Dos Borreguitas Blog

On-the-Go with Kids Means a Few Tweaks July 30 2012

  The husband and I have always been on-the-go-type people. Or as we say back home in South Texas, we have pata de perro, which translates to dog's feet. At least in my hometown, where I'd say most back yards are non-fenced, dogs are frequently seen roaming the streets. They walk alone, or run with a small pack of their friends. Most are not stray dogs, but they are not...

Chido in New York City August 23 2011

It always amazes me how much life and energy New York City packs into that tiny island. It's a city that moves, that's always ON, where people of all stripes get their hustle on every single day. It's easy to see how people get sucked into the city and just never leave, even when kids come into the picture. It's home to more than half a million children under 5...

C'Mon Ride the Train April 03 2011

This weekend the toddler K had her first ride on a bonafide choo choo -- versus those quarter sucking ones at the mall that only send her into a screaming and clutching frenzy. No, this was the real deal, an Amtrak train. I know, not as impressive as those high speed trains in Europe or Asia, but it'll do. Actually, I get pretty dizzy looking out the window so those...

Amidst a Drug War: To Go Home for the Holidays? December 04 2010

Every year, my friend Alma's family , like so many other families, has faithfully made the trek down to their hometown in Mexico to spend the holidays with familia -- until this year, thanks to the violence of the rivaling drug cartels. Her take.

My good friend Alma and I didn't meet until college although we were born a few months apart at the same hospital – maybe even in the same hospital bed – in the border city of Laredo, Texas. Her family moved to Freeport, near Houston, when she was four months old and I grew up in a speck of a town not far from Laredo.  Every year, Alma's family , like so many other families, has faithfully made the trek down to their hometown in Mexico to spend the holidays with familia. A few weeks ago while we were doing a back-and-forth email to each other, Alma sent me this newspaper story about Ciudad Mier, a town close to the Texas-Mexico border where the fearful residents have fled en masse because of the violence and murders of the rivaling drug cartels. Her message said, "This town is between our house/town and the border. No signs of a Zetas and Gulf Cartel truce in the near future, most unfortunately for the hoards of people who go back home for the holidays."

For the first time, Alma and her parents and siblings are staying in Texas for the holidays. She said some of her extended family is still going, but they're leaving their cars at the border and taking the bus down. One of her aunts who lives in Mexico closed her tiendita because she couldn't pay the drug groups' extortion fees. She says she wishes the cartels would get on some boats and fight it out in the Gulf of Mexico and leave everyone else out of it.

I am heartbroken about the situation. I know how much these holiday trips to Mexico mean to Alma, and I asked if she wouldn't mind sharing her thoughts on the situation and what these sojourns were like as a kid. This is her take:

As children, visiting Mexico during the holidays meant we could roam free. This was the once-a-year where we’d see our cousins and the extended family, and where we’d play and romp around, buy candy by the pound, finish it that same day, and stay up late, sleep in late -- things that never happened in the States.

We were never certain whether Santa would leave our toys at our U.S. house or the Mexico house, but we knew we were getting something. I remember my grandmother telling me on a car ride to Monterrey that Santa lived in the mountains. Somehow, I never questioned it and the whole North Pole thing. Guessed he had a second house in Mexico like we did.

My family’s house is in General Treviño, population 1,400, and my dad’s hometown is Agualeguas, which is the next town over. It’s mostly ranchers and not very industrialized. Our “claim to fame” is that former Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari has hometown roots there. He actually visited Agualeguas with President Bush Sr. and Barbara. One of my cousins played in the kids’ band that performed for them. And that’s the story of how the town got landing strip.

As we grew up, we formed friendships with the other children of family friends. Some lived “alla en el norte” – Chicago, Detroit, even Wisconsin and Washington. Others lived as close as Houston, but yet we’d spend more time together in Mexico than stateside.

Turning 15 meant we could now go to the bailes with our friends. All the big names in norteño music came to town during los dias de fiesta. On nights when there wasn’t a baile, or wedding or quinceañera – which was almost every night since everyone was back in town – we’d drive around the main drag with the girls in whichever car one of our parents let us borrow. We’d hit the taco stands at 1 a.m. and gossip until 2 a.m. as we sat on the banqueta in front of my second-cousins’ grandmother’s house, which was on the main drag – la calle principal –in Treviño. We’d chismear the night away shivering, until we called “uncle” and went to bed. Or her grandmother would tell us to be quiet because we were waking up the neighborhood with loud laughter.

On Christmas Eve the entire town smelled of tamales. The chimneys were all lit –  just about every house has one in the kitchen, from when houses were first built and they were used to cook – so the smell of mesquite filled the air. Christmas Eve was when we had the family gatherings and parties. My aunt used to have a huge party every year with a huge bonfire in her huge yard.

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For the last two weeks in December, the local carnicerias would drive up and down the streets around 7 a.m., with the windows rolled down and a megaphone sticking out the side, announcing the daily specials. First come, first served for the carne secachicarronesbarbacoamurcillachorizo, etc. All freshly made, ready to be scooped up.

Sometimes it was the town government that announced special events, like a big baile for Noche Buena o el Fin del Año, or a posada. And if the 7 a.m. “commercials” didn’t wake you, then the neighbors’ roosters did, because at least one house on every single block has chickens and a rooster in their backyard.

As kids, I remember my parents and siblings and I would plop into the car to go see the family. Family meant scores of great-aunts, great-uncles, first and second cousins, you name it. It was a full day affair, sometimes two days. We went from house to house, rancho to rancho.

Hay que ir a ver los viejitos, my parents would say. Seemed like a nuisance back then, because children were meant to be seen not heard. So we just sat around and watched the adults talk. Unless we were at a rancho and could go scare up the chickens.

As we became teenagers, we realized that a lot of gossip was had during these adult conversations. So not being heard wasn’t so bad anymore because you got quality chisme in exchange for it. Loss of innocence, I guess, knowing who was having affairs, who was sick, who was contesting a late relative’s will, who was not speaking because of a fight over property lines ...

Now, I appreciate those days and I miss them because a lot of the viejitos are no longer with us. And over the years the number of houses on the “must visit’ list has grown smaller and smaller. Most of the cousins my age have also moved to el norte or to Monterrey for work, and seeing them isn’t guaranteed. In a sense, I wish we could go back to those days that seemed so boring, if only to see them all again.

Now, the viejitos that are left feel a greater sense of loneliness with a greatly reduced number of relatives coming to see them. Today, the standard answer to “when are you coming?” so far has been “veremos, ojala puedamos ir.”

The other day I had lunch with two of my “Mexico” friends – the ones who live in Houston but we spend more time together in Mexico than here. Neither is going this year either. We sat there commiserating over the true loss of innocence of the town, because we’re not sure if our kids will ever be able to romp around town the way we did as kids and teenagers. We always assumed the slow pace of life would be around for our kids to enjoy as well. Always assumed we’d be able to trust in our neighbors and leave our doors unlocked at night as we waited for the kids to come home. We hold out hope that maybe one day it’ll be like the old days again.

British Woman Sees Mariachis, Exclaims: A Flamenco Band! October 25 2010

Downtown Madrid is bustling with tourists from across the globe and folks hustling to make a euro. The Plaza Mayor was full of Disney characters, Bob Esponjas, and this strange-looking cabra-peacock thing that is the stuff pesadillas are made out of. There are also lots of musicians -- including these mariachis we encountered at Puerta del Sol in the heart of Madrid. The toddler K started bouncing as soon as...

MADRID: We Found Every Playground and Park in the City, It Seems October 23 2010

We made it back home from Spain in one piece, and I've got to say, the toddler K did great. She's not a melt-down kind of child, and that's no thanks to anything we do. It's just her natural temperament. Yeah, we know we're lucky. I'm sure if there's a number two it will be all hell all the time. This was the first time we take a 'vacation, with...

MADRID: Onesie Te Dice "Callate La Boca" October 18 2010

The name of this store  -- Callate La Boca -- immediately caught my attention as soon as I saw it because it made me think, oh, isn't that what King Juan Carlos infamously told Venezuela President Hugo Chavez back in 2007? Must be a play off that. But no such thing -- although that would have been something. What the king actually said  was, "Por que no te callas?" which if...

MADRID: Traveling with Child, Rent an Apartment October 17 2010

Llegamos a Madrid! The toddler was as good as a one-year-old gets on the seven-hour but thankfully non-stop flight over, sleeping half the way and making friends with everyone around her the other half. Coqueta. Our inner clocks are totally out of whack but no matter because this is a night city so dinner at 9:30 or 10 p.m.? Sure, and have a glass of sangria to wash it down....

Vamos a Madrid! Hope My Child Doesn't Become Traveling Todzilla September 29 2010

Work is what you do in between vacations, right? I read an interesting NYTimes story in Tara Parker Pope's Well blog -- which I read religiously -- last winter about how vacations affect your happiness. She wrote about a study that set out to measure the effect vacations have on happiness levels, and how long it lasts. So turns out, it's the run-up to a vacation -- the anticipation --...

I'm Done Lugging Around a Big Baby Bag September 12 2010

Maybe it's something you only do with your first-born, but we've been lugging around a full-on baby bag for the past year. There's everything in that bag -- bottles, diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, eating utensils, a thermometer, tylenol, throw-away paper bibs, cheerios, a juice box, apple sauce and some small toys to entertain baby K. I think we've been over-compensating ever since that day when she was two weeks old and we walked out of the house to a restaurant without any bag at all. Oops.

A Little Bit Rancherona August 22 2010

I relented late, late Thursday night and let my husband take baby K to Miami over the weekend since he had to go there for work. I've been in touch with the monkey via phone and Skype. Really, it's not so bad having her so far away thanks to all this connectivity. Plus, I really like for her to be with the abuelos and tias and primos. She's getting in...

Gilson Martins Passport Holder--Because Baby's Gotta Travel Too August 18 2010

I bought this Cristo Redentor passport holder pre-K in a Gilson Martins shop in Rio--near Ipanema. Baby K got her passport when she was  six months old, and she's traveled abroad just once so far. So far. I really, really want to go somewhere soon, although last time I flew with baby K on my lap was last month and it was NOT FUN. I basically wrestled with a one-year-old...
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