Wednesday, April 30, 2008

just now i was wondering

why it is that I don't enjoy cooking as much as I used to. I used to have fun trying new recipes. I really like to eat, especially when it's something I like. So I didn't mind cooking. Now I do not enjoy it. I do not look forward to it. I would rather do just about anything else. The reason? I think it's because now, no matter what I make, there are usually several negative comments about the meal. I'm not going to name names (I will say it's never J).

My parents are visiting and in the past I have done a lot of cooking when my parents or in-laws visit. My parents and in-laws always appreciate what I cook and are very complimentary. We used to have friends over for dinner more frequently. I enjoyed cooking for them, even though it sometimes took hours to get the house in shape and then do all the cooking. Now I fear having guests, because I'm just waiting for a member of my family to criticize my cooking in front of them. That could be the point when I pack my bags.

Maybe I am being oversensitive. That's entirely possible. And I suppose if certain people are to learn good manners, that would be my responsibility to teach them.

Right now I am feeling very under appreciated. Right now I am feeling like if certain people prefer mac and cheese or spaghettios to my healthy meals then they can durn well eat that for the rest of their days and with my BLESSING.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

there are mormons and then there are mormons

I saw this today on ML's blog and just had to link to it. Enjoy.

Friday, April 25, 2008

recent reads

A friend recommended The House of Scorpion. She read it for a mother/son book group, and said she couldn't put it down. I bought a copy and took it to Mexico to read, but Lidia and Georgie got to it first. Both of them were completely absorbed by it and would only stop reading to eat mangoes.

I finally got to it last week and, yes, it's a page turner. But it's so much more. As you can see, it's heavily medaled; it won the Newberry Honor, Michael L. Printz Honor, and National Book Award. It's difficult to describe this book to make it sound anywhere near as good as it is, so I'm not even sure I should try. You can google to find the summaries and reviews, so I'll skip those this time.

If I had read the book before Lidia and Georgie, it is possible that I would have discouraged Lidia from reading it. But I guess it was ok, because when I told her that, she asked, "But why?" She said that she did think there were some difficult, kind of scary parts, but nothing that freaked her out or gave her nightmares. Lidia is ten. I recommend reading it before you give it to any child younger than fourteen. I had a hard time reading the beginning, when a seven-year old boy is horribly mistreated. However, this may be more disturbing for me, the mother of a seven-year old boy, than it would be for my daughters or other children their age.

A Company of Swans, by Eva Ibbotson, was first published in 1985 as an adult historical romance. It was reprinted in 2007, but now marketed to teens. It is in the teen fiction section of the library, where I'm sure the comparative graphic content of contemporary teen romances makes it about as sexy as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. However, there is some sensuality. There is nothing explicit, but I should warn you that there are choices made by sympathetic characters that are not in keeping with the values of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and possibly people of other Faiths. I only mention this because I don't want people emailing me, "I can't believe you recommended that!" I feel like I have to put a disclaimer out.

Ibbotsen was born in 1925, so this book was published when she was sixty. She had previously written a number of children's books. About her decision to try her hand at adult fiction, she said the following: "After years of writing magazine stories and books for children, I am trying hard to break down the barrier between 'romantic novels' and 'serious novels' which are respectfully reviewed. My aim is to produce books that are light, humorous, even a little erudite, but secure in their happy endings. One could call it an attempt to write, in words, a good Viennese waltz!"

The tone is completely Viennese waltz--light, witty, and slightly self-mocking. This is a tone other writers of historical romance would do well to emulate.

The year is 1912, and Harriet is the lonely child of a pompous, stuffy professor of Cambridge. The professor and his sister thoroughly regiment Harriet's life and have found a suitor for her who will likely perpetuate her dull misery. Harriet has been allowed ballet lessons, and she learns of a company who is sailing to Brazil to perform at the opera house in wealthy Manaus. She is refused permission to go, so she runs away from it all, joins the company, and heads for Brazil.

Right away we find out that Harriet has had a formidable classical education, but it wasn't one of these "Harriet knows Greek and Latin" and then you never hear of it again. There are many classical references throughout the book that add to her credibility as a scholar.

Ibbotsen creates a sumptuous setting and adds wonderful, often hilarious details. I would love to see this made into a BBC miniseries, although I'm not sure who could possibly play Harriet to my satisfaction. I can only imagine her as Audrey Hepburn.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

april liketh me not

I'm ready to be done with this month.

I know I've already mentioned some of these, but let me indulge in a quick rehash:

April 2nd. J's wallet pinched in the Merida airport.

April 4th. SUV breaks down on the return to Minneapolis. Alternator is replaced.

April 7th. Marcus is hit in the eye with a knife and narrowly avoids surgery.

April 15th. I crash J's new car.

April 15th, part II. Additional dampness found in basement. (major flooding in late March)

April 19th. J backs SUV into garage door, which shatters back window of SUV and destroys garage door.

So, that makes two claims on car insurance and two on home insurance. That I remember, we have never in twelve years of home ownership made a claim on our home insurance.

Earlier this week I felt like this toad I uncovered in the garden whilst removing the remains of last year's hostas. He looks quite awake in the photo, but he was actually so lethargic he didn't even attempt to evade capture by my children. He seemed depressed at being pulled from his winter sleep too early. "The gods of this yard use me ill," he seemed to be thinking. "See how they toy with me! It is all for naught."

J reminded me that the only really serious concern was Marcus's eye, and that will be fine. Everything else was just stuff. My mom said, "Things like this always seem to happen all at the same time." I grumpily replied that I don't remember it all happening to me, but later I remembered the awful week leading up to the birth of my fourth child. Yes, that was worse. And remembering that made me feel so much better.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

calandria: the soundtrack

A friend and I were chatting the other day about how some songs are so incredibly evocative. You hear it, and your suddenly see, smell, taste, feel what you did when you used to listen to that particular song. Here's my list:

1. "Baroque and Blue" from "Bolling Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio," 1976. I don't know what year my mom bought this album, but I don't remember not hearing it. It always seemed to be playing. And I clearly remember asking, "Mom, why are the flute and piano in bed together? And why is the flute blowing smoke rings? That is so silly! Hahahaha! I don't get it, Mom. Why are they in bed together? Mom, did you know that a lady down at the barn can blow smoke rings? But, how come they are in that bed? Are they tired?"

2. "Boy from New York City," "The Best of Manhattan Transfer," 1981. I think Mom has some incriminating video of me actually lip syncing to this one when I was about eleven. Again, I don't remember there being a year of my life that I didn't listen to and sing along with this incredibly awesome record. Other favorites that I still occasionally belt out, "Operator," "Java Jive," and "A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square."

3. "New York, New York," Nina Hagen's "Fearless," 1984. Auntie Lee, being eight years older than me as well as a person of ultimate hipness, was a major musical influence in my pre-adolescent years. That's why I knew all the lyrics on"Fearless," including "My Sensation" which I now see has some very inappropriate lyrics for a ten-year old. (Hello, Auntie? What were you thinkin'? :-)) Other Lee-inspired favorites were "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" and "Don't You (Forget About Me)," both technically before my time.

4. In fifth grade I bought my first single, Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." Our record player didn't have a little raised circle in the middle so the single wouldn't fit right. Though a weird, warpy version of the song resulted, I played it again and again anyway.

5. Billy Idol's "Mony Mony," 1987. I started going to the teen dances held in the town hall of our little central Maine burg the year before I started high school, 1988. Teen dances were the ultimate because the Senior boys went. Oh my gosh, the Senior boys, Squeeeeeeee! Once I overheard the following conversation between two twerpy hicks who were observing the dance floor as if they were masters of all they surveyed: "See that one?" (They meant me.) "Her?" "Yeah, the one dancing a lot. Think she's hot?" "She's ok, but she wears too much makeup." Too much makeup? No such thing in 1988. They were right that I danced a lot. I loved to dance, but my moves were not of the hippest. I wasn't in Elaine of Seinfeld territory, but headed that way. Whenever I hear "Mony Mony," I'm back in Shiretown, smelling the smoke machine, watching the video projected on the screen, hearing the boys chant that obscene whatever it was between Billy Idol's lyrics, doing my dance. Other songs (among many) evocative of Teen Dance, Maine: "Sweet Child of Mine," Guns 'n' Roses; "Simply Irresistible," Robert Palmer; and "Girlfriend," Pebbles. 1988 was an incredible year for music, no?

6. "More Than a Feeling," Boston. This album came out in '76 when I was two, but classic 70s rock from "Top of the Mountain. 105. T.O.Ssssss..." was what all cool kids listened to in my town. This was my favorite song for driving my red Nissan Sentra home after school, windows down, screaming at the top of my lungs, doing about 85. I insisted on playing 105 TOS for the cows (even though the other milkers always grumped that cows preferred country western) during my milk shift. Other awesome driving/milking cows songs from back in the day: "Fat Bottom Girls," Queen; "Black Water,"Doobie Brothers; and "Gimme Three Steps," Lynyrd Skynyrd.

7. "Lambada," 1990. The summer I went to Ecuador as an exchange student, I heard this song everywhere. On the street, at home, at dances, at restaurants, etc. The girls at La Inmaculada, the Catholic girls' school we went to, played it during recess and danced together. I remember so vividly looking down from the second floor to the courtyard below to see two pairs of little girls, about 6 or 7 years old at the most, dancing the Lambada like no body's business. I don't know who sang this particular version, but in the video, which I loved, a short, black Brazilian boy dances with a tall, blond girl. I can't find anything about it on the net. My search only turns up a cheesy movie that came out that year.

8. "Otro dia mas sin verte," Jon Secada. In 1992 I started my Freshman year at Brigham Young University. I discovered that there were Latin dances held at the Women's Center in Provo every Friday night about a half-hour walk from my dorm. I cajoled various roommates into going with me almost every Friday. I turned down potentially-boring dates to go. Latin dances made the teen dances seem hopelessly dull. I didn't know Spanish very well at that time so I don't remember the other songs I salsa-d, merengue-d, and cumbia-d to every week.

9. "No One Else On Earth," Wynona Judd, 1992. Sung by my roommates and me at Budge Hall ad nauseum Freshman year. We even choreographed it. Another song we couldn't leave alone was "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" by En Vogue.

10. "Fruta Fresca," Carlos Vives 1999. This is my favorite of the many songs Georgie, Lidia, and I used to dance to together. We started this tradition when Lidia was a fussy-in-the-afternoon newborn. Putting on some music and dancing every day around 4 or 5 pm used to make us all so happy. I don't know why we stopped this wonderful tradition! Some other family dance favorites: "Bidi Bidi Bum Bum" and "Technocumbia" by Selena, "Estoy Aqui" by Shakria (from Pies Descalzos, back when Shakira wasn't so commercial), and "La Chula," by Mana.

Can you think of ten songs that take you there?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

bearded j

He was a good sport about posing and I like how these turned out.
But guess what? The beard's gone. I was sad when J told me that members of the high council in our stake must be clean-shaven. He thought I knew that. No. Why would I know or even suspect such a dumb, senseless thing?
J was gone to Mexico and then he had the work trip, so he didn't have to shave. But since he had to speak today in another ward, the beard had to go or he'd risk trouble with the stake president.
Whaaaaaaah! (Lucy Ricardo style. Although come to think of it, she didn't like Ricky's beard.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008


This hasn't been the best of weeks. I won't go into all the bad happenings, but the major one was crashing J's new car on Tuesday morning. I rear-ended someone. Georgie was with me and we are both fine as is the lady (who stopped abruptly and inexplicably) I rear-ended. Her car came out virtually unscathed, but J's poor car got crunched. I feel so bad! J has always driven beat-up old cars, but finally got a nice one in December. And then I go and crunch it. He was very nice about it, of course, but that only made me feel worse. I wish he'd been a little meaner.

J is growing a beard. I really like it. He won't let me post a photo.

During this bad week, I have taken refuge in reading, as I often do. I just finished the second Kiki Strike book, The Empress's Tomb. I gave the first Kiki Strike (I post about it here) five stars on Goodreads, which says a lot because I'm working hard to resist star inflation. I liked this one too and I'm giving it four stars. What is it that I like so much about this series? The NYC setting is well done and the protagonists are smart and funny. But I think what I like the most about it is that the author strikes the perfect tone for all smart girls: dry, sardonic, and witty; yet down-to-earth and principled. Frivolous and smutty girls, beware. The Irregulars will bring you down. In the Empress's Tomb, Miller does this great send-up of parents and therapists of gifted children. Many lol parts. Georgie and Lidia love these books, too. Lidia just re-read the first Kiki Strike, and re-reading is rare for her.

I've been trying to get some good reading time in with the littlies, too. I read The Get Rich Quick Club with Marcus, and he loved it. Next up, Bunnicula. On his own, Marcus has been reading How To Be The Best At Everything (The Boys' Book), and enjoying it immensely.

With both Marcus and Bernie, but especially Bernie, I've been reading lots of fairy tales and folklore. This is my favorite section in the library. Bernie will sit in rapt attention for an hour or more if I'm reading fairy tales. One she recently wanted to hear again and again is Snow White by Paul Heins, illustrated by Trina Shart Hyman. There are many beautifully illustrated fairy and folk tales, but we also like to read from The Blue Fairy Book and others by Andrew Lang.

Here is one I highly recommend: The Bearskinner, adapted by Newberry-winner Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrated by Max Grafe. It reminded me a little of another favorite of ours, The Quiltmaker's Gift, by Jeff Brumbeau and Gail de Marken. These are both books I'll always have in my library.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

more about life in riyadh

I just talked with J. When he called he'd just returned to the hotel from eating dinner with the top manager of the rep company he works with in Saudi. This top manager is Saudi and the conversation was pleasant, but cool. The Egyptian managers and sales reps he'd been hanging out with were more fun. They were more interested in getting to know J personally, whereas the Saudi manager was concerned with creating a good impression.

Here are a few more things the Egyptians told him about life in Riyadh (here is the first post on this topic):

J asked where all the women were as he never saw any on the street. "At the mall, of course," was the reply. J got to go to the mall today. It was very high end and yes, there were a lot of women. Many of them were not wearing the face veil, and some didn't even have their hair covered. The Egyptians told him it is more common in poorer areas that the women veil their faces. They emphasized that many of the customs associated with women in Saudi are customs, not rules, and they have nothing to do with Islam.

J asked how their wives liked living there. Seems they don't. One man, a Tunisian, replied, "The first six months were hell." His wife was very, very unhappy with her lack of freedom. Then she found a job at a school near their home and now she is fine. The other men said that their wives do not like it much either.

When J asked the Egyptians what they dislike about living in Riyadh, they said there are two things. First, the lack of freedom, and it seems by this they meant the lack of cultural offerings like going to the movies, for example. There are no movie theaters in Riyadh. The second thing they dislike is that they "feel like slaves." This has more to do with their job situation. Compensation is based on what nationality you are. An entry-level Saudi engineer makes three times what an Egyptian would be paid for the same job. An Indian is paid less. Once you enter the country, you are not allowed to change jobs and there is no way to progress in your job. They are staying there to save money. Everyone J talked with is building a home back in their own country, and they do plan to return as soon as finances permit.

When J was in Turkey, he found that the Muslims were not very observant. On finding out that he was from Mexico, everyone said, "Tequila!" They are big Tequila fans. I asked J if these Egyptians living in Saudi also resented not being able to drink alcohol. It seems that they don't, in fact they see the liquor ban as very positive. They said that drinking alcohol makes you behave like an animal.

J found that he had a lot in common with them when they talked about religion. He couldn't find many areas in which they disagree. Did you know that Muslims believe in the Millenium and that Jesus Christ will usher it in when he returns to the earth? J just finished reading the Koran and he found it very similar to our Doctrine and Covenants.

people of the book

One of the earliest Jewish religious volumes to be illuminated with images, the Sarajevo Haggadah survived centuries of purges and wars thanks to people of all faiths who risked their lives to safeguard it. Geraldine Brooks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March, has turned the intriguing but sparely detailed history of this precious volume into an emotionally rich, thrilling fictionalization that retraces its turbulent journey. In the hands of Hanna Heath, an impassioned rare-book expert restoring the manuscript in 1996 Sarajevo, it yields clues to its guardians and whereabouts: an insect wing, a wine stain, salt crystals, and a white hair. While readers experience crucial moments in the book's history through a series of fascinating, fleshed-out short stories, Hanna pursues its secrets scientifically, and finds that some interests will still risk everything in the name of protecting this treasure. A complex love story, thrilling mystery, vivid history lesson, and celebration of the enduring power of ideas, People of the Book will surely be hailed as one of the best of 2008. --Mari Malcolm

I was so excited to read this. I've read several books on Convivencia Spain, the time period when the illustrated Sarajevo Haggadah was created. I've read a lot about the Sephardic Jews. I'd been waiting months for my turn with a library copy of The People of the Book--evidently it's very popular.

I'm disappointed. I did not find it terrible, merely so-so. The modern storyline was flimsy and the main characters rather unlikable. I loved to read about the conservator's techniques at the beginning, but once that was over I struggled to get through the modern sections. The mother/daughter spats are especially tedious. The historical parts look back at specific times in the book's history and the people who were in possession of the book at those times. Fascinating premise. However, I did not find the stories themselves especially compelling. Brooks is not a bad writer at all, but it takes tremendous skill to write gripping short stories, and these didn't grip me. Some of the characters were highly repugnant and they got a disproportionately large amount of page space. I would have liked to read more about the heroic characters. In an interview Brooks says that now that she's finished the book, she misses some of the characters, especially the most flawed ones. That she considered them the most interesting definitely comes through in the book. There is some graphic depiction of violence (not gratuitous--it's during the Inquisition), and too much sex. Just so you know, I am not opposed to sex scenes in books if they are pertinent to the plot. But I don't feel I need to know how every character is doing in that area. That is superfluous. I do not want to know those details about my friends and family and I don't need to know them about every last book character, either.

There is an entirely far-fetched plot twist near the end that really annoyed me.

On the positive side, I appreciated the tremendous amount of research that went into this book. It's inspired me to learn more about the history of Bosnia and even more about the Sephardic Jews. I have not read much about Kabbalah, for example.

As far as being "a celebration of the enduring power of ideas," I saw Brooks' attempts at that. Anti-semitism is contrasted with the periods of time when Jews, Muslims, and Christians more or less get along. I appreciated that too and it gave me a lot to think about.

Now how am I going to rate this book on Goodreads? Sometimes I really struggle to assign the stars. I keep going back to my book lists and editing them. Now I only have a few 5-star books, for example, because I want to avoid star inflation. My first impulse is to give it 2 stars, which is supposed to mean "It's o.k." But that seems low. And yet I don't know if I can give it a 3-star "I liked it." Hmm. I'll have to think about it. I deal with the major issues here, as you can tell.

I'd love to have more Goodreads friends. If you do Goodreads and you wouldn't mind being on my friend list, please email me at calandria4-at-comcast-dot-net.


I'm not in Saudi Arabia, but J is. He arrived Friday and leaves tomorrow. Here are a few things he's told me:

Their weekend is Thursday and Friday.

There is really no middle class of Saudi people. You are either very rich or quite poor if you are Saudi. The rich people own things and don't work very much, kind of like the landed gentry of pre-land reform England. Egyptians or other foreigners run their businesses for them. The poor receive money from the goverment or they work at specific jobs like security or cashiering. There are many jobs Saudis consider beneath them, like serving in a restaurant, for example. That work is done by immigrant workers.

People work from 8am to 1pm and then go home. They go back to work for an evening shift of 6 to 9 pm. This is to avoid working in the heat of the day. If the temperature reaches above 50 degrees C (about 122 F), no one is required to work. There are many days that the official temperature is 49 C. :-)

When I talked with J yesterday, he had seen just one woman on the street.

The Egyptians J works with took him to see the sky bridge at the top of the Kingdom Centre (above photo), but a guard told them it was closed until 4:30. They tried to persuade him, telling him they had this guy from the U.S. who wanted to see it. The guard laughed. He refused to believe that J was from the U.S. Everyone there assumes J is Egyptian, or when they find out he is Mexican they tell him he looks Egyptian.

Riyadh is a very new city. The Egyptians told J that forty years ago the Saudis lived in tents with their camels. It is only in the past 30-40 years that they have become so wealthy and modernized.

When J asked the Egyptians if they liked living in Saudi, they replied that they felt grateful to have their jobs. They said the city provides a good standard of living. It's very clean. One man said that as poor as Egypt is, he prefers it because it seems more real. Everything in Riyadh seems artificial to him. I asked J how these men's wives liked living in Saudi, and he said he wanted to ask them but didn't have an opportunity. He's having dinner with them right now, so I hope he gets to ask.
I talked with a friend Wednesday night who went to NYC for a few days during spring break. She has a family, but left them here and went with a friend. She did all the tourist things: museums, a show, etc. It was nice not having to deal with children while she saw the sights. But she said what she found most interesting was talking with her friend's brother, who lives in NYC with his family. She said it was fascinating hearing about how he lives with his young family in the City, and the challenges they face. I bring this up because we both agreed that that is often the most interesting part of travel--to see how differently people live.

Friday, April 11, 2008

presque isle, maine

K, this time we have a legit photo of northern Maine. Auntie Lee sent this one to me, taken by her friend in Presque Isle.

It's not as dramatic as the urban legend photos, but check out the fencing. It seems the horses step right over and wander at will but so far have come home every night.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

did anyone else notice that

I managed to make it throught the winter without planning a move? Anyone who's been with this blog 12 months or more knows that every year, about February/Marchish, I am seized by a compulsive longing to remove myself and my family from Minnesota. I always pick a place that captures my imagination, research it ad nauseum, and then proceed to plan our move in deadly earnest. I always believe very fervently that we will. be. moving. For a few weeks, J can look forward every night to coming home to a barrage of information about our new location. I even involve him in our moving plans. He handles this very well--he has never been the slightest bit condescending or impatient about it. In fact, one time he said something like, "You are just so convincing. I start to believe it myself."

Here are some past places I've planned to move to: Cape Elizabeth, Maine; Monterrey, Mexico; San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Roanoke/Charlottesville, Virginia; Barcelona, Spain; and Basque Country, Spain.

I think one reason I haven't been possessed by the moving madness this year is that my imagination has been occupied with the book I want to write. However, though it's April and I thought I was home-free, I am feeling a twinge of the moving bug. Not a madness, but a definite could-develop-into-madness twinge. This was brought on by several things: 1) Mama Ava is moving to China. Sure, she already lives in one exotic location, but now she's going to another. I want to move to an exotic location. 2) I learned Tuesday night that a book group friend is moving to London. I believe she will be living in Hyde Park (is that what she said, Michelle?). I want to move to London. I got home late that night and pestered J about it. He mentioned his long flight to Saudi Arabia (as in, "Stop bothering me so I can sleep--I'm flying to Saudi Arabia. He left today), which is like flying to Europe twice. I said, with the air of having finally solved all our problems, "If we moved to London you'd be so much closer to Saudi Arabia!" "I don't want to live in London!" he moaned. 3) We are having a sleet storm right now. Ugggggghhhhh.

The thing is, I can't think of anywhere I want to move to. Sure, I'd love to move to London, but I know that isn't happening so the madness won't take me there. For the madness to take root, it has to be a place that I have a chance of moving to.

We decided against Pais Vasco because though the public schools are very good there, they speak only Basque. We want our children to learn better Spanish, not Basque. Hmm. I wonder about the states of Catabria and Asturias? They are to the west of Basque Country, still fresh, green northern Spain. Mountains and sea. Hmm.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

corneal laceration

We have learned the hard lesson in our home that knives and eyeballs do not mix.
Monday evening Georgie was opening a package with a knife, the knife slipped, and landed in Marcus's eyeball. There was no blood, thankfully, but I took him to the ER because I could see a cut on the cornea. The diagnosis was "corneal abrasion," and we were told to see an ophthalmologist the next morning. That ophthalmologist told us that it was not a corneal abrasion, but a rather a laceration that was quite deep and would likely require surgery. We were sent immediately to the University of Minnesota to see a corneal specialist. This specialist decided that though the cut was deep, it would not require surgery because it had already begun to seal itself. Unfortunately, the cut will scar and will effect his vision. He will need to wear a contact in that eye. The corneal specialist said yesterday and again today when we went back for follow up, that Marcus was very, very lucky. The cut is a little below his field of vision.
He gave Marcus this patch to wear through next week and some eye drops. He may not participate in gym or recess, and must "keep quiet" at home. He's not supposed to jump, run, or leap. (This has been a challenge, as jumping, running, leaping, and diving are Marcus's sole means of locomotion. I've been encouraging lots of t.v. and computer. To my credit, I've also read quite a bit to him.)
Monday night when we got back from the ER, a neighbor and member of the Church came over and he and J gave Marcus a priesthood blessing. I had a very calm feeling after the blessing. The next morning at the first appointment, Marcus's vision test was really bad, just as it had been the night before with the ER doctor. This seemed to alarm the ophthalmologist as did the depth of the cut. On the way over to UM, I prayed constantly that my faith would be increased. I remembered the blessing of the night before and I was calm again. When Marcus took the next vision test less than an hour later, his score was 20/40--a big improvement. I asked the doctor how this could be and he said that maybe Marcus had too much tearing (not ripping--I mean tears rolling down his cheeks) during that first test. I didn't say anything, but Marcus had more tearing during the second test. Anyway, this morning he showed even more improved vision in the damaged eye.
Another blessing: Marcus doesn't seem to feel much pain. This surprises the doctors. Tears frequently come pouring out of that eye, and today the doctor checked to make sure no eye fluid was leaking. Nope. Just tears. But Marcus does not complain and when asked if it hurts he says, "A little bit. Not much." Actually, I have to admit that this is very typical of my children. When it's a trivial matter like a sibling got slightly more ice cream or something, big noise. Broken bones? Deliriously-high fever? A knife wound to the eye? No big deal.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

a trip

There were ups and downs. I don't think I've ever been as relaxed as I was at the hacienda we stayed at in the Yucatan. But then I got lost and had a little adventure. More on that later. Later J's wallet (with a significant amount of cash) was pinched at the Merida airport. We had a wonderful time catching up with friends and family in Mexico, but I wasn't able to connect with Athena in Austin on the drive down or the drive back. (We had suddenly change travel plans both ways because of stupid basement flooding. Athena probably thinks we're total flakes.) We had car trouble on the way back. Our alternator died, luckily within 2 hrs of home. We were able to get a new battery within an hour and made it back. What if this had happened somewhere in Kansas? I don't even want to think about it.

All in all it was a great trip. We nearly got our fill of tacos and gorditas. I tried some delicious new foods, like huevos motulenos, while in the Yucatan. More than anything, it was great to see the people we love.

The city where J's parents and most of his family live is on the border. It's where he was born and grew up. When I first visited it, I thought it was the ugliest place I'd ever been. There are no parks. There are no attractive buildings. It stinks. I suppose I still think that, but it's funny how your perception of a place changes as you see it through new eyes--the eyes of your children. For my children, this foul border city is a place of delights. It's where they eat their favorite foods and are allowed to drink soda. It's warm when Minnesota is freezing. It is home to all kinds of interesting bugs and flowers and trees. It's where they hear the old family lore, like the time abuelito was bitten by a scorpion, or when he attacked a robber and the robber stabbed him repeatedly in the gut. It's where they are treated as visiting royalty; everything they say is either hilariously funny or preternaturally wise. It's where they have big laughs with the cousins. It's where they make mud in the yard and give themselves a full-body treatment. (Who needs a spa?)

I have to admit, as I see that city through new eyes, it grows on me.

Here are a few albums from the trip, with more to come. I have to get some photos from J's parents, including the mud ones.

more from the hacienda san jose cholul (there's one where I look super corny)

merida (we connected w/ J's adorable cousin and her charming husband)

chichen itza

fun at abuelitos'