traditional day

A co-worker  happened to mention that her family has a Friday night tradition: they gather together for pizza and a movie. Hey, we like pizza and movies, and we’re always in on Friday nights anyway. We decided this was a tradition our family should take on too. So we explained to Flynn what a tradition was. He was a little fuzzy on the concept, but he did understand that ours would include pizza and movies, so he was on board. We decided to start the following Friday.

Every day that followed this conversation, Flynn asked, “It is traditional day yet?”

“You mean, pizza and movies? Our Friday tradition?” we tried to correct him.

“Yes, that’s what I said. You’re not listening to me. I said ‘traditional day.’”

He’s not exactly wrong. What’s more traditional in our native culture than takeout pizza and a good picture show?  Frozen. Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Wizard of Oz. Sometimes we even get our pizza from Dominos or Little Caesar’s.

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Super Flynn meets a fellow American hero.

Friday is upon us again. Happy traditional day to one and all!

Posted in food, Holiday, Mexico, Toddler | 4 Comments

toddler transitions

Flynn’s been at his new Mexican preschool for about a month now, and according to him, he still has no friends. Every few days he’ll come home and tell us he learned a new boy or girl’s name.

“Oh, is that your new friend?” we’ll ask.

“No,” he’ll say.

“But how did you learn his name?” we’ll ask. “Did he play with you?”

“No,” he’ll tell us again. “I need to learn Spanish first. Then he’ll be my friend and play with me.”

“Did he tell you that?” we’ll ask.

“No,” he’ll reply. “I just know it myself.”

It’s kind of heartbreaking, right? We ended up sending him to a bilingual preschool in the hopes of easing this transition, but it seems that only the teacher knows English. The kids are all there because their parents want them to learn it, but they don’t speak any yet. I don’t think anyone’s being mean to Flynn. And I don’t think he’s unhappy. Every day we ask him if he likes school and whether he wants to go back, and to those questions we always get an emphatic yes.

But still, I  hope he makes some friends soon. Or picks up more Spanish. Actually, both.


Posted in FS Life, Mexico, Personal, Toddler | 4 Comments

on day trips with little ones

Unfortunately I can’t tell you much about these prehistoric circular pyramids, because I stepped out in the hall with a whiney one-year-old during the introductory museum video. And I spent the rest of the museum visit arguing with a whiney three-year-old about my decision to deny him a granola bar until we got outside.

He was wearing a much cuter outfit earlier in the day. Don't even ask what happened in the car.
Outside, post granola bar, he was a bit less whiney.

Side note: Flynn was wearing a much cuter outfit earlier in the day. Don’t even ask what happened in the car.

Anyway, we were talking about the circle pyramids. Guachimontones, they’re called. They were only discovered like 10 years ago. I guess they used to be part of some city like this.

Murals, murals, everywhere.
Murals, murals, everywhere. It’s Mexico, after all.

Or so the story goes. Word on the street is that the whole thing is a giant scam orchestrated by the state of Jalisco, which was jealous of other parts of Mexico and their impressive (and tourist attracting) archeological sites.

Baby celeb.
Baby celeb.

Not pictured: the dozens of middle school girls on some sort of organized trip who were much less interested in the pyramids than in getting a photo with the blonde gringo baby. I let them. Why not?

Smiles from all!
Smiles from all!

Afterwards we visited a lovely lakeside seafood restaurant where Flynn insisted on ordering a hot dog, and then proceeded to eat not more than one small bite of said hot dog. Jonah insisted on eating everything he was not allowed to eat, and on banging a spoon on the table much of the meal. Meanwhile, I think our child-free travel companions made the important life decision to hold off on the whole kid thing for a while. Can’t blame ‘em.

Obviously, our kids are awesome. But traveling with little kids just isn’t awesome. Still, we’re trying to force ourselves to do as much of it as possible anyway, because let’s be honest: being at home with little ones isn’t easy either. And we only have two years here to see and do the seemingly endless list of things we want to.

We hope to go on a day trip most weekends, and we’re in the midst of planning our first long weekend away too. But for that one, I’m making sure to find a hotel with babysitting service. Obviously.

Posted in Baby, FS Life, Mexico, Personal, Toddler | 5 Comments

ajijic, where expats abound

Can you spot the grump?
Can you spot the grump?

We decided to take a day trip on our first weekend with wheels. Our criteria: somewhere interesting, but also easy to get to. Many people recommended the quaint towns on the shores of Lake Chapala, an area about an hour’s drive from Guadalajara which is home to thousands of American retirees. We ended up in the town of Ajijic. Despite period foul moods by  certain three and one year olds (see above), it was a lovely little day. We’d definitely trek back (though we might get a babysitter before doing so).

Taking a stroll.
Taking a stroll.
Spotting stuff.
Spotting stuff.

Ajijic looks like you how you imagine Mexico to. Narrow cobblestone streets are lined with colorful buildings and eclectic shops. They were just starting to open for the day when we were packing up to go around 1 p.m.





Details everywhere.
Details everywhere.


Laughs with Dad.
Laughs with Dad.


Picture perfect.
Picture perfect.

Of course we picked up some snacks for the road.

Ready to eat.
Ready to eat.


Churros, mmm.
Churros, mmm.

Andy read somewhere online that a couple can retire comfortably but not extravagantly in the Lake Chapala area for about $1,300/mo. I wonder how much it would cost to retire extravagantly. In 30 years or so I might just be interested.

Posted in Mexico, Travel | 3 Comments


The worst time in every Foreign Service tour is that stretch before your cars arrive. Luckily, those days are over for us. Exactly a month after we got to post, our cars finally got here too. No more taxis! No more bumming rides from people! No more takeout every night because grocery store runs are too tough! No more moping at home unable to do the things we want to! One of our cars arrived with a dead battery, but no matter. We’ll deal with that later, and for now, one functional car is plenty.

Andy: “We’re going on a day trip tomorrow. Do you know what a day trip is?”
Flynn: “Yes, it’s when you drive like a race car and go somewhere new.”
Andy: “Well, we’re going somewhere new, but actually we’re going to be driving with an abundance of caution.”

Sorry I don’t have time to write more, but we have places to go.

photo (1)

Posted in FS Life, Mexico | Leave a comment

the restaurant of the future

During one of our London medevacs a few years back, Andy and I dragged an over-tired 1.5 year old Flynn all over town searching for some kid-friendly restaurant, any kid-friendly restaurant, which  we never were able to find. (If memory serves we wound up in a Pizza Hut or somewhere similarly disappointing.) At the time we wondered: Why aren’t there restaurants with built-in childcare? Not fast food joints, but real restaurants with a room you can send children off to while you enjoy your meal in peace. We’d pay a hefty premium for that sort of thing. We certainly can’t be the only ones.

Since then, every time we watched Shark Tank, we envisioned pitching them our genius idea. But we also have jobs and kids and stuff, and hence no time or energy to educate ourselves about business start-ups.

As it turns out, our brilliant idea already exists. It’s alive and well here in Mexico! It seems like every new restaurant we try has a play area for children, some as impressive as what you’d find in a preschool, and many monitored by professional nannies (rooms without childcare  are visible from the dining room). One night we went to get take-out from a hole in the wall sort of place, and even they had a patch of grass and full-sized sunken trampoline to keep kids busy.

Image 3Real restaurants with play areas and childcare — I’m telling you, folks, it’s the wave of the future. Expect these to be everywhere in the United States in the coming years. You heard it from me here first. And expect me to bemoan the millions I could have made if only I’d jumped the diplomatic ship and been the one to develop them. We have no plan for that in the immediate future, but hmm, if we get a really crummy next post, you just never know what may happen…

Posted in Baby, food, FS Life, Mexico, Toddler | 2 Comments

mexican real estate

The architecture around here is interesting. Aside from the colonial old town, the nicer parts of Guadalajara are extremely modern. I love to stroll around and admire houses like these.

Image Image 1 Image 2

Curiosity quickly got the better of me, and I couldn’t help but to stalk local real estate sites. It turns out these homes cost significantly less than our 1,400 square foot, un-renovated and un-spectactular Cape Cod in the DC suburbs.

I guess this is why people retire to Mexico.


Posted in House, Mexico | Leave a comment

one of those days

You know those days when you can hardly believe how cool your life is? When you’re so appreciative of this opportunity to live in crazy parts of the world that other people only get to read about or maybe visit briefly on vacation?

And you know those days when you wonder what in the world you’ve gotten yourself into? When something that would be so simple back home is unbelievably frustrating because of cultural or language or whatever other differences?

I had both of those experiences today.

It was Friday on the eve of Labor Day weekend. As all my colleagues were describing their exciting upcoming trips, I was feeling sorry for myself to be somewhat trapped by the fact that my car hadn’t arrived. There are taxis, yes, but we have kids and carseats to consider, so there’s only so much taxing we can do. But then I had a thought! We live in civilization. There are car rental companies here — American ones, even. Why not rent some wheels for the weekend? So I logged onto Orbitz and proceeded to rent a car at the local Budget. How awesome that I was living somewhere I could use these American conveniences! (As you might imagine, such luxuries didn’t exist in Benin.) How amazing it was going to be to finally get to do some exploring!

But alas, that wasn’t to be.

First problem: the address and phone number on the local Budget website were wrong, so it took us an hour of walking and finally 15 minutes in a taxi to get there. But we did stumble upon some cool sights along the way, like:


Still, overall this adventure wasn’t off to a great start, but all’s well that ends well? Visions of driving my family to fun places all weekend keep me going. Unfortunately once we arrived at the Budget shop, things went further downhill. We were told there was no car for us.

“But we have a reservation!” we explained, waiving our confirmation sheet. But this wasn’t America. It didn’t matter. There was no car and no apologies. Maybe reservations aren’t as firm here? Maybe everyone knows online registration systems aren’t to be trusted? But the phone number on the website didn’t even work, so we couldn’t have called to reserve a car if we’d wanted to. What were we supposed to have done? We didn’t know. All we knew was that there was no car for us. So home we went in the taxi.

The only thing that elicited a brief smile on the long and mostly sulky ride home was hearing Andy trying to answer our chatty driver’s many questions about American male hairstyles — not exactly his area of expertise.

But back to the point… How should we salvage this weekend? Any creative ideas?

Posted in FS Life, Mexico, Personal | 3 Comments

tacos, tacos everywhere

One of my goals for this tour was to develop a more sophisticated understanding of Mexican food than the tacos and fajitas with which I’m familiar. I’m realizing  this may prove more difficult than I expected. In our two weeks in town we’ve tagged along with colleagues each day for lunch. They’ve yet to take us to anywhere other than a taco joint. Sometimes it’s simple street tacos that are cooked on portable grills and that we eat standing or at folding tables. Sometimes it’s seafood tacos stuffed with octopus, shrimp, tuna, and more that we enjoy along with tropical drinks. Other times it’s fancy tacos filled with more expensive and interesting meats. But it’s always tacos. Not that we can really complain. We could probably eat tacos every day for two years and still not grow tired of them.

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Posted in Welcome | 2 Comments

greetings from guadalajara

We’ve arrived! Our house is a lot better than we expected. We have more bathrooms than people (six!) and plenty of living space. Everything is new and modern. The government issued furniture is way less hideous than it was at our first post, so that’s a small but important quality of life victory. We’ll post some photos once we get everything set up.

Although we weren’t thrilled at first about being in a gated community, we’re loving the community center with a pool and playground that the boys visit daily. We’re not in the heart of the city, but we’re definitely not as far out as I feared. We’ve been pleasantly surprised that we’re actually walking distance from quite a bit including a preschool that Flynn will be starting at next week, a taxi stand, bakeries, ice cream shops, coffee shops, salons, play places, and loads of restaurants including one with a kids area and an on call nanny.


Work is totally overwhelming as is the Foreign Service way, but we’re confident that in a few months we’ll find our groove. The people seem great, the hours are reasonable, and we’ve been eating delicious tacos most days for lunch, so no complaints there.

We managed to set up cell service but still don’t have internet at home. Our stuff isn’t here yet. Most significantly, our cars aren’t here yet. So we’re at the mercy of kind strangers and taxi drivers, which leaves us pretty stranded most of the time since we travel as a pack of five with two car seats. This is the worst time of every Foreign Service tour, when you need to do and get stuff but don’t really know how, when you want to explore and learn more about your new home but can’t do much of that yet. Even the most upbeat of diplomats find themselves feeling a bit down during this stretch. And yet despite all that, we’re actually doing okay, which makes us think that when we get settled we’re really going to love it here.

Posted in FS Life, House, Spanish | Leave a comment