Thursday, June 30, 2011

NYR 6-29-11 - clean carpets

Today I got the carpet in our apartment cleaned.

You should not underestimate the power of a clean carpet.

I'm pretty sure there's no such thing as Stainmaster carpet here in the BOG. The carpet in our apartment was brand new when we moved in (with the exception of a couple rooms) but within 3 weeks of our moving in, it already looked dirty. We had that first big work cocktail party and honestly, it was like people just tracked in mud. Then we had another work party that involved children eating brownies on carpeted areas and I don't think I need to elaborate any more on that. Then we had some events where people were out on the balcony and even though there's a huge rug where you enter the house from the balcony, I don't know how many people actually wiped their feet on it.

The carpet was gross and it was depressing me.

I needed to wait until after the going-away party a couple weeks ago but then one of my first priorities was to get the carpet cleaner in.

I left the apartment while he was working but when I came back, he was finishing up and Ruth commented over and over how dirty the water was that he was sucking up. It really makes me want to vomit.

Now I feel like we could lay on the clean carpet (while it lasts) and we wouldn't get a disease.

For clean carpeting with all those pesky stains removed, I am truly thankful.

NYR 6-28-11 - a chef is born

The other day Mac and I made a list of everything we wanted to do during his summer vacation. One of the things I added to the list (which was copied from a friend) was for Mac and me to plan and cook one meal a week together. Even though my mom was a home ec teacher and taught me how to cook, I have zero patience with Mac in the kitchen because a mess always ensues and I hate messes. But I decided he needs to start learning and there's no time like the present.

Mac's first planned meal was spaghetti (no surprise for anybody who knows him well) and salad. I'd thought we'd make the spaghetti sauce from scratch but we were sidetracked by an unexpected trip to the doctor's office for strep throat this morning. So instead we took the easy way out and bought a jar of Prego at the commissary.

When I make spaghetti sauce and put onions in it, Mac will detect nearly every single piece of chopped onion in his sauce and put it to the side of his plate. So when I asked him if wanted to add onion to the ground beef, he characteristically said no. When I told him that was fine but that would mean there wasn't anything to chop, he changed his mind and said we needed to add onions because that "adds so much flavor to the sauce".

So he chopped half an onion for the sauce and half an onion for the trash can (it was just for practice), browned the ground beef, drained off the fat, and added the jarred sauce. He also cut up carrots and cucumbers for the salad and helped me wash the lettuce and broccoli as well.

He also wanted to set the table, complete with glasses that matched the placemats. He even wanted to put a water pitcher on the table so we had to pull out the one that matches the glasses from Mexico we were using. He thought something was still missing from our tablescape so we had to cut off some flowers in another arrangement and put them on the table. It was very, very sweet and he was very, very proud of himself.

Not proud enough to cook every night, though. When I told him how much fun I'd had with him, I asked if he didn't want to cook with me every night of the week. He told me in no uncertain terms that one night a week would be sufficient.

For finding that I really didn't need any great reserve of patience to cook a great meal with my boy, I am truly thankful.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

NYR 6-27-11 - holiday

It's a Monday holiday - again - and for that, I'm truly thankful.

NYR 6-26-11 - a glorious day in the BOG

For an afternoon of fresh air and fun friends, I am truly thankful.

P.S. Mac is not in the photos because he chose a playdate at a friend's house over horses with us. Apparently the lure of a Nerf gun war was just too tempting for an 8 year-old!

NYR 6-25-11 - it's the small things

We have an amazing pepper grinder that we got for a wedding present 13+ years ago from a Georgetown friend of Jimmy's (I think/hope memory's serving me correctly on who it came from in case I'm wrong and the giver is reading this). The grinder was from Williams-Sonoma or Crate or Barrel or some other store like that that had not yet made it to South Carolina (at that point). It was pretty much perfection and I remember thinking that it was one of the nicest things I'd ever gotten.

Fast-forward 13+ years and the pepper grinder lives on. It is used at least once a day if not more and it still works perfectly. And it's still as beautiful today as it was then. Form + Function = BIG WINNER.

So I thought the pepper grinder needed a mate and some years ago I bought a salt grinder. Where I bought it, I don't remember. Except that it wasn't a high-quality place like the grinder came from. I did buy a wooden one to match the pepper grinder. They were like the Mr. and Mrs. of my kitchen counter.

Except the Mrs. died in the last few months. No matter how full of salt she is and no matter how tight you have her head screwed on, when you turn the grinder, nothing comes out.

Today I bought a new salt grinder with a gift certificate I received for my birthday from a local store here in Bogota. I've been thinking about what to buy/what I need for the last couple months and this morning it came to me in a flash of inspiration.

The new Mrs. sort of feels like a trophy wife for the Mr. They didn't have wooden ones at the store, so the new Mrs. is a sleek glass and stainless steel number. She would make the first Mrs. feel sort of frumpy and dumpy in her modest wooden shell that covers her innards.

I couldn't bring myself to throw the old one away yet, even though she absolutely does not work and never will again. I put her in the pantry next to the honey where maybe she'll find happiness as somebody's else's Mrs.

For a new salt grinder that actually works, I am truly thankful!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

NYR 6-24-11 - happy dance

Today is a day that shall live in infamy!

It is the last day of 2nd grade for my sweet Mac. And while I could wax nostalgic about how sad it is that he's moving up and growing older and becoming less dependent, what we're all really excited about is that starting tomorrow morning, we don't have to set an alarm clock for 5:45am for the next 8 weeks.

Can I tell you how happy that makes me?

For finally being able to get on a summer schedule, I am truly thankful!

NYR 6-23-11 - 'tis the season

It's high despedida season here in the foreign service world. We were invited to two going-away parties tonight, there's another tomorrow night, and yet another on Saturday night. Tonight we both went to the first one and then Jimmy went to the second one alone while I stayed at the first. I don't particularly like going out on a "school night" because normally I'm in the bed by 8:30 (or 9 if I'm living on the edge) and the alarm clock goes off the same time at 5:45am no matter how much sleep I've gotten, but I had such a fun time tonight. Great food and company that was completely hysterical. Before I knew it, it was 10pm!

For a fun night outside of the box, I am truly thankful.

NYR 6-22-11 - awards day

This afternoon Jimmy and I attended the awards ceremony for "Key Stage 2" at CGB. Key Stage 2 for you non-Anglophiles is years 3, 4, 5, and 6, which in the US, translates to 2nd through 5th grades. (As you might can guess, Mac's not the only one who's been educated this year!)

The school is really good about sending an email to let you know that your child is getting an award so you can be sure to be present. So we knew Mac was getting something, and Mac really hoped it for something "cool" like PE.

He was a little disappointed to get the Colombian Culture Student award because that's not nearly as "cool" as PE. But as a mother, I couldn't be more proud. We know he can run fast and throw a baseball, but to get an award for studying Colombian culture? You have to work a little harder at that because it's not natural.

For my Colombian Culture award-winner, I am truly thankful!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

watching Wimbledon

This morning I've been very lazy and have done nothing more strenuous than lift my coffee cup, make up our bed, take a shower, and watch women's tennis at Wimbledon.

If you were a blog reader last year, you may remember that I attended some matches at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston where I saw Bethanie Mattek-Sands play. You can read about that here for a memory refresher. You can also scroll down the post if you just want to see a photo of her outfit.

Did you see her warm-up jacket when she entered the court at Wimbledon today?

I give you the tennis ball jacket!
She's something else. The commentator called her the Lady Gaga of women's tennis, and I think he got it exactly right!

Gotta run - the tennis calls!

NYR 6-21-11 - last week of school

For only three more wake-ups before summer vacation, I am truly thankful!

NYR 6-20-11 - thankful for my blessings

Today I helped out at a "fun day" that Mac's school organized for the students of a less fortunate school that they've partnered with. There are events throughout the year with the other school - a Christmas party with presents, a health fair, this fun day, etc - and the students at both schools have a chance to mingle with each other.

As one of exactly three parent volunteers who were there, one of my "jobs" was to wander around the school's sports complex where the event was taking place and make sure that each of the 120+ students from the partner school had a CGB student partner (of which there were more than enough for one-on-one partnering). There were bouncy castles, art stations, parachuting games with water balloons, snacks and lunch, plus the kids could play on the soccer field and playground equipment.

I helped at the art table for awhile and then spotted a young teenaged girl sitting by herself. I went over to talk to her and asked if she didn't want to participate in any of the activities. She was 14 years old and didn't talk a whole lot but she though she was too old for the bouncy castles, she didn't want to play soccer because there were no other girls playing, and her friends were off doing other stuff so she was okay just sitting under the tree by herself.

She was such a beautiful girl. She answered all my questions so I eventually learned that she's the oldest of 6 children, she has 3 cousins and 1 sibling who attend this school, she likes to cook and she cooks a lot for her family, and she wants to be a singer. We walked around some and she did eventually do an art project, she introduced me to her school's director, she pointed out her cousins and brother, and then finally she ran off to play her friends.

No matter where we live, and that includes when we're back in the US, I always have a moment (or a thousand) where I think "there but for the grace of God". We don't have an extravagant lifestyle by any means but I'm sure to this young girl, it seems that way. Or if not extravagant, then at least my life must seem a lot easier than hers from the outside looking in. And it is a lot easier than hers just by a stroke of good DNA luck and divine intervention that allowed me to be born where I was, to the parents I was born to, in the part of the world where I was born.

For the blessings of my life, I am truly thankful.

NYR 6-19-11 - Father's Day

There are two things (or people!) I'm particularly thankful for on this Father's Day:

1) My father was a wonderful, gentle soul and I do believe my siblings and I were the luckiest people in the world to have him as our male role model. He taught by example and I'm sure I chose Jimmy as a husband based on some of the qualities he shares with my father.

2) Jimmy is exactly the only person that I would have ever wanted to father my child. He's a wonderful, hands-on, roll-on-the-ground sort of dad to Mac and I know Mac is learning examples of how to be a great husband to his future wife and how to parent his own children one day.

For celebrating two great men on this special day, I am truly thankful.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

NYR 6-18-11 - time to bid adieu

After moving around in the Foreign Service for over 13 years now (YIKES!), one thing that I will never get used to is the constant hail and farewell-ing. There are always people coming and going, arriving and leaving. The arriving part I don't mind so much because I find the change energizing, but the leaving - whether it's my own departure or that of good friends - really gets me down.

Jimmy and I grew up in a small town where people stay. There are not a lot of people who move in and once you're there, you pretty much stay there. The kind of place where the regulars know if somebody from off comes into the local breakfast joint. The kind of place where you sit on the same pew in church every Sunday and you know when somebody new comes to church because they sit on an already-claimed pew.

We are now those people who sit on an already-claimed pew in other cities around the world. And even as we go back home in a couple weeks for summer vacation, I already know that I'll have to re-introduce myself to people at the church I grew up in and duck down aisles in the grocery store after seeing somebody who looks vaguely familiar to me but who will have absolutely zero idea of who I am and who will be wondering who the newbie in town is.

But I digress from my original point.

We've been pretty "lucky" over the years to leave post either at the same time or ahead of our closest friends. It really makes the departure so much easier if you're ahead of the curve.

But alas, we're not ahead of the curve this time.

On Saturday night, we hosted a farewell party for our dear friends Cammy and Chuck.


I met Cammy on an embassy field trip back in September and loved her instantly but didn't re-connect with her until October when she invited me to bunco at her house. She's funny, doesn't take herself or anybody else too seriously, and always, always, always makes me laugh. She's been my tennis buddy, my confidante, lunch partner, recipe-sharer, fellow explorer in a new country, and all-around picker-upper when I needed a picker-upper. "What you see is what you get" is one of the many things I love about Cammy. I'm going to miss that girl.

For great friends, wonderful memories, and knowing that we'll meet again, I am truly thankful.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

NYR 6-17-11 - a girly day

I woke up sooooo tired this morning and really intended to lay myself right back down after I got Mac on the bus. I didn't even make coffee first thing like normal because I was so intent on going back to sleep.

I'm not a napper so why I thought I'd just be able to fall back asleep an hour after waking up is beyond me.

I tried to rest on the couch but kept thinking about all that I should be doing in anticipation of the party we're hosting tomorrow night. Nothing kills a nap attempt like a brain that won't stop churning.

And what I really wanted and needed and craved was a cup of coffee.

Just at the point when I was going to make a pot of coffee, a friend called and asked if I wanted to meet her at my favorite breakfast place.


I'd not had a shower and my cowlicks were doing their bedhead routine, but I put on some clean clothes, brushed my teeth again, and marched myself right over there and had a ball. It was exactly what I needed when I needed it.

I was home by 11 when another friend came over to resolve some computer issues and have lunch. Still no shower, cowlicks standing tall and proud, but I had such a great visit.

I love my gal-pals!

For hours of girl time with two of my most favorite people, I am truly thankful.

NYR 6-16-11 - a quiet house

It has been a CRAZY few weeks. Just a lot going on personally for all of us and professionally for Jimmy.

For the last week, Jimmy's 21 year-old niece and her friend have been visiting. It's been wonderful to have them here and to show them Bogota, but when they left with Jimmy at 6:20am for the airport and Mac left at 6:40am for school, I have to admit that I loved having an empty house all to myself (knowing that with just one week of school left, there will be no more empty house for me for the next couple months!).

For enjoying some peace and quiet, in blissful solitude, I am truly thankful!

NYR 6-15-11 - market day

Today I went to the fabulous fruit/veg/flower market to buy flowers in anticipation of a party we are hosting this weekend. I was going to take photos to show you what I got but that hasn't happened, so let me just tell you what I bought for $18:

- 25 white roses
- 3 bunches of alstroemeria
- 24 stems of red gladiolus
- 24 stems of heliconia (with greenery)

For an apartment full of flowers at bargain-basement prices, I am truly thankful.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

NYR 6-14-11 - sayonara speech

Mac got the official all-clear from his speech therapist today and we are all ever-so-happy about this.

Mac started speech therapy last year at Pinewood because his teacher noticed he had a problem with "s" sounds. Sometimes they came out as more of a "sh" sound and not a clean "s" sound. (I blame this on the fact that as he was cementing his English vocabulary at a young age, he was also learning Brazilian Portuguese which has a heavy emphasis on "sh" sounds, and I was sure he'd outgrow it in due time.)

Mac participated in group speech therapy once or twice a week in 1st grade, and I have to tell you that I saw absolutely no improvement whatsoever. But because he'd received speech therapy and had an IEP that recommended continued therapy - and because I was honest on the medical clearance form for the State Department - he was given a lower medical clearance than what we always get and I was told he'd have to continue speech therapy or be discharged by an embassy-vetted therapist to regain the top clearance.

I sat on this for the first 6 months we were here because he really balked at the idea of more therapy. I felt like he had enough changes and adapting to do without adding therapy to the mix.

At his well-child check-up in January, I discussed therapy with the embassy doctor who referred us to a wonderful American therapist whose husband works at the embassy. She was just starting to take new patients and she agreed to do his evaluation.

She and Mac hit it off right away because it turns out she's from South Carolina AND her family pulls for the Gamecocks. Mac was sold.

During the initial evaluation, she identified the issue immediately in a way that had never been verbalized to us. He was diagnosed with a production issue of /s/ and /z/ phonemes in "multisyllabic words with the target phonemes in all positions of these words (initial, medial and final and consonant clusters)".

(Do you like how official that looks? In her reports, the speech therapist always puts the "s" and the "z" between those brackets and I really like how medical and official and speech therapy-ish it looks.)

The great thing for us as parents was that we knew exactly what the problem was. It wasn't every "s" or "z" that he pronounced - which we knew from listening to him in conversation. It was more often words like butterscotch and Shakespeare that threw his pronunciation off.

By the time we met for our post-initial evaluation meeting, she had already researched different programs that would specifically help with these letters. She instilled confidence that this was readily treatable and she gave us hope that if we worked hard, we'd be done sooner rather than later.

Mac really likes her and doesn't mind the therapy, which has just been for 30 minutes once a week. What he minds is that those 30 minutes fall during the first half of his lunch/recess break. So while he's in therapy, his friends are eating and by the time he gets out of therapy, they're on the playground and he's in the cafeteria. This causes serious drama in an 8 year-old's world.

I may not be the tiger mother with the violin, but the tiger comes out when it comes to getting my boy out of speech therapy. We religiously did the homework she sent home each week and if we heard the "slushy s or z" sound in conversation, we asked him to repeat the word again.

So it was with great relief and tremendous happiness and celebration that she discharged him today. She made him sign a contract that we'd work for 20 minutes a day four times a week on directed speech exercise - we can play games, he can read out loud, discuss a movie, etc. - and we have to correct any slushy sounds we hear. He has to do that until October and if he doesn't, per the contract, speech therapy "will resume at CGB during lunchtime on Tuesdays". She's clever, that speech therapist, because she knows how much he dislikes being there during lunch.

For Mac being discharged from speech therapy, I am sooooooo grateful!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

NYR 6-13-11 - our landlord

I'm pretty sure we have the best landlord in Bogota.

We don't have much contact with him as usually everything goes through the embassy to him. But when we had water damage from the excessive rains, we established a great working relationship and for those particular repairs, it's been easier for us to arrange repairs directly than through the embassy middleman.

Our landlord raised 5 kids in our apartment so it feels a little indulgent to me - especially in front of him - to have all these bedrooms for just us and Mac. Because he has such a sentimental attachment to the apartment, he's very concerned about keeping the apartment in the best shape as possible. He's super-attentive to any problems we have that fall under his responsibility.

Early this morning, as scheduled, he came with a contractor who would later in the morning return to scrape the water damage off the ceiling and wall, re-plaster the damaged area, and paint. Just like that, the ugly water stains and water bubbles are gone.

I love our landlord.

For having such an awesome, responsive landlord, who's the perfect older Colombian gentleman who's always dressed in a suit, and who always compliments me on how nice the apartment looks every time he's here, I am truly thankful.

NYR 6-12-11 - shoot 'em up

Today we went back to El Tambor, the same restaurant out in the country we visited for the first time last week. We went with three other families and enjoyed a great lunch together before we headed out to the paintball targets. Now I had no intention of shooting the paintball gun but everybody got caught up in it and I decided to shoot.

And I hate to toot my horn, but guess what? I out-shot everybody.

And "everybody" in this case includes a current US Marine, a former US Marine, a British Special Forces agent and, of course, Jimmy, who considers himself a good shot.

If you need protection, you should hang with me because I'm pretty much a force to be reckoned with when I'm packing a paintball gun.

Questioning how this thing works. I'm not really sure how to even hold it

Serious concentration

Did I hit a target?

Oh yeah!

For being a paintball protege (HA!), I am truly thankful.

NYR 6-11-11 - Andres Carne de Res

Cousins Arden and Mac with members of the roving Andres "cast"

Today we joined a big group from the embassy for an afternoon trip to Andres Carne de Res. Andres is the weirdest restaurant I've ever visited, but it's a don't-miss for visitors and since we have visitors, we couldn't miss the trip! It's always great food and a great (if strange) show, and we enjoyed the great company as well.
Our friend Jack with "Monchito", a ventriloquist's "puppet" who was part of Saturday's entertainment

For a great afternoon introducing Arden and her friend to Andres Carne de Res and enjoying the company of embassy friends, I am truly thankful.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

NYR 6-10-11 - violin concert survival

Mac is tallest boy closest to the front

As much as I want to be the Tiger Mother, I am not.

Mac is supposed to practice the violin 15 minutes a day (or maybe it's supposed to be 20?), and I don't enforce that.

Because it's painful for everybody involved.

So it was with fear for my child's failure that we went to the music concert at school this morning. Fear because in an 11th hour fit of desperation, I actually made Mac practice the violin a lot in the last week and let's just say that he didn't sound so hot. He blamed it on a bow problem. I blamed it on a lack of parental enforcement of practice.

The beginning violins were the first performers in the 2nd and 3rd grader concert. And I am so pleased to tell you that they pulled off "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and numerous variations without a real hitch. Mac looked great and his bow was always in line with the kids who I know can play the violin well.

Whew. I feel like we dodged a bullet.

Because he was first, I could enjoy the rest of the concert, which included everything from beginning guitars playing "The Girl from Ipanema" to a rousing rendition of "Billie Jean" played on xylophones complete with a human beat box and two girl singers. This was not your mother's 2nd and 3rd grade music concert.

For surviving a year of violin and living to tell the tale, I am truly thankful.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

NYR 6-9-11 - lots to be thankful for...

1. We have loads of hot water and no gas leak now.

2. We got to play with new tennis balls at my joint tennis class today. We've been playing with very old balls and the new ones finally arrived. Opening a can of tennis balls at 8500 feet makes a lot of noise!

3. I got a manicure today while my friend Cammy got a pedicure. My fingernails are rocking the red.

4. We went to a surprise birthday party for a Colombian friend tonight at a Peruvian restaurant that we've been wanting to try for ages. Sadly, they didn't start serving food before we took off for the airport (see below), but the restaurant was beautiful and we know we have to go back.

5. Our niece and her friend arrived safely tonight for a week's visit.

Life is good and for that, I am truly thankful.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

NYR 6-8-11 - the gas man cometh

Yesterday in my baking frenzy, a gas inspector showed up at my apartment. The doorman told me he was coming and checking all the apartments, so I assumed it was legitimate. He had the little meter thing that pegged out if it detected gas. We have a gas range and a gas water heater. The gas to the range didn't peg out but the water heater connection did. Turns out we have a gas leak! So he shut off the gas heater, which left us with our little electric heater which contains enough water for each of us to take a nice, 2-minute shower before we run out of hot water.

I also got a lecture about having the water heaters in a wooden closet. I told the gas inspector that the embassy rented the apartment for us and that I had no authority to remove the closet doors. (Plus there are vents inside the closet that vent out to the outside, so I don't think there's really any risk.)

While he was writing up his report, I got nervous that this could be some sort of scam so I called our maintenance contact at the embassy to let him speak directly to the gas inspector. He told the inspector that the embassy would send a contractor out to repair the problem, so the inspector left and told me he'd be back for a re-inspection.


Well let me tell you that you don't get a maintenance issue resolved with the embassy any faster than when you cry "gas leak".

At 4:45pm, the maintenance contact from the embassy showed up with the contractor to review the problem and I was promised that the contractor would return on Wednesday morning at 9am.

And guess what? He was here today at 9am as promised.

I really thought all he was going to do was change the connection from the heater into the gas line, but I heard all this dismantling going on and before I knew it, he'd taken the whole closet apart.

Apparently only I thought the "no wooden closet" requirement was stupid. Either that, or they know the gas inspection is serious business and that we won't pass the re-inspection with the wooden closet still there since it was officially in the report. Maybe the gas inspector cuts off the gas after a second fail???

The gas has still not been turned back on because the embassy guy has to come tomorrow to inspect it. Then I guess we wait for the gas man to come back for the "real" inspection. But in the meantime I can take a shower and run the dishwasher at the same time.

For hopefully correcting my gas leak but leaving me with two naked, ugly water heaters just sitting there looking hideous, I am partly truly thankful.

NYR 6-7-11 - a day in the kitchen

Today I was very, very industrious. I got myself roped into baking for a bake sale this weekend and this has just weighed heavily on me ever since I opened my big mouth. These women who roped me in weren't happy with just a pan of brownies. They required hard-core commitment to baking, which, as you know, I don't like to do at this altitude.

So to conquer what I call "negative anticipation" associated with all this awful baking, I decided to knock it all out this afternoon at tennis.

I got banana and pumpkin breads and pecan pies all baked and ready to go. I also cooked enough chicken chili for 24 people so I could serve it at my book club supper on Wednesday night and freeze tons for us for easy meals. Then I made some easy add-water blueberry muffins because Mac wanted those.

By the time I was done, my back and legs were killing me, but I WAS DONE!

For crossing a lot of monkey-on-my-back things off my list, I am truly thankful.


Today was some Colombian holiday. I love Monday holidays so much. Especially when school is stillllllllll going on. and on. and on.

For a Monday holiday (with the sun still shining), I am truly thankful.

NYR 6-5-11 - La Calera

When the sun is shining in Bogota, there's nowhere better to be. And today was one of those days. We rode bikes on the ciclovia and then drove 30 minutes out of town to a lovely place called La Calera where we ate at a simple, but fabulous restaurant called El Tambor. It was glorious. The afternoon in pictures....

For a beautiful day in the beautiful sun with my beautiful family, I am truly thankful.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

NYR 6-4-11 - a wet Saturday

Today was a nasty, cold, wet day here in Bogota. The temperature never got over 60 and because it was so chilly outside and we have no central heating in our apartment, the temperature inside the apartment was a cool 63 degrees maximum.

Jimmy had to go on a day work trip, so Mac and I were left to our own devices. We were supposed to have tennis lessons and for once, Mac was excited because a friend was going to take the class with him. And of course, we got rained out. We also had a lunch date arranged with a friend, but we moved that up to brunch when tennis got cancelled. I love eating out, but it was cold and damp and really all I wanted to do was lay on the couch all day. But there was no laying on the couch because then it was the grocery store and an engagement party.

For a long day in bad weather finally ending, I am truly thankful.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

NYR 6-3-11 - I love Mac's school

This morning, I attended an annual meeting at CGB where the principal and the head of the primary school talk about the achievement of the school's goals for the current year and what next year's goals are.

There's such an emphasis on developing critical thinking skills at CGB and I LOVE THAT. Mac gets to do all these open-ended assignments expressly for the purpose of developing his thinking skills. It's not just worksheets and rote memorization.

Jimmy and I discuss all the time that we're pretty sure we didn't get to do any open-ended assignments until high school when we took AP classes. Mac's brain is going to be so much sharper than we could have ever dreamed for ourselves or even him.

Of course, the downside of this is that we'll lose every argument we ever have with him, but we'll cross that bridge later.

For never once questioning our choice of school here in Bogota, I am truly thankful.

Friday, June 3, 2011

NYR 6-2-11 - coming home (for Jimmy)

I got home from Cartagena about 6pm on Wednesday evening, while Jimmy left for an overnight trip for work around lunchtime on Wednesday. Lest you think we left Mac in charge of the house between his arrival after-school and my arrival after-trip, do not fret. Ruth was on the scene and assured me she'd keep it all under control.

Jimmy got home tonight about 6:15 from his trip and we were really glad he was home.

For being together as a family again (even after a short 2-day stint), I am truly thankful.

NYR 6-1-11 - coming home!

For coming home from an overnight trip to a happy boy, I am truly thankful.

NYR 5-31-11 - Cartagena-bound!

Today Cammy and I left on an early-morning flight to Cartagena to enjoy an overnight trip sans husbands and children. We stayed at my favorite hotel (where they upgraded us from a regular room to a 2-story suite!), enjoyed the fabulous pool at the Santa Clara, walked around the walled city, and enjoyed an amazing dinner at El Santissimo. It was a really great day!

For a great friend to share a great trip with (and who I'm going to miss terribly when she leaves in 3 weeks), I am truly thankful.

NYR 5-30-11 - Memorial Day

For men and women who have fought and died to give me the life of freedom I enjoy, I am truly thankful.

NYR 5-29-11 - thankful to be alive, part 2

In continuing with my "thankful to be alive" series, courtesy of our overnight trip to Tobia, I would now like to share with you the story of our white water rafting trip on Sunday.

Friends had done this same trip a couple months ago and they assured me that it was entirely safe and suitable for children. Lots of floating with a few minor "thrills".

With that recommendation and the assurance of the hotel people that kids go rafting on this river all the time, I insisted that Mac go on the trip with us (even though the river looked really, really rough from our hotel's vantage point).

Everything started out well enough. We got our little security briefing, put on helmets and life jackets and started out in one of two boats that took our group down the river. Jimmy and a new friend were in the front, Mac was in the middle between Jimmy and me, Jimmy's Georgetown friend and I were in the back row and the guide was in the way back.

The river is really swollen from all the rain over the last few months. It was very chopppy and fast. Not the little float trip that I'd envisioned.

We hit the first rapids as soon as we put in but it was all good, even though I was a nervous wreck and grabbed onto the back of Mac's life jacket whenever we hit any patch of rough water. It's a wonder that we didn't both fall in.

The trouble for me came when our companion boat in front got sucked into a whirlpool. Our boat came through the rapids at the top of the whirlpool, but there was nowhere to go because we were stuck between the whirlpool and the other boat. We could not escape the whirlpool which sucked in the front corner of the boat, opposite of me. The lower that corner of the boat got, the higher my end of the boat went until I was thrown out.

Time really did slow down to a stop then because as I was flying out of the boat, I could see that I was going to land on what looked like a smooth surface that I assumed was a rock over which the water was flowing to form the rapids and creating the whirlpool in which the boat was stuck. I didn't hit rock thankfully but I immediately got swept under the water, under the boat and then eventually re-surfaced, backwards, downstream from our boat and upstream from the second boat. The water was really choppy so every time I tried to catch a breath, I got a mouthful of dirty river water. It was impossible to breathe because the water just kept coming in. I got turned around to face downstream and I spotted another helmet in the water ahead of me. The helmet was very still and facing away from me. All I could think was that the person inside the helmet had hit his head on a rock and was unconscious.

And I was convinced that person was Mac.

I kicked to get over to the helmet, grabbed the back of the life jacket and discovered it was Jimmy's grad school friend. I hung on until we got to the other boat.

All I can remember as I was hanging on the side of their boat before being pulled in was asking over and over whether Mac was in his boat. Then I remember whacking a woman in the head with my paddle which somehow I'd managed to hang onto. I hope she wasn't seriously injured - I forgot to ask her afterwards.

This incident happened maybe a quarter of the way into the trip and I was perfectly and completely miserable for the rest of the time. Any ripple in the water was a cause for alarm and I was terrified until we pulled out.

(As an aside, another group of embassy people went rafting the next day. That group included the friends who'd been a few months ago and who said it was child-friendly. They also had a very harrowing experience and said they'd never go again and had the river a couple months ago been as rough as it was on this recent trip, they wouldn't have allowed their young children to go, much less themselves!)

In any event, I believe I am done forever with rafting. Forget conquering fears. I'm into self-preservation now. I honestly think I'd have a panic attack if I ever tried to start a rafting trip in the future. I keep reminding myself that everything turned out just fine - nobody was injured and everybody's alive - but my mind's eye replays it over and over with horrible endings. I think this is a sign of PTSD.

I leave you with two photos which capture my feelings on this particular trip:
This picture was taken by the tour operators early in the trip when I was still able to smile.

This photo was taken by my friend Cammy (whose family was in the first boat) as we passed the hotel. My anguish is evident.

For being alive and for knowing that I never have to experience Tobia ever again, I am so truly thankful.