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Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Thanks to creating a radical change in our family’s lives, we no longer live under this paradigm of life in a 21st-century modern society.

I can remember being STUCK in traffic—more often than not—anxiously and impatiently tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, moving along inch by inch, so fed up with that being the “norm”, knowing in my heart that it didn’t have to be and feeling so READY for a change.  

The picture above represents so much of what we were ready to eliminate in our lives—breathing in exhaust fumes, missing out on active, joyful engagement in life because we were on hold in a sea of cars. That was not how we wanted to spend our valuable, once-in-a-lifetime time. I would take pictures from the dashboard of my car to the hundreds of bumpers in front and send them to my husband with the message, “One thing I will NOT miss”.

And I don’t, not one little bit. 

Immigration to Mexico

Since immigrating to Mexico in 2012, we have gone from daily traffic congestion and the frequent witnessing of road rage to driving on jungle roads and 16th-century cobblestone streets. We have traded in mind-numbing, lost hours in the car to engagement in other, far more meaningful activities of our choice. 

If one of my jobs as a Mother is to support and nurture the emotional well-being and development of my children, then moving to Mexico has been one great step in supporting that endeavor.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Freedom and Horses in San Pancho, Nayarit

 

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

A Dream Birthday Party!

We immigrated to mainland Mexico when our twins were eight years old, during the middle of their third-grade year. Within three months of our arrival, we became Permanent Residents of Mexico. The process went rather smoothly for us because we did our homework prior to our move and had all of our required paperwork in order. Patience, planning and having the right legal liaison were in our favor as well. (*for a referral in the Puerto Vallarta and San Miguel areas, feel free to PM me)

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Arrival in LA Bay and ready for some tacos!

Baja California

Our twins were seasoned Mexico travelers prior to our move, having spent the first eight years of their lives adventuring back and forth between San Diego and Baja California. Frank’s firefighter schedule and my school teacher’s allowed us blocks of time off together as a family and we took full advantage of them to head South!

Mairead and Liam fondly referred to their Baja home as their “other home” and Mexico forever became ingrained in their hearts as a place of fun, discovery and family connection. 

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Adventuring in Baja, 2006

 

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Baja Babies! Bahia de Los Angeles~2008

Departure Day

Aside from the inevitable emotion of parting ways with loved ones, our move and the preparations leading up to our departure from San Diego were relatively seamless in the sense that it was meant to be and something we collectively were all on the same page about and ready for

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Saying our goodbyes to my Mom at San Diego airport~2012

We arrived in San Pancho on a Friday, and that following Monday our formerly homeschooled twins began their first ever five-day-a-week program at Escuela del Mundo. Surrounded by tropical trees and open green space, our children experienced freedom and discovery like never before.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

1st day at Escuela del Mundo

While the Spanish immersion component of their new school was a bit of an initial challenge for The Reds, they transitioned and acclimated rather quickly, having been exposed to Spanish in a border city the first eight years of their life. Even without those language advantages, we all know how sponge-like children’s brains are, and if given the opportunity, they are able to assimilate and adapt with great ease. I do believe they were the only ‘Mairead’ and ‘Liam’ their classmates had ever met, but their new friends and teachers warmly accepted them and made great efforts at learning and pronouncing their unique, Celtic names.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

Liam making new friends at Escuela del Mundo~2012

From San Pancho to Sayulita

After Escuela del Mundo in San Pancho, they went to Costa Verde International in Sayulita, Nayarit—a neighboring village just 10 minutes down the main jungle road, famous for its bohemian, surfing culture. Moving to another school was indeed another change and adjustment for our children, but one that they embraced wholeheartedly with the amazing, trusting, positive attitudes that they approach most things in life with.

Located a few blocks from the beach, Costa Verde is a bilingual, multi-cultural school that focuses on environmental sustainability and the advancement of ecological responsibility in Mexico…and surfing! In fact, it was part of their PE program!

Mairead and Liam continued to explore, discover and develop their own sense of community and connection within the larger context of their family’s move and immigration to Mexico. Their language skills progressed and improved to where at this point, a year or so into our move, they could flip back and forth between English and Spanish with great ease.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

4th Grade at Costa Verde, Sayulita

From Coastal Mexico to Central Mexico

After a year and a half of coastal jungle living, we were ready to experience another part of Mexico and set our compasses on something completely different. Sight unseen but with lots of research, we chose San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in the interior of the country—the birthplace of Miguel Ignacio Allende, one of the leaders of the insurgent army during Mexico’s War of Independence. San Miguel de Allende was the first municipality to be declared independent from Spanish rule, and as such, life here is steeped in history, culture, national pride and one festivity after another

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

La Parroquía, San Miguel de Allende

 

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

School field trip to Cañada de la Boca!

Our children are developing their mental and physical capacities in a loving, nurturing and intellectually stimulating environment of freedom and growth, with two hands-on parents who are no longer trying to keep their heads above water in the rat race.

A Life Without Limits

They see a life without limits, that anything is possible, that dreams do come true, that carving one’s own way in this diverse world is not just possible, but doable. Our children have witnessed their parents reinvent themselves from teacher and firefighter to Writer/Relocation Consultant and Photovoltaic Designer. They have gone from being monolingual homeschoolers to bilingual life learners of this world, interacting and learning with not only Mexican Nationals but also with many other adventure-driven families from various parts of this globe.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

My son Liam volunteering at a rural school outside of San Miguel de Allende

From San Diego to Mexico, we embrace our re-invented, re-inspired lives south of the border and give thanks daily for Mexico and her people’s warmth, hospitality, graciousness, and generosity…for welcoming and adopting us O’Gradys and allowing us to feel at home in our new land.

May the adventures continue!

~Katie

From My Retired Firefighter Hubby, Frank: Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father’s Perspective

*Please protect yourselves and your loved ones with carbon monoxide detectors for both home and travel safety: Kiddie

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Even after six years as permanent residents of Mexico, there are certain parts of our lives here–some of the cultural and regional norms and facets of day-to-day living–that still cause me to pause, laugh, or even gasp in intrigue and bewilderment. 

Take for example:

1. Three lanes on a two-lane highway

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Navigating oneself on the highways often feels like a game of Russian roulette, as there seems to be a nebulous middle lane, created and bordered by nothing more than the driver’s risk-taking spirit and willingness to tempt fate.

Riding as a passenger usually has me alternating between holding my breath and blurting out various unladylike profanities as an attempt to distract myself and make the ride as tolerable as possible.

You can imagine how much my husband Frank loves this when he’s behind the wheel!

2. Ice Cream, Knife Sharpener or Trash Truck?

I wasn’t too sure at first if the loud, clanging noise was the ice cream vendor, the knife sharpener (he actually blows a whistle) or what, until I asked a nearby shop owner who informed me that it was the trash truck—on its way down a narrow, one-way, cobblestone street with pedestrians on both sides.

Stand back!

3. From Farm to Market

A walk through a tianguisan outdoor market filled with a potpourri of every imaginable regional fruit, vegetable, handmade craft and meat—certainly leaves no doubt as to the origin and same-day-freshness of the carne asada tacos you might find yourself eating at one of the many open-air stalls–likely having been delivered that very morning from a nearby rancho.

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Tuesday Market, San Miguel de Allende

If you are accustomed to purchasing your t-bone steak or chicken bits all cleaned up, trimmed and nicely packaged–or if you are a vegan–prepare yourself for a bit of a surprise while meandering through one of these vibrant and dynamic markets.

It is not uncommon to see an entire cow or pig head sitting on the corner of a butcher’s stand, along with various other parts of the animal that in the States are normally discarded and not necessarily considered edible, let alone desirable to look at on full display. 

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Cabeza (Cow Head) Tacos

 

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Refrigeration? Arrive early!

When I took my Mom through the mercado during one of her visits with us, she was quite startled to come face-to-face with a large cow’s head, eyeballs and all, sans the skin. I suppose if one were playing with the idea of veganism, a walk through a tianguis just might seal the deal. For carnivores, it is an important reminder to support farmers who are raising their animals in the most ethical conditions possible.

4. Consume Today or Let Ripen

It’s the small things in life…

Many thanks to the supermarkets for separating their avocados into consumo para hoy (consume today) and a para madurar (let ripen) piles.  Also, when going into a Mom & Pop’s frutería, you might have to ask for the avocados as they are usually behind the counter, hidden away and protected from public fondling.

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Consume Today/Let Ripen

5. Round and Round The Glorieta We Go

Glorietas…those perplexing roundabout traffic circles that serve as an intersection for oncoming vehicles from all four different directions, often converging at the same time. If you are not careful, alert and prepared as you enter this whirlpool of automobiles, you just might find yourself getting stuck, going around and around, like on a spin toy at a child’s playground, feverishly trying to calculate the right moment to jump off and get out!

I have learned that I must enter the glorietas with confidence, ready to kick ass and take on the fast and furious obstacle-like course of oncoming cars, trucks and motorcycles. I do find myself holding my breath until I have successfully exited the glorieta and am, hopefully, headed in the right direction! 

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Round and Round

6. The Mysteries of A Left-Turn Signal

It is not safe to assume that a blinking left turn signal means that a left turn is about to be executed by the driver in front. Quite the contrary, it often means “go ahead, it is safe to pass me now—on the left”.

However, don’t assume that either, for a pass on the left, when in fact a left turn is in the making can be a risky assumption. Additionally, in Mexico, it is common road etiquette to pull to the right-hand side, before making a left turn.

Are you following all of this?

Keep in mind too, while you are mentally and tactically navigating the road conditions, that there are often burros, cows, horses and dogs on the shoulders that one must avoid for both their safety and yours.

Similar to the dynamics of a glorieta, stay alert, aware of your surroundings and able to respond quickly and safely!

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Decisions

7. Metric, Who?

Algebra and metric conversions, admittedly, are not my strong suit. Fahrenheit to celsius, inches to cm, kilos instead of pounds…it’s enough to make a girl dizzy!

Upon my first few trips to the local butchers, I held my breath, wide-eyed, waiting to see what the two kilos of salchicha that I had just ordered would amount to. Fortunate for me, my family loves Mexican sausages and over four pounds of them could easily fit into our fridge and freezer!

Time to get to work and study this helpful chart!

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Photo Credit: K5 Learning Blog

8. Translate with Caution

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Jerck Beef

9. Where There’s a Will…

Determined, resourceful, ingenious, skillful are all adjectives I would freely use to describe the Mexican people. Whether it is reusing, reconfiguring and repurposing or coming up with the most interesting ways to assign function and form to something that might otherwise be thrown out or thought impossible, the Mexican ingenuity truly embodies the “where there’s a will, there’s a way” expression.

During one of my morning walks around Parque Benito Juarez, I saw this woman in the photo below balancing what appeared to be a very heavy load on her head, navigating her way down the slippery cobblestone streets in flip flops! Impressive indeed!

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Determination & Will

10. Is That Side Mirror Really Necessary?

To avoid collisions and keep your side mirror intact as part of your car, pull it in on narrow, cobblestone streets. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did if you deem it a necessary part of your car.

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

11. Hard-Working Burros

In many parts of México, burros are used for field work, transportation and delivery. It is not uncommon to be out and about and come across a pair of them hard at work.

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Knock-Knock, Special Delivery!

12. A Different Kind of Saint

One morning after dropping our twins off at school, Frank stopped by the tortillería to pick up a medio kilo of flour tortillas. Next door was a small furniture store that had this little treasure on display out in front:

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Art Is in The Eye of The Beholder

I’m sure you can use your imagination to to guess what this darling little saint statue looked like from behind. I’m thinking the creator of this treasure had a laugh or two.

13. Pig on A Leash

This was a first.

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

As seen in El Jardín

14. Trampoline on Third Floor Terraza

Yes, and yikes! No playdates for my kids at this house!

"Only in Mexico"...Things That Make Me Go Hmmm

Life Without Safety Nets

While not an exhaustive list, these are some of the more noteworthy sightings and experiences I have had in these past 6 years. I am grateful that I get to live in a country that keeps my senses alive and teaches me to take things in stride. 

Have you ever experienced or witnessed something in Mexico that has made you wonder, pause, or question in fascination, confusion, amusement, and gratitude?  

I would love to hear about it in the comments section below!

Saludos,

~Katie

Last but not least, today’s Spanish Lesson:

The Spanish Teacher in me just can’t help herself! You will notice that many of the words throughout this article are cognates–words that sound alike or are possibly spelled exactly alike as their English counterpart. Another reason that Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn—truly!

1. Carretera: highway

2. Tianguis: open-air market

3. Centro: center

4. Mercado: market

5. Consumo para hoy: consume today

6. Para Madurar: need to ripen

7. Frutería: fruit shop

8. Glorieta: roundabout

9. Salchicha: sausage

10. Tortillería: tortilla shop

11. Medio: half

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All photos taken by Katie M. O’Grady

© Katie M. O’Grady @ Los O’Gradys in Mexico, 2012-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photos and links may be used, provided that permission is granted and full and clear credit is given to Katie M. O’Grady @ Los O’Gradys in Mexico with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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Carbon Monoxide: The Silent, Odorless, Tasteless Killer

While we consider ourselves fairly seasoned travelers, we never once thought that packing a carbon monoxide detector would be an essential and life-saving item in our travel preparedness until tragedy struck and my retired firefighter husband was poisoned by carbon monoxide at a “boutique hotel” in Lake Chapala, Mexico.

After dropping our twins off at their much-anticipated 6th grade camp in a rural community outside of Guadalajara, Frank and I set out to enjoy our weekend together, knowing that our children would be in good hands in the company of their classmates and camp counselors.

But instead of enjoying our weekend sightseeing and relaxing together, we spent it fighting for Frank’s life at the Red Cross in Lake Chapala and an Emergency Room and Hyperbaric Chamber Facility in Guadalajara.

Carbon Monoxide~The Silent Killer!

How could such a thing happen

Do mistakes and bad things just happen? Absolutely.

So does gross negligence.

After several hours of working next to the open window in the Barroca Room at Hotel Villa San Francisco, my husband Frank, upon standing up, was overcome by severe visual disturbances, full-body weakness, confusion, headache, difficulty speaking, pallidness and vomiting.

Carbon Monoxide~The Silent Killer!

Fighting for His Life in Guadalajara Emergency Room

Two Carbon Monoxide Leaks Found in Hot Water Heater

Confirmation by the hotel staff that in fact two carbon monoxide leaks had been found in the hot water heater, together with all of Frank’s symptoms, diagnostics and treatment, verified that it was carbon monoxide poisoning that had my husband fighting for his life—something that the simple installation of a CO detector would have prevented, not to mention the proper checks and maintenance of the hot water heater by the hotel management and owners themselves.

Carbon Monoxide: The Silent, Odorless, Tasteless Killer

Hospital Diagnosis of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Only removal from the carbon monoxide and immediate medical intervention with continuous high-saturation oxygen therapy would save Frank’s life. Mega prayers and support from family and friends played their huge part as well. 

Carbon Monoxide: The Silent, Odorless, Tasteless Killer

Hyperbaric Chamber~One of Two 80-Minute Treatments

As a result of this terrifying, near-death experience, we now ALWAYS travel with carbon monoxide detectors in addition to having them in our home in each of the bedrooms and next to any gas appliances.

We can’t emphasize enough the importance for others to also equip themselves with carbon monoxide detectors for both home and travel safety.

Please, protect yourself and your loved ones with a CO alarm. Or several, depending on the size of your home and travel accommodations.

Something so simple and so affordable can save your and your loved one’s lives in the event of a carbon monoxide leak. 

*Carbon monoxide is silent, odorless and tasteless*

Carbon Monoxide: The Silent, Odorless, Tasteless Killer

CO Detectors Save Lives

I hope this information saves just one life. Please share it with your loved ones.

~Katie O’Grady

New York Couple Dies of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The Sharp Family

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Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father's Perspective

Guest Post by The One & Only Frank O’Grady–Retired Firefighter, Solar Entrepreneur, My Right-Hand Man, Husband, Best Friend, Partner-in-Adventure, Father to Our Children and Love of My Life…

Authored by Frank O’Grady

Our immigration to Mexico was my dream, not my children’s.

We moved here when they were eight years old and, in my eyes, still babies in so many ways. They turn 15 this Summer.

Their faith in us was paramount to us having a successful move to Mexico—a part of Mexico where we were not going to be able to bounce back easily over the border to whatever perceived comfort zone that might have existed. 

My dream for Liam, Mairead and Katie was for a life that was not completely centered on commercialism and struggling to keep our heads above watera life without the incessant chasing and worrying about dollars in a world gone mad with the need to buy and consume just a little bit more than can be reasonably earned–a life with involved parents, instead of home just being a place everyone gathered at night after a day or days at work.

I knew there was a different and a better way and like with many of my other dreams I laid plenty of groundwork.

We did not just pick up and leave a life in the USA on some fantastical mid-life crisis.

Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father's Perspective

Retirement at 50?!

Baja California, Our First Mexico Home

We prepared our children in a multitude of ways with many experiences in and about Mexico well before we even broached the subject of moving here.

Katie was only a few months pregnant and Mairead and Liam were fishing with us on the Sea of Cortez out of a tiny aluminum boat. 

We journeyed down the Baja Peninsula, stopping at the same restaurants, rest areas and hotels…our twins hugged and held and squeezed and cheeks pinched by every female worker in these stops.

A love for Mexico was born in our twins from a very early age…

Moving to Mexico With Children, A Father's Perspective

Little twin ducklings following their Mama down to the water’s edge~Camp Gecko, Bahia de Los Angeles

As they became more aware of the differences in their country of birth and the country we vacationed in, they eagerly looked forward to our journeys to a place where we all felt very much at home, a place where we had the time to be together as a family instead of constantly trying to meet an agenda or drive across a city of two million to get somewhere.

Moving to Mexico with Children~A Father's Perspective

Jumping for Joy in The Middle of Baja Desert!

It felt as if every time that we went to Mexico that we were actually going home.

At a certain point in our careers, Katie and I both realized that continuing to support our lifestyle in Southern California was going to essentially condemn us to many decades of work so that someday, when we were close to 80, we might have a paid off house that we hadn’t had much time to enjoy because we were constantly working to pay for it.

When Liam and Mairead were around seven we really started talking to and involving them in our plans to move to Mexico. The existing paradigm wasn’t working for us emotionally, physically or mentally…we knew there was a better way and we were determined and committed to create it together, as a couple and as a family.

We viewed this move through our children’s eyes…how they would experience it as 8-year-olds, as 10-year-olds, as teenagers. We knew that we had an age window to move successfully with them and to do it as a team.

We Retired & Made The Move

I retired from firefighting at 50, Katie from teaching at 44 and with our 8-year-old twins and 5-year-old chocolate lab, we immigrated to Mexico in 2012.

Our children speak, think and navigate life in two languages and through the lens of two cultures. 

They know that their lives are not just their parent’s dreams and creations, but also their own evolving adventure and story.

They know and see that living a life with intent and purpose is a choice.

 

Saludos,

~Frank

For more on our family’s move to Mexico: 

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother’s Perspective

 

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We became an Expat Family, as Seen on Elephant Journal

Wow…

I check in with this every so often…74.1k views and 12.8k shares later, our story seems to continue to make its rounds.

Thank you Elephant Journal for the feature. 

Originally written in April of 2015…

*****************************************************************************************************

After my last post “The Story of Us & How Mexico Has Changed Our Destiny Forever”, I spent the next several weeks very focused on creating, editing and finishing my article for Elephant Journal

Writing for a specific audience and platform outside of the known landscape of my blog is very different. Honestly, it was very challenging to stay within a defined word count and needing to “trim it down” and “hone in on my message”.

You see, an individual piece within the context of my blog has a definite continuity and thread tying one story to another…a certain cohesive chronology and relationship between the pieces. Standing alone, without the backdrop of my blog as a whole to support, compliment and fill in any intentional or incidental gaps…well, it’s just very different.

And my pictures tell their own story. Together with the written word, they lend enhanced imagery to the written word. Knowing that not all of the photos that I submitted with the piece would be published made getting the words down just right even more challenging.

Lastly, having a piece accepted for publication by Elephant Journal also means granting them editorial rights…a little unnerving to think of having my voice and style tweaked a bit, but it was a chance I was willing to take. I was not about to miss this opportunity to be published on such a solid, well-known platform as Elephant Journal, what with a readership of over 17 million a month!

After much thought, reflection, editing, taking a break and then coming back to do it all over again, I at last finished my article and pushed send when we were vacationing in the Yucatan during Semana Santa. The next day I heard back from the editor that they were indeed accepting it for publication! Woohooo! A Big Happy Dance broke out amongst The O’Gradys! 

Having my work featured on Elephant Journal was a game changer. To date, there have been over 74,000 views of my article “We became an Expat Family“. Not bad for a first-timer. The increased exposure has been great, creating a broadened connection with other like-minded wanderlust souls looking for (or already living) a life outside of the box and on their own terms in Mexico or elsewhere in this big, diverse world.

The majority of feedback from readers has been positive, encouraging, kind, supportive. 

Surprising (but to be expected, I suppose) was the small cast of negative nellies that felt compelled to stand in judgment of– with their chosen interpretation (or misinterpretation as it may be)– of somebody else’s life. You can see for yourself on the long comment thread below the EJ article itself. This was eye-opening and skin thickening, for sure, however, I learned long ago that “you spot what you got”. People will interpret, judge, make assumptions or conclusions based on their own personal circumstances, dispositions, life-outlooks, and experiences.

Ultimately, all that really matters is living a life of integrity and honesty, standing in truth, and being proud to do so.

I am. We are.

Saludos de Los O’Gradys in Mexico.

To see the full article on Elephant Journal, please click here: We became an Expat Family

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