Healthy Eating Heartache

It seems to me that trying to eat healthy is pretty much a lost cause around here. I figured that I’d give myself a little break from my plant-based, whole foods regimen (and when I say regimen, I mean a theoretical plan loosely based in low level motivation) when we went to Canada on vacation, because I know that my mother lives in Canada and she makes pie. Then we got back and I didn’t shop for groceries until I got a paycheck, so we ate quite a few meals at the taco stand across the street.

Then September was pretty good because nothing exciting happened besides Independence Day, and that holiday isn’t as food based as others. But now it’s October and there’s Canadian Thanksgiving (and I was in charge of the pies) and my son’s birthday (his favorite cake is red velvet for crying out loud).

After that we have Halloween. You can’t let your kids eat all that candy, because you are still paying the dental bills. You can’t let the ants find it, or they’ll stick around your kitchen cupboards for months, looking for all the sugar hidden in every food source in the kitchen. So you eat it, at least those mini chocolate bars.

The VERY NEXT DAY there’s Dia de los Muertos, and heaven help me, I found a recipe for Pan de Muerto. I thought it might be ok because it’s a vegan recipe, and that means plant-based, especially when I am trying to justify making it. Plus, I kind of had to make it because my children need to have cultural experiences, especially when I’m hungry for sweet, delicious, sugary bread (in other words, my kids have lots of cultural experiences).

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We were invited to a friend’s home to celebrate Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights, and the food is completely out of this world delicious. And they always have a dessert table.

Now we are on a slippery slope to American Thanksgiving which slides right into the beginning of Christmas festivities. If you live in Mexico, you will know that the first twelve days of December celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe with pilgrimages, reenactments, and food stands.

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crepes on a sidewalk. What’s better?

So after poring over the calendar to find a good time to work out my Road To Healthy Living, I started thinking that I might as well just put away most of my ambitions to live a cheese-free life until at least the middle of January. Of 2019.

Not only that, people tell you lies when you move to Mexico, such as:

  • You will sweat all the calories out
  • It’s probably so hot you’ll just lose your appetite
  • You’ll lose ten pounds right away because of Traveler’s Diarrhea

I have rarely lost my appetite here because the food is too good to miss out just because it’s 47 Celsius on the heat index. In fact, I tended to eat more during those times because if I’m going to die of heat exhaustion I may as well eat a lot of guacamole first.

I definitely have lost several pounds due to food borne illnesses in my first few years here. However, I then tucked into a larger serving of enchiladas once I was well in order to make up for lost time (and cheese).

And that’s the terrible conundrum we all experience when we move to this country. Mexico is such a delicious place, but I need to live long enough to fully enjoy it.  And I can. I really have to believe this.

And at least New Year’s Eve in Mexico is mainly healthy, with the traditional snack being twelve grapes. However, there is a fairly significant risk of choking on them as you try to eat them as fast as you can before the clock strikes midnight.

Maybe it’s better to stick to Pan de Muerto.


A Mother’s Day Letter to My Kids


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Dear Kids,

Well it’s Mother’s Day again. Actually it’s Mother’s DAYS again, because we are a Mexican/Canadian family, so I get two. You might think this isn’t fair, but it means you’ll probably get to eat in a restaurant twice so I’m sure you’ll get over it.

I just wanted to justify all the fuss I’ll be expecting, because I’m probably not the best mom on the planet. Sometimes you may even wish you live in Never Land where there are no mothers and where a kindly fairy covers you in golden flying dust instead of insisting on a regular bedtime.

I will agree that I’m not the best mom on the planet. I’ve spent a bit of time on Pinterest, so I have plenty of evidence to support that. I’d give the award to the lady who painted an illustrated world’s map on their child’s bedroom wall, or the mom who created a natural wood bunk bed with real twig ladder for her twin sons. But perhaps I am not the worst. I said PERHAPS. And that’s what this letter is about, kids.

I may not always remember to cut the crusts off your sandwiches and put little notes in your lunch, but sometimes I sneak a mini chocolate bar in there. Because I don’t really like the Milky Way ones, so there are a few extra.

I may not pay the biggest allowance in town, but I make sure to pay you back when I “borrow” some out of your wallet. Almost always.

I may not know what all the cool, popular songs are right now, but I always sing along when they come on the radio, extra loud so it makes up for not knowing all (any) of the lyrics.

I may not always be patient when you break the rules, but I rarely call you out in front of your friends (I have The Look that says it all anyhow, such as Wait Til Your Buddy Goes Home, My Man).

I may have forgotten more fifth grade math than I ever even knew, but I’ll sit at that kitchen table, calculator in hand, until we finish checking your homework. Even if I’m crying a little.

I may have no idea how to french braid, but I’ll watch seven YouTube tutorials and give it my best shot, sweating and muttering, until your father takes over.

I may forget that you asked me not to sing “The Goodnight Song” because you are too big and too legit nowadays, but I’ll tuck you in and hug you as long as you want and pretend I don’t notice that you still need your mama.

I may not be able to buy you the latest technology, or the name brand clothing, or the boots that I know you will wear exactly one time and then put them away until you grow out of them (because we LIVE AT THE BEACH, GIRLFRIEND). But I’ll stay by your side when you’re sad. And I’ll fight for you even when you don’t know it. And I’ll be your greatest fan when you get out there and do those gutsy things you do.

Someday, when you’re all grown up, you’ll have the worst day of your life because you will fail at something. Miserably. Spectacularly. And for a minute, you are going to feel more alone than you ever felt in your life. But then you’ll remember, and you’ll pick up the phone. And I’ll be there on the other end. Every. Single. Time. The Not-So-Cool Mom. The Not-Always-Together Mom. The Loud-Singer Mom. The Obsessed-With-Vegetables Mom. I’ll be there.

And while I’m probably never going to tattoo your name on my body and then pin it to my own “Super Mega Cool Mommy” Pinterest board (because pain), your names are tattooed forever on my heart.

Because I might not be the best mom on the planet, but I’m pretty good at loving the two of you.



Me (Your Mom/Madre/Mami)

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The good news: They still cuddle. The bad news: it just hurts more. The best news: Totally worth it.

Why You Should NEVER Take a Family Road Trip in Mexico

I have spent my entire motherhood waiting to take my children on The Epic Road Trip. I have these incredible memories of my childhood in a car, driving to new and exotic locations (when you are five, new and exotic is the World’s Largest Easter Egg in Vegreville, Alberta).
In any case, I couldn’t wait to give my kids the gift of the true family vacation: the views, the stops at weird tourist attractions, the carsickness, even the “I WILL TURN THIS CAR AROUND”. All of it.
I imagine many parents wouldn’t have waited nearly eleven years, but then again, most parents tell me that their children are great travelers. Like beauty, I think this is a classic case of the eye of the beholder. I have a low whining threshold, and both of my children developed their early physical coordination skills through their untiring efforts to escape their car seats. So we waited while braver parents went ahead and Instagrammed their children’s hilarious seatbelt contortions.
Some years we flew to Canada to see my family. Sometimes we flew to Mexico City to see Gilberto’s family. Once, about four years ago, we made a short foray into the road trip world: a drive to Chapala to visit friends. We got lost on the highway. Our rental car was struck by a renegade motorcyclist in Guadalajara. We hung up our driving gloves and cooled our heels.
This summer Gilberto had a musical commitment in Mexico City and I knew it was my big chance. I mapped out an entire two week tour on our way to his heavy metal gig in the Districto Federal (another term for Mexico City).
I have learned so many things about myself, my partner and my family from two weeks on the road. I already knew these people better than anyone, and now I know so much more. For some of it, I am grateful. For the other stuff, well, its information I may be able to use at my children’s weddings during my speeches. It should get me a laugh.
Here’s why (with tongue firmly in cheek) you should NEVER take your children on The Epic Mexico Road Trip:
1) Highways – Contrary to what some people think of Mexican highways, you will NOT get the full cultural experience of waiting and sweating behind a cattle truck that breaks down every forty miles on a two lane gravel road. Mexico’s federal “cuota” highways are up to eight lanes and 110 km/hr. You are going to get to your destination, maybe even ahead of schedule. Bummer.
2) Sights – Once you get to a city like Guanajuato, you will have a lot of trouble choosing what sights to see among the many incredible historical sites, museums, art galleries, and natural phenomena. You will have to prioritize. What a drag.
3) Security – We never once felt unsafe or experienced any sketchy situations on the road. Now I feel like I’m contradicting the advice I get from my own government to keep off the highways in Mexico, stay at the resort and not talk to people. It’s not very patriotic.
4) Common sense parenting – Unlike many places in my home country, many of the natural sites have been left as-is. There aren’t necessarily hand-rails on everything or warning signs or people to hold your hand while you walk on the paths. There might be an arrow painted on a rock or two so you won’t get completely lost. Hopefully. This is both crazy-cool and a huge responsibility to parent your kids through situations you can’t completely predict. Oh, like real life.
5) After experiencing life on the Mexican highway, you will want to drive it all night long. Or at least all daylight long. You will have to come back to reality in order to save up enough dinero to take another Epic Mexican Road Trip. Because the real danger here, my friends, is that you won’t be able to stop with just one.
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Burrowing In For Semana Santa

I’m always happy to have a vacation. I think I’ve made it clear how much I love my job, but I don’t know a single teacher who wouldn’t like to sit down sometimes.

However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that Easter vacation in Vallarta isn’t my favorite. If you need to ask why that is, then you a) haven’t spent Semana Santa in Puerto Vallarta and/or b) you adore having your arms pinned to your sides while you try to take a family walk down the Malecon with the rest of the multitude.

You see, under the definition of “introvert” in the dictionary, there is a picture of me backing into a cave of blankets. My idea of a good time doesn’t include a beach day spent defending our family’s towel space like a badger hissing in front of her den.

Sometimes, if we are able to do so, our family will go somewhere that has been abandoned by that population in favor of Easter in Vallarta, like Mexico City. If Semana Santa is new to you, the fact that we consider Mexico City a quieter option than Vallarta during Easter week should give you an idea of what you are going to experience.

This year, we will spend a few days in our beloved Sayulita pretending that we are in Bali. Then we will come home and, while the rest of our friends are in Disneyland lining up at Space Mountain, we will go to Costco and take turns in the Shiatsu Massage Demo Chair. We will also do some of the things on this Fun Alternatives to the Beach List:

  • Follow Daddy to work as long as it’s not on the beach or the Malecon. That narrows it down a lot. But we still have El Rio BBQ on Fridays, 4 to 6pm. See you there.
  • In addition to the Shiatsu Chair, if we time it right we can get an entire meal of free samples at Costco. Also I will go and admire the Magic Bullet that I will never own because I told my husband when we were still dating that women hate getting household appliances as romantic gestures (I was in my twenties at the time. Stupid girl).
  • Decorate Easter eggs – my kids are starting to get over how great this activity is. But if you go on Pinterest you can see a) how inadequate you are as a parent and b) how many cool and school-age-kid-friendly ways there are to decorate an Easter egg. If you don’t mind buying new furniture the next day, you’ll be busy for hours. For example, google Sharpie Tie Dye Easter Eggs. Totally worth the couch cushions.
  • Clean out my closet – I start this in a fit of rage and I run out of steam once I’ve dumped the contents on my floor. I don’t recommend this one.
  • Botanical Gardens – I’m reluctant to tell the world how great this place is during Easter Week, because then it may stop being our oasis and start being a River of Kid Soup. But honestly, it’s a gem of a place and, in our experience, not crowded. You can hike and swim all day. My kids usually choose a plant and promise to water it and hug it and love it forever. I go to the shop and get lost among the aisles of organic saffron and vanilla bean pods.  If you go then stay for lunch at the restaurant. It’s one of our favorites.

Above all, I will enjoy getting to spend time with the people I like the very most. We’ll read, play some Battleship, watch some movies, find a few faraway beaches, and, more than likely, burrow ourselves into some blanket caves. Hopefully the Easter bunny will know where to leave the chocolate.