Tag Archives: family

Trouble with “spell”ing

My adorable son is currently in a Disney phase. Of course, this is encouraged by his mom and papi’s extreme love of Walt Disney World, where we took our first vacation together and then went two additional times in four years… before we had kids.

Our last trip to Disney World in January 2007.

Our last trip to Disney World in January 2007.

One day at about 2.5 years old, he had the stomach flu, so I put in Peter Pan. Since he started crawling, he’s been pulling DVD’s out of the entertainment center and looking at the pictures on the covers but I had never tried to sit him down for a movie.

After a solid month of Peter Pan obsession, I had a terrible cold and due to one of the endless Minnesota Spring snow storms, my mother was not able to come down and help me with the two little ones. Digging out a pile of Golden Books from my youth, we read Cinderella. He loved the mice and the magic of “Bibbidi Bobiddi Boo.” What does a sick mom do to buy herself at least a few minutes of resting time when home alone with a toddler? Yep, this mom broke out a “new” movie and popped Cinderella in to the DVD player.

Now, I know there is a school of thought out there about Disney “Princess” movies not being for boys. First of all, there are very few Disney full-length animated features without “scary” parts, despite the typical G-rating. Sleeping Beauty has, not only an evil sorceress, but a terrifying, fire-breathing dragon. Beauty and the Beast‘s Beast has some dark, angry outbursts. The queen in Snow White is far from friendly-looking, and the movie is scattered with dark moments. Even The Fox and the Hound has some pretty scary scenes with a bear and the hunter.

Cinderella has actually very few “princess” parts and has virtually no parts that can be construed as scary in my toddler’s mind. When he watched the story, he fell in love with the mice, Gus and Jaq, and laughed hysterically as they

If you look closely you can see the "glass slipper" on Cinderella's slipper. My little man is very resourceful with pantry items during his pretend play.

If you look closely you can see the “glass slipper” on Cinderella’s slipper. My little man is very resourceful with pantry items during his pretend play.

played tricks on “that naughty kitty Lucifer.” In the book, he thought the words “Bibbidi Bobiddi Boo” were silly and giggled when I read them. In the last two months he has watched Cinderella at least 20 times, usually playing the part of the Grand Duke trying glass slippers on his little sister, “Cinderella” and me, “Drizella” or “Anastasia” depending on the day.

One evening last week, we were watching the movie as a family while playing. The fairy godmother scene came on and my son paused and listened as she spoke to Cinderella. All of a sudden he asked me, “Mommy, what is a spell?” Surprised, since I had not even noticed the word in the movie before, I explained as best I could. I noticed an odd-look on my husband’s face but brushed it off. Later, as we were going to bed, he turned to me and said “I’m afraid he will ask me a question like that and I can’t answer it.”

Now, honestly, most of the time I no longer even remember that English isn’t my husband’s first language. His fluency is amazing and his accent seems to be diminishing daily. It surprised me to hear his voice filled with worry over not knowing a word. I think there is a deep-rooted fear in all parents that, one day, our children will view us as unintelligent and lose respect for us. The fear appears more frequently in my husband as my son ages, his vocabulary expands, and his curiosity grows.

My little Grand Duke with version two of a "glass slipper." He's a detail man - cushion and slipper cover just like the movie.

My little Grand Duke with version two of a “glass slipper.” He’s a detail man – cushion and slipper cover just like the movie.

We define my son’s small world in to Mommy’s words (English) and Daddy’s words (Spanish) and he can readily recognize each. We have a growing Spanish children’s book collection, but most of our children’s books are in English. When my husband does the night time routine of reading a couple books with our son, he often has to translate from English to Spanish as he reads. He admits this is getting progressively difficult as my son grows and starts being able to sit still through longer, more densely worded books. If his dad pauses too long to think he quickly gets bored and starts fidgeting.

Besides telling our son to “ask mom when she gets home” when faces with an unknown word, I’m not sure how to help my husband with his concern. His own vocabulary is expanding daily also, and I need to be more aware and conscientious of his concerns and the fact that English is his second language. Does that mean I should be more sympathetic and understanding when we have marital miscommunications? I’ll need to think about that a little more.

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Filed under Family, Kids, Minnesota vs. Mexico

What’s in a name?

So throughout my pregnancy my husband and I have gone through a number of name discussions. We had our girl’s name picked out almost immediately. The boy’s name was much harder. Of course, due to our difficulty in agreeing on a name, we were not surprised when the ultrasound tech told us we were having a boy. Well, actually she sealed it in an envelope and we “discussed” opening it (I persuaded, he determinedly refused) for three weeks until he finally gave in. We have since agreed on a name for our little boy… a first name that is…

Baby boy at 20 weeks

Our Minnesota and Mexico mixing lead us down another path of name discussion. When we got married, I kept my traditional Scandinavian last name with the -son. I am in real estate where name recognition is a large part of business so I decided to take the “easy route” and not change. However, there is no doubt in my mind that any children of ours would have my husband’s family name and rock the “z” (the Mexican equivalent of -son, Lopez, Hernandez, Vasquez, Dominguez, similar to Johnson, Anderson, Peterson). I never thought this would lead to any sort of discussion or argument until he told me one day that the baby would be have my last name. I was surprised and even more surprised when I realized he was completely serious and determined.

Up until three weeks ago I was adamant about the baby taking my husband’s name and would not even consider any other idea on grounds of being so untraditional. When we both want to focus on the positive of being bicultural and teach him to be proud of his Mexican heritage, not giving him his father’s name seems very contradictory to that message. However, the legislation in Arizona that the governor signed into law on April 23rd, made me see his side of the argument for the first time.

Known as SB1070, the law gives Arizona police the right to question anyone who “appears to be illegal” and require them to prove legal status on the spot. Legal residents are required to carry their green cards at all times or face 6 months in jail and/or a $2500 fine if they are caught without one. Of course, that is after the person has been detained until they have proved their status. Now, my husband was told by our attorney to always carry his green card so I don’t really see that as a big issue. What upsets me is that we could be on vacation in Arizona and he decides to run across the street from our hotel and pick up a pop and snack so just grabs a few bucks and leaves his wallet behind. Meanwhile a crabby cop is filling up his squad car and decides Mex looks suspicious and asks him to prove his status. Since he doesn’t have his green card he is now detained and fined and possibly jailed… All because of his cinnamon skin, black hair and accent.

I do agree that something needs to be done to solve the undocumented worker issue and the drug problems along the border. However, I do not believe the argument that there will be no racial profiling. When my parents, husband and I came back from El Paso we reached a border control checkpoint. The guard stopped us and asked us all for our status. My parents and I said we were citizens and Mex said he was a permanent resident. The border guard did not ask for any of our US passports but made Mex show his papers. Maybe this was because of his non-citizen status but I tend to believe it was due to the color of his skin versus ours. I hope that when he becomes a citizen we get in a similar situation so I can test my theory.

During week surrounding the controversial Arizona SB1070, there was also an uptick in news reports about hate crimes regarding Latinos. In March, there was a group of teenage Caucasians accused of beating and killing a man in New York on a night of “beaner hopping” as they called it. Also, there was a story with video of a Guatemalan man laying on a New York street bleeding. The video showed more than six people walking by and looking at him, one person even snapping pictures, with not a single one calling for help or checking to see if he was alive.

The idea of anyone looking at my husband and making assumptions about him based on the color of his skin or his accent gives me extreme pain. I know when he fills out his name on an application the person on the other end automatically knows his ethnicity and could possibly be making conclusions about his legal status. Laying in bed and watching the reports of hate crimes against Latinos and discussions of racial profiling, we are both saddened. Though the thought of my husband being judged and given a hard time because of his name or color, the idea of our child facing discrimination is unbearable to both of us. I finally see why he thinks it would be “better” for our child to be have my less controversial Scandinavian last name. Seeing his name on paper would conjure a different image with my name versus his. My husband has dealt with prejudice and bias based on his name for the last 15 years and he doesn’t want his son to be given a hard time or lose out on opportunities because if something we can control.

How do we choose? Can we have it both ways? Can we teach him to be proud of his name and heritage while still protecting him from prejudice and racial hatred? We will try by giving him a Scandinavian middle name and his father’s last name. Today is the 60th anniversary of the historic supreme court case of Brown vs. Board of Education that was supposed to end racial segregation in the US. The news report was showing inner city schools and the high percentage of minorities that attend them versus the more “white” suburban schools. It was an interesting story and opened my eyes more than ever before since both my husband and child will be minorities. It makes my heart hurt to think of the difference in how my husband and I are perceived and treated and I dread the first time I discover my son is treated unequally due to his race.

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Filed under Family, Minnesota vs. Mexico

Just a gringa

Well, I’m sad to say that I’ve discovered no matter how much Spanish I speak or books I read about Mexican culture, in the end I’ll still be a gringa. Now I’ll say up front that those are not my husband’s words because if they were, he would be on the couch indefinitely. He has always asked me why I married a Mexican and if I ever wish I married an American. He usually brings up the question after a bad cultural experience, like when his boss for a day at Gastof’s harassed him about our relationship, or when there is an immigration raid somewhere in the country. I take his questions as more of a reflection on his self-esteem when it comes to being a Mexican and it saddens me greatly.

It’s a hard line to walk from my side. I knew where he was from and his situation before our first date so I had already made a conscious decision not to let any of that be a factor in our relationship. I DO care that he is Mexican though, in the way that I want to learn his culture and language and history so I can appreciate where he is from and where his family still lives. I want our future kids to love their Mexican heritage and look forward to visits south of the border. I’ve spent hours studying Spanish and taking classes. I have read many books on Mexican history or on Mexican’s in the US. I really do try to be patient with the cultural differences such as time (that’s the most different).

My disappointing discovery last weekend was that despite all this effort, his family will always consider me a gringa. They would never tell me this but my husband was talking with his brother Gigio about some things and told him I would like to help him and the family. His brother told him that he likes me but he would never let me help because “I can’t understand because I’m an American.” Of course, he said it in Spanish but that was the translation that Mex told me later. The topic in question was something that I pride myself very much on knowing a lot about (as it is my career). My initial reaction was anger which Mex experienced the entire car ride home. Then I was sad. So sad and disappointed. I know it isn’t how Mex feels and I know our relationship is as “race free” as any biracial couple can truly be but I thought I was making more progress with his family. How can they like me if they don’t think I understand them? Even after Mex’s intense immigration process last year.

A week later I’m still sad. Now I’m also confused and worried, not about us but about children. I want them to feel comfortable everywhere and his brother’s comment scares me and makes me feel like they are going to feel like they don’t fit in anywhere. They’re American but not white like their mom. They are Mexican but not really Mexican like their dad. Where do they fit? Will they resent me or him or both of us? Whew…. a lot to worry about when there aren’t even any kids on the horizon. Maybe I should stop for the evening and just enjoy the time at the lake while summer still lasts! Good night from the Gringa.

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Filed under Bicultural and biracial marriage, Family, Marital Issues, Mexican culture, Minnesota vs. Mexico, Minnesotan/American culture

Waiting with the car packed!

Another day of waiting for me but the stress is removed so I really don´t mind. I just got the car rearranged with our souvenirs shifted around and a whole bag of shoes (of which we only wore three pairs) packed up in the backseat. We just need to throw in the suitcases and figure out how to get out of this town.

Those of you who know my husband will appreciate how sneaky he was yesterday… At about 12:40 there was a knock on the hotel room door and I opened it and Mex was standing there with his envelope and a COMPLETELY straight face. The maid was behind him with her cart. He looked at me and said ´the maid wants to know what time you want the room cleaned´still not smiling in the least. I grabbed his shoulders and said ¨I don´t care what time she cleans the room WHAT DID THEY SAY?¨ Still completely straight-faced he said “oh, it´s approved.” It took about three seconds for it to register since he wasn´t smiling… Then I literally screamed (really loud I´m afraid) and pulled him into the room where we all gave him hugs and after a few seconds he finally smiled. When he  opened the door to tell the maid we just needed some clean towels and that was it she said congratulations for whatever you are celebrating.

I don´t think the two of us stopped smiling all night. We did discuss how we were both wondering what would happen if they said no but we were too afraid to say it out loud to each other. Our attorney´s office had emailed us with the news that people had been given 6 to 8 month waits lately but she did also say that people were still getting answers the same day. We agreed that when my parents showed up it was a relief on many levels. Our initial reaction was that everything had to turn out all right because they were here to drive home with us. Then we did let the thought creep in our minds that if he had to wait, at least I wouldn´t have to drive back alone. We decided it was ok to have doubts as long as you keep talking in the positive. We never stopped talking about all the things we wanted to see in the US on the way home and never made any arrangements or looked into any prices for him to fly back to his town. I think, most importantly for me, my parents showing up finally made Mex realize how much they love HIM as well as me, and that he is TRULY a part of our family. That is as  important than his “yes”.

Because we have been married for more than two years, Mex is now a PERMANENT LEGAL RESIDENT. That means he does not have to renew any visa for 10 years! No more paperwork and no more fees (of which we paid more than $7000 in the past two years, not including the last two months of hotel stays, travel, and time off work). If we had been married less than two years at this time he would have gotten a TEMPORARY LEGAL RESIDENT visa which would need to be renewed either after two years or at our two year wedding anniversary, I´m not sure about that. In just three years he can become a US CITIZEN! That is assuming he passes the test and after another $1000+ in fees.

This is far from a cheap process. We sought a consultation with an attorney a full year before our wedding and 9 months before we were even engaged so we knew what we were up against from the beginning. Actually, at our initial consultation in January 2005, the attorney said he would need to be in Mexico for 9 to 18 months awaiting a decision. We saved money for more than three years in order to do this. It gives us both an understanding for how hard and incapacitating the process is for most people who try to change their status. It is a large sum of money and requires a serious change in lifestyle and is very difficult for those who come to the US with the sole intent of sending as much money home as they can and just keeping enough in the US to survive. Especially because the average wage is below $10 an hour.

My heart is open to the people of Mexico, more so than before, because we have seen some truly terrible living conditions in many different parts of the country… Horrible dry, hot weather… water shortages… lack of jobs… poor sanitation and piles of trash in places that could be so beautiful. It is heart-breaking to see the poverty but it has helped me understand the motivation of millions and millions of people who come to the US and all those people in line at the US Consulate day in and day out.

I will take pictures as we cross the border! My parents brought their computer so I can actually update my pictures soon. I´ve been dying to do it since the places we saw on the last half of the trip are so different from the first half. We did take notes on hotels and restaurants and roads and anything we could think of for all the towns we went to so if you ever want some travelling advice let us know. And DO NOT be afraid to drive in Mexico! It´s really not that bad. Just be defensive and look out for anyone with Distrito Federal (Mexico City) license plates because they truly are insane drivers!!

More photos soon! HAPPY DAY!

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Filed under Family, Immigration, Mexican culture, Mexico, Permanent Resident Visa/Green card