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Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

 ⇑This is definitely not normal–or at least not my kind of normal. 

I can remember being stuck in that kind of mind-numbing traffic in our former Southern California lives–anxiously and impatiently tapping my fingers on the steering wheel trying to get from point A to B, 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.  

Breathing in toxic exhaust fumes and missing out on more meaningful engagement in life–on hold in hours of bottleneck traffic–was not how my husband and I wanted to spend our precious, once-in-a-lifetime lives together with our children.

Being married to a firefighter who witnessed up close the extreme fragility of life was without a doubt a significant contributing factor to our decision to recreate our lives anew in Mexico–a land that embraces community, connection, conversation and a quality of life having nothing to do with the numbers in your bank account. 

After several years of research, planning and downsizing, on November 30th of 2012, our eight-year-old twins and I boarded a one-way flight to Puerto Vallarta while Frank and our 90-pound chocolate lab, Seamus, made the 4-day trip down South by car.

We said adiós to the frenetic paradigm of our north of the border lives. No more disconnection, traffic rush, hurry scurry, worry flurry…no more concrete jungle and burning candles on both ends.

Moving to Mexico with Kids

Since moving to Mexico 10 years ago, we have gone from chaotic 5-lane freeway madness to driving on  coconut-tree lined roads and 16th-century cobblestone streets where pedestrian safety and right of way is a real thing. We have traded in mind-numbing, lost hours in the car to purposeful engagement in soul-enriching, meaningful activities of our choice.

Time is precious. Spend it well.

Daughter Horseback riding in San Pancho

Baja California, Our First Mexico Home

Our twins were seasoned little travelers prior to our move to mainland Mexico, 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 my children’s hearts as a place of fun, discovery and family connection. 

Departure Day

Aside from the inevitable emotion of parting ways with our loved ones, the move itself and the preparations leading up to our departure from San Diego were relatively easy and something we were so ready for

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

We made the move when Liam and Mairead were eight years old, during the middle of their third-grade year. Patience, planning and having the right legal Visa liaison at our side paid off and within three months of our arrival, we became Permanent Residents of Mexico. We arrived in San Pancho, Nayarit on a Friday, and that following Monday our previously homeschooled twins began their first ever five-day-a-week program at the former Escuela del Mundo. Surrounded by tropical trees and open green space, they experienced freedom and discovery like never before.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

While the Spanish immersion of their new school was a bit of an initial challenge for The Reds, they acclimated rather quickly, having been exposed to Spanish in a border city and by their Spanish-Teacher Mama for the first eight years of their life in San Diego. Even without that advantage, children’s sponge-like brains, when given the opportunity, are able to assimilate and adapt with great ease.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

I do believe they were the only Mairead and Liam their classmates had ever met, and their new friends and teachers warmly accepted them and made great efforts at learning and pronouncing their unique, Celtic names.

Schooling, From San Pancho to Sayulita

From Escuela del Mundo, Mairead and Liam transferred to Costa Verde International in Sayulita, Nayarit—a neighboring village just 10 minutes down the jungle road, famous for its bohemian, surf culture. Moving to another school was indeed another change and adjustment for our children, but one that they embraced wholeheartedly with the trusting, positive attitudes that they approach life with.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

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…and surfing! In fact, surfing was part of their PE program!

Now in the 4th grade, Mairead and Liam continued to explore, discover and develop their own sense of community and connection within the larger context of our family’s move to Mexico. Their language skills progressed and improved to where at this point, a year or so into our relocation, they could easily flip back and forth between English and Spanish.

From Coastal Mexico to Central Mexico

After a year and a half of living in San Pancho, 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 moved to San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in the interior of the country.

San Miguel de Allende was the first municipality to be declared independent from Spanish rule and life here is steeped in history, culture, national pride with one festivity after another

Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective

A Life Without Limits

Our children see a life without limits, that anything is possible, that dreams do come true and that carving one’s way in this diverse world is achievable. They have witnessed their parents reinvent themselves from Firefighter and Teacher to Solar Designer and Freelance Writer/Relocation Specialist. They have gone from being monolingual homeschoolers to bilingual life learners.

Moving to Mexico with Children

If one of my jobs as a Mother is to facilitate and nurture the emotional well-being and development of my children, then moving to Mexico with our kids has been one great step towards that endeavor.

We O’Gradys embrace our re-invented, re-inspired lives south of the border and give daily thanks for Mexico’s warmth, hospitality, graciousness, and generosity…for welcoming, adopting and inviting us to feel truly at home. Moving to Mexico has been an undeniable adventure that continues to shape the trajectory of our individual and collective lives. 


Moving to Mexico With Kids, A Father’s Perspective

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Moving to Mexico: Our Top Tips

It was our first big Summer storm since our return to the Pacific coast that clearly reminded us of the importance of proper house maintenance (and disaster prevention) in Mexico–or any country for that matter! While many hurricane warnings do get downgraded to tropical storms, it is still best to do some trouble-shooting and storm preparation prior to the grandeur and power of Mother Nature making her appearance. 

1. High-Quality Roof Sealant

Ensuring that the roof of your home has been properly inspected, sealed and protected against leaks and moisture intrusion should be a top priority. We learned this the hard way when our San Pancho rental grew large circular mold spores from the outside in after our first rainy season there. A disgusting and unsafe “inconvenience”, to say the least, and one that a layer of paint would not remedy! Needless to say, the roof had never been sealed. A slight oversight of the owners and as newcomers, a question we never thought to ask. Live and learn, in this case, the hard way.

House Maintenance in Mexico 101

Hire a reputable company to assess the roof’s condition and if needed, power wash it prior to putting on a quality sealant that has not been watered down. If you are renting, ideally your landlord has taken care of this very important detail, but it also wouldn’t hurt to have it assessed on your time and dime prior to the Summer rainy months.

There are various types of impermeabilizantes (sealants) available. Spending a bit more to ensure a quality result is well worth it. We went with this one, considering the amount of rain we receive here on the coast of Nayarit. 

2. Check That All AC Compressors are Optimally Functioning 

Speaking of roof maintenance, it is not such a bad thing to have the AC compressors (that are likely on the roof) checked for proper maintenance, wiring, etc. It is best to not assume that these important details have been tended to prior to your occupancy of the home. Taking matters into your own hands is not overkill. Trust me. 

In our case, on one of our first nights in our beach rental, the powerful lightning came cracking down like an arrow landing a bullseye, resulting in one of our rooftop AC compressors catching on fire! 

House Maintenance in Mexico 101

Fortunately I am married to a firefighter and knew that our family (and my nerves) were in good hands. The downpour extinguished the fire and the AC wires were changed out and the unit spared! 

Jungle and central highland storms can be powerful, messy and destructive. They are equally exciting and regenerative–popping out the dense, lush, canopies of green and the multitude of ecosystems that thrive inside of them–reminding one of the absolute magnificence of Mother Nature.

3. Silicone is Your Best Friend

Rainstorms also provide an opportunity to identify where exactly more silicone is needed, like around the collection of leaking windows at the base of a 20-foot high boveda ceiling! Tall ladder anyone? Those first few falls on our slick marble floors were not so fun (especially while still recovering from spinal surgery!) and made us delay not in tending to this issue ASAP.

The jungle wasted no time in welcoming us back and reminding us of the fortitude, sense of humor and determination one needs to both survive and thrive in this thing called Life. Yes, there is a price to pay for living in paradise, folks!

4. Have All Air Conditioners Serviced

Have all AC’s serviced at least once every six months, if not more frequently. The filters should be cleaned of mold/dust/debris and the electrical panels checked for any unwanted critters that can wreak havoc. Apparently electrical wires are a delicacy to geckos–ridding your AC’s of them is far easier than having to replace the entire unit.

5. Over-The-Bed Mosquito Nets

Screens on all doors and windows are not just a luxury but an absolute necessity lest you want to share your home with mosquitos, spiders, geckos, scorpions, iguanas and stray animals. Additionally, these-over-the-bed mosquito nets  are must-haves and will allow for peaceful, uninterrupted sleep ( ie. no annoying buzzing in your ear or waking up to ankles full of bites!)

6. Drain Covers

If you want to prevent golf ball-sized flying cockroaches and sewer smells coming into your living space, you’ll want to get some of these

7. Moisture Absorbing Bags & Room Dehumidifier

Jungle living equals hot and humid for at least 6 months out of the year! Ventilate your home as much as possible to protect your clothes, shoes and other household items. Using these moisture absorbing bags inside closets and other closed spaces helps to absorb excess humidity and to protect your items from musty odors and mold. 

House Maintenance in Mexico 101

Room dehumidifiers work really well and you’ll be amazed when you empty the water collection tank how much moisture they remove!

8. Polarity Tester for Electrical Outlets

Make sure your outlets are grounded and wired correctly with a polarity tester or hire a qualified electrician to do so.

House Maintenance in Mexico 101

9. Carbon Monoxide Detectors

If you’ve been following us for any time, you know why we recommend carbon monoxide detectors for both home and travel safety. We recommend placing one in every bedroom and next to any gas-fueled appliance such as a stove, clothes dryer, hot water heater, fireplace and any freestanding gas heater. Of course we recommend smoke and explosive gas alarms too! All a small investment for peace of mind.

These House Maintenance in Mexico 101 Tips are based upon our own personal experiences from our now eleven years in country. I hope they are useful and help you to maximize your enjoyment and minimize your frustrations!

Do you have any other tips that you would like to add? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments section below. 


~Katie O’Grady

House Maintenance in Mexico 101 Reader’s Tips:

Arturo: For the summer months it is highly recommended to put your clothes in airtight/vacuum sealed bags so that mold doesn’t grow in them especially if you skip town. I highly recommend doing this process with your shoes because if you don’t, the soles will disintegrate completely from the salty air and humidity.

Margaret: Keep all your food in the refrigerator, even if you wouldn’t normally, especially fruit. Clean up your kitchen messes as soon as possible to deter unwanted scavengers and never ever ever let your kids eat in the bed unless you want… ANTS ANTS EVERYWHERE! (and they bite)! Even with screens and drain covers, if you leave food out they will find you.




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*This article contains some affiliate links for products we use. If we haven’t spent our own money on it and loved it, you won’t see an affiliate link for it on Los O’Gradys in Mexico. It doesn’t change the price of your purchase it just helps support our platform. Thank you. 


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My Two Worlds, Mexico & The USA (A Cross Border Life)


I was glancing down at our flight itinerary on our car ride to Tijuana from San Diego, and even without looking up (no, I was not driving), I just knew that we had crossed into Mexico.

Call it a sixth sense or a cellular recognition of the sounds and smells of mi Querido México, but something just joyfully registers in my brain when I know that I am back again on Mexican soil—when I am, home again.

Once at the Tijuana International Airport, the friendly and hard-working maletero (porter) greeted us curbside and put all eight (we had purchased snow clothes for the Colorado portion of this trip) of our suitcases onto his dolly, accompanied us to immigration and then to the Volaris check in. He chatted our children up (intrigued that these blue-eyed redheads are bilingual) and assisted us in getting all of our luggage handed off to the ticket agent. We tipped him generously (I believe in taking care of people that take care of me and my family), exchanged adióses and made our way through security and to our gate. 

My Two Worlds, Mexico & The USA (A Cross Border Life)

Once settled and waiting for our flight back to Leon, Guanajuato, I felt this profound sense of relief, comfort and familiarity upon being back in Mexico–to a land, people, culture and language that have been home to us for over three years now.

Growing up a half an hour away from the Tijuana/San Diego border and crossing it back and forth more times than I can count has also left my heart feeling equally—if not more so—at home in Mexico than in the US, especially now at this time in my family’s life with our permanent residency status and our long-term plans to continue to raise our children here.  

With this recent three-week trip to the States (spent in both California and Colorado), I am again reminded, and wonderfully so, of all the things that I love about both countries—my adopted one of Mexico and my birth one of the States.

Things That Stand Out to Me as Being Undeniably Mexican

  • Random, unorganized (often chaotic) flow of traffic–especially on the roundabouts/glorietas
  • The undesignated third lane on a highway
  • Family of four piled atop one motorbike
  • Burros and their door-to-door deliveries 
  • Gas, water and trash trucks with their loud jingles (especially in the mornings!)
  • Mobile fruit & vegetable vendors cruising the neighborhoods
  • Entire carcasses of cows and pigs being delivered to the local butcher
  • Early morning lines at the tamale stands with the flocks of pigeons waiting for their fallen portions
  • Fireworks for any occasion at all (like it is a Wednesday)
  • Mariachi bands, the barking dogs, the crowing roosters, the torrential summer downpours
  • The smells from panaderías, taquerías, tortillerías, sidewalk cleaning products
  • Colorful, fresh produce
  • Cordial comments of “a su servicio” from grocery store clerks and doctors alike
  • Pausing to chat, take in the moment, enjoy conversation and people watching
  • Lots of homeless, street dogs
  • Very few homeless, street humans
  • A 3D Life
My Two Worlds, Mexico & The USA (A Cross Border Life)

It is Fun to Reflect upon My Cross Border Life

These reflections are but just a small sampling of my experiences in and of Mexico that represent to me the kaleidoscope of color, texture and joy of life here!

Some people might find this cacophony of stimulus too much, too overwhelming or so foreign that it is unsettling and not within their comfort zone. I, on the other hand, find myself exhaling and smiling, like I’m putting on a comfortable pair of jeans. 

What are your interesting, positive or funny cross-comparison experiences of Mexico & The US?

Feel free to share in the comments section below. 

P.S. I realize I have not included a list of “things that stand out to me as being undeniably characteristic of the USA” and perhaps I will circle back to do so in more detail at a later date. For now, I will share these two reflections from a recent stateside trip to my hometown in Southern California:

  • Lots of homeless, street humans
  • Very few homeless, street dogs

Do I have more? Indeed, but I need to take some time to process through how I want to share them.




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Carbon Monoxide, A Close Call (How to Protect Yourself)

The other morning I received a concerning message from a client of mine who had just moved to Mexico with her family. With her permission to share our conversation, my hope is to continue to educate others about the silent and deadly dangers of carbon monoxide, and to share some simple and practical tips to protect yourself and your loved ones from this lethal gas.

Being an informed renter or owner cannot be overstated, nor can the extreme importance of protecting yourself and your loved ones with not just one CO detector, but several, as you will read below. 

Client: Hi Katie, I just wanted you to know the CO alarmS saved our lives last night. Grateful for your emphasis on those.

Me: Hi!! OMG, this just gave me chills…my goodness, what happened?

Client: The top of the boiler was not connected at all. We think they installed it wrong and the part that goes on the top to the vent is missing. We don’t know why it would have been thrown away, it’s really strange.

Me: And your hot water heater is inside the house, I take it?

Client: Yes. I have two alarms in the laundry room and the extra one caught it.

Me: It’s so important to have more than one unit, I am going to re-emphasis this in my next article about carbon monoxide awareness and safety.

Client: We were out to eat late and it was going off when we got home.

Me: So one unit did not pick it up?

Client: The boiler is elevated on a shelf and the one sitting on the top of the washer caught it first before the gas fell lower to the one plugged into the wall. The bedroom alarms didn’t go off so I think it caught it right away. So scary though.

Me: Without naming your or you family, my I share this information on my website and social media as yet another Carbon Monoxide Awareness PSA?

Client: Of course.

Me: …and why having the unitS right at the source (in addition to your sleeping spaces) is so very important, otherwise that CO gas would have ultimately traveled to the other living spaces.

Client: I know! We had just asked to have the handyman fix the exhaust because it was all janky before but then he messed it up worse.

Carbon Monoxide, Another Close Call (How to Protect Yourself)

Me: I am breathing through all of this…as you know all too well, the outcome could have been far worse, sorry to point out the obvious. It is clearly a sensitive topic for me and a trauma of sorts at that, with my husband almost having lost his life to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Client: It’s ok. Yes I am aware. Sorry to cause your adrenaline to spike. I just feel grateful for you and wanted you to know that your story made a impact on us.

Me: No, I don’t want you to feel sorry, please, and even questioned whether or not to send that… I am just being totally honest. I am so grateful to know that in my being vocal about what happened, that so many people have been given the knowledge as to how & why to protect themselves with such a simple, tiny and affordable device. Emphasizing the absolute importance of having more than one carbon monoxide alarm in the direct area of the gas appliance cannot be understated. My adrenaline is calmed with the gratitude of knowing that you and your family are okay.

Client: I really appreciate you sharing. My husband did a ton of research yesterday and is teaching the guy who installs the boilers for everyone around here and he’s saying that my husband solved this problem for him. I think we may have just saved a lot of lives, honesty. 

Me: Thank God you brought all of those CO monitorsI am so grateful that you and your family were protected. I am going to write another article…not a fun one to write, but I must.

Client: I think we fixed it.

Carbon Monoxide, A Close Call (How to Protect Yourself)

Me: And that is of course venting outside of your home?

Client: Yes, much more calm and CO free. Thank you Katie!

How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones Against Carbon Monoxide:

  • Invest in as many carbon monoxide alarms as you feel is prudent to protect yourself and your loved ones for both home and travel. The link opens to the alarms that we personally use. Do your own research and buy the ones that you feel are best for you and your family. I am not a carbon monoxide alarm expert, just a gal that wants to warn and inform others based on my own personal experience. 
  • Get a carbon monoxide alarm for each room of your home that contains appliances that burn gas, oil, coal or wood. We personally also like to have (and recommend having) one in each of the occupied bedrooms. Carbon Monoxide, A Close Call (How to Protect Yourself)
  • Follow the manufacture’s guidelines for the CO alarms that you have.
  • Have all gas-producing appliances checked regularly by a qualified, skilled technician and keep them well maintained.
  • Don’t use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.
  • Never use a charcoal grill indoors.
  • Don’t use any gas-powered engines (mowers, weed trimmers, snow blowers, chain saws, small engines, or generators) in an enclosed space.
  • Don’t burn anything in a fireplace that isn’t vented.
  • Don’t use any gasoline-powered engine close to a window, door, or vent.
  • Don’t sleep in any room or space with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.
  • Carbon Monoxide Alarms make great gifts for: Christmas, Birthdays, Anniversaries, graduation, children going off to college, schools, science rooms, college dorms, assisted living facilities, gyms, restaurants, cruise ships, travel, camping…

This list is not exhaustive, but is the best that my personal experience and a cursory google review could come up with. Are there any more tips that you could add? If so, please share them in the Comment’s Section below. It takes a village to look out for each other. 

In peace, safety, health and happiness,

~Katie O’Grady

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