Hiking 007Cake and cream. These kids’ dream.

Sometimes cooking classes are really weird. There are Mondays when I am exceedingly enthused to demonstrate a delectable and innovative recipe, and the group reaction will be decidedly lackluster. Then there are other weeks, when I have barely scrabbled together enough functional ingredients to produce a mediocre dish, and the kids will clamor for moremoremore and talk endlessly about how this workshop was their favorite. I am unsure I will ever catch on to the Paraguayan palate.

I tried to adapt my dependable, go-to recipe for Peanut Butter Blondies to feature the perennial South American favorite, dulce de leche, instead. I was not pleased with the first round of results, and even after further tweaking for Lo’s Kitchen, the recipe still needed work. But the kiddos raved about it and immediately made noisy plans to get together to bake the dessert for Mother’s Day.

Shrug.

Las chicas disfrutando.

I get really, really horrible stomachaches every time I consume a McDonald’s ice cream cone. Clearly it does not happen often enough though for me to remember the painful fact on the rare occasion I find myself in said establishment, ordering a vanilla-dulce de leche swirl. Oy.

This morning after OANSA, we packed our star students, their invitados, and a handful of my leaders into the car for an ice cream reward on an extremely hot day (summer’s back in Paraguay already? Say it ain’t so…). OANSA kids can earn points each week for attendance, bringing their Bibles, reciting memory verses, and/or inviting friends. Although no one has yet to receive all four points in a given week, T and S have been far and away the point leaders of the entire Primero de Marzo pack. It wasn’t surprising that they were the first to redeem on the promise of ice cream and playtime.

Which they never seem to outgrow. Despite even the tiny section of the play structure that indicated it being a three and under zone, our chums, even the older (and frankly, too old and too large) ones wore out every last inch of the slides, hoppers, rolly thingies, and still begged for more time as we prepared to leave. Life is so much about the little things.

The first-class pupils.

Lapping it up.

Leaderererers.

Hopefully just one small fruit of her labor.

I really think S has the markings of a future pastor.

Funfetti fun-ness with dulce de leche for extra sass.

The kids were skeptical when I unveiled the “Fun” Cake recipe, whose name derives directly from my inability to translate “funfetti” into Paraguayan Spanish. I reassured them that anything in honor of a birthday and containing entire packets of sprinkles was definitely something they would enjoy. Suspiciously, they mixed and poured and buttered and refused to comprehend that half of 1/2 is 1/4 (I give up trying to teach fractions…).

Tara turned ten on Tuesday (woot, alliteration). While many children in the United States usher in a decade of existence with multitudes of electronic gadgets, a scoop of sprinkles, wilted cupcake liners, and a squashed teddy bear with obnoxious pink hearts on its fur are the stuff birthday dreams are made of here.

With seven other siblings at home and pennies feeling the pinch, I am not sure how birthdays are celebrated in this family, if at all. But at the very least, this sweet girl, who dubbed herself “Princess of Princesses” for the day, had an afternoon of sparkly candles and a crown made of a bulletin board border, ringing in year ten with giggles, sugary delights, and yes, lots of fun.

And an off-key serenade:

The Golden Arches of Heaven

October 15, 2011

I’d say the joy is palpable.

The kids get points in OANSA for attendance, bringing their Bibles, and memory verse recitation. They can redeem the punts weekly for chocolates or other small prizes, or if they wait and accumulate twenty-five stickers, we take them to McDonald’s for an ice cream cone. They also get to invite a friend.

Today, Juan Carlos picked Julio, Alberto picked Richard, and Pablo picked his little brother Bryan (seriously, siblings are so nice to each other here). We started with a quick car ride during which Richard begged me to sit in the middle so he could hang out the window like Alberto, and Alberto shouted, “MAMA MIA!!!” at the top of his lungs when he spied the lot that sells playground equipment.

We then filed into the McDonald’s where an advertisement of a Cadbury McFlurry (the regional specialties here are baffling) greeted the huge saucer eyes the boys immediately employed upon entrance. As it turns out, five of them had never been to a McDonald’s, and this was pretty much the equivalent to the BEST DAY OF THEIR LIVES! Or so I was told. In loud decibels. Repeatedly.

Vanilla-dulce de leche twist cones (booyah, points for Paraguay) for less than 1 USD were procured and almost worshiped and then rapidly snarfed. Slides and ball pits came after. I wish I had a slow motion video clip of the boys running towards the playground as if it were the arms of Jesus. I have honestly never seen such pure unadulterated happiness over bouncy sticks and black mesh netting. And Cartoon Network for the one kid who sacrificed playtime to watch tv because he never gets to otherwise.

Eventually, we had to gather the troupe to head out. Just when I thought my heart couldn’t break anymore with bittersweet heartache, Richard pointed out the window.

“What’s that building over there?”

“A movie theater.”

*long pause pregnant with awe*

“If I get one hundred points, will you take me there?”