Monday, May 30, 2011

Un Nuevo Techo...

A new roof, that is...

Sometimes I find it amazing that we can be friends with people that we can barely communicate with!
One of the new families in our church ward has 3 children who are all close in age to our children. The parents, Maria and Luis, parents do not speak English, and so I do my best to put together my truly terrible Spanish in return. They live up at the very top of the hill in Chapala, which means that they climb up and down that hill to catch the bus. We give them rides to and from church whenever we are able.

We noticed there are a lot of needs that we would like to address. One of those needs was their "kitchen" area, which had a roof made from a tarp and some junk scraps of odd sorts thrown on top. The kitchen is really just an extension of their house (built brick-by-brick by themselves), and the walls are made from junk scraps, such as pieces of old screens or doors that perhaps other people threw out. It is humble.

Anyways...regarding the roof...the wife told us that during the rainy season the roof leaks and she cannot cook on the stove. We volunteered to help replace their roof, and made plans to go pick out the materials with them.

We were happily surprised when the ward leaders addressed this need in a meeting the day before the scheduled date. They volunteered to pay for the project--even better!

A few other young adults volunteered to help with the project, and they all met up with Jared and the family to take care of the job. As it turns out, the company that sold the roofing closed before they were able to deliver the materials. Ugh.

So, the first day of the project they did some other tasks. Here is Luis making a new foundation for their small wash basin to be moved outdoors, closer to the hose spout.

Yes, closer to the HOSE spout.

They do not have running water in their home.

Things like this make me realize how spoiled I am. Seriously...have you considered that people live without running water in their homes?!!

They are pretty lucky that their source of water is a hose in the front least it is close!

But...if this was you...

How would you wash your dishes? Or your clothes? Or your children? Or your hair? Or mop your floor?

Well, as it turns out...they don't do much of these


But we had to start somewhere....

And so...the roof was their biggest priority...

The second day Jared got the supplies delivered successfully, and they put the new metal roofing up. Luis ended up doing most of the manual labor to secure it to the roof.

The front yard (and home) consists of piles of what we would consider junk, but Jared said that Luis kept pulling supplies out of it, like a magic hat (although not nearly as cool-looking)!
The final result was a HUGE improvement!! Here is Jared with the family (on the right), and a young adult who helped (on the left).

Again, it is hard to know where to begin when addressing some of the basic needs that many of us take for granted.

1. Running water in our homes (needed for baths, sinks, toilets, etc)

2. A front yard that is not just dirt (which tracks into the house and makes it difficult to keep things clean)

3. Clean drinking water (many of these impoverished people buy sodas instead of filtered water!)

I have such a great desire to go into these homes, clean them to the bones, and help teach them how to keep things clean and organized. But in reality, where do you begin?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Abastos...

I didn't take any photos that do this justice...

But the place to shop for groceries in Guadalajara is at the Abastos. It is not easy to navigate, as it is block after block after block of specialty vendors. For example, you will pass a whole block or two that specializes in fresh spices (yay!), or fresh produce (a watermelon vendor, a mango vendor, etc). They have many many different things, but I admit we only made it a block or two in the hour that we had to spare one Saturday.

These vendors prefer to sell in bulk to smaller vendors who then resell the items throughout the area. Truck after truck would pull in to pick up some goods (perhaps even headed to the US? I wouldn't doubt it!).

We were overwhelming by the size of the place, and ended up giving Ella the camera so she would catch some photos (like the one above). Again, this photo doesn't do it justice. This is just one of the little streets that makes up a massive massive amount of blocks with soooo many vendors.

I love some of the photos Ella took....

One of my favorites in the batch is actually one I took of the girls standing in front of the GIANT basket of chilis!

The girls are show-stoppers. Everyone stops to take a look at such fair children (and fair parents)!

One our trip to the coast last month, we were getting out of the car to go into a restaurant, and Maiya said, out of nowhere, "I think they will say I'm beautiful!"

She is so used to people stopping to talk to her and "oooh" and "ahhh," and call her a little doll (in Spanish) that she is actually coming to expect it! It made me giggle...!!!

Church surprises...

So, some of you may not know some of the latest turn of events in my here goes. This is really more for journal purposes for I won't blame you if you just browse through the highlights!

Some of the biggest challenges we have been given here have been church-related.

When we first arrived here, our tiny little ward had just lost its Gringo Bishop (he returned to the states), and a wonderful Mexican friend was put in as the new Bishop. He has been actively reorganizing the ward into a more functioning body, and we were almost immediately put to work.

Jared received the calling of Elder's Quorum President, which holds a lot of ward responsibility. I don't believe this ward has even had an Elder's Quorum President for 6 years! One of Jared's biggest struggles has been that all of the Elders in the ward are Spanish-speaking only (and Jared only knows a couple dozen Spanish words). Thankfully, the new High Priest Group Leader is bilingual, and he attends the Spanish-speaking Elder's Quorum lessons, while Jared attends the High Priest Group's lessons (in English). They have to work together to get things managed...and it is never easy.

Jared began attending Bishop's meetings, and warned me that they had a good calling in mind for me. I said, "as long as it's not Primary!" He said, "Oh no, it's WORSE than Primary!"

"What could be worse than Primary?" mind wandered for a couple of weeks, and finally they called me in. It turns out, the original calling they had in mind for me had been dismissed, and instead they called me to be...

Can you guess it?

Primary President.


Does Heavenly Father like to call your bluff, too?!

Thankfully, I have two wonderful counselors whom I adore! One if fully bilingual, and the other can communicate with me pretty well, but we don't catch it all (in either English or Spanish)!

I have discovered a few big challenges...

1. The previous Primary President was president for about 15 years, which means that things have been done one way for a very long time.

2. The children don't know any songs. And I mean any. (Not to mention the adults don't know the Primary songs, either!)

3. The children have major reverence issues. They have not been taught to stay in their chairs (they leave to go to the bathroom at any given moment both during classes and Sacrament meeting).

So, I have made some changes:

1. Music is a major part of class--we are teaching the best that we can!

2. We switched to having divided classes first and Sharing Time second (this has solved a problem regarding a lack of classrooms, and it has also thrown the kids off guard--which is good, considering they don't fall into all of their old habits)!

3. We switched the setup of the room so they can't exit as quickly--and we guard those doors like nobody's business!

4. We started a Nursery, which has been a total flop so far. We can't get the young children to leave the Mother's alone in class, which makes for a very noisy Sunday School and Relief Society. We called 2 Nursery leaders, who only do 1 hour each. One hasn't been to church (with her nursery age son) in probably 2 months. The other just got called, but one child has been gone for several weeks, and the other kids won't go to Nursery.

My Sunday responsibilites are:

1. I give the Sharing Time lesson once every 3 weeks (switching off with my counselors who also teach the 2 different Primary classes we have--Primary 3 and Primary 7).

2. I also give the nursery lesson, when there are actually children. This forces me to try to teach some very basic gospel principles in Spanish. Thank goodness I can access the English and Spanish manuals online, so I can compare the manuals and know exactly what is going on!

3. My first counselor and I also do Music Time for 20 minutes each week. It has been tough to teach the kids each and every song from scratch. Even "I am a Child of God" (or "Soy un Hijo de Dios") has been a big feat! They don't know the Birthday Song, the "Hello" song, or anything!!!!!!!!!!!! I play a cheapo keyboard that I bought at a garage sale for $10 years ago (they've only used CD's in the past) I got at a garage sale for $10 3 years ago). My counselor teaches them in Spanish, and I find it very difficult to memorize words in a different language! THANK GOODNESS for great counselors!

Another challenge came up immediately upon receiving the calling: The Stake Primary Presidency informed us that they were having a special event (in Guadalajara, where every other ward is located), and they wanted us to prepare a dance for the event. Each ward was asked to select a country (US was taken) and present a dance in a few months' time.

So, we set out to teach them a dance from Spain. And we quickly realized the task was impossible. Our 15 active primary children were never there at the same time (sometimes only 7 showed, or 10, or the dance teacher didn't show). That, and with our major reverence issues we have, they simply would not listen to the teacher.

We gave up, and decided we wouldn't go.

But then a new Stake Primary Presidency was called, and they came to visit us the week before the event. They were not happy that we were missing the event, and they insisted we prepare something.

So, we told them we could sing the Easter songs we had just done in Sacrament meeting just a few weeks earlier. They said, "It would be nice if you could sing a Mother's Day song, since it is also to celebrate Mother's Day". Haha. Yeah. As if we could teach them a new song THAT DAY, to sing THAT WEEKEND. Yeah--this--when our children don't know ANY songs (heck, they didn't even know those Easter songs, but luckily some of our children are old enough to read and can follow our flipcharts!).

So...go, we did. We stuffed all of the families we could into various cars (the majority of our ward membership doesn't have cars) and made the 1 hour drive to Guadalajara for the special event.

We got up to sing our Easter songs, and discovered that they keyboard they had next to the stage didn't work. "You will need to sing without music". HA!! AS IF these children could sing WITH the music?! HA!! But...the kids did the best they could (speak-singing), and they were proud of themselves, and we were proud of them for sticking it out.

And then we watched the other wards perform their elaborately choreographed numbers, and we oozed with jealously that their children were capable of listening to an adult long enough to learn how turn in a circle or rock their hips.

The other wards had full, sometimes elaborate, costumes, and at one point I turned to our Bishopric Counselor and commented, "I think our budget would allow us to buy one of those shirts in a couple of months"... haha!

Only 4 of the (perhaps) 7 wards in the Stake performed their dance number (so hey--we couldn't have been the only ones to skip out), and of course the music was BLASTED (Mexican-style). I was deaf by the time we left.

There were also some young adults helping that served all of the mothers a snack.

Cantelope with vanilla ice cream and a chocolate stick. Would would 'uv thunk? Not a bad treat!

I admit that every Saturday evening is a night for a mental breakdown as I prepare lessons and music, and wonder what the heck I am doing in this calling.

On the other hand...I look forward to the day when I will look back at these moments and laugh, and think "You remember when they called me to Primary President in a Spanish-Speaking ward, and I couldn't even speak Spanish?! Not to mention understand it all?! Hahaha!"

Ha. HA.


And so...the story of our survival continues...

More photos...

Ella and Maiya enjoy having play dates as often as possible. One day when their friend, Alex, was over...we discovered them in the front gate "selling" beaded jewelry they had made. We thought it was cute, and didn't stop them. We live on a dead-end street with very little traffic. We were surprised when they actually managed to sell a few of their very unique creations! Business owners in training...

The house down the street from us has been under construction for at least 3 or 4 months, now. They've had to close down the street a few times to bring in the big concrete truck that dumps the concrete on the top of the house. Luckily, we've managed to see their cardboard signs announcing the closure, and we've parked on the other side of the construction and have walked to our house. We haven't been locked in (like some others in the neighborhood)!

The missionaries are a big part of our life here. We do a lot with/for them, and they do a lot with/for us (translations, etc)! We feed them usually once a week, and we've made very good friends with them. It is always sad when a missionary is transferred...but we've always liked the "new" ones, too!

Ella likes to take photos, when she is given the rare opportunity to control the camera. She caught this one of Jared, and it deserves to be shared! Sorry, Love!

The other night I went into the kids' room to shut the garden doors. I decided to steal a peak at the cute kids, and was in giggling hysterics when I realized Ella looked like this:

That is a toy that she got from a school pinata (it's one of the those perfume poof/rings things that I've never understood)! She was totally OUT!! And I had to take a photo!

Edible Baby...

I don't know why the word "edible" has always come to mind when talking about my kiddos. But that is definitely the word that I use with this one, since he is just so cute I could eat him up!! He is almost 11 months old. How does time fly so quickly?

When fingers aren't good enough...

Monday, May 23, 2011

My baby poops on the potty...

No, really. He does.

Doesn't yours?

I don't mean to brag...
Well, I guess I DO mean to brag...

Because, let's face it, if YOUR baby pooped on the potty, wouldn't you be bragging, too?

Ethan has been using the potty since he was just a few months old, and he is quite happy doing it! And I am quite happy that I rarely have to wipe a poopy bum!

As it turns out, there is a growing community of people who practice "Elimination Communication", which is the art of learning to read your child's cues, and communicating with them when it is appropriate to use the potty. "EC" people refuse to call it potty-training. But let's get basically is. When your child is young, you hold them over a potty, make a hissing sound when they pee (or a grunt sound when they poop), and they learn to make the association of where/when to go to the bathroom. They know the sounds, they know the positions, and they go without a fight.

After learning that my Brother-in-Law's sister does EC, I got curious one day, and looked it up online. After watching a video of a mother EC her 3 DAY old baby...I decided it was worth a try. I took Ethan over to the potty, and sat down. He peed and pooped almost immediately!

Uh. SWEET. That was one less diaper for me to change! became a fun challenge. Sometimes it required a longer wait sitting on the potty with him, and sometimes he'd go almost immediately. I discovered he would typically do his business right after a feeding. So, I would nurse him, and take him to the bathroom.

Now, there are some EC fanatics that don't put their babies in diapers, and let them run around naked, etc...until they are fully "diaper free" (without the need for one at all)! I am classified as a "part time EC'er"...which works just great for us. It means that I practice it regularly, but don't insist on every drop landing in the potty. He was in diapers all day, but I offered him the potty after every feeding (at least). If he went on the potty--great! One less diaper change!

But I didn't stress about it, and he still peed in his diaper regularly. However, we generally "caught" all of his poops on the potty. He would sit in his own little mini baby potty, which he seemed to like (Ella is sitting behind him to hold him up--he was probably only 4 months old in this picture).

Nowadays, we just use the adult potty (no extra washing!). Now, you're probably wondering how you hold a baby over an adult potty. There are several different ways. This is one (also demonstrated by Ella...who probably was only allowed to do it this one time):
You sit on the potty (clothes on, silly!) with your back agains the lid. There is just enough room between your legs to hold a baby over the potty, and balance them quite comfortably! Another option is straddling the toilet the other direction, and holding the baby over (it works great until they get active enough to kick the seat). Boys are a little tricker to "direct" than girls...but still a breeze once you figure it out!

So...back in the days when I was preparing to have my first baby...I wandered across a website about EC. I didn't give it the time of day. I saw a hippie looking Mom holding her baby over a bowl, and I laughed, pointed it out to a co-worker, and moved on. Seriously...who wants to walk around with a naked baby and a bowl all the time? misinformed and judgemental I was! Now, 6 years later, here I am--having become one of those hippies! ;)

At 10 1/2 months old now, he is doing pretty great. He happily pees when offered a toilet, and he always makes an effort to poop, as well (sometimes he doesn't need to--but he knows to check!). We do not have to hang out on the potty for a long time. We sit, he does his business, and we are done. Many of his diapers in-between these potty moments are turning up completely dry, too...which is pretty sweet! It means that he is learning to "hold" it between being offered the potty! And did I mention that when a baby poops on the potty, there is almost no cleanup?!

Who would have thought pooping could be so cool?!

After he poops...I let him watch it swirl down the toilet drain, so both of us can cheer on his super-power baby abilities.

You should try it ;)

The end.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Pics of the Month

Maiya...looking older, and acting older, too!
The girls have discovered that some of their crayons work for body coloring. Ella exited the bathroom the other day with this butterfly she created.
Poor baby boy...
The after-effects of being dressed like a girl over and over and over again...
The girls had birthday party withdrawal (could it be that their school classes went a full week without a piñata? It seems hard to believe...). They decided to make their own piñata.
Jared helped them string it over our clothes line...and they were in business! It was cute to hear them singing what they knew of the traditional Mexican piñata song.
Ethan likes computers, too. We start 'em young...

Saturday, May 7, 2011


For several months, Ella's school has been collecting mandatory Easter Eggs from each family. We were required to bring 1 cereal box, wrapped candies, and at least 30 empty eggs per child. Mind you...these are not pin-hole-blown empty eggs. Instead, you tap off the top of the egg, empty its contents, and then bleach the inside clean. Since we do not eat eggs, I opted to go to a local pasteleria (bakery) and ask for some empty, clean eggs in my broken Spanish. The lady said she would have them ready in 2 days, and when Jared returned to pick them up, she only charged him about $2 for 70 empty eggs. And she did all the cleaning and hard work! Sweet!
The teachers painted and the kids helped decorate and make their cereal boxes into Easter "baskets". The kids also painted the eggs, the teachers filled them with candy, and then they sealed them with tissue paper over the open tops. I admit at first I thought it was a time-consuming and silly tradition (why not just fill plastic eggs?!), but seeing it in action...I thought it was pretty neat to have real eggs. The only way to get the candy out was to break the real shells open! Kind of fun!
The Kindergarten and Pre-K kids took a field trip (in the parents' cars) to our friend's (Martha & Mark's) house on the lake for the big Easter egg hunt! They let the youngest classes into the property first. It was an egg-free-for-all!
There were many many eggs, and all of the kids got at least half a box full. Here is Maiya with Ella's best buddy, Alex.
Below is Maiya sitting with her teachers and classmates, eating their bagged lunch. All of the other kids finished their meals and went to play on the swing/activity set. Maiya instead sat and sat and ate and ate and ate potato chips. I had to explain to her teachers that potato chips are a rare treat for her, which is why she didn't want to get up (that, and she plays at this house quite often--so it was not quite as "new" for her)!
Ella ate Nutella sandwhiches with her classmates. And funky lime-flavored crispy rings that I have yet to real pin down. They're yummy---but so, totally, and completely Mexican.
Me and two wonderful ladies. Martha, on the left, is the sweetest--she takes care of us, going above and beyond to watch our kids, take us to dinner, etc (and it was her house we were at). In the middle is Heather, Ella's English teacher. Heather is from Colorado, but moved here 18 or so years ago. She speaks Spanish fluently, but assures me she didn't speak a lick when she came. There is hope!
It was Heather's birthday, so the kids had a surprise party for her! Martha is a fantastic cake maker, and made Heather this cute "cupcake" cake!
The next day was Saturday, and the girls and I dyed hardboiled eggs (please excuse Maiya...she doesn't really like to wear clothes).
On Easter Sunday we talked a lot about Christ and the resurrection, and watched "The Testaments" movie. Then the girls did a little Easter Egg hunt in the house, and we embarked on my family's Easter tradition--rolling and breaking up the hardboiled eggs.
Once the eggs were sufficiently beaten up, we peeled them, popped them on the stove with some white sauce, and served the "egg stuff" over toasted bread. The girls don't care for it (yet)...but it was a Yummy treat for me and Jared!
Also, I should mention that I have no idea if Mexicans do the "Easter Bunny." I'm guessing not. However, down here they have "Semana Santa" for several days before Easter. The week prior to Easter is their Holy Week (no school), and starting on Maundy Thursday they publicly reenact the biblical stories about Christ each day--his trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. We did not go watch these productions in the town squares this year...but I look forward to attending in the future! It is a very "real" reminder of what Easter is truly about!

I hope you had a wonderful Easter!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Beach trip to Melaque, Mexico

In our married life (8 years this week), Jared and I have never stayed in a hotel for more than 2 nights, and never been on a vacation where we have truly just relaxed on our own schedule! This means that work was kept to a bare minimum (my sister asked me, "That means you did a little work, right? Okay--just checking---just wanted to make sure you were still my sister!")!
Pretty odd that we have never accomplished this, considering the amount of traveling we have always done (moving each 6 months for the past 8 years!).

3 nights without packing a suitcase was pretty cool. Hey--a small step for us...but a good step!

Instead of staying at the cheapest place we could find (the normal route), we instead found a place that we would enjoy spending 3 nights at. It was right on the beach, had a pool, separate bedroom, and was spacious enough with a full kitchen and beautiful ocean view.
The beach was beautiful, but the waves right in front of our hotel were not recommended for swimming. We had to walk down the beach quite a ways to find calmer water. Whoops.
Our bedroom suite is on the 2nd story above the pool, and had a great view of the ocean. Loud crashing waves were a bit hard to get used to the first night, but by the 2nd and 3rd night...they were like music to our ears!
Here is Jared and the kids trying to run away from the fierce waves!

We arrived Monday morning, and on Tuesday we packed up and went to a beach 20 minutes North, Boca de Iguanas. We scoped it out on our last trip in 2008, and decided to return to it since it was more secluded and had a flatter beach with shallow water (safer for kids playing). It was a great choice!! And we were the whitest people on the beach, as always...(but I admit--we are in the States, too!)
Ella ate some sand, I'm sure.

This is where I hid out most of the day, trying to avoid the sun (like Mother, like Daughter!). Somehow I still managed to get burned. Ugh. Ethan was unscathed, and slept in his portable little tent under our shaded beach canopy. A good investment, to say the least!

Maiya was a bit scared of the waves, so she opted for floating on the sand.
The beautiful beach....

An inner-tube vendor who had a brilliant way of displaying his wares....
We caught the Melaque street market on Wednesday. We saw a Barbie stall with handmade clothes...and tried to distract the girls while still taking this photo....
The wide, but quaint streets for Melaque. Nice shopping area, too...and REAL American ice cream (a rarity--ice cream down here is icy, not creamy).

I still don't know what the name of this meat is. I've never bothered to ask--because I steer clear of it! (My friends, Lourdes, just told me it is Tacos al Pastor!)
A blow fish lamp (it lights up with a bulb inside)! I stepped on one of these on the aforementioned trip in 2008. Ouch!
I took a photo of a random stranger who was getting a fruit nieve or smoothie topped with chili. Everything. Is. Always. Topped. With. Chili.
The aftermath of our trip.

Lessons learned:
SPF 30 doesn't cut it
Re-apply sunscreen a minimum of every hour (not every 2 1/2)
Buy more protective swimsuit covers (found some 2nd hand ones at the street market....Maiya is modeling below)
We packed African Quinoa Soup for the trip, so we only had to eat out once on the coast (okay--we didn't have to--it was by choice!). We stopped for lunch on each 5 hour drive to and from the beach. I was actually very excited to see a Burger King in Colima on the drive there. There is something *happy* about the predictability of American menus (as sad as I am to admit it!).

On the drive back, someone recommended we take a more direct route back to the Guadalajara area (3 hours tops, they said). Haha!! Well, it is was a windy mountain road, and while beautiful, it had Ella moaning, and Maiya throwing up all over. Maiya never complains--she simply informs us afterwards (or before, if she's fast). Poor kid.

We stopped at a nice restaurant in Autlan, on the drive back. Ella was beyond wearing shirts (for 3 days) she just had to cover up to walk into the restaurant and hide in a corner chair.

Jared's lunch on the drive back home was a hamburguesa. You never know what topping
s you're going to get here. This one included sprouts and jalepenos.
I ordered a sope, and a few other dishes for the kids that weren't available. They kept trying to recommend the more expensive meat dishes, and I clearly said several times, "No Carne" (no meat!). Well, instead of bringing out my sope, they brought me out a plate of steak strips. I looked at it with complete confusion. While trying to talk to the waiter about if this was supposed to be my sope (obviously not), Jared decided he would eat my meal too, and solve the problem. I assumed they wouldn't bring out my sope, then...and so I ate the side dish to the meat, that was pico-de-gallo with cactus (WOW-YUM!). Low and behold, they still brought out my mushroom sope I had ordered.
They also brought us a pitcher of fruit water (very common here), instead of the natural water we thought we had been clear about. All in all, the mistaken orders (or trick orders, possibly) cost more than our entire meal would have cost--therefore more than doubling our cost for lunch. Oh well--you win some--you lose some!

Speaking of interesting food...we kept seeing these being sold on the road side during the drive back. It is called Pitaya, or in China is known as Dragon Fruit. A friend recommended it, so we picked up some this weekend.

They are a cactus fruit and have spiky peels that you remove to eat the stringy fruit inside. It is a seriously weird texture--even Ella compared it to eating brains (without me saying to her--but that is EXACTLY the image that comes to mind!). Little stringy worm-like fruit with no large core, just tiny, crunchy seeds. Wild!
But not too bad. The girls enjoyed it, too!
All in all--a nice break :) The girls return to school this Monday, and we are looking forward to our "vacation" from them! Haha!!