Archive for February, 2014

25th February
written by Michelle


I’ve heard it said that North Americans take security for granted, like Guatemalans take the weather for granted.

And I think it’s kinda true.

I’ll never forget my first year here I heard a coffee farmer, named Felipe, share his story. Sitting in the center of a group of white, idealistic college students, he shared how his life had changed since joining this coffee cooperative 7 years earlier. He shared about how he now has a stable income. How he and his wife are working together to grow, pick and roast coffee to earn an income for their family. He by no means is rich by the world’s standards, but he has stability. And in the developing world, stability is worth more than gold when trying to get out of cycle of poverty. While he mentioned things like now he was able to send his kids to school and pour a cement floor to cover the dirt that previously existed, I’ll never forget what we was most proud of:

 Y ahora tenemos una puerta.

 A door.

 He nodded his head as if trying to remind himself that it was in fact true.

“When we had saved up a enough, I took down the piece of metal that rested over the doorframe went and bought a real door. With a lock.”

 A door. With a lock.

“We slept better after that. We felt safe.”

I had never before been thankful for a door. Never even given it a second thought. I, like probably most of you, I grew up in a house with a door and a lock and an expectation that I was safe. I had never thought about what a door provides. Behind a locked door there is security, rest and peace of mind. Can you imagine for most of your life living in a place where there were not such things? Not sleeping well because you knew someone could easily knock down the corrugated metal that leans on the doorframe. Fearing that anyone, at anytime, could enter your home and take what little you had. I think sometimes those things- the fear, the insecurity and the uncertainty, are what separate the poor from the rich. Those feelings run deep and affect they way you live. I have always had the privilege and security of a door. Even now I live behind two metal doors and a wall. But just outside my neighborhood are doors like the one in this picture. Yesterday while Elena and I walked along, I snapped this picture. Wondering how my life, or her life, would be different if this would have been our front door?

24th February
written by Michelle


Dear Mija-

If there was such a thing as the prime of your baby-ness…this would be it. You are in this incredibly fun, interactive, scootin’ and crawlin’ and pullin’ up stage, but not yet waddlin’ around the house. You are curious and observant and content as long as there is something or someone to play with. This month you learned how to take naps while in your stroller and you stopped crying whenever we put you in the carseat, and…drum roll please…you started sleeping in your CRIB at night! And going to SLEEP all by yourself! (can I getta hallelujah?!)


It’s been a big month for you, Elena.

Sometimes I worry that I am going to forget how sweet these days are with you. I take bzillions of pictures and try to send videos to our family back in the states, but there are things that pictures and video can’t capture.

They can’t capture…

the way you burry your head in my neck right after I swoop you up from the bath and wrap your turquoise towel around you.

or the way you grin and wrinkle your nose when Daddy walks in the room.

How even when your eyes are asleep, your little lips keep rooting and looking for something to latch on to.

Or how don’t sit still. You are always moving or looking, or pulling or grabbing.

Or how you squeal with delight, and maybe a little fear, every time I push you on the swing.


Before you grow up and start walking and talking and becoming a big girl, I want to remember you as my baby.

I want to remember:

-your sweet chunky thighs and the way your belly hangs over your diaper. And the wrist rolls. Oh, the wrist rolls.


-how you make kankles look so good.

-how you stare. If there was a contest for a staring game, you would win. hands down. When we take you to a new place you can lock eyes with someone from across the room and just stare them down. It’s unnerving and intense and just what you do.


-how your favorite toys are not really toys. You will search under a pillow or stand up against the couch just to find the remote or Mama’s iphone. You love Daddy’s sunglasses and cardboard paper towel rolls and straws. And you could pick grass all day long if I let you.


- how you like books, but mainly just to chew on. The truth is you are drawn to screens. TV screens, iphone screens, etc, etc. Last week you even figured out how to turn on the TV?!


-how we took you with us to the community where we work. And amidst the heat and humidity and shade of a mango tree you were the happiest I’ve seen you. Swinging back and forth in a hammock, your little bare feet poking out, watching the kids play and your Daddy work. It was one of my favorite days this month.


-how you stick out your tongue and close your eyes, when I try to sneak some guicoy into your mouth. So far we’ve learned that you’re a happier eater when you feed yourself. Which means you make a mess, but there’s not extra cooking, puree-ing, or spooning. So Mama’s just fine with that. You love apples and sweet potatoes, you’ll eat carrots and avocado and could care less about zucchini and guicoy.

-you don’t cry when you get your shots. Your abuela said your Daddy was like that, too. You most certainly don’t get it from me. I flinch just at the thought of needles. However, I think it also might have something to do with the fact that I breastfeed you while Dr. Sandra gives you the shot. I thought this was “normal” but when I asked some of our friends in the US they looked at me funny. So Elena, lucky you, we live in Guatemala, where I pull out the boob for you when you get your shots and everyone is happy.


-Some afternoons around 4pm when Mama is tired and it’s not quite bath-time, but too late to drive into town, we take a walk. Sometimes we look for the big kids who are playing soccer or running around. We stop to watch. You sit memorized in the stroller for 20 minutes, content as can be! So I pull out my phone and do emails, also content as can be :) Win for both of us. When there are no big kids playing we go hunting for water. You love watching our neighbors water their lawn and it’s a great day when we find a sprinkler going. In fact you seem to just really like water in general. You like washing your hands and playing in the bath and after you’re done eating, I bring a wet washcloth over to wipe off your mouth and you like that too.


Mija, you have always tried to be bigger than you are. When you learned to roll over, you wanted to be able to sit. When you learned how to sit, you wanted to crawl. And now that you’ve learned how to crawl you, you want to be up, standing and walking. Sometimes I want to say, slow down. Stay little. You’re still my baby.


For about 3 months now I have been trying so hard to figure out how to get you to nap in your crib, but this month I just accepted that for now you, you nap best in mama’s arms. So instead of viewing naps as “my time” to get stuff done, I now view naps as “our time” together. Peaceful, sweet and restful. This morning you napped in my arms, nestled against my chest, your sweaty head resting in the fold of my arm, and I just looked at you and marveled. My love for you is deep and wide and like nothing I’ve ever known before. Sometimes it still surprises me, just how much I love you.

All My Love,

















19th February
written by Michelle

I know the idea of a weekly project is to have… umm, weekly pictures & posts. But these days, I always feel a little behind, so why not combine 3 into one, right?

Week 5: My mom was visiting and I snapped this while we strolled around Antigua one morning:

We loved having Nana here. She did lots of rocking and playing and holding (for Elena) and washing, cooking and cleaning (for me!) I think she wishes we lived closer to her town, but for now she makes more frequent visits to our town and for that I am so very thankful.

Week 6: Last week had a medical and dental team here and we took a Elena for the first time to the community where we work. The days were hot, long and rewarding. I was a little nervous about bringing Elena out in the middle of no where with dirt floors, dusty roads and sweltering heat. But she did great. I swear she was more content being outside under a mango tree, napping in the hammock and playing with the kids than she ever is at home. Ironic, no? This was the moment we drove home and took a second to appreciate the stillness and tiredness that comes at the end of day when you’re body and heart feel tired and full.

And This Week (wee7 ): Elena and I both enjoy our {almost} everyday afternoon walks. We usually find a neighbor watering his lawn, visit the playground or walk to buy some fruits and veggies from our friends. This is Monica. She has two sweet little girls, 18 months and 3 years, who come and help her sell her veduras in the park. Whenever they see us coming they say “hola, nena. hola, nena.” (hi, baby girl). Elena gets a free ride and I get some fresh fruits and veggies without having to drive to the store.


What’s been happening in your town recently?


Are you new here? This idea of Project 52 started here and was part of my new years goals to appreciate the little things in my neighborhood. You can see the previous weeks here.


16th February
written by Michelle

The problem when you juggle too much is your bound to drop something.

And lately, I feel like I’ve been dropping things.

Friendships that I wish I could invest more in, writing that gets drafted in my head but never typed on the screen, boxes of stuff that are (yes, still!) not put away from our move, photo projects and gifts that I want to make but haven’t even started and time that could be used to exercise or cook better meals is spent holding my sweet sleeping baby who still hasn’t learned how to nap in her crib.

Because of our work and ministry, Gerber’s usually gone at least a week a month. I work outside the home part time and try to work from home the other half. Some days it goes better than others. We have a sitter stay with Elena in the mornings. Afternoons I’m usually home and we juggle our evenings depending who has to go with one of the groups. But stuff gets dropped. Our time together becomes a little more scattered, a lot more focussed on what’s happening tomorrow then on how we’re actually doing. Our text messages become a way to share information “She’s sleeping. Can you bring home burritos?” instead of a way to say sweet, wonderful. “I love yous.”

Maybe this is how all moms or families feel? Maybe part of being a parent means that the very things in your life that used to have order, now feel chaotic? Or the things that used to easily flow in and out of your days, are now thrown up in the air to juggle back and forth?

Sometimes I realize it’s just hard to admit that I thought… oh, surely by 8 months we’ll have this parenting thing figured out. We’ll have a good routine and our baby will nap for 2 hour stretches and we’ll eat dinner together and watch movies and be sleeping like we used to. Ha! Boy was I wrong. We continue to juggle and learn and change and argue and say I am sorry.

I think the hard thing about juggling, is it doesn’t feel sustainable. We can all juggle for a season. But then you get tired. Or you start dropping pieces. Sometimes I convince myself I just need an extra hand, or to have a few less pieces to juggle. Probably both. But then I realize this is simply a season when we are both going to be juggling a lot. 


So this last week we made some *small* but significant changes.

+ We left Elena twice at night and went out— with 24 other people from our medical/dental team- but we went out, nonetheless. And it was fun. I wore a necklace that the baby wasn’t pulling on. And we held hands and ate dinner without jugging a little one back and forth. Given some culture differences on leaving our baby + the fact that she has gone to sleep almost every night while being breastfed, this felt huge for us! I mean this hasn’t happened in 8 months people, 8 months!

+ We brought Elena to the community where we work for 2 days this week, instead of us staying at home. It’s a 90 min drive, temps above 100 degrees with humidity that makes you sweat the whole day. I was a bit nervous about bringing her, wondering how she would do. …but she loved it! And it was rejuvenating for Gerber and I to work together again. To be in the same community, talking, translating, driving, organizing and knowing what needs to happen without having to say it. Instead of juggling 2 different agendas for the day and communicating via texts and phone calls we were physically there together. We fell in love while working together and we both haven’t been in the community together for 8 months.

 + We’ve been honest. We have talked with our director and have asked for help. We sent out an enewsleter to friends and supporters and were honest about how we’re really doing. And I have been overwhelmed by how people responded. Such encouraging, heartfelt emails that make us go, ok, maybe part of this is normal. We’re not along. 

+ I have set aside some time for me. I know I need some time during the week to read or paint my nails or write or pray or let’s be honest…sleep. When Gerber’s home we usually trade off mornings so one of us gets to sleep in. Our early morning riser is not rising as early (she was waking up in the 5 o’clock range for months- whose child is this?!) and now she’s entering the wonderful world of 6 or 6:30am which is still early in my book, but so so much better.

+ Accepting and enjoying this as a season. My mom kept reminding me of this when she was here, as only a mom can. With the wisdom and experience of a someone who has raised 4 kids and worked and served in ministry she somehow knows this is a season. A sweet, challenging season that does in fact involve a lot of juggling.

And maybe what I am learning is that juggling isn’t so much the problem. It’s learning to give myself grace when I do drop things.

How do you respond when you feel like you’re juggling too much?


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