Saturday, November 26, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving and so much more!

This was a really full and fun week! I think I have something to post about each day!

Mitchell invented a simple game to play with the kids and it turned out to be a hit! They have entered the age of always asking for things. Mitchell and I decided it is about time to introduce money earning, saving and spending with the kids. Rather than just jump right in to allowance etc Mitchell made a game to simulate real life principles. The hope is it will help them get a headstart for when we do begin to let them earn some money to manage. The game goes something like this:

"Audrey it's your turn, here are 2 dollars. **Yes, we play with real dollars!** Your chore this week is clear the dishes after dinner do you do it?"
"Great, would you like to do an additional chore for $1? The chore is clean out the car."
"Yes" **At first the worst jobs were turned down but they caught on fast that if you want your dollar you have to say yes to all the jobs**
Then they have the option to save their money or buy something from the list. The list includes things like 5 gumballs for $1, 5 juice pouches for $1, 1 candy bar for $1, new shoes $10, Transformer $15, Pokemon stuffed animal $15, a phone $500 etc.
In the game they also have a box or a safe place to stack their money (it's just a piece of paper in front of them) and their prizes that they purchase. At the end of their turn they roll a dice, low numbers are bummer consequences like "You left your Pokemon doll out in the rain and it had to be washed and dried-lose your toy for a week" or "You left your dollars on the floor and Layne ripped one-you lose a dollar." High dice rolls are positive opportunities to do an extra job and earn an extra dollar. If they are careful to keep their money and prizes always stacked neatly on the "safe place" the negative consequences don't apply.

It is so fun to play the game with the kids and watch them learn in real time! At first Audrey was dedicated to saving every turn for a $500 phone. After about 10 turns she realized that she would rather get something more attainable than have to wait and play forever and probably never earn $500. Reid started out spending nearly every dollar he had once it hit his pocket! At one point he had 25 gumballs on his shelf! The nice thing about playing the game is that the turns go around really quickly. We can sit and play for 30 minutes and everyone can have about 15 turns. We've played twice this week and can already see that the principles are sinking in!

On a somewhat related note, Redick got to go on a date with me on Tuesday evening. For 2 weeks he has anticipated his date and has had his heart set on buying either a Capitan America shield or a Capitan America toy. He really likes to buy stuff and that in no way correlates to enjoying the items purchased. So for our date, rather than get a food treat or an experience, we went to the mall in search of the perfect toy. We had a fun time and he ended up changing his mind a bunch of times before settling *happily* on an 'Army Guy Gun.' **I was relieved because the toy gun was $5 as opposed to the $20 Capitan America stuffed animal.**

The malls are already totally decked out for Christmas!
You may have heard about Hurricane Otto brewing out in the Carribbean sea! We weren't too scared but we did watch the weather updates closely throughout the week. We were prepared for heavy rains and strong winds. Knowing a real potential emergency is imminent makes you evaluate your emergency preparedness in a whole new way! I increased our potable water storage by 50%, stocked up on non-perishables, cooked and froze beans, bought matches, made sure our propane tanks were full and the car was full of gas, bought thick work gloves and brought in all of the bikes and patio furniture among other measures. Thankfully, it turned out to be a non-event after all. Hurricane Otto changed course before making landfall and skirted the Carribbean coast of Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama before heading back out to sea. We didn't even get any rain. One great perk of the hurricane warning was that the President of Nicaragua declared a state of emergency and canceled school on Thursday and Friday for the whole country. We got Thanksgiving break!!

Our littlest turkey turned 2! He is oh so much fun! Finally he is starting to talk too. For a kid who waited so long to open his mouth and discuss his thoughts it is sure fun to hear the words he can say. Guess which brothers are his heros! He says: Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Minecraft, Pokemon, Pikachu, Charizard and Go Go Go! He says some other things too. He is still our most patient kid and is really good at going with the flow of the rest of the family. He is 2 now though, so he is developing his own ideas about how he wants things to go! He is a pro at the balance bike and the Razor scooter and wants to do absolutely everything his older siblings do. He's my only snuggly child and I thoroughly enjoy the hugs, kisses and snuggles everyday.

Thursdays we also feed the missionaries. We all love to have the missionaries over. I love the excuse to plan and prepare a banquet each week! We usually feed 4 elders and they have always polished off as much food as I can make! This week it was chicken pot pies, green salad and a carrotcake cheesecake. Their mommas can rest well knowing there were vegetables in every dish, including dessert!

Layne was thrilled to open a Pikachu stuffed animal! Just like the ones his siblings have!
Big Boy Now!

"I'm 2 now momma, it's my duty to make as many messes as possible!"

My 2 most artistic creators made this Happy Thanksgiving sign! They collaborated on the idea together and painted Redick's palms with water colors to make the turkeys. 

Audrey and Redick couldn't resist going swimming on Thanksgiving Day! Why not??!?!

Mitchell took the day off and we made it a relaxing and really fun day! In the morning we took it slow and lounged around for a while. That was nice because we are usually up and hurrying around early and out the door by 7:15! Later in the morning we went to the local market in search of a Christmas tree and decorations. I wish I had gotten some pictures there! It is kind of chaotic even without the kids though, with them it's an all hands and eyes on deck operation! We came out victorious with all the kids and a Christmas tree!
Then we went to Granada and everyone agrees this was our most fun activity yet! We visited a chocolate museum and plantation. We got to see the cocoa tree and how the pods grow right on the trunk and limbs of the tree. All  6 of us took a class on how to make chocolate, from harvest to chocolate bar! It was absolutely THE MOST FUN DAY! Our guide Ismael made the experience so entertaining for everyone. We roasted fermented cocoa beans in a clay pot over a fire like the ancient Aztecs did it. Of course we all had to chant "Bate bate chocolate" (Bah-tay, bah-tay, cho-koh-la-tay) on our turn to stir the beans in the pot! Then we peeled the shells off the now roasted beans and each of us, including Layne, mashed them up in our own little mortar and pestil. The mash turned into a thick oily paste after a while. This is the same stuff as cocoa powder before the cocoa butter is removed for shelf life. Ismael showed us how to make 3 different ancient chocolate drinks with our freshly ground chocolate paste. One Aztec, one Mayan and one European. After we sampled our drink creations we each got to create our own chocolate bar! I can't begin to do justice to the experience by just writing about it. If you like chocolate, or making, COME VISIT US!!

This is a model of what a cocoa tree looks like and how the pods grow

Ready to make chocolate!

Ismael showing us a REAL cocoa tree!

Immature pods

Mature pods up above

Bate bate chocolate!

Bate bate chocolate!

Pulling the charred husks off the roasted beans

Making chocolate paste


Pouring our chocolate bars. I added cashews and sea salt to mine. Layne wanted raisins.

No one was looking at the camera because Ismael was just too fun!


While our chocolate bars were cooling in the molds we explored the Granada Cathedral. It was beautiful. They are in the middle of a beautification project and an artist is working on quite a few giant murals on the ceiling. There was a man at the back of the church monitoring the goings on and collecting $1 per person to climb to the bell tower. We are always quite a spectacle with our 4 young and active kids. He watched us intently from the moment we walked in the church and as the kids excitedly explored everywhere they could. While I was rounding them up trying to get the kids to walk slowly, and talk quieter and stay together and stop pretending to make confessions through the little windows the man pulled Mitchell aside. He so kindly and genuinely told Mitchell that inside a Catholic church children should be allowed to go where they want and don't need to be chastized for acting child-like. He reminded Mitchell that the Savior himself said "Suffer the little children to come unto me." He said, "Don't worry about your kids here, this is God's house. This is their house." What a sweet lesson!

In honor of Thanksgiving we had a grill out with our American friends! No turkey this year! The ones at the grocery store were $150!!!! Yikes! Instead we grilled steaks and chicken, broccoli salad, rolls, fruit salad, chips and dip and cookies. Not the traditional Thanksgiving feast but it was delicious anyway! 

*Thanksgiving grill out

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Watch Out for the Monkeys!

On Tuesday this week Mitchell took the morning off work and we went for a hike together while the big kids were at school. Hiking may just be one of my favorite activities in life! I could really hike everyday and love it every time! This was definitely an experience to remember! We went to a privately owned nature reserve called Montibelli. It's owned by an Italian immigrant family, hence the Italian name. We hired a guide to come along with us and he pointed out many of the beautiful birds, plants and other wildlife in the area. 

This is a rubber tree! If you cut into the tree (we didn't cut the tree, this was already there) the sap that comes out is natural rubber. Rubber was a booming industry in the 1800s up through about WWII. Now more synthetic rubbers are used in manufacturing. 

This was our closest encounter with monkeys here! It was pretty cool! These are Howler Monkeys, they call them Congo Monkeys here, and there was a group of about 10 of them just above us in the trees. They were clearly animated at seeing us in the forest and yelled at us for quite some time! Watch the video to hear their yells.

Apparently the monkeys did NOT want us there observing their family and they ran us right out of there! One of their defense mechanisms is to throw poop bombs at would be predators. We didn't really realize what was happening at first but it didn't take long for us to get out of there quick! Poor Mitchell didn't escape unscathed. HAHA!

Aside from the Monkey attack it was a beautiful morning and we very much enjoyed the hike! Layne is always up for a new adventure and is really good at being happy with whatever activity we drag him on.

Redick wrote my name all by himself! He has been working on learning his letters at school and asked me how to spell my name. This is his Pokeball masterpiece.

The Pokemon Go craze is alive and well in Nicaragua! Over the summer we played a bit on my phone and the kids really enjoyed it. That kicked off a Pokemon fascination and though we rarely play Pokemon Go anymore they do enjoy watching Pokemon videos. We would probably play a lot more but the closest Pokemon Gym is all the way at the mall and we would have to drive there in order to stock up on Pokeballs. Never fear though, we can play in "offline mode" at home! We made these foam Pokeballs and the big kids earned little Pokemon stuffed characters to play with. This has been a hit! 

Why wouldn't November be swimsuit weather? 

Layne and Reid watching for Mitchell to come home from work
 Saturday we ran a few errands in the late morning and then we took the kids to Pizza Hut for a late lunch. This is Layne's cute little shoulder shrug face he makes now. Audrey put a straw on each of her front teeth and laughed telling me it was a walrus impression. Kids are so silly and fun!

Saturday in the late afternoon we went to a really fun theater show! It was a puppet show with a live actor. The plot was quite simple but the main part of the show was getting the kids involved and participating. It was held in a house that has been converted into a yoga studio/cafe. The "stage" was in the front living room and you can see that the kids were all sitting right there on stage. It was so well done for the kids! They were roaring with laughter, screaming with fright and jumping up to join the girl on her journey. 

Once again, Audrey impressed us all with how much Spanish she is learning! You can see on the puppet stage a fabric flower in the center. When the flower appeared on the stage, Audrey confidently shouted out in Spanish "That's a flower! It's orange, green and blue!" Woo! Go girl!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Highlights of the Week

No big excursion this weekend but we did have some fun events this week!

We've been trying to be better at taking the kids on one on one dates. Wednesday evenings are kid date night and we switch off. It's been really fun! Audrey chose an ice cream cone at the food court at the mall then to get a manicure. In the mall is a darling little princess themed beauty salon that offers little girl spa services and puts on princess birthday parties. It is adorable!! She got to get her nails painted and loved every minute!

Yesterday one of Audrey's friends from school had a birthday party. They were so gracious and even invited Redick and Reid to come. It was fun. Here are Redick and Ried playing a game with the clown. Again, I was surprised at how much Spanish they understand! The clown explained the game (with gestures too) and they understood perfectly!

Reid was the winner!!

No Nica party is complete without the piñata. In fact, most of the time instead of calling it a birthday party they will call it a piñata.

Just for fun, HOW IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE??!!?!