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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Oh-oh that smell! Can't you smell that smell?

Well, I should really be finishing the unpacking what with the baby sleeping, homeschooling done for the day, and kiddos playing happily with Daddy in the pool....but, alas, such a perfect atmosphere for blogging. Unpacking can wait, I say!

So many fun things to write about!

First, Cole has made a full recovery. Thanks for all your well wishes on his behalf.

Secondly, have you been to Mexico?? Do you know that smell? That delicious smell that to me says, "Ahhh. Mexico." I've been trying to pay attention and pinpoint exactly what is involved in this fabulous combination of olfactory delights. It's not a floral smell, like Hawaii. It's a much richer, earthier, muskier fragrance that almost has a texture to it. Let me try to describe:

It's a blend of ocean and burning organic material, with a touch of exhaust and leather furniture, carne asada on an open grill, a splash of mildew, and a healthy undercurrent of warm dirt.

"Ahhh. Mexico."

Do you know this smell I speak of?

view of town and ocean from our balcony

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mexico Lindo

We're here! We arrived safely this afternoon and are now cozied into our little apartment on the hill. And is Sayulita ever delightful! The balcony doors are open with waves crashing, babes sleeping, geccos chirping, Daddy snoring softly, Reggae drifting up from the plaza, and the breeze humming along sweetly. Life is good.

On a less delightful note, Cole has the flu with a temperature of 103.2 (pre-advil). He started feeling badly today, about half way to Puerto Vallarta. Evie and Emerson had it over the weekend and missed school yesterday. The good news is that we had a small window of opportunity (about 24 hours), between sick kids, to travel. Evie and Em had made a full recovery by yesterday afternoon, and we got here this afternoon just in time for Cole to crash out. It's one thing to be sick at home (any home), but being sick in the airport and on the airplane...well, that's simply no fun at all. So, I'm feeling rather thankful that he didn't have to deal with that (much).

I'm off the recheck that temp...poor kid.

Thanks for checking in,

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mine Oldest

Cole turned 12 on Thursday (the 15th of January - he shares a birthday with MLK Jr.) and boy, oh boy is it ever a great age. My mom always says the even years are easier than the odd years. And I think she may just have something there. Currently, our kids are 12, 8, 6, and 2. And let me just say,

Life is awesome.

We leave for Mexico on Tuesday, for three weeks. We have a little lot in a little village just north of Puerto Vallarta, called Sayulita. This was the first purchase that Dave and I made as a married couple (aside from a puppy - but we really didn't pay for her - oh, and our VW Bus - we used to be so cool!). Anywho, one winter we packed up our puppy and our 13 month old baby and headed for the border of Mexico. (Like I said we used to be way cool.) By then we had upgraded to a Ford F150 extra cab pick-up with camper shell (good times, lemme tell ya).

We drove across the deserts of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas (p.s. Texas is a ridiculously large state. You should know this if you ever find yourself driving across it). We crossed the border into Mexico near Brownsville, TX and proceeded to drive down the east coast of Mexico to the southern most state of Chiapas (which borders Guatemala, f.y.i.). While there, our darling first born contracted a nasty case of E. Coli poisoning. Not pretty. He couldn't keep down breast milk or water and his poop (not diarrhea) was out-of-control-stinky (you should know this in case you ever find yourself with such symptoms). After consulting the pediatric medical encyclopedia that we had lugged all over Mexico for just such an occasion, we proceeded directly to the Chiapas Emergency Hospital...

Let me paint a picture for you of our day at the Chiapas Emergency Hospital:

The waiting room looks like a solitary confinement cell at Alcatraz: all cement cinder blocks with light bulbs dangling precariously from the ceiling. There are about 10 families waiting to be seen, with an old woman crying loudly in the corner and praying to God, while clutching her heart. Her adult son looks ashen as he tries to keep her propped up. Did I mention there are no chairs??? Families are huddled on the floor (the cement floor) while they wait. There is a receptionist sitting (yes, she has a chair) at a card table just inside the entrance. We tell her our woes and she points to an unoccupied corner. We wait for a while and eventually we are ushered into the E.R....

Let me paint a picture for you of the E.R.:

There are little cubicles along one wall, each with its own gurney, a curtain for privacy and two live wires sticky out of the wall at the head of the bed. We assume this is to attach the defib paddles should a patient go into cardiac arrest (like the woman in the hall). But, we don't really know. In the cubicle next to us is one family I recognize from the waiting room whose 15 or 16 year old son is having relentless and uncontrollable seizures. His family is huddled around him praying and keeping him from bouncing off his gurney. A couple cubicles down is the woman with the heart pain, still crying and praying, "Aye, Dios mio! Aye, Dios mio!" I'll probably never forget her voice...haunting really. There is a woman in labor, pacing back and forth, behind a glass-windowed wall (I think that was the Labor and Delivery wing). Around the corner, in another area of cubicles, is a man with a gun shot wound to the leg. We have a picture of that guy (I don't know why) and he's smiling. Hmmm.

And at the nurses station, across from the cubicles, there are two nurses. (Who, by the way, are wearing very traditional nurse uniforms, like from the 50's. You know the ones? Crisp white blouses, knee length skirts, white platform nurse shoes, and the little white origami caps held on with bobby pins. We had one of those costumes in the Halloween box when I was a kid.) You'll simply never believe what the nurses were doing at their station, so I'll just go ahead and tell you. They were blowing up used latex exam gloves (like how you do when you want to make a cow utter) and they were washing them off in the sink and laying them out to dry, so as to be used again. (If you look closely at the above pic you can see one of these gloves drying on the counter.) It made me wonder what else they washed and reused. Needles? Please don't let him need an I.V... Please don't let him need an I.V...

(see the live wires above my head?)

At this point we didn't know that Cole had E. Coli. And that's a good thing because I'd have been freaking out. All we knew was that he was lethargic, wasn't keeping down fluids, and had a low grade temperature (and really stinky poop which didn't seem to concern anyone besides me). The doctors there (one had been trained at Stanford and spoke perfect English) wanted to send us home with some Tylenol to lower his temp. I, however, knew better (having been trained at the groovy school of Trusting My Intuition - thanks, Mom. Oh, and there was that medical enclyclopedia that said there was something seriously wrong with stinky poop and not keeping down breast milk - as in, proceed directly to the E.R., do not pass GO, do not collect $200). So, I insisted that they take my carefully preserved diaper and have it tested. Please. They rolled their collective eyes and were thoroughly irritated that this 22 year old gringa was telling them how to do their business. I didn't care. Take the poop. Go on. Take it. And don't come back without test results.

As we waited for the results, the nurses, when they weren't scrubbing their gloves, tended to Cole and made sure that his temperature didn't get too high (they were concerned about seizures, they told me, and rightfully so, what with the kid in the next cubicle). We had refused the Tylenol, wanting the fever (as long as he was staying hydrated) to do it's job in fighting off whatever was causing our child's infection. (The poor medical establishment - I can be so difficult. Surely, there's nothing more irritating than parents who think for themselves.) So they kept a cool cloth on his head and kept him hydrated with electrolyte water which tasted like sea water but he thought was heavenly. He was so thirsty, poor baby. He wanted to guzzle, but if he drank too much he would throw it all back up. So they gave him little sips at a time. They took very good care of him.

Finally, the test results came back and the doctors were apologetic as they explained that Cole had 6 times the normal level of E. Coli bacteria in his gut. For the first time that day, we were very scared. We remembered the Jack-in-the-Box outbreak of E. Coli earlier that year, and people had died. But they told us not to worry, wrote us a prescription for some antibiotics and sent us down the street to the farmacia under very clear instructions to come back if he couldn't keep down the medicine or showed any signs of dehydration. Later that night he was significantly better, and by the next day he seemed 100%. I've never been so thankful for antibiotics. But that was a close call. We could have lost him. Easily. And I really feel like our angels were watching over us. If our pediatrician hadn't recommended that book, if I hadn't bought it (we were so poor and it was like $23), if we hadn't remembered to pack it, if we hadn't been the neurotic, first time parents that we were, busting out our enclyclopedia to look up "fever" and "vomiting" (I don't even think I'd do that now, as I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on fever and vomiting in children), if we hadn't saved that stinky diaper and insisted that it be tested, etc. You get the idea. Close call. Scary close. But he made a full recovery and two days later we were back on the road to continue our Mexican adventure.

So we left Chiapas (rather glad to leave it behind us) and crossed through Oaxaca to the Pacific Coast. There we headed north along the amazingly beautiful coast roads of Michoacan (like Big Sur amazing). We camped on beautiful sand beaches and in quaint little fishing villages. We played in the surf with our toddler, thankful that he was better (although I don't think we fully understood the magnitude of it all until later). Amazing sunsets. Truly fantastic.

Eventually, we made it to Puerto Vallarta and the little surfing town of Sayulita. We had it in our heads that some day we'd like to live there. We had a little money saved up (we were probably saving for a house - or should have been) and we decided we would try to buy a little piece of paradise that, someday, we could put a little palapa on and grow bananas. (We used to be so groovy.) After a week or so of looking, we finally found that little piece of paradise and for 3200 U.S. dollars, it was ours. That was 11 years ago (almost exactly) and that little piece of paradise is now worth significantly more. And it needs some attention. Hence the reason for this trip. Wow. I think that was the long version of that story. Ahem.

I started this post as a tribute to our darling oldest on his birthday. And I guess in a round about sorta way, it was. We love you, Cole. You are our hero and we are so proud of the awesome young man you are becoming. Thanks for cruisin' Mexico with us, Kiddo...then and now.

Dave and Cole - 14 months

Cole on the beach in Sayulita - 1998.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

It's a Nie Day.

Nie is back!

And she's fabulous.

Read it here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Sweetest Sound...

...I've ever heard, is my daughter's name...

...whispered from her own tiny lips for the first time.

Me: What's your name?
Soleil: Do-yay
Me (astonished): What?
Soleil: Do-yay. Me, Do-yay.

It simply doesn't get any better than that, ya know?

Princess D0-yay

(This post will only make sense if you realize that her name is pronounced So-lay.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Good Cause

This is a guest post from my friend Katie, about a fellow adoptive family. We were all fostering our kiddos in Antigua, Guatemala at the same time in 06-07. Please consider buying a raffle ticket to support this young family during their struggle with cancer.

Katie writes:

During Guate-time in my pity party of "I've been here so long and my case is so screwed up" I met a beautiful adoptive mom named Shelly who's case made mine look easy. On top of having an adorable daughter the same age as Eliot, she had cute hair and her sports-loving husband was also there for a visit trip. We became friends and made plans to find a TV showing football games on New Years Day. We spent the day with Shelly and Paul and another couple in Antigua's version of a sports bar. It made for a great memory.

Shelly and Paul brought A home a few months before we came home. The details are foggy to me but within the year of being home, Paul was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic cancer of his liver, bones and bile duct. Since then he's tried different treatments. Here's an excerpt from an email from Shelly:

Paul has been treated with Chemotherapy with some success and has completed some radiation- the chemotherapy helped what it could but then we were told that the cancer was spreading and it would not help any further. Paul has enrolled in a cancer trial at MD Anderson Houston and it requires us to travel to Houston every 21 days for treatment. This trial is in Phase II and so far is the only trial that is viable for conventional treatment today. We have our really good days and some bad days but are certainly enjoying time as a family. This fundraiser has been put together to help us with the costs that we are facing involving this treatment.

Some clarification: "traveling to Houston" is from MN. Not such a quick trip, especially with a 2 year old and when you're not feeling well. They have a fundraiser going on this month that I think is pretty great so I wanted to post the details in case 1 or 12 or 200 of your are interested in helping out a great family in a tricky situation. Here's the details that I copied off their website, it's a raffle:

1) Raffle Tickets. 1 Ticket for $50 or 3 Tickets for $100.
The tickets are available for immediate purchase by contacting and indicating how many tickets you would like to purchase - she will mail you the stubs. If you are willing to sell tickets on our behalf, Jenny will send you packs in increments of 10 to sell to others. The raffle tickets are available for purchase up until drawing time at the close of the benefit. No need to be present to win. The prizes for the raffle are:

*Grand Prize – Your choice of the following:

-7-day stay in condo off Ocean Drive in South Beach Miami plus $1000 cash.

-10-day stay in condo in Maui, Hawaii plus $1000 cash.

*2nd prize -$500

*3rd Prize -$250

Support the Trust Fund

2) There is a Paul Kassis Benefit Trust Fund set up at Antigo CoVantage Credit Union. Donations can be made directly to this account at:

Antigo CoVantage Credit Union

Attn: Paul Kassis Benefit

723 6th Ave.

Antigo, WI 54409

Check Payable: Paul Kassis Benefit Trust Account

Telephone – 715 627 4336

The fundraiser starts at 5:00pm Friday, January 30 at the Antigo Knights of Columbus Hall. Dinner will be provided with no admittance fee.

5:00 pm Start
7:00 – 11:00pm. Music, dancing and socializing with MLC Jazz Band providing the live entertainment.

Silent auctions with a variety of items to be bid on with kid games and other activities during the evening.

Shelly and her daughter

People, let's blow this family away! Post this on your blog, tell your family and friends and most importantly, email to buy your tickets!!

Leave a comment or shoot me an email when you buy yours and I'll add your name to a drawing for $100 of Arbonne products for free!!

Here is a link to Katie's blog.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A White Birthday

This year for Evie's 6th birthday we had a Winter Wonderland Party complete with snowflake cupcakes, chocolate fodue, snowflake making, and a jumpy house. The weather cooperated nicely with very cold temps (for us Central Coasters very cold is the low 50's -- burr!!), rain, and even HAIL (which is pretty much as close as we get to snow). But the wintry weather did not detour the kids from playing outside and enjoying the soggy jumpy house. A great day all around.

My beautiful birthday girl. Wow, 6 years old!!

Snowflake cupcakes - credit to the Williams-Sonoma Birthday Book (a must have for all birthday party fanatics).

A winter wonderland.

Happy birthday, Sissy. We love you!

P.S. Thank you all for your well wishes and sweet notes about my Gramma. Yesterday I was sad and today I feel at peace. Things are as they should be. Babies are born into this world and Grammas are born into the next. And the circle of life goes on.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Just Because You Were Born

My Gramma died this morning.

And it hurts.

My friend, Erin, said it perfectly:

It hurts because there is one less person on Earth that loves you just because you were born.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

You'll be Happy to Know...

A)...that Nie is out of the hospital and recovering at her parents home. Her children are still being cared for by her sister, Courtney, but, the word is, she is getting stronger every day. (I imagine at this point everyone is as big a Nie fan as me -- I even have a t-shirt -- but this is an update in case you aren't already totally addicted to the darling Nielson family.)

B)...that since my last post I have successfully collected two large garbage bags of C.R.A.P. to take to the Goodwill. (Plenty more where that came from.)

C)...whilst returning a pair of pj's to Gymboree, I was lured to that 60% off rack (you know the one). How could I pass it up, really? After scouring the rack for the best deals to be had, I was about to check out with a load of C.R.A.P. in my arms. Said C.R.A.P. included a pair of red Mary Janes that would be perfect for Christmas; a pair of flip-flops for Soli...that she totally doesn't need because she already has like four pair, and she never really wears shoes anyway, but they were only $1.99, and they were stinkin' cute; and the cutest striped, matching sweaters for the girls that would be darling...on Thanksgiving.

I had my Amex out of my wallet, when I remembered my [only] [well, almost only] New Year's Resolution. I smiled sweetly to the girl behind the counter, and I said, "I'm so sorry, but I don't need any of this". And I put it all back and left the store empty handed. I was so happy. Amen.

P.S. Two years ago today we exited PGN. Here's the link to the story.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Few Thoughts on the New Year

#1. I'm just now finishing up the last of my Christmas cards. You know the ones...that you set aside because the Stephenson's have moved since last year. And you have to call Aunt Maggie to get the address for Gramma's new...facility. Oh and thought this would be the year that you would stop exchanging cards with Dave's college girlfriend, but, alas, she sent you one....and, well, fair's fair. And what is the Jones' address from Guatemala?? Have to email them...and wait for a response. Oh and don't forget the new neighbor in Montana...good to keep up those relationships. Don't you have that pile?? But, honestly...January 8th? That's a little late...even for me.

#2. My single resolution this year is to limit the amount of C.R.A.P. coming into my home.

(and lower my stress level)

(and become an expert in Dave's love language)

But back to the C.R.A.P. There's just too much!!!! Too much stuff!!!!!!! And clothes!!!!!!! And toys!!!!!!!And papers!!!! And receipts!!!! Who needs 'em?? My little, hundred year old house is busting at the seams. Time to purge.

#3. School started again on Monday, and, since then, I've been hearing this statement far too often,

"I hate school."

And, in all honesty, I couldn't agree more.

Cole has had 3 hours of homework on 3 out of the last 4 nights. As I type this (at 9PM) he still has an hour of studying to do for a social studies test tomorrow. Honestly, they have my kids all day. Give them their after school hours (few as they may be) for playing, and being with family, eating dinner, and (heaven forbid) playing a sport! And chores?? Forget about it!

I'm rather irritated.

I don't know why I don't home school. Yes, I do. Because, I'm a chicken. I'm scared that I won't give my kids a quality education. I'm scared they'll miss out on...I don't know what. I'm scared that they'll drive me insane, and I'll pull all my hair out.

Emerson came home from school today, cried for an hour because he didn't want to do homework, and then confessed that one of his good friends had told him he "sucked at basketball" during lunch recess. Why I oughta....home school. Hmmm....

Evie woke up yesterday, cried for 20 minutes because she didn't want to go to school and finally got dressed when I told her she'd have to stay in bed all day if she stayed home. An empty threat is just no way to send your freshly-turned-6-year-old out into the world to take on the day.

Here's my plan: Take the kids out of school for three weeks and high-tail it to Mexico. (It was actually a pre-existing plan, but it's working to my advantage in this moment). We'll home school the kids while we're there (an independent study contract through the district) and maybe I just won't put them back in school when we get home in February. Or maybe we'll just stay in Mexico. I like it. Good to have a plan.

I don't mean to sound so jaded at the start of this fine year, but when my kiddos aren't happy, well, I get cranky.

Monday, January 05, 2009

10 Tips for Surviving a Really, Really Long Drive with Kids

The drive between our house in California and the cabin in Montana is about 17 hours (considerably longer when battling white-out conditions and icy roads, but that's another post all together).

Here are my best kept secrets to keep from pulling your hair out on a road trip with kids.

Tip #10: No matter how much they try to convince you that they "don't need to go", make sure EVERYONE uses the toilet every time you stop. This will significantly cut down on pit stops (which add a surprising amount of time to any road trip). Invariably, the one who says they don't have to go when you're stopped at a gas station, will have to go twenty minutes down the road.

Tip #9: Always carry a tupperware (with lid) in the car for the wayward puker. There's nothing more stressful for a mom behind the wheel than to hear these words, muttered from the third row back, "Mom, I don't feel so good..." Shooting across four lanes of traffic to come to a screeching halt on a shoulder that is really much too small for the average SUV, is not the safest of maneuvers. A handy tupperware will not only cut down on stinky car and precious minutes lost rinsing vomit from brother's hair in the Flying J truck stop, but it will also keep you calm behind the wheel. Trust me on this one.

Tip #8: Make sure everyone has their own pillow and blanket. Sleeping kids are the best road trippers.

Tip #7: If you are lucky enough to have an entertainment system (which I can't recommend enough for a long road trip) then you will want to make sure everyone has their own set of head phones. Preferably all the same kind so there is no squabbling over the "best" pair. Establish at the beginning of the drive that Mom picks the movies, and then pick ones that will keep everyone's attention.

Tip #6: Extra batteries for the above head phones. I just can't stress the importance of this one. A dead pair of head phones is a road trip bust.

Tip #5: Have everyone pack a small bag with some car appropriate activities, ie; Gameboys, View Masters, books, ipods, etc.

Tip #4: Snacks, snacks, snacks. The miles melt away when there are munchies to be had. Carrots are the BEST road trip snack. No prep, no mess, no trash, no sugar, no fat, no guilt, not sticky and a seriously satisfying crunch.

Tip #3: Make sure to have water available in the car. I like to pack everyone there own water bottle (that I refill as needed). And please, I implore you, don't let them get a soda with their meal. First, the sugar will cause them to bounce off the walls of your car, subsequently causing you to tear your hair out. Secondly, they will have to pee every twenty minutes for the next hour after guzzling their brew. If water is all there is, they will drink when they're thirsty and they won't guzzle.

Tip #2: Fast food. I am not a proponent of fast food under normal circumstances. But desperate times require desperate measures (remember - no drinks). And, as I figure it, if fast food is limited to road trips (and other desperate times, like when there's 3 and a half minutes for dinner before the next baseball game) then we'll be OK. And when the road trip is already ridiculously long, meals must be limited to the drive-through variety. (Remember to have EVERYONE use the potty when you stop.) Keep in mind, fast food doesn't have to mean McDonald's. Subways are widely available at pit stops along major thoroughfares throughout the country. Also, Starbucks has a great selection of relatively healthy, quick foods (not to mention the caffeine pick-me-up for Mom, often needed for the long haul).

Tip #1: The single most important tip for a successful road trip: Seat kids as far apart from one another as possible! If nothing else, be mindful of who you seat next to whom. You know the combination of siblings that simply won't work out -- "She's touching me!" "He's on my side!" Need I say more?

Drive safely, and you'll be there before you know it.