Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hello, I am blessed.

Okay, so the retreat was great, yadda yadda yadda.

I know you want to hear all about it but, frankly, "great" doesn't make much of a story. The rain forest was lovely and the pouring rain made the hot springs that much more enjoyable. Really. And then then the rain let up enough for us to hike back out to the bus so we weren't dripping wet and freezing all the way home.

On our other trip, the weather was iffy but the clouds lifted so we could see the stunning volcanic crater. It threatened rain while we hiked the waterfall trail but the rain held off until we were boarding the shuttle back up to the parking lot. Again, lovely.

A couple of the ladies felt a bit of a tremor one night - enough to make a good story but not enough to freak anybody out about earthquakes.

We had an entire week of lovely company and enjoyable conversation and talking shop and telling stories and I haven't had that much fun since the last reatreat. Maybe not even then.

In short, it was great. Hence, not much to tell.

But today. Today makes a good story. I have spent most of my day being thankful for everything that happened, simply because none of it started 24 or 48 or 72 hours earlier.

We'll begin with the 6:00 am phone call from Yolanda to report that Robin had been vomiting since midnight. I told Yolanda and both kids that I'd be there to pick them up around 10:30. I knew I would miss Terry's baby shower in the afternoon, which is disappointing, but what would I have done if it had happened in the middle of the retreat? I know from experience that there's no comforting a sick kid over the phone, so I'm thinking it would have involved commuting and you just don't want to go there.

Babe, I wish you weren't sick at all but since you are, thank you for waiting until the last day.

Plus? Bonus points for the fact that, whatever it is, she'll surely be over it by the time Alex gets here on Saturday. And too? Julia doesn't seem to have it, so maybe I won't get it. Yup, that'd be good.

So I got off the phone and we had another tropical breakfast that couldn't be beat, and everyone finished packing. Baggage was loaded without incident into the cars, group photos were taken and we drove to the airport.

Did I mention the trouble I've been having with my car? The nagging trouble where it stalls and stuff? I've been back to the shop more times than I can count and each time it improves some, but it's never really completely right. (I'm beginning to think it just has a crush on the mechanic.)

For those of you just tuning in, we had a new carburetor in January, a new master cylinder in February and a tiny little half-overhaul in March. Clearly, engine trouble in April should come as no surprise.

The car was in the shop briefly on the Monday before the retreat because it had done something disturbing over Easter week. I had to convince the mechanic that something was in fact wrong with it (he wanted to tell me I was just trying to drive in too high a gear), but he finally agreed to do some tests and make some adjustments. He gave it back to me later that afternoon and charged me nothing. Fine.

It seemed to drive okay for the next couple of days (stalling in the morning notwithstanding). We weren't planning to use it much during the retreat--mainly for the airport runs and for one trip to a nearby restaurant--so I was pretty confident. Well, except for finding a nail in the tire when I stopped for gas on the way to pick the ladies up at the airport. But I got that fixed easily enough (for three bucks, including a new valve.)

I really didn't have car trouble during the retreat. A stall or two, but nothing I couldn't handle (and certainly nothing I haven't seen before).

Until we were on our way to the airport and it started acting much as it had before. But! Now with smoke! And acrid smells! When it actually died, we were just turning off the exit ramp. Directly across the street from the airport. Boy howdy, am I blessed. Seriously. I almost don't care how bad it is, simply because it waited until after the retreat.

(Almost. Note that I do say "almost.")

I did get it started again, but we only made it a block - down to the little turnaround you have to go through in order to actually enter the airport parking areas. When it died there it stayed dead, but I was able to get mostly out of the flow of traffic, so that was good.

Also good: our awesome tour guide, Lloyd, happened by and stopped to see if we were okay. We didn't really need anything from him, but running into him made the whole thing more fun.

The little turnaround there is across from the taxi stand for a bunch of cabs that aren't technically part of the ground transportation system, but which are a taxi fleet in their own right.

Boy, do taxi drivers love a broke-down car. And a broke-down car with a girl driver? Well that's just icing on the cake. We were surrounded before we could get out of the vehicle. They pushed the car the rest of the way out of the flow of traffic, got in under the hood and offered a plethora of opinions.

I'm not even sure if Bonnie and Donna, who were riding with me, walked the block over to the airport or if they caught a ride with Lloyd or Rita. That is actually my biggest (personal) regret for the day: I lost track of them for a couple of minutes and that's just not right. I did at least manage to lock up the car and run (literally!) up to the airport to say goodbye just before they all went into the building, where I would not have been able to follow.

Returning to the car, I found that Rita had seen what was going on and drove back around after dropping the others off. She got Terry (her daughter) on the phone, who got the insurance company on the other line. They told her and she told me that they don't pay to tow cars that are over 15 years old. Interesting little factoid, that.

I listened to some more of the taxi drivers' opinions and called my own mechanic, who concurred with much of what they were saying, to whit: the car had overheated. If it would restart after it cooled down and got some water & oil, then I should drive it (gently) to the shop. If it wouldn't restart, then I should get it towed (duhhh).

Can we just pause here and go back to how awesome it is that this did NOT happen until we got right up to the airport? Okay, just so we're clear on that.

I walked over to a nearby gas station to buy some oil while the engine continued to cool down and the taxi drivers got their ya-yas watching it do so.

We had an Alpha Male by the time I got back, and he directed one of the others to add the oil and me to start the car. The car did eventually start, so they added water until it stalled again. Then they kept adding water until they noticed it was pouring out of a split hose. Well, that gave them a purpose in life, let me tell you. Alpha climbed right up under the hood (both feet off the ground and one of them up off the bumper), his Multi-Purpose Tool and assorted wrenches at the ready. He had the hose off before you could say what are you doing to my car? and the pack agreed on where a new hose could be had.

They appreciated my "If only there was a taxi somewhere about the place," and Alpha and I headed off to the House of Hoses (yes, really) (but in Spanish) in his cab.

They measured the dead hose with calipers (calipers!) and cut off a piece of new one to the same size (for 75 cents) and back we went.

Alpha stripped off his shirt and installed the hose and reinstated various other pieces of the car that had been removed. Water was again sloshed about the engine and into the appropriate holes. The car, however, was singularly unimpressed and opted not to start. One of the taxi guys was assigned to stop traffic while the others push-started the car by going a few feet the wrong way around the little roundabout and then up a convenient access road off to the other side.

They had asked if I knew how to push-start a car and I said that I did, but that I would rather have someone with more experience do it, so one of them took the wheel.

Unfortuantely, the car still wouldn't start, so Alpha went over to get his cab so they could jump start it. Meanwhile, the one in the driver's seat managed to get it going with, of all things, the key. Bunches of water spurted out of the muffler, but it didn't stall, so he brought it back around to where we were. Water was leaking from the engine too, but this soon stopped and it was determined that it was the result of spillage and not ongoing leakage.

I was advised to keep an eagle eye on the temperature gauge, and to keep it cooler by taking the highway rather than the back way and therefore not have to idle at red lights or languish behind slow buses.

I gave Alpha 5000 colones ($10) for the $4 cab ride and told him to keep the change.

The temperature gauge remained low while the car idled and I got advice, but the needle began to climb slowly and steadily once I started driving. I had been cautioned to stop immediately if it got up into the "hot" zone, but after a mile or two, it began to drop as slowly as it had risen. I got off the highway and it seemed to hold steady in the exact center of the hot/cold range as I drove through the residential streets.

However, as I was making a turn I felt the brake pedal suddenly go hard, indicating the loss of the power brakes, which is usually my first sign that the car has stalled. I pulled over and as soon as I stopped I could see that the engine was smoking again. I opened the hood and called the mechanic.

He said what I thought he might: it was time to stop messing with it and get a tow truck before the engine ended up completely fried. I asked them to recommend a towing company and they called the truck for me. It arrived before too long and turned out to be the big flatbed kind, which was nice - it felt very secure to have the entire vehicle riding up on a nice stable surface, rather than being pulled along behind the truck.

The cab drivers at the airport had estimated that towing from there to Heredia would have cost about $40. I don't know if that was true, but from where I broke down the second time, it cost $18, which I felt was quite reasonable. He even let me pay in dollars, which was all I had on me by then.

It was ten past noon and the mechanic - like most places - closes for lunch, so I got into the car and pulled out my delicates and perishables: laptop, digital camera, leftover tuna salad, pepperoni and mozarella, and a large serving dish still half-filled with mango cobbler. These I carried down to Yolanda's house and put, as appropriate, on the kitchen counter or in the fridge.

Robin was sitting outside the house on Josés lap. She hadn't been able to keep anything down, including Gatorade. She was looking pretty wrung-out and also very very hot. The poor child was wearing long sleeves and long pants when everyone else was too hot in shorts. I got her changed, had some lunch, gathered the girls' school clothes and lunch boxes, got the perishables back out of Yolanda's fridge, and asked José to call me a cab.

Our first stop was to get the rest of my stuff from the car (sewing machine, rolling desk chair, two lamps, two irons, clothes, fabric...) Then we stopped by the drug store for real rehydration serum (more likely to stay down than the sports drinks), then to the mini mart for milk and soda crackers, then home (balancing the mango cobbler all the way).

The cab driver helped me unload the stuff. Then he checked the meter, which read 3700 colones ($7.40) and offered to reduce it to 2900 ($5.80). I gave him 3000 and called it even. It was 2:00 pm.

Robin spent the remainder of the day watching videos and disliking the rehydration serum.

Julia watched one of the videos, played, had a bath and didn't like the mango cobbler (the ungrateful wretch). She had complained of a headache early this morning, but is clearly not sick at all, so she'll go to school tomorrow. If I can figure out how to get her there.

I had two automated messages from the phone company, threatening to cut off my phone service for not paying a bill I never received. I paid that online and decided that a phone company that sends out automated warnings almost makes up for a post office that can't manage to deliver a phone bill.

I returned a call from my major translation client and answered her question, which was a simple one. I rarely speak to her personally--she's the president of the company--so I took the opportunity to let her know that I hope to be pulling back from translation a bit as I spend more time on quilting-related projects, and to suggest that they begin looking around for other translators. She said they have actually tried out some other translators over the years, but have never found anyone whose work rivalled mine [insert warm fuzzy here] but that she appreciated the heads-up. One more step toward the work I really want to do.

So. Everything seems to be under control. The cat only threw up one hairball on the couch while I was gone. Robin hasn't thrown up at all since I picked her up at noon. The car is in the hands of the people who know the most about it, and I've caught up on the most important urgent, business-related E-mails of the week. I'm almost positive that the tiny insect I saw near Robin's head when I was brushing her hair as she lay on my pillow was not a louse because, really, that would just be too much.

The retreat was almost entirely unaffected by all of this drama and you got a much juicier story than if I had spent three pages raving about how great a time we all had. Photos will be forthcoming and they will tell the story better than I would have anyway.

Thank you and good night.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

See you next week

Well I was going to leave you with ten (10!) cute pictures of the kids in Rita's pool last week, but guess what? Oh well.

The retreat starts on Thursday so I'll probably not be back this way until it's over on Wednesday of next week. Have a good one...

Saturday, April 15, 2006


The 1989 Mitsubishi Montero is a four-seater. You can get a fifth person into the middle-back seat, but they won't have a seatbelt. Or much hip room. There's a rear door that opens onto a bit of space behind the back seat; just enough for a box of the stuff most people would keep in the trunk (or, in a real pinch, a husband [wouldn't you know that was the ONE time I've ever forgotten about the homemade speed bump on that street...]). If you have to haul something larger than a milk crate or a small man, you can fold the back seat down, or even down-and-up-the-other-side, but then of course you've got yourself a two-holer.

My parrot has herself some fairly spaceous digs, so when I need to transport her there's one option and one option only: She sits in the front passenger seat. It works pretty well if I remember to empty her water dish first. I pet her at stop signs and she seems pretty content as long as her big plastic peanut doesn't get to swinging and bop her on the head. (The parrot needed to be dropped off at Yolanda's house because our house sitters never seem to feel up to risking life and digits to feed her.)

The girls did their own packing, so they each had a kid-sized bag. I had a backpack of clothes and a second bag with paperwork, paperbacks and a couple of (paper) things to pull out when the kids got bored. We also had a plastic bag with groceries and a six-pack of refreshing beverages. And a separate bag with a bunch of bananas that never would have made it through the weekend otherwise.

Oh, and we have a quilt retreat coming up next week, so I had to take my two sewing machines over too.

So we've got a parrot on the front seat, sewing machines under the kids' feet, backpacks & groceries stuffed in on each side of the children. And behind the back seat? That was where I put the watchdog, who also had to be evacuated because last time our housesitter was here she tried to bite (he says "castrate") him.

Did I mention that this is the dog who throws herself bodily against the sliding glass doors whenever the parrot is visible within? Let's just say it was an exhilarating ride. And I should have put the sewing machines in the back.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Down for the count

Costa Rica is closed for Easter. Closed and dry, so I hope you stocked up.

My neighbors to the left have been gone for two days already and my neighbors to the bee-hind left this morning. We're heading out as soon as I get stuff packed. Not to the beach, but to Rita's house, which is better. Rita has a regular pool AND a kiddie pool, a DVD player and a fridge. Need I say more? The price is right too: BYOB and we provide the pizza makings.

In some ways Easter, though less directly commercial, is bigger than Christmas in Costa Rica. I say less "directly" commercial because you actually have to go out looking for specialty chocolates and whatnot - they're not RightThereInYourFace at every turn. (Although you can get real, live, baby chicks on the street corner. Oh, and they're dyed Easter egg colors!) On the other hand, the Easter Week Vacation is highly touted and everyone does head out to the beach and stuff. So that's commercial, but kind of indirect.

The non-cable TV stations are given over to those lovely Easter films. I'd love to make a Charlton-Heston-in-a-short-tunic remark here, but I've never actually watched any of them so don't know if Charlton Heston had anything to do with them. (Nor would I recognize Charleton Heston if he were in fact to appear in a short tunic right here on my desk.) Anyway, the Hollywood version of the story of Easter is one thing that makes me glad I don't watch Costa Rican television - there's nothing for me to miss when these things take over the broadcast day. (Of course, my mother in law loves 'em. For her it's like the Peanuts Christmas special. Only, you know, with more blood.)

(In the spirit of the season, I was going to upload pictures of the girls with their new rabbits but guess what? Couldn't there's a shocker.)

So happy Spring Break everybody. Consider this my Away message - we'll be home on Saturday. Have a Cadbury's egg for me. (Speaking of which, you really must click here.) I think I'll have one too, if they've imported any this year.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

If you like piña coladas...

Escape is the only song I remember from the old family collection of 45's that I still hear on any kind of a regular basis (and this is surely as it should be).

I always notice it when it comes on. I particularly notice the line "I'm nobody's poet" because when I was a kid I thought it said "I'm nobody's par wit" and I never knew what that meant. It kind of bugged me, but not enough to ever ask anyone about it and, obviously, at some point I figured it out on my own. (I had similar problems with "A bar called O'Malley's." [Abarful Omalleys?? What a stupid name for a restaurant...] Maybe Rupert Holmes needs to work on his enunciation.)

The song was on the radio this morning as I was sitting down at the computer and as usual I was enjoying it while pffft-ing at yoga and health food as deal-breakers. (I mean, Dude. YOU don't have to be into them, but so what if SHE is??)

And then I had this little mini revelation. Okay, you know the song, right? Stop for a minute and picture the people. The singer and his Lovely Lady. (If possible, without taking into account that the singer's name is Rupert, which I just learned.)

This was before the days of the music video, so you got to make up your own visuals. And once you did, of course, they were set in stone. It's like when you're reading a book and you've got the action set comfortably in your best friend's old house she used to live in when you were growing up. Then someone comes out of the kitchen and turns right into the living room and you get all disgruntled because it's totally not set up that way. So you decide to ignore it and hope that the floorplan doesn't play a pivotal role in the plot.

Oh, right. Music.

So you surely have your own visuals for The Piña Colada Song. If a video was ever made for it (and I suppose one eventually was, for karaoke purposes if nothing else) I never saw it. So to me, the guy is dark-haired (yup) and slick, you know, with a white suit (nope) and...well, actually I never really pictured him much beyond that. But I do have a clear picture of the Lady of whom he's grown tired. She's a large woman - tall, big boned and...well, not fat but just plain large. She's approaching middle age and has short curly hair, dyed blond (with, of course, dark roots). She wears a flowered housedress.

And since that's what I came up with when I used to listen to the record back in elementary school, that's how I've always pictured her. She's not the picture of traditional beauty, but she's his own Lovely Lady. (Interestingly, my sixth-grade science teacher--the one responsible for teaching us the mechanics of Human Reproduction--would turn out to be this very woman, minus the flowered housedresses.)

It wasn't until 25 years later--just this morning--that it occurred to me that someone who values piña coladas over health food (never mind perusing the personals while lying in bed with the current squeeze) may have had a different physiognomy in mind when penning the song. All of a sudden she's curvy and lush and exotic. Hawaiian, probably.

There goes another chunk of youthful innocence.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

That day in my life

So all day Friday I was making mental notes about what time it was and writing another Day in the Life post in my head.

Thursday's post was already written and published and I have no intention of doing this on a daily basis, but I guess it's like playing video games. Concentrate on one mode of thinking for long enough and it kind of becomes the default for a while. Keeping a running internal commentary on your day is less annoying than seeing Tetris blocks falling in your sleep, but still.

Anyway, it was fun to read all the other Day in the Life posts and even more fun to have new people stop by and say nice things about my blog.

In response to the commenters:

Dad: We go out most Fridays and they always take a taxi home afterwards. I usually do too, since we don't normally go to the restaurant across the street. We went there this week because it was a school night and that way I could stop by the house and get things in order before going over. It also made it that much easier for me to leave and get the kids into bed at a normal time. (It wasn't raining, by the way.)

Sarah: Whew, having read your Day in the Life, I can't wait till your girls are older either! (Although if you're anything like me, you'll always be looking forward to them being some mythical future age...)

CarpeDM: I can only guess at the questions, but some basic background information probably would be helpful. I grew up in the northeastern US. I came to Costa Rica through a college program and ended up staying after graduation. My husband, Alex, is a Costa Rican who, ironically, is currently working as a land surveyor in the US and lives right between my parents & sister while I'm 15 minuts from his family. He's coming for a visit in a couple of weeks. The girls are 4 and 7. (BTW, Julia doesn't usually cry that much, but she seems to be in some kind of a phase at the moment. It probably made it into this post so many times because it's unusual for her and therefore notable to me.) José & Yolanda are Alex's parents.

Sheryl: The parrot's name is Loren ("parrot" is lora in Spanish). She's a Red Lored Amazon and she's the best! Well, if you're me she is. She bites other people. I used to have two, but Rosita flew away about a year ago. We still speculate on her fate. Loren has been very attached to me ever since - they're flock birds by nature and need the company. I wish she had another bird for company, but don't really want to get another parrot because most of the pet birds available here have been stolen from the wild and you don't want to perpetuate that. (These birds belonged to my mother in law, who gave them to me when she saw how much I enjoyed them.) Also, parrots can be really really noisy and my house is an echo chamber because the living room is two stories high with a tile floor. Loren often shrieks at dinner time and echos the girls' screams when they get loud, and that's plenty. A new parrot that was a frequent shrieker would most assuredly be cause for regret. (I've never seen the Hitchcock movie...perhaps I should keep it that way.)

Some general updates:

The car is back to stalling again, and not just when I start it. Now it stalls in motion up to three separate times in the first two blocks whenever I drive it. After that it drives normally. I suspect the mechanic will be closed all through Easter week (which is a bigger deal than Christmas here) but I'll call tomorrow to check. Good times.

The washing machine is doing the same thing again, but I did discover a way to get it to pick up where it left off instead of starting the cycle over when it rings the error bells. Whatever.

I left the kids with José and Yolanda for much of the day yesterday and when I went to pick them up, they had bought the girls a bunk bed. Robin chose to spend the night there so she could try it out. Julia wanted to come home with me.

Wow, this sure is a boring post. Stopping now.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

What I did SERIOUS detail

Sheryl at Paper Napkin invites her readers to blog the minutiae of an entire day on the 6th of each month. This is the first I've been aware of it, and luckily for all of us, today provided plenty of Day-in-Jen's-Life fodder. If it'd been yesterday I might have skipped it.

Be warned: This is long. Very long. It's stunning how much can be written about a regular day of errands and E-mail. You might want to go get a snack before we get into this. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Okay then:

5:04 am - Wake, check clock, review day of week and status of day. It's a school day, the kids are home, must wake up at 6:00. Enjoy fact that it's not yet time to get up. Reprogram brain for 6:00 wake up call.

6:00-ish am - Wake again, check clock, recognize again that it's a school day. Begin wake up process: Thursday. Robin needs to wear her gym uniform and take her recorder to school. Joanna is coming to clean the house. Remember to call Joanna and pick her up after going to the gym.

6:10 am - Kids wake up, come into my bed.

6:21 am - Time for me to get up. Kids want to stay in bed but don't want to forgo the all-important ritual of holding my hand when I first go downstairs. Inform them that they must get their school clothes laid out if they want to be able to go downstairs when I do. (We got home late last night so they didn't lay their clothes out before going to bed.)

6:23 am - Boot kids out of my bed so I can make it.

6:25 am - Open curtains, make bed, put on flannel shirt over shorts & t-shirt worn as pajamas. Turn on radio, unplug cell phone ("Charge Complete"), open north-facing curtain in girls' room. (West-facing window tends to have builders directly outside of it--here on the second floor--so that curtain stays shut until the girls are dressed or, sometimes, all day.)

6:30 am - Ready to go downstairs, but Julia is barefoot & Robin is still wearing yesterday's school socks. Send both girls to get something on their feet.

6:33 am - Fish Julia out of her closet, find that she has in fact gotten slippers on. Take both girls' hands at head of stairs. Walk down stairs. Let go of girls' hands at foot of stairs. Wonder why this is such a big deal and be grateful that the at least the daily struggle over who gets to be on the right-hand side has abated been effectively quashed.

6:35 am - Uncover parrot cage, open cage door, open front curtains, unlock front door.

6:37 am - Pour corn flakes into two Sponge Bob Squarepants bowls, open new bag of raisins & sprinkle over corn flakes, pour milk into two plastic Teletubbies mugs. Call kids for breakfast.

6:40 am - Wash up the bulk of the dishes sitting in the sink because it's really not Joanna's job to wash two days' worth of cereal bowls and noodle pans.

6:55 am - Robin is done eating. Send her to dress, brush teeth, brush hair, make bed, put pajamas away. Julia finishes shortly thereafter. Send her to do the same. Fix usual breakfast of granola with extra raisins, forgoing the bananas, which are too green. Pour large glass of water. Put coffee on. Appreciate that both girls are done eating so I can enjoy a good book (Simple Jess by Pamela Morsi) over breakfast.

7:00 am - Julia screams/cries/whines. Yell up the stairs that Robin is to leave whatever room she is in and accomplish the remainder of her morning rituals without, at any time, occupying the same room as Julia.

7:10 am - Remember that the girls' lunches & snacks have not yet been packed. Pull out last night's pizza (as planned), cut with kitchen scissors to fit into faux-Ziploc reusable plastic tubs. Toss in small apples as the snack fruit, raisins as the lunch fruit, package of microwave popcorn to round out lunch & as once-a-week special snack treat for the girls.

7:20 am - Realize that, with the washing machine out of commission, there are no clean shorts to wear to the gym. Check odds-on favorite alternate shorts and discover two inconveniently located bleach holes (from cleaning Lisa's bathroom once upon a long-ago visit). Look at other shorts. Dispair.

7:21 am - Consider Alex's shorts. Two out of three gym-type shorts are actually mens' bathing suits. Try on the third one, which fits but is badly stained. Try on one of the bathing suits. Find, fortuitously, that it fits well and permits a full range of motion despite the...erm...banana hammock aspect of the bathing suit. Experience relief. Experience a momentary high upon discovering clean purple ankle socks that actually kind of match this improvised gymwear. Get dressed. Remember deodorant. Appreciate self for remembering deodorant.

7:24 am - Brush hair, remember that scrunchies Must Be Purchased. Wonder again at how two scrunchies could be lost in one swell foop in one day. Decide to buy scrunchies before going to the gym. Decide that, at a couple of days post-shampoo, a bun might work okay (ie, not slide out becaus of too-clean hair). Make infinity bun. Check out bun in mirror, experience dismay. Check clock, decide "WhatEVER," opt not to re-do bun.

7:27 am - Put Robin's hair in ponytail.

7:28 am - Say "Julia, how is it possible that you are STILL not dressed? I sent you up here to get dressed like 20 minutes ago. If you need help with something, you have to come find me and ask for help, not sit there for 15 minutes Not Getting Dressed." Acknowledge that she did, eventually, get the pants snapped. Switch her shoes to the other feet, tie shoes.

7:32 am - Acknowledge that there will not, in fact, be time to drink coffee before leaving for school. Recognize that there will, however, be time after dropping off kids and before going to gym. Find travel mug on bottom shelf. Rinse.

7:35 am - Give lunches to kids. Break good news about popcorn.

7:36 am - Brush Julia's hair, find yesterdays' ponytail holders in backpack, notice that comb is still upstairs and part her hair with a car key instead. Make two ponytails in Julia's hair.

7:39 am - Wipe parrot poop from tile floor, shove parrot back into cage, shut cage door, wash hands. Get cell phone, water bottle, yesterday's gym towel (never reused one before, but fortunately doesn't seem to smell despite defunct washing machine). Pour coffee into travel mug, add lots and lots o' creamer, bit of vanilla, lament lack of milk.

7:45 am - Complain that kids are blocking door, usher kids outside, exit, shut door but don't lock in case Joanna comes on bus instead of waiting for ride. Open car door, refuse to arbitrate fight over who gets into car first. Unobtrusively observe to make sure no pushing takes place, as this would result in forfeit of bedtime video priviledges.

7:47 am - Tie up dogs. Curse aloud at Scruffy for jumping up and dirtying/scratching bare legs. Unlock gate & push open.

7:49 am - Start car. Fully appreciate that car does, in fact, start. Marvel at how much it has cost to achieve this ability to start on the first try and not stall when backing out of the gate. Notice (again) just how hideously long the grass has gotten. Back out, shut gate, untie dogs, slip back out of gate, lock gate.

7:52 am - Restart car, back into road, head down to school. Take deep breath. Appreciate that we actually have 8 minutes for the 8-minute trip. Say bad things under breath when coffee mug tips over & begins to leak on dash. Wave hello to Ramon the taxi driver on way down hill.

8:00 am - Arrive at school, lift kids over 2-foot-deep drainage ditch, walk them to school gate. Momentarily forget to kiss them goodbye, wonder if they will remember, note that they don't, although Robin does chirp her usual "see you in seven hours!" before heading out of sight. Julia does not look back.

8:01 am - Deep breath. Recall coffee, retrieve it and book from car, walk one block to park, find bench with back to sun, drink coffee, read book. Experience frustration at excessive drips from leaky coffee mug, resolve problem with gym towel.

8:30 am - Check time on cell phone, gather up book & empty mug, head back to car. Cross street and wave hello to Ramon the taxi driver, who is just passing the park.

8:35 am - Decide to skip buying scrunchies, drive 1 mile to gym. Remind self that horrifically difficult spinning classes are just four days a week, and that this is last day for this week. Sigh.

8:40 am - Enter gym to find Abel [ah-BELL], the owner, free to chat. Ask how long it generally takes someone in my general condition to become used to spinning classes. Acknowledge that, while I'm willing to give it a break-in period and don't expect it to be easy, I'm really interested to know how long it should take to be able to at least do most of what the others are doing and, you know, not fall off the bike dead before class is over. Experience pleasant surprise to hear "two weeks" as an answer, this being the second half of the second week. Continue to chat with Abel about fitness goals, how hard spinning really is, gyms, personal trainers, acupuncture, negative energy, personal relationships. Find Abel talkative, but enjoyably so.

9:00 am - Fill water bottle, begin weight routine. Get through about half of the assigned exercises before spinning class. Notice that the Tae Bo instructor, a tall, lithe, muscular, friendly, probably gay black man with long hair in fine braids, is pumping some serious iron and also wearing a tight red outfit that resembles those typical university "Property of" sports shirts, but instead of saying, for instance, "Property of UCLA" or some such, it actually says "Property of Sixty Nine." Giggle to self.

9:15 am - Choose a bike near the front where there is a remote possibility of a breeze from window or door, and where I won't be directly facing anyone else. Adjust seat & handlebar heights, begin pedalling as others select bikes & make adjustments.

9:15 - 10:00 am - Make it through spinning class, sweating buckets but keeping up fairly well, considering it's just the second week. Get a thumbs-up from Abel.

10:00 am - Finish weight routine, remembering partway through about picking up Joanna.

10:20 am - Call Joanna, who has been waiting for a while, pick her up, drive home, waving hello to Ramon the taxi driver on the way up the mountain. Explain to Joanna about the dead washing machine, which contains a thoroughly soaked quilt that has to be dealt with before it rots completely away.

10:30 am - Arrive home, leaving car outside of gate. Turn on computer and radio. Check messages, including one from a customer who is buying a survey instrument from Alex. Remember washing machine, check quilt. Decide it has not mouldered too much, get Joanna to help wring it out a bit and hang it on the line. Suspect that the problem with the washing machine is a slipped or broken belt. Unplug washer and try to unscrew back plate to see if anything is visibly wrong.

10:47 am - Answer phone call from Alex. Assure him that I will immediately check to see if instrument buyer made major bank deposit yesterday as claimed. Hang up phone and head to computer.

10:50 am - Find entire bank website offline. Briefly contemplate reality of third world countries. Appreciate access to online services, but wonder if reliance on them is truly warranted. Check bank website again. Still offline. E-mail Alex that, if the bank doesn't come back online before this afternoon, I will check the balance at an ATM when picking the girls up from school. Hope his PIN number is still in my wallet, because Alex for sure won't remember it. Answer a few quick E-mails.

11:15 am - Return to washing machine. Find longer phillips screwdriver for more leverage, succeed in removing back. Find nothing identifiably wrong with the parts visible inside. Take Joanna's advice and try machine again with a load smaller than a queen-sized quilt. Figure that, even if they must be hand-rinsed, at least there will be clean gym clothes for tomorrow. Start load.

11:10 am - Head back up to computer, experience relief that bank is back online. Verify deposit, notify both Alex & buyer that money has been received.

11:15 am - Feel hungry. Bring yogurt & glass of water to desk and turn to "Computación" section of yellow pages. Start making calls. Find that the call made on Tuesday was not typical, as the shops contacted today deal only in new computers, not used. Get quotes for new CPUs that will be able to handle DSL service. Begin to feel that Tuesday's call was the way to go. E-mail neighbors to ask if they have any suggestions about where to buy computer.

12:05 pm - Recognize that computer shops close for lunch. Find digital camera and start downloading photos taken at quilt show yesterday. Check on washing machine and rejoice that the problem has fixed itself. Move clothes to dryer but don't start the cycle because it would get too hot in the laundry room and Joanna is in and out with her cleaning supplies. Grumble at waterlogged quilt that has snapped the clothesline, fallen to the ground and been traversed by dogs. Wonder if washing it again will re-break the washing machine.

12:20 pm - Marvel at how long it can take to download a measly 100 freaking photos from the digital camera. Check blogs. Discover that Sheryl has declared Friday "Day in the Life" day. Read two of her prior Day in the Life entries and realize it's today, not tomorrow. Feel satisfaction that today has, thus far, provided good fodder for this. Not like yesterday when I was so tired after the gym that I lay around reading a novel & taking a bath for the rest of the day. Although after school we did go to the quilt show. But still. Today is better.

1:00 pm - Finally follow up on multiple announcements to Joanna that I was going outside to clean up the yard. Go outside and clean up the yard. Find fewer branches and rocks than expected, but comprehend just how hideously long the grass has truly grown. Remove clothespins and wind up broken clothesline. Toss into shed. Feel self-conscious about guys building house next door, especially that new one who works with a knitted ski hat and no shirt on, and who (unlike the others) doesn't immediately look away if our eyes happen to meet through the window when I'm sitting at the computer and he's laying cinder block on the second floor of the house they're building next door.

1:15 pm - Feel foolish for letting grass grow so long and therefore resolve, with impeccable logic, not to cut it today. Maybe tomorrow. Wish Elberth was here to cut it for me.

1:20 pm - Drink STRONG coffee Joanna has made, return to computer, rotate any quilt pictures that are sideways, view as slide show to check quality and make sure they are right side up. Fix two that ended up upside down. Read blogs.

2:15 pm - Remind Joanna that we'll be leaving in half an hour. Shower. Reflect on Coconut Lime Verbena creamy body wash, a product I would never have sought out on my own, but which was one of several products I selected when given a Bath & Body Works gift card. Relish the lovely clean coconut scent of the wash and exfoliating properties of the "puff" with which it is applied.

2:20 pm - Notice that the top half of the shower window will need to be glazed when the neighbors eventually build the second house on their lot. Notice in passing that the sky has grown a bit darker than usual, although some blue is still apparent. Think nothing of it.

2:40 pm - Take note that it has begun pouring rain for the first time since last November.

2:45 pm - Appreciate this morning's impulsive decision to leave car outside of gate, meaning that dogs need not be tied up in mud and pouring rain in order to open gate and drive out. Get in car and drive down the mountain and out of the rain. Drop Joanna off for job interview, arrive at school right at 3:00.

3:00 pm - Greeted by Robin, whose first words are "I'm OK, Mommy." Check out and kiss big red scratch running entire length of her forearm. Watch Julia do several "tricks" on the monkey bars. Congratulate accordingly. Head inside to reconfirm vacation schedule for Easter week. Mention computers in passing, get phone number of computer guy to call about replacing CPU.

3:10 pm - Tear children away from friends & monkey bars, herd them out to car. Drive to José & Yolanda's. Hear about the lather-rinse-repeat treatment given to Robin's scratch, conclude (silently) that the extensive washing was because the scratch was from metal. Recall that tetanus is supposed to result from puncture wounds, not ugly but superficial scratches. Decide she'll live.

3:15 pm - Leave Robin to play with new rabbit (I left town for ONE DAY last week and my in-laws bought my children rabbits. Real, live rabbits. Fortunately, everyone involved was clear on the fact that the rabbits will remain at the in-laws' house.)

3:20 pm - Go to store, taking Julia along. Buy smoked chicken-ham (My children like ham. MY children. Like. Ham. [This week]), cheese for cheese cubes (because Robin wants to make a recipe she has learned, which calls for three things: sliced ham, cheese cubes and toothpicks), alfalfa sprouts (to make tortilla roll-ups with ham, cheese, cream cheese and alfalfa sprouts), strawberries (because Julia wants to make her own recipe, which calls for ham, cheese, bread and strawberries), yogurt (for me), and Ramen noodles (for me).

3:55 pm - Return to José & Yolanda's house, try to get Julia to stop crying. Decide to leave when kids' TV show is over at 4:00 but then see José serving them something to drink and Jello to eat. Recognize that we won't be leaving in 5 minutes. Settle into a rocking chair in the sun, chat with José who admits to wanting to go out for dinner tonight rather than tomorrow, since they are not supposed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Call Yolanda, who says she'll be home in half an hour. Agree to wait.

4:05 pm - See Robin carrying rabbit by ears. Freak out and make Robin cry.

4:30 pm - Rain begins, phone rings. Yolanda asks for ride home. Drive 1/4 mile to pick her up just as rain begins in earnest. Explain to Yolanda in car that rabbits are not to be carried by ears.

4:35 pm - Return to José & Yolanda's house, expecting to leave for restaurant forthwith. Recall paltry lunch of yogurt and water. Wish it had been followed up, as intended, with slice of leftover pizza.

4:40 pm - See that the other adults are simply not ready to go yet. Sit on couch and watch "Harry y su Cubeta de Dinosaurios" with kids. Try to get Julia to stop crying.

5:00 pm - Sense that adults are ready, turn of television (to chorus of protest), try to herd children toward car. Discover that entire household must wait for Angela to arrive on 5:05 bus. Wait for bus. Tell kids to stop playing with umbrella, making both of them cry.

5:10 pm - Bus arrives one block from house, Yolanda hustles to meet it. Angela dismounts, is escorted with umbrella to house, arrives soaked to skin. Angela must be helped to change, served food and drink, television tuned to station she enjoys.

5:30 pm - Load family into car (Julia crying). Get very very wet. Drive 3 miles home, emerging from rainstorm at halfway point. Julia arrives sound asleep.

5:40 pm - Arrive home, unlock gate, tie up dogs. Appreciate that it is not raining. Curse at Scruffy for scratching/dirtying bare arms and legs despite my death-grip on his collar. Send children and in-laws across street to restaurant.

5:45 pm - Feed dogs, cat, parrot. Close curtains. Check messages. Check E-mail and turn off computer. Change into jeans, get sweater. Get long pants and sweaters for kids. Get kids' pajamas out and turn down their beds. Shovel clean clothes off of my bed and onto nearby shelf to make room for kids when we get home. Check mirror, decide bartender won't care if my bun is a little fuzzy.

6:00 pm - Cross street to join kids & in-laws. Julia is crying and must sit in my lap because she hates the food she has been given (at her request). Order food and a beer and agree to let her sit on my lap until my food arrives.

6:10 pm - Notice that the big screen TV is tuned to Discovery Channel show about UFOs. Try to hear a bit of it, end up attracting Robin's attention. Deal with wide-eyed 7-year-old interest in/fear of aliens for remainder of meal. Order second beer.

7:00 pm - Time to go. Re-cross street, hold Scruffy's collar while kids go up to house. Try to re-lock gate without letting Scruffy loose. Fail. Send kids up to put on pajamas. Lock door, check messages, turn on radio, turn on computer, turn on dryer, write first two lines of this post.

7:15 pm - Phone rings. Chat with Rita for a few minutes, instructing kids in stage whispers and sign language to brush their teeth.

7:20 pm - Hang up phone, get kids into my bed, start video. Get back to writing this post.

7:30 pm - Hear crash followed by frantic crying. Go investigate to find Julia on floor beside bed. Turn off video, comfort Julia, kiss head. Decline to become involved in discussion about whether or not she was pushed. Explain that if so little attention was being paid to the video that a person could fall OR be pushed off of a bed, that perhaps the video isn't necessary at all. Carry Julia to bed. Immediately pursue Julia and carry her back to bed. Carry Robin to bed.

7:40 pm - Leave both kids crying in their beds

7:45 pm - All quiet on the bedroom front.

7:53 pm - Robin calls, can't sleep because she's thinking about aliens. Say, "It's okay to think about aliens." Point out that that people don't leave Earth to go bother aliens, and that aliens also have their own lives and don't need to spend their time bothering people. Yes, but she's still thinking about it. Offer to turn on the light so she can read for a few minutes (Julia is, of course, down for the count). Pass her the Christmas "finding things" book as requested, turn on lullaby tape, return to writing this post.

9:15 pm - Take a bathroom break, turn off lights & music, return to this post.

10:26 pm - Finish this post.

11:08 pm - Finish rereading/proofreading this post. Oh crap. I have to send 25 copies of a note to school with the kids tomorrow. Better write that now.

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