Sunday, August 29, 2010

One week from tomorrow, I will again be teaching English to a room full of teenagers.

I have to admit it, I am dreading it.

Don't get me wrong, I like my job; I just like relaxing too.  And my job and relaxing do not coincide.  So every year as the summer ends, I have to steel myself for nine months of hard work.

As a final summer hurrah, Ryan and I went on a little road trip this weekend (more on that later).  We camped Saturday night, and we were about an hour from the nearest church.  I had a bit of an internal dilemma: Should we get up and go to church?  Or should we just sleep in and take it easy in the morning?

In the end, I was a good little girl, and I decided that we should try to make it to church. 

We got up early (well, early for my summer schedule), packed up the camp site, and got ready to go.  Amazingly, we were right on schedule.

We hopped in the car, Ryan turned the key, and...

bbbbbbbbbbzzzzzzzzzz

We looked at each other with wide eyes, and he turned the key again.

bbbbbbbzzzzzzzzbbbbbbbbbzzzzzzzzbbbbbbbzzzzzzzz

Yup, dead battery.

Well that's just great.  

So Ryan found someone to give us a jump, and after we got all of that resolved, we were running twenty minutes late.

Considering that the entire point of going to church is to be there for the Sacrament, I put the pedal to the metal while Ryan changed into his church clothes in the seat beside me.

We were cruising through the beautiful green farmlands of western New York, when suddenly I saw this behind me...

Imagine this sight, except in broad daylight with rolling green fields in the background.

I was not happy.

In a lame attempt for mercy, I explained to the officer that I was just trying to get us to church on time.

Turns out, he must not go to church or love God at all.  He gave me a big fat ticket and told me to have a nice Sunday.

Maybe I should've stayed asleep in my tent! :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Callum's Favorite

It is a well-known fact that children like Ryan more than they like me.  I am used to it, so I generally don't get too offended.  Yet, I sorta thought that my own nephew would like me as much as he likes Ryan.

No such luck.

My sister Sarah and her son Callum visited us last week, and it quickly became apparent that Uncle Ryan is his favorite.

Callum is a very active child and won't sit still with anyone--except Ryan!
Sarah found them just chilling on the bed and snapped this photo.
And here they are playing with a ball.  Callum insisted on wearing Ryan's shoes. :)
Fun at the park.

I tried very hard to win Callum over.

I took him to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada and let him ride a tractor:


I took him to a petting zoo, where we saw a "devil-eyed goat."  Brian Fellows, anyone?

"These animals aren't cute or cuddly--they're weird.  I'm excited and a little scared."  HA!

I took him to Canandaigua Lake for paninis, gelato, and swimming: 

It was all to no avail--Uncle Ryan is still his favorite.  And really, why wouldn't he be?  Not only is he super fun, but he also passed his dental board exam (we got the results!), and he gave up his bedroom for the visitors.  (We set up a pack-and-play for Callum, and Sary and I shared the bed.)  We came out one morning and found Ryan sleeping like this:


He's a very good sport.  I guess he deserves to be Callum's favorite!

It was a fun week for all of us.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

From One Balcony to the Next

Just when I thought that I was the only member of this family to have random conversations with strangers, Ryan goes and beats me by having one of the most bizarre yet!

Yesterday, Ryan decided to enjoy a peaceful, relaxing lunch on our porch balcony.  He walked out there and was surprised to see our neighbor sitting across the way on his balcony.

"Hey!" Ryan said, taken back a bit because we've never seen anyone sitting on their balcony.

"Hey," the guy said, lowering his cigarette.  He is probably in his early thirties and is very friendly and talkative.  He once invited us to the Juneteenth Festival in downtown Buffalo--but then told us to bring a gun because we would be the only white people.  We weren't sure if he was joking--about the invite or the gun.  It was awkward.

Yesterday, though, he started with a question, not an invitation.  He looked at Ryan's bowl skeptically and said,  "What you eating? Cereal?"

"No, a salad."

Apparently this is funny because the guy burst out laughing.  I can just imagine his inner dialogue:  This kid is a salad-eating weenie.

After finishing his chuckle, he started in with, "I have another question for you, my brother. "

"Okay," Ry responded, holding his salad bowl protectively.

"Is eating Sour Patch Kids and smoking marijuana bad for my teeth?"

I must add that, during this conversation, I was sitting just inside the open porch door working on my computer.  As soon as I heard that question, I knew this was going to be good.  I started taking notes.

"Smoking anything is bad for your teeth,"  Ryan answered and went on to explain about periodontitis and bone loss.  (I think he was trying to assert his manhood via intellect.)

The neighbor wasn't impressed.  "Bro, you know too much about teeth.  Being a dentist is boring.  You need to get a different career--something that will stay exciting forever.  Something like being a car salesman."

I'm sure Ryan could hear me giggling from inside the apartment, but he maintained his composure and said, "I don't think I would be a very good car salesman."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't really like to talk; I like to listen a lot more than I like to talk."  Ryan answered reasonably.

"Well, the best car salesmen are good listeners," the neighbor insisted.

Ryan didn't have a response to that, so he just started eating his salad.

The guy continued, "Or another really cool job would be dealing drugs.  If you're a drug dealer, every day is different.  You never know when you're going to get shot at, and you make lots of money."

(I must interject here, do you think Ryan would be a better car salesman or drug dealer?)

Ryan told him that he had no interest in being a drug dealer, even if it meant that he would get lots of money.

This led to a conversation about the meaning of life, true happiness, and religion.  Well, it wasn't much of a conversation, really.  It was the neighbor lecturing Ryan about his views on the universe.  I guess he took Ry seriously when he said he likes to listen more than he likes to talk.

After about 20 minutes, I decided to call Ryan's cell phone so he'd have a reason to escape.

As his phone started ringing, Ry said, "Well, I better grab this."

"Okay, brother," the neighbor shouted from his balcony.  "But you need to actually think about stuff.  I'm telling you, I've done my research."

And I tend to agree.  Ryan needs to forget about dental school.  I think he'd make an excellent salad-eating, drug dealer...don't you?

I can just see this thug turning to a life of crime on the streets.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cloudy with a Chance of Chowder


I've said before that I am a magnet for random and bizarre experiences.

A conversation that I had today merely reinforced that conclusion.

It happened in a Joanne Fabrics.  And it began like this:

"I really want some clam chowder."

Startled, I looked up from the fabric I was buying.  "Excuse me?"

"I really want some clam chowder," the elderly saleslady said again, as if it were the most natural conversation starter in the world.

"Oh."  I responded, not sure what more to say.

She sighed and started cutting my fabric.

After a moment of her gloomy silence, I piped in, "Well, maybe you should go get some clam chowder tonight."

She immediately brightened.  "Yeah, that's what I was thinking.  Don't you think I should walk me down to Outback Steakhouse after work and get myself a bowl?"

"Absolutely!"  I encouraged her.  "You deserve it."  (If there is one thing I am good at, it's encouraging people to indulge in a treat.)

She smiled for a second, but then her countenance fell again.  She went back to trimming the white cotton.  "But if it rains, I won't be able to."

Feeling a little desperate, I glanced outside at the ominous, gathering clouds.  "What time do you get off work?"

"Half an hour."

I gave her a confident nod.  "I think the rain will hold out for you."

"Really?"  She perked up again.  "Why, thank you, Honey!"

"You're welcome!" I said, glad to be of assistance.

I left the store with a warm and fuzzy feeling in my stomach--much like clam chowder in August.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Country Music, Infertility, and Adoption

I have a love-hate relationship with country music.  I go through phases when I love it (I took my best friends to a country concert for my 14th birthday party), and I have phases when I think it is the corniest thing in the world.

In my opinion, the key characteristic of country music that makes it both awesome and ridiculous is that most songs tell a story.  Each verse builds and adds another layer to the singer's story.  Some of those stories are over-the-top, while some of those stories are truly touching (at least when you're in a certain mood).

Sometimes I feel like my life is a country song, with different yet related moments, some of them decades apart, stacking on top of each other to tell my story.

I remember the first time I found out that it would be difficult for me to get pregnant.  I was about 17.  My OBGYN had run all sorts of tests and scans, and he sat down with me and my mom to tell us the results.   He was a kind, elderly gentleman, and he looked me in the eyes when he told me the name of my condition.  Then he continued: "This doesn't necessarily mean that you will never be able to get pregnant; it just means that it will take some work and some time."

Even at 17, I knew that would be hard.

And so, as a teenager, I started thinking about adoption.  I decided that I never wanted to sit around feeling sad and sorry if I couldn't have a baby--because lots of kids in the world need parents.  I also decided that adoption would never be my last resort because I didn't want my adopted child to think, "Mom and Dad tried everything to get their own child, and after years and years of heartache and desperation, they gave up and decided to settle on me."  (Now, of course that's not how adoptive parents actually feel about their babies, but it's something I thought about as a teen.)

Fast forward ten years, and, as my OBGYN once predicted, it is indeed taking time and work for me to get pregnant.  And as I myself predicted, it is sometimes very hard.  Will I one day get pregnant and have a baby?  I certainly hope so.  But I have no guarantees (I guess no one does) and after a year of seeing a fertility specialist, I am trying not to sit around feeling sorry for myself.  I am doing what I can to open every door for God to bless us with a baby--including applying for adoption.  I feel totally excited about adopting, as does Ryan.  It just feels right.

And yet, there are still emotionally difficult moments.  I will admit that I feel a twinge inside (of what, I'm not sure) when my friends tell me that they are pregnant.  I am so happy for them--but still a little sad for me.  And when I see girls whose babies are due in October, I can't help but wonder what I would be feeling if my pregnancy in January had not been ectopic.  I would have a cute "baby bump" too--or maybe a not-so-cute "baby bump," knowing my luck, but a "baby bump" just the same.

So now, we get back to country music.

Ten years ago, shortly after the doctor told me that it was going to be difficult for me to get pregnant someday, I was driving down the street and a country song by Jeff Carson came onto the radio.

It was one of those "story songs."  As I listened to the first verse, I chuckled a little because it was about a dog.  The narrator described how difficult it was when his first dog died, and the chorus said:

"I never was the same again,
from that moment on, real life began."

Oh brother, I thought. Real life began after his dog died?  (I will admit that I must be getting soft in my old age because that verse brings a tear to my eye now, but back then it just made me roll my eyes a bit...I never had a dog growing up, so I really didn't get it.)

The next verse, though, caught my attention.  He talked about how much his life changed after he met his wife.  Now that is cute, especially to a teenage girl.  He "never was the same again" after meeting her and his "real life began"...yeah, I can support that.

I didn't expect what was coming next (though I probably should have), so I wasn't emotionally prepared to hear the third verse:

"By your side, scared to death, felt the pain you were fighting--
Placed my palm on your head, spoke your name, 'Just keep trying.'
And then you closed your eyes and took one last breath,
and when it was over, you looked up,
and I laid our baby across your chest.

And I never was the same again,
from that moment on real life began."

As I listened to the words of the song, my lungs felt like they were closing up--I couldn't breathe.  I pulled over to the side of the road, put my head in my hands, and cried.  I was only 17; I had no idea what marriage was like or what it felt like to ache for a child.  Yet, even then, I knew that I wanted to have that moment with my husband.  More than anything, I wanted my husband to say that he "never was the same again" after he and I experienced the birth of our child together.  I wanted to give my husband that gift, and I was afraid that I would never be able to.

How do memories like that stay with us forever?  A moment driving when I was 17 years old--I've never forgotten it.

But life changes us.  And it doesn't turn out the way that we plan.  I do think that I will someday experience that moment with Ryan--but if I don't, and in the mean time, I know that other moments can and will be just as beautiful.  

A friend recently emailed me to tell me that she had a biological daughter and then adopted two boys.  She said that when she held her sons for the first time, she felt the same sense of total love and awe that she did when she held her daughter for the first time.  With her daughter, it was a sense of "This beautiful child grew inside of me, and now she is mine to cherish forever," while with her sons, it was a sense of "God brought this beautiful child into my life, and now he is mine to cherish forever."  Different situations--similar inexplicable emotions.

Our life is kind of an adventure right now: We don't know if Ryan will be accepted to a pediatric speciality program; we don't know in which state or even region of the USA we will be living next year; and we don't know when we will get a baby--or if it will be biological or adopted.

It's all part of my story, and a lot of the verses are still being written.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Post-Test Bonding in Rochester

If you saw the previous blog post, then you know that Ryan took Part II of his Dental Boards this Monday and Tuesday.

I don’t know if I will ever forget the image of him frolicking down the hallway in his slippers and athletic shorts, rejoicing that the exam was over.  

But actually, in spite of the torturous exam, the two-days were very fun.  I think Ryan would even agree with that.  We decided to make a “get-away” out of it; I went with him to Rochester (where the test was given) so we could spend some quality time together before his new school year starts.

We looked up hotels that were near the testing center, and we booked ourselves a spot at the cheapest one we could find.

Isn’t she a beauty?

Despite its dingy appearance, this place was TOWtally awesome!

The first day, the test was from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Yikes!  Luckily, there was a Wegmans and a Barnes and Nobles nearby, so I had quiet, air conditioned places to “work” while Ryan tested. 

I say “work” because all I really did was update our blog and shop for cards and stationary.  I gave the blog a bit of a facelift (did you notice?) so that it will be easy to navigate for families who want to know more about us for the adoption.  As for the card shopping spree—well, writing letters and cards is my hobby (is that weird?) so I always need a cute stash.  And really, Barnes and Nobles has an awesome stationary department.

Which is your favorite?  I must tell you, in case you can't tell from the photo, that the fish and the birds are fabric with stitching details all around.  I could not resist them.  But the orange ones are fun too because orange is my favorite color.  And the stationary reminded me of Little Women or something.  And the the box of brightly colored cards was cheap--and cute as well.  I will go through this many cards in no time at all.

After the test, Ryan was, obviously, exhausted.  So we went out to dinner and got us some barb-e-que.  YUM.  Then it was raining, so we just went back to the hotel and hung out.  I love it when we allow ourselves to do nothing.   

The next morning, I was quite shocked when I received breakfast in bed.  Who knew that the Towpath Motel offered such a service?  I will admit that the waiter did look slightly familiar, and it was a little odd when he hopped into bed and ate it with me.  I had a healthy bowl of Fruit Loops.

Looking his best, bright and early in the A.M.
You may notice (if you saw the video) that he didn't change out of these clothes for the test.  Classy, Ry!


Day 2 of the exam was just a halfer, so I picked Ryan up at noon with the leftovers from our dinner the night before, watched him do a crazy dance (which, by the way, was not something staged…he was dancing like that before I pulled out the camera), and then we had the rest of the day to spend together.  We had no plan.  Love love love loooooooooove that. 

First, we drove around downtown Rochester.  We stopped at a funky retro/estate store where I saw this watermelon picnic basket and knew that we must own it and use it frequently.

If you look closely, you will notice that the seeds are big black beads.  

Then we decided to wander on to Palmyra, where we spent a couple of hours together in the LDS Temple. 

Finally, we headed to beautiful Canandaigua, a quaint little town not far from Palmyra, where we got gelato and walked around the lake.  It is lovely there.

Don't worry--Ryan did change out of this outfit for the Temple.
He then changed back into it for the lake.
Also, that's my gelato in his left hand; he didn't have two cones.

We sat on the dock as the sun set, dangled our feet in the water, and talked about how nice it is to not have an agenda for one day.

Then we drove home with the windows down.  (The AC in our car is broken, which makes me more than a little bit unhappy--but on a summer evening with Ry, it actually feels quite pleasant to have the windows down.)

As I write this, and as I reflect on the other blog posts I've written this summer, I realize that it has been a good couple of months.  That's what I love about writing--it helps me to recognize the meaning in my moments.  On a day to day basis, I don't always notice.  I may even feel sorry for myself occasionally.   But how can I ever feel sorry for myself when I've had days like the one I just wrote about?  It's nice to remember that.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Guest Blogger/Dancer

Rach:  My friend Celeste recently wrote a blog post with her husband, like as a conversation.  I thought it was funny, so I proposed the idea to Ryan.  He seemed less excited about it than I.  Ryan is skeptical of blogs and has never written on one.  But I must tell you, though he wouldn't want me to, that he was browsing my friends' blogs tonight. I think he liked it.  

Anyway, as is my habit, I mentioned it enough times that he reluctantly gave in.  So with no further adieu, I would like to welcome Ryan to his first ever blog post!!!!!!!


Uh, come over here, Ryan.  Stop watching CNN.


Still waiting...


Ryan has now joined me on the bed with his laptop, but his eyes continue to be glued to CNN.


Ry: Well, I can't stop watching clips of people surfing the Snake River in Wyoming, can I?  It feels great to be participating in my first ever blog post.  I hope I don't get hooked.

Rach: Surfing blogs is way cooler than surfing on a river.  But you wouldn't know anything about surfing blogs.  wink, wink

Ry: Now she's getting witty with the English Teacher pun skills.  I'm sure this back and forth blogging will prevent us from pulling the brownies out of the oven on time.  Rachel turns murderous if they don't come out just right...especially at midnight.

Rach:  Okay, people are getting bored.  Let's get to the point here.

Ry: Sure. The point of this post is to celebrate me finishing the Part II Dental Boards Exam today. The celebration may end in two weeks when I get the results back--but hopefully not.

Rach:  I checked the brownies, and they are fine.  Can I tell them about your dance?

Ry:  Uh, yes. But I think the other point of this post may be for me to experience the great thrill and wonderment of writing about myself and then waiting with baited breath for people to comment.

Rach:  I'm going to pretend like that wasn't a personal attack.  Go ahead--tell them about the dance, then.

Ry: All I remember is that when I walked out of the testing center, dance music was playing in the hall, and my wife had a hot BBQ lunch waiting for me.

Rach:  And that's all you remember?

Ry: Nope.  I remember enjoying the BBQ brisket and the pulled pork.  I felt freed to be done with the two-day test and one step closer to seeing DMD after my name.  I then realized that I hadn't visited the latrine in 4 hours, so I strolled down the hall to the restroom.

Rach:  "Strolled" is a loosely used term there, I think.  Here, I will show them:

video

Ry: What--that's my happy walk.  Don't act like you've never seen those moves before.

Rach:  Oh I've seen them, but I doubt the rest of the world has until tonight.
          
Ry: Well, I see it's 12:20, and we still have the aroma of fresh baked goods floating through the apartment.  I don't care if the world sees my sweet moves as long as I get a brownie and go to bed as soon as possible.  I'll dream that the clip goes viral on youtube tonight.

Rach:  The next Justin Bieber--but of dance.

Ry: Uh...can we be done now?

Rach:  Yes.  You've done well.

Ry: I don't feel any special craving to do this again, but maybe when I get that first comment or two...

Rach:  I bet I'll see you checking the blog every fifteen minutes tomorrow.  You know he will. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lift Where You Stand


Whenever I get back from El Salvador, I start to think about the world and my place in it.  I am always struck by the colorful and contrasting sights of El Salvador—the green rolling hills lined with communities of tin shacks; the street vendors, with their beautiful displays of coconuts, dressed in grimy rags; the children on the street peering up at me, their eyes indescribably brown and deep, their cheeks inevitably smudged with dirt and soot.

When I walk into the Hogar, I don’t see rags and shacks, litter and dirt-smudged cheeks.  I see happy kids with happy lives. 

Sometimes, that makes me feel guilty.

Why do I go to the kids of the Hogar, bringing crayons and games and friendship, when so many others in El Salvador are suffering—perhaps even more than those within the safe walls of the Hogar?  Should I be spending my time and resources on other children?

In my many years of working with persons with disabilities, I’ve found one thing to be true: In general, persons with disabilities are happy.  It’s in their nature.  That is certainly true for the residents of the Hogar.  In spite of their physical and mental challenges, they never stop smiling.  They have food, shelter, clothes, friends, and adults who love them (the workers).  They are content. 

So if they are already content, what do we as volunteers add to their lives?  Well, we improve the quality of their lives.  We bring them individualized attention, which the overburdened workers cannot provide—mornings spent reading Twilight aloud with Antonia, blowing bubbles with Inecita, or practicing times tables with Carlos; we bring them something different in an otherwise mundane daily routine (most of the residents spend their entire lives at the Hogar, until they pass away)—a trash bag fashion show, a photo scavenger hunt, a Night of the Movie Stars—something fun to occasionally break up the monotony; we bring them colorful murals on their walls to brighten up those long hours that they sit and wait with their 150 peers to have their clothing changed or their teeth brushed. 

But is this worthwhile?  Is improving the quality of life for a few people a meaningful contribution to the world—a world filled with people who don’t even have the necessities of life?

As I’ve pondered these questions, I’ve often thought of a story told by one of the leaders of my church, Dieter F. Uchtdorf.  He talks about a moment when he and some other men were trying to move a heavy grand piano.  They tried different, complicated systems for balancing the weight and maneuvering the bulky instrument—but to no avail.  Finally, one of the men said, “Brethren, stand close together and lift where you stand.”  When everybody just did what they could where they could, the piano rose off the floor, and they were able to move it together.

Elder Uchtdorf goes on to compare this situation to service in the church and the world; we can’t all do everything for everyone all the time—but we can look at the situations we are in and the skills and abilities that we have, and we can do our part by “lifting where we stand.”  If we all do this, we will make the world a better place together.

The fact is, I can’t change the situations of the random children that I see on the street in El Salvador. I wish that I could help each of them, but it’s simply not in my power: I don’t know them—I have no connection to their families.  The children that I do know and the place where I do have connections is the Hogar.  And I initially got involved there because it utilized the experience and skills that I already had from working with kids with disabilities in the United States.

Are there places in El Salvador and throughout the world that could use more help than the Hogar?  Yes.  But for now, I have to lift where I stand.

I think this principle applies on a broader level as well.  I may not always be in a position to run off to El Salvador each summer; my life will evolve as my family grows and my situations change.  But in every stage of life, I can do what I can where I can.  If I am serving in my community or as a member of the PTA, perhaps I won’t be serving people who "need" it as much as those at the Hogar—but if that’s where I stand at that period of my life, well, then that’s where I can lift. 

For now, I’m grateful for the kids at the Hogar who I’ve gotten to know in this stage of my life.  This is an overdone cliché, but they have lifted me much more than I have lifted them.  Honestly.  They are always happy; they are willing to love anyone; and they are oblivious to the inconsequential stresses of adult life.  Whenever I am with them, I think, “Now what was I so worried about last week?” And it doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore.

They remind me of something that Deborah once told me: I’m “too blessed to be stressed.” 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Murals


My favorite part of visiting El Salvador each summer is hanging out with outrageously cute and hilarious kids like this one:

Mattias makes this face often.  It kills me.
But my second favorite part of visiting each summer is hanging out with whatever pair of volunteers is currently living and working there.

I oversee the American volunteers who serve at the Hogar, and I am consistently amazed by the quality of people who apply to the program.  They apply to serve for a three-month shift of the year.  The volunteers provide the kids with individualized attention and stimulation that they would not otherwise receive; the volunteers also come up with larger-scale projects using their specialized skills to benefit the lives of the orphanage residents long-term. 

This past week, I worked with Mark and Shanna Warr, a young married couple from Utah.  In addition to working with individual kids each morning, teaching a class to a group of orphanage residents in the afternoon, teaching an English class for the workers and the higher-functioning kids in the evening, and planning activities and games each night, Mark and Shanna decided that they wanted to paint a mural in each of the dormitory rooms.  I thought this was a great idea because the kids spend so much time in their rooms waiting to have their clothes changed or their teeth brushed, etc, and the rooms kind of remind me of a prison or a mental hospital…no color, “cribs” that look more like cages, no bedding…it is depressing to be in there.  

This is Mark and Shanna, in the process of painting with the help of Roberto
and one of the orphanage workers!
Mark and Shanna asked the kids in each room what they would like to have painted on their wall. With the kids’ input, Mark and Shanna found images online, projected them onto the wall, traced them, and then painted them (with the help of the kids wherever possible).  I have to say, I am amazed by how the murals turned out.  Mark and Shanna are extremely talented!  When they proposed the murals to me, I thought they would slap up some handprints or something—these murals are masterpieces, and they painted fourteen of them!  (I was only there to help with one mural, and it was a ton of work, so I can't imagine how many hours went into all fourteen!)

Photos don't really do them justice, but these are some of my favorites:

Outer space
Disney Princesses

Do you think Xiomara was excited about her princess mural?
Winnie the Pooh
The Little Mermaid...kiss the girl!
Dinosaurs...the boys didn't want anything to do with princesses!
Under the Sea
Dump trucks and bulldozers...typical male.
Of course, soccer--what else?
Finding Nemo
I myself helped to paint Dorree.
I did the solid color; Shanna did the shading.

Super heroes!
Yes, one kid in the orphanage has a cool bed...no idea how he lucked out.
I'd take a race car over a cage any day!
Maria Antonia specifically requested horses!
 Pretty amazing, huh??

I was so impressed with the Warrs and had a great week working with them!  To see all of my photos, (including shots from our "Night of the Movie Stars" where we escorted each kid in on the red carpet and served him/her an umbrella drink and gave him/her a special award), click here.

I am glad to be home with Ryan--but sad to be back to reality.  At the Hogar, I get to blow bubbles, color, and play all day long.  Here, that's just not really practical. 

I will miss the kids' hugs!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Anger in the Hiper Paiz

The Walmart of El Salvador:
Different name, same company, same wonderful atmosphere

The Walmart in Buffalo is annoying.  It is always a complete zoo, swarming with angry, rude people.  You have to wonder if the people are angry and rude before they enter the store, or if the shopping experience itself transforms them into their worst selves. 

As it turns out, although it goes by a different name here, the atmosphere of Walmart in El Salvador is no different than it is in the States.  But there is one major distinction between American Walmarts and the Salvadoran Walmarts…we will get to that later.

Yesterday, I had to venture into said madhouse to get some supplies for the orphanage.  I paid a taxi to take me there and to wait for me as I shopped.  When I got to the check-out, all of the lines were ridiculously long, so I just chose one.  After about 15 minutes, it was finally my turn.  But a little grandma behind me asked to go ahead because she only had one item and was in a rush to get somewhere.  “No problemo,” I said (demonstrating my excellent Spanglish) and stepped back for her to go ahead of me.   

As Granny finished her transaction, I reached into my cart to start unloading—but was suddenly interrupted by a loud voice declaring, “Con permiso!”   A woman shoved past me and started unloading her cart. 

Shocked, I looked around for an explanation. 

The Line Cutter just smiled smugly and pointed above my head. 

I looked up, and there, next to the familiar blue and white handicapped sign, was a similar sign—but instead of the white outline of a figure in a wheelchair, on this sign, there was the outline of someone with a round belly.

At first I didn’t get it.  Then it dawned on me:  In this country, pregnant women are allowed to cut the line at Walmart!

Great.  Just another reason to be mad that I’m not pregnant.

And so I watched while Prego’s husband took over for her and unloaded their two carts of groceries.  And I watched as Prego conveniently disappeared as soon as she’d secured her husband’s spot at the front of the line and went to enjoy a cold beverage at one of the nearby shops.  Not kidding. 

It could’ve been the anger clouding my perception, but it seemed to me that this oh-so-pleasant couple had hundreds of items.  And to make matters even more annoying, some of their items were specialty meats that had to be weighed and individually priced.

Come on.  I had about ten items.  Pregnant or not pregnant, that is just rude.

After thirty minutes of waiting for them to finish their transaction (and remember, I was paying the taxi outside), I thought of two snide comments I could make to the line-cutting husband:

“You don’t look like a pregnant woman to me, Sir.”  (Ooooh, I totally should have said that.)

and…

“Thanks a lot for making me wait; you know, I’m pregnant too.”  (Hey, I sorta am.  And he probably would’ve believed me, considering that two of the Hogar kids and two workers patted my belly and asked me if I am pregnant this week.  Awesome!)

But I held my tongue.  Mostly because I am a huge pansy.  But we’re going to pretend it is because I am an enlightened peacemaker. 

In the end, Walmart did not get the better of me: Angry, I was.  Rude, I was not.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mi Amor

At the risk of sounding like a total cheeseball, I have to write a tribute to this guy today:

Ryan, with very long hair, eating wings at the Anchor Bar.

After all, it is his 28th birthday.  That only happens once in a lifetime.

At our wedding reception, my dad gave a toast for me and Ryan.  He said how happy he was to have Ryan as a son-in-law and listed off some of Ry's good qualities.  Then he said, "In addition to all of that, my daughters tell me that Ryan is 'hot.'  I am not a judge of such matters.  So, all you ladies in the house, if you think Ryan is hot, please make some noise!"  Of course the place went wild with hooting and clapping, and poor shy Ry was quite red-faced.  To that my dad said, "It appears by the color of his cheeks that he is indeed hot."

The moment:



I don't know why my wedding is on the brain these past few days (I must be in a foreign country dreaming of my hubby), but I just wanted to say on this his 28th birthday that Ryan is indeed hot.  And on top of that, he is wonderful in every way.

Two recent experiences to illustrate that fact:

When we are in the grocery store together, Ryan always does the check-out so that I can read the celebrity tabloids.  Yes, I will admit it, I like to peruse US Weekly in the grocery store; I refuse to purchase such trashy journalism, but who can resist skimming a good celebrity headline?  Anyway, when Ryan is done with the check-out, I sometimes don't realize it because I am so sucked in to my intellectual reading.  After a minute or two, I will look up and see him standing by the door with the cart full of bags, waiting patiently for me to finish.  I will slam the magazine shut and run over to help him.  Luckily for me, he is never mad, and it makes me want to kiss him right then and there.  (And sometimes I do.)

I have been thinking a lot about adoption these past few weeks, and one day, while lying next to Ryan in bed, I verbalized one of my irrational concerns: "What if the baby that we adopt grows up and doesn't have social skills?"  Ryan smiled and said, "We will love him or her, no matter what."  I continued, "Will you be okay with it if the baby has a disability?"  He didn't even hesitate.  "Of course.  Our biological baby could have a disability too, and all kids deserve to be loved."  That is exactly how I have always felt.

With Ryan by my side, the inevitable future challenges of life (whether or not they have anything to do with our children) seem less daunting.  He is steady and wise and good to the core.

And cute to boot:

Ryan, with much shorter hair, on a recent date to Johnny Rockets.  We are fattening him up. 

Happy Birthday, Ryan.  When you pick me up from the airport tomorrow, you better be prepared to get a birthday squeeze.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

If there is one thing that I love about El Salvador, it's the rain.

There is nothing like sitting on my bed at night, writing in my journal to the sound of the rain pouring down outside.  It goes on for hours--so after I finish writing in my journal, I get to fall asleep to it.

So peaceful.

When Ry and I got married, I sang "Come Away with Me" to him at our wedding reception.  We were planning to spend the first three months of our marriage in El Salvador at the orphanage, so I thought the song was particularly appropriate:

"I want to wake up with the rain falling on a tin roof,
while I'm safe there in your arms,
so all I ask is for you,
to come away with me in the night..."

Que romantico.

That was a great day.



Speaking of great days, I had one today.

I spent the morning chillin' with Inecita and Chusita.  We sat under an outdoor pavilion and colored while listening to the radio.  I sang a nonsensical Spanish song to them.  My vocabulary is quite limited, so this is what I came up with:

"Inecita es bonita, bonita, bonita.
Chusita es bonita tambien!"

Yeah, I know...I'm almost as talented as Norah Jones.

This afternoon, I hung out with Roberto.  Don't tell the other ninos, but he is my favorite.  I mean, come on, check out those shades and mustachio:



And this evening, while a bunch of us watched a movie together, I got to snuggle with Maritza and Xiomarita.  Okay, they're my favorites too.  Okay, so maybe I can't pick a favorite.

Hasta manana.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Week of Miracles

This week has been one of miracles:


1.  Ryan informed me that he has gained three pounds.  I am rejoicing.  (Can we say, O.F.U.R?)


2.  I am heading to El Sal in the morning, and I somehow managed to pack a week's worth of clothes, supplies for games and activities, and a rather large statue of Christ (gift for the nuns who run the orphanage) in a carry-on suitcase.  I am thoroughly impressed by myself.


3.  Okay, so this one is serious.  As I mentioned in my previous post, we were approved for adoption this week, and it feels miraculous and exciting--but also a little scary!  I mean, this is actually happening...we could actually have a baby sometime in the next year.  Wowza.


Our adoption agency, LDS Family Services, uses a system where the birth mother chooses the family to whom she would like to give her baby.  Some adoptive families are picked within a year—others are not picked for many years.  With that in mind, we need to get the word out to as many people as possible that we are interested in adoption. The agency told us to involve all of our friends and family in spreading the word because you just never know who might be able to help.  They told us that a family recently found their baby when a friend of theirs mentioned to her co-worker that she knew a great couple that was hoping to adopt; it just so happened that this co-worker’s best friend’s daughter was pregnant and thinking about adoption.  What are the chances? 

So go ahead and tell anyone and everyone that you know about us! :)  You could forward our information on to the people in your email list or mention us to friends and family; you could post our information on your blog or facebook page with a link to our adoption profile; you could also put a “button” on the sidebar of your blog that people can click on to find out more about us.  (Let me know if you are willing to do this, and I will send you the button.)  We want to spread the word to as many people as possible. The adoption agency is affiliated with our church, but the birth parents do not need to share our religion, nor do they need to live in New York.  Also, we would love a child of any race or background.

I’ve always known that there was a chance that I would need to adopt, and I’ve actually always felt excited about adoption.  What I have not felt excited about is this stage—the advertising myself stage.  I remember seeing the adoption buttons on people’s blogs and thinking, “That is just so sad.  Why can’t these good people have babies?  I never want to have to advertise myself in order to be a mother.”  Well, the time has come, and I'm learning to swallow my pride and do everything in my power to show the Lord how much I want a baby.  This journey is teaching me a lot about myself and about letting go of control and putting my life in God’s hands.  I sent a version of this blog post to many friends and family via email this weekend, and after I sent it, I felt a little bit ill.  Did I really just send an email which exposes some of my greatest trials and greatest desires to dozens of people?  Talk about vulnerable!

The good news is, everyone has been so supportive.  I am grateful for all of the words of encouragement and promises of prayer.  The love that we have received has been miraculous to us.  

I hope everyone has a great week!  I will try to check my email and blog periodically from El Sal, but you just never know about Internet access down there.  Wish me luck.  Hasta luego, amigos!