Sunday, October 16, 2016


Yesterday we went to check out Leon! It was awesome! It was the first capitol of Nicaragua and is one of the oldest cities in Central America! It was founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba. The Nicaraguan currency, the Cordoba, still bears his name today. The original city was destroyed in 1610 when the volcano Momotombo erupted and buried the old city. The inhabitants founded New Leon about 20 miles away in 1610 and began rebuilding their city. The ruins of the original Leon were excavated in 1960 but we didn't get to see them on this trip. 

We did get to ride the lions in front of the Catholic cathedral though!! SPANISH 101: Leon means Lion in Spanish. There are tons of Lion statues throughout the city.

It's hard to tell from the photo but these lions are up on a tall pedestal. Layne was about 7.5 feet up in the air and he wasn't a fan.

Leon is also home to the largest Cathedral in Central America. It's known as the big white cathedral in Leon or the Leon Cathedral but it's long name is: Real e Insigne Basílica de la Asunción de la Bienaventurada Virgen María. It's very big and very beautiful! 

There was a large crowd yesterday because after the 9:00am mass, or maybe as part of it, about a dozen or so kids were receiving their first communion. Lots of happy people taking pictures and exchanging congratulatory gifts.

We got to climb a VERY narrow staircase up to the rooftop! It is all painted white and the preserve the paint we removed our shoes. From the rooftop you have a 360* view of the whole city! There are 17 Catholic churches in Leon, many of which can be seen from the cathedral. 

Here's that narrow staircase!

It was BRIGHT!

Our city guide for the morning was Alejandro. He did a great job leading us around and teaching us about Leon! He was so patient with the kids. They also did a great job!

Below are some pictures of an incredible mural painted along 3 walls in one of the central squares of downtown Leon. The mural depicts the history of Leon from the 1500s until the present day. Much of it is symbolic and a lot of it is very tragic. I thought this part of the tour was so fascinating! Nicaraguan history is frought with wars, bloodshed, fighting, being conquered and seeking revenge.

Here you can see Spanish armor and indigenous weapons littered around after a battle.

After seeing the mural, the cathedral and walking around the main center of Leon we walked to the Museum of Legends and Traditions. There we learned about a lot of the folklore in Nicaragua. Much of it revolves around the time the Spanish arrived. In addition to showcasing the Nicaraguan legends this building was used as a prison and torture chamber in the time of the Somoza dynasty from the 1920s to 1979. 

Redick is standing next to one of the Freedom Fighters that fought to overthrow the Somozas

These characters are seen in parades, festivals and traditional dances! They are Pepe Cabezon and La Gigantona. It is the Nicaraguans poking fun at themselves by representing themselves as the short stout man enamored by the tall and colorful Spanish woman.

I thought this statue was really moving. It represents the many battles and hardships that Nicaragua has experienced over time but after every disaster they pick themselves up again and carry on.

The kids are playing near some empty cisterns that were used for water torture in the not so distant past. The tree above the cisterns is a large mango tree. There are several mango trees at this museum that produce fruit in the hot months. This tree, however does not produce mangoes. They believe that there was too much violence near this tree and it mourns by being a barren tree.

This yoke of skeleton oxen carrying a cart full of ghosts and being led by skeletons is a traditional depiction dating back to the Colombian times. The indigenous people were taken from villages by the Spanish and used for labor in the new cities. Many of the slaves were worked to death but, alive or dead, none returned to their villages. 

One of the early Spanish priests had compassion and sympathy for the indigenous people and he offered support to them and tried to rally for more kind treatment of the native people. One of the other priests cut off his head in the main church and kicked his head so hard it rolled down the street for all to see. Legend says his headless ghost remains a protector of Nicaragua.

A mural depicting some methods of torture used in this jail during the Somoza dynasty.

Audrey trying out an ox yoke

On our way home from the city of Leon we drove home via the Pacific coast and checked out a couple of the beaches in the department of Leon. These beaches are only about 1.5 hours from Managua rather than the 2.5 hours to the beaches in San Juan del Sur. All are beautiful!

The Evolution of the Yucca and the Day to Day

Way back in July we noticed that some of the yucca plants had put up flower stalks. They started out looking like a giant asparagus. The kids had so much fun watching the transformation over the last 3 months! Every time we drove by the yucca flower one or all of the kids would yell "LOOK AT THE YUCCA!!!" 

After a while the leaves started extending outward

The outstretched leaves turned into stems and put on buds

Finally last week they bloomed with fuzzy yellow flowers!

Audrey's class at school last week studied one of the Nicaraguan departments, Esteli. They made posters with information and pictures of Esteli and we shared traditional typical foods and costumes. Audrey worked hard to memorize and recite her part in Spanish. She was really nervous but did a wonderful job!

One night a couple of weeks ago R&R were doing too much playing and fighting and not enough sleeping at bedtime. They ended up getting separated so they would finally go to sleep. Redick stayed in his room and Reid went to sleep in mine and Mitchell's bed. Reid fell asleep right away but Redick cried because he was too scared to fall asleep without Reid. We found them like this when we came to bed. It's so sweet that they are best friends!

Knowing my other 3 active children it should come as no surprise that Layne is also quite active and coordinated. I sometimes lament that my baby is trying to grow up, and he really is trying! He just wants to do everything he sees the big kids doing. A couple of weeks ago he commandeered Reid's Razor scooter and did a pretty amazing job for a not yet 2 year old! 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Filled, Fed and Full of Faith

For my friends of other faiths, this weekend was the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Every 6 months, the first weekends of April and October, the general leadership of the church holds a 12 hour conference held in 6 (roughly) 2 hour sessions. That sounds like A.LOT.OF.CHURCH I know, but it is so highly anticipated and such a blessed opportunity! We hear from the living prophet and the members of the quorum of the 12 apostles as well as from other general leaders of the church. Even the kids feel the special spirit of hearing from prophets! That and they get to play conference BINGO and earn treats while they listen. I always come away from the conference feeling so filled having been taught continually of the doctrine of the Savior Jesus Christ. The church leaders prepare their talks according to the inspiration of the Spirit and I always feel that numerous talks seem to have been prepared specifically to address some of my most pressing concerns. It is such a spiritually invigorating weekend and I look forward to re-reading and listening to all of the messages again and again until April conference.

Some general themes that I gathered from the messages are the following:
*"Don't look beyond the mark." That is, don't make having faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ more complicated than it needs to be. Focus more on the basics of Faith, Repentance, Scripture Study, Sincere Prayer, Giving Service and Showing Kindness, among other principles. 

*Share the good news of the Gospel with others not out of duty or obligation but out of love and sincere desire to enrich my and their faith in the Savior.

*The Atonement of Christ is real. It is meant for everyone no matter their past, their present or their future. Repentance and forgiveness allow us to harness the power of the Atonement and elevate our faith and righteousness. Repentance should be a daily sacrament and will truly transform us from the inside out.

*The world is a tumultuous place with opposition in all things. It seems that so many of God's children on the Earth are polarized and pitted against one another. With so many loud voices shouting for and against every issue it is so easy and common to find one's self experiencing a "Crisis of Faith." Many of the speakers this weekend addressed specific ways to help avoid or heal a crisis of faith and build a strong testimony once again. 
President Nelson taught us how to have JOY through struggles.
Elder Meurs showed us how to use elevating music to prepare ourselves to partake of the Sacrament.
Elder Ballard asked the poignant question to those faltering in faith "Where will you go?" if not in the fold of the Good Shepherd.
Elder Bednar, always a favorite for me!, caused me to ask myself the question "Do I merely know about the Savior or am I actively engaged in developing a personal relationship with Him?"
Elder Cook talked about giving service through callings and growing in faith that way.
Elder Rasband encouraged us to look back to experiences in our own past that were faith building. I could go on! We all experience waxing and waning of faith at times. I hope those experiencing a crisis of faith now will seek the healing of the savior and not choose to walk away from Him.

*In preparation for general conference I have been praying for instruction on a few specific ways to improve my mothering. Oh were my questions answered and then some! I am so filled and feel so loved by a Father in Heaven who knows and loves me. Elder Robbins talked about Christ-like parenting by teaching through love and by the Spirit. He said "The way you see a child reflects in the way you treat him. The way he is treated is what he will become." I am excited to elevate my vision of what my children can become and treat them accordingly. Elder Nattress shared a personal lesson his mother taught him when he was a child. She read the scriptures to aloud to him every day regardless of whether he was listening. She never gave up because she would not lose her sons! 

I absolutely LOVE general conference! Audio, Video and Written recordings of the entire conference, including the beautiful music, can be found at 

This evening Mitchell and the kids played Ticket to Ride! It was all of their first time and they loved it! Reid really caught on to the strategy and how to play and won!

Monday, September 26, 2016


On Saturday we hiked up another volcano called Mombacho. It overlooks the city of Granada and part of Lake Nicaragua. We got to experience first hand a rare wonder in the world! We hiked through a cloud forest! I've been fascinated to learn about cloud forest so here's what I know. A cloud forest is a rainforest that traps condensation of evaporated water in a cloud above the forest which then provides it's own rain back to the forest. A true cloud forest normally forms on the back of a mountain that serves as a collection basin for the condensation and for clouds that naturally blow by.

We invited our friend Carla and her 2 sons to join us on the adventure! They were super excited!

Layne actually walked much of this hike himself! It was no easy hike either! Most of it was 25-35% grade up or down. 

This "tunnel," or more like a fissure, was originally formed by seismic activity and then enlarged by water erosion. 

Everything is so green right now! Rainy season is coming to a close and everything is so lush and beautiful! The rains also help keep the suffocating heat in check. It's been a lot more pleasant lately! One evening recently I even felt chilly while sitting out on our patio.

Enjoying a pit stop for water and trail mix

This is one overlook where we could see out to Granada, Lake Nicaragua, Managua, Volcan Masaya and even to Lake Managua in the distance. It was spectacular! This picture shows the many of the 360+ Isletas off the coast of Granada in Lake Nicaragua. We visited one of the Isletas on our Pico de Garza adventure in July.

We don't take enough selfies of just us. I love this guy! Thank goodness he's adventurous too!

The whole group after about 30 minutes of our 4 hour hike.

We saw lots of gorgeous plants as we hiked. This time we hired a guide to take us along. Luis was very knowledgable and really fun to have with our group. He knew which plants we could eat and which were poisonous. I got a kick out of one poisonous plant. It has pretty large salad plate sized rounded leaves. The leaves can cause a blistering rash on contact with the skin, like poison oak/ivy. If the leaves are eaten the toxin can damage the vocal chords and you can lose the ability to speak for two weeks or even forever! It's believed that some poisonous snakes eat the leaves and roots and extract the toxin to produce venom. The name of this plant is "Lengua de Suegra" or Mother-in-law's tongue. I found that funny. I have an amazing mother in law though, shout out to Kitty!

We also saw and heard lots of wild life. Of course there were birds calling and singing, there are even impressive parrots that live in these rainforests! We saw a group of howler monkeys pretty close to us. There were 2 males that were grunting and hooting at each other. They are territorial and one or the other had apparently gotten too close to the other's territory. We also saw a momma with 2 babies! Baby monkeys might just be the cutest thing on earth! **Maybe. My own babies are pretty darn adorable!** Our guide had seen a sloth earlier that morning and I really wanted to see one in the wild! When we got to the spot he had vacated the branch though. Bummer. I'll keep looking! Also, there is a specific species of salamander who's only habitat in the whole world is Mombacho Volcano! So neat! Redick found a "parade of ants" that were each carrying a giant piece of green leaf! On the ground it looked like a bunch of leaf fragments moving along a conveyor belt.

This hole in the ground is leaking scalding hot sulfur gas from deep in the earth! Even though the last eruption of Mombacho was in the year 1570, these "fumarolas" or sulfur vents are a reminder that the volcanoes in this region are alive and thriving.

We made it to the second highest point on the mountain. 1,222 meters up!

This little fern was all over the place. Luis showed me that when the plant gets startled it curls up and sleeps as a self protection mechanism. I thought that was cool.

For now Layne bids you goodbye! There are only so many hours in the day and he doesn't spend enough of them in the pool. We are having fun and learning lots!