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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. 

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, and 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.

Immigrating to Mexico with Children~A Mother's Perspective

Arrival in LA Bay and ready for some tacos!

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

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

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

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.

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. They 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

Liam volunteering at Lindero de la Petaca School in Guanajuato

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

For more: 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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Keep Calm & Speak Spanish! 5 Tips from a Master Teacher!
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Many of our friends, family members, and followers have on more than one occasion asked me for some insider’s tips for learning Spanish. Perhaps seeing me rattle off in near-perfect Spanish carries with it a certain shock value–which is a good thing–as it presents an opportunity to gently remind people that a book cannot be judged by its cover!

After years of growing up in the border city of San Diego/Tijuana, earning my degree in Spanish with a Masters in Cross-Cultural Education & Curriculum Development, and having taught K-12 Spanish for over a decade, I do indeed have a certain advantage and insight into language acquisition tips. 

While waving a magic wand might be the desired prescription for developing a working command of written and spoken Spanish, unfortunately for most, it doesn’t come that easy and hence a little bit of focused studies and uninhibited practice is in order.

Wherever you are on the learning continuum, I hope the following five tips are helpful:

Keep Calm & Speak Spanish! 5 Tips from a Master Teacher!

1. Examine Your Motivations

What are your reasons for wanting to learn Spanish?

Are they external—i.e. your Mother wants you to, you need a passing grade in an elective, you feel the regret of an unmet goal?

Or do you have an internal desire to learn, to connect with the people and to understand the culture? Are your motivations born from a personal hunger for intellectual stimulation, global connection, and cultural awareness? 

If you are trying to learn Spanish because you “have to” or you “should”, then you likely are not feeling the necessary motivation, commitment, nor even desire.

If your reasons, however, come from a true desire to communicate and connect with a world outside your own immediate one, then you are at a great advantage and you will not only learn the language but also enjoy doing so! 

2. Learn Like a Child

Keep Calm & Speak Spanish! 5 Tips from a Master Teacher!

Learning Language through Dance!

Pimsleur Language Programs

Pimsleur Language Programs

Music (including nursery rhymes), cartoons, movies with and without subtitles, talk radio, translating billboards and other print media all are engaging and very effective ways to supplement your language learning. Go to the library and check out children’s books, rent movies in Spanish, tune your car radio to a Spanish-speaking channel, listen to Spanish CD’s on your commute to work…all of these learning modalities add up to the larger picture of your desired fluency.

Learn like a child, take it all in, be curious and observant, and most of all, be patient with yourself. Seek out opportunities to practice Spanish and immerse yourself in real-life learning opportunities.

Learning in isolation only—behind a computer screen, nose in a book—-will likely not give you an adequate return on your investment. Balance and variety is the key to engaging all parts of your brain. Get out there and practice, speak, listen and engage with other Spanish speakers. Even if your pronunciation or syntax is not perfect, native speakers will likely feel honored that you are making the effort to communicate with them in their mother tongue. 

 3. Put In The Time, Do The Work

Yes, learning Spanish will require some work, studying, practice, repetition, commitment, consistency, and stick-to-itiveness. Find what works for you.

Do you prefer one-on-one instruction, small or large group classes, interactive computer programs, listening CD’sflashcards, textbooks…or a combination of some or all? 

Identify what your learning style is and capitalize on it. If you prefer to spend minimal time in grammar books, then get out there and start listening to and speaking with people. If you feel more confident with some technical/grammar knowledge first, then obtain that foundational knowledge and then put it to real-life conversational practice. 

Whatever way(s) you learn best, identify it, put in the time and do the work. I promise you, it will be worth it. 

4. Live, Work, Spend an Extended Amount of Time in a Spanish-Speaking Country

This is a given and why immersion programs work so well. Being in a country where Spanish is the native tongue is hands down the number one way to learn. Before I moved to Spain my junior year of college, I was very conversant in Spanish, but it was really only upon being forced to speak the language day in and day out—at the laundromat, at the post office, buying groceries, living a life in Spanish—-that all of the dots connected and before I knew it, I began to dream in Spanish!

Dreaming in the language is a tell-tale sign that your brain is making the connections and crossing over from emerging learner to more fluency. (Arguing is too!)

5. Fall in love

…with a person, the culture, the music, the sights, the sounds, the history, the vibrancy, the idiosyncrasies of the ever dynamic Spanish-speaking culture–whether it be in the Caribbean, Central or South America, Mexico, Spain or Morocco. If your fire and desire for language acquisition and cultural understanding come from within, the learning will occur.

Keep Calm & Speak Spanish! 5 Tips from a Master Teacher!

Proud Teacher of The Year @ Mt. Everest Academy

Language is primal, organic, a birthright, essential and fundamental to the human experience. It provides a platform through which we can connect, understand, love, play, and adventure.

Multilingualism is a vehicle through which doors of opportunity are opened and connections are made. Learning how to communicate and express yourself in another language is a skill you will never regret and one that can only add value to your life.

If you have any questions or comments about this post and your experience (frustrations, challenges, success) with learning Spanish, feel free to share them in the comments section below and I will get back to you muy pronto!

I wish you the best of luck on your Spanish learning journey!

Cheers y Saludos,

~Katie

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Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father's Perspective
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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. 

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.

Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father's Perspective

Retirement at 50?!

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

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.

Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father's Perspective

Redheaded Twins in Mexico Make for Fun Rest 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 ducklings following Katie 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!

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

Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father's Perspective

Driving lessons on the Baja Peninsula!

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.

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.

Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father's Perspective

San Pancho, Nayarit *photo by Shannon Hughes*

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

For more on our family’s move to Mexico: 

Moving to Mexico~ A Wife & Mom’s Perspective

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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 husband nearly lost his life to CO poisoning at a “boutique hotel” in Central 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 counselors.

But instead of enjoying a romantic couples-only weekend, we spent it at the Red Cross, an ER and a Hyperbaric Chamber Facility fighting for Frank’s life.

How could such a thing happen? 

Do mistakes and bad things just happen? Absolutely.

But in this case, the hotel management jerry-rigged a malfunctioning water heater to the room we were bumped to due to overbooking on a holiday weekend.

After several hours of working next to the open window—not knowing that just on the other side of it was a yellow-flamed carbon monoxide-leaking heater—my husband was overcome by severe visual disturbances, weakness, confusion, headache, difficulty speaking and vomiting.

Retired Firefighter Fighting for His Life

Retired Firefighter Fighting for His Life

Confirmation by the hotel staff that two carbon monoxide leaks had been found in this hot water heater, together with all of Frank’s symptoms, clearly pointed to CO poisoning.

All medical diagnosis and treatment further confirmed that it was indeed carbon monoxide poisoning that the simple installation of an affordable CO detector would have prevented.

Hospital Diagnosis of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Hospital Diagnosis of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Removal from the source of the CO, immediate medical intervention and continuous high-saturation oxygen therapy saved Frank’s life. Prayers, support and good thoughts from family, friends and followers tremendously helped as well. Thank you

Hyperbaric Chamber~One of Two 80-Minute Treatments

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. 

We can’t emphasize enough the importance for others to do so too.

Protect yourself both at home and on the road with the simple installation and packing of a CO alarm.

Something so easy and affordable to acquire and install can save your and your family’s lives in the event of a carbon monoxide leak. 

*Carbon monoxide is silent, odorless and tasteless*

CO Detectors Save Lives

CO Detectors Save Lives

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

~Katie O’Grady

 

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It was our first big summer storm since our return to the jungle from San Miguel de Allende. The lightning came cracking down over our house like an arrow landing its bullseye, resulting in my jumping about three feet in the air and one of our rooftop AC compressors catching on fire! 

Fortunately for me, I share a home with a fireman and knew that our family (and my nerves) were in good hands. The tropical downpour helped to diffuse the situation as well.

Thanks to the ingenuity, reuse and repurpose mentality of the Mexican culture, the wires were changed out and the unit spared! Hard to believe, I know…fire and all. 

The Roof is on Fire! 7 House Maintenance Tips for Living in Mexico

Jungle Summer Rain Storms are Powerful!

Jungle storms can be unforgiving, powerful, messy and destructive. They are equally exciting, cleansing and replenishing—popping out dense, lush, green canopies and a multitude of ecosystems that thrive inside of them—reminding you of the absolute grandeur and magnificence of Mother Nature.

The rainstorms also provide an opportunity to identify where exactly more silicone is needed, such as 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 after back surgery!) and made us delay not in tending to this issue ASAP.

The Roof is on Fire! 7 House Maintenance Tips for Living in Mexico

Keep a supply of silicone on hand!

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 here. Yes, there are prices to pay for living in paradise folks!

The following are 7 tips as to how you can maximize your enjoyment (and minimize your frustrations) in both coastal and central Mexico, based purely on our experiences these past 5 years of our immigrated lives!

1. High-Quality Roof Sealant

Ensuring that the roof of your home has been properly sealed and therefore protected against leaks and moisture intrusion should be a top priority. We learned the necessity of 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 duct tape alone would not remedy!

Use a quality product that has not been watered down. Hire a reputable company to assess the roof’s condition and if needed, to powerwash it prior to putting on a new coat of sealant.

The Roof is on Fire! 7 House Maintenance Tips for Living in Mexico

What a difference a powerwash can make! The Before and After in Progress!

There are various types of impermeabilizantes (sealants)  Spending a bit more to ensure a quality result is well worth it. We went with an eco-friendly, waterproof one believing it best to have maximum protection considering the amount of rain we receive here on the coast of Nayarit. 

2. Air Conditioners

Have all AC’s serviced. The filters should be cleaned of mold/dust/debris and the electrical panels checked for unwanted critters that can wreak havoc. Apparently wires are a delicacy to geckos—ridding your AC’s of them is far easier than having to replace the units.

3. Mosquiteros

Screens on all doors and windows are not a luxury but an absolute necessity lest you want to share your home with mosquitos, spiders, geckos, scorpions, iguanas and stray animals. Even with window and door screens, these over the bed mosquito nets come in handy and allow for sleep that is not interrupted by buzzing in your ear!

The Roof is on Fire! 7 House Maintenance Tips for Living in Mexico

Mosquito-Free Sleeping

4. Bathroom Drain Covers

Just think golf ball-sized cockroaches and sewer smells. Trust me, you’ll want to use these

5. Ventilation

Jungle, hot, humid….ventilate your home as much as possible lest you want to find fur growing on 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. 

The Roof is on Fire! 7 House Maintenance Tips for Living in Mexico

Just Say No to Mold on Your Clothes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Check Outlets for Proper Wiring

Check all outlets with a polarity tester or hire a qualified electrician to do so.

The Roof is on Fire! 7 House Maintenance Tips for Living in Mexico

To prevent the photo on the left, invest in the photo on the right!

7. Carbon Monoxide Detectors

If you’ve been following us for any time (or at least for the past year), you know why we recommend these for both home and travel safety.

The Roof is on Fire! 7 House Maintenance Tips for Living in Mexico

For Home & Travel Safety

These are our Top 7 Tips to consider whether you are renting or purchasing a home in Mexico.

Do you have any that you could add? 

Feel free to share them in the comments section below. 

Saludos,

~Katie O’Grady

Reader Tips:

Arturo: For the summer months it is highly recommended to put your clothes in airtight bags or 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… 

For More Reader Tips, please see in comments section below.

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