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Spanish Summer Mutiny

The other day I began “El verano de español”. My youngest son said, “We’re starting el día de español already?”

I corrected him, “Verano, not día. Día is only a day. We’re doing it the whole summer. Verano means summer.”

“Oh, Mommy!” he said, “The whole summer?!”

Within minutes he was acting more enthusiastic though, opening the freezer and telling me, “Te quiero una popsicle.” (“I love you, a popsicle” … he meant “Quiero una paleta” = I want a popsicle.)

But it isn’t just the kids who need work. Old habits die hard. When I was in Miami surrounded by the “tiki tiki” of Latinas, I fell into the rhythm, but here at home, it’s different. I think it’s natural for a mother to want to communicate with her children in her native tongue and making demands of them in Spanish strips me of some authority. Not only do I sound less certain of my words, but the kids, while they manage to extract the meaning of what I’ve said, they don’t react to it with the same sense of urgency.

If I tell the kids to “behave” in English, there is an unspoken but known threat in the nuance of it. “Portanse bien” feels fluffy in my mouth – a flashing lighthouse in the fog warning of sharp rocks, instead of a bold red stop sign. My motherly threats in Spanish don’t give fair notice of the discipline to come if my words are not heeded. Perhaps in time they’ll learn, and I will too.

I’m reading a book right now and some of the text jumped off the page at me because I related so much to it. Here one of the characters, a native Spanish speaker, talks about how her words lose meaning in English. (Of course, for me, it’s vice versa.)

“No,” I said, and again, the English words failed me. In Spanish, I could make a man tremble, force a woman to bite her tongue. But not in English…The words didn’t sound angry like they would have in Spanish, didn’t poke through the air with the same fire or conviction…”

-The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse

The first day of “El verano de español” was the hardest for me. When the kids misbehaved, I stood there like a stuttering idiot, the words danced past my tongue, almost within grasp, before disappearing, like playful dolphins breaking the surface, smiling teasingly and sinking back into the depths of the ocean. That night, as if my brain short circuited, I dreamed the entire night in Spanish, which is rare. I typically have occasional dreams in Spanish, but not an entire night’s worth.

The next day at the grocery store, as I shucked corn with the boys, I chatted with them in Spanish, (though they replied to me in 90% English.) At one point in the conversation, my oldest son couldn’t understand what I was saying and became frustrated. Throwing down a corn cob he said, (loud enough for nearby families to hear), “Stop speaking Spanish! I can’t understand you! Can’t you just speak English!?”

¡Qué vergüenza! My cheeks reddened to match the color of the nearby apples. Full of embarrassment and anger, this time, my Spanish did not fail me.

“Inglés? Tú quieres inglés?… Mira, voy a darte inglés cuando regresamos a la casa y estoy dandote un chancletazo! ¿Cómo crees que vas a hablar con tu mamá así en frente de todo el mundo? Nunca me hables así, me entiendes?”

Believe me, he understood that.

Qué Rica Vida

Okay, I am so tired and should be sleeping, but I wanted to share my day with you. I’m at the Qué Rica Vida event in Miami, hosted by General Mills. They invited a lot of press, and 20-something blogueras. They are treating us like reinas here and despite my shyness, I am having fun and feeling very loved by all the wonderful mujeres here with me.

Okay, here are some fotos!

(The view from my hotel room.)

And we went to dinner at a restaurant on the water called The Rusty Pelican. It was so beautiful – all of it. I had the churrasco and it was seriously the best piece of steak I’ve ever had.

(view from a restaurant window)

(my table)

I texted my husband to tell him how it was going. At one point I texted him that there were mariachi, and knowing my love for them, he became celoso until I sent him a photo to prove they were women.

(The beautiful and talented “Las Damas de Jalisco”, who came all the way out from Texas.)

I need to go get ready for a long day and have a few thousand cafecitos, but if you want to keep up with me while I’m traveling, keep an eye on my Twitter stream!

Disclosure: General Mills paid for my trip to Miami for their Qué Rica Vida media event. I received no compensation, monetary or otherwise, for writing about the event. All opinions expressed are my own.

Accents and Airplanes

Yesterday my mother took me and the niños on a trip to the new Air & Space Museum. It is now one week before my much anticipated flight to Miami, so it seems fitting that I get reacquainted with airplanes before I go. (I haven’t been on one in more than 10 years.)

The architecture of the museum is very interesting. On the right is the observation tower.

When we went in, the very nice security officers informed me that they have a “no gum” policy so I had to spit out my chicle in the provided trash can in front of everybody. I had flashbacks to Spanish 101 in middle school.

To go to the observation tower you have to go DOWN a flight of stairs to the elevator, which I found strange, but it was very cool once we were up there. You could see planes coming and going from Dulles airport. Apparently the observation tower is very busy on the weekend, so I recommend going on a week day as we did. We almost had the whole thing to ourselves.

After that, we went down and looked at airplane after airplane. Honestly, I’m not that curious about the random details and history of the airplanes, but I found the way they were hung from the ceiling to be aesthetically pleasing.

Some airplanes were parked on the floor as well. The museum had a sort of modern warehouse feel which I liked. Very open floor plan. As you would suspect, most of the museum space is dedicated to airplanes, but there were helicopters, hang gliders, satellites and other such things, including this impressively big space shuttle.

After the niños tried a flight simulator, (I felt sick just watching), we stopped for lunch in the museum cafeteria. There were a few choices but we ended up getting McDonald’s. As expected, museum food prices are somewhat outrageous. The Big Mac meal was like $7. (No photo of the over-priced hamburger. I was hungry, sorry.)

The museum shop was also predictably expensive. (My oldest son began begging for the little package of $5 dehydrated astronaut ice cream. Chale! I told him to pick a 75 cent post card instead.)

On our way to the exit, my youngest son tested the unspoken “no running” policy, and lost. A security guard called after him, “No running, no running! We don’t want accidents in here!” … I chided my son and apologized to the guard before asking her where she was from because I liked her accent. This is always dangerous territory for a white person to enter, since this type of question can easily be taken the wrong way. The guard put a hand on her hip and said, “I’m from my mother, where you from?” I had to laugh because I suspected she was from New York like my father’s side of the family, and she gave a perfect response full of New York attitude. I shouldn’t have expected any less. Turns out she grew up in Spanish Harlem. When she found out I have family in Brooklyn, she became less defensive. We had a friendly chat and then parted ways. As we walked down the corridor towards the exit she hollered after us, “You got an accent, too, ya know!”

I laughed and waved, unsure of what exactly she meant in that moment. I thought about it and decided that maybe she just meant that the perception of an “accent” varies by who is doing the listening. To her, I’m the one with the “accent”.


Last night we went out shopping because I’m still trying to find a few things for my upcoming trip to Miami. Right now the focus of my quest is to find a formal blusa. Nothing I have feels quite right.

After trying on a dozen blusas and shaking my head in disgust at each one, I accepted defeat for the evening. On our way to the exit, we passed the Men’s Department, and something on the display table caught my eye.

I forgot all about my quest for a formal blusa and held the green Mexico T-shirt up to myself, deciding that I wanted it right then and there.

“Nene, comprame este?” I said, giving him my sweetest smile.

My husband, already halfway to the door, turned around, looked at the shirt and scowled.


“Come on! I really like it!”
“No way!…Traitor. You like Mexico more than El Salvador.”
“Are you serious?”
“There’s no El Salvador shirt here, come on.”
“It’s only $7 and I really want it, please?”
“When I die you’re going to marry a Mexican.”
“What?!… It’s just a shirt! You’re celoso of a SHIRT?”

My husband crossed his arms over his chest.

“Come on,” I pleaded. “Look, there’s a shirt for England. You can buy that and wear it, I won’t care.”

“Not the same,” he said, turning and heading for the exit.

I folded the shirt neatly, and placed it back on the display table… but I will return later.

Song: Celos, performed by MEXICAN group. BANDA ORIGINAL DEL SOL
… Jijiji :)

¿De qué tienes miedo tú?

Last week I got an unexpected invitation to an event in Miami which will be at the end of May. I never in a million years thought that my husband would let me go, but I mentioned it to him anyway. He gave me the expected answer of “No y no!” … It’s funny how I feel unappreciated here at home sometimes, yet when there’s any possibility of me going away for a day or two, the family acts as if the entire household would collapse in my absence.

After a day or two my husband couldn’t take any more of my quiet disappointment and he relented. He said I can go! For those of you with machos protectivos, tú sabes que esto es un BIG DEAL.

So I went from deep disappointment to absolute joy within minutes, but it didn’t take long for the anxiety to set in. Now I was SCARED. Why would I be scared to go? There are many reasons. For a shy person, taking this trip is stepping out of my comfort zone in a million ways.

So, that’s how I had been feeling over the weekend. SCARED. Excited, but scared.

Well, yesterday I went to Mass and the homily that the Padre gave was about “miedo” (fear). He said some rather inspiring things. The one quote I latched on to was “Viva tu vida sin miedo.” (Live your life without fear). The “Viva tu vida” is rather catchy in Spanish.

Of course, I can’t even have a religious experience without interruption. The Padre turns to the congregation and says, after a dramatic pause, ¿De qué tienes miedo tú? (Of what are YOU afraid of?)

There was silence as people pondered the question… and then, from the back of the church, a man’s voice with a very strong Mexican accent replies to the rhetorical question…

“La migra!”

There was quite a bit of laughter and it took awhile for it to die down so the Padre could go on with the message but the Padre seemed to have a sense of humor about it.


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