When you meet another quadrilingual….

The older man sat next to me on the bus. He had only one good eye. He never met my gaze but he was intent on talking with me. He asked if I was getting off at the next stop. I answered no, I will get off at the last stop, in Mt. Pleasant.

New Acquaintance: “Ay…Mt. Pleasant, they have a bakery, no?”

Me: “Yes, well…no. Heller’s Bakery closed down but a new bakery will be coming in.”

New Acquaintance: “Oh that is nice. Adams Morgan doesn’t have a bakery. It should. Bakeries make you feel so….at home.”

Me: “Indeed…” and I drifted off into the memories of my favorite panadería in Soacha, located at the outskirts of Bogotá where my siblings and I would go buy fresh baked bread after church. Thanks goodness church comes every Sunday. This was THE BEST way to end a church service and drive home in 1.5-2 of traffic. But I digress.

New Acquaintance: “Where are you from?”

Me: “Colombia”.

El señor: “Muy bien! Oh your team made it to the Word Cup! Bravo!”

Me: “Sí, sí si lo hicieron!” (Yes, yes they did make it!)

El señor: “Mine did not.”

Me: “I am truly sorry. Who is your team?”

El señor: “Algeria”.

Me: “Tatakulum arabi?” (Do you speak Arabic…in well…Arabic)

Sheikh: “Na’am! Wa enti kaman?” (yes and you too?)

Me: “Ewoa! Ana sakuntu fi misr”…(Yes! (in the Egyptian dialect) I lived in Egypt…)

Pause. I will stop transliterating my Arabic into English. Transliteration means putting the Arabic sounds into Roman letters. You see, I read, write and most importantly sound out in Spanish so when I transliterate English readers will hear totally different sounds from what I am saying. Again it’s confusing. Hence why I never mastered that. So from now on I will stay in English.  

Sheikh: “Were you a teacher there?”

Me, understanding only half of what he said, “Yes I was a teacher…not wait I was a talibaa student and then I also did teach English.”

Sheikh: “Oh you should join our learning circle in Dupont. We meet and we have a French teacher and we converse in our languages.”

Me, hearing the work French, jumped on that: “Vous parlez français?”

Monsieur: “Mais oui!”

Me: “Mais c’est bon ça! Moi aussi!”

Monsieur: “Yes I can hear from your accent that you are from Quebec! I have visited Quebec.”

Me: “Yes my husband is Quebecois so I have taken his accent.”

Monsieur: “Ouaisss ouaais!” (yeessss yessss as the Quebecois say).

We continued to talk about Quebec, their sense of humor and accents.

Monsieur: “Well this is my stop. I must get off. I shall see you at the conversation hour.”

Me: “Inshaallah” (God willing). I watched him thank the driver, hobble off the bus and make his way through the busy streets.

And just like that he was gone. A good conversation with a fellow quadrilingual. A definite bright spot of the day to go from neighbors in DC, to Spanish speaking fútbol enthusiasts, to North African rivals to fellow French speakers who appreciate the Quebecois. All during one normal bus ride home.

So to all of you, I hope to see you later-hasta pronto-ashofic ba’adeen-à plus,



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When someone takes over diaper duty

And it’s not your husband.

Actually, Felipe is the default diaper changer for Remy. Hey, Remy explicitly asks for him. So I let that one always go to him. No argument there.

But this afternoon, during the kids’ quiet time in their room, we got a soft tap on the door. Eliana came in and said, “It’s ok, Remy had a poopoo and I wiped his fesses.” Fesses is French for buttocks.

There was silence on our end. When your four year old changes her 2.5 year old brother, you wonder how this will go down. We were both entertaining the idea of feces in their room and on the carpet. Felipe went to investigate.

“I used four wipes” Eliana assured him as he entered there room, and Remy nodded in agreement. To our surprise (but really not surprised given it was Eliana), there was no mess. Everything was tidied up in the room: diaper in the diaper trash can with the four wipes, Remy was wearing a new diaper and he was clean.

Mission accomplished. Our parenting here is over.

Over and out.



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The gift of hope

The last few Sundays, we’ve been learning more about the fruit of the Spirit based on Galatians 5. The fruit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. I’ve been thinking about patience a lot. Especially because these past three months I have not been patient with my kids. I’ve thought about the fact that I’m not producing fruit. What does this say for where I am spiritually? I don’t want to go there. For every time I take a breath and hold my tongue, there is another time I yell and scream. For every time I get it together, I also loose it. Patience: it seems like a slap in the face for what I am not.

But, but…this may not be the way I should look at it. In this sermon series our pastor talked about how these fruit are gifts. Gifts. They aren’t my own creation. They are gifts from God by being close to him. And while I’ve been far from him I do know how he delights in giving gifts to his children. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17). 

At church this past Sunday, our pastor ended the sermon with an exercise. He asked us to take a few moments to pray. He put up a picture of open hands offering a gift. He asked to close our eyes and ask God what gift he would like to give us.

I prayed and I listened.


Esperanza. Hope. That is what I heard. In the quiet of the sanctuary, in the middle of my pew, I contemplated hope. Does God want to give me hope in my current circumstances? Could God show me this hope? I am alone at church with my kids. Overwhelmed I wept. I’ve never wanted to be alone at church with my kids. I never thought I would be here. But here I am.

And then, I realized. I am here. I am here with my kids and for my kids. And somehow I know that is part of the hope I have. That my kids are in a good place here. While Felipe and I wrestle with our questions, disappointments and confusion, the kids won’t be kept from this place that has been good for them. And good to us.

And right then, I knew deep down that this is part of the hope I hold on to.

I picked up the two kids from their classes. Remy went running into the “big room”. This large room in the downstairs part of the basement is used for all church lunches, meetings and other social events. More importantly, it is the space where all kids play tag, chase each other, and run around as we congregate after the service. Inevitably, all shoes come off and it’s THE place to be.

So Remy. He went running into the big room, stopped and surveyed the place. At that point there weren’t any kids yet. Remy took a deep breath, garnered all the strength that his two year old body could muster and then charged into the room, running in circles, screaming gleefully as he did. Within 30 seconds, 10 other kids were with him. Eliana included.

This is part of the hope I hold on to for my circumstances now. God knows that. He showed it to me. This room is one piece and it is his gift to me. To us.



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DC Soccer practice for Tots

Ok. Let’s get serious. When did soccer practice mean parents paying to corral toddlers to play soccer?

I mean, what.is.this?!

Lessons Learned from Toddler Soccer Practice:

  1. You are paying to corral your kid. And if you have two, you are paying to keep those little people on the field goshdarnit because we are paying for this.
  2. Hold up. How DO you learn to play soccer? Because this cone-on-your-head action is beyond me.
  3. My biggest success so far is my two year old son tries to touch his toes. I still don’t know how it relates to soccer, but this is a definite WIN. Oh and my daughter runs the four laps at the beginning of the session like a champ. Another win.
  4. Passing–which is soccer code for SHARING–is obviously not a popular concept at this age. Let’s have a serious conversation about when this concept can realistically be learned. Because it is painfully obvious that it is not now. I will sign my kids up when passing is actually feasible. Without it, it just the fastest kid gets the ball. If your kid isn’t the fastest, tough luck.
  5. Decide if it’s better to let the money go. I am battling going back or not. I paid for this! But it’s been four weeks of two back-to-back one hour sessions (two kids) trying to keep them on the field. Seriously. Not worth the $.
  6. Soccer practice doesn’t compete with the playground (which is right next door) when 1) you don’t touch the ball; 2) your jersey is to your knees; and 3) you’re being asked to run with the cone on your head.
  7. It DOES make a difference if your kids are the younger ones of the group. I have a two year old in the 2-3 age group and the 4 year old in the 4-5 year old age group. At this stage in life that mere year and even a few months makes a big difference. The best part of soccer is touching the ball. I am not setting my kids up to succeed. I can only tell them so many times that it is just important to keep running.

Bottom line: I may need to pull back right now. It’s too much at too stressful a time at too high a price. Actually the price of the class was reasonable so I am thankful I don’t feel like I am throwing (too much) money away. I am glad I tried this at least. And my son can touch his toes. Enough said.

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Running away from my kids on date night

Their screams got louder and louder as we neared the door. The closer we got, the higher the pitch. We’d given them 73 kisses, 24 hugs, said “te quiero” 19 times, and told them “one more minuto and then I’m leaving” 15 times.

None of this mattered. Mami and Papa were leaving and the world was ending. My idea of a good evening was just a happy thought I was naive enough to entertain. I heard maniacal laughter in the background. No wait, that was coming from my children.

I saw my husband walk out the door with his shoes and socks in hand. What a brilliant exit strategy! Just finish getting dressed outside! I grabbed my stuff too and ran out, crying, “los quiero, los amo, je vous aime!” When I opened the door, their cries filled our neighborhood street. I shut the door and hurried down the stairs, pretending not to notice the small hand reaching out of the mail slot. 

I didn’t stop until I was hidden behind our front yard plants. I brushed the dirt and dead leaves off my bare feet. I put on my shoes and almost gave up tying them. I couldn’t see a thing through the tears. I could still hear them crying. When did making time for your sanity, I mean, going on a date become so gut wrenching?!

I walked off. I didn’t know if my husband was with me or not. I just took off up the street.

Date night had begun.


When we walked back up our stairs (and this time together), our house was quiet. Our babysitter came down and told us about the games and discussions she had with the two kids. As we prepared for bed, we peered in on our kids. Remy was sleeping in his pillow, his little body being the exact size of his pillow. Eli was on her top bunk bed wrapped in her favorite blanket. They were breathing deeply and soundly. 

At 6:10am the next morning, I heard the sound of little feet running into our room. The soft tapping of their chubby hands let me know the day was starting. When I turned to look at them both, their faces were three inches from mine. Their smiles told me that the world had not ended. Instead it was a new day. They were excited to see me. And I was too. 

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I enjoyed taking in the “movement” of one participant’s reaction to a presentation today. While we were sitting I wanted to capture the weight and movement of the seating. It’s not perfect but mannit was fun to do during that session!

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A five day training and this Pepsi can is my take-away.

I call these “Les Petit Pois”. My kids love eating frozen green peas for a snack. They get home and ask for them. I act like it’s a bit deal but I give in and prepare their little bowls of petit pois. They are thrilled and hug each other and wait in anticipation for them. Eli asks for “14 mama? Or maybe 28 petit poids?” I give her 53. She’s estatic. They make me so happy.


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