Stroll on Sunday

Guadalajara keeps growing on us.  We discovered a long stretch of a main thoroughfare, Avenida Juarez, that is closed to motorized traffic for six hours every Sunday.  The main closed portion going east & west is about 24km, plus all the arterial routes.  Surrounding suburbs also have their own routes.  It’s very well organized, including crossing guards at every intersection where cars pass.  At random points along the route there are gigantic chess, checkers, & dominoes games, basketball & volleyball courts, kids events, and so on.  Every Sunday thousands and thousands of bikers, tricyclers, walkers, runners, skateboarders, roller-bladers, hover-boarders, wheelchairers, & dogs have free reign of the road, at least for six hours.  It’s so peaceful; it makes me want to live in a car-free city.  I’m going to miss this event when we leave.

GDL Sunday Bike Map






The crossing guards pull out a yellow band to stop bikes when crossing cars have a green light, as seen to the left in front of the oncoming bikers.






Crossing guard with Mexican patriot.




Potty Train a Newborn

Fair warning in advance…normally I ramble for awhile but then I at least show a bunch of pictures at the end.  This post has all the rambling part but not much of the picture part.  Instead, this is more of a “hey, did you know…?” sort of post.  If I lose you after this paragraph, the brief takeaway is that children, even newborn babies, can learn to not use a diaper at an insanely young age!  Tell your friends with kids and they’ll save lots of money, keep lots of diapers out of landfills, and enjoy life more while changing many fewer crappy diapers.  Yay!

Carrie is never short on ideas.  She loves researching all sorts of outside-the-box concepts, especially when it comes to parenting.  For example, before we had kids we assumed home births were something weirdo hippies did.  After getting pregnant with iola & not enjoying our first experiences with hospital care for Carrie’s check-ups, Carrie started researching all sorts of different options for birthing.  And because she did, we started replacing all the assumptions we had about weirdo hippie home births with actual facts about them and discovered it was for us.  Our home birth experiences have been wonderful.  OK, so some people call us hippies, but at least we’re not weirdos(?)

Among the many other things Carrie has researched on parenting, one of the cooler and more practical ones is discovering that kids can be potty trained much earlier than most people in our society do it.  Carrie started potty training iola when she was about eight months old.  I myself was incredibly skeptical.  But, sure as actual shit, iola was consistently using a potty by the time she was 16 months old and we went through almost no diapers at all at that point (we used mostly cloth diapers, but who likes washing poopy diapers?)  Before she turned two we had stopped putting diapers on her altogether.  She was so small when she started wearing undies that we couldn’t find ones small enough in stores.  Carrie then discovered

For those of you that followed our trip down to Mexico you got to see no shortage of roadside potty break pictures.  Dumping a potty is infinitely more fun than changing a volcano brownie cake diaper.  Also more fun than potty training a three year old is potty training a one year old.  At two to three years old they become stubborn as all hell, yet for some reason that’s when our culture has decided to teach kids something very different than what they’ve been used to.  Do it before the answer to everything is “no”, and you’ll be glad you did!  iola gets excited to go to the bathroom.  First of all she learned at a very young age, so it’s just normal for her.  We also make it fun by reading books to her.  We quite literally have to force her off the potty at times, or she’ll finally concede after her legs fall asleep.

Carrie now started potty training Frida at two weeks of age.  Is that crazy and pointless?  I don’t know for sure, we’ve never done it before.  But resources (see below) would suggest it does indeed work, and our experience with iola would suggest the same.  It also is intuitive and already noticeable with Frida that even brand new human beings don’t enjoy being wet or laying in feces.  Have you ever had a baby pee or poop the minute you take his diaper off?  Well, there you go.  Take the hint.


The term used for potty training an infant is “Elimination Communication.”  I would have chosen a different term, but hey, I didn’t come up with it.  Here’s more info.

A good book Carrie read about it is The Diaper Free Baby

Also, in fairness, resources for elimination communication say that it’s not potty training, rather a natural way to have infants relieve themselves other than in a diaper, thus never having to do “potty training.”  I think it’s a matter of semantics.  Call it training, call it hey why don’t you take a dump in something other than your diaper, call it whatever.  The point is by doing it you will end up with a very young child that doesn’t require diapers and you can save yourself the headache of trying to potty train a stubborn toddler.

If you’ve hung in this long, nice job!!  You fully deserve these pictures of Mexican roadside potty breaks and another cool sidewalk & house.


This is my favorite sidewalk I’ve seen so far.


The Rolling Stones were blaring out of this joint, so I’d say it’s legit.wp-1458347274497.jpg


Look Down

In my last post I wrote about the wide variety of colorful houses on display in Mexico.  The sidewalks in front of the houses are no less interesting.  After walking for just five minutes you will easily pass dozens of different sidewalk pavements.  Some slick tiles, some porous tiles, some stones, some painted concrete, some boring concrete, some really old sidewalks that make using a stroller very difficult, some brand-new shiny ones that are slippery, and on and on.  While I don’t know the official legal stance on sidewalks here, I can say for sure in most cities it appears each homeowner has complete control over what they want their sidewalk to be.

Here are some cell phone snapshots I’ve taken on our walks.  Something cool I discovered while writing this post:  go clear to the bottom of the page first and then scroll up.  It’ll be like you’re taking a walk in Mexico.  Or if you like walking backwards just scroll down like normal.  Either way, if you’re like us you’ll see beauty in not having mile after mile of the same old thing.


I missed this house before my last post, so here’s a bonus house.



Run Errands; See Colors

Since Frida was born I’ve been out running errands almost every day in order to gather all the documents & copies we needed to submit our application for Frida’s Consular Report of Birth Abroad and her US Passport (for which I took passport pictures of her.)  Our plan is to leave Guadalajara on April 19, but we can’t cross back into the US without documentation for Frida.  Officially speaking, at the moment she’s Mexican but not American.  The process to become American includes not only the paperwork but also an interview at the US Consulate and then a wait for the passport to be processed and mailed from the US, all of which take some time to complete.  Sadly, black market baby sales are a thing in our world.  So while at first I thought parts of the process were a bit strange, I now understand and appreciate that the consulate verifies everything they do.  I’m willing to do some extra steps if it means babies aren’t illegally adopted by Americans in Mexico (who are these people doing this?!!!)

Anyway, Mexico is a fun place to run errands.  There’s always something interesting to look at, and I especially love looking at the houses.  Homeowners use their houses as a form of expression versus trying to blend in with everyone else, especially in the older neighborhoods.  No two houses are the same and often feature vibrant colors.  It’s about the polar opposite of the US, where most houses are painted neutral earth tones.  (See my side story at the bottom of this post about lack of appreciation for color in the US.)

Also of note, I’m into the tiny house movement in the US, a push for smaller homes that can even be around 100 square feet.  Here people would probably laugh at that being called a “movement.”  Small homes here are very common and have been forever I think.  That’s not to say there aren’t suburbs here; there are.  And they can be equally as boring as in the US.  But I hope Mexico can at least hang onto its spirit for being unique and not start thinking everyone needs to fit into a housing mold.

As one more comment before I finally show you the fun part (pictures), the variety of houses is awesome for iola to practice her colors.  As we stroll along she announces the colors of the houses as we pass.  So cute.


Side story:

As we were expanding our real estate business in Minnesota, Carrie was, for a time, in charge of painting the houses we bought.  Mostly it was interior painting with boring beige & white colors.  One house needed sprucing up on the outside and we gave her free reign to be creative, and “creative” is one fantastic adjective for Carrie.  She went with a vibrant blue color, very similar to the blues you see in the pictures above.  That’s not exactly common for a WWII era stucco home in Minnesota, but it wasn’t hideous in our opinion and was tastefully executed.  A few people stopped their cars to say how much they liked the color.  Most of those who stopped were Mexicans!  The next door neighbor thought the color was less than fantastic, however, and felt free to let us know about it.  She even tried getting the city involved to try to make us change it (the city ignored her demands.)  Within a few months that neighbor put her house on the market and sold it!  It could have been a coincidence, we don’t know for sure, but I see it as not at all unlikely she moved because of the vibrant blue house next door.  I guess she preferred the faded, chipping tan paint of the house while it was a foreclosure.



Take Passport Pictures

When iola was about six months old we had her passport picture taken.  I held her, but with a white sheet between us.  Her picture turned out to be pretty adorable, tongue and all:


Taking a passport picture of a one-week-old, however, was a different beast!  Getting a shot of Frida that meets the requirements for passports wasn’t easy.  I took just shy of 100 pictures in order to get one that worked.  But then of course Carrie found out after-the-fact that for infants it’s not required for their eyes to be open.  I was going for the more stringent “eyes open, both ears showing, chin showing, mouth shut” requirements for adult passport pictures.  Turns out I could have been less picky, but it was fun anyway and we got cute Frida head-shots as a result.

Here are just a few of the many, many outtakes spanning over two days:


And after all those pictures, here’s the chosen one for the passport:



Officialize a Mexican Daughter

It’s official!  Frida is a Mexican citizen!  Normally we wouldn’t wander out so soon after the birth, however we needed to get Frida’s Mexican birth certificate in order to then apply for her US passport from the American consulate in Guadalajara.  Otherwise Frida would be stuck in Mexico when we leave in April.

We went with Maria the midwife to the local “civil registry” to get the birth certificate.  People, including Mexicans, love to dramatize how difficult government functions are here.  I have to disagree.  In January we helped someone pay property taxes and renew a car registration, done at two different offices, and now today we applied for the birth certificate.  All those experiences have been fairly straightforward without too much waiting, but maybe we’ve just been lucky.  I will say it went much smoother by having Maria along to help today.

[If you found this post by searching what documents you need to get a birth certificate in Mexico, I’m going to list them clear at the end of this post.]

For the birth certificate we needed two witnesses to sign.  Maria was one but we needed another, so Maria and I went out witness hunting.  We found a nice lady working as a house cleaner sweeping the sidewalk (something many Mexicans do daily).  The owner of the house, her boss, wasn’t home, so she volunteered to come along!  She ended up having to wait a long time so at the end I gave her 200 pesos, a little over $10.  That’s possibly more than she makes in a whole day of work, so everybody left happy.  She was a mother of seven, a grandmother of 12, and was smiling & happy to help.  Her signature will forever be on Frida’s birth certificate!

There was a lot of paper shuffling going on.  Our naming system confuses them.  When people marry here the wife doesn’t typically take on the husband’s last name like in the US.  In Spanish-speaking countries the norm is that children get two last names; the first last name is the father’s paternal surname, and the second last name is the mother’s paternal surname.  But since Carrie took my last name, that means Frida’s name according to the Mexican birth certificate software should be Frida Ayn Ferguson Ferguson.  Their computers won’t print the certificate unless both last names are filled in.  We’ve heard some offices are unwilling to waiver from this, so the baby ends up with a double last name.  That, in turn, leads to more paperwork to change the name back to US norms when applying for the US passport at the consulate.  Luckily we had a helpful group of workers today who made a phone call and figured out they could substitute dashes where the second last name would normally go and bypass the requirement.



Here’s the stranger witness, named Bertha, finally getting to sign after 30 minutes of being very patient.


The Mexican birth certificate looks very official.  They even put Frida’s thumbprint on it, possibly the most adorable thumbprint ever to have existed.  Note the stranger witness Bertha’s big smile!  At this point she didn’t know I was planning to pay her something.  She was just there to help and took time out of her day to do so.  How nice.  Furthermore, Maria helped another mother birth all night and hadn’t slept at all, but she’s smiling all the same.  How fortunate we are to have met such nice people here.


Below are bonus pictures.  We took a bunch of pictures the other day but I haven’t had time to put them up.  Many turned out to be Pinterest Fails (search Google Images for “Anne Geddes Pinterest Fails”, here’s an example:  BUT, some of them are pretty darn cute.


This isn’t staged.  iola loves kissing Frida and does so about 20 times a day.



Here’s information for people looking for guidance on what they’ll need to bring to the Registro Civil to get a birth certificate for their child born in Mexico.

Things we needed to get Frida’s Mexican Birth Certificate, called the Acta de Nacimiento:

-Original and one copy of identification for each parent.  We used our US passports and provided black & white copies.  You get the originals back, of course.

-Original & one copy of each parent’s birth certificate.  Again, we provided a B&W copy of each of our birth certificates.  They only keep the copies and give you back the original birth certificates.  Note: we had a friend tell us when she had her kids in Mexico she needed to have the parent’s birth certificates “apostalized” (what some countries of the world call something like “notarized”), translated into Spanish by an official translating service, and the birth certificate must be no more than six months old.  We didn’t do any of the above and no one said a thing.  I would recommend going without the certificates being apostalized or translated and it likely won’t be an issue.  Carrie’s birth certificate was over 12 years old and, again, it didn’t matter.

-The application for the birth certificate, which our midwife provided and helped us to fill out.  Also bring a copy of the application (we didn’t and they made us go make a copy to keep for our records).

-Originals and copies of ID’s for each of your two witnesses.