Sunday, May 19, 2013

Why I'm Exhausted

We are entrenched in a busy schedule and it exhausts me in a way I can't remember since I had a newborn waking me up every few hours all night long.

Both girls caught a cold last week at school. Ellie's didn't do much, but Hazel had more days of fevers and waking up in the night, something I'm not used to (she usually sleeps 12 hours uninterrupted). Today was her first day without a high fever, and her energy seems to be back, so we're hoping the sickness is finally gone.
Our Beautiful Girls
Then we have our stubborn 2 1/2 year old. I remember the days when she used to wake up no earlier than 7AM. EVER. In the last few months she started waking earlier, and since moving to Guatemala gets up anywhere from 5-6:30AM, most often around 5:30.  We finally accepted it because she shares a room with Hazel and forcing her to stay in her room only woke up her sister and created a lot of stress for us trying to "encourage" our very wide awake girl to go back to sleep. Now, we usually prepare the coffee pot the night before so we can gulp down the caffeine at the bright and early crack of dawn.

After taking the girls to school Michael and I take a bus to our school, an Anabaptist Seminary in town. We each have our own teacher and sit in a classroom for 4 hours (minus a 30 minute break) one-on-one with our maestras. My brain and tongue usually feel like I've been doing some kind of marathon training with them for 4 hours. 

We get home, grab ourselves lunch, get the girls to bed for naps, and either try to nap ourselves (yeah right), do dishes from breakfast and lunch, or work on our Spanish homework. Then it's dinner, bedtime for the girls, and more Spanish homework until I fall asleep studying. I have dreams of Spanish. Not IN Spanish, but ABOUT Spanish, as in, conjugating and conversing and trying to remember vocabulary even in my sleep.

Weekends we have go to the market and make trips to the supermercardo (Wal-Mart), do laundry, and if we have time, more homework. It feels like we spend the weekend preparing for the week ahead. 

Today a co-worker took us to a huge park with running trails and a humungous stadium and one of the largest kids play areas at a park I've ever seen. It was fun for Ellie to play and to see another part of the city. I felt very daring today and snuck my IPhone in my pocket so I could snap a few pictures.

The right side of the stadium
The left side of the stadium with some kind of "mural"
On the way home we walked past Ellie's school and I finally took a picture of her in front of it.

Yes, this is the front door to the school. We love the mural.
So, that's what we've been doing. Today marks one month of being in Guatemala. Wow. This will be our routine for several more weeks. I better go start my homework. 

Hazel is pulling herself up on everything and is more brave every day. She could be walking before we know it. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

From Our Balcony

We live on the second story of our apartment building on a very busy road, right near the corner of a major intersection. From early in the morning until maybe 10:30 or 11:00 at night the buses and cars are  extremely noisy. Right next to us, on the corner, is a panaderia which emits a sweet bread smell all day long. Michael's new addiction is pan dulce, a slightly sweet bread that pairs well with coffee.

Yesterday I snapped a few pictures to share. All of these are from our balcony or right inside.
The man on the left stands on this corner every morning and sells flowers.  Today I noticed a security guard holding his gun. He was with the van parked in front of where they're standing. It's common to see guards with guns everywhere. The bus line we take to school every morning employs a guard with a gun to sit on each bus to help cut down on crime and robberies. 
Looking out to the right. The building on the left is a futsal arena. We can hear the players playing and yelling when they score well into the night.
Looking out to the left. The stop sign is directly in front of the panaderia with another one right across the street. 
Daddy and Ellie coming back from a walk to the tienda.

And a few bonus pictures of our family: 
Ellie telling Daddy her Spanish words. She calls this book the "El Bebe" book. 
Our little ten-month old. She's standing and cruising and my guess is we'll blink and she'll be walking. 


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

First Day of School

Yesterday was the big day. I laid out outfits and packed lunches the night before, just like I used to do with anticipation before all my first days of school.

Ellie wanted to take a picture with her backpack on to send to her older cousin Isabelle.
We took the classic first-day-of-school photo, and since we were all heading to school we took a family photo, too.

Needless to say, I've been nervous and anxious about this process. We like the proximity of the school to our apartment and office, and the colegio seems like a place we can trust to leave our children. The teachers are warm and friendly and sweet.

Sisters' first day of school together.
I was most nervous about leaving the girls for five hours, through a nap for Hazel and lunchtime. I hoped Hazel would nap in a new place, but know she's been stubborn about the going to sleep process.

Nevertheless, we set off yesterday morning to walk the two blocks to school. Ellie was excited about walking to school wearing her backpack. We handed off the kiddos to the teachers while we signed papers. When we were leaving, Ellie began to cry but we gave quick hugs and left, hoping to tear the band-aid off quickly.

The door closed and we hurried away towards our bus stop. I grabbed Michael's hand and started to cry. It was inevitable. I'm a mom separated from my ninos.

Our Spanish lessons flew by quickly and before we knew it we were standing in front of the school ringing the bell. They don't let us inside but bring the girls to the door when we arrive. The report of day one? They both cried a little, but overall did great. Hazel didn't take a nap, which I was bummed about, but not entirely surprised.

All the way home Ellie told us all about school. I found myself asking her questions and probing responses out of her all night. I wanted as many details as I could. She was smiling and happy and proud of the little card she had colored, excited about her snack and eating lunch at school, using the stool in the bano (and having no accidents!) and playing with new toys.
Ellie colored this at school.
It's an invitation for me to join the girls on Friday at school for a Mother's Day celebration.
I love that a teacher wrote "Aldi." I'm assuming that was an attempt to spell Ellie phonetically with a Spanish accent. 
The school has little notebooks where they write notes from the day and where we can respond if needed.

Today Hazel took a great nap at school. Ellie was excited about going to school. Though she started crying when we first left, she had another great day. It's fun to ask her about her day and to hear about her singing songs and playing with new friends and coloring. I'm thankful she's had no accidents and really seems to be adjusting well. I wish I could be a fly on the wall to observe what's going on, but I guess this is part of parenting, not getting to be around every second and learning to release my girls to become a little independent. I just didn't think I'd have to start that so soon.

I am feeling blessed and thankful for this school and praying that the girls continue to adjust and enjoy their mornings there. Michael and I have had fun experiencing riding the bus and and limiting ourselves to speaking Spanish all morning. Time to study!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Our First Visitor

We had our first visitor to our home this morning. She lived with some friends of ours in Oregon for a year as an exchange student in 1972. This sweet woman, Marta, lives here in Guatemala City. As soon as our friends learned that we were moving here they wanted us to get in touch with their Guatemalan aunt/sister.

We spoke last night on the phone and she came over this morning. It's so nice to have a connection with someone from here, and to have another person available for help if we need it. We even live in the same zone, which means we live within 15 minutes of each other. Guatemala City is huge and can take an hour or two to get from one side to another with traffic. We look forward to meeting her family and spending time with them. She teaches English but we told her when we meet her family it will be wonderful for us to practice our Spanish.

She read my blog and saw my desire to bake something, so this morning she showed up with a delicious apple pie.

Michael and I each had two pieces for breakfast with our coffee. Deliciosa!

This afternoon we enjoyed getting out for a walk. We were intending on going to a park around the corner from our apartment but it's closed on weekends. We walked another couple blocks to the two-story humungous Wendy's so that Ellie could play in the play area. We've noticed almost every restaurant has a kid's play area. I think because some of the parks are sketchy and being outside isn't often a good option, many people go to the mall or out to eat so the kids have a place to play.

 Tomorrow is a big day! My girls have their first day of school. Wish us all luck!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Three Little Ingredients

Baking soda (bicarbonato de soda-found in the pharmacy), baking powder (polvo para hornear-found in our local tienda), and yeast (activa seca para panificacion-found at Walmart).

Who knew such little things could be so exciting? We had to do a lot of searching to find these. 

There are still other ingredients I haven't found yet, but they are more specialty items like cocoa powder and shredded coconut.

What should I bake first? 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Las Esquelas

This morning I had the first low-key morning at home with the girls in weeks. Ellie and I played together, baked, and painted. I enjoyed trying to reestablish a sense of normalcy. Hazel had a better night last night but still woke up and still feverish. Today she was shrieking a lot which showed us she must be feeling back to herself at least a little.

This afternoon I had my first 4-hour Spanish lesson. It was fun to be able to communicate some, though I know how much I don't know too. I have five pieces of tarea (homework) to do tonight. My maestra was impressed with how much I remembered from over ten years ago in high school, and I surprised myself as well. It got me excited to continue to learn.

This week Michael goes in the morning and I go in the afternoon. Ideally they'd like us to both go in the morning. It is safer to travel together and all the classes are in the morning which includes an intentional break time with all the professors at the seminary. So, we have to make a decision if this would work for our family and how.

There is a preschool/daycare only two blocks from our apartment. Our work office is just around the corner from us so regardless of where we move in the future this preschool is very close to our office. We finally took a tour of it tonight. They are very strict about security and therefore wouldn't let us tour it while children were there during school hours. Ellie had fun playing while we toured and conversed with the director of the school. It's a mix of Montessori and Spanish/English immersion. I think it could be a great fit because I like the Montessori model and like that it's not 100% Spanish or 100% English. After our experience last week with Ellie struggling because of her inability to communicate even simple things with childcare workers, I am thankful that there will be an English and Spanish speaker teaching her class, especially at the very beginning.

There are five other children in the 2-3 year old class, a perfect size. There are two babies, a 12-month and 15 month-old, so Hazel would be the youngest baby out of three in the baby room. I'm nervous about Ellie starting school, but she seems excited (for now). She knew we went to school today and seems excited about the prospect of her "own" school with new friends where she gets to "play with balls and paint," and Hazel gets to come too. Obviously it could be a lot different when we drop her off on Monday morning, but it's a good sign that she's so interested.

Michael and I are supposed to be in class for four hours, so most likely we will drop the girls off at 8 and pick them up at about 1, right after they eat lunch. That's five hours. I'm having a hard time with this. This would be the routine for the next two months, possibly even after we begin our job. It would give us afternoons and evenings together, which is great, but five hours feels long especially after finally having a good morning at home. I teared up at the preschool thinking about it, after being away from my girls all afternoon. I know that we will all adjust, but it will take time.

I knew it would be hard to imagine leaving both girls, but I am realizing how hard it will be to leave Hazel. She'll be 10 months in a few days and it seems so young. We don't have a lot of time to look for other options for daycare, but thankfully this school seemed very secure, clean, organized, and couldn't be in a better location, and the teachers seem to know what they are doing and have good credentials.

I have to trust that this is going to work for all of us and know that it will take time to adjust. This is part of our new life and I am trusting the Lord to take care of us in the big things and the little, including keeping my girls safe and secure in a nurturing environment.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

We Are Home

We moved into our apartment on Sunday. It's probably good we didn't have internet so that I couldn't get online and express some of the emotions we were feeling. We were overwhelmed for several reasons and one of us (I won't specify) actually said "I want to go home," to which the other one of us replied, "We are home."

Michael got sick on Sunday around the time I discovered that what I had hoped were simply coffee grounds were actually mouse droppings all over our cupboards with dishes, pots, silverware, and cups below the counters. We spent hours scrubbing and cleaning. Monday we were supposed to start language school but Michael ended up in bed all day and I continued to clean and scour the apartment, while trying to appease two little ones on a very dirty floor. I've never been so excited to mop.

Hazel came down with a high fever and tonight will be her third night of being feverish and sleeping in only a diaper. I'm hoping and praying she doesn't wake up several times in the night screaming and sweating. She seems a bit better today, though the fever is still present and we're pumping her with Tylenol.

Michael is feeling better. We are glad we took the last few days to clean and get settled in. The apartment finally feels put together. We've moved over a dozen times, but this is the first time we've moved into a furnished place where we had to clean and sort through all the stuff left behind.

We're finally feeling ready (emotionally, physically, and mentally) to begin language study tomorrow. Today we were able to get out and use a car to run some errands. At lunch we sat in a restaurant and looking out the window I could see Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, and Taco Bell. Two blocks from our apartment is a large mall. We have access to so much.

Today I'm thankful for several household items we were able to purchase. I'll share a few of my favorites below. I'm not sure which I'm the most excited to use. Several more items aren't pictured, including new pillows. I can't wait to go to bed tonight.

I will never take for granted having a booster seat or high chair. Since we arrived the only access we've had to either has been in restaurants. It has made meal time extremely unpleasant as we've tried holding Hazel, feeding her from our laps, and even putting her in a stroller. She has reached a stage of desiring independence and was so content sitting in this chair tonight. She loved every second of it.
(Sidenote: we had two choices for a booster seat: Disney's Cars or Disney Princesses. Ellie chose the Cars. That's our girl!) 
Spices. I can't wait to cook and bake with these. We are still on a hunt for baking soda and baking powder. I guess people prefer going to the panaderia over baking their own bread. 
We had no frying pan until today, and with all the chopping I've done already, dull knives are no good.  
The pot isn't new, but it had been burnt and had crazy residue.  This little scrubber did its magic and I am very happy to be able to use this pot.  
Thanks for continuing to pray for us as we transition. Today was definitely what we needed to get past feeling overwhelmed and to start making this feel like home. I'm sure many more moments of feeling over our heads are in our future, but we already feel stronger for having made it through the last few days.