Thursday, May 31, 2012

9:15 A.M. - 31 Things Day 15

Today is Thursday. It’s my 39th birthday.
I’m sitting at my desk working on the computer in our room. I’ve got the curtains open and my first cup of coffee is almost gone. I take it black & strong. 
I’m alone in the house and it is really quiet. The neighbor is banging on the wall next door as she vacuums and cleans. Otherwise there are no other noises. I love the peace but also wonder why I don’t play the radio more often, especially when I am alone. It’s a habit I want to get out of, and make a mental note to turn on MPR or something as soon as I finish with this writing.
There are too many tabs open on my computer, and every five minutes or so I go through them all. At the moment I’ve got Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest open, as well as my email (Yahoo) and a couple of memory keeping/design blogs (Ali Edwards and Julie Fei-Fan Balzer). The message board for this class is also open.
Today I’m working on typing up my Grandma Bauer’s book, Throwaway Children, the story of a rich man who gives his children away to a complete stranger. So amazing to hear my grandma’s voice throughout the story. It makes me smile as I hear her in the narration. This novel has only got 17 chapters so it should be easier to finish, but it is almost June now and I’m feeling really behind. I’m only on chapter 8. I want to have this typed out before we leave for MN on July 14th.
There are only a few more days left before we start another cycle, so I am trying to make the most of these last days of vacation. I think about the dishes downstairs that I haven’t gotten to yet and decide that I will do them when I go down in a minute to get another cup of coffee.
I’ve got my favorite shirt on and think about how I need to find more shirts like this - light, long-sleeved and comfortable enough to sit around in all day.
I can still smell Andrés’s cologne on my cheek from where he kissed me goodbye this morning. Euphoria for men by Calvin Klein.
Outside the sun is coming down through the trees and warming up a patch on our bed. There are three cars parked and one student driver practicing parallel parking. That’s really common to see at this time of the morning. I also see a lady walking her dog. I should probably try to get outside sometime today, too.
Then I think about texting my sister to make sure she’s getting her 9:15 moment. I get up and text her and then sit down to finish this up.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

View - 31 Things Day 14

Two weeks in - so excited I've kept up but getting sad we're halfway through and it will all be ending soon...

I look out of this window a lot. 
It’s the window right above the kitchen sink. The curtain is usually open - even in the late evening, and I can see all the daily happenings of Claros del Norte going on here.
There are often kids outside, riding bikes or skateboards or scooters down the incline.  At times I have seen teenagers sitting out in front of the neighbor’s wall, heads bent close together. I have seen kid’s peeing on the neighbor’s house, and writing graffiti on the blank wall. Of course I didn’t see the kids who keyed my car or broke our outdoor solar lamps. Of course.
I see our neighbors, going to and coming home from school and work. I watch as the neighbors living in front of us, with one of their six cars, leave and come back and then leave again five minutes later. All day long. I see what they’ve ordered for lunch and dinner (lots of pizza and KFC being delivered to that house) and sometimes wonder if they don’t think the same thing about us.
I watch airplanes taking off and sometimes landing. Wonder where they’re going or coming from.
I track the sun on its daily journey across the sky, watching how Pichincha changes form morning to noon to evening. Mornings it is a crisp, cheerful green, slowly changing to something more ominous and dark as the day goes on and the light sets behind the mountain. 
This is not the most beautiful view from any of the windows in the house. From the third floor we can see the entire length of Pichincha, and know how cold the night has been if we wake up to snow on its craggy peaks. From the living room you can see the ivy creeping up our back wall. From the second floor north-facing bedrooms you can see the park, watch the people in the morning on the weight-bearing machines, the young kids skipping school as they steal through the park mid-morning, the families in the afternoons out with their dogs and strollers, and the university students who park after dark to drink and dance and play music. That is, until the police move them along.
There is a lot of mischief going on outside of our windows. A lot of everyday, ordinary life, and - once in awhile, when the sun is just so and the air clean and crisp with that summer wind - extraordinary moments of beauty.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Chores - 31 Things Day 13

I used to be better about cleaning. 
In our apartment I made sure to deep clean once a week. Of course, that was before kids, and a time when Andrés and I spent more time out of the house than in it.
Seven years later, in a three-story house that isn’t necessarily big, but much bigger than our apartment, I find that once a month is more like my cleaning schedule. I have a hard time keeping up. Most days I feel like I am the only person doing much of any cleaning, and just the daily decluttering is enough to keep me busy. Part of the problem is that houses in Quito are not made for a life of accumulation: we have no garage, no basement, no storage rooms, small closets (and no entry closet) and a small patio. I have a hard time finding places for things, and therefore the things start to get in the way.
Laundry and dishes - these are two things that never seem to be finished. We do not have a dishwasher, but I like that. I actually like doing dishes. I love the hot soapy water washing away all of the dirt and grease. Laundry is done almost on a daily basis. I prefer it this way rather than have to do six or seven loads on the weekend. I don’t mind the folding but I really don’t like the putting away. Both of these are chores Andrés will do without my asking him to.
Andrés does most of the vacuuming as well, although I think it needs to be done on a more regular basis. Who does what and how much they do is a constant source of friction between us that I could really do without.
I have been thinking of getting the kids more involved in the household chores. Agustín is interested in folding and doing laundry, and Nicolás likes to do the sweeping, but I need to get them more in the habit, and to do less messing up so we don’t have to do so much cleaning.
The strange thing is, I like deep cleaning. I love watching things go from dull and dusty to shiny and clean. I love the sense of accomplishment. But as a working mom with two boys in the house and limited sunlight hours after work (every day the sun goes down at 6:30 on the equator, and by 6:40 it is usually pitch black) I have decided to pick my battles. Mostly I try to do things as I see them: wiping down the stove and counters as I cook, cleaning bathrooms a little at a time, sweeping and dusting small areas as I go about my day.

Watch - 31 Things Day 12

I watch TV with Andrés or the kids. If I am alone, I might put the TV on for background noise. Often Andrés has the TV on while I do something else: crochet, read, blog, email, play on my iPod. Shows that I do like to watch with him are Psych (a comedy/mystery series), The Middle (a comedy about a “regular” middle class family), and Last Man Standing (another comedy, a household of all girls - love this because it reminds me of my family a bit). We used to watch 30 Rock (a behind-the-scenes fictional live sketch comedy series) and Modern Family (a comedy about today’s “modern” family - I love the Latin aspect), but they are no longer on the air.
I watch movies on DVDs. Mostly animated, since that’s what the kids watch. I miss some of the classic musicals of growing up (Grease, The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, Annie) and have begun to buy them for our collection, but never find the time to watch them. I prefer to read than watch a movie, although I do like going to the theater. The moment when they turn out the lights is so exciting. We really don’t go to the movies enough.
I watch clips on the Internet occasionally. The kids like classic Grover clips and I enjoy watching these with them before bed some nights.
I watch the Internet, scouring it for information, updates, inspiration. It makes me feel connected to the larger world. 
I watch the kids as they fight and argue and laugh and find their way with each other. I love to eavesdrop on their conversations (lots of “In my world”s right now) and watch them as they play, exploding and crashing everything in sight, over and over again. They notice when I am watching and I am told to stop.
I watch Nico as he watches his big brother and imitates everything he does. As he gains his independence with writing and reading and a larger understanding of the world.
I watch Agus as he tries to make sense of some of the problems of eight-year-old life: bullying and teasing and leaving others out. As he watches his brother play video games and shadows each movement with special sound effects.
I watch the horizon for volcanoes, mountains, snow-capped peaks. When I am outside I am always on the lookout. I love that moment when I turn a corner and there it is, an enormous, majestic volcano right in front of my eyes.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Nourish - 31 Things Day 11

Random facts about me + food
1. I love to eat. I love coffee. I love carbs. I love shrimp. I love anything with cheese on top. I want to love vegetables more than I do. I like to look at them, copy down recipes featuring them, often feel drawn to them, but I find that too many vegetables get thrown away in our house. 
2. I like to bake, especially cookies and pies and quick breads. I like to try new recipes and plan meals for larger family events, such as Thanksgiving. I don’t like the everyday cooking, however, and Andrés usually takes care of that.
3. Growing up, we always had home-cooked meals. I remember asking “What’s for dinner?” every night, and every night, without fail, responding with groans. I know I did this and I don’t know why - I usually enjoyed my mother’s cooking and wish I had some of her recipes now. My favorite food memories as a family were when Dad would do stir fry at the table in the wok. (I loved the carrots the most.)  I remember that he had a special “order” for putting in the ingredients. I wish I knew his secret now - stir fry never tastes as good when I make it. I also remember coming home from basketball practice during the long winter months and having spaghetti (and two glasses of milk). My spaghetti never turns out quite like Mom’s, either.
4. On the Miller’s side, the kitchen table was always stacked with goodies and much of the talk and catching up happened around this table. Every time we got together there was something new to try - spinach dip, mini Ruebens, white chicken chili, Special K bars, cocktail meatballs - and I’d often come home from the gatherings with a new recipe or two.
5. When the kids are older I dream of having one night a week or month where we make a meal from another country or culture. Right now I don’t think they would be adventurous enough. 
6. I know the kids’ favorite pancake recipe by heart. We make it that much. Nicolás loves to help.
7. Like Grandma Bauer, I make popcorn, but not just on Sundays. We probably have popcorn as a treat three or four times a week.
8. When I was young, my parents gave us a treat before bed every night. We don’t do this with the boys, since we usually eat so close to bed time, but it is something I look back on fondly from my childhood.

And the two-page spread:

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Evening - 31 Things Day 10

We were away at the beach this weekend, so I've got a few days to catch up on. I did my journaling there, then put together the layouts when we got back.

Some truths about our evening routine:
Homework almost always lasts a couple of hours, so dinner is usually served around 7 pm. The kids like an hour or two before dinner to play in their rooms and just unwind. 
We almost always eat dinner together at the kitchen table. Occasionally we will allow the kids to eat “way upstairs” on TV trays in front of the TV, or if homework went extra long, at a table in their room, but most nights we eat together. 
Nico eats slowly and gets up often during dinner to bounce a ball, look for something, get a toy - anything to stall for more time. Agustín eats quickly and usually asks for seconds, or for dessert (for him, that means cheese). Both boys are in the habit of asking “May I please be excused?” before they get up and leave the table for good.
Depending on when Nico finishes his meal, the kids will have another 15 or 20 minutes to play before the bedtime routine begins. That consists of cleaning up their room, getting pajamas on, using the bathroom, and then getting Mommy or Daddy to help brush their teeth (dentist’s orders). 
There is always reading time before bed. Andrés and I take turns, but the kids seem to prefer “Mommy”. I think it is because Mommy lets them choose two books each. The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog is read every night, and lately we have also been reading Batman: Day of the Dark Knight most nights.
After reading is done, we say prayers - one in English and one in Spanish. There is usually a chorus of “Sweet Dreams!” and “Love you more than anything!” and then lights off. By now it is 8:30, although lately it has been more like 8:45.
While one of us has been doing the bedtime routine, the other is usually getting uniforms and lunches ready for the next day. This may mean that we are doing a load of laundry or a few dishes, but soon after this both of us usually retire to the bedroom to rest. We might watch a little TV or a movie together, or get some time on the computer. We are usually under the covers and not puttering around as the house is dark, quiet and cold at this time. I tend to go to bed after Andrés, since I am usually reading and have a hard time putting down my book. By eleven o’clock we are usually both ready to go to sleep. 

Purchase - 31 Things Day 9

Playing a little bit of catch up with my online class as we settle back into our routine after a beautiful weekend at the beach...

MY FIRST PURCHASE | I feel that I am pretty responsible with money, and when I think back to why, I usually give my dad credit. When I was about twelve, Dad offered to help me get a stereo on a payment plan with my babysitting money. I remember him sitting me down and explaining how much I would need each month, how the interest would work, and what day of the month he expected the payment. He told me that if I messed this up, he wouldn’t help me with larger purchases anymore, and I believed him. I didn’t want to take his trust for granted. He did the same for other large purchases throughout my teenage years. He also helped me balance checkbooks and do taxes, and I am certain this was the beginning of my being financially responsible.
HOW I SPEND MY MONEY | I don’t consider myself frugal by any stretch of the imagination, but I am not a spendthrift, either. Maybe it was the payment plans my dad put me on, but I usually think a purchase through quite a bit before I buy it. I want it to be the best price and quality that I expect for the item I am getting. This will largely depend on the item, however. I have a hard time passing up a deal, so sometimes quality suffers, and this is something I would like to be more mindful of. As they say in Spanish, “Lo barato sale caro.”
HOW I FEEL ABOUT MONEY | Andrés is the saver in this relationship, and thanks to him and his planning I never feel extremely worried about our financial situation. Our apartment is paid off, our cars are paid off, we have very little credit card debt (usually just groceries and airplane tickets). Because he plans things so carefully, we can afford to go on family trips and get little extras.
HOW OFTEN I SPEND MONEY | I would like to say that I don’t spend money every day, but it wouldn’t be true. We get little treats, go out to eat (too) often, spend money on gas and groceries each week. However, our clothing and “fun” shopping basically only happens once or twice a year, when we go to the States. That is where we do a major portion of our yearly shopping. We will plan ahead and get birthday and Christmas gifts, gifts for the teachers, everyday items like tinfoil that might be cheaper than in Ecuador, and things for the house. We have to plan ahead and think about how many pairs of shoes and pants the kids will need, and basically get all their things for the upcoming year. It is fun to do that power shopping, and usually cures me for the rest of the year. 
WHERE I SPEND MY MONEY | I really love shopping. Our first place to visit when we get to the States is the Mall of America or Target, and a trip or two to Ikea is a must. We scour the malls and department stores for things we think we might possibly need during the next year. A lot of our trip is spent shopping, but as the kids get older this gets harder. They are not happy spending all day in a mall.

And the two-page spread:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Look carefully

I just remembered a story I had of Nico about a year ago.

He had just learned how to play Tic Tac Toe and was a little obsessed. He basically wanted to play all the time. On this particular day, I had two "O"'s in a row, but of course, in his excitement to put his "X" down, he didn't block me. I said to him, "OK, look closely. Are you sure you want to put your X there?" He got way up close, put his nose almost directly on the board, and then, in the most serious voice I had heard, said very gravely, "Yes, Mommy, I am sure I want to put it there."

Needless to say, I couldn't put my "O" down for the win.

Amazing what a year can bring. I think if this happened today he'd definitely catch on to what I was trying to tell him.

And then there are these moments.

When you come across a weekly dinner plan that your kids put together, then read it and find that on Monday you're having poop, on Tuesday pee, on Wednesday boogers, Thursday big butt and Friday leftovers (poop again).


Friday, May 25, 2012

Transportation - 31 Things

We spend a lot of time in our car.
Quito is a long city with steep hills and roads. Walking or biking from our house to work or school is not really an option. We use one of our two cars every day, and have to remember which car we can use due to pico y placa restrictions (the red car can’t be taken out during rush hour on Tuesday, and the gray car on Thursdays). Public transportation is not bad in the city, but is still very crowded and quite unsafe from pickpockets, and so I am glad at the moment that we have two cars. city-imposed restriction has made me lose a little of the love I had for Quito. 
I try to walk whenever possible, however. I do not like driving in the city: traffic laws are just suggestions, the traffic is chaotic and unpredictable, and because of the way the city was planned, we take many of the same roads every day, so there is not much variety.
I didn’t always feel this way. My first car was a black Mercury Topaz, and I remember just getting in the car and driving for hours. I would always be the first one to volunteer to drive, and didn’t mind using my gas. The radio was always on, the windows down, and even though I found myself stranded in shady parts of town with a steaming radiator, I loved going places with my car. (Thank you, Grandpa, for always being ready to save me, even at 2.00 a.m.)
When Andrés and I got married, the Topaz was sold and we had his car, a teal green Suzuki Forsa. What a car! Fast and fun and a shift. I learned how to drive a stick shift with that car in the constant stop-and-go traffic of Quito.
The second car we owned was a blue Chevrolet Zafira, made in Brazil and with a computer on its dashboard. I loved that car and some of its features: doors that locked automatically as the car gained speed, a radio that not only told you the station you were listening to but also the song that was playing, the third row that folded down to become a larger trunk space.
About 5 or 6 years ago we bought the red car, a Kia Gran Carnival. Although some days it feels too big for the narrow streets of Quito, this car is so comfortable to drive: it sits up high, is diesel and uses very little gas, is automatic and has a DVD player built in so the kids can watch movies on longer trips. 
Now we also have “my” car, a gray Kia Rio Stylus, an automatic and smaller option for those days we might want to go to the mall and actually find a parking spot. We got this car when I started working for Cambridge, as I needed to be able to get around, and it is still our go-to car if we need to get somewhere fast (it can get in and out of traffic much better).

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Work - 31 Things

My work at the university (CEC-EPN) as a teacher trainer entails: Researching topics for and prepping teacher training workshops (three or four a cycle). Observing new or struggling teachers and giving them feedback. Teaching a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) class twice a year. Occasionally taking on a regular English level (I usually teach the higher, “Academic” levels). Putting together folders of activities for teachers to use. A few administrative duties such as helping with teacher reports, emailing reports on teacher performance, tallying workshop attendance. 
My job at the university used to be much more hectic. As Academic Coordinator, I dealt more with the students (as they asked for advice on grades/problems/complaints) and teachers (as they asked for advice on problem classes or rooms or turned in grades). I miss this daily interaction a bit.
I love teacher training. I get to spend time sharing ideas and activities, problem solving, identifying issues and working on long-term plans to alleviate them. It is definitely a creative outlet some days. I love taking someone’s weak points or problems and trouble-shooting. I love giving them advice and then asking them later how things worked out. Many days, however, I miss the interaction in the classroom. As a teacher my students looked up to me, asked for advice, shared their lives with me. As a teacher trainer I am sometimes (unfortunately) seen as the bad guy, the person who’s sent out when there are problems. I try to keep the training upbeat, personal, and practical, but I am no longer “one of them.” It doesn’t help that I don’t have an office, either, and am currently “stationed” in one of the labs on the first floor on the way to nowhere. 
Part of my isolation is my own fault. I feel a little like a “spy” when I sit in the teacher’s lounge. There is also an age gap - most of our teachers are fresh out of college, doing a year or two of volunteer work at the university before they move on to their “real” jobs. While I have made a few friends, I get older and they don’t, and we don’t always have a lot in common.
One of the biggest perks with training at the moment is the type of contract I have. I work two months, then get 2 weeks off. It is not paid vacation, but I enjoy the break so much. My schedule is flexible, which is another huge perk. I can take a cycle off (with no pay) and pick up again in two months. Financially, it can be difficult, but most of the time I feel like I get the best of both worlds: time at home and time at work. 

Yesterday we took Nico out of school so that we could get his Ecuadorian passport renewed. And for the first time ever, when it comes to paperwork, I can say (in Agustín's words), it was "easy peasy"!

Whew! Huge relief. Only one more hurdle - we need to get the permission for me to leave the country alone with the kids (Ecuadorian law will not allow children to be removed from the country without a notarized written permission from the absent parent. In one way, very good. In another, a pain).

And then, a little Spiderman action to end the day...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A peek into my crocheting foray

I have become obsessed with crochet.

Well, let's clarify, not obsessed. I mean, and Andrés would agree, I am not the obsessive type. I have never obsessed over anything. I don't have a one-track mind and pretty much go with the flow. I don't ever get involved in something and then go crazy and buy a bunch of stuff I later find I have no use for. Haven't done it with stamps or inks or stickers or rub ons or scrapbooking papers. So to say I am obsessed with crochet is a bit of an overstatement.

I just like to spend a couple of hours looking at crochet blogs and rereading patterns, imagining what it would be like to create the things I am seeing. I do like to read a pattern and try to see how it can come together into something - a bunch of garbled words that, let's face it, make no absolute sense at all. Charts that seem more complex than the anything I ever saw in science class.

I find it fascinating as I'm hooking (like my new "cool" word?) that a few twists and turns can create something. I watch the yarn get all knotty and can't believe that it is actually coming together before my eyes. It's amazing.

Yes, I said it - amazing. I know it is weird to make crochet into something mind-blowing, especially when I'm not the type of person at all to exaggerate something, but that's what it is - a life-changing, mind-blowing expereince. :)

So far I've made a few cowls and scarfs. A wrap or two. A bath puff and doilies. An ill-fated attempt at a sweater (I have NO idea what went wrong there. The pattern said Intermediate, I admit, but the motif came together perfectly, I had very few problems following the stitches, and my gauge was consistent throughout. I did make a Large, so maybe confused the sizes as I went? Although I checked after every few rows and thought I was being really careful. Anyhow, aside from the fact that I obviously didn't know how to stitch it together - the arms and shoulder were especially confusing - the sleeves are so long that I think I will keep the sweater around just to get a laugh now and then!)

I have also made a cool necklace - looks a bit hippyish but I still love it, but need to get a button on it.

My favorite new thing though is crocheting owls. I have patterns for an owl coffee cozy and an owl bag - but not the right yarn, so right now am stitching up these little cuties.

I could make these forever! No exaggeration! :) They come together really quickly - just a few hours - even though there are a lot of ends to weave in, the final result is worth it. I love all the colors, and the way the stitches overlap to get that effect throughout the rounds.

So, if you see any cute owlies that I can crochet - pass them along!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ME - 31 Things

1. Age: 38 (turning 39 in nine days)
2. Favorite part of my day: 3 pm, when the kids get home from school. We almost never leave the house after this time. Homework starts. There may be some whining and arguing.  It’s the most stressful part of my day, but the family is together, the house full of noise, and this when I usually feel most content.
3. Loving: The anticipation of our summer trip to Minnesota and a long hiatus from work. Crochet and crochet blogs. Little love notes Nicolás writes me throughout the day (often to butter me up for some iPod or computer time). Cuddling with Agustín. The kids telling me the same jokes over and over again (“¿Cuál es el colmo de un pez? ¿Te digo, te digo? ¡Que se muera ahogado!”)
4. Longing for: A clean house (that I didn’t clean). Permission (from myself) to get rid of so many things. Sunny, warmer days. More creativity, inspiration, talent. Space and energy for a vegetable garden. Friends and sisters to be nearby.
5. Inspired by: The Internet - Images on Pinterest (visual bookmark social networking web site). Items for sale on Etsy (homemade/vintage online store). Art supplies and bright colors (neon accents!). Documenting the stories of our family. My bookshelf.
6. Dreaming of: Creating for a living. Opening an Etsy shop. Learning how to paint (abstract art). Buying a piano and playing again. Running every day. Living somewhere warm - perpetual summer rather than perpetual spring.
7. Needing: To eat more vegetables. To lose weight and start running again.  To read more poetry. To sing more.
8. Navigating: Different cultural expectations and realities and my reactions to them now that I have growing children.
9. Struggling with: Living more deliberately. Being more positive and upbeat. Being satisfied with what I have. Remembering to be grateful every day.
10. Knowing: That my kids are loved and Andrés and I are doing our very best every day. That we’ve given the boys many opportunities to learn and grow.

Funnies from Nico

He's at such a cute age where he is saying some very funny little things. Here are a few from the past week or so. My favorites that I wrote down.

"Hannah - look at me! I have a big wart on my forehead!"

At the beach last weekend, it had rained and there were so many bugs. I am talking tropical bugs. Crickets the size of your ear (how do I know? - one landed on Andrés's shoulder and one on my father-in-law's shoulder, then proceeded to walk down into his shirt), moths the size of your face (how do I know? - one landed on my face). Nico looked at me after these incidents and said, "Mom. I. don't. like. BUGS." He's not kidding, either. He saw a bug later that weekend and screamed so loud everyone thought something had happened to him.

After learning what LOL means: "Mommy, right that Tin LOL's a lot?"
*LOL = popular Internet term, "Laugh out loud" (instead of the now dated haha or J/K, both of which I still use, haha).

Grandma Bauer sent some stickers in the mail (back in January - they just got here last week), so Nico decided to write her a thank-you card. He did it in English and refused help. After he writes in English, he always "tests" me by having me reread it back to him. I don't get any help. At all. If I ask what something means, I am told to "read it."

I won't write the whole thing out, but at one point it says, "San Gama, San Nico (with some scribbles). I didn't know, so I read it as it was. "San Grandma, San Nico".
"NOOOOOOO!" I hear Nico scream (at the top of his lungs, a temper tantrum coming on). "It says SIGN not SAN!!!!!!! It's because I'm not a PROFESSIONAL AMERICAN!!!!!"
Then the tears (crocodile tears) came on.

I couldn't stop laughing at my amateur American, who is trying so hard to write in English but finding out it is not at all like writing in Spanish (which is quite easy - it's phonetic after all).

I will translate this one, because it originally came to us in Spanish (the kids are really into telling jokes right now):
Nico: What does Flash wear when he gets home?"
Nico: Should I tell you?
Nico: The most Flash (don't worry - it doesn't make sense in Spanish, either)
No one laughs. He is clearly offended that his joke didn't produce any laughter.
Nico: It was a riddle, not a joke. That's why.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Conversation - 31 Things

I spend some time every day on email and a little on texting my sisters, but the person I converse with most is probably Andrés. We have always had intense conversations. We aren’t a couple that sits in long silences. Days start with complicated instructions for the day’s activities (pico y placa, the “day off” each car has to take due to a city mandate, has made these conversations extremely complicated as we try to organize our day) and end with the same for the next day, but in between we have had conversations about work, politics, family, the kids, something we saw on the Internet. It helps that we work together.
At lunchtime conversation is with my mother-in-law. Many of the same topics are covered: the next day’s schedule (she is our main caregiver), family, kids, politics, something she saw on her outings that day.
Conversations with the boys consist of a lot of robot and superhero talk (Avengers is a favorite right now). Agustín loves to tell me intricate details of the movies Uncle Bati has told him about. Nicolás likes to talk about something his friends did at school, or about learning. At the moment he is fascinated with addition and multiplication. Lots of “what’s 10 x 10, what’s 50 x 50?” questions. Both boys pepper most of their conversations with explosion noises. 
The car is a place where many of our most interesting conversations take place. Today the question on the ride home from school was, “Does the Devil exist?” (A lot of these theological questions come up in the car for some reason.) There is no easy way to answer this in fifteen minutes, but both seem satisfied in the end, the topic dropped as soon as we park the car. 

Here is the 2-page spread:

Project Life Weeks 18 and 19

Project Life, Week 18. This week I was working on the Cocoa Daisy online crop, so I decided to use the 6x6 inch slots and make four mini layouts. It was fun, but not sure I will do it again (I have to next week, though, since it is the other side of next week). Too much work. I love playing and everything but sometimes the simplest pages have turned out the nicest. I have gotten a little a way from writing down the little stories throughout the day (probably because of Week in the Life, then the Cocoa Daisy crop, then the Big Picture Creative Crop, now working on 31 Things - so lots of creating going on here).

The right side of Week 18. A little bag that came in the mail with my washi tape. Last week of swimming - Agustín perfecting his form on the backstroke. So cool that he can do this. I tried the crawl stroke last weekend at the beach and almost drowned!

Some play time with the kids, a Skype video call with the cousins and Aunts, soccer, soccer and more soccer.

 We spent Friday night with some friends. María Emilia is Agustín's age and even though they don't see each other much, these kids pick right up where they last left.

Week 19: reading on the stoop (actual conversation between Agustín and I: 

Agustín: "Mommy, do you like to read?" 
Me: "Yes, I do."
Agustín: "Me, too." He was reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid. A little over his head culture wise but he LOVES it and won't let me read it to him or explain anything. As we read he kept looking up and telling me parts of the story.

A Mother's Day event at the kids' school (they were very secretive about it all - the highlight was the mariachis. Agustín, after lots of coaxing, finally took me out to dance. Nico didn't even think of me and danced with his little friends on the side of the dance floor. :) )

Another weekend at the beach. Love.

Lots of little love notes coming in from Nico as he gets better and more confident at his writing. He loves to try to write in English, but refuses to get help from anyone. Here his note says, "Mommy, can I play on the computer?" If you turn it over, it says, "Yes or no?"  Lots of those little notes this month. Many of them actually say, "Mommy, do you love me? Yes or no" and I am instructed to please circle my answer.

I'll post more of Nico's "funnies" from the last couple of weeks tomorrow.

Lunch at Grandma's today (Kids had early release). Nice that we can walk there.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spirit - 31 Things

Despite the bustle and fervor of the streets of Quito, the crowds on the streets, the jammed up traffic, the vendors hawking their goods on every corner, I feel a sense of connection with history and humanity every time I go to colonial Quito. In a sense, it is one way I rejuvenate my spirit and reconnect with myself.
I take comfort in the centuries-old churches lining every street. 
I take comfort in the tomblike silence of a cathedral, unreachable form the noise and chaos outside.
I take comfort in the age-old rituals, rituals that have been performed, over and over, for hundreds of years I like the image that overcomes me as a sit in a pew and look up at the ornately gilded altar, the image of all the people who have come before me, seeking solace, strength, wisdom, comfort, love. 
Lately I don’t feel very spiritual, however.
I haven’t been nurturing my spirit as much as I should. 
I used to find my spirit in books, poetry, music and art. I want to get back to that. I want to find my spirit in the creative, in the place where our human journeys connect, that place where we are awe-inspired and know that we must be part of something bigger than ourselves, whatever that may be.
It’s hard not to sense my spirit when I look up and see something crafted with faith and love, something made by human hands in honor of the divine.
It’s hard not to sense my spirit when I look up at a crystal blue sky with an immaculately white puffy cloud floating by.
It’s hard not to sense my spirit when I look up at a starry, starry night, the wind rustling the leaves in the nearby trees.
I need to look up more. 
At the ceiling of a five hundred-year-old church.
At the sky on a sunny day.
At the stars in my backyard.
Look up.

(My promises: read more poetry, spend more time with art, go downtown and connect more with the beauty in my city.)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ten things about me and reading - 31 Things

ONE | My favorite childhood memories were summers walking to the Bookmobile. I could easily check out 16 books each week and read each one.
TWO | One of the hardest things about moving to Ecuador was the lack of public lending libraries and the limited selection at bookstores.
THREE | I will always prefer traditional books vs reading books on an e-reader. Nevertheless, I’m happy that I can buy books for my iPod Touch. It is freeing to have a selection available of new and old, right at my fingertips.
FOUR | Even though the device tries to mimic the experience, reading books on my iPod Touch is not so enjoyable.The screen is small, the device difficult to hold, the glare eventually tires my eyes, it is difficult to visualize where things are in the book. Reading electronically has taken a little of the joy out of reading.
FIVE | I almost never leave home without a book in my purse/bag/car. 
SIX | I am not super particular about the genres I read, but I do go through stages. Ten years ago I would only read “highbrow” literature: classics, Nobel Prize-winning authors, winners of the Booker Prize. Five years ago I was only interested in magazines and “fluff.” Nowadays I find myself reading non-fiction.
SEVEN |  Two of my favorite books are Wuthering Heights and Les Miserables. I was an English major and read a lot of 18th-19th century British literature, and to this day I continue to prefer British writers. I miss the analyzing books for symbolism and motifs of my college days.
EIGHT | I wasn’t expecting to love the Harry Potter series so much. I can’t wait until the boys are ready for me to read it to them. I ask them every week. 
NINE |  The boys are read to every single night. Andrés and I take turns. They actually look forward to bedtime and this ritual helps them fall asleep quickly. Some days they have us read for 45 minutes or more.
TEN |  I don’t intend to ever get rid of any of the books in my collection. Most have been brought in suitcases from the States every year. I love each one.

I have so much more to say on the subject - I will probably be revisiting this idea again and again in the future.

Here is the look of the two-page spread:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Morning - 31 Things

Mornings usually come too fast for me. 
I’ve never been much of a morning person. In the morning I am slow and lethargic and it seems to take me twice as long to get things done. I can always convince myself, as I’m reaching for the snooze button, that just five more minutes won’t make a difference in my routine.
The alarm goes off at 5:20, and after a few pushes from the snooze button, I am finally up. We make the bed, and then I get into the shower. I usually take my shower before Andrés, since the water heater is broken and has to be turned on manually, and he doesn’t mind going outside on a chilly morning to do so. Then he hops in while I get dressed. 
Just about at that time, the kids come into the room. They don’t need a wake-up call. There is a 5:50 plane to Loja that passes over the house that usually wakes them, and if that doesn’t, the sun will, at 6 a.m. They are a little like mini zombies: push open the door (there’s always a slamming door involved), use the bathroom (eyes generally closed at this point), then hop up on our bed and cover up with blankets. Nico likes the blue one and Tin prefers the pink and green one. There’s not much talking yet, but in about five minutes the remote will come out and they’ll be watching Disney Channel (Poppy Cat, Special Agent Oso, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates have been the favorites lately).
If I have to go into work, I go downstairs with Andrés and we have breakfast until Grandma Shushú comes to take over for us. Andrés and I both like to mix it up. One morning it might be scrambled eggs on toast, the next a grilled cheese sandwich or yogurt with granola. I rarely have time on weekdays to eat fruit for breakfast.
I grab some coffee in a mug to go, and we get into the car and head out for our 45-minute commute.
If I don’t have to go into work, then usually I snuggle with the boys when they jump into bed. They fight over whose side I turn to, who I hug, who gets the blankets, etc., and so instead of sleeping in a bit more, I end up tossing and turning and talking to them until 6:30. 

At 6:30 I get up and go downstairs to get their breakfast ready. Agustín loves cheese, so his breakfast usually consists of a piece of toast or bread and a half of a banana (one of the few fruits he’ll eat) with some sort of cheese - a wedge of cheddar or gouda or crackers with cream cheese. It’s important to have a glass of milk ready for him on the nightstand. (They eat in our bed on trays, watching TV - basically their only TV time at home.) Agustín eats quickly, and usually has me go downstairs for seconds. You can always tell what his favorite thing on the plate is - he always saves that for last.

Nicolás, on the other hand, likes to savor each and every bite. He loves cereal, with milk, and usually asks for that in the mornings, but if there is time I might make him pancakes as well, and that is always a big hit. He is the opposite of his brother when it comes to eating: he doesn’t like cheese, isn’t a big fan of bread, and saves the “yuckiest” thing on his plate for last. He is usually finishing his breakfast right up to the very last second. In this sense he and I are the same - always taking our time, and at the last minute rushing around so we won’t be late. I imagine I was the same way when I was little. I remember walking into the kitchen and all of mom’s daycare kids (many my same age) already well into their breakfasts, and me just rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.
After breakfast is finished, the kids get dressed. Uniforms have almost always been laid out the night before. Agustín will dress himself but Nicolás still likes to be babied and will mess around until you get frustrated and get him dressed yourself. My favorite part of the morning is changing their socks. I make a habit of kissing their feet and changing their socks for them each morning. This started because I realized that when they were dressing themselves they were forgetting to change their socks, but now it is a little routine that both boys love and have come to expect.
The TV goes off, the kids finally get up out of bed and go brush their teeth while I wet and comb down their rogue hair. 
Downstairs, the boys get their shoes on while I warm up the car and then we’re off. It takes about 15 minutes to get to school. Sometimes there is music on,  but many times the boys are asking me tricky questions. This morning it was who invented money? and why do we care about money if it’s just paper?