Monday, December 30, 2013

The Relatives Came

     We've discovered the best part about living far away from family and friends....having them come for an extended visit.  We hosted Dean's parents the weekend before Christmas and members of my extended family the weekend after.  Ben called it a "family sandwich".  After they left we pulled out one of our favorite books to remember how it felt with all the hugging and breathing and being together.  Cynthia Rylant really said it best.  Some of our favorite sentences from the book include..

"It was different, going to sleep with all the new breathing in the house."

"We were so busy hugging and eating and breathing together."

"We watched the relatives disappear down the road, then we crawled back into our beds that felt too big and too quiet."

"But they thought about us, too.  Missing them.  And they missed us."

     I'm happy we have words and pictures to remind us how we felt and what we did with all our relatives.  Those relatives, happy and helpful and hungry.  How wonderful to share a house and a bed or two with them for a few days.  It really does make up for us not living so close, kind of.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Buen Provecho

     We started a new tradition this year.  We made Pupusas, a traditional breakfast or dinner dish from El Slavador, for Christmas dinner.  I don't know why I've never tried before...actually, yes I do.  I made them for my family right after I returned from my mission.  I had every intention of making them again, but then I met Dean and I knew anything I made would be compared to the Pupusas he'd eaten right off the streets of his mission.  There really is no comparison.  I made a mental list of all the things we substituted...
hand ground corn meal flour, for the bagged variety
lard, for coconut oil
quesillo (the gooiest cheese ever, usually hand made the day of), for mozarella
refried beans from scratch, for Rosarita in a can
a comal (a clay griddle over an open flame) for our little electric griddle

     I know someday we'll get back to El Salvador, and buy the deliciousness from the street carts for a quarter. Ours might not taste like theirs, but at least we don't have to worry about which food cart is the most sanitary.  Dean claims it's all the unseen "goodies" that make the Pupusas taste that much better.
Curtido, the pickled cabbage slaw traditionally served with Pupusas

Dean, showing the boys how it's done.

     They say smell is the biggest trigger for memory.  I believe it.  The smell of masa (dough) frying stirred so many memories for both of us.  The boys asked questions and we talked about where they might serve their missions.  

    Christmas dinner gave us a chance to speak some much needed Spanish, and tell funny mission stories.  The boys tried a new dish and Dean and I cooked together, something we should do more often.  A tradition worth keeping.  Buen Provecho!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Hopes of St Nicholas

Practicing a little "ho, ho, ho-ing" before bed.

     I never thought I'd be blogging on Christmas Eve, but I'm full of emotions this year and I wanted to make sure and document before I forget.  Things came together a little easier than other years.  Oh sure, we've had our moments of crazy this holiday season and Dean swears Christmas snuck up on him this year, but for me, it was a good, even slowish December filled with lots of longing and reading and being in the moment.  I don't know if I'll get many more of those years.  I know most of it had to do with being in a new place where you don't know anyone.  Everyone kept referring to how busy everyone is this time of year, but our calendar was wide open which made room for lots of family time and chapter books and Merlin episodes.

     Handmade jammies were on our list of homemade Christmas gifts this year.  Also on the list...a pirate ship play space, an updated Power Wheel, Lego trays, Merlin and Superhero peg dolls and a monogrammed tea table.  Like I said, there was time this year.

     I know this Christmas will be remembered.  Years from now one of them will say, "remember that year when Dad made us the pirate ship?" and then someone will add that it was the same year Mom forgot to buy the special cheese for the Pupusas for Christmas Dinner,  It will go down in history as our first in Alabama, and the year Sadie poked holes in all the presents under the tree.

Some other blooper reel moments I don't want to forget....
     Ben amending his Christmas list to include a "baby upgrade" in fear that the Sadie version we    
     now own will just "mess up" all the new Legos he's anticipating.  

     Alan vacillating between sheer joy and bitter tears all day due to Christmas anxiety.  He must have 
     asked me 200 times if "today was Christmas".  

     Sadie getting a hold of the sugar sprinkles 

     Stuffing a half finished stocking...I guess I didn't have as much time as I thought.

     and yes, forgetting the aforementioned special cheese for Christmas Dinner.  

Spreading reindeer food.

     I don't know how many years we have left where Christmas is so Real for all of them.  It's so fleeting.  Ben made us all solemnly promise to go straight to bed after family prayer.  His prayer?.. "that we can remember the true meaning of Christmas, and the Heardmans (we just finished reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever), and that our family and friends in Utah will have fun in the snow and we can visit them soon,  and that we can have fun opening all our presents tomorrow."   Amen

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Christmas, Y'all

     "The sun is shining, the grass is green(ish), the orange and palm trees sway.  There's never been such a day in Beverly Hills L.A. But it's December the 24th, and I'm longing to be up North. I'm dreaming of a white Christmas....."

     It's a little known fact that Irving Berlin's Christmas classic begins with this verse.  With just a few modifications these words could apply to our little family.  We took a jaunt to the beach today, December 21st, Winter Solstice, the darkest, coldest day of the year.  It was a balmy 80ยบ and while the locals thought we were crazy for hitting the beach in December, we Northerner's thought it was quite warm.  We literally had the beach to ourselves.

 Ben's "Sand Angel"

     So, "Merry Christmas, Y'all", as we've learned to say.   We hope you have a beautiful Christmas. We're learning to adjust to this sub-tropical climate we've been crazy enough to re-locate to.  At least with sand there's no need to shovel.  Whether you have sand or snow, "...may all your Christmases be white."

Friday, December 20, 2013

Missionary Rival Stockings

      We're lucky enough to have 4 missionaries in our ward and they've become an important part of our lives down here.  We have both sets over about once a week and it's made our adjustment to the South much smoother, especially for my boys. They count the days until the missionaries get to come over again.

     They get to skype home on Christmas Day, a luxury I never even dreamed possible when I was a missionary.  I was thinking back on my first Christmas in the mission field.  My package from home got rerouted to Ecuador and my phone call was made in the very busy living room of the family we lived with.  It makes my heart happy to know we can offer our Dothan Sisters and Elders an I-pad and a quiet bedroom to have their Christmas Chat.  What I would have given?.... Knowing then, that the other three missionaries will be with us in the very busy living area of the house, I knew they needed something of their own to open. The socks are reversible.  Auburn on one side, Alabama on the other.  The Tallahassee Mission incorporates three states, so they need to remember their Christmas was in Alabama, and what better way than with football inspired stockings? I hit the Dollar store running.  I had a goal to purchase useful/meaningful items, but who can resist silly putty?

     There's still time and room in the socks to spare and I'd love your suggestions.  What are some things you would have appreciated during a Christmas away from home?

 Obviously, this Holiday entertaining guide is a "must-have" keepsake.

 The one and only recipe that looks feasible and yummy

I called their parents asking for recipes or traditions that might make Christmas Morning more fun, I hope it will be for them.  I know that their being with us will make it so much more bearable for us on our first Christmas away.  Merry Christmas Y'all!

Saturday, December 14, 2013


      Ben had a silhouette cut for him when he visited Disneyland two summers ago.  It found a place among the branches of our Christmas tree last year and I just knew I needed silhouettes for my other two, as well.

     I googled "how to make a silhouette" and found tons of tutorials..some rather complicated.  In the end I took profile shots of Alan and Sadie, shrunk them to the size I already had of Ben, and cut them out with the black paper behind it.  I think it worked well and gave the silhouettes the "hand cut" look I wanted.

One, two and three, I just need to find frames and they can take their place in the tree too.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013


     12-12-12, the day marked as the end of the world according to the Mayan Calendar.  It certainly was the end of our little world.  A year ago today we went from being the Three Musketeers to a full court press after one short, life changing phone call.  Thirty minutes after hanging up the phone our kid count tripled.  We've never looked back and never regretted the decision to become a Foster Family.  It's been 12 months of chaos and crazy including a cross country relocation, but we've thoroughly enjoyed every minute.  

     Ben prayed for a little sister from the time he was three years old until the day before Sarai came to us.  Not long after settling in, Ben asked why Alan had come to our house too, if he'd only prayed for a baby sister?  What a sweet experience it was to explain that Heavenly Father often sends us answers to prayers in unexpected ways.  Ben excels at being an older brother to BOTH his siblings.  

     Who can forget that hair cut?   I remember a neighbor boy running his hands over the short stubble and commenting that it felt like Velcro.  Our sweet Alan dove headfirst into our family.  Look at that smile literally 12 days after joining a new family.  We know he was a ball of nerves, but he overcame everything and turned into the world's best hugger.

I remember snapping this photo and knowing everything was going to be just fine.

Ahh, yes, the sleep of spoiled parents who haven't had an infant for six long years.

One of his first full English sentences..."mom, I write A-L-A-N."

Only four weeks old.  She had soooo much hair.  We all thought she resembled a little monkey.

     Last Saturday, on our way to see Santa, we spontaneously stopped in at the Dothan Railway Station for a quick photo op.  It turned into an amateur photo shoot.  The sun cooperated, mostly, and Dean grabbed some great shots of our little family.  A lot has changed in the last 12 months and we've changed too.

Benjamin 7

Alan - 5

Sarai - 1

We know there's a long road ahead, full of adventures we get to take together.

Merry Christmas!
Love, the Marturellos
All FIVE of us :)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Downtown Dothan Christmas Festival

     They brought snow to Dothan for a few hours yesterday and we took full advantage.  It was a chilly 55° which made the snow last even longer.  We paid $5 for a wristband that let them sled as much as they wanted.  
They were the last ones on the hill.

     They also had snow for throwing.  We spent most of our time sledding, but who can resist throwing a snowball or two.  The next two pictures show a series of events that happened too quickly for me to capture on camera.  I caught the before and after.

He got over the snowball fight pretty fast when I mentioned we were going to make s'mores.  

Then letters to Santa...

A train ride

      And more sledding.  I told you they closed the place down.  Last ones on the hill.  You would think sledding would be a universal sport, not requiring much skill or practice, but the kids in Dothan could learn a thing or two from my two Utah natives.  While other kids were using their hands to slow themselves down and then complaining about getting wet and scratched from the snow, Ben and Alan used their feet.  They also knew you can "steer" a sled with your weight and how to walk on slippery snow. They showed the other kids how to take a running start, spin, and go backwards.  And while other parents were telling their kids not to go too fast, or worrying when the sled started to turn I was cheering my little daredevils on.   It was pretty fun to watch.  The stairs made it possible to sled and sled without getting tired trudging up the hill in the snow and without all the heavy snow gear you can run easily back to the line.  We got a few looks and one lady did laughingly acknowledge we were not from around here.  No, no we are not.  So, while we would prefer to be back at our own Jaycee Park hill, this will tide us over nicely.
Enjoy the snow if you have it!