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Visit with Valeria and Ximena

With Valeria in her room

Visits with Valeria and Ximena are always a bit of an adventure because of the ten year age difference between them, and this time we had the added twist of Valeria’s new baby girl. When we arrived at the community center, Ximena and her brother Alan were waiting outside for us. I didn’t meet Alan last year, but the second I stepped out of the van, I could see Ximena excitedly pointing me out to him. As soon as I got up the stairs, she gave me a huge hug and a balloon. We headed inside, where Ximena’s mom Ana was waiting, along with Valeria and her baby Alison, Valeria’s boyfriend Josue, and Valeria’s mom Silvia. Both families had made welcome signs for me, and Ximena’s family had a few small gifts as well (including a candy that I’ve been warned will break my teeth if I’m not careful!).

After the initial hellos, we went upstairs to the library so the girls could open their gifts. Valeria seemed pretty exhausted (I’ve heard that two month old babies will do that to a person), but was especially excited about the giant bag of makeup samples my sister Nanda had collected for her. Ximena is such a bundle of joy that it would be hard to describe her excitement over everything in her gift bag, but I think her favorite part was probably this year’s Build-a-Bear stuffed animal. Ward and I did the same thing as last year – we went to Build-a-Bear and recorded ourselves saying something in Spanish for her, which was then put inside the stuffed animal. Her mom told us in one of her letters that Ximena played the one from last year so much that she eventually wore it out and it stopped working, so we felt that the only real solution was to make a new one this year…

After gifts had been opened, we did a FaceTime call with Ward while we were still at the community center. This was the first time Ward’s gotten to interact with any of our girls in Mexico, which meant it was the first time he’s really experienced all of Ximena’s energy and silliness. At one point he asked her if she liked her toy. She held it up for him to see with a big grin and told him that she had put shoes on it. He said, “That’s great! Now it can go fast!” Her response to that was to start sliding it back and forth across the table as quickly as she could. But I think everyone’s favorite moment was when we were ending the call and by way of goodbye, Ximena cheerfully said to Ward, “I hope you don’t get too bored in your house!” Her mom spent a lot of the call shaking her head and saying “Oh Ximena…”

Once we were done with gifts and our call to Ward, we all headed down to the van. We ended up dropping Valeria’s mom off at the bus stop – she unfortunately had to go to work and wasn’t able to spend the whole day with us. I had hoped to have more of a chance to talk with her, but I’m glad to have seen her for a little while at least! During the van ride, Ximena asked me her usual round of questions, starting with when I'm going to visit again (hopefully next year), then moving on to what it's like to fly in an airplane, and concluding with whether I was on the airplane the flew over her house the other night. Meanwhile, Valeria was sitting in the seat behind me, going through each individual makeup sample, so she could be sure she knew what every single item was.

Valeria and Alison in the van

A good example of why I don't take selfies...

The girls were happy to hear that we were going to the zoo. Ximena said that she had never been there before. She almost got to go once, but they were turned away because they had beverages that they couldn’t bring in with them. So off to the zoo we went…. except that when we got there, it was closed. So now Ximena will have two stories to tell about almost getting to go to the zoo. We ended up going to the amusement park next door instead. We spent most of the time on rides that were okay for Ximena and her brother, while Valeria and Josue took care of baby Alison (who was an absolute angel all day – I bet she gave them hell the minute she got them alone!). Paula (the CI interpreter) and I took the baby for a little bit toward the end of our time at the amusement park so that Valeria and Josue could ride a couple of the roller coasters before we left.

Hanging out with baby Alison and Ximena at the amusement park

After the amusement park, we went to lunch at a chicken restaurant not too far from where we had spent the morning. We all chatted for a little bit, and then it was time to say goodbye to Ximena’s family – they lived close enough to that area to take a bus home from there. Before we parted ways, Ana shared with me that the reason I hadn’t met Ximena’s brother the previous year was because he had been hospitalized at the time of my visit due to a health problem that is still ongoing. I won’t go into much in the way of specifics here, but my heart goes out to the family, and they’ve been on my mind a lot for the last couple of weeks. He was going to be seen by a specialist very shortly after my visit, and I really hope everything has been going as well as possible for them since the visit.

At lunch: me, Alan, Ana, Ximena, Oscar (our amazing CI driver), Valeria and Josue, who's holding baby Alison

Alan (hiding from the camera), Ana and Ximena

Final hugs with Ximena for this visit

After saying goodbye to Ximena and her family and promising to visit again as soon as possible, I got back in the van with Valeria and Josue to take them back to Valeria’s house. I was very interested to get a firsthand look at how things were set up now with the baby and to make sure it seemed like they have everything they need. Going into the visit, I had also really been hoping just to meet Josue and get a chance to observe his relationship with Valeria a little, and to find out what her plans are as of now as far as resuming high school. I’m happy to say that Josue couldn’t have been any nicer. He was clearly head over heels in love with his baby girl and Valeria, and seemed to have a good relationship with Valeria’s mom. I started asking both of them a bunch of questions, and then had to back up and apologize to him – I forgot for a minute that I’m not his sponsor and he just met me! I told him that of course he doesn’t have to answer my nosy questions and it’s completely okay if he’d like to tell me to mind my own business, but he just laughed and said that I can ask him anything I’d like to know.

He and Valeria are both living mainly at Valeria’s parents’ house, which seems like a good thing so they can both take care of the baby, rather than her shouldering all of the responsibility. He isn’t in school, but has his own barbershop. Valeria has resumed her studies and is in her final year of high school now. Originally she wanted to go into a program to study makeup when she finishes high school next year, but that program is apparently a bit expensive, so now she is planning to study hair instead, which will allow her to work with Josue in his barbershop instead. (Meanwhile, I am working overtime to curb my immediate reflex to inquire about the cost of the makeup program – really I think she’s making a smart, mature choice to adjust her plan for now, and with a little luck, by the time Valeria graduates from CI, maybe I’ll be able to get her daughter enrolled and will have an avenue to help Valeria add the makeup training to her bag of tricks later on.)

It was fun to look around Valeria’s room and see things that I gave her on my last trip to Mexico, and some of the things that another CI sponsor took to Mexico for me earlier this year (including the outfit the baby was wearing that day). There were also a couple of large items in the room that were purchased with funds from an extra gift that Ward and I sent a few months ago. I asked Valeria and Josue if they feel like they have everything they need at the moment and after considering it for a minute, they said that they feel like they’re in good shape right now – they’ve been able to take care of a lot with the extra gift funds we’ve sent, and they said that every time people come over, they bring things, too (which I told them is exactly the way it should be!). I’m glad to see that Valeria seems to have lots of support as a new mother, and that the baby’s father does indeed seem to be every bit as involved and committed as she had told me in her letters.

All in all, it was another great day of visits. I thought it was pretty funny that I hadn’t even been with these girls for an hour yet when Ximena asked me when I’m going to come back for my next visit, but if I’m being totally honest, I’m already asking myself the same question.

Valeria, Alison and Josue, in Valeria's room

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