Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mosaic at the Otorongo Stairs

When I found out that a group of artists and volunteers were going to spruce up the Otorongo stairs I was all over it!  Yesterday we headed over there in the afternoon and got to work.  The artists were very helpful in showing the kids how to first spray the wall with water, butter the wall with cement and then find the perfect piece for the perfect spot.  Here are the results of our efforts.  We were only able to complete a small portion of the mosaic in 2 1/2 hours, but we are heading back on Monday to help again.

It is a great feeling to know that we will always be able to walk by this mosaic and point out the sections that we helped to create.  The Franklin family is officially a piece of beautiful Cuenca.

The portion already completed.

The kids are getting a lesson.

Before picture of the other side.

Picking the perfect piece.

Gi loved smashing the tiles.

Learning how to butter the wall.

Tali buttering.

Our family completed the two dark blue sections
in front of Tali.  It took us almost three hours.

Wiping off the excess cement and cleaning the tiles.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

What a gorgeous Father's Day in Cuenca!  The weather couldn't be more beautiful. 

We had a very nice breakfast at Windhorse and then Mark wanted to take a drive into the Cajas.  We stopped at Laguna Toreador to take in the views.  It was nice and warm when the sun was out, but quite chilly when it hid behind a cloud. 

I had a nice chat with a woman from Quito who was waiting for her group to come back from their hike.  I was so happy with myself to be able to converse with her entirely in Spanish.


And here is a video of Patrick enjoying himself wherever he goes.  We thought he was going to get a splinter up his ass, but instead he burnt it.

I really hate my laugh. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013


On Sunday we traveled to Guayaquil to submit our paperwork for the pensioner's visa.  We got the pickiest administrator and she accepted our paperwork, so hopefully we will pass the rest of the process with flying colors.  Yay!  We will have to go back three more time to pick up the visa, apply for our cedula (country ID card) and pick up the cedula starting on the 26th of this month.

On the way through the mountains we came upon some clouds that were dancing in the valley.  Mark didn't get a picture of the clouds, but he did get some good ones of Pat and Amanda.

Pretty windy!

We decided to stay in the Grand Hotel in Guayaquil since they had a nice swimming pool.  We were not disappointed.  The pool was beautiful and they had a gorgeous sun patio with really cute lounge chairs with big fluffy pillows.  They also had a roof-top party area with a pool and foos table. It was a great place to relax in the evenings and enjoy the breeze and a few beers.  The staff was also fantastic.  Very helpful and super friendly. 

Unfortunately on our first full day, Finn cut himself on a huge piece of glass in the pool.  We think it was a broken juice glass.  It was pretty deep, but he didn't need stitches.  The hotel paid for the medic and the medication.  We were hoping and thinking that they should have paid for one night's stay as well, but no go.  Definitely different than in the states for sure. 

That meant that I was left with two children and nothing to do.  We made the best of it though.  My favorite spot was the Iguana Park right behind the hotel.  We walked by it the first night and didn't see any iguanas.  The next morning we ran into two and were beginning to think that people were exaggerating when they said that there were at least a hundred in the park.  Well, once the park official brought their food of green vegetation by the wheelbarrow full, all the iguanas started to emerge from the trees. It was pretty awesome and I could have stayed there all day watching them. 

We also went down to the Malecon (boardwalk).  It was pretty, but so hot and muggy that we didn't stay long. 

Action shot.

Beautiful setting.

The beautiful iguana mosaic statue above the pool.

Love it.

Here is the real thing.

Mom and babe?

I need to get me some lechuga!

You'd better get outta my way, little missie. 
I'm on a mission to get to the smorgasbord.

Strike a pose.

Feeding frenzy.

If the lechuga won't come to me, I will come to
the lechuga! I love the little faces of the ones below.


Finn taking a rest in the shade.  It was hot! 

Here are some links to the iguanas in action.  Can you tell that I couldn't get enough of them?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Unschooling - Part Four...If you can't beat em, join em!

For a lot of parents video games and tv are a hard pill to swallow.  Radical unschoolers believe in unlimited tv and computer time.  That is a really RADICAL way of thinking for Mark and myself, especially since we are/were teachers. 

Finn and Tali have been obsessed with a National Geographic interactive kid's game called Animal Jam.  They both have a membership, which allows them greater access to the game, but really is just a way to take more of our money.  Mark and I have been bothered by how much time they spend on the game.  Mark more than me.  For the past 4-6 months we have limited it to one hour a day.  That seemed to work well for Mark and I, but it really bugged Tali and Finn. 

For the past week I have given them unlimited access.  Mark does not approve in any way, shape or form, but I have asked him to give me time to try this style of parenting and he is obliging.  Since we have also done away with bedtimes this has meant that they have been staying up until 11:30 or 12:00 to play Animal Jam.  I was surprised to find that they have not been crabby at all during the day.  Finn has never needed much sleep so this has really helped him psychologically I think.  Tali has always been good about putting herself to sleep when tired. 

During the day they play the game, but they are also playing with their stuffed animals, Legos and Littlest Pet Shop critters.  I thought for sure that with unlimited access it would be an all day, all night thing.  But it honestly hasn't been.  Surprise, surprise.  :)

Unschooling parents also recommend getting involved in the video games that your child is loving.  So today I asked Tali to set up an account for me on Animal Jam.  You should have seen their faces!  They were so surprised that I wanted to do this.  Well, I have to tell you that honestly, its pretty cute and fun. 

First you pick an animal.  I picked a seal.  Then you get to customize it and your "den".  They start you out with a few items to decorate your den, but then you have to play the games to win more gems to buy more items.  I played the Phantom's Treasure Hidden Reef game today.  You have to find the different animals and plants hidden in the reef.  It introduces the kids to their names and habitats.  It also gives little informational cards for each animal or plant.  I actually had fun and played for quite a long time.  Another great way for me to bond with my kids.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Unschooling - Part Three...Chores

I can feel myself starting to have a paradigm shift towards unschooling as a lifestyle, not just a way of learning.  I can understand the way unschoolers view food, sleep and tv/computer time.  I get it.  I can see myself doing it.  I can see our family easily slipping into this way of life. (I still have to bring Mark to the other side though.) What I was having a hard time wrapping my head around was the chores aspect.  Unschoolers have a radical way of thinking about and looking at chores.  It goes completely against what I thought I believed.  I've been furiously reading everything I can find on Sandra Dodd's site and trust me, there is a lot.  But I couldn't bring myself to read the pages about chores. 

The way I see/saw it is that Finn and Tali are a part of this family and should therefore chip in and help.  They have been responsible for quite a few chores every week...changing the bathroom garbage can daily, (We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and the pipes in this very old city are not up to handling trash, so toilet paper needs to be deposited in garbage cans next to the toilet.) taking the dog out on the weekends when the downstairs tenents are here, washing the dishes, and folding and putting away the laundry.  For those chores they receive $3.00 a week.  In the states it would be more, but the cost of living is much cheaper in Ecuador.  In my mind I felt that this was a good deal. They learned responsibility, helped the family and were able to save their money if they chose to in order to purchase things that they wanted.  Right now they are both saving up for an Ipod Touch.  Tali has saved $58 and Finn, $32. 

I've also felt that pity party for myself.  "Why should I have to do everything?!"  I already do so shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc...  If the kids don't help me I will start to get resentful and that is not something I want to feel. 

But radical unschoolers see it differently. It is really hard to understand in just a paragraph or two so I'm not going to explain it here.  If you are interested in learning more about radical unschooling and chores, please read: 

Today I was reading along and finally came to a place in my heart that said to just go ahead and read the pages on chores.  I was afraid of what I would read.  But I did anyway.  And what I found was not at all what I thought I was going to find.  I think I really get it.  I think I understand and I think it is something I can do from a happy place. 

I am not one to take in information and process it for a long time.  I like to jump right in, so that's what I did today.  I decided to put into practice what I have been reading about chores.  Starting today.  Here's what happened.

Mark, Patrick and Amanda have been in Montanita learning how to scuba dive.  They are coming home today.  I gave Finn all week to clean up his playroom. The thing is filthy.  I just couldn't take it anymore!  He has been moaning and groaning about cleaning it and "okaying" me all week.  Well, its Friday and it still hasn't been done.  So, I decided to try radical unschooling.  After taking a nap I told myself that I would go in and clean the room.  I would not ask for help and I would do it with peace and love.  Since my back has been hurting all week I told myself that I would only do what I wanted to do.  I told myself that I didn't have to finish the whole thing today. 

The kids were on the computer when I went into the room with a garbage bag, broom and dustpan.  I sat down and starting picking up Legos.  Let me tell you, Finn has a boatload of Legos and they were scattered from one end of the room to the other sitting in little piles of dust.  Finn saw me and immediately came to help saying, "Mom, I'll help. You shouldn't have to do this all by yourself."  I told him that I didn't mind and if he wanted to keep playing Animal Jam he could.  But he stayed with me and we cleaned up everything together.  It took a long time and it wasn't easy for me because me back was really hurting, but we had a lot of fun listening to music, talking and laughing.  I really enjoyed myself and so did Finn.  Tali kept on playing Animal Jam.  She didn't invite herself to help and I didn't ask her to, which was perfectly okay. 

After finishing, the joy in Finn was enormous.  I was in the kitchen putting stuff away and he ran in and threw his arms around me thanking me.  I thanked him back.  It was a lovely moment. 

Finn hugging his playroom.

Every radical unschooling thing I try makes me more and more a believer.  I am so grateful to have the chance to be at home with my kids and to move our family to a more peaceful and loving place. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Corpus Christi

Tonight begins the Feast of Corpus Christi. 

According to Wikipedia, the Feast of Corpus Christi is "is a Latin Rite liturgical solemnity celebrating the tradition and belief in the body and blood of Jesus Christ and his Real Presence in the Eucharist. It emphasizes the joy of the institution of the Eucharist, which was observed on Holy Thursday in the somber atmosphere of the nearness of Good Friday."

I've also learned that, "Use of firecrackers has intangible traditional meaning and religious symbolism in Ecuadorian festivals and events." and
"Religious events are announced with firecrackers. This is a custom that goes back hundreds of years. So you will hear firecrackers at 5am and then very loud music blasting off speakers on top of a truck, followed by 50 people carrying candles and singing and a big statue of the Mother of all people (Pachamama)."

And, Question: Why are there so many candy/sweet tiendas surrounding the Cathedral during Corpus Christi?

Answer: Many years ago when the Spaniards first came, the Indigenous people were not allowed to attend the catholic church services inside the church. The Indigenous were unhappy about the discrimination. So when it was a period of fasting for the religious Catholics, the Indigenous people would stand outside the church with sweets to tempt the Spaniards.

I'm sorry, but I think that is sweet justice!

For the next seven nights there will be fireworks and music.  In December an old church caught fire from one of the globos.  Because of this there has been a ban on globos and rockets.  There was a back and forth with the fireworks, but it was finally decided today that the fireworks will go on.  Yay!  It would really harm the old traditions to not allow the fireworks.  I'm not sure we will go up there at night because it gets so crowded, but we'll see.

We walked up to El Centro with Fabi, the kid's Spanish teacher and our friend, to check out the initial festivities. 

(As an aside to address unschooling, I let the kids eat as much candy as they wanted.  When we got home they both wanted something healthy and filling to eat.)

Fabi and the kids.

We just missed the parade.

Vendors set up along the square.

How do you choose?

The little balls in front are lime, carrot, beet, pineapple, etc...
flavored sweets.

Do you think these would be tempting to the
fasting Catholics?