Baby Churro: Coming July 2019

Yes! Kendra and I are expecting our second child, #BabyChurro, and we are super excited about it! As of today (January 17th), Kendra is 12 weeks and 3 days along! The baby is due July 30th, 2019.

We have known for a while that we were expecting, and we got a chance to tell family in person while we were in Mexico a few weeks ago.

HEARING BABY’S HEARTBEAT

Today, January 17th, Kendra and I had our second appointment at The Minnesota Birth Center. We heard the baby’s heartbeat, and it seems like #BabyChurro is developing well, Praise The Lord!

OVERALL

Kendra is doing very well, thankfully. Other than getting tired more easily, and needing to take naps throughout the day, she has not experienced much discomfort.

Once again, we have chosen not to find out the sex of our baby until baby is actually born. We also decided not to share the possible names for #BabyChurro until it is born and we have actually named it. And for right now, that’s as much as we have figured out.

We appreciate your prayers and well wishes.

The Perezes

P.S. If this post seems really familiar, second child life has already started and #BabyChurro got a hand-me-down blog post, with the key facts updated. We probably won’t be able to spare our child from any second child syndrome, but we will adore it, regardless.

On Turning 32

As I reflect back on this last year of life, I frankly can’t remember everything that happened to summarize my thoughts on it. Those close to me can tell you I have a terrible memory for small details and do much better with broad trajectories. I’m pretty sure the past year was mostly great! As I look at turning 32 on Wednesday, I am excited for the change and growth that will continue to happen.

Here’s my updates, not ranked by any importance, just as they came to mind:

Physically: I’ve lost 8 lbs in the last few months. I’m currently 175 lbs. It’s not my slimmest (171 lbs), but I’m feeling great in my body.  My hope is to stay at my current weight, and I’ve updated my wardrobe to not only give it a colorful makeover (less dark blues, blacks, and grays! More color!), but also to help myself keep in shape. For those of you who know me, you know I like my clothes fitted, so I ain’t wasting money on clothes I cannot wear! #EatWellAndExerciseOrElse

Mentally and Emotionally: I’m looking forward to returning to therapy. As time goes by, I feel like I’m getting more jaded, more cynical, more angry and less patient. I believe therapy will help me unpack some of the unresolved emotions and thoughts I have about self, people, and the world and the “isms” that plague it.

Electronically: I’ve been working hard on getting my Facebook/iPhone addiction under control. Some days are great and some are not, but I believe I’m on the right trajectory.  Between unfriending 130+ people, unfollowing people and FB pages, and my work being quite demanding, I don’t spend nearly as much time on Facebook as I used to. And I’m actually going to downgrade my phone in the upcoming months. #FlipPhoneForTheWin #Kidding

Financially: Kendra and I continue to work hard and save money to care for our family and the people we love. We also hope both of us will be able to take at least three months off work, whenever we have a second child.

Professionally: I hope to continue loving my job and being challenged a lot and being supported along the way. I also hope I get to continue working at Green Central (my position is grant-funded through this school year) and, if money runs out, I hope to continue working with MPS. #WalkingByFaith

Maritally: I plan to continue being a hopeless romantic who pushes himself to go the extra mile for my wife. I hope to get better at expressing words of affirmation to Kendra so she can feel loved the way she should. And we hope and will continue to work so our marriage grows in maturity, fun and love (and sex and magic!)

I Took A Leap of Faith & This Is Where I Landed

As many of you know, I resigned from my previous high school social work job in late June. It was a painful decision and one that I still have mixed feelings about. Besides giving up the chance to attain tenure this month (August), and the comfort of knowing how to do my job pretty decently, it was hard to say goodbye to many colleagues and friends who I admire and cherish. One saving grace has been that I’ve been able to maintain relationships with most of my beloved former colleagues and friends (though I’d love to visit more of them in person).

But let’s fast forward to mid-August.

On August 13, I started working at my new job as an elementary school social worker. That may seem early for a Minnesota public school, but at my new district, social workers start three days before teachers return for duties (and stay three days longer into summer break). Also, as a new staff member, I had two days of orientation.

While I really value my summer break, and the time spent with family, I’ve been so grateful for this extra time getting settled into my new job (it also doesn’t hurt that we’re paid for the extra work days). As a new elementary school social worker, I’ve been in trainings specific to social work (hallelujah!) to sharpen my skills to serve our students and families as best as possible. For example, last week I attended a district workshop on suicide risk assessment for social workers and school psychologists and got to hear and learn from peers and fellow colleagues working in different schools around the district. I also have been feeling supported as I climb the learning curve to understand the roles social workers play in my district, the tasks we juggle, and how to best perform them. If that wasn’t all, new social workers get a social work mentor, get together for two hours each month to consult with and learn from each other, and I get to join a support group for social workers of color!!!!! #YAASSS!

Overall, I have been amazed at how invested my district is in developing social workers. #IntentionalRetentionStrategies

Furthermore, one of the most impactful aspects of my new position has been in how valuable, visible and acknowledged I’ve felt since I started. During orientation, the superintendent and president of the teachers’ union addressed new staff as “employees,” and “educators,” not just as “teachers”. I immediately noted their use of inclusive language and it was a great way to start off the year. Also, the staff at my site have been so welcoming and have already begun consulting, collaborating, and co-creating with us (the two social workers in the school).

TLDR, I’ve been really enjoying my new position. When I quit my last job, I was a little nervous, but took a leap of faith that it would be worth the risk. No place will be perfect, but I’m excited for what I’ve seen so far.

On Quitting My Job (and starting something new)

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After three years as a high school social worker, I felt professionally stagnant and was not meshing well with the work culture there. So I decided to quit my job.

In late January, I started searching for a new opportunity. By March, I was offered a position in a charter school in Minneapolis that seemed like the next great thing for me. The job sounded amazing, and the leadership team in my interview seemed top-notch! This particular school social worker job would have allowed me to teach students daily, provide social work services, participate and lead already established racial affinity groups, and be mentored to become a leader in their school. I was so ready to take the job. But there was a catch–new hires would start working July 30th. Ouch! As a Mexican man who values family over everything, and who personally endured not having my father around much during my childhood, I knew losing almost a month of summer with my family was too high a price to pay, even if it offered a lot professionally. Thus, I declined the offer with regrets and prayed for God’s will to be done.

For the next few months, I decided not to look for another job, and tried to think of the challenges in my job more positively. But as the months went by, my professional discontent didn’t subside; it grew and deepened.

Then God intervened.

In May, a friend, former classmate, and fellow school social worker messaged me on Facebook. She asked me if I was interested in joining her school district and, as you can imagine, I responded affirmatively.

First came an informational interview with a supervisor of social workers. I learned a lot about the district and how it supports, coaches, and mentors new staff and social workers. I learned about opportunities for growth and leadership. I also learned about some of its challenges and more. Overall, I very much liked what I heard.

Second came my interview at my potential work site. I appreciated when they asked me some very tough questions, beyond the standard “tell me about your weaknesses and strengths” types. It definitely made a good impression on me. However, what impressed me most about the interviewing and leadership team was the fact that they didn’t seem uncomfortable listening to my truth (e.g., naming white supremacy culture and our collective complicity with institutional racism), and truthfully answering some of my own challenging questions. I felt visible, heard, and validated throughout my entire interview process.

Then the school’s principal called me two hours after my interview, and offered me the position. I accepted enthusiastically!

All in all, I’ll be one of two social workers serving 350 students and their families (65% Latinx, 22% African American/Black, 9% White, 3% Native American and 1% Asian). It is not certain yet, but the tentative plan is for me to work with early childhood and K-2 students and families; the other social worker would work with grades 3-5. Or we might end up swapping last minute but, I’m excited, regardless! The thought of my professional life paralleling my personal life is quite appealing to me (as Sebastian is now a toddler, I’m learning a lot about development in his age range). And if that wasn’t enough good news, the school has a developmental dual language program (Spanish/English) and is less than two miles from my house! Not only will I be utilizing my bilingual skill-set on a daily basis, but this school might actually be my son’s school in the near future!

Finally, part of what made this job a feasible change has been the fact that I’m also getting a significant salary increase and strong benefits. I’m grateful to work in an unionized environment where I can review my benefits clearly, and see how they will care for me and my family.

As you can see, my year has been a roller-coaster ride, professionally speaking. I had to put into practice the things I’ve taught former clients such as remembering my agency in every environment, and that I can make changes in my life, even if change is difficult and scary. I am also very grateful for all my friends and colleagues who helped me find these new opportunities along with my former colleagues who were so encouraging during my departure. Lastly, know that I am always glad to pay it forward, so if you are interested in learning more details about what I did, and ways I approached my search, please feel free to contact me. Because in the end, I firmly believe that we all do better, when we all do better!

Daniel

Looking Ahead: Short and Long-term Goals

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A few weeks ago, Kendra and I sat down to think about, write down, and share with each other our annual, five-year, and ten-year goals. These goals would pertain to the 6 Fs: Faith, Family, Field (Career), Friends, Fitness (Health), and Finances. The exercise proved to be quite profound and helpful in understanding where we saw ourselves in the near, and far, future.

I won’t bore you with all the details of our conversation and listing every single one, but I will share some of the goals that…

…won’t surprise anyone:

  • Have one or two more children within the next 10 years.
  • We each would like to exercise more regularly (2-3 times a week), and have a regular exercise routine as a family.
  • Maintain an active and healthy sex life, especially as life gets busier and we have more children (God willing).
  • Continue building friendships with people of color.
  • Save money for each parental leave.
  • Continue giving and loaning money to others.
  • I would like to have dedicated father/child(ren) time, at least once a week.

…might surprise some:

  • Read the Bible together within the next 10 years (I personally have never read the Bible from beginning to end. I find it hella boring and quite problematic for multiple reasons. Still, I’d like to embark on this journey with my wife and build common understanding of what’s written in the Holy Book).
  • Continue tithing and supporting different ministries and initiatives at our church.
  • Continue living in community for at least 3 of the next 10 years.
  • I would like to become a U.S. citizen sometime within the next year.

…kinda surprised ourselves

  • Live abroad as a family for up to 6 months within the next 5 years, and at least one full year within the next 10 years (this one mostly because while we’ve talked about in theory, this exercise made it seem more real!).
  • Kendra would like to build a company that can function remotely; build a strong, diverse network; and learn how to code CSS + HTML in real life.
  • Continue thinking about, and discerning on, whether I want to eventually run for office in Mexico.
  • Travel somewhere with friends for a week within the next 10 years (which means not solely traveling to see family).
  • Kendra would like to complete a full-length triathlon within the next 10 years.
  • Have a separate emergency fund for supporting my parents.
  • Have our home paid off in the next 10 years (2 years earlier than our mortgage loan payoff date).

Overall, we know God is in control of our lives, and She ultimately guides us, and we still want to be intentional in imagining what a healthy, balanced, and a purposeful life looks like for us.

3 Steps We Utilized To Maximize Debt Repayment

img_2748Hello again, familia! Last time I wrote about how my wife and I paid off $92,000 in less than 4 years using YNAB. Many of you inquired about how the actual nitty gritty process of eliminating debt worked for us, thus I decided to write a Parte Dos to address your questions. To start, our top priorities involved paying off debt and also building an emergency fund before having a child. Having a clear goal gave us motivation and focus.

1. We Lived Well Below Our Means

Kendra and I live well below our means through what is typically the largest portion of a budget, housing. When we were looking to buy, the bank was willing to lend us almost $300,000. We thought it was ludicrous. We were in so much debt! Instead of buying at the top of our range, we made a decision to buy a property for no more than $120,000 (a feasible option in the Minneapolis market in fall 2013). In the end, we scored one heck of a bargain and bought a foreclosed townhouse for $80,000. It needed some up front repairs and we’ve continued to plug away at cosmetic work, but having a small monthly mortgage payment allowed us to pay off debt and save aggressively.

Here in the USA, there’s also a strong narrative to be independent, which usually means each family has their own home, own car, own lawnmower, etcetera. Another way we’ve saved money has been through sharing our resources. Since college, Kendra and I have lived with some arrangement of family or friends for all but six months. It’s not always easy, and takes a lot of communication, but the extra dinero from having roommates has been mostly put towards paying off debt and a small portion to our emergency fund. Roommates may not work for everyone, however. Some alternative ways to share resources in order to save money could be setting up an Airbnb account for a guest bedroom, or renting out a car through Turo. We have friends who have had success with these options.

2. We Avoided Lifestyle Inflation

At the beginning of our relationship (January 2013), we had a healthy combined income of $72,000 per year. Shortly after getting married (May 2014), my wife got a huge salary increase, followed by another. By June 2016, we were bringing home a combined $150,000 per year.

I can tell you it was tempting to inflate our lifestyle and upgrade our wardrobe, buy newer cars or at least eat fajitas at our favorite Mexican restaurant every week. Yet, we know spending as much as we make is a way to keep us trapped in the cycle of debt  and living paycheck to paycheck. No gracias! Instead, we focused on our goal and devoted the majority of our income boosts to paying off debt and building our emergency fund.

3. We Made Extra Income By Side Hustling

You might think Kendra and I being in the top 3 percent of highest income earners among 28-30 year old couples might deter us from getting side hustles, but you would be wrong. Given we found out we were pregnant with first child in May 2016, we had January 2017 as a deadline to pay off our debt. Kendra and I began making extra income. Although I thought about becoming an Uber or Lyft driver and Kendra thought about becoming a shopper for Instacart, we found other ways to make extra money. My in-depth knowledge about human development, mental health, and psychological disorders helped me land a very part-time gig doing mental health workshops with youth and families. In addition, Kendra and I are both immigrants and engage in social justice work, so we have been able to do paid speaking engagements about immigration.

All in all, by living below our means, avoiding lifestyle inflation, and making extra money, we were able to accomplish our goal of paying off debt and building an emergency fund by December 2016; just in time for our son’s birth in January 2017. 

P.S. This post was actually written in April 2017, but it was meant to be published somewhere else. It did not happen and I finally decided to publish it on here.

Adios 2017, Welcome 2018

Hi, y’all:

I felt like writing down a few thoughts. Don’t know what the end product will look like, but it will come from my heart, and that’s all I care about.

2017 was a fantastic year for me and my family. Sebastián was born on January 28. Kendra quit her job in mid April. She is now working as a consultant and is very much enjoying it. I had a total of 25 weeks off between my paternity leave and summer break (first 7 months of Sebastian’s life and Kendra’s recovery from giving birth). I continue to love my job. I continue to be involved with ISAIAH, Unidos MN, and my church. I have a great relationship with my dad, mom and brother, better than I ever had growing up. It’s been quite fun and tender to see my parents and brother interact with Sebastián. Family is simply the most important aspect of my life (besides serving God, of course).

Kendra and I continue to love each other and grow tougher through things out of our control and through the day to day challenges of partnership (plus with a child!). We actually had our biggest conflict on Christmas Day. It took me hours to cool off and actually be somewhat pleasant to be around. We’ve worked through things and are continuing to grow in our communication and resilience as a couple.

As for 2018, I’m excited for the new year! We will celebrate Sebastian’s 1st year of life on January 28th (God willing)! Kendra’s consulting gig is growing and she will perhaps be working a bit more. I am doing some organizing of social workers to improve pay for all social workers, so we will see how that goes.

I am also looking forward to applying for my U.S. citizenship sometime late summer/early fall! I am mostly excited about it because I will have the freedom to live outside of the USA (with my family!) for any desired amount of time. Similarly, Kendra and I will perhaps start trying to have a second child sometime in the coming year. We’ll let you know if anything happens but, we know that while we can do our best, we can’t control that outcome.

And that’s all I can type for right now. I want to watch The Proposal (for the 10th time); while Sebastian sleeps in our hotel room; and while Kendra is on the computer, drinking some fermented grape juice . This is how we will say goodbye to 2017 from Los Cabos, Baja California, Mexico. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Much love,

Daniel

¡Feliz Navidad from The Perezes!

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Dear Family & Friends,

2017 was a big year for the Perez family, largely because we gained a member! Kendra & Daniel took off three months leave together. Kendra then quit her job and Daniel returned with full gusto to his high school social worker position. We considered having only one child a few times. Sebastian has met his family in both Mexico and Canada. He almost died only once. The cats are surviving an ever more mobile baby.

We are grateful for the support of family and friends who keep us fed and loved, even when we’re a mess!

Love,

Sebastian, Daniel & Kendra

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Queridos Familiares y Amigxs,

El 2017 fue un gran año para la familia Pérez, ¡en gran parte porque nuestra familia creció con la llegada de Sebastián! Ambos Kendra y Daniel tomaron tres meses de incapacidad para estar en casa con su nuevo retoño. Pronto después, Kendra renunció a su trabajo y Daniel regresó con entusiasmo a su puesto de trabajador social en la preparatoria en la que trabaja. Consideramos tener solo un hijo algunas veces, ya que ser padres es el trabajo más duro (y gratificante) del mundo. Sebastian conoció a su familia en México y Canadá. Él casi murió solo una vez (Sebastián es muy alérgico a los productos lácteos y tuvimos que hospitalizarlo por una reacción severa que tuvo hace algunos meses; pero esperamos que su alergia se extinga conforme él vaya creciendo) . Los gatos están sobreviviendo a un bebé cada vez más móvil.

Más que nada, estamos agradecidos por el apoyo de familiares y amigxs que nos mantienen alimentados y amados, incluso cuando no sabemos ni que día es!

Bendiciones,

Sebastian, Daniel y Kendra

The Cost of Attaining U.S. Citizenship

1I’ve been feeling unsettled lately, both internally and geographically. Like my body and soul are wanting to return to the motherland, to reconnect with my roots, to learn the history of where my family and I come from, and perhaps even to map out my ancestry (which would be quite challenging because colonizers slaughtered much of our bloodline).

Why now and not before? Why such insistent, persistent, and consistent desire to learn about my family’s history? After all,  I’ve now lived in the USA for half of my life (and counting).

As I consider why, I can’t help but think this is my body, mind and soul’s way to resist and work through potentially becoming a U.S. citizen next year (si Dios quiere).

You see, for me, becoming a citizen of this country will mean to accept and to become explicitly complicit in its crimes against humanity, both past and present, in exchange for the privilege to vote and to live on this land with less fear. That’s a tremendous cost to pay. It’s painful to feel like I will sacrifice so much of who I am to gain a bit more privilege, which remains inaccessible for many. As I prepare for this major step in my life, I want to kneel down and cry and pray.

And my mind returns to home. To family, history and land. I pray that who I am remains intact, that no more is lost, and that the worldly gains to be made do not lead me astray from loving neighbor and myself well.

Daniel


I didn’t anticipate this post from Daniel, but I resonated a lot with the struggle about becoming a US Citizen. I delayed the citizenship process after the rest of my immediate family, because I had wrapped so much of my identity in being an immigrant to this country. In my case, being a Canadian immigrant was often what I used as a “get out of jail free card” whenever considering responsibility for the injustices of this nation. Becoming a citizen felt weighty, and it’s a weight I still struggle against. I also struggled with the whiplash of so much anxiety, uncertainty and indignity my family experienced being rapidly replaced with an enthusiastic welcome at the citizenship ceremony (plus a rousing montage video set to “Proud to be an American”). And the whiplash lingers. After so many years of rude border agents who had all the power to prevent me from returning to my home in Minnesota, I still get more anxious crossing any border than Daniel. Daniel’s reflection above reminds me of one of the ways I felt connected to him in our experiences of being aliens in this foreign and crazy land. For me, I look ahead and wonder how we can best raise our son to love neighbor and self over nation and flag.

Kendra

Mexico on maternity leave*

*A.K.A. one of the best decisions we could have made.

A few weeks ago, we were waking up from the fog of newborn life and started talking about the future. In those reflections, we thought about what travel would be feasible in the coming months. Somewhat, in the spur of the moment, we decided to go to Mexico over Easter/Holy Week. We knew more family would be available during that time. Also, I attended a two day class at the end of March, which helped me confirm full-time work away from Sebastian was not what I wanted for the near future.

To say the trip was a spectacular success would be an understatement. Sebastian traveled well on the plane (in other words, he slept/ate the whole time) and was just the right age to pass around and still smile. We primarily visited Tepic (Daniel’s hometown), spending time with family and reconnecting with old friends, eating tasty foods, and playing lots of loteria. Riding around in his carrier or nestled in someone’s arms, Sebastian continues to gather many admirers and with some extra neck control, he’s now able to admire back.

While in Mexico, I put in my notice at work to be done on April 28th. Five days later, I learned the entire company is closing on that day. So it seems to have been a good choice (here & here are some more bits on what’s going down). Now, Daniel is looking forward to going back to his work on Monday, May 1st.

This leave has been a great time for us to grow together into a family of three, and we are so grateful it has included so much time with dear friends and family. I am certain I will have many thoughts to process as I begin my journey as a “stay at home mom” (let’s not forget, I am also Nancy’s daughter) but, for now, I’ll leave you with lots of sunny photos.

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Stepping into the Pacific Ocean
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Daniel, Sebastian, Camila, Kendra, and Jaqueline
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On the turibus (Tour bus) of Tepic
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Sebastian enjoying some time with his uncle Horacio and cousin Camila
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Chilling like a villain on a hammock
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Out for breakfast
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Sebastian and his great grandmother
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Daniel’s maternal family
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Frozen yogurt ice cream! Simply delicious!