Happy Birthday, Dante

I’m running behind these days! Dante turned 8 on the 16th and I’m just now blogging it. Oops. Things have been a little insane here, but that’s another post.

Dante spent a lot of time planning his birthday. Despite this, his requests were simple! A cake, a piñata, and a cookout at Florencia, as well as macaroni and cheese for dinner were what he wanted. Easily accomplished!

He had a terrific day and even told us that it was the best day of his life! Gotta love it when kids are so easy to please. :)

Here is the cake he requested.

Five Nights at Freddy's Cake

For his gift, we filled a box with all sorts of craft and art supplies, everything from markers, crayons and scissors to fancy papers, a mini stapler and stencils. He was THRILLED!

The trip to Florencia was a fun one, though we thought we’d be rained on. It stayed perfect though, cloudy and cool without rain. We roasted potatoes, made chirmol with grilled tomatoes and onion and grilled some delicious beef with chimichurri sauce while the boys ran around and explored the forest.

food

Nature Time

One of the things I miss most about living here is the lack of nature around me. Sure the neighbors have banana trees and coffee plants, but my patio is concrete and our bit of land is so small that there’s not really room for much. I miss standing in the middle of the forest and feeling the calmness of living things around me.

Lately, Irving has been taking the boys on hikes so I can get more work done. This has made it easier for me to work, but it also allows the kids to get a taste of nature that they don’t really get at home. They headed up to the piece of land on the mountain where I eventually want to live and they have been having picnics there. It’s a popular place to hang out . . .Melvin and Sofia 3 have been visiting, too!

hiking in Guatemala

The best part is that the kids are getting some serious nature time, which is pretty awesome. Now I just need to get away from the computer and head up with them!

hiking in Guatemala

A Day in the Life

Wondering what life is like around here? It varies drastically, but here’s a look at a typical Monday in our home.

5 am: Older boys are up and bouncing around or making stuff in the main room. I get up because it’s Monday and I have bakery orders to fill!

6 am: Get kids working on school while I knead bread. First items are usually in the oven and we munch on the extras for breakfast or one of the older boys will make breakfast for everyone. Dominic bounces out of bed around this time. Put tea in the microwave.

7 am: Check emails, plan the day while bakery stuff is baking, teach kids science and make sure they understand their work. We often do experiments or they work with their electricity kit. Remember tea is in the microwave, reheat it.

8 am: Start responding to client emails and/or working on the day’s assignments. Do some jumping jacks and Follow the Leader with the kids to get our blood pumping.

9 am: Pack up the bakery goods for Irving to deliver. He heads out, boys ask if they can play computer and we negotiate an amount of time and a room cleaning before they can start. Remember the tea and heat it up again.

9:30 am: Sit down to really work on assignments, getting interrupted every few minutes to check something in the boys’ room, chase a lizard out of the house or get a snack for someone. Cat wanders in, wanting to know why he hasn’t been fed for the tenth time yet. Finally finish my tea.

10 am: Get a call from Irving wondering where the new customer is, he can’t find their house. Give him directions from Google Maps. Get morning snack for starving children (and cat).

11 am: Irving is back just in time to take over child-wrangling while I get on Skype to discuss a project with a client. She wonders if my children are okay, hearing them yelling in the background at a computer game.

12 pm: Realize that it’s lunchtime, thanks to Dominic whining beside me on the bed. Rush to make lunch for everyone and enjoy a few minutes of boy humor at the table before shooing them outside to enjoy the sunshine before the rain hits.

12:30 pm: Back to writing.

3 pm: My niece, Sofia, shows up with her dad, who needs to run some errands. Get her and Dominic set up with paints in the kitchen and move the computer to the living room so I can keep an eye on things. Put some rice in the crockpot for dinner and alternate between proofreading a client’s book and preventing paint from flying all over the house as toddlers fight over the water dish.

3:30 pm: Snacks must be had or everyone will surely perish. Popcorn is on the agenda and everyone settles in to watch a movie while I respond to emails and check my social media.

3:40 pm: Toddlers lose interest in the movie and decide to move into the boys’ room, where they promptly get into everything they shouldn’t. Spend time cleaning up after them and getting them to play out in the main room with a few select toys.

4 pm: Work on my essential oils site for a bit, realize that it’s almost supper time and recruit the older boys to chop veggies for it. Wash Sofia’s face and hands, which are somehow black, before her papa picks her up and give her and Dominic some carrot sticks to tide them over until dinner.

5 pm: Dinner! More fart jokes abound, along with some interesting anecdotes about the ducks and chickens next door. Dominic gets up in the middle of dinner to spend a couple of minutes spinning before returning to eat. Sometimes, you just have to move!

6 pm: Irving washes up while the kids use up their remaining energy by running the circuit through the house and patio and yelling at the top of their lungs. I start herding them, one by one, to the shower.

7 pm: Bedtime for Dominic! Stories for all and a dab of “sleepy oil” (lavender) and he’s off to bed. The older boys stay up reading or drawing in their room. I spend my time checking social media and going over client messages for the next day.

8 pm: Big kids are in bed. Irving puts on a TV show for us to watch together as I work on mindless tasks, like adding products to my online catalog or adding tags to a client project.

9 pm: Chat on Skype with one of my salespeople and discuss what we can do this week to increase sales. Lay out plans for an oil event on Saturday and list everything that needs to be done before then.

10 pm: Write a blog post for The Family Oils while watching another show with Irving.

11 pm: Bed.

Repainting

Over the past week and a half, we’ve been painting the main room of the house. The walls haven’t been painted since we first built the space, so it was definitely time. Kids and furniture had rubbed the paint off in some places, darkened the walls in others.

When I say “we” I actually mean Irving and Melvin, since I had a lot of deadlines to work on. However, they were well supervised.

painting

The entire space took 3 days to paint in bits and pieces, shifting furniture around and painting two coats in each space. The older boys helped some days.

painting

You can see in this photo that the wall was pretty dirty! The wall to the left was already painted here. Which is another thing. I’d asked for golden yellow to match what we already had, since I like that color, but it ended up being a sort of butter yellow! I’m used to it now, but it was annoying at first.

Here Comes the Rain!

Well, my last post was about the heat, but literally the next day, it started to rain! We were pretty pleased about that. The boys watched the rain roll in from the hills.

rain

Not only did it start to rain, but the temperature dropped about 10º in few minutes and we ended up with HAIL! The boys were so excited about it. They couldn’t believe that ice could fall from the sky. This triggered a nice little science lesson on how hail is made.

hail in guatemala

The hail was gone in a few minutes and then it poured rain. All three boys ran around outside and got soaking wet. We do enjoy our rain . . . especially at the beginning of the season.

Unfortunately, our patio has a little dip in it that collects water, so Dante was out there sweeping the water into the drain. It’s not actually necessary, since it will drain off at a certain level, but he had a blast doing it.

rain

It poured all night long and was quite the storm, so we talked a lot about thunder and lightning, too. All in all, an educational night!

In the morning, we found this . . . too bad the bananas were still super immature and nowhere near edible.

fallen banana tree

Laundry Weather

We’re gearing up for the rainy season here, but before it starts, the dry season is really giving its all to make things dry. This means HOT sun all day long most every day. Great laundry weather!

Laundry weather in Guatemala

Unfortunately, while this much sun is nice for drying towels and jeans, it’s kinda melty human weather. Apparently it’s not even 30º, but let me tell you, with the tin roof, it’s nearly unbearable! Practically an oven in here.

That being said, I know that very soon, we’ll be getting torrential downpours all evening and night. That will be nice, though the damp brings its own problems like mold and leaks in the roof that never appear until it’s REALLY pouring. Each season has it’s pros and cons, so I’ll just try to enjoy them all.

Weird Things You Get Used to as an Expat

I was looking at a friend’s photos on Facebook the other day and admiring her bookshelves and it occurred to me that this is one of the things I’m now used to. It’s weird to see overstuffed bookcases around here (though I have a few myself, of course). Other things that you get used to as an expat around here:

Guatemalan guard

Image via xoque - Flickr CC

Guards with guns. The first time I rounded a corner in Antigua and ran into a guard carrying a shotgun, it scared me almost to death. Now? I don’t even notice them for the most part.

Eating with tortillas. I’ll be honest, when I first arrived in this country, I really didn’t like tortillas. Eventually, I got used to them. The funniest thing though, is learning to eat with a tortilla in place of utensils. One year, my sister came to visit and we ate with the in-laws.

“Everyone eats with their hands . . . I’m the only one using a fork!” Yup, welcome to Guatemala. Who needs to dirty forks and spoons when you can just scoop up your beans with a tortilla?

Bombas. Firecrackers are set off nearly every day here, particularly around holidays and birthdays. For some bizarre reason, birthday bombas are set off very early in the morning, like four am sometimes! Early on, these always woke me, but now I can sleep right through them.

Constant shake-ups. Earthquakes happen a lot around here, which is apparently a good thing, since it means the pressure is relieved. Amazingly, it’s possible to get used to the windows rattling and the floor undulating beneath your feet!

stores in Guatemala

Image via Kate and Alonso - Flickr CC

 Shopping over the counter. While there are some shops that have shelves where you can go and pick things off the shelf, the vast majority of stationary stores, convenience stores, etc. keep everything behind the counter, often with metal bars for security separating you from the clerk.

This presents a problem for the non-Spanish speaking tourists. You not only have to know which store to go to in order to find what you need, you also have to know what it’s called in Spanish! Depending on the clerk, they may or may not be tolerant of your muddled vocabulary and hand gestures trying to describe what you need.

After all these years, I’m now accustomed to ordering what I need, but I do still miss the ability to scan the shelves of a craft shop and drool over products.

 Kissing cheeks. I’m a bit of an introvert, so hugs and kisses don’t come naturally to me, but here, cheek kissing is a very common greeting and farewell. I can’t say I’m 100% on it all the time, sometimes I’m not sure if I should kiss or shake hands, but it doesn’t really phase me anymore when someone leans in.

Lack of personal space. North Americans value their personal bubble and we tend to have respect for each other’s personal space. Latinos . . . don’t seem to have the same sense of space. In the first few years, I found it alarming to have people stand so close to me, or sit right next to me on a bench. I wondered what they wanted or if something was wrong. Now? While I still like my personal bubble, it’s not a big deal when someone moves into it . . . or several someones.

These are just a few of the things that I once found awkward or uncomfortable but now treat as normal. What have you gotten used to as an expat?

 

Learning to Cook Chapin

When Irving and I first started living together, we had some food issues. I made things like spaghetti and meatballs, carrots and peas and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He was used to eating rice, beans and eggs, with the occasional piece of chicken or beef. He had a pretty strong aversion to most vegetables and NEVER wanted to try anything new.

That being said, he would eat anything I put in front of him, as long as he didn’t know what it was beforehand. I learned to start making dinner and not answering his “What is it?” questions. He would eat it and discovered that he liked a number of new foods.

As anyone who has lived in a foreign country can tell you, though, sometimes you just want food from home. So Irving would visit his mom to eat and this often meant he had a second lunch around 4 and our dinner was at 5. Needless to say, that annoyed me a lot back in the day. ;)

Over time, though, I learned to cook chapin (Guatemalan) food. It wasn’t always easy. It took me nearly 7 years to get the hang of rice, for example. But I have managed to nail a few things! Here’s the breakfast I made Irving yesterday:

chapin breakfast

Fried plantains, refried black beans and eggs with chirmol on top. There were sausages, too, but they didn’t make it into the breakfast. He was thrilled!

Over the years, we’ve learned to adapt, as all couples do. These day, my food is a mix of Guatemalan and Canadian, with a little Chinese thrown in sometimes. I can prepare the basics in Guatemalan cuisine . . . tamales, frijoles revueltos, picado de rabano, pepian and tortillas (though my slapping technique is still lacking), but Irving has also come to enjoy more Canadian foods, like oatmeal that isn’t gruel consistency and has fruit in it, stuffed potatoes, brown bread and even tuna fish salad. He still won’t touch egg salad sandwiches though!

Oh Look, More Oil Classes!

Are you tired of hearing about essential oils yet? Last post for a while, I promise.

I’ve got another 101 class starting tomorrow for those who want to learn more about essential oils and family health. If you missed the first one, you’ll want to get in on this one! Click the image to sign up.

Essential oils 101

Also, if you’re more interested in the business opportunity side of things, I’m offering a business class starting tomorrow, as well. NO obligation to join up, but you can learn a bit more about the doTERRA business and how to make money with the oils. Click the image to sign up.

doterra online class

Both classes begin tomorrow and run for 4 days. See you there!