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Monday, November 30, 2009

Tribulations of the Tropics continued...

Dave and Emerson have Dengue Fever. The good news is that at this point it does not appear to be life threatening. That's a bonus. In fact, it seems that in these parts (and many other tropical areas) it runs rather rampant. Apparently, it is caused by a virus (actually one of four viruses) which is transmitted by mosquitoes. Lovely. Whose idea was this? Anyway, they've been sick for about five days and their symptoms are bad headaches, eye pain, and Emerson has had a fever, althouth they both seem better today. I became suspicious when no one else in the fam came down with the "flu". Then when I told another mom at school this morning what their symptoms were she said, "Dengue". Ohhh. It almost sounded like a swear word.

So we went to the clinic here in town, and the doctor said that it did appear to be Dengue. Luckily, neither of them are currently showing any signs of Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever which affects a smaller number of people and can cause serious internal bleeding and all kinds of other bad problems (that we don't need to get into, right?). So, I think that as long as it doesn't evolve into Hemorrhagic Fever then it's just a matter of time (10-14 days) while treating the symptoms, resting and drinking lots of fluids. So Emerson's out of school for the rest of the week and Dave has to try to take it easy, too. The doctor gave us two boxes of paracetamol (which I believe is a form of acetaminophen) to treat the symptoms as needed. (Did you know that public health care in Mexico is free? I wanted to kiss the floor - but I refrained.) Send healing thoughts our way if you're so inclined.

On the school front, I will tell you that the Honeymoon appears to be over. In other words, the novelty of a new school has worn off. Dave coined the following stages of adjusting to a new school: fear, excitement, resistance, acceptance. Towards the end of last week we started to see some of the "resistance stage". We heard the classic, "I don't have to go if I don't want to" and my favorite, "I'll homeschool myself." Cole had an especially hard time on Friday morning (they don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Mexico, of course, so the kids had school all week) so Dave sat in on a few of his classes which I think made Cole feel understood. I think it was helpful for him to see Dave communicating succesfully with limited Spanish. I think he had been disengaging in class because he was timid to try and communicate. He gained some confidence by watching Dave and seeing that even though he didn't speak perfectly he was able to communicate and no one made fun of him. And Dave was able to gain some insight into Cole's struggles and gave some suggestions on how he could be more successful in his classes. Yeah for dads. Already today we're starting to see signs of acceptance: "I don't really want to go to school today, but I'm going to." That's the attitude. And he had a successful day.

Emerson had a tough go at the beginning of the week because a "ginormous fifth grader" stole his collection of pogs right out of his hand while he was playing with some friends (the big kid also stole the friends' pogs). So he was pretty distraught (and I was peeved), but it gave us the opportunity to talk with him (Emerson's a rather docile fellow) about standing up for himself and not allowing himself to be bullied, using his BIG voice, etc. The other good to come of it was when Cole heard what happened he wanted to go to bat for his brother. He asked me if he could take Em to school the next day so he could "get it sorted". Nothing like a bully to unite brothers. As it turned out, the principal had made a new rule that pogs were no longer allowed at school and this boy had appointed himself pog sherriff and had "confiscated" the boys' pogs to turn them in to the principal. Brown noser.

Evie is adjusting very well. She has several little "best friends" in her class and she loves to take some pesos to school to buy little snacks and popsicles and aguas. On one of her first days she tried to buy an "agua" - one of the few words she knew - or thought she did. The lady gave her a juice because in Mexico an "agua" is a fruit flavored water - or a juice. She came home from school and said, "Mom, I asked for a water and she gave me a juice." We had a good laugh and now she knows. I went to school with her on Wednesday morning for an hour to see how she was getting by. Of course she loved having me in her class, and I was impressed to see how well she's getting along. She just does what the other kids do and copies into her notebook anything the teacher writes on the whiteboard.

And little Miss Soleil is totally flying under the radar. Being that she doesn't have school and she doesn't have Dengue the poor girl is just not gettin' any airtime. I might look into a little preschool after the Navidad, but the truth is, right this minute, I feel tapped out. I'm not prepared to handle the needs of another child adjusting to a new program. You know? Right now she is very happy hangin' with Mama and Daddy and we are just as happy to have her company. The other day I said to the gang as we were heading out the door, "Come on, Kiddies" and Soli said, "Yeah, come on Doggies." She cracks us up.

Thanks for checking in. H

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Great Day (except for that scorpion in the kitchen)

So yesterday was Cole's first day at the middle school. Here in Mexico, elementary school (primaria) goes through sixth grade and middle school (secondaria) is 7th grade - 9th grade. Cole was bummed to find out that he would be in the youngest grade (again). We had picked up his uniform the day before, and it looks very much like his boy scout uniform - khaki pants and button up shirt with pink tassle on the shoulders to indicate his grade. The boys have to wear their shirts tucked in, but, apparently, leaving the shirt unbuttoned to display a stylin' t-shirt underneath is all the rage. We had learned this on our visit so Cole had prepared by cutting off the arms of his coolest T and laying it out the night before. Honestly.

Anyway, the middle school goes from 7AM-1:30PM. So yesterday morning I checked him in with the principal and then a nice looking boy, also with pink tassles, took him to the "Primer A" classroom. They distinguish between grades by calling 7th grade "first", 8th grade "second", and 9th grade "third". So the principal put Cole into the "First A" class (there are two 7th grade classes) which has another gringo. Yeah. The kids stay in the same classroom, and the teachers move from class to class. There really are no educational supplies or decor in any of the classrooms so any subject can be taught in any room. Very good. Anyway, when I dropped him off I told him I would meet him in front of the school at 1:30. So you can imagine my shock when he walked through the door of our house at 12:30. My first thought was he had hated it so much that he had jumped the fence and made a run for it. But when I asked him what happened he said that his last two period teachers were absent and since they don't have substitutes the kids had all walked home early. Oh my. It was like a 45 minute walk (up hill, in the snow...) and he was dripping in sweat. But, at least he looked cool with his cut-off, sleeveless t-shirt! So then I asked how his day went, fearing the worst, and he said, "It was soooo much fun." Oh yeah!! That was music to my ears, let me tell you. I have spent many a sleepless night over the last few months fretting about the potential negative impact of putting our kids in a total immersion situation. And the kids have been worried (of course) about going to a school where they understand nothing. Needless to say, I was delighted that he had had a good day. Phew!

And Evie and Emerson had a great second day and were both smiling ear to ear when we picked them up. Hallelujah! Emerson had discovered pogs (called tossles here). Do you remember pogs?? Anyway, they are all the rage down here with the primaria boys. So Emerson had traded a couple of his little finger flipper skateboards for a sweet little collection. Some of them are so well loved that the pictures on both sides are rubbed clean off. When we picked him up he said, "I love school in Mexico!" Oh yeah. Do you hear the symphony? And Evie can say her alphabet in Spanish. Yippee!

Today was Mexican Independence Day, and the kids had the day off of school (Emerson was so bummed). There was a big parade this morning and then dancing and food booths in the square. The kids were dressed in traditional Mexican folk clothing, and the middle school kids did a reinactment of the war against Spain complete with fire crackers and fake blood. Then they all sang the national anthem and saluted the Mexican flag. Very cool. Viva Mexico!!

So last night I was sweeping the kitchen and I swept a scorpion right out from under the sink. Yikes!! Great. I'm already sharing my house with geckos, now I have to cohabitate with scorpians? Unacceptable. BTW, it's amazing how having children can turn the gentlest of women into ruthless bug killers. I used to spare all varieties of creepy crawlies by getting a paper, coaxing said creepy onto the paper with encouraging words and then nicely setting it free outside. But no more. Setting them free outside does me no good because I have a half inch gap under all of my doors. They come back in! So I have been squishing spiders and centipedes and scorpions for the last four days with ruthless ferocity, for fear that they will crawl into bed with my kiddies. No spankyou! Not on my watch. Give this mommy a shoe! And that is exactly the fate that befell the scorpion in my kitchen. Ruthless, I tell you. And then we gave the kiddos a quick lesson in scorpion safety (always check your shoes before putting them on, don't walk around barefoot in the dark house, you know...the basics). Like we know anything about scorpions! Yikes. But according to our caretaker as long as you get to the clinic within a few hours of a scorpion sting for a shot of...something (what it is? epinephrine? I don't know.) then you should be OK. But, that only made me feel a little better. Maybe one of my Arizona friends can shed some light on the whole scorpion thing. Ladies??

Anyway, aside from the creepy crawlies we're doing great. Glad for the weekend. Thanks for checking in. ~Heather

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

All Things Considered

Well, I'm happy to report that Evie and Emerson's first day of school was a relative success, all things considered. They looked darling in their uniforms this morning and they were happy enough to be dropped off at their classes. Their classmates were very excited to have new students which I have to say is a testament to the friendly and warm disposition of the people of Mexico. I helped Evie find a seat next to a friendly looking little girl named Jimena who towed her around all day and even bought her a popsicle at lunch (which, btw, happens at 10:30, as they get out at 12:30). Emerson's teacher sat him next to a boy who spoke some English which was very comforting to him. After we dropped the kids at school we were off to Costco (just like any other day in the states, right?) and to pick up Cole's uniform. I had to laugh as I thought about how easily we fall into our old patterns no matter what country we live in.

When we went back to school at 12:30 several of the kids that past us on our way to the classrooms asked if we were looking for Eva and Emerson (pronounced Emehrsone). I was so surprised to see how many kids of all ages seemed to know them. It was pretty cute. They both had a pretty good day. Evie cried a little at recess when she realized that Emerson didn't have recess at the same time. Ahhh. She'd been looking forward to seeing him. And Emerson got a little flustered right at the end of the day as he was feverishly trying to copy down the homework assignment. After school he said, "That was the worst four hours of my life! It was so boring. I didn't understand anything." Oh dear. But after a mini meltdown, we got the homework done, and I was impressed (he even surprised himself) with how much Spanish he had already picked up -- in just four hours.

Cole starts tomorrow and I have a feeling that he'll be in hog heaven - what with all the attention and the pseudo celebrity status. Here's to hoping...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tribulations of Living in the Tropics??

I picked up Dave's water glass this morning and brought it to my face to steal a sip. As soon as it was close to my nose, my olfactory senses sent up a red warning flag: "Abort mission! Abort mission!"
Me: "Oooh, Honey. Your water smells funky. Where did you get it?"

Dave: "The water cooler."

Me: "Hmmm. Maybe it's the cup."

He proceeded to slurp down the rest of his water and refill his cup at the water cooler.

Again I attempted to steal a sip. Again my olfactory senses would not allow the maneuver.

Me: "Pew! Babe, something is definitely wrong with that water. It smells like toilet water! I would not drink any more. Kids, don't drink the water from the water cooler."

He saw the serious look on my face and decided best to do some investigating. That's when he disassembled the water cooler and found a dead gecko in the base. Honestly. I almost ralphed, and I didn't even drink any infusion of gecko! Uhhhh! So absolutely disgusting. We're trying to flush the water tank after letting it soak in bleach all day. But the chunks of gecko guts that are coming through the tap are almost more than we can handle. Every water I drink tastes like dead gecko, and Dave still thinks he's having gecko burps. We may not recover.

Then...after our gecko incident we picked up some of our favorite to-go platters from "The Chicken Lady" with the awesome Chipotle sauce for lunch. I was absolutely famished (after having lost my appetite at breakfast time), and as I ravenously shoveled rice into my mouth I happened to glance down at my plate and low and behold.....a maggot!!!!! Uhhhhhh!!!! At least it was dead. And Emerson reminded me that they're good protein.

On a less disgusting note -- We visited the kids' schools today and they seem quite lovely. We got to meet Evie and Emerson's teachers (darling twenty-something gals with sweet dispositions) and the kids at the middle school seemed excited to have a gringo join their ranks. Cole even got some "knuckles" from a boy on the school yard and it warmed my heart to see that the "wuz up" hand shake appears to be universal. Evie and Emerson start tomorrow and Cole will start on Thursday. Wish us luck!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

We're Here!!

We left Cabo yesterday morning and after a lot of barfing (at one point both the girl and the dog were barfing at the same exact minute) and an overnight ferry to the mainland, we've arrived safe and sound in Sayulita. Yahoo-oo0!! Our house (that we rented until April sight unseen) is delightful -- a little bachelorfied after the last tenant, but give me a few days and I'll have it sparkling. I've already got a load of laundry going (what with all the barfing on the way), Cole is waxing the surf boards, the girls found a big pile of dirt to keep them entertained, Emerson told me he can't wait to start school, and Dave already got the Wi-Fi hooked up. All's well. Thank goodness. Maybe now my stress headache will go away.

Thanks for checking in! And stay tuned as the adventure continues...


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On Our Way

After months and months of prep and packing we are officially on our way to Sayulita! We'll live there for six months, put the kids in local schools, teach ourselves to surf and build a little casita on our property. Why not, right? With Cole in 7th grade we know that all too soon our kids will want nothing to do with us and school and sports (and girls) will be more important to them than hangin' with their parents (as groovy as we are). So we are taking advantage of the fact that they still want to be with us more than anywhere else on earth (how sad to think that will ever end) and we're taking them on, what will hopefully be, the adventure of a lifetime.

We're in Cabo right now for our annual week of fun in the sun with the cousins. And I'm glad to say that after a four day drive south of the border, we are just about fully recovered. (Amazing the healing quality a mojito - or two or three- can have on Mommy's grated nerves.) And you would simply not believe the jalopy we're driving. There's really no describing it so I'll just post a picture. It's the quintessential Bajamobile and it has come to have a very special place in our hearts. It carried us, and six months worth of junk, across the Baja desert with nary a hiccup or hesitation. Hallelujah! I had nightmares of being stranded amongst the saguaro with four crying kids and a barfing dog (she gets carsick - honestly.). One of the biggest challenges of the drive (aside from all the barfing - Evie gets carsick, too) was the public restrooms at the Pemex stations along the way. Imagine no toilet paper, no toilet seat, puddles of whoknowswhat on the floor and really no way of gracefully positioning a six year old so she's not touching ANYTHING and the urine stream stands a chance of making it into the toilet bowl. Not pretty. So after one of our first pitstops I declared a new rule: all future potty stops would be road side -- far cleaner. Needless to say we spent a fair amount of time pulled off on side roads for varying lengths of time while everyone found their preferred patch of dirt. And as I was teaching Evie the art of the road side squat, I thought to myself, "This is so much more important than anything else she'll learn in first grade". And therein lies our motto for the next six months. We hope that the life lessons our kids will learn in Mexico will outweigh the lessons they will miss in their classes in the States. Ojala (hopefully).

The kids getting ready to go trick-or-treating in Mulege. In Mexico, (at least in Mulege) the kids say, "Tricky, tricky Halloween" as they go trick-or-treating mostly at little stores and shops.

"I think I see Cabo, honey!" Dave and the B.U.S. (big ugly suburban) on one of our many road-side pit stops along the Baja.

Emerson, Arizona, and Cole in the back row of the BUS. "Are we there yet?"