Monday, May 30, 2005

Robin and the public health system

Things were moving along at their normal pace this morning; breakfast had been consumed, animals fed, snack prepared. Robin was getting dressed for school. She said she had an itchy spot on her leg and wanted me to put something on it. It looked like a mosquito bite at the very top of her leg. Except that it was as big as my hand.

ASIDE: She's sitting on my lap right now, watching me type. I intentionally didn't start with her name, but as soon as I wrote it she asked why I had. Just now, she sat up and pointed at the last paragraph and said "That says big." And when I just wrote that, she informed me that it said big again.

So I put stuff on her leg, then pulled up the elastic of her little school bloomers to check along the top edge and see if I'd gotten all of it. Um, nope. That was when I noticed another one just like it at the top of her other leg, and glory be they were actually just two extensions of one big spot that started just below her belly button and which I was beginning to think wasn't really much like a mosquito bite at all. She had small blotches on her abdomen and most of her back was involved. Okaaaay.

I called Yolanda to find out what you have to do to go to the local clinic. Here's what you have to do: you go to the local clinic. Then you wait in line. So that's what we did. We got there at ten of seven, and they opened at seven. There were about 35 people ahead of us in the line. Some had appointments for this morning and some were making appointments for today. I wasn't sure whether to try to get an appointment, or ask them to see her as an "emergency" case. When we were just about up to the window (about an hour later), the secretary told the lady two places ahead of me that they were all out of appointments for today. So I asked them to see her as a "caso urgente." There was a sign on the window outlining some things that are and are not considered emergencies, but allergic reactions (which I figured this was) weren't on either side of the list.

(In case you're wondering, "injuries more than 8 hours old" are not an emergency. "Elderly people" apparently are.)

In any case, the secretary didn't ask why I wanted her worked in, just asked for her age and next of kin (well, emergency contact) and had us go back and wait again. We were called in around 8:15. The doctor was very nice, but didn't actually DO very much, like even take a close look at her. I lowered her pants a little to show him the spots on her legs, and he could see the spots that had spread from her back to her upper arms because she was wearing a sleeveless shirt, but he didn't actually lift her shirt to look at her chest or back.

He listened to her lungs (through the shirt) and pronounced her a "very allergic child." He prescribed an injection, a course of steroids (one pill at night for 10 days), and a liquid antihistamine. It seemed like a lot of medication to me, and I did ask what each thing was, but he was brisk and didn't seem inclined to explain beyond "it's a steroid" or "it's anti-allergic."

He did say that the fact that the reaction is symmetrical indicates that it was something she ate, not a bug bite. He mentioned chocolate and tomatoes, which have never been a problem for her, and then said artificial coloring is sometimes a problem. That sounded more likely, since she did have a very cheap ice cream cone at a street fair in the Bajo yesterday, so we're operating on the assumption that it had some particularly evil version of pink food coloring in it. (Which just now made me wonder if the reaction would have been more severe if she'd gotten a straight-up strawberry cone instead of strawberry/vanilla twist. Julia had the exact same thing but did not have a reaction to it.)

He also told me to make an appointment to bring her in for a regular visit so they could set up a file on her and establish her as a patient to keep track of it.

We were sent back to the waiting room and after ten or fifteen minutes were called in for the injection. The girls' vaccinations were a major tragic event last year, and Robin started to get anxious, then was distracted by the lego toys on the table. I told her Mom's dad's advice about relaxing the relevant body part, and she seemed willing to try it. But when the nurse came in and got the shot ready she got panicky again. I got her on the table but she wouldn't turn over, and got a death grip on her pants. There was no screaming though, and the whole thing did seem to be a shade less traumatic than the vaccinations. I noted that her back was starting to clear up, but the nurse may have thought I was hinting that she not get the injection because he said no, this was a "strong" allergic reaction. I asked him about the fact that she's never had anything like this before, but he said it's not that unusual for something like this to happen even if there's no history of it.

The other two medications were apparently things that the public health system doesn't carry, so we had to go to the pharmacy. Fortunately, there's a new one right up here in our neighborhood so it was a good excuse to stop by there. The pharmacist was the most forthcoming of everyone we dealt with today, and took the time to discuss the situation, likely culprits, etc.

He agreed that the ice cream was likely to have been the source of it. It was soft ice cream from a machine, but he said that at a street fair like that it's possible that the vendor had prepared the stuff himself, maybe using cheaper colorings that are not as common in more commercially prepared foods.

He called the clinic to see if he could give us a syrup instead of pills, which Robin has never had to swallow before. The doctor said yes, but it turns out the pills are quite small and the syrup a lot more expensive, so I got the pills (10 for $1.90), which the pharmacist said can be crushed and mixed with something or stirred into water. I mixed the first one into a little jelly for her. She didn't make too many faces, but she thinks we need more jelly for tomorrow's pill.

The antihistamine is a weensy bottle of syrup ($7.60), which he said often has one of two effects on children: it can wind them up or knock them out. Oh goody. He said to give it to her for at least four or five days, longer if necessary, and that the rash would take several days to go away. (Except that it's 6:30 p.m. now and the thing is pretty much gone.)

He also made me feel better about "so much medication," particularly the shot. I know respiratory distress (which Robin did not have) can be part of a severe allergic reaction, but I didn't know that it often follows the skin reaction. He said it was good that she'd already had the shot.

Anyway, we had left home at 6:45, the exact time we usually leave for school, and got home at 10:00, 15 minutes before I would normally go back to pick her up.

She had her first dose of the antihistamine at 1:00 p.m. I had forgotten about the possible side effects of the stuff, until she up and went to sleep for two hours. Now I don't mean to put this on a par with rediscovering an entire branch of the family, but I'd be lying if I said my gut reaction to medicine that does not make Robin hyper wasn't WooHoo!

Wonder what the nightly steroids will do.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

New Cousins! WooHoo!

Well, technically maybe they're more "long lost" than new. But I stand by the WooHoo.

Sorry I missed you guys on the phone this weekend, although maybe I was also a teensy bit relieved, just because good god what do you SAY to long-lost cousins on the phone? Not for the whole conversation, but right there at the very beginning? What's the first line?

So instead I got to talk ABOUT you, right after you left. (There, now doesn't that make you feel special?) And you got to talk to Lisa, which I'm told can be a lot like talking to me, although frankly I never feel like I'm talking to myself, so who's to say, really?

Anyway, apparently it was great and everybody loved everybody and how cool is that. New cousins! New aunt! New cousinlets! In-laws, even! Again, WooHoo! (Okay, okay, not new...)

Here are the pajama angels keeping me from hearing all about it talking to Grandma before I bundled them off to bed.

(Hmmmm. Learned something about the page template there...putting those pictures side by side does subtly whacky things to the page layout and background image, at least at this resoulution. Oh well, it's worth it.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

40% there

Two teeth. She lost two teeth at school today. Does that even happen? That makes eight our of 20: of the four upper & four lower, she has three adult teeth in, and five, count 'em, five holes.

South Park etc.

So here's the family portrait from our visit to South Park:

It seems the witty photographer kept the shutter open a whit too long, so we also got a candid shot:

(I found this at Paper Napkin. Click here to make your own.)

* - * - * - * - *

You know how mothers are supposed to be able to tell why the baby is crying by the way it sounds? (Personally I think that generalization is a little broad. Sure, you learn the language after a while, but it's not like it kicks in at birth.) Anyway, I've noticed a similar thing with the dogs. You can tell the "Hey, think I'll be obnoxiously loud at 2:00 a.m." from the "You'reAStrangerGetOutOfHereNOW."

So in the early evening the other day Scruffy was doing the "something's-weird-and-I'm-not-sure-I-like-it." He kept focusing on this one dark spot on the step, so I went out and found a really big beetle kind of thing. I got a piece of paper and moved it over to the fence then, after it was too late, I thought I should have taken a picture of it to share with you.

It apparently agreed, because it sent its slightly smaller sibling in with the recycling that my neighbor dropped off yesterday. Unfortunately my closeup came out blurry, so all I have is this one with Fifí, and the bug just looks like a cockroach. But it's not. I don't photograph cockroaches, so this is clearly not one. But now I'm thinking, why is this beetle so impressive, if Costa Rican cockroaches are pretty much the same size? It must be the added bulk. And NOW I'm thinking, why even bother posting the picture...this whole segment has gotten a little anticlimactic. Oh well, judge for yourself.

* - * - * - * - *

That tooth of Robin's is still hanging on. She's mostly okay with it, most of the time. It's number seven, and the eighth is pretty loose too. The adult teeth are pretty well in for the ones that fell out first, but she's still got about three spaces, plus the two loose ones. If this keeps up she's gonna look like she's wearing those Hillbilly teeth they sell at...where DO they sell those things? I know I've seen them but I can't think where.

* - * - * - * - *

Today is Wednesday and I still have a few sheets of Friday's newspaper left. Haven't even touched the Monday one I bought. Tina has kept herself under control--day and night--since Sunday, and the last time the cat decided it was too dangerous to do her thing outside, she climbed into the bathroom trash and peed there. On trash day. So that's a little weird but, frankly, convenient.

* - * - * - * - *

Where else but in motherhood do you get to hear conversations like this:

"Garbage! I see garbage!"
"You missed it."

Monday, May 23, 2005

Reason #1 to love Costa Rica

The Baked Goods Guy

Every two weeks or so, at no particular time of day, a guy comes to my gate with a tray of homemade baked goods. The first three times they were donuts (so I was mistakenly thinking of him as "The Donut Guy." Boy is my face red.) But today he had banana cake. Big, hefty, moist, hold-you-off-till-dinner chunks of banana cake for $0.42 each.

(Please note that this is not the leading reason to love Costa Rica. It's just the first one I've felt inclined to announce.)

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Odds are...

So the girls and I met Jose and Yolanda for a drink this evening, as we usually do on Saturdays. The girls were, as always, bopping in and out and around our immediate table area, but mostly in. They were playing one of their favorite games, where one of them hides something in one hand, and an adult has to guess which hand. Often it's not terribly challenging because a six (or three) year old's hand is not that big, and a twist-off bottle cap is a little too bulky to hide. The big dilemma is how often to "win" and how often to "lose."

But today Robin was playing with a tiny little thing. The juice they get has a twist top, and the lower edge splits apart along perforated lines when you unscrew it. The kids like to bend these little bits out like flower petals, and eventually pull them off.

So today they were playing "guess which hand" with this little metal shard, about half an inch by an eighth or so. (One could debate the appropriateness of such a plaything, but really we're not here to discuss my mothering skills.) The point is, it is easily hidden in a hand of any size.

Robin was playing with Jose and Julia. I was talking to Yolanda, until Jose indicated we should start paying attention. They kept playing for a bit, then switched from Jose to Yolanda.

Robin turns her back and hides the thing in one of her hands. Julia is really not that interested. She's looking around the room, carrying on an entirely different conversation (with me, us, herself, maybe the potted plant...) When Robin turns back, Julia lunges for one of her hands. Once in a while she stops and switches.

We probably watched 20 or 30 rounds of the game. Julia may have been wrong three times.

People who leave comments have power

Lisa mentioned she was checking out the bits of background in yesterday's photos so I took some more just for her. Nobody else look!!

Here's our most excellent living room furniture. Except when the cat leaves some truly mysterious, um, Liquid Something on the cushion and you have to empty out the SNOWFLAKE SIZED little shreds of foam rubber. Then it's the worst living room set ever. But most of the time it rules.

Here's the kitchen. Okay, I know it's hard to tell in this picture, but I'd like to point out that there are no dirty dishes in the sink. Not one. Saturdays are the best because no matter how bad it all gets, we get a fresh start when Mercedes comes.

Here's My Area (shut up). Unfortunately it DOESN'T get a fresh start on Saturdays. The fabric draped over the railing is from the parrot quilt.

Scruffy and Emily, being themselves

And Ellie, the new girl.

She's actually working out really well. She is sooooo happy to live here, and has a great time playing with Scruffy (maybe she'll eventually wear him out like he did to Emily). She just loves all of us, but she totally barks (AndBarksAndBarksAndBarksAndBarks) at people who come up to the gate or close to the fence. (That's a good thing.) And get this, she's been barking in the middle of the night sometimes when she hears other dogs in the distance or whatever. And I open the window and tell her to be quiet, and she does - can you believe it?

The only problem is that she and Scruffy treed Fifí one night (in fact, the same night as the 28 square feet) and now Fifí is less motivated to leave the building. Ever. Well, okay, she's obviously going out some of the time, but not every time. So between her and Tina I've gone through three newspapers in seven days. I really don't want to go the litter box route, because then it would be every time, and a lifetime commitment. But I can't really tell which way it's going to go yet.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Digital fun

Child and tooth, both hanging by a thread
(She doesn't like pieces falling off of her...funny, that.)

How do you take a good picture of a three year old?

Well for one thing, never say "Smile!"

Portrait by Julia

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Hello Drama Queen

We all ate the same lunch yesterday but for some reason it made me sick. The kids were fine (luckily, since Robin had two friends over).

Anyway, I took the friends home and, after a while...well, I felt much better but also needed a bath. I started the tub and Robin decided to stay and keep me company.

She was telling me about a Hello Kitty video we've rented a couple of times. Apparently The Dog and The Cat were trying to "get" Hello Kitty and she was running away from them and she tried to call her parents but they were on a different planet and besides, the dog and cat uprooted the entire phone booth.

Now, Hello Kitty was big when I was growing up, but there were no movies. There were cute little scented erasers and pale pink note paper and little plastic keychains and vinyl purses and stuff. I was never into it because it was way too sweet and juvenile for my taste. Plus, what a dumb name, right?

So I was frankly shocked to hear about the Evil Dog and the Unreachable Parents and whatnot. I told Robin I had no idea that there was that much drama in a Hello Kitty video. She explained that, really, Hello Kitty and her friends were at the movies and it wasn't scary because that was just the movie they were watching. (Not that "just a movie" kept Elmo in Grouchland from freaking them out...)

Anyway, you know what came next, right? "Mommy, what does drama mean?"

"Well (ummm), drama is like when there's something happening and there's some kind of problem, and the people have to do something to take care of the problem..." (Well, you know what they say: "Delivery is everything." It doesn't come across with quite the same flare in writing, but give me a break. All I've got here is boldface.)

Anyway, she chewed on that for a second, and seemed to understand it. "So then what's a drama queen?"

Hmmm. Good question. Okay. "A drama queen is someone who makes everything into a drama even if it's just a little thing. Like Oh, I have to clean up my toys. It's TERrrrrrible." Nothing like a little real-life example.

She clearly understood that, because less than an hour later she launched into a 45-minute demonstration of the drama, the pathos, the heart wrenching unfairness of having to clear up a bunch of small snips of paper from a tile floor. Nothing like a little real-life example.

Monday, May 16, 2005

And then the farmer's daughter says...

Today was the last of the two-week marathon of costume-intensive Kindergarten Events. It was Farmer's Day, and although the teacher had mumbled something along the lines of "the boys could dress up as farmers" at that parents' meeting I wrote about, in fact they did much better than that. They had a little play ("little" as in two minutes or so...does that make it a skit?) where the farmer and his daughter reflect on the wonder that is a seed. There was one "sun," two "rains" and about five "seeds," plus the farmer and the daughter. Robin was the daughter.

On Friday she brought home a sheet with the text of the play, plus a note that her Career Day presentation was also going to be Monday (turns out it was any ol' profession, not just Helping Professions as I wrote earlier.) She had to do a presentation on one "profession" and one "ocupation," the difference being, apparently, that a profession is something you study to become, and an occupation is something you acquire on your own. She was talking about doing Translator and Lottery Salesperson, but at the last minute ditched the translator (*sob*) and went with Veterinarian.

She then spent the whole weekend at the abuelos' house (by choice) and the sheet about the skit was at home, so she didn't have a chance to practice her lines for the Farmer thing. When we got home (to 28 Square Feet...) on Sunday evening, she was so busy making her lottery salesperson/veterinarian poster, we didn't do it then either. I made a mental note to sit down with her at breakfast and read it with her a couple of times. It was just two or three lines and the teacher said they had gone over it at school so I wasn't too worried.

Alex called just after the kids had gotten into bed, and I suggested she tell him about all the stuff she would be doing in school the next day. So she did. She told him about the Farmer's Day thing and recited the entire play to him, including the narration.

Here she is in her Farmer's Daughter finery:

Posted by Hello

After school Julia happened to be at Yolanda's house so we got to make cookies together, just the two of us. (Thanks to Sheryl at Paper Napkin for her post about having "dates" with your kids.)

Sunday, May 15, 2005

28 square feet...

Of pee. Eleven sheets of La Nación, saturated. (See previous post for context)

She'd been in the house all day - the whole bath/haircut thing was finished by 9:00 a.m. and she had only left her beloved cardboard box once, and then because I lifted her out so I could put a blanket in. So I tried to get her to go out before I left the house, but she politely declined. And I didn't think I'd be out long, but it turned out to be an hour and a half. So I came home to 28 square feet of pee.

Now let's zoom out slightly to get the rest of the picture.

I know I didn't mention this yet, but we did end up bringing the street dog home. She worried me at first because it looked like she might not get along with the others, but she's been here for six days now and it looks like it's going to work out. Since Emily is Robin's middle name I named the new dog Elizabeth, which is Julia's. I'm calling her Ellie.

So that makes four dogs, three of which need to be tied up when I open the gate to drive in or out. They don't mind, because they know from experience I'll unhook them if I'm going to be gone more than 15 minutes. (I leave them tied up if I'm just going to take Robin to school or pick her up.)

Remember Scruffy's personality profile? He's a Perpetual Ecstatic. I have yet to ever complete the Exit Sequence (Tie dogs, Open gate, Drive out, Close gate, Untie dogs) without dusty doggy prints on my jeans.

Oh, did I mention? The rainy season started this month. It's not dusty anymore.

This evening when I got home the dogs were waiting at the gate for me to tie them up again. I really don't know how he did it, but in addition to covering my hands with mud and slobber, Scruffy jumped up on the gate three separate times in such a way as to spray mud on my face. How is that even possible? [The upside: The kids liked my 101 Dalmations joke.]

Then I got inside to discover 28 square feet of pee. [The upside: I actually had 11 sheets of newspaper available to me. This is not always the case.]

Oh, and it was a little past Feeding Time at the Zoo, so as soon as the door was shut with all humans inside and all dogs (with their attendant muddy paws) outside, the parrot started shrieking. [The upside: Parrots really do shut up if you cover the cage.]

Everyone should have pets.

Yay, me!...not

Today I saved a dog from extreme neglect. Wait, hold your applause. It's my dog.

Here's the thing. All her life, Perla had a problem with itching. (Yes, Perla died in February. Bear with me for a minute.) We tried different things and some of them seemed to help, but at times she would scratch so much her hair would fall out, especially on her back, down near her tail. We improved her diet, bathed her with different things, and got some magic pills from the vet. It sometimes seemed to help and sometimes didn't.

Tina would occasionally get a bit of whatever it was, but it was usually not that much of a problem. But lately she's been having it again, at least as bad as Perla ever did. Her whole back end is pretty much bare, and she's scratching herself raw. She's even getting bare spots on her face now. I started giving her the pills a week or two ago, and it seemed to help some.

BTW I know that, when an animal is itchy, fleas are the first thing you'd think of, but all the animals have 10-month flea collars on. Tina's collar is the oldest one, but it was still only bought six or seven months ago and we haven't had a flea problem for ages.

So anyway when I was feeding the herd this morning, Tina slipped into the house. That was good because it would let me give her the pill without the other dogs getting in the way. I figured maybe I'd even bring her dish in for a few minutes so she could eat in peace. And when I got down to her level to give her the pill (wrapped in cream cheese), suddenly it all became clear. She does too have fleas. She shouldn't, but she does. Her hair is so thin in places that I actually saw one out for a stroll. Apparently they're eating her alive.

I felt terrible that she could be so miserable that I was actually considering having her put to sleep, and it's really just a bunch of stupid fleas. (I guess it would have been worse if I actually had put her to sleep...) Of course it's possible that the fleas aren't the only problem, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens from here.

I bathed her with flea soap, then cut all her (remaining) hair short so it will be easier to see if she has any more. (I thought I was sacrificing fashion for comfort, but she actually looks way better after the haircut.)

She was trembling when I cut her hair and I wasn't sure if it was because of discomfort, fear or cold. I think, though, it was cold. It's kind of a chilly day, but that bath just could not wait. And a few times while I was trimming her she got up and walked away, then came right back and lay down in front of me again. So I don't think it was unpleasant for her, or even if there were some parts she didnt like, I think she was beginning to feel a lot better. I found three or four live fleas after the bath, and a few dead ones still stuck in her fur. I don't know how many went down the drain, but it doesn't seem like she was completely overrun. Maybe she's just more sensitive to them than other animals.

One problem she's always had is that her fur gets matted, and I can only imagine what it must be like to have a flea crawling around under a dreadlock... Fortunately, I had cut her hair recently enough that she wasn't too badly off in that sense - a few incipient knots and one or two clumps on her feet, but nothing too extreme. And it's all gone now, and too short to knot up again any time soon.

This poor dog is so old. All she really wants in life is a cardboard box to lie in, and to be able to eat her dinner in peace. I think I'm going to let her be an indoor dog from now on...if we can come to an understanding about bathroom habits. How often do dogs need to go out? I don't even remember, it's been so long. Actually I don't think my dogs have ever been complete indoor animals, even back in Barva. I think they always slept outside. We'll have to see how she handles this, but I hope we can make it work because she deserves it. Poor baby.

Posted by Hello

Friday, May 13, 2005

Is it me? It's not just it?

I just finished translating a Very Serious document by a Very Serious NGO about a Very Serious program they run at several universities (doubtless highly serious ones). Now I need you to tell me something: am I the only one who thinks they should reconsider the phrase interactive horizontal methodology? Is it just me? Have I been spending too much time on the Internet?

Most importantly, if it's not just me then should I say anything about it to the client? Tell me! What should I do? What would you do? WWJD? Click that comment link and give me your two's free!

(Actually I already made my decision, but I want some second opinions...And comments! I love comments! Only Lisa & Anita ever leave them!)

Rosary to the Virgin Day

Jeffry, Robin, Jacqueline & Cristina Posted by Hello

I told you it was coming and here it is. The kids were supposed to go as jardineros (gardeners), I think maybe because The Virgin is supposed to have appeared to someone in a garden (????). I asked Yolanda about this and was told "dress, apron, basket of flowers," but I was misinterpreting it at first. I was thinking "peasant chic" until I saw the apron we were borrowing from a cousin (frillier than ought to be permitted by law) and the basket (at least as frilly as the apron), and then I began to get a clue. Thank goodness I didn't put a bandana on her...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Read between the lines, people

It's gone now so I can't take a clearer picture, but it says BUHSZROKT.

So as a concerned mother I not only have to worry that Julia may be a throwback to the Republican Tuckers (the Bushes "rocked"?!?), now she's using leet to try to throw me off. Crafty, these three year olds. Crafty. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Nutrition Week

Nutrition Week at school: the kids had to go as a fruit or a vegetable today. Robin chose grapes.

This is her teacher and her class. Between the kindergarten and pre-K classes there were several other grapes, some apples, a pineapple, a strawberry, a tomato and two carrots. But all I got here were oranges and pears. Robin is actually behind that central orange but it would take a mother to notice. Posted by Hello

Monday, May 09, 2005

Dogs. Dogs! DOGS!

Yes, friends, I'm talking about dogs.

When last we joined our hero, she had designs on a bulldog who had begun frequenting her front gate...

Rex, up close and personal

He had, if you recall, been hanging around for a couple of days, and had agreed to eat my food and let me scratch his head. He was well cared for, but his collar had no name or phone number on it--and then the next time I saw him he wasn't wearing it anyway. So the next day I let him in to see what he would do. He spent a lot of time sniffing Emily, peeing here and there about the premises, and eventually settled down proprietarily on the front mat. He seemed entirely at home. I explained to him that "playing with Emily" was part of the job description, but he did not appear to be unduly concerned by the news.

Rex, lord of all he surveys

So I just left him there for a while. And an hour or two later I was inside reading and I heard someone say "Rex! It's you! What are you doing in there? [etc.]" So I went out and opened the gate and Rex rejoined his people, who, it turns out, live very nearby. Two days later Emily went into heat for the first time, which probably explains a significant portion of Rex's interest in our family.

There was a fairly steady stream of suitors for a while, and Emily got a little more exercise by chasing them around, her inside the fence and them outside. The most faithful one could be seen absolutely any time of day, every day, and if Emily was active he would do complete circuits of the property in order to keep up with her whereabouts.

He did occasionally take a moment to chase a motorcycle down the street, and at one point he showed up with a limp. I couldn't see any injury or swelling, but he didn't use his back left leg at all. So the motorcycles went unchased and he was able to concentrate full-time on his hopes that Emily too would be unchaste.

He was a very nice dog and I started petting him on my way in or out, and then I noticed how skinny he was. I took him some dog food and he ate an entire adult serving of it in the 48 seconds it took me to go get a dish for water. So I started feeding him twice a day, and if I went outside without food, he was just as happy to get some attention. So I figured maybe when Emily was no longer in heat I'd let him in. But one day he stopped coming around and has not been seen since.

And then one day someone thought to mention to me that there were still two dogs left from Emily's original litter. You'd kind of think that would have come up in conversation sooner, what with me debating how best to acquire a companion for her and all. But the news eventually did make its way to the surface and our problem was solved. Once Emily seemed to be out of heat and I had a relatively free day, we went and picked up one of her brothers.

Robin imediately dubbed him Scruffy, which in Spanish she pronounces Escrofty. I was glad to see him pick up a new moniker forthwith. Being a black dog, his original name was Negro which, while it may possibly be the most common dog name in Costa Rica, I'd just as soon not have to explain every time I happen to mention him on the blog.

Scruffy has a Very Special white spot... Posted by Hello

And he worked like a charm. Emily is much more sedate now, having ample opportunity to expend her excess energy rolling around and jumping and just generally keeping the jinx as high as possible. She's no longer so desperate for human attention that she tries to climb the children when they venture outside.

However. Scruffy has at least twice as much energy as she ever did. He is a vertical jumper who attains prodigious heights, and has been known to throw himself bodily against the sliding glass doors in a desperate attempt to get to the tantalizing cat/parrot/child on the other side. This is an enthusiastic dog.

So I guess we're essentially back where we started from, except that now I'm contemplating yet ANOTHER dog because Tina doesn't count (she's very very very very old and usually asleep) and these two are pretty small and obviously in love with the human race. So our "Guard Dog" sign is even more ludicrous than when we had Perla who may not have had any teeth but who, at least, was of a size that commanded respect. Emily's faithful suitor would have been perfect because he was a complete mutt but had that doberman coloring and a nice long snout, so he kind of looked like the dog on the sign.

The latest hopeful is a street dog at my in-laws' house. They live on a very short dead-end street that has no less than three street dogs to its name (not that it has a name...) The neighbors, especially Jose & Yolanda, feed them and the dogs just kind of hang around and bark at strangers, which keeps everyone happy. Two of them squeeze through the gates and take shelter in various carports, but the third won't do it, so she gets rained on a lot. She is starved for affection and wags her entire back end (maybe to make up for her tail, which is just a stub) and I even saw her getting playful with Yolanda's dogs yesterday. But she also barks at strangers who come around. So she may be the one. Yolanda can't keep her because their own large dog doesn't get along with the street dogs.

I guess we'll see. Watch this space. I can't decide if it's just absurd to have four whole dogs (plus a cat, a parrot and two children), or if it will really be about the same since there's plenty of space for all of them and all I really have to do is fill an extra dish.

You know you've always wondered

Don't try to deny it. Every time you've ever looked at a building you've thought to yourself, "How the heck do they get all that cement up to the second floor? Do they carry it up in buckets?" Well I'm here to tell you that they do not. And here, in lieu of 2000 words, is the proof:

That guy isn't really holding on to the pipe, he's actually all the way across the (future) house from it. There's a flexible hose coming off the end of the pipe, and the guys below direct that to where they need to pour the cement.

The project is a matching pair of houses being built outside my bedroom windows (diagonal to our property's north-east corner). The people hope to finish them and move in in about two months.

The future neighbors who own the lot straight behind ours (where the trucks are at the moment) plan to begin building within the next two months. They hope to move in in early 2006. And the neighbor to the west side of both our lots is planning to build beginning in December. Posted by Hello

Dirty little secret

Today after I dropped Robin off at school I went over a mile out of my way to take the long way back--and then the even longer way out to the main road--just because I didn't feel like offering anybody a ride on my way home.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Chinese Watermelon Art

Chinese Watermelon Art is just not something you see everyday (even on the Internet), but dang if it isn't highly cool. On a related note, today I saw someone grilling watermelon slices. Granted, she was on the Food Network, but still.

Update: I hadn't gone all the way through them when I posted this. There are 34 pictures and if you're not going to take the time to check them all out, then definitely start at the first one and hit "Previous" instead of "Next" because some of the coolest ones are last.

Friday, May 06, 2005

So much to say

It's my first time doing this, but I just hadta.

Check out this guy's blog. I've been frequenting my brother-in-law's sister's blog ever since she started saying nice things about my quilts. And for added fun I visit random sites from her "Blogs I Read" list. I've enjoyed each one, in different ways, but today I clicked on "Defective Yeti" and hit gold.

The first post (first at the moment anyway--here's a direct link in case he adds more before you get to it) confusted me at first - it took me about a paragraph to realize what was going on. Okay two. In my defense, I didn't yet know the tone of the blog, plus I was distracted by Julia, who saw the large photograph that accompanies the post and said "Is that grandpa?" (Hey Dad! Now you're in my blog twice...if you want I can import the photo and put it right here...)

My favorite (from today's front page anyway) is Don't Look Down. Love the comments too.

Okay, I need to go get ready for my party. I invited a new neighbor and her husband over for a drink tonight and mentioned it to the next door family so they could meet them too. A couple days later the guy next door called to say the two families building houses behind ours want to come, so now it's four couples & three kids (plus mine)...gotta shower. Shop. Maybe shweep the floor.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Public school

She only actually got to 200. I guess something else got her attention, or maybe she just realized how boring it was. She was, however, concerned about not losing her place and decided to leave the dictionary open to the page she was on. I checked later and sure enough, she was on page 398 (she was counting physical pages, not the page faces as they are numbered.) Fortunately, she was also on "K" and "L" so if she notices I eventually closed the book & put it away I can redeem myself. Apparently there aren't that many words that start with "K" in Spanish, so it gets a page (397) all to itself. Then "L" begins on the facing page. Much more popular letter.

Right. So today there was a parents' meeting at the kindergarten. Most of it was about preventing burns. The teacher recently received some training that made a big impression on her and she dedicated a whole week to the topic with the kids. Then she got the parents in to tell us about it. Very good.

At the end, there was some general class business to discuss: four special events (three with costumes required) in the next two weeks, etc.

And she wanted to talk about homework. She sends little homework pages home on Fridays, and reminded us all that they are to be completed by the children, not the parents. She pointed out that she spends a lot of time with the kids, and that she knows what they're capable of and can tell when the parents do the sheets for them. Okay, I'm with her there. The thing is, it's hard to really understand just where a parent might get involved with these sheets. We're talking color in the big number three, then color in the three bunnies next to it. Well, okay, then they were supposed to trace the number three a couple of times.

Hey y'all, remember when Robin started writing her own name? It was when she got that big Magna-Doodle (thanks Lorena!) for her birthday. When she turned two. Well, okay maybe she didn't actually start right when she got it. Let's say she was three. Now they're trying hard to teach her the numbers 1 to 10. Hell, Julia gets up to 17 before she starts going in circles. (Although she doesn't recognize them in writing.) (At least I don't think she does.)

Some time last year Robin came up to me and said, "You know what I think I need? I need to know what each letter sounds like. If I knew the sound each letter makes, I think I would be able to read."

And you know what I did? Absolutely nothing. I can't teach her to read. She was bored last year in her kindergarten/pre-K mixed classroom because she wasn't learning anything new. Now she's actually IN kindergarten, getting all the same stuff AGAIN. I mean, I'm not taking books away from her, and she knows how proud of her I am when she comes up and shows me that she's figured out a word, but if I sit down with her and help her over the hump so she's truly reading, then what's she going to do in first grade? And second?

Today when I was on my way in to the parents' meeting the principal called me over and said how sorry she was that Robin had to be in kindergarten instead of first grade. For those outside the immediate family, here's the short version of that one:

In the U.S. Robin narrowly misses the cutoff date and therefore couldn't go to kindergarten when we were living in Charlotte. Since schools here operate on a calendar year they start a semester later, so I was looking forward to putting her in kindergarten when we moved here last year. But it turns out that the cutoff date is almost the same. She misses it by a matter of weeks. Last year they moved the date for some reason...but not enough. She now misses it by two weeks.

Alex's mom was the one who turned in the paperwork to register Robin for this school year. When I took Robin in on the first day, the first grade teacher saw her in the kindergarten uniform and said she had been expecting Robin in her class. (Actually she's the first-slash-second grade's not exactly a one-room schoolhouse, but they do combine first with second, third with fourth, and fifth with sixth grades.) So we looked into it and the principal called her superior and was told "the date's the date, no exceptions." She advised me to go down and ask the supervisor myself and I did, but I got the same answer.

So she's in kindergarten. Learning to count to ten. Meanwhile at home she drew a picture of a flower, thought about it really hard (I wasn't even in the room) and wrote "FLHWRS" next to it. When I told her how cool she was she went back downstairs and drew a glue stick (GLO), a shoe (SHOO), a cat (okay, she already knew that one), a map (MAP), a bird (BRD) and a chair (CHAR). She'll be president someday. (Except that she's not eligible because she was not physically born in the United States. Topic for another day.)

Now I had mixed feelings about the whole moving-ahead business. I was told enough times by enough people (who are in a position to know) that as a rule it's favorable for the child in the long run to be more mature than her peers, rather than the youngest in the class, especially when they get up around puberty. So I wasn't entirely disappointed when she ended up in kindergarten. But if they're going to be completely inflexible about age & grade, wouldn't it be nice if they could at least teach the child at the level she's at?

But they really and truly can't. We're talking about a small school where, as I said, they don't even have a teacher for each grade, although this year kindergarten and pre-K are both big enough that they do have separate teachers and classrooms. There are 20 kids to one teacher in Robin's class. (And the teacher is happy because at her last school she had a big kindergarten class.)

So it's not like they even have the option. So you start to look at private schools and then the little rural school loses more kids and gets even littler...

Actually I'm interested in private schools for other reasons too. You know those four events coming up in the next two weeks? One is fruit & vegetable day (Robin's going as grapes). One is farmers' day (Boys to dress up as farmers. Why just boys? Not sure.) One is "helping professions" day (last year she went as a builder - haven't asked her about this year yet). And one is Rosary to the Virgin day. The teacher urged us to explain to the children that "we" adore the Virgin, but that "we" don't pray to help them understand the difference (if someone would care to explain it to me...) She also stressed that while she is personally Catholic--and of course the country, government and school system are all Catholic--she is very respectful of others' religious beliefs. For example, she wants non-Catholic parents to feel free to explain to their children that if the family doesn't cross themselves, that it's okay for the child not to cross him/herself when they pray at school. (Subtle irony coming off me in waves here...)

Hey (to explore a brief tangent) here's something I bet most of you don't know. But first a brief intro to my train of thought: Every language probably has words that are really inappropirate (or at least horribly un-PC) but which we blithely use because we're deaf to what they really say or sound like. For instance imagine a foreigner learning that in English we call someone with a disability "invalid." Or when someone learns that the Spanish words for "wife" and "handcuffs" are one and the same.

Well here's my favorite one in the school context (and by Favorite I mean the one that I absolutely can't stand and always point out to people as inappropriate...but which most Costa Ricans have never really stopped to think about.) Elementary school children, and their parents, other teachers and the principal, call female teachers "niña." Yep, that means "little girl." Male teachers are "profesor" or "maestro," but never "niño."

That is just wrong on so many levels it leaves me tongue tied (not that you could prove it by this post.) When pointed out, most Costa Ricans will admit that it's a little weird, although it doesn't seem to bother them. (HOW COULD IT NOT????) The sixth grade boy throwing chalk (once at me) when his teacher is out of the room is encouraged and expected to call her "little girl" when she (who by the way is also the principal) comes back in. Interestingly, he seems to have no respect for her.

Whew! Wonder how many people I lost on this one. I didn't set out to write a novel (or a diatribe) but on the other hand you don't get me started on public schools...I think I'll go watch Shrek.

Glo in my Shoo Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Robin wishes she could play a computer game while Julia's napping, but I'm using the computer right now so she can't. So instead she's sitting behind me counting the pages in my Spanish-English English-Spanish dictionary. She's up to 167.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Behind the scenes update

I changed the blog format so the archives are monthly - I think it's less confusing that way. Just check the year before you click.

Also, the main page will now show the 10 (instead of 5) most recent posts. Pictures have to go up one at a time, so yesterday when I put up four pictures it pushed almost everything else off.

The list at the left is the same - titles of all recent posts in chronological order.

I guess I clean up okay...

The translation client I've had for over 10 years is starting to add some spice to our relationship. Last month they asked me to transcribe an audio cassette (which I WAY undercharged them for. Who knew THAT was such a time consuming job??)

My client is a PR agency and one of their clients is a corporate group with a bunch of companies in different countries. The agency helped this group develop a crisis plan, so they will know how best to respond to different kinds of situations (fire at the plant, conflict with local communities, kidnapped executive...)

They're doing a crisis simulation this week in Atlanta. They've prepared mock-ups of newspaper articles, radio & television reports, etc. and I've translated most of it over the past few months, along with the crisis manual itself. Then last week the agency called me to ask if I would be willing to help them out by filming one of the "CBS" news broadcasts. So I did and it was kind of fun.

Back in November Rita invited me to a party at her house and I hit the thrift stores to find something to wear. (Thrift stores are called Ropa Americana [American Clothes] stores here, so when I tell Costa Ricans that we have thrift stores in the States too, I get to say "Of course, there they just call them 'clothes'.") I got my very own "little black dress" and it was great. I also found a red velvety t-shirt kind of dress that I thought might be nice for around Christmas. Since the black dress had no buttons, and since the dresses were three for 2000 colones (like $5) I picked out one more that I could use for the party if I couldn't find good buttons for the black one.

Anyway, I did get buttons and I wore the black dress and this other one sat in my closet...until I was called upon to represent CBS. I pulled it out, washed out the spot it had on the front, hemmed up the built-in slip that was 1/2 inch longer than the front hem of the dress, and looked entirely presentable.

I felt like I was wearing a costume of course - most of my shorts are longer than this dress, plus it's pink. PALE pink. But if fits really well and the (few) blouses I have are all plaid, which isn't good on camera, so I went with the dress.

The place they were filming it is a professional studio for audio visual stuff, but it's not a television studio. I guess most people produce their content in other places, then have it edited there. So they had just set up a regular office desk in front of screen (like you project slides onto) for their news studio. In some lady's office who was sitting there trying to get her own work done.

But everybody was nice and they were really glad I was helping so it was fun. They showed me the tape of the guy they had gotten to do it first. The boss hadn't liked his performance because it seemed to much like he was reading it (he was), plus he was clearly not a native English speaker, and this was supposed to be a CBS broadcast in the United States. So I made it clear I'd never done anything like this before, then just did my best. It came out okay, then we got to watch him edit it.

They have one of those big consoles with all kinds of buttons and dials and three computer monitors (two of which he was using with one computer - he could either move the mouse back and forth from one monitor to the other as if they were one, or he could put one of the windows he was working with on one monitor and another on the other.) And a television for playback.

I was supposed to be in the CBS studio doing a telephone interview with a CEO, so the guy added in the audio of the CEO's answers, and put the picture of him up in a box behind me like they do on the news. Then the picture went to full-screen while the guy was talking. Then back to me.

They also had a radio interview they had taped, and they needed to add music at the beginning to make it sound like a regularly scheduled radio newscast. So the guy played all these little music clips (the audio equivalent of clip art) and the lady from the PR agency (actually all three of us) picked the ones that sounded the best. He could take those clips and add & subtract different instruments, change the tempo, pitch, etc. to make it sound any way he wanted it.

They do have a real recording booth there (with foam rubber stuff on the walls, glass window to the control room and everything) and they got me to do the little voice over ("This is today's news on Radio AM 910") then they modified my voice so it didn't sound too much like the girl who did the "newscast" audio.

Then when everything was set he burned it all onto a DVD with chapters and a menu and everything. (I got a little free advice about how best to get my 8-mm videos onto DVD before they rot. They can do it there, but it costs $25 per 2-hour tape and I have 20 or 30 of them. So we talked about ways I can do it myself.)

Anyway, on the way home I was driving right past PriceSmart, with no kids in the don't waste an opportunity like that. So I stopped in and got everything I could remember that we needed. Including dog food. PriceSmart is like Sam's club, so "dog food" is a 52-pound bag. In a slim-fitting mid-thigh-length dress (me, not the dog food). I've bought dog food without any trouble before, but always in jeans. An employee was there when I started looking at the thing like I wanted to get it under my cart, so he did it for me.

They have parking lot guards there, and sometimes they come over and help with things, or take the cart back. On the way out to the car I spied one way off in the back 40 of the parking lot (which isn't actually that big a lot), and he looked like he was heading over. So I went about my business, opened the car, folded down the back seat and stole a glance over to check on his progress. You know how I titled this entry "I guess I clean up okay..."? Apparently I clean up a little too good. He came close enough to see what I was going to do about it and get a good look at anything that went wrong, but not close enough to actually offer any assistance.

So I did it myself, and no, he didn't get to see any more than anybody else did that day.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The parrot quilt (which is officially named after Rosita, who is on the left) Posted by Hello

The parrots (Rosita left, Loren right) Posted by Hello

Portrait of the artist with a young quilt Posted by Hello

Look! Sometimes they get along! Posted by Hello

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