July 24, 2016

Five Weeks In

Five weeks ago, Kevin left Nicaragua to return to Minnesota.  We thought that we would be back in Minnesota to welcome him, but due to our adoption process, Estela and I are still in Nicaragua.  This is not what we had hoped or planned for, however we have chosen to soak up the time that we have left in this beautiful country with the wonderful people that we have shared the past five years with. 

While five weeks of single parenting can feel long and draining, especially when we are legally not allowed to leave her with any other caregivers (okay by me for attachment reasons), I remind myself that these are special days to bond and spend time together. 

And don't worry, I have done "extra" things to care for myself over the past month, including an in-home massage, a couple movies to soak up the air-conditioning, along with the consumption of dark chocolate bars at night after Estela is sleeping.  I also love when nap time comes in the late afternoon and when bedtime comes in the evening.  We look forward to seeing Kevin/Papa on FaceTime several times a day and he has done everything he can to cheer us on!

Beyond parenting alone in a foreign country for five weeks, we have had some interesting things happen to us.  I hope that you are able to enjoy a few chuckles and also see how we have been cared for.

  • I was concerned about whether or not we would be able to sleep well night without Kevin here and while we continue to live in a home without a front door, I have felt very safe and cared for by our neighbors.
  • Speaking of community living, my neighbor Gretel just yelled to me (at midnight) from the inside of her house asking me for a lemon to make some medicine for her daughter.  We talk to each other all day this way!  She is always running late, so when we are headed out somewhere together, I can give her a countdown.  “5 more minutes!”
  • We sold the car that we were borrowing from our friends Bethany and Esteban.  The buyer wanted to use the car immediately, but he offered us his Dodge Minivan (very rare vehicle to see on the road here) that proudly waved an American flag on the front dash.  While I said I would never be a mom with a minivan, I guess I am now temporarily.  However, I switched out the American flag for a Nicaraguan flag.  We are very grateful that Juan offered us a vehicle to use, this is a gift to have here, especially with a child.
  • On the day that Juan's daughter brought over the minivan, I attempted to pull it into our front patio.  Because of a variety of circumstances, me underestimating the width of the van and wind blowing the gate shut, there is now a large dent and bright green paint on the side of the van.
  • Two days later, Estela and I decided to head to the beach.  While we were there, I backed into a tree with the van.  Because the back window already had a large crack covered with duct-tape, I still am unsure what type of damage was done.
  • On the way back from the beach the van started to shake, the windshield wipers started to wipe and the off button did not turn them off and the alarm sound for an open door also dinged.  A few days later the car seemed really hot to me.  Juan, our friend and mechanic came over to take a look and found several problems, many of which I don't understand because I don't know anything about cars and beyond that I have little Spanish vocabulary for motor and engines.  I am not sure if this is my fault or not, I was putting in three two-liter bottles full of water each morning like he asked me to?
  • So now Estela and I are without a vehicle, doing a lot of walking with her stroller on the not made for stroller Managua roads and sidewalks, adventuring out on busses and taxis.
  • I am happy to report that no mice or rats have been sighted since Kevin left.  We were having a big problem prior to his departure and I really did not know what I would do?  My only options would be to ask Estela or a neighbor to remove it because this is something that I really can't do.
  • There are two dogs that live below us and I can't stand them.  Whenever I see them and can get a good aim, I spray them with our hose.  Last week, one of them chewed and ruined one of my Chaco sandals.
  • It has been a bit challenging to look at our calendar which was full of fun trips, activities and getaways back in the United States this summer.  We missed my mom's 60th birthday, my sister’s wedding reception as well as Estela's welcome home party.  However, I do my best to schedule and organize plans here and I trust that we will be home soon.  Just last week I had to call Delta and cancel three flights that we had purchased.  To my surprise, they were very empathic of our situation and did not charge us anything to make changes to the trip.  Moments like these are very encouraging!
  • We continue to be grateful for the adoption community that is currently in Nicaragua.  We spent 4th of July together hiking during the day and having a glow stick pool party at night.  These families are going through the same thing that we are and it is so good to have them to talk and do life with.
  • Our washing machine broke, again.  I was able to call the repairman and after hand washing for a week, we have a working machine again.
  • I attempted to make my first cheesecake.  This was probably a bad idea to begin with as Kevin is an expert cheesecake baker, he made 50+ for our wedding.  He sent me the recipe, along with several follow-up e-mails with tips.  On the day that I baked the cheesecake, he received at least ten phone calls with questions.  It has a lot of cracks, but it tastes good, especially with the maracuya sauce.
  • Estela is such a sweet soul.  Each and everyday I am amazed that I get to be her mom.  She has the purest heart and is always looking out for others.  It has been so fun to see her grow and develop, learning both English and Spanish, learning her numbers, letters, colors and new songs.  Her new favorite song is "Mi Dios es Potente."  Her favorite book is "Oso Pardo, Oso Pardo/Brown Bear, Brown Bear."  Today she and a friend set up a little venta and sold brownies.  It was the cutest
  • I figured out how to brew iced coffee.  Kevin always took care of this, he is so good to me.
  • I cry on a regular basis as I miss Kevin and am sad that we are not all together as a family.  I don't hide this from Estela as I feel like it is good for her to see a healthy display of emotion as well as know how much her parents want to be together.  Last week when I was crying, her empathic self approached me and told me it would be okay.  She told me that I cried today and yesterday and now it was time to play!
  • Our I-600A paperwork expired on July 19.  We had already taken advantage of the free renewal and because of new laws put in place, we were under the impression that this might result in us paying an additional $25,000 for our adoption.  After receiving help from family, contacting Senators, calling several different government offices, and going to the embassy a couple of times, we found a way to make this work.  Gracias a Dios!
  • Last week, I was notified by my future employer that I needed to get fingerprinted as soon as possible.  I tried to start the process in February, but the U.S. embassy, who is the only place that I have found that fingerprints had told me that they can only do fingerprints for adoptions, not for employment purposes.  One Friday I got so desperate knowing that our next option meant Kevin making an extra trip down so that I could fly to the U.S. to get fingerprinted, so I showed up with Estela outside of the embassy begging to get in.  They let me in, which was wonderful as they generally only allow entry by appointment.  After begging and pleading, I was given two fingerprint cards!  My six month dilemma was over.  Now I just hope they don't get lost in the mail.
  • We have been told over and over that the meeting that we are waiting for to proceed along with the adoption process would happen.  We would get our hopes up and then find out it was cancelled.  However, last week, it happened.  And we are thrilled to have some movement after seven months.
  • We have witnessed tragic circumstances with several adoptive families and children.  Each day we are grateful that Estela continues to be our daughter.  We could not do life without her.
  • We couldn't get though each and everyday without the support of our Nicaraguan friends, as well as our family and friends back home.  Thank-you for your encouraging calls, messages, e-mails and care packages.
  • As I go to bed tonight, I have a 102 fever, chills and a rash.  All of my neighbors have it too, but they are assuring me it isn't Zika.  I am still not convinced…

July 18, 2016

Crossing a River

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A month-ish ago we went back to the Rio Coco. Cassie and I have had the opportunity to venture down this river through the spectacular canyon of Somoto many times. In fact, some of our most memorable Nicaraguan experiences have occurred in the "Grand Canyon" of Nicaragua. This experience proved to be no different.

The water levels were high so we needed to do little swimming, but instead floated along like we were on a lazy river at your local water park. However, we were surrounded by birds, butterflies, rocks and trees instead of plastic and cement. Estela loved it. She swam and floated and eventually ended up in a small inflatable boat (which we were all thankful for when we passed through the canyon were the river is over 40 feet deep). Our friends were happy about the boat as well, as they were still getting the knack for floating in a life jacket.

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We ventured there with some lifelong friends from Esteli. Cassie lived with them for a while during her language acquisition. Over the years they have been our brothers and sisters and parents here in Nicaragua. As I waded into the water my Nica dad told me that he had been in the Rio Coco twice before. Both times when he had crossed he carried his children, neck deep in water, the entire family unable to swim. I asked why.

The family crossed through the Rio Coco twice in the 80's; once to get out of the country and once to come back in after President Ortega had first been elected. I was retold the story of how the country was torn apart, about how families were forced to flee in-order to save their lives or to avoid their young sons and daughters from becoming soldiers. And then I was told that it was because of us, because of our desire to control the world around us, and to tell people what to do in-order to benefit ourselves.

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As we waded through the river I was happy and sad at the same time. I was overjoyed to hear my daughter’s laughter echo through the canyon as she watched a big blue butterfly skim over the water right before her face. I was happy to share this moment with my family and with our friends here and think about what peace and friendship looks like instead of war. But I was saddened to think about our past, ponder about our present, and the great need we have for peace.

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July 10, 2016


Cassie likes to buy me books. Almost every Christmas I find a recently published hardcover underneath the tree, handpicked and waiting for my viewing eyes. Cassie is more well connected and has a better understanding of what is being published and talked about due to her social media endeavors, so maybe tweets and facebook are not as worthless as I once thought, but I am still not signing up for facebook. However, for some reason, when I unwrapped the newest work by Diana Butler Bass, Grounded: Finding God in the World – A Spiritual Revolution, on the 25th I was not excited or even a little curious to read the text I held in my hands. So for over a month the book sat there on the shelf collecting a great amount of dust here in Nicaragua.

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Finally in February I decided that I at least needed to read the first chapter. After reading I was finished and convinced. I reported to Cassie that I had started and that I thought we should read the text together, so we began. Now, in April I find myself recommending Grounded to a whole host of individuals who are, or are not asking me for a reading recommendation. For that reason, I now find myself writing this blogpost in order to do the same to you the reader. I want to implore you, to give you a taste of this coffee stained, dog-eared, highlighted, written-in text that I hold in my hands, with the hopes that you too, may pick up the text and feel the motivation, joy and sorrow found within its pages.

Butler is filled with clarity as she surveys the global religious scene.

And if you still are not convinced here are some other thoughts about the text:

“Grounded is a wise and beautiful book. It is, in fact and in places, almost an anthem to the sacred unity of the physical and the spiritual in the formation of human faith and in the maturation of the human soul. To sink into its pages is to come home again, however briefly, to the sure knowledge of what is.”  -Phyllis Tickle

“Diana Butler Bass’s thoughtful mandate amounts not so much to a dismissal of the church, but a summons to renewal that can be both faithful and contemporary. Her accent champions a connectedness to the actual context in which we live”  -Walter Brueggemann

“It is so delightful to endorse a book that says what you want to say—but then says it so much better! The reversing of engines that Diana Butler Bass describes in Grounded was first announced by Jesus himself, of course. How strange that it should seem so new and even revolutionary two thousand years later.”  -Richard Rohr

July 4, 2016

Vistas y Olores // Sights and Smells

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Pollo asado // Grilled chicken

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Café con leche // Coffee with milk

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Las coloridas calles de Granada // The colorful streets of Granada

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Cerdo asado // Roasted pig

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Pescado y tostones // Fish and fried green plantains

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Edificio expuesto // Exposed buildings

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Venta de comida // Food for sale


Anafre de Ocotal // Anafre from Ocotal

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Antiguos materiales de construcción // Old building materials

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Sopa de tortilla // Tortilla soup

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Raspados // Slushies

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¡Nicaragua, ha sido bueno a nosotros! // Nicaragua, you have been good to us!