Monday, October 8, 2018

Birthday Resolutions (A Few Days Late)

I had a lot of plans for how I was going to become a better person and especially, a better mother, once I arrived in Mexico. And then we arrived here August 6th and I had no childcare and no plans for how to spend our days. It turned out that spending all day, every day with my two kids (with two very different sets of needs) wasn't ideal for revamping my life.

But now it's been about a month since the girls started school. I am thrilled (and relieved) that they seem to be happy... from the very, very limited amount they share. Amelie tells me basically nothing but skips off happily to the van pick-up point every day so I think she must be happy at school (or else she would be reluctant to leave me). Calliope tells me a little bit about the games she plays at recess. And that they have started knitting, which she loves.

So now I can focus on myself a bit more. As you know I am looking for paid work. That is going slowly. I'm getting a few minutes here or there from the new job. I have a lot of free time but it fills itself up surprisingly easily! I am loving having so much time alone. So far, anyway.

Here are some goals I am working on:

  1. Meditating every day. I'm using an app called Calm. The meditation only lasts ten minutes but it's surprisingly hard to fit it in, probably because I wait until the last minute. Not because I don't like it, but just because I'm procrastinating on the computer. It is likewise surprsingly hard for my brain to focus on it. My head feels like a hyperactive puppy, hopping around all over the place.
  2. Spanish practice every day. Mostly this is Duolingo, ten minutes a day. I just started private tutoring once a week at a local coffee shop with a fellow parent at the Waldorf school. It was fun but suprisingly (there's that word again!) exhausting. I have more sympathy for how tired my kids must be after school.
  3. Exercise. I was exercising at home in Brooklyn, too, but now I am doing a Piloxing (Pilates plus boxing) twice a week. It kicks my butt but I feel SO great afterwards! And now that I am getting a very little bit better at the coordination aspect, it is really fun. The other women are much better at it than I am but I laugh a lot and don't care. My at-home workouts are at least never cut short as they were in NY, due to time constraints in the mornings before work.
  4. Eating. I've been doing Intuitive Eating forever BUT I have a very bad habit of eating unconsciously at night. I don't eat a ton and I mostly eat healthy but still. I know that eating because I am tired or burned out is counterproductive. So starting on my birthday, October 4th, I have committed to not eating while reading or looking at a screen. It's not easy -- last night, especially, I dearly wanted to snack on Goldfish and read. But because I had made this committment -- and update a friend daily on my progress -- I consciously laid down my phone while I had a snack. I am hoping that as I continue to work on self care, and as the days go by without indulging my habit, it will get easier.
  5. Sleep. I feel like this is the mother of all self care. Getting enough sleep is critical for just about everything. My doctor at home thought I might have gained weight due to stress and I know a lot of managing stress is just getting enough sleep. So I am aiming to sleep 8-9 hours a night. My kids wake up early, even on weekends, so that means going to bed early. Not easy but now that I am getting more time to myself during the day -- a lot more -- it's a bit easier.
  6. Blogging. I am trying to blog at least five days a week. Still far short of goal but that's my hope. I feel really good when I write every day. The ideas are always jostling around in my head. I hate for them to die before I put them down on paper. I'd love to write more about the experience of moving to Mexico -- and even have lots of notes -- but today is never the day to catch up on that.
  7. Parenting. I am trying very, very hard to remain calm and not yell. This is a continual work in progress for me. When my kids don't listen I tend to get very frustrated. And my father was very impatient and I know I have that tendency as a result. And Calliope has an incredible tendency to tune me out... even when she is looking right at me. Sometimes even when she has verbalized understanding. But in my logical brain, I know that she is not doing this on purpose. So I have to keep working on finding ways to engage her cooperation. And one of those ways is making sure we have plenty of quality time to strengthen our relationship. (And we already have a list of morning chores and evening chores in the bathroom, and she lays out her clothes for the next morning each night... but somehow this doesn't work as well as it did in Brooklyn.)
Off to meditate before I pick up Amelie from the van!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Job Possibilities and Anxieties

Not a very interesting post, I fear, but... I'm wracking my brain, trying to figure out job possibilities.

I wrote to the sleep institute yesterday and I still haven't heard back from them... of course, I am fearing the worst, that they didn't like my application and don't think that I would be a strong applicant. (The website says that they will only respond if they like your application, not if they don't.)

Logically, this doesn't seem very likely. Perhaps they have other things on their minds besides me?

Still, I am anxious to hear back. And even if I do get into their program, it doesn't start until February and then it's a four month program before I could begin to even consider working as a sleep consultant. Presumably it would take a while to market myself and start reaching clients?

The niche websites would likewise take quite a while to start earning money. At least six months. Assuming I can get one or more built successfully. The hardest part is coming up with good ideas for niche sites and that's not something that is just based on hard work -- I have to actually come up with a good idea or no matter how good the work, it won't make money.

Luckily I have some savings but still... this is all so nerve-wracking. I hate living on savings.

The good news is that the applicant for the apartment successfully submitted her application to the management company. And my broker things the application looks strong. That will be a big relief, having someone paying my rent and then some. I'm just praying her kids don't run in the apartment and cause drama with my extremely difficult neighbors.

I've gotten a tiny bit of work from the new job and I THINK that they are doing a big advertising push so hopefully the work will pick up but... not much so far. I don't know if I can ask what to expect...

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Happy Birthday to Me

It's my 44th birthday! Happy birthday to me.

The best thing about today is that I am MOSTLY very very content with my life.

I'm so glad (most of the time) that I took the leap and moved us three to Mexico.

Yesterday Calliope told me, "you know, Mommy, school here is actually pretty fun."

This made my heart sing. I know the move hasn't always been easy on her so for her to be happy here means the world to me.

Really the only thing I'm not happy about is my income. But I am so thankful not to be working 8-4 in an office anymore. I thought I might miss being around people but no. Apparently, as I get older, I get more crotchety. Now I only want to be around people when I choose to. And I choose to pretty often -- I'd like to socialize nearly every day. But not all day, every day.

The good news is that I got everything sorted out just fine with the new part-time remote employer. Turns out there wasn't an issue at all. They were just busy with their own things. I wasn't at the top of their priority list. Go figure.

The bad news is at the moment, they don't actually have any work in the queue for me to do. I keep checking back but nada.

I'm hoping it will pick up as time goes by but for now, it's slow.

I also have an application submitted to the property management company for my apartment. A single mom who is getting a great deal from me on rent. Partly because she can move in soon (but also has a little flexibility to wait if the process takes longer than expected) and partly because she offered to split the broker's fee with me and partly because her kids are a little older than mine and I'm hoping that might help with my extremely difficult downstairs neighbors and partly because I feel an affinity with a single mom.

So that will help. But it's not enough.

So I am looking into trying to build niche websites again. I tried once before, a year ago, and the process was too frustrating. But back then I had very limited free time. Now I have a lot more. To the tune of eight hours a day. To be sure, there are other things I need to get done during those eight hours. But not enough to fill up all that time. I'm hoping that with all that free time, I could handle the frustration with all the trouble shooting and especially, finding the best topics. That was the hardest part for me. I think I might actually enjoy building the websites and writing the content.

And beyond that... I am seriously considering taking a four-month training course in becoming a child sleep consultant. I feel like it fits in beautifully with my background as a pediatric nurse practitioner. I'm fascinated by my sleep training and the challenges it holds. I had a great experience with sleep training my own children. The program I am looking at appears to be quite rigorous and evidence-based and isn't tailored towards one approach to sleep training. It teaches many different approaches so that the sleep trainer can find the best one for a particular family.

The only downside is the start up cost. It's $4000 to take the course. They say they help you build a website and teach you how to market yourself. Still, it's a big investment.

But I am really, really excited about the work and even the training. It sounds fascinating. I feel energized just thinking about it. And that seems like a great sign. I just need to make sure it makes good business sense.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Anxiety-Riddled Week

It seems so unfair to complain but... it's been a very hard week.
My apartment still hasn't rented. Someone (who I found via neighborhood listserve) absolutely loved it... but can't quite afford it. She told me her maximum price but offered to split the broker's fee with me.

Thursday night two more families loved it... one large extended family of non-English speakers who asked if they could change out my (brand new) tile and remodel and put up walls! Another family also liked it and could meet my asking price but has three kids, one of who is a young toddler. It shouldn't matter -- it's totally unfair -- but my downstairs neighbors are an absolute nightmare. They complained bitterly about any running in the apartment, and toddlers, well, they like to run. I should know. I have one. And they made my life hell this spring as a result, threatening to call the cops on my African American male babysitter and threatening to call ICE on my Spanish speaking nanny (who is, incidentally, an American citizen).

So I had to decide if I should go for the low bidding single mom (who has two active boys ages six and eight so not ideal for the neighbors, either) who offered to split the broker's fee and can move in anytime or the higher bidding single mom with three kids, one of whom is a young toddler and who is more anonymous in terms of her commitment to the apartment (could she get frustrated and give up during the extensive review process by the co-op board)?

And I'm desperate for the income. The apartment has sat empty for two months now and it will likely be another month before a new person could actually move in because of the aforementioned lengthy review process by the co-op board.

In the end, I went with the more committed person with fewer children, even though she can't pay as much. Her application isn't as strong as the woman with three children because this woman works freelance -- praying the co-op board isn't bothered by this!

We are waiting now for her application with two years of tax documents and three letters of reference. Praying the application looks good and the co-op board moves quickly (unlikely because they are all Orthodox Jews and this is holiday season for them) so she can move in ASAP -- she has offered to start paying rent the day the lease is signed.

My other stress sounds a bit nuttier. I got a brand new part-time remote job with an online company that provides advice to new parents. I would be one of their parent advisors. I had quite a bit of trouble with their "onboarding" process and spent a lot of time on it and needed some assistance. They told me to bill for the time spent onboarding. I told my new boss that I put down five hours even though I was sure I spent more time than that, but to let me know if that was too much.
She never responded.

The other person who works with my group contacted me a day later about my bio for the website. We went back and forth a few times and then I said it was perfect, thanks. And then, could you please send me my practice questions to work on so I can get to work? She said she'd send them later that day.

It's been five days now and zero contact. I'm afraid to follow up because I'm scared that the boss has decided I'm too high maintenance -- too many questions -- plus dishonest because I charged them for five hours of onboarding when clearly it shouldn't have taken that long. (It did take me that long, even longer, though possibly because I was so anxious about NOT screwing up that I did everything wrong.)

Feel free to tell me that's ridiculous!

I'm going to wait two more hours and then I will send a cheery follow-up email. Think good thoughts for me, please!

Friday, September 14, 2018

So... Mexico?!

Flower crown in El Centro when we first arrived in town

A beautiful view during our trail ride via horseback for Calliope's birthday

Early morning hijinks while waiting for the school van

Spontaneous affection between my two. They've spent a lot of time together this summer
and I think it's mostly made them closer. 

She did not get this from me!
One of our best finds in San Miguel de Allende is this circus class. It makes my heart split open to see
how happy she is in the gym. 

Born flexible. Again, not from me!

So, as you may have surmised from my last post... we made it to Mexico!

Third time was the charm and we FINALLY got our visas approved in NYC. Phew. The second half of the visa application process is done in Mexico. We are using a lawyer (turns out this was an uneccesary expense but all the other expats do it too so I was intimidated) and she's submitted all our paperwork and photos. We go next week to get fingerprinted and then wait for our visa cards to arrive in the mail. Yay!

Life is grand here. The girls started school last week with a four day week. This week is a regular week. It hasn't been without challenges -- tears from both the first day, and just from Amelie the rest of the week. Now that they are a bit more settled they are riding a van to and from school because I don't have a car and cabs are expensive. Turns out, saying goodbye at the van is actually easier for them then saying goodbye at the classroom door. Before school started, Calliope was thrilled with life -- lots of audiobooks and drawing. Amelie went from asking anxiously if she had camp that day -- she had gone to camp for two weeks in Brooklyn so I could pack -- to actually requesting camp. She needed more routine. But the transition is still tough for my not so big three year old. I have no doubt she'll be loving it in no time.

They are attending a lovely Waldorf school outside the city limits. I went to a parent meeting before the school year started and was shocked to hear that there had been a sort of coup by the land owner and a couple parents and the school had lost their property rights and all their belongings inside the buildings, many of which they had built themselves.

That was concerning but the way the school community came together and even spoke of this wrongdoing in such a loving and respectful way impressed me beyond measure. And the new property -- which they found in a matter of days -- is lovely and the grounds are actually even nicer than the old space. Lots of giant old trees and grass with copious shade, whereas the old space was shrubs and cactus and dry dirt, though lots of space and easy access to the outside from every classroom.

It's my second week of being home without them and I feel like I'm finally beginning to relax and also catch up on my to do list after weeks of being with them every moment. I'm surprised I'm not filled with energy already. It's easy for me to forget that I also had many months of constant stress with preparing for our move. I never could have imagined how much work it would be. But I got us onto an airplane with all our belongings in seven suitcases. Sold the car, emptied the apartment, putting the furniture and 27 boxes into storage, the rest being donated or trashed.

Today I had an interview for a part time, remote job as a pediatric health care advisor. It sounds perfect for me, a combination of writing and babies and medicine. Fingers crossed it works out!

I miss my dear friends from back home and weekends feel a bit too empty but people here are lovely and welcoming and I'm cautiously optimistic we will soon find our tribe and have our weekends filled. Tonight we are having our first ever, and hopefully weekly, Shabbat blessings and weekly singalong with two other families from school, one of whom is the song leader at the local Jewish center. I don't need Judaism for me but Calliope loved her monthly Jewish class at home in Brooklyn and I'd like to continue having something that connects her to religion. There are two other SMC families in town -- and we now have a standing Saturday night date with each other, sans kids -- and we've met a couple of great families from school.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Finding Our People in Mexico

Yet another Tuesday, September 11th. That world feels a lifetime away.

After a rough Monday morning the day before -- our first Monday morning of a full school week -- the girls were thrilled that I rode in the school van with them. It's the small things in life.
I dropped them at their classrooms -- Amelie didn't cry! -- and went to the first of the weekly lecture series for parents. I felt very pleased with the progress in my Spanish -- I could understand nearly every word the lecturer spoke as long as I remained completely, attentively focused on his every word. I managed it for short stints, at least. But when I asked an English speaking parent what one word meant -- esferas -- and she explained the lecturer was discussing the different "spheres" of a Waldorf school and how they corresponded to the different elements of the human body, I realized how much I was missing on a deeper level. I had understood when he talked about bones and minerals but had completely missed the larger metaphorical connection.

Still, I'm glad for the opportunity to learn. When my English speaking friend publicly apologized for not having a translator available, I told her I was glad they didn't. I am aware of how much privilege I have. It's only right that I be forced to learn the language of the country I have adopted.

I took a break at one point to go outside and eat my breakfast sandwich. It's funny, in the United States I wouldn't hesitate to eat during a parent meeting at school. Indeed, at our school, we always served coffee and danishes and bagels. But at this meeting, no one was eating. I didn't know -- was this a coincidence or is this a cultural difference? Do Mexicans not eat "on the go" as we Americans tend to do? Not knowing and not wanting to stand out, I went outside.

While I was out there, I met a father I hadn't seen before. He introduced himself as Ivan and I realized he was the father in the family sharing a house with our other new-to-Mexico friends from the States, Terezca, Tom, and their lovely daughter Francesca. I had eagerly waiting for this family to return to Mexico because I knew from Terezca that Ivan's daughter would be in Calliope's class at school. From her reports, Calliope hadn't interacted much with the other children in her class and I imagined that meeting Micah and hopefully hitting it off with this other English speaker who boost Calliope's confidence tremendously. Imagine my delight when Ivan mentioned that their son, in Amelie's class, was having some trouble transitioning to school and could Amelie come for a play date that afternoon? (I later saw a message from Terezca inviting us for a play date as well so perhaps this excuse was manufactured by Tom because he knew I was hoping Calliope and Micah, his daughter, would hit it off.)

Regardless, the girls and I cabbed over to their house that afternoon and all had a wonderful time. Amelie stripped off her shirt -- in imitation of her new friend Teo -- and dunked her head in the fountain. Francesca generously followed Amelie around when she went off exploring. Calliope and Micah drew and built with Magna Tiles and generally got along famously. I sat and had tea with Terezca and Pamela, mom of Micah and Teo and wife of Ivan.

I feel like I've found my people! We've been missing our tribe at home -- our nanny share family at home with two kids my kids' exact ages -- and now we've found a new family with nearly the same ages and best of all, they go to the same school (unlike our closest friends at home)! The parents of both families seem amazingly cool and bent on integrating into the Mexican culture but also maintaining our own values (such as continuing to teach our kids to read, in English -- apparently Waldorf frowns on them reading at the tender age of newly seven!) and speaking English at home.
Fingers crossed they are as excited to build community as I am.

We also met a lovely Worldschooling (homeschooling while traveling) family at circus class, Calliope's new favorite thing. They asked for a playdate for their two sweet girls.

And I just connected with a dad from school who is a Jewish songleader (we first met when we visited San Miguel last spring and went to the Jewish Center for a Friday night service) and he and another mom are interested in doing weekly get togethers on Friday nights for Shabbat blessings. I'm not so invested in Judaism myself but Calliope seems to really crave a touch of religion in her life. And Amelie will be crazy for anything involving challah and guitar playing.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Visas Denied And Other Struggles

We had our visa appointments, as scheduled, and to my amazement, we were denied.

The woman I spoke with at the Mexican Consulate General of New York said that the Mexican government wants to know what I will be DOING in Mexico.

It was very strange because according to their website, all I need to do is prove my income/financial assets OR have a employment invitation letter from a Mexican company. Since my finances qualify me for entry, I shouldn't need an employment letter.

When she asked what I will be doing, I said I would be volunteering for a non profit there. She said I need a letter stating that I will need a letter saying so. Even though the website and even the paperwork she showed me says nothing of the sort.

I've been in frequent communication with the nonprofit in Mexico and they are trying to help but it turned out their registration number was expired and they had to go to Immigration multiple times and now they've filed the request for the new registration number but it takes two weeks to arrive and only once it arrives can they send me the letter. Oh, and the letter has to be an original. Not emailed, not scanned. On original letterhead with an original signature.

The day of our appointment was the day after Trump announced tariffs against Mexico. And we were late to our appointment. I was really frustrated with myself for that. But we still had plenty of time left since I had made three appointments for us and most likely, we only needed one for all three of us.

It definitely felt personal. She was looking for a reason to refuse me.

My friend Jackie got her visa without a single question.

If we can't get the visas, we will enter on a tourist visa and have to leave before 180 days has elapsed. Not the end of the world, but San Miguel is not near the border and Amelie can't tolerate a 10 hour bus ride to the border. So then we have to fly to a border, and pay for hotel rooms across the border while we visit the embassy there to apply, again, for a visa.

So I made visa appointments again for next Friday in NYC. Basically hoping that I get a different person -- which seems unlikely -- or else try again to plead my case. Which sounds like an exercise in frustration and stress. But I can't think of a good reason beyond that not to try. Being stressed is not as bad as spending hundreds of dollars on travel in six months. Argh!

I'm also having trouble finding renters for my apartment. I dropped the price and finally am getting more interest. Someone saw it a couple days ago and apparently loved it and tried to bargain down the price. I resisted initially but finally agreed... and now they haven't responded to my agreeing to their terms! Argh.

On a more positive note, I found my replacement at work! She is young and enthusiastic and spent the day with me today, seeing patients with me and learning all the documentation. I'm so relived to have someone great to take over.

I'm going out tonight with my four closest friends and really looking forward to that.

Today was my last full day of seeing patients. The students have a half day next week and then school is out for summer! I will work all next week but it will be very quiet. I'm looking forward to wrapping up! I am surprised to find that I feel not a shadow of hesitation or regret about leaving. It's definitely the right time for me to go.