March 27, 2014

On Meeting your Toddler(s) via Adoption

A couple of months ago we finally got the chance to sit down and watch Philomena, a movie about a woman’s search for her son.  As I was sitting there, horrified by past adoption practices, which sadly still occur today, I began to think, “what if we got the call tomorrow?”  We have done a lot of planning for our home environment, work schedule and emotionally/mentally to do our best to be ready for the call, but there always seems like there is more that one can do.  

I have several lists, one that includes questions we would ask when we receive the call, another that has a list of the items we need to purchase upon knowing the age of the child(ren) – bed vs. crib, diapers vs. underwear, etc.  We have been told that we may receive a call in the morning and pick up our children in the afternoon.  It could be quick, it will be emotionally overwhelming and I want to do my best to be present for the kids and not thinking about the details of where I need to buy a crib. 

Back to the movie.  As we were watching, I realized that our diaper bag is not packed.  While we may not use it for another year, we may be using it tomorrow.  So I got off the couch and started packing.  Below are a few items that I would encourage you to think about having when you meet your toddler via adoption.  Our hope is that we would have items to engage, connect with and comfort our children upon our first meeting.
My goal is to not overwhelm the children, but rather engage them in a trusting way.  I hope to communicate to them that I am trustworthy with both my actions and words.  It will be an emotional experience and I want to demonstrate the love and affection that I have for them, but I also want to do this in a respectful way.

Thus, I felt like it would be important to have some tools along to engage in play with them.  In our diaper bag, I have a few legos packed as well as two books that are very special to me.  One is, You are Important and the other is You are Brave.  I hope that our children understand how important they are to us as well as how brave we think they are.  I cannot wait to read these books to them.
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I also packed this adorable stuffed elephant and taggie blankets that I made for them.  They can hold onto these on our ride home.  I hope that these items can provide them a sense of security and safety as we leave all that they have ever known.
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Also included in the diaper bag are a couple of water bottles, calming lotion, diapers and wipes.  Once we receive the call, I will also throw in a few snacks along with a change of clothes.  I am not certain that we will need these items, but I thought they were helpful to include.  I want them to know from the very beginning that we will meet their needs. 
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Lastly, I have a printed document of questions that I would love to ask the center staff.  We would love to know more about our children’s likes and dislikes, routines and personalities, and look forward to having time with the individuals that have provided love and care for them.

This is what we have packed.  Feel free to suggest other items that may be helpful.

Oh, I will also have a camera along as I want to be sure to document our first meeting!

March 18, 2014

Polvo (Dust)


(our dirt road as the sun sets)

We wipe down the counters in our kitchen when we get up, before we prepare anything to eat, again after food prep and when we feed the cat before going to bed. After each pass the cloth is black with the dirt and grime that has made its home on the kitchen counters. We need to wipe off our plates before each meal (even though they are kept in a cupboard) if we do not want to experience a flavor of the street. And if we desire to drink a glass of water that is not clouded with dust we need to wipe those off as well. It is an understatement to say that we find ourselves in a dust bowl at the moment as the winds continue to increase, the temperatures rise and the cracks in our dirt road continue to grow.

We find ourselves in the dry season, waiting for the rains to come in (hopefully) May. It is though we have put a sign up letting the dust know that yes the party is here at our house and you and all your friends are more than welcome to make yourselves at home. However, we also find ourselves learning from our neighbors, and are implementing some of the many dry season rituals in order to keep our house livable.

We have begun to water the road in front of our house. No we have not planted any flowers or vegetables in the road. However, we have begun to realize why Nicaraguans spend hours each day during this time of the year throwing water into the street. If the road is wet, the dust think, even if for a short time, that the party is over, that their invitation is no longer extended to our home.

We continue to keep a bucket of water by the sink. In the dry season, not only is their more dust, but there is also less water. The government has control over our resources, saying when and how much water each neighborhood is allowed. Currently, we have water at our house usually for four hours in the morning and a few hours each evening. Thus we keep a bucket of water by the sink with rags ready to combat the dust that has already made it into the house whether or not we have running water at the moment or not.

We also have joined in the prayers for rain. During our first experience of the dry season in Nicaragua we found ourselves living in the MCC office. We spent much of our time with Yolanda, who works at the office, and our then boss Angela. Everyday Yolanda and Angela would pray and hope for the rains to come. As the season moved on and we experienced the abrasive heat and dust we began to understand and experience the reason behind their prayers that seemed to have begun as soon as the wet season ended. Upon the first rains that year Yolanda could be seen running in the rain rejoicing in its blessings and refreshment. I have no doubt that we will do something similar this year when we are able to feel those cool showers upon our faces once again.


(the same part of this floor had been swept only twenty-four hours earlier)

March 14, 2014

Beet Salad


Beets, some people love them and other people hate them.  While neither of us love pickled beets, we do enjoy them cooked in balsamic vinegar, added to a salad, blended as hummus or juiced.  We recently discovered a salad that we have been making on a pretty regular basis.  After experimenting and making some adjustments, we thought we would share our recipe with you.  Hopefully this will help you get out of the winter funk.  While we do miss the cold north, we love being able to pick up beets at the local market and harvest gorgeous, healthy leaves of basil from our garden year-round.


  • 3 whole beets
  • 12 large basil leaves
  • 1 onion (red or yellow)
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 T honey
  • 2 T dijon mustard
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 T vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to flavor


  • Boil the beets on medium-high for twenty minutes until softened.  After they have cooled, peel and chop them into cube like squares.
  • Chop up your onion and basil.  Mix together.
  • Mix the remaining ingredients to make the sauce.
  • Toss together and enjoy!


March 3, 2014

Life Lately

January and February were good months, busy and full, but a good kind of busy and full.  We tried to take advantage of not having to work on Saturdays as for the next ten months this will be our story. 

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We had fun celebrating Mama Isabella’s 73rd birthday (pictured center) in La Concha.  This festive night included sombrero decorating, enchiladas, piñatas, cake and more.  We are grateful for this family’s friendship to us over the past two years!

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In Nicaragua, it is custom to give everybody a chance at hitting the piñata, from the small kids to the aging folks.  As you can see in the above photo, I was hitting the piñata without my blindfold, but everybody was behind me and had no idea!  The last picture also proves that after the piñata has broke, anyone has rights to the candy.  Kids do not have preference and are often tackled down by the adults in hopes for a handful of sweets.


We love adding fresh mint to our water, our mojitos and our cooking and just felt like we never had enough.  Our small potted plant was transplanted into a tire and it is growing beautifully!

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We spent a weekend camping at Laguna de Apoyo, a great little spot about an hour from our house.  We relaxed, ate great food and read a lot of books.

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I overcame a big fear of mine and flew on a small twelve-seater plane on the way back from a work trip to Waspam.  You most likely received an e-mail the day before asking for prayers, because I was scared!  I took my meds, prayed a lot and it went okay.  Four things:

  1. I felt like I was in a small mini-van.
  2. The pilots took turns resting/sleeping.  I couldn’t decide if this was a good thing or not.
  3. They put black sun visors up in the windows and literally could not see out.  I know that everything is computer programmed, but I thought they would at least like to see where they were going.
  4. I may have held a stranger’s hand when we landed.

Besides all of that, there were some points when I actually enjoyed looking out the window and seeing the beautiful Nicaraguan landscape.

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In January, we had our MCC Team Meetings and took a trip up the San Ramon where we were able to see some of our partners work in portable water and latrine building.  We also spent a day hiking and playing cards at Selva Negra.

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We have enjoyed hosting and having friends over.  Our relationships here make everything worth it!

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A couple weekends ago we headed down to Costa Rica to visit some friends who moved there last year.  We were able to spend some time with sweet Nayara, her mom and dad on the beautiful beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula.  Our favorite by far was Playa Conchal, what a fabulous place!


Last weekend we spent a night in Granada at the International Poetry Festival.  It was a lovely evening of poetry reading, most of which we could understand (yeah for making progress!) followed with a concert by the acclaimed Katya Cardenal.


And lastly, we recently figured how how to utilize group calls on skype and have been loving it!  This call included my siblings, their significant others and my parents.  We have also taken advantage of talking to Kevin’s entire family at the same time as well as grouping skyping with friends.  It is a wonderful resource to have while we are far from home.

To see other Lately posts, check out: December 2013, July 2013, November 2012 and July 2012.