Saturday, December 26, 2015

Our Dominican Christmas (in photos)

Me and Mah

Santiago light show downtown

Light show with wise man
Cookie time!  (Made more difficult this year because in addition to avoiding gluten, we had to avoid chocolate, since Micah isn't able to eat it without getting sick now.  

Lagoon, Los Tres Ojos, Santo Domingo

Manger scene, metal, Santo Domingo
Cathedral, Santo Domingo 
Santo Domingo light display

Gingerbread house

Christmas morning

Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa!

A favorite gift!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Homemade Wrapping Paper

We've been celebrating Christmas by drawing pictures on strips of blank paper that came wrapped around a frying pan we bought.  We've gotten about half of it decorated--fun family fun!  :)

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Keeping it Real . . .

This year, the boys were characters from Micah's "Alien Escape" and Abigail was a puppy.  We visited some American homes and did some good old fashioned trick or treating (by ourselves, no one does here).  :)

Sunday, October 4, 2015


Abigail got lice.  And gave them to me.

It looks like moving day over here.

We've got lots of trash bags everywhere, full of all of our stuffed animals, decorative pillows, and anything else suspicious.  We've boiled our hair brushes and combed and combed and combed.  And first we washed twice with toxic lice shampoo, I know, probably too terrible to use.  But I think I combed out multiple hundreds out of her hair.  Took us a while to catch it, it would seem.  We did have a situation.

Now we're using coconut oil and tea tree oil and I'm combing and combing with the special little comb.  And it looks like we're in the clear.  But I will be continuing our ritual of conditioning, combing, and tea tree oil for at least another week.  Just to make sure!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Perfect Sunday Sandwich

Tonight after ultimate frisbee at the school, I decided I wasn't in the mood for the turkey sandwich I'd planned for us.  So while the kids went to town on that, I chopped up some sausage and onions and sauteed it.  Then I mixed in some jarred sauce and served it on buns with a slice of cheese on top.

It was just too good for words.  Way better than I thought possible for such a fast and easily thrown-together meal.  I actually had to tone down my normally expressive reactions to my food enjoyment because there really wasn't enough for the kids (I mean, they'd already eaten, anyway . . . ).  And it hardly seemed fair to go on and on about it.

I'm sorry to say I didn't take a picture.  I just didn't expect it to be that good!  And I was halfway through and covered with sauce by the time I thought of it.  Definitely going to be a repeat soon--and I'll even give the kids some next time.

Welcome Flooding

The Dominican Republic has been in the worst drought since 1997 (and this one is worse).

It virtually didn't rain all summer, and we've had just a few good rains in the last month.

We had so little rain that our water levels were getting critically low.  And I'll tell you, nothing gets you looking anxiously at every gray cloud (and praying) like knowing that drinking water could soon be a problem.  They were already rationing running water to homes--sadly, it was being restricted especially in poorer neighborhoods.

So it was incredibly exciting to get rain this week.  It rained three out of the last four days.  It felt like love rained down from God.

Owen and I have had to return to our rain tradition.  Because our back patio is unfortunately slanted toward the house, we get flooding in our back two rooms when it rains heavily.  Enormous puddles!  Thankfully, tropical architecture is all about tile, so it's not the disaster it would be in the states.  We just basically have to sweep it out the back door and then off the porch before it flows back in.  With some mopping to finish the job.

We mopped two nights of the last four, dealing with massive amounts of water in our house.  It's been months since that happened.

And sometimes, a little bit of "flooding" feels like an amazing, blessing-from-God kind of problem.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Bit Macho . . .

One of the hardest parts of latino culture for me is the difference in how men and women are perceived here.  I'm just so American.  And I don't handle well comments or insinuations made about women not being able to do things because they're women.

Abigail started soccer a few weeks ago.  And I discovered last week that the coach is hesitant to give them too rigorous of a schedule (i.e. give them things to do the whole practice) because the girls in the team need to rest a lot.  They've been laying around a lot and taking tons of water breaks.  I've spent two different practices speaking with him about how Abigail does not need to take rests because she's a girl.  The last practice I found out that the girls had to rest while the boys played and then the boys played with the girls (because boys don't need the rest).

I told the coach that as far as he is concerned, Abigail is a boy.

Monday, September 7, 2015

My "Garden"

I don't know if I blogged about it at all years ago in Philly, but much of my "gardening" there was really picking out tons of decorative white rocks that someone at some point decided would be easier than grass (before the grass took over through the rocks).  I spent many, many hours picking rocks out of the soil.  At first, there was as much rock as soil.  But gradually, over the years, I reclaimed the garden from both the rocks and the weeds who thought they owned the place.  I added layers of compost and worked the soil year after year.  And it became a garden.

Now, as it turns out, I've moved into another rock-bed-yard house.  And I'm trying to reclaim the soil from the rocks.  We've put in a good 20 or 30 hours at this point and I have a 1.5 by 4 foot little rectangle of dirt to show for it.  Micah wrote in his school journal something like, "I picked rocks out of the garden this weekend." Which surely must translate to "I have a meaningful and stimulating home life."

I've also started composting again.  I was scared for a while, I'll admit it.  I've seen rats in the empty lots near my house.  One even chewed a hole in an old sock we left to dry on the front porch.  Ew, I know.  It was my sock.  And it wasn't that old, just dirty.  What if I attract rats with my compost?

And it's hot, which is a de-motivator for outdoor work.  Enough said.

But I get so restless sometimes, because so much of my pre-Dominican identity was related to gardening.  And I so wish I could get my hands on more varieties of greens!!!  We have arugula, lettuce, herbs, bok choy (randomly), cabbage, spinach, and napa cabbage.  But only rarely can I find any good sautee-able dark greens other than bok choy.  And I miss them!  And I miss gardening!

So I'm giving it a try.  The compost is in full swing.  We're having to steal leaves from neighbors for the dry materials (Owen actually got some security guards restless getting our last load--he got greedy, do you need to steal five bags from one house?).  And the tiny plot of land is ready.  We plan to expand to a full 4 by 6 garden once we de-rock sufficiently.

And the volunteer guava tree should be big enough to make some fruit in a year or two.

Poco a poco, little by little . . .

Friday, August 28, 2015

Essential Oils Actually Work

I guess it should be no great surprise, given how many people use them, that essential oils work, but I have to say I've been pleasantly shocked at how much they've helped my family.  I know, just one more step towards crazy . . .

I was using essential oils for my homemade deodorant and bug spray and cleaning spray, but I wasn't really looking to them for any kind of medical solutions.  But this summer I talked to some people who were saying they could do all sorts of things, and I thought, OK, here goes . . .

So my first issue was figuring out which oils to buy, because apparently these oil-users have a basic stash on hand at all times.  I had some of these already for frangrances, but I decided to keep on hand the following:

lavender oil
lemon oil
tea tree oil
clove oil (or clove bud)
peppermint oil
oregano oil
german (or roman) chamomile oil

I have some more, but really, these are my heavy-hitters, and I just ordered big amounts of lavender, lemon, peppermint, tea tree, and clove (oregano lasts longer, I don't use it quite as much).

I tried some doTerra oils, but I must say, they are expensive!  And I went through a few little bottles in a month now that I really got going using them!  So I just ordered some WAY cheaper NOW brand which looks (according to my research) like great quality for a significantly cheaper price.

Here are the following things I'm doing:

My kids allergies are under control for the first time in years as a result of the essential oils we started using.  I haven't taken them off of Zyrtec at this point, it's just that Zyrtec wasn't taking care of the problem all the way and now they can actually breathe out of their noses!

Allergy spray: (We're using a few sprays into the back of our throats twice a day)
In a tiny one ounce bottle, mix

  • 4 drops of lemon oil, 
  • 4 drops peppermint, 
  • 2 drops oregano, 
  • 1 drop clove
  • fill rest with water
Allergy rub (at night on sinuses and under nose)--I made this in a little plastic pill container.
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 4 drops peppermint oil
  • 2 drops frankincense oil (you could skip that one if you don't have it)
  • 2-4 drops of eucalyptus, lavender, or chamomile
Allergy foot rub (at night on bottoms of feet)  Also helps with trouble falling asleep!
  • 1-3 drops of chamomile (can be in a carrier oil like coconut)
Pain relief:
I have chronic shoulder pain issues and haven't been able to sleep on my right side in years.  I used to take a fair amount of ibuprofen, but lately I've cut that out completely.  I rub clove oil on anything that hurts--if it is an area of more sensitive skin, like the neck, it needs to be "watered down" with coconut oil.  For back or shoulder pain I put it straight on the skin and it works like a strong Bengay.  It gives immediate and long-term pain-relief.  (It helps me fall asleep and keeps the pain away until morning--and sometimes resolves it altogether.)

Heat rash/burns/skin problems:
Tea tree oil or lavender oil work great to help with these.

I tried making my own chamomile oil using coconut oil and dried chamomile for 8 hours in a crock pot.  It seems to be working some, but it's not as strong as what I bought.  I didn't strain out the chamomile in hopes that it gets stronger.

I have been shocked at how well these remedies have served my family.  I am now open to new uses.  Any suggestions?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Tooth Rat

You know an interesting Dominican tradition?  Instead of the Tooth Fairy, for over-protected American children, they have the tooth rat.  Kind of a different feeling putting that tooth under your pillow for a rat to get, isn't it?  I'm not sure it's worth a dollar to me.  Or even 50 pesos.

More Rooster Madness

My maid told me today that Monday (the day of the rooster) she actually saw my old neighbor lurking around (my words, not hers), checking on his chickens.  And she saw him put the mother hen and chick in my yard!  Now my old neighbor is not vindictive or cruel.  I think he just wanted to put the mom with her other young chicks still in my yard.  But is he seriously raising chickens in my yard?? when I've so clearly communicated my problems with the enterprise?  It is enough to make my American jaw fall open in appalled shock.  Seriously!

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Nature-y Night: Revenge of the Roosters

On my way to school this morning, I saw a chicken huddled in my flower bed in my front patio.

And I thought, oohhhh no, not on my watch.  There will be no pesky chicken-folk in MY yard! And I proceeded to chase it and shout and clap and behave as a maniac.  It wouldn't leave.

And then I thought, oh NO, there is a SICK chicken in my yard!  So I poked at it with an aloe leaf I broke off.  And I scared it away enough that I saw the baby chick it was protecting.

And then I thought, OH NOOOOO!  We are breeding baby roosters to keep me up at night in my very yard!!!!  But I had to leave for school, Owen was out of patience, waiting in the street with the kids for me to get in the car.

So this afternoon when I got home from school I investigated further and found a NEST of eggs, some hatched, with a few dead-looking chicks.  A little while later, the mother came back with a chick.  Well, you may imagine . . . I was not pleased.  I told Owen that before he ate the yummy supper I was preparing that I needed him and the boys to get all fowl out of the yard.

I wish I had thought to video the chase.

While I'm at the kitchen window finishing dinner, I see Micah and Jesse, shouting and screaming, run past the window as they charge the squawking chicken across our patio.

The neighbors come outside to watch at this point.

Then there is a reverse and I see them turn and run, screaming, FROM the chicken.  It was very amusing.  Eventually they got all live fowl (the mom with two chicks) from our yard and into the abandoned lot next door.  Micah had to carry one of them over.

I'm sure we could have just bludgeoned them all to death, and guaranteed that there are no future roosters, but I'm telling you (if you're like me anyway), that unless you are used to killing that is just all talk.  You think you're tough, but you just grab that bat and then wimp out.  And use it to shoo them instead.  And although my kids offered to kill them for me, thinking of protecting my sleep, I told them I didn't want them killing helpless little chicks.  Too disturbing.

Of course, things will look different in a few weeks when those little chicks become crowing roosters.

But here's the crazy part:  an hour or two later we hear a loud ruckus next door and the NEIGHBORS are chasing roosters around their yard.  They are plagued by the former renter's roosters, my enemy roosters, who don't understand the change in residence and think they still live there.

They told me their dog is going nuts barking at the roosters all night (I can attest to that, I heard it), and it is driving them crazy.  They were very confused at why so many chickens came in their yard each night and were a little disturbed to learn that there had been a serious fowl-raising enterprise over there even a few months ago.

So I'm not sure if it was any great consolation, but I assured them that now that everyone is on the same team, we will triumph!  Working together, surely a bunch of green city folk can catch a few pesky roosters--with a sheet, maybe?  The plan is still in progress.

On a side-note, I seriously trimmed the hedges.  Clearly I am offering too much protection in my yard.  Let's keep visibility high!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Now that's pollution . . .

We passed this creek on our way into the zoo, and when we left to go back to our car, this is what we saw.  The kids thought it was blood.

Pray for rain . . .

I can't remember the last time it really rained, but it was months ago.  We're really desperate for rain.  It really is a reminder that man is not in charge, because there's nothing we can do but wait and pray.  The sky gets black from time to time, and we've gotten thunder, and occasionally we've had a one minute light shower.  But it's like we're holding our breath and looking out the window throughout the day, getting excited if we see clouds.  I don't remember experiencing a drought like this.  I guess it's also worse because of how hot it is.  Usually it rains from time to time to give us relief from the heat, but lately, there's no rain to really cool it down.

Pray for us!  Pray that Danny hits us in the next few days!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Plot Thickens: Rooster Update

So it seems that the roosters really were captured the other night--well, the loudest one, anyway.  So while some still roam free and greet the morning, Mr. 4:45 a.m. is gone.

Also, on an interesting note, a new family moved into the rooster house.  Unfortunately for them, they moved in during a power-outage at night, so it was a dark move-in.  Not sure how they feel about the chicken guests that congregate every evening (I hear them gathering now) in their yard or their backyard alarm clock.

I'm sleeping better with the loud rooster gone, the runner-up is still bothering Owen because he is not using ear plugs.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Wow! Can it be?

We were interrupted in our movie tonight by what sounded like the screams of a dying cat, or, more accurately, a rooster.  It looked like our old neighbor was over there chasing his roosters--and from the sound of it, he caught some!  I will report more after I see if I am awakened by a rooster tomorrow morning!

A Day in the Capital

We planned a family fun day in the capital for before school started, and we left Saturday morning (after I had actually spent the night at some friends' because the house alarm next door went off until 1 a.m. and I knew I'd be awake all night until it stopped).  Our plan was to see the Aquarium and Descubria (Discovery) Children's Museum.  We got to the aquarium a little before lunch and were really impressed.  It cost less than $5 for the whole family to get in and was kind of an open air aquarium with nice tanks and pools.

There were mostly smaller marine animals, but nice and interesting ones.  And we did see some manatees that they're rehabilitating and two sea turtles.

We got whale moves . . .

Later we went to the mall where the children's museum is and had a great Dominican fusion meal for a really good price in their food court.

Sculpture made of kitchen utensils and bottles

We were disappointed to find that the museum was closed for renovations, but we decided spur of the moment to go to the zoo.  We paid more like $8 for the whole family to get in the zoo.  I must confess to rather low expectations for the zoo.  So I was blown away when we started walking.

First of all, it was huge.  You could take a "train" sort of trolley to each exhibit, but if you chose to walk it was actually a hike to get to the animals--a shaded, tree-lined lovely walk.  And the animals were all free-roaming with big ditches to contain them and very low fences.  It was incredible.  If all zoos were like that I wouldn't think of them as depressing.

A Hiking Path!

I don't think you understand how shocking the discovery of a hiking path is in Santiago unless you've visited.  We once drove for three hours searching for a hiking path only to get back out of the car and give up.  It's possible to hike in the mountains, which are an hour and a half away, but even then you have to be on someone's land or on one of a few paths.  There are no national parks or anything.

But someone from our school found a hiking path around a pond (probably built by the industry right next to it)--and it is amazing.  It makes me feel like I'm back in the U.S.  I'm giving you some pictures below of the family hike we took with some friends.

Friday, August 7, 2015

All Kind of Crazy!

We just finished watching "Cheaper by the Dozen," the cute and crazy movie about a family with 12 kids and continuous chaos.  While we watched the movie the house alarm next door sounded continuously for 2 hours.  It's too hot to close all the windows, so it's almost like it's going off in our own house.  We all squished on the couch, while trying not to touch each other (way too hot), able to hear only the crazy parts of the movie (all soft dialogue parts were lost in the alarm sounds).

After the movie ended I tried to hurry Abigail into bed (we meant to watch only the first half of the movie and just got too distracted) while Micah spilled water down the stairs and created a scene, gesturing wildly to protest his innocence and throwing yet more water everywhere.  Jesse shouted from the shower that he couldn't find the soap, I found water on the book left on their bathroom floor, and Owen made calls to security, who have no immediate plans to do anything at all about the continuous alarm-ringing next door (think really, really loud car alarm that lasts for 3 full minutes only to trip again a few seconds later).

I am struck by how much I feel I relate with the movie, even though we only have three kids.