The Golden Rule

Kindergarten teachers must be some of the most optimistic people on earth. We spend our days teaching children how to be good humans. We model this behavior all day long, smiling, sharing our snacks, and standing straight in line. We use our words instead of pushing when we are angry. We share our feelings when we are sad. We look at the bright side of everything, and we hand out hugs like balloon animals at a clown show.

And then, at the end of the day, we lock the door on a classroom filled with motivational quotes and pictures of smiling children and their happy friends, get behind the wheel, and get cut off in traffic by a grown man shaking his fist at us because he doesn’t want to wait behind us in line at the light. Which is turning red.

I have to admit that sometimes the smile slips a little. When you watch the sixth graders gallop their way down the stairs in one large, roiling mass (especially at lunch bell when the cafeteria is serving pizza), you tend to wonder if teaching kids to line up is really worth it.

When you watch grown up people treat each other poorly in business because they are looking out for their own interests only, you start thinking about the hours you spend modeling kindness and honesty in your classroom.

When you see a government touting policies of keeping out entire groups of people they consider undesirable, you consider how you have staked a career on helping children develop empathy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving up. And I don’t know any other teacher of young children who plans on giving up just because kids grow up and are sometimes pretty horrible to one another. One of the reasons I love my job like I do is because sometimes children are really wonderful to one another. And sometimes they grow up and come to see me, and tell me I made a difference.

And I know, too, that we are all human beings who make mistakes. Just today I went into the internet café, in a bit of a rush, and asked the young man in charge if I could print something. When he sent me to one of the computers hooked up to the printer, I sat down and printed my document. I picked it up to the printer and told him, “My document is almost unreadable.”

The young man replied “Yes, they haven’t replaced the toner yet.”

And I almost forgot that my life’s work includes sending children to speak to the principal when they try to throttle other children. So I do understand the frustration and how it leads to less than stellar moments in people’s lives.

And I also know that I have the benefit of spending each day re-learning my kindergarten lessons, because I am teaching them every day with groups of children who REALLY NEED THE PRACTICE. But I wish more people would think about their time in kindergarten and recall those important lessons such as:

  • You don’t always have to be first in line. We are all going to the same place, and sometimes it’s ok if someone else gets there about four seconds before you do.
  • Your partner’s opinion matters. Even on the smallest detail of your shared job. Sometimes it’s better to have pink wheels on your cardboard fire truck than a sad work mate.
  • If you want to give someone a hug, that’s great! Just make sure they want a hug too. And then try not to hug them with all the strength in your entire body.
  • If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Your opinion on your table mate’s hairy arms should never be spoken out loud.
  • Sit with the lonely kid. Befriend the one who never talks. Invite the kid with glasses to play in your soccer game.

And if you can’t remember any of those, remember this one: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s a rule, it’s golden, and it works. Even when the light is turning yellow.

Oh, and if you can, find your kindergarten teacher and say thank you for teaching you all of these things. Tell her that she made a difference. Tell her to keep going, because it’s always worth it, every day.

 

Advertisements

Villa Divina

I have seen some pretty incredible things while living in Mexico for the past eighteen years. I’ve climbed a volcano in Colima, dipped my feet into the hot springs in the caves of Tolontongo, and stood on the top of the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotichucan. I’ve swum in the chilly, crystal clear cenotes in the Yucatan and tramped around the steamy, ancient city of Bonampak in Chiapas. Every time I go somewhere new in this diverse and awe-inducing country, I have to stop and gather myself because the soaring beauty is often overwhelming. Do you hear me? IT’S TOO BEAUTIFUL HERE.

And I love to go to new places and see things that I didn’t even hear about before.  I had no idea about Hierve de Agua, a petrified waterfall in Oaxaca, until I was bumping my way there down a scary wind-y mountain road with five friends. And then I got there and I couldn’t understand why I had never even heard of it until I was swimming around nature’s finest infinity pool right on the edge of a cliff.

My point is, you can’t actually believe Mexico until you’re there. You can’t understand how ridiculously beautiful it is until you’re standing in it, looking up at the wedding cake perfection of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel.

And here I am, living in the middle of it in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Sometimes I forget about it for awhile, waist deep in math tutoring, music lessons, and teenaged angst. I think that’s natural, when you think about parenting and how stressful it is, and how you could have raised chinchillas instead. But, being somewhat intelligent and certainly cognizant of my need for mental health breaks, I usually try to schedule some Vallarta Appreciation Time between the everyday madness of life.

My husband’s plate is full, and he is happily running all over the bay playing his favorite music. But last week we both took a little break and, on his day off, spent a night with our new friends at Villa Divina Luxury Boutique Hotel. Let me tell you, if you ever forget (somehow) about how stunningly beautiful Mexico is, book yourself into this little gem of a hotel.

Nestled in the hills of Conchas Chinas, Villa Divina boasts seven rooms which include a penthouse for a larger group. The hotel can be rented as separate rooms or an entire villa. The small staff is friendly and absolutely professional.

We were greeted at the door, ushered in and given an warm welcome and tour. The view from the well-appointed lobby was impressive, with long windows showcasing the tranquil, cozy pool area with its ocean view.

column, divinacolumn, divina1

We were taken to our suite, and that’s when I really started to smile. The king-sized bed was covered in colorfully embroidered pillows and faced a huge screen TV complete with all the channels we wanted including Netflix (and a whole season of Van Helsing we haven’t had time to watch). Opening the terrace doors, we walked out onto a massive patio with long day beds and a small table for a lovely romantic dinner. Right beside it was a set of steps leading to (drum roll) our very own hot tub which faced a jaw-dropping view of the bay.

column, divina4

column, divina5

We spent a great amount of time in that hot tub for a few reasons:

  1. The sunset
  2. The lovely jets that were so relaxing I could (almost) have ignored the Netflix marathon and just hung out there all night
  3. We don’t have a hot tub and probably won’t see another one until we come back to the Villa
  4. Mostly because there was an option for underwater lights that changed colors every five seconds (a part of me will never ever ever grow up)

In the morning we had a delicious breakfast in the common dining area beside the pool. We sat around there for as long as could be considered polite, and then spent the rest of our time in the hot tub.

Mexico’s beauty can be found in every state in the country. Sometimes it stops your heart on the edge of a cliff in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes it melts your heart in a hidden corner as the sun sets into the sea.

column, divina3

When Family is Far Away

When you change countries, you come to understand many things about your country of birth that you weren’t conscious of when you were actually living there. For example, I realized that I wasn’t taking enough time for myself as I could have, because I thought the whole point of living was working for stuff I didn’t need.

I came to understand that the road rage I was experiencing was NOT because of the other drivers being so incompetent (I mean, mostly not), but from the stress from trying to keep up with an unattainable standard of living.

And, after one full winter with no actual snow, I realized that I didn’t have arthritis OR bursitis OR chronic dissatisfaction as I had previously suspected. I was just really, really cold.

But, one of the most important things I came to know was this: you never fully appreciate easy access to your family until it’s gone. Most significantly, it’s the ability to call the grandparents to come and take your kids for ice cream when it gets to be Too Much. Like when your son asks you exactly seventy questions in one hour about The Flash.

Like when your daughter tells you she won’t put on any socks with a line on the top.

Like when you make dinner and you KNOW it’s their favorite food, except they just changed their minds and now it’s their least favorite food because the broccoli is touching it.

I can’t really spend much time complaining about it for two main reasons:

  • My husband and I chose to live in Mexico and raise our family, far from our own immediate families
  • My parents stay with us all winter

Yes, you heard that right. Every winter my parents lock up their cozy home in Manitoba and move in with us in Puerto Vallarta for at least three months. And, while it might sound to you all like a great deal for them (free lodging in a tropical paradise doesn’t sound much like a punishment), you might want to get a bit of context before you decide who really got the shiny, sparkly end of the stick.

Moving in with our family is like moving in with a flock of chickens. Everyone is going in a different direction, we all talk at once, and we leave our mess wherever we drop it. We are not the easiest bunch to settle in with. But my parents have done it ever since our children were born.

When the kids were tiny, my mom and dad would change them, rock them, prepare bottles, take them on long walks, and play with them for hours. When they were school age, they’d take them to the park, feed them their favorite meals (and laugh off the inevitable food touching dilemma), and play their favorite board games. They have always had a huge hand in all the daily parts of their lives.

Nowadays, they patiently wait out the moody adolescent moments in order to have casual conversations over meals, homework and the occasional outing. They show up for them when they perform in recitals or talent shows, and hang out at practices and school events for hours. They give their time and their attention so freely, so easily, to kids who have come to expect it, because it’s all they’ve known.

So sometimes it seems like our kids aren’t conscious of the sacrifice and commitment my parents have made so that my children can grow up with grandparents, because, to my kids, this is regular life.

But I know that they make sacrifices in order to be part of our lives here in Mexico. And I see the impact of all these days, hours, and minutes doing the daily, mundane tasks that we can all take for granted sometimes. Thank you to the best Nana and Papa, who have helped raise some pretty great Mexican/Canadian kids.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoor

One of those weeks

If I could tell you where things starting going wrong for our family this week, I certainly wouldn’t be sitting here typing about it. I’d be hard at work inventing a time machine so that I could go back to when my kids hadn’t started school yet and wrap them in a bubble.

Also, I’d find the person who invented the internet and ask him or her to kindly invent something edible instead. Like calorie-free cheese that tastes better than the cheddar feelings I’m eating right now.

So it was a week like an EEK with a lower case W. And if I had to rate my parental abilities to cover all the middle school/high school aged problems that cropped up this week, I’d probably never bother getting out of bed again. I yelled, I bribed, I refused to answer them when they asked for a snack. I didn’t have the right answers, I avoided the questions, I overreacted. If there was a parent club, I wouldn’t be invited. Even if I was already club president.

So if I was such a dud as a mom this week, how are the kids, you might ask? They are annoyed. They are fed up. They are alive. So actually not bad, considering the way things went. Thanks for asking.

Both kids were feeling down about several items in their lives, and I was feeling overwhelmed because they are getting to the age where they don’t want me to fix everything anymore. They don’t even always want to tell me every single thing. I have to share that I am neither used to that nor okay with that, because I like to rear up on my mama bear hind legs and start roaring around until my kids are fine and several people have put me on their “slightly unhinged mother” list.

And here’s a thing I hate to tell you, guys. Remember how you brought the newborn home and you wondered why on earth any hospital staff member with any sense would have let that helpless baby go home with such an exhausted, clueless set of parents? And then slowly you starting kind of getting the hang of it until it was sort of routine?

Yeah. They turn thirteen and it’s kind of the same sort of feeling sometimes, except now they are bigger than you and they can (and will) tell you exactly how badly you’re doing. And you keep wondering when you’ll get the hang of it.

Tonight was one of those nights, where I was being really mean and unfair (apparently), and I didn’t understand (possibly because I am now about 50% uninformed at all times).

My husband was at work (lucky), and I was just over it all and feeling alone. My son looked at me and said “I just feel alone”. What a gut puncher. I mean, if I feel alone and THEY feel alone, and we’re all in this room together, what were we doing here?

So I gathered them in my son’s room and got out a book and read a bit. I decided to forget my suspicion that teenagers give me hives, and I hugged them and patted their hair. We looked through their kindergarten school books and laughed over how they spelled Mom with a Q. I told them I loved them even though I’m probably allergic.

And we stopped wondering what was wrong with all of us for a moment and remembered everything that was absolutely all right.

Tomorrow, I will probably suspend my Spotify subscription and order up some teen-sized plastic bubbles. I’m going to plan a week that allows for exactly one crisis only. I’m going to give all my cheese to the neighbors.

But tonight, I’m not going to let anyone be alone. I’m going to hug these growing, aching, tall bodies like they’re still five and lost their favorite teddy bear. Tonight, I’m going to fall asleep next to some big kids who will somehow always be my babies.

December 099kids n me 2018

Scatter Plot

People often ask me why I decided to raise my children in Mexico. They are usually smiling when they ask me, but I’ve learned that most people smile most of the time when they are talking to people that they don’t know very well, even if the question itself isn’t all that smiley.

Now don’t get me wrong, not everyone who asks me is necessarily questioning my sanity. Many people wonder where I got the gumption to have children away from my home country. Some even consider me rather adventurous. That idea makes me feel kind of proud of myself, because, if I see my life from inside their heads, I see a mom who hangs out on virgin beaches with her surfer kids and a musician spouse strumming guitar all day on the beach. She’s really tanned and has great shoulders (from the surfing). Her house is a big ol’ palapa with a thatch roof and tiles she bought herself from the manufacturer in Puebla.

So. Cool.

But then it’s a bit of a letdown to go home to my house with a regular (but still as leaky as a palm leaf) roof and a boring kitchen because I haven’t been to Puebla in seventeen years. Also I’m not tanned and my kids hate surfing. Oh and my shoulders are regular because I hate it too.  My husband only plays off-duty guitar if he’s practicing a song, and then he’s only playing the solos OVER AND OVER AGAIN because those are the tricky parts. Plus what kind of musician wants sand in his guitar?

The other kind of people want to know why I’d raise my children in a country that is not only not my own, but has a reputation in the news as sometimes being a little unsafe. Not only has it had a bad rap for violence, it tends to get hit with weather you might read about in sites such as the National Hurricane Center or in books like the Old Testament.

And I get it. I really do. I didn’t set out in life with the idea of raising my offspring in a country where you can’t buy a Coke Slurpee. Or Timbits. Or Smarties  (American friends, you just don’t understand).

I didn’t plan on worrying about whether my child was ill with dengue or typhoid. I thought those were diseases you got in the 1800s. And I was pretty well convinced that I’d never have to rid my child’s shoe of a giant cockroach or shoo a gecko out of his favorite cereal box (why do they find a bag of Cheerios so cozy?).

To be completely and plainly honest with you, my life has been a pretty non-linear sort of scatter plot as opposed to an actual plan. I suppose the loosely cobbled together idea was that I would be a teacher in Mexico for two years. But I never decided to meet my husband, who swept me away over the cliff of Best-Laid Plans and into the ocean of Let’s See What Happens.

So now I’m here with my three Mexican family members. I’m the only blond person in the house, and I’m the only one who grew up around delicious things like Slurpees and Smarties. So the question really is: why wouldn’t I be raising my kids in their home country, which is Mexico?

I understand the questions people have, because I am always curious about other people’s lives and the interesting choices they make. I find it fascinating when people have a real plan for their lives and not a scatter plot at all. I also think it’s cool when they really are on the beach, surfing and strumming guitars (and I ask them to please talk to my husband).

scatter 3

just one thing missing…

Most of all, I think it’s really amazing that we all have these different worries, and weather, and families. And yet we all seem to end up here on the beach with a nice, strong margarita and fascinating conversation.

Hey Mom

So I saw you yesterday in the grocery store. You were the one with the little boy who was screaming and throwing his body around like a mixed martial arts expert.

I had to bite back a grin at first, because that’s what all parents do when someone is screaming and it isn’t their responsibility. But then I peeked at you from under my eyelashes and remembered the furious red of my own cheeks during my own children’s extra special meltdowns about ten years ago.

You were trying to ignore this dramatic little interlude taking place at your feet in the frozen food aisle, even though I am sure that even the people standing outside were having a hard time ignoring it. I admired your ability to remain calm, not wanting to cause a scene, and not wanting to add fuel to this tiny little fire who was furiously pummeling the box of nuggets he used to want twenty-two seconds ago.

But, if I may humbly observe, you looked exhausted. You looked like today had been a tough day, a day when you were awakened to a list of demands at 4:37am, a day when there was not enough coffee in all the world, a day when you wished your mother lived next door.

You read all the books and watched the videos and still this child would only eat yogurt and hot dogs. He still didn’t sleep through the night, three years after he was supposed to be sleep trained (according to the experts). This child, the one you said would never watch TV or eat junk food or talk back or suck his thumb, had taken the life out of you and flushed it away, along with your favorite earrings (while sucking his calloused little thumb).

And to top it all off he was drumming his heels against the freezer in the middle of the entire population of Vallarta, crying and demanding nuggets in the shapes of his favorite dinosaur. And you were pretending you didn’t hear it, wishing you could turn back time to the moment you said “Not today”, because now that you said no, you absolutely could not buy them and reinforce the tenth tantrum of the day.

Hey. I saw you. I tried to catch your eye and smile, because if anyone deserved a smile and a wink, it was you. I knew what it was like to have a child that puzzled you, who didn’t fit your expectations, who made you feel like a failure.

But let me tell you an important thing: if your child doesn’t test everything you have ever believed about yourself, about raising children, heck, about the entire universe, then he isn’t doing his job.

If your kid makes you feel successful every day, then why would you get better? Why would you try to learn a little more about him if you felt like you knew it all? Why would you squat down, squint into his eyes and try to get inside his heart for a moment so you could just understand?

I didn’t catch your eye, because you were too busy trying to look interested in the Eggo Waffle sale price. And I didn’t want to call attention to myself. But you see, I’m a mom too, so my daughter did it for me. She nudged me and, in all her twelve-year-old mature wisdom asked, “Hey mom, doesn’t that remind you of me when I was three?”

hey mom 3

You heard her, and you glanced over at us, as if waiting (wishing?) for my answer.

I wrapped my arm around my beautiful, smiling girl, who is now nearly my height, hasn’t sucked her thumb in nine years, and has slept through the night at least that long.

“Yep,” I said, “It surely does”.

We walked away then, and I could feel your eyes on my back. I’d like to think you felt a bit less tired after that. And I bet you left the nuggets, picked up that gorgeous, stormy child and went home. I hope you turned on the TV (I’ve heard Paw Patrol is just the thing) for awhile and put your feet up.

Because you’re doing this again tomorrow, mama. I hope it helps to know we all did it too.

Love Across the Years

While I don’t necessarily believe in LOVE at first sight, I can easily tell you the moment I first put my eyes on my husband. I have developed a couple of theories as to why that is:

  1. My soul recognized his as its perfect match in that timeless, primal song of human attraction
  2. I had just arrived in Mexico and couldn’t fathom why the guitar player on stage at this funky little bar was wearing a flannel shirt and jeans in the middle of August.
column, love 4

So adorable

Either theory has a great deal of merit, because first of all I thought he was really adorable, and second of all I was sweating from what seemed like my own eyeballs, something I never knew was possible until I hit the sub-tropics mid-summer.

Eventually we really did fall in love, and boy did I fall. I fell in that way you sometimes do when you trip on a root on top of a tall, thorn-covered hill. Like, you know it’s really going to hurt later, but it’s kind of fun on the way down. And it might as well be, because there’s no stopping it anyway.

column, love 3

ouch

It also felt like it was forever. The reasons for my budding amor seemed pretty real and pretty obvious. Gil was mysterious, with a deeply attractive accent that made everything in the English language sound gorgeous (have you ever heard a Mexican ask for Vaporub? You really should). He played guitar better than anything I had ever heard live in my whole twenty-seven years on the planet. He had old-school, courtly manners and always made sure he walked next to the street when we were together. He was the kindest person I had ever met, and I’ve met a lot of kind people.

column, love 5

Years have passed, and sixteen years after we began obsessing over each other’s most superficial traits, we are still together, and we are still in love. But guess what I have discovered?

Love is weird. Deeply, disturbingly weird. Love is so weird it’s almost like it has its own sense of dark, twisted humor.  You know all that stuff I loved about Gilberto when that was all I knew about it him? Now it’s almost like I kind of love him in spite of those things.

The accent, combined with my slightly (!) unrefined  Spanish has resulted in colossal misunderstandings.

It turns out that the only way you can play guitar at least as good as Carlos Santana is by practicing all of the notes in all of the songs about twenty-eight hours a day.

Courtly manners in a dad mean he tends to treat his daughter like spun glass who deserves all of her deepest wishes including two fish tanks (on the same shopping trip).

So what I have learned is that love changes over the years, and it should. I love him for many more reasons now than I ever have before. He speaks my native language even though we are in his birth country. He is loves our family so much that he works as hard as he can to give us a good life. He teaches our children to be respectful to everyone around them. He laughs at my jokes when I’m happy, and he never leaves my side when I’m not.

And he is still the kindest person I have ever met.

Love has so many forms. When you first fall in love, it’s giddy and superficial and fun. Through the years, as it endures the trials and the tough times that are inevitable, it is tested over and over again. If it’s real, it stands the tests of time. If it’s real, it doesn’t leave when it gets hard. If it’s real, it simply grows along with you.

Happy eleventh wedding anniversary to Gilberto, who grows along with me. Thank you for loving me too.

column, love 2

Grateful for Teens

My kids are now twelve and fourteen, that ripe old age where they have surpassed their parents in their intellect and wisdom, at least according to them. They hold very strong opinions on subjects that interest them, and those opinions will nearly always be the polar opposite of your own. On any other subject that doesn’t captivate them, you would have to hold one of their limbs inside a campfire or remove the digital device that has grown into their hand in order to eke out some kind of response from them when asked.

I am actually enjoying this stage in life in a way that I didn’t expect. Certainly there are downsides to early adolescence, such as:

  • Mood swings from abrupt chemical changes in the brain. Thanks hormones! You’ve already done so much for me in my own personal life… time for someone else to slam doors and have all of the “worst days ever”.
  • Getting sucked into arguments about things that make no sense, yet you can barely breathe for the passion you feel
  • Being made to feel ridiculous for suggesting a pair of shoes that clearly do not go with the outfit being worn
  • Understanding that I can never make enough food, or bring home enough pizza

 

But I made myself a promise when I had babies, and it’s one that I intend to fulfill no matter how many times I bite my tongue to ribbons trying to keep it: I promised to live in the moment, and to enjoy my children in whatever developmental phase they were going through. It sounds pretty idealistic, but if it still makes sense to you after spending a night rocking a teething child while you yourself are sick with typhoid, it’s a promise you can keep (trust me).

So I’ve spent some time trying to come up with ways to enjoy this moment, where smiles can be few and far between, and the best answer you can expect to your question “how was your day?” is a grunt accompanied by an eye roll, or simply the concise, one-worded answer: “stop.”

So here we have my List of Cool Things about Raising Young Adolescents. If any strike a chord with you, I salute you and say, quite simply, “May the odds be ever in our favor”.

  1. Adolescents are trying on new identities all the time, which is always amusing. Sometimes, for example, I’ll ask a question and get a response in a brand new, kind of British-y accent. Sure, it’s challenging to keep a respectfully straight face, but who said parenting was easy?
  2. Adolescents can have interesting conversations about politics, or relationships, or really anything that you want to talk about (keeping in mind that it may depend on the brain chemical thing I discussed above). They can offer insight and advice, which is wonderful and refreshing. It’s certainly a change from the kids who only wanted to talk about Pikachu or Shopkins and weren’t as willing to discuss something like, for example, a subject that might be remotely interesting to you.
  3. Young adolescents can be surprisingly sensitive and tender, and will see your feelings and emotions as things that exist and matter (keeping in mind the brain chemical thing, people, always keeping it in mind). They will sometimes go to great extremes to comfort you, or make you laugh, or apologize if they are the reason for your unhappiness (and they frequently are).
  4. You can get teens to do things like open jars, fix your computer, set up your phone, and deal with your Smart TV, as long as you don’t mind looking like a bumbling old person (and since you are one, no big reach).
  5. Teens have the ability to say the most hilarious things, mostly on purpose. I love a good laugh, and they know it. They finally get sarcasm and thus use it often.
  6. If you love them and treat them with respect, they will let their guards down and trust you with their dear, delicate hearts for a minute. It’s a huge gift and a staggering responsibility, and you’ll never get over the beauty of it.

    teen column

    We are dorks together

Gas Shortage

I’m not going to feed into any of the rumors or try to interpret the news media regarding the gasoline and propane gas shortages that Mexico has been experiencing. That’s because I would probably get some of it wrong, and then my editor at the Tribune would have to wade through the Annoyed Reader letters. She already seems to keep herself busy, so I won’t add to her workload.

I’ll just say that my husband would greatly appreciate it if the propane gas could please be more abundant now, because his wife has had the household on the level of Super High Alert. That means that each person has been ordered to be prepared, at any moment of the day or night, to launch him/herself out the door and run down the sidewalk, arms waving desperately, should a gas truck turn down our street. Even if we just put some gas in the roof tank last week. Even if it’s not her favorite company (I’m not naming names, but orange, blue and white are my people).

Perhaps you wonder why I am so concerned about the gas shortage. Some folks were pretty relaxed about a crackers and cheese Christmas dinner. Others wrote about the joy of trying a new restaurant every day. Still others said they really wished for a warm shower, but were just waiting it out. Because hey! We are in Puerto Vallarta and it’s 29 degrees Celsius every day!

Ok, but no. Guys, everyone has a list of Dealbreakers In Life. Everyone’s list is different, and at the tippy top of mine it says: I MUST NEVER BE COLD AGAIN.

cold canada 3

Camping in Canada and waking up to 9 degrees. I thought I made myself clear.

I can’t bear cold water. There, I said it. Please don’t tell Canada or they will revoke my passport (probably). The very idea of waking up in the dark to get ready for work, turn on the shower and have freezing cold needles of water hitting my poor skin, well that just makes me want to put on a pair of fleece pajamas and sit on the beach.

During the Vallarta “winters” (for lack of a better term for a place that is never colder than sixteen degrees Celsius), I rarely go in a pool. We went on a Day Pass to the Holiday Inn Express last week and I almost wept real tears over the Jacuzzi. Everyone else took a dip in the pool, but my hands couldn’t be pried from the sides of that little tub of balmy bliss (they tried).

Yes, I suffered when I lived in Canada. During the months of November until about May, I couldn’t warm up. I was cold outside, certainly, but even inside my warm home I was cold. When I was offered a job in Vallarta, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that I could conceivably be warm all year round.

And in case you’re wondering, my kids don’t mind being chilly as much as I do. However, they are very attached to their hoodies all “winter” and only enter the Costco freezers on a dare. They have only been to Canada in summer, but spend chilly evenings in Winnipeg bundled up in blankets and jackets while their Canadian cousins sit around in shorts and t-shirts, trying to enjoy the fleeting season they refer to as “summer” (even though the nights can go into the single digits).

The only person who embraces the chill is my Mexican husband, who doesn’t understand my deep dismay over the possibility of running out of gas. Warm showers are nice, but not essential to him. His idea of bundling up is a toque with his tank top and shorts.

cold canada 4

But he loves me, so he’s chased a gas truck or two this month. He does it for me and he does it for his children and he does it for all of us who coexist alongside these teenaged children (if they don’t shower, what will become of us all).

I hope you are all doing well despite the gas shortage, although I am sure the end is in sight. I am impressed with the kind, patient, and good-humored spirit of everyone here who has experienced this challenge. Most of all I’m grateful for this wonderful place, where we can just step outside and warm ourselves in the beautiful, bright, Mexican sun.

Holiday in Vallarta

Most people think it must be fun to live in Puerto Vallarta year round. They often comment that we probably enjoy our holidays more than most, because all we have to do is go outside and swing a stick, and we will hit the ocean or a Vallarta Adventure tour bus.

I can tell you that this is assumption is not entirely realistic, and not only because the people from Vallarta Adventure would not appreciate having their vehicles hit with swinging sticks. It’s not realistic because, when you try to have a relaxing holiday in the city in which you reside, you suddenly become mired in All of the Stuff You’ve Been Avoiding. And that stick you’re swinging no longer has the reach to smack upon anything fun.

For example, my husband and I discovered that we needed to buy a car. Because we haven’t purchased a new car in all the years that we have had children (this is not a coincidence by the way), we forgot that doing this requires all of your free time and all of your free pesos.

You can’t just walk up and buy the first one you like. No, you have to fall in love with the first one, and then give yourself a firm shake and tell yourself that no responsible adult would buy the first one they saw. Then you need to go around and see a lot of other cars that don’t nearly match up. A week into this, you must return to the original agency and meekly accept the first car in only color and transmission that remain in stock after your fruitless adventure into responsible adulthood.

column, vacation

And that’s just one example of the Non-Fun that can be had when you both live and have your holidays in Puerto Vallarta. Other things you can do are:

  • Go to long-overdue orthodontist/vet/doctor appointments (or at least take the time to make some appointments)
  • Cook food (THREE TIMES A DAY THESE PEOPLE EAT)
  • Clean things that haven’t seen the backside of a broom since summer vacation
  • Move furniture around
  • Move furniture back
  • Go through old papers and throw out receipts that you thought would be useful ten years ago

Not only that, when you DO decide to do a fun thing, your children are not in the mood. My kids grew up playing on the beach, so now my announcement to go is met with what I term “The Long Eye Roll” and the aggravating sound of dragging flip-flopped feet. I can usually get them out of the house if there’s a movie offered, or very best friends, or something edible. My daughter wants to leave the house right now, in fact, because she would like to visit Sally Beauty Supply in Plaza Galerias.

If you also live in Puerto Vallarta and you are currently trying to stay positive, I can recommend a few things. On Sunday, we went to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle for a breakfast and the morning market. The offer of food and the possibility of buying more food to take home with us was enough to get their shoes and earbuds on and out the door.

column, vacation 3

hey kids, look! We’re outside! And it’s ok!

El Rio BBQ is always fun, and kids love taking a dip in lovely, calm river. Mine tell me it’s too cold and then jump in anyway.

column, vacation 4

about to jump

We spent New Year’s Eve with friends on the beach in front of the Grand Venetian. You’ll find a great sunset view and we had a beach bonfire there with no problem. It’s novel enough that even the most avid Fortnight fan will tear themselves away from the game console to hang out and have a s’more or two.

column, vacation 2

Apparently NYE is the only time they’re cool with bonfires on this beach.

Cupocity has coupons for day passes once in awhile. We just purchased some for 180 pesos each with lunch included at the Holiday Inn Express. It can be both fun and relaxing, and your teens can easily ignore you on a pool chair while you pretend not to care.

For me, it’s important to give myself a break. Just because Vallarta is full of fun things to do doesn’t mean I have to do them all today. I have stuff to do, cars to buy, cockroaches to evict from a dresser drawer.

And I think living in paradise can happen anywhere. Sure, Vallarta is beautiful and full of fun, but so is my little house right on the edge of it. And inside you’ll find some great people, Netflix, and a pretty tasty Mexican Cab Sav. We’ll get out and have some adventures too, but right now I’m putting the dust cloth aside and enjoying the best part of the holiday – a few extra minutes of peace and quiet.