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Immigrating to Mexico with Children, A Mother's Perspective
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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. 

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

Immigrating to Mexico with Children~A Mother’s Perspective

Immigrating to Mexico with Children~A Mother’s Perspective

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 Mr. O’Grady: 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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*We only recommend products and services we’ve spent our own money on and love! This article contains some affiliate links for products we use. If we haven’t spent our own money on it and given it an O’Grady’s thumbs up, we don’t recommend it.

 

 

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A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende
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As a horse-crazy girl growing up in Southern California, I spent my weekends at the barn and my summers at Rawhide Ranch refining my lassoing and barrel racing techniques.

“Pigtailed Cowgirl” was my go-to Halloween costume, complete with a western hat, boots and the biggest belt buckle my jeans could support.

Barbies and dolls never held my interest. Riding, grooming, cleaning stalls and tack did.

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

My Brother & Me, Rawhide Ranch, Blessing of The Horses

Studies, travel, my career, and various other life ambitions took me away from horses until 2014 when I moved to central Mexico with my family.

Thanks to my lucky shamrocks I had the opportunity to participate in the ultimate equine experience of my life–The Blessing of The Horses–an annual central Mexico pilgrimage that convenes at The Parroquía of San Miguel de Allende.

While my emergency spinal surgery was a success and I was not sentenced to a wheelchair for the rest of my earthly existence, little did I know that this ride would be my last.

Heading out atop Guerrero (Warrior), a 17-hand black Friesian, into the desert plains of central Guanajuato, 

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

traversing the trails and sometimes no trails at all, we met up with many other groups of riders from the surrounding communities on our way to El Jardín, the town center of San Miguel de Allende.

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

 

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

 

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

I was so mesmerized by the totality of the experience that I did not notice the low-lying tree branch just inches in front of my head. With no time to duck, it ripped my hat right off and brought it tumbling down to the muddy ground below. Fortunately, it landed to the side of the puddle, and even better than that, the spikey branch spared my face.

Upon rounding the corner of the train tracks, I was greeted by the sight of hundreds of riders that had all joined together, some who had made the trek from bordering cities and states, for the procession up Canal Street into the main plaza.

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

I was one of a very small handful of female riders in a sea of cowboys and my face hurt by the day’s end from all of the ear-to-ear smiling!

I know my Grandpa Joe was smiling down from heaven, seeing his granddaughter out there in Central Mexico, atop this extraordinary, high-stepping gelding into a 16th-century colonial town amidst hundreds of cowboys and spectators, living my life in Spanish, in Mexico!

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

The procession didn’t begin without first a cleansing downpour from the high desert sky, adding another element of surprise and adventure to the ride. Within moments of the first drops, all of the horses did a 180-degree turn to position their hindquarters to the rain and thus shelter their faces as much as possible. Quite a sight amongst so many horses!

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

One of the more senior cowboys performed the honorary task of charging up and down the cobblestone street, shouting“Viva Jesus Cristo, Viva Santo San Martin!”. The parade officially commenced and in groups of two and three, we made our way up to the Jardín, passing by hundreds of waving, smiling spectators to the base of The Parroquía where a full Catholic mass was given to bless the horses and their riders.

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de AllendeEl Centro was filled with flower-adorned arches and papel picado strung from the buildings. Riding through this tunnel of color, celebration and tradition was an honor for this 45-year-old California Cowgirl in Mexico!

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

Arriving at The Parroquía, hats were removed and heads bowed down to receive the blessings from the high priest.

A California Cowgirl Giddies Up: Blessing Of The Horses, San Miguel de Allende

There are experiences in one’s life that have the power to change who you are—to impact you in such a profound way that you see the world around you differently, with more depth and perspective. This was one of those times for me.

Thank you, Guerrero, The Gentle Warrior, for being my grand, majestic, safe companion and guide for the day. Thank you Mario and Rodo for your protection and navigation along the ride…an experience and a day I will never ever forget!

If you would like to read about another central Mexico pilgrimage that I had the fortune to participate in, please click on this link:

Feast of Saint Martin, Guanajuato~Mexico

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Cultural Differences, Mexico vs. The States~ 'No' is Not The Answer
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There are clearly many cultural differences and nuances between the States and Mexico.

Some of them more subtle than others, some that take their time to settle into, and others that set you back on your heels.

The first time Rosa, our house helper extraordinaire came to our home, I offered her a cup of morning coffee. She readily and happily said yes, even though she didn’t drink one sip of it. I  found it in the corner of the kitchen counter at the end of the day—cold, still full, no sign of lips ever having come near it. 

It was safe to surmise that she didn’t care for it or perhaps more accurately that she never really wanted it in the first place, but saying ‘yes’ to the offer, even with no desire of drinking it, is much more the culturally accepted norm here in Mexico and in great contrast to my experience in the States where the default response is, “oh, no thank you”, so as to not inconvenience the hostess or come across as a PIA. (There are exceptions to this of course.)

Not that a simple acceptance of a cup of coffee would deem one an opportunist, but there indeed seems to be a certain discomfort in the US in receiving a simple offer with a simple, “yes, thank you”…a way of graciously acknowledging the friendly gesture.

Here in Mexico,“sí, muchas gracias” is the norm, for to do or say otherwise might be considered rude and certainly not the cultural norm in a society that revolves around community and friendships

If you are offered a cigarette (as my husband has been on multiple occasions) and are not yourself a smoker, graciously accept it with a big smile, stick it behind your ear, and say that you are saving it for a very special occasion. Saying “oh, no thank you, I don’t smoke” and then going on to state all of the hazards of smoking, might deem you an individual with rudimentary social skills.

How about a party…invited to one and don’t think you can go? Instead of saying ‘no’ with a laundry list of all of the reasons why, just graciously accept the invitation and if you aren’t able to make it, send a last-minute message or even nothing at all. This is not seen as rude or inconsiderate, just a culturally accepted norm. Of course if you are only one of two people invited, a gentle decline is in order, but if you are one of many, not making it regardless of your RSVP status is not considered a social crime. 

Cultural Differences, Mexico vs. The States~ 'No' is Not The Answer

Hosting a party with a starting time of 4:00? Don’t be surprised if your guests start rolling in around 6 or 7 o’clock. It’s cultural.

Invited 25 people to the party? Expect the number to at least double! Make room and more food for all of the cousins, aunts, siblings and best friends that will be joining the celebration! And no, they did not need a formal invite—the more the merrier! This must be where the ‘mi casa es su casa’ comes from.

These are but just a few examples of situations where we have had the opportunity to learn firsthand the importance and cultural significance of saying ‘yes’, of being open to the unexpected, of viewing life through a different lens, of expanding our horizons and improving our craft, sense of humor and flexibility as human beings.

We are transplants, expats, immigrants. We love living in a country where conversations and relationships are like a dance versus a race…where life’s moments are more about the experience versus the bottom line and how fast can you get there…where I can say ‘yes’ to the coffee, show up late to the party, and have it all be okay.

¡Viva México!

Other interesting articles on cultural differences between the U.S. and Mexico:

Cultural differences between the U.S. and Mexico in the Business World

Seven Cultural Aspects to Know Before Doing Business in Mexico

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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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