Sunday, May 8, 2016

Big Mamma Don't Mess Around

The girls are back at their original school after a three month hiatus.  They weren't playing hooky during those three months, but were attending Big Mamma's Preschool. 

Here is Big Mamma's Preschool.

I know it might not look like much, but there is a lot of learning going on inside of that garage. 

Don't the girls look like they're working hard?

And here is Big Mamma with her students.
Look at the focus on Big Mamma's face while she teaches.

Go Big Mamma.  Do your thing!

How did she get the nickname Big Mamma, you might be thinking to yourself.  What she lacks in size, she makes up in personality.  Trust me.

Can't forget Big Mamma's side kick, Matthew.  His large personality didn't fall far from the tree.

Hola Teo!  Can't forget you.

We decided to take the girls out of their local Ecuadorian school because of the rave reviews Big Mamma's got, and because the girls were getting every Ecuadorian cold/sickness known to man.  And these weren't minor infirmities.  These were the type that sent the girls to their beds for weeks at a time.  Their immune systems couldn't handle the Ecuadorian strand.

The real issue wasn't them getting sick though, it was that that they passed every one of their illnesses onto their baby brother.  After giving Matthew five doses of antibiotics and him loosing a bunch of weight, we decided to yank the girls out of their local school for the remainder of the flu season.  Since the girls have attended Big Mamma's Preschool, they have learned a ton and haven't got sick at all.

Big Mamma don't mess around.  Trust me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Another First in Ecuador

We had a fun filled week long trip to Banos, Ecuador.  On the way home I must have been daydreaming about our great times or maybe our turbulent tarabita ride.

Hold on!!!

In the middle of one of those thoughts I ran a red light, and a cop pulled us over.  It went down a little something like this with my English translation provided.

"You ran a red light."  The cop said. 

"Yes.  Sorry.  Can you forgive me?  I'm not from around here."  As if he didn't notice.

"I can't do that.  I have to issue you a ticket."

"How much is the ticket?"


"That stinks."

"Yes it does."

"Can I pay you the fine now?"  I heard that is what you say to the cop if you get pulled over in Ecuador.

"We can do that."

"How much?"

"$50."  I guess a 50% discount for paying at the time of the incident.  I like it. 

"How about $40?"  Everything is negotiable in Ecuador. 

"Sure.  Can you hand it to me under your registration?"


And off we went.  It is common in Ecuador to "pay" your fines to the issuing officer.  I guess it serves as a bonus for the officer and an immediate punishment for the violator.  Either way, it was my first bribe, and another first while living in Ecuador.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Happy 1st Birthday

I never thought that I would be the type of parent that adorned my kids with all sorts of supperlatives.  That's because your kids aren't supperlative worthy, you might be thinking to yourself, to which I would reply WATCH IT WISE GUY! 

I wanted my kids to grow up tough without unnecessary superlatives being thrown at them from all directions.  But recently, I have found myself falling prey to that which I never wanted to do, and I can run from it no longer.  Here it goes . . . my son has the most names that I have ever known anyone to have.  There it is.  I said it.  I am now one of those parents that I never wanted to be.

My "son" recently celebrated his first birthday.  I have begun referring to him as "son" as he has accumulated so many names I don't even know what to call him anymore.  It will be amazing if the little guy doesn't grow up with identity issues as a result of his many nicknames.  Whatever his name is, Rachel's mom, dad, grandmom, uncle, and my mom and sister joined together to celebrate his first year of life.

Opening up some birthday gifts.

It has been a good year for my "son," and exciting of late to observe his personality form in front of our eyes.  A few adjectives that come to our minds when thinking about this little man of ours are aggressive, determined, and social.  He will do whatever he has to do to get what he wants and he likes other people to be around while he does it.

And to celebrate our little guy with many names, I have listed below his numerous aliases along with cute pictures (not in any sort of order) throughout his first year of life.

Matthew Hyatt Downing II  




Teo (short for Mateo)

First haircut

Te Te (short for Teo)

T (short for Teo)

Little T

Doesn't he look comfortable? 

Big T

Deuce (off of him being a II)

Jr. (even though he is not officially a Jr., he still gets it from time to time.) 

Enjoying his birthday cake and some chocolate.

Segundo (The II in Spanish)

A couple of hours after he was born.

Gundo (abbreviating "Segundo" in Spanish)

Precioso ("precious" in Spanish and a favorite term of people looking at him as they pass by.)

Gordito ("little fat one" in Spanish, and a term that was reffered to him more when he was younger and his cheeks were even fatter.)

Had to include a naked bathtime picture.

Son (my go to name as of late, which is only confusing him more.) 

Look at those cheeks.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Ano Viejo

New Year’s Eve was a big deal in Ecuador.  
A major way that they celebrated bringing in the New Year was through Ano Viejo’s.  These were paper machete creations that could be bought at a number of roadside stands or made at home out of hay and other materials.  These Ano Viejo’s ranged from depictions of political to historical to Hollywood characters.  
Anaiah, Eliana, and Teo posing with the Ano Viejo that we bought.

The Ano Viejo’s were usually put in a stationary position with a house built around it out of tree limbs or they were attached to the top or front of cars.  

It was customary to burn the Ano Viejo’s at midnight, hopefully removing them from the car before doing so, to symbolically burn away all of the bad from the previous year.  While the Ano Viejo burned, the person burning it was supposed to jump over it 12 times, signifying blessings for the next 12 months.

Another “unique” New Year’s Eve tradition in Ecuador was for the men to dress up like women and collect money while doing so.  One Ecuadorian explained it to me that the men who dressed up like women were supposed to be the widows of the Ano Viejo’s that were burned, and they were collecting money to survive.  No matter what they said it was supposed to be, it ended up being a bunch of drunk guys dressed up as women jumping in front of cars to do a dance and then collect money to get more booze.  
enough said . . .

Our New Year’s Eve celebration turned out a bit different than the norm, even though we tried our best to fit in.  There was no way the kids or us, for that matter, were going to stay up till midnight.  Teo still had a habit of waking up with the rooster’s at 5am.  We burned our Ano Viejo after a couple of smore’s around the campfire no later than 6:30 pm.  Prior to burning it, the girls jumped over it 12 times.  
Look at them jump.

I was looking to secure some extra blessings for this coming year so I jumped over it 12 times while it was burning.  

Rachel added a twist by taking apart the previous year’s calendar and burning each page.  After it was all finished, Eliana and Anaiah continued to look for more things to burn and jump over.  

Adios Ano Viejo.

Here is to another year that was and another year that will be.  

Saturday, January 2, 2016

O Christmas Tree

The past couple of years we have cut down our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.  This wasn’t a quick selection at some temporary Christmas tree lot.  Rachel had strict requirements of the type of Christmas tree that she would allow to enter our house.  It had to be cut down, full and proportionate, and the bigger the better.  The process of finding a perfect Christmas tree was an all-day affair that involved roaming about sometimes more than one Christmas tree farm and putting garments of clothing on multiple trees to reserve them until she found "the one."

Things were a bit different this year.  After days of looking, we ended up with this one. 
Isn't she a beauty?
In el Valle de los Chillos, the valley outside of Quito where we are living, we found two places that sold Christmas trees.  The first place had five brown Christmas trees with their dead needles falling off.  No thanks.  The second place was a nursery that had a bunch of trees, but not so much Christmas trees.  We bought our skinny minnie, which was the best one out of the ragtag assortment.  The roots were still attached and we kept them that way by putting them in a cleaned out 5 gallon paint bucket so that we could replant it when we were finished.  No decorative tree stand this year. 

Rachel’s parents also got a Christmas tree.  But they were much more resourceful than us in acquiring their round beauty.  
Our tree is on the left and their tree is on the right.  It is hard to tell which one is more amazing.

They dug it up from their yard, and will replant it when they are finished.  I like the sound of that.  If we had a yard at home, I would start that tradition immediately.  Using the Christmas tree and replanting it again and again until it got so big that it wouldn’t fit into the house, and then start over again.  This would save a ton of money and a ton of searching for the perfect tree time. 

Christmas trees are not as popular in Ecuador as they are in the States.  Some people here have artificial trees, a few people have a tree that was cut down, but most people have Bethlehem scenes.  These scenes aren’t just nativity scenes of Jesus in the manger.  They are reconstructions of what the town of Bethlehem would have looked like.  They include merchants, tradesman, houses, livestock, etc., and can become quite elaborate and creative.

Eliana and Anaiah checking out a Bethlehem scene at their cousin's house.

Check out the incense on the left, a common effect used at Bethlehem scenes.  

Christmas is over, Bethlehem scenes have been taken down, and our tree that would given Charlie Brown’s a run for his money is back in the ground, getting ready for another year to be dug up and used again.