2015: New Year, New [insert something witty here]

I’m not sure if I see New Years as the beginning or end to something. Once I graduated college and I entered the “real” world, New Years became irrelevant. There was nothing to look forward to like a new grade starting or big milestone (think turning 21 or graduating from college). A new year just meant I got a day and a half off of work to spend at home with my husband watching movies along with annoyingly dating my checks wrong for about two weeks.

New Years is also a really somber time for my husband and I. Our first year of marriage, a good friend of ours died. I won’t go into specifics but it was a really rough time on us, especially on my husband. Every year since then, it doesn’t feel right to celebrate a new beginning when we’re reminded of an unexpected and abrupt ending.

But since Paloma was born I want things to be different. I want to celebrate new beginnings and enjoy the daily gift of life. I want my daughter to know that the closing of a chapter in our lives doesn’t have to produce fear or sadness, rather it should bring joy and excitement for whats to come.

I have big things planned for 2015. I’m not going to call them resolutions because I feel as if that’s just setting myself up for failure. They’re goals that if I can accomplish them, then great. And if I don’t, then okay. I’m going to list them here in order to keep myself accountable.

Here it goes.

  • Read my bible on a daily basis. I’ve been slacking.
  • Complete Fitness Blenders’ 8 week fitness program. It’s not about losing weight but just about finishing it.
  • Go on a trip. My husband and I made it a habit to go on a yearly trip when we were sans baby and I’m afraid we won’t continue that tradition with baby.
  • Keep a jar with reminders of all the good things that happen.
  • Finish my book.
  • Finish Paloma’s baby photo book.
  • Read a book a month. Because let’s face it, having a one year old is going to make it hard enough to do the things on my list, if I try to read more than a book a month I will definitely fail.

These are my personal goals. Not my mommy goals or my wife goals.  Each of them reminders to take a breath from our busy life to think about life, the world around us, and as selfish as it sounds take a minute to focus on myself.

Later on this week I’ll write about 2014 and why I’m sad to see it go.

Living on a farm: Chacra Canaan

When we decided to move to Uruguay, my parents had it in their mind to live on a farm.

You see, my dad was born and raised in a small town outside of Havana, Cuba. He grew up around livestock and crops. My mom was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She grew up in the concrete jungle. Two TOTALLY different upbringings. But throughout my parents 30+ years of marriage, my dad had been planting seeds in my mothers mind that when they retired they should end up on a farm, that only those who are self sufficient will succeed at the end of the day. I mean, yeah sure he’s right but whatever let’s be real you raised your kids in the sprawling suburbs of Miami. Does it look like we were prepared for farm life?

I’m sure living on a farm in the States–along with most industrialized countries in the Northern hemisphere–is a little bit different. Cold weather probably means snow and all sorts of weather conditions I am in no way accustomed with. You probably have barns to keep your animals in and to be honest I don’t really know much else about farm life except for the animals or barns.

On our “farm,” which is really just two houses on a plot of land with eucalyptus trees, bamboo, and fruit trees, along with 20+ sheep, 6 cows, 5 pigs and 25+ piglets. Our fruit trees bear apples, pears, persimmons, figs, plums, peaches, and guayaba. While yes it is nice to grow our own fruit, my goodness it’s annoying to have a surplus and have to get rid of them. We normally gift to our neighbors or people in town but even then we can’t get rid of them fast enough.

View of the little eucalyptus forest in the back
View of the little eucalyptus forest in the back
These are our yellow plums. So sweet and delicious!
These are our yellow plums. So sweet and delicious!

Right now we’re trying to really focus on organic farming. We are composting and have a farm breeding area behind the pig pen so the chickens and birds won’t try to eat them. Our plans for the next few months are to build greenhouses to then grow our own vegetables and try to be as self sustaining as we can be. It’s not going to happen over night but I feel confident that we will reach that goal one day.

Some of our sheep. We named the texel (the white faced sheep) Belle. She’s a milking sheep. She always answers when we call and just so happens to be my favorite. She was pregnant with her twins here.

I’ll update on how our farming is going throughout the year. I’m still learning as much as I possibly can. It isn’t easy but new beginnings never are.

Merry Christmas!

This was our second Christmas in Uruguay. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to spending the holidays in the summer but I don’t really have much of a choice.

Most Hispanics will tell you that REAL Christmas is on December 24th, aka “Noche Buena,” and the 25th is really just a day to recuperate from all the drinking and eating the night before. In Miami I used to spend Noche Buena,  again like most Hispanics, bouncing from house to house. I would always start with dinner at my house, then head to my in-laws houses, and proceeding to go to my husbands extended families houses. It was a long night of eating and trying to gauge on how to stay sober enough to drive (this was obviously pre-baby).

Christmas in Uruguay, while yes they celebrate the 24th, is a bit different. The 24th is dedicated to spending time with family but the real party starts on the 25th. At midnight they shoot off fireworks and open their presents from Santa, aka “Papá Noel,” and do whatever else they do. I wouldn’t know what they do after the fireworks because I’ve been in bed by the time the fireworks go off two years running. On the 25th they usually have barbecues with friends and spend the time talking and eating. Some families spend their day at the beach or lounging in their inflatable pools.

Since summer starts a few days before Christmas here, a lot of people spend their Christmas on vacation in Punta del Este or Brazil. Lounging on beaches and enjoying the sun doesn’t really FEEL like Christmas to ME but I’m sure most people on the north side of the equator would feel the same.

This year while sure we ate our traditional Cuban meal of lechón with white rice and black beans, it just didn’t feel like Christmas. I can say that I loved that Paloma loved her gifts. This year we got her a slide, puzzles, one of those pull string walking toys and a scoot car toy. I love her reaction every time she goes down the slide! She laughs and laughs and has now tried climbing UP the slide. I would have taken pictures but let’s be real I was too busy trying to control my panic attack. Christmas morning we had breakfast and watched Disneys A Christmas Carol and Home Alone. Home Alone was the first movie Paloma actually sat and watched the WHOLE thing. She’s got great taste.

It was nice to spend time with my family without worrying about other things, which at the end of the day is what the holidays are about.

Merry belated Christmas!

Paloma enjoying our Charlie Brown Christmas tree!
Paloma enjoying our Charlie Brown Christmas tree!

Day in Montevideo: Trip to see Santa

I’ve got Christmas on the brain! It’s one of my favorite holidays and I want to share that with my daughter. Last week my husband and I decided it was the perfect time to take Paloma to visit Santa Claus. Friday was the last day of school in Uruguay until February so we thought going any later in the season would result in long lines and overly excited children.

On Thursday, my husband and I packed the baby bag and headed out for Montevideo (from now on referred to as MVD). We live in a small town called Sauce–pronounced saw-ou-seh–which is about an hour and half bus ride away from the capital. Since Paloma was born, I’ve only gone to MVD a handful of times because it’s too long of a ride with Paloma since she starts to squirm not being able to run around. It’s funny though because if we take the car to MVD she can handle it but the bus ride is just too much. I think it has to do with the new people, new sites, new sounds thing.

Anyway we took the bus to MVD, and got off at Tres Cruces. Tres Cruces is a bus terminal in MVD which doubles as a mall. They just opened a new jungle gym in a park dedicated to the Armenian Genocide of 1915 across the street and we decided to take Paloma there to use the swings. She loved them! She loves seeing the older kids run around the park and tries to chase after them but she’s just too young. I always tell her one day she’ll be able to play with them but you can tell it’s not good enough for her. After a few minutes we started on our way for the taxi stand to head to the mall.

This is the placard for the park. It translates to, "Tribute of the city of Montevideo to the 1,500,000 Armenians victim to the first genocide of the 20th century. Starting on April 24th, 1915 by the Turkish Ottoman empire. Montevideo April 2005"
This is the placard for the park. It translates to, “Tribute of the city of Montevideo to the 1,500,000 Armenians victim to the first genocide of the 20th century. Starting on April 24th, 1915 by the Turkish Ottoman empire. Montevideo April 2005”
On the swings with mommy!
On the swings with mommy!
With daddy :)
With daddy 🙂

I don’t know about you but whenever we take a taxi with Paloma, I’m freaking out about the lack of car seat in the taxi. I mean sure we don’t have one on the bus either but the bus drivers aren’t as crazy as taxi drivers. Most of the time I’m holding onto her for dear life, cradling her head to protect it from the plastic/glass barrier.

Anyway, so once at the mall we decided to eat lunch at a small café around the corner called Philomene. I wish we would’ve snagged a picture of the actual café or the food but we were too distracted. It’s a quaint little place on the corner of Solano Garcia and Miñones. The inside of the café is small but not crowded, and I fell in love with the bathroom. It’s upstairs and tiny but it didn’t feel cramped. When and if you ever visit Uruguay you’ll realize why one would notice the bathroom. After we finished our meal we headed straight for the mall again.

Punta Carretas Shopping is my favorite mall in Montevideo. It actually used to be a prison at some point in Uruguay’s history but I don’t know much else about its time as a prison. When we walked inside you couldn’t help but notice the Christmas decorations. I was in heaven! They had a three story tree in the middle, surrounded by little Christmas scenes like Santa in his workshop, carolers singing, and an animated Mrs. Claus in their living room talking to the visitors. I couldn’t get a good picture with my phone so I’m borrowing a picture from the local paper.

Picture credit to El Pais.

Paloma went crazy running around so I couldn’t get a good picture of her here either but just so you can get an idea I’ll add some more from the paper.

Santa in his kitchen making some Christmas goodies. No gender stereotypes here! Photo credit: Sociedad Uruguaya
Paloma with her daddy in front of the giant teddy!
Paloma in front of Santas kitchen.
Paloma in front of Santas kitchen.

After getting lost around all the beautiful scenery looking for Santa, I caved and asked one of his “helpers” (a.k.a. two high school aged girls standing around looking at their phones giving off a “GO AWAY” vibe) where we could find him. Third floor. Food court. Seriously, you have this beautiful scenery and you put Santa on the third floor next to the food court? But I digress. Off we went to visit Santa. Luckily there was no line. We paid our $130 pesos for our picture (roughly USD $7). Paloma is usually really good with strangers so I didn’t think twice about just handing her off to Santa for the picture. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. Paloma HATED Santa. I’m talking full blown crying, screaming, and just overall awful. I will say this is the first time I’ve experienced/heard a Santa hand a screaming baby back to it’s mother before the picture. I swear through his bushy white beard and long hair his piercing eyes were letting me know he wasn’t having any screaming baby on his lap. I already paid for my picture so we made it a family “portrait” instead. Paloma sat on my lap while I sat next to Santa and Carlos sat on his other side. The elf was really nice and helpful but Santa was just not having it.

This needs no caption.
This needs no caption.

After our encounter with Santa we picked up our picture, were welcomed to Uruguay by the guy manning the printer (which doesn’t happen often, seriously he was SO NICE), and walked around the mall aimlessly. After about half an hour we decided we should head for the bus stop to head home to avoid afternoon rush hour.

The bus ride home was no longer or shorter than the bus ride there, but I will say that the lady sitting next to us was nice and understanding of my hyper toddler. She played with her for about the first forty minutes, allowing Paloma to pull her hair, touch her mouth and scream for attention. I wasn’t too excited about it but honestly I was too tired to care at that point. After the lady got off the rest of the bus ride was spent playing with Daddy, looking out the window and trying to touch the head of the man sitting in front of us.

The light of our lives.
The light of our lives.

Overall we had a really nice day out as a family. It doesn’t happen too often since we don’t have our own money to go out. But when it does, I really enjoy spending the time alone just the three of us.

Introducing Me: A mom figuring it out as she goes along…

I realized I haven’t really introduced myself to, well, you the internet. My name is Michelle. Ethnically I’m Cuban/Spanish/Lebanese/American. I’m a 24 year old mom to a one year old girl, wife to an up and coming artist, and needless to say our story is a little unconventional.

I grew up in Miami, FL.  Went to college in Gainesville, FL (Go Gators!). Had a few jobs out of college, nothing really worth talking about because let’s be honest who is really excited to be someones office assistant? My husband and I dated for four years (three of which were long distance) before we got married and we’ve been married for three totaling seven (almost eight) years of topsy turvy.

Since this blog is called “Momma in Uruguay” I guess I should talk more about the whole “mom” aspect of my life. When my kid was born I wanted the whole shebang: breastfeeding, cloth diapering, and organic food. I desperately wanted to be a “crunchy” mom. Like all things parenting, didn’t really turn out that way. My milk supply didn’t come in abundantly so I was forced to supplement. At first I thought my world would come crashing down but hey wouldn’t you know my kid is fine and healthy and damn near perfect. The cloth diapering was great for awhile but living in a foreign country with a little bit of a language barrier can screw it up in the winter when you’re without a dryer. So in the winter we stuck with disposables but now that we’re back to dry and hot we’re back to big butts (what I like to call her cloth diapers). Organic food is hard to come by here because there is no actual regulation or government definition for organic. Once it was time for solids we did the best we could and hey wouldn’t you know my kid is completely healthy and pretty damn near perfect!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with wanting those things for your kids. I WISH I could have exclusively breastfed and cloth diapered and given my kid organic food but life happened and I did the best I could. However I will say I hate co-sleeping and that’s that we co-sleep. Not by choice but out of obligation due to our living situation. What I would give to be able to make noise after 7:00pm again…Now let me reiterate, if you’re into co-sleeping then great but seriously HOW DO YOU DO IT? And I’m not even talking about bed sharing.

Getting back to the whole “life happened” thing, I quickly but begrudgingly realized that life happens when it comes to kids and I can’t always plan it out. No matter how much I’d like to, I just can’t. Does it make me a crappy mom when I’m too frazzled to really worry about whether or not that apple is organic? I don’t think so. I think I’m a great mom for remembering to feed my kid when I have piles of laundry, cooking, cleaning, and whatever else I have on my plate to do.

I don’t always get it right but I try my hardest to. We all do. Being a mother is hard work. People will always sit there and judge you, telling you you’re doing it wrong or whatever. Listen, if you managed to get out of bed in the morning with shoes on your feet and clothes on your back after dealing with five to seven feeding wake-up calls then you deserve a gold medal. We’ll always be our own worst critics. I remember when we went on vacation to Miami to visit my husbands family, I beat myself up daily for not making Paloma a home cooked meal every day. Poor kid lived off of bananas, milk, water, and chicken breast. But hey it was the best I could do at the time.

The point of this entry is just to say, “Hey I’m a mom and I’m trying my hardest. All I can is that I love my kid with every fiber of my being and every day is an adventure. Some days I make it, some days I need A TON of help, and some days I just fail at either being a wife, a mom, a homemaker, and a daughter all at once. And I know it’s okay.”

Keeping up with _____: Long distance friendships

Keeping up with friends is hard when you live in the same city. Imagine how hard it is when you live 4,000+ miles and a different time zone away from each other.

I don’t know about you, but I come from a culture that puts a lot of value on friendships so I spent a lot of time the first few months here in Uruguay talking to my friends as much as I possibly could. Sure, I hadn’t delivered Paloma yet meaning I had tons of free time on my hands. A lot of my friendships were already long distance. My best friend Lauren lives in Gainesville, FL (about 5 hours away from Miami), my sorority twin lived in Philadelphia at the time going to law school, and even though my great friend Rachel lived in Miami she was still about an hours drive away from where I lived.

There’s nothing like moving to a different country to see who you’re true friends are. I’m blessed enough to know that I chose my friends right because almost a year and a half after moving, those girls are still the ones I talk to most. But it’s hard. Normally I’d be there for the BIG events like promotion-at-work dinners, figuring-out-what-to-do-with-life drinks, i-hate-my-boyfriend couch nights, or just hey-i-miss-you brunches. However, I’m not there now and they’re not here. The big moments are when you feel the void the most.

I remember giving birth to Paloma at the hospital–a story for another day–and seeing the other mothers getting showered with gifts and flowers to welcome their bundle of joy. While we were blessed enough to have my family in the country with us, we didn’t have anyone else to celebrate with. But I remember coming home to messages from my friends begging me to Skype so they could see Paloma. It was so nice to see friendly faces excited about my baby. Those tiny moments meant more to me than the short “Congratulations!” I got from Facebook friends who were at one time “real” friends.

There will be other big moments that we’ll miss in each others lives, but knowing that someone somewhere has your back when they could have easily faded out of your life is a nice thought to hold on to.



How we came to be here…

Hello! My name is Michelle and I’m an American expat living in Uruguay. I have a one year old daughter (Paloma), a husband (Carlos), and a whole bunch of farm animals.

In August of 2013 my husband and I packed our bags, along with my immediate family, and moved to Uruguay in search of something new. Why Uruguay? My parents traveled to Uruguay in the spring of 2010 for their first vacation in years. They fell in love with the landscape and people, came home and told us they planned on moving here as soon as my sister and I were done with university.

Fast forward to fall of 2012: I’m married to Carlos for a year and a half, we were both working two jobs trying to pay off my husband’s student loans as fast as we could and living at my parents’ house. One afternoon coming home from work I get a call from my mom telling me she put the house for sale. I was in complete shock. My parents had been talking about moving for years but I never thought they’d actually go through with it. Now I don’t know you remember the housing market in late 2012 but it wasn’t very good. We didn’t expect the house to sell as quick as it did. Three weeks. It took three weeks to sell our house. We thought we would have more time; more time to sit and think about what it was we–Carlos and I–wanted to do. You see, my parents gave us two options: 1) stay in Miami and live in the rental property they owned and all we would have to pay was HOA fees and the end of year taxes or 2) we could go with them. After many sleepless nights filled with long discussions we decided on the latter option.

We had to be out of the house by February 2013. Have you ever tried packing and emptying a house in two months while working two jobs? It’s INSANE! The last day at the house was filled with tearful goodbyes as we moved into the rental property while finalizing things before heading to Uruguay. A week later we found out we were pregnant with our little girl, which if we were on the fence about moving to Uruguay this definitely solidified our decision to leave.

In August 2013, after a series of bumps in the road, we boarded our flight from MIA to MVD and haven’t looked back.

More to come soon!