Querida mi abuelita

Querida mi abuelita,

confirmation with grandparentsToday is your 90th birthday!  There is so much to celebrate!  There are really no words to describe what an amazing life you’ve had and the memories you have shared and given to your family and friends.

It is an honor to be your granddaughter and I want to take a moment to stop, remember and thank you for the love, memories and all that you’ve taught me over the years.

First, thank you grandma, for opening your home to us – all the time!  I think of countElenandgrandmaless hours spent with my cousins at your house.  We played.  We laughed.  We fought.  We broke windows.  We went to the park.  We explored.  We made friends.  We learned to stand up for one another.  We learned what being together as family means.

On weekends, we would lay our sleeping bags on the floor while you and grandpa went to Las Palmas to dance.  We would watch grandpa light up when his music would start to play.  We learned so much about what it means to be Mexican and to love our background simply from walking into your home.

grandmawithkidsWalking into your house, we were sure to find you in the kitchen.  Grandma, you are an amazing cook!  That time in your life is now passed but we will never forget the thousands of tortillas you prepared for us – each perfectly rolled first into a ball and then flattened and fried on the stovetop.  Being with you in the kitchen was filled with conversation and laughter.  And we learned to enjoy great tasting food!

Some of my personal favorite foods you prepared are sopa, rice pudding, sopapillas, and enchiladas.  Watching you use the pestle and mortar to make chilé is a beautiful movie that plays in my head.  Fighting over who was going to get the white bowl with the little handle that you used to prepare the egg to top off the rice pudding remains with me.  We all wanted to be the special one to receive the bowl and the rice pudding always tasted that much better when served in that bowl. You made sure we each got a turn.

Grandma, you have always been such a hard worker!  I loved going down to the laundry room with you while you worked the washing machine.  I would just talk and talk to you as you put each piece of laundry through the wringer.  You could make a stained up coat look brand new.  You taught me how to dust and sweep.  I loved getting to stand at your side to do dishes.  You would wash and I would dry.  But more than that, we could just listen to one another talk about the mundane details of our days.

You sewed for us.  You would sit in the living room at your sewing machine and with precision you’d mend garments. You’d make garments.  You always make it look so easy.  You are such a gift.

You always have a smile and story to share.  There are way too many to share in one place, but I will share a couple of my favorites.  There was the time that we cousins were not responding to you when you called us in from outside.  You marched to Webster playground and brought us all home.  And then there was the time when you were put into a squad car and you just jumped right out the other side.  Nobody was going to stop you!  That’s you grandma: full of life!  Full of fun!  Full of vigor!IMG_20130412_135255

I thank you, grandma, for all of these memories and more.  Through your life and by spending time with me, you taught me to love, to be honest, to be genuine, and to appreciate all things.  Those are definitely big things to learn.  With 8 kids and 18 grandkids you have taught us more than we could have imagined.  And we are so grateful.

One of the biggest and best things you taught me is to be proud.  As you know, and I am sure that all my uncles, aunts and cousins remember all to well, I had a nickname as a young girl.  You were the one who told me, “You don’t have to let them call you that.  Your name is Elena.  They should call you by your name.”  And from that day on, I released by nickname and took even more pride in our name.  It belongs to both of us: Elena.  And I couldn’t be prouder to share a name with someone as dynamic and amazing as you.IMG_20130412_153015

Feliz Cumpleaños, abuelita.  !Noventa nunca he parecido tan buena!

Con todo mi amor,


Lenten Devotional 26

Last night a friend of ours at church gave a testimony about facades.  He talked about how we struggle to allow ourselves to be vulnerable around others so we put up these facades.  He gave several examples of this from his life.  As I sat there, I knew that I do this too.  And I would suspect that we al do.

Insecure Elena puts up the facade of confidence.

Unhappy Elena puts up the facade of having it all together.

Struggling Elena puts up the facade of control.

You get it.

One of his points was that we can pretend to be the facades we present to those around us.  But God knows.  We can’t fool Him.  The challenge is to come out from behind those facades in other relationships as well.

Interestingly, this morning, the devotion I submitted for our 40 day Lenten Devotional showed up in the inboxes of those who receive the electronic updates from our church.

Here is what I wrote:

saltBeing in a graduate program at the University of Minnesota brings with it many challenges. There is the obvious academic challenge, but a greater challenge can exist in declaring Christ as savior. In academic settings, it seems so easy for people to speak about tolerance to social issues and world religions while simultaneously admonishing the Christian faith. In Mark 9:50 we read, “Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will YOU make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

While we may get a few glares and scoffs, it seems a small price to pay to declare faith in Christ; especially if in doing so, even one heart changes for Jesus. Consider the sacrifice He paid for us in much more difficult circumstances. We are blessed to be able to openly share our faith. That is a gift worth any hardship we experience in our vulnerability to Him. While we may experience some moments of discomfort on this earth, the bible teaches us in Matthew 5:16 to continue to demonstrate our Father’s goodness, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” What better response to ridicule and admonishment than to further show love and grace in the name of our savior, Jesus Christ?


I know that my greatest facade exists in academia.  I acknowledge to myself that tension that can exist in that setting and I need to do more than acknowledge it.  I have to allow vulnerability.


I started this post before we headed out of town.  I lost my point.  If you get something out of this post, great.  If not, pretend you didn’t read it. Haha.  :-)

April Fools’ Day

I haven’t always been a playful prankster.  Playful?  Yes.  Prankster?  Only sometimes.

When Aselya told me that she had some great April Fools’ Day jokes to play I knew that I had  better step up my game.  And it was really fun!

I served my kids “fried eggs” for breakfast.



It was really vanilla greek yogurt and a peach half.  Three kids were great about it.  And one was downright belligerent.  How dare I pretend to make an egg?  “Now, can I have some oatmeal?”  Too great.

When it was time for bedtime snacks, I called the kids up saying, “Come up for some Brown Es.”  Upon arrival, they discovered these on their plates.













They were not pleased.  Especially because I then asked them to eat something healthy.  I get it, to go from the thought of a brownie to a piece of fruit and/or hard boiled eggs changes your perspective.  And quickly.

I think that is what April Fools’ Day can be about.  It can be a reminder that we get stuck in the way we think and act.  It can be a challenge to us to think outside of our boring box.

I bet you want to know what Aselya’s prank was to me.

You should know that my daughter spoils me.  You see, we have a keurig and she is an early riser.  I enjoy the comfort and warmth of my bed in the mornings.  That sweet girl gets up, eats some breakfast and then delivers e a cup of coffee to me in my nice, warm bed.  So, she planned it out that, instead of coffee, she would bring me hot chocolate.  Very funny.  And it was good, but so not my morning cup o’ joe (joy?).

Good times.  Let the playful pranking continue because we all need a little reminder to shift our perspective every now and again.

Blowing off some dust.

Well, how about this?!  I dug out the ol’ blog. Lots and lots of stuff has gone on around here since I last updated – TWO YEARS AGO!  What is wrong with me?

Just to keep you in the loop, I’ll just quickly tell you a few things that have gone on around these parts.

  • My dad died (April 2012).
  • I went back to school (September 2012).
  • Finn went to preschool (September 2012).
  • We got a dog. Her name is Bella (Spring 2012).
  • We took the kids to Canada on a camping adventure (August 2012).
  • My cousin, Tina, had TWO babies (November 2011 and July 2013)!
  • Xaden was King Rupert in a play at school (March 2013).
  • The girls went to a week of elementary camp – two years in a row (July 2012 and 2013)!
  • I earned a Master’s Degree (December 2013).
  • We traveled to Ecuador to visit friends and to welcome in 2014 (December 2013).
  • We accepted teaching jobs in Moshi, Tanzania, Africa (February 2014)

Wait. You WHAT?!

We accepted teaching jobs and we’re moving to Moshi, Tanzania, Africa.  Joel will teach 6-12 grade technology.  Elena will teach 6-12 grade mathematics (or as they like to say in the UK, and apparently at this particular school: maths).

Tell us more.

Well, Moshi is an amazing city located at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  The population is about 184,000 people.   The temperature fluctuates between 70-90 degrees fahrenheit year round and has a rainy season March – May.

Are you crazy?

Well, if you are just now figuring this out, then I send my apologies.

What will the kids do for school?

The school is a K-12 International School so the kids will go to school there as well.

What language will you have to speak?

The school is an International School and the language is English. In Tanzania, the people speak Swahili.  So, we are working on that.  A little.  Don’t quiz us yet.  Asante.

What will you do for housing?

The school provides us with a furnished house.  We will need to fill it up with dishes, toys, love and the like.

Will you be raising support?

We are not going as missionaries.  We are going as professionals.   We plan to be involved in the Christian community and be used by God accordingly.

When do you leave?

We have an estimated date of departure of July 30, 2014.

When will you return?

We signed on for a two-year commitment.

What will you do with your house?

We are going to rent it out.

What about all your stuff?

Well, it is just: stuff.  Some of it we will get rid of – by selling it or donating it.  Some of it we will store.

What do the kids think?

They are thrilled!  That is, except for one child who is mildly concerned about getting used to a different bed.  And, really, who isn’t concerned about that?

You probably have more questions.  Ask away.  I’ll do my best to answer them.



Ten Years Later

I practically dread this date on the calendar.  I see it looming ahead and the weight feels too heavy.  And yet?  Nobody else can tell.  It’s just a date.  We have 366 of them.  They come again.  And again.  And again. 

I woke up this morning determined to not be burdened by the date but to be lifted.  In love.  In memories.  In your honor.
I am lying if I say that I have succeeded and it’s not even 8:00 a.m.  It is fun to smile about you.  It is fun to think about the silly significance of such little things. From meals to clothes to scents to songs– you are not forgotten.
As we approach the 10th year without you, my heart is full.  It’s full of love and heartache. It’s full of memories and grief.  I’m nothing but grateful for these clashing emotions as they keep me close and connected to you.  
58.  I know it would’ve looked good on you.
Happy birthday, mom!  Goodness gracious, I miss you.

In Their Words Wednesday (On Friday)

Remember when I told you all the funny and cute things my kids said?

Well, Finn is three.  He is in the PRIME of saying funny things.  He makes me laugh every single day.


E: Oh, Finn.  Aren’t the leaves so pretty?

F: Well, mom, they just make a mess.


Finn comes running to me for our routinely given ‘morning hug.’

E: Finn, I love you.

F: Mom, why do you always say that?

E: Say what?

F: I love you.

E: So you’ll always remember how much I love you.


F: Why are you a good mom?

E: Cause I love you.  Why are you a good son?

F: Cause I love you.


As I put the boys to bed….

E: Finn, would you like a book to read?

F: Yes.

E: This one? (pointing at a picture book.)

F: No.  I want that Diary Wimpy Kid book.  That one is soooo funny!  He is so funny, mom.


E: Did you play with any kids at school today?

F: Well, they asked me to share with them so I just walked away.


The boy is hilarious.  Cause he is three.  Can’t beat that.


When I woke up this morning, it felt like any other normal day.

I needed a little stretch and time to ease into the day.  In the background I could hear the pitter patter of excitement coming for the kids who were busily picking out outfits, packing lunches and filling water bottles.  They are excited to return to school!

I got myself out of bed and greeted the sounds with love.  Helped to be sure that the lunches weren’t just snack upon snack, helped get the correct earrings into my daugther’s ear and stood back as my help isn’t as necessary as it has been in the past.


I keep watching them grow and it makes me proud and it hurts my heart all at once.  They are amazing kids and I have been so lucky to have all of this time with them.  That’s probably why as that bus drove away with them and I walked back home with Finn, I could feel the tears welling up within me.  The weight of releasing them sneaked up on me again.  It’s a familiar feeling these days… Letting go.  Encouraging their independence.  Watching them thrive. Yet I have not yet found a way to navigate the weight of it all.

Off they go..


And a few more pictures to get me through the day.



These girls are growing up so fast!  They are third graders this year!  They will be in different classes but will be in the same room for Science and Social Studies. Such beauties.




While they were still being nice to one another and walking together… Not every morning is so “nice.”


Aselya.  I can’t get over how old grown up she has become.  Her shoe size has almost caught up to me- not such a difficult feat, I guess. What is a mom to do?



Our amazing FIRST grader!  Xaden is so excited to be with his friends again.  Much of his summer is spent with girls and more girls.  We watched him play 500 at the park with some boys recently and he loved it.  Here is where school socialization shows it’s pretty head.






Adiana got new glasses this summer.  We were told it is time to see an Orthodontist.  Aaah, another first.  Lucky us.




Finn starts preschool next week!  But this is how he feels today with the big kids headed back to school.  I know, Finn.  I know.  I feel the same way.


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