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I had heard of tres leches cake before, but I had never had occasion to try it until our recent lunch at El Chalan in Washington, DC.  Tres leches cake, or the cake of three milks, is a popular dessert in the Americas, and it is exactly as its name suggests.  Basically, it is a sponge cake soaked in a mixture of three different types of milk: condensed, evaporated, and whole.

The slice that we shared, which had a drizzle of chocolate syrup on top, was delicious.  It was sweet, but not too sweet, and had a thick cornbread-like consistency that helped to keep it from sogging under the milk.  I really liked it, and I will probably try to see if I can make it myself one of these days.

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Before we went to the National Geographic museum last week, we decided to check out a Peruvian restaurant called El Chalan.  I went out of my comfort zone and tried a dish I’ve never had before: cabrito norteno….otherwise known as goat stew.  Yup, I ate goat.

My stew arrived all pretty before I stirred it all together to combine the meat with the beans, rice, onions, and beer sauce.  The flavor was very reminiscent of lamb (or chicken, if you ask my husband), and it was very different from anything else I’ve had before.  It was gamey and earthy and vingerary, and I enjoyed it, particularly once I realized that I needed to be careful of the bones mixed in there.  Spitting out a big hunk of goat bone is not, as it happens, super refined or attractive. Good thing Bee likes me anyway!

Just two days before it closed, Bee and I got into DC to check out the National Geographic Museum’s exhibit of Peruvian gold.  It was incredible!

Last week, Bee and I took advantage of a day off and headed into the district for an afternoon at the museum and lunch at a nearby Peruvian restaurant.  The exhibit had pieces that were literally 3000+ years old that were in staggeringly good shape, including the largest pre-Columbian headdress that has ever been discovered.

We got to learn about some of the pre-Incan cultures who lived in Peru from 1250 B.C. to A.D. 1450, like the Wari and Moche peoples, by examining their ceremonial objects, jewelry, clothing, and murals.  Unfortunately, we weren’t permitted to take any pictures in the exhibit hall, but you can see some of them in the short video above.

My old college roommate recently directed me to the website Ebates, which is a pretty nifty way to earn back money for online shopping.  Particularly for me and Bee, as folks who live in a rural area, we do a fair bit of our shopping on the internet, so this definitely seemed like a good fit for us.  We made accounts on the site (and got $10 gift cards to the store of our choice for signing up) and started shopping.

On our list of purchases were things we were going to be buying anyway, like a birthday present for Bee, running shoes for both of us, and pants for me for work.  By using the links to the online shops, we’ve already earned back about $30 and have received our first check in the mail.  Folks who are, like us, trying to save money or just trying to be savvy shoppers should definitely give it a look.  Every check that we get is going straight back into our adoption funds, and every person that we refer through our link earns us an extra $5 bonus.

What are other ways that you have found to save or raise money online?

People- I’m here to tell you that toddler adoption rocks. And toddler adoption is messy, and full of hurt, and wonderful, and trying, and it will make you want to pull your hair out and laugh all at the same time. But that’s parenting!
Megan Terry, millionsofmiles.com

One of the reasons that we chose the agency that we did was because they regularly offer classes and workshops for their adoptive parents.  As a geeky librarian, easy access to education was an exciting prospect for me.  This past Saturday, Bee and I signed up to take a three-hour workshop about adopting toddlers internationally.  We don’t yet know the ages of our children, but since we approved from birth to age 8, it seemed like a good idea to prepare for a variety of ages.

It’s by far the best class we have had so far, as it specifically dealt with traveling to meet your child, what to expect in the early weeks of becoming a family, what kinds of behaviors are typical in institutionalized children, how to communicate with a child who doesn’t share your language, and more.  The first two hours were presented by one of the agency’s staff members, and the last hour was presented by two adoptive mothers.

Here are some of our big takeaways:

  • When we first meet, we should not expect our children to be comfortable with us right away.  As an icebreaker, we should plan to bring something to work on with our children like a project, craft, or activity.  LEGOs or Duplos, puzzles, and coloring books were all ideas that we were given to bring, and the process of play and discovery together might help them warm to us and associate positive things with us.
  • Since we speak our children’s native language as well as English, it would be a nice idea to speak only Spanish with them for the first few weeks because that is a more comfortable language for them.  Once we feel ready, we can start transitioning to English.
  • If we want our children to retain their native language (we do!), we need to make sure we keep it in their lives from day one.  We should speak it to them, watch Spanish television shows, and find other people who speak it as well.  Without keeping it up, children lose their first language in just a few weeks.
  • When we receive our referral, we should bring it to a pediatrician who specialized in adoptions so we can get a good idea of what to expect.  Georgetown has a clinic that is very familiar with international adoptions.
  • Food-related behaviors are very common in children who come from an orphanage setting.  This might manifest itself in behaviors like hoarding, overeating, or refusing to eat, and it’s something we need to be aware of in case our children exhibit signs of that.  It was recommended that we always have food visible and available to our children so they can feel reassured that they will always have access to something.
  • Pack medication.  Doctors should be able to prescribe antibiotics for the times that you inevitably get sick during your stay in-country.  Melatonin and grapefruit oil are good things to pack too.
  • Try to pack soft tag-free clothing, as other kinds can feel uncomfortable or confining for a child with sensory issues.  Also don’t pack too many clothes because you might not know the correct size.  You can always buy some in-country.
  • Children from orphanages may have never slept alone before, so they shouldn’t sleep alone when you bring them home at first.  In our case, we’re planning to adopt siblings who will share a room, but we need to be aware that we may well end up in their room for a while too.
  • Plan to spend the first few weeks together in a cocoon state.  Until your attachments to each other are established, it can be confusing to introduce too many new people and family members.
  • Meet the childrens’ needs.  This will help them learn to trust and accept us as parental figures.  We especially should be the ones to soothe, hold, and feed them, at least at first.
  • The way your child reacts to you in the first few weeks don’t have any bearing on how they adjust to you in the long run.  Don’t panic if it’s not going well at first—it gets better and better.
  • Adopting toddlers, though challenging and messy, is also joyful and amazing.

In the past couple of weeks, we’ve been delighted to meet some lovely young men—a new friend and a new cousin.  Our army of future friends for the kiddos keeps getting bigger and cuter!

In addition to the letters I received this week, I also got a big update on how Ronaldo, the little Peruvian boy I sponsor, is doing this year.

When it rains, it pours letters from overseas!  All at once, my mailbox was filled with backdated correspondence from my sponsored Peruvian child Ronaldo.  As always, I was delighted to hear from him—checking the mailbox is a lot more fun when there’s the chance that you might get a real live letter.

The first one wished me a happy birthday and reported that Peru was very cold and rainy during that time of year (May).  

The second, from June, wished me and Bee a happy anniversary and responded to the letter that I sent him about getting to meet a dolphin at the Baltimore Aquarium.  Though Ronaldo hasn’t seen any dolphins where he lives, he has encountered jellyfish, crabs, octopus, and fish.  I loved the word for jellyfish, which is malagua (“bad water”) and makes perfect sense!

In the mail, I also received an annual progress report on Ronaldo and his community, which I’ll share in the next few days.  The next time I write to him, I’m going to try to pen my letter completely in Spanish so I can get some practice!  We’ll see how well that goes.

In another instance of Peru following me wherever I go, I found this carved gourd while visiting the Rockwell Museum in Corning, New York over the weekend.  We were up there to visit my family, and a particularly rainy day had us seeking out cover in different museums and shops.  The Rockwell, which we had never been to before, is a beautiful museum focusing on artwork from the American west and from Native Americans.

We were poking around the giftshop on our way out when we found a little table of carved gourd ornaments and boxes handmade in Peru.  

We learned that the gourds are harvested and then dried out in the desert before being carved to tell stories.  The dark brown and black colors come from the use of fire (a technique called pyrography).  We were happy to see that they were fair trade, so Bee picked out this handsome owl ornament to add to our collection.