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Monday, December 31, 2012

El Yunque and BioBay

El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Parks system. We did the most popular path because it lead to a waterfall/ swimming hole, but there are lots of quieter trails, too.

Then the students and I went kayaking in Laguna Grande, or BioBay- a bioluminescent bay where the water sparkles blue when you touch it. It is truly amazing, and impossible to get a picture of- you just have to experience it. We kayaked 2 miles total through a bay, then in a pitch-black channel of mangrove trees into a lagoon where we had the stars above and the sparkling water below. Many of the students said it was the coolest thing they had ever experienced and/or done.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Puerto Rico

I taught a course this fall where we used the history and culture of Puerto Rico as a lens to examine our own cultural identity - it combined an orientation course for freshman with a travel study open to upperclassmen. The day after final exams were done, we headed off to the island to experience firsthand the culture we'd been studying for the past few months.
The great thing about Puerto Rico in terms of people who've never been abroad before is, since it's a U.S. territory, you don't need a passport to go there, so it was accessible to those students who had never left the mid-west before. It was also a good introduction to being in another culture with enough American elements for them to not have complete culture shock. My intention of the course was threefold: for them start thinking about their own cultural identity (people always think about culture as "exotic" and "the other," but really culture is what "makes sense" to us. When you are exposed to and/or confronted with another culture, you realize that what you considered "common sense" or "normal" are rarely universal); for them to learn more about Puerto Rico and its people; and to whet their appetite for travel further afield- hopefully to live and study a semester abroad.
The plaza below our hostel's balcony.

I organized the 10-day trip for my 19 students, and knew that I wouldn't be able to leave my kids behind. I'm not ready to be without them even one day. So, I mentioned to my mom that I would have to find a babysitter to come with us, and she said, "what about their grandmother?" So, that's how my parents also joined the group. They stayed back at the hostel with the kids when it got too late or if the activities weren't appropriate for little ones, like kayaking or a night tour of the city.
The plaza at night decorated for Christmas
I'll show you some highlights in the coming days. We had a wonderful group and I think it's safe to say that everyone had a great time. Many students said it far exceeded their expectations. They learned a few things and had fun doing it ;) And, sure enough, I overheard a few conversations about how they definitely had to study abroad before they graduated. Mission accomplished!

Friday, December 28, 2012


As I downloaded my Christmas photos, I realized that all I took pictures of was what we ate. We had Skype on most of the day with various family members out east, so I just didn't take many pictures of the kids, and most of the ones I did take came out blurry.
We got home the afternoon of Christmas Eve, so I wasn't sure I would have the energy to undertake our now-traditional "Paella Navideña", or Christmas Paella, as we call it. But after putting Belalu to bed at 6, I rallied and did throw one together. I still have some tweaking to do (mastering the paella is a tricky skill to acquire, especially for a gringa who didn't grow up eating them), but it was my best one yet.
Christmas morning E and J slept in until almost 10 (!) due to travel fatigue, so I had time to make some blueberry muffins, a tradition my mom started when my sis and I were kids.
The rest of the day we just snacked on veggies and dip, muffins, and nuts. Then went to our neighbor's house for dinner- I brought cranberry sauce, cardamom bread, and a bottle of coquito, Puerto Rico's version of egg nog.
The recipe I made filled the three bottles. We've kept the other two in the fridge and have a bit in the evenings- it's coconut-y, creamy, and cinnamon-y with a wallop of rum that can put me right to sleep. It's definitely a new tradition I'll keep up. To have it in the fridge just feels festive. We had some friends stop by unexpectedly last night, and it was great to be able to offer them a glass as we chatted.
Santa brought Belalu a Radio Flyer Tiny Trike. Her PT had suggested we get her a riding toy, and E never had one, so we hoped this would be small enough for her legs, and she can indeed push herself along on her tip toes. I already thought she was mobile enough- now on wheels, there's no stopping this girl (well, until she gets to a wall and needs help backing up ;)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy Holidays!

We've had a busy December. As I wrapped up the semester I geared up for a travel study trip to Puerto Rico with 19 students, the four of us and my parents. We got home Christmas Eve and are enjoying being home for a little bit before the kids and I head to Boston for a few days in January.

I hope your family is enjoying the holiday season and the end of 2012. I'm back to blogging and will be posting lots of Puerto Rico and Christmas photos in the coming days.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Visit with Santa

 Another advent calendar event: Visit with Santa
Waiting in line.... veeeery excited!!!

He's taken to wearing this tie a lot lately. With this shirt it looks like he's sporting two!

This is as close as Belalu was interested in getting

My babes

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gingerbread House

 One of the Advent Calendar activities this week was to build a gingerbread house. E and I had a lot of fun putting it together. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Happy December!!

Here's to a new month! It's been a really difficult fall in terms of work and lack of sleep, but December has started off well. We've got a week of classes left before finals and Belalu has only woken up once the past two nights after a two-month jag of waking-every-hour. We've got some travel coming up and vacation is always a welcome respite, so I've got a good feeling about the end of 2012. In spite of all the challenges, I've been feeling so grateful lately. My kids are amazing. They are just pure joy and love. Here are some pics from the past week or so as we play around the house. Many are blurry or use indoor flash, which I don't like the look of, so I need to work on capturing these moving targets better, but hopefully you get the gist.

Yes, indeed. I'm one lucky mama. Here's to a merry and joyful December for your family as well!!!

Friday, November 30, 2012


Dr. Pauli recommended that we get Belalu's hearing tested since it is so common to have issues with hypo. We have never had reason to believe that she has difficulty hearing, and her speech is so well developed we have not been concerned. At her age, E was dealing with once-a-month ear infections, while she's only had one ever. Nevertheless, her test showed mild hearing loss. Since she's battling a cold, he suggested we come back in 6 weeks and try again. I'm really hoping it's just congestion.

A few weeks ago, J got back from his trip and was appalled to get a call from the local cardiac clinic. It seems I had been ignoring their attempts to get Belalu hooked up to a Holter monitor. Ummm... well, sort of... See, the thing is, this is such a P.I.T.A. for a toddler, I just couldn't find the right 24-hours period to deal with it. She has spent the last month and a half waking up every couple of hours due to teething and a nice pm vomiting flu thrown in for good measure (wow- has it really been that long since I've slept!?!?). To add this on top of all that was just not going to happen.

Anyway, this is the second time she's had to wear one of these, and honestly, I'm not really clear on what they were looking for. The first time they checked her heart, they found one thing. The second time, the first hing was fine, but they found something else. Now, they wanted to check one more time to make sure all is good. It's awful, but I really can't get into too much more detail than that because I was dealing with so many other things regarding her health, I just don't remember these details. It's in her files in the next room, I'm sure. But I'm convinced she's fine, so I'm not worrying about it. And if J hasn't been concerned and researching the heck out of it, than I know there's nothing to worry about.

The Dr.s have also assured me that they are not too worried, that it's all routine to make sure, blah blah- all the things they tell you until they throw bad news at you, I know, but I really think she's fine, so I was more annoyed at the inconvenience of trying to keep five electrodes on a baby that doesn't stop moving, even in her sleep. And the cord that attached them to the monitor was looooong. You know, made for an adult not a smaller-than-average 15 month old. So, we wrapped it around her waist and tucked the monitor into the side of her pants, beeper-style. (Her hand is covering it in the pic below).  Thankfully, as long as nothing appears, this should be the last time we have to do this.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fall Holidays

Since I got behind this month, I'll combine Halloween and Thanksgiving into one. Before we know it, it'll be the winter holiday season!

Belalu had two costumes. My mom bought her a honeybee costume, but it was a bit big on her, so for an indoor party, she was a cowgirl instead. Then, the night of trick or treating she wore the honeybee costume, though she lasted a block and a half before she was ready for bed, so E went on with our friends, I put her to bed (J was home handing out candy), and then met back up with everyone.

The Queen Honeybee in her carriage
 Essie was a fireman. He's obsessed with Fireman Sam and rescuing, helping, and saving the day.
There happened to be a rocking horse at the party- too perfect!

This year was the first time I have ever carved a pumpkin- I'm not kidding! I usually leave that job to others, but this year J was dragging his feet and one night I just decided it needed to be done. E helped, of course.

Thanksgiving was low key. We spent the day at home cooking and then went to our friends' house for dinner.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Clothes That Fit: Polarn O. Pyret II

Yesterday I talked about POP pants, today I want to show you their outerwear. The company's motto is "There is no bad weather, just bad clothing." Most Swedish kids spend hours outside, even in the cold Nordic winter, so their clothes are warm, waterproof, and windproof.

I first got Essie a jacket and pants the year before last, and he's still wearing them. Their jackets and pants come with lots of adjustments to accommodate growing ones for more than one winter season. The pants have a wide elastic in the waist, as well as velcro tabs to adjust the fit even more.

The bottoms have the same bottom tabs to keep snow and wet out, but also are handy for shorter legs, since you just tighten the bottom and let the extra fabric bunch along the legs, without interfering with play.

Belalu's pants came with suspenders that are VERY adjustable (and removable, too), so I think she may be wearing these for years. (I bought the pants and two jackets for her last winter, before I knew she had hypo, so they are a size 1-1.5 yrs.)
The jackets allow for adjusting the length of the body as well as the sleeve tabs that mean I don't have to fold them up, just cinch them and let her play. The hoods are removable and adjust for different head sizes, both around the face and the crown of the head.

Many of their jackets, like E's below and B's polka-dot fleece, come with these little hand warmer layers that fit over the thumb.
All POP's jackets have a snap system that lets you attach difference pieces together for deep-cold layering. Thus, Belalu can wear her polka-dot fleece alone or underneath her water and wind-proof shell for serious snow fun.