Thursday, July 28, 2011

2nd Trimester Triumphs and Fears

If you've read about my journey to running a 10k and then running most of a 5k in my first trimester this May, you already know two things: I'm fairly new to living healthily, and I'm pregnant. Those two facts together are sometimes hard to manage. Weight gain, whether healthy and with good reason like pregnancy, or not, gives me terrible flash backs. Rooted in the fear of former obesity, I hate feeling like I'm slowly getting trapped by my old body. Some of the fear comes from the future: wanting to have the healthiest birth and baby possible. I feel like, if I don't keep moving and find positive things to do, these past and future fears will suffocate my present.

There are several ways I'm trying my best to combat this fear:
1) I walk an hour every weekday morning. If I miss a morning, I make it up somehow in the day or walk extra the next day. I jogged in the past, but ligament pain is hampering that at the moment.
2) I swim as much as possible.
3) I find physical things to do that aren't too strenuous. Raking the yard, checking the mail (at the end of a long driveway,) hanging clothes on the clothesline, playing outside with Talia... basically, just looking for ways to keep moving instead of giving in to the siren's call of technology, air conditioning and the couch!

I try to think about the good things:
1) I lost all of the pregnancy weight within the first month. Though that still left me much higher than I should have been, the pregnancy part came off.
2) I am over halfway through my pregnancy and I've only gained 13 pounds. It could be much worse.
3) Even if I do gain some weight, I have the tools to know how to fight it this time. Even if I gain as much weight as I did with my first pregnancy, I'll still weigh LESS than my first pre-pregnancy weight!
4) Though always hungry, I try to make sure I'm really hungry; stomach growling or I can feel hunger, before I eat. I try to eat lots of fruits and vegetables.

Fear can either paralyze me or motivate me to overcome it. I choose to use what I have and what I know and keep moving, and moving forward! Afterall, the best way to overcome this fear of weight gain in pregnancy is to go the whole length and prove to myself afterwards by experience that I could do it.

How did you combat too much pregnancy weight gain? Do you have any tips that would help?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

5 Expat Parent Observations: United States vs. Guatemala

When we come back to the States I always notice several things that impact my daughter differently here than in Guatemala. However, this is within a very narrow spectrum, so my experiences do not accurately reflect Guatemala or the States as a whole. Only my experience between a city setting in Guatemala City to a country setting in Texas. Here are some of the things I've noticed, particularly relating to raising children:

1. Larger range of ethnicities:

In Guatemala, most people are the following according to the CIA World Factbook:
Mestizo (mixed Amerindian-Spanish)and European 59.4%,
K'iche 9.1%,
Kaqchikel 8.4%,
Mam 7.9%,
Q'eqchi 6.3%,
other Mayan 8.6%,
indigenous non-Mayan 0.2%,
other 0.1% (2001 census)

In other words, almost everyone is brown-haired, brown-eyed, tan-skinned or else they are obviously foreign. There is a conspicuous lack of people of African descent. When we visited the States, that resulted in the following conversation:

Talia: "Mami, that lady has brown skin!"
Me: "Yes, it's beautiful, isn't it?"
Talia: "But my skin is peach!"
Me: "Yes, everybody is different."

In the U.S. there is a much broader range of ethnic peoples- and that is a good thing when it comes to exposing children to more than one kind of nationality.

2. Free-range child rearing is more possible:

When I say free-range, I mean that children have a yard to play in that allows for minimal supervision, like an adult washing dishes in the house at a window and still checking outside occasionally. In Guatemala, at least in the city, that is a difficult thing to come by. There aren't really "neighborhoods" the same way there are in the States. Children, especially foreign-looking ones, can't just wander off to play if you don't want them to get kidnapped. Outside of the city, this is much less extreme! Talia has enjoyed being able to run around outside (always in the yard, always within sight) and play around trees and foliage that would never fit in a little city "garden." I appreciate the lack of stress of constantly having the thought in the back of my head that someone could run off with her. (Though I am aware that yes, that is still possible here.)

3. The lack of walls and barbed wire is surprising:

If you want any degree of a place like my #2 to play in Guatemala, then walls and barbed wire are necessary. It's nice to actually see houses here in the States. In Guatemala, everything is behind a wall with layers of barbed wire on top. You can't just drive anywhere and see a house, you have to have permission to enter the gate and then you might get to actually see a house. At first the barriers everywhere isn't such a big deal until you go back to the States and feel like you can breathe again... unless you've gotten so accustomed to the walls that you then feel unprotected. I like for my daughter to experience life without walls occasionally.

4. Playing with other kids in English:

In Guatemala, even if the parents speak English, usually the language between playing children is Spanish. I like this. I'm glad Talia is developing her Spanish skills from the playground up. She always speaks English with us at home, and we know that it is developing also. However, her English is more elevated than her age because of this. I don't think it's a bad thing that she doesn't speak with other kids in English very often, but I am glad when she gets the opportunity.
On the flip side, this helps me appreciate the truly bilingual environment we have found in Guatemala. One big reason to move to a Latin American country was to have a bilingual child. I like that during her language's most formative years, she is in a bilingual atmosphere. She amazes me daily with her grasp of both Spanish and English. (She's pretty good at understanding Portuguese too!)

5. Extended family:

One of the most common things an expat must choose to give up is his or her close proximity to extended family when moving to another country. It's nice when we get the chance to visit and Talia can play with and talk to other family members besides those she lives with every day. I grew up very close to my family and it's definitely the thing I miss the most when we are in Guatemala. I'm thankful for technology and the contact that has made possible, but it will never come close to a real life hug or conversation.

Most of these reasons have also contributed to us moving out of Guatemala City and to a less hectic, more country place outside of the capital- more like where I was raised.
I want to be able to grow herbs outside.
I want to be able to walk consistently.
I want Talia to have a good place to play outside with her puppy.
Nature is therapeutic and I want her to find that for herself.

Guatemala has many beautiful things to offer, but, in my opinion, the majority of those things are not found in the city setting, but rather in the majestic natural environment.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Taste of Asia in Guatemala: Spring Rolls

When we moved to Guatemala, the last thing I expected to learn was any form of Asian cooking. However, there were several things I didn't know: 1) People from all over the world work at international schools, including people from Asia, and 2) There is a considerable Korean population in Guatemala, which means at least one good Asian market.

A friend who helped me on my journey towards fitness also introduced me to spring rolls. She learned from a teacher who had taught in China and got pointers on how to make the sesame/vinegar combo from another teacher who was Japanese. It's really amazing how many types of people come together in the international arena.

While I like trying new foods, I wasn't sure I would like spring rolls. I wouldn't eat many of the following things raw or in this combination normally:

This combination included the raw ingredients of cabbage, (you can use lettuce) carrot, cucumber, red pepper, mango, spinach, and sesame seeds. I was totally addicted after the first bite!

The first thing that we cooked was the vermicelli noodles:

The process is almost identical to regular pasta: boil water and then add the noodles. The exception is that they seem to be more delicate and easier to overcook.

Save the hot water from the noodles to help un-stiffen the rice paper wrappers:

The rice paper wrappers were the weirdest, funnest part of making spring rolls! To me, they start out looking like plastic, circular place mats. Once placed in the warm (not too hot or they'll crack!) water, they sort of "dissolve" into a wiggly sticky wrapper that I treat like Saran Wrap because it tends to stick together easily. However weird it sounds, it is quite delicious and one of the best textures that brings the whole spring roll (literally) together.

Once the wrapper has "dissolved" in the warm water, we let held it up and let the excess water drip off, then placed it on a waiting plate. There, we put a layer of lettuce or cabbage, grated carrot, cucumber strips, red pepper strips, mango strips, spinach, sesame seeds and a good helping of the noodles. This is also delicious with avocado inside... but in my opinion, anything is good with avocado. Wrapped up like a burrito, it now looked like this:

Next, we cut the spring rolls in half and added about a teaspoon full of what I'll call "special sauce" to the noodles to give them some flavor. I couldn't remember exactly how this part went, so I just added the sesame oil, white vinegar and soy in a combination that I thought would taste best together. If you have actual amounts, please comment. Otherwise, just experiment with the taste and see what you like best. We really liked how ours turned out.

What really added the crowning flavor for me to this entire concoction, however, were the following two sauces: sweet chili sauce and wasabi!

It doesn't take much of either of these two sauces, especially the spicy wasabi! A small amount is enough, though, to enhance all of the naturally delicious flavors that already exist.

To raw fruit and vegetables that taste delicious!

Do you have a favorite combination for spring roll ingredients or some pointers for this first time learner?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thank You from the Birthing Clinic in Guatemala

Not long ago we brought your attention to an immediate need for a birthing clinic in Guatemala who needed two fetal dopplers. Because of your generosity, both of those needs were met!

You've helped add a much better option to this list:

What birthing options are available for Guatemalans?

•"For poor Guatemalans, there are the national hospitals: C-section rates are getting close to 50%, all kinds of other interventions are routine, and the woman is unaccompanied through her birth."
•"The IGGS, the social security hospital, is very similar."
•"Many people who can barely afford it therefore opt for one of the small private clinics, only to have the same experience but paying for it."
•"Aprofam, an organization that started out subsidized but has to be sustainable at this point, has taken the same route in order to sustain itself."
•"In the rural areas there are local midwives available, some of which are very experienced and well (mostly self-) trained, while others are not."
•"The big hospitals in the city have a C-section rate of 70 to 80%, besides being very expensive."

Now, for more women, a natural birth in the clinic is more of an option. Thank you!

Hannah, the registered midwife in Guatemala City who runs Manos Abiertas for low-income families and also has a clinic, Centro de Parto Natural, in the capital was appreciative to have those two things marked off of her list.

Another immediate need they have right now is the donation of a working laptop.
"We have very little room and it is specifically meant for my accountant who travels between the two clinics and for our educational presentations."

However, if you live in Guatemala City, a desktop would be much appreciated as well, "for the Ciudad Vieja clinic that just has one and people are always in line. It should just not be too old and yes, in Guatemala."

If you have a laptop (from the States until August) in Guatemala or a desktop in Guatemala you would be willing to donate please comment with an email address or email us directly at sagaunscripted [AT] gmail (dot) com.

Please consider donating.

Spanish educational material about birth approx. 60$ or 470Q
1 professional grade, waterproof fetal doppler: $125 or 985Q plus shipping
1 complete birth package 240$ or 1,884Q

Also on their wish list is an obstetric ultrasound machine. Any donation, no matter the size, will help make a difference in a woman's life.

Thank you, from me, from countless women who would tell you if they could.

Read an interview with Hannah here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Volunteering in Guatemala: Education and More- Solola

Many people want to get involved with volunteering in Guatemala, but know little about the organizations available or what those organizations do. This is one in a series of interviews with amazing volunteer organizations in Guatemala.

Karen Pickett (pictured below, right) is the director of Education and More, a Fair Trade Federation non-profit group dedicated to getting weaving by Guatemalan women of the Solola region exposure, income and education for their family.

1. Who are you and how did you get interested in Guatemala? My
initial visit to Guatemala was with a mission team to help build
houses and when I met some women weavers and got to know them it got
me interested in helping them sell their handcrafts and weavings.
Education And More was born as a result and is a Christian, Fair
Trade nonprofit, registered in the United States as a 501c3
nonprofit organization.

2. How did you get in contact with or start Education and More? I am
the founder / Director of E&M and started the organization in 2006
to help the women artisans I had met sell their weavings and to help
them educate their children.

3. What is Education and More's goal in their Guatemalan community? Our primary mission is two fold -- educating children and helping women earn a
fair wage so they can help to support their families. We feel that
as we help artisan groups sell their handcrafts and weavings the
dollars brought into communities has a ripple effect in the whole
community. Education helps the entire community whether it is the
young children finally able to go to school or young adults
returning to school to learn a skill or get a university degree.
We work with churches through our sponsorship program to give
educational opportunities to students of all ages -- pre-primary
through University and even technical, vocational schooling. The
sales of the handcrafts also helps the families in the ability to
educate their children, to give better nutrition to their family
because of the fair wages they receive, and business and vocational
skills through technical education for the women artisans.

4. Where are you located? We work with artisan groups and churches
in the Solola department and have recently expanded and we are
beginning to work with poorer groups in the Queche department of

5. What is one experience that you remember the most? When one of
our women artisans started crying as she was trying to thank us for
all the help we give them in earning money to help their families.
The artisans are just so very thankful for all the help Education
And More gives to them and their families. It is very humbling!

6. What is something you learned from volunteering in Guatemala?
People are the same the world over; women are uniquely capable of
understanding each other even through the language barriers and
cultural differences.

7. How could future volunteers get involved? We are looking for
volunteers to help us in a variety of ways: hosting Fair Trade
bazaars at their church, school or home; helping us with our
Facebook pages and other online media, spreading the word about our
work and mission, designing new handcrafts, speaking to schools,
college groups, churches about E&M and our mission. There are many
ways we need volunteers to help!

8. What advice would you give someone wanting to volunteer with your
We need passionate volunteers who are interested in
Fair Trade, education and helping to reduce the poverty in
Guatemala! We need your help and need your skills to grow the
organization! We are expanding into some poorer regions of the
Queche department of Guatemala and need more sales of the handcrafts
to help more women. Once you get involved and eventually go to
and meet our artisans your life will never be the same.
We invite you to contact us for opportunities to volunteer with the

9. Do you have any extra thoughts you'd like to share? Education
And More is very passionate about helping not only the artisans but
their entire families and communities and we have developed programs
to do that. Programs such as: educational opportunities for women,
sewing centers for vocational training for women, educational
opportunities for adults returning to school and children; micro
enterprise help and micro-credit loans, business training,
development and technical assistance, spiritual development through
the Christian Education classes in churches. Our partnership with
local churches gives the sponsored students a community within the
body of Christ so they can grow spiritually as well as in body and
We are a screened member of the Fair Trade Federation and work with
artisan groups to help women and their families. Fair Trade gives
the artisans a fair wage plus many other benefits for them and their


Karen Pickett, Director
Education And More
P.O. Box 201
Burlingame, KS 66413

Blog --

You can also contact Education and More on Facebook.