessed with another child and each day God looks down at me and chuckles as he finds a way to humbly remind me that I don't get to plan anything in life.

I was going to have my dream VBAC no matter what doctors tried to pressure me into. But guess what? Baby Cruz will be gracing the world with his presence at the end of January via repeat c-section.

I was going to set up a strict savings plan to prepare for maternity leave by putting 100% of my husband's earnings in a savings account and eliminating eating out completely. But guess what? Ray broke his finger on the job in July and has been out of work ever since and I have an insatiable craving for Taco Bell at least twice week.

I was going to be a bad ass and give birth in Mexico to save my husband the experience of seeing his son for the first time via Facetime. But guess what? The birth would cost about the same in Juárez without insurance as it will in El Paso after insurance but in Mexico payment is expected in full before you leave the hospital with your new bundle of joy. Oh, and let's be honest; I am scared shitless to have a major surgery South of the border.

So life doesn't always work out like I plan it. What's new, right? Despite my seemingly constant complaints, this pregnancy has gone relatively well. I haven't gained any weight yet, which is perfectly normal for a plus size pregnant person and baby's growth has been right on track. I do have some issues with hypertension which have been controlled by medication so far. Oh and a little nighttime carpal tunnel and acid reflux but who's keeping track, right? Little Ben moves constantly, maybe 10 times as much as my first born, so I already have a feeling he's going to be a little spitfire. The nurses have referred to him as un vago on multiple occasions as he wiggles around while they try to chase down his heartbeat at my regular OB visits.

His room is finally ready to go, and I think he is one lucky boy. We have been blessed beyond belief by my girlfriends who have not only been insanely generous with their baby's hand-me-downs but they also threw me an awesome baby shower a couple of weeks ago at Las Malas Companias. Thanks to them Ben is all set up with a crib, stroller, play yard and car seat and his dresser is stuffed full of clothes! Between their generosity and the few trips I've made to Goodwill and Once Upon A Child, this boy is set.

To be honest, I'm actually pretty proud of his nursery set up. I'm not much of a decorator but I think I did pretty well. We found a dresser at one of the tianguis by our house for only $20 and were able to paint it to match the crib my friend Annalisa gave us. Then I got a little inspiration from a nursery I saw on Pinterest and went from there. I had Ray paint an old bookcase and table lime green and then I made some curtains to tie everything together and voilà!


Aside from a few last minute items, I think we are pretty much ready for little Benjamín's arrival. There are still some logistics that need to be worked out when it comes to his health insurance but that won't be able to be arranged until he is born. We can't afford to add him to my policy at work (which would cost nearly $400 USD a month) and do not qualify for Medicaid or CHIP because we live outside of the US, so we are opting to purchase his insurance from a provider in Mexico once his Mexican birth certificate is issued. I'm pretty nervous about that whole process but am trying to have faith that it will all work out the way it's supposed to.

Sort of the same faith I'm trying to have about Ray becoming a stay at home dad. That's been the hypothetical plan since we first moved to Mexico as it just makes sense financially. My earnings potential in the US is so much greater than his is in Mexico so the decision seems like a no-brainer. But that's easier said than done, I suppose. He has had a rough time all these months he's been out on disability but we both imagine that staying home with baby will feel so much more rewarding than staying home twiddling his thumbs while waiting for medical clearance to return to work. It can be a tough pill to swallow for any man to have his wife be the provider so it certainly won't come without it's challenges. That's where that faith comes in again...

I suppose that's a big part of parenting though, right? Good intentions and a whole lot of faith?

Wish us luck.