Guerrero, Mexico

The girls taking the public transportation to the swimming pool with their cousins. (February 2015)

Tlaxcala, Mexico

Erika picking out pan dulce at our favorite panaderia. (January 2015)

Bend, Oregon, United States

Our family photo taken in Drake Park with all three of my daughters (October 2014)

San Francisco, California, United States

Enjoying the beautiful view from the top of Twin Peaks (July 2015)

Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Exploring the ruins of Palenque during our Great Mexican Road Trip. (May 2014)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Two Countries Two Passports

Today has been another day to rejoice in our household. Erika and Mia are finally the proud bearers of two passports. This was our third or fourth attempt to get their passports so I'm thankful that it is finally over with and we don't have to deal with it again for another 6 years! We managed to get the girls Mexican birth certificates in 2013 after 2 trips to the closest Mexican consulate in Portland, Oregon.
We attempted to get the girls their passports while we were living in Mexico last year but that was a miserable failure. The office in Mexico would not recognize the girls American passports as a valid form of identification. Instead, they wanted the girls school ID's or a letter from the doctor that had attended their birth. This was slightly difficult since they were homeschooled during our stay and the doctor that attended my labor lived in the United States. It is easier to go do to the plaza and buy a fake school ID than it is to obtain a United States passport. Bureaucracy has never made any sense though. The second time, I tried to take the girls to the consulate in Portland by myself but they wouldn't allow Jose to sign the parental permission form unless he brought the original birth certificate with him to the office. Try having the original birth certificate at two places. I should have planned ahead and left it there with him, right?! The third time, we went to the mobile consulate when it came to town and parental permission for Erika had expired and their internet was down so we just went away in defeat.
Our biggest challenge was that Erika's American and Mexican birth certificates don't match. After my divorce, I legally changed her last name and dropped the paternal last name. I did the same thing with AshLee too. My children carry on my last name the same way that I legally changed my last name to that of my mother who kept her maiden name. Yes, a long line of strong women. Actually, many cultures do not have women who change their names upon marriage. In Mexico, all children are given their father's first last name and their mother's first last name. So Mia's full legal name is Mia Azul Membrila Loverin, the daughter of Jose Membrila Medrano and Krystal Lee Loverin. All of her birth certificates and passports match since she carries both last names. Poor Erika on the hand has a Mexican birth certificate and now a Mexican passport that reflect both last names that she was born with. I took the court ordered name change with apostille to the consulate with us today but they don't recognize it. They were kind enough to accept it as verification of her identity along with her passport. So now when we travel, we will enter Mexico using the Mexican passports and permanent resident cards. When we apply for our long term visas to Spain, we'll get to save a little extra money because Americans have to pay $160 for the visa while citizens of other countries only have to pay $65. That's a big chunk of savings for us! I think they only charge us more because the United States charges $160 visa fees to foreign visitors too, tit for tat. Now I need to battle American Airlines to get the $21.77 Mexico Tourism Tax refunded. They built this fee into their airline tickets even when many travelers are exempt from paying it. This is currently under dispute in the federal court of Georgia.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hace un año

June 24, 2014 was a day of many tears and breaking hearts. The girls and I packed up our gear and clothes for the summer and boarded a plane to take us back to the United States. This wasn't like flying to Mexico without my husband and knowing I'd be back in just a few days. This time, I didn't know when we would see each other again. Mia was bawling her eyes out in the airport and Erika was sobbing over the injustice of the US immigration system. I was the rock in the middle, holding it together so we didn't all fall apart. What little idea we had about how our world was about to be turned on its head.

We had flown to Tijuana, crossed the border with Andrea's help, flown from San Diego to Portland, and crashed for the night with Corri and family. Bright and early on Wednesday morning, Jose called me and told me to check his case status immediately. I thought he was slightly crazy to be obsessing over his case and I'd been gone less than 24 hours. I logged into the USCIS Case Status app anyway and found the best news of Jose's life.

How was I to know that while our hearts were breaking, some immigration official was adjudicating our waiver favorably? I think everyone was in tears with the great news. I even ran upstairs to wake up Erika and tell her the news.

The last year has been full of roller coasters to put it mildly. It took us another month to go through the process in order to finally get that precious visa in his hand and cross the border. I had to drive the Escape down to Tijuana and pick up all of our belongings from the freight company and load up the Escape, fly to Mexico City, pick up Jose and the dogs, and flew back together to Tijuana. Crossing that line with my husband sitting by my side is a feeling that can't be described. Two plus hours at the line and sitting in a hot office while they processed his paperwork. We drove straight home without sleeping. Jose wanted to get home without any more delays and who could blame him?

How many years had we been waiting for this moment? How many fights and dreams and tears and fears were tied to this one little fucking visa? Our whole lives. That is what we spent 8 years of our lives trying to get. I lost track of how much money we spent in the process, I'm guesstimating about $20,000 give or take a couple hundred. And our legal fees were only a quarter of that. In fact, it cost us a bankruptcy so all those years of paying our bills on time went right down the drain when we packed up the family and moved to Mexico. I have no shame or embarrassment though. People have done it for much less.
This last year hasn't been easy but it's been worth it. After spending our whole marriage fighting against the injustice of immigration, it's hard to know how to live a normal life again. We went through months of bickering and fighting and trying to find our way back to what made us fall in love with each other in the first place. It's easy to get caught up in the rat race that is the American lifestyle.
A seed had been planted though while we were living in Mexico and that seed grew into a tree. A tree that is going to take our family away from our home and onto new and bigger adventures. We can finally travel the world as a family. Jose's dream has come true and now it's time to spread our wings and become world citizens. Only 71 days until our family moves to Spain for a year so I can get my Master's degree! Living la vida loca!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

D I Y Not? Organizing Behind the Front Door

We have lived in our house for almost 6 years now. Our house was brand new so any dings, scratches, or upgrades are all thanks to our family and friends. We won't talk about the dings left over from our "guests" last year, I'm still trying to move past that. There is a small area right behind our front door with a short wall before the utility closet that houses our washer, dryer, and hot water system. For the last several years, it has become a gathering spot for shoes and anything else the girls would throw down in a hurry. I had grand ideas of finding the perfect table to place there with little baskets for my keys and a place to lie my purse. Jose started talking about buying something to place there and that motivated me to finally take care of that area.

Before: I should have left the shoes for comparison
The area was already missing the baseboards as I'm still in process of ripping out all of the prior MDF boards and replacing them with the more expensive wooden baseboards painted in an ash gray color to making the living room trim. I headed off to Pinterest in search of inspiration and this is what I found.

The Backpack Wall by Scattershotdotcom
I had a little different area to work with and I needed something for all of the shoes that find their way to this corner as well. I like color in my house as well so the first thing I did was pull out the leftover green and blue from when we painted the girls bedroom. I did not get all fancy with measurements and the such. I eyeballed how far off the floor I would need the coat hooks and taped off two squares to paint for the girls writing board. When we were at Lowe's that morning for the children's Build and Grow workshop, I picked up some 1"x3"x6's and 1"x6"x4's along with four coat hooks and a dog print hook because the girls wanted Boi and Rocket to have their own special hook for their leashes. I was going to buy chalkboard paint like the idea but right next to it was dry erase paint and we decided to switch to that even though it cost twice as much. I figure that chalk creates dust and it might end up being messier in the long run and we have dry erase markers lying all around the house.

Erika helping me paint the colored areas for writing boards

Both boards prepped, now to wait 3 days for the dry erase to cure
My wall is just a hair over 41 inches side so I divided it in half and called it good. I cut the 1"x6" to go across the top and bottom of the board and nailed it in place. I should probably have screwed it in there but I didn't. I installed the new baseboards around the two sides of the wall because I made the box mobile in case we needed to move it to open the door wide or whatnot. I ran the 1"x3"s up from the baseboard to the bottom of my first horizontal board and I created two separate panels. I decided that I didn't want to paint the entire area so we left the trim a dark ash color and the walls a dark tan. Our living room colors carry over to the length of our hallway for aesthetic purposes.

And it's done!

Each one has a place for her messages
 Both girls have several hoodies and jackets that they wear in addition to their backpacks for school and hiking so I wanted to have plenty of space and hooks to hang up everything. I placed the dogs hook right in the middle and maybe it will be easier to find their leashes the next time we hike the Butte. The dry erase paint gives the wall a very high gloss shine and slickness to that particular area.
The Shoe Organizer
I used two 1"x12"x4's to create a mobile shoe organizer to place on the floor. I put four furniture mover circles in the corners with a felt pad so it can be slid around as needed for cleaning. I measured the two outer boxes to accomodate the fabric boxes we picked up at Lowe's and left the center box open for Jose's work boots. Now the girls can hide their soccer cleats, tennis shoes, Crocs, and sandals out of sight.Luckily I was able to find two boxes that perfected matched their color scheme.


We filled it right up with everything that we needed to store there and the top of the bench works perfectly for the oversize bags that we keep ready for going to the pool. All in all, I am very pleased with how it turned out, I just wish I hadn't waited to long to get this project done! It only took me a day and a half with waiting for the different paints to dry and prepping the area.



The dry erase paint worked like a charm! I can leave reminders for the girls in their boards and keep track of our upcoming events on the side wall that I also painted with the dry erase mix. I think I am going to use my Silhouette Cameo and cut out some vinyl to make it look a little nicer.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Committing to Plan A

I've been going back and forth between Plan A or Plan B or a combination of the both. It was causing a deal of stress and worry that I was going to make the wrong decision. I went through this same dilemma when we were making the choice to move to Mexico or stay in the United States and continue the good fight. Sometimes you have to take a step back, take a deep breath, and think about what it is that you are wanting from the experience. I remembered that I want to spend quality time with my family and explore more of the world together. Our six months in Mexico was fantastic for our family. We spent every day together and the girls got to really know the other half of their family.

After speaking with the Director of the program and looking at this year's academic calendar, I realized that their schools operate completely different! I thought it would be like taking a class on Monday/Wednesday/Friday from 9-11am for the complete semester like you might do here in Oregon. Instead, you take a class for a few weeks on a varied schedule and you're done. I printed out 10 months of the academic year and plugged in the different classes that the Director recommended I take. If this next year is set up anything like this one, I am going to have a very crazy but awesome schedule. For the month of October for instance, I might have one or two classes every week but then come November, I might only have five days with classes in them. The schedules are different from week to week so it would be almost impossible to also participate in the Auxiliares program and teach. So would I rather go to school and have all kinds of free time or teach school and be tied down to a schedule every single week? I wonder how Spanish schools are going to feel about me taking the girls out of school for a few days here and there?!

On Wednesday, we drove to the bank and I submitted the wire transfer request to pay my tuition in full, a requirement by the Consulate of Spain in San Francisco, not by the University. The total for a one year Master's program in Spain came to be a whopping $3026! That was the deciding factor for me. I'm committing to Plan A and moving forward with my education. I will walk away from our year in Spain with a degree that will open the door for me to live and work in some many different countries around the work. I emailed the regional coordinator and advised them that I was turning down my super sweet position in Santa Marta de Tormes so I could focus on my Master's degree and that I didn't feel it was fair to the school to try to work around my schedule when they could find someone else who could commit 100%. I actually posted in the regional Facebook group and asked if anyone was interested in taking my position. A Latina from California messaged me as she has family in the area so she emailed the regional coordinator right after I submitted my resignation and she ended up getting the position that same day, how awesome that it worked out for everyone involved.

So that's where I'm at now. I have still made no progress with my GI Bill and getting the program approved. After speaking with the Director via Skype, I feel that she is willing and able and capable of assisting me with the application. I am going to start filling in the information and hopefully submit it before we get to Spain but if not, I'll be okay. My tuition is paid, we have my monthly disability check to easily survive on in Spain, and we still have savings in the bank for all of my vacation plans!

 

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