Spanish lessons

I went to school the other day and asked them to change my kids’ names! 

Here in Mexico, everyone’s surname is usually Father’s Name then Mother’s Name (no hyphen), and when she is married, a woman usually just keeps her Maiden Name and doesn’t add her husband name to the mix. Their children then are given a new last name using the surnames of both grandfathers.

For example, Juan & Maria.  Juan’s name is Juan Munoz Ramirez.  Maria’s name is Maria Melendez Posada.  Their children have the last name Munoz Melendez.  To make things both easier and harder, for the most part, in informal situations, most folks use just the first surname.

When we got married 11 years ago, I went old-school and decided to take Hubby’s last name, no hypens or combos or anything.  When we arrived here in Mexico and registered the girls for school, we registered them using just Hubby’s last name, since that is what the girls are used to using.

Problem: The school’s computers aren’t set up for our tradition (go figure!), so everything related to school has the girls’ last name written as “Doe Doe”.  It looks ridiculous.  Worse, sometimes teachers have had the girls’ write their name that way on papers and projects, especially our 5 year old who can’t properly articulate her reason for protest.

So the other day I went and asked them to change the second Doe to my maiden name.  The girls are both amused and confused – they have no clue how to spell it – nobody does!  Strange also is the fact that it seems backwards. Had I chosen to hyphenate my name as so many of my girlfriends have, it would have been the reverse of what the girls now have.  They can go back to being plain old Doe’s in 2010!


We were in the cereal aisle of the grocery store yesterday and I asked the girls to pick ot something healthy.  H looked at one box –  “Mom – this cereal has rice, corn and SAND!!!!”  She pointed to the box and there it was – Arroz, Maiz y Arena. 

It took us a minute before we realized that it was written in a strange font, and the last ingredient was Avena (Oats).  

Aside from this silly moment, there was also happiness that my kids are finally making regular daily connections with spanish, making some regular translations with ease (as long as the fonts aren’t funky)!

I learned today that The Flintstones are called “Los Picapiedras” in spanish (“The Rock Breakers/Chislers”).  Here, our prehistoric friend Fred is called Pedro.  Pedro Picapiedras. Peter Rockbreaker.

Wilma = Vilma

Barney & Betty Rubble = Pablo y Betty Marmol = Paul & Betty Marble

Pebbles, Bam-Bam & Dino remain the same.

Book Image

Tonight I reaized at bedtime that H still had one assigned story to read that is due in the morning.  It’s probably only a 10 page story, but Hubby is out and my spanish still relies a lot on a dictionary when I have to translate text.  Normally I spend time reading her homework first and looking up troublesome words so that it is not an insanely long time for homework for an 8 year old, especially one with a short attention span.  Tonight, no such luck. 

I contemplated sending her to bed, translating it and reading it to her fast in English in the morning – but while it means my kid understands the story, it really defeats the goal of improving her Spanish.  Major breakthough moment for Mommy – I picked it up and understood the book!  Sapo Tiene Miedo – Frog Has Fear (Frog is Frightened). All I had to do was look up the title – we had not yet learned that miedo means fear (moving our family to Mexico and never needing the word fear – another thing to be proud of!).  Once I learned fear, I was good to go to convey the story of the frog, duck, pig and rabbit overcoming some of their fears by sticking together.  Corny segue – I guess I was able to overcome some of mine too. 

Next stop – Guerra y Paz (War & Peace).

The observance of Dia de Los Muertos took place at the girls’ school yesterday.  It was stunning.  Each year the school builds an altar to honor the dead.  To make it more of an artistic opportunity, everything is made by the students.  To make it more of a green opportunity, everything is made from recycled materials.  To make it more of a learning opportunity, they choose a different region of Mexico each year and build th altar in the tradition of that community.

This year they chose that state of Michoacan.  Each year, mariposas monarchas (monarch butterflies) fly down from the US and Canada to Michoacan, so part of their Day of The Dead beliefs include that the butterflies represent the souls of the dead .  This year the school altar included many butterfly motifs – as well as the traditional skulls, marigolds, etc. 

All the children wore their traditional Yucatecan outfits for the unveiling of the altar.  The girls wore their huipuil dresses and the boys were incredibly dapper in their guayaberas and hats.

Children were encouraged to bring photos of those that have passed away in their families. The only family member whom the girls know who we have lost (far too soon!) is Aunt Carolee (Hubby’s aunt – his Mom’s sister).  Our cousins sent us a wonderful picture of Carolee hamming it up in a Santa hat – it fit in perfectly with the cheerful altar and got attention and questions for the girls as their classmates perused the altar.

Here are some photos which will show you how special their school is especially in the arts, click to enlarge…


J went to a Halloween party yesterday afternoon.  One of the parents from her grade invited all the children in both Kinder 3 classes (equivalent to Kindergarten).  They had all sorts of great activities planned and a jack-o-lantern pinata. This is the song that is being sung – it is sung at any party that has a pinata.

Dale, dale, dale.       Hit it, hit it, hit it. 
No pierdas el tino.  Don’t lose your aim. 
Porque si lo pierdes. Because if you lose it. 
Pierdes el camino.   You lose the way.  
Ya le diste una.  You hit it once.   
Ya le diste dos.  You hit it twice.  
Ya le diste tres.  You hit it three times. 
Y tu tiempo se acabó.  And your turn is done.




The girls are the guest room with their tutor right now.  This is Becky’s third week here.  We hired a tutor to come for 90 minutes a week to help reinforce the Spanish the girls are learning at school.  The girls are reluctant to use it (especially our 8 year old), so we told Becky our goal with the tutoring is to get them more confident in their speaking abilities.  We think some extra help in the comfort of their own home, without the fear of being “wrong” in front of peers, will help their confidence.

We have been here for 9 months now, but didn’t get a tutor right away because the school felt we should let it happen organically.  Agreed, but we all feel now that the girls could be more progressed at this point.  The really tipping point came when H, our 8 year old, had a melt-down.  It turned out that the teachers, with our support, were forbidding her classmates from speaking English to her outside of English class. Result – very sad child feeling completely isolated from her friends.

Becky is a 3rd grade teacher from a nearby private Catholic girls school, she is the teacher of one of H’s good friends.  I can hear Becky in the other room now, reinforcing the idea of feminine and masculine endings that make Spanish that much harder for an English speaker. The girls love her and look forward to her visits, so hopefully progress will come!

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