Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Eve and Luminarias

Only a little catching up to do...

Christmas eve was great. We ended up pulling a lot of it together at the last minute. I feel like I say that a lot...


We had some friends over for dinner. My old college friend Lisa and her family, who live two streets over from us now. And their neighbors across the street, Carmela and Mark, whose daughter happens to be Azalea's favorite friend here in Albuquerque.

But before their arrival, we spent pretty much all of the day, baking, cooking, preparing, cleaning and filling up bags of sand. Our neighborhood is quite beautiful on Christmas eve. While many people decorate their homes with holiday lights and decorations, on Christmas eve they are all turned off and they give way to the luminarias.


We joined in the fun this year with well over 100 bags filled with sand and candles. Lining the street and in front of our house and the walkway up to our door, along the porch and down the driveway...

We toured the neighborhood with temps in the 10s. Shivering but enjoying the lights. People even drive down the street with their headlights turned off, in respect of the candles and luminarias.

It was really great to spend Christmas eve with the kids all playing and having a great time. One of my oldest friends from college, new friends in town, and the beautiful family of my own. All in our new home, with beauty all around.
I am blessed.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Visitors from Another World

My Dad and Valeri came for the holidays!

I often find it hard to believe that he and I carry the same genetic code. But when I see two of my three kids with the ability to continue talking with out taking a breath, I remember some things just skip a generation.

Though sadly they are gone now, but not without a great week of fun and adventure.

Fortunately the first day they arrived it was a gorgeous New Mexico day. So we promptly took them for a walk over to the fields by our house. The Sandhill Cranes were doing their thing. And we enjoyed it.

I don't think there is a tree that either Tigo or Lola would think twice about getting into.
They are climbers, for sure. Not just trees too.
This was over at their elementary school garden. The kids had fun showing Grandstan and Valeri where they get to walk to with their classes during the week.

Even the dogs were having a great time sniffing around.

At a failed attempt to see the River of Lights, we ended up in Old Town. Which was fun, since I actually haven't really been there. Not a shopper, so I don't get there much. But it's so pretty I'll have to go out, just not bring my wallet!

We did eventually make it to the River of Lights down at the Botanical Gardens. I hate to say it, but it's much better than the one at the National Zoo in DC. Sorry Smithsonian, but Albuquerque gets you on this one. (again.)

But a lot of the time we didn't leave the house. I had big plans for us to do all sorts of "New Mexico" style adventures for us to do. But a combination of the cold weather, the Christmas season and three kids who just want to hang out, we ended up doing a lot of "hanging out."

Valeri and Lola spent a lot of time designing and doing craft projects. Santa brought Lola the beads for making many projects, but I'm not sure which of these two girls enjoyed it more.

There was also a good deal of pancake making. If you notice many of these pictures, everyone is still in their PJs. I'm not saying what time a day it is. Vacation baby.
Christmas morning came, with the kids in their new Christmas pajamas, they found all their over stuff stockings and a silly amount of presents under the tree. (so much for scaling back...)

The aftermath...

The skilled Mario Kart Wii Driver

I think we ended up having about 5 breakfasts a day...
Tigo and Elmer work on one of many, many, many lego projects...

When the kids woke up the morning Grandstan and Valeri left, there was definitely an empty space. Everyone had a great time. Can't wait until it happens again!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Jewelry making girls

On a few different occasions while we were in Dolores, Lola would go with her cousin Estefani to a bracelet making class offered by the resident Peace Corp worker, Elli. This was a perfect time for us when she went, on so many levels.

The class was held in the community center which really wasn't far at all from the house. Basically across the street, down about 3 houses, then pass the police station and a cut through up a hill (past another cousin's house) and there you go, you are there. It gave Lola an opportunity to go out "into the world" with out my eagle eye watching over her and to do something with some other girls. And for me it was nice as there was an adult there that Lola could actually communicate with. And she got to walk there, often with out me. (Gasp!)

The bracelet making was actually an extension of an adult program, of sorts, put together by Elli. A group of young adults, mostly women or teenage girls, and I think 2 men took classes and made jewelry. The jewelry was made to be sold in a neighboring small city that is known for selling Salvadoran Artisan crafts of all sorts. The jewelry is made from beads, rocks and often as my favorite, locally collected seeds. We liked the seeds so much that the kids and I began to start collecting the seeds ourselves when we took afternoons to go to the swimming holes and cool off.

I ended up buying a few necklaces. One to keep and a couple to give as gifts. I wish I had bought more. Not only were they super inexpensive, but to support the local entrepreneurship (is that a word?) Hopefully they will get a little etsy shop open to sell their stuff more globally. If possible, they have the potential to really reach out and make much more than a net of possibly $1.50- $2 a necklace for a couple hours work.

But while the older girls/women/young men were making jewelry or taking sponsored class on some life skills, Elli offered for young, elementary aged kids to come and make jewelry with little plastic beads like you might find at Michael's craft store. Such a small thing was really such an amazing gift for these young girls. The activity provided them with not just an organized activity, which is huge, but a craft and an ability to create and be creative. Something that is not often possible, even on the smallest of scales.

The girls were so sweet and were fascinated by Lola, as a young American kid. They knew of many people, some their own parents, who had left for the states, but had never met a young Gringa kid. Someone who was the same age as them, just in different skin with different words. But with the same desires and interests. They would ask us over and over how to say different things in English. The young girls would laugh and laugh and laugh when they learned a new word, like "necklace". And then forget it and try again. Lola shyly enjoyed the attention.

One of the girls made this necklace for Azalea. She promptly put it on, and has yet to take it off. Even since we have been back home, for over 3 weeks. Don't think I haven't asked. I have. Many times.

The would say "Como se dice...." or "How do you say.... anything under the sun. And it was good for Lola's Spanish too. To try to understand some of what was being said and translating. And Azalea taught them of course that "caballo" means "horsey".

In the evenings some of the jewelry making girls would come by the house to see if the kids wanted to skip rope in the street. Which of course they always did want to do. On our last night, they found out that we were leaving early in the morning. Three girls who were sisters grew quiet. Then they started to serenade Lola, Azalea, even Tigo and eventually me (Elmer disappeared mysteriously). They sang songs about flowers and love, which I believe were all their church songs they were learning. They were terribly out of tune, but marvelously soothing. One of the sweetest things imaginable.

9 Year Old's Freedom Fest

Maybe I should start by saying all rules of my norm are out the window in El Salvador. I'm not happy about this, but it's a fact. Because of this, I'm glad we didn't decide to do our year down there. Well sort of.

For example:
Seat belts. As discussed, it's much better to ride in the back of an open pick up with the wind in your face.Sure it's a life saving feature, required by law in the US. But we're south now, baby.
Monitoring sugar intake. Doesn't happen so much with pinatas flying left and right, a grandmother who just wants to please visiting grandkids and and frozen icy things coated in honey being sold just down stairs of your "bedroom".
No sodas. Please. It's El Salvador and if you pack on an extra 15 lbs, you get a compliment. High Fructose Corn Syrup is everywhere! Kids seem to drink these even if they don't have shoes. (is that a strange analogy?)
Not letting the kids out of your sight. This one actually might be important.Wait I should be worried about kidnapping right. C'mon the civil war has been over a good 14 years, most land mines are gone, Dolores is supposed to be the safest town in all of El Salvador. And since El Salvador is not known for tourists- certainly not in far gone mountains, they haven't learned to take too much advantage yet of the chilitas that come, as well, my kids and I are the only ones that come.... Maybe the heat was getting to me... and I did have the flu...

Lola found a new kind of freedom on our trip. It started out simply a couple days after we got there. Estefani, Elmer's brother's daughter, who lives with los Abuelos often goes on little mini errands. Its a small town of 2000 including the people that live on the outskirts in the "Cantones." There are tias and tios, and primos everywhere you turn. Both of Elmer's parents families' have been there for over 150 years. Maybe more. So Estefani goes out on these errands to deliver bread, or a plate, or pick up pupusas or get an egg. One morning Estefani is about to go and asks if Lola wants to come with her. So when she says Lola, that of course means me too. As I won't let her go alone.  So of course because Azalea won't let me go anywhere with out her (full circle) we all go. And it's again like 200 degrees out in the sun and Azalea doesn't want to walk and needs to go to the bathroom almost 3 minutes into the walk. Of course.

So against my own ruling and personal patience I tell Lola and Estefani to go on and I'll take Azalea back to the house. Thus begins Lola's outings away from her mother or any direct parental supervision. Her theoretical umbilical cord was just cut. Just like that. At 9 years old I let her walk the side streets of a third world country alone. With out me.

Did I mention she was alone and without me. Of course Estefani does this about 5 times a day. But I won't even let Lola walk to school alone here in Albuquerque and it's just down the street from us.

So they were gone about 10 minutes. When they got back Lola was skipping and had grown about 3 feet taller in composure.

There is such a fine line for freedom. She went on to do this multiple times. Each time, it was no big deal. But really we both knew, that this was ridiculously huge. I was letting her go and she was flying.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Spirits

So it's not just all El Salvador around here. It's just that I've got to write it down before I forget... so there will be more, like it or not.

But we are celebrating Christmas around these parts, and having a pretty good time at it too. I've been trying to get the kids involved with making some crafty presents. Which isn't too hard to do. They are kids after all, and art is fun. Art is fun for everyone, it's just that adults often forget the fun part to it. Anyhow, here are some picks:

Some crafty mosaic frames, painted and decorated by 4-9 year olds.

Gingerbread house making. Really as soon as I mentioned this they were sitting anxiously around the table and behaving so nicely. If only that were still the case after the sugar rush wore off. But really they had a blast. And it actually turned out to be the best one they've made to date.

We've got two new family members and two visiting family members (for Christmas) so we need to make sure that Santa knows where to put their goodies. So we made them some stockings and hung them by the fire place.

And of course we decorated the tree! It's actually been up for quite a while now. Here's Lola putting the star on top of the tree. After being in denial for the last few years about needing a new tree topper, I finally allowed Lola to pick one out. Each year the kids take turns on putting the last ornament up. Now the star on top. They never forget from year to year whose turn it is. Priorities, I tell you.

Here's the my attempt to get them to take a family picture. They are so over me and the camera. Unfortunate for them they've got at least another good 14 years of picture posing left in them, until Azalea graduates from high school.

As good as it gets, I suppose.

And we must make sure that everyone gets either a nice Christmas story told to them or a jolly good carole sung. Lola has put herself in charge of holiday entertainment. Entertainment also includes Lola's gymnastics routines, dancing by Azalea, and jokes from Tigo.

And of course the regular holiday wrestling matches...
Never a dull moment.

Ho Ho Ho

Monday, December 14, 2009

Circle of Life

Ok so we saw (almost) the cow's departure to the after world. But we also saw (almost) how things entered the world. We got another early morning call to head down to the farm. A baby calf was born a few hours before. The mom's teets were engorged (all you mom's know that's no fun!) and the baby needed a little help learning to breastfeed. See, it's not just humans!

So Elmer (and another farm hand) got out the lasso to bring in the mom, while the baby waits to take her first steps!

See that little baby calf. Just walking for probably the second time. Sooooo sweet. But you could tell she was so scared.

There's the babe again. Elmer sends out the lasso and catches the momma. I have to say that I was impressed with my husband's lasso skills. While I've seen him lasso the kids while playing, to actually catch the animal in a needed time... was cool. (Thankfully we weren't talking about a buckin' bull here!)

The kids rest in the shade with Abuelo because even though it's only 8am, it's already like 130degrees.
(Or maybe really just about 90 so far)


And here they go getting the momma ready for the babe so that they can be happy together. Then after a day or two, she became another one of the milk cows for the family. That is, in addition to feeding her little calf, she get's milked (by hand) every morning, for the family's daily supply, or for making cheese.

And yes it continues as little 5 year old Hery practices his own lasso skills on another calf that's just a few months old. I guess when you start that young, it's like riding a bike.

The circle of life continues...