Saturday, December 21, 2013

Back in the U.S.

We decided to come home for treatment.  I consulted with two world-class doctors in Boston yesterday.    They agreed on diagnosis and treatment:  surgery.  Neither thinks it is cancer.  Both think the prognosis depends on whether the tumor is intact, or whether it has leaked.  One was more self-assured, the other more cautious.  Both are considered top doctors.  But, one is going on vacation next week, which kind of tipped the scales.

The one who is here is the one I was more comfortable with, anyway.  He was more careful, less's so hard to choose, really, but I was comfortable with him.  The condition is really rare--a few thousand cases a year in the U.S., and he sees maybe 10 cases a year.  The other doctor sees 3-6 cases a year, so he's a bit more experienced.  His hospital sees maybe 70 cases a year like mine.

So anyway, long story short, I'm having surgery on Tuesday.  The pathology will take a week.  We'll be here for a minimum of two weeks.  We won't really know much about prognosis or further treatment until after the surgery.  I am sad, and scared, but trying to stay positive and hope for the best.  I just want to be here for my girls, today, and Christmas Day, and always.

Monday, December 16, 2013


When we left off in mid-November, I had a lovely spring in my step and all appeared right with the world.  If only that had lasted. . .

The pain in my side persisted, and so back to the doctor I went.  I went to a different doctor this time, because I wasn't so confident in the prior one(s)  (primary care or gastroenterologist).  This one prescribed a CT scan, purely as a precaution.  I was hopeful it would be okay.  I was pretty sure it would be okay--I had that CT scan 18 months ago for the kidney stones, and it didn't show anything weird.  I might have even had one last summer (I think I did, in fact), when my liver values were all wonky.  Today as I was sitting at my desk at work, I received the results from the hospital via email.  I went flying to my doctor's office when I saw the results.  Unfortunately, there is something there that shouldn't be.

We don't know exactly what it is yet, but it appears to be a rare kind of tumor on my appendix.  It could be benign, or it could be. . .worse.  Googling it is just freaking me out, because according to google, even if it's benign, if it's complex, it can have a chance of turning malignant.  So. . .yeah.  I'm freaking out.  I have two little kids.  This cannot be happening.

Right now we are trying to figure out what to do.  I don't want to have surgery here.  It's not that they can't do it, but it's complicated, and I just don't want to deal with this in Spanish.  I don't want to be sick and in pain and trying to explain myself in another language.  I could easily transfer my care to Miami, which is logistically close and easy to set up.  Or, I could go "home," to my mother's or to another relative's house.  Each location presents its challenges, though, including economic ones.  I don't know how long I'll be gone, or what this will entail.  If we don't go to a place where we have family, T can't come with me, because who will watch the kids?  Or he could come with me, but not be with me.  And I don't even know when we will be going, because I don't know if I need surgery imminently, or whether it can wait until after Christmas.

I am trying to make the most of every moment with the girls this holiday season.  We are doing advent crafts/projects/fun every day, and it is so much fun.  I am so, so scared of what is going on with my health, and what this will mean.  I hope that once again, it will be simple and easy and not serious.  I feel like I have had so many health problems since SB's birth 20 months ago--shingles, kidney stones, wonky liver values, and now this.  I'm ready to be healthy and happy.  I want to focus on my girls and my family, and not be worrying about health stuff.  Especially right now, when they are at such awesome, fun ages.  Especially now, during the holidays.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Long Weekend

As I sit here, the girls are giggling in their bedroom, fighting sleep, and the playroom is a tangled mess of toys.  The smell of freshly baked sugar cookies hangs in the air, and I am the good kind of exhausted.  It has been such a nice weekend.

Where to start?  Well, I've been feeling rotten lately, and was stressed out about it.  I can't recall if I mentioned, but three of us caught a parasite a few weeks ago (Hurray!).  (Miss M is going through what I call her "White Phase," and eating only things like toast and Kix and apples and macaroni and cheese; the good news was she was hence spared the infection--but I digress).  For a week, I couldn't eat without running for the bathroom.  As yet another a side note, I am officially at my minimum weight, the one at which my smallest clothes fit and I start to worry.  At first I thought it was food poisoning, but it got worse over time, rather than better.  So anyway, off I went to the doctor, I got diagnosed, we all took medication and we got better.  But, I think it in turn caused some other problems for me.  Which is a long way of saying that I had an ultrasound on Saturday to check on all things abdominal.  I had been pretty worried about it, but it came out just fine, and so by noon time on Saturday, I was feeling considerably lighter.  My GI specialist had also prescribed a medication that seems to be helping with the odd pain I've been having in my right side.

So, spring back in my step, we then headed off Saturday afternoon for our first road trip out of town.  After a bit of time, the girls fell asleep, and smug that the girls were peacefully napping and we were navigating the city just fine (it goes on forever and takes a million years to drive out of), T. and I fell into easy conversation.  Miles and miles slipped by, and suddenly I realized that we were on entirely the wrong road and utterly not where we were supposed to be, and the traffic was horrendous.  Ah, well.  It took us another 45 minutes to get sorted, and the girls woke up in the meantime and were entirely unhappy about the fact we weren't "there" yet.  It took us about two and a half hours to get to the starting point of the hike we had planned, rather than the hour we'd expected.

But it was fun to see other parts of the city, and the scenery was stunning once we left town.  As we approached the cloud forest where we were going hiking, the mists started coming in, and by the time we arrived at the parking lot near the trail head, we couldn't see 10 feet in front of the car.  But, once we started the hike, in the cloud forest, it was clearer, and the clouds receded and came in any number of times during our hike.  Every time they parted, the views of the mountains were just stunning.  It was pretty amazing.  Which was a good thing, because it was a much tougher hike than expected--3+ miles of steep, slippery downhill hiking.

Miss M did a most amazing job on the hike.  She did the entire thing herself, without complaining.  It was a blast.  She told me at one point that I was her best friend, and I just melted.  We had so much fun talking and hiking.  T had SB with him, and Miss M was my hiking partner (although we stayed close together), and we talked the whole way.  There were fun things for her to see, too, like a burro in the bushes, and 4 llamas on the trail as we came around a corner, and countless horses, just roaming free.

She is obsessed with "caballos."  It was a stream of "can I feed it. . .can I pet it. . .can I bring it home with me" once she spotted the first one.  It was pretty adorable.

We spent the night in an amazing mountain lodge that I will remember and treasure forever.  There are just some places in the world that resonate with me, rustic places of stunning beauty where nature is close and comforts are few but no one cares.  There have been maybe three or four other places in my life that I feel this way about. . .a place called Mountain Hostel that existed in the Swiss Alps in the mid-90's (it's now a private home, I believe). . .the jungle lodge we stayed in a few years ago in Honduras. . .a cabin in the woods in northern New England. . .a house we rented on an island off the coast of Maine.  And now, this place.

We were exhausted when we got there, hungry and with sore legs.  The place had stunning views across the valley of the opposing mountains, with clouds hanging there below us.  A crowd of horses hung out outside, and were driven to a lower pasture by cowboys on horseback, who kindly let Miss M pet one of the black pony's noses before they took off.  We carefully climbed the long stone staircase to the dining room, which turned out to have jaw-dropping views of the sunset and a giant open fireplace in the center of the room.  We sat next to a roaring fire, sipping ice cold local beer and drinking in the sunset, as the girls snacked on crackers and giggled away.  It was lovely.  We drank fresh passionfruit juice at dinner and ate a local chocolate torte and then fell into our bunks, exhausted.

Little SB had fallen asleep at dinner, and when she woke the next morning, I was already awake and staring at her beautiful little face.  She had the funniest look on her face upon opening her eyes and seeing the rustic bamboo and hand-hewn beam ceiling, as if to say "WHERE AM I??!"  It was priceless.  And then she was off.

We came home Sunday morning (just over an hour this way, despite a road closure along the way. . .the cop who came by told us that there had been a death and the road would be closed for "five little hours". . .have to love the Spanish language!).  And then we spent the rest of the day getting ready for a party we threw Sunday night.  Amazingly, we know so many people here that we couldn't even invite everyone that we know.  We had about 20 people here for a cocktail party.  SB went to bed at 6:30, and Miss M insisted on putting a dress on over her tshirt and leggings, in order to greet the guests.  She was again a rockstar, and mostly stayed in my room and watched cartoons until I finally made her go to bed.  It was a really nice night.

And then today, we played and watched movies and cooked sugar cookies, and it was relaxing and delightful.  Miss M poured entirely too much colored sugar on the tops of the cookies and they are all kinds of funny colors.  While the cookies baked, I remembered that two years ago I bought Miss M a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I suddenly realized that she might really like to read it.  So we sat at the kitchen table and started reading, and she loved it.  We read 45 pages tonight before I finally made her go to bed.  Roald Dahl is one of my favorite childhood authors, and it was really awesome to see how into his story she was, at only three years old.  I just loved it.

So, yeah.  Good test results.  Cloud forest hike.  First successful party in our new country.  Relaxing day.  Joyful book sharing.  Amazing weekend.

The Things People Say

My almost-4 year old informed my husband this morning, as she was getting dressed, that "everyone says I'm going to be beautiful."  She said it matter-of-factly, as she explained why she needed to wear a "pretty dress."

What kind of thing is that for a little kid to internalize?  It's true. . .people do say it all the time.  She has delicate features and coloring that people consider pretty.  I consider her pretty, too.  But I want her to value her intelligence, her internal strength, her ability to be kind, and a million other INTERNAL things.  The fact that she's cognizant enough of the external stuff at this age is. . .kind of scary to me.  It's frightening, the messages that society sends to little girls.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Word List

I read that a child who is SB's age (almost 20 months) should have between 10 and 50 words.  So naturally, that made me wonder how many words SB actually has, because it seems like we've had a language explosion and she is talking a LOT:


I can't do it.
Where is _____
Mickey Mouse
Thank you
Apple juice
Why? (clearly, she has an older sister)
What happened (used in perfect context, like when the National Zoo panda cam disappeared while we were watching it)
Medicine (she's teething,and appears to appreciate pain relief!)
It's S!  (With her full name, in response to being asked on the phone who is talking)

Okay, it's taking too long to list all of her words.  I have been saying "what is this?" to get her to say things, and even I am surprised at how many things she knows.  I would guess she has at least double what I've come up with on this list.  And, it's funny how many of her words have to do with food.  She's definitely learning he important stuff first!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

SB at 19 Months

My dearest SB:

Sheesh.  I haven't done one of these posts in forever.  I can't believe how fast time goes by, as you get bigger and bigger and bigger.  You and your sister are so much fun.  We are having a blast with the two of you.  But I have less and less time to "document," at least if I want to get plenty of quality time with your girls!

Your first words (at around a year) were mommy and daddy, followed quickly by "up."  You simply love to be held.  When you wake up in the morning, you instantly want to be in someone's arms, and you immediately start screaming until someone comes to get you.  It's a bit jarring, my dear, and completely unexpected, since your sister has always simply said "mommy" or "daddy."  Still, as soon as we appear, we get big grins, followed by "up."  Or, the word you quickly learned had more power than "up":  HUG.  You beam beautifically, stretch your arms out wide, and yell "hug!" whenever you want to be picked up. . .or get out of your high chair or stroller or crib.  And who can say no to that, really?

You eat absolutely everything, except for avocados.  You don't necessarily eat very much at any one sitting, or even eat what is in front of you, but you eat a wide variety of foods, and for that I am so thankful.  Feeding your sister was always a struggle, and I never have to worry about whether you are sufficiently nourished.  You're thin and active, but I know you are getting nutrition.

You still nap for an hour in the morning and the afternoon.  We'd like to drop the morning nap, but you are a mess without it.

Your vocabulary is huge.  You have loads of works, and some phrases.  "Where's mommy?" was an early favorite, which both cracked me up and made me sad. . .the downside to being a working mother.  We were playing this morning and a toy went flying, and you said "I'll get it."  I was blown away.  You know shoes and socks and shirt and milk and cookie and cracker and fish and dog and so very many other words.  You are obsessed with Pooh and Mickey Mouse.  When Aunt C. sent you a Pooh doll recently, you went absolutely nuts.  I have never seen anything like it.  You were absolutely screeching, you were so excited.  In the morning when you get up, you frequently say "eat," followed by "Pooh," because you like to watch old-school Pooh cartoons while you eat a banana and I make the coffee.  Sometimes you'll head for the kitchen, holding up your hand and saying "come."  It is soooo cute.

You call Miss M. "sister", rather than by her name.  We're not sure why, exactly, but it's awesome.  The two of you adore each other, and play well together.  At first we were a bit afraid that your sister might get the better of you, due to that two year age difference, but you aren't exactly a shrinking violet.  You know just how to get things you want away from her, despite your smaller size.  And you don't put up with her being mean to you--you'll drag her around by her hair if you have to.  We don't support any violence between the two of you, but we've been happy to see your spunk.  You're a kind baby, but you also know how to defend yourself.

And you are soooo kind.  You are just such a sweet little baby.  You have big grins for everyone, and you still like to snuggle.  You love to be held.  You love to play.  You love everyone and everything around you, and play so well with other children.  Daddy and I are always having playdates for you and your sister.

You are also soooo mischievous.  We call you the "gazinda," because you get into everything.  Daddy went into the kitchen for a few minutes the other day, and you found a blue stamper, the pre-inked kind, somewhere amidst the toys.  You managed to get the cover off, and had covered yourself and three pieces of (new) furniture before he discovered you.  You had eaten so much of the dye that you pooped blue for two days.  It took him forever to clean you, and your fingers were still blue when I  got home from work that night.  You looked like a little Smurf.  We do our best to baby-proof the house and to keep you safe, but I worry about you constantly.  You are so fast, and so creative, and so full of it.  But I love your little spirit, and I love that you are so willing to try new things.  You are not afraid of anything.

And have I mentioned how gorgeous you are?  With those big eyes and sweeping lashes and that charming smile. . .you are so lovely.

You have approximately 11 teeth.  I say "approximately" because you try to bit when I try to count, and I value my fingers.  You have had only three bottom teeth for months, but I can see the fourth one is starting to finally pop through.  You've been teething for months, although you are generally in good humor.  You chew on everything, though.

You are still wearing 18 month size clothing, although we are moving into the 24 month size right now.    You have really thinned out over recent months, I think because your favorite foods are fruits (those tiny South American bananas are your absolute favorite), and yogurt.  And you are SO active and unstoppable.  It's been that way since you started walking right around your first birthday.

And have I mentioned that you get up at the crack of dawn?  You are up at 5 or 5:30 every day.  Your room is as black as we can make it, and still. . .you like the morning.  Last Saturday you were up at 4:30 for the day!  I don't know why your hard wiring has you programmed for early mornings, but you are always the first one up in this house.

So in sum, let me say that we are deeply, deeply in love with you.  You are just such a special and happy child, and we look forward to watching you grow.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

In The Kitchen: Tropical Fruit Muffins

1 banana, mashed
1 yellow passionfruit
1/2 cup fresh pineapple, chopped small
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 t. Baking powder
1/2 t. Ginger
1/4 t. Cloves
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup mora (local blackberries--very sour)

Heat oven to 350F.  Chop mora roily, then mix with half the brown sugar.  Mix all other ingredients together; add berries.  Pour into muffin tins.  Makes about 18 muffins.  Cook 30-35 minutes.

Postscript:  The passionfruit turned out to be a bad idea.  I don't like the way the seeds crunch.  The muffins could also do without the berries.  Next time I'll double the banana and pineapple and drop the cloves, and maybe decrease the cinnamon and increase the ginger.  The ginger-banana-pineapple turned out to be a good combination (if only the berries and passionfruit hadn't interrupted!).

Sunday, October 13, 2013

In the Kitchen: Blackberry Lime Jam

For whatever reason, jam and jelly are crazy expensive here. I've refused to buy it, in fact. But I've been getting these berries called mora every week in my veg delivery, and I've been at a loss as to what to do with them. They are kind of like a blackberry, but the local variety is pretty sour.  They are much too sour to eat raw. They work well in very sweet baked goods, like banana bread, but I can only do so much of that. I read online that they are high in pectin and good for jam, so I figured it was worth a shot. I had TWO deliveries of mora in the fridge, and one was about to go bad. Surprisingly enough, the jam was easy and came out perfect. Regular blackberries could work, perhaps with less sugar.

1 3/4 cups ripe mora
1 3/4 cups white sugar
Zest of one lime, finely chopped
Juice of one lime

Put mora and sugar in large heavy-bottomed pot. Mash berries and sugar together with potato masher. Bring to boil over medium heat; continue cooking until mixture reaches 220*F, stirring regularly to keep bottom from burning. Just before it reaches temperature, add lime zest and juice; mix well. Transfer to containers and refrigerate.  (I'm using one cup Pyrex containers with plastic lids; it filled about 1 1/2 of them).

The girls love it, and have been eating slice after slice of toast since I made it.  Moras are quite seedy, so next time I may try to put them through the food mill to cull out some of the seeds.  I might also try a dash of nutmeg in the jam.

Friday, October 11, 2013

More Kitchen Therapy

It's frequently cool here, so comfort food means fall food.

Corn chowder:

About 6 slices bacon, roughly chopped
3 medium white or yellow onions, chopped
3 large potatoes, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 ears fresh corn, cut from cob
1 T. Butter
1 cup whole milk

Melt butter in heavy-bottomed soup pot.  Fry bacon.  Add onions and cook until translucent.  Add potatoes and carrots.  Cover with water; add salt and pepper to taste (I like about a teaspoon of each); simmer until potatoes cooked through.  Add corn.  Simmer for 20 more minutes.  Lower heat.  Add milk, and warm through.  Do not boil.  Even better the next day!

The Best Laid Plans

The girls are napping (well, one of them is), and I'm banging about the house, at loose ends.  I don't know what to do with myself, exactly.  We were supposed to have friends here this weekend for 4 days, and we had a full schedule planned.  But our friends had to cancel at the last minute due to a very sick child, and so our plans dissolved.  We will do some of the things we were going to, like visit the weekend flea market near our house, but other things were group activities, and so we won't do them because it doesn't make much sense.

I'd been anticipating this weekend for a long time, and looking forward to hanging out with them and catching up and sightseeing.  They are living in a nearby country, in a city that lacks amenities, and we were eager to show them all of the things we love about it here.  Our lovely housekeeper was going to cook them a local specialty.  We were going to do a daytrip into the countryside.  The flea market.  Dinner out at a wild restaurant that reportedly must be seen to be believed.  And so on.  I have been envisioning a weekend full of noise and experiences and fun. . .and it is instead silent.

We took off this morning, my little family and I, and did a bit of shopping in the commercial area near our house that I was so eager to show our friends, with its restaurants and shops and pedestrian areas.  We looked for a shop that sells uniforms, to buy a new one for our housekeeper (all of the housekeepers and nannies wear uniforms here, most of which remind me of hospital scrubs).  The shop was out of business, but we found another.  We were able to pick the fabric and color, and they will make it to her size, for about $40.  We lingered over fabrics, discussing whether she'd like the colors and patterns that we like.  Her current uniforms are all black and a bit drab. We chose some vibrant patterns and colors, then paid.  At the end of her workday, she returned to the shop herself to be measured, and I told her she could change the fabric if she didn't like it.  I doubt she'll tell me if she doesn't.

Anyway, after that, we went to an indoor play place that my kids like.  It has a soft play area for babies that is pretty fun, and a more adventurous one for bigger kids.  We ran into some friends there, who had heard what had happened to us, and were kind enough to be supportive.  They had something awful happen to them recently, too, so I especially appreciated the kind words.   We grabbed pizza and fruit smoothies on the way home, and then it was naptime.

It will no doubt be a great weekend with the kids, but I'm finding it a bit disconcerting to shift from the planned to the actual.

Monday, October 7, 2013


I can't figure out how to pay my cable bill.  When I try to register to pay it online, it says my account number is not "active."  I have no idea what this means.  I have heard that if you do not pay the bill by the due date, it becomes impossible to pay it online.  I don't understand that, either.  My bill was due a while ago, and I neglected to pay it because it was for $3 and I forgot about it.  It shouldn't be this hard to pay money. . .not even as little as $3.  And, they will probably shut my account off if I don't pay it soon.  Argh.

I am tired.  SO.  VERY.  TIRED.  The girls slept poorly last night, and my stretches of sleep were punctuated by tears and requests ("mommy, can you come and put the covers back on me?"; "Mommy?  Mommy!!!  Mommy?!!!  Binkeeeee!!!";  "Mommy, can you shut my door a little bit?").  I am hoping tonight is better, because I'm exhausted.  And I have a sleep injury.  My shoulder aches from spending whatever time I spent asleep all in one position.

We had two copies of our internet password.  My husband has misplaced both of them, in the name of "organizing."  Along with the password is the account number.  I can't call and pay it the cable bill over the phone OR in person without the account number.  Arghhhhh.

I feel like I'm making two steps forward on everything that we've had going on, then taking a step back.  There is progress, but it's unsteady.  Thursday and Friday were "two steps forward" days.  I felt optimistic for the first time since all of this happened.  Today was a "step back" day.  The things people do and say. . .why, Why, WHY???  I have to chalk some of it up to people just being assholes.  Today's events are too complicated to even get into here, but suffice it to say that I was reprimanded at work for taking actions that were recommended to me by my office last week.  So, to recap, I did what was asked of me (to a T, while accompanied by other folks from my office), and then. . .kind of got in trouble for it.  It wasn't even my idea.  Sigh.  It's so frustrating.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Kitchen Therapy

The girls are napping, the sun is shining, Van Morrison is playing, and two loaves of my high altitude attempt at tropical fruit bread are finishing up in my oven.  It is so incredibly peaceful here.

Tropical Fruit Bread

2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup all purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
2 c. natural sugar, minus 2 T. (can substitute white sugar)
2 ½ cups mashed bananas
1 cup mango, diced small
¾ cup unsweetened coconut
1 t. salt
1 cup vegetable oil
5 eggs

Grease and flour two loaf pans.  Mix together ingredients.  Bake in 350F oven for about an hour.  (For non-high altitude, omit all purpose flour and one egg; add two T. sugar; cook in 325F oven).

Postscript:  I just took it out of the oven.  I used local variety of bananas that is tiny (a few inches long) and supersweet.  It's really, really delicious.  Recipe is my own.  I might add a bit more mango next time, and chop the pieces a bit bigger.  I love the way it melds with the banana.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Turning the Page

As noted in my post from last night, I need to let go of some of this.  When a family member has been seriously injured and you have few details about what happened or why, it can literally drive you mad.  I want answers.  I want clarity.  I want closure.  And yet, there is nothing I can do that is going to make any of that happen.  I want to know why this happened.  I want someone held accountable, if appropriate.  But it's all just a big question mark.  So today I worked on just trying to give my myself a break from driving myself mad.

As expected, the girls were up at the crack of dawn this morning.  I heard SB start whining "binkeeeeeee" at about 5:30, but T was kind enough to get up with her.  Still, Miss M crawled into bed with me a short time later and snuggled in next to me.  "Mommy," she whispered, "it's morning time.  See how it's light out?  Do you want to get up with me?  C'mon."  And of course I did, even though it was at least 3am before I fell asleep.

And we had a great day.  We found tons of art supplies while unpacking, including an unused canvas.  During SB's morning nap, I covered the kitchen floor with a clean drop cloth (we have, oh, half a dozen brand new ones--don't ask me why), and Miss M and I opened up a brand new set of acrylics and brushes.  We painted forever.  I love what she came up with.  It's so much better than anything I did.  There's something about how children paint, fearlessly, with abandon,  that creates the most beautiful end product.  The canvas is mostly in shades of pink and red, with a few splashes of green.  It started out being a variety of other colors, but as she mixed, painted and repainted, the entire canvas took on a rosy hue.  I truly love it.  Once I'm sure it's dry, we're going to hang it in her room.

I made the best guacamole of my life just before lunch, and ate it with tortilla chips while the girls had grilled cheese and fruit.  It was AMAZING.  Avocados are cheap here, and there are a million varieties.  Some are almost as big as my head.  When you buy avocados, you typically buy them from an avocado vendor, and they don't sell anything but avocados.  When you buy them, you tell the vendor when you want to eat them, and they select them for you based on ripeness.  It's all so. . .specific.  So, when I bought these avocados, I told him I wanted them for today.  The variety I chose was small with thick, very lumpy, almost black skin.  I bought about a dozen of them yesterday for about $2.50.  

Post-guacamole, it was naptime for all of us, and we all slept for two hours.  It was much-needed after last night.  After we woke up, we headed to the park for a while, where we kicked a soccer ball around.  SB is particularly good at it, given that she's only 18 months.  I think she's going to have a gift for sports, because she has tremendous balance (she was standing on top of her zebra ride-on bouncy toy today.  Sigh), as well as great hand-eye coordination.

I found some decent fish at a market yesterday, too, so after the park, we Skyped with grandma, then I cooked a really good dinner, if I do say so myself:  salmon, really good mashed potatoes (the varieties here are all different, and the one I picked up yesterday was phenomenal--some of my best mashed potatoes ever), and a weird variety of squash (it's about the size of a throw pillow) that baked to perfection with nutmeg, butter and brown sugar.  The girls both ate all of their dinners (rare, in this house), which was especially notable because neither has ever willingly eaten fish before.

And then, they both went to bed without a fuss.  It's been a pretty great day.  Now to put another one together tomorrow.

The Middle of the Night

I've been laying here for hours, in the dark.  The facts run through my mind over and over again.  What happened?  What happened?  What happened?  Whathappenedwhathappenedwhathappened??? Over and over and over.  And yet I don't know, and this isn't helping.  I'm exhausted, and wish I could rid my head of this whole thing.  And I'm annoyed because I can't sleep, and I'll be exhausted in three hours when SB wakes up, and morning time with the girls is my favorite thing in the world, and    I won't be in top form for them.  I feel like this thing that has happened keeps robbing me.

I need to take my life, our lives, back from this thing.  I think I need to stop talking about it.  I know talking helps some people, but for me, for this, it just creates more stress.  I feel compelled to tell what little I know, to try to protect others, but I don't think I'm really helping anyone.  I have too little information and no answers, really--just terrible injuries and facts that don't add up, and some people seem to want concrete proof before they take any action or make changes.  Which frankly, also stresses me out.  I see danger, and some others do not seem to, and that makes me feel invisible and unheard.

And so I lay here in thet dark, awake and exhausted.  Well, tomorrow is a new day.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


We have been cleared to head home, and are headed back to South America this week.  I have mixed feelings about going back.  On the one hand, this incident could have happened anywhere in the world.  On the other hand, we have no answers as to what happened or how it happened.  I'm not sure that we ever will know the truth.  I am not looking forward to returning to a place where there is such ambiguity.

Oh sure, we have been given an "explanation."  We have been told by the people that supposedly should know what happened that this was just all an innocent accident.  Of course, they also say that no one saw what happened.  I put "explanation" in quotation marks because the "explanation" we were given does not line up with the facts as we know them.  I also don't understand how this "explanation" came to be, if no one actually saw what happened (and really, it's clear that someone did in fact see something--they might want to hide it, but someone does know exactly what happened).  The "explanation" we were given doesn't make sense, in light of the pieces that we know to be true.  I wish it did.  I wish this could all be explained away as an innocent accident.  I desperately want to believe that.  But that doesn't make any sense to me.

I learned a long time ago that the truth has its own cadence, its own rhythm and flow.  Even when the truth doesn't "make sense" when you step back and look at it (because people do crazy things for crazy reasons), you can tell that it is indeed the truth because all of the pieces fit together.  In this case, the pieces just don't fit together.  The "story" that we have been given not only doesn't make sense, it doesn't explain all of the evidence.


We can only live our lives in one direction.  We can't force anyone to tell us the truth, and we may never get the truth.  The physical healing has taken place, and if we want the mental healing to take place, we have to find a way to let go of this thing that has happened, and move on.  Part of me needs that closure of knowing exactly what happened.  It's hard to move on and find ways to deal when you don't actually know what you are dealing with.  But we may never get that information.  And so, here we are, living with ambiguity, and trying to figure out where we go from here.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dealing With Things I'd Rather Not

I am not in a space where I want to write about it, but I also find it hard to be silent about something so enormous in our lives. So, I will say this: a member of my family was seriously injured while outside of our home, and there is an ongoing investigation into what happened.

What I feared, what I alluded to in my last post, is everything that would come next.  It has been as chaotic and difficult as I anticipated when I wrote that.  My employer flew my entire family back to the U.S. for medical and mental health services.  We are here indefinitely, trying to sort out what to do next.  I'm on leave for now, trying to help my family get through this.   Our lives are upside down, and there are more questions than answers.  Physically, we will all be fine.  I'm confident that we will get there mentally, as well, but this space that we are in right now is so incredibly difficult.

Friday, September 13, 2013


I feel like sailors must, when they discover they are too far out to sea to seek shelter and they learn a big storm is coming. I can feel the wind whipping up, see the waves getting bigger, hear the weather advisories about bad weather ahead. Intellectually, I know that that weather is probably coming. It is still pretty calm now, but I know it is coming. And yet, I still hope the storm will miss us.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Worst Day

My morning started with a phone call informing me that a family member has cancer. It only got worse from there. What the fuck, universe? Can't you let us be happy for awhile? And we have been really, really happy. Then today, two doses of terrible, the second one arriving before I could even process the first. Today's one-two punch of really awful news has me reeling. I don't want any of it to be real. I can't even bring myself to write more, because I just want it all to go away.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Perfect Weekend

We still really, really love it here. . .so much more than living in Europe, it is hard to even believe.  After living in so many people's "dream" location from 2010-2012 (and liking but not loving it), we had pretty low expectations for this place.  It has far, far surpassed those expectations.  The girls are napping, and I probably don't have enough time before they wake up to describe the many amazing things we are experiencing, so I will leave a brief description of our weekend and a few photos.

On Saturday, we went to a shopping area we hadn't been to, in search of a birthday present for my mother.  We didn't find one, but found a great local restaurant with lots of character and ate some great local food.  And drank juice.  The local juices here are AMAZING--loads of interesting fruits I've never heard of before, let alone tried.  Then we went to the park with the kids, and made some new friends while we were there.  One of our new friends had on these amazing boots, which she had made here just for her, after choosing the leather, style, and fittings all herself, for only $100.  I am SO having boots made.


Then on Sunday, we walked to a street market.  We had planned for a great/long adventure, because we thought that it was located really far from our house, but were pleased to discover that it is only about a mile and a half away.  It turned out to be a great walk, with lots of interesting stuff to check out on the way, like:

Bike polo (?):

And cool buildings:

and street vendors selling roasted corn as a snack. . .you only want to eat this variety of corn if you are in need of a little fiber.  I think it's what we call "cow corn" back home--in other words, cattle feed.  It is very. . .earthy.

While we were at the market, we ran into a couple T had met at the park.  They are here adopting a little boy, and are hoping their adoption will be final later this week, so they can return home.  He was with them, and it was pretty amazing to watch him interact with them.  They've only known him five weeks, and from watching them together, you would have thought they had all belonged to each other forever.

Late Sunday afternoon, our housekeeper came over to watch the kids, and we had dinner with friends.  The kids LOVE our housekeeper.  It's hard to believe we haven't known her forever, either!  SB is completely attached to her whenever she is here, and Miss M told both T and I that she was so much fun that she didn't want her to ever leave.  It is so nice to know that my kids like her so much.  It makes me feel okay about getting out once in a while for a grown-up night out.

There were 14 of us at a friend's apartment for dinner last night, and it was really fun.  Our friend has an apartment with stunning views of the city, and the food was great.  It was so nice to get out and hang out with adults.  And, we have met so many people here that we also had a second invite for dinner which we had to turn down, which was too bad, because we would have liked to have seen those folks, too.  It is amazing how many people we have met here, and how friendly people are.  Let's just say that living in northern Europe was a wee bit different!  We love, love, love how warm the people are here.  It is so very nice to have friends in a new place.  And everyone--EVERYONE--has offered to lend us stuff until our stuff finally arrives from the US, which is just so kind.

Then today, Miss M had school, and while SB napped, T and I went to the old historic part of town and walked around a bit, and toured some museums.  The cab ride both ways was terrifying, but it was otherwise great to get out and explore the city a bit.  I don't like taking the girls in the cabs here (they are ridiculously unsafe. . .well, for everyone, but particularly children), so this was the first time we'd been to that particular area, and it was really cool.

Although, we will have to go back to that area at some point so the girls can ride these:

Gotta love the tourist llamas.  

And with that, I can hear the little one waking up.  We are so very blessed.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Love This

Have you seen this story about the fertility struggles that Jimmy Fallon and his wife went through?

I especially love this quote:

"I know people have tried much longer (than we have), but if there's anyone out there who is trying and they're just losing hope … just hang in there," he insisted. "Try every avenue; try anything you can do, 'cause you'll get there. You'll end up with a family, and it's so worth it. It is the most 'worth it' thing."

Thanks, Jimmy Fallon.  I think it's so cool that you were willing to speak up about this issue, and give hope to others who find themselves in a pretty dark place.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Why Hello There

We are settling into our new place, in our new city, in our new country, and I have to say, it's pretty awesome.  Our apartment is really nice--huge, actually, and in a great neighborhood.  We have parks and great restaurants nearby.  People are warm and friendly and treat our children like rock stars.  My job is going well, and I like the people I'm working with.   Life is pretty damn good.

It has been a pretty smooth transition this time, and I think part of it is that Latin America is culturally so much a part of of the U.S..  It doesn't feel entirely foreign here, because so much about the language, food, and culture is woven through the tapestry that is America.  And people are so kind.  Have I mentioned how kind they are?  They are so encouraging with my Spanish, and so very nice to my family.  I showed up more than 30 minutes late to tour a prospective school for Miss M yesterday (due to horrible and uncontrollable commuting issues), and the woman laughed it off in the most charming way.  We really, really like it here.

And we are making friends!  We've had a few playdates in the park with a family with a 4 year old, and we met another couple that we had dinner with last night.  Nothing makes a place feel like home so much as having your own things, and making friends.  We still don't have our stuff, but it felt really good to drink wine and laugh last night.  We are settling in.

The altitude has made us a bit tired, and it really seems to kill my appetite.  Stairs make me way more out of breath than I could have imagined.  I am in pretty good shape, and athletic things make me feel like a 300 pound chain smoker.  But other than that, it hasn't impacted us too much.

Working in Spanish has been fun and crazy hard and exhausting.  I am having fun at work, most of the time.  The pace is dizzying, but the days fly by.  The hard part for my family is that after almost a year of working a relaxed schedule and being home most afternoons, and two whole months of vacation, they were kind of used to having me around.  The transition here has been especially tough for Miss M, who really seems to be missing me.  It is most noticeable at bedtime, when she begs me to sleep with her, and throws a giant tantrum every.single.night.  I usually cave at some point in the middle of the night, when she awakens sobbing.  I can steel myself at bedtime, but sobbing in the night really gets to me.  I'm sure it will get better, as everyone adjusts to our new schedule, and as new routines (like school) are established.

To help ease the burden on poor T., who has been stuck with few toys and two little kids in a giant, echo-y apartment full of hardwood floors that are slippery as hell, we hired household help.  She shall heretofore be known as "Lilli."  She was highly recommended, and she is lovely.  It was really important to us that we got someone who was good at cleaning, but who also would be kind to our children.   They instantly gravitated toward her.  In fact, it's hard to keep the kids away from her so that she can get anything done.  We'll have her about 30 hours a week, which seems perfect to me.  She also said she's willing to babysit at night, with a little notice.  We are paying her about 25% more than her last employer, and it's still seems like a terribly small amount of money, for all of that work. But that can be the subject of another post!

We have physically settled in as well as we can, until our shipments arrive.  We brought a mountain of luggage with us, and we shipped some things via air freight, but it was impossible to bring more than a smattering of toys and books and photos and kitchen gadgets and all of the things that make your home a home.  Our stuff hasn't cleared customs yet, and we are probably looking at another six weeks before it does.  Sigh.  I wish I'd mailed us more toys.

But.  School starts in two weeks!  It has been kind of a pain in the ass to find a preschool.  The place closest to our house has a reputation of being super snooty and full of ultra-rich kids.   I talked with one woman who was delighted to send her child there, but another who hated it, and I just don't think it's the right place for us.  I visited another place a bit further away, but it lacked spirit.  It was neat and tidy and organized, but I just kept thinking that it lacked a soul the entire time I was on the tour.  There is a third place that has offered me a tour two weeks from now. . .after school starts.  And finally, there is the choice I think we've settled on.  It's pretty close to our place, and it has a great vibe.  This is the one I was late for.  I was not only late, but T had shown up 20 minute early, and they invited him inside, assigned people to play with the kids, and had been talking to him and showing him around the whole time.  They were reorganizing the whole place, so it looked like the building had thrown up art supplies and toys and chaos all over itself.  Another woman in my office had toured it a few days before, and had been horrified.  But we thought it was charming.  It's definitely not US standards, which freaks me out a little bit.  But then, nothing is.   It is also physically different from her last preschool, and I have to acknowledge that and let it go.  Her old preschool in the U.S. was in a beautiful facility.  There were about 15 kids and two teachers, and the classroom was giant and airy and cheerful, with different sections for different activities.  This place, like every preschool I've visited here, is carved up into lots of little rooms.  The actual classroom where she will spend her time with a dozen other kids is TINY compared to her U.S. school.  Granted, they leave the classroom occasionally for different activities. . .but still.  I guess I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around this different way of being.

But, this place had a soul.  A vibrant, chaotic, throw-your-arms-in-the-air-and-dance kind of soul.  They are really community-oriented, and believe in teaching kids to care for each other, and they spend a lot of time on art, and they weave recycling into their teaching so that the kids work with recycled materials. . .I'm not doing a good job of describing it, but it's hard to capture spirit.  This place had spirit.  And the kids both sobbed when it was time to go, because they both thought it was so great that neither wanted to leave.

They have some students who speak English, but none will be in Miss M's class, which is just what we want.  We want her to learn Spanish as quickly as possibly (at her age, she should be fluent in about 9 months, according to everyone we've talked to).  The great part is that most of the teachers, including hers, speak English, so that if she has a problem, she won't be completely adrift.

I admit, I am more tense than I ever expected about the preschool.  It is a "good" preschool, attended by this country's elite (no one else could afford the tuition, which is a pittance compared to US tuition, but a fortune on the local economy).  But it is definitely different from her old preschool.  I know that her old preschool was probably much nicer than a lot of preschools.  And for pete's sake, the kid is going to come out of this speaking Spanish, so I know she will be learning.  I guess it's the safety aspects that have me most stressed.  Do they do adequate background checks?  Is there a fire code?  Earthquake code?  Will they let her run with scissors?  America is so litigious that I never worried about that kind of stuff in the U.S., but here is most definitely a different story.  I think that's why, although we have purportedly decided on this school, I haven't emailed the director yet.

In other news, tomorrow morning, I'm going to a big open air market with a friend.  I've heard great things about it, so I'm super excited.

I have so many more things to write about, but this is already way too long.  Next time!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I Can't Sleep

Tomorrow morning, we fly to South America. Or should I say, we MOVE to South America. I'm not nervous, exactly. I guess it's more anxious. I'm ready to be there and get settled. Oh, and I hate to fly. And, we'll be living at altitude, and I'm worried about how we'll all do with that. I've never been quite as high as we will be living in or new country. We've been in Miami for a few days for meetings, which was also nice R&R time for the girls and T. Now they are all fast asleep, but I can't seem to make my brain relax. I spent a while tidying up our room and repacking out bags so that everything is ready to go. Boy, are we a sight at the airport. We have nine checked bags (one is the BOB stroller), two car seats, a backpack child carrier, an umbrella stroller, four carry-ons, and a diaper bag...oh, and a purse. I'm someone who prefers to travel with a backpack and a few changes of clothes, so this is a tad stressful for me. I keep feeling like I need to explain to people that we are moving. I did a good job packing, though. Every suitcase came in at 49 or 49.5 pounds when we flew here. We should be at our new apartment by early afternoon, in time for naps. I'm not sure how long it will take us to set up internet, but I'll be back here once we are settled down there. And with that, I guess I better relax and get some sleep.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Vacation and Moving and Potty Training Success

I just spent hours trying to corral clothes and toys and shoes and all of the other accoutrements of family life into eight suitcases.  Well, seven really, because the eighth piece of luggage is actually our Baby Bjorn portable crib.  Although, it's pretty stuffed with assorted goods, as well.  Each actual suitcase weighs just about 50 pounds, the airline limit, and it took a good bit of juggling after the very last one came in at almost 60.  Luckily, I had packed the others to about 48 pounds or so and left myself a bit of room.  At least according to my mother's bathroom scale. . .It was a maddenly, thankless, horribly necessary task, and I'm so glad it is done.

We've spent the last month on vacation (living out of those same suitcases that I've just repacked), and now it's actually time to move to South America.  I can't believe the time is here.  We've had a pretty amazing month off--lots of really traditional American experiences for my girls.  There is a fair chance that they will spend most of their youth abroad, and I want to be sure that they grow up as American as possible.  I want them to feel well-connected to this country.  So our summer vacation was full of things like Hershey Park and days at the lake and a small-town Fourth of July parade and cookouts and walking into town to buy ice cream from the stand that's been there for decades and boatrides on the lake and. . .it was just lovely.  They played so long and so hard in the lake every day, even in the rain, that they took three hour naps, and still went to bed and rose at their normal times!

Although SB is just 16 months now, she absolutely loves the water.  She won't be satisfied with sitting at the water's edge and playing in the sand.  Oh no, she wants you to take her out where it is a bit deeper, so you can support her stomach and let her kick her legs and paddle with her hands in the water.  It is amazing that she has the instinct to do it.  She also delights in being raised into the air and bounced down into the water, as though she were in a jumparoo.  She laughs hysterically, and when my arms burned with exhaustion and I returned her to the shore, she would try to grab me by the hand to drag me back into the lake to do it all over again.  It was wonderful.

Miss M also adored the water.  She has an amazing sense of balance, and was able to stand on a boogie board as though she were a surfer, unsupported.  We would tow her down the beach in waist-deep water, until she finally fell or jumped off (although, while moving she needed a bit of support).  We definitely have to arrange for swimming lessons once we are settled, because she is all about doing more, more, more!

I can't say that it was the most relaxing vacation for me personally.  Spending weeks on the lake with a 3.5 year old and a 16 month old kind of stressed me out.  I had to watch them like a hawk.  Even when there were people around to help me out, I constantly felt like I had to make sure they weren't distracted from the task at hand and were still watching the kids.  I realized that I kind of have a fear of water when it comes to the kids.  It's funny, given that I grew up spending summers on a lake, and did crazy things as a kid.  You'd think I'd be more relaxed.  T also helped, of course, but since we were staying with his family, he often got called away to do this or that.  Actually, my MIL had an entire list of projects for him to accomplish when he arrived!  But aside from the constant vigilance over the kids, it was really fun to play with them.

Unfortunately, it was also a tough time to be home.  Just after we arrived, the doctors decided that there is nothing more they can do for T's sister, who has been in declining health for the last few years.  They have put her in hospice care, and only expect her to live a few more months, at best.  She is only in her early 50's, so it's been really hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that she is going to die.  And frankly, I've been angry with her, because she didn't have to die.  When she first started having problems 4-5 years ago, the doctors warned her that she could die and told her she needed to make changes, and she didn't.  She's had a million chances to change her life, and she refused.  She still could try to fight this, although her chances are diminished at this point, but she's refusing to cooperate with her care.  It's pretty awful.  It breaks my heart for her kids and my MIL and T.  Because we are moving so far away, it's unlikely that T will be back to see her again before she dies.  He went to see her in the hospital, and had to say goodbye to her and let her know he wouldn't see her again.  It broke my heart to see him go through that.  It was truly awful.

I didn't go to visit her, because I didn't have anything productive to say to her at the time.  I was really angry while I was up there near the hospital, but there was no point in saying what was in my heart.  I don't think anyone has ever yelled at her during her illness and told her to cut the crap, and that's what I would have done, had I gone to see her.  And that's just not my place, and it's not productive at this point.  She's in hospice care and facing the end of her life.  I wrote her a letter, and then ripped it up, because I decided it was a bit too frank.  After I wrote the first draft, I found that my anger really dissipated.  I wrote a kind note, enclosed some recent photos of the kids, and left it at that.  She has done some really awful things to the people that love her, but even she deserves some kindness and support on this journey that she is on.

It was also painful to watch everyone try to come to terms with her situation.  She's been in the hospital for about five months, but her family and friends did not visit her until the doctors decided she was near the end and should enter hospice care.  No one believed that she was that bad off, and everyone was really angry at her for all that she has done to herself and to those around her.  Her family is in varying stages of grief, and many feel guilty for not doing more to save her.  It's just so sad.  But hopefully, it brought some sunshine to everyone to see the girls.

And on that morose note, I'd better be off to bed, as I'm sure the girls will be up bright and early in the morning.  We've got some driving to do tomorrow to get to where we fly out of, and we're going to meet up with friends for dinner, so it's going to be a bit of a long day.  When we get to their place--full of toys and child-proofed--I will be able to have a glass of wine and exhale from this long month of vacation.

Oh!  And I have so much on my mind that I almost forgot the most exciting thing that happened on our vacation!  Miss M is POTTY TRAINED!!!!!  I really wasn't sure we'd ever get there.  But basically, she needed to have lots of accidents to learn how to do it, and in her bathing suit at the beach, she managed to learn.  I guess I just didn't realize that the kid was going to need to have a lot of accidents, and I never created a situation before where that could happen.   I can't even tell you how many times she realized too late that she needed to poop, and pooped halfway in her bathing suit.  It was disgusting.  And she peed in the lake ( and on me) countless times.  But she managed to perfect her timing to give us a bit more notice, and she is wearing underwear every day (pullups at night until we get settled in our own house again).   She even naps in underwear, and was successful in underwear during a 7 hour car ride a few days ago.  I did sweeten the deal by promising a doll, toward the end, just to speed up her compliance.  We were just about there, but sometimes she'd get lazy and ask for a diaper.  She became obsessed with the damn dolls (I think they are kind of scary looking) while playing with her cousin at the lake).  Of course, the one she wants isn't in stores, and now I'm trying to track it down.  But anyway, SUCH exciting news.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer Vacation

We've hit the road for a month or so before we actually move.  First it was a week with my mother, which was a whirlwind of playing on the swingset and swimming in plastic kiddie pools and visiting Hershey Park (my first visit, and that place is MONSTROUS--we saw only half of it in 7 hours) and visiting the most amazing theme park for little kids (seriously, if you are anywhere near southern NJ, you must go--well-maintainted, amazing rides for little kids, no lines, and no bigger kids to trample your little ones--we've been like 4 times now and we love, love, LOVE it there--pure kid magic) and seeing MU in 3D (which I also loved) and getting our nails painted (Miss M's first manicure, and she was nuts about it, until the polish started to chip, and then she became devastated), and. . .well, you get the idea.  Kid stuff.  We've been so very busy grabbing America and squeezing every last bit of joy we can get out of it before we head off.

On Sunday, we drove to New England, which was an epic journey that took almost twice as long as normal.  Every time there was a traffic option, we took the wrong one, and ended up in traffic for hours.  There is no excuse for this, because the GPS on our car has traffic built in, and it diligently kept trying to reroute us, but we kept ignoring it, and. . .yeah, bad idea.  If the GPS tells you to take the Lincoln Tunnel, you totally should, because you will sit in traffic for hours in the George Washington.  But anyway, we got here eventually, and it is spectacular.  I forgot how much I love New England in the summer.  The sun shines.  The birds chirp.  The cat catches and tortures chipmunks right in front of the kids. . .ah, good times.  The kids have been swimming in the lake and playing on the beach and taking 3 hour naps because they are so exhausted, and it is AWESOME.

Tomorrow I'm having lunch with my dad and the girls, then possibly dinner with my friend and her three kids.  We are here for a couple of weeks, but I know the time will be gone before I know it, and I want to catch up with people as much as I can.

Oh, and there was a big box of chocolate love on my nightstand when I arrived.  My MIL won a charity auction item donated by my favorite local chocolatier.  The chocolate is insanely expensive normally, and in the box is bar after bar of beautifully wrapped chocolate, chocolate truffles and bags of other treats.  I feel like Charlie in the Wonka factory.  Yum.

But where would we be without a potty training mention?  Because even amidst the chaos, I'm still trying valiantly.  Miss M, for her part, is still fighting valiantly.  When asked to use the potty, she says things like "no thanks.  I already went yesterday."  It cracks me up.  What can I say?  At least it's polite.    She has twice started to poop in her pants, remembered she's not supposed to, and come running to finish the job on the potty, which in my view is the worst of all options.  But someday soon, I'm hoping it will all come together.

Oh!  And I've made some progress on the should-we-hire-an-employee front.  Well, sort of.  I vacillate wildly between "yes, we totally should!" and "let's just get there and see.  Maybe we really don't need anyone"  In between, I've sent a bunch of emails and talked with some folks, and am contemplating doing interviews in Spanish now via Skype.  I see the wisdom in waiting and getting there and seeing. . .and then I think about arriving and unpacking and trying to grocery shop and do the million little errands, and how much easier all of that would go if we had someone lined up.  I have some leads on a few more people to talk to (from other folks at my company who are there).  So, we'll see.  I guess I'm leaning toward it, even though I have my reservations, because I can see how it could improve the quality of my life, and although I'm uncomfortable with the economies of scale, I can also see that we'd be offering a fair wage (on the local economy) to someone who needs the job.  Thank you to the kind person who recently left me a comment on this issue--really appreciate the thoughts.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mission Accomplished

The movers came today and packed all of our stuff.  It took them all day.  We have too much stuff, but we'll donate a lot of it down there, so I'm okay with that.  But yeesh, it took forever to pack, and I had it all organized.

It was Miss M's last day of school, too, but I could not drop her off, because I was waiting for the movers, and I could not go to pick her up, because I was still dealing with the movers.  I am so sad about that.  I wrote nice cards to her teachers and gave them Amazon gift certificates.  T delivered them when he picked her up.  I hope that was the right thing to do.  Preschool etiquette is lost on me.  They gave us an awesome binder of Miss M's year, full of pictures and her art and little headings with descriptions.  It is super cute.  I feel so bad I didn't get to say goodbye to her teachers.  They were so kind to us.  It's probably better, because I definitely would have cried.  I hate endings.

We leave here in a few days.  I'm exhausted from the social engagements and the packing, and I'm sad about leaving our friends.  Argh...endings beget beginnings, which I love, but they sure are hard.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Grab Bag Edition

It's late and I should be sleeping, or trying to, but my mind is whirling away with the contents of my to-do lists, so I might as well blog.  We are in our final days here, preparing for the next big move.  I've managed to assemble the necessary supplies, save a new television.  We've heard they are crazy expensive in South America, and I really want a smart tv so that I can watch American television and the Mexican version of Grey's Anatomy with very little effort.  I am going to be forced to actually go to a store and purchase the tv, though, because I was indecisive and couldn't choose, and now it's too late to order anything.  The movers come on Thursday.

We now have our apartment lined up.  It was a bit tricky, and I still haven't seen photos, but I do have a floor plan.  (It freaks me out a little that I have not yet seen photos.)  This is where I am going to start to sound like an even bigger ass than usual, so my apologies in advance.  The apartment looks lovely--great neighborhood, near some parks that people seem to like, with a playroom for the kids and a giant walk-in closet for me.  Perfect, right?  Oh, and it has quarters for a live-in maid, in a different part of the apartment from the "family" bedrooms.  And this is where I confess that we've been debating the merits of hiring a domestic employee.

It makes me feel like such a jerk to say that.  It feels like indentured servitude to me.  My friends who have had domestic staff before tell me that the wages are good for the country I will be living in, and that I would be helping the local economy by hiring someone.  It still feels weird to me.  Because the fact of the matter is that $10 or $15 a day is not much money, and it feels. . .bad.  But on the other hand, we could pay an employee well (by local standards) and have someone live in, work full time, and still pay less than $500 a month.  This person could be a nanny, or it could be someone who cooks, cleans, does laundry, does the grocery shopping, runs errands, etc.  Oh, and the quality of the care/assistance is supposedly top notch.  This is the kind of situation you can only dream about in the U.S.

Miss M is definitely going to be going to preschool, but the schools pretty much only offer half-day programs.  T thinks he might like to work once SB is old enough to be in school.  That gives us like a year or so.  If he is going to work, we'll definitely need help.

I don't know.  I like the idea on some level, but I feel really weird about it on other levels.  We'll see.

Warning: much discussion of pooping ahead.  In potty training news, it continues to be a mixed bag.  Miss M's teachers continue to think that she sometimes poops in her sleep during nap time.  I know better.  That child has never, ever--not even as a teeny, tiny baby--pooped in her sleep.  She is clearly pooping during naptime to avoid using the potty.  I've resorted to bribing her, and it's going reasonably well on days when she wants something.  For example, we bought a fancy bubble thingamabob, and denied her the use of it unless she pooped on the potty at school.  On day one, she pooped in her pants, and was not allowed to open it.  On day two, she pooped on the potty.  However, on day three when she was no longer coveting the bubbles, she pooped in her pants again.  Argh.  We went over using the potty this morning just before I left her at school, and the end result was that she tried to use the potty, according to her teacher, but said it was "stuck and won't come out. "  And then she didn't poop at all, which has now happened a few times on days when I've really stressed the importance of using the potty.  She NEVER skips pooping, and is never constipated, because she lives on fruit and dairy.  Double argh.  But still, she has been pretty good about peeing on the potty, so. . .baby steps.

I'm packing all day tomorrow.  Wish me luck!  I need to have a big day.  Then, it's dinner with a friend from my old job, then one more sleep, then the movers appear.  We end the week with a big party with friends, and then leave for a few weeks of vacation with family in advance of our big move.  Let the games begin!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Potty Training is Making Me Crazy

Miss M SHOULD be potty trained.  She's highly verbal, huge vocabulary and enormous capacity for reasoning, etc, etc, etc.  You know what she tells me?  "I like diapers."  Why did you poop in your pants? Don't you want to use the potty like all of your friends?  "Nope.  I like to poop in my diaper."

ARGH.  I'm not sure how we got here.  I feel like we failed her at some point.  We've been trying intermittently for the last year, but she didn't seem ready, and so we've basically just let it go.  But now I feel like we are at the point that it's not a matter of being unable to do it, but rather a matter of unwilling, and I feel like it's something we did (or didn't) do that left us in this situation.

One of my friends, who has two boys who are now a few years past the potty training stage, has told me to simply forget it until she's ready and willing to do it.  She says she struggled with her first child without much progress, but let it go with the second child, and it just came naturally and easily to him.  I was inclined to take that approach, but, well--it's just not working.  I started doing that six months ago, and she's still not there.

Miss M turns three and a half next week.  She will start a new school in August, and I assume (but do not yet know for sure) that she will need to be potty trained to attend.  But more than that, it's just time.  She knows when she has to go.  She will tell you SOMETIMES.  More often than not, though, we end up with an accident.

Today I took her to a little water park for kids.  She was playing, and then something--the look on her face--tipped me off to the fact that she was pooping in her bathing suit.  "Miss M," I said, "Do you have to go potty?"  She agreed that she did,  but it was too late.  When I got her into the nearby bathroom, the poop was dripping from her diaper onto the floor.  Honestly, I just wanted to cry.  She was utterly nonplussed.  When I said we had to leave because she had pooped in her bathing suit, she simply said okay, and asked if we could come back later.  Then she promised she wouldn't do it again, like she does every time I tell her that she needs to tell me when she has to potty.

We're going to start a sticker chart later today, with prizes she can see.  I think I will put them up on a shelf, so she knows that when she gets enough stickers, she can have the prize.  She's not typically motivated by prizes, but it's worth a shot.   I have to do SOMETHING.  If anyone has a better idea, I'd love to hear it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Where is Time Going??!

Once again, my world has sped up and time is slipping through my fingers.  It always happens as a move approaches.  I know it's coming, and I don't know why I don't plan better.  I guess I need the urgency of impending deadlines.  Of course, work has gotten busier over the last month, too.  Once I finished with my Spanish lessons, I had to return to a more structured work environment, and it's really getting in the way of my life!  So, no blogging.  Although I really should be, because now that I am so busy, my mind swirls with the many things I must do, and I'm not sleeping well.  I swear, I didn't dream for months while I was studying Spanish intensively, and now that I'm so busy with other things, I am having the freakiest dreams.  I'd rather just not dream at all.

Why such disturbed sleeping, you ask?

Well, I still need to finish vaccinations for me and the girls.  We're in various stages of getting vaccinated for awesome things like yellow fever.  Then there is the planning.  Visas.  Shipping the car.  Shipping our stuff.  The million other little tiny logistics involved in packing and moving a family of four to another continent.

And the shopping.  I think it is mostly the shopping that is disturbing me right now.  There are the everyday things that need to be replaced while we're in a place where a) the cost of goods is reasonable and more importantly b) I easily can find what I'm looking for, because I know where to look for it.  There are also the things that we'll need in this new place that we didn't have before or didn't need before (like, twin bedding for children who are no longer in cribs--the linens were included in our current furnished rental!).  Then there are the things that we'd like to have that we might not be able to get there, silly things that you don't even think you'll miss until you can't get them any more, like good quality tin foil and chipotle peppers in adobo and those awesome force-flex trash bags that don't rip when you overstuff them.  I have bought. . .very little.  Honestly, I'm overwhelmed and don't feel like shopping.  Spending piles of money stresses me out.  But if I'm going to shop, it all must be done before the movers come, so that it is all ready to ship, which is also stressing me out.  The obvious solution to this is to do nothing, like I have been, because of course that solves everything.  :)

The movers come in something like 17 days.  We still don't know where we are living, which is making it a bit hard to figure out what we need.  We've heard that we'll want to buy necessary goods here and ship them.  We've also heard that we are unlikely to have central heating, but should expect temperatures at times near freezing (what?!).  Oh, and that we will probably need rugs, as most of the apartments have tile and/or wood floors, which just makes them seem colder.  Which might make you think that I would a) be trying to speed up the housing situation so I have a clearer idea of what I need, or b) that I had done some shopping for rugs, but not really.  I'm hoping to have the apartment arranged by the end of the week, which really doesn't give me much time, but. . .it just is what it is.

I finally broke down this weekend and did a flurry of on-line shopping.  I bought three rugs and new sheets for the girls.  I now will be biting my fingernails to see if they arrive on time.  I hedged my bets and bought the rugs from three different retailers (and got free shipping on all three and heavy discounts on two of them. . .score!).  I decided on (but did not yet purchase) a new television.  I still need some computer accessories, a few child-friendly space heaters, a pair of black flats and a couple of down comforters, at the very least.  The list of things I SHOULD get, but probably won't get around to, is substantially longer.

I'm not sure why, because it certainly doesn't move the ball forward, but I feel lighter just for having typed that.  Maybe now I can sleep!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Another American Tragedy

I have so many happy memories of Boston Marathons past: runners from around the world and thousands upon thousands lining the race course in celebration, through cold rain or muggy sun, brimming with soul and grit, and kindness. It is a race full of kindness. It is hard to get a bib for Boston. To qualify, you have to be a very good amatuer runner, or an elite runner. The remaining runners--many, many, many people--get their bibs by running for charity, after personally raising thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. When I've stood on that racecourse in the past, it's brought tears to my eyes to see spectators, deep and thick, out on Heartbreak Hill or around Cleveland Circle, miles from the finish line, calling out names from runners' bibs, cheering on unknown strangers as though they were best friends on the cusp of the actual finish line. The energy is special. There is no other marathon like Boston.

 As a New England native, I've had countless friends, family members, and acquaintances run Boston, some every year. It is shameful that someone has tried to mar this event, this day, the accomplishments of 27,000+ people. You know what, though? Boston is tough and resilient. Today we mourn, we pray for the injured and their loved ones, we weep for a little more innocence lost. Tomorrow, we will stiffen our backbones, strengthen our resolve, and start to rebuild. We will come together, we will rise up, we will overcome. That's what we do.

Friday, April 12, 2013


As of today, my Spanish is officially "good enough."  I have been deemed fit to do my job in Spanish.  No more Spanish lessons for me, at least for now!  I can't even begin to express how relaxed this makes me feel.  Now I can just watch the Mexican version of Grey's Anatomy for fun!  And read books. . .in English!  And relaaaaxxxx!!!

I am so proud of myself.  And so relieved.  It's really, really good to have this accomplishment behind me.  Now the countdown to the big move really begins.

Monday, April 8, 2013

What's Your Theme Song?

I often think of the old episode of Ally McBeal where she picks a theme song for her life.  For years, whenever I had a big project at work, just before things really got intense in terms of workload, I would create myself a cd of music to listen to in my car during my late night and early morning commutes.  When I was working 18 hour days and racing against the clock, I considered these cd's my "theme songs" for the project.  The real purpose behind the music was that I would blast it loud and roll the windows down and use it to keep myself awake, especially when I was driving home in the wee hours of the morning after a killer day at work.

I would always label the cd with the name of the project, so that eventually I had a collection of cd's with project names scrawled across them.  I would listen to nothing else on my way to and from work, other than my "theme songs," so this collection of cd's essentially became a collection of memories of the projects and of my life at the time (although to be fair, often my life at the time WAS the project).  The cd's were always a mix of songs that were currently popular, and songs that reminded me of the project.  On one project for example, I had Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," because it reminded me of a jerk that I had to work with, who was working on the project from another company.  Every time I played the song during that project, I thought of him and laughed.  Years later, when I run across these old cd's and pop them into the cd player, I am transported back to those times.  They are like auditory scrapbooks.

I have to show off my (newly acquired) Spanish skills later this week, to see if my company thinks I am sufficiently proficient to do my job in Spanish.  If I am not, I will continue studying (sigh--both a blessing and a curse).  If I am sufficiently proficient, then I move on to do some other things and gear up for our big Latin American move.  So of course, I made myself a theme song CD.  Since I'm not commuting at this point, I've been playing a song or two as I start and end my day.  This Silvio Rodgriguez song is one of my favorites.  Plus, it's full of the subjunctive, so I can call listening to music "studying."   :)  

Do you have a theme song for your life?  If you had to choose one, what would it be?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

And Now, Fun With Amoxicillin Allergy!

Argh, we have not had the best of weeks.  I post the following as a PSA, because I found other mothers' blog posts on the same topic helpful.  So if you are reading this at some point in the future, I hope that you, too find it helpful. :)

Miss M (age 3) has been sick. . .well, for like three months.  It always ALMOST went away, but there was this lingering little cough that never quite resolved.  Then she got snottier again (as did I, as did SB, who is 1) , and we decided that enough was enough, and we went to the doctor.   They checked her for strep, but it was negative, but the doctor nonetheless prescribed Benadryl and a 10 day course of amoxicillin.  All was initially well, and the damn infection finally went away after about 5 days of the antibiotic.

On the afternoon of day 9, Miss M came home from school and took off her socks.  "Mommy," she said, "this really hurts.  It's bothering me."  She showed me her foot.  I took one look at it and stripped her naked.  What the hell??!!  She had these crazy spots all over her feet, including on the bottom.  They looked exactly like mosquito bites, and there were tons of them, all touching.  They were huge on her feet, but got smaller as they went up her legs.  On her upper thighs, she had some tiny little pin-prick red dots that had white circles surrounding them.  There was nothing on her torso.  I found some spots on the back of one arm, near her armpit, but her arms were otherwise free of the spots.

I immediately called the doctor's office and left a message on their "if you have an urgent need to talk to someone" line (it was 5 minutes of 4, of course).  The nurse called me back a while later, clearly in a hurry.  I explained the rash.  She told me that it was most likely bites from a sand bug from playing in the sandbox at the park, and that they were getting tons of calls.  When I questioned this, and the fact that there were spots higher on her legs, she told me that the bugs were really aggressive, and they had simply crawled up her pants.

NOTE:  This is where I erred.  I didn't tell her that she was on medication, and she obviously had not pulled the chart.

So of course, we gave her another dose of the amoxicillin.  Now, I have allergies myself, and when I first had a reaction, my torso broke out in spots.  It never occurred to me that a drug allergy would start with spots on the feet.  I feel horribly guilty about not catching this.  Because you know what happened next, right?  And we are damn lucky it wasn't worse. . .

I covered Miss M's spots in cortisone cream and put her to bed.  She woke me up at about 2:30, complaining that she was really, REALLY itchy.  I stripped her down again, and discovered that the spots were worse--all over her torso, arms and legs now.  I woke up my husband, and he informed me that we'd put her in the same pajamas she'd had on the night before.  I thought maybe there were sandbox bugs in the pajamas (I know, I'm an idiot, but it was the middle of the night), so I gave her a bath and put on clean pajamas, then put her in bed with me.  I noticed that she was wheezing a bit, but she fell back to sleep.

The next morning (Thursday, about 18 hours after first discovering the rash), it was all even worse.  What had been tiny red pin pricks on her thighs, surrounded by white cirles, had turned into big round raised red bumps that looked like mosquito bites.  Her ankles were looking red and angry.  And the rash had spread everywhere--it had even started up her face.  It was like the rash was working its way from the bottom of her body to the top, getting worse on the bottom parts as it spread north.  The rash literally started at her jawline, and gradually moved up her cheeks.  

At this point, we realized something was really, really wrong, and we decided not to give her any more medication.  We decided that she needed to be seen by a doctor that day, but that it wasn't so bad that we needed to go to the ER (after our horrible UT infection with SB a while back, I would MUCH prefer our lovely doctor to the horrible ER's here).  I had to go to work, and told T. that I would make an appointment for him to take Miss M to the doctors as soon as they opened.  

This is where men and women are different.  After T and the girls dropped me off at work, he apparently drove over to the doctors' office and sat there until they unlocked the doors, then he took them inside and told them he needed to see someone immediately.  And, they saw him immediately.  Our own doctor, in fact.  He said she was having an allergic reaction to the amoxicillin (or possibly to penicillin, because apparently you can be allergic to one and not the other).  He said we could do a test in a few weeks to determine what was going on.  For the time being, to resolve the rash, he prescribed a three day course of prednisone and Benadryl three times a day.

When I talked to T at 8:50am Thursday, he was all like "hey, the doctor said," and I was like "what do you mean?  I just made the appointment."  It cracked me up.  But I digress.

On Friday, she didn't look any better, but she didn't look any worse.  She didn't develop any new rash, or at least I didn't see anything new.  Then today, the appearance of the rash changed.  It had been solid pink.  But today, less than 48 hours after appearing, the edges of the rash look dark red and the middle has faded to a lighter pink.  I tried calling the doctor's office, but they didn't return my call today (even though they were open).  T said her behavior was normal (he has her off doing something today, and I'm working), and he thinks her spots actually look lighter and are fading (especially on the top part of her body, where they were lighter to start)

However, I'm a little worried.  This is what it looks like now.  Horrible, isn't it?  
Anyway, I will be sure to update on her progress.  Ojala, she'll be better tomorrow.