Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Farewell South America

(And another unpublished post, from March 22).

We leave in four days.  I never did finish my thoughts on Patagonia, but I can say with certainty that I miss it. Uruguay is lovely, but after four weeks here I can definitely say I am not a beach person. What do people do on the beach all day? A person can only lay in the sand for so many days.  The kids, of course, have loved it.  Lots of swimming in the pool, and in the ocean. But the weather is turning cooler, and they’re finding it too cold to really go in.  I have become more intimately acquainted with changes in the ocean. How some days the waves are so wild, and other days the ocean is completely calm.  Changes in the wind, changes in the height of the waves.  Some days you can walk along the beach, other days it is completely swallowed up.

I am excited to return to Minnesota. Though I am desperately trying not to wish away these final days of vacation.  I am guilty of always wanting to return when I near the end of a vacation instead of enjoying the last bits.  With such a long vacation, that means the end of my vacation is still a week of time. I am trying not to waste it by wishing it away.

The wind here is relentless. Although it is beautiful outside much of the time, the wind can be so intense it makes my eyes water. It makes me want to go inside, which is not really what I want to be doing. I want to be enjoying the end of our nice weather before we return to Minnesota.

Uruguay has been hard for our family, though.  There have been no other kids around.  There has been barely anybody around at all, because it is no longer high season here and everyone has left. It is like being on Cape Cod in September. It’s a little depressing.

My dad and step mom visited for 10 days which was a lovely reprieve. We got to hang out, they watched  the kids a bit so we could have some time by ourselves (a first on this entire trip!).  We ventured to a town called Cabo Polonia, which is completely off the grid.  The only energy source was solar, and supposedly at night they just use candles. To get there we had to take a giant, two story dune buggy a few miles (five, maybe?). We only stayed for the day, but it was an interesting little place.  I think it's where you go if you're hiding from the law, or perhaps if the rest of the world moves too fast for you.

One thing I will not miss about Uruguay: spiders.  Epic numbers of spiders, epic sizes.  One night we mistakenly left a window open (there were no screens and it was hot!) and the house was infested by mosquitos.  The mosquitos were so small, they looked harmless, and you couldn't feel them bite.  But the itch that developed was intense.  Greta's room became infested with mosquitos, and the poor girl got completely covered in bites.  The next day, after we learned our lesson, hubs and I tried to kill all the mosquitos in her room.  I pulled back a curtain and the largest spider I've ever seen in my life crawled out.  Like, maybe the size of both of my hands.  It's probably grown larger in my mind, but I'm not sure.  It was really freaking big.  We had no idea if it was poisonous.  Thankfully, the husband was willing to deal with it.  We covered it with a bowl and put a pizza pan underneath to trap it, then took it outside.  We flooded the bowl with water to drown it.  It was far too large to imagine the crunch that would occur if we squished it.

Based on internet pictures we couldn't quite figure out what kind it was, so we asked an online spider geek, who identified it as a Huntsman spider (also called a giant crab spider because it looks like a crab.)  They don't have webs but just wander around "hunting" at night.  Very reassuring.  Not fatal, but basically flu-like symptoms if you get bit.  Also, in our research, we learned far more about Uruguayan spiders, only adding to our terror.  Among the common spider sitings: the most poisonous spider in the world, the Brazilian Banana Spider.

Although that was our largest spider encounter, it was by far not our only.  One night I woke up about 2 am and went to get water in the kitchen.  The floor of the kitchen was covered in hundreds of very small ants.  We lovingly called these ants "housekeeper ants".  They would come out about the time we were getting ready for bed, then carry away all the minuscule crumbs on the floor.  At first we tried to aggressively sweep to avoid them, but they appeared anyway and found crumbs we didn't know exist.  But they never got into anything else, so we came to appreciate them for helping us tidy. Anyway, on this night there were hundreds of them, more than I had seen any other day, and in one corner was a fairly large huntsman spider, waiting to pounce on them.  It seemed like too large a problem for 2 am, so I went back to bed.  The next morning, there were no signs of any of these insects.  Retreated into the walls, no doubt.

But on the subject of ants, we discovered that there are leaf-cutter ants in Uruguay.  I remember these guys from Costa Rica, years ago, and have always found them fascinating.  They carry bits of leaves, often 5 times their size, down paths to the hole in the ground they live in.  The paths are so well worn you an see them from a distance.  They will carry these bits of leaves long distances, often passing up nearby leaves that look just the same to me.  The kids and I watched some fascinating youtube videos about them, and the kids became a bit obsessed with them (as did I).

There is a small kitten we have been feeding while we've been here.  At first I was conflicted about feeding it, knowing we would be leaving and it would be abandoned.  But it already appeared to be abandoned, with no parent around, so at least, perhaps, we could try to fatten it up a bit until it can more easily fend for itself.  That was my thinking, anyway.  The kids named it Gentleman, after the kitten on the farm they also fell in love with, which it looked so much like.

There is so much more to say, but I will leave it here.  Perhaps I will have more to say in Minnesota.


Farewell Patagonia

( I started this on February 27, but never posted it.  Here's my edited version. )

Alas, tomorrow we leave Patagonia.  This signals 2/3 of our trip done.  A few weeks ago I might have looked forward to the end, but less-so now.  Apart from our our first two stops, we have been in Patagonia our entire time.  About 1.5 months.  I’m guessing that locals have varying definitions of “Patagonia”, just as I’ve noticed  so many towns like to claim “fin del Mundo” (end of the earth.). But, within varying definitions, nearly everywhere we’ve been has been within Patagonia, and we have loved every moment.

Our time in El Calafate has been mostly filled with glaciers, and the Youngs.

Glaciers: I underestimated the intensity of Patagonian glaciers.  I assumed they were tiny little deals, like the persistent snowpack on some volcanoes in the Cascades.  NOPE.  These are real deal, glaciers coming out of the mountain, that have all the characteristics I learned about way back when in Glacial Geomorphology. I found them fascinating to watch.  Because they are giant,  and they are in the calving season.  If you are patient and watch for long enough, you will see a bus size piece of ice (or larger!) fall off and make a noise like a bomb, with a wave to match.  But, even though the chunk may be bus sized, or larger, it will still look minuscule when compared the glacier as a whole.

The blue of these glaciers is a color I didn't know exists in nature.  It's the kind of electric blue I am used to seeing in fabric.  And then the "glacial flour" (ground up rock) that washes out turns the entire lake turquoise.

We drove to Perito Moreno twice, and took a boat trip that took us to Uppsala glacier and Spegazzini glacier (spelling unguaranteed).  Although Uppsala is larger, it is calving so much that you can't actually get close to it.  The iceberg floating away are house sized, or larger, meaning that the amount falling off is prob 30 times that.  So hard to conceptualize these quantities and sizes.

We met up with a family, the Youngs, that we had met in Chile at the farm we were staying at.  They are from Washington State and in the middle of a year-long trip through South America.  Our kids are similar ages to their kids, and their oldest has been facetiming and messaging with MJ.  I think they connect so well because they are experiencing something that nobody back home can relate to.  Something they can't really talk with their friends back home about.

It was so lovely to connect with this family.  I will definitely miss them in our travels.  Easy going, adventurous and loads of fun.  I'm hoping we can connect with them again someday back in the States.

But of all the beauty in El Calafate, one of the kids favorite things has been climbing in and out of the window at the little cabin we're staying at.  It's pretty low to the ground, so they figured out they can easily climb in and out, and have thus been refusing to use the door as a means of transit.  Go figure.  I think this will be what they remember about El Calafate.

We also did a geology nature hike up the base of the nearby mesas.  It was so fun to teach the kids about conglomerates, and geologic timescales.  Also lots of puma and/or fox dens, filled with animal bones, which they were probably more excited by.  It's fascinating that El Calafate is basically a high-desert with a glacier down the road.  It feels incongruous but isn't.  Another great learning opportunity, teaching that it's not how cold it gets, but how warm it gets that determines if a glacier is built.  Cold winters with lots of snow don't build glaciers if the summer is hot.  But a cool summer (which El Calafate has) means that whatever snow accumulates in the winter has a chance to stick around through the summer, thus building a glacier.

I will miss Patagonia.  I will miss El Calafate.  One of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  I will miss the guanacos, the stray dogs, the abundant geology.  

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Farewell Chile

20 february

Today we leave Chile.  We take a bus 2.5 hrs to Punta Natales, have a 3 hr layover, then take another bus, 6 hrs, across the Andes, back into Argentina.  We will stay in el Calafate for 8 days.

We were in Punta Arenas for 5 days.  Greta is currently asleep on my lap, half an hour outside Natales.

The wind here is the noticeable theme.  I had heard that, but as soon as we left the airport it sunk in.  We had to hold our papers tight so they didn’t blow away.  This morning we had to take an Uber from the house we’re staying in to the bus station.  We turned our car in yesterday because the rental car agency doesn’t open soon enough to return it today (our bus left at 8:30.). But the Uber is only meant to hold 4 people, and the driver modified it to fit 5, himself plus 4 more  (just barely).  So I walked from the house to the bus station, about 4 km, my eyes burning the entire time from the wind.  It is mid February here, Southern Hemisphere summer, and we are constantly in fleece with tearing eyes from the wind.  All the trees, everywhere you look, grow at an angle to whatever the prominent wind direction is.  

Arenas was such a lovely city.  The history all around us was pronounced.  Most of the buildings downtown are old, 1750 to early 1900 or so.   Beautiful architecture. Many things named after Magellan: streets, buildings, plaques, etc. Many restaurants and stores in tribute to Shackleton, or Darwin, or the Beagle, or even Sir Frances Drake. Hubs and I had to refresh our memories in the various explorers that came through here and their various accomplishments.  We did some history with the kids; turns out MJ didn’t yet know who Columbus was.  Clearly the history being taught has changed since we were kids.  We went to a museum with replicas of the HMS Beagle and the NAO Victoria (the only one of Magellan’s boats to complete the trip around the world.  Only 18 of his crew of 270 made it, and Magellan wasn’t one of them.). Also Shackleton’s modified life raft that he added a sail to and sailed across the Southern Ocean, clearly in desperate circumstances.

We visited a penguin colony (Magellanic penguins- just another of Magellan’s many name sakes.). The sounds they make startled me.  You’ll need to look at Instagram for that.  

We had planned another road trip onto Tierra del Fuego while we were here, but decided it would be miserable with the kids.  Since we have left the farm the level of fighting has gone up and the amount of listening has gone down.  They now have no other outlets than us and each other.   Patagonia with kids is a different ballgame than most of the travelers around us get to experience.  

Instead we did some day trips to nature reserves. The kids have become decent little hikers, walking up to a couple miles easily.  It has emboldened hubs and I that we can start to take them on longer journeys.


Our devotion to “school” has diminished a bit since leaving the farm.  I’m hoping we do better in Uruguay.

Tales

15 February

We arrived in Punta Arenas yesterday.  We had to wake up and leave the farm at about 6 AM, drive an hour to the airport, return the rental car and board a  plane.  We vastly over estimated how long that would take us to accomplish, because Chileans don’t really seem to get moving until about 10 AM. So even being in a big city, and a big airport, things didn’t really open until about 930.  

We have attempted to adapt to the Chilean time schedule, and have done pretty well. The kids now regularly sleep until 830 or 900 am.  We often don’t eat dinner until eight at night. We have even instituted the idea of a “siesta” instead of a “nap”, which the kids embrace fondly.  I suspect this is some language that will follow us home, because a siesta sounds much less threatening than a nap. The reasons for this are unclear to me.

At any rate, the siesta is strong here. Less so than our brief time in Argentina, but still strong. Shops are often closed in the late afternoon and do not open until five or six. Restaurants sometimes don’t open until eight at night for dinner.

Aaron and I have been reading “In Patagonia”.  Our friend loaned us the hard copy before we left, but we didn’t bring it because we just didn’t understand until we got here. So we bought the e-book. We have been going chapter by chapter, and I am enjoying the travel log style. Though it reminds me that there are some smaller taIes I have not yet shared here on this blog.  In no particular order:


  1. A couple weeks ago, at the farm, Aaron was really wanting a haircut. One evening we went for dinner at a buffet style restaurant in Ensenada. I think we were actually part of the lunch crowd, because it was about 530, though we considered it dinner. Our server rushed over a little after we were seated, because he was told “there are gringos here”.  He spoke excellent English, so he must have been the go-to.  He apologized, saying he was in the middle of a haircut, because a hair stylist comes once a month from Puerto Varas to give all the staff haircuts. Aaron joked that he needs a haircut, so he understands, and our server suggested he go sit with the hairstylist as well.  So we ended our meal with the kids playing outside, while Aaron got a haircut in the corner. Of course our children ruined some of this by dumping sand in a pool they found outside. Nothing goes that smoothly.  Not to mention the dachshund that tried to bite our kids in he restaurant who th owner SWORE was 20 years old.
  2. Our last week at the farm we met a lovely couple from Santiago. They had three children, roughly 11, 8 and 4.  They invited us for dinner twice in the week they were there.  They both spoke good English and endured our attempts at Spanish.  It was so wonderful to just chat with friendly people about this country we’ve spent the last 1.5 months in.  We could ask all our questions about the education system, health care, poverty, etc.  During our conversation, hubs figured out that the nickname he’d chosen for himself in Spanish class back in high school,Mongo, which he has occasionally used here because the locals find his given name difficult to pronounce, is basically a rude word for “slow one” in Spanish.  Gabi and Rodrigo, our Chilean friends, could barely speak they were laughing so hard while they explained this to us.  We also talked at great length about how odd we find each other’s dinner times, and when Rodrigo talked amazedly about a work trip to the US where there was a dinner held at 5:30, I may have blushed when confessing that would be my preferred time to eat, or even earlier.
  3. I’m sure there are more small stories.  Such as when we asked MJ what the branches of the military are and she said “the Air Force,  the Army, the Military and the Life Guards.  I will endeavor to keep writing them down.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Farewell farm

13 February

We leave the farm tomorrow. Our last week has been somewhat sloth-like.  I think we both feel we have done the things in this area we really want to do, and are trying to enjoy our last days at the farm. The last few days the kids have been sick due to some jugos naturalas they had at a local festival.  We have been very relaxed lately with our consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. I feel mostly lucky that it took us this long to get hit by anything. The kids had some juice, and the three of them got sick, but Madeline got the sickest. After a high fever and G.I. issues for a day, Aaron gave her an antibiotic. I felt very relieved to have him here and not have to take her to local doc.

I am excited to keep traveling, but the kids have loved it here so much and it has felt so much like home. Greta sobbed when she said goodbye to her friends today. MJ, of course, couldn’t quite understand. They feel things so differently.  


This farm has truly felt like home to us.  The kind of place I look forward to returning to at the end of the day, or even the weekend. Our kids have made wonderful friends here which has allowed us to relax in a  way we haven’t elsewhere. And they’re in a safe place where we can let them roam for most of the day without even knowing where they are.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

3 February 

After over two weeks of the amazingness of farm life, we decided to take a brief trip elsewhere. We are in Chiloé, the most populated of Chile’s (something like) 4,000 islands.  We are staying in Ancud, on the north east coast of the island. We drove up Friday morning, took a ferry to the island, then drove to see the penguins. I was absurdly excited to see the penguins. Childlike excitement. They were cute, but it was the middle of the day, they weren’t fishing or doing very much. I was a bit underwhelmed. Aaron, who thought the whole thing sounded ridiculous, thought it was much better than he expected. Just goes to show that your enjoyment has so much to do with your initial expectations.  I guess I was more impressed by the cows on the beach, splashing in the ocean.

Ancud itself feels like many of the cities we have encountered in Chile. Too closely spaced, dirty and gritty.  I want to embrace the local culture, but the cities always feel much more impoverished than the countryside. Every Chilean city we’ve been to, I basically just want to go back to the countryside.  Today, though, we drove to Dalcahue. It was also a small city, but charming and clean. We drove there for an artisanal market. We had heard it was lovely, and it did not disappoint. Our travel book said the town was boring and sleepy, but I beg to differ. It was charming for sure, and didn’t feel impoverished.  I’ve come to find that our guidebooks equate any place that is not a gritty city with “sleepy”.  Makes me suspect that the authors did not have children. I love having them in a place where they’re not going to get hit by a car for stepping off the curb.

In general, though, Chile is so welcoming of small children and families. We have found a local bar near where we’re staying in Ancud, definitely a trendy hipster bar, with a small children’s play area. I am constantly worried our kids are bothering other people, but have had servers on many occasions tell us how charming they find our children.  Reminds me of my feelings on Central America, though the last time I was there was pre-kids, so I can’t really compare the two. I can’t help wondering if Catholic countries in general, a.k.a. anti-abortion countries, are inherently more child and family friendly (those of you who have also travelled with small children.... would be curious to hear your experiences.)

The house we’re staying at is fascinating.  We are high on a hillside overlooking the bay.. We watch the tide come and go, and the sun rise and the moon rise. But to get there, you turn off a super busy city street then go straight up the hill, switch back, for a quarter-mile. You would never know we’re in the middle of the city, we are in the weirdest, remotest, place.
Image.jpeg

Also, this is Teddy.
Image_1.jpeg

Teddy would like to share that he found part of a crab shell.

MJ recently died her hair purple (turned out more pink).  The locals seem to find it a bit perplexing.  They don’t pet her like they did before, but do point and stare.  Colored hair does not seem to be common here.  Or, at any rate, everyone’s hair is dark, so perhaps colored hair is harder to achieve.

Non sequiter:  when we first arrived on the island Aaron took us to an oyster place he had read about.  Unexpectedly, it was VERY fancy (but so accommodating for our young children, as appears to be the Chilean way.). I HATE oysters, but indulged him.  BUT, I LOVED these (fried) oysters.  The old man who owned the place explained the difference between these oysters and the oysters we are used to; I partially understood.  Basically, these were smaller, but very sweet, almost caramelized.


Although our side trip has been lovely, I am so excited to return to the farm tomorrow.  Our kids have been lost without their friends and the space to run.  They are basically cut loose for most of the day on the farm, which is so liberating for both them and us.  Our next stop is a plane ride south, much colder, and we accumulated some woolen goods at the artisanal market today.  

3 February

3 February 

After over two weeks of the amazingness of farm life, we decided to take a brief trip elsewhere. We are in Chiloé, the most populated of Chile’s (something like) 4,000 islands.  We are staying in Ancud, on the north east coast of the island. We drove up Friday morning, took a ferry to the island, then drove to see the penguins. I was absurdly excited to see the penguins. Childlike excitement. They were cute, but it was the middle of the day, they weren’t fishing or doing very much. I was a bit underwhelmed. Aaron, who thought the whole thing sounded ridiculous, thought it was much better than he expected. Just goes to show that your enjoyment has so much to do with your initial expectations.  I guess I was more impressed by the cows on the beach, splashing in the ocean.

Ancud itself feels like many of the cities we have encountered in Chile. Too closely spaced, dirty and gritty.  I want to embrace the local culture, but the cities always feel much more impoverished than the countryside. Every Chilean city we’ve been to, I basically just want to go back to the countryside.  Today, though, we drove to Dalcahue. It was also a small city, but charming and clean. We drove there for an artisanal market. We had heard it was lovely, and it did not disappoint. Our travel book said the town was boring and sleepy, but I beg to differ. It was charming for sure, and didn’t feel impoverished.  I’ve come to find that our guidebooks equate any place that is not a gritty city with “sleepy”.  Makes me suspect that the authors did not have children. I love having them in a place where they’re not going to get hit by a car for stepping off the curb.

In general, though, Chile is so welcoming of small children and families. We have found a local bar near where we’re staying in Ancud, definitely a trendy hipster bar, with a small children’s play area. I am constantly worried our kids are bothering other people, but have had servers on many occasions tell us how charming they find our children.  Reminds me of my feelings on Central America, though the last time I was there was pre-kids, so I can’t really compare the two. I can’t help wondering if Catholic countries in general, a.k.a. anti-abortion countries, are inherently more child and family friendly (those of you who have also travelled with small children.... would be curious to hear your experiences.)

The house we’re staying at is fascinating.  We are high on a hillside overlooking the bay.. We watch the tide come and go, and the sun rise and the moon rise. But to get there, you turn off a super busy city street then go straight up the hill, switch back, for a quarter-mile. You would never know we’re in the middle of the city, we are in the weirdest, remotest, place.
Image.jpeg

Also, this is Teddy.
Image_1.jpeg

Teddy would like to share that he found part of a crab shell.

MJ recently died her hair purple (turned out more pink).  The locals seem to find it a bit perplexing.  They don’t pet her like they did before, but do point and stare.  Colored hair does not seem to be common here.  Or, at any rate, everyone’s hair is dark, so perhaps colored hair is harder to achieve.

Non sequiter:  when we first arrived on the island Aaron took us to an oyster place he had read about.  Unexpectedly, it was VERY fancy (but so accommodating for our young children, as appears to be the Chilean way.). I HATE oysters, but indulged him.  BUT, I LOVED these (fried) oysters.  The old man who owned the place explained the difference between these oysters and the oysters we are used to; I partially understood.  Basically, these were smaller, but very sweet, almost caramelized.


Although our side trip has been lovely, I am so excited to return to the farm tomorrow.  Our kids have been lost without their friends and the space to run.  They are basically cut loose for most of the day on the farm, which is so liberating for both them and us.  Our next stop is a plane ride south, much colder, and we accumulated some woolen goods at the artisanal market today.  

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The farm

The farm, January 28th

We arrived on the farm, near Puerto Varas, Chile, 11 days ago. We will be here for a month, total.

First off, it feels lovely to settle in and fully unpack.  We have discouraged our kids from unpacking everything at previous stops so as not to lose things, and to reduce the amount of packing time spent a few days later. (Even so, some very beloved toys have gone missing, likely long gone.)

I think if our kids had their choice they might move here permanently.  We are staying on a working farm; something more than a hobby farm, but possibly a little less serious than a commercial farm because part of their income comes from guests staying in cottages.  So they will, for example, stop their farm work to help guests ride horses. 

We have loved every moment of our stay here.  There is a lot of fruit & vegetable picking (raspberries, plums, cherries, Fava beans), animal interaction (calves, alpacas, kittens, horses, dogs), and a lot of kids (4 that live here full time, 3 additional this week, all of whom speak english).

We just got off the river after a day long rafting trip with the kids.  The first few rapids were real deal, whitewater, class 2 (so they say, though I swear they would call it class 3 in the states.). It was an awesome trip, with a super friendly guide. The only downside was a fly we have been introduced to variously as “Davanos” or   or “colohuacos”.  These things are severe.  They apparently only live for about 2 weeks each January, and first arrived while we were in Villa la Angostura.  We have since read a lot about them because they plague us.  They are basically a large, slow moving horsefly.  If they land on you and you don’t notice within about 10 seconds, they give you a painful bite that itches for a few days. They like to live near water, and are attracted to dark colors. On the water today, we were in a swarm of them for hours. We killed them constantly, and had hundreds of dead flies on the bottom of the boat, but made no dent in their population.

Interestingly (and grossly) the resident kids here have taught our children that if you tear apart the fly there is often a sack of honey inside of them. It involves tearing off the head and wings first, and throughly grosses me out, but our kids love the challenge of trying to catch them with a reward of honey.  This is exactly the sort of “cultural experience” I was hoping for for our kids, it just happens to be a gross one.

The other family currently at this Airbnb is a family of five from Washington state. Our kids love their kids, and we have been visiting with them nightly, and will see them in a few weeks further south.  They leave tomorrow for an adventure south in their camper van.  As much as it has been amazing to meet locals, it is the English speakers from abroad  that we mostly bond with.  Feeling like we are in the same boat with them, and having similar struggles, unites us. This family is traveling around South America for a year, ending this coming June.


There is much more that I am forgetting, but if I don’t post this I will forget to do so.  More to come. Possibly penguins at our next stop.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Villa la Angostura, Argentina

January 16th

Some thoughts


  1. If you are lucky enough to find an IPA at a bar, it takes some translation to figure out that the correct pronunciation is “Eepa”, else they have no idea what you’re talking about
  2. We still have yet to find any other native English speakers. So much so that, in a restaurant the other day, I had a server ask me, approximately, “what on earth are you doing here? We never get Americans here.”
  3. I wish we had travelled internationally in the Obama era.  I feel like we are ambassadors for the US, and can’t bring myself to leave a bad tip for bad service, because I’m convinced it only makes our country look bad.  Anything I can do to convince foreigners that Americans aren’t all bad seems worth doing, even when I feel taken advantage of.
  4. Greta has taken to very inappropriate “your face” jokes.  Such as, “do you know why your joke’s not funny? Because your face isn’t funny!” I don’t know where these jokes came from.  But (see above) I feel self conscious that people around us understand these rude jokes and just assume that’s the American way.
  5. Have I mentioned I miss having people to talk to? My family is lovely.  But I miss talking to strangers.  Passing pleasantries.  This is the first place I’ve travelled, as a non-native speaker, that is so far off the beaten path that locals are shocked when someone doesn’t speak Spanish.  I’m practicing, but I have so far to go.
  6. We leave here tomorrow.  Villa la Angostura, and Argentina in general, has been amazing.  This is possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.  The houses and businesses have a beautiful, almost Swiss, look. Redwood beams with steeply sloped roofs, yards full of roses.  Every direction has snow capped peaks and crystal clear, blue lakes.   The Main Street is paved, but every other road in town is gravel.  A testament to what a remote outpost this is.  (Though one of my unexpected appreciations is paved roads: the dust is endless.)
  7. Our Air B&B hosts invited us on their boat today.  I expected a tiny fishing boat with a tiny motor.  Instead, it was a beautiful boat, all hard wood, a restored 1934 yacht.  The kind of boat that tourists take photos of when you pull into port.  They brought along their three kids, ages 16, 15 and 13.  Girl, girl, boy, just like our brood.  We motored to a remote beach and chatted for 4 hours in Spanglish. As per earlier conversations, they asked how on earth we stumbled on this place.  I think they invited us because  they NEVER get Americans here and were curious.    Their kids were lovely, and MJ is completely in love with the teenage girls.  I am so thankful I don’t yet have to deal with teenage girls.  
  8. Thong bikinis are all the rage here.  I am thankful I am too old, too motherly, and too foreign to feel the need to indulge the trend.
  9. Also: Mate.  It is everywhere.  We have yet to try it.  My understanding is that it is like a highly caffeinated kind of gross tea (other people’s words, not mine).  But the method of drinking it is unique, in a gourd with a silver straw.  Everywhere we go, on the beach, on the street, people are wandering around with a gourd and silver straw.  The grocery store had half an aisle full of Yerba mate, in bags the size of flour bags.  It is a big deal. 
  10. Also a big deal: dulce du Leche.  The portion of the grocery store dedicated to this is equivalent to the peanut butter section.  
  11. Last thought.  I’m having a tough time adjusting to the local schedule.  Stores and restaurants tend to be open from about 9 or 10 until about noon or 1.  Then they close until about 6 (or sometimes as late as 8).   Restaurants don’t open for dinner until 8.  Because were traveling, we often eat out, but planning for an 8 pm dinner (in a restaurant) has been tricky.  I know this is siesta culture, but it is taking me some getting used to.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Onward to Argentina

January 12

We arrived in villa la angostura, Argentina, today.  The trip took about 6.5 hrs, with 1.5 of that spent crossing the border.  First Chile had to allow us to leave, making sure our rental car was properly sorted.  Then Argentina had to allow us in, with all sorts of documents and stamps at each step (both customs and immigration on each side of the border.)

The drive into the Andes was stunning.  The wilderness was incredibly remote, craggy peaks and giant trees with very few signs of human life.  Almost as soon as we crossed the border and descended on the other side, the landscape changed.  The trees disappeared, the grass turned brown, the vegetation shrank.  Classic rain shadow desert, but the phenomenon never ceases to amaze me.  Such a clear place to put an international border, at the top of a mountain range at the boundary between two ecologies.  (I’m pretty sure I’m not using “ecologies” incorrect.  Apologies to my ecologist readers.)

We drove through the desert for about 2 hrs on the Argentina side before heading back into the Andes, on winding mountain roads to this village.  If I understand the exchange rate correctly (a true if, since we have so little internet access) it is much cheaper than in Chile.  I bought a huge bag of fruit here for $8, which would have cost twice that in Chile.  Beer seems markedly cheaper (maybe 30% less?). Perhaps that’s how I calculate money, based on beer and fruit.  We figured out this morning that gas in Chile is about $4.50 a gallon; not yet sure on this side.

We nearly left Chile one day too early.  We were almost all packed up; we saw our Air B&B host drive by (their house was directly next to ours) and said goodbye, and she asked why we were leaving early.  After checking our itinerary, we realized our mistake.  We spent the extra day in Pucon napping and fighting with our kids, approximately in that order.  I love my husband and his need for constant activity.  Back home it’s okay, because it can never last more than a few days before he has to go back to works Here, it is wearing me out a bit, because he just wants to DO so much and sometimes I just want to sit and stare at the trees.  A day to veg was lovely.

For the first time today I’m feeling a bit homesick.  We have now been here for 2 weeks.  We arrived at our 4th location.  I just want to settle in a bit.  Stop moving around.  I’d like to focus on school for the kids a bit more.  We are doing 1-2 hrs a day, and I just don’t know if that’s enough.  We’ve been trying to incorporate lessons into more of what we do, but MJ, in particular, is resistant, unless we call it formal school.   Her lack of desire to learn things is troubling to me.  I dare say she has always had this.  Though she is deeply interested in geography and history.  For example, I had a very long conversation with her attempting to explain Russia’s relationship with the US.    It’s like a more mature form of gossip, which is certainly part of her interest; wanting to understand the adult world.  


I miss my sewing machine.  I miss reliable internet.  I miss being able to talk easily with strangers.  We have encountered almost NO one who is a native English speaker; the only two were at our first stop.  We have encountered maybe 5 people, in our whole trip, who hear us speaking English and engage us in conversation.  Everywhere we are surrounded by Spanish.  Most of the time I love it, and I love being in this new and foreign place.  But sometimes I long for the comfort of our own language. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Pucon

January 7

We have now been in Pucón for a few days.  We are staying in a beautiful house with vaulted ceilings and floor to ceiling windows in the middle of the woods.  The house is halfway up volcan villarica, which, I did not realize until we hiked it, is the most active volcano in South America.  It last erupted in 2015 but currently shows no signs of activity.  The area is just beautiful, with a snow capped peak we couldn’t even see  the top of until our 3rd day here, when the clouds finally cleared.  At the bottom of the mountain sits Pucón along the shores of a cold, clear lake.

We “hiked” around the volcano (as much as one can hike with an 8, 5 and 4 yr old).  They actually did well and we got some good exploring in, then we went to a lava tube which they loved.  Trying to understand geology in Spanish was interesting, and I think our guide did pretty well, other than claiming that the friction of one tectonic plate subducting beneath another is what causes melting, and thus, volcanoes.  I don’t have the Spanish to clarify that.  It was also unclear to me why there was pahoehoe lava.  

Yesterday we went on a “family float” with a local river tour group.  Hubs and I have done a fair amount of canoeing and rafting, but this was the first time we brought the whole crew along.  Going with a guide was so lovely and relaxing, we had no responsibilities for  arranging the shuttle, inflating the raft (a lengthy ordeal) or anything else.  We just had to keep an eye on our kids, a full time endeavor, and not add to that stress with river planning.

Today we visited a hot spring.  MJ was very concerned it  would be a “naked hot spring, like Oregon” and was relieved to find it was not.   Reminiscent of Oregon hot springs, if they were slightly more organized and commercialized (I say this not in a bad way, because it means restrooms and a parking lot, in exchange for a marginal fee.). I think the name was something like Parcival... which I know isn’t correct because that’s the name from Ready Player One.

All in all, Pucon is not like the other places we’ve visited. It doesn’t feel like “real” Chile.  I think any place with a Marmot store cannot be “real”.  It’s hip and trendy, which is kind of fun, but our efforts to find “kid friendly” activities are met with blank stares.  We have encountered a few people who speak English, which is certainly helpful, and everyone is very friendly to our kids, but this is definitely a 20-something Aspen-ish type place.

Mostly, our kids want to hang out at the house and play with the Air B&B host’s dogs and daughter.   Not a bad life, certainly.  

A few thoughts on Chile so far.  It is about the same prices as the US, all in all.  Food, lodging and supplies are about the same.  Services, a term I use loosely, tend to be cheaper.  Such things as horse back riding, rafting, etc, are maybe 25% - 50% the price of the US.  Many places accept only cash, and we have a hard time finding an ATM without an $8 fee, so that obviously adds up.  

They LOVE mayonnaise here.  Any sauce is likely heavily mayo based.  Hotdogs are ubiquitous. The bread is delicious, even that which you find at a gas station.  There is a particular kind of cheese, I’m not sure what it’s called, though it’s widespread, that tastes like fondue. It makes my tummy happy.  Avocados are cheap but tortilla chips are VERY hard to find, which seems like a great societal tragedy.  The ones I have found are not very good, and I’m tempted to find the ingredients to make my own.  Unlikely I will follow through, though.  


Although I haven’t experienced this as much, in Pucon, I experienced extensive unease our first few stops.  Everywhere we went it seemed people were staring at us.  Once you hear our poor Spanish it’s pretty clear why people are staring, but it was happening everywhere, regardless of whether we spoke.  I came to realize it was because our kids are so blond, and no one around us is.  Our whole family stands out, physically, from the locals, especially the kids.  Especially MJ (Though the grandmas seem particularly drawn to Teddy.)  MJ has had her head patted a few times (much better than the hair pulling I experienced in Korea at 5.). She could not understand what was going on until we chatted about it.  We’ll see if the head patting returns at our next stop (Argentina!!)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

January 4 update

January 4

(We currently have no internet wher we are staying, so posts will have some lag time between writing and posting.)

We have arrived at our third stop.  After Santa Cruz (wine country), we hit up Salto de Lajo, the “Niagara Falls of Chile”, then on to Pucón, our current locale.  

We finished our stay in Santa Cruz with another round of stomach illness (minor, mine).  We also spent half our trip negotiating furnace repairs from afar, for one of our two rentals.  With a low in the neighborhood of -20, we were frantically trying to get SOMEONE to respond on New Years Eve weekend.  Took two days of international negotiation to finally get it repaired.

We spent our last morning visiting a fascinating museum in Santa Cruz about the Colchagua.  I can’t say the kids absorbed a ton, other than, as Greta put it “you mean there were creatures here before people lived here?”  Yes, dear Greta.  Though I guess you learned that earlier than many people do.

We drove 4 hours south, with lots of back seat fighting, to Salto del Laja.  Our tourist book played down this location, but I honestly loved it.  It was kitschy and charming, and genuinely a Chilean tourist destination.  Understanding the place you visit seems like it necessitates a trip to where that place vacations.  A visit to the Wisconsin Dells, for example, gives you some pretty good insight into Wisconsin and surrounding areas.  I mention the Dells because this place truly felt like a version of it.  Far less intense, but in the same vein.  Lots of kitschy souvenirs, many of them locally carved (I nearly bought Teddy a locally made ninja sword, but logic prevailed.). There was a lovely waterfall, and a short boat trip up a ravine that reminded me of Robert Tremain state park in New York (for those of you reading from that locale).  

There were abundant campgrounds, horse back riding, zip lines, etc.  we only stayed two nights, but did go horse back riding, and I thought MJs head would explode with joy.  It was a brief trip, and the staff led the horses, but regardless it was mj’s dream come true.  

Both nights at the campground were interrupted, somewhere in the 1 am range, with hours of a barking dog.  Shockingly, while I conjured the most evil treatment for the poor dog in my half sleep, the kids slept soundly through both nights.  I think the dog was keeping foxes at bay, or something similar, likely hunting the abundant chickens roaming around.   But it  was awful to try to sleep through.  It seems like the campground hosts should have put the chickens in a coop at night, for the sake of everyone’s sleep, but clearly I know little about  chickens.

Anyway.  We drove another 4 hours today, mostly down the Pan American highway (as with the other days).  The terrain has changed so drastically.  Santa Cruz was hot, with highs in the upper 80s (Fahrenheit).  We swam often just to cool off.  The fields were dry unless they were irrigated, and overall it reminded me of wine country in Northern California.  Salto del Laja was heavily forested and nearly 20 degrees cooler; we needed to bust out sweaters and comforters at night.  Here, in Pucón, it is probably another 15 degrees cooler, and we have the wood stove going.  Granted, we are in the mountains above Pucón, which explains some of the chill.


Today hubs realized he threw out his tourist card, given to him as we passed through immigration.  Inexplicably, we apparently need it in order to leave the country, which we plan to do next week when we cross into Argentina.  We all received one, and I held onto the kids and mine, though more so because I tend to not get rid of things than because I knew we needed it.  They just look like receipts, nothing worth holding onto (though I have a vague memory of being warned, time and again in Russia, that if I didn’t have the card given to me when I entered the country I could NOT leave; I think that memory guided my hand).  

More soon.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Some early breakages

1)  The windshield of our rental car.  Not 5 minutes after leaving the airport a rock hit the windshield, and the crack has been spreading since.  At least this is the one we have for 1.5 months, so we shall get value out of that crack.

2) The back of my iPhone.  I blame it on tile floors that even otter boxes can’t protect against.  And my own clumsiness.  I think if Steve jobs was still alive he would not be on board with glass backed phones.

3) A bottle of viognier. One of the two whites in our wine 6-pack from today’s vineyard.  At the cafe, which we promised to children after, I set it down too abruptly and broke it all over the (tile) floor.  Made a scene trying to ask for a mop to mop it up in my insufficient Spanish.

That’s all for now.  Many more to come.

A long, long trip

We have arrived.

After 23.5 hrs of non-stop travel.

It was difficult to close up the house for three months.  To decide what is worth keeping going (chest freezer) and what is worth unplugging (fridge).  Turns out we have the sort of fridge with a bottom freezer that is impossible to clean while it is plugged in.  So, while not specifically related to our travel, it was a rare opportunity to clean a very, very gross appliance.  It is unlikely to be cleaned again in a decade, so, ya know, worth writing home about. But, I digress, into household mundanities (I dont think this is a word, but it should be).

Anyway.  I had dreams of leaving behind a very clean house.  But between a broken alarm system we had to scramble to fix the morning of our departure, a completely clogged utility sink I had to dredge by hand (so gross.  Reflected on all the poopy cloth diapers that have contributed to that clog.  U,gh.). Anyway: House, not terribly clean.

Everything about the final process of departure went well. The roads to the airport we re awful, but we got through security with hours to spare.  We brought two checked bags, a carry on per person, and my purse.  Limited to 4 changes of clothes per person, as well as some English language teaching materials, husbands medecial kit, a few toys and games.

Greta started melting down almost as soon as we boarded the first plane.  I assumed it was typical travel Greta, frustrated by things that are impossible to change, but shortly there after she passed I out   on  me.

The rest of flight one was smooth.  I sat next to G &T, which means I had to bow to their every whim, a necessary evil when flying with small children, so as to keep their volume from escalating and bothering other passengers.  I don’t think they have figured out, yet, the power they hold over us on airplanes.  I think their older sister definitely has.  Teddy inhaled his birthday cupcake like a dog.  (Video on Instagram).

Flight 2 started pretty great.  The kids were psyched to each have their own seat back video console. I get it, I was too.  I got to watch an entire period piece, “the Beguiled”.  I forgot, of course, that even though the littles were entertained, they still needed my constant involvement.  Someday I know I’ll miss them needing me.  I tell myself that many times a day.  (Also, underwhelmed by the movie.  Probably was a great book, though.). Of course, as soon as the lights on the plane were turned down
for “bedtime”, Greta jumped up from her seat because she “needed to puke”.   Which, indeed, she did.  I know I’ve lived a charmed life, but that really was my first onboard puke incident.  We robbed a handful of puke bags from the bathroom and went back to our seats.

That proved to be the first of countless pukes throughout the night.  Poor hubs was sitting with G & T for the red-eye, so I didn’t realize how many (sleep-interrupting) events there had been.  Payback for an overnight puke-a-thon I held with teddy last week.  But hubs certainly endured more.


MJ, meanwhile, kept cuddling up (in her sleep), with her seat neighbor.  I woke up several times with her legs draped over the stranger next to her.

We landed, got luggage, went through customs.  I apparently forgot (confession: couldn’t be bothered) to declare the few oranges I shoved in my bag for snacks. Hubs was not impressed by my stunt, when the dogs tagged me and I had extra screenings. Never mind that I’m certain he brought some snacks through, too.

We got our rental car.  And then the vomiting started again.  So.   Much.  Vomit.  The whole 2 hr ride south.  We did stop at a roadside gas station/McDonalds (surprise! Mickey D’s is just as gross here.  Was hoping for some cultural difference, such as the wine you can buy in an Italian McDonalds, but the only cultural difference was that our meal came with a side of 20 mayonnaise packets).  Greta had to pause to vomit into a trash can, and we stopped at the pharmacy to ask, in our broken Spanish, if they sell Zoloft.  Nope.  No Zoloft.  But he  decided to give her a dose of meclazine, Which, over the next 2 he’s, slowly kicked in.

We arrived at our Air B&B, near Santa Cruz, and Greta showered before swimming.

We are now on day 2.  Today was a wine tour, which the kids endured fine (horse and buggy!)

Some takeaways so far.

1) our Spanish is very, very rusty.  In part because it’s been so long (kids!) since we’ve travelled off grid and needed it.  And in part because the pronunciation here is so different.  MJ tried to say “buenos Dias” to a cashier and he clarified that is “Buon dia”.  A lot of endings are cut off words.  I think most of our struggles have to do with our lack of practice, but the accent doesn’t help.

2) the kids are adorably enthusiastic about learning to speak Spanish.  They will speak to whoever, whenever, with the few phrases they know.  They also want us to translate things that we just don’t understand.

3) I have heard such great things about google translate, but it has proven nearly useless for us.  Wish we had  brought along an Old School English/Spanish dictionary.  Most of the things I try to translate f rom Spanish google does not know.  Again, I think this is largely an accent thing,

4) Mayonnaise.  On everything.  ::shudder::

5) Internet is spotty.  Blogger is much worse (or not updated) than it used to be, and I can’t even go back and edit this post.  Fingers crossed it mostly makes sense!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

S. America bound

I aim to resurrect this little blog for the next few months.  Our family heads to S. America tomorrow, and it seems like a good place to record a few of our (my) thoughts.

We fly to Santiago, Chile, first, then quickly escape town.  I'm sure it's a lovely town, but with three littles (8, 5 and 4) I think we'll all be happier someplace further from cars.

The kids are pretty unfazed by this whole thing, so far.  A few misconceptions we've had to clear up to achieve this unfazed status:

1.  There will be no lions attacking our village.
2.  Although everyone around us will be speaking Spanish, we (hubs and I) will still be speaking english.  I.e., they still get to speak English to us.
3. We are not moving.  We are, in fact, coming back.

We depart tomorrow at ~3 pm on a a 15 hr. journey south.  A red eye, which  I expect will be terrible.

My own misconception, discovered yesterday:
Santiago is, in fact, 3 hrs AHEAD of us.  In my mind, the west coast of S. America and the west coast of N. America were at the same longitude.  In fact, totally not.  Despite looking at many maps in my day, this key fact escaped me.  I argued with MJ about this, not extensively but enough that I am embarrassed.

We have packed 2 suitcases and our individual carry-ons for the trip.  I spent 2 hrs tonight looking for my misplaced prescription medication.  I am (sort-of, kind-of, at a totally healthy level) panicking about our departure.  Today it dawned on me, that, although I have travelled a lot, I have not travelled for very long.  My longest trip was Bosnia, deployment, for 4 months.  EVERY other trip has been shorter than this.  Which is epic, in my mind, because they were all so monumental in my memory.

Additionally, although I have travelled to places where I barely speak the language, I have not done so when I have little people depending on my abilities.

That being said, I did not have the technology that I now have during previous trips.  Should make life easier?  I hope.

I have the slightest hesitation posting about all our travels on social media.  But have decided that between a house sitter and an alarm system, we are probably fine.  But, y'know, please spare us the stress of break-ins?

Alrighty.  Farewell.  See y'all soon.

Monday, October 24, 2016

I can finally breathe

I hadn't even realized it had been so long.  I hadn't even realized I wasn't doing it.

Of course, I mean this figuratively.  I've been breathing.  What I haven't been doing is thinking about myself, or my future, or the things that I want.  I've only been thinking about the things that I need.   To get through this moment, this day, this week.  Usually not further ahead than that.

Being a stay at home mom is very, very hard.  I've now been doing it for a little over 4 years.  I've had a couple other gigs mixed in here and there; I've taught a few classes, I've done some landlording.  But for a little over 4 years, my primary job has been taking care of 3 little people.

My kids are now 7, 4 and 2.  The youngest two are 15 months apart.  That was hard.  I have one in 1st grade, one in half-day Pre-Kindergarten and one in half-day preschool 3 days a week.  I'm finally at a point where they can play upstairs, out of sight, for an hour.  And not kill themselves or burn the house down.

Over the past 9 months we've slowly been getting to this point.  Emerging from the fog.  I've gradually started to take care of myself again.  I've started looking in the mirror and putting effort into my appearance.  I've started to be more conscious about what I eat in order to realize why I've gained 30 pounds since Teddy was born (30 pounds!! Ugh.)  At least I've finally stopped gaining.  I've started to exercise, and ran a 10 mile race a few weeks ago.  I was awfully slow, but I did it and it was a blast.

Now.  Now I'm starting to think about what I want next.  I have zero regrets about staying home with my kids.  I was so torn about that decision before I made it, but since I started to stay home I have not regretted it a single day.  But I am within sight of having the kids in full day school.  And even now, if I found something I was really interested in, I could put them in their programs for full days.  The idea of a regular, full-time job is a bit daunting, because of the hubs work schedule.  There would be weeks we just wouldn't see each other, and the kids wouldn't see him.  Unless I found something I was really passionate about, I can't imagine taking that on.

So I've started to ponder.  What's next.  Maybe another rental?  More classes?  I'm just not sure.




Saturday, January 9, 2016

2015: A recap























1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?  I became a working mom with three small children.  I became president of a volunteer organization (a local Mom's group).  I went on a girls weekend away.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?   I mostly kept last year's resolution.  I didn't really make any this year.  Some of my goals, generally, though: exercise more and eat more consciously.  Write on this blog more.  Establish more responsible sleep habits.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?   A friend of mine, who we used to be neighbors with, had her third child. I was SHOCKED when she announced she was pregnant, totally did not see that one coming.  One of DH's old high school friends and one of my old high school friends each had their first baby; I intended to make some quilts but still have not.  I don't turn them out as fast as I'd like.

4. Did anyone close to you die?  I really thought this would be the year our faithful old dog, Vito, said goodbye.  He seemed to be very sickly last spring, and I prepared the girls for this possibility.  But he's still kicking, laying here next to me as I write.  Thankfully, no one died.  I dread the day I have to say more on this bullet.

5. What countries did you visit and/or where did you travel?  Still haven't taken the kiddos out of the country, so I modified this question to recap travel in general.

Last February I went to Camp Du Nord, near Ely, for a Women's Ski and snowshoe retreat.  It was GLORIOUS.  Three days with no children or responsibilities of any kind.  What a release that was for me.  I will be going again this year and can hardly wait.

Last spring, during MJ's spring break, we stayed put for the first time ever.  DH's mom came to visit and it was lovely.

In May, the family went to West Virginia.  We spent a week in the mountains at a VRBO with some old friends.  It was beautiful and I would love to return.  The week was a bit rough, though, because we were the only ones with mobile children (one other couple had a young infant).  We were in a very different place from the rest of our friends.  They were all very understanding and seemed to enjoy our children, but I think DH in particular had a tough time balancing being a father when he just wanted to hang out with old friends.

Also in May we went camping nearby with some good friends, the Firedales.   Teddy and I ditched a day early, he was a hot mess and I couldn't deal.  The next month we went to a cabin with some other friends, and it went quite a bit better.  Much of last year, the theme was "Teddy sleeps a little better, but still pretty much sucks at it".  Survival.  So the cabin was awesome, but a bit of a struggle.

In July, hubs and I were supposed to go to Vegas for a 3-day-weekend to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.  It would have been our first time away from the kids in 5 years.  My MIL was in town and planning to watch the kids, but she got horribly sick and we had to cancel the trip.  We were bummed, but there was a blessing in disguise.  Hubs uncle had planned a trip to visit, not knowing we would be out of town, and we would have missed his entire trip.  Instead, we went to a baseball game and all-in-all had a lovely time.  I still dream of time away with my husband.  For the most part, I've wrapped my head around that never happening, at least not until the kids leave the house, but I'm not sure that hubs has.

Lots of travel... continuing on....

In July we went to visit my family in Oregon.  Lovely.  Perfect.  I love it there, hubs loves it there, the kiddos love it there.  Teddster did break his leg on this sisters third b-day, but otherwise it was wonderful.

In September, we went to Alexandria, MN, tagging along on hubs work trip, as we do every year.  This year, though, was actually really fun.  I look forward to next year; this is the first time I can say that.  The housing was better, there were other folks with kids nearby, and I could actually participate in things.

In October, we again went to Du Nord, this time as a family, with some other friends.  It was DH's first time there, and he fell in love with it just as passionately as I did.  We are already trying to plan our next trip.

Lastly.... in December, we went back to upstate New York to visit DH's family.  The trip was long, and Christmas is a tough time to travel with three small kids.  On the way there, we were not sure we would do it again, but it was such a wonderful trip that we completely reversed that opinion.  So good to see extended family, friends we haven't seen in forever.  Lots of DH's family that had never met the kids, or barely met them, got to spend quality time together.  It was awesome.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
I would like to feel put together.  In house.  In personal appearance.  In life.  Last spring, Teddy was still sleeping pretty poorly, MJ was only in school half days.  Over the summer, all three were home.  In the fall, I started working part-time (my position ended in December, though).  Which is to say: I felt frazzled all the time.

But now, finally, a week into January 2016, I actually feel things coming together.  MJ is in school full days, G is in school three mornings a week.  Just the ease of grocery shopping with one (fairly well behaved) child is magical.  My house is cleaner (about as clean as it is realistically likely to get.... past a point, I just don't care enough.)  It's almost overwhelming.  I'm rediscovering what one can accomplish when one has time.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I don't remember particular dates.  But the Paris Terrorist attack stuck in my memory, unfortunately.  This is the first year I've actually read this as more than just personal events.... probably says something about my life.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Being a working mother of three.  The logistical challenges were many.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I don't want to say "I didn't have any", but I don't think anything I consider major.  The things that have plagued me in the past, such as patience with the children, were markedly improved this year.  I established some strong routines and things got better.

The thing that nags me, though, is my inability to lose weight.  It has actually gone UP this year.  It mostly perplexes me.  I feel like I am more active and eat better than I used to, so I really don't understand where it's coming from.  Age?  I guess.  I refuse to "diet", other than to just try to eat healthy.  I don't eat many processed foods, and when I've tried to actively lose weight in the past it just robbed me of energy to deal with the littles.  Doesn't seem worth it.  Furthermore, I refuse to introduce my children to this concept.  Body image is so, so fragile for young girls.  I will focus my energy, for me, and for them, on eating healthy and staying active, and let the chips fall where they may.  Now I just need to accept that.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Not particularly.  We had a lot of stomach viruses this past fall, it felt like one after another.  Teddster broke his leg (a buckle fracture of his tibia) when I went down a slide with him and G (I should have known better.... this will be something that our children will be horrified we ever did).  Hubs came down with anaplasmosis last summer (from a tick bite while camping); it was terrifying to see him so ill.  Last thing that comes to mind was some dental work at the end of December.  I experienced real-deal PTSD, flashbacks to having my wisdom teeth removed.  Perhaps a story for another time.  But I almost passed out at the Dentist having a filling.  It was awful, but it went fine in the end.

11. What was the best thing you bought?  

This one is easy.  Two things.
1) my sewing machine.  I am in love with it.  I don't use the free motion foot as much as I thought I would, but love it nonetheless.  I didn't realize how bad my old one was until I got this one.
2)  a cordless dyson.  Even hubs agrees on this one.  It is so phenomenal how much dirt this thing picks up.  I now vacuum almost every day, because it is so easy to do.  It has made such a difference in the cleanliness of our house.  I only wish I had it before the littles started crawling.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
In the past, I've read other peoples surveys, and they often say "their husband".  I haven't felt that impulse in the past.  Not that he was bad, but not above and beyond.  Maybe working too much, or tired and grumpy, etc.  This year, though, I feel it.  Wholeheartedly.  He stepped it up and it made a huge difference.  It started last summer.  He had been particularly grumpy, and we had a very heart felt conversation after his anaplasmosis bout.  He turned it around.  He vowed to be a better husband, and it happened.  Then, in the fall, when I started working again, I just couldn't keep up with the amount of child rearing.  I needed him to step in, even though I knew he was super busy, and he did, gracefully and cheerfully most of the time.  I feel like this was the year he vowed to be a better husband, and it was wonderful.  I feel like it has strengthened our marriage a ton.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?  Donald Trump.


14. Where did most of your money go?   Our mortgage and savings.  But, apart from that, travel.  It is always travel.  I am okay with that.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?  Sewing.  And quilting.  I know that makes me a geek, but I love it.  I love creating things.  I love that I can do it easily when the kids are around.    I didn't sew much over the summer, and I worried I had fallen out of love with it, but when the weather turned cold it came flooding back.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
I am so removed from popular culture.  I can't think of any new songs, at all.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
– Happier or sadder?
Happier.  Probably because I'm getting better sleep.  I continue to nap when the kids nap and stay up way too late, but I will never adjust to 5:00 am wake ups, and it's how I stay sane.  It's worked for well over a year now, and I don't see it ever ending.  I was worried, when I working, that it would be a problem.  It wasn't.  The kids wear me out to such an extent that I NEED a nap when I'm with them.  I can get by without one when they're not around.

– Thinner or fatter?
Fatter, as mentioned above.  But fat and happy is not so bad.

– Richer or poorer?
Richer.  Thanks to hubs choosing a great career, and some added bonus from me working.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Playing with the kids.  Valuing these fleeting moments.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Stressing.


20. How did you spend Christmas?
In Binghamton.  With my MIL and BIL, and some lovely extended family.  It was so warm we comfortably grilled (spiedies) outside.  Greta dragged her presents into the other room to open them by herself.  Teddy didn't quite understand the point of it all, but loved it.  MJ was fully in the throes of Santa questioning.

21. Did you fall in love in 2015?
With my husband.  I feel like we are more of a team than we've ever been.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
I watched Game of Thrones this year (still haven't finished it).  I love the series that hubs and I watch together, which are few.  We just finished Fargo Season 2, and earlier we watched House of Cards.   Still love Downton.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Donald Trump.

24. What was the best book you read?
Trying to remember what I read this year.  Not a lot, a lot of spare time spent sewing.  Magical art of tidying up was impactful.   Also Defending Jacob.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? MJ and I listened to the Nutcracker a lot.

26. What did you want and get?

A sewing machine.

27. What did you want and not get?
I am blessed.  Nothing of significance.  Except a 10th anniversary celebration, I suppose.

28. What was your favorite film this year?
Umm... didn't watch many.  James Bond, it was fine.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Met up with friends at a couple bars.  I LOVE spending time with adults on date nights.  Real conversations, not interrupted by children.  It was amazing and lovely.

30. What is one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A housekeeper.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
Wear what I feel good in.  Inspired by Kon Marie.  I cleansed my closet (didn't get a lot further than that).  I bought a few more pieces, and have given myself permission to get rid of things I don't feel good in.  It has been good.  I have also discovered I like neutral colored clothing; I love bright colors on other people, and as accent pieces, but have come to realize I never actually wear them if I buy them.  This has gone a long way towards insuring that I don't buy things I don't wear.

32. What kept you sane? Sewing.  Wine.  My husband.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?  Umm.... I don't know.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?  Gun violence.  And Black Lives Matter.  I'm not a fan of things that disrupt people just trying to live their lives.

35. Who did you miss?  My Mom.

36. Who was the best new person you met?  Anastasia.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015
Parenting efforts in the early years pay dividends years later.  But they're worth it.  I'm starting to see our efforts in teaching MJ politeness and helpfulness fully come to fruition.

Loyalty in a life partner is far more important than I ever realized.

It boggles my mind that my 20-yr-old clueless self was so astute at picking a life partner.