Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Julia: Mommy, can I sit on your lap?
Julia [on lap]: Mommy, we didn't decorate for Christmas today.

Me: No. I meant to, but I ended up doing other things instead. [Blogging, possibly??] But we got the lights out, didn't we? [I turn them on] And tomorrow I'll put them up. [I turn them back off]

Julia: Can you turn it back on again? It makes me happy.

More grown-up-ness

Robin can also swim, by the way. Her swimming lessons will be ending with the school year, and they invited parents to attend this week.

She had a small floater on (a 6x6x2 inch square of floatiness on a strap around her middle) at first. They kickboarded from one end of the pool to the other:

Although they were sent out one at a time, Robin seemed to feel it was a race, and almost beat the kid who was 3/4 of the way there when she started.

Then they went without the boards, swimming. Then they went across the pool the short way (but at the deep end, which I suspect was about 4 or 5 feet deep):

When Robin got out I realized she no longer had the floater on. Finally, they got their medals:

So she swims too.

A tender moment

Awwww. Sweet, huh? And that is the coolest butterfly. It was so transparent I thought it was actually just a frame, then the light caught the scales and it shimmered. Prismatically.

Full Disclosure: The butterfly is, technically, "dead" in this picture, and the words "look at the butterfly" may have been repeated a time or two in the name of bringing you this tender moment. I'm pretty sure it didn't actually come to "look at the damn butterfly," but...)

This is not the result of excessive demands to look at the butterfly. Actually, it must have just been a fleeting expression because she was pretty happy at the time. I simply include it because I wanted to ask Lisa: Doesn't she look like those sad-eyed puppy pictures Mom got at the grocery store (or something like that) when we were little?

Balancing act

Now we'll just serve up a bit of philosophy and religion to make up for the bad sex:

A question from God
(And answers from, as of this afternoon, 22 residents of the world, including myself.)

Also by way of Yellow Snapdragons

Not for the faint of heart

Contenders for the Bad Sex in Fiction award

Oh yes, it's bad.

Particularly the first and last entries. And the lobster one (second to last) is simply bizarre.

As I said, though. Not for the faint of heart.

(Found via Yellow Snapdragons)

Growing Up

Robin isn't a Big Girl anymore. Now she's Growing Up. I don't think she makes the distinction herself, but it's definitely there.

She knows how to read, by the way. She can't just whip off a storybook or anything yet, but she knows what the letters say and how to sound them out. She picked out a book the other day and read me the title: Bombón, el Cachorrito Afortunado. ("Bonbon, the Lucky Puppy" - it's a 101 Dalmatians spinoff). She asked me to read it to her first, then read the first three pages herself before deciding (rightly) that she needed a break. It's just a matter of practice now.

They've been having parent/teacher conferences recently because the school year is ending. One thing the teacher recommended for both girls was that they have some space of their own. It's one of those things that, until someone said it, had never occured to me. Of course they need their own spaces. They share a playroom. They share a bedroom. They have their own beds, but always push them together. They have their own closets, but that's just for shoes and hanging clothes.

I had been kind of shopping around for a shelf for their room, since they don't currently have anywhere to keep toys up there. Following Flor's advice, I decided instead to get a pair of nightstands, so they could each have their own. But the ones I had seen were too expensive.

At the farmer's market (Sunday mornings in San Rafael) there's a guy with some simple pine furniture. A couple of weeks ago I stopped to look - there were a couple of possibilities, with prices more reasonable than in furniture stores. Of course the girls went ga-ga over one that I wasn't prepared to consider: a child-sized vanity table, with a mirror and these drawers on each side that were really too small to hold anything useful. And the thing was so low that they would grow out of it quickly (I asked the guy and he said when that happens, "you give it to someone else and buy a bigger one.")

So, back to Robin. She is going into first grade next year (school year starts the first week of February). Although the Montessori method has all the preschool ages in one group (of 32), they do separate them into smaller groups some (much?) of the time. Robin's "graduating" class consists of 9 children who will move up to the 1st/2nd/3rd grade classroom next year. Each year the teacher (actually two of the teachers, plus a driver) takes the furure first-graders on a special field trip just for them. They go to the beach. Overnight.

They have a list of what they're supposed to bring, and it was emphasized on at least two occasions that the children were to pack their own bags. (I was sick when she did it, so to this day I don't know which clothes she took...) They were each to have their own spending money (1000 colones = $2), and would decide how to spend it. We kind of forgot Robin's (it wasn't on the list, and did I mention I was sick?), but of course the teacher loaned her some and we paid it back when I picked her up.

What did she have to say about the experience? Four things:

  1. There were bunk beds and guess which bunk I got to sleep in?
  2. We had sandwiches for dinner and we got to choose what we wanted on our sandwiches. There were beans, all mashed up, and cheese, and salami, and onions and tomatoes, and, um, I think that's all. I chose cheese and salami. (Followed by individual accounts of each of the other meals...)
  3. We got to stay up as late as we wanted to, and when it was really late, I think it was about 12:00, we went out to a restaurant.
  4. We saw a pez globo (puffer fish) that somebody fished and then later on we saw another pez globo that was dead on the beach. We buried it.

José and Yolanda have been a bit out of control with the presents lately - José is doing well, as he does every year, selling the special-edition Christmas lottery tickets. They bought the girls scooters last weekend. Julia's is a kind of tricycle scooter, with two wheels in back and one up front. Very stable. Robin's is the regular grownup kind that was so popular a couple of years ago - single wheel, front & back, all shiny metal...I know they were the rage for a while. She is very proud of having the grownup kind.

The teacher also suggested a party with only children her own age - not the melange of relatives or parents-and-siblings-of-invited-guests that so often occurs - and which focuses on the actual birthday child. There were two ways to achieve this: pick up the invitees after school and have the parents retrieve them at a given time, know this is what she chose...have a sleepover. Very grown up.

What with all this growing up, this week Robin asked me if, when I got her a birhday present, I could get her a grownup kind of present.

So. We have:
  • A seven year old girl
  • Who is going into first grade
  • Needs her own place to put her stuff, and
  • Wants a grownup gift

I figured I would get her that vanity table, but went around on Monday trying to find a larger one that she wouldn't outgrow in a year. Well, turns out vanity tables are very expensive (from $100 for a really unattractive one to a wide range of very similar ones that were heavy wood in adult styles and ranged from $120 to over $200.)

But. I always asked if they had anything "simpler" (meaning "less expensive") and mentioned that it was for a child. And at this one store, the guy took me to see something that wasn't a vanity table at all. It was a desk. With a hutch built onto it, including a large square space where a mirror could be mounted. With four real desk drawers. And it was not heavy, over-polished, grownup wood. It was formica and, lord help us all, it was pink (and white).

Needless to say, it's locked in Alex's office now, and I'm trying to decide who I should get to help me take it up to her room while she's at school on Friday.

There's probably more that could be said, but it's time for me to go, so bye!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Clearly, SONY is in bed with Oil of Olay

So I spent the night at Rita's house after her Thanksgiving party on Friday. We relaxed a lot on Saturday, did some dishes, ate some leftovers, relaxed some more. It was nice. We watched a movie on HBO (My Best Friend's Wedding, which I would have sworn to you I had seen before but which, it turns out, I had not.)

At one point Rita was busy doing something so I turned on the TV to see if anything was on. I had great luck doing that this weekend - one time a Gilmore Girls repeat was just starting and another time I got to watch the end of Friends.

This particular time, though, the WB failed me and I went looking for something else. I found the SONY channel, which was just ending a commercial break and was on its way back to its "Six pack of sitcom classics." I never really got into the classic sitcoms (The Honeymooners, Lucy, et al.), so I was just about to change the channel when the show came back on.

People, it was Frasier. Frasier. Dude, I'm 36 years old. I still say things like Dude. In public. And I remember when the character of Frasier was introduced on Cheers, long before he spun off his own show (which is surprisingly good, considering how much I disliked him on Cheers.)

"Classic sitcoms" my left fanny.

If only I knew how...

Lisa got me to read Yellow Snapdragons, and now I do. I like it. The link above is to the main page. Here's a recent entry: What are you looking at?

Lisa just pointed out that the Yellow Snapdragons person (whose name is Jill) has added Coasting Richly to her list of "Places I visit." Hee! I'm, like, famous!

I think maybe it's time to make my own list...seems only fair.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Too far?

I just can't decide what I think of this. I mean, I think I might disapprove, but then I wonder if maybe I don't.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The rain? I am so finished with the rain

When Alex was here in September we had an argument. He wanted me to water the Sloping Shaded Naked Spot in the yard where no grass will grow. I said he was free to water it, but that to be honest I doubted I would ever think to do so, and if it did occur to me I probably wouldn't do it anyway.

I should not have said that. I should have said that A.) Water will not fix that problem and B.) It will get rained on.

He spent most of that morning, September 19, watering the trouble spot.

Because of that argument, I happened to notice that, beginning on the afternoon of September 19, it rained torrentially every single day for...wait for it...a full 40 days and 40 nights. (And then some, but I was satisfied at 40 and stopped counting.)

I don't mind Costa Rica's rainy season because it is civilized: gorgeous, sunny mornings with singing birds and blue skies, with downpours beginning at 1:00 p.m. Well, 12:00 p.m. now that I live in the mountains.

Still and all, October is Costa Rica's rainiest month. Never come to Costa Rica in October.

This October failed to comply with the standard Rainy Season protocol (the birds, the blue skies). This October is fired and will never work in this town again.

So, did the Problem Spot in the yard sprout some grass at least, what with the daily watering? Mmmm, not so much. The Problem Spot melted, ran downhill and came to rest, inches deep, at the mud pit gate.

Not that the Problem Spot became any smaller for losing all that mud, mind you. I think it grows back.

I'm not sure just how it works, but the ground is so waterlogged now that even when it only drizzles there's this one spot that always gathers standing the top of a hill.

I left my CDs at Rita's house after the retreat, so I've been listening to the radio this past week. The DJ has started playing songs to punctuate his weather reports. I think he's grumpy because his favorite line used to be "Looks like another beautiful day in Paradise."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

It's baaaaack...

Remember the Body years?

My immediate family does, anyway. For a long time Robin was all about the human body and how it worked, so we were always bringing in children's books about innards.

Well, today she asked what germs look like so I got to scan the Internet for photographs of microscopic beasties and then I made my children's day.

How, you say? I'm glad you asked. I gained (momentary) supermom status by printing out an exciting surprise: they now have their very own bacteria coloring sheets!! What seven-year-old wouldn't want to color in line-drawings of Rubella, Rhinovirus, Streptococcus, Salmonella typhimurium and five other bacteria and viruses??

My new pretty

Poor Mom. She sent me some money to buy myself a Thursday the Third* present, and yesterday I found something that I wasn't looking for, but which I liked and which cost almost exactly the amount she had given me.

So I bought it, brought it home, photographed it and sent her a picture of it. But she gets her E-mail at work and the photos were filtered out. So she doesn't, after all, get to see it before everyone else.

Anyway, here's my lovely new whatever-it-is, with two handy children for scale:

* To the uninitiated: I was born on the 3rd of July, which was a Thursday that year. When the third of any given month falls on a Thursday - a couple of times a year - that makes it a special day.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Oh, and by the way

You Failed the
(simplistic online quiz based on the)
US Citizenship Test

Oops, you only got 6 out of 10 right!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Your Friend Jen: A portrait in simplistic online quizzes

What Kind of Food Are You?
You Are Italian Food
Comforting yet overwhelming.
People love you, but sometimes you're just too much.

Could You Pass 8th Grade Math?
Why yes, yes I could

Congratulations, you got 9/10 correct!

How Scary Are You?

You Are a Little Scary

You've got a nice edge to you. Use it.

How Weird Are You?

You Are 50% Weird

Normal enough to know that you're weird...
But too damn weird to do anything about it!
(I suppose that explains a lot...)

The World's Shortest Personality Test
Your Personality Profile

You are funky, outdoorsy, and down to earth.
While you may not be a total hippie...
You're definitely one of the most free spirited people around.
You are very impulsive - every day is a new adventure.
However, you do put some thought behind all your actions.
Still, you do tend to shock and offend people from time to time!
(They got all that from a cactus?)

What's Your Hidden Talent?

You have the power to persuade and influence others.
You're the type of person who can turn a whole room around.
The potential for great leadership is there, as long as you don't abuse it.
Always remember, you have a lot more power over people than you might think!
(Consider yourself warned)

A Quick and Dirty IQ Test
(Sorta quick, not so dirty)

Your IQ Is 130

Your Logical Intelligence is Below Average
Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius
Your Mathematical Intelligence is Exceptional
Your General Knowledge is Exceptional

What Color Should Your Blog Be?

Your Blog Should Be Blue

Your blog is a peaceful, calming force in the blogosphere.
You tend to avoid conflict - you're more likely to share than rant.
From your social causes to cute pet photos, your life is a (mostly) open book.
(Unfortunately, it's the wrong color)

The Three Question Personality Test
(You too can be summed up in three 2-option multiple choice questions!)

Your Personality Is
Idealist (NF)

You are a passionate, caring, and unique person.
You are good at expressing yourself and sharing your ideals.
You are the most compassionate of all types and connect with others easily.
Your heart tends to rule you. You can't make decisions without considering feelings.
You seek out other empathetic people to befriend.
Truth and authenticity matters in your friendships.
In love, you give everything you have to relationships. You fall in love easily.
At work, you crave personal expression and meaning in your career.
With others, you communicate well. You can spend all night talking with someone.
As far as your looks go, you've likely taken the time to develop your own personal style.
On weekends, you like to be with others. Charity work is also a favorite pastime of yours.

How Machiavellian Are You?
You Are Somewhat Machiavellian

You're not going to mow over everyone to get ahead...
But you're also powerful enough to make things happen for yourself.
You understand how the world works, even when it's an ugly place.
You just don't get ugly yourself - unless you have to!

What Is Your World View?
Your World View
You are a fairly broadminded romantic and reasonably content.
You value kindness and try to live by your ideals.
You have strong need for security, which may be either emotional or material.
You respect truth and are flexible.
You like people, and they can readily make friends with you.
You are not very adventurous, but this does not bother you.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I apologize in advance

I'm back!

And I apologize for this, especially to my Arkansas ladies, who may not have thought it through when they asked for my blog address.

Ladies, you come to this page and you might get adorable pictures of my angelic children at a carnival (see below).

Then again, you might get an (ahem) "anatomically correct" picture of a giant sea creature.

Now in my defense, it's only here because it's what my husband sent to me. Love letters? We don't need no stinkin' love letters. We (apparently) exchange whale genitalia!

Anyway, I got this E-mail and I was just in one of those moods. I decided to take a few minutes to see if it was true. It was the work of mere seconds to find my way to several pages that debunk urban legends and the like. I liked the explanation and decided that if I link to it, then I don't have to actually post the photo on my own page. Everybody wins!

So here you go. If your curiosity has been piqued by the foregoing, click below. Dad, you're going to love the summary at the bottom (but read the main text first). I swear it had me going like Celeste and Nena. (Ha ha! Inside joke! Everyone who wasn't at the retreat will just have to wonder who Celeste and Nena are, and what happens when they get going...)

Don't Drink the Sea Water - Netlore Archive

(Oh, and Scott? I suspect I've got your attention by now. What's the best way to deal with sloping, shady ground that gets trampled regularly by dogs and on which no grass will grow? The rain turns it to mud and it ends up right in my entryway...I'm thinking maybe by carving it into a couple of terraces?)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

José: A boy at heart least according to his cardiologist.

[This was written 10 days ago. I had some technical difficulties at the time and was able to save it but not post it. Think of it as bonus content for being so patient during the retreat!]

The doctor who saw him in the ER last week didn't (bother/have time to/take the opportunity to) speak with them, but he did talk to José's nephew, Humberto, who works (in a non-medical capacity) at a different hospital.

He told Humberto that José's blood pressure had spiked, but that his heart was fine and that the event was triggered by something he ate.

The expensive, well-recommended cardiologist he saw yesterday? Said pretty much the same thing. It was the spicy fried sausage. José's blood pressure has been fine (his usual 120/80) all week, and he apparently passed whatever tests were administered yesterday with flying colors.

The cardiologist's verdict: It was the spicy fried sausage and Jose has "the heart of a boy." But he must lose weight.

So. I guess it was the sausage. But you guys? Help me out with this. Can a large serving of spicy, greasy food cause blood pressure to spike in someone with a healthy heart, who is not prone to hypertension, and who has eaten this kind of thing before? Maybe it can.

Doctors here are generally well trained, and many studied medicine in first-world countries. But a certain cultural difference remains. I generally assume it's one of two things: I think some doctors try to reassure patients by putting things in terms they are familiar with, or by attributing a condition to something that the patient probably already believes. Example: A new mother I knew was told by her doctor that she should feed her baby from both breasts at each feeding because "one is sweet and the other is savory."

Other times, I wonder if doctors' training justifies (at least to them) the folk wisdom they grew up believing. Example: My own pediatrician instructing me that infant Robin should be bathed "every day that God gives us on this Earth."

And then there is all the folk wisdom that people believe and practice without consulting a doctor. I think a lot of these remedies are probably rooted in real phenomena. Example: Many people regularly treat minor ills with various herbs that they either grow themselves or buy at the market. Oregano in hot milk is one - I don't remember what it's for, but it doesn't taste too bad. Various mints, rosemary, chamomile, etc. are also common. Another example: Someone who suffers from indigestion for several days is said to have a pega (a "blockage" I guess you'd say), and will seek out the person in their neighborhood who knows how to sobar. This is a firm, sometimes painful massage of certain points on one or both forearms, often with shortening for lubrication. Everyone I know who has had this done says that the "blockage" is relieved within the day, and digestion returns to normal.

Of course there are other beliefs that are psychosomatic at best and downright harmful at worst. Example: Can't think of any off the top of my head, and I really have to get my stuff together now. The retreat ladies are coming on Thursday and I have to go over to Rita's to help her set up this afternoon. Bye!

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