Phew!

Finally, it’s MARCH!!!  My favorite time of year begins in the spring and ends with summer.  Life seems so monotonous and bleak during the winter months especially January and February.  Ever since I was in high school on the track team, I’ve always considered March (which was the start of track season) to be the beginning of spring, even when I lived out in Utah and the ground was still covered in snow and I was wearing a winter coat – it was still spring.

I’ve been incredibly busy and felt overwhelmed the past month with work and school, but especially this past week.  It was one of those times were everything in life converged together simultaneously and all I kept saying to myself was, “If you can just make it through February you’ll be ok…if you can just make it through this weekend you’ll be ok…if you can just make it through this assignment you’ll be ok…if you can just make it through…..”  And I started to realize that I’m guilty of doing this all the time.  If I can just make it…blah blah blah.  What a sad outlook.  I might as well say, “If I can just make it until I finally keel over I’ll get the rest I’m looking for.”

For three weeks I filled in for my boss at work – it was only supposed to be for one.  Her daughter was pregnant with twins and went into labor really early and had some complications.  I’m very happy I could fill in for her so she could go and even more happy that everything turned out ok for mom and babies.  It’s just the timing really sucked.

I would go to work at 7am and get home between 5:30-6:00 and have to be in class or work on papers until I collapsed in bed usually sometime between 11 and midnight, just to get up a few hours later and start over.  I admit I’m one of those people that honestly needs at least 8 hours of sleep so 6 felt grueling and my brain was fried.  The energy required to keep up with preschool kids astounds me sometimes.   And I’ll admit showering started to become a burden and an annoyance because that was time I felt was better spent sleeping.  So consequently there were days I wasn’t so April fresh and shaving practically went right out the window.  So bless the child at the preschool who randomly asked me one day, “Miss Natalie, are you a supermodel or something?”  and with no hesitation on my part and a straight face responded with, “Yes.  Yes I am.”  haha  I have no idea what his idea of a supermodel is but I’ll take it.  He’s learning and will make some girl very happy in about 20 years.

From Friday to Saturday I spent 11 hours in one class and on Sunday spent 14 straight hours working on a paper worth 40%, yes that did read 40%, of my grade for said class.  This didn’t include the other assignments and projects that were due for other classes during this same weekend.  At one point of the weekend I got so mad at the printer for something so completely lame (I even recognized in the moment that it was lame and that I was completely overreacting) I literally punched it with my fist multiple times.  I guess I just needed to relieve some built up stress.  And I have to say I felt momentarily gratified.  And though my mom was mad when I did it (it is her printer after all) we were both able to laugh about it two days later.

Lesson learned:  drop out of grad school.  No, the lesson learned is not to procrastinate (isn’t that always the same damn lesson needed to be learned for everything?) and that I’m freak’n AMAZING b/c I got it all done on time.  Of course that said, I haven’t received any of the grades yet.

But now it’s my blessed month of March.  Looking ahead school doesn’t get overwhelming again (I don’t think) until the end of April and I’m back to working my regular part time shift.  And in fact I have 4 1/2 days off right now.  I got 9 hours of sleep last night and arranged my whole day around one errand.  Sigh.  Did I mention it was sunny and 70 degrees here today?  Thank you March.  Thank you.

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Possible Second Thoughts

Last year I decided on a career change.  Actually the decision was made for me a little over two years ago when I lost my job, but last year was when I settled on a new direction.  I would be an elementary teacher.  But here’s the thing, for the entire month of January I’ve been sick.

It all started the end of December when I got a sinus infection.  Monday January 3rd, found me in the doctor’s office getting yet another prescription (I had already had three the previous year for the same thing).

This time around the doctor gave me a new medication that I’d never had before.  I started taking it and after a week, started having some reservations.  Sure I felt better than I had the day I had been at the doctor’s but still didn’t feel all that great.  Then came the side effects; headaches, fever, abdominal pains, irritability, mood swings (aka hormones going crazy), and nausea to name just a few.  Super fun stuff to have especially when you work at a preschool.  But since I had never had a reaction to medication before it never occurred to me that was the cause.

This also happened to be the same time school started up and a couple personal things were going on so I thought maybe I was stressed from all that, though I should have known better because stress has never caused me to have any of those reactions either.

I finished the medication and felt better than I had in the beginning and a lot of the side effects went away but I still never felt 100%.  I was still tired and irritable and frankly, just worn out.  And being around kids, as cute as they sometimes are, wasn’t helping.

Then this past Thursday I started feeling it again.  The slight, scratchy sore throat and I knew I was headed for another sinus infection.  Immediately I started doing whatever it was I thought would prevent a full blown infection.  I even took the doctor’s advice on a home remedy of basically snorting pickling salt up my nose.  By the way, that burns but it does clear it out immediately.  It doesn’t last for very long though.  Ahh, good times.

So here I am on a Sunday night having already called in to work saying I won’t be there.  Not only do I have a sinus infection but an unofficial inspection of my throat has revealed strep.  Which would account for my lack of voice.  Fantastic.

I get to visit the doctor again tomorrow and once again pay out of pocket (no insurance) for him to see me for 30 seconds and tell me the same thing I already know.  Then I get to go to the pharmacy where once again I get to pay out of pocket for medication (that had he given me in the first place rather than something new) to clear this all up.

So I start to wonder, do I really want to be an elementary teacher??  And have to be around sick kids day in and day out??  Kids who can’t seem to grasp the concept of sneezing or coughing into their elbow rather than in my face?

Kids who think my shirt is their own personal tissue??  Tonight I’m beginning to wonder.  And wonder if as a teacher I can get away with requiring my students to wear these:

Santiago

I’ve thought about writing an entry on Santiago, Guatemala for a while but was always hesitant.  I don’t know why really.  Maybe because this place and the people there are so special to me I wanted to guard them.  But lately I’ve been thinking a lot about it and since I can’t think up any other blog ideas I’ve decided to go for it.  Many of you know (or maybe you don’t) that I lived in Guatemala for a year and a half doing missionary work.  For 6 months I lived in a town called Santiago which is in the mountains of central Guatemala and sits on Lake Atitlan.  I swear this place was magical or maybe it was just a matter of being at the right place at the right time.  I had already been in the country for 7 months and was familiar more or less with the country, customs, and people.  But Santiago was like going back in time in a lot of ways and I loved it.  I had never before or have since experienced a place remotely close, so in my hodge podge way I’m going to try and give you a glimpse though I will never really be able to capture what I’m really wanting you to experience.

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Here are a few pics down by the Lake.  You can barely see in the first one but there are men out there night fishing.  And if you look to the right of the boats where I’m sitting in the bottom picture you can see a handful of women washing clothes.  Honestly it’s kind of gross when you think about it because that water gets pumped into the town to people’s houses and I can’t imagine how clean their clothes actually got using lake water.  But for a year and a half that’s exactly how I washed all my clothes as well I just didn’t walk to the lake to do it.  So I guess I can imagine how clean clothes got and I can tell you…not very!  I did get quite fast at hand washing clothes but to this day I’m convinced the washing machine is the best form of technology we have ever invented.

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We got all our food from street markets like the one up top.  Though the one we went to the most was A LOT more crowded than this and in a much, much smaller confined space.  Hmm, I’m not sure they have enough tomatoes.  The vegetables were so yummy because obviously they were fresh, I mean really fresh.  Once we were hungry and saw some farmers picking carrots out of field and payed them some money for a tasty afternoon treat.  My favorite were the avocados.  That’s one of the exports of this little town and they would send out thousands every week.  They were ginormous and so very cheap.  And in the spring vendors would sell sliced up mangoes in little bags and I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  Like the avocados, the mangoes were HUGE and cost about 30 cents or less.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  And while I’m thinking of bags, you would go into a little local shop to get a coke and they would pour it into a sandwich bag, put a straw in it, tie it off, and give it to you to drink from.  It was cheaper to do it this way and they would make money by keeping the glass bottles and recycling them.  Kind of odd but…*shrug*.

Alright, so the lady at the loom is making one of her shirts (huijpil) and you would see woman doing this everywhere.  Usually they would tie it up to a tree in front of their house.  I tried it once and I think I’ll stick to buying my clothes from the mall.  Or Target.  I don’t remember what festival I was there for but that last picture is a human firework.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Every year they would find some local drunk and put him in that thing.  It comes down to your waist and you can look out through that slot in the front.  They would make sure he was plenty boozed up and then they would light that sucker.  What you aren’t really able to tell is that some of the firecrackers shoot sparks in circles while the ones on the top shoot off like rockets.  All the while the man is stumbling through the crowds having a grand ‘ol time.  I really, really wish I would have taken more pictures of the landscape and all the ins and outs of the town but after a while everything is so common place you just don’t think about it.  So now I’m going to move onto the people I met and would hang out with sometimes.

I loved the people so much but here are a few that I really got to know:

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The man in the top picture is Hno. Tecun and though he looks like he’s over 100 years old, he was still doing all manual labor caring for a little chalet.  Manual labor as in cutting the grass with what looked like slightly large scissors.  And he was still walking the couple of miles into town every week rather than riding in the back of trucks like everyone else.  The next picture is of the Cali Tui family.  I just remember laughing a lot when we would go over there.  They were always so cheerful and constantly joking around.  One of the worst days in Guatemala was when the oldest son (whom I had never met) was murdered.  They had the funeral at their house and we spent the whole day there and I was absolutely sick about the whole thing.  But they were a strong family despite everything.  I think I spent more time with the family in the bottom picture than I did with any other.  Part of what I did when I was there was to teach people how to read and write in Spanish and both women in this picture (Nicolasa and Candelaria) were two of my students.  At some point a few years before I got there, someone had taught Candelaria how to say “Later Dude!” and to hear her say it was hysterical.  I can’t believe she had remembered it after so much time and I’m not sure she ever remembered what it meant.

I swear the kids were the cutest I had ever seen and I wanted to pack all of up and bring them home with me but I guess kidnapping is frowned upon.  But they really were so much fun and so loveable.  I have tons of pictures with them but these are my favorite:

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The little boy in the top is Ceasar.  What a ham!  I asked if I could take a picture of him and he promptly ran home to change in to those clothes and comb his hair.  Totally adorable.  I love how the boys in the second picture are climbing trees with no shoes and playing with machetes.  That was pretty common to see people of all ages walking around with machetes.  The boy with his leg up in the air like the Karate Kid is Daniel (just like in the movie) and I once watched him make a kite out of a plastic bag, sticks, rocks, and string.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was probably the sturdiest little thing I’ve ever seen and he made it in a matter of minutes.  As you can tell from all the pictures but especially this last one, I was a gargantuous white amazon of a girl next to these people.  And really I’m just under 5’6″.  I never understood a single thing that old lady said (spanish is not the first language of the people in this village.  They speak a dialect called Tzutujil) but she was always so happy when we came around and that made me happy.  The last picture is of Maria who lived with her grandma in a tiny bamboo hut like a lot of people there.  And like a lot of people, they were incredibly poor.  Her parents had both died in some accident and her siblings had all been scattered and taken in by other relatives that were not so poor and lived in the city.  This little girl was unbelievable.  So sweet and caring and freak’n smart – she spoke 4 languages.  I was there when she had her 12th birthday and my companion and I decided to make her a cake and drop it off on our way to other appointments we had.  No biggie right?  She was so shocked and stunned she didn’t know what to say and seemed a bit overwhelmed.  As we left, her grandma came out and thanked us over and over because she said she didn’t have any money to do anything for Maria for her birthday and she, the grandmother, had been so upset about it.  Then she told us that this was the first birthday cake Maria had EVER RECEIVED!!  What??!!  Well that about broke my heart right then and there but I was thrilled she finally got one.

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Well speaking of cake, the girls in the top picture wanted us to teach them how to make cake from a box.  Both of them were students of mine so instead of class one day we made a cake.  After we put the ingredients in the bowl I turned around to get a spoon and when I turned back Michaela had already started mixing it with her hand.  Oops!  But then I figured oh why not and it turned out pretty good.  The little girl in the next picture is looking for lice in my companions hair.  She didn’t have lice but it was somewhat common to see mothers doing this to their kids.  The picture makes me laugh because I remember that it felt so good for them to pick through our hair that we would constantly tell them that we thought we had lice.  We knew we didn’t but it felt so good we couldn’t help it.

In the last picture is Nicolasa from a few pictures up.  She progressed so much in her reading in the few months I was there it was insane.  In addition to her regular work from the reading book, she began working on some church assignments as well.  Real simply, the section she was working on had 14 goals that she was supposed to do.  There was an entire list of options and she just had to go through and pick out which ones she wanted to do.  Usually, the girls work on this for something like a year before there is a night that honors the work they’ve been doing.  For different reasons she began working on this project only 2 or 3 months before this big night.  The whole thing may sound relatively easy but you have to keep in mind that she was only just learning how to read and write and the manuals were all in Spanish whish is not her native language.  Plus the terminology in these books were a little advanced even for someone who spoke Spanish fluently.  But she was determined so what happened was this.  She would read the goal or assignment and I would summarize it up for her so she would understand it.  Then we would discuss her thoughts/opinions on it and I would summarize that to a couple of sentences, make sure it was what she was wanting it to say, then I would write it down on a piece of paper.  Then she would copy what I wrote into the book.  After those few months she had completed only 2 of the 14 goals intended.  But she was the only girl in the group to have completed any of it at all.  The program thankfully, had been modified and adjusted to fit the needs of this group and I have never been so proud of anyone in my entire life when she was spotlighted for her achievements and received the medallion or whatever it was that she got.

I really could go on and on and on about this place (and some of you may be thinking I already have) and all the great times and wonderful experiences I had but I’ll stop.  I’ll leave you with a picture of me.  Not because I think I look good, but because my oh so sexy tan line makes me laugh right out loud.

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Props to All You Parents

Friday night I offered to babysit for some friends so they could have a night for themselves.  I’ve watched their kids a few times the past couple of years so we all know each other.  I like the kids and they seem to like me so I was pretty excited for the night.  More than excited, I was anxious for them to come.  Every now and then I need what I call a kid fix.  I just want to be silly and see/hear things as a kid sees and hears them.  A few hours is all it takes and I’m set for months afterwards.  And for a reference there are three of them.  The oldest is a boy 5 years old and the other two are girls ages 4 and 3.  I usually go to their house but this time they came to my little apartment and since I didn’t have any games or toys they could play with, I decided we would make cookies.

In order for their parents to make it to the movies on time (this whole night was kind of a last minute thing), I met them at the theater to pick up the kids.  We got back to my place and upon entering the apartment the 4 year old says to me, “Oh your couches are beautiful.”  Uh-huh, ok thanks.  Kids are funny.  So I sat them down to eat their dinner and then it was cookie making time.  They all crawled up on the counter and I had them take turns dumping the ingredients into the bowl.  So far so good, everyone is having a good time and no one has lost interest in cooking making.  I even let them eat some of the dough before putting it on the sheets to cook.  I realize that might not be the most sanitary thing to do because of e coli, salmonella, or whatever other bacteria there is out there but let’s face it, the dough is the best part of the cookie making process.  I’ve eaten lots of dough in my life and I’m not dead yet so I figured we were safe.  Besides, the oldest kept coughing into the bowl (even though I kept telling him to cover his mouth and turn his head) so what were a little extra germs right?  He then informed me that the germs would cook out with the heat of the oven.  Hmm, uh huh.  I did have to tell his parents that little piece of information because it was too funny to keep to myself. Both were grossed out and the wife turned to her husband and promptly blamed his mother for teaching that.  Awesome.

While the cookies were baking I turned on some Disney show and crossed my fingers it wasn’t inappropriate for their age group.  They weren’t really into it which was probably for the best and instead were busy coloring.  Why I had three boxes of crayons in my room I don’t know but didn’t question it at the time.  The oldest had informed me earlier that his tooth was loose and was going to come out soon.  He wasn’t kidding because not long after that declaration he pulled the tooth out.  Well no biggie.  I pulled out a sandwich bag to put the tooth in and gave him a tissue to use until the bleeding stopped.  I didn’t realize until much later that this was the first tooth he had ever lost.  Which would explain his first reaction of slight panic at seeing blood.  But I assured him that it would stop bleeding “in just a second” and then he could have a cookie and all was well.  I did feel a little bad when his parents came because he was so excited about the tooth that he blurted it out and his mom seemed a little sad that she had missed it.  After all, it was the first tooth any of her kids had lost and she said she had been trying to get him to get that tooth out for weeks.  Um, yeah, well he just pulled it out so…yeah.

Around ten o’clock I was ready for bed because I’m a wuss like that.  The youngest was almost asleep on the couch but the other two were still pretty hyped up.  My attempts to play some game that would require them to lay still didn’t work.  But I had to at least give it a shot.  Then the oldest started asking when his parents were going to be there and all I could say was “in just a couple more minutes” when really I had no idea.  I started to have the kids help me tell them a story when the parents showed up.  Whoo hoo!

Overall the night went well and was fun, I had just forgotten how much energy they all had.  I did take pictures of the kids all night because I thought their parents would like to have some of them making cookies or picures of the first missing tooth.  I would have posted but I don’t know if they would want pictures of their kids on the internet.  After almost three hours I was ready to call it a night and I kept thinking “I don’t know how parents do this full time”.  Sure it’s different when it’s your own kids and fingers crossed I won’t have three at one time but still.  I have a renewed appreciation for parents and what all they do.  So kudos to all you parents out there!

Head ’em up and move ’em out!

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To relax after a week of work and who knows what else might come my way, I hit the dollar movie every Saturday. It’s my time away from the world where I can sit mindlessly and be entertained for two hours without worries or problems. But what should be a time of bliss is continually interrupted by kids. What I don’t understand is why parents feel it’s a good idea to bring their children to the movies. Granted, if I were going to watch a G rated cartoon I would have no bases for complaints. But I’m not. Forget about what seeing a more grown up film might do to kid’s imagination and nightmares it might cause, why would you bring a child too young to even sit still for that long of a time frame? I went and saw The Simpson’s Movie a few weeks ago – very funny by the way – and there was a kid about 6 sitting two seats down. First of all, really a 6 year old shouldn’t be watching the Simpons in the first place, and secondly, through the whole thing he would stand up, then sit down, stand up, sit on the top of the chair and slide down. Then his leg would go over the armrest, then back down, then stand up…I think you get the point. Meanwhile, his dad was completely oblivious to anything his son was doing. I thought I would smack them both. A few years ago, one of my Young Women’s teacher said that they had taken their little girl (i believe was 3 or 4 at the time) with them to see some rated R movie. She said every time someone was shot she would have to say that they’re just playing a game. Good grief. I bet the people sitting around them had a ball. I don’t go to parks and play on the equipment, don’t try to join in on a play date, don’t go to the kid’s section of the library during some sort of kiddie corner whatever, and if I were to ever start playing in the McDonald’s jungle gym guess what…I would be kicked out. So tell you what, I’ll stay away from you, if kids (and I’m really talking to your parents) stay away from me. And start with the movies would you!