Bad Blogger

Once again, I’ve fallen woefully behind in my blogging. I think I need a proper schedule to stay on top of things.

It’s already December and we’ve started in on the festivities. The tree is up and the kids are enjoying the advent calendar that I made a few years back. We still have more decorating to do, but we’re working on adding more fun crafts each day.

November went by in a blur, with the trip to the lake, the craziness that followed (I came back with giardia, my friend and blog reader had dengue), then working on finishing up the pitch challenge I was taking, which turned out to be a bit of a mess, as they changed the deadline three times. We also had a couple of donation trips to the hospital, which I need to get the photos up for (they’re on a memory card that has been temporarily misplaced, along with some other photos). I have also been petsitting for a friend and with the American Thanksgiving, there was also a lot to bake and sell, but things are finally settling down a bit.

Over the past week, we’ve seen a number of incidents in Antigua and area, as well. Two, possibly three, bus drivers have been shot recently, which is pretty much unheard of in this particular area. It’s resulted in all public transport being halted from Santa Maria de Jesus and San Juan del Obispo. Then, while Irving was in the market the other day with the boys, a man from our town threw himself under a bus and killed himself. Fortunately, Irving managed to get the kids away from the place before they saw anything.

So, things have been rather busy around here. Between all the happenings and work, I’m keeping nicely occupied. ?

Six Additions

Those who know me fairly well know that I’m a back-to-the-land kinda girl at heart. I’m not ready to live 100% off the grid, but I do want to grow my own food and be more self-sufficient. That’s easier said than done when living on a tiny bit of land that is mostly house!

However, a couple of weeks ago, we took a giant leap forward in this regard. We got six chicks that will grow up to be laying hens.

I’ve wanted chickens for years, but Irving was a little iffy on the whole idea. We had super limited space and he was worried they’d stink. But I had something on him this time, since he brought home three rabbits for the boys recently! When I found the chicks in the market, I told him that we needed to take some home and he was going to have to build an enclosure that very afternoon. He reluctantly agreed, I purchased my chickens and off we went.

Irving quickly rigged up a chicken run and we were in business! Dominic loves to sit on a chair and watch the chicks peck around in the dirt. He says, “This is the best movie ever!”

Apparently Macroft agrees, since he sits for hours outside the fence watching the chicks, too!

These little girls have grown quickly and started to fly the coop pretty fast! After we had one go missing (she decided to visit the neighbors for the afternoon), I had to go ahead and clip their wings. That was nervewracking, but they didn’t seem to mind too much, especially since they had lots of snuggles first and food after.

More on the Panajachel trip coming. I’ve been a bad blogger since I’m rushing to finish up my Pitch Challenge and getting several projects off the ground!

Niños con Bendicion

One of my blog readers that I know fairly well came down this month and asked if I would be interested in accompanying her to the lake and a nearby foundation that helps children stay in school. Of course, I was interested, especially since it would give me a chance to get a closer look at how other organizations are doing things. I’ll be writing on each of these in a separate post, so today we’ll start with the first place we went, in San Antonio Aguas Calientes.

Niños con Bendiciòn was started by a husband and wife team, Tino and Lesbi. The place is a little tough to find since there is no sign and it looks pretty unassuming from the outside. Once we found it, however, we were warmly welcomed inside and found ourselves in a rather large space with a dirt floor. This area functions as the shop for the project, play area and also the space where they do performances.

Before the performance began, we were told more about the project. Tino and Lesbi started it with just Q300 or around $40 US. They have two children of their own and wanted to help others do well in school. The foundation helps children with scholarships for school, but it’s far more than that. They also have the kids (31 of them!) come over after school to learn things, get help with their homework and to give back to the project. The couple feels very strongly that the children shouldn’t be just given things, so they insist that they learn and return something to the project.

This is where the performance comes in. Part of the project is teaching children traditional Mayan dances. They then perform these for visitors who donate to the foundation. The kids are so popular, though, that they now perform at weddings and such, as well! Their mothers weave the items that are found in the store, as well, beautiful tapetes and huipiles, as well as bags made from tipico cloth.

We were ushered in and given plastic stools to sit on. Each of the children from the day’s performance came forward to introduce themselves and thank us for being there. They were dressed in traditional clothing or traje from different areas in Guatemala, though they’re all from San Antonio, so they explained where their clothes were from, as well. The students range in age from 6 to 15. The older ones went to play marimba in the back of the room while the little ones danced for us. They were so adorable!

I brought the kids along, at Caroline’s request and they really enjoyed the performance. They understood the meaning behind the dances and at the end, when the children pulled us up to dance with them, Dominic nearly flew off his chair, he was so eager to try it. After a breathless laughing dance with the kids, they dispersed while we washed our hands in the pila and had a demonstration of how tortillas are traditionally made.

Of course, I’m familiar with all of this, but it was still a lot of fun. The boys each tried using the traditional piedra de moler with the dough. Then we each made our own tortillas and cooked them on a huge comal over a wood fire. The kids were thrilled with this process! I ended up finishing up a lot of tortillas for Dominic, though, since his little hands couldn’t flatten the tortillas enough.

Once the tortillas were cooked, we enjoyed them with some beans and green sauce. Delicious! Lesbi makes all the food from scratch and fresh each day so that no one will get sick. Everything is very carefully cleaned by the older girls in the project, as well.

Finally, after our snack, the kids ran off to play and Caroline and I looked around the shop at the lovely woven items and coffee in huipil bags. They had some lovely things, all produced right there in San Antonio.

By the end of three hours, we were all great friends and Lesbi invited the boys to come back for Thursdays, when the kids in the project get together to play futbol or head to the pool. I think we’ll be taking her up on that! Everyone had so much fun and Tino and Lesbi are truly wonderful people and very open and genuine. They didn’t complain or go on and on about how terrible things are. Instead, they were very thankful that the project has done so well and were very happy about how many children are going to school. Their first students are getting ready to graduate and that’s an exciting thing in a country where apparently only 12% of students graduate from high school.

Kids Say the Darndest Things: Episode 92

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I keep collecting things the boys say, so here you are!

Dorian: “Dominic was brushing his teeth and it all went horribly wrong.”
Dominic: watching a Paw Patrol episode with an avalanche, “Hey, Mama, do people gotta watch out for snow? Like it can fall on them?”
Dante was curious about Down Syndrome, so we looked up some information and watched some videos on it.
Dante: “Was anyone in our family born with Down Syndrome?”
Me: “No.”
Dante: “Was I born with it?”
Me: “No, you’d know if you were.”
Dante: “Well, that’s too bad. I would have been so much cuter.”
Overheard in the living room.
“Are you my mummy? Are you my mummy?” in a British accent, followed by, “STOP IT! You’re creeping me out!”
Dominic: “Mama, my hot chocolate just turned cold. That means I can call it cold chocolate!”
Me, muttering to myself: “Meh, it doesn’t even matter.”
Dominic: “Well, that’s not very positive!”
All three boys: running around the house wildly, screaming, “BAD WOLF! BAD WOLF!”
Dominic: “I’m tired. I need to sleep.” (At 6:20)
Me: “Okay.”
Dominic: “I can’t move, because of my legs.”
Me: “Are your legs tired?”
Dominic: “Yes. And my neck. And my hair.”
Me: “Your hair is tired?”
Dominic: “So tired. I have to sleep now. Turn off the light, please.”
Dante: “Yesterday, Papa bought me a Ting and my stomach said, “Don’t drink it!” And I did and my stomach was all, “DON’T! DON’T! DON’T!” so I listened to it and put the Ting in the fridge and today my stomach remembered it was in there and said, “Now can I have some Ting?”
Dominic: “MAMA! There’s an ant in my tea and that means there’s a dead body in my tea! I can’t drink this!”
Dorian: “She’s carrying baby weight still. Just like you.”
Dominic, holding some of my oils, “Why is this one bigger?”
Me: “This is 5 mL and this one is 15.”
Dominic: “Well, this one has an F, so that’s actually Fifteen.”
Me: “No, it’s Frankincense. That starts with F, too.”
Dominic, sniffing peppermint oil: “Oh, this one tastes like fire!”
Dominic was reading before bed. “A man sat on a ram. That ram . . . AGAIN WITH THE RAM?”
I said something about having to pay for something I didn’t really want.
Dante: “Oh, that’s brutal!”
Dorian: “No, it’s not. Brutal is like when someone chops someone up with a chainsaw.”
Dominic: “Mama, how do I write ‘Paw Patrol’ on Youtube? I typed two P’s but that didn’t work.”

Guatemala’s Hospital Crisis and What We Can Do About It

18 women wait for C-sections in Antigua's national hospital . . . but there are no supplies to operate. Image via La Noticia en Guatemala.

I’ve written previously about Guatemala’s public hospitals, but it’s something that has been weighing on me heavily lately. Last week, my niece, Sofia 3, was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia and we had yet another chance to see what the public hospital is like. While they were surprisingly well equipped for children, the very basic items had to be purchased. Her father, Irving’s youngest brother, had to go out to buy the supplies for an IV to be run. Oxygen and medication were supplied, but the actual supplies were unavailable.

Irving went to visit the little munchkin (who is recovering nicely and should be home today) and I asked him to talk to the hospital about donations. He talked to the Chief of Pediatrics and discovered that they need just about everything, but are particularly interested in the following items:

  • Gloves
  • Syringes
  • IV supplies
  • Suturing supplies
  • Gowns and clothes for children
  • Diapers
  • Towels

This was for the Pediatrics floor only. In Maternity, they are in desperate need of supplies for C-sections. Families are being asked to find the supplies while their pregnant loved ones wait and labor in the hospital. Doctors are weary of the complete lack of supplies to treat their patients with, though they do the best they can with what they have and what families can bring.

I’m just one person. But this crisis is being reported everywhere. Here are some links that may help shed more light on the situation.


Daryl Fulp, a missionary who lives in a town near us, wrote this sad post about his own experiences with the hospitals. He also blogged about desperate parents pleading for help for their children, often just a few dollars for medicine or supplies.


This article in El Periodico shows that hospitals across the nation are in trouble.

This short report gives more info on how things came to pass . . . the money was stolen by the government.

The following is a video that shows some of the difficulties that the hospitals are faced with, including a woman who had to find the money to buy surgical supplies for her daughter who needed an emergency C-section.

How We Can Help

I often feel helpless when I read these stories of families desperate to help their children survive, or women trying to have their baby. I’m not rich enough to help many people and sometimes it feels pointless to help just one, though it’s really not!

There are few things that can be done and every bit helps. While I hope the government steps up and the new president will work on fixing this problem, people are suffering and even dying in the meantime. We can do something about that for one or two people . . . maybe more.

1. You can donate money to Daryl Fulp’s mission fund. He lists it in his blog posts. He has a proper organization, so that may be the simplest method for many. If not there, you may find another organization that you trust in Guatemala and ask if they can do donations.

2. You can donate directly to the hospital. If you’re in Guatemala, or visiting, you can drop off medical supplies and clothing for the hospital yourself or contact me and I’ll meet up with you to collect and deliver them.

3. Donate materials. Irving and I eventually want to set up a small clinic here where families will be able to come when they need specific supplies for their loved ones, but at this point, the need is too great and we are not equipped to handle that. So, for now our solution is to start small and take the items directly to the hospital. Here’s what we’re working on right now:

  • C-section kits: Small kits that include the syringes, gloves, IV items and stitching supplies for a C-section. 
  • Hospital gowns: I love sewing and so it makes sense to create some hospital gowns. I’m already doing small burial outfits for preemies, but am expanding to hospital gowns for both adults and children. These can be made from sheets, which are easily found in the pacas and come in some pretty cute designs, as well as flannel.
  •  ER kits: Stitching equipment and thread, gauze and gloves are just a few of the things we’ll be collecting as we can to donate to the ER.
I’m still debating whether or not to open a GoFundMe to help out with this, but of course, we’re happy to accept physical donations of fabric and other supplies to take in. Contact me for more information or leave a comment with your thoughts.

Edited to add: We’ve created a GoFundMe account for those interested in donating. You can follow the progress on the new Healing Hearts Guatemala site.

That Doesn’t Need Refrigerating!

There are so many cultural differences when you visit a new country, but here, my biggest challenges have always been food. I’ve always been a picky eater and I think most people figured I’d starve in Guatemala! Over time, I’ve overcome many of my food issues, but there are a few things that I still don’t get. One of these is the lack of refrigeration for things that I have always been taught to keep cold.

So, without further adieu, here are some of the items that are regularly NOT refrigerated in Guatemala.

Mayonnaise: Everyone knows that mayonnaise needs to be kept cold, right? Growing up, I heard horror stories of people who left their sandwiches with mayo in their lunchboxes for a few hours and got horribly sick or even died. So, when I started working in a cafe here and they kept their mayo in a squeeze bottle on the counter, I was horrified.
Fast forward a decade and while I do keep mayo in the fridge, it’s not a big stressor for me anymore. There are no eggs in the mayonnaise that we buy, and I’ve never gotten sick, so I’m going with “it’s okay.”

Yogurt: A few days ago, I was walking through the supermarket in Antigua and there in the dairy section was a stacked display of drinkable yogurt. Just sitting out in the aisle, no effort made to chill. If you head to the market, many stalls sell little cups of yogurt, which are stored in boxes sitting in the sun. I’ve never tested these and I never plan to. However, technically yogurt is cultured milk, so maybe it just keeps culturing instead of going bad? I really don’t know.

Meat: At the same supermarket, we went to buy some ham. There were displays of ham sitting on top of the display case and a big plate of pork chops. In the market, again, you’ll regularly see stalls in the meat section with slabs of beef and chicken carcasses laying out on the tiles or hanging from bars over the counter. This grosses me out no end . . .but again, there is a precedent for this. When you hunt or butcher an animal, you can let it hang for a bit to age. Personally, I prefer fresh meat that is frozen right away, but I’m also not a huge meat fan.

meat in the Guatemalan market

Eggs: Another thing I always figured you needed to keep cold was an egg. Take a stroll through the market in Antigua, though, and you’ll see bags and cartons of eggs sitting out. I did some research on this and it turns out that you don’t need to refrigerate eggs . . . as long as they aren’t washed. Also, if you DO put them in the fridge, they have to stay there or they will spoil when taken out.

Milk: This one is cheating, since the milk here comes in tetra packs very often. These can be left out and will stay “good” though if you ask me, packaged milk is extra gross (I’m not a milk fan anyway). I tasted it once and it was horrible, but certainly not rotten. If you’ve never seen this, though, the thought of boxes of milk sitting out is very odd.

Seafood: “Camarones! Camarones grandes!” is a shout you may hear near a speed bump in Antigua, while men with buckets of prawns wave handfuls of the smelly seafood at passing cars. In the market, you’ll find piles of shrimp heaped over little mountains of melting ice on slabs of wood. I don’t eat seafood, but even if I did I would be very, very careful about purchasing warmed raw shrimp.



Simple Focaccia Sandwiches

I make focaccia bread to sell, with fresh herbs from my little container garden and it goes well. However, the other day, someone sent me a video that showed a big, round focaccia being turned into a delicious looking sandwich and then cut into pieces to serve 10 people at once.

Obviously, this was an idea that needed to be replicated! So, I took my usual recipe and turned it into rounds. Once they were ready, I cut one through the middle and layered mayo, mustard, ham, lettuce and tomatoes on it, then topped it with the remaining piece of bread. When cut into quarters, each piece was the size of a regular sandwich, perfect for sharing!

This is so simple, but it was SO good. We’ll definitely be doing this again and when we have a cafe, I’ll be serving these sandwiches for sure!

Sewing Lessons

I’ve been getting back into sewing lately and my projects have sparked the boys’ interest. One day, last week, I was stitching away and Dante came to ask if he could try. He wanted to make a rather complicated doll, so I suggested something simpler. He decided on a Minecraft Steve and we set to work drafting the pattern and cutting out the pieces.

It ended up being nearly as complicated as the original plan! However, he was determined, so he made Steve for Dominic and a Minecraft zombie for himself. Then he got to work, learning how to use the sewing machine. It’s tricky stuff, so I helped with the facial details, but he did the rest.

Next up, stuffing and hand sewing the opening up. Dante is already familiar with hand sewing, so that part was simple. He was amazed at how much stuffing had to go into each stuffy, though!

The finished product!

He was very proud of himself and the very next day, he made a pattern for shorts with my help and then sewed up his very own pair of shorts, which he has worn several times already.

Good and Evil

One of the things you just don’t think about before having children is how you’re going to explain the bad things in the world to them. The past month or two, we’ve had a lot of sad talks in our house.

First, Dante is obsessed with the Titanic at the moment. He has studied it extensively, watched multiple documentaries and built models of it. He’s recreated the ship in Minecraft and done experiments with toy boats and sinking. He’s learned about hypothermia and life boats and drowning, as well as icebergs. But all of that studying and learning can’t tell him the WHY. “Why did these people have to die?” “Why didn’t they have enough life boats?” “WHY do bad things happen?”

ISIS and Syria were the next issue. We’ve been studying World War II and when the older boys read about ISIS, they immediately compared the group to Nazis. We have had many discussions about this, but after we watched a news story on ISIS and then read some of the stories on Humans of New York (Brandon is currently doing a series on refugees) of refugees fleeing the civil war, Dorian turned to me and said, “I didn’t realize there was so much evil in the world. I really thought it was better now.” Then he said, “I’m so lucky to live here in Guatemala. I’m so lucky to have medical care when I’m sick and to have a house.” I don’t think it had ever clicked for him before.

Obviously, that statement led to discussion of Guatemala’s civil war, which was something they knew vaguely about, but didn’t realize that it had happened just a short time ago.

And then the mudslide in El Cambray happened and they were faced with images and videos of people desperate to find their loved ones. It’s now been five days. Any hope people had is dashed and the mission is now body retrieval. Dante asked, after seeing images of the slide, “Are their souls free now?” And then, “Which is sadder, the Titanic or the mudslide? I feel like this might be sadder.”

I feel like my children are just starting to see the world more clearly now. We’ve never gone out of our way to protect them from knowledge that bad things happen, but it seems like they just reached the point where they can understand it now and it’s shocking to them. On one hand, it breaks my heart that they are realizing that the world does still have evil in it. On the other, they are making me so proud as they process the information and talk about solutions.

Both boys wanted to go help dig in the mudslide. “Maybe there are still children trapped in there and afraid,” they said. “We should help.” When I explained that they wouldn’t be allowed to dig and that it’s really no place for children, Dante sat down with a pen and paper. “I’m going to design a house that will stay safe in a mudslide.” He created a home design that has multiple walls and steel posts so that it won’t collapse if there’s a slide.

I can’t explain to my children why bad things happen. I can’t tell them that it will never happen to them or that the world will magically be perfect for them. It won’t. But here’s what I can tell them:

“There’s evil in the world, but there’s also good. You choose whether you’re part of the evil or part of the good. If you look at everything that is happening, there’s always good. In the mudslide, people are coming from around the country to dig and Guatemalans have donated so much food, they’ve asked them to stop giving food, because there’s so much they need to use it first. In Europe, people are feeding the refugees, giving them shelter and medical attention. They’re helping.”

Wherever you see evil, you will also see good and it will shine even more because of the darkness. In the end, that’s all I can tell my children and show them how to be the good.

El Cambray

The heavy rains at the tail end of the rainy season have taken their toll on some areas. In a town near the capital, nestled in a valley between two hills, the rain caused death and destruction.

Half a mountain of mud and clay slid down on top of an estimated 150 houses around 9 pm, Friday night. Estimates of the missing range from 300-600, but no one really knows. The valley was so narrow that there are meters and meters of mud and dirt on top of the houses, many of which did not collapse completely, leaving people alive inside the ruins. We know this because they are texting their friends and family from under the mud.

Despite this, bodies are being pulled out. One woman told cameras that her son had been found with his head wedged between the wall and the bed, while her husband was found under tree. Both were taken to the hospital, but she stayed on site, because one of her sons was still missing.

One of the things I really love about Guatemala is how quickly people organized to help those left homeless. There are bottles of water, food, blankets and clothing being donated, not all from NGOs or foreigners, but by the Guatemalan people themselves. They know what it’s like to be without and they hurry to help.

As of last night, 55 survivors had been pulled out of the mudslide and taken to the hospital. This is another worry, because the hospitals here are in a downward spiral. I wrote about my MIL’s issues but we’ve been learning that it is far, far worse. I’ll write a post on this in the future, but basically, the public hospitals are out of supplies. They don’t have gloves, IV kits, or even basic medicines to bring down fevers. I’m not sure how they are going to handle this sudden rush of landslide victims . . . unless people also donate the items necessary for surgeries and basic medical treatment.

For now, the nation watches anxiously, cheering for each survivor pulled out and feeling saddened with every lifeless body that appears.