NOTE: Please do not use any images from this blog without my permission. Thank you!

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!!!