Thursday, October 27, 2016


A little girl read the first reading at Mass last night.  It started with: Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother. This is the first commandment with a promise, that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth. Eph 6:1-2

Watching her read so carefully, wearing a dressy shirt and no jacket even though it was freezing, I couldn't help but wonder what in the world the kids were thinking when they read/heard that.  (Read it again and pretend you are an eight year old orphan.)  Sometimes it hits home that I'm living and working in a world of parentless children.  Yes some have families outside our walls but they are being raised here, within them.  They aren't going to have their own room or know what it's like to have someone come to their soccer game just to watch them or remember their favorite food on their birthday or tell them stories about their family's traditions.  It's striking and I guess makes for another stop moment.  

Tonight I picked up a pizza from Pizza Hut for five bucks (from nearby Chimal, 20 min chicken bus ride-I used to avoid the city because it is so dangerous but I guess living here has made me less cautious and a bit stupid).  Three of my kids and I walked over to the other side of campus and watched the sunset while we sat at a kid sized picnic table.  We laughed and ate and made up songs and talked about our day.  It was precious.  And I had another stop moment.

Today one of my special needs kids was applauded during our anniversary practice while she stood in the middle of a crowd of kids.  After the cheers quieted, she turned around and around searching until she found me. Then she ran up and hugged me, burying her face in my side with a huge, embarrassed smile.  Yet another stop moment.

I look at this year and can honestly say I haven't brought much to the table (trust me on this!).  And I can't really say I am going home from this experience with anything the world would value either.  But I have reaped so much love that every minute is worth it in the end.  I guess today's blog is me taking a minute to keep these moments close.  Thanks for letting me share it with you!


I've had my moments, days in the sun
Moments I was second to none
Moments when I knew I did what I thought I couldn't do
Lookin' at me now you might not know it
But I've had my moments

~Emerson Drive

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


If someone had told me last year that I would be COLD in Guatemala...I never would have believed it!  But here in the mountains, the temperature dips!  Last night I had 4 blankets on my bed and this morning I was shivering as I got ready to go running.  The funny thing is that even though it gets "that cold" we don't have a source of heat.  No heat in the house or fireplaces or anything like that.  I'm assuming this will be short-lived...and it's not like we have snow or things are freezing!  It's just cold!

Things have slowed down considerably here at NPH.  The kids are on school break, similar to the summer break we have in the states, and we have less scheduled activities and more time for fun.  One thing that we are all involved in and are scheduled to participate in is the House Anniversary coming up in November.  They divided everyone up into teams...and I mean EVERYONE from baby house to top administrators.  We are all competing against each other in different categories.  These range from creating a flag and a cheer to being assigned a particular sport to choreographing a dance. We even picked a mascot!

These practices are three times a week and we get out of work for two hours to participate in them.  Not a thing where we live: pay people for 20 hours of party planning.  Cultural differences!

It's an interesting experience as some groups are very well organized with team leaders who have vision, while others can't seem to get anything done.  The house party will be interesting!  I'm lucky I suppose since my group is pretty with it.  We've made a lot of progress in the week we've been working together.

We lost a volunteer this week (clarification: he went home, he didn't die).  Someone asked me if that affected the morale of the group but we are so close to the end that it honestly just felt like he left a little early.  My life in Guatemala can be summed up in one line: always expect the unexpected.  And also maybe expect that what you expect isn't going to happen.  My friend came into town this past weekend and unfortunately had her wallet stolen on the chicken bus.  A co-worker had his phone stolen.  Just one of those weeks!  I'm hiking this coming weekend to the highest point in Central America.  Hope to have some beautiful photos for you all!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Baby House y lavado de manos

Another one of my jobs at NPH is putting together health presentations for the kids.  When I first arrived in Guatemala I made several powerpoint slide shows.  I was never given an audience (which was fine, Spanish being my weakness) until this past week. 

I was asked to present a handwashing program for the kids.  Thankfully this is one of the presentations I already had on hand.  And I quickly recruited another clinic worker to help me with the talking part!

Since this week is the second week of vacation, the kids are still enjoying their new found freedom.  We had a very attentive audience and a lot of fun!

As you can see, it was super cute.  When we asked the kids why they should wash their hands, they told us all about bacteria and getting sick.  We asked what happens when one kid in the house gets sick and they answered, "We all get sick!"  This is true.  I can attest to it.

This isn't to say the kids don't wash their hands or know how.  They do!  But it is always good to review and especially reinforce with the littles!

After the powerpoint, the kids colored pictures highlighting the times we should wash our hands.  While they were at work, I took two or three of them at a time to the sinks and they demonstrated how to wash their hands, singing "Twinkle, twinkle little star" in Spanish or counting to 20 while they scrubbed.

They were little superstars and when they had finished drying their hands, we gave them lollipops.  Three of them gave me their finished works of art as a gift and I left with a huge smile on my face.  Definitely one of the perks of my job!

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Generosity of Love

Something happened while we were in Panama that I want to draw attention to.  The last night, before our going-away dinner, two lovely women called and asked my friend and I to stop by their room on our way down.  We debated what they could want the entire way, stretching from drinking shots to somehow being in trouble.  

I was totally unprepared for what they actually had in mind: out of the generosity of their hearts they wanted to present me with two sizable checks for my kids.  They said they had been touched by hearing about them and seeing their pictures (yeah, I'm like a grandma, pulling out their photos and showing them to random strangers).  

Their generosity brought tears to my eyes and completely rounded out the perfect vacation.  It also is an example of the many beautiful people who have supported me in this venture.  From my work friends who raised $600 in less than 24 hours to my close friends and family who have sent me packages, letters, emails and called, skyped and listened to me text-vent...everyone has been so generous!

I plan to use the money to buy my kids Christmas presents and hopefully take them to the theater for a "real" movie around Christmas time.  I'm super blessed to be here and even more to see how everyone comes together to give to these kids.  Beach trip is in the works.  We found a house and have permission to go.  We just need confirmation on the house and we'll start booking the bus and planning meals.  I can't wait!

Friday, October 14, 2016


I started in on the last page of my passport with a Panama stamp.  What happens next?  Do I send it for more pages?  As long as it gets me home, right?

Miraflores Locks

So PANAMA!  What a BEAUTIFUL country!!  A little piece of home, really.  They use American currency and everything is so NEW...well except for the old city but even that is beautifully renovated and full of restaurants and live music.

Sunrise jog

My friend and I did EVERYTHING we possibly could in the eight days we were there.  We were up at the crack of dawn, running the Cinta Costura and out until midnight taking in the city lights from the roof of the Hardrock Cafe.  

left side before, right side after they let out the water

Going through the locks

We also took a partial transit tour down the Panama Canal, going through the locks with HUGE ships from Asia, Europe and North America.  They were taking pictures of us as we took pictures of them!  We also boated around Lake Gatun and took in the monkeys, birds and even saw sloths!  

Monkey, not a sloth

United States Cemetery: Visited on Columbus Day

View from Ancon Hill

Panama Flag

Amador Causeway

Playa Bonita

Live music in the Old City

We crossed the Isthmus to the Caribbean side and spent the day on Islas Grande, taking in the ruins of Portobelo where the Spanish built a fort to defend the gold they were bringing up from Peru.  We even found a coral reef and went snorkeling.

Isla Grande

We hiked up lighthouses and tiptoed through bunkers built by the US Army over a hundred years ago.  We ran through the rain and hours later took in the stars, the sky clearing magically as we navigated out of the canal and into the ocean.  All in all, it was a beautiful, unforgettable journey and one I'll always treasure!

Chocolate (in case you couldn't tell)

Adoration in the airport!!

Negro Christo in Portabelo (popular pilgrimage destination)

Caymans don't bite, right?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

El Día del Niño!!

In celebration of National Children's Day NPH held a fair for the kids chock-full of food, fun and games.

Vendors came in and provided churros, rides, fried bananas, tostadas, cotton candy and all sorts of things.

The kids with special needs were assigned one-on-one to an adult and made the rounds with them, collecting candy and toys along the way.

In the afternoon there was a performance by the adults of NPH.  Each section performed and since I work in the clinic and I'm a volunteer, I performed twice.  Another Guatemalan first: dancing in front of a live audience!

For lunch we were provided with happy meals from McDonalds...definitely a treat for the kids!

The highlight of the show was when the office staff danced and sang, dressed in the most ingenious costumes.  We had four ninja turtles, Snow White, Minions, Characters from Inside Out, Inspector Gadget and more!

Unfortunately Tuesday brought exams and the kids are back to the grind for the rest of the week.  Still, it is nice being a kid and we are certainly grateful for ours!