rocks in my granola, and other tales

Taking her lunch on the front step.

It’s 2:30 in the afternoon. Luvia just left. The chairs are sitting upside down on the table and the floors are still damp from her vigorous and repeated moppings.

My husband and all four kids just left to do some errands. They have to go get more minutes for the phone, stop by a sewing shop and drop off some fabric to be made into curtains. The children are also expecting a treat. Maybe they’ll bring home some sweet bread for a bedtime snack.

There is granola in the oven and some potatoes. We’ll have fried potatoes and eggs for supper.

I am sitting in my bed, propped up by two pillows, the computer on my lap. Next door (on the other side of the wall), the carpenters are tapping away on their project (an addition to this house, but not for us). A bus just roared down the road. The fan in the far room is whirring loudly as it attempts the impossible—to dry some clothes. I am eating Wilbur Buds and fighting to keep my eyes open.

He hung the fan up on the line so the wind would hit the clothing directly. 
Unintended bonus: the fan oscillates! 

This is the second time I’ve made granola. The first time I used oatmeal that I got out of a bin in an upscale grocery. There were a few dried beans in the oatmeal (from the bins next to the oatmeal), but I thought nothing of it and just picked them out before proceeding with the recipe. However, when we sat down to eat our much anticipated meal of regular granola mixed with cornflakes, we kept biting down on something hard.

“There are rocks in this granola!” my older daughter exclaimed. She spit out a piece into her hand and we studied it.

Rice! Bits of rock-hard rice were all through the granola! I had to throw it out, much to my dismay. I’m not used to ever throwing food directly into a trash can, but here there are no chickens to feed…yet.

Combing and braiding my daughter’s hair.
She braids it to the very tip and ties it off in a knot, no hair bands necessary.

I mixed up a second batch of granola today and then burned a small bit of it. I’m still working out the kinks of the oven. It has some pretty violent hot spots. Luvia asked permission to take home the burnt parts.

“Do you have chickens?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “I’ll grind it up and turn it into a drink.”

Cutting potatoes for the fried rice (that I let burn when she was out buying tortillas). 
She loves my knife, and with good reason – the knives here are TERRIBLE!

She also took two of our empty milk jugs home with her. For carrying coffee, she said. I’m glad things aren’t going to waste, but it’s awkward, having our trash be someone else’s treasure.

The rainy, cloudy, cold weather continues. Someone told me that here the cloudy days aren’t as oppressive as they are in the states, but I beg to differ. Here, they are equally oppressive. The difference is that here the streets are crowded with people walking everywhere, regardless of the weather.

To buy a little peace and quiet, we let the kids play games on our cell phones.

I am so glad I brought my twinkle lights (yet to be strung up), little lamps, and votives. Also, we bought two lamps to reduce the strain on our eyes—the bare, overhead light bulbs don’t provide sufficient lighting and we’re constantly squinting.

The corner of our bedroom. 
See the outline of the blocks? 
That’s the moisture showing through.

The inside of our house is very wet. Water seeps in through the concrete walls and runs down. They are wet to the touch. We can’t hang anything on the outside walls because of the moisture. I asked Luvia if this is how all the houses are and she said no. This house wasn’t built properly. Houses are supposed to be dry inside. Which is both encouraging and discouraging.

She spent three hours bonding with the toilet via puking and diarrhea. She’s fine now.

(Note: I said that we can see our breath and that is true. However, I’m figuring out that it’s not because of cold—though that may be true sometimes—but because of the wetness. It’s so wet that in the act of exhaling, steam is created. At least that’s what I think might be happening.)

The constant fighting is interspersed with periods of pleasantness.
The are distraught over their lack of toys. 
I tell them they’ll adjust. 
They don’t believe me. 

We are looking for another house to live in. I actually really like this house—the size and layout is quite nice—but the lack of outside space, privacy, and natural light, not to mention the leakiness and mold, constitute some pretty big drawbacks. We are going about fixing this place up, buying furniture, putting hooks in the (inside) wall, though, because it may be a little while before we can find another place (if we can find another place).

The front of our house: a one foot strip of grass (actual grass!) and a two foot strip of concrete. 
(I can’t wait  until the rose bush blooms.) 

A couple days we walked into town to do some more shopping. We do this almost every day. We buy what we can carry, get some groceries, discover a few more shops (oh, they sell chicks here! here’s a carpenter’s shop—let’s order some chairs! here’s where I can get flats of eggs! here’s the ATM machine! forks! I found forks! etc.) Some kids had to go to the bathroom so we stopped at a hotel.

While we were waiting, I suggested to my younger son that he burn off some of his energy by racing to the far end of the courtyard and back. So he did…several times. And then when the littlest one was at the far end, my older son asked if he could run, too.

“Fine,” I said, “just keep your head up and watch where you’re going.”

The boys took off, running at breakneck speed towards each other with their heads down. At the last minute, they realized they were going to crash, so they both swerved. But, oh horror, they swerved not around each other but into each other—BAM, they hit head on and both went down. My younger son bounced off his brother, spun around and smacked the pavement, nose first. My older son landed beside him, gasping for air and whimpering.

The older boy was fine, but the younger one had a bloody nose. The bridge of his nose had a red-purple mark, and at first we wondered if it might be broken. (It’s not, we don’t think, and though it was still a little swollen and sore in the morning, he didn’t complain about it anymore.) What a fiasco! (But at least I got to meet the hotel owners and learn the prices—it’s a nice place to stay. Visitors, anyone?) (Actually, if you come visit us, we won’t put you in a hotel. We’ll hold you hostage in our house and show you all our crazy and never let you go.)

PS. The granola turned out perfectly. No rocks. Yay.


  • Anonymous

    Hoping things improve……..that the children thrive……that all you hope to accomplish is as rewarding as you believe……and that you return safely and in good health. With admiration….

  • Carol S-B

    Well, I've just put together a little box with a cardboard calendar for each of the kids (and you too!) (one month on a postcard- sized paper). I added some watercolour stuff (tiny amount!) because watercolour painting is lovely in a damp environment. The edges are so soft. If the kids want to do watercolour on the calendars, good! but just swift, single-brush-stroke sketches will work the best. (draw with pencil first then a brushstroke to colour it in, mix the paints in tiny amounts on the edge of a plate).
    Now, we'll see how long it takes to get to Guatemala from Canada! the calendars might be moot, ha ha!

  • mamawanda

    All of you are in our thoughts and prayers, Zoe and I read every post of yours. She's very curious how Luvia knots the ends of the braids…

  • Evie

    When we first got to Ukraine, the balcony (where the clothes are traditionally hung to dry) was covered with mold until my husband got rid of it with lots of vinegar then bleach. The tiles in our bathroom would fall off the walls onto us as we showered. My husband burned the hairs off his arm lighting the tiny oven. But we got used to these things and lived with them until we could move into a friend's (nicer) place. It's okay to mourn what you have given up. I also tried to remind myself that people around us were living with worse! I'll pray that God will give you all the grace to handle this less-than-ideal situation–and protect you from ill health caused by the mold and dampness! I love your stories and your honesty. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  • Mama Pea

    Were you led to believe your living conditions and environment would be different than they are? It seems being able to do the work you signed up to do would be much easier (and therefore you'd be more effective in that respect) if your environment were better. There's always a period of adjustment with every new thing, but you are really being put through the wringer. Ugh. And hugs.

    • Jennifer Jo

      No. No one promised us anything, and we knew it would be rustic. Actually, the living conditions are quite excellent—even rather high end. But the leaky ceilings are not… And we forgot to mention that some outside space would be appreciated. I didn't think to say anything because almost all the houses I've been in in Central America have some sort of courtyard or porch or something. But hey, there's that strip of grass and an alley!

  • the domestic fringe

    Wow. You are having quite the adventure. The wetness inside the house would probably make me crazy. I hope you get a new place soon. And, I also hope your kids settle in and find a way to get their energy out and play like they did at home. Must be tough for them. They are making amazing memories though and I bet they will always look back at this adventure with fondness. Wishing you all the best (and a chicken).


  • Suburban Correspondent

    The wetness and mold would be a deal breaker for me. If there is any alternative at all, I do hope you can take advantage of it – and soon!

    Pictures of the town next time? Pretty please?

    • Jennifer Jo

      Re Pix of the town: I will eventually, I hope. But right now we're trying to lay low with the expensive equipment. Robberies are quite common and I'd really like to take my camera back to the states with me when we go.

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