Run, Baby, Run!

Our housekeepers M&M (whom  I love dearly, I have to add) are always a fountain of wisdom when it comes to raising a child. (Some of you might still remember the pregnancy tips I received.) So, dear mothers, this is for you (and of course for everyone else who finds these old wives’ tales entertaining).

If you want your child to walk, there are 2 options which you might find helpful:

  1. Apply some raw egg white to the hollow of their knees. Don’t ask me why this should work. I asked, but apparently it is just some kind of miracle remedy. I have to ask for a good use for the egg yolk, as I would hate to see it go to waste, though. Maybe applying egg yolk to your left ear will make you better at mathematics?
  2. Put your baby on hot sand. He will run in an instance, they assured me. Really? Maybe we should carry all fat people to the beach on a hot day and have them run, too. Weight loss guaranteed.

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Do Royals Fart? And: How little George Alexander Louis brings out my inner feminist.

So we have our new prince in good old England! Yay! Not only should we be happy for the lucky parents, but we should all thank them for providing us with an excellent new small talk topic. A topic my mum and I extensively discussed during one of our last Skype conversations.

I expressed my concerns about the amount of pressure that is weighing on that poor young couple. I mean, if you see pictures, they both look like normal happy parents – only a little prettier and conspicuously well-dressed. Will we ever see lovely Kate with spit on her silk blouse, I wonder? Or tousled hair because little George discovered the joys of hair pulling? Will the little prince burp and fart in public? Or do royals have entirely different bodily functions, I ask myself?

I think it might make for a delightful anecdote if they took the baby to let’s say some glamorous dinner and in the middle of a speech, the little prince noticeably soils his diaper. Or blurts out, “Mommy, who’s that fat guy over there?” Are royals BORN well behaved? Oh, no, they are not, how stupid of me. We all know that e.g. Prince Charles can be quite a naughty boy.

Will the press be searching for dark circles around Kate’s eyes? Will they monitor her post pregnancy weight loss?

Being part of the royal family can’t be fun, I think. That’s why I gave up my dream of becoming a princess when I was…hum…32. But just imagine, for Kate this dream (if it ever was a dream) came true. But then, she is ridiculously pretty, and as we all know, the prettiest girls always get the prince.

In honour of little Prince George Alexander Louis I’ve been reading a lot of fairytales lately, so my daily life has been filled with princes and princesses. I tend to believe though that times have changed. Back in the days, if you choose to believe Hans Christian Andersen and other storytellers, the king came, saw the pretty (mostly weeping) girl, lifted her up on his horse, took her to his castle and made her queen. Bam.

That’s the picture girls (and boys) grow up with. The only thing girls have to be in those stories is pretty. And I do remember that that really influenced my view of the world. Now you should know that I am a terribly vain individual. Which is a good thing, otherwise I would be stuffing my face with pie all day long. Would I be less vain if fairytales had focused more on other qualities in women? Or are girls in general and by nature more vain?

When I wouldn’t stop crying when I was little, my mum would say to me, “You look so ugly when you are crying, you should really stop.” Now of course, I was torn – my vanity told me to stop crying, but at the same time my stubbornness forbade it. I daresay, I still was more stubborn than vain and continued crying, only this time more forcefully. Also, I already suspected that that was only a trick my mum was playing. You know how princesses always get prettier by crying? The tears falling down always create the illusion of diamonds on their silken garments, and if he hadn’t done so before, now is the moment that the prince realizes that that’s the girl he must marry. So yeah, sorry Mum, that move didn’t work on me. (Although she was right. Have you ever seen a boiled bagel before it’s getting baked? Well, that’s what I look like when I am crying, a doedough-eyed, red-nosed mess.) But I still find it interesting that my mum thought it would work. I am sure she never tried that on my brother.

I too tend to compliment little girls on their looks while I’d never do such a thing with a boy. Isn’t that terrible? Shouldn’t our generation be smarter? Do we create little princesses, thus stand in the way of real gender equality? There we have all those great role model women, and I still stupidly remark on how pretty a girl is?

Apparently I, too, am to blame that TV shows like this exist.

 

Well, I promise to better. That’s why now I’ll kiss my little boy and tell him how handsome he is! Although… Nowadays, the emancipated handsome guy might get the princess, and I am just not up for this!

How I ended up in my nightgown under an umbrella in the garden in the middle of the night

Still I am trying to catch up on all the award stuff, but life in Mexico has been rather turbulent these past few months. You know, rainy season is in full swing. Doesn’t sound exciting? Well, it actually can be pretty exciting!

As a matter of fact, I always love those first few grey days that remind me of autumn. Finally, it’s time to cuddle up on the sofa with some hot chocolate and a book, a sleeping baby on my lap, and when I keep the A/C on, I can bamboozle myself into thinking that Christmas were around the corner. Might not sound tempting to you, but I am just not this eternal summer kind of gal. I miss autumn and winter.

So when the first heavy rainfalls started, I felt very content and was determined to get as cosy as possible. Until I opened our front door. You see, our front porch was gone and the water was just about to enter our hallway. That’s when we put our furniture on stilts and put a towel in front of the door to absorb the water – just in case. But so far, no harm done. Apart from the water that came in through the roof, but that’s an in-built feature in many homes here, and we are pretty used to it.

She does look like a princess, doesn't she?

She does look like a princess, doesn’t she?

But we have one family member who never gets used to the water: Our dog Mrs. P. Some of you may recall that I rescued Mrs. P. from the streets. Now you might think that a street dog should be used to rain, right? Well, poor Mrs. P. had been tethered for a long time and couldn’t get out of the rain, so naturally, she dreads getting wet. Or she is a princess. Whatever. Fact is, she won’t step outside as long as she only hears the sound of a light drizzle. And as long as we don’t train her to use our bathroom, this will continue to be an issue.

That very morning, we had an appointment and didn’t want to leave her at home. But there was no way, Mrs. P. would have walked the way to the car! Instead, Mr. R. took off his shoes and his shirt, rolled up his trousers and carried her to the car. (And I did the same with little F., only that I left on my shirt – those paparazzi are everywhere, after all.) What can I say? We didn’t look remotely as sexy as people on TV in these situations.

Late at night, Mrs. P. woke me up for she needed to use the bathroom. Apparently, she had forgotten about the rain, but when I opened the door to the terrace, she looked at me reproachfully and refused to step into the garden. So I grabbed an umbrella and a biscuit (mmhm, chocolate flavour, her favourites!) and went outside myself. I made a mental snapshot of myself: cowering under an umbrella in my nightgown in the middle of the night pretending to sniff at a dog treat in order to get my dog to pee. Well, Mrs. P. did what she was supposed to do, and we went back to bed.

Fancy a swim?

Fancy a swim?

When we got up the next morning, our entire ground level was flooded. I mean, the entire level. So we had to move all the furniture to dry the floor underneath and had to empty all our closets for there was water everywhere. Everything inside the closets was soaked, too. All the boxes and suitcases, and everything inside those boxes and suitcases, so we had to empty those, too… – you get the picture. So Mr. R. and I were running around in our night attires, hair unkempt, trying to keep the damage as minimal as possible. It was one of those glamorous moments that life hands you every now and then. Then we got aware of the state of our garden. Except there was no garden but instead, our house was in the middle of a muddy lake. The pool water had turned black, and there were frogs jumping about. No kidding.

Do you know these situations when you pause and think that this can’t be real? I was sure that I was in the middle of some bizarre dream. Or the Truman Show. Then little F. started crying in his nursery, and I ran upstairs – and whoosh, there I slipped and crashed on the floor for now the water was not only dripping through the ceiling but also came gushing in through the door leading to the rooftop terrace. And our staircase had already turned into a mini waterfall. Oh, the gadgets that come with Mexican construction! Well, my hair was still unkempt, but now my nightgown was soaked, and my ankle was swollen and blue. When I was little, my dad would say in these situations, “This will all be forgotten by the time you get married.” Now I am married, but I guess this will all be forgotten by the time I move into that nice nursing home in Florida.

Once the ground floor was more or less dry, I started mopping up the water upstairs. However, since the rain didn’t stop and little F. had an exceptionally hungry day, it seemed I could never finish this task, and I still wonder how I managed but I did.

The next day, the sun came out again. We removed the furniture stilts, all the big towels in front of all doors, the pool guy came and cleaned the pool and it would have almost seemed like a dream – had it not been for all those frogs still hanging out in the pool.

Some amorous frogs in our pool.

Some amorous frogs in our pool.

So when some concerned friends or family members ask me whether life would get boring, I have to say no. No, it doesn’t. Aren’t I lucky?

Oh Baby…

Some of you who have been following my blog closely might have guessed already: Our little son has arrived! Needless to say that I am absolutely and utterly smitten with him and could spend days and nights just watching him. Which is a good thing given that he likes to be fed for up to 10 hours per day – he is a veeery slow eater.

Please meet our little sunshine!

Please meet our little sunshine!

BUT this is not a baby blog. So worry not, I won’t go on boring you with details. However, inspiration can be drawn from anything and so I came to think about all those old wives’ tales that I’ve been told ever since I got pregnant.

No matter whether you are pregnant or having a cold, some people just looove to give you advice. They can rattle on and on about what you should and shouldn’t do, and I like to make good use of the time by thinking about something important. E.g. about what’s for dinner. Or my neighbour’s new haircut. My father in-law is a walking medical journal, because he started studying medicine at some point, I believe it was in 1874. According to him, I should have refrained from working out or stretching for the entire duration of my pregnancy.

When my due date had passed, I got a lot of advice from various sources, and I was curious to see how those “remedies” might differ from country to country. So in Germany it is apparently common to walk the stairs up and down and have a glass of red wine (if you intend to do this at the same time, remember not to wear anything white) – that will for sure kick the baby out. A lot of people also recommend eating something spicy. Well, we live in a 2-storey house, so I cannot avoid climbing the stairs, and we do live in Mexico, so food is generally on the spicy side. Those things didn’t seem to speed things up, I didn’t try the red wine option, though, maybe that would have done the trick…

cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream and co...

Any excuse is welcome when it comes to enjoying a cup of hot chocolate! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our cleaning ladies came up with some Mexican advice: Wear a belt really tight around your belly, right below your rib cage. This way, the baby will be pushed downwards. Sounds charming, doesn’t it? I am not sure whether some babies have lost their feet in this process. Some also recommend having some hot chocolate with cinnamon. I love hot chocolate and drink it on an almost daily basis – no signs of it inducing labour, I can assure you. Apparently, nobody seems to think that it might be a good idea to just stay put and wait for things to proceed at their own speed.

Now that our mini man is here, our cleaning ladies are worried about his well-being because I refuse to follow their advice: Make him wear a golden bracelet to ward off evil energy and hanging a red ball over his crib. The latter is supposed to enhance his eye sight, since staring at something in a far distance will harm his eyes! Frankly, I cannot wait to hear more pieces of wisdom…

How about you? Would you like to share some bizarre home remedies? Or has any of this ever worked for you?

There’s no time like the holidays for a good complaint!

I wished I could start this post by saying “It’s tourist season at the Mayan Riviera”, but of course, it is always tourist season here. But since I have my parents over at the moment, my daily routine has changed a bit, and sometimes I can’t get away from the hustle and bustle.

I said it before, and I will say it again: Tourists are a weird bunch. And yes, I am aware of the fact that I, too, am a tourist when travelling, and probably I, too, turn into an even weirder individual than usual. If that’s possible. But right now, I am just a keen observer, and tourists never fail to astound me.

Overhearing some conversations between tourists, it seems that many people come here with solely one purpose: Complaining. Luckily, there are many things that make complaining easy:

Such a wonderful opportunity to complain!

Such a wonderful opportunity to complain!

The weather. When people plan a trip to the Cancun area, they expect the weather to be a certain way. Strangely enough, sometimes the weather has its shortcomings. For some it is too cloudy. Or too sunny. For others too windy. Or too hot. Or too cold. Or too humid. Or too grey. Or too bright. Although this might sound petty to you, it turns out to be a serious matter, and many tourists expect a price reduction as compensation.

Some Caribbean lunch - not your regular Taco Del Mar snack, or so I believe.

Some Caribbean lunch – not your regular Taco Del Mar snack.

Food. It is a shocking fact: Food abroad never tastes like home. People can get very grumpy when they don’t find their beloved TexMex grub that they were so much looking forward to. In this part of Mexico, you will find Caribbean cuisine that has nothing in common with what you get at Mexican fast food chains in the US. You can get the most amazing seafood dishes (and meat, too, of course) prepared with lime, cilantro, coconut, chili and mint. Of course, you will also find taquerias, but a lot of tourists (mainly Americans, I have to say) complain that those Mexicans there don’t know a thing about Mexican tacos & Co. Yeah, sounds about right.

Speaking of food: Another popular reason to be grumpy throughout one’s vacation is the ever-present threat of vicious food poisoning! People are highly suspicious of the food they are being served. It is downright impossible that viral infections cross the US-Mexican border. Or that your child’s stomach can’t cope with 5 milk shakes by the pool. If you get sick in Mexico, you can always, always be sure it is food poisoning. It is almost a miracle how we poor expats can survive.

Animals also prove to be a delightful source of irritation. Why the heck does nobody fumigate the jungle? Life would be a lot easier without mosquitos & friends. And if it weren’t for those stupid crocodiles, we could even go for a swim in the lagoons. Wildlife is not only dangerous, but also highly annoying.

Other tourists are also a constant nuisance. No matter how many deckchairs might be provided, you can be sure that there will always be two families haggling over one. If you are lucky, you get to see a fist fight even.

And then there are those darn children. Honestly, who lets all those families out? Families shouldn’t be allowed to take a vacation, after all, their whole life is a vacation. Vacations are for adults only. Full stop. How is one supposed to concentrate on being grumpy when being distracted by children’s horseplay all the time?

"Horseplay That Causes Accidents is Sabot...

“Horseplay That Causes Accidents is Sabotage” – NARA – 514528 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Inspired by a hate mail – amazing but true!

Success. This subject has been on my mind for quite some time.

But let me ask you first: Do you also sometimes get hate mails in response to your posts? While I haven’t received any on my English blog (yet), I did get a couple on my German blog. Which makes me think: Geez, Germans, relax! But no, Germans are not famous for being relaxed, and if I daresay so: apparently also not for having a great sense of humour. OK, OK, I get it, my sense of humour is not for everybody, but that’s life. Very often I read something or see something on TV and think: “Not my cup of tea”, however, I never write those guts hating, fire and brimstone breathing emails. Not only because I am too lazy, but mostly because I just decide to switch off.

Anyway. So this person commented on my post about Mexican driving and how much I loved it. Funny thing, huh? I really meant it this time, but this poor person had probably already been so confused by my sarcasm that he or she burst out in tears. (I somehow believe it was a woman, so let’s stick with “she” to make it easier.)

She claimed that I was scum and didn’t deserve being called a human being, that my writing made her sick and that I should go to hell. Well, nothing special, she probably copied that from some courtroom show – they have some really bad ones in Germany. This whole incident was rather laughable. However, she also got me inspired – and I believe she would really hate that if only she knew!

Teacher

Poor guy. He is too dumb to find a job. (Photo credit: tim ellis)

She told me that I was too stupid to find a job (funny, I wonder whether she tells this to her children’s teachers as well!) and just spent my husband’s money (nothing wrong with that, is there?) and that I had accomplished nothing in my life and was a total failure. Apart from the fact that it is funny how someone apparently gets to know your whole life by reading a little blog, that got me thinking about accomplishments and success. What is success? What does a successful life look like? Is it all about a career? If so, I would have to say, yes, I have been successful, I have reached every single goal I had set for myself, and I enjoyed (almost) every step of it. But then I gave up my career for my husband who seemed the bigger priority all of a sudden. Now I am not pursuing a career anymore, but I have a job that is fun and keeps me mentally challenged. If someone had asked me 5 years ago whether I was successful, I would have said yes and pointed out my professional achievements. If someone today asked me, I wouldn’t think of my professional life anymore. Priorities in life can change, for me they have. Maybe they will change again in the future, who knows. For me, also the definition of success has changed.

Let me give you two examples:

SUCCESS (magazine)

SUCCESS (magazine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A friend of mine studied very, very hard, and it paid off. He landed a very well paid job right after university, he has lived in many different countries, and he clearly is well off. However, he claims to be lonely. Although he is very good looking, smart as a whip, funny and (at times) charming, he always tenses up around women. That’s why we were rather surprised to hear a few years ago that he had got married. After a couple of years, though, his wife left him for he wouldn’t really let her in but kept her (emotionally) at a safe distance. He felt very sad and helpless after the divorce, and has been single since for he can’t find a woman who is right for him. Now, does he lead a successful life because he has a good job and is loaded? Is loneliness just the price we pay for success? Or are there other ways to be successful?

Another friend of mine had been pursuing a career in the fashion industry. She was always the very pretty, very chic, very smart one, and we were having a blast at countless parties. It came as a surprise when she lost her heart to a man on a different continent, gave up everything, moved to a far-away country to not only be with him, but also to have 3 children with him. They are both running their own language school, but things were tough and they still just make enough money to cover the costs of everyday life. Clearly, she would have been more successful in her previous profession, and she would have worn more Prada and Gucci in her life, but when I see pictures of her and her family, she is always beaming, and I keep thinking that her life has been a success through and through.

I believe that success is very subjective and not measurable by anything but by everybody him/herself. There is no right or wrong, everybody has to decide where his/her priorities lie. And again, that might change from time to time. To me, successful people are those who listen to their hearts, who follow their dreams and do not regret the choices they made, even when going through a rough patch (and we all have those).

What about you? Do you feel successful and if so, why? How would you define success?

What children teach me at school

Recently, upon entering our school, I heard one of our kids’ groups singing the nursery song “If you’re happy and you know it”. Probably, most of you know this song but I found a very cute version on YouTube in case you don’t (and it’s worth watching anyway, the kids are so cute!).

The first line goes “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”, and when I saw and heard all children enthusiastically clapping their hands, it hit me: If you asked a group of adults that those who were happy clap their hands – do you think everybody would clap? Anybody? I believe, only a minority would clap their hands, because not many claim to be hands-clappingly, feet-stompingly happy. (It would probably be different if you asked those who want a new car or new shoes to clap – I certainly would join in!)

Group of five happy children jumping outdoors.

Group of five happy children jumping outdoors. (Photo credit: Lighttruth)

However, when I was watching the children with their bright smiles, I could tell they were really, really happy, because they were just living in that very moment. Yes, children too have their worries, and as small as they might seem to us grown-ups, they can be pretty haunting for a child. Nevertheless, when they get the opportunity to sing and dance and draw and play, they forget everything around them and are just happy. It is a shame that we forget how to do that!

Here in Mexico, most families don’t live a luxury life. From an early age on, many need to support their families in that they sell newspapers or bag groceries. You would think that therefore, European or US kids would be a lot happier but I doubt it. In our highly developed world, there is a lot of pressure, both on children and on their parents. Children attend special schools to learn a second language from an early age on, toys have to be educational, and at school they learn to be strongly competitive – everything in order to succeed later in life. Of course, we all have the best of intentions, all parents just want what’s best for their children. But whatever we do, we think about the future before we think about the present, and somewhere along the line, the carefree gaiety gets lost.

Most Mexicans (at least that’s what I experienced in Yucatan) don’t worry much about the future. They hardly think further than from morning till night. Maybe that’s their secret, because they never stop giggling and laughing, and very often it seems to me that they are much happier than we are in our spoilt lives.

To them, family is everything. Whenever they get a day off, they all get together, they pack their baskets, go to the beach, play some ball games (many get drunk, that might be the downside) and just have a good time. And they know that when something bad happens, the family will stick up for them. I for myself haven’t seen my family in a looong time, and experience taught me that in bad times, there are only very few in my family whom I can rely on. Everybody is just so busy shaping their lives to perfection without ever getting there. It seems to me that the better people are off, the more absorbed in their lives and the more isolated they become.

if you're happy and you know it

if you’re happy and you know it (Photo credit: l e o j)

If I had to name one thing that I learned here, it would be to really seize the moment. I don’t mean that we should stop paying into our retirement funds or do whatever comes to our mind no matter the consequences but I wish that sometimes, I could also become so absorbed by the moment that nothing else matters. As my wise friend Miss N. put it, we all have to find that inner child to be happy.

On a totally different note: Did I just give you a catchy song? For I for sure have one!