Wednesday, July 30, 2014


I am supposed to be updating my resume, because I MUST get on with figuring out where we go from here.  But you know what?  It's boring and I don't feel like it.  I simply don't want to obsess on how to present what I've been doing in the best light to get the next job that I want.  I don't want to obsess over how far back my resume should go, and whether it looks weird that I've left out decades of stuff.    I just. . .don't.

And as for what I'm looking for, well, um. . .I'm interested in a lot of things, and highly skilled at a few, and there are a few more that I'm PRETTY sure I'd be good at. . .so we're looking at a bit of this in Latin America and a bit of that in Europe, with a smattering of Southeast Asia thrown in.  (And if any of you Laos folks are out there, please comment on the current state of healthcare there. . .as in the, my kid fell and needs stitches, broke an arm, hit their head, etc. emergency kind.)

Honestly, it's all a bit overwhelming.  I try to do a bit each day, but there are never enough hours in the day.

And oof, are we dealing with the throes of TWOness with SB.  She is incredibly charming, with her sparkly eyes and chubby cheeks and curly hair and dimpled grin.  When she knows she's done something naughty (which is basically about every three minutes, because she is an inquisitive, strong willed child who takes "don't do that" as a personal challenge to achieve), she immediately owns up to it, with an impish grin, hands behind her back, "I'm sorrrry, Mommy!"  And when I try to punish her, "But I want to apologize!"  And then she pours on the charm.  When I try to put her to bed, it's all "mommy, will you snuggle with me," and then, if I manage to get out of the room, "mommy, I have to tell you something important."  It is equal parts hilarious and maddening.  Oh, but the temper tantrums if she doesn't get her way.  These are the classic throw-yourself-on-the-ground and curse the earth tantrums, which we never had with our oldest.  I get so embarrassed when we are in public and it happens.  I look like such a jerk trying to put a flailing child back into the stroller.

The super hard part is that we have not found one.single.punishment that works.   She is not quite two years and five months at this point, so I'm quite at a loss for how to handle it.  She simply doesn't care, ignores us, and/or is a smiling little imp whenever we try to discipline.  It is SUPER frustrating.  And unfortunately, completely adorable much of the time.  I have to hold very strong to keep from laughing.  Which I swear isn't the problem, because I do manage to discipline her with a straight face.  But oh my, are we at a loss.  What do you do when nothing you're doing works?

But that wasn't the story I was going to tell you today.  I was going to tell you about how I found myself outside a Latin American women's prison today, and how it was every bit as depressing as you might imagine it to be.  Dingy, dusty prison walls.  Sad, frayed people waiting their turn to enter, each with a spartan handful goods to deliver to their loved ones.  The worn face of the woman selling coffee for 75 cents a cup outside the prison doors, yelling to the waiting crowd over and over again "there is black coffee, there is herbal tea, there is coffee with milk!"  The pot-bellied man who sold cell phone minutes to anyone who would buy them.  What really broke my heart, though, were the contents of the clear plastic bags that the visitors were bringing in to deliver to the women:  diapers, and wipes, and other baby goods.  I've been thinking about it all day.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ladyparts Irony

So, it took us a couple of years, a couple of miscarriages, and a couple of rounds of Clomid to conceive our first child, Miss M.  For my entire life, I did not have normal cycles.  Wonky, weird, ovulatory, annovulatory, super long, super short, 35, 45, 60 day cycles, ovulation on day 20, 22, or worse...that was me.  That was why we needed the Clomid--it helped me have normal cycles, and helped us quickly become pregnant.  I would have preferred to get pregnancy naturally, but you do what you have to do.  When it came time to conceiving our second child, we went straight to Clomid, and once again had success, for which I am so grateful.

I also didn't have periods for about a year after each child was born.  They didn't return until I stopped nursing, more or less.

And now, at almost 42, when we are done family building?

I have perfect, 28 day cycles.  I have textbook cervical mucus halfway through my cycle.  I ovulate exactly on time.  Every.Single.Month.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

At the Playground

There is a beautiful new playground near our house.  The local government spent like a million dollars renovating this park.  It has gorgeous open space, good lighting even after dark, a sandbox, toddler-friendly playground equipment, a rubber surface, and an armed guard.  Yes, you read that right...private, armed security.

Now, I don't live in the safest place on the planet.  Latin American countries have well known crime issues, and armed guards are pretty much the norm here.  There is literally an army of private security guards working throughout this city, in the lobbies of upscale apartment buildings, in shops, in restaurants, in schools, in offices...everywhere.  You can't walk a block without seeing private, armed security.  I don't even think much about it any more when I see a guy with a machine gun outside a shop.

But, the playground gave me pause.  I mean, we play on plenty of playgrounds that have no security.  Are we in danger when we do?  Before they upgraded this playground, there was no security.  Did it become more dangerous?  Do they know something I don't?  Or, is the security there to protect their investment, rather than the people?  And what happens if there is a security threat?  Will the officer pull his weapon?  Will he shoot?  And if he does, is he even likely to hit his target, or will it be a child?

In the end, I'm not sure how I should feel.  Should I feel MORE safe, because there is armed security on the playground in this very security conscious place?  Or should I feel LESS secure, because there is now a greater chance that my child will accidentally get shot?  Because the reality is that there are often many dozens of children playing on the playground.  If an armed intruder decides to attack, it's just not likely that the guard will take out just the attacker.

As an American, this seems all a bit absurd.  But then, it also seems a bit like where we are headed.

How would you feel about armed guards at your playground?  Would you still visit (imagine that it's the best playground around)?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Colonoscopy: In Review

I get myself so worked up over things that will probably never happen.  It is my nature to worry.  So, medical procedures with anesthesia definitely put me on edge.   Um, over the edge?  Quite possibly!

But, it turned out fine.  I always hear people say that the prep is the worst part, but I don't even think the prep is bad.  You drink a bunch of stuff that doesn't really taste that great, and then you have to poop.  No big deal.  If you've had a baby, you've been through way worse.  :)

Today, I got to hang out with the girls a bit before we headed for the hospital, which was super nice.  It's hard to be stressed about a test when you are cuddling over cartoons with a two year old in her fleece Hello Kitty pajamas.  She initially professed to dislike, and is now obsessed, with a partially animated, partially live action French bug show, so we watched a few episodes this morning.

When we got to the hospital, I realized I'd forgotten the documents they'd given me on Friday from my anesthesiology consult.  They couldn't do the procedure without it, so T. Flew back home to grab it while I got prepped.  It was pretty straightforward.  They went over some things, put an IV in, then took me into the room.  The anesthesiologist came in and asked if I was worried.  When I said yes, she laughed and said not to, and said she was going to send me to a really nice beach.  She came in a bit later and asked if I felt drunk, but I felt fine, normal.  Apparently, she gave me the medicine, but it didn't work,  that part freaked me out a little.  There was some sort of problem with the line, which she clearly sorted out, because before I could worry much, I was out.  I woke up an hour later in recovery.

I saw the doctor a bit later, and she said preliminarily, everything looked good.  No evidence of anything at all.  She took some biopsies just to be sure, but nothing that looked of concern.  The results will be back in 3-4 days.  Which is GREAT news.  Although, I still have that puzzling pain in my side, but I'll be talking to the doctor about the biopsy results, and maybe she'll have some thoughts.  She initially said infections can cause IBD.  Maybe that can't be seen?  I don't know.

I put the girls to bed right before writing this.  Miss M went right to sleep.  School started this week, and she's exhausted.  SB was out of bed a bunch of times, cute as a button and utterly defiant all at the same time.  "Mommy, I have to tell you something!"  And, upon seeing that I was eating a banana, "hey, you steal my banana."  She's obsessed with bananas, and eats loads of them.  She always demands one first thing in the morning.  And apparently, she thinks they are all hers.  :).   I only put her back in bed three times.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

And Next Up. . .

I'm back from my business trip.  As much as I was dreading it, it was actually pretty awesome.  The flight was fine (except for the off-duty PILOT sitting next to me crossing himself before the flight on the way there, and the other passenger crossing himself next to me on the way back, and the taxi driver crossing himself before driving me on a particularly curvy mountainous route we had to take. . .I know I'm in a Catholic country, but really!).  In between meetings, I hired an awesome taxi driver to take me around the city for a little touring and sight-seeing.  And, I got to sleep by myself, with no one elbowing me or stealing my pillow.  And, I got to sleep through the night.  :)

The colonoscopy is tomorrow.  This won't be a long post, because I'm midway through prepping.  When I've had them in the past in the US, my doctors used something I had to drink only a bit of.  Here, they use a different preparation, something called Nulytely.  It's not horrible, but I don't love it. It tastes like like salty cherry cough medicine, if you can imagine such a thing.  And I have to drink FOUR liters of it!  People always say the prep is the worst part, but I still loathe the anesthesia.  It still terrifies me.  And given all of the digestive disturbances I've had, especially since living here, the prep is no big deal!

So, can you guess where I went?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Stressful Things

I am feeling anxious.

I have to go on an overnight business trip to another city, and I have to fly.  In light of recent events, I'm nervous about flying.  I don't love to fly on a good day, and what happened in Ukraine has me feeling particularly vulnerable.  After all, I don't live in the safest country on the planet.  And there are rebels here.  And they do bad things.  Hopefully, it will all be fine.  But still, I'm wishing that I didn't have to go.

And then there is the fact that I have to leave T. and the girls overnight by themselves.  I hate the idea that I'll be a flight away.  I'm anxious about them being able to take care of themselves.  T's language skills are not the best.  He has all the emergency contact numbers, and we have tons of friends, but a lot of people are on vacation right now, and I'm just. . .worrying.  Probably needlessly, but I can't help it.  I always worry about my babies, and last week's trip to the ER after SB's fall has me on edge still, hyper-vigilant.

But those aren't the only things that have me feeling anxious.

I have to have a colonoscopy this week, which I'm totally dreading.  I've had two in the past, and I can't say they are likable under the best of circumstances.  The prep, the abstention from eating, the actual procedure.  But, I have to have it done here, and I'm super nervous about that.  My doctor speaks great English and has a good reputation, but that doesn't mean the rest of the hospital does.  I'm anxious about having to undergo the anesthesia, and the procedure, here.  I had to do my pre-anesthesia appointment in Spanish, which was fine, and which I could do.  And really, my Spanish is fine.  I did SB's entire ER visit in Spanish last week, too.  But healthcare in Spanish by itself stresses me out, without the added stress of the anesthesia (which I always hate having, and which I'm always afraid of), and the procedure.  Oh, and the results.  I'm terrified they are going to find something.

I'm having the test done because ever since I had a weird intestinal infection back in October (which T and SB also got), I've had this odd gurgling on my right hand side, just below my ribcage.  At times, there is also pain.  The doctor suspects that the infection has something to do with it, but it has to be checked out.  Plus, I have other ongoing issues, such as the emergency surgery I had in December and the tumor they removed.

So, super stressful week.  Hopefully, it will all go really well, and will fly by, and everything will turn out great.  Fingers crossed.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Scrambled Saturday

Yesterday morning, T headed off to the gym by himself, and a glorious morning stretched out in front of me and the girls.  They dressed themselves and we all ate breakfast, and then they piled into the double stroller so that we could spend the morning walking around doing errands, and hitting various parks along the way.  The idea was that we'd spend a brief time at each park we passed, in between doing our necessary errands, with the plan of ultimately hitting a park that has a massive treehouse and slide that the girls love.  It's a bit far from our house, so we had a something of a journey ahead of us.

We headed toward our usual park on the way, stopping for a brief bit.  Miss M had a bit of a scary moment at the top of a climbing tower, when he sneaker somehow fell off, and she needed to climb down with one slippery sock on.  It's a giant ball constructed of ropes all woven together, sort of like a 3D soccer ball.  She was hanging for a moment from the top of the ball, with nothing but air beneath her, unable to regain her footing due to the slippery sock. It's about 15 feet down from the top.  I was terrified.  But, she quickly regained her footing, and swung down the rest of the way like a monkey, oblivious to my pleading that she take is slowly and carefully and NOT let go with her feet while she swung only by her hands.

I really struggle with moments like this.  I would prefer that Miss M simply not go on that piece of playground equipment.  But, I want the girls to grow up trusting themselves, believing that they can do it, and going for it, so I let them climb.  By the same token, I am terrified to let them fall.  I want them to grow and thrive.  I don't want to stunt their intellectual or physical growth by my fears.  It is so hard to find that balance.

The first few times she climbed on that piece of equipment, she was fearful and hesitant.  Now, she climbs to the top without looking back.  I am proud of how strong she is, how bold.  It is a pleasure to see her thrive.  I've had to let go of my fears, let her push the boundaries of my comfort zone, in order to grow herself.  That is really, really hard, because it always involves risk, and I'm never sure where that line should be.

A bit later, we headed off to do more errands.  We bought art supplies and some groceries, did a bit of people watching, walked through another park.  There was a little playground in the park, as we headed on our way from that last errant to another, toward the park with the treehouse.  It's a little playground we never go to, not even a very good one, really.  And it had something that so many of the parks here have, which I loathe:  a cement surface under the playground equipment.

Miss M paused to change her shoes (she was wearing flats, and I always require sneakers at the playground, lest they slip and fall).  So careful, so prudent. . .I want to let them play, but as safely as I can.

And normally, I don't let them play where there are cement surfaces below the playground equipment.  I am too afraid they might get hurt.

But I was trying, am trying, to find that balance between safety and smothering. . .

SB was up on the highest part of the playground equipment, where there was a slide that went down.  It was about 3.5 feet or so off the ground.  Miss M was on the ground, climbing on the equipment.  I was RIGHT THERE near SB, when Miss M said something to me, and I turned, just for a second.

And when I turned around, it was to see the terrifying sight of my two year old tumbling from the top of the slide, down, down, down, headfirst, onto the cement surface below.  She landed with a horrible thud, and thankfully, mercifully, began screaming and sobbing and carrying on.  It was truly awful.

And we were so far from our house, and not one single person, of the dozens milling around in the park right when it happened, stopped or came over or asked if she was okay, asked if they could help.    She was crying that her head hurt and wouldn't let me put her down and we were

I called T repeatedly on the phone, knowing that he would be home from the gym.  Home phone, cell phone, over and over and over again.  Text messages and emails and calls and. . .nothing.  No answer.  Calling an ambulance isn't an option here.  They never arrive.  There are taxis, but they are tiny.  I was about to abandon our giant double stroller at a nearby church, when finally, he answered.  He'd been in the shower.  He came right away to pick us up, and drove us straight to the emergency room.

It all turned fine, in the end.  She was sleepy in the car, which made me think "serious head injury," but it turned out it was just close to nap time.  She was lively in the hospital and passed the neurological exam with flying colors.  Because she'd fallen from such a height, they did a CT scan, and it showed that everything looked fine.  She even got a bit of a nap in the pediatric ER.  It's really such a miracle, and I am so thankful that she is okay.   I'm amazing to me that a little person could fall so far and really be okay, but she's been her usual exuberant self all day.

My thoughts and prayers have been with Pam, whose 14 year old stepson just suffered a head injury while skateboarding.  It sounds like he will ultimately be okay, but he wasn't nearly as fortunate as SB (14 year old boys not being as pliant as 2 year olds), and he has a period of recovery ahead of him.  As I sat there in the hospital awaiting test results, while SB napped and Miss M slept in the car with T abiding with her, I could think of nothing else but the ridiculousness of two families doing everything they could. . .and yet so unable to prevent accidents, unable to prevent kids from being kids.  You want to wrap them in bubble wrap and a helmet and keep them close forever.

But you can't.  And sometimes bad things happen.  And I don't know what to do with that.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

4th of July Weekend Recap, With Recipes

I can't say that it really felt like the Fourth of July here this weekend.  With the cool, 50-60 degree temperatures and World Cup fervor abounding, it felt decidedly foreign.  It's one of those holidays that you really need to be in the U.S. for.  We spent our day doing the usual stuff--cooking and playing, with a bit of soccer thrown in.  It's a bit dangerous to be out and about during the World Cup games here (tons of people have been seriously injured or killed), and there was a big game the day of the 4th, so we stuck close to home.

We had a nice weekend overall--a goodbye party, a "just the grownups" dinner with friends, bike-riding, more cooking, and hanging out with the kids.  They are such a joy to spend time with right now.  They are constantly saying the funniest things, and it makes me laugh so much.  SB is particularly funny.  When she gets angry and frustrated and terribly twoish, she will start to throw a tantrum, and then say "I am so mad!", crossing her arms across her chest and pouting.  And then when I ask why she is so mad, she says "because I'm not getting my way!"  Her tone is perfectly disgruntled.  It makes me laugh every time.  I have to get it on video.  It's truly priceless.

I cooked and cooked and cooked this weekend:  strawberry muffins and a vanilla-passionfruit cake, blackberry waffles and barbecued chicken, chocolate chip waffles (we all love waffles!) and chicken veggie soup, banana coconut ice cream with candied almonds. . .and on and on.  I find it so relaxing, and it's so nice to be able to feed my family and friends well.

The super easy Slow Cooker Barbecued Chicken was a particularly big hit:

1 cup of ketchup
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup sugar
2 T molasses
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup water

I threw the chicken in the crock pot on low, mixed the sauce, poured it over the chicken, and cooked it on low for 6 hours.  It was fall-off-the-bone tender, and took all of five minutes as we were on our way out of the house to go bike riding.  It definitely is a keeper.

My mom also sent us an ice cream maker recently as a surprise.  It's the Cuisinart 2 quart model, and I LOVE it.  We just keep the bowl in the freezer all the time, and we can make ice cream whenever.  It takes less than a half an hour to make soft-serve, and it makes perfect hard ice cream, too (you just have to throw it in the freezer for a while).  I had a pile of bananas I needed to use up, and T had asked for banana ice cream, so I threw some together tonight after dinner, and it was AMAZING.

Coconut Banana Ice Cream with Carmelized Almonds

About 4-5 overripe bananas (I used finger bananas, but you can use regular)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together in food processor until liquified.  Add in:

1 cup shredded coconut (I used unsweetened dried, because I can't easily get sweetened here).

In a separate bowl, mix together:

1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream  (I actually used a cup of heavy cream and a cup of milk, because the heavy cream here is the consistency of sour cream and has about 32% fat content--too greasy for me in ice cream!  I've found you can play with the milk-cream ratio, according to taste.  Just make sure there is 2 cups total.)

Put the cream mixture in the ice cream maker; when thickened into ice cream and almost done, add in banana mixture.  It will get a bit thin again, but will thicken up after a bit more time.

To make almonds, boil together a cup of sugar and 1/4 cup water until it thickens; drop in almonds until coated; remove them and cool on a plate until ready to use.  Sprinkle over ice cream before serving.

Hope you and yours had a happy 4th!