Something Worth Sharing

Here she is, our new precious little one. She joined our family on June 26th, after what my husband describes as a “fast and furious” labor and delivery (she was born less than 1 hour after I checked into the hospital). We are thrilled with our new family member. brand new

Well, at first, some of us weren’t so sure.

fia and bella meet elenaBut I think we’re all adjusting pretty well, and this little one is getting lots of well deserved love and attention. sleeping

three seriousHave a wonderful day!

Three Big B’s

For Babka, Baby, and Blog. First the babka. 2 mini loaves happy girl slice 2 slice

Thank goodness this unholy concoction, containing over a pound of butter and sugar, each, and nearly 2 and 1/2 pounds of chocolate (!!) can be frozen, because I could only justify making this recipe by promising that I would freeze two of the three loaves to have when my husband is here to enjoy it. The impetus for this dessert is innocent enough. My mother-in-law shared a loaf of sweet bread studded with chocolate chips, and I thought to myself, hmm, these people are onto something. So I did a quick search at my favorite food blog and came up with chocolate babka. And at first glance, it looked simple enough, a sweet bread dough swirled with chocolate filling and topped with streusel. Closely examining the ingredient list, however, gave me reason to pause. Did I really want to sink that amount of indulgent ingredients into one baking endeavor? The craving won out, however, and it’s not until you’re standing there, looking at two bowls on the counter, one containing your risen dough, and one containing your chocolate/butter/sugar/cinnamon mixture and finding, in alarm, that one is unexpectedly more full than the other, that you realize you may have, perhaps, made a slight error in judgement. Thank goodness it’s too late to turn back at that point, because this babka, oh this babka, it is just that good. With all that said, however, I don’t see myself making it again any time soon. But you should. At least once; it’s one of those things. And after living months without access to an oven, it felt good to have a really, really good excuse to turn on the oven.

Speaking of cravings and ovens, I suppose that now is as good a time as any to announce that I am having a baby. Next month! As in, approximately five weeks from now we’ll be a family of 5. Sorry I haven’t mentioned it before, it’s just that living on the island and being pregnant without having access to good medical care has made me nervous, and I didn’t need anyone else’s well-meant comments or advice making me more nervous. I know I have really wonderful, lovely readers, but the internet is a crazy big place, and I know things like that still happen. So now that I am safely back to the United States, having survived 27-hours plane travel and layovers at 7 months pregnant taking care of two little girls all by myself, I feel comfortable sharing the exciting news. We’re having another little girl, and we are completely thrilled. It is a little bittersweet, because with the baby came the decision that we couldn’t responsibly raise small children on the Galapagos. There are just too many risks involved, mostly from poor-quality water and lack of adequate medical care, that would make it hard to have a new baby there. So we decided to leave our job and home on the Galapagos and move back to the United States.babiesSee, I’m not making this up. This was taken on our last day in Galapagos, when I was 32 weeks (3 weeks ago). My husband is currently finishing up his last month of work and then will come up before (fingers crossed) the baby comes.

The third B is for blog. I realize I’ve been a terribly negligent blogger lately (as in, the last year or so) but that is the trouble with living without internet access. It makes it rather difficult to do things on the internet. Ha. Seriously though, I’ve found that over the year, I’ve kind of lost my taste for the internet. I’ve found many worthwhile things to fill in the time, and frankly, I’m a little disgusted with myself when I get into a rut of looking at pinterest or other social media things for any extended length of time. Not that those things are bad, (and I am in no way casting judgement on people who do enjoy passing the time in this way), it’s just not really my thing, anymore. So, I’m still trying to figure out where I fit in with my blog. I do like sharing, and I love getting feedback from you, especially when there is something I can help you with. And now that I do have access to the internet on a regular basis, I will try to be a more dutiful blog and e-mail correspondent (of course, after the baby comes, all bets are off). But I don’t think I’ll be picking up the pace with posting any time soon. I hope you understand, dear readers.

Have a wonderful afternoon.

Six Years

wedding

Six years ago, today, I married a wonderful, sweet, incredible man. I am so lucky to have him. Today we’re celebrating on separate continents, though, so it’s a little rough. I figured I could just let the day pass by without thinking about it, I could spend it blubbering into a loaf of chocolate babka, or I could celebrate. I decided to go with the third, though it will certainly be a simple celebration, and it will still involve some babka (more on that later). I’m celebrating because I am seriously just so happy to be married to this guy and I love the little family we’ve made together.

joel

family pictureAnd no matter how many years go by, I still look at it as a miracle that two people, growing up in separate hemispheres and virtually worlds apart somehow found each other and made a happy family together. I know there are so many other people I have to thank for this miracle, and that’s why I’m celebrating today, because I am so grateful that this miracle happened. Thanks for everyone who made it happen, and thanks especially to my husband. You are an amazing husband and father. Thank you for all you do. I hope you have a wonderful day too, on your side of the world.

Taking it Slow

fia at sunset fia smile isa goggles isa playing pepe stroller

It’s been a little over a week since we got back to the island, and the time has flown by. Each day feels very full of life, but I don’t have very many significant activities to report. Most of my accomplishments fall into a list like “cut husbands hair, organized two drawers in studio desk, went through kids clothes and removed all the clothes that don’t fit.” Silly little things, but it feels good to get them done. Each afternoon we’ve gone to the beach or the park. Sometimes we buy some fresh-baked bread from the panadería (bread store) to snack on. I really enjoy the slow pace of things here. Besides Joel’s work, we really have no other time commitments besides the ones we make for ourselves. We walk everywhere. We can get up early and go to the beach at sunrise or stop by the giant tortoise in residence at the visitor’s center down the street from Joel’s work. We can let the girls go swimming at sunset.

I’m most excited about starting up my reading program again with my four-year-old. She’s learned a bunch of individual words, and is moving to sentences and soon books! So excited about this for her. I’m also really excited to get deep into some projects I’ve been wanting to work on for a while, and I can’t wait to share those with you. Plus, did I mention that I recently took a couture dress making class online over our Christmas vacation (thank you, high-speed internet)? It’s got me all revved up and ready to try some clothing construction. Maybe, if I can clear off my desk enough to get to my sewing machine.

Anyways, the bottom line is, life is good here, and I have good things in store for the blog. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend!

Atypical Saturday

This Saturday was a little different. It actually started on Friday, here, at the San Cristobal Airport.

map

We said goodbye to Papi.

isa y papi 3

isa y papi

fia

fia 2

Then we three girls started on a 26-hour, 3,000-mile journey.

fia climbing 2

fia climbing 3

fia climbing 3

isa

Our 5-hour flight from the mainland left at midnight. The girls did pretty well playing in the airport.

fia climbing

girls in airport

It was a little crazy, and little dodgy here and there. For example, in the Atlanta airport one of those baggage carts that drive through the airports almost ran down my girls. But no one got hurt, and they gave me some meal vouchers which I used to buy an unhealthy amount of fudge, so it turned out okay in the end. Also, it was not the best when my little girl threw up a few minutes after we landed in Portland, but I just tried to be grateful that this came at the end of our trip instead of at the beginning. In any case, we are here (in beautiful, rainy cold Oregon) with my parents enjoying grandparents, carpet, clean water, and a piano.

isa and fia piano

isa and fia piano 2

reading

I hope your Christmas season is starting out well, too. Have a great day!

A Typical Saturday

This post could have also been titled “what I look like before 7 AM,” but you get the idea.

First things first, we head to the market.  On the way there, we pass by a beautiful house, with a fun garden that includes poinsettia trees (did you know those little plants you buy at Christmas grow up to be trees?) and pineapples.

Here’s the market. It’s a quaint little crumbling, dilapidated spot in the center of town, and it’s where we buy 80% of our food each week.

I buy most of my food from this lady. She’s like the “no soup for you” guy (I’m not really into Seinfeld, but I do know that reference), but she’s straightforward, and I don’t feel like I’m being gutted. The prices are the same for everyone, even a gringa like me.

I love my little girl’s face in these next three pictures. She’s so good at posing for pictures.

This man was chopping up some freshly slaughtered goats. His friends were making fun of him while I was taking the pictures, saying that he never knew how to do anything, but now he has a woman so he had to learn to butcher goats.

He works outside of the butcher place though. Here’s what the legit butcher shop looks like (it’s really just a corner of the market, too.

This was the first women I bought anything from at the market. She seemed the most approachable, and since my Spanish isn’t great, I was a little nervous about the whole thing. She is sweet and always has a handful of grapes for my girls when we come.

That’s it for the market. Now we’re headed for a real store.

This is one of the bigger “grocery” stores on the island. It’s a little smaller than your standard 7-Eleven.

It’s one of those magical places where you can find nutella, canned beans, maraschino cherries, and baby food all in one place.

After grabbing a few nonperishable, include several liters of milk in a box (that you don’t have to refrigerate until it is opened, is that pasteurized) it’s time to head for home. All of this happens before 8 am, every Saturday. It’s a fun little ritual that we’ve gotten used to.

Have a great weekend!

Thank You

As some of you may have noticed, I actually won that contest from Sew, Mama, Sew that I mentioned a little while ago. To say I was super excited and  flattered would be a total understatement. If you’ve been keeping up with my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve entered a few contests in my time, but I’ve never won. I thought I was destined to be ms. honorable mention forever. And that would have been fine. I take the contests mostly as an incentive to get some projects done that I’ve been wanting to do. But it’s nice to win, too. And it is an added bonus that the prizes are fabulous.

And one of the best parts of winning has been having some traffic from some new people. It’s always so rewarding to get comments from people who connect with what I’ve been posting. So I just wanted to say thanks to all the lovely people, old friends and new, who have left kind and encouraging words. I wish I had time to respond to each one, but with no internet access at home, my internet sessions are brief and infrequent.

I’ve been busy busy with projects, but I’ve also been trying to take time to just enjoy life and my family. It is so good to be all together again. I’ll try to keep you updated as I finish things. Also, I know I haven’t been doing any tutorials lately, but if there is something that you’ve seen me do that you’re curious about, let me know. I’d love to share everything, but I have to prioritize, so if there is a demand for something, I’ll do that first.

Have a wonderful day!

Hello There

I can’t believe that it has been almost  month since my last post. After detailing but a small portion of the difficulties surrounding our emigration situation, I determined that I wasn’t going to post again until it was all over. My blogging mojo was at an all-time low, and besides that, I was spending an inordinate amount of time slogging through the mire of Ecuadorian bureaucracy. Honestly, I’m feeling rather bitter that Mr. Assange is having an easier time acquiring Ecuadorian residency than me.

But now, finally, after a month of silence, I can tell you that it is over, the forces of evil and incompetence could not hold out forever, and despite all the odds, I am writing this from the sunny, airy living room of my home in the Galapagos. Perhaps someday I will share the murky details of our last battle with the government, but for now I’ll just say that I’m glad it’s all over. Good grief, am I glad! We have been in the Galapagos precisely one week, and we are loving it. I would have let you all know sooner, except my home—lovely and airy and newly painted (thanks, honey!) as it is—is still without internet access, and with all the cleaning and unpacking, and more cleaning, getting to the nearest internet outpost (my husband’s office) has not happened until today.

But be assured I have lots of fun things to share. All the pent up energy from waiting four months to get back here has been let loose, and I only hope I can keep it up. One of the best things (besides having my whole family under one roof again, of course) is my new studio niche. I’ll be showing that to you later, since it’s piled high right now with all the materials and supplies that I have amassed and am now trying to organize.

It is a little more than two months before we head north for the summer. I’ve got a lot to do between now and then. Have a wonderful weekend!

Now For Something Lighter

Thanks for the kind words about yesterday’s post; it was just what I needed. Fortunately, life isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s mostly full of wonderful magical things, if you take the time to look.

Here’s a little of that sort of stuff. My little girl learning to draw and write.

Here’s papi. “He doesn’t have hair because you just cut it, mami.”

Here’s the letter S, which my toddler informs me is for her sister’s name (she’s right).

And this is what visa paperwork looks like, according to my three year old. Pretty close to the real thing.

She’s always on the go. I love to hear her little feet padding on the tile here.

“Look mami, I’m selling things like the people at the beach!” (At the beach here, people walk around hawking hammocks, sunglasses, hair braiding, and the like.)

And this made me chuckle. I found this at the store and showed my little girl and asked her what it looked like. She giggled and said, “Like a bum, mami.”

Which made me think of this, which I’d seen a while ago (can’t guarantee the rest of the content of this site is friendly).

Ah, it’s good to laugh sometimes. Have a wonderful weekend.

Give Me US Red Tape Any Day

(I feel like I’m issuing a lot of warnings about my posts lately, but here’a another one. This post has no pictures and entirely too many exclamation points and use of all caps, but I feel it’s warranted, so I’m ask for your forgiveness before hand. Also, I should mention that I mostly wrote this post to save time talking about unpleasant things when I skype with my mom later. So feel free to skip this if you want.)

I’m not complaining, because that would just be ridiculous given how blessed I am, but there are a few things that I would like to get off my chest. Maybe someone out there understands this particular trial I am going to and could leave a sweet little note of encouragement (woudja, please?).

I think I might have mentioned once or twice that I married an extremely attractive South American man, my dear Joel, (I joke sometimes that he was my mail order husband). We were young and in love, and didn’t have a clue about the international reprecussions of our romance. Shortly after we were married, we became familiar with the long and expensive process of naturalizing Joel. We had it relatively easy, since Joel was already in the country legally on a student visa, so it was “just” a matter of applying for temporary residency, then permanent residency, then citizenship. The process took exactly four years after we were married to be completed, and when it was all over, we thought we had gotten through the worst of it. (Ha, I kind of smile when I think how bent out of shape I got about driving our two young girls an hour in our own, air-conditioned, child-safety-seat car to attend an interview and the naturalization ceremony. Those were the days!)

During all this process, we had visited Ecuador a few times, but the thought never occurred to us to doing any naturalizing in that country; there didn’t seem to be any need. And even when we got a job offer we couldn’t pass up in Ecuador, we foolishly thought that the university that hired us would take care of all the paperwork to allow us to legally live here (since they do that in the states, right?). Well, we are definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Besides the last  7 months of wasted effort and hoping, relying on others to do stuff for us, we’ve had one month of pure torture trying to move the paperwork along ourselves. In this country, nothing can be done remotely, you have to go to the government offices in person, even to just ask questions about applications. And there are only two government offices in the country that do the really important stuff that we need to do, one in Quito, and one in Guayaquil. We’re closer to Guayaquil, so that was our poison of choice. It’s a three hour taxi-bus-taxi ride to the government building(s) we have to go to, or an expensive 2 1/2 hour straight taxi ride. For the first visa we applied for, we had to be there between 8:30 and 10:30 in the morning to get a ticket to apply or ask questions at that office, though if you wait til 10:00, your risking it, because they only hand out 100 tickets a day, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. You do the math. It meant leaving early with two motion-sick little girls. I had the choice between making them fast the whole morning so they were less likely to throw up a lot, or feed them and risk a big explosion. The first time we had to go, I went with the first option, with the result that my older girl threw up a bunch of stomach fluid, but was okay after that, just hungry. Of course, there is no eating allowed in the building we were at, so I tried to give them snacks outside the building, not wandering too far so as not to miss our crucial turn to go up and talk to the powers that be. Of course, this is not allowed, either, because something about feeding small children (it’s not like I was even nursing, for pete sake!) in front of a government building is horrifying to the full-of-themselves security guards, who rudely told me to move a long, as if I were a vagrant or a street walker.

But after all, the first visa went relatively smoothly. Of course, I had to go back a few days later to pay for it and pick it up. Which meant the bus ride (I was by myself this time), getting a number, turning over my visa, making some corrections to the paperwork at a nearby cyber spot, then waiting 4 hours to pick up the visa, then another bus ride home. That 12 hour day trip was the easy part.

You see, yesterday, I had to take my girls with me again to Guayaquil (in a taxi) to apply for the second visa. Before my sweet husband had to return to the island, he had made 4 trips to Guayaquil to ask questions and collect minor documents from other agencies to make sure that all our paperwork and documents were in order to apply for the second visa. But after I got the first visa, I went to the second visa office (different offices in the same building, thank goodness) to ask. They looked through all my documents and said “everything is in order, except this one thing that isn’t on the list of requirements but we need it anyways, and yes, you do have that document, but it is too old, we need it within thirty days of that document being issued, and you got it several months ago, and no it doesn’t say on the document that it is only valid for thirty days, and it doesn’t say anywhere else that it is only valid for thirty days, and  no they don’t tell you when you get the document that it is only valid for 30 days, and of course in your husband’s four other trips to ask questions at this office we never even mentioned that other document or that it needs to be less than 30 days old, but that’s the way it goes, sister.” Okay, maybe they didn’t call me sister. But you get the idea.

So I knew I was going to have to get this other document, which is at another government office in Guayaquil on the opposite side of town. So yesterday, we went there first so we could get the document. My little girl, who had been so brave, threw up in that parking lot. When we got to that office, they said that they were closed for cleaning that morning, but would be open later in the afternoon, and we could come back then. So we set off for the other building, with the faint hope that there was a satalite office there which gave out the same documents (essentially a travel record of your comings and goings in the country). When we got there the woman working at the small desk was just leaving to go to the other office to set up a temporary room to work in there. She told us to go back to the other office. And then she left. No joke.

So, we decided to just try applying for the visa without that document, at least for the girls’ visas, since we had a valid copy of the travel record for the girls and we were at the visa building anyways, So we got a number, waited, and then went up to ask. It started out okay; they started perusing our documents, and it looked like we might even be able to take that all-important visa picture for which I had dragged my girls up there for (that’s the only reason they have to be there, to get their photo taken!). But no, another fail. Besides saying that we needed a copy of my husband’s travel record for the girls’ applications (of course, this is mentioned no where on the list of requirements), they noticed that the translation of our marriage license, which the university lawyer had provided for us, was incomplete. What was missing? All of the information. The guy had just translated things like “name,” “address,” “occupation,” but had failed fill in the actual information, so it appeared like a blank document. Of course, they had not mentioned this problem in the other 5 times we had asked if we had everything we needed.They told us now we had to get the thing re-translated! (Are you getting a sense of my exasperation, here?) Since we were missing those two things, we could not apply for the visa. They wouldn’t accept what we had to save on file, or take the dang picture, which means I have to bring my girls AGAIN to go through this torture.

But the fun didn’t stop there. We decided that since we were in the city, we might as well get that travel document after all. I needed one for me, and one for Joel. Joel had sent me a scanned copy of his ID with a letter and signature authorizing me to get his travel record for him, since he’s in the Galapagos right now.

We went back across town to the other building (through scary, big-city crazy-driver traffic). The people at that office had told us they would be up and running at 1:30, and we got there a little before that. What we saw was not very encouraging. A long line had formed outside the gated building, broken into small chunks wherever there was a bit of shade on that narrow sidewalk next to one of the busiest streets in the country. Fortunately, we got one of the last bits of shade, and stood there, and then sat there (on the ground, no benches), for at least a half an hour without an inch of progress as buses and cars passed us, spewing exhaust in our face at intervals. Then, all of a sudden there was a mad rush on the gate keeper’s office, apparently they were handing out numbers and letting people go inside. In Ecuador, no one has respect for a line. It didn’t matter if there were single women with small children waiting for an hour before you, people just shove their way in, and this was no exception. When the dust cleared, we ended up with number 11 (which wasn’t saying much, since it took another half and hour for them to work up through number 4).

When it was finally our turn, we got up to the desk only to hear from the same woman who had sent me away at the other place 4 hours ago that I could not get my husband’s travel record because I didn’t have a notarized copy of the ID and letter; clearly I had forged his signature and had nefarious intentions for his precious travel record. So in the end, I just got mine. And after they print your travel record for you and you pay for it, they make you go get a copy of it to give back to them (now, if that isn’t the height of insanity, I don’t know what is). So you go to this little shrewd woman inhabiting one corner of the government building—she’s not employed by the government, but she sure is kept in business by them—and you pay A DOLLAR to get ONE copy of your record that they just printed for you so you can give it back to them.

You can bet we high-tailed it out of there as soon as we could after that, because we couldn’t take another moment of the craziness. Two and a half hours later, we arrived home, and about 15 minutes after that, my sweet little girl threw up all the food she had eaten as soon as she had gotten home, all over the bathroom floor.

After 10 hours of emotional and physical torture, we have very little to show for it except the anticipation that we get to do the whole thing over again next week.

No, I’m not complaining. I mean, I know it could be much worse. While waiting in that last office, we met a family that had traveled from Cuenca, four hours of windy, narrow mountain roads, with two little kids. And I know there are countries with an even worse government infrastructure than Ecuador (a frightening thought!). But it is nice to let off a little steam. So thanks for listening.