Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I have proof

Someone inherited a habit from her Daddy's family of sticking her tongue out while concentrating.
Her Grandma, Great-Aunt, Aunt, and Cousin all do it.
I tried to find proof of other family concentrating, but this is what I could find:
Cousin Isabelle painting
(A few years ago)

(UPDATE! I found proof that the girls' grandma does it!)

And here's proof that it happens all the time:
While bike-riding
While playing in dirt 
While gluing 
While snacking
While playing baseball
While puzzling

Happy 20 months to my hijita!
It's incredible to imagine that Hazel is almost the same age Ellie was when Hazel was born. 
Hazel-a few hours old
Ellie-20 1/2 months old

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mardis Gras, Guatemalan-style

Living in Latin America means learning a lot about the Catholic religion, as it is the predominant religion. There are many traditions and Catholic holidays that shut down stores and streets and offices.

Last week was the beginning of Lent. In the States the types of people who participate in sacrificing or giving up something for Lent vary. Many are from the Catholic tradition. Others might be Protestant or not affiliated with any denomination or church. I didn’t grow up practicing Lent or having an awareness of it, but I’ve come to appreciate the idea of making an effort to give up something to grow spiritually or otherwise. Some people use Lent as a way to lose weight (cut out sugar, desserts, etc.), which I’ve been guilty of, and not the intended purpose. Others use it as a way to create space for family, away from Facebook or social media. Traditionally, in the Catholic church, and here in Guatemala, most people will refrain from eating meat during the week as their Lenten sacrifice. Regardless, I think it's a good practice in self-discipline.

The festivities here in Guatemala began last week on Monday. At school, the girls decorated cascarones. These are egg shells that have been very carefully emptied and cleaned, and then are painted and filled with confetti-type paper and sealed shut with tissue paper. When these are thrown on the ground, they explode into a cloud of color and confetti. 
I thought these were unique to Guatemala, but from what I've read they are also very popular in Mexico. They originated when the Spanish came to Latin America in the time of Christopher Columbus.
Fat Tuesday is known as Dia del Carnaval in Latin America. Every country has its own version of traditions. Here, it’s a day where kids have a party, dress up in costumes (like on Halloween) and throw the cascarones. There are often parades in the main city centers. The idea with Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or Carnaval, is to celebrate and do all the crazy, wild things that will be abstained from during the lenten season. Breaking these is part of those festivities.
I didn't know exactly how much to dress up the girls, but Ellie decided she wanted 5 ponytails for school. It wasn't until I took the girls to school that I realized just how dressed up her friends and teachers were for this special occasion. Another cultural tradition that I learned about a little too late. At least I know for next year. 
Hazel's teacher loves to do her hair. For this special occasion she made her hair into a braided heart. 
Our elderly neighbor in our first apartment spent all year making cascarones to sell on the streets during these holidays. There would be trays of empty, white, carefully cracked egg shells lining the wall in the garage and she would spend her free time painting and filling them, all year long. As soon as the festivities are over, she stars collecting them and getting ready for the next year. 

She gave the girls a bag of them, which we had been saving, so when they each brought one egg from school we decided to throw them as intended. 
We went up to the second floor patio of our neighbor's house, and threw them below. 
The week between Palm Sunday and Easter is known as Semana Santa (Holy Week) and from what I hear, it's a time of lots of people and celebrations and parades. We look forward to experiencing it this year, as last year we arrived to Guatemala just a few weeks too late. 
Happy Lent!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Ebb and Flow

It was a typical afternoon. I was working on the computer, checking email and reading some Spanish documents for work. Hazel was taking a nap after school and Ellie was watching her Friday afternoon show.

We have a stack of photo books I made over the last couple years on the coffee table next to our couch. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Ellie grab the top one. It's a little book I made of Ellie and her best little buddy in Fresno, Abi. We gave a copy to Abi before we moved.

Ellie was looking through the book, as she does occasionally. I walked over to the couch and saw her touching Abi's face, studying her. These pictures are already more than a year old. I don't want to think about how much she may have already forgotten. There's always been a blurry line for me between remembering with fondness and hanging on too hard.
Mommy. I want to go see Abi. Right now. It's been a lot of days since I saw her. I looked at my little one's face, so serious and solemn and sad. She remembers some things, at least. My heart snapped in two. There's nothing more heartbreaking than seeing your three-year old sad and confused. I wiped my misty eyes, tears shed for her and maybe my own missing friendships.
Fresno friends
We've been living in Guatemala for almost 11 months. We have our routines. We're accustomed to life here. It's our new normal. But making friends is hard anywhere, and especially hard here, between the job we have and the language barrier and not knowing where to connect with people. It may be the most difficult part of living here.

These waves of nostalgia and reminders of what we left behind ebb and flow like the waves of the ocean. Some days the waves of memories are soft and warm and almost comforting, slipping in out of my mind as I go about my day. I smile, thinking of friends and memories and am thankful for experiences we've had.
Other days the waves hit hard, crashing down like the stormy, dark waves along the rocky Oregon coast. They hurt. They're cold and sad and lonely. I find myself in a dark place, even for a brief moment, thinking what if and about all the things we "gave up."
A favorite place: Twin Rocks
Rockaway Beach, Oregon
Thankfully, those moments are less and less. I'm an adult. I can handle them. I understand the decisions we've made and the benefits of living here. But, it comes full circle when your preschooler wants to go see her friend and doesn't understand why we can't just drive over to her house like we used to.

And so it went that Ellie and I had a brief moment in the midst of our daily normal of missing our friends and family and what we left up North.
And then we're back to our current routine, our Guatemalan phase of life.