Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tip of the Day!

The other day while in a little tienda I picked up some candles and started to search for the best smell. Numerous people passed me and were just looking at me in a more than unusual way. I began to wonder whether or not they had ever seen an American before or whether or not I had an entire leaf of spinach in my teeth and then I sat a candle down and picked up another one to smell - then it hit me... I was smelling candles with the Virgin Mary pictured on the outside! So, the TIP OF THE DAY: It is considered quite sacriligious to smell candles that are used for Catholic ceremonial purposes. Don't smell candles with pictures of any saintly figure on them!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

GLAMOUR SHOTS Mexican Style...

We thought we would share with you these beautiful glamour shots of each of us! After viewing these pictures I remarked on the close resemblance of these visa pictures to prison mug shots! So, FYI, these are pictures for our visas and no, we are not in some Mexican jail somewhere!

Last week we get a telephone call from the company's lawyer here in Mexico - he proceeds to share with us that our visas are about to expire and then proceeds to give us a few more items that ended up being quite a LONG list of items we needed to get together for our family's visas in order to legally stay in the country! (This is a process that we have been working on since our arrival in Mexico - yet we had most of our paperwork together.) Among the items that were lacking were some pictures. When we arrived at the photography studio in "El Centro" we were asked to remove all jewlery and then they had water bottles to spray our hair and slick it back. But, we thought you might enjoy the most somber looking pictures of the Ballard Family ever - enjoy! (Despite the somber expressions I still think the kids look absolutely adorable!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11/2001 Remembered

"History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are." - David C. McCullough

May we take a moment to remember not only those who died in such a tragic manner but also pray for their families, our nation and our country's defenders who are still affected daily by the reality of terrorism. It is my hope that we may each stand taller, act with greater kindness and cherish the gifts of freedom and liberty!

"Comida General" at Wal-Mart

I am a coupon shopper - granted not as savy as some of my friends who are just amazing at the whole coupon game - but, none the less, I am a coupon gal! So, here I am in Wal-Mart just attempting to procure some food for my little family to take in their lunch boxes; I walk down the aisle that looks as though it should have some peanut butter and jelly.... OK, found the Smucker's Jelly... good, the price was over $1.75 USD but I can deal with that. THEN, I spy the JIF (the only brand available) Peanut Butter in a small, tiny, miniscule, little jar (Seriously, it is only 340 grams) - If that information in parenthesis helped you then you are seriously one smart cookie! But, for the rest of us... trust me, it was SMALL and it cost $330.00 M.N. (Pesos) or just about $3.30 USD - FOR A TINY JAR OF PEANUT BUTTER! As I was getting it off the shelf another American walked by (from California) and he said, "Hey, if you buy that with Jelly they'll think you are really weird!" -- Oh well, I have never been one to shy away from a challenge, have I? So, I grab the PB & J, get the odd looks from the shoppers around me and spend way, way, way too much money on some sandwiches for lunch this week!

OK... so, now to the milk. I head on over to what looks to be the milk. I pass the Borden brand (normally expensive but here it is astronomical) and head over to the brands that are from Mexico. I pick up a couple of gallons and look around for the expiration date... and I read, "leche parcialmente pasteurizada". WAIT, WHAT? From what I gather this milk is only partially pasteurized... so what did they do to the other part? Has it been prepared for ingestion? Will it effect your body the same way as the water? And exactly what does pasteurization do anyway? Are my children safe with this on their cereal? Wouldn't a good friend from Saginaw, TX who is fond of natural, non-hormonal milk flip over this label? Do we women really need more hormones from our milk anyway? Yes, all these questions start rolling through my mind standing in the milk aisle! The good news is that we have ingested "la leche" and we are all still alive and functioning! In some free time I need to find out what pasteurization does anyway? But, vitamins A & D have been added!

Our little family has been following and preparing our food storage (in the U.S.A.), but I have never fully appreciated the purpose of it until coming to an area where acquiring food was so absolutely difficult! I appealed to my husband's "Hunter / Gatherer" instinct and he tried to shop one night and came home with quite the assortment of items. Some were edible... but even he had a difficult time figuring out the "Comida General". So, basically we are regulars at the local SUBWAY - too bad they don't serve breakfast!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The "Panaderia" Experience

So, now that we are more settled here in Mexico I have ventured out to the grocery store. A word of advice to all of you planning to visit and use your Spanglish, the word for groceries is NOT "groceria" (I know the spelling is WAY off.) but is some other phrase like "comida general" (general food)! I know this because I said I needed to go to get "grocerias"... and immediate laughter from all the Mexicans around me! Well, I found out that I had just told them that I needed to go get some bad words... so, don't use your Spanglish with that word! Use 'comida general'!

Well, I loaded up our mini-van (our 5th rental car while in Mexico) and my four children and I head off to buy 'comida general'. We get to the parking lot of Wal-Mart (yes,Wal-Mart is here as well) and successfully pull into a parking spot without assistance that requires a in Mexico many parking lots have official looking people that assist you in parking and once they point you into a parking spot they expect a tip and then upon leaving the store they will suppose that your rear-view mirror, your side mirrors and the large back window are not sufficient to assist you in backing out thus they will help you to back out and you will thus be expected to tip them again. But, I digress...

So, we get into Wal-Mart and as soon as I'm in the door I hear, "Son estos todos sus niños?" (Are these all your children?) "Si", I answer. The first time it isn't too bad. We go to the "Panaderia" where all the rolls, breads, donuts and pastries are out on shelves or in large, uncovered bins open to the general public - including curious children who pull their hands out of their mouths just long enough to touch some pastries before moving on and people with illnesses walking by sneezing! In this "Panaderia" you take a tray and some tongs - mind you the tray had been unwashed for who knows how long and the tongs as well - this is obvious due to the fact that there is a coagulating conglomerate of food on the end of the tongs and although I always try to get the cleanest ones there is always something growing on the tip! So, we get our tray and my children attempt to guess what the last people bought from all the crumbs, sugar and glaze left on the try until my daughter attempts to knock the crumbs off by hitting the large, metal plate against a large metal bar (that holds the coagulating tongs). Well, metal plate on a metal bar... you get the picture - my daughter has successfully recreated "The Gong Show" in the Mexican Panaderia at Wal-Mart. A sweet older lady walks up and asks, "Son estos todos sus ninos?" To which I simply nod. (What else do you do when you are the only person who remotely resembles these children?) So, I corral all the children and stuff some into the cart. As I go to turn the cart around I notice an older man drop some bread on the floor, pick it up, and toss it back into the uncovered bin oblivious to the infectious germs that just latched onto the food... the same bin that my daughters just got bread out of! I find myself wondering whether or not the vaccinations in the U.S.A. were enough to ward off the germs at the "Panaderia".

By this time we have spent about an hour in Wal-mart just trying to find food that does not contain jalapenos and that my children will eat. I have spent an hour in conversation similar to:

MOM: "What about this kids?" (Holding up a package of sugared doughnuts. The only sealed food in the area.)

DAUGHTER: "I'm sick of those can we get something else?"

MOM: "Ok, what about this?" (Holding up something that looks remotely tasteful and similar to a breakfast bread.)

SON: "Is that even healthy Mom? Can we just go to McDonalds?" (As if that is the epitome of healthy!)

MOM: "All right, how about these?" (Holding up the closest thing I could find to regular blueberry muffins.)

DAUGHTER: "Sure Mom, I'll get 'em with the tongs. Gimme the tongs (to another sibling)."

SIBLING: "No,I want to get mine first!"

DAUGHTER: "No, I'm getting mine!"

SIBLING: "No, mine! I have the tongs!"

DAUGHTER: "No you don't..." (Trying to wrestle the tongs out of her sister's hands.)

WAL-MART SHOPPER: "Son estos todos sus niños?"

MOM: (While trying to wrestle the coagluating, conglomerating tongs out of my children's hands - but, with a smile...) "Si, mis manos es occupado!" (Yes, my hands are fully occupied.)

WAL-MART SHOPPER: "Claro!" (Clearly.) Hmmm... I wonder how the woman meant that?

Finally, the family gets the muffin things onto the glaze, sugar crusted silver plate after the children have been threatened within an inch of having them work in the Wal-Mart parking lot directing traffic as penance. We grapple our way up to the "Panaderia" clerk and I hear, "Son estos todos sus niños? Es normal in Estado Unidos?" (Are these all your children? Is it normal in the United States?) At this point I just clench my teeth and smile as I have no earthly idea how to ask her is what normal in the United States? Four children? Siblings enacting a WWF Tournament in the middle of the bakery in the U.S.A.? or the entire "Panaderia" experience with the uncovered bins and people throwing food from the floor back into the bins? So, I simply just say, "Si, Gracias por tu patiencia." (Yes, Thanks for your patience.) That is the first stop of the trip to get "Comida General" - not "Groserias"... but, by the end of that trip I am sure I could have used some "groserias"! Thanks heavens my mother taught me better!