Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Bursting good time

This is Mike...
We finally got house guests and were so excited to do cool things with them. We had a wonderful dinner out, enjoyed cocktails and good conversation. The kids played crazy hard until they passed out. Life was good, real good. Then, at 2:30am, while in my deepest of deepest slumbers, there was a knock on our bedroom door. It was Lia quietly asking, "Hey Mike, sorry to bother you but is the house supposed to be full of water?" At that moment, I went from dreaming about my version of Planet of the Apes, to reality.
    Elise and I got up and were amazed that our kitchen and sala (living room) were indeed under 2 inches of warm muddy water. Part of me wanted to throw my hands in the air, say "F this" and turn around and go back to bed but it was a serious issue and tons of water was still gushing out of the walls. Of course, this only happens when the house is packed with 9 people. Of course this only happens in the middle of the night during my lobotomy hour. We tried pushing the water out of the house with brooms and mops until we realized the leak was only reducible but not stoppable. We did what any other people would do, we made all the phone calls we could and promptly we went back to bed and tried in vain, to sleep.
   Over our wet-footed breakfast we decided that the best course of action for the day was to go to a local hotel and enjoy their pool facilities and stay there as long as possible. The water leak was eventually fixed but the damage to the 150 year old interior adobe wall will take time to repair especially since it needs time to dry out. It turned out that a pressure reducing valve blew and two pipes, one in the Sala and one in the kitchen, burst. Thankfully our guests are top-notch and totally understand our situation. In fact, the kids loved playing in the living room full of water on an inflatable shark and splashing in the water. I knew I was over my head when I gave up trying to keep anything clean. Lia asked if I was stressed out. I looked at her and said, "I am totally overwhelmed, totally overwhelmed!" We both laughed, after all, what could you do?
   The women and kids ended up making the most of the experience at the hotel by hand-making chocolate drinks and chocolate bars while Elise got a massage. I on the other hand, mostly remained at the house during the repairs. I did eventually join them at the hotel, right around happy hour, which was very needed. I guess you could say we had a bursting good time during their first night staying with us.   

The adobe wall has a lot of hidden damage that will take time to repair.

Slip-n-slide Nicaragua style.

I put this note up to warn the kids of possible electrical danger.

The kids swept the water right out of the house on to the street.

Playing in the water after hours of trying to remove it.

Hard working team.

Chocolate making class.

Crazy good time making chocolate the "old way"

Ahhh, chocolate finger coming at me, run!

Playing with a turtle in the hotel gardens.

Chase getting ready to grind the chocolate.

Smashing the chocolate with liquid.

Getting ready to make cacao drink.

Toasting the cacao beans.

The kids chilling with their coconuts.

Enjoying the pool during an otherwise very challenging day.

El Camello restaurant

This is Mike...
We have been eating at El Camello restaurant, in Granada, a lot lately. We love the food and the vibe. It just so happens that Zoe's friend is there all the time too, as her parents own the restaurant. Its a winning combo, Elise and I can enjoy quite time while the kids play in the back. We also took our guests, Lia and family, out here on their first night visiting us as well. For anyone planning on visiting this restaurant, the food and atmosphere is wonderful 

One camel walking the other camel

Timothy enjoying a smoothie

Cool art on the walls

Nice bar with cool lighting.

Interesting art for all to enjoy.

4th grade pool party

This is Mike...
We have been busy, the last week or so, running around, fixing my computer, school functions and getting ready for visitors. Now that the dust has settled I can finally get caught up on the blog. The weather has improved a lot making our time more enjoyable but the flies are now out in force. According to the locals, we should expect June and July to have more flies than usual. It is funny how the things that Granada cannot control, like flies and heat, are the things that most negatively effect us.
   A few days ago, we went out to Sierra's 4th grade teacher's house for a pool party for her students. As it turns out Sierra's teacher, Ms. Maielle, is moving back to New York after 4 years in Granada. She needs to take care of her ailing father, so leaving will be more emotional for her than otherwise would have been. As a young confident woman, Ms. Maielle traveled to amazing and remote parts of the world, like Mozambique among other spots. I loved watching Sierra react to her teacher with such admiration. Sierra really took a liking to her teacher and as a parent I appreciate the positive role modeling Ms. Maielle had on my daughter.
   As for the party, it felt like a country club environment and the kids went crazy playing in the water. Something that is still weird for us North Americans to see, are servants, for a lack of a better word. In Nicaragua most people, with means, employ maids to clean homes, tend gardens, and help care for the kids. We have maids back in the states as well but the major different here is how bosses treat their help. The relationship here is very clear cut, there is a master and there is a servant with no grey area. Of course, silly me, not realizing anything too quickly and speaking to everyone all the time, I had inadvertently crossed the line. I treated one of the mom's maid like a party-goer and true to my hospitality when I offer food and the person says no, I offer more food until they say yes, just like my mom would have done. I knew she was hungry, that was apparent, what I didn't know was, she was "the help" and my hospitality unknowingly crossed local etiquette. If I, or my children, never ever recognize "the help" we will all be the better for it. 
   Nobody was upset that I fed the maid, it just highlighted the innocent differences between cultures. Experiencing the innocent differences between cultures is one of the reasons why we want to expose our kids to the world. My kids see "the help" in our home too, but they also see daddy making breakfast for everyone including our maid. My kids see the poor, stray dogs, the yucky things on the streets without filters. They see the world through their own eyes and make their own  opinions of how the world works. Whether we stay or go, seeing the imperfect, has motivated my daughters in ways yet to be revealed.

Ms. Maielle playing with the kids in the pool.

Convention of moms discussing "momly" things while I was enjoying beer off to the side.

Ms. Maielle swimming with the kiddos.

Silly face time in the pool.

Playing in the water is the same worldwide

Ms. Maielle and class jumping into the water.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Letter to the tooth fairy

This is Mike...
My 10 year old daughter wrote an adorable apology letter to her tooth fairy, whom she named, Buttercup. The letter, pictured below, reads:

Dear Buttercup, (Tooth Fairy)
I have swallowed my tooth. Please don't get mad at me. I will tell you how it happened. I was eating and talking at the same time, and I forgot about my tooth. Next thing is that I swallowed and right afterwards I took my tongue to wiggle my tooth...and it was gone! I looked for it but I couldn't find it. A minute after I lost it, I felt bad in my stomach. Sorry!
                                                                                                      Love, Sierra

Sierra also had questions for Buttercup like:

Is your hair brown?
Are there other tooth fairies for other people?
How big are you?
Where do you live?

Sierra also drew a picture of herself so that the tooth fairy would not mix her up with Zoe, who shares the same room.
Sierra also left additional space for Buttercup to make notes and to share anything else on the tooth fairy's mind.

The sweetness and innocence of the letter reminds me why childhood is so precious and why so many parents around the world wish their children would not grow up so fast. There is plenty of time to be an adult. Until then, encourage the young to enjoy childhood.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Honey, we bought a monkey and 4 parrots

This is Mike...
There is an old saying, "Truth is stranger than fiction" and oh boy, is that ever so true. On our way back to Granada, we saw some people selling forest animals on the side of the highway. We stopped to see the birds they we offering and were appalled by the way the wild forest birds were being kept. Each bird had their flight feathers trimmed and were sitting on a stick with 4 inches of string tied around their right legs so they could not escape. We felt so bad for the birds. We huddled and whispered as a family plotting how we could care for the birds and set them free, once they were able to fly. By the time we were done, we bought 4 parrots and a monkey. Before people start judging us about contributing to animal trade, read on. The parrots were in a terrible shape and the monkey was super thirsty so their lives probably depended on us buying them.

Innocently stopping to see what was available.

The birds looked so sad tethered to a stick with their 4 inch strings.

With hands of a child, the monkey surprised us.
    Buying the animals was the easy part. What in the heck are we going to do with them, proved more tricky. When we got back home we realized just how wrong it was for us to keep them even for a short time while they are convalescing back to health. Within hours we found a good home for the birds, letting the new care takers know that we wished for the parrots to one day be free again. As for the monkey, the girls fell in love with him right away and named it "Sport." Well, Sport liked to poop just about everywhere and at anytime. For example, Sport was on Sierra's head and pooed a good one, which oozed right down her back. Sport peed on both of my girls heads on three separate occasions. Sport bit each of the girls, including Elise, several times while they were playing with him. We don't blame him at all, he is a wild animal and needed to be reintroduced to the wild when the time was right.

Cuddly, adorable monkey.

Packing the majestic parrots in a pathetic box for the ride home.

   Very few things, in life, are able to conjure a family feud of yelling and swearing at each other, like a monkey can. In less then 10 minutes after arriving home, the monkey scurried over our wall and went into our neighbors living room. Imagine, for a moment, what you would have done if a strange monkey hopped on to your couch, while you were watching your favorite soap opera? Well then, you can kind of imagine our neighbors reactions. They screamed bloody murder and ran outside of their house, stunned that a monkey was between them.  After the gut splitting laughter, between us and our  neighbors stopped, we knew that we were holding a living breathing "Hot Potato." Monkeys are more lively than a cranky 2 year old and crazier than a college stoner. Knives, scissors, glass, everything was in harms way, while Sport was on the loose. Poo and pee aside, monkeys are needy, social beings and we knew Sport needed much more than we could offer him.

How can you not like a monkey.

Sport was happy to make home on top of you head.

Sierra liked playing with ole pooper Sport but realized he was a bit too much to handle.

   Elise slept on the couch last night and I was worried that she was upset by all the yelling and swearing that had gone on in the prior evening. I approached the front living room cautiously, in case she was still upset, only to find Elise laying down watching T.V. with the monkey on her head. I asked if she was Okay and she replied, "Yes I am Okay, I just can't get up." I asked why, and she replied, "The monkey won't get off my hair, he bites me every time I try to move him, he constantly plays with me. He is so needy, it's hard to get mad at him." I helped her move Sport and then went to the coffee machine for my morning jolt. Moments later my wife walked into the kitchen. I said, "OMG your hairs looks crazy." Elise replied, "Imagine a monkey teasing your hair all night long and making a nest with it." Just after that, Elise turned around and looked in the mirror and laughingly said, "MY GOD... my hair has never looked like this before! It looks like a rat's nest! It's Crazy!" We both started to laugh and didn't stop until our sides were in pain. Elise officially had the "Bride of Frankenstein, slash 1980's flashback monkey hairdo" and we officially had a problem.

Walking a monkey is nothing like walking a dog.

5 Minutes after this picture, Sport peed on Sierra's head

Family portrait

   Finding a solution sometimes means finding a need that needs to be filled. For Sierra, Zoe, and I, we found the animal rescue center just outside of the Masaya Zoo. There, we met Steven Lyons from Tyler, Texas who has since relocated with his wife to Masaya, Nicaragua. He helps rehabilitate far too many forest animals in a successful reintegration program. People are often times crazy, and their expectations on animal ownership are even more so. We never wanted to keep the monkey or parrots, just save them from the jerk-offs who exploit them on the side of the highway. In our case, spending money buying these critters was well spent as long as they can eventually be released back to the wild.

Steven Lyons at the rescue center.

Sierra and Steven exchanging animal stories.

Steven with an injured Congo Howler Monkey.

    Just outside the Masaya Zoo, is the animal rescue center. The center's primary care takers are Steven and Denise Lyons. They work very hard to release qualifying animals back to the forest. Qualifying animals can both take care of themselves and show a willingness to be wild and free. Recently, the rescue center released more than 100 animals back to the wild, far away from human encroachment. The rescue center is swimming in forest birds of all kinds, including macaws, toucans, and other rare birds. They are doing the most possible for the animals with any money they receive but the constant supply of new forest animals overwhelms them. For those of you wishing to improve the world, donating to this cause would be worth while. Feel free to email Denise at if you wish to donate or have any question regarding the program. This is a great place and any amount will help. In fact, my family and I will be going back out there soon to donate both money and time for their program.     

Jaguarundi is a wildcat of the forest

Baby porcupine in the neonatal clinic was as adorable as it gets.

Spider monkey staring into your soul

Green parrot should be flying in the forest.

Rare forest birds trapped in a cage

   My daughters and I dropped off Sport at the rescue center and were excited to hear they will do everything in their power to get him back to the wild. We were amazed to learn of so many other animals they were trying to free. The center housed every sort of animal like rodents, wildcats, birds, raccoons, monkeys, and porcupines to name a few. Some of the animals will never return to the wild, like the monkeys whose canine teeth were yanked out to make the bite less bad. The process of regaining the "Wild spirit" in the animals takes time. There are many animals at the center that were injured because they were set free too early and in areas that were too populated. For example, a family let their pet toucan free and it flew into a neighbors window breaking its beak in half. The rescue center took the injured toucan in and glued the front half of a beak from a toucan skeleton it had in storage, as a prosthetic beak. These are just some of the amazing things the center does for the innocent animals it takes in.

More parrots than one could imagine.

You can almost see the broken beak repair job on this toucan.

Raccoon itching to be free.

Coatimundis are naturally curious guys which gets them in harms way.
   Lessons learned are many, but the greatest lesson we learned is that wild animals are best left in the wild. My kids were understandably saddened to see their monkey, Sport, go. However, they both knew it was the right thing for everyone, including Sport. Trying to explain animal freedom to a child can be tough because they think their intentions to be good owners will make up for any short comings. For adults too, intention to do good sometimes clouds judgement. We all learned a lesson and when a family learns together it make future episodes like this less likely to occur.
   Please support the rescue center as their injured animals can't go out and help themselves and this is the last stop for these innocent animals.