Sunday, January 31, 2016

Perks of Being the Baby

How to steal foam from Daddy's latte.

When you're the baby, everyone wants to share their ice cream with you.
And it makes you very happy.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Feliz dia de no-violencia y paz.

Happy School Day of Non-violence and Peace!

On the anniversary of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, January 30th is the Day of Non-violence and Peace, or International Day of Non-violence and peace. It was founded in 1964 in Spain, to encourage educators to promote these values. This is not to be confused with the International Day of Non-violence, which is celebrated on Gandhi's birthday on October 2.

The basic message is: "Universal Love, Non-violence and Peace. Universal Love is better that egoism, Non-violence is better than violence, and Peace is better than war."

So, to celebrate, here are a few of my favorite Gandhi quotes:

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment. (I like this one. It can definitely apply to the power of a parent/child relationship).

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

"Hate the sin and not the sinner" is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.

I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill.

No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.

If you want real peace in the world, start with children.

Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit. (Someone should send this one to Donald Trump. Oops, I said it.)

And my favorite Gandhi quote:

Friday, January 29, 2016

Dive in to February

A productive work day makes me feel useful and tends to help my attitude and overall feeling of contentment. Today was one of those days.

After three weeks of being sick, I'm *almost* better. I'm hoping in a few more days I can think about starting to run again, though frustratingly, I'm not there yet. It's hard to get motivated when you're sick for what feels like forever. I'm not quite sure how to get back into my routine.

It's a new month soon. A new month always feels like a clean slate. I get a fresh start on meal planning, building exercise into my routine, budgeting, everything. It's like starting over with new resolutions every 30 days. Who needs New Year's Eve to make resolutions?

This may be the most content I've felt since we moved to Guatemala. The girls are in swim class and Ellie's about to start soccer after school. They enjoy their school. They have friends. Michael and I are in a good rhythm at work. Our new normal is not likely to change drastically for a while. Finally. We don't plan to move in the rest of our time here. We are content with our house, our schedule, our routines. We don't plan to change the make-up of our family. Our baby is finally sleeping through the night which means after a year of waking up every few hours and 9 months of uncomfortable pregnancy sleeping before that, I finally see rest and hope in my near future.

Because, why not wear Minnie Mouse ears to school with the most frilly dress you own?
So, we're in a good spot and hoping that continues. Time to dive into another fresh, new month. What are your New Month Resolutions?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Reality of Being Reps in 2016

Recently Michael and I sat down to look at our calendars and to get on the same page.

We looked at February. It's already filled with several meetings, a team retreat to Nebaj (7 hours away), and an Advocacy conference for MCC Latin America that we are hosting here in Guatemala. And with only going to the office three days a week right now, I have to cram a lot of things into those days.

March has several more meetings, visitors, hosting our partners for a conference, and Holy Week.

April and May look pretty good. Of course, April 1st is our new fiscal year, so that makes for some busy office time. We might schedule some dentist appointments, eye exams, and visits to some projects. That will be our "down time" this year. At least, until we fill it with more meetings and trips.

Then we head to meetings with other Reps in Honduras for a week in May/June. And the girls have a 2-week break from school.

In July we have a team retreat, say goodbye to our one-year staff, and maybe I'll run my half-marathon!

Why not flip to August, and see when new staff arrive, orientations and staff retreat in September?
Then the girls are already out of school, we have traveling and more staff trips, and in November we have another large Central America retreat with MCC staff from neighboring countries, also hosted here in Guatemala.

Whew! Then December and Home Leave to Oregon (and Idaho). There goes 2016.

All of this doesn't include the twice-a-year project visits we need to try to schedule, report deadlines, administrative duties, budgets, strategic planning, and there are still plenty of other things not yet planned.

I asked the girls' school if they have a master calendar for the year, so we can plan other trips and meetings around when the girls are in school. Apparently they only plan one month in advance, which means they don't have fixed dates for their mid-year breaks, or the end of the school year. That seems strange to me. I seem to remember in the US getting school year calendars planned out a year or two in advance. Am I wrong? Another cultural expectation that I have to adjust.

This is how our time here in Guatemala has been. Our months are planned out almost a year in advance. This makes the weeks and months fly by. We sat down to look at our calendars and suddenly we were looking at December. That is our reality. This is why I feel like time with my girls is going too fast. The good news is we are ending our third year here and starting our fourth, which means it's a different kind of stress than before. Instead, we have to figure out how to be present as a family, enjoy our time together, and not get bogged down with the big picture that is the calendar year.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Caption: Ruby eating dirt. Or, catching her in the act.

Good news: She's sleeping through the night!

Last week we decided I wouldn't go into Ruby's room in the middle of the night. When she woke up, Michael went in to pick her up, soothe her, etc.

The first night she was pretty mad. She cried for a bit and Michael had to go in a couple times. But she finally fell asleep. The first night or two is always the hardest. Since she's a year old, and she obviously didn't need to be nursing throughout the night, it was time to break her habit. I'm not a huge fan of "crying it out," but she's not a newborn and we all needed a better routine.

The next two nights the same thing happened, but she cried a lot less and calmed down much more quickly with Michael.

I never got out of bed.

After three nights of this, she slept 11 hours straight. And last night she did it again, for the second night in a row.

In less than a week we were able to break her of her habit to wake up and cry until I nursed her back to sleep. I think me continuing to nurse her caused her to keep waking up, and as soon as she stopped getting nursed she stopped waking up.

Hopefully this continues. I share this to give my fellow Moms and Dads hope. It's possible! After several months of hesitating because I didn't want to deal with the crying, we are all sleeping better. Ironically, I put up with potentially months of crying and getting up every few hours, when, in 3 nights, she figured out how to sleep.

She is eating tons during the day, and transitioning from two naps to one, so that may be a factor. Either way, we are happy in the Chapman House!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

El Salvador-Current Realities

You may have read something in the news this week about a disease carried by mosquitos, the zika virus, that has now spread to 25 countries. For adults, the symptoms include fever, rash, joint paint, and conjunctivitis, but more seriously there has been a connection to a serious neurological birth disorder called microcephaly, where the brain is basically much smaller than normal. Because of this, some countries, including El Salvador, have advised women to avoid becoming pregnant for the next two years, until at least 2018.

Let me say that again: they are recommending that there be no new pregnancies for the next two years.

One of our partners decided to do some education with their communities to promote awareness of standing water, where the mosquitos and their larvae are most likely to infest. There are recommendations to replace standing water every few days, and to bleach and monitor closely the pilas that usually have standing water (outdoor sinks used for washing clothes, dishes, and pretty much everything). Unfortunately, this can be both difficult and impractical in areas with little access to water.

We currently have four workers in El Salvador and about five projects. Though we live in Guatemala, our duties as Representatives also cover El Salvador.

As if the threat of disease is not enough, El Salvador has been on our radar because of a recent spike in violent deaths, a 70% increase in 2015. A huge majority of these deaths are attributed to an increase in gang violence. Some of our workers live very near these realities, working alongside people directly affected by this violence. Some statistics show that El Salvador has surpassed Honduras as the country with the highest murder rate in the world.

A very close co-worker of our staff has an 8-year old son and she is already preparing herself for the reality that within the next two years she will need to move. Why? Because they live directly across the street from a gang member, and within a couple years this child will be targeted. That is the reality of this context. It's much easier to understand the desperation of families wanting to flee their homes, even their country when there are names and faces to these situations, especially when one considers the context in which the gangs have emerged, and the role of the US in many of these situations. These issues are not as clear-cut as some would like to portray them.

Another piece of news in the last week is that the Peace Corps has withdrawn from El Salvador "due to the ongoing security environment." Granted, the Peace Corps is usually the first to leave in many countries, and is not necessarily a litmus test for when to leave, but it is still telling of the situation. They withdrew 158 volunteers from Honduras in 2012 for safety concerns as well. There had been about 113 volunteers in El Salvador in the last year or so, down to about 55 this month when the decision was made to withdraw. Currently there are about 146 volunteers in Guatemala (depending on where you get information).

For now we are monitoring the situation, checking in often with our staff, and praying for those who are affected.

The US government is not willing to leave American citizens in El Salvador, yet it's deemed necessary and acceptable that women and children be sent back to such unsafe situations. One quote I read sums it up best:

"Clearly there is a humanitarian crisis in El Salvador. It's unconscionable to send people back into the same situation."

Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Randomness: Not Running, Jenga, Donald Trump, Reunions, and Heat

Random things from my Monday:

My left ear is plugged, majorly. Like I can't hear out of it. I'm going on my third week of being sick and unable to work out. In spite of this, I spent time looking up half-marathons today. I'm hoping to actually do one in this year, although it's a bit discouraging when three weeks go by and I still can't do anything physical. I might have to go see a doctor. I'm fairly certain I have a sinus infection. Boo infections.

This girl is in the put-everything-in-containers-and-dump-it-out stage. She LOVED helping clean up the Jenga blocks today.

I realized today that I know almost nothing about any of the US Presidential candidates, except that Trump is absolutely the last person I would ever, ever vote for. Also, I learned today that Bernie Sanders is not a Socialist. He's a Democratic Socialist. There's a difference, though most people don't seem to realize that. I actually went to his website and read his views on the issues. Very enlightening, regardless of who you want to vote for. Do you know where all the candidates stand on the major issues?

I was Senior Class President in high school, and as someone pointed out to me today, I will be helping plan our class reunions until I die. I'm not sure I really fully grasped that when I was 17. Also, I don't know much about planning reunions. There should be a handbook, or something.

I love how excited Ellie has been to come home from school each day and tell me about how the earth is a planet, the sun is a big star, and the sun gives off heat. The best part was this afternoon when we were listening to her favorite, Taylor Swift, and she heard the word "heat" and got really excited. Not sure it was the same kind of heat, but good listening skills, Ellie.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

World Fellowship Sunday

We are not Mennonites, but we have worked for Mennonites and have attended a Mennonite church for several years. We appreciate the Anabaptist perspective on many things.

(Quick history lesson: Anabaptists rejected infant baptism of the Catholic tradition and believed that baptism should be delayed until the person was old enough and able to profess their faith. Anabaptism means being baptized again.)

Today was World Fellowship Sunday. Each year in January, Anabaptist churches around the world celebrate their heritage. January 21, 1525 was when the first Anabaptist baptism took place in Switzerland, and the yearly celebration is a time to celebrate worldwide the connections among other Mennonites.

Our church here in Guatemala celebrates this with a large potluck, emphasizing the different countries represented among the congregation. The idea is to make a dish typical to each home country. Two years ago I made chocolate chip cookies. Typically American, right? (I think last year we may not have attended, since Ruby would have been a few days old).

This year we wanted to stay away from chocolate, so we went with some other American classics: baked macaroni and cheese, cornbread, and a blackberry cobbler.
It was fun to see all the countries represented, and the food was delicious!
Verenika, a Russian-Mennonite traditional dish of pasta filled with cheese.

Chile Rellenos. Delicious!
Horchata from El Salvador and delicious rice from Belize.
And there were pupusas. Yum. 
The pasta salad was actually an American dish.
Guatemala included refried beans, tortillas, and bread with shredded chicken, among other foods.
Paraguay represented with tasty sausages and potatoes. 
Ruby enjoyed the tortillas.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Tacos al pastor

Our favorite little taco stand makes for a good Saturday lunch.
"Tacos de Lengua (tongue)"
This kind of meat is called pastor. Pastor means "shepherd," the name given to Lebanese and other Arab merchants who immigrated to Mexico City in the early 1900s. This is shawarma, a type of food that came with these immigrants to Mexico: layers of raw pork on a vertical spit, partially cooked by the vertical broiler behind it. The meat is marinated in spices, along with dried chiles and pineapple. The pineapple is on each end to drip the juice and marinate the meat. Shavings are cut off and served as needed.
The meat is fried up and served with cheese in little tortillas.
We add whatever condiments we like. Today I added pineapple, pico de gallo, green salsa, cilantro, and squeezed lime juice on top. Que rico!

Friday, January 22, 2016

On Sleeping. And Not Sleeping.

Ellie, around 18 months.
We've finally had it. It's time to get our baby to sleep more than a few hours at a time during the night.

I remember when Hazel was around a year old, and a friend told us his one-year old was still waking up several times a night. Michael and I had a lot of pity for him. That just sounded awful. We had been blessed with not one, but two great sleepers who had begun sleeping through the night from a few months old.
Hazel, around a year old.
Granted, we assumed a big part of that was what we had done. We worked hard with each of them. We "sleep trained" them. When we heard stories of babies not sleeping through the night, not only could we not relate, but we assumed that there must have been something they were doing wrong different than us, that it was simply a matter of figuring out the right method. I spent several months of their lives stressed and worried and bogged down by sleeping methods.

And then Ruby was born.

She has had nights when she slept through the night, but everything changed when we stopped swaddling her. Also, she took a pacifier for less than a week, and then dropped it like a bad habit.

During the last year, she's had a few miraculous nights where she suddenly decided to sleep all night. Often it is when we're on vacation or in a hotel room together. Coincidence or not, I have no idea.

I've become her pacifier. There's a term I read in a parenting book, "accidental parenting," that refers to things parents do in the moment to appease a situation that is intended as temporary, but becomes a new habit to break. This happened with Hazel when she weaned from her pacifier. She had always been content to lay down and fall asleep within five minutes with her pacifier. When we dropped the pacifier, she was so mad that I decided to pick her up and rock her to soothe her. One or two days of this turned into more than a year of needing to rock her and hold her in order for her to take a nap. (Luckily this only applied to naps. At bedtime she could sleep without this ritual. And this isn't to say that it was all bad. I mostly relished my special nap times with Hazel, especially with the guilt that I was sending her to daycare so young. Accidental parenting and guilt are closely related, I'd say.)

Accidental parenting. All the intentional things I did with my first two that I accredit to them being good sleepers went out the window with Ruby. I didn't have a "start time" every day which I based the rest of the daily schedule on. I eventually started nursing her to sleep before almost every bedtime and nap, a cardinal sin with sleep training methods. I was much less tolerant of any crying in the night. Her not taking a pacifier changed the way we did a lot of things.

And so, here we are with a one-year old who still wakes me up at least once a night, often more these days with teething and mostly habit.

We may have still been correct before. That is to say, I did things to encourage Ruby to continue waking up, so at least in part I know it's my fault that she's not as good of a sleeper. I know this isn't universal, as we've known people to try everything in the world, and still the baby wakes up. I firmly believe now, three kids later, that luck is much more at the center of getting a baby to sleep all night. The baby's personality and temperament make a big difference, maybe all the difference.

She's our third baby, and the last, and I haven't cared nearly as much. I've even embraced the late night feedings, knowing the End of All Things Baby is in the near future. Until lately. Now I'm just tired of being tired and sick of being sick. And I know there are at least some things we can do to help her figure this whole sleeping-through-the-night thing out.

Last night Ruby got her first real taste of self-soothing. Hopefully over the next few nights she will figure out she doesn't need to nurse every few hours. And we'll all sleep better.

I've learned some humility. I knew our confidence (cockiness?) that came with two good sleepers could come to an end with a not-so-great sleeper. I can accept that. I have much more empathy and can relate to a lot more parents than I ever could before.

My husband can fall asleep anywhere.
Now I just want a good night's sleep. It doesn't even have to be great. More than a few hours in a row would be fantastic. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Before Noon Today

A few things I did before noon today:

A work video call with other Reps and our bosses throughout Latin America. (Isn't technology amazing?) I love that our job connects us with people who live in Haiti, Colombia, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Bolivia. We only get to see this group in person about once a year, but we so appreciate connecting with the only other people in the world who know exactly what we're struggling with in our job and the reality of trying to balance life and work and another culture.

We received some really good news that a recent Guatemalan applicant to MCC IVEP (an exchange program where young adults from outside North America live and work in US or Canada for one year) was accepted and will be traveling to the US this August. It's special because she also happens to have been my Spanish teacher for a short time, and she's a very sweet and deserving person of this opportunity. We went in person to tell her the good news, and she cried tears of joy, she was so happy and surprised. Another fun part of our job that we got to experience today.

Ruby had her one-year check-up and shots. She's 21 pounds, 74 centimeters (this wasn't a super accurate measurement, but it's around 29 inches). This puts her around 50th percentile for weight and height. Not too surprising as she's long and lean. 
Then I walked and picked up the girls, and walked home. Another day where I'm thankful our home and the girls' school, and in this case, the local Mennonite Seminary where we went this morning AND the pediatrician's office, are all so close to each other that I can walk with Ruby in the stroller and feel safe.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Our New Normal

Since the two older girls got their own post about their first day of school, here is my First Day Back to the Office/Ruby's First Official Day at Home While I'm at the Office photo (or two).

I spent my morning in meetings (in Spanish) for three straight hours. It was a great welcome back to Adult Time. It made me realize one benefit of working in the office instead of at home is I will have more opportunities to use Spanish. I'm looking forward to using my Spanish as much as possible. I was also pleased to realize that I could track the entire conversation in Spanish, though my attempts to contribute at times were a little more work.
Admittedly, it was hard to be at work knowing Ruby is in the middle of some transitions. She has kind of started to drop her morning nap, so her days are inconsistent. She is still teething, and figuring out her independence, and now will do this three mornings a week without me. It's hard to know she will be transitioning, without knowing how to explain some of our cultural preferences to our houseworker. Culturally it is common to carry babies around (versus letting them play on the ground), give them sweet things to eat, and give in to crying and whining very quickly. Those go against some of our own ideas of how to raise up babies. Fortunately, this is a few mornings a week, and she will be getting lots of Spanish at home. At some point this year we might transition her to daycare, but we will take it one week at a time.

In the meantime, we are thankful we have an employed woman who can take care of Ruby at home while I'm at work. The girls are loving their new classes and teachers, and we are diving into a new year. Our New Normal of 2016 has begun.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Thank you, White Noise App

I was supposed to head to the office today, but realized that my eyes were so watery and I was still so stuffy that I would be the opposite of productive.

With the help of our housekeeper watching Ruby, I was able to close my door, turn on my White Noise app, and sleep a couple of hours. That was good.

Of course, Ruby's response was to refuse to take an afternoon nap. Touché, Ruby.

On another note, I snapped this picture the other day. That rare moment when two of your children pick out a game, set it up, and play it together without any help from mom or dad.

My future, I hope. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Ellie's First Day

Today was (finally) Ellie's first day of school. She was so excited this morning that she woke up early. (She reminds me so much of me with things like this).
I'm excited for her, and as always, thankful that she's in a safe place where she wants to be, with old friends, and plans to make new ones.

Here's to a great year, my girls!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sick as a dog (Whatever that means)

I started off the New Year running a decent amount. And then I got sick over a week ago, and I'm still fighting it. I was on such a roll...

I remember the days when I'd get a cold or the flu, it would hit me for a couple days, and then I'd be (mostly) good to go. Maybe it's because I could just take a sick day or two and ACTUALLY rest and sleep ALL DAY LONG.

The last several times I've gotten sick, it's knocked me out for a couple weeks each time. It starts off as one thing and drags into 10 different things. First I'm achy. Then sweats and chills. Then fevers. Then it turns into a runny nose, and a cough. And back around again. It's been a bit rough.

I don't know if it's because I've been working out a lot and pushing my body hard. Or because I'm old now. Or because I have a baby who STILL wakes up in the night, which only adds to my misery when I can't get more than a few hours of sleep in a row.

It's probably all those things. Plus we're so busy I barely have time to rest.

Last week I have to admit I was able to take a couple naps, and I'm able to say, with all confidence, that my girls' brains didn't rot even though they watched many hours of Netflix over a couple days so that I could try to sleep.

So, on to week two of being sick. I'm hoping I can kick this soon. The girls will be in school and I'm supposed to head into the office this week, though sleeping sounds good too.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Today we celebrated the wee one

I'm not sure why, but we chose a rainbow theme for Ruby's birthday party. We like the idea of something not stuck to any brand or figure or character until they can choose their own theme. Ellie's first birthday was a giraffe-theme. Hazel's was not themed, as we were in Pennsylvania and a friend threw her a sweet party.
This week Ellie and Hazel helped me make several rainbows in our spare time. Those were our decorations.

A friend made the beautiful cake and cupcakes for Ruby.

And sort of last minute, we decided to tie-dye pillow cases. I saw this example on a blog using acrylic paints, which worked really well since I don't have access to all the fancy tie-dye paints here. I bought the stuff and Michael got it all set up and directed the kids (and parents). They turned out super awesome. 

It was fun to see Ruby grab the stick and hit the pinata. 

After watching the other kids it seemed she wanted to do it again. 
The second time, she grabbed it with both hands and swung away, grunts and all! This was funny to me since I clearly remember Hazel fearing pinatas for at least her first two birthdays.

Ruby even got in on the candy action after the pinata broke.
Ruby seemed to enjoy her party, and importantly, so did we! I was reflecting on the previous two First Birthday Parties we've had, and this one was really fun for us it its own way. It was sweet to see the community of friends here come to love on our little Ruby.

She was determined to use a fork to eat her cake.

I guess we're finally done celebrating. It was a great party.

This means I have to really accept the fact that my baby is one.

We love you, sweet girl!