Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mama Boot Camp

In the summers my daughter goes to my parents' house for a few weeks, for a time we all affectionately call "Grandma's boot camp." The intention is to correct her of all the bad habits that she's learned at home, like poor table manners, but in the end it's only indulgent in another way. They eat dessert on the regular, they buy her lots of new clothes and just generally lavish attention on her. Boot camp indeed.

Boot camp. Goofy plastic hat.
There are probably some bad habits to break by living with me, however -- especially living in Nicaragua. My bedroom is the only room on the second level, so while i'm working or doing whatever else i'm doing, the rebel angel is downstairs on one or two electronic devices (yes, at the same time!) and slipping off to the neighbor's pulperia for a packet of sweets.

It's hard to stay on top of her at all times, and sometimes i just don't want to. But this week i've been on something of a rampage. Maybe it's that i'm broken out in a rash -- probably from the mercury released from my mouth -- and not feeling great. But whatever it is, this week i decided that there's been too much TV and electronics and sweets around here, and i've put the hammer down. One hour of screen time a day and no sweets. To the rebelangel, it's like there's been a death in the family.

She complained, but not long after, out came the notebook into which she doodled some floor plans for a new room. She was in and out of the pool, practicing her flips. She asked me to cut her up some fruit. So basically, mama boot camp was not well-received at first, but it's still being tolerated. Now i just have to get rid of this damn rash...

Speaking of boot camp -- check out this simple game, Thalatha, great for the beach or wherever! An Iraq war veteran learned it from Iraqi children, and is now raising funds to develop an app version.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Metal-Free Mouth

Plenty of people come to a developing country like Nicaragua and end up getting better health care than they do back home. People like me -- who works for herself and can't always afford to pay out of pocket for care, or pay high premiums that don't even cover all routine health exams. It's no secret that our health care system in the United States needs some fixing, and i'm sure there are problems here too... but the plain fact is that i can afford to walk into a fancy dental office here and pay up front without having to sacrifice or eat beans and rice the rest of the week. For that, i am glad and am taking full advantage of it.
Smiling with this metal-free mouth.

Some people i know get liposuction or chemical peels or other elective procedures while they're here  -- me, i get my mouth worked on. Last month it was a cracked filling; this month it's electing to get all of the metal fillings removed from my mouth. It's far from cosmetic.

While researchers can prove one thing or another, depending on who's backing them, the fact is that plenty of studies have addressed the potential for risk from fillings that contain mercury. The effects can be neurological or manifest in other organs -- plus, metal in the mouth is just not cute, is it?

In any case, when people get mercury removed from their mouths, it's often followed by a heavy metal cleanse protocol. While i don't have the easy access to organic herbs or freshwater algae products that can help, i'm doing my best.

Based on what i've learned on the Web, some of the products that can bind and flush mercury include cilantro, chlorella, garlic and lots of water, as well as Vitamin C. When the local herbal pharmacy is not available, as is the case here in Nicaragua, i substitute cilantro for culantro, chlorella for the spirulina powder i was able to get in Managua, and Vitamin C in pill form with copious amounts of citrus from my back yard. That's what i can do, so i'm doing it, and saying Adios to the threat of excess mercury...


While organic products are not as widely available in Nicaragua as they are back home, there are still other ways to care for the planet. Check out the Indiegogo campaign for Leaffing, which calculates the CO2 emissions of your home delivery and then gives you the possibility to neutralize/compensate them by giving the calculated amount. Cool!

And while the stray dogs make off with the neighbors' plastic diapers and deposit them round the corner of our house, they don't come from here! I've always been a cloth diaper advocate, and Itti is even making cloth diapers super cool -- though in Australia, they call them "nappies..." =)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Renting in Granada

For the past seven months or so we've lived in a bamboo house on the corner of two fairly busy streets in Granada. Street noise is always an issue when you live in Latin America, with glassless windows that don't block out sounds and no one worried about staying quiet for their neighbors. Culturally speaking, noise pollution isn't really the big deal it is back in the States.
Bamboo house. It's not hard to love this place.

The house is on the route between the big public school down the road and the barrios between here and the lake, so the noise includes kids shouting and going back and forth to school several times a day. It also includes horse-drawn carriages clopping on the streets, people with big stereos giving their neighbors a 30-second show, workers driving big trucks to and fro, and all other manner of loud noise pollution. It's a part of life here that only gets louder when you're on the second floor of a corner house, as i am now.

This house has a lovely garden surrounding the pool, with mango and almond and pomegranate trees, baby bananas and hibiscus filling in the gaps, and a wall of sky vine, with its conical purple flowers, covering the entire opening between the living room and the pool area. It's a pleasant oasis that has become like home -- even in spite of its constant dust, its kitchen counters that are rough and never quite clean, and its loud water pump that buzzes and snorts anytime you want to have real water pressure. O, and the neighbor kids who toss rocks up to the mango tree, trying to wrest sweet mangoes free for an afternoon snack. Sometimes the rocks fall into the garden -- too close to our heads.

In spite of the few down sides, this has been home and we like it -- but like many rental homes, it's not ours forever, and in a couple weeks we'll move elsewhere. There are many homes for rent in Granada, many with high colonial ceilings adorned with long cane poles, big funky doors and iron gates, with a pool hidden somewhere in the foliage. Some are affordable by U.S. standards; others will rival the price you'd pay for nearly any vacation home anywhere.

Since we need to move, we've been able to see a lot of them. I realize now that we've been getting a killer deal for our place -- so i've had to suck it up and be willing to pay quite a bit more for the new place. Not U.S.-price more, but enough to stretch the budget that thus far has always included the ability to squirrel away funds, slowly, slowly.

How much do rentals cost in Granada?

To give you an idea, thus far we've been paying $400 plus all the bills; in the new house we'll pay $800 with only electricity to pay -- no pool fees, maid, internet or water... so in the end it's not really that much more. If you're into saving serious cash, skip the pool, move out of the centro, and expect to pay $300 or less for your place.

A lot of people come to Nicaragua and want to pay dirt-cheap prices for everything -- and it's true that you can save money... but it's just not quite as much as you might have hoped. It's still cheaper than Costa Rica by a long shot, and the people are friendly and fun and the cultural experience will hit you right and left, every day. Living in a city instead of traveling through it is so much richer, and i wouldn't trade it, ever.

As for the move, we are looking forward to seeing more of this city... a new street, perhaps less street noise and fewer roosters (but who knows) and new neighbors to get to know. The rebelangel will delight in finding new pulperias -- the small family-run stores -- and learning what goodies they have to offer. While i'd love to stay in our garden oasis, we'll have a pool at the new place and that's a very good thing during these hottest months of the year. We are staying positive and looking forward to a new adventure!


We're always trying to look on the bright side -- which isn't too hard in this bright, sunny place! If you're in need of a little help in that department, check out Carmen's Positivity for Better Living course. Click the link and get the special discount price of just $10!

And the next time you're moving and need some help sprucing the place up, check out Room Design in a Box. For a low price you'll get a professionally-designed room with blueprints, shopping lists and more. Awesome!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Down Time

We've been in super chill, back-to-healthy-eating mode around here this week, and it feels good. Having guests here was wonderful -- getting to tour around the country, visiting as many bodies of water as we could -- but when all that is over, i found my belly to be rounder than i remembered, and my exhaustion level at max.
Just me and this kid...

So this week, it's been a lot of lying around, watching movies, playing games, doing each others' hair and cuddling in the same bed (yes, this from the tween who was a total bear all last week, barely able to stand me and me her!) and eating lots of veggies. There hasn't been a beer in or out of my fridge for days and that's just great for me.

It's like anything -- you have your times of extreme fun and hyper-activity, and then that necessitates a time of laying low and getting back to center.

Somewhere along the way, this mad city with its incessant traffic, loud shouting neighbors and roosters crowing become the home we long to come back to; to rest, recuperate and plot the next step...


When you're in need of ways to keep the kids entertained while home in the house, why not support the fundraising campaign for Find My Monsters, two card games in one that help kids improve their memory, concentration, and arithmetic. Sweet!

PLUS: Need some kid-friendly restaurant recommendations? Check out the Eat Kid Friendly app and take part in their giveaway -- you just try out the app and get entered for a year of Amazon Prime! 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

It's Getting Hot in Here

Ojo de Agua, a mineral springs on Isla Ometepe
There's a reason that so much of our life here revolves around being in water.

It's hot. Damn hot.

It wasn't always this way -- December and January were really pleasant -- but like everyone told me was going to happen, April came in like a scorching lion. Walk in the sun for even a minute and you too will be headed for the nearest body of water as soon as possible.

It's gotten so bad that it's nearly impossible to think in the middle of the afternoon -- so you can imagine what that's done to my work productivity. Combine that with the fact that the city of Granada has been shutting off our water
Playing in a "pool couch," next to the real pool.
periodically, and the situation gets quite difficult indeed. Luckily, this house came equipped with a water tank and pump for those times when there's no city water -- something absolutely essential to living a decent expat life in Nicaragua, in my humble opinion. That is, unless the authorities decide to shut off both the water and the electricity on the same day.

The pool's essential too. We are moving to a new house soon (that's all a loooong story i haven't been able to tell just yet) and it's been challenging finding another one with a pool that's in our price range. Even though everything's cheaper here, you can still spend a mint on a nice house with all the amenities -- especially if you don't know who to ask.

For now i am spending most of my days working at my desk while wearing a bikini. It's really not too bad...

Kids on a Granada rooftop, still wearing suits.
Of course, all that sun means the potential for sun and skin damage -- so we have to take extra care with creams and lotions and sweet-smelling coconut oil. To protect your skin from damage, check out Skin FD's natural skin therapy -- some great stuff! 

And for those inevitable bumps and scrapes that happen when rowdy kids spend time in the pool, it helps that I'm CPR and first aid certified. If you're not, check out the Care 1st Training Group's trainings to get you up to speed.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

When They Go

We are on a roll here, most of the time
living our lives, trying to stay cool
but when someone comes our roll is rattled,
we have to find a new middle.

When they go,
we go down, down, across, sideways
searching for a way to straddle two worlds.


Carlito on the ferry, with isla Ometepe behind.

Our friends left yesterday, after two and a half weeks. I was expecting some sadness from the rebelangel, but really it's been me who's been a little more off. In the midst of Holy Week and constant guests, i haven't had to face the fact that we live relatively isolated lives here in Nicaragua.

We miss out on a lot... family, friends, peaceful quiet and access to abundant services... in exchange for warm weather and as much beach and pool time as we want. We're getting good at Spanish and our skins are a bit thicker for all the dust and chaos we encounter daily. If we had a car to get out of the madness of the city a bit more often, things would be really, really good. (But one of these e-bike conversion kits from e-bike rig could also take the bite out of biking in the sun!)

Still, when our friends go, we ache to go with them. We wonder what it's going to be like when we're the ones looking through the back window of a taxi, waving goodbye. We straddle two worlds until our legs can stretch no further and we have to choose one or the other -- and the one we choose isn't always the one we thought we'd pick. So it goes with trying to raise a revolutionary. We all become something we didn't expect -- and we long for things we didn't anticipate.

Homesickness has a dozen shades, and this is just one of many.

Sunset off the coast of Lake Cocibolca, from the Ometepe ferry.


Kids are always surprising us; some more than others. Check out this new book "Not What I Expected" about parents coping with kids with special needs. 

Homesickness once again has me plunging toward my future back home -- with its hopes of home ownership. If you live in Michigan, check out Twelve Oaks Roofing for your roofing needs!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Traveling with Tweens

When you're traveling with two tweens in tow -- as we've been doing this month with our friends who are in town -- you might think you can relax a bit and not worry as much as you would with a toddler. That's true in some sense, since they can swim, go to the bathroom on their own and even do helpful chores around the house... but at the same time, it's the "managing attitudes" part that comes up and bites you, especially when you're most tender.
When times get tough, throw the goofballs in the back of the truck.

Tweens, like all kids, get tired and hungry and cranky after all day swimming or walking around in the hot sun. Unlike toddlers, however, they're not prone to naps and they talk back a whole lot more... to the point that even those who love them want to fling them across the room from time to time.

Traveling with tweens means you can have a bit of freedom to relax and read a book while they play together on the beach, not worrying so much about what they're doing every single moment... but it's not all fun and games, and the intense parts of parenting are still just as intense. Basically, they piss people off and drive them to the brink.

Getting everyone back from the brink often involves more than just a nap -- it involves shoring up patience and grace, and finding a teachable moment to appeal to a tween's better sensibilities and to try to correct their behaviors with some straight talk. When all of this is done on the road, it can mean lots of hair lost. BUT -- at the end, you're still showing them parts of the world that challenge their sense of gratitude and entitlement, and that's going to benefit their characters in a big way.


Speaking of grace, check out Josh Armstrong's book, A Picture of Grace, which deals with grief and how art can help heal.

AND speaking of teaching lessons to kids -- Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, has a new book! Check out Ol' Curiosities book store and pre-order your copy of Go Set a Watchman. I am super excited to read it!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Climbing Mountains

A couple mornings a week i hear the harp sounds of my phone's alarm, going off way too early in the morning. If you want to work out hard in Nicaragua, you need to be up before the burning sun rises red over Lake Cocibolca. 

The burning red sun and Yoda. 
Mountain biking through the dusty, monkey-filled forests of Volcan Mombacho is simply stunning -- but it's also damn hard sometimes. It's fine to drive a Jeep across boulder-y dirt roads, but it requires serious stamina and plenty of mental fortitude to do it on two wheels. Sometimes you can't ride at all and you have to walk your bike for a while, up steep paths kicking up dust while howler monkeys howl in the distance, mocking you.

Mountain biking involves mountains, and that means climbing up them. It means you'll spend most of a morning pointed up, and then race down before you know it.

But that's a lot like life, isn't it? You spend a lot of time pointed toward a goal, climbing and clawing toward it -- and then the part in which you get to enjoy yourself seems to fly by... wind in the face, no more huff and puff... so fast.

So in that way, mountain biking is like life itself. In today's 99-degree heat, i am trying to thoroughly enjoy the way back down...


Every time i go mountain biking i give a word of thanks to have come out of it without a scratch. But in case you're in need of a little medical advice, check out FreshBenies' Teledoc program, where you can talk to a medical professional and even get a prescription when you need one.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

What a Week

Playa Gigante's fishing vessels, waiting for the next trip.

 Delicious fresh snapper, tostones (fried mashed plantains) and beer.

The crew at Playa Popoyo for sunset.
My, what an amazing week. After a weekend on the beaches of San Juan del Sur, we rented a truck and headed for more of the remote beaches of southwest Nicaragua. In total, we hit five beaches in four days -- San Juan del Sur, Playa Hermosa, Playa Maderas, Gigante and Popoyo -- each with its own special flavor. It's hard to say which one is "better" than any other, because each one is pretty great. After leaving the coast and heading back to Granada, we went to Laguna de Apoyo, the spectacular crater lake just west of the city. This week has been all about water, great food, awesome friends and pretty much non stop fun.

Of course, that also means non stop Toña beers, too much sugar and probably not enough sleep. When hosting friends is over, i'll have to revert to a super-duper healthy lifestyle to make up for all this non stop fun. That means less bread, less beer, less fried cheese. (I'd love to order one of these vegetable spiralizers to make my "pasta" -- how cool is that?)

Since i've been back to drinking soda during this stint, my dentist is also going to get another visit! (If you're in the US and you need an emergency visit, check out Emergency Dentists USA to find one on the road).

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

So Fast

O man, my baby is growing up so fast. One minute you're waiting impatiently for their arrival (if you're pregnant and want to count down the days, check out the Your Due Date site -- super handy) and the next they're making you breakfast in bed, taking surfing lessons and just generally being a big kid-almost-teen.

Popoyo Beach Nicaragua. Really, who ever gets tired of sunset photos?

Sometimes i look at her and i can't believe she's not that little baby who needed me to do everything for her. I forget that she's a bilingual girl of the world, living a great big adventure every day, and it's making her so, so strong. But it's happening slowly and all too fast.

Right now, i'm just trying not to miss a moment.


Meanwhile, if you have a baby who's trying to grow up too fast -- which probably applies to most parents -- check out this sweet, wonderfully-illustrated book, The Little Unicorn That Had No Horn, meant to teach kids to appreciate being little while it lasts.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Bringing them Along

When somone arrives here even for a vacation, i think it's easy to start wondering whether you could make it here on a more full-time basis -- or if you're like me, whether you could make this the place you live half the year, when the weather back home is way less than ideal.

When it's a friend who starts thinking that way, i am of course all about it. But then once again i have to bring in yet another dose of gratitude, because not everyone who wants to live here for more than a couple weeks can do so. There's always that thing called the jobbie job that holds people back. Every time i get on my computer -- whether it's the big desktop i lugged down here or this little tablet i now write on, connected to a full-size keyboard, while i look out at the Pacific, i should be doing a mental happy dance for getting this much freedom in my work. Happy daaanncce... 

So when a friend starts daydreaming about how to make it work and to bring her own son (who happens to be great friends with the rebelangel) down here for a year of Spanish and warm weather and dancing, i begin to think about how we could make it work.

How could she make money? There's always online businesses to start, and plenty of people out there to help her start one and be free of the grind of showing up somewhere or having to work on someone else's schedule (if you're looking, check out Long Live the Internet -- with methods of helping people start an online store)

Would she miss out on culture and art and stuff she loves to do? It won't be the same, and if she chose to live on the beach she'd probably miss out a lot of live shows and art galleries so abundant back home (although Nicaragua does have galleries dotted around, and plus there's always online sources for art, like the online gallery

Would traveling with a kid for that long be difficult? Uh, yeah, but also absolutely wonderful -- and one day you'll look at the kid who could barely tie his shoes alone and you'll see a much more grown version who can navigate sticky situations on his own -- and in two languages. (But in case your kid needs help with the shoes thing, check out BOOM laces -- no-tie laces for kids!)

So for every concern a friend might have, i try to have a solid reply...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Through my Friends' Eyes

There are so many annoying and trying things that happen here in Nicaragua, but for the most part, life still is really, really sweet. So sweet that it's difficult to imagine going back to the struggle of living life in a west coast city; its higher rents, its quest for pretension in all things...

Some friends are here right now and know me as the person who can't always meet for dinner because of a slim budget. Here though, they see me as the person who has the housekeeper and the pool and the kid in private school. I see what they see now, and i know life here is pretty dang good indeed.

All this time i've been here i've had my sights set on the goal of saving for a home -- or at least getting out of the last bits of debt that hang over me qualifying for a loan. I still want that dream, but i worry that i'm not ready to take it all on just get, and that i may need more time here in this less-expensive paradise than my summer departure will allow. I can't make that decision without going home, however, so that means going back to feel it all out and see who i am again, when i'm in my own country.

Having dear friends visit is so great and such a welcome change, but it brings the old you in direct confrontation with the new you -- making both sides duel it out for prominence. We'll see how the contest plays out...


Check out these beautiful floors at BSI Flooring's site! When i do have that dream house, you can bet it will be laid with floors like theirs...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Power's Out

Yesterday was one of those annoying days in which i question why i'm here. It's also one of those days when my wonderful rebelangel displays more restraint and maturity than me -- demonstrating how we're often parenting one another around here.

I got home from a long bike ride into the mountains outside of Granada around 7:30 a.m. to find the power out. No problem, i thought, i'll just have to jump in the pool. Not ideal, but at least i can cool off. Then came the call from the rebelangel's school, saying they were calling off school because there was no power and no water -- five minutes before she was to be picked up.

The power was still out when i went to the bank to pay the utility bills, where the A/C was still blasting as if nothing was wrong, and a line snaked around the lobby. I had to get the bills paid before going out of town though, so i really had no choice but to wait. Then i forgot my I.D. and almost had to go back to get it to pay the bills.

The power stayed out completely until about 3, when it came on just long enough for me to get half a press release written and unsaved before it cut off again. Then it cut off again at 5, just when i was about to send said release. Meantime the dishes were piling up in the sink and ants swarming. With all the bullshit that this day provided, and the fact that this was my last day to work before my friends arrived for a vacation, it was a wonder that i waited until 5 p.m. to crack my first beer.

Throughout all of this, the rebelangel got out all the craft stuff she had and decided to do a project. She cleaned her room and played with a friend and helped me clean the casita for guests who were arriving. Basically, she took it all much better than me.


If you're a parent who's dealing with teens who aren't quite as helpful and understanding as my tween is, check out the Help With Your Teen program, helping parents learn skills and strategies for the many challenges that can come with parenting a teen.

And the next time the power's out and the nights are dark and scary, snuggle in for some fun reading with your kids, like Nightmare Schmightmare -- a book about dealing with monsters under the bed. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Preserving Childhood

Back home the rebelangel's buddies are all going through the throes of tweendom. Of course, she is going through it too -- but in a lot of ways she's had a stay on all of that. As one of the oldest kids in her small international school, she mostly hangs out with kids who are younger than her -- really only one of her friends is older. She plays silly games in the pool, flops around, colors pictures, makes crafts, and generally does stuff that tweens, when gathered in groups, are just too cool to do.

In that way, being in Nicaragua has allowed her to preserve her childhood just a little bit longer, and to avoid worrying about trips to the mall or whether she can wear makeup at school or even what she should wear at school at all. Since her school has a uniform policy, it's a white polo and navy blue bottoms nearly every day.

I am grateful to get to see her childhood preserved -- but at the same time, i wonder what it's going to be like when she's suddenly in a large classroom again, with the adolescent rebellion in full swing...


For your daily dose of childhood fun, Billy's World offers FREE downloadable nursery rhymes and fun videos. Check it out!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Can of...

Never before have i been quite so happy to open up a can of whoop a#@. And by whoop a#@ i mean a can of aerosol bug killer -- the likes of which i'd probably almost never buy back home. Even here, it's taken these seven months to happen. Yes, swarms of little crazy ants seem to never leave our laundry area, and some other type of ant will swarm around any unclean plate that gets left around. Cats troll the kitchen at night, and spiders live in the corners.
Sunsets. Much nicer than pestilence.

But yesterday was a whole new level in pestilence. I went into the indoor/outdoor bathroom of our casita, the little house-room we use for guests or for blasting A/C and binge-watching cable TV (it's the only TV in the house), to clean it out for some guests who were set to arrive in less than an hour. Normally it only takes me about 30 minutes to sweep, change the sheets and mop the place (yes, sometimes i do it instead of our housekeeper) so a whole hour was supposed to be plenty.

EXCEPT, when i walked into that bathroom, a literal swarm of tiny white gnats assaulted me. They covered the white bathtub like a carpet. They hung out on the wall near the toilet and all along the corners of the ceiling. There were so many it was impossible to comprehend. The good news was that while they looked like little tiny mosquitoes, they were not -- they were just damn annoying.

There was really very little i could do with so few minutes to prepare, so i cleaned the place as i normally would and kept the bathroom door closed. When the guests arrived i had to placate them with gifts of beer and free A/C (sometimes i hide the remote because otherwise people blast it all night) and tell them it was happening all over the city and that i was sorry but i hadn't yet developed the super powers to conquer Mother Nature (and i didn't have my can of whoop a#@ yet).

So then i had to haul a#@ to the store to find the right can of bug killer -- which, despite my still-inadequate Spanish, i was able to choose correctly. It worked so quickly that within seconds that swarm lay like a blanket of gnat all over the bathroom floor. Hallelujah for cans of whoop a#@!! 

In hindsight it would have been nice to have the kiddo along, because after being in a Nicaraguan school for all these months, she's well-versed in the Spanish words for all types of pestilence. In case you're wondering, piojo means flea, but it also means louse. No details about that to be given -- but let's just say it's been a buggy week all around...


One of my goals while we're living in Nicaragua: Learn Spanish better every day. I am getting there through experiences like yesterday's! If you're in need of encouragement on your goals, check out Voloe -- a social network for people with goals. 

Not a total foreign language beginner over here, but if you are, you can get some help with first words in several languages with the Baby Tweets app.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The EPO Route

When we started our Electric Powered Odyssey project, we came up with this photo and map:

Now though, we're working on something better that lets you see exactly where Thomas is at any given time, or at least where he's just been...

Check out the Track Kit website and app, which lets you share your travel maps with your people. Nice!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Always on Vacation -- Kinda

When we first arrived here in Nicaragua i have to admit i kinda felt like i was on perma-vacation. There's a pool in my yard and people are constantly passing through Granada on their epic Central America vacations... so naturally i wanted to be part of that action.

We still act like it's vacation a lot of the time -- taking the kiddo out of school for her beach "education" and such... but really, a lot of the days are still all about work and work and work around here. It makes me want to escape back to the beach, where life is always better.
Watching baby turtles head for the ocean after hatching -- that's education, right?
Still, i'd like to think that just having a pool i can swim in at any moment and someone to do my laundry does sorta make me on perma-vacation... and why are we going back this summer, again, exactly?!


If we really were on perma-vacation, i'd probably have lots of time to play smartphone dice games like the Flipping Dice game -- totally addictive and a way to while away an afternoon in a hammock!
Or maybe we'd be reading more books together -- like Leena's Notebook, a story about a little girl who loves sports...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

At the Beach Again

Gorgeous Playa Mahagual, north of San Juan del Sur
Every couple weeks or so we have to escape the city and get to the beach. In Nicaragua you have lots of beach to choose from, and pretty decent services when you're there. There's everything from expensive, high-end condos to rent near San Juan del Sur, to inexpensive guest houses that are farther out but right on the beach and gorgeous.

This weekend we opted for the inexpensive guest house, so we could meet up with our cousins, hang out and of course get out of the noise and chaos of the city. The rebelangel finally got on a surfboard and loved it!

Matilda's guest house entrance on the beach.
The surfer girl!

 Of course, sometimes the chill feeling you get from the beach is wiped away when you sleep in a guest house with shared bathroom, and the people next door keep loudly unlocking and unlocking the bathroom door late at night, or when the towels and floors and beds get covered with sand and the power goes out.

It may be wiped away a little more when you take the chicken bus back home and deal with the heat and the people shouting on their mobile phones next to us, the workers standing in the rows smelling like barnyards, and on and on with the follies of the chicken bus.

But still, life is good!


Every time we go to the beach i ask myself whether we should move there -- but the school thing always trips me up. If we were to live near the beach, it would likely be home school for the rebelangel. Online options abound -- including Smart Heads geared toward middle schoolers. Hmmm... 

Of course, when we get home from the bus and the sand, i am more than ready to bask in the sweet feeling of my very own shower in my clean(ish) bamboo house. Triana Miami Skin Care has a ton of cool and natural products to bring back that clean city feeling -- including an exfoliating cream i'm stoked on.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

International Living with Pets

It used to be that when you wanted to travel or move abroad with your pets, you'd have to submit to having them quarantined for weeks or months. A lot of people still think that's the case, because they ask us about it a lot.

Meanwhile, the locals love our little man -- most call out "que linda!" or "que precioso!" how pretty, how precious, when we pass. Then they ask if he bites. Since he's here as our guard dog, i say "a veces." Sometimes. It's a funny response to most people, but it's actually also true...

Restaurants, bars... this guy goes everywhere with us.
While this is only our experience, this is what we had to do to get our cute lil guy into Nicaragua:

- A visit to our vet back home to get paperwork filled out, verifying he'd had his rabies shot. Cost: about $75.

- Sending that paperwork to the Department of Agriculture's regional office to be signed and stamped within 10 days of our departure. Cost: about $40

- Paying a fee of $150 for him to fly with us in a little doggie duffel bag in the airplane, stashed under the seat. Warning: call ahead to confirm that the airline allows this, and let them know when you book the flight. Some airlines don't allow in-cabin pets.

- Going out of security and back in in Atlanta, so the dog could go pee, carrying a LOT of carry on baggage. Ever needed a cart for your carry ons? We did.

- Filling out a short piece of paperwork and paying $10 for his entry fee. All told, they asked more about the dog than they did about my daughter, who was traveling only with one parent (i had that custody paperwork handy too though, just in case...) If you're confused about the process, just ask your vet back home if they process international paperwork. If not, ask for a recommendation for a vet who does, and they'll help you with the process.

Now this little guy goes everywhere we go -- on boats and buses, to the beach, inside restaurants and stores. Unless the place has A/C and closed doors, there's usually a stray or two wandering in places, so our little dude is also more than welcome. Overall, having a dog with you acts as an added layer of protection, makes you look less like a tourist, and brings an added layer of sanity and a home-like feel to the whole experience. Now if only we could have brought our big Akita girl in the cabin of the airplane too...


This dog is my comfort and my sanity in an insane world. If you're in need of a little dose of that and you don't have a friend like mine, check out the Choose Online Counseling site to find someone to talk to! 

Friday, March 6, 2015


In Granada it is so easy to take really cool photos. It's partly the gorgeous light we get in this town, but it's also just the place itself. There are so many stunning churches, brightly-colored colonial buildings and bustling people going about doing their thing... selling bananas, fixing watches, cooking up quesillos -- tortillas with cheese -- honking and driving fast, toting horse carts around... it's a feast for the eyes.

You could simply save all those cool shots in your photo app on your computer, but i just discovered this new, fun way to play around with them and catalog them. With the Garagua app, you can sign up for various "challenges" that guide you to choose photos in certain categories. It's pretty fun!

This is just one of those unforgettable moments, walking to the rebelangel's school dance with some friends, with yet another gorgeous church behind us...