Saturday, February 27, 2016

50+ visitors coming

Speaking of working from home, last night Michael and I spent hours on our living room floor after the girls went to bed, putting together Welcome packets for a conference we are hosting this week.

MCC partners and staff working in advocacy throughout Latin America (including Haiti, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia, Bolivia, Mexico, and US and Canada) are coming for a conference on Advocacy. Several issues will be covered, including a visit to a local Guatemalan community that lives along a river affected by a hydroelectric dam. This is also combined with a conference among MCC's Connecting Peoples programs (learning tour groups, Young Adult programs). More than 50 people will be coming to share and dialogue together this week.

This means it's been a crazy week or two finalizing details in the office, with everything from printing name tags and schedules in three languages (English, Spanish, Haitian Creole) to dealing with a last minute change of venue. Whew. But tonight and tomorrow everyone arrives, and the weeks and months of planning are put into actual motion.

Looking forward to a good and full week, followed by two more intense weeks which include another 3-night meeting we are hosting. March promises to be a full month.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Working From Home: My Version

You may have seen articles and pictures of moms working from home (or this video), and the realities of juggling messy kids with trying to work, between naps and nursings and somehow trying to be productive. Switching your brain from work mode like writing professional emails and reading reports (in my case, in Spanish at times), to comforting your child who just bonked her head or needs a snack in the matter of seconds is a very difficult task.
I have to be OK with the messes, because at least the messes are making her happy, which means I'm not having to entertain her, which means I can focus on work at my dining room table.
I have to be OK with a lot of breaks and interruptions, from the water guy outside to the baby needing another cracker and/or wanting to sit on my lap.
I have to ignore the piled up dishes from breakfast in the sink, though my sensory-aware self goes a little crazy, and focus on work.
Right now, it feels worth it. These two days a week I'm working from home, I get to spend extra precious minutes with my baby, while working at the same time. The interruptions are not all bad. I get to take breaks where I get to snuggle and kiss and hold my baby. Even so, the time is nearing when it will probably make more sense to put her in daycare. She's still at home three days a week with our house help while I'm at the office, but I think at some point being around other kids in a more stimulating environment will be a better choice (she seems to be a bit extroverted). I's a hard realization for me to accept, as I continue to struggle with the "mom guilt" of daycare versus time at home.

On the other hand, working in the office has been really helpful, and going back to five days a week there will have a lot of advantages. I get adult time, Spanish time, I feel productive and useful, and work feels more smooth.

I'm learning that part of being a parent is realizing that what's best for my children might not be the idyllic scenario in my mind. Working at home has its golden moments, but I'm often more stressed and frustrated than I need to be. It's possible I could be a more present Mom in the afternoons if our mornings looked different. The quality of time I'm spending with her in the morning may be more frustrating for both of us now as she gets older and more active.

Yet another transition is on its way.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

New Paint

We recently updated our MCC office with some paint, updated some cushions and furniture, and basically brightened up the place.

A glimpse into MCC Guatemala/El Salvador's office space:
MCC 's mission and vision statement (with a picture from one of our projects).

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist churches, shares God’s love and compassion for all in the name of Christ by responding to basic human needs and working for peace and justice. MCC envisions communities worldwide in right relationship with God, one another and creation. 
Where we receive guests. 
Our cute little visitor.
Two cute little visitors.
My desk (on the right).
The entryway with photos from our projects.
Michael got a new standing desk, finally. This works a lot better than the rickety books and stools he used to use to make his desk higher. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Our New Favorite Bread: Gallinas

We discovered our new favorite panaderia (bakery) by chance.
 (The moto is parked right in front of it in the picture). Michael was walking to work one morning, stopped by this panaderia, and bought some bread. It caught his attention, partly, because it was the first local bakery we have ever seen that has a guard out front (usually in the mornings). We quickly discovered they are one of the few in our area that make things with whole wheat flour (integral). If that wasn't awesome enough, we discovered our new favorite bread.
They're called gallinas (hens), as the baker explained to us, because of what look like plumas (feathers) on the bread. Pan dulce (sweet bread) is super common and cheap here, and eaten during coffee breaks or as breakfast. You can usually buy a few simple pieces of pan dulce for less than 50 cents. I like pan dulce if it's super fresh, but after a day or two they are stale and chalky to me.

But these gallinas are so much better than regular pan dulce. They are slightly sweet, like pan dulce, but softer, like the bread part of a cinnamon roll. The outside is hard, covered in sesame seeds, with a slightly sweet coating, and the inside is the delicious, soft but thick bread. And, bonus: they are 2 or 3 times bigger than regular pan dulce.

These things are so good, and are 2 for 5Q (1Q=about 12 cents), which means these cost about 30 cents each. When I think about the $5 pastries at Starbucks, this is an amazing deal. I find myself wanting to walk to work just so we have an excuse to stop by and buy them. They are that good. Que rico!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Another Lake Nearby

Our church headed out to Lake Amatitlan (less than an hour outside of Guatemala City) yesterday for a "planning retreat." We weren't sure what that would entail, but we went. We had never been to this lake before, though we've driven right past it several times.
Mostly we've just heard it's really polluted.
The girls helped with singing some worship songs to start off the morning.
We met at a camp and after a day of being inside a meeting room, we wanted to check out the view.
The place has some potential. 
We both saw this picture and thought, wow, we look old.
By the end of the day I had somehow become part of a committee to help expand the coffee community time before church every Sunday. At least that means baked goods and coffee. And hopefully building community. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Boxbol and a Mayan Ceremony

Last Sunday we headed to Nebaj with our team. Two of our projects and two of our staff are in Nebaj, so it was a good opportunity for most of our team to see and learn about another part of Guatemala.

On the road to Nebaj, there are always interesting things to see... lots of watermelons.
We like to make our team do ice breakers, because we're the bosses and we can. :)

While the neighbors watch from afar, curious as to what the heck we're doing.

We learned to make Boxbol, a traditional Quiche dish. (We tried it the last time we were here, which I wrote about).
The corn dough is stuffed inside green leaves, rolled, and cooked.
It's served with a variety of sauces, usually a red tomato or a nutty one. It's super delicious.
Ruby thought so, too.

Cooking on the fire.
A few of the guys, learning how to make tortillas.

We celebrated birthdays since our last time together as a group.
We happened to be in Nebaj at the beginning of what is a sacred time of year for the Mayan culture. The 5 days of the New Year were beginning. We heard from some Mayan spiritual leaders about some of the traditions.
Meanwhile, Hazel made a friend. At first, this little girl was watching Hazel from afar as she colored. I suggested to Hazel maybe the girl would like to join her. 
Though a bit shy, Hazel handed the girl a crayon without saying much, and the girls colored together for a long time.
Breakfast one morning was "atol blanco," a white corn-based gruel. With BBQ corn chips on top.
On our last morning, we attended a Mayan "cleansing" ceremony. Our friend gave us a demonstration before we went (I, unfortunately, got food poisoning and was sick in the van while the rest of the team was participating in the ceremony). 
With 5 branches, the spiritual leaders whack each person on the head, hands, and legs, to help cleanse each person from their sins (this is how I understood it). 
Our boss, Cesar, who joined us for our retreat from Honduras, volunteered to serve as an example for us.
As always, I'm always thankful for the team and their ability to just hang out with our girls. It's a special part of the memories we are making, these team retreats. It's often humbling to be parenting in all of our impatience and stress in front of our team, but they have a lot of grace.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Very Quick Spanish Lesson From my 3-Year Old

Hazel, sitting cross-legged: "Hey Mommy, guess how we call sitting like this in Spanish?"

Me to myself: Well, it used to be Indian-style when I was a kid, but then people realized that was not appropriate, so we were taught to say "criss-cross applesauce," or "pretzel," or some other more culturally-sensitive version.

Me to Hazel: "I don't know. What do you call it in Spanish?"

Hazel: "Chinitos." (Little Chinese people)

Me to myself: We've still got some work to do.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tecun Uman

We traveled on Sunday to Nebaj, Guatemala with our team. It takes about 5 hours of driving in our large 16-passenger van, plus a couple hours to stop for lunch. I planned to post pictures today, but I'm still not feeling well. On Tuesday morning, the day we returned, I started feeling nauseous and sick to my stomach. Of course, on the way home, a few of us were sick, and we had to stop on the side of the road several times.

Not a fun way to drive home after a team retreat.

I'm mostly feeling better, though I'd say my stomach is not 100%. Last time we went to Nebaj, the girls got lice. We haven't had the best luck traveling there recently. Ah, well.

On another note, I spent my evening working on a costume for Ellie for school tomorrow. The Kinder classes (her grade) have been practicing for a presentation at school to celebrate Tecun Uman. February 20th is a holiday that celebrates the legend of this Mayan warrior who battled against the Spanish conquistadors in 1524, and the school does some kind of celebration. The kids wear what look like Native American headdresses, and I'm not really sure what else they do.

I was given very specific instructions of how to make Ellie's "Quiche princess" dress out of one of Michael's white t-shirts and shiny paper.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

13 months

She sits on this several times a day, scooting everywhere.

This little stinker is 13 months old today. She is officially walking all over the place.
Loving the bike these days, too.

Dumping out anything she can is fun.
I caught her, mid-transfer, between the chair and the bike.
We have to keep an eye on her. She was halfway up the stairs, had turned around, and stood there, very proud of herself.
We love her so much.

Friday, February 12, 2016


We've been conducting interviews recently and a question we sometimes ask got me thinking. Here's a paraphrased version: 

Of all the injustices in the world, which one are you most likely to care about?  

This got me thinking about a potential list of injustices. 

I brainstormed, and in no way is this an exhaustive list, but some injustices that came to mind:

Childhood poverty
Cycles of generational poverty 
Sex trafficking
Child labor
Sweat shops 
Lack of services for veterans (ptsd and mental health issues)
Access to medical care
Access to clean water
For-profit prison systems
Corruption in government 
Development of business trumping the poor
Indigenous populations losing their culture
Global warming
Child abuse
Domestic abuse
Female genital mutilation
Child brides
Child soldiers
Fair wages

The problem is that many people ignore these and choose to focus on trivial issues. 

Complaints about too many social programs and taxes? For real? From your safe, comfy home with decent schools and maintained roads? Really? Or, maybe you want to focus on a person's sexual orientation? How about your right to carry a weapon without any accountability? That's what you're pissed about? That's where your energies lie, when people are dying, children are being abused? I simply don't understand. We are having completely different conversations. Or rather, we see the world very differently and therefore aren't even at the same table.

This isn't just about hashtag-first-world-problems. I can acknowledge a time and place for that. This is another level, getting angry and worked up over things that, in comparison, don't mean squat.

And this is even more frustrating because most of these trivial concerns come from my fellow(I hate to say that because it implies we are somehow coming from a similar point of view) Christians. If you, my fellow Christ-followers, could put aside abortion and gay marriage, just for a minute, then what? What else could you focus on? You're pro-life? Great. Lets talk about the women who chose not to abort. How do we ensure their babies aren't hungry or malnourished? That they are treated with respect and dignity as human beings? Is the right of two people who love each other marrying really affecting your ability to raise your children? Please, move on to something that actually matters in this world. 

It's not about guilt. I know it's overwhelming, the list of issues that actually matter. But pick something that matters. Don't feel guilty. Don't just get mad. Figure out how to advocate for someone in a position of injustice, without a Voice. Acknowledge that there truly are injustices. Begin there, with a lens of empathy and understanding.

This isn't about being self-righteous. It's about caring about Love more than Hate. Righting wrongs. Ending cycles of ignorance and acknowledging privilege. Being the Change you want to see. 

What injustices are you going to care about ? And, how are you going to respond?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

British Vocabulary

Our girls' latest favorite show is Peppa Pig. Hazel, especially, loves to tell me long, detailed accounts of what Peppa and her family did in a particular episode. I'm always surprised at the normal things we do in a day that remind her of something Peppa did with her little brother George.

If you don't know what Peppa Pig is, it's a British show of 5-minute episodes. All the characters have British accents, and there are some words the girls have learned that are not American words. For a long time the girls loved to call me "Mummy Pig," and Michael was "Daddy Pig," and they loved to snort all the time.

One day Hazel told me she "sorted" her bed.
She is really into "sorting" her bed, and gets upset if she does it by herself and her blankets aren't straight.
It took us a little while to figure out what she meant. 

We're still learning British vocabulary via our girls via Peppa Pig. We're also learning Span-wish words. Hazel likes to tell me what words she knows in "Span-wish."

"Hey Mom. Guess what dry is in Span-wish? ...Seca."
"Hey Mom. Guess what orange is in Span-wish?...Oar-ahnge (with Spanish accent)."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


The girls' school posted some pictures of the Carnaval activities from yesterday, so I thought I'd share them here.

In case you're wondering what it looks like when kids crack eggs filled with confetti on each other:

Hazel and her classmates:

Ellie's class: (She looks really tall to me) 

And this one was a bonus:
It was pretty fun to see these pictures pop on my Facebook feed, and get a glimpse into the girls' day.