Dora & Friends (Giveaway!)


Disclosure: I received this product for review purposes. No other compensation was given. As always, all opinions are my own.

Apparently I’m a little behind in the world of children’s TV programming, but that’s probably understandable since my boys are now 16 and 13 years old. It’s been quite a few years since we sat down to watch Dora the Explorer together, (and yes, they loved that show back in the day.)

Well, my boys aren’t the only ones who have grown up – so has Dora. Dora and Friends: Into the City! is a show that launched last year. The show features a tween-aged Dora and friends – Kate, Naiya, Emma, Alana and Pablo – in a similar format to the original with a focus on problem solving, the Spanish language, and other useful skills for young minds.

Dora and Friends is available on DVD as of February 10th, 2015 and I was given a copy for review ahead of the release. It felt a little odd to sit down and pop a Dora DVD in after all these years, and it probably comes as no surprise that neither of my sons wanted to watch with me as they’re most definitely out of the target audience age range at this point.

Without a cute little kid to shout out the answers next to me, I only made it through the first episode, (the DVD includes 4 episodes total: We Save a Pirate Ship!, The Magic Ring, The Royal Ball, and Dance Party.) Hopefully my 3 year old niece will want to watch with me next time, otherwise I feel a little weird answering Dora all by myself. (Then again, it’s just as awkward not to answer her.)


The thing I found most amusing is that the character Map, who used to be a real map in her backpack, is now a map app on her smartphone. (Yes, Dora has a smartphone!) On the language front, I liked that the Spanish they teach seems to be slightly more advanced and now includes short phrases and commands rather than singular words.

If you’ve got a little son or daughter who you’re raising bilingual, check out the giveaway below for your chance to win a copy of the Dora and Friends DVD!




Prize description: One lucky winner will receive a Nickelodeon “Dora and Friends” DVD.

Approximate value: $15.00.

How to Enter:

Just leave a comment below! You can say anything you like about Dora, this blog post, bilingualism, or just “Hi, I’d like to enter!” (Please read official rules below.)

Official Rules: No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years of age or older to enter. You must be able to provide a U.S. or Canada address for prize shipment. Your name and address will only be shared with the company in charge of prize fulfillment. Please no P.O. Boxes. One entry per household. Make sure that you enter a valid E-mail address in the E-mail address field so you can be contacted if you win. Winner will be selected at random. Winner has 24 hours to respond. After 24 hours, a new winner will be selected at random. Giveaway entries are being accepted between February 7th, 2015 through February 10th, 2015. Entries received after February 10th, 2015 at 11:59 pm ET, will not be considered. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. If you win, by accepting the prize, you are agreeing that assumes no liability for damages of any kind. By entering your name below you are agreeing to these Official Rules. Void where prohibited by law.

Buena suerte! Good luck!

The Magic That is The Latino Community


This week I’m giving thanks for community, and the Latino community specifically. Let me tell you a story about something that happened last weekend.

Carlos and I had just returned from grocery shopping, literally still in the driveway with bags in the trunk to unload. My 16 year old son, who hadn’t seen me since leaving for school early that morning, greeted us and then launched into a “Mami, I hate to tell you this, but I’m going to need some money…”

This is a good moment for me to dispel a myth for some of you. Young parents have a tendency to believe that kids get less expensive as they get older — it isn’t true. Maybe this feels true for a few years after the diaper days, but there comes a point where your children out-grow the kid’s menu at restaurants and it’s downhill from there, financially speaking. Soon they start needing things they never needed before – cellphones, deodorant, face scrubs, and all manner of personal hygiene products.

They become increasingly conscious about the way they look, so your famous bowl haircuts will no longer suffice – now you must shell out for a trip to the barber for fancy Cristiano Ronaldo-style haircuts. (If you think you can recreate this look yourself with a pair of clippers, trust me that you probably can’t and your kid will hate you for a couple weeks.)

Then they start eating twice as much as you do. Groceries that used to last a week are gone within days. Just when you financially start to catch your breath and think you can make it work somehow, they start talking about getting their license. You can’t afford a car for them but you call your car insurance company to find out how much it will cost to insure them at the very least – You end that phone call sick in your gut, because you have to tell your kid that they have to wait for their license because you can’t afford to insure them. Meanwhile “all their friends” have their license already, and some of them were even gifted cars. You have a good kid though, and while disappointed, he understands. In a way, this makes you feel even worse because he’s a good kid and deserves things you can’t provide.

On top of these expenses, your kids’ free public school education is not so free after all. In addition to increasingly expensive school supplies, laptops, a printer, printer ink and paper to ensure your teen can type up and hand in presentable assignments, there are fees for everything imaginable. Dances, clubs, science projects, yearbooks, class trips, fancy calculators, musical instruments – God help you if they want to play a sport. And when you have an especially ambitious teen who wants to take advanced college-level classes, you pay even more.

When your child becomes a Junior in high school, it’s time to start seriously looking at the cost of college. There are days your brain just can’t take anymore. Your child will be talking about tuition, room and board, meal plans, books, and other expenses. With glazed eyes you will just nod your head while fantasizing about running away, except you don’t even have enough gas in your car to make it out of town, let alone enough money in the account to book a flight to Cancún.

So, back to the original scene – we had just grocery shopped, which is less and less fun the older I get. When I make it home, I’m just thankful the whole process is over – and then my son tells me he needs money.

What does he need money for? He needs to buy a suit. We’ve long put this off because of the expense but it was becoming unavoidable. His admittance into the National Honor Society and various other upcoming events would require it.

I felt panicked, frustrated, exhausted.

“I don’t know how we’ll find the money for a suit.” I sat at the dinner table surrounded by the bags of groceries and put my head in my hands.

My older son, thrift-minded thanks to his upbringing and the necessity of being so, offered, “We could look at Goodwill and Salvation Army?”

“Maybe,” I responded, but I wasn’t optimistic about the idea. I had looked for suits there before and even when I’ve been lucky enough to find the right size, they’re usually horribly outdated.

“What’s wrong?” Carlos asked, because apparently he had tuned out the whole conversation. So I explained that our son needed a suit within the next two weeks and I wasn’t sure how we’d afford one.

Carlos was uncharacteristically calm. (It seems we switch personalities every now and then.)

“A suit? Hmmm… Let me make a phone call.”

Carlos disappeared into the bedroom and came back 10 minutes later.

“I may have found a suit for you.”

Carlos had called a local Salvadoran woman who has been somewhat of a surrogate mother to him the past few years. She’s well-connected within the local Latino community so Carlos simply told her our older son would need a suit within the next two weeks and asked her if she could keep an eye out.

Her response?

“I have a closet full of suits. Come to my house with your son at six o’clock and we’ll see if any of them fit… And bring Tracy so she can make sure they look nice.”

At six o’clock we arrived at her house. She showed us into a bedroom with suits hung in the closet and some laid out on the bed. She later told me that she had actually had twice as many not long ago because a lawyer she knows had given them to her so that her visiting brother could take them back to El Salvador. These suits were just the remains of what he didn’t want or couldn’t fit in his suitcases.

It turned out two suits fit our son and she encouraged him to take them both. “If a suit fits you, too” she said to Carlos, “take it, please. You’re welcome to it.”

And so that’s the story of how Carlos procured not one, but two suits for our son, (plus one for himself) within just a few hours, thanks to our friend and the magic that is the Latino community.


Traveling With Your Young Child to Middle-of-Nowhere Latin America


Okay, “middle-of-nowhere” is an exaggeration, but that’s what it feels like when you’re so far away from everything that represents normalcy to you – And if you have a baby with you, multiply that times a hundred.

A friend of mine will soon experience this first hand as she’s traveling to a small pueblo in Mexico, so this post is for her. Although my experience traveling with babies is limited, I did learn a few things the hard way. Those hard learned lessons will have to suffice as advice – or as the Catherine Aird quote goes, “If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.”

So, here we go. Ten pieces of advice for anyone traveling with a baby and staying at a location which may not have the modern amenities you’re accustomed to.

Disclaimer: This advice may or may not apply to you depending on where exactly you’re coming from and where exactly you’re going, but this is the advice I’m giving based on my own experiences. Just because this post focuses on the difficulties and less desirable circumstances I encountered does not mean one should assume all of Latin America is represented. Latin America is extremely diverse and just like the United States and anywhere else in the world, there are areas of great wealth, areas of great poverty and everything in between. This advice is meant for individuals coming from a lifestyle of modern conveniences who are visiting and staying in a place that does not have those same modern conveniences.

Traveling With Your Young Child to Middle-of-Nowhere Latin America


#1. Get yourself and your baby up to date on any necessary shots. Besides getting your passport and traveling documents in order, you should go to the doctor and pediatrician, tell them where you’re going and when, and ask their advice about any recommended vaccinations as they may advise you to get shots that aren’t on the regular schedule. Do your own research ahead of time too on the CDC website so you can ask your doctor any questions you might have. (Also make use of the advice on the State Department website regarding your passport, closest U.S. consulate and embassy locations to where you’ll be staying, and how to handle emergencies while abroad.)

By the way, it’s somewhat controversial but some doctors will recommend “sedating” your baby or young child for a long flight using a medicine such as Benadryl. If you decide to go this route, make sure you get the proper dosing for your child’s weight and give it a trial run before the flight as some children actually become hyper on the medicine instead of sleepy, which is obviously the exact opposite of what you want when you’re 30,000 feet in the air in a cramped space with a hundred irritable strangers.

#2. Don’t let the doctor freak you out. I almost starved in El Salvador the first time we went because my doctor told me about all the diseases I would get if I ate unwashed fruit or vegetables, or if I drank the water. And I was constantly stressed and vigilant in preventing well-meaning relatives from slipping my baby a bite of food from their plates. I’m not saying it isn’t possible to get sick from contaminated food, but don’t let this be something you’re constantly paranoid about to the point that it ruins your trip. On our second trip to El Salvador I ate with reckless abandon. I ate a torta from a market stall that didn’t even have a proper sink for the owner to wash their hands. I survived.


Instead of worrying about food poisoning and other food borne illnesses, focus on trying to prevent more likely and dangerous possibilities – such as your child wandering off. This may be overboard, but I had dog tags made with our local address in El Salvador in case they became lost. If your child doesn’t know the language well or the address of where you’re staying, knowing they have the address on them at all times will ease some of your anxiety.


#3. Packaged foods are a lifesaver. Even if you and your child happily eat from vendors, markets, and the kitchens of your in-laws, it’s possible that at some point your child is going to want the comfort that only familiar packaged food can provide. If you can find the room in your luggage, pack a few favorites – a jar of peanut butter, a box of Cheerios, granola bars, etc. For a baby, consider packing baby food (avoid glass jars) and their formula in case you can’t find them at your destination.

Local authentically prepared meals are sure to be delicious, but don’t be ashamed if you feel the need to visit a local fast food place once in awhile. (Thank you Pollo Campero and Biggest for keeping me sane.)


#4. It’s okay to be over-prepared. It’s better to be a little over-prepared than under-prepared. Think of all the things you use at home for your baby throughout the day, realize that some of them may not be easy to find at your destination, and pack accordingly. (Bottles, extra nipples, bottle liners, a specific brand of lotion or baby shampoo, diaper or wipe that you prefer, etc.) … If your child has a favorite blanket or toy, see if you can buy a duplicate to keep stowed away in case one gets lost during your travels.

Keep a sufficient amount of these items in your carry-on luggage in case of unexpected delays. (Wipes are especially useful for all kinds of messes so keep tons on you at all times.)

Don’t forget any prescriptions and all your preferred medicines for everything from pain/headaches, cramps, stomachache, itchiness, diarrhea, and allergies to motion sickness, (for yourself and for your child.)

If there’s any possibility of menstruating on your trip, bring your preferred feminine products as well.

Oh, and sunscreen. Bring the sunscreen and use it. If you think you stick out like a sore thumb, you’ll stick out even more if your skin is lobster red.

#5. Prepare for takeoff. For babies and young children, the worst part of the flight is takeoff and landing because of the pressure changes in their little ears. If your child is old enough, give them gum to chew. If the child is too young for gum, have them suck on a pacifier or bottle.

There’s no shame in using electronics to keep little ones quiet and occupied at the airport and on the airplane. Let them play apps on your smartphone the entire flight if it helps.

If you have an older child who has been wanting a specific toy for awhile, buy it and let him know he’s going to receive it on the flight. (Don’t let him play with it before then or it will lose its charm.) Keep a “fun bag” of random things to entertain your child – preferably new things they’ve never played with before. Cracker Barrel’s store is a great place to buy things like that. Some suggestions: Sticker books, coloring and activity books with crayons, a mini Etch-a-sketch, Rubick’s cube, Wooly Willy, slide puzzles – (The classics work best!)

#6. Mosquitoes are nothing to play with. Depending on where exactly you’re going and the time of year, chances are you and your baby or small child will come into contact with more mosquitoes than you knew ever existed on this planet. Not only will they make you itch, but some transmit diseases such as Chikungunya in El Salvador. Before you travel, ask your relatives if they have mosquito netting to cover the area you’ll be sleeping – if not, bring some. Also bring along mosquito repellent to put on your bodies as well. If your hosts offer to burn a mosquito coil (it looks like a green spiral), ask them not to. These coils are popular in some parts of Latin America but research has shown that they’re extremely toxic to breathe.


(By the way, I’m convinced mosquitoes prefer gringa blood because no one was ever getting bit up as much as I was.)

#7. The hammock is your friend. Most babies love to be rocked but you most likely won’t have access to any fancy contraptions like you have back home. Make use of any available hammocks to rock babies to sleep, (but don’t leave them unattended.)


#8. Stay hydrated. This seems like a no-brainer but when you’re busy, overwhelmed, stressed, in hot weather, and have to seek out bottled water since the tap water is off limits (or turned off completely), you’d be surprised how quickly you and your child could become dehydrated. Avoid caffeine the day you travel and drink water on your flight and at the airport as soon as you get off the plane. Grab some bottles to take with you to your destination and find out as soon as possible where you’ll be able to buy more when needed.


(You can tell by his eyes, my younger son was getting a little dehydrated on an outing during our most recent trip to El Salvador so we stopped at the first place we found selling water.)

#9. Expect the unexpected no matter how much you prepare. Ask others who have visited the area what it’s like and have them tell you in as much detail as possible. Even after the most thorough research though, you may find that you were woefully unprepared to face such a different lifestyle even for a short period of time. Take some deep breaths (Inhala…Exhala…), and try to go with the flow.


#10. Take plenty of photos. This is an incredibly special moment in your child’s life, and if they’re very young, they may not remember it well or at all. Take photos of your child with all their relatives and keep a little journal of what you do each day while there. These will make a cherished keepsake for your child later. Before you know it your return flight will be departing to take you home, and while half of you will be relieved that you can come back to familiar food, hot showers, drinkable tap water, modern appliances, child-safe locks, and air conditioning – the other half of you is going to wish you could have stayed a little longer now that you were finally getting the hang of things.


Conversations at Casa López – Part 4


Today I bring back this series with my family’s most recent “bilingual moments” and funny conversations. (Be sure to share your recent funny conversations in comments!)

Tracy: Whatcha doing cutie pants?
Carlos: Not much—
Tracy: I was talking to Chico.

Carlos: Look, the guy at the Latino market gave me the merchant copy. [Shows me a receipt]
Tracy: Why is this the American copy? Did you want it in Spanish?
Carlos: What?
Tracy: Why are you calling this an American copy?
Carlos: No, I said MERCHANT copy.
Tracy: Oh, it sounded like you said ‘MURICAN copy.

“Mommy help! Get him off me! He’s hurting me with jalapeño breath!”

– My older son being pinned down by my younger son who was breathing into his face after eating pickled jalapeños

Tracy: Hey, this book says Mexican women don’t shave their legs. I’m moving to Mexico.
Carlos: Um, that sounds… anticuado. How old is that book?
Tracy: Published…(turns pages)… 1972. Oh.

Carlos: I’m going to cut the grass.
Tracy: It’s Sunday. That’s bad karma.
Carlos: But it needs to be done.
Tracy: Ay ve vos.
Carlos: Well I can’t now cause you jinxed me.

Tracy: Can you grab me a wad of paper towels?
Carlos: Huh?
Tracy: Can you grab me a wad of paper towels?
Carlos: A watt?
Tracy: A wad!
Carlos: What is that?
Tracy: Tanate! Can you grab me a tanate of paper towels?
Carlos: Why didn’t you just say that to begin with?

13 year old: Hey Daddy, have you heard of that singer Macklemore?
Carlos: Yeah, he’s from Soyapango.
13 year old: You say everyone is from Soyapango!

Carlos: Ooo, you got Abuelita chocolate!
Tracy: Yup.
13 year old son: Who’s the old lady on the package?
Tracy: Abuelita, of course.
13 year old: Oh.
Tracy: Hey Carlos, isn’t that the same lady in the Pedro Infante movies?
Carlos: Yup, that’s Nana Tomasita.
13 year old: Let me guess, she’s from Soyapango.
Carlos: Nope. She’s from Chalate.

10 Gifs For Parents Raising Bilingual Kids

Parenting is one of the biggest challenges there is, and bilingual parenting can be twice as hard. Here are 10 animated gifs only parents raising bilingual kids will understand. Laugh, cry, be entertained – I know you feel me.

#1. When your bilingual child is just a baby everything is new and awesome. Mixing the languages together is totally normal and totally adorable. So your reaction when your baby speaks Spanglish is something like:


#2. Fast forward 10 years though and your child is still not fluent. Your child’s Spanglish at this stage of the game may have become somewhat less enchanting.


#3. But then one day your child says their first curse word in Spanish, (and you know they learned it from you.)


Hey, at least they’re speaking Spanish.

#4. And then comes that magical age when they get to pick a foreign language at school. The child you’re raising English/Spanish bilingual tells you they want to take… French.


#5. Okay, okay. We must embrace all language learning. It’s fine, they can learn French. Maybe they’ll be trilingual you say to yourself. But then they ask for help with their French homework and you discover your mouth will only pronounce French words following Spanish-language rules so you’re completely unhelpful.


#6. At some point you realize hey, we’re not speaking enough Spanish at home, so you try the famous “I won’t acknowledge you unless you speak Spanish” tactic.


#7. However your child’s reaction to the “I won’t acknowledge you unless you speak Spanish” tactic is:


#8. Time to get stealthy. You decide you’ll try to sneak Spanish into your child’s life by listening to Spanish-language music in the car.


#9. However, this is your child’s reaction when you listen to Spanish-language music in the car right before they put their earbuds in.


#10. You’ve all but given up until one day your teenager develops a crush on a native Spanish speaker at school and suddenly takes a renewed interest in learning the language.


La alegría y la angustia del cambio


Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Me di cuenta de algo. Me di cuenta que cuando veo las hojas de colores en otoño siento dos cosas. Primero me siento llena de felicidad porque es una de las cosas más bellísimas en este mundo y soy bendecida por verlo suceder. Todo el año espero este momento breve por ver el cambio en los árboles. Pero bajo de la alegría es una fuerte tristeza saber que los días son cortos y pronto se caerán las hojas, desapareciendo en el viento. Me siento feliz por el momento que está frente de mi, pero angustia porque yo sé que no puede durar para siempre.

Y igual me siento al ver a mis hijos creciendo a hombres.


No importa lo fuerte que te aferras a esas hermosas hojas o esos hermosos hijos. Ellos cambian. Las hojas se secan y pierden su color. Tus hijos crecen. Es natural que esa realidad debe hacerte sentir triste, pero también recuerdate hay que disfrutar el momento. Tal vez sea un cliché, pero a veces existen los clichés porque no hay verdad más grande. La vida es efímera. Ama lo que tú amas con todo tu corazón.


Title: The Happiness and Anguish of Change

I realized something. I realized when I see the colored leaves of autumn I feel two things. First I feel full of happiness because it’s one of the most beautiful things in the world and I feel blessed to see it happen. All year I await this brief moment to see the change in the trees. But beneath that happiness is a strong sadness to know that the days are short and soon the leaves will fall, disappearing in the wind. I feel happy for the moment in front of me, but anguish because I know it won’t last forever.

And I feel the same to see my sons growing into men.

It doesn’t matter how tightly you hold onto those beautiful leaves or those beautiful children. They change. The leaves dry out and lose their color. Your children grow up. It’s natural that this realization should make one feel sadness, but let it also remind you to enjoy the moment. Maybe it’s cliche, but sometimes cliches exist because there is no greater truth. Life is fleeting. Love what you love with all your heart.

Más y Menos – Guatemalan Cartoon Characters!


Last night my 12 year old begged me to watch a cartoon called Teen Titans Go! with him. Honestly, I’m not at all into super hero stuff so this show didn’t appeal to me at all, but he promised me this particular episode had two characters who only speak Spanish. (He knows how to get my attention!)

I ended up really enjoying the episode and the characters named Más y Menos. The episode had an impressive amount of Spanish in it and some good lessons for kids built in. Here’s a clip of the twins Más y Menos making and serving tamales to their friends.

I later looked up more information online, and as suggested by the mention of “tamales de Guatemala” in the episode, the twins are in fact supposed to be Guatemalan. (Although they’re voiced by Chicago-born Freddy Rodriguez whose parents are Puerto Rican.)

Anyway, I thought it was really awesome to have some Central American representation in a popular cartoon and I hope the creators make Más y Menos regular characters.

My only suggestion to the creators: When the characters say “¡Los Tamales de Guatemala!” you see and hear mariachi. While mariachi can be found in Guatemala, that’s obviously more of a Mexican thing. It would have been awesome if instead you had used some traditional Guatemalan marimba music like this:

The use of Mexican culture subbed in for other Latin American culture is something you see often in television and movies. Mexican culture is more familiar to audiences in the United States so I think that is part of why it happens, but when characters are not Mexican then you’re doing a disservice to both the Mexican culture and the true culture of the character. I’d like to see Hollywood break away from that so audiences can have a more diverse experience and expand their knowledge of cultures throughout the world. Subbing in Mexican culture for every Latin American culture only feeds into the wrong belief that “All Latinos are the same.”

As Más y Menos say, “Para crecer como una persona, necesitas que abrirte a nuevas experiencias.”

You can watch the full episode of Teen Titans Go! featuring the characters Más y Menos here and on Cartoon Network.