The Last Drop of Ordinary

The final moments of this life close in on us like the last curtain. Heavily collapsing through the air with a murky cloud of dust left hanging in the air. Our obligations to this life linger for a moment in the aftermath. But, ultimately they break apart and dissolve into infinity; as if they were never there.

The world is quiet and our audience holds their applause, stunned by the closing act. In the far back of the theatre of our life; one significant pair of hands applauds in a delayed yet firm approval. And then one more supporter surfaces, a gray-haired soul seated at the corner of the first row. She smiles sweetly at me as tears streak the soft, peach apples of her powdered cheeks.

In these days, we definitively say goodbye to ordinary once and for all. We turn our backs on the best laid plans of our parents, societies, and governments. We kick up dust in a mockery of all things intended for us. We stand up against regiment, order, and judgment. We say “No” to a lackluster life of corporate ladders and white, picket fences.

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We grasp the fingers of our young and tug the collars of our canines. We walk alone into the wild unknown to live a purposeful life built from the pillars of retaliation. It is now or never that we take our lives back and that we claim the destiny that is the right of us all. We choose freedom and a revolutionary life.

From here, we will roam, we will wander; we will pave the path that society stole from us long ago. We defy the need for a formal education, a career, and a homestead. From here, we drift with the currents of the earth, the music of the winds, and among the souls of nomads.

We turn the key one last time; leave the stoop with a fond farewell. We kiss goodbye the house that resembles the last drop of an ordinary life. From here on out, we will claim the ultimate prize as wanderers of the world.

Imagine the adventures that await us, the stories untold, the memories we will hold. All of them are the contents of dreams that whisper in the ears of us all. They are premonitions of a beautiful life that we stopped aiming for long ago.  But, the glimmer of wonder is still there, twinkling from afar; enticing the willful wanderers to come and explore.

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When did we stop listening to the buzz of the bees and the hum of the stream? When did it occur that we embraced blinking streetlights and rumbling traffic in their place? When did we stop hearing the hints from within? To get out ,to disconnect, to breathe in the air of an undisturbed place…

Was it when we cluttered our lives with instant messages and online notifications? Or was it our over-filled schedules and over-ambitious aspirations? Was it all of it? Have we all been doing life all wrong?

There is still time to be rescued, still room to reverse everything that doesn’t mean anything. Don’t judge us, question us, belittle us; ridicule us. There is room enough for everyone. Virtually, literally, figuratively, in any way you like. Come along with us. Come and escape.

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The Sky is the NOT the Limit

When it comes to self directed learning, there are no limits. Days like these are what make our choices worth it. When we allow the imaginations of children to blossom, beautiful things happen. This is what “Unschooling” is about. Letting our children decided for themselves what is interesting and what is not. It encourages self interest and passion, and with all hope, will promote a life long desire for learning.

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Peanut just turned 4, and we have been practicing Unschooled Preschool for about 6 months.

Peanut came to us with a request, to see shadows made of color and to mix colors through glass. She provided me with the list of supplies that she needed, and together we all experimented with color mixing and light reflections. In the second photo you can see the colorful shadows she was aiming for. We started out with the basic primary colors of red, yellow, and blue and the interest quickly blossomed into how to make colors like orange, green, and purple without actually mixing the dyed water.
She expressed that next time she would like to do this experiment with a white flower, to see the flower transform into a rainbow of colors by “feeding” it dyed water.
Remember, myself and Carlos did not introduce this idea to her. She discovered it on her own through an educational program that we allow her to watch. And she alone decided to pursue the experiment and investigation. She was so passionate about it, that she did not even need to watch the show a second time to remember the necessary ingredients and steps…she recalled it all from memory after seeing it just one time!

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Clear glasses of water dyed with the Primary Colors.
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What colors make Orange?
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What colors make Green?
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What colors make Purple?

 

Spanglish

14492569_823457611124654_5175206603535378628_nWe try not to force our kids to learn Spanish, but we do hope that it happens by osmosis!! 🙂 We try to remind them that making friends will be easier when they speak the same language. However, a two and almost 4 year old have their own ideas about priorities! We love it when we find ways for them to learn under their own interests.

Peanut is particularly fascinated with the body, so when Carlos found this for sale right in our village, the $1.75 it cost seemed well worth it.

I was given some advice awhile back, to teach our kids the body parts in Spanish before anything else. The reason was so that in an emergency, they could tell a doctor where they are hurting. I think it’s a great idea, and I can’t wait to learn the bones right along with them!

Caterpillar House

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The “Caterpillar House” withe caterpillar and leaves inside.

In recent months, I’ve noticed more than ever that our oldest learns best through the outdoors. She loves animals, birds, plants, flowers, rocks, etc. The Outdoors and Art. This girl could literally craft for hours on end every day. This is a great balance for us, as we can easily spend half the day outdoors, then come inside to craft, and spend the evenings outdoors again. We are enjoying that there is so much to see and enjoy, in our neighborhood. The craft supplies are a little harder to come by, but that has just inspired is to get more creative.

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Craft leaves inspired by the real thing!

Yesterday, we came up with this idea together, to make a caterpillar house. Lately, almost everything that we create has something to do with habitats or houses. I’m sure that she is learning a lot through this projects, about nature and art. Peanut has also recently been asking me to help her more with creating what she wants through art. For this, I draw or create an object that she chooses, and then she makes her

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Our “pet” caterpillar.

own creation either on her own paper, or next to it. For this activity, we looked for a stick and a leaf outside. We glued the pieces of the caterpillar to the stick, and we studied the leaf. She decided to outline the leaf and then color it according to her imagination. For the house, we glued construction paper and drew the outside world on the paper that was pasted to a recycled box.
Unless her little brother gets to it and destroys it, Peanut with likely play with this for a week or more. Lots of learning fun 🙂

Yes, She is Learning

13503075_771599696310446_1847701519862041590_oThe past few weeks Peanut has shown some resistance to my homeschool preschool agenda. I’m slowly understanding, through her, the importance of letting her learn at her own pace. I’m finding out what it means, as a parent (and as her proposed educator) to just let go, and let her be. To TRUST that she is indeed learning. I do not offer any direction, suggestion, or instruction when is comes to her art, unless she asks. She is learning. To let her play and explore on her own, are the best gifts that I can give her. She is only 3 after all. And she is learning. 13537793_771599712977111_4459895133223943523_n
It doesn’t really matter if she mixes the paint colors together, smushes my only paint brush, uses 20 sheets of paper, and leaves a gigantic mess in the bathroom sink…right after it was cleaned. She is learning. Who am I to stop her, push her in another direction, and ridicule her over waste and mess?
She is learning. She is learning. She is learning! I refuse to miss the importance of this!

Art and Assimilation

The past weeks have issued a lot of routine, ordinary days, and the establishment of normal. We all cherish the opportunity to settle in. With each passing day, we are more comfortable, make more friends, and find new activities to enhance our lives.
The children love to go on outings throughout the town. Many times we have no particular destination, but we all enjoy the social aspect of being out and about. It’s so easy to do that here, where pretension is unheard of. It’s the kind of place where everyone looks up at you, to say “Hola” and offer a warm smile. It’s a small village, and we have been obnoxiously recognizable since we arrived…But, it is nice that now the townspeople are also becoming familiar to us.
While we strive to assimilate with the locals, we have been pleasantly surprised to find a large group of expats here, mostly retirees from The States, Canada, and Europe. These like-minded folks have been a breath of fresh air. They have all been so kind, welcoming, and supporting of our transition here.


In fact, last week we attended an art group, that is hosted by a retired American couple who live right across the street. Even our 3-year-old was welcomed to participate, and she hasn’t stopped talking about it since. She didn’t mind at all that she was the only kid, she was just thrilled to find a place to create outside the home. I thoroughly enjoyed it myself, to sit alongside my daughter, each of us immersed in separate projects, yet “together”in every sense. And from the perspective of both Mommy and Artist, it is exactly the type of outlet I have needed for the past 10 years.. and especially in the past 4 since the kids arrived. I never imagined in my wildest dreams, that I would find this HERE… and now?!
Hopefully that it isn’t becoming too redundant for me to say so, but we are have found a community to thrive in & we are so happy!

The Dawn of Immersion

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This morning as I sit in reflection of the past week, I realize what a success it has been. Through the hustle and bustle of activities, events, and daily life.. is it too easy to forget all that has come and gone in each of the fleeting moments that have passed. But, in my oblivion, I almost missed something so huge that I find it incredible that it almost snuck by. A simple but substantial milestone, a little something called IMMERSION. Our family has collectively engaged in the first steps of immersion! We have put ourselves waaay out there this week. We have overcome (or at least ignored) any insecurities that have previously been hindering our progress.

Let’s begin with the kids. Peanut is 3.5 and we have just finished our 4th week of Unschooled Preschool. Here at home we have been talking about “D” week, and with all that it entails…I try to give her and her 2-year-old brother, at least two new Spanish words to learn.

13335913_761712543965828_137493729194707153_nTheir words were Dance and Dinosaur inEnglish..translating to Bailar and Dinosario in Español. As part of their social and cultural activity for the week, I decided to push them a step farther… asking Peanut to use this a word in a phrase that she could use to speak with others in the community. I hoped that if she did, Monkey would mimic her; as he often does. When I told her that we were doing an experiment of sorts, one that involved dancing… her face lit up with anticipation! Two of her favorite activities in one, oh what fun! Her “assignment”was to approach members in our community and ask them “Quieres bailar?”. This phrase in English translates to “Do you want to dance? “. Not only would this get her speaking in Spanish, but it would actively engage her with other people and she could have fun guessing before hand, if they would participate or refuse. What a wonderful time we had 🙂 Do you know that not a single person refused?! What a testament to this community! Each time, the response of her question was nothing less than a broad-faced grin and a look of astonishment. After the first approach, Monkey quickly caught on and was eager to participate as well.  Initiating a connection and being understood was such a confidence and morale booster for Peanut. Throughout the week, she continued to experiment with the word bailar (to want). By the week’s end, she was speaking at the bakery “Quiero jugo y pan, por favor”. Meaning, “I want juice and bread, please”. As well as asking numerous children to either dance or play with her. “Quieres jugar?” Translates to “Do you want to play?”. We are so thrilled for the kids to be gaining this type of independence in our new world.

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Dancing with the locals…

My husband, Carlos, is a native Spanish speaker and has no social qualms to speak of, but he also had a big week in immersion himself, having opened his first international gym location; here in our new hometown. While he has been in the fitness industry in the US for over 20 years, he says that opening a gym in this culture is different. The members wait in near silence, devouring his every word and action. The desire to learn is intoxicating, and therefore, the aspect of coaching is infinitely rewarding. Onlookers gather at the door and crowd around the gym’s trademark red flooring, each person as eager as the next..to gain knowledge that will enhance their passion for health and fitness. The members here are WILLING to exercise, they don’t need to be “sold” a fake image of the future. They have an innate understanding and realistic expectation, that this will be hard work. And that the hard work will reap great rewards.

 

 

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The kids hanging out near the new gym.

As for myself, while I have been studying Spanish through reading and writing, I have doubted my ability to speak… and therefore, have only attempted to do so on sparse occasions. Many people have encouraged me, that yes, I will speak eventually.. as it will become necessary. Well, it did indeed become necessary this week. And I surprised myself! Late one morning when Carlos was busy at the gym, the produce truck arrived and so did the habichuela man. The guard managed to communicate to me that they had arrived. I scrambled around the house trying to find money, meanwhile scouring my brain to find something I could say! Much to my dismay, I couldn’t find even a single coin or a single word. I felt beads of sweat forming on my forehead as I began to panic. As much as I wanted to just close the blinds and hide, I couldn’t do that. People were waiting. I couldn’t be THAT gringo! So, I scooped up Monkey, slipped on my sandles and scurried to the front gate, shouting to Peanut that I would be right back. I stood at the entrance and found 5 expectant Ecuadorian faces peering back at me. And then…I spoke.. in Spanish!! A few sentences poured from my mouth as I quickly explained that my husband wasn’t home and that I didn’t have any money, but yes, I did need and want the fruit and habichuelas. Really?! Did I just say all of that?! In Spanish?! All five of them looked on at me, eyes wide and mouths open… and then burst into smiles and applause. In the process, thoroughly embarrassing me and frazzling me beyond speaking any further for a few minutes. But then, the guard said he would pay for what I needed until Carlos arrived home. So, I proceeded to select the lima beans, papaya, watermelon, pineapple, and granadilla. I even asked how much we owed! 🙂 

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Workout in progress!


And there you have it..a week of social and language immersion. I can hardly wait to see how the following weeks will unravel now that the process has begun!

 

Rock Art for Preschoolers

These are the paintings that our kids made at home this week with their Art Activity.
I call it “Rock Art”.
We placed 2 sheets of paper in the bottom of a plastic bin. Then we put in 3 dabs of paint in primary colors (yellow, blue, and red). Then we tossed in a handful of rocks and shook them around. When we didn’t get the effect we wanted, we sprayed water on the paper and paint with a spray bottle.

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The experiment was to learn what colors are created when the primary colors are mixed. We were were aiming for Purple (red + blue), Green (blue + yellow), and Orange (yellow + red).
We were pleasantly surprised when we also got a bit of teal and brown!
The kids say: Learning is FUN! 😀

The Battle of Pichincha

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The Ecuadorian Flag

May 24th, is a major holiday in Ecuador. It is the historical celebration of the “Battle of Pichincha”, and thus is the name of the holiday. The holiday celebrates a battle that occurred at 3,500 meters above sea level, on the mountain sides of the Pichincha volcano, near the modern day city of Quito. It was during the year 1822 and was the battle that gave Quito independence from Spain. It was just one battle of many that were part of the Ecuadorian War of Independence, that would relieve Ecuador from the rule of the Spaniards.
This year, the holiday will largely be celebrated over the coming weekend from Thursday through Sunday, where most people will have the four day weekend off from school and work.
This historical event will be commemorated through parades, celebration, and displays of Ecuadorian pride. In smaller towns and villages, the parades are often presented by school aged students. In the larger cities, parades are organized and performed by the military.
On the Pichincha volcano, special activities and events are available to the public, including an air show by the Ecuadorian Air Force.
All of these celebrates are enjoyed and appreciated by the locals as well as the visitors and tourists.

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The Ecuadorian Flag


Myself and our family are particularly excited for this upcoming holiday weekend. While we were here for Easter, we learned that it isn’t observed as we expected, and was largely a quiet and somber holiday. There were not any activities to participate in outside of the church (which we don’t belong to).
This will be our first independently Ecuadorian holiday and I am eager to see what it will bring.
Even my husband, has no idea what the celebration of this province and village will be. It is sure to be a new experience for all of us.
We have been told to expect extra visitors and tourists, but that is the extent of our knowledge and expectations.
In observance with the holiday, we will be focusing on giving our children any cultural and social opportunities that may arise. We will also talk about age appropriate local history, for example: the meaning of the Ecuadorian flag, national symbols, and relevant music.

C is for Churango

An incredible video of the Churango, and Andean instrument being played.

This week we studied the letter “C” at home. For our music activity, my husband introduced our family to an indigenous Ecuadorian instrument called the Charango.

The Charango is a small, guitar-like instrument that originates from Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. It can also sometimes be heard in the ancestral music of Chile and Argentina.
The string instrument was traditionally made from the shell of an Armadillo. While some traditionally made Charangos are still in use, many are now made from wood that is carved to mimic the sound and shape of the Armadillo shell.

“There are many stories of how the charango came to be made with its distinctive diminutive sound box of armadillo. One story says that the native musicians liked the sound the vihuela made, but lacked the technology to shape the wood in that manner. Another story says that the Spaniards prohibited natives from practicing their ancestral music, and that the charango was a successful attempt to make a lute that could be easily hidden under a garment such as a poncho.[6]”

Music historians say that the first recorded evidence of this instrument was from the 18th century. However, there is some speculation that the instrument was used during the musical celebrations of a church that was built-in Bolivia in 1547. If that is so, the origins of this magnificent instrument could be nearly 500 years old.

 

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