Sunday, February 27, 2011

NYR 2-27-11 - cheap medical in Bogota

For a pediatric ER visit, complete with injection, that cost just $85 for everything, I am truly thankful.

thank goodness Daddy's on the way home

True to form any time Jimmy's on a long trip, we ended up in the ER this morning. Mac was fine all day yesterday - no complaints at all until about 9pm when he told me he had a sore throat. I gave him some hot salty water to gargle - my family's sore throat remedy - and sent him off to bed. He whimpered all night long and finally in the middle of the night I gave him some Advil, thinking that would quiet him down. That was wishful thinking.

This morning when I got up, I did a cursory temperature check on the forehead and he didn't seem hot, but an hour or so later, I checked his temperature - 102.2 - and I looked in his throat with a flashlight - very red and puffy and I could see some white pustules.

I decided to take him to the ER because my again wishful thinking was that if I could get the antibiotics started early this morning, he'd have 24 hours under his belt before school tomorrow. In mother language, that means he could return to school.

So much for that wishful thinking.

The doctor in the ER diagnosed "infection" but she didn't do a strep test, so I don't know if it's strep or what. To bring the fever down quickly, she gave him a big shot right in the backside - which I'm sure everybody else in the hospital thought was somebody having their leg sawed off without anesthesia based on the screaming coming out of his mouth, long after the shot was done. Seeing as it's Oscars night, I really thought his performance could win the "Best Dramatic Performance in a Hospital" Oscar.

Then the doctor told me what no mother wants to hear: he will need to stay home from school tomorrow and Tuesday. She spoke English so I can't pretend I didn't understand. I can hardly believe that she's not just being overly cautious.

Armed with our imaginary trophy and a prescription for zithromax, we left the hospital and Mac, true to his dramatic tendencies, limped along and dragged his leg behind him until we got to the car.

I'm planning to take him to the embassy's health unit in the morning for a second opinion on both the diagnosis and the medicine he was prescribed, but most importantly, to confirm that it's okay - assuming, of course, that he's fever-free for 24 hours - that he goes back to school on Tuesday. This is one tired moma!!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

NYR 2-26-11 - Jimmy's still in Alaska

For happy playdates and friends over for a relaxed dinner in my adult-starved world right now, I am truly thankful.

P.S. Jimmy is still in Alaska after extending his trip by another day. As he sold it to me, he's "only seen the inside of a military base in Anchorage and somebody in his Afghanistan military group lives in Wasilla and he offered him a room at his house and said they could sightsee and it would be a shame to pass up that offer after flying all that way to Alaska to only see a military base in Anchorage."

(And yes, that really was about his email came in. You could almost hear him not taking a breath as he spewed all that out.)

So Mac and I are flying solo one more night. That will bring this trip to a week total. It's been a VERY stressful, VERY emotional week for me and if I can be honest with you, it's ticked me off to have to deal with everything by myself and then to have to relay everything to Jimmy by email because I guess they don't have phones on that military base in Afghanistan.

I have been particularly grateful this week for the listening ears, kind words, and open homes of friends (and their mothers-in-law!) here in Bogota. They've made it all bearable.

NYR 2-25-11

For supper at Taco Bell, sadly, I am thankful. What can I say? It really hit the spot!

Friday, February 25, 2011

NYR 2-24-11

For a fun night of yummy homemade pizza and a movie with friends, Mac and I are truly thankful.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

NYR 2-23-11

For Mac feeling - at least right now - that he can come to me with anything, I am truly thankful.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jimmy in the Alaskan wilderness

I've given Jimmy a lot of grief over the 6 months we've been here because he's gotten to travel to the US for work a number of times and while those trips are for work -(stick hand to forehead now, sigh heavily, and act like a martyr) - he's gotten to go to places like Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Key West.

The tables have turned on young James this week. The military group to which he was assigned for half of his year in Afghanistan invited him to give some lectures to the outgoing replacement troop or group or squad or unit or whatever it's called before they deploy to Afghanistan.

The draw for the trip to give the lectures? The unit is based in Alaska.

The drawback for the trip to give the lectures? The unit is based in Alaska and it's February.

Can you say "brrrrrrrr"?

We were hoping for a summer deployment because Mac and I were going to tag along for a little visit to Alaska.

But alas, Jimmy left yesterday for the trip. He had to fly from Bogota to Atlanta to Salt Lake City to Anchorage, a total of about 15 hours flying time before you add in the layovers. He was scheduled to land last night, Anchorage time, at something like 1:00am, which was about 2.5 hour ago.

Right now, the temperature in Anchorage is 6 degrees Fahrenheit (compared to 60 degrees in Bogota).

Double brrrrr.

The high today is supposed to reach 24 degrees, and tomorrow, the forecasted high is 29 degrees. That'll feel like a bonafide heat wave. A snow shower is predicted for Friday, which might be a nice treat before he takes back off for Bogota on Saturday morning.

Mac and I have asked that Jimmy bring back a live moose. We feel that will be sufficient proof that Jimmy really was in Alaska. In the absence of a live moose, we will take smoked salmon or a young bear cub. Your call, Babe, if you're reading this.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

are you sick of highly paid teachers?

- I borrowed this from Facebook because I loved it so much. To all those great educators, including my mom, who taught and continue to teach, you rock!

Teachers' hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It's time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do - babysit!

We can get that for less than minimum wage.

That's right. Let's give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan-- that equals 6 1/2 hours).

Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day...maybe 30? So that's $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day.

However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations.


That's $585 X 180= $105,300 per year.

(Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).

What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master's degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.

Wait a minute -- there's something wrong here!

There sure is!

The average teacher's salary (nation wide) is $50,000.

$50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student--a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids! WHAT A DEAL!!!!

Make a teacher smile; repost this to show appreciation for all educators.


my beloved juicer

I decided that I'm under-utilizing the juice machine we bought with Christmas gift cards.

So today I went to the grocery store and bought a ton of fruit and vegetables. The intention was to cut it all up, refrigerate it and have it handy for making juice at a moment's notice. I can mix and match the fruits as the spirit moves me and make all these exotic juices. (I even looked for wheat germ in the grocery store, even though I have no idea what that looks like or is even called in Spanish) because I thought that sounded like a terribly healthy thing to add to juice.) Not that I would know this from personal experience, but all the magazines say that if you have cut-up carrots and peppers in the fridge, you'll be more apt to eat those instead of, say, a pack of Dorito's so I was thinking that if I could quickly make juice, I would drink that more readily than, say, a Coke Zero.

The first step in this whole process was to sharpen the knife that I intended to use to make fast work of my dicing and slicing. I don't ever sharpen knives but this one looked particularly dull this morning. Unfortunately, instead of making fast work of slicing and dicing fruits and veggies, I made fast work of slicing and dicing my thumb. I'm beginning to get a fat complex about the pads on my thumbs - they must be fat because they keep getting in the way of sharp objects coming through. Good news is that this is a minor cut compared to the September Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But it bled a lot and I decided I'd peel only what I needed for an immediate glass of juice.

So I just juiced together 4 oranges, 2 big carrots, 1/4 of a large papaya, and a kiwi. That made about 4 cups of juice which I drank even though it smelled vaguely of papaya which I don't like.

I feel instantly healthier with all that vitamin-enriched stuff sloshing around in my stomach. I'm also thinking that with all the orange tint I just consumed, I might even look like I've got a perma-glow.

I'm now going to cut up the rest of my fruits and vegetables since I've stanched the flow of blood. Bottoms up!

NYR 2-22-11

For a great night's sleep in my own comfortable bed, I am most truly thankful!

NYR 2-21-11

For watching Mac improve his diving skills dramatically, I am truly thankful. (It's the little things, right?)

NYR 2-20-11

For a nice pool, hot sun and good friends, I am truly thankful.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

NYR 2-19-11

For the anticipation of a weekend away,

with friends...

a mere 2.5 hour-drive from Bogota...

in a big finca...

where it's supposed to be hot and sunny...

and where there's a swimming pool,


Friday, February 18, 2011

NYR 2-18-11 - a little lesson in life

For this week's great reminders that even when we're disappointed, frustrated, and upset about something that's happening this instant, God always knows the big picture and that closed door just might mean that He's got something else bigger and better planned. For a really great re-education of this point, I am truly thankful.

Itzhak Perlman and the errant cell phone

On Wednesday night, Jimmy and I went to a beautiful new theater here in Bogota to hear Itzhak Perlman play his violin like only he can do.

Before the show started, they made the now-normal house announcement to silence your cell phones. Personally, I think if you know who this guy is and have shelled out the money to see him play, then you should know to turn off your cell phone without being told.

That's what I get for thinking.

Perlman was in the middle of the first portion of the concert, playing a sonata by Mozart, when, like nails on a chalkboard, somebody's cell phone on the theater floor started ringing. It wasn't a little ring tone - it was a full-fledged song bleating out from that phone that was obviously programmed for the "outdoors" loud setting. Perlman didn't miss a beat on his violin nor did he lose any momentum, but his head snapped around in the direction of the offender and if looks could kill, the people in the area of the offender would have been toast.

I don't know who was so important that s/he didn't turn his cell phone off, but had that been me, I would have crawled out of the theater on my hands and knees and left before anyone could say anything to me.

Apparently the offender did not feel the same way.

Perlman continued on and maybe two minutes later, THE SAME CELL PHONE RANG AGAIN. The audience let out a collective gasp and everybody's heads turned from facing forward to looking off to the left to see who could be such a heel as to let this keep happening.

(I have given a lot of thought to the cell phone user. I've convinced myself that he's a heart transplant surgeon who was using cell phone code ringing for a life and death situation. Like "if it rings once, it means the heart's not a match so don't need to leave the concert, but if it rings twice, you need to bid Perlman adieu and get yourself on down to the hospital because we've got a transplant getting ready to happen." It was probably just a call to confirm the carpool schedule for Thursday morning, but I'm thinking big.)

Perlman didn't react at all this time. He finished the movements of the sonata and then he and his accompanying pianist left the stage to great applause.

When they returned to play the next sonata, Perlman made a great show of pulling out his Blackberry and pushing the off button over and over. It was totally brilliant and charming and made us feel like he'd forgiven the offender even if we hadn't.

I am still so excited that we got to see Perlman play. Aside from his obviously mastery, he brought such joy and energy to the music - he really made you feel "filled up" with his spirit and love of and appreciation for the music.

After playing for an hour and a half, he and his accompanist then played an encore of another 4 or 5 short pieces that he discussed with great knowledge and wonderful humor. Jimmy was slightly disappointed that he didn't play "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" as an encore, which would have been the ultimate nod to his sense of humor, but alas, I guess he saves that for when he's hanging out with the Charlie Daniels Band. We'll have to keep looking for that particular concert series to be announced!

NYR 2-17-11

For the gift of friends who are in my corner, I am truly thankful.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

NYR 2-16-11 - Itzhak Perlman Concert

For the privilege of being able to listen to this man make music from his violin, I am so truly thankful.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

NYR 2-16-11

For the aches and pains of honest exercise, I am truly thankful (I think).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

the problem with a good movie

As you know, I saw The Fighter the other day. And you know how good movies sometimes lead you to want to do things to improve your life? Well, I thought after seeing Mark Wahlberg's boxing-toned body, that maybe if I took up boxing, then I, too, could have a lean, mean fighting machine of a body. Mark Wahlberg is about 2 months younger than I am, so it's not like age is any more on his side than mine, right? (Seeing as I don't think I've ever seen anybody in my family with 6-pack abs, it could be a genetic issue, but I'm thinking mind over matter on that one.)

Anyway, as luck would have it, there's a boxing gym a mere two blocks from my apartment.

So I went over yesterday morning to check into classes and I was assured that there are plenty of out-of-shape, middle-aged woman who attend classes and that I should come for a trial class.

Which I did this morning with a friend.

Which nearly killed me.


You're lucky I'm even able to type this post, if you want to know the truth.

The warmup at the beginning was the worst part of the whole thing for me. It was led by some young fit boxer dude who kept yelling at us to go faster and harder and stop slacking off.

We had to jump rope first. I'm not really sure when the last time I jumped rope was -maybe in middle school when I did a Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser? And that was sort of lazy jumproping that you did just to get out of class for a couple periods. This was like serious boxer jumproping where you had to jump without skipping along - like the rope was supposed to go fast and you were just supposed to keep jumping without that little hopstep in between jumps.


I think it was at this point that I asked one of the instructors if they knew CPR - he said no - because I wasn't entirely confident that I wouldn't need it at some point.

Then we did some other aerobic warm-up exercises that ended with running around this gym. By that point, I really was just ready for class to be over because I could hardly breathe and I already hurt.

Before class started, we got our hands wrapped up in whatever that wrap thing is called that boxers put on before they put on their gloves. I do have to tell you that it's sort of like wearing a tennis skirt when you play tennis - you assume the role of a tennis player whether you really are any good or not. So putting this wrap on and then putting on those awful smelly used gloves after the warmup kind of makes you feel like you're a member of the Fight Club.

We learned how to do hooks, uppercuts, and jabs which we fortunately didn't have to practice on each other, only on the instructor.

We hit on a punching bag, did some push-ups, some leg exercises and then some final stretching before the class mercifully ended.

The gym, like a casino, doesn't have a clock visible anywhere. Unlike a casino, which doesn't want you to know the time so you'll stay there, spending more money and having more fun, the gym doesn't want you to know the time so you won't know how much longer the misery is going to last. An hour can be such a long time.

As we were finishing up, a woman came in for the next hour's class. I asked her how long she'd been taking classes there. She said it was probably her 10th class. I asked if it got any easier. She said no. Not a ringing endorsement, but because I need to do some kind of cardio exercise, I think I could get into this sort of class.

My continuation in boxing assumes, of course, that my body recovers at some point from the trial class - everything hurts right now - and that I can bring myself to actually pay for the privilege of this abuse. Right now those are looking like two very big assumptions.

Stay tuned.

NYR 2-14-11 - the day of love

My two favorite people


These amazing flowers from my love.

Jimmy was originally going to get a bouquet of roses (which are practically a dime a dozen here) until he saw this beautiful tropical bouquet. Since we buy roses all the time for the apartment, he "splurged" on this arrangement. The price of his splurge? $20. One more reason to love living in Colombia!


Di Lucca, my favorite Italian restaurant in Bogota (sorry for the delivery message on the side - I couldn't find a better picture online).

We started with their most delicious house antipasto platter, Jimmy had osso bucco, Mac had cheese pizza, and I had mushroom risotto. YUM!


a very happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 14, 2011

NYR 2-13-11 - the circus!

The maternal instinct in me that wants to introduce Mac to as many arts-related activities as possible has kicked in. I'm not talking Crayola and gluestick projects (which are totally beyond my abilities). I'm talking about spending money and buying tickets to see events that are somehow artsy. After a slow start, there are all these great things happening in Bogota right now.

For instance, Shakira, the Colombian bombshell pop singer, is hosting the Shakira Pop Festival in Bogota next month. It's in the afternoon in the Bogota version of Central Park, and she wants it be family-friendly (for kids 7 and over!), so there are special places of the venue designated "preferable" for families. Of course, those tickets were the VIP ones, but I couldn't put my 8 year-old child in a mosh pit, so I shelled out the money for the VIP section. After watching the Grammy Awards last night, I'm even more excited about the Pop Festival because newly minted Grammy winner Train is also playing there.

Yesterday, we went to a fabulous new theater in Bogota to see a Cirque de Soleil-esque circus called PSY performed by Les 7 Doigts de la Main, a Canadian company out of Montreal. According to the website, "for their fourth creation, Les 7 Doigts de la Main delves into the rich and surreal underworld of the human psyche. PSY travels through a shifting landscape of distorted visions, fading dreams and fractured memories. Insomnia, addiction, amnesia, paranoia, hypochondria. juggling, Chinese pole, German wheel, aerial rope, teeterboard. By juxtaposing these darker issues with the invigorating and life-affirming language of circus arts, PSY brings out the humour, beauty, and commonality of these various neuroses, all the while celebrating the power of the individual to surmount their ailments and self-imposed restrictions, finding moments of strength, courage and joy while flying through the air."

Now obviously Mac didn't get all the psychological stuff (and I only got some of it because the little speaking they did was in Spanish), but he LOVED all the acrobatics and juggling and Chinese pole stuff. It was incredible. Great music, great theater, great performance. If PSY comes to a theater near you, you need to go!

For a great matinee at the circus with Mac, I am truly thankful.

P.S. Jimmy and I have tickets to see Itzhak Perlman on Wednesday night. Can't wait!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

welcome to our winter wonderland

Bogota doesn't have four seasons like we're used to in many parts of the US. From what I can tell from our 6 (!) months here, it's pretty much cool and often rainy year-round. There's a dry season and a rainy season but that apparently got all out of whack this year because of La Nina. So the dry season, which everybody told me would start at Halloween, really didn't start until around December 15, which was really depressing because it rained. And rained. And then rained some more. Perhaps you read about the flooding in Colombia in your local paper? Even though we weren't flooded on the 6th floor, I felt soggy for months.

What's even more depressing is that it's started raining again. Not everyday but enough to forewarn us that the sunny skies won't last forever. These storms are just magnificent when they pop up - lots of dark, heavy clouds roll in over the mountains, the thunder starts and the rain follows. And when I say rain, I don't mean a nice little rainstorm that feels like you're standing under one of those newfangled rain showerheads. I'm talking full-blown, no-holds-barred gullywashers. The other day I was out when it started raining and by the time I got home (covered by my ever-present and uncomplaining umbrella, my pants were soaked from the knees done. Soaked to the point where I could wring out water from them. Soaked to the point where dear sweet Ruth told me I needed to changed immediately because apparently pants that are wet from the knees down lead to a stomachache. (I just report the facts as I'm told them.)

One thing that I've see more of in the last 6 months than I've seen in the last 39 5/6 years is hail. These hailstorms are always so powerful and always make me grateful to be inside in my apartment (and not inside my little car where the roof would surely be dented by the force).

Yesterday afternoon, it went from sunny to a hailstorm in a matter of minutes. And this wasn't just your average hailstorm, where a few rocks come into the skylights of your closet like we had a couple weeks ago. Bogota looked like a winter wonderland when it was happening and after it was all done. I've had to borrow some photos from my friend Cammy because her apartment overlooks a school where she could get better open shots than we can get from our apartment. Welcome to our Bogotano winter wonderland!

NYR 2-12-11

For a yummy dinner out and getting to see The Fighter, which I practically produced (and LOVED as a movie), I am truly thankful.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

NYR 2-10-11

I needed to go to the mall movie theater to buy tickets for an adult dinner and movie night with friends. You have to buy tickets early here because they always seem to sell out (unless you're seeing something that's been in the theaters here for ages).

And for the record, we're going to see The Fighter, which just opened here. You may remember this is the movie I practically produced in August 2009 in Boston!

Anyway, I was busy during the day and couldn't get over there before Mac got home. So I had to enlist him to go with me and I knew this would be an ordeal after a long day at school. We'd have to walk all these blocks, wait in the line, walk all the way back, etc. I could hear the complaints in my head long before he got home.

I told him he had no choice, and after the requisite whining, we set out. We stopped at the grocery store next door for a short can of Pringle's for the walk. Those lasted through the first mall (you have to cut through 2 malls to get to the one that was showing The Fighter). He wanted a drink in the second mall but I convinced him to wait until the third mall.

We got the tickets without problem and then we had a little midafternoon snack in the newly opened Taco Bell, which was so yummy even if it was bad for us.

Then we headed back home by way of Zara which is having an enormous sale which I just could not pass by. More whining until I got Mac to pick out what he thought I should wear. Two shirts later and we really did head home, just minutes before the heavens opened up and the rains poured down.

It ended up being a really great little outing. We talked about a lot of things and caught up on his day at school.

For time with my boy without the distractions of tv or Wii or homework, I am truly thankful.

Friday, February 11, 2011

NYR 2-10-11 - laughter

I read in that same Oprah article from the other day that "as you grew up, your laughter rate dropped from 400 times a day (for toddlers) to the grown-up daily average of 15." Yesterday, I made up for some of that.

I had to run an errand in another part of the city and was a little nervous about where I was. There were just tons of people out, tons of motorcycles zipping between cars, tons of buses and taxis just cutting over on me, etc.

And then I looked off to the sidewalk and saw the funniest thing.

A mother was walking her three young girls home from school. One was a toddler who may or may not have yet learned to walk (as she was carried one way or the other the whole time) and the other two were a little older, but not by much. The oldest of the three had one of those rolling backpacks for school. It was a little backpack, not sturdy, not meant for travel - just meant to carry a kindergartener's books to and from school.

Well they had put the little toddler in the backpack and were pulling her along. The toddler was big enough where probably 1/3 of her body was above the top of the backpack and the rest (her legs and part of her torso) were in the zipped backpack.

The mom and all three girls were laughing hysterically and so was I.

Finally the mother snatched up the baby, who was a little chunky, before she fell out as the zippers on the backpack starting giving under her chunky weight.

For unexpected bursts of laughter, I am truly thankful.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

NYR 2-9-11

Don't you love when you make dinner out of stuff in the fridge and pantry and it turns out great???? For that yummy Asian-flavored rice vermicelli dish with shrimp, mushrooms, peppers, & cabbage with eggrolls on the side, I am truly thankful!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NYR 2-8-11 and worry

I am historically a Class A Worrier. Top of the line, head of the class, PhD in worrywart-ism. Straight to DEFCON 1 on the scale of worrying at the mere suggestion of something awkward/unpleasant/untoward that may happen.

Last night I was reading my newly-arrived February edition of Oprah Magazine, and I came across this article by Martha Beck about 20 questions you should ask yourself that could change your life. I present #3 to you here:

"Why worry? these two words, considered sincerely, can radically reconfigure the landscape of your mind. Worry rarely leads to positive action; it's just painful, useless fear about hypothetical events, which scuttles happiness rather than ensuring it. Some psychologists say that by focusing on gratitude, we can shut down the part of the brain that worries. It actually works!"

When I reflected on this, I realized that I really have stopped worrying less and I'm now attributing it to my new year's resolution of an attitude of gratitude. So for less worrying and more gratitude, I am truly thankful.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

NYR 2-7-11

for birthday (not mine because you'll know when that one comes around!) lunches with friends, I am truly thankful!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

NYR 2-6-11 - a reflection on my dad

This morning while perusing the New York Times online, I read the "quotation of the day" which was by a guy named Colin Archipley, a Marine Corps infantry sergeant turned organic farmer: "In the military, grunts are the guys who get dirty, do the work and are generally underappreciated. I think farmers are the same."

My dad - a farmer for his entire life - has now been dead for a few years, but he remains larger than life in my mind and in my life. He got dirty, did the hard work and may have been underappreciated for his life's work as a farmer, but he was certainly not underappreciated as a person, husband or father.

He was a good person and a great man - patient, tolerant, sympathetic, understated, inspirational, funny and a friend to many. He was a calm presence when things weren't always calm. He suffered from so many health problems but never once complained or stopped going when it must have required some pretty amazing supernatural powers just to get out of bed. As his preacher said during his funeral service, he loved God, his family, and his farm in that order.

For a father who still motivates me, inspires me and whose presence I feel daily, I am most truly and profoundly grateful.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

NYR 2-5-11

This morning Jimmy filled in on the Marines' team in a flag football tournament. Mac and I went along and we all had such a nice morning. The weather was perfect, Jimmy got to play football, Mac played in the dirt and woods with a bunch of children, and I got to visit with a friend. For nice mornings that don't involve the Nickelodeon network and rain, I am truly thankful!

Colombia is the up-and-coming tourist destination

You better come visit us before it's too late! Read here for more info!

NYR 2-4-11

For Mac having a great time at camp and getting home safely, I am truly thankful!

Friday, February 4, 2011

camp part 3

pre-camp Mac!
My sweet boy is home and bathed. I think he had a really great time despite the following:

1. He threw up this morning. His teacher told me he thought it was from eating too many sweets. (My email buddy from the camp company also came over when I met the bus to make sure I knew.) The reason he looked sad in the breakfast photo I posted earlier is because everybody else got hot chocolate but he had to drink a tea to settle his stomach. The vomiting was a one-off experience, he did it in the bathroom with a counselor with him, and it didn't seem to slow him down after that.

2. I am a bad mother because I didn't send sweets and "everybody else" brought candy with them. A) I followed instructions and did not send candy, and B) you threw up from eating too many contraband sweets. DUH.

3. One of my favorite girls in Mac's class broke her arm last night. She tripped as they walked into the clubhouse and had a nasty break which apparently required surgery to repair. Poor girl.

4. Mac didn't shower or change his clothes, and he informed me that he brushed his teeth with finger. That makes me want to vomit.

5. He didn't complain too much about the food and he only ate a few peanut butter crackers when he got home. It was not the reaction I expected, although he listed all the things that he did not eat that were served to him.

6. Mac said that it was absolutely freezing last night. His sleeping bag and sleeping pad are so dirty that I'm wondering if he didn't realize you're supposed to sleep inside the tent?

post-camp Mac!

random musings about camp (aka Camp Part 2)

1. My email buddy from the camp company dropped the ball a little this morning on her updates. She updated at 7:30am when they had breakfast and then did not post anything again for something like 2.5 hours. I probably hit the refresh button about 87 times in that 2.5 hours alone. I almost sent her email to tell her to get with the program but restrained myself.

2. Speaking of breakfast, I don't think Mac liked what he was served.
In the photo above, Mac is sitting on the right side of the back table. I have seen that sullen expression on his face before. It usually precedes a complaint that goes something like this: "why did you make this for breakfast? You know I hate this kind of food. Why didn't you make me peanut butter toast? You know I always eat that for breakfast when you make this disgusting other stuff that I hate."

And then I look across the table at the poor camp counselor who looks like he's trying to convince him to just try it by saying something like "how do you know you don't like scrambled eggs? On your mother's dissertation that she wrote to get you enrolled in camp, she said you hadn't even eaten scrambled eggs since you were a baby. Maybe you like them now."

P.S. Mr. Camp Counselor, if Mac comes home and says he ate scrambled eggs, I'm going to find you and give you a reward.

3. Not that we were speaking of dinner, but here's a photo from last night's dinner:

Dinner was ajiaco, which is the wonderfully rich, filling, delicious Colombian comfort food soup made with a few types of potatoes, chicken and corn. I have found it to be mildly addictive and could eat it all the time.


Not so much.

So when I look at this picture, I am pleased that his spoon is actually in the bowl and am hopeful that he's at least picking out the chunks of chicken to eat. I am quite sure the potatoes didn't cross his lips (again, there's a reward involved if they did). But I have prayed over and over that they at least had some bread that he could eat to help fill him up. Otherwise, he went to bed hungry - which is totally acceptable if it's because he won't eat the food that I've prepared, but is not acceptable if they were starving my poor, sweet, innocent baby. Jimmy suggested that maybe I should have sent some granola bars but they were very explicit about not sending any food or candy, so I, as the rule follower, did not send anything to eat. I have a feeling he's going to be starving at the 5:30pm pick-up this afternoon.

(For the record, Mac's food pickiness does drive me crazy and I know he'll eat if he's hungry enough. I just don't want his view of camp to be skewed by bad food if he enjoyed everything else. After all, isn't bad food a requirement of camp the world over???)

4. Of course, I did pack all the things that were on the list. Two changes of clothes, a raincoat, another pair of shoes, socks, etc.

I have studied the pictures from yesterday and today, and that boy has not changed his clothes. He still has on the same pants and the shirt and no doubt the same pair of underwear, too.

Thursday morning photo:(notice the gray dinosaur shirt and black track pants)

Friday morning photo:(notice the gray dinosaur shirt and black track pants)

This is exactly why I hate camping. If it's considered acceptable to wear the same clothes two days in a row, then I don't want any part of it. I bet the seal on the shampoo wasn't broken and if I hadn't seen a photo of some girls brushing their teeth this morning, I might have doubts about whether his teeth have been cleaned. YUCK. He will have nice, long shower tonight to get all the grossness off.

I am really happy that I struggled to get everything stuffed in that backpack.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

NYR 2-3-11

For this:

I am truly thankful.

(Mac's in the blue hoodie on the 2nd row of the left side. This is the picture that was posted as the bus was leaving the school this morning. He does look happy to you, right?????)

striking fear in the hearts of mothers everywhere

When you think of four-letter bad words, you may have your idea of what the worst one is that you could hear your child say.

But I'm here to tell you what the very worst one is to a mother's ears:


I'm not talking day camp, my friends. I'm talking about full-fledged spend-the-night(away from your mother) camp.

Don't get me wrong - I've never had a problem with sleepovers. Mac has spent the night with friends and with family, but that's a contained, controlled environment where generally the adults in charge are not outnumbered so severely by the children in the house that they could, say, lose a child in the woods.

But full-fledged spend-the-night (away from your mother) camp? That's a whole different ballgame.

So when I got a notice from Mac's school last fall about this overnight camping deal, I was a little nervous. Okay, a lot nervous. Really more like neurotic, crazy lady, are-you-kidding-me nervous.

For the record, the camp for this age is one night and is located 45 miles away from Bogota. We are not talking China.

I went to the informational meeting for Mac's grade where I was the only American mother in attendance. The rest of the moms were uber-laidback Latina moms who just don't stress about these things because they inherently know that it's all going to be okay.

The school uses a camping company which arranges all the details of the outing. They're members of the US camping associations, they train their counselors well, and most importantly, they belong to an international search and rescue organization so the group always has a GPS with them which will be emergency-activated if, for instance, they get lost in the woods and need some group out of Colorado to come find them.

As you might imagine, I was the only person who asked questions of the camp representative. I am sure I was labeled by the guy as "Crazy Mom" and have a black mark next to my name in their records.

The camp rep said to the audience as he was looking directly and pointedly and only at me, "it's important for mothers to be able to let their children do age-appropriate things on their own and it's important for children to develop the confidence to do these things on their own." And supposedly this camp is going to do just that for both of us.

Yeah, whatever.

"Do you need a chaperone to go on the trip?" was what I wanted to ask.

The end result of the meeting for me was that I was impressed by the company and decided that I could not project my angst onto Mac. So I have been a font of camp encouragement since November. I've bought all the supplies, got him some new pants, I wrote his name in his clothes, I figured out how to pack it all in a little backpack, etc, all the while talking about how much fun camp was going to be, how he was going to be with all his friends, how I wish I could go because he was going to have all the fun, etc.

Last week, I filled out the very detailed form for the camp company about contact information, blood type, health insurance, medicines, etc. Of course, the most neurotic mother on the planet doesn't know her child's blood type - how does that happen? - so we had to get that tested last weekend. But I did write a medical school-worthy dissertation on his medicines. Remember he was on his sinus infection medicinal cocktail at the time? I should have just waited to fill out the form until that was done because boy, did I waste a lot of energy on that part. And that was before I got to the part about allergies. I'm pretty sure they're not going to feed him pistachios or almonds on the camp trip, but I needed to make sure I covered the potential gastric reaction he might have should they go fancy and serve him pistachios instead of hot dogs. He's never even had a respiratory reaction to a nut, but I needed to go into detail about how I was sending the Epi-Pen just in case.


Okay, so then the actual packing began. The packing list was very specific and they said not to bring anything that wasn't on the list. I love a good list so that was right up my alley. Except that the list contained things like 2 pants (not jeans), 2 shirts, 2 pairs of socks, BUT NO UNDERWEAR. I'm sorry. Is he supposed to put on clean clothes with dirty underwear. Gross.

Also the packing list very clearly said that if your child takes medicine, you have to hand over the medicine directly to a camp company representative or a school official. Well today - camp departure day - was "No Car Day" in Bogota (an environmental movement) so the school said that everybody had to come to school by bus, which meant that even though I have diplomatic plates on my car and could drive on "No Car Day", I really couldn't.

You know I like to follow rules, but how was I supposed to get the allergy medicines, the inhaler and the never-used Epi-Pen directly in the hands of camp or school rep?

Needless to say I had to send an email to cover underwear and medicines. Here's the exchange:

Dear Zambo Travel,

My son Mac Story is registered for the Colegio Gran Bretana Year 3 trip to Guatavita on this Thursday and Friday. When I filled out his information sheet, I didn't know his blood type. We had it tested on Saturday and it was B+. Could you add this to his records?

Also, Mac is now off of the antibiotics that were listed on his form and is only taking the Claritin and Singulair tablets at night. I know the packing list said that I have to hand over the meds to the Zambo or school official but he will be arriving at the school with his camping backpack in the bus on Thursday morning. As it's No Car Day on the departure day, I can't drive him to school that morning to personally hand over the medicine. Is it okay if I just put the medicine in his wash kit? Also I will send his asthma inhaler which is only used as necessary.

Finally, on the packing list, a change of underwear isn't listed but I'm assuming we should send a pair???

I promptly got this response from the in-charge woman who probably had reviewed the files and knew that I was the "Crazy Mom" with the black mark by her name. (English is obviously not her first language but I was so grateful that she communicated in English.)

Do not worry about the blood group I will add to his medical record
Send me the medicines in his bag and write me a sheet how I have handled the medicines.

Do not worry, be aware of him

About the underwear send a pair, that’s fine.

If you need something else please let me now

So in an effort to be thankful and self-effacing, I sent this reply:

Thanks so much!! I know I'm the neurotic American mother, but this is his first overnight trip (other than sleepovers at friends and family) and I'm a little paranoid!! I know he'll have a wonderful time!

The subliminal message to this woman was "you better take care of my child because if he is traumatized from this trip or if he eats pistachios and you have to use the Epi-Pen that might have passed its expiration date, I will never forgive you."

She obviously recognized the limitless boundaries of my craziness because her response was:

Don’t worry, I understand.

I take great care

Keep in touch

I'm pretty sure she didn't really mean for me to stay in touch, but felt obligated to say that so the craziness would be quelled.

Suffice it to say that Mac left today for camp and by the pictures that are being posted on the camp company's website (courtesy of the nice lady who promised to take good care of him), he looks like he's having a marvelous time. I'm pretty sure I haven't crossed his mind at all since he got on the bus at 6:30 this morning even though I have hit the refresh button on my computer at least 479 times today to check for updated photos and twitter feeds.

Camp, Part 2, will be forthcoming. I'm signing off for now so Jimmy and I can enjoy date night without paying for a babysitter. There is at least one benefit to my least favorite four-letter word.

NYR 2-2-10

For going to lunch with the girls and ordering a supremely well-cooked piece of grouper with a balsamic reduction in a supremely landlocked city, I am truly thankful.

(And for finding out later that the restaurant is a project with USAID and so I was actually sort of doing a good deed by eating this divine meal, I was even more grateful!)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

NYR 2-1-11 - carrot cake heaven

I don't mean to sound like a braggart, but I really can't help it on this one:

I am a most excellent connoisseur of carrot cake.

I don't have a huge sweet tooth, but carrot cake is an extreme weakness for me and therefore, I have tasted more than my fair share of carrot cakes. I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in the carrot cake department.

Today I saw the really, really, really good.

Let me start from the beginning.

On Saturday, Jimmy, Mac and I were out walking about, doing some errands, when I saw this woman carrying a very nice shopping bag. I'm not a big shopper, but I LOVE a good shopping bag. I have been known to buy something just to get a good shopping bag. You know the kind I'm talking about? The ones that you can re-use over and over before they are ripped beyond repair? Well this looked like one of those kinds of bags. Bogota's got nice shops, but you don't see shopping bags here like you do on the streets of NYC.

So when I saw this bag, I craned by neck around to see where it was from. And I saw this adorable script that said "Home Baked".

A nice shopping bag from a store called Home Baked?? My good fortune astounds even me.

I came home and googled "Home Baked, Bogota" and all I got (that I could understand because there was a lot in Spanish) was a Facebook page for an artisanal bakery here in Bogota.

I checked out the Facebook page, found out where the store is (within walking distance, oh my!), and looked at the most yummy pictures of cupcakes that I've ever seen.

I'm having a little breakfast at my house on Thursday to welcome a new wife into the neighborhood, so I decided to make a quick pit stop there today to see about ordering some muffins for the breakfast. They make adorable mini-muffins (as well as normal-sized ones) that I ordered for Thursday. But in the name of research - since I had literally never tasted anything from this bakery and needed to know what I was serving my guests - I bought 3 carrot cake cupcakes and 1 chocolate chip muffin.

I was sold on the packaging, I have to tell you. I am shallow like that. Everything in this store is pink and very cupcake-y. So they have this cute box that has four slots in it and they stuck the four things I ordered in their own little slots. These cupcakes were Perfection (with a big P) and you wouldn't want the icing and that adorable little marzipan carrot on top to roll around and get stuck to its sister cupcake on the way home. Then they sealed the box up with a cute sticker and they put another sticker on top that said the cupcakes had been prepared with fresh ingredients, no preservatives, etc and were meant to be consumed quickly.

They not only give you a fancy shopping bag to hold that cute sectioned cupcake box in, but they give you permission to eat the contents quickly???

Um, okay.

So I got home with the goods, Mac followed shortly and I served him a cupcake. He devoured the cupcake, but to his credit, he said my cream cheese frosting is better (I love that kid!), but they have cream cheese frosting at this bakery that tastes like cream cheese frosting is supposed to taste.

Do you know how monumental this is, living here in Bogota where Philadelphia Cream Cheese is a relatively expensive commodity?

Then Jimmy got home but had to leave almost as soon as he got home to go back out to a work function. He said he was starving and I said he should eat his cupcake. He walked downstairs and wasn't gone but a minute - surely not long enough to eat a cupcake - before he walked back upstairs and said that was the best carrot cake cupcake he'd ever eaten. I took slight offense but decided if I'd ever put a marzipan carrot on top of my carrot cake cupcakes, he might not have said that.

He left to go to his event, Mac and I ate dinner and I ate my carrot cake cupcake for dessert, and I have to tell you that it was in the top 3 carrot cakes I've ever tasted. We are talking yummy, oh-my-goodness delicious quality. Light, fresh, not-dense carrot cake with real shreds of carrot and lots of cinnamon topped with a big pile of smooth cream cheese frosting. Probably about 1500 calories of Perfection but worth every single one.

Tomorrow afternoon I go back to pick up my mini muffins for the breakfast, so I'll let you know how those are after the party (if they last that long). I got banana nut and red fruit. And while I'm there, I will surely have to buy some more flavors of cupcakes. They had all these yummy things like Rocky Road and key lime. Oh my.

I have a new purpose in life and that is to be the best customer Home Baked has ever had.

So today, for the blessing of Home Baked - with its fancy shopping bags and its customers who wander the streets of Bogota carrying the shopping bags so the rest of us can find out about the store - I am most definitely and sweetly thankful.