Friday, June 30, 2006

Odds and Ends from Houston

Well, we made it without any problems to the good ole US of A. It feels great to be back. Can I just tell you what an experience it is to go to Walmart after being out of the country? I am always in a state of shock seeing the endless amount of options of every different type of product. Aisles of shampoos, soaps, crackers, canned beans, pool toys, salad dressings. I found a really nice toothpaste (Crest with tartar control AND Scope AND in this nifty little bottle instead of a tube) I had never seen before and some little Tootsie Roll bite things. Awesome!

As I left Latin America (well, sort-0f, I am just in Texas), it was as if all the progress I had made in becoming a true soccer fan just stayed there in Small Town. I was running through the mall, my head spinning with all of the Fourth of July sales, and I saw it: the Argentina vs. Germany game being shown on a kiosk television. I had totally forgotten about it. True to American form there were only 3 people gathered in front of the TV watching the overtime period and as I got closer I realized they weren't even Americans. They were Europeans.

So, congrats to No Cool Story; I know she is rooting for Germany. I have to say though, I will be cheering for Italy on Tuesday (that is if I remember to watch) and for Brazil for as long as they are in it.

Anyway, this little pre-vacation vacation is just what I needed after the stress of the last few weeks. I am staying with some great friends we made in Venezuela and they are taking such good care of us. And I got to hang out with Grammy for a bit today, and to meet Heather from One Woman's World for all of, hmmmm 2 1/2 minutes. She seemed just lovely.

And did I mention Walmart? I am going again first thing in the morning.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Good-Bye Small Town

Well, the day has finally arrived.

Good-bye Small Town.

Good-bye big shrimp.

Good-bye big shrimp's shiny girlfriend.

Good-bye monkeys

and turtles.

And good-bye Brother Pech,

Ms. R,

and K-squared's mom.

I will miss you all.

I think Julio (5 yrs old) summed up everyone's feelings on moving yesterday when he told me:

"Mom, I want to do two things. Stay here and move."

I know just what he means.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Works for Me Wednesday-Travel Papers

Since I am traveling this week I thought I would share a travel tip.

When am planning the trip, I print out all of our confirmations, like for airlines, car rentals, hotels, etc. Then I make a Hotmail file just for my travel stuff and keep the emails there until after the trip. With the hard copies, I organize them in the order that I will be using them, and then place them all in a plastic paper protector. Then I place this in my carry-on bag. Other things I include: phone numbers of anyone who may be picking us up, Mapquest driving directions if needed, coupons to attractions we may visit.

This has saved us several times when the hotel or car rental place has mysteriously lost our reservation.

Works for me!

Visit Shannon's site for links to other WFMW participants!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Best of Small Town-Church

I cannot leave Small Town with out a post about what church has been like for me. One thing I love so much about my church is that everyone has the opportunity to participate in one way or another; sometimes as a teacher, sometimes in a leadership position, sometimes working in the nursery with the little kids. There are constant opportunities for growth and learning.

Here in Small Town I have had the chance to work with the women's organization called the Relief Society. When I am not chasing my kids around, visiting the big shrimp or monkeys, or blogging :), I am usually working on church stuff. It often feels like a part-time job, but in a good way. There have been times when I have been so bored or lonely or both that it was the only thing I had other than my family.

The Mexican women have been so kind to me despite the fact that I am a "gringa" and don't speak their language perfectly. They have let me in to their homes and have shared their heartbreaks and triumphs with me. Last week they had a farewell for me; they sat around in a circle and each one took a turn to tell me what they appreciated about me, something they learned from me, or some memory of something we had done as a group. It was very moving for me as I don't think we are very open like that in the States.

So, I wanted to share some photos of some of the things we have done the last two years.

Our church emphasizes food storage and emergency preparation; not in a "doomsday" kind of way but more of a "if ye are prepared ye shall not fear" way. After a couple of unique experiences in Venezuela, I am a huge fan of these concepts, and so when I saw they hadn't caught on too much down here, I bought a Mylar pouch sealer machine from the States, learned how to use it, and then taught them how to dry pack food:

April 10, 2005 Bagging

We did this in my home every month. Some months only one or two women would show up, but at least it was a start.

We had cooking classes:

cooking class

We made hygiene kits for victims of Hurricane Stan:

hygine kits

One of the most memorable activities was last Christmas. We collected new underwear, socks, and sandals for 96 kids living at a local orphanage. This was so much work, but well worth it.

Here we are at my house before we delivered the gifts:

Casa Hogar

delivering the gifts:

At casa hogar

The kids we gave the gifts to:

kids at Casa Hogar

Each one came up and gave a kiss to the woman who had their gift; it was so sweet:

kids getting gifts

And then there were activities that aren't photo-worthy, but much more worthy in substance. One woman I worked with is a psychologist and she gave numerous classes to try to raise the self-esteem of the woman. Our purpose in offering such classes were, first, to try to break the cycle of poverty that is so prevalent here; the number of young teenage girls that got pregnant in the last two years was very disturbing. And second, so that wives won't find it acceptable when their husbands abuse them. Luckily this dear friend of mine will be staying in Small Town and continue working on issues like these.

It has been a lot of hard work last 2 years and I feel tired, but happy. It has strengthened my belief that you will love those whom you serve; you can't help but love them. Even though I am ready to leave Small Town, it is hard to leave so many people that care about me and my family.
(On the other hand, my kids can't wait to go to an English-speaking ward in Big City Mexico. They have never gone to Primary in their own language other than on vacation!)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Last Small Town Saturday

Yes, it's our last Saturday here in Small Town. It was actually a lot more exciting than most Saturdays. Here are the highlights:

I'm sorry if you are all getting bored of monkeys, but I had to go say goodbye to Monica today. I am really going to miss her. When she saw me today she ran down out of her tree and climbed up my leg.

Gabs and Mon

We took our relationship to the next level: Grooming.

Monica grooming me

Here's a very pregnant mommy monkey who looks like she is about to pop (can't you feel her pain?):

Pregnant mommy

On the way home, I captured this shot:

family on moped

I always crack up about the Brittany Spears driving with her baby on her lap episode a few months back. We see so many horrible driving arrangements here. This is not nearly the worst we've seen, (last week I saw a family of 5 on a motorcycle), but it's always a little awkward to take a picture of someone from your car (especially while driving).

When we got home we watched the Mexico vs. Argentina soccer game. Mexico played well, but in the end lost in overtime. :( My kids are totally into it. Here's a shot from the beginning of the game (remember we are in a middle of a move, my house doesn't always look like that):


And last but not least, a special thanks to Special Agent Jack Bauer of "24" for keeping us un-bored on the weekends the last 16 months. We started season 1 last April and rationed 1-3 episodes per weekend and just finished up. I can't wait to see Jack save the world on his own, again, in season 5.


This has been one of the busiest Saturdays in Small Town history!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Food Friday-Clam Pasta

This is my last Friday in Small Town. I've got a non-freezable recipe and then I'll probably be taking a little break from Freezer Food Friday for a while as I need to try out some new recipes and I'll be traveling for 6 weeks!

Week in Review

One Finished Project

I have found that after we move from a place my interest in doing anything with photos from that place wanes. So, I have filled 4 photo albums, all in chronological order thank you very much, with pictures from Small Town. I had to make prints of 587 pictures, most of which I had to INDIVIDUALLY convert the file type because of our lame photo editing program! Not cheap, or fun, but at least it is done.

photo albums

One Cultural Difference

Ok, here's the weird thing about Mexican newspapers. The front page almost always has on it either a very gruesome picture of a dead person, or a basically naked lady. Every morning, the street vendors selling them at the traffic lights come up and press the newspaper to the car window trying to entice the driver to buy.

When I say gruesome, I really mean it. Like decapitated bodies, huge knife gashes, and gunshot wounds to the head. Ewwww!

And when I say almost naked lady, I mean it. I am always trying to distract Julio from looking at it, "Hey, check out that fine looking pack of dogs over their, QUICK!"

(I was going to buy one and scan it, but I didn't want to offend anyone. You'll just have to take my word for it.)


One of my all-time favorite recipes came from my friend Jules. Jules has been one of my best friends ever since we met while we were both living in Washington D.C. 8 years ago. We lived in the same apartment building while her husband was in med school and Guapo was in business school. We had so much fun together! Staying up late, watching Pride and Prejudice while our husbands teased us, eating, playing canasta. And then we left and it was sad.

While we were living in Venezuela she and her husband and son came and stayed with us for 6 weeks while her husband did a rotation in a nearby hospital. What's the saying about fish and company going bad after 3 days? Doesn't apply to Jules and her family. Even though 4 adults and 3 children were living in a 3 bedroom apartment, we never got sick of each other. Amazing!

In March, when I was in Houston she drove 3 hours to come and see us. And this summer we are going to get to hang out for a few days in Colorado. We can't wait. She is such an awesome person, mom, and friend. (and I think she has secret desires of becoming a blogger. Come on Jules, what are you waiting for???)


This pasta recipe is the best! We have it often. Margarita usually has at least 3 servings. If there are leftovers (most often not in our house), they are fantastic.

Here it is:

Linguine with Clams
6 or 7 large cloves of garlic
1/2 c olive oil
1/2 bunch chopped parsley (leaves only)
2 cans clams (minced or chopped)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 lb. linguine

Finely chop garlic and put in small saucepan with olive oil. Simmer over very low heat until fragrant. Do not brown. Add parsley and cook 1 minute. Add juice from the 2 cans of clams, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Add 1 chopped tomato. Return to boil; reduce heat and simmer 5-10 minutes or until slightly condensed. Add clams and second tomato. Return to boil and then remove from heat. Add to cooked, drained, and rinsed pasta and serve.


Check out Handiemom's and Utmommy's sites for other recipes!

***Naddin's posting a recipe today as well!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Best of Small Town-Ms. R

Friday is the last day of school here so I thought I'd tell you about the unique school experience my kids have had here in Small Town.

Guapo and I came to Small Town for two days before we actually moved here to check out housing and schools. I will have you know I spent the better part of those two days crying in a room at the Holiday Inn.

At the time, Margarita (now 8 yrs) was finishing up her kindergarten year at an excellent international school in Caracas, Venezuela. There is no international school in Small Town and the Mexican schools that we visited were just not acceptable. But, we had to come, so we picked the lesser of the evils for her last three months of kinder.

During that time, she brought home lots of homework: my favorites were memorizing multiplication tables (she had just turned 6 for Pete's sake), and cursive writing. She dealt with it like a champ, but as a mom, it was difficult to watch. This lifestyle is hard enough, but when you feel like you are hurting your kids, it can be almost unbearable.

(When Julio attended Pre-K at a Mexican school last year he brought home math problems like, “24-16=?” If he missed school, I would be reprimanded by the teacher that he was holding the whole class back. Grrrrr. And when a kid hit another kid, the hit-ee was instructed to hit the hitter. Great, just what I want my kids to learn.)

Enter Ms. R, an American teacher who was here working exclusively for an international company. Long story short, several companies, including Guapo's, teamed up with her and for the last two years she has been my children’s teacher (Margarita for two years and Julio for the past year).

During that time, the school has ranged from 8 to 12 students. They follow the Calvert homeschooling program. Class is held in a house that with the help of Ms. R, has been made to look like a school inside. Here is Margarita's classroom:

Ms. R does everything in her power to make the kids' experience as "normal" as possible.

They take field trips. Here they are visiting the Small Town Zoo:

February 2005 Cassidy's field trip at zoo 1

They have cultural events. Here's a shot from "Colombia Day" where they were learning about typical Colombian dance:


They have birthday parties:


They dance:

March 7, 2005 Cassidy's birthday dance

If Ms. R hadn’t been in Small Town, we could not have stayed here. I can't say enough good about her. She, along with another wonderful woman from Columbia, juggle 4 grades everyday, from kinder to 5th grade. She’s the kind of teacher who requires obedience in her classroom, but does so in such a loving way that kids want to behave. She has been a second mom to all of her students.

So, thanks to Ms. R, what I thought would be the worst part of Small Town has instead turned out to be the very best part. My kids have received loving, individual attention that I don’t think they could have received anywhere else. The schooling situation here would not work for everyone, but it has for us. In March, my kids had entrance exams at several schools in Big City Mexico and everyone commented how far ahead they are. It pains me to take my kids away from this amazing woman and her little school.

So, thank you Ms. R, for being such a blessing to me and to my children the last 2 years! We will miss you!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Works For Me Wednesday-Document Binder

Okay, today's tip is not anything revolutionary, but it really works for me.

I keep all of our important documents in one binder. I include things like birth certificates, diplomas, shot records, SS cards, etc. etc. I place each document in one of those plastic paper protector thingys. Then I make copies of each document and keep them behind the original which really saves me time if and when I need a copy of it.

We keep it in a safe place that both my husband and I know about. It is great if you ever have to leave in a hurry (which we have had to do a couple of times).

Works for me!

Head on over to Shannon's site for links to other WFMW participants!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Julio Shares His Talents with Others

In our family, Guapo and I strive to teach our kids that everybody has special, God-given talents and gifts; that we should develop those talents and then share them with others.

I think we are really starting to get the message through to Julio (5 yrs old).

Remember a couple of weeks ago when Julio was working on his hair-cutting talent?

Well, even though the talent is not yet fully developed, he's decided to start sharing it with others. Starting with his brother Juan Carlos (3 yrs).

This is what we found (major *gasp* from me):

And the damage:

My baby's hair!!!! Whaaaaaaaaa.


This is where I have to express my gratitude for blogging. As I banished Julio to a time out while Guapo and I tried to come up with a suitable punishment, Juan Carlos came in and started gathering up his hair with his little hands and Guapo said to him, "Wait!" And then to me, "Are you going to blog about it?" Me: "Yeah, totally bloggable."

And thus, thanks to blogging, we can find good in even the darkest moments.

Happy Father's Day

I just wanted to take a minute to honor a few of my favorite men in the world (a day late thanks to Blogger, Flickr, and/or my internet connection).

First off, my dad. I think he knows how much I love him. Everyone who meets my dad likes him. He makes friends with EVERYONE, which as a child was embarrassing, but now I think it is pretty cool. Here he was in Italy last year making a friend with some French guy. They didn't speak each other's language (the hand gestures were classic), but by the time the boat ride was over, they were hugging goodbye.

June 1, 2005 Grandpa and his friend

Here we are when I was a little girl (notice the cool denim suit. My dad was cool.).

dad and jacquie

And here he is with my little girl more than 8 years ago.

grampa and cas resized

He and my mom drove from Colorado to Utah as soon as I called to tell them I was in labor. They did the normally 8 hour drive in 5 1/2 hours and made it for her birth which was so special for me since it was our first baby and their first grandchild.

What is even sweeter is that he drove back the very next weekend to see her again!

And then there's my husband, Guapo, who doesn't like to be "blogged" about much. But, I'll have you know that he is one great dad to our three kids. I am so lucky I married someone who puts his family first. He plays with the kids until they are sweaty and have red little faces.

Here he is teaching Margarita and Julio how to ski last winter. No ski school for them! However, Guapo had quite the sore back that night.

dan and kids

And last but not least, my father-in-law, who along with my mother-in-law raised Guapo to be the man he is today. He has earned the admiration of all of his family for standing up for what he knows to be right. Recently he and my mother-in-law finished a three year mission for our church in Guatemala. When they received the call, my father-in-law retired from his very successeful career as a judge, packed up their stuff, sold their house and spent three years working tirelessly in Guatemala. What an example for his kids and grandkids!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Freezer Food Friday (a little early)-Beef Satay

I know, I know. It's only Thursday. But our rich friends have invited us to go on their yacht this weekend, so how could we say no?

It's been a busy week with the upcoming move and all. So here's a little review.

One (almost) Finished Project:

Mom to K-squared and I have been working on a quilt for the kids' teacher. We put a photo of each student on it and we are going to let them sign their names next to their picture. The houses are significant because the kids' school is in a house (it is a very small school, post forthcoming on my kids' unique experience here in Small Town).

Why is it almost finished you ask? Well, it's just a quilt top because Julio (5 yrs) was playing with my quilting hoop, stepped on it, and broke it. Small Town doesn't need quilts (way too hot), so there are no quilting hoops to be found here. It was actually a blessing in disguise because I don't think we could have finished it, and it's probably even tackier to give a half-finished quilt than a just a quilt top.

Luckily the kids' teacher's mom is an expert quilter. (hope she doesn't look to closely at our work!)


And here it is a bit closer:


One Thing of Beauty

Empty Drawers. You've got to love them when you are about to move.


Except for the one Guapo's in charge of:


Oh well, we'll just close that one for now.

Guapo doesn't share the same love of purging all of our stuff. Here's what Julio's shower looks like right now (it is the staging area for all things looking for a new home):


The other night I gave Guapo some stuff to sift through so we could get rid of all that is not necessary.





Hmmmm, looks like I may have to take matters into my own hands.


This is a recipe that my friend Janice J. sent to me a few weeks back. I tried it last week and it has been on my mind ever since. It is YUMMY! We ate it all up and the kids still wanted more.

You marindade a lb of stir-fry beef in the following mixture:

1 T soy sauce
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp. grated ginger
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp sesame oil
(I made 2X because I like LOTS of flavor)

(at this point you could freeze the beef and marinade in a ziploc bag to use later) After marinade for at least 5 minutes (I did it for a few hours), thread the strips of beef on to skewers that have been soaked in water. Then grill for 2 minutes on each side.

Here is the recipe for the peanut sauce that you can dip the meat in. Janice says is not necessary because the meat is so tasty, but we tried it because it sounded so good.

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 T hot water
1 T soy sauce
½ tsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. sesame oil

I made the sauce and added a little sugar (probably 2 tsp. because I have a sweet tooth), and one inch of fresh ginger, peeled and minced (because I LOVE ginger). Guapo and I loved the sauce, but the kids opted for the plain meat.

It was a big hit. Thanks Janice!

If anyone else would like to share a recipe on Fridays, let me know and I will link to you in my post. Handiemom always has a recipe on Friday (I tried her recipe from last week and it was simple to make and very tasty).

Have a great weekend!

Not So Best of Small Town-When it Rains, It Pours

Remember the potholes from last week? When the streets are dry, they are annoying, but you can deal with it. Well, when it rains here, the streets fill with water. Here are a some photos from a couple of weeks ago. This was not from a major storm. It was the result a few hours of rain. Bad drainage I tell you, bad drainage.



Kinda reminds you of Venice, doesn't it?

With the streets like that, you can't see the potholes. So I find myself driving around with my teeth clenched, gripping the steering wheel with all I've got, and kind-of moaning-just waiting to drive the front end of my van into a hole. All the drama makes poor Juan Carlos (3 yrs) nervous, so he tries comfort himself by cheering me on from his carseat, "It's ok mom. You'll be ok."

It is not uncommon to see cars stuck in the potholes. And I have never actually seen it, but there is always talk of the legendary VW bugs that just disappear into the road.

This is what happened last year to the poor LaLa truck, just out trying to deliver boxed milk to the masses:


So, whereas I had "snow-days" when I was a kid, my kids have "rain-days". The difference is, is that I was able to go out of the house and play in the beautiful, pristine snow and give my mom some peace; we do not go out of the house during "rain-days". The sewer-stuff mixes with the rain water and you get a really smelly, really gross, really toxic mixture. There have been times when I have been trapped in the house with three kids for DAYS.ON.END. because we couldn't go out.

Not good. Not good.