Our New Normal ...

After 10 years and thousands of thousands upon thousands of dollars, we have finally entered a new stage in our lives.


On Tuesday, Riley and Sheridan began their first day of school, and yesterday, Grady started Kindergarten.  I could tell you that I shed a tear or three when they all got on that Embassy bus, but I'd be lying.  Yeah, I probably should have been a wee bit sad that my last baby left to spend a full day in kindergarten.  But they are all out of my hair house for nine hours.  NINE GLORIOUS HOURS.  Instead, I did a happy dance.  I showered with no interruptions.  I pooped in peace!

Up at the ass-crack of dawn as their bus pick-up is well before 7 am, the kids can leisurely get ready for school every morning with very little stress.  Why you ask?  Because all they have to do is throw on their ugly school uniforms and away they go.  No worrying about their shorts being too short, if the shirt matches, if what they want to wear is dirty, or if one of the girls "mistakenly" wore the other ones clothes that day.  Nope.  All they need to remember is what day it is, and if they need to wear their formal uniform or PE uniform.  So. Flipping.  Easy.

What I truly love about schools overseas are the small class sizes, and this one is no exception.  Grady has only 16 kids in his class, Sheridan has 19 kids, and Riley's eight different classes vary in size from 8 - 20 kids.  All three kids have daily SSL (Spanish as a second language) and it appears their PE and Music classes are taught in Spanish as well.  By golly, they're going to learn Spanish whether they want to or not!

Hello 2014-2015 school year.  You may have only just begun ... but I have a feeling this is going to be our best year yet!


Riley and Sheridan on their first day.  Riley in her formal uniform.  Sheridan in her PE uniform.

All three kids on their first day.  

 Think he looks ready for school to start? 


Embrace The Suck

This week, San Salvador is observing the Festival of El Salvador del Mundos ... known as Agostinos, a celebration of the patron Saint and Namesake of El Salvador.  For the Salvadoreans, it is a national festival, with everything (including the Embassy), closed for six days.  For us?  It means that our HHE ... which arrived and cleared customs this past weekend ... can't get delivered for another week. 

As we are beginning to self destruct with nothing more than the kids' iPads, Wii, and a few groceries in the house, we have been trying to get out as much as possible to see El Salvador. 

Today, we went with a van full of Embassy friends, to Parque Nacional Cerro Verde, also known as the Santa Ana Volcano.  At 2381 meters (7811 feet), this volcano is the highest in the country.  It last erupted in 2005 shooting ash, the size of cars, over a mile away.

With a guide and a driver, we arrived at the volcano around 10:30 am, and after outfitting ourselves with sunblock, bug spray, hats, snacks and water, we joined a large group of hikers accompanied by guides and police, and began the journey at 11:00 am.

By 11:05 am, Grady was done.

By 11:10 am, Matt was done with Grady.

By 11:30 am, I was ready to channel my inner Jesus, and turn our 5 bottles of water, into wine.

The hike took a total of 3.5 hours ~ 2 hours going up, and 1.5 hours coming down, with a 30 minute reprieve at the summit to eat, refresh and take as many pictures as we could before our my iPhone battery died.  Oh and pray to the gawds that sometime in those 30 "relaxing" minutes that Grady would stop crying, for I had enough of his complaining and Matt's ever-so-helpful suggestions for him (which he always said through pursed lips and clenched teeth).  "In order to experience the pleasure of the views, you have to endure the pain of the hike."  Or, "Shut the front door, we're all tired."  And my favorite, "Suffer in silence."

Matt exaggerated the truth and told us that the hike would be fun and easy.  He later revised it, saying that the fun would come on the ride home.  It certainly wasn't for the faint of spirit or the average 5-year old, and unbeknownst to us until we began the hike, no one under the age of 10 is actually allowed on the trail.  So Matt and our guide had to 'grease the machine' in order for the police to allow Grady to climb with us, which cost us a whopping $5 ...

The scenery was gorgeous as we went from a tropical jungle to a volcanic moonscape.  It became more technically challenging as the trail grew steeper and more rugged.  In all, the trek was worth all the effort as the views from the top were spectacular.  Just don't ask them to do it again any time soon. 

 We hiked to the top of the mountain directly behind us.

 Spectacular views as we traversed up our volcano.

 Posing in front of Lake Coatapeque, where we went LAST Saturday.

The view inside the crater of the volcano.

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