Friday, October 31, 2014

A Peek Into Today's Journal

(Excerpts from today's journal entry. In other words, a disclaimer: The following thoughts may be disconnected and on the pessimistic side. But they are the thoughts of a pregnant mom with two little ones who needs to clear her jumbled heart.)

I seem to pick up my journal only when I'm super overwhelmed. I miss having mom friends, especially English speaking ones where I can really express myself. It can be very lonely here, as a mom, as a wife, as a person.

I know losing my patience is "normal" as a mom, but I hate that it's my girls who bear the brunt of it most of the time. It's not THAT big of a deal that I cleaned up 5 or 6 pee accidents in less than 30 minutes. So why does it bring out the worst in me? The yelling, impatient, irrational, mean, frustrated mommy in me? My emotions, my anger, and my frustration too often get the best of me. I overreact.

Today I found myself in the middle of reacting to a situation, and I pictured in my mind a much better way I should have been responding. It was like I was an actor in a movie, acting as the mom no one imagines themselves becoming. I caught a glimpse of what I could do, and instead, I kept on going and reacting. It was easier to keep going and ignore what I knew to be a better response. Is that the definition of out of control? Maybe. It felt impossible to stop and retract and choose a different path. Of course, I was cleaning up urine on the floor at the time. But I need to figure how to do that in the moment. For my girls. And for myself.
There's a word in Guatemala, "chipe" (chee-pay), that is used when the youngest child is acting out, crying, or rebelling a lot. The word is used if the mother is pregnant. When a child is crying or having tantrums or is extra needy, it means the child is reacting to their mom's pregnancy by being "chipe." Before I knew I was pregnant, people asked me if our youngest was chipe whenever she was crying or being clingy. Someone asked me this and a few days later I found out I was pregnant. Regardless, she's in a stage of "rebellion," as her teacher told us yesterday. She's having several accidents while being fully aware of what she's doing. She's being defiant, saying no, is extremely independent and must do everything herself. Everything. If I start to do something for her she retraces our steps so she can do it herself from the beginning (while screaming and crying and yelling if I resist). All. By. Herself. It could be that she's chipe, but she's also just being 2.
It's a difficult stage. It was hard with Ellie too, I remember. We have two very stubborn little girls. But, maybe because Hazel has been my Mommy's Girl, my snuggler, my affectionate one, this contrast has felt more stark. Like a slap in the face. There comes a time when a parent realizes the baby is no longer there. It's been slowly creeping up on me, this loss of her babyhood, but suddenly, it feels much more in my face. I think I have to mourn the loss of my baby girl who has turned into a full blown toddler while I prepare myself mentally for our third and final baby that will begin this cycle one more time.

This parenting thing is tough. No one can prepare you for the sudden realization that your sweet baby has become a terror. A cute, adorable, drive-me-up-the-wall terror. One of the hardest parts of being a parent lately is seeing myself in the mirror, seeing all the worst parts of me as a human. Because that's what parenting does. It brings out the worst in us at times. Of course there are precious moments when it brings out the best in us, and in those I need to dwell during my moments of discouragement and frustration.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dancing, a New School, and Another Spanish Blunder

The girls had their Clausura (closing night) for their school a couple weeks ago. Usually these involve dancing and/or singing of some kind.
Ellie dancing with her class. There are 2 girls and 6 boys in her age group. 
It was held at 7:30 in a place pretty far away on a Friday night. It was pouring rain and both girls fell asleep in the car on the way there. Ellie woke up fine, but Hazel never seemed to snap out of it. I think she would have slept for the night, had we let her.
One of Ellie's little buddies.
The school sends us special notes all the time with reminders. For this Clausura we received instructions on what to wear. I thought I read it all correctly, and didn't take time to double check one of the Spanish phrases, but I was pretty sure I remembered the meaning from the last Clausura.
This is Hazel's class. Notice anything odd? Yes, she's in a totally different outfit than her classmates.
I read the note to mean Hazel was supposed to wear her tulle pink skirt and pink tights (and no mention of a shirt, so I went with white.)

As you can see from the picture, I was a bit off. She was supposed to wear a jean skirt, with a pink shirt and pink tights. Silly gringos. I blame the lack of commas on the list that added more confusion to the mix. Use your commas to separate listed items, people!!
For Ellie, we knew she was supposed to wear overalls, a yellow shirt, and a red bandana, but unfortunately I couldn't find overalls anywhere. We were close enough.

Compared to previous presentations, both girls have markedly changed. I was so happy Hazel wasn't screaming and crying for me during the whole song/dance that I didn't mind that she just stood there. Literally, just stood there. Doing nothing. Except standing. But not crying, so that was a win. I blame that on her interrupted sleep. Everyone kept asking us afterwards why she was so serious. I think she was doing it on purpose to protest being woken up.
The girls also received little diplomas to "graduate" to their next level. Hazel received a special award for "haber dejado los pañales," which means having quit wearing diapers.
Her one smile of the night. 
The girls are going to start a new school on Monday. It's a little bittersweet. Ellie has made a few buddies at this school, and that will be hard to leave behind. But, if you ask Ellie about her new school she gets giddy and excited and starts clapping. She's very excited.

The new school has a large outdoor space to play, unlike the current school, which is basically in a house with no yard. It is a much bigger school with more kids, and seems a bit more professional. There were 8 kids in Ellie's group this year, there will be 3 classes of 4-year olds next year. She's had several days where her one or two good friends aren't at school, and she tells me, sadly, with big puppy eyes, that she played by herself. I'm hoping that will be less likely with more kids.

I say it's bittersweet to leave the current school because this is where they started in Guatemala. Their first preschool/daycare, their first "home away from home." It is definitely special for that reason. The teachers have been sweet, and the girls have been well taken care of. For that, I'm eternally grateful. But, there's also been a high turnover rate of teachers, meaning both girls have had several teachers in the 18 months they've attended. They get attached and accustomed to a teacher, and one day, without warning, that teacher is gone. That's been frustrating at times.
The one teacher the girls have had throughout their entire time at this school.
The new school has a much higher retention rate of the teachers. At the minimum, they'll have the same teachers for one whole school year, and will probably have mostly the same classmates every year, which is also a change from the current school. It's also closer to our house, which means we could walk if we have to, another plus as Michael starts traveling more without the rest of us.

The new school is bilingual, which actually made me hesitant. I like that they've been immersed in almost 100% Spanish. (There has been some English in this school, but very limited). Hazel speaks "spanglish," with a huge emphasis on the Spanish. The majority of her common words and phrases are still Spanish, though she understands completely both English and Spanish. I worry a little that having more English at school might lower her Spanish skills, but I think I'm worrying too much. They still get plenty of Spanish at church and everywhere else. And in fact, it will probably be good for her to start counting and learning some other things in English.

We had a conference with their teachers today and they told us how intelligent and great our girls are (Bragging Mommy Moment). The one teacher who has been there since the girls started was reminding us of how both girls cried so hard their first few days they turned blue! We had assured them that it was something both girls did often, but I think it stuck in their minds. Now, they rush into school every morning, toting their backpacks and ready to see their friends, barely looking back at us to wave "adios." Ellie corrects the teachers when they try to speak in English! We've been blessed and it's obvious our girls are cared for, as the teachers get tears in their eyes talking about our girls leaving. But, we're ready for a change, and excited for our girls to get settled into a new place before baby sister arrives in January.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ellie's 4th Birthday

My baby is 4!

Last year we had a party at her school, but this year I convinced her that her friends from church couldn't come if we had it at school, so we celebrated at home.

The first (and probably most important) ingredient to a successful Guatemalan birthday party is a piñata. We went downtown to a street where piñatas seem to grow on trees, or buildings.
We found the Jessie piñata right away. This was a "regular" size, not to be confused with the larger ones. 
Birthday morning was fun because we had received presents in the mail from family and friends.
Pajamas that Ellie was convinced to be a dress. She wore it all day and to bed. 
Birthday morning pancakes, a Chapman tradition.
What started out as a Jessie piñata turned into a Toy Story theme. After a crazy few weeks up through Saturday with work, I knew I wouldn't feel up to making a cake. A friend lent me some decorations, and we got a cake and put a Toy Story picture on it, and I added my own lettering. Theme complete.
We also made Mr. Potato Head cupcakes (inspired by Pinterest, though adapted to what I could find in Guatemala).

  The kids seemed to have fun. 
Hazel was looking a little guilty because she was eating all the candy instead of decorating her cupcake.
 The birthday girl!

 Hazel has been walking around for days singing, "Happy to you, Happy to you," so she was especially excited to sing to Ellie when it came time for cake. 

It was a rainy day, so we did the piñata under the neighbor's garage. This was the first time we'd seen Hazel not only not be afraid of the piñata, but run up excitedly ready to whack away. I think the several parties at school lately have helped her get over her fear. She walks around the house with some kind of baton signing the piñata song: "Dale, dale, duro, dale, dale, duro." (Loosely translated means go hard, or, hit it hard!)
We had a fun party, despite a few friends not being able to come last minute. 
Happy Birthday, Ellie!
We love you so much!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Why Shopping With Youngsters Takes FOREVER

It's been one of those crazy days where I remember why I rarely go out with just the girls on errands.

The girls are out of school and we had a lot of errands to run to get ready for their clausura (closing ceremonies for the school year) and Ellie's birthday and party this weekend.

First, we had to go to the local used and imported-from-America store so I could look for random pieces of clothing for the girls' costumes for tonight. I mostly found success, though I couldn't find overalls for Ellie.

I did, however, find this Red Plate for about $1.25 (they can cost up to $35-40 in the States), and was pretty excited to continue this family tradition of using it on special occasions while living in Guatemala. Just in time for Ellie's birthday pancakes tomorrow morning!
Speaking of good finds, I was recently lamenting on a friend's facebook page that I don't have access to good, used books here in Guatemala, and specifically we were talking about books about child-rearing, and more specifically we were talking about this exact book, which I happened to find a few days later in Antigua in a new used book buy/sell/trade area. I'm pretty excited (not only to have found this book, which has been highly recommended to me since before Hazel was born, but ALSO, we finally have a place to take and trade used books! Our office and home are filled with random novels and books that don't really need to be a part of our MCC library, so I'm excited to have a place to take them).
Back to today: we only had one little didn't-quite-make-it-to-the-bathroom accident for my youngest, but luckily I was prepared. Unluckily, I had a lot more errands to do and no more changes of clothes.

My trip to Wal-Mart (ugh, I hate having to admit that I shopped there) would have taken half the time without the girls. Literally. It took more than an hour and a half, in what should have taken 30-45 minutes. Why? Well, when you are shopping as the only adult with youngsters, and especially when one is newly potty trained, and extra-especially when you have no more changes of clothes so every mention of "pee-pee" or "poo-poo" sends you dashing off to find the bathroom in the far corners and second level of the store, carrying a 2 year-old and dragging the 4-year old by the hand, it can take a bit longer to get through your shopping list.

This is especially exasperating when your child seems to be constipated and therefore says "poo-poo" several times. This sends me into a panic now, after our experience with Ellie at about the same age. But, every mad dash to the bathroom that results in nada is more frustrating than the last, and also more nerve-wracking, since I don't know when she might suddenly not be able to hold it. The third sprint to the bathroom was the worst, since I had just unloaded the contents of my overloaded cart onto the conveyor belt. The ladies working there were kind, and let me run to the bathroom, leaving all my items on the belt. (I was in the pregnant women/old people/wheelchair lane, so there wasn't a line behind me when I took off.) Another false alarm.

After a few hours of shopping I rewarded myself the girls with their favorite lunch spot: Pollo Campero. As soon as we walked in the door there was yet another announcement of a needed baño. But at last, after 4 trips while we were out earlier, at last, success. As I stood there waiting for my child to finish her duty, I couldn't help but think about how much worse it could have been, and thankful that it wasn't.

All to say, I remembered today why something as simple as going to the grocery store alone can be a treat for a mother or father of small children. It sounded so trivial before becoming a parent. But now I know that a trip alone ANYWHERE is a treat itself, to have the leisure to walk around and browse and shop without little voices whining and asking for things, and without having to sprint to the bathroom every 10 minutes. Unless of course you're pregnant and do need to sprint to the bathroom every 10 minutes.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Spaghetti for Breakfast

On Monday we took a quick trip to Santiago Atitlan to take a new worker and get her settled with our partner there for the year.

When we visit the lake we usually stay with a local family. They are usually an indigenous family. The kids might speak some Spanish, as they are learning it in school, but it's much more unsure if the parents speak Spanish, and most likely the grandparents don't speak any.

The girls always love to visit because of all the animals running free, mainly chickens and ducks. They don't seem to mind the roosters crowing or the dogs barking at 5am like we do.
Right outside our room.
Ellie likes to help grind corn to feed the chickens.
Many of the women in the community do beadwork to sell in town and with our partner. The girls were "helping." 
The girls know how to keep themselves occupied while we have meetings. 
Walking around town gets tiring. 
Breakfast in this community often includes spaghetti, and always with tortillas, of course. We're not sure if this is because the community hosts a lot of people from the North, and they think it's something we are accustomed to, or maybe it's just cheap.
I bet YOU didn't have spaghetti for breakfast this morning!
The girls love noodles, regardless of which meal it is.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Enjoy Your Kids. No Seriously, It's Possible.

Up until recently the girls and I have traveled together with Michael on every trip we've needed to take. This job includes a lot of travel. At one point we counted over 100 days per year, and that includes trips to other countries for meetings, 3-4 day trips around Guatemala and El Salvador, and lots of meetings and visits.

We've acknowledged that this pace is not sustainable as a family of 4, and especially not as a family of 5. So, I'm going to have to get used to Michael being gone for 3-4 days at a time, often.

Michael left on Wednesday and gets home tonight. YAY! On the one hand, it's an extension of what I already do on a regular basis, which is stay at home with the girls every afternoon until dinner time. Michael usually gets home in time for dinner and to help with bedtime routines. The difference when he's traveling is bedtime. For any parents out there, I don't need to expand. Bedtime can be the most taxing 30 minutes to one hour of the day.

The first day I felt overwhelmed. The prearranged taxi didn't show up at the school to pick up me and the girls, so I had to call my neighbor to pick us up. That set off the rest of the day. Too many pee accidents by my resident 2 year-old (which is abnormal these days), who also chose not to nap, not to mention that it was Dia del Niño so both girls were extra ramped up from sugar and school festivities. I barely made it to bedtime. (In case you want proof, here is a video of the girls this night).
Day one: The TV and DVD player were my co-parent, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
The second day I chilled out. My mother-in-law texted me with some simple words: "Enjoy your time with the girls while Michael is gone." Oh yeah, that. I don't do that too often lately. I have fun moments with them but most days it feels like I'm just trying to accomplish tasks or get through the day until bedtime. But do I enjoy them? Do I enjoy the simple moments?
What a concept, to enjoy my girls! So, Thursday I did that. I had a great afternoon with Ellie, working on school projects, playing games, and coloring, and just trying to enjoy my girls. Of course, it helped a lot that Hazel napped. It's amazing how much my mood can be affected by someone else's nap!
Thanks, Buela and Buelo for the new coloring books we got in the mail!

In fact, I felt so relaxed and motivated and accomplished that I busted out all my scrapbooking supplies that night after bedtime. I brought Ellie's first year book here to Guatemala and have been stuck at about 10 months old since we got here. I have been feeling badly that I may never finish it, and worse, never start on Hazel's!
Scrapbooking is a form of relaxation for me, and there's probably a correlation between how long it's been since I've "crafted" and my general state of mind. The best news of all is that I completely finished Ellie's book. AND even more awesome, I finally printed Hazel's birth story and pictures and have already finished three of her pages! This momma is feeling on top of it! (Even if I finished Ellie's One Year book a couple weeks before she turns 4 and started Hazel's after she turned 2).
Yesterday was another reminder that one good day doesn't always mean two good days in a row. We were back to several accidents and short-tempers tantrums. At one point Ellie bit Hazel and my response was one of my ugliest mom moments. I know it happens, and Ellie and I talked about it soon after and I apologized for my reaction, but man, it's hard not to be impatient on Night Three of Parenting Alone! I know as a Mom I won't respond perfectly most of the time, if ever. But it's hard not to feel frustrated by our fallible responses, apology afterwards or not.

Today has been a good day, besides the girls waking up WAY TOO EARLY. Seriously, why didn't anyone tell them it was SATURDAY? However, my HUGE sense of accomplishment for having finished Ellie's book was totally worth the late night.
Today we've played and played and I've enjoyed their company. And bonus: so far no accidents to clean up, although I'm currently writing this while my youngest is singing upstairs in her room instead of napping. (Update post-nap: one accident. On. The. Couch. Grrrr.)
And Daddy comes home tonight! Hooray. The point in all of this is, some days are good, some days are not so good. I'm not thrilled with my patience level as a human being, and as a Mom my impatience is amplified times a thousand. It's hard not having other mom friends to talk to and remind me on a  regular basis, "that's normal to feel that way." But I know it is, and I have to keep reminding myself that it's normal. I also have to remind myself to enjoy my girls in between the craziness.