Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Redeeming The Time: ROCK MONSTERS

Have you ever looked lovingly at your little monsters long after they've gone to bed and think, Gosh, I could've done more with them today. . . Now do not get me wrong; there are other nights you gaze at their sleeping little bodies and revel in the silence and thank the Lord that you did not kill them that day. I have had many of those days too. Believe me. But more and more lately, I have realized how fleeting this time is with my littles. That I am only granted 18 years of Saturday mornings and 18 years of quality bedtimes. We have such a small window of time to speak into their lives, to call out their potential, and to dream with them creative dreams for their future. We take so many moments for granted as parents.

In our family, I will go a step further and say that we throw many precious moments out the window over inconvenience and use of technology. We are THAT family who loves our devices and games and facebook friends and family and ample screen time with Phineas and Ferb and all things Marvel. These things are all well and good in moderation, but our family relies on them a bit too much most recently, and it's something that we are willing to rectify at all costs. If time is precious and fleeting, we need to redeem it as often as we can with making memories together and learning life lessons as a family.

Thus, Redeeming the Time has officially commenced in our household. We are taking back moments stolen by less important activities and replacing them with quality time activities. We will spend less time starting at the television (even together!) and more time staring into each others eyes. We will do this by crafts and activities and games and family time. Seizing the day, each day, even if it's only for 15 minutes of uninterrupted, facetime with each child. We will get our hands dirty and be creative and make messes together and build lego towers and run through the sprinkler together and have marathon reading sessions at bedtime. The goal is to redeem time that we've normally spent answering an email or scrolling through twitter while our child stands by and says, "Mommy, Daddy, Watch this!!" without much avail. We will start to unplug more and focus. I read an amazing blog about living "hands free" with your children and a profound statement floored me. "There are only 940 Saturdays between a child's birth and their leaving for college. How many have you already used up?" Wow. My first thought was that my oldest is 7 years old. I've already used up 364 Saturdays. I have 576 weeks left to seize this time with my little man and make them count.

The following weekly Wednesday series will spotlight activities and games and crafts that have helped me redeem this time with my little monsters. They aren't profound or new ideas, just things that we are doing together.  In these moments, they do not have to share me with the rest of the world. They will have my undivided attention and we will hopefully learn and grow and above all else, have fun together. When the 940 Saturdays expire, I want them to look back on the moments throughout life that we really pulled in together and cherish those times above all else. What about you? Do you need to practice Redeeming the Time with your children?

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This was an activity that we've done twice now, because A) we have a plethora of rocks at our house and B) what kid has too many rock monsters?? We first spent an afternoon on the beach in search of the perfect rocks. We collected 100 total and used this moment to work on our sorting and counting abilities too. Then we grabbed some paint and went after it. The photo here is not anywhere near what ours looked like, though it's what we based our craft on. Let's just say that you won't find a photo of our works of art next to this one with the caption, "Nailed it!" beside it. But we had a blast doing them. The boys talked about their favorite colors and the names of their rocks and where they were going to keep their "new pets". My seven-year-old superhero fanatic, of course, designed his rock monsters with superhero costumes of IronMan, Hulk, and Capt. America. It was a nice time sitting on our tile floor with a paint mess all around us, laughing and enjoying the conversation with each other. We could do this craft once a week and it wouldn't create rocks of art so much as it would create connection. So happy to have had these 30 minutes with them. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Raising Kids Abroad: WHY NICARAGUA?

So many people ask us regularly why we chose to live abroad with young children. "Why live away from the comforts of the first world?... Why take them away from friends and family?... Aren't you worried about their education?... What about their health and safety?...Why live without modern conveniences (ie. air conditioning, hot water, reliable electricity, etc)?... Why choose a place where they will be a minority?... WHY NICARAGUA??" 

And to all of those people I simply say, "COME and SEE WHY."

It's hard to articulate exactly why we choose this lifestyle. It's just better for us, in so many ways. We don't claim that it's better, in general (or for everyone), but after 11 months in Nicaragua, we know that for our family, it works. Our kids are thriving and learning and really living like never before. They are explorers and inventors and artists and volunteers now. This is all new compared to who they were living in the United States.

I will also say that this decision came with a lot of researching and praying a soul-searching. This wasn't something we decided in a day. . .or a week. . .or even a month. And a HUGE reason that we came to the decision that we did was entirely spiritual. (You Can Read More About That HERE.). We knew after one visit that this was where we were being led, even for a time, to raise our family and begin to teach our children how to "give back". Life is simpler in Nicaragua. Live your life, educate yourself, love others, give whenever and wherever you can, play, eat, enjoy nature, gain perspective, sleep. . .and repeat daily. This has become our new way of life. It's so very different from everything that is comfortable and familiar and the old way of life that we left behind. Yes, occasionally we miss it. These moments are fleeting for us though. Once you COME AND SEE, you will understand why.

Why live away from the comfort of the first-world??
To be perfectly honest, most of the things that we found "comfort" in, weren't exactly good for us. If it's anything that my children miss most about the U.S., it's the food. And more specifically, the fast food. I cannot say that I blame them. We miss hitting the McDonalds after a long hard day and needing to fill up on fattening food to alleviate stress. Who wants to cook all of the time when you don't have to?? We definitely used food for comfort for years. That is one thing that we miss, with no access to fast food in our little coastal town. The closest McDonalds is 2.5 hours away and we have no vehicle. Comfort, GONE. And we've coped just fine. And are healthier for it. The other comforts that we found in EXCESS in all areas are gone as well. Sure it would be way more comfortable to live in a fully-stocked house in the suburbs, a garage full of stuff we never used, and a constant stream of accumulating more, but we've purged our entire lives and feel so much better because of it. We currently live out of suitcases (as closets are a rarity in Nica), and you know what. . .we've managed. Is it always fun to feel out of sorts and unsettled and uncomfortable the majority of the time? Absolutely not. But it does make us feel more alive somehow.

Why take them away from friends and family??
This part of it is the hardest. My entire family still lives back in Oklahoma. I've lived there my entire life. All my friends miss us and we miss them. But then there's the beauty of technology. Because let's face it, with life as chaotic as it is in the States, we didn't see friends and family nearly as often as we thought. There's school and soccer tournaments and vacations and gymnastics/dance/tae kwon do/art classes and church and a little of this and that that keeps us all so busy that we generally saw our friends once a week, if not more likely, once a month. Some of my best friends and I would go 2-3 months if not longer in between meet-ups. Not only that, even our parents (the kids grandparents) work full-time. Most of the time, we saw them in person about once every two weeks. It seems, with Facebook and email and Skype, my kids see and talk to them plenty. In fact, when we return home to the States for a visit, it's like time hasn't passed at all--especially to them.

I also must mention that the new friends that we've made here in Nicaragua have become JUST LIKE FAMILY. Most have moved down, craving a similar way of life. Less working, more investing. There are way more gatherings and play dates and communal dinners than I ever experienced back in the States. It's unheard of and downright IMPOSSIBLE for us to go more than a day or two without meeting up with another family for food and fellowship. Those that have chosen to live abroad tend to understand the concept of "community" better than those still caught in the rat race of the U.S. They need it more, here. We all pull in close together and instantly share a commonality because we've chosen this lifestyle.

Aren't you concerned about their education??
Not at all. I say that with ease. This may be a thought to expand on in a later post, but my boys are THRIVING on an educational level. They attend an international school here in our coastal town with children and teachers from all over the world. The cultural perspective that they are gaining cannot possibly be learned any other way. My "first grader" has learned to read and write in 11 months. Both boys are now swimmers (thanks to the school's swimming lessons!) and they are learning Math and Science and History in the most hand-on way. As well, we supplement with online homeschooling curriculum, so the education that they are receiving is more than adequate. I am confident that they will be right on-track (or ahead) if we ever decide to move back to the States in the future.

What about their health and safety??
This was my first major concern during our first few months living here. Since, we've dealt with scorpion bites, heat rashes, allergic reactions, dengue fever, stomach bugs, parasites, infected mosquito bites, sprained ankles, and a plethora of cuts, bruises, and bumps. We've lived through them all. Healthcare, for the most part, is free in Nicaragua. If we had an emergency, we would rush to the state hospital and get immediate attention. If we needed more in-depth care, we could travel to the capital where hospitals are privatized and more luxurious that in the U.S. All for pennies to the dollar of what we would pay back there. Our expat community has shared a wealth of information on reliable and knowlegable doctors in our area. Every once in awhile, I freak a little about how to relay completely what may happen in an emergency to someone who does not speak English, but I cannot live in fear. Prayer and home remedies play a big part of how we all handle health care here in Nicaragua. (Praise God that He's protected us thus far!)

Why live without modern conveniences (ie. air conditioning, hot water, reliable electricity, etc)?
Good question. And if you catch me on a bad day, I will rant and rave about how much I miss all these things and living here is just plain not worth it. But every other day, it's all about perspective. We moved here, yearning for a simpler life. One in which we wouldn't take for granted the little things that we had taken for granted for so long. For example, running water is something we PRAISE JESUS for on a weekly basis. It's currently been out for three days straight, so taking showers, cooking, washing clothes and dishes is such a pill. But you know what, when it came back on this evening, we were so thankful. Like, BEYOND grateful. Our kids were jumping for joy over water, ya'll. Would they have ever acted that way in the States? Absolutely not. They'd never been without. So we are thankful for the lessons learned by not having the modern conveniences that the rest of the world enjoys. Now, I thoroughly miss my microwave and hot water and air conditioning. Most of the time, I feel as though we are indoor camping. . .for life. But trading some of these modern luxuries in for a home full of fresh air, minutes from the ocean, and a community not centered around staying INSIDE the house rather than outside is totally worth it. All the frustrations melt away when we gaze across our yard over the Nicaraguan countryside and breath in air from open windows and flowing ocean breeze. Life is "convenient" in a totally new way.

Why choose a place where your children will be a minority?
Why not?! We knew the transition may be a difficult one for all involved. New language, new culture, new surroundings. We stick out like a sore thumb with our blonde hair and blue eyes and pale skin. Little old ladies stop the boys on the street to pet their heads or pick them up and fuss over them. "Que lindo!" they say, which means "How handsome/beautiful/adorable!" If this is what being a minority is all about, they are eating the attention up. But a major reason that we moved here was for the diversity. We want them to be exposed to all ethnicities and see first-hand how amazing people are from EVERYWHERE. I personally grew up in a very racist home, and always knew that it was wrong. My dream was to one day have a family with children from all ethnicities. The world is so beautiful, and if we only see it from a perspective of our color, we miss out on so much. Being the minority allows us fresh eyes. We notice even more the assumptions that we make, the stereotypes that are unfair, and the ways that people cater to each other. It's not fair, at home in the States nor here and we can now respond to diversity in a more knowledgeable way, given this experience.


Because we've fallen in love with this country. It's hard and it's frustrating and it's beautiful and refreshing and it's confusing and lively and exhausting and magical and transforming and we are consumed with living life to the fullest. We could do that anywhere, yes, but we choose to do it here for now. God knows what's in store for our future. Whether Nicaragua is a here and now or a forever, we only know that it's home for today. And we wouldn't have it any other way.

Here's a little video with more reasons to love Nicaragua. Enjoy!
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We cannot wait to talk more about Nicaragua and the joys and woes of "Raising Kids Abroad" here on the blog! Tune in every Tuesday for this new segment!! 

Monday, April 28, 2014



Last Thursday, the little dudes were playing with Legos, a daily activity that allows me time to surf Facebook in the middle of the day while also answering "LOOK AT THIS MOM" demands every time they build yet another tower. (Exactly like the last one. And the one before that. And. . .well, you get it.)

We had just finished and had put them all back in the container and I noticed that the littlest dude (Micah, age 4) was chewing on something. After explaining for the 4,356th time why we do not chew on Legos, I thought he put it away and went on to other things. He lay in the floor, singing and commenting on how my oldest played a game on the XBox (another guilty pleasure. It's Spring Break, cut me some technology-slack!).

All of the sudden, I heard choking from the floor. I jumped out of my seat, staring at the little dude, grabbing his neck and turning a funny shade of red. A MILLION thoughts ran through my head, IS HE CHOKING?! WHAT DO I DO?! I DON'T REMEMBER CPR OR THE HEIMLICH!! WHAT IS IN HIS MOUTH?? COME ON, BABY, DON'T YOU DARE DO THIS TO ME!! In the 5 seconds it took me to rush to his side, he stopped flailing and started sobbing instead. My first reaction was, this is a very good sign, right? If he's crying, he can breathe! He jumped up from the floor and started screaming at me, "TAKE ME TO THE HOSPITAL! I SWALLOWED IT!  I SWALLOWED IT! IT'S INSIDE ME, WE HAVE TO GET IT OUT!!" By this time, I'm just praising God that he is talking and it took me a few seconds to realize that he was having an all-out hypochondriac attack. He swallowed the Lego. He SWALLOWED it. The very Lego I told him to take out of his mouth not 5 minutes ago. I didn't know whether to be mad or relieved or both. Hubby ran in, hearing the crying and immediately started googling "What To Do If Child Swallows Lego". God bless him. I got the dude calmed down with the promise that the Lego would come out eventually. (Fingers crossed?) This was the BEST life lesson in not putting anything in your mouth that's not food. . .EVER. Though I would never wish it on anyone. It literally scared him to death.

Now we have commenced POOP WATCH 2014.

Google (and my sister who is an ER nurse) have promised that these things usually show up in the stool within 7 days. We are almost 3 days in and I've had to poke each and every bathroom scene with a stick from the backyard. NO LEGO. Each and every time, my little dude makes the same observation. "It's still in there, Mom. And I think it's never comin' out." Heaven help us. We're buying stock in prunes while we wait this thing out.

Bloggers and fellow parents assure me that this is something that many have had to deal with. Legos, really?! One mom said that her child swallowed an open safety pin! A SAFETY PIN, PEOPLE! This makes me feel like comparatively, I can remove my name from World's Worst Parent List, at least for today. What do you think? Have your littles swallowed things and what was the outcome?? Commiserate with me for a bit, won't you?

Every MONDAY, we will be sharing a new entry for our weekly "This Is REAL Life" segment. A sarcastic and chaotic and transparent look at parenting through our real-life experiences. And since my parenting is a walking disaster scene most days, the material will be aplenty! Join us every Monday as we learn to laugh and appreciate the circus that is daily life as a parent of young kiddos. Enjoy!