Photo Drop

It is always a pleasure to go back home, speak my native language, savor the flavors I grew up with and admire the mountains. This time around it was very hard to leave, yet I felt content to have found so many of my loved ones smiling about their lives.

My mom and her husband Tommy laugh as they correct each other about insignificant details about je ne sais quoi, no one wins, they laugh, hold hands and move on. Their life just flows, adorned with smiles, orchids, tangerine trees and love.

Manuel and Antonio, my adorable little brothers, spend their summer playing together. Arguments come up and instead of dwelling on insignificant details, like they used to, they move on and continue to play. They are becoming friends and an incredible company to each other.

My dad sits in a gorgeous, two century year-old and recently renovated watermill / guesthouse that he and his wife Caro have been working on for two years. All four of his kids play with his granddaughter on the floor, while he sits back with Caro in his arms. His constant smile tells the whole story.

My beautiful sister, Bernarda, kisses her boyfriend in front of my grandma – she is in love. A ping pong table welcomes you when you enter their apartment, she has obviously found her soulmate.

My friends have started new jobs, most of them love what they are doing. Some wish they could retire in the next month, yet no one seemed to be terribly unhappy with their situation. They have each other, weekends for out-of-town trips and a lot of laughing material that could cheer up even the bitterest of souls.

This trip we also got to see many of my cousins, who I had not seen in ages. They too, seemed to be pretty at peace with their life.

As we travelled around Ecuador, I held in my hand a very precious book that had been in my reading list for over 2 years, but which I had not gotten around to buying – Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn.

This book narrates the stories of victims to some of the biggest gender-related injustices in the world, child prostitution and trafficking, honor killings, child marriage, Female Genital Cutting and infanticide. As I soaked in Kristof and Wudunn’s stories, I looked at my country with different eyes. I smiled as I saw women out and about, working, going to the market, handling money, dressed like they want and although there is much to do in Ecuador towards gender equality, I was glad to reflect on the fact that we are not doing too bad – in relation to many countries.

(Mami, no te tome ninguna foto con Milushkin… 🙁 q tontera! )

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Personal Space – Ecuador +photodrop

The hugs, kisses, smiles, the touching and the handholding is what makes me homesick the most. The casual personal conversations, the slang, smell, diversity, the music, mess and the mountains. It is easy to forget, when back in the US, that I indeed come from a different culture, a different part of the world and a contrasting reality to the one I now live in. I am blessed and endlessly thankful that I often get to come back to my country and share this world with Jaxon and Mila, for describing its magic would never do its justice. I am so proud and happy to be Latina.

We step out of our plane and it only takes us 30 steps to encounter an eager Ecuadorean who is ready to stroke Mila’s cheek. Mila turns her face around. We arrive to my mom and Tommy’s home and everyone in the house is ready to hold Mila, I warn them that she might not be happy and not to take it personally, she cries, they smile. My mom looks at me and says, “she must and will get used to it” and my crying baby is taken away. For many, this would be a terrifying story, nonetheless in Latin America this is what we do. Babies, for the most part, are considered a community investment and a happiness provider. So, indeed everyone has valuable advice and all hands must hold the chubby baby and steal a smile. For the first day Mila struggles, for in the US it is not often that her personal space is invaded. I love it. In my country, I must fight to have time with my baby, for if it was up to the people surrounding us she would always be playing somewhere else.

Apart from the invasive love, my mom’s endless hugs and the deep conversations Jax and I hold with our friend Adriana, who works as a maid in the house, we have been soaking in as much of the food, World Cup matches, family and relaxing as we possibly can. This week, we will be spending with my mom, Tommy, Berni, tio Soki, the dentist and Quito friends. Friday, we pack up and head to Zuleta to spend a week with my dad, Caro, my little brothers, wild condors and lots of Zuleta friends. Next Friday we will be coming back to Quito to say our goodbyes, before we fly out Saturday.


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Last Photo – Credit: Dani Perez


A week in the wilderness

“I don’t think anyone will believe me” was my brother Antonio’s response when his mom asked him if he’ll tell his friends he met his niece this week, “I am just too young”. This week we spent it in Andean paradise, surrounded by absolutely wonderful company – my two younger brothers, Manuel (9) and Antonio (6), my dad and stepmom, Fernando and Carolina, and for a few days my sister and her boyfriend, Bernarda and Juan Pablo. It is not common for my dad to have all of his kids in one place, but Mila brought us all together for some hiking, Monopoly playing, pizza making and lots of laughing.

The last seven days we were enjoying Caro’s delicious carrot cake and company, watching my dad and Mila fall in love, building yet another trebuchet with my brothers and making our baby girl into a true adventurer in the Andes. Many memories come tied to these mountains, but the biggest and most important one is of time shared with our family. I am happy to say that we leave with the same sensation of fulfillment and happiness of the time spent together.

The next two days will be spent saying goodbye to our family and friends in Quito. Introducing Mila to yet another family group and trying to grasp all the excitement that awaits us home.

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Courtesy of my brother Manuel:



In between paradises

There was silence in the car, I was sitting next to Jaxon who was steering us through the Andes while we talked about life. For the first time since we first crossed from Florida to Wisconsin, Mila dreamed away in her car seat. 40 minutes of snoozing passed and we got worried, for she was breaking a record. I turned around and double checked that she was breathing, anxiously the father awaited a postive response, “she is babe”, we both sighed and melted away in our conversation. 1 hour and 20 minutes passed and she was still quiet, “Jax I think we should stop the car and make sure she is breathing”. We stopped the car and I poked her – she moved, we looked at each other with huge smiles and held hands the rest of the way to Zuleta.

The last two days have been spent absorbing as much as we can of this Andean paradise. We left Cumbaya, from my mom and Tommy’s gorgeously designed and decorated home to my dad and Caro’s small paradise in the middle of an amphitheater of native beauty. Mila has been quite literarily laughing out loud with el GRANDpa (my dad) and Jaxon has spent hours playing and building stuff with my brothers.

Less than a year has gone by since we packed La Casita, yet with a baby and two moves under our belt it feels like years have flown by. We are endlessly thankful to have so much joy and beauty in our life.

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Dear Fairy Godmothers:

Today Mila’s eye was caught by a glittery cape hanging loosely on what she thought to be a stranger. With a skeptical look and an extended hand she reached to touch this shinny and strange thing, only to be surprised by a hug and kiss attack, from who she would later learn was her master Fairy Godmother – Julia. Dressed in a beautiful flowery dress, a pink cape and a tiara was my mom’s best friend from childhood, who had been anxiously waiting for more than a year to hold our baby girl. One by one, the fairies made their entrance into the room. And with a two exceptions, all of my mom’s best friends from school where standing in our living room.

Champagne in hand they each read Mila a health/empowerment-wish that each had written to her, as they proclaimed themselves her fairies who will always keep her safe. As tears streamed down our faces with sweet memories of the past and thoughts of the future, powerful words were read and each “little” fairy doll was placed in a bag for safe travels to Chicago, where they will keep an eye on Mila.

These past days both Jax and I are reminded of how much we love each of our families’ communities and how fortunate we feel to have so much love around. My mom has arranged multiple gorgeous get togethers with family and friends and Mila has met more than 100 people in a couple short days. We still have to do something with our same-generation friends and try to squeeze enough time with everyone into the next 10 days.

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Hola Ecuador

The view from the air looking down on Quito was a different one, no longer were we landing in the middle of an ocean of lights, but rather flying into the East of the city to touch down in the new airport. As I peeked out the window to admire the barely lit Andes, I held my sleeping baby tight, I was landing in Ecuador like I had never before, as a changed woman. Walking out of the airport, I held my baby high and proud to be her mother and eager to exposuse her to the altitude, the fruits, the music, the cold, the people – my history.

I love this mountainous country and boy do I love the sweet and familiar scent of my mom’s perfume. I am enriched by Ecuador’s diversity and overwhelmed by its flavors. Being here remind me of how much I miss my sister’s sense of humor, my dad’s overwhelming energy, my mom’s touch and  the warm feelings that invade my stomach when having my family around.

I am eternally thankful to be able to be here and experience this with the two people I love the most.


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Surprise baby shower, cancelled flight and leaving La Casita

Our last few days have been a bucket of mixed emotions. Some moments have been extremely fun and others very melancholic. First off, we had an amazing surprise baby-shower! All organized by my best friends and sis. We were not expecting to see a lot of people before leaving and considered ourselves lucky if we got to say goodbye to a few. We had a small dinner planned with some of my friends and sister for Monday night, when we arrived we were surprised by a very pink room full of friends, awesome food and an almost exaggerated amount of candy. Our night was spent chatting rather than doing taxes…

Tuesday, we spent dealing with dog-travel related bureaucracy (what we thought was our one last bureaucratic nightmare before leaving) and with my sister and mom. We had an amazing lunch together, followed by a night of packing, pizza eating and chatting with my sister and a lot more packing.  At around 11:00pm, when we were closed to done my mom called to inform us that our flight might be cancelled due to some technical issue that American Airlines was facing. An hour later her news was confirmed. Not only our flight, but another 700 were cancelled. So, after a night of packing and thinking we would get about an hour of sleep, we were able to rest.

So, we now leave tomorrow at 6:30 am. This means we will be leaving my mom’s home at around 2:30 am, to be in the airport by 3:30 am. Below I have included some photos of La Casita before we packed it all up, the awesometacular baby shower and Yaku and Yana happy in their new kennels.

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Our Daughter Speaks Whale

It all started two weeks ago, when baby Mila spoiled us by moving so much. We got used to her flutters joining us for family time at night. Last week, her movements decreased to just a few flutters a day. So, Jax and I were laying in bed one night thinking how we could get her to move. We know that as off a number of weeks ago she can hear activity/voices outside the womb and feel our touch. We tried some pokes, but felt bad that maybe we were poking her in the eye. All of a sudden Jax says “Maybe she only speaks whale” (Finding Nemo reference – watch the clip below if you have no idea what I am talking about). Within a couple seconds Jax was speaking whale to Mila and indeed to our surprise she started to move.

We repeated did this for a couple of days and it worked almost every time! So we decided to put some whale music for her to hear and she has reacted to it every time!! We think that it is probably because whale sounds are such low frequency that the sound travels better through the amniotic fluid. Regardless of the reason, we are delighted to have found a way to communicate with her! Making whales my favorite animals – again.

These past days have been busy. We have been packing, celebrating my dad and Caro’s 10th year anniversary and trying to finish taxes on time! Tomorrow we say goodbye to Zuleta and head to Quito to spend a couple days with my mom and sister before heading out of Ecuador. Saint Augustine here we come! Lots of posts to are on their way!

Below, a clip from Pixar’s “Finding Nemo”, an awesome whale I found online – would love to give someone the credit, but I could not find its source, some photos of my belly, some of the wonderful gifts Mila has received from my mom, sis and grandma and Jax and my long exposure experiment.


Preparing to leave and Mila

It is hard to explain everything that is going through our minds at the moment. Our business is headed towards stability – yet it is not quite there, we are about to move to a new town that we have never been to, with our two dogs, we need to find a home and furnish it and prepare ourselves for the birth of our first child, Mila. Although each of these things carry their own emotional weight, the addition of all of them has brought a huge amount of excitement into our lives. Actually, the word excitement does not quite encompass the mix bag of feelings that we have flowing through our systems at the moment.

We have spent this weekend trying to figure out the logistics of our travels, which is not an easy task. We need to find a temporary furnished home that accepts dogs to stay temporarily while we scout the area for a year-long rental and then move into the new house with nothing else than a bag of clothes and our computers… and figure out from there. That’s the short version, to avoid boring you with all of the logistics.

What we have chosen to do right before Mila’s birth is not an easy task. That said, we’ve weighed many many options carefully and it is without a doubt our best and I don’t think we would have it any other way. The thought of what we have ahead does not scare us, but rather fills our life with the excitement of planning and overcoming difficulties, which as always, bonds us even more. During this whole process, I have felt so fortunate to have the spouse I have, so supportive, understanding and more than anything, having someone who I get along so well with. It feels like as long as we are together, we could take on the world.

While I sit and write these words, Jax is looking at kiteboarding videos and looking for more potential rental solutions. Yesterday, we browsed the local Craigslist for furniture and we were very pleasantly surprised when we found a very active list with more than 100 local postings a day. Our nights have been spent talking and psychologically preparing for Mila, as we play with her in my belly. She now moves constantly and she feels just as active as she looked in the ultrasounds. She also responds to our touch and voices, which has made our love for her become almost infinite even though, we have yet to hold her – which we can hardly wait for.

We have also been in touch with a midwife that we like a lot and although we have yet to meet her face to face, having someone who we know is available for August is such a reassuring check off our list. We have been discussing our birthing plan and I have been re-educating myself on all things birth, which reminds me of how much I love being a woman and how, as soon as we are a little bit more economically stable, I will dedicate myself to empowering other women during childbirth and beyond.

And so, those are some of my thoughts for the day. We will now proceed to enjoy our last two weeks and a half in this amazing country.


Looking back and looking forward

Yesterday’s night, Jax and I decided to go for a late night walk. A full moon was shinning, our stomachs were full with soup and a Mila and the dogs were anxious to explore the night. As soon as we stepped out of La Casita, it dawned on us that this particular late night walk might be one of our last living here. Instead of being overwhelmed with mixed emotions, we ended up remembering and reliving parts of our trip down the river in Surkha. Soon enough, 30 minutes had passed and neither one of us could stop talking about all our memories. Some very scary, while others so magical we will never be able to forget. Now, more than a year after our Surkha adventure, we are about to say goodbye to a year and a half living in the Andes.

Our purpose for this year was not only visiting my family, but also being able to create a sustainable business. We have achieved both these goals and now we move to a historic city in the USA to birth our baby girl, Mila. We will be close to the ocean and it will not be long until we are sailing again, for we both crave it. Great waves will soon surround us and we will be able to improve our surfing. I am so thankful for our life, although not always easy, we are happy with how we’ve keep it unfolding in beautiful ways. Below some photos of our trip down the river.

Today my cousin Nacho came visit with a friend from Colombia, Juana. We have been having a great time with them!


Parents visit and more nature

My parents spent two weeks visiting Caye and I here in Ecuador – ending 1 week ago. The trip was great and very laid back. There was a lot of time for our families to just do “normal” things together, rather than lots of touring and touristing. It can be a bit tricky getting these less intense family times in when it takes intercontinental travel for either of our families to visit the other – so we were super pleased that this went so well and love that my parents are such easygoing and fun guests.

Unfortunately something has had to give as our “all work, all the time” lifestyle combined with the pregnancy – and that thing has been photography/writing. Long story short, we have very few photos from my parents’ trip. Most of the below are from a great weekend trip to Mindo with them and a hike we took with Caye’s family this last weekend.


The plan, Mila & Photos

It is hard to know where to start this post. I have not been writing in Mangolandia for a while and knowing what to say and what is irrelevant becomes harder. Our absence started right after we hired Pablo, our company’s CTO and things got really busy at work. That followed by an awful morning sickness, lots of traveling and a growing company left me with no time for photos or writing. Now, things have calmed down a bit – in a way.

My pregnancy has progressed beautifully and as of two days ago we are pretty sure we are having a baby girl, Mila, which has us delighted. Our company Invento Media ( is growing, fast, steady and is keeping us very busy and happy. Other than that we have decided on our next home and birthing spot. It will be Saint Augustine, Florida, USA. While researching our next home, we had a number of things in mind. It needed to be near the ocean, have great sailing, surfing, be warm, be socially progressive, have some of the “arts” around, be safe, affordable and be “near” both of our families. Right off the bat we had narrowed down our possibilities a lot by being so picky, so we were very surprised when we found a place that fit all of our specifications so well.

Saint Augustine, is the the oldest continually inhabited city in the United States, it was originally Spanish and is home to Seventeenth century forts and tons of great history. The intercoastal waterway divides Anastasia Island from the mainland and it is known for its great surfing, kite boarding, sailing and beautiful beaches. Best of all, it costs almost exactly the same to fly to there from Wisconsin and from Ecuador and although we wont be really near either family, this is a useful middle ground. We have already heard great things about the local farmers markets, CSA and microbrewery. We have contacted a possible midwife and are looking forward to getting to know the city better. Deciding on a completely unknown place for both of us as a birthing spot was not easy at all – at all. Both of our other two options offered countless benefits, such as having the most incredible midwife receive our baby in Wisconsin, already having a place to live in Ecuador and having lots of family support in both, but having waves, our own clean/modern home and being central to both families won our hearts.

So that is it for today, just some thoughts on our current state. I will be posting more again soon. There are a couple of questions from readers I have not answered, such as why we make the decisions we make and how we got started. I also want to post a meditating post on our company and how it has evolved and finally some traveling plans.

Below some photos from, well… since I stopped posting.


What does it feel like to be pregnant? (1st Trimester)

I promised myself I would not blog until the Inventando’s website (our company) was up. In the last few months our business has transformed and with it all my attempts to put a public face to it. I was very very close to having a functional page published and BOOOM remodel, rethink, redo x3…  Although all these changes have meant more work, I am actually happy about it because we are headed in wonderful directions.

Now, my part of the site is done and I am waiting on two people to finish theirs so the page can go live. So, today I decided to write a little about my feelings, pregnancy and this first trimester before the second trimester takes over my thoughts.

Have these initial months of pregnancy been what I expected? Going back to my earliest memories I wanted to be a mom, with the whole bundle – pregnancy, dipers, baby, breast feeding etc. I always thought that when I was pregnant my life would change and I would feel an intimate connection with my child. Just the thought of the person I love and I creating something that no one else can was as romantic to me as the thought of finding true love.

Well, 14 weeks have passed and that sense of connection and romanticism has yet to grow. This first trimester has been… well let me describe it this way, I have yet to download photos from our holiday vacation in Wisconsin because the thought of even looking at them makes me nauseas. I spent 10 weeks of my life so sick to my stomach, tired, cold, hot, hungry and uncomfortable that I have spent the following 2 unconvincing Jaxon that we should ever have another biological child. That is how bad my “morning” sickness was and somedays, still is.

On the bright side, the thought of this child has made Jaxon and I take our health very seriously. We have always been fit and have tried to eat healthy, but now we are being very intentional about it. We take beautiful 2 hour hikes up and down 600 feet of switch-backs every day, I start and end my days with a muscle toning routine that will help me during labor and keeps me in as much control as I can over my body. I can no longer look at baby photos, for I do not want to create any expectation of how ours might look. People around us are already dreaming of the big blue eyed, tanned, blonde wavy-haired baby that will emerge from what would be the “perfect” mix of Jax and I, but I try not to think about it too much, for me this baby has yet to have a face and however it turns out will be perfect.

We have also decided where we are going after Ecuador and although the baby’s birth place is still undecided we have boiled it down to two options. Baby names are on the table, well just two really – Mila if it is a girl and Luca if it is a boy, unless the baby’s face screams another identity. I am starting to feel M/L move lately, my belly has grown, I can no longer wear my old pants and I have put on 6 pounds.

Below my belly and some baby clothes I found on Pinterest for our soon to be very stylish baby… soon, more photos to come!



Visa problems… might not be able to come back!

Many of you might remember all the run-around that we had to do to get Jax a visa to stay in Ecuador. The main problems we had were bureaucracy-related. So after months and months of paperwork and visits to various ministries, we finally finished all the processes and called an early victory! A month later we were informed that his visa had been accepted! (visa – check) A couple weeks later (about a month ago), we came back to the capital pick up the visa and they informed us that there were no “especies” – the plastic “cards” that ID cards are printed on – and that we should return in 3 weeks. This has been a reoccurring theme in my life in Ecuador, it seems like our system never has “especies”. So, we walked out thinking, “well we’ll get the visa before going to the States”.

Today, we walked in to the ministry and explained our status and our upcoming trip. “Well, now we do have “especies”, so just leave the passport here and we’ll get the Visa taken care of” said the woman behind the desk. “Leave his passport here?”, I said. “Maybe you are missing the part where we are leaving in three days – how long do we need to leave it?”. “Just three weeks” she said nonchalantly… Well, damn….. So, we asked her if we could just FedEx the passport, from the states, to my mom here in Quito, to drop off and get Visa’ed. “That would be just fine of course” said our friendly attendant. Jaxon then asked, “Will her mom be able to pick it up here also?”. “No, of course not. You have to pick it up in person….” Ohhhh…. now we get it… he can send his passport from the US to Ecuador to get a visa, at which point it will be stuck in the ministry until he comes to pick it up, which he will never be able to do – because he will have neither passport or visa to travel back with…. nice.

Okay, so we stand right now, Jax cannot return to Ecuador after this trip. Fingers crossed that the Ecuadorian Consul in Chicago is better than our entire External Affairs Ministry! Theoretically they will be able to give us a provisional visa there, but it will require an entire new application process.

Work is still crazy – the reason why we haven’t been around much. Plus starting to blog again is hard! But I am sure all the amazing photographic opportunities in the States will bring us back to our old selves.

Now, an assortment of photos…


And we are back!

Yes!! It is now December and not only is Inventando running smoothly, but I get to blog again and most importantly I get to take lots of photos. I missed my camera dearly this month and I am ready to start capturing my days with it again.

Exciting things:

Our mini business has become a mid-sized one and it is beginning to run smoothly. There is still lots to do, but we are currently in a very good place. My days have been spent designing close to two websites daily and Jaxon is finishing the business organization and doing sales. We have hired Holly as our project manager, she is an amazing girl from California who has lived in Chile for 6 years. Pablo has been upgraded to General Manager. We have a strong marketing team, led by Pablo’s wife Maricela. Jon, who we have now worked with for three years continues to code along side of three other main programmers. The Inventando website is still not done so nothing to show you guys yet, hopefully by Christmas I’ll be able to post it.

In 8 days we are flying to Wisconsin to spend a month there. The blog will be covered with photos of snow, delicious christmas food and wonderful people.

So before I continue to bombard you with more photos, I’ll post some of my most recent work.