Sunday, March 26, 2017

Bringing the Jungle Inside

The biggest news of the week is.......WE ARE OFFICIALLY RESIDENTS OF NICARAGUA!! This was no simple task! Our friend (and HUGE help) Pia worked really hard to collect and submit all of the documentation! We made at least 6 trips to the immigration office and several visits to a lawyer for authentication of documents. Not to mention the numerous documents I collected and had notarized or apostilled before we moved. This was a tough process but now we are half Nica!!

We all got our resident cards on Monday! 
Audrey is a little Moana obsessed. She LOVES listening to the soundtrack and making costumes. Do you like her raft and sail?

Our bishop at church sings in the Nicaragua National Choir. This year is the 25th anniversary of the national orchestra and they put on a great concert. The bishop and his wife invited me to attend with them and it was so great!

On Saturday the primary put on an Easter egg hunt for the kids. We started in the Primary room with a spiritual video about the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ. Then the kids descended on the grassy area outside to find some hidden eggs! We had lunch too and it was a great time!

Spiderman even made an appearance!

After the Primary Easter activity we took a little day trip to the nearby town of Catarina. Catarina is known for its nurseries and being the best (and cheapest!) place to buy plants. We let each of the kids choose a plant and then we loaded up our SUV with as many plants and pots as it could hold! Our house feels so much more homey and happy!

Audrey chose a Norfolk Pine tree. One of my favorites!

Not pictured are the large cactus, a second lengua de suegra (the tall narrow leaf one), a tangerine tree, a hibiscus, a large palm and 4 banana plants!

Audrey: "Mom what do I look like?!"
Me: "A first grader"  :)

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Last weekend Redick said he wanted a break from the beach. That was understandable, we did go to the beach 3 weekends in a row! Tough life here! He wanted to hike instead. We decided to check out a new spot called Venterón. It was really pretty close to home, less than an hour drive. Venterón is a tall hill behind Volcán Masaya. It has an incredible view of the volcano, the valley and a lot of rolling hill farmland. It wasn't actually a hike, per se, more of a walk up a really dusty road. 

The coolest fact about Venterón we learned after we got home. On the top of the hill Elder Richard G. Scott gave a devotional and dedicatory prayer to officially dedicate the LDS proselyting effort in Nicaragua. This was on April 9, 1990. In 1990 there were only 3,500 members of the LDS church in Nicaragua. Now there are over 92,000! 


When we got out of the car to start the hike Redick grabbed his sword and Capitan America shield and proudly announced that he would be the 'scout' and walk in front to take care of any bad guys for us. 

This is the view of the back side of Volcán Masaya. The dark ash and smoke you see is because the volcano is 'technically' erupting right now! In December of 2015 the earth shifted and the bottom of the crater opened up to expose the boiling molten lava lake below!  

Redick took this family photo. :)

This weekend we took another fairly local trip to Hacienda San Hacinto. It is just 30 minutes or so north of Managua. 
Way back in the 1850s an American named William Walker decided to organize a private military operation and go conquering territories in Central America. He called his band of militants Filibusters. He was not officially sanctioned by the US government and his intent was to gain control of his conquered territories for himself personally. His terror permeated most of Central America and William Walker even managed to usurp complete power in Nicaragua and was the President of Nicaragua from July 12, 1856 to May 1, 1857.

On September 14, 1856 the Nicaraguans fought a battle against William Walker's Filibusters. There were 300 Filibusters against 100 Nicaraguan soldiers and 60 indigenous men armed with bows and arrows providing support from the perimeter. The battle lasted 4 hours and from the Nicaraguan side there were 10 deaths and 7 wounded and the Filibusters suffered 27 deaths.In the end the Filibusters retreated and the Nicaraguans declared victory.

Part of the reason we decided to visit Hacienda San Jacinto this weekend was to give the kids a chance to explore some wide open spaces with few if any limits. They had such a great time!! They ran as far as they could out in this field and then wound their way back. They climbed a giant 200+ year old tree and generally had a great time feeling free to explore. Freedom and exploration are much more limited and different in the city.

Rifles with bayonets that were used in the battle

This is an original painting depicting the battle at San Jacinto.

Iron work from the time

Audrey can tell you all about these Nicaraguan symbols. The national flower is the sacuanjoche, national tree is the Modroño and the national bird is the Guardabarranco. Also pictured here is Rubén Darío, a famous Nicaraguan poet as well as the lyrics from the Nicaraguan National Hymn.
Audrey can even sing the National Hymn for you!! *She fudges most of the words but isn't her pronunciation ON POINT??!?!? Her Spanish is coming along great!

Redick and Reid really loved being able to run off and explore. The area was huge and there was only low brush so no way to get lost.

This is the Hacienda. It was built in 1841

Later in the day the kids attended the birthday party of one of their friends that lives here in our condo complex. It was a huge bash with 2 inflatable water slides, a bounce house, catered food, popcorn and shaved ice. Along with the condo clubhouse pool, of course. It was very fun!

Here are some other random photos for posterity. 

It appears that Mitchell took a picture of me "putting the boys to bed." They often push their 2 twin beds together so they can tell stories at night. I love that Reid has his arm around me. 

Mitchell befriended a man at church who was investigating the church. When the time came, he asked Mitchell to actually baptize him. It was a neat experience for Mitchell and also for our kids to witness it. 

At the new school they are given a lot of freedom and materials to pursue their creative ideas. Redick's current fascination is with the face paints. He painted his own face here, it's supposed to be war paint. I asked him to give me a fierce look but it came off as more concerned than anything. 

These 2 are good buddies and love to do strange things to get a laugh! Here they were asked to go put on their jammies and they came down like this.

Reid likes to refer to himself as "the Sports Kid." He loves all things sports and can often be found outside kicking a soccer ball or hitting baseballs. He's getting pretty good too! The other day Redick said to Mitchell, "Reid likes sports and I like to draw." These are 2 of Redick's latest masterpieces. He used a step by step how to draw YouTube video to help and I think they turned out fantastic!


A Racecar

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

New School

It has been quite a full and stressful 2 weeks! Spoiler alert: I am confident that we've stabilized and found a great solution!

The last several months Audrey has really struggled with school. She says it's too long and too boring and she just has really had a hard time. I met with her teacher 3 times and exchanged several emails about her needs to try to find ways to help her at least make it through the day but hopefully to also begin to enjoy school again. Audrey's teacher was patient and concerned and tried numerous strategies to help her but Audrey continued to struggle.

At first I thought she was bored because the school work was mostly a review of what she learned in Kindergarten last year. We addressed that, no dice. I thought she was getting hungry so we addressed that, no dice. Back in October she would occasionally put her head down toward the end of the day and refuse to participate in the class activities. Pretty normal for a 6 year old to get tired at some point during the day. Especially one who is immersed in a different language, different culture and different everything. Not to mention it's hot all the time! It's understandable that a little kid would get tired. Over the last several months this behavior got worse and worse. Her bad attitude followed her home from school and she was not her usual creative, fun and happy self. I could tell that something was wrong but she couldn't tell me and I couldn't guess.

It all came to a head about 2 weeks ago. She completely stopped engaging in class at all. She even punched a classmate! At home her behavior was pretty much the same. Lots of fighting, lots of disobedience and I kept feeling like this is not my normal Audrey! It broke my heart to see her fighting some inner struggle that she didn't know how to sort out and couldn't find the words to explain. One day the tension was too much and the flood gates finally opened and it all came out. She cried that she misses her friends, our home in Lehi, her school, her Kindergarten teacher, her cousins and grandparents. To hear all of that broke my heart and we cried together because I miss all of those things too! Poor Mitchell, he was about ready to pack up our bags and hit the road! Both of his favorite girls in sobs is really tough. I feel bad that Audrey wasn't able to, or didn't have an opportunity to, express her feelings until she was wound up so tight! We are working on better communication now.

My mommy instinct has been telling me that we need a big change at school for a while. She has asked to try homeschool numerous times but I have always felt that it would definitely NOT be a good fit for her or for me. She is so social and I couldn't begin to fulfill those needs. Despite my concerns we gave homeschool a try about 6 weeks ago. ...for one day. Actually, she lasted 40 minutes! We did a short scripture study activity together then she got to do Khan Academy math on the computer, which she loves!! I asked her if she wanted to go outside for a while or read together and she answered that she wanted to watch a YouTube video. Hah! Staying home to watch YouTube does not count as homeschool in my book. She stormed up the stairs in a huff and returned a few minutes later in her school uniform and asked for me to take her to school where she could be with her friends.

Two weeks ago when Audrey really fell apart I pulled her out of school completely. I just knew that she was wound so tight that she needed some healing time. For one week we didn't do homeschool formally (though, there are always opportunities to learn!) I just gave her some more freedom and literally watched her loosen up and relax. She even developed a cold sore from all of the stress! I learned that there is a name for this period of helping a wound tight child relax: UNSCHOOLING. I am glad I followed my instinct on this one and just gave her some time to relax again. Some really positive things came about during this unschooling week. Her behavior improved, she and I got to communicate much better about thoughts, feelings and needs and Audrey began reading for pleasure again. She had resisted and completely stopped reading at home a couple of months ago!

After she felt more relaxed and in control of herself she got to try a new school for 2 full days. It is called Colegio Nordico. It is an international school here in Managua that uses Nordic (Finland, Sweden, Denmark etc) style learning methods. What I love is it's mostly play based and hands on. They do as much learning outside as they do inside the classroom. They have many enrichment subjects like: theater, sports/PE, music (piano, guitar, recorders, drums, theory), carpentry and art is used throughout the day as a learning tool for even the core subjects like Math, Reading and Science. On the playground the kids are allowed to freely explore! They climb the strong trees, have access to dirt and sand to dig in and water to play with and the teachers and aides supervise for safety but do not interfere with their experimentation. Sadly, this is not the case at every school. During the 2 day trial visit she fell in love with her sweet teacher and made 2 instant friends! It was a total success.

I wanted Audrey to feel like she was a part of the decision process and that she had options so she also tried another school for a day. It was just as wonderful! This school emphasized active learning activities where the kids are engaged physically and mentally. They make great use of the year round warm weather to have outdoor classroom areas. One thing I liked is that they have a chef make healthy and delicious meals each day. The kids are served on plates at big tables and it has the feel of a big family meal. Actually, the school method and feeling really reminded me of how I would run my dream homeschool. Audrey and I really loved her teacher at this school and I know it would have been a great experience for her.

At the end of the 3 days of school trials Audrey and I went out to ice cream and made a long list of pros and cons for each school. Audrey had a hard time coming up with cons at all because she really loved them both! I ultimately made the decision to switch to the Nordic school and we are all so happy with it! Audrey, Redick and Reid have already found there place there and even Layne gets to go for a few hours a few days a week. It is such a relief to see my kids not only happy but thriving again.

This whole experience was such a great growing and learning experience for me as a mother. It was very stressful and hard to see my Audrey struggling and not thriving and not really know how to proceed or how to fix it. Of course this was a matter of much prayer, thought and fasting on her behalf. One day as I was driving and contemplating all of this I felt the distinct impression that this experience was beneficial to me to help me gain confidence in advocating for my children. I am certain this won't be the last time I'll need to recognize what my children need and advocate for them. It is very humbling to realize over and over that these cute little humans that I used to carry around and dress up are actually people that I am raising to be adults someday! The goal is that they will be nice adults that know how to learn and how to serve and how to act. It's a lot of pressure to try not to mess them up! Thank goodness for prayer and guidance from above!

**Congratulations to you if you read all of this! You deserve some sort of prize for that kind of perseverance! I have the perfect reward, pictures of my cuties at their new school!

They had Kite Day for the whole school! During the week they used the theme of kites throughout their learning. For example, kites were mentioned when learning about the weather (wind), triangle and diamond shapes in math and in carpentry class they each got to build their own kite! On Friday the whole school went out to the field and flew their kites! It was fun pandemonium!

All of the kids ran around and flew their kites until most of the kites had broken! None of the kids seemed disappointed though, I think they understood that they were just paper and they had fun making them and flying them.

Redick and a few other kids found a big stack of crates and used them to build a ship!