Thursday, July 21, 2016

Getting Settled

We moved into our apartment officially last Saturday.
We feel settled. Decorations are on the wall, boxes are unpacked. We're figuring out what we got rid of 3 1/2 years ago, what we saved, what we need to replace. (We got rid of things that we didn't think would store well: wood spoons and a tea kettle, for example).
Wall decorations from Guatemala, Haiti, and Rwanda
Mostly, we've been enjoying summertime and activities here. All the free activities. (Well, not quite free. Thanks to our tax dollars we have public parks and public libraries and really nice roads to drive on to get there. I'm very aware of how great it is to have access to these.)

We've been to the library multiple times. We joined the Summer Reading Program, tracking our minutes reading. We've borrowed Spanish books and DVDs, books that have motivated Ellie to read. Shout out to public libraries. We signed up and got several coupons: free sandwiches at a local sub shop, free swimming passes and mini-golf passes. Free soccer tickets. Free books. 
Our Summer Reading Logs
We went to a free family music night, sponsored by the library, which the girls loved.

Ruby found a friend, her doppelganger with more hair.
We've been to several beautiful, green parks, with swings and slides and even a sand pit, all within a short drive or walk from our apartment.
We've enjoyed fresh Oregon peaches and blueberries and strawberries.
Blueberry Zucchini Cake with Lemon Buttercream
I made this cake last week. It's fantastic.
I've had two playdate/friend dates and both times each said friend brought me a coffee treat. It's so great to be back to where my friends appreciate the value of coffee on a person/mom's soul.
We're enjoying sunny evenings (it stays light so much later here!) and time together as a family.
Happy Summer Days to you!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fast Food

I went to a fast food place for lunch with the girls. I immediately noted differences between this experience and being in Guatemala.

First of all, there is basically not a single fast food restaurant in Guatemala (and a majority of sit-down places like Pizza Hut), that doesn't have a playground or play area for kids. Because there are no parks or safe public places for kids to play, the restaurants all have something. It's a given.

Today I took my girls to the only option in this town that had a play place. I had to drive around town to find one. Impressively for Oregon, it was an outdoor one with a cover.

I noticed that a small or regular size meal here is a medium or large in Guatemala.

Also, refills. I have no idea why, because I worked in the restaurant industry for years and I know that soda is super, super cheap, but, there were basically no refills anywhere in Guatemala. It wasn't standard. We would get tiny cups, and no refills.

Afterwards, Ellie said to me, "Mommy, you order in English here." Yup. True. The girls are still a bit in awe that we use English for EVERYTHING.

Not only did I get a huge cup today for a "small" meal, but I could fill it as many times as I wanted. Also, WAY too many french fries.

Oh, America.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Walk Down This Mountain

This morning the girls decided they missed Daddy. So we packed a picnic lunch and headed an hour North. I got to show the girls our new apartment for the first time, which they loved getting into their playroom...a work in progress...

 ...followed by a lunch visit to Daddy's office.
On the way out the door I found our old CDs in our stored stuff. I grabbed them to test out our new 6-CD changer in our car.

These were CDs from several years ago. Back before we bought music on I-Tunes. Actual CDs from the 90s. Counting Crows and Pink and Jars of Clay and Backstreet Boys and Tim McGraw (yes, random collection) and a whole bunch of recorded mixes.

I was jammin' and singing the whole way. It was awesome. Songs I memorized years ago just came right back to me.

One of the CDs was a random mix that was put together by a friend several years ago while on summer staff at camp. One song popped up and as soon as the lyrics started I remembered. I remembered that it was a song I've listened to at the end of anything important. At the end of anything where I have had to say Goodbye. Because Goodbyes and Changes are always difficult.

I continue to have mixed emotions about being here. Did we make the right decision? While snuggling with Ruby this morning, my answer was absolutely yes. But in other moments, when faced with soaring prices in healthcare and cost of living, I'm not so sure.

So when this song came on, the lyrics just came right out and I suddenly found myself choked up. I couldn't quite sing them. But my heart felt them. Especially the chorus:

So walk down this mountain
With your heart held high
Follow in the footsteps of your maker
And with this love that's gone before you
And these people at your side
If you offer up your broken cup
You will taste the meaning of this life
(Walk Down This Mountain by Bebo Norman)
The mountain is always the thing I'm walking away from (in this case, life in Guatemala), and there are always people both sending us off and waiting for us at the bottom, in the new place. It's a reminder to walk away, down the mountain, with my head held high, towards new things, with people by my side.

And sometimes, all my doubts and fears flow out over the broken cup.

I've been blessed by people here in Oregon wanting to help and welcoming us home. One person is even throwing us a "pounding party" to help us stock our pantry. Several other people have sincerely offered to help us in any way. We're borrowing a car from one family. We are feeling the love and support of community here, though we haven't lived here in almost a decade.

And the second verse reminds me of community, and the very face of God on each of those helping us to transition and settle.
It's a common ground
And I see we're all still standing
Just look around and you'll find 
The very face of God

He's walking down into the distance
He's walking down to where the masses are

We've arrived to a new place, with new people, and we are trusting that this is the beginning of another mountain climb.

We ended the quick trip by driving by Ellie's new school.
Another beginning, coming soon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Every day we've been trying to accomplish some task. We've gotten a lot accomplished in a little over a week. We got US cell numbers (reusing our super old phones), bought a van, got car insurance, found a bed and a dining room table on Craigslist, refurnished some toys. Michael started a new job, we signed papers on a new apartment and have moved in some things. We've unpacked the kitchen in the apartment and several duffel bags we brought from Guatemala.

I'd say we've been productive.

My mom found this easel at a garage sale and I repainted the chalkboard with chalkboard paint. That stuff is awesome. Another new (to us) toy that I imagine will get hours and hours of use.
And they found this unfinished dresser. I spent yesterday and today adding a layer of stain. My first staining project.
Halfway done
We are ready to move in all the way this weekend!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Car Antics

I spent several hours at a car dealership today getting my van checked out.

It was worth it, because I got great news. The car we got was a great deal, with no problems. In fact, I was told it is a super clean, well-maintained van in great shape. YAY! I got a few basic maintenance things taken care of, and our van is good to go.

Our "golden van," as Hazel calls it. (How else to describe the color champagne to a 4-year old?)
This whole process has reminded me of how we haven't been in the US for a while. There are things we have forgotten.


When we were purchasing our van, they asked us for a copy of our insurance card. We looked at each other and realized, oh yeah, car insurance. So we had to call and get insured before we could finish the purchase. Thankfully insurance can be had by a 30-minute phone call.

And then today while sitting in the waiting room, two women were chatting in Spanish and I realized I miss talking in Spanish. I'm afraid of how quickly my brain will forget Spanish. Eventually I ended up in the bathroom at the same time as the older woman and started chatting with her. We ended up chatting for quite a while until my car was ready. She told me all about her two sons, one a successful businessman who recently bought her an almost brand-new car, and her other son, who is addicted to drugs and alcohol. Sad story. It turned out, she doesn't speak English at all and was happy to have someone to talk to.

I'm wondering how to continue to use my Spanish. There are a lot of people in Oregon who have family members that come from Latin America, but they may not speak Spanish themselves. You can't assume one speaks Spanish, and there might be a preference to only use English. Something to continue to ponder.

On a really fun note, my Mom and stepdad built this gorgeous play kitchen as a gift to the girls. It's adorable and precious, and the girls absolutely love it. I can't wait to put it in our new apartment.
I love all the details. Chalkboard paint on the fridge. A real sink and faucet and a backsplash.
And the knobs for the stove and oven came all the way from Guatemala.

So many things to be thankful for in our first week back to the States.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Vehicle: Check!

We bought a minivan!
We've been in the US for a week.

We got keys to our apartment and Michael "moved in." We'll be renting a small U-Haul this weekend to move the rest of our stuff and officially move in as a family.

I'm looking forward to getting settled into our new home, showing Ellie where her new school is, showing the girls the parks nearby our place.

We did a lot of research on minivans and other vehicles. On Saturday Michael and I woke up early and headed to Portland to shop around. We had a list of places with the vans we were interested in. After several hours and test drives we ended up with a very low-miles 2007 Honda Odyssey. 

I love it, and the girls love it! We have so much space, and there are a lot of little features that I love. We are fully embracing the minivan stage of our lives. Lots of seats, extra space, sliding doors that open automatically. And did I mention lots of space? We drove a Mazda truck in Guatemala that was super tight with literally no room for anything except three carseats. 
We are really thankful for Grandparents available to watch our girls so we can do things like car shop for an entire day, and I am really thankful we found a solid, high-quality van.

I hope this will be our vehicle for a very, very long time. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Oregon Stereotypes

The stereotypes of Oregon are so valid. 

This morning we walked to the park. One child wore shorts and a tank top. 
Another had pants and a sweatshirt. 
Another wore rain boots. All carried umbrellas. All were appropriate choices. 
Within a few minutes I fluctuated between needing a sweatshirt and needing sunglasses. And then a sweatshirt again. 

It was great. Also what was great was we were at a park. 
Walking to the park as pedestrians, cars kept stopping for us to cross the street. Hazel noticed. "Mom, that was so kind," when yet another car stopped while we waited on the corner. Yup. Oregon loves pedestrians. 

Something I missed a lot as a mom with young kids while living in Guatemala was access to parks. Places to take my kids to run and play and scream and just be kids. In Guatemala we mainly had to rely on going to the mall where there was an indoor play place or the myriad of fast food places with plastic play areas. There is not much outside that is free or public or safe. 

In the less than a week that we've been in the States, I've vacillated between many thoughts. I'm simultaneously glad we're here and at other moments wonder if all the choices we've made are the best. Self-doubt enters in the midst of uncertainty and change.

We have made several decisions in a short amount of time. Where to live and where to enroll Ellie for Kindergarten. And the decisions will continue. We have furniture to buy, a car to find, an apartment to settle. 

I'm content. Michael is learning the ropes at his new job. I can already see that the levels of stress we lived under in our last job have virtually vanished (stress due to the types of responsibilities that fell on our shoulders running a bi-country program, and the limited help in the office). 

Every day I wake up and play with my girls. We're still in transition, living out of suitcases, so it's not always tranquil. Things feel chaotic. But, we feel at peace. This was and is the best choice for our family. 
I foresee several hours at parks and playgrounds in our future.