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.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Make Your Own Muffin Recipe

This morning I experimented with some Dominican fruits (pears which are nothing like U.S. pears and mangoes that were so soft and sticking to the pit I had to squish and scrape them into the batter) to make muffins.  I didn't see a recipe I liked and everyone was hungry, so I just made the recipe up.  I am a cook, but not a baker.  So I was very excited that the muffins were actually good!

I used almond flour, quinoa flour (which I ground in my coffee grinder), sweet potato flour (something they sell here), two eggs, lots of walnuts, almond milk, honey, black strap molasses, a drizzle of olive oil, and the mango and pear (pera)--in unmeasured quantities, of course--and baked it about 30 minutes.  They were unattractive but very tasty.  What usually keeps me from baking is all the measuring.  I may start experimenting with muffins regularly if they keep turning out that good without having to!

[Update 8/9:  I tried them again today with honeydew, strawberries, and almond slivers--they were also good!  This time I added a little baking powder, but it made no noticeable difference.  Though I did try coconut oil and I'm thinking the olive oil baked faster?  Not sure . . .]

Anyone have some suggestion for good ingredients??

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Easy gluten-free blackberry crumble

I went jogging in the park near my parents' house and was pleasantly surprised to find wild blackberries growing.  In the northeast black raspberries are the real treasure and blackberries take a distant second, but still, I figured we could make something out of them.  I checked to make sure there are no poisonous look-alike berries, and there aren't (a necessary precaution after the roasted horse chestnut debacle), so we all trooped down to the park to pick berries.  I found this simple recipe for cobbler and simply used gluten-free flour and didn't bother to melt the butter, I just cut it up and puts dots of butter all over the top.  It was incredible!  I'm usually a "why bother if it's not chocolate" dessert kind of person, but I promise you, this was so good!

Summer Highlights

Our school starts up in less than two weeks, so it is only fitting that I post some summer pictures (great photos, Aunt Amy)!

Yes, believe it or not, we went to the beach in the U.S. at the Jersey Shore!

Boat ride in Jersey--we saw more shore birds in that trip than I ever have in my life.

Sleepy girl, just like the old days

Lots of high-pitched giggles over sand crabs

Gotta love the big waves!

Date time at a winery

Friday, July 31, 2015

Rooster Update

So I have heard through the grapevine that there are those who want to know what's up with the roosters.  Having paid the neighbor to get rid of the worst two roosters (who started crowing loudly each morning at 3:30 a.m.--prompting me to drag a mattress into the bathroom to escape them some mornings), supposedly along with all future roosters, we waited to see if they would actually disappear.  They were still pretty much there by the time we left for the summer, so Owen asked him to get rid of them before we got back from visiting the U.S.

Imagine our surprise when we returned from our summer trip and found our neighbor moved out of the house--having left the chickens behind.  The owner is fixing it up (it needs a lot of work, I think the fowls did nothing for the yard and the house was in some state of disrepair) and plans to rent it out again soon.  But the now wild chickens have kept to their familiar residence, and though they get around during the day, early early morning finds them in their former yard outside our window, greeting the dawn.

So we went to the Ministerio de Ambiente (Ministry of Environment) to report the rogue chickens and we shall see if this government branch is willing and/or able to do something about the chicken situation.  Our most recent morning wake-up was before 5:00 a.m.

I'll keep you posted.

Only here . . .

Only in the D.R. can you randomly pass a dead hedgehog in the road while jogging--not because they're native to the country, they're not, but because you just never know . . . anything is possible here.  I passed one while jogging and could not believe it--and yet was not surprised at all.  I'm putting a picture of it at the very end of the post because my husband and good friend assure me that it's in bad taste to paste a picture of a dead animal, even if it's cute, and so you can skip the picture if youwant.

On my hedgehog-spotting jog I brought hot pepper spray with me for the first time.  It really isn't the safest place to jog, mostly because there are dogs in the street a lot of the time, and since the loss of my jogging partner (Grenade) I have felt nervous.  People have told me that you're fine as long as you're not afraid of the dogs--they can tell if you're afraid.  They say that about horses, too.  Here's the problem.  I am afraid.  It probably doesn't help that we used to have a nasty pit bull next door in Philly that snarled at me when I picked veggies from my garden.  Either way, I am, and they know.

I realized I was at least as likely to spray myself with the pepper spray as I was to get bitten by a dog, especially because I have trouble picturing myself calmly aiming and spraying while getting rushed by a dog.  I decided I needed to at least test the spray once and see how it worked.  It was breezy, I thought I could risk it if I pointed downwind.  But I could not get the "liquid fire" to spray no matter what I did and ended up going home for a stick.

So it's a good thing I didn't encounter a rabid dog, because really, what the world will I do with my stick?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Black Eye, Better Sleep, and Dairy-Caused Fatigue

We have been having so much fun with family!  Seeing the grandparents and cousins is a highlight of our year every year--along with all of these lovely days off school!

Two interesting discoveries this summer I thought I'd share:

Micah got a shiner the other day on the Slip n Slide when he collided with Jesse.  He started with a huge lump over his eye (which we did ice, to no great effect) and then yesterday morning when he woke up his eye was swollen shut.  (He reminded me of how my cousin, Devin, looked as a child when--if I remember correctly--he slipped in ice and fell against the trailer hook or something metal on the truck in his driveway.)  Micah was miserable--there's not a whole lot you can do in that state, he found.  And we were trying to get him to ice or put other things on his eye, which meant he was one-armed and one-eyed and bored sick.

Eventually we hit on a solution that worked like magic, that I thought I'd share in case anyone else has a shiner to deal with.  We took a handkerchief and tied a cucumber to his eye (to free up his hands), switching to new refrigerated slices every 20 minutes or so.  Within a few hours ALL of the swelling was gone and we were left with just a dark stripe above his eye.  It was amazing, so extreme of a reaction in a relatively short period of time.

This is what he looked like after the swelling went down--now it just looks like some dark purple eye shadow.

The other discovery I had was a breakthrough on my sleep issues.  I started taking Oona (an herbal supplement) for hormonal balance (since hormone changes are what mess up my sleep) and it's really helping.  I'm also jogging every day when I wake up.  I've had much better sleep than I've had in ages since I've started taking it.  

The surprising thing was that I still have been feeling tired all day, and I had to make one more change.  What I realized with the help of a friend (thank you, Sarah) is that milk is affecting my energy levels.  

A lot of the time I get what I call foggy brain, I just feel exhausted and like I can't think straight.  And I thought it was related to not sleeping well.  But I spent a day at Sarah's on a dairy-free diet and she mentioned that I should be avoiding dairy if I'm having hormonal issues, which served to bring dairy to the forefront of my mind.  And after 24 hours off of dairy I realized I felt way more awake than normal (3:00 in the afternoon driving I felt great, and I never feel great while driving in the late afternoon, especially after sleeping badly the night before).

I really like cheese and ice cream, so I wasn't motivated to stay off of dairy for long, but as I added more and more back into my diet I realized I was feeling worse and worse.  And after a seriously tired and foggy day I decided to try cutting all of it again.  And it really does make a huge difference!  I've heard a rumor about some home-churned ice cream being at our picnic tonight, so I may just be groggy tomorrow, but in general I think I'll have to cut out some of my favorite foods because I feel so much better without them!

I will say this, if chocolate is ever to blame for any health issues I rather just not know . . .

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Velveteen All Night Cry Fest

So we just watched The Velveteen Rabbit, a version that I can't say I liked too much, though the kids loved it.  In this version, for whatever reason, they have the little boy's mother dead (at her funeral, actually), the father avoiding him, and the boy living with his mean grandmother--so it's off to a running start.  Then he switches to this wild cartoon pretend-world with lots of flying and singing and the kids thought it was great.

So I wasn't too worried about anything but my own boredom every time it switched to cartoon, until the little boy gets sick.  And the animals in cartoon world tell us he's dying, and in the cartoon tree house the lightening strikes the wood and it starts burning, and the bunny has to sacrifice himself to the flames for the little boy to be pushed off into the river below.  Very strange and disturbing.  At this point, Abigail was hysterical; had I known it was coming, we wouldn't have watched it.

So then the boy wakes up and then we really have problems.  Because the boy's father takes the bunny downstairs in a sack and immediately starts a bonfire (whatever happened to the gardener waiting until the next day and the fairy coming overnight to take the rabbit away?) and tosses the sack in.  And they actually let us watch the sack burn, it was unbelievable.  I didn't turn it off because I kept telling them it was going to get better and end happy, but it was a bit of a train wreck.

So there is a redemptive ending, in which the dad and now happy "Nana" play baseball with the boy, and a real rabbit watches, but we had trouble getting past the burn pile.

So I lose one of the boys to wild tears because the movie is so sad--and then he remembers his lost monkey from years ago that he periodically mourns (our best guess is that it was in the little storage container of his broken rider tractor that broke and got thrown out) and vows to go searching for in the dump.  So he came unglued for a good 15 minutes.

Then I lose the second one because he feels so bad for his brother that he can't stop crying.  And even though I read them the book so they'd know the real ending, I find that for some of us, The Velveteen Rabbit is just too sad.  And also, I'm a little jealous of daddy having to work tonight.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Question after Church

Mom, at night does Jesus come to get the offering?

[Are we having tooth fairy confusion?]

Friday, May 22, 2015

Solving the Rooster Situation . . .

So, roosters have been an issue ever since we moved to our new house.  They generally start crowing at 5:00 in summer and 6:00 in winter--or sometimes if it rains or is unusually cool they are quiet.  But lately it has been hot and dry.  And my neighbor's roosters (which are constantly being sold and then replaced by new hatchlings) are early risers.  For the last three or four weeks they've been waking up around 3:00 each morning.  Needless to say, since I have sleep issues to begin with, it has not been ideal.

We had talked to our neighbor before about his roosters when they were waking us up before 5:00, but he insisted that his roosters sleep until 6:00--He laughed and offered to tape their mouths shut at night.  I was excited until Owen assured me he was being sarcastic.

So a few months passed and the early risers came.  There have been a lot of jokes about chicken soup and dead roosters at our house.  Micah took to lurking near them with a metal bat, hoping to kill them.  We thought of paying a rooster hit man to kill them for us (because honestly, we're too citified to do it).

A few weeks ago we met with the neighborhood association president and he assured us that rooster ownership was illegal and he'd be meeting with our neighbor.

Today when Owen called him back he told us that yesterday they'd elected a new president so he wasn't going to get involved, but that we could go to the ministry of environment about it.  Sounds promising.

So Owen went to talk to our neighbor once again and try to make him an offer he couldn't refuse.  But we aren't exactly tough guys.  And our neighbor seemed very surprised and skeptical at Owen's statement that it was illegal to have roosters in a residential area.  He had to be assured of this fact multiple times and wanted to know where Owen heard that.  Then he told Owen he'd make sure they didn't crow at night (although he'd already admitted that he doesn't hear them).

So the result of our talk was our neighbor telling us that these are valuable fighting roosters and the best he could do was sell them to us.  Owen said, "Well, are you just going to raise more?" and the neighbor assured him that he will raise no more roosters.  Owen told him his price seemed a little high, since he considered sleep more of a right than a privilege and tried to talk him down.  So the neighbor offered to sell us one at that price.  Owen said he'd talk to me and get back to him.

We decided to tell him we'd buy the two he has if he promises to stop raising roosters and to get rid of any of the chicks he has if they turn out to be roosters.  And he agreed.

He said we could make soup out of them.

Owen said we really don't want to deal with killing them, so he could do whatever he wanted, he could even sell them and get paid twice for all we care.  We just want them gone.

He said they'll be gone tomorrow.

I'll keep you posted . . .

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

God and a Scruffy Orange Soccer Ball

Jesse came up to me at school today and said, "Mom, I need to talk to you.  There's a problem.  I put my ball with our class's stuff when I went to chapel, and when I came back it was gone."  And he started crying.

This is not just any ball.  He brings it to school every day and about 20 kids play with it every morning and every recess.  He brings it with him when we go to pick up his brother from practice so he can kick it against the wall.  He tries to kick it around the house until we tell him to take it outside.  It's almost like his pet.

Jesse and Micah have been through any number of soccer balls here.  We have spiky plants here in the DR that puncture balls the day we buy them.  It just takes one misdirected kick.

But this particular ball kept its shape and bounciness after being punctured.  And because it is so beat up, it is the perfect ball to bring to school.  We thought it wouldn't be a big deal if something happened to it since it is virtually worthless.  But I underestimated the sentimental value of the ball and the fact that this ugly little beat-up ball is the only one we've had that just won't die as a result of thorns.  It also solved the sad scenario Jesse was facing each day on the playground.

Earlier in the year, my determined first-grade son approached the soccer games of the older elementary students (big 3rd and 4th graders, mostly) each recess wanting to play.  And although his older brother didn't mind him playing, and although, frankly, he's really good at soccer such that Micah's coach wants him to play on the older team, a few of the older kids would shout at him or taunt him until he stopped trying to join the game.  When he or Micah would tell them to let him play, they'd say, "It's my ball."

Not knowing how to resolve the situation and not wanting to get too involved if I didn't have to, after a few weeks of hearing these stories I told Jesse to bring his old orange ball to school and start his own game with that.  Surprisingly, the older kids loved Jesse's smaller ball and started using his instead of theirs.  And then when they tried to tell Jesse he couldn't play, he told them it was his ball.  Problem solved.  The ball that has given Jesse great recesses for the rest of the year.

So I decided to take the ball search seriously.  I talked to a teacher who saw high school boys playing with it.

I asked some guys who said, Oh, yeah!  I was playing with it.  But no one had it.

They asked, Is it flat?  Is it little and orange?

Yes!  Yes!  Flat and orange, that's our ball!  I realize it looks like trash but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that.

Finally some guys narrowed it down to one classroom, but I didn't see it in there.  Owen went so far as to call a teacher with kids on a bus on their way to a soccer game.  And those kids told Owen it was in the recycling box on top of the cabinet in the Sociales room.  And it WAS!

And I was so happy!  I may have been almost as happy as Jesse was.

And I thought, this is what it is to be a parent.  To get really excited about a ball that really needs to be thrown out it's so ugly.  And then I thought, this must be how God feels about me.  The things I get so worried about and wrapped up in and that I think are so important . . .  How many times has God answered a prayer that someone else might think was so ridiculous that I should never have even asked in the first place?

 But I think He might feel like I did when I handed the ball to my son and watched him light up.

Dreaming in Spanish

I've heard that you know you're bilingual when you start dreaming in your second language.  I'm not sure if that's true, but I have had dreams since I've moved here where I've spoken in Spanish with less then more accuracy.

I remember being suspicious when I first moved here that I wasn't exactly speaking real Spanish in the dreams.  Just Spanish-like talk.

But the other night I discussed flooring and how I wanted something arranged in a random pattern with a builder of some kind in my dream.  And I don't know that I know all of the words needed to intelligently have that full conversation, but I woke up in the middle of the night and knew I'd been discussing it in Spanish with him.

And I was very happy.  :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Street Dog is Gone

I haven't seen Grenade in 3 or 4 weeks, and while she's disappeared for a week or two at a time, she's never been gone this long.  I was getting suspicious that something happened.  Tonight I heard a dog barking outside and went out to investigate, hoping it was her.  I ended up talking with a Haitian man who gardens an empty lot near me and who was training his dog.  I spoke with him about my missing dog and peeked in my neighbor's yard to see if the bark I was hearing was Grenade.  The neighbor came out, too, and I was asking the two of them if they'd seen Grenade.

At first I didn't understand them because I didn't know the word for poisoned, but since it contains some form of the word "venom" I figured it out.  Apparently she was poisoned by someone nearby.  And I'm sad.

I totally understand why someone would want to.  She barked super ugly at Haitians walking through my neighborhood, she chased motorcycles (and cars, from time to time), and she barked and followed the ice cream man.  She was lovely to our family, but not so lovely to others.  And I had recently seen someone throw a rock at her because she was barking at him.  I guess someone got fed up.

Some would argue that this is why we should have officially made her ours and brought her inside our gate, and they'd have a point.  But what I loved about Grenade was that she was free and she chose to be our friend.  We could go away for a week and she'd be fine.  And then we could go for a jog when I got back.  She wasn't pooping all over our patio (which has no grass), she wasn't keeping me up at night barking (usually--she still chose to guard in front of our house a great deal and would sometimes keep me up), and we loved her visits and giving her our leftover chicken bones.

I know, you're not supposed to do that, but a street dog isn't picky.  She loved them.  And our slightly outdated lunch meat, too.

But I'm really sad knowing that she is dead.  She was my doggy friend, and I don't really like most dogs.  She was my one exception.  And I'll miss her.

Monday, April 13, 2015

No Water Day

A very D.R. sort of scenario developed for us today.  We realized the water was gone in our house, which has never happened before.  And when the guys from the school went over to look into it, we realized that a combination of forces was keeping us from our water.  Interestingly, here it is common for home owners to put in illegal water lines in addition to the legal paying line.  So that much of one's water, then, is "free" (stolen?).  So we knew previous owners had put in a second line at our house.  What I found out today was that that was the line they had running to the cistern.  The main water source for the house.  And at some point, a while ago perhaps, the water company cut off our illegal line.  Which I say, Great!  Let's be legal!

But we knew neither that they did anything or that the main water supply to our house was affected.  So when the wonderful fix-all-problem guys from our school re-routed the problem, it fixed for the long-term but not for today.  Because today I learned what our cistern is protecting us from.  The street water is turned off I guess a day or a few days a week, just as they do with the electricity.  And what happens if you don't have a functioning cistern is that you don't have water until they turn it back on.  Which I was told may happen tomorrow?

So I thought: I have three small kids, one smelly from soccer practice.  Plus, I'm hot and need a shower.  It's like 90 here every day.  Also the toilets all are waterless and I don't know what to do about dishes.

I decided to scavenge around the school for a solution.  Thankfully, there are showers at the school, which I decided to use after soccer practice pick-up, and I got the athletic director to lend me a big water cooler.  I lugged it home, filled all my toilet tanks, packed shower kits, and then we had a Davis family shower in the locker room after soccer ended.  Then I brought the refilled water cooler home so we could wash hands and dishes.

I feel so resourceful.  Also I feel like I live in a third world country.  Some days I don't, but today I do.  :)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

An Un-American Story

Yesterday I was stopped at a traffic light waiting for the light to change.  I noticed in my side mirror that a moto was approaching on my left.  And then I watched as a woman stepped out from behind my car, crossing the street through the stopped traffic, and got hit by the motorcycle.  I opened my door to go see if she was okay or if anyone needed my help--only to see a group of Dominican men already gathering and shouting at the driver of the moto.  One of them hit him on the side of the head, shouting what must have been the equivalent of, "What on earth were you doing?" The moto driver picked the woman up off of the street and they stood there in an embrace while the group around him all yelled and took care of the situation.  I later saw the driver drop the woman off on the other side of the street on his motorcycle, and I guess then it was over.

I just felt strongly that there couldn't have been a less American way of handling an accident.  I felt like I was watching a presentation on Dominican culture: "and here you'll observe through this minor accident something of the culture--chaos, warmth, expression of emotions (both negative and positive), protectiveness of women . . ."

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hand-sized Spider

So, oops, we left the screen open to the window connecting the garage to the dining room a big crack . . . and the most enormous spider crawled into the living room while we were watching a movie on how beaver's are nature's super-heroes (worth checking out on netflix, truly inspiring creatures, beavers).  The spider was not hairy, thankfully, but it was literally the size of my hand.

Abigail was there, unfortunately.  She's been having nightmares about tarantulas, I can't imagine this will help.  They don't have tarantulas here in the D.R., but they have their equally scary-looking twins called catacatas (or something like that).  They're huge and hairy and their bite is like a bee bite.  But, seriously, they are creepy.

So it was not ideal that she saw a spider that size in our house.  We'll have to do a better job with the screens.  Sometimes when we push one side across the other end sneaks open a little and we don't notice.  This was great motivation to be more careful!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Amazing Lentil Soup

Okay, admittedly, it is inexcusable that I have no picture of it, but I have to go ahead and post this soup recipe.  It was so amazing (see title).  We just polished off all the leftovers, and I feel like I have to share a soup this tasty and easy to make.  I don't know how these simple ingredients combined so well.

Amazing Lentil Soup1 package ham bones/smoked ham pieces
3 large carrots, cut into small pieces
1 medium onion, chopped small
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 package lentils
water (cover lentils, veggies, and ham generously)*
cilantro (added at the very end after you take it off the heat)
*honestly, I didn't measure this--just add more if it's too thick and leave the lid off if it's too thin
I cooked the first five ingredients in the crockpot and then stirred in the cilantro after I took it off of the heat (a good handful of leaves).  I will so make this again.  Even Owen loved it, and he is not a fan of lentil soup.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mini-orchids and Odd Complements

I wanted to post this picture of some orchids my uncle and cousin brought me from the mountains.  It took a year for them to bloom (probably because I didn't water them as faithfully as I should have), but now they are beautiful!

I also wanted to share a cultural observation.  In Spanish (at least here), everywhere you go people shower you with complements and "palabras de cariño" (expressions of affection).  "Hola, bella!"  (Hello, beautiful!)  "Hola, mi amor!"  (Hello, my love!)  "Que más, mi amor?"  (What else can I get you, my love?)  "Sí, mi corazon!"  (Yes, my heart!)  Algo más, mi reina?"  (Anything else, my queen?)  It is something that men and women will say to you at the grocery store, on the phone with the pharmacy or corner store, at church . . . nearly everywhere, with no trace of mockery or impropriety.

Well, recently a guard at the school started to practice his English on me.  And he would say things like, "Hello, you are very beautiful!"  And I realized once again that you just can't get away with translating everything directly from one language into another.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Paradise with Rats

Over break, I had another seminal Dominican moment.  We stayed near the beach up on an overlooking mountain.  It was only a 15 or 20 minute drive to get up the mountain from the beach, and it was breathtaking.  It was twisty enough that my mom and I arrived up or down very carsick, but it was gorgeous.  You could see the ocean from every room of the house, long stretches of ocean and the coastline.  The first morning we woke up in our beach house, we discovered that a large chunk of our loaf of bread had been eaten through the bag and that a banana had been gnawed through.  We asked people about it and they said, oh, well there's rats that live in the banana leaf roof.  So you have to put all your food in the metal storage closet outside overnight.

And we were like, oh, right!  Naturally!  Just what we were expecting from a luxury property!

The bedrooms had concrete rooms, so as long as we didn't come out of the room overnight we were fine and had no sightings, but it wasn't exactly a cozy thought.

It was amazing, it was beautiful, it was sketchy.  It was so D. R.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Grass Van

This is my favorite van.  Artificial turf glued all to the sides.  Love it!  I chased it in traffic once before for a picture, and didn't get one.  Well, technically, I think I got a bad picture on my very subt-par camera that was then stolen.  This time we caught it right around the corner from our house.  The man driving the van was very amused and happy for us to take a picture.  But then just as I was about to get one, a guard with a gun came running out of the house behind it shouting that I couldn't.  It was bizarre and slightly alarming.  I said I just wanted a picture of the van and he said No!  So we drove around the corner and got this shot.  And the man driving the van told me in English that that guard was crazy.  Then he wanted to know if we had followed him just to get a picture of his van.

Hmm, will his story include two crazies?