All Over the Place

We got home Wednesday night and today my brain is all over the place. I’m still thinking about my most recent trip, I’m stressing about what needs to get done tomorrow, I’m freaking out about going back to work in less than three weeks. Sometimes I’m not sure if my trip to Ecuador really happened, or at least if it happened to me.

We’re finally home after ten days in St. Louis. It was a really fun trip. The end was challenging as the kids and I got a really horrible cold and felt awful. Our travel day was a shit show with a delayed flight and then more time spent on the tarmac while the water system on the plane got fixed. We ended up taking off seven hours after we’d arrived at the airport and we didn’t get into SF until after midnight (so 2am our time). The kids did surprisingly well until the last hour of the flight when the (not surprisingly) melted down from total exhaustion (and hunger). That travel day, and the five days I was alone with the kids in St. Louis, is making me wonder if it’s really a good idea to travel with them alone for an extended period next summer. I have to think about it some more, and I’m sure they will be a post or two dedicated to the subject.

We’re supposed to drive to San Diego for a family trip next weekend but we’re considering canceling. The kids really were struggling at the end of our time in St. Louis and with three of us sick this week, we’re not sure if it’s the best idea. But… we haven’t been in two years and it would be a shit move to cancel on our friends who are hosting us (and surely told someone else they couldn’t come that weekend because we had “reserved” their “casita”). I’m hoping that after this weekend, which will be very low key, we’ll feel up to it. The thought of packing us again so soon is not appealing in the slightest. At least I would know exactly what we actually need.

Speaking of which, I definitely brought too much with me on this last trip. It was a PITA to keep track of everything. In Ecuador I only took a carry on rolly bag and a backpack so I had to pack sparingly, and I did a great job. With my kids in tow, and my parents to take our big suitcase free of charge, I went way overboard. It was a constant point of frustration during that trip.

Being back in my own home is so nice, but I’m also acutely aware of both how small it is, and how full of crap every corner has become. After staying in my uncle’s much larger (and uncluttered) house, I’m surprised by how cramped everything here feels. We’re stuck at home sick today and I feel like we’re all on top of one another, even though we have our own rooms! It doesn’t help that the kids started fighting the minute they woke up. I thought I’d at least get a couple of hours of, “Look! My room! My toys!” before they started being assholes to each other, but of course that was an unrealized dream. If they don’t even care about their shit when they are gone from it for so many days, why have it around in the first place? Seeing how little joy their stuff brought them upon their return will definitely make it easier for me to purge their toys and books.

If purging is going to happen it will have to be next week, which is my last week of double child-care. My daughter has her last camp and my son can go to “school.” I hope to get a lot done at home and also to read some books before the start of next year. The following week my daughter will be home but my son can go to daycare and the week after that they both are home, but I start work on Wednesday. I still haven’t figured that out… Man the summer really flies when you go on two big trips!

I really can’t believe I go back to work in less than three weeks. I’m trying to get psyched about the new school year. When I think about my specific classes, and the new teaching methods I’m going to try, I get excited. When I remember that I don’t have a classroom I panic. I’m sure it will be okay, and that I’ll learn to depend less on stuff this coming year, but I’m really not looking forward to teaching in five different rooms. It’s kind of a nightmare scenario for me… I’m just the kind of teacher who builds her systems into her surroundings and hates feeling like she is borrowing other people’s space. It’s really going to suck. God I wish I had gotten a new job last spring… It’s still disappointing when I think of it, so I try hard not to. Onward to next year. There is nothing I can do but get through it.

There is also a ton to do at my daughter’s school for the start of the year. Did I ever mention I’m the new PTA president? Yeah, that happened. The son of last year’s president ended up getting transferred to another school because the English track at our school was full. It wasn’t what he intended to happen but once the change had been made there was no going back (yes, our district is a cluster fuck). So now I’m the president and the woman who basically guided us through last year termed out and is no longer on the board. Two good friends of mine stepped up to be secretary and vice-president (though the latter is not actually necessary and I don’t think she’ll be very available as she is already on the board of two other parent organizations), so at least we have a full board. The good news is we have two new administrators and I have high hopes that they can turn things around. The principal is African American, which is really important to that population at our school. The vice-principal is Latina, which is also very important to the Spanish speaking population at our school. Hopefully they will not just bring their cultural heritage and understanding to our students, but also strong leadership and effective communication. Our first big event is the Back-to-School BBQ on the 19th. So much to do!

Finally, I hope to get the photo book I make of our St. Louis trip done soon. Every year I put together a book and gift it to my aunts who make everything happen during our trip. It’s such a fun way to celebrate our family and it has become quite the “thing” as everyone is trying to outdo everyone else for the best photos. This year I took a TON of great shots and can’t wait to relive the trip as I put together the book. I hope to be done with that by next week.

So yeah, my mind is darting back and forth, fondly remember the past and careening anxiously into the future. So much to do! It’s almost August!

Summer Fun

We got back from the farm today. It was a three day trip. We got up there around lunch time on Thursday and left after lunch time on Monday. It was a really good time. 

When I was a kid we spent a week every summer in the Ozarks at a cabin on the lake. We swam and fished off the dock and water skied behind the boat. It was always the week my dad was in town (he spent the summer traveling for work) and my aunt took off work. It was a super fun week of swimming and boating and playing card games with family. 

The uncle whose family owned that house in the Lake of the Ozarks (my dad’s sister’s husband) now owns his own “house” (it is so big that the word “house” doesn’t seem adequate) with a private quarry lake behind it. Our new tradition is to go every year and spend a long weekend there: my parents and my two aunts and uncles, my seven cousins, their spouses (four of us are married) and the kids. 

It’s a ton of fun. We play and swim and explore. The kids have an incredible time and the parents do too. With so many grandparents around there is always a helping hand. Meat is grilled and dinners are prepared and we all eat together. Then we enjoy drinks together after the kids are asleep. Mostly we swim and have so much fun. 

I’m so glad my kids get to have these experiences, spending a few days surrounded by cousins and aunts and uncles, catching frogs at the “fairy pond” and spending hours in the lake. I hope these memories are as foundational for them as the Ozarks were for me. 

View from the house.

The dock.

The quarry.


The “fairy pond.”

My husband goes home tomorrow and we fly back Wednesday afternoon. I’m definitely ready to head home, but am thankful to have a few more days to see my cousins. 


Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 37. 

Seven is my lucky number so I had big expectations for this birthday and this year. I started getting excited last summer. 

And then the election happened and our country seemed on the verge of implosion. I spent the spring getting bad news from work and rejections from high schools. I started to think that maybe this birthday was not going to the start of a lucky year. 

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to turn that attitude around. I am excited about my plans to invest in my professional self. I started reading some new books on the teaching method I use and quickly realized that I had lost track of how and why that method was effective, and was no longer employing it in a meaningful way. I’m excited to start next school year with new (to me) ideas and a renewed commitment to language learning. 

I also look forward to participating in professional development opportunities, meeting other language teachers and possibly even collaborating with them in the future. 

I will continue to focus on my own Spanish skills, and may even take a proficiency test in the winter. If I get a high score it could help my chances at getting interviews next spring.

So even though this year doesn’t look like what I had hoped when I started building up my 7.17.17:37 birthday, there is a lot to be excited about. I hope that by the time I turn 38, I’m comfortable with whatever the next year will look like. 

Somber Topics

We made it to St. Louis. It was a long day and my kids tried my patience but we got here and that is good. 

I have visited St. Louis every summer for the entirety of my life. When we lived in Hong Kong we’d spend over a month here each summer, so in many ways it feels like a second home. We have always stayed with my grandmother when we are in town and her house is absolutely a home away from home. Everything about it is familiar.

But it’s a small house and my grandmother is 91. It’s a lot for my family to stay there with my parents. My kids are getting bigger and they want to run around and play. There isn’t really adequate space at my grandmother’s house. So this year I am staying with my kids at my uncle’s house, in the house where my aunt died last year.

It’s sad to be here with her gone. Her face smiles back at my from a hundred pictures but she is absent from this place. I miss her. 

I will admit I don’t think about my aunt being gone often. We didn’t keep in touch much when I wasn’t in town; it’s not like I mourn her passing every day. But when it’s the time of year when I would have seen her, I find myself crying all the time. It’s surprising how much it hurts. 

Being in my aunt’s house, with my uncle who is still learning to cope with his grief, is hard. It know it is what’s best for my family, as here we have more space and are closer to my cousin and her kids. But it’s a constant reminder that my aunt is gone, and also a preview of what is to come, when my grandmother, and her house, are no longer there for us to visit. 

My uncle and my mother and my mother’s sisters are driving to Birmingham tomorrow to say goodbye to their brother’s wife, who is dying of cancer. She has two daughters in high school. Another aunt gone too soon. 

Thinking a lot tonight about death and dying, about the cycle of life, from beginning to end. It’s a lot to process.  


We leave for St. Louis tomorrow morning, early. I packed our large suitcase and gave it to my parents today when I dropped them off at the airport. I’m very thankful they are dealing with that for me.

Tuesday and Wednesday were whirlwinds spent entertaining my uncle and cousin. The Exploratorium was fun, but we skipped my son’s nap and he didn’t handle it well, which meant the afternoon was a challenge. He went to school on Wednesday so we weren’t subjected to an encore performance on Alcatraz. Because I waited too long to buy tickets (getting them only six weeks before we wanted to go instead of 8 or 10 weeks before – WTF?!) we had to visit Angel Island before we went to Alcatraz. Evidently it’s fairly common for people to buy that package out of desperation (it costs a lot more) because the tour guide on Angel Island asked how many of us were there because the direct trips to Alcatraz were all sold out and about half of us raised our hands. Anyway, the boat left at 9:45 and we didn’t get to Alcatraz until 1:30 so it was a long day. We all had a lot of fun though – the audio tour on Alcatraz always impresses and entertains.

Yesterday and today I spent running errands, and my daughter had to tag along because she wasn’t in camp this week. She actually did really well, rarely complaining and handling the many hours of monotony without ever melting down (she did lose it once we’d gotten home yesterday, but was fine for the six hours we were out and about). Yesterday we dropped off her brother at school, got my allergy shot at Kaiser (where we had to wait 30 minutes to make sure I didn’t have a reaction), drove across the bay to pick up some Spanish books I ordered from a distributor in Europe, stopped by Walgreens to get some stuff for our trip, had lunch at my favorite burrito place in Berkeley (where I had to move my car multiple times to avoid getting a ticket), stopped by a glasses place to pick up my old frames with new lenses, and then finally went home.

Today was similarly hectic, with lots of time in the car. She had to hang out with me while I got my legs waxed and we even braved a toy store while we waited for my appointment. She did awesome everywhere we went. We’ve been home for almost two hours and she’s kept herself busy reading and looking at books. She hasn’t even asked for screen time or a treat! It’s still so hard to get anything done with my son, I hadn’t realized how capable my daughter can be when it’s just her and me. The idea that it might be manageable to run a day’s worth of errands, or just spent a few quiet hours at home, with both of them in just three years is kind of mind-boggling, but I suppose that is where we are headed. There is a light at the end of the tunnel after all!

Of course when they are together it’s constant fighting and whining and crying. The mornings are driving me insane. I hope that they are better in St. Louis, or it’s going to be a long 10 days.

I’m also worried about the weather there. It’s supposed to be in the high 90’s (sometimes hitting the low 100’s) all week. My kids start to lose their shit when it hits the mid-80’s, and that is in a dry heat. The humidity index in St. Louis is always killer, and I really worry they will melt down when they step outside. The last three summers we got unseasonable cool weather, so they aren’t used to handling the heat even when we visit their cousins. We’ll see what happens. I’m planning on lots of swimming, and I’m okay skipping any outdoor activities we usually do, like the zoo or Grant’s Farm.

I can’t believe we leave tomorrow morning! It’s been an insane few days, but I’m ready to begin another adventure.

And I promise I’ll write more about Quito and Ecuador. I have a post in the works, but it’s slow going.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Oh man, Monday was a long day. I was picked up at 5:30am to go to the airport and stepped into my own house at 11pm San Francisco time (1am Quito time). That is a lot of traveling.

My kids and I leave for St. Louis on Saturday morning. Our plane leaves at 9:30am.

Yesterday I took my uncle and cousin (actually my cousin’s kid) to the Exploratorium with my own kids. Today my daughter and I will do Alcatraz with them. Then I have Thursday to pack because Friday I take my parents to the airport and they are taking our big suitcase with them, because it’s free to check on Southwest and $50 on the airline we’re taking.

I remember when I was making these plans, thinking how crazy it was going to be. And now that I’m living it… it absolutely feels like too much.

Seeing my kids Monday morning was amazing. The first hugs were oh so sweet. We snuggled and read and hung out. There was about an hour honeymoon period of awesome before they fell back into their old patterns of whining and fighting. My son threw a minor tantrum for about an hour because he didn’t like the present I’d gotten him (a stuffed llama adorned with real fur instead of a Thomas toy). I kind of knew it was coming but it still sucked. I’m not trying to paint our first morning together with a negative brush, just trying to portray things realistically. It’s so easy to imagine how amazing a mother’s homecoming is after 10 days of being away, but the reality is always a lot messier. I think it’s important to portray the messy.

My daughter did AMAZING while I was away. Everyone has mentioned it. She seems more grown up now, even to me. She really is growing up, in ways I wasn’t sure would ever happen with all the stuff we’ve been through. I think it can be hard for me to remember that my son is only three, since my daughter acted a lot younger than her age (in terms of her social/emotional development) for so long, and now seems a lot more mature. It’s almost like I expect my son to make that same jump now too.

It’s also hard to appropriately gauge my expectations surrounding her ability to handle herself better than her brother since she is older. Surely I shouldn’t have the same expectations for a seven year old and a three and a half year old, and yet I want to be fair. In the end she is only seven, and a sensitive, easily overwhelmed seven at that. I felt immediately thrown back into that whole complicated parenting dynamic, second guessing how to handle their fighting and frustrations.

I didn’t even realize I was expecting at least 24 of adoration before they fell back into their regular whiny routines, until their bickering started up almost immediately, and I felt… cheated? Ah unrecognized expectation, you are a fickle bitch.

So now I buckle down to get it all done before St. Louis, and then I spend St. Louis managing my children instead of having fun with my cousins (trying to set that realistic expectation right now). Good times.

I don’t think I realized how great it was to have all that personal time in Ecuador, because I spent so much of it managing the emotions of being away from home. But now, looking back, I recognize how amazing those slow mornings were, how enjoyable dinner was with only adults to converse with, the freedom to plan when I only needed to consider my own physical and emotional limitations. No wonder I had such a good time, despite everything that challenged me.

I do plan to write more about my trip, about what I loved and didn’t love about Quito, about why I can’t wait to go back to Ecuador with my kids, and about how I felt traveling alone for 10 days. I hope I get those posts written, because I have a lot to say.

Right now I’ll just say, it’s great to be home, even if it’s not quite how I imagined. I am a lucky woman to be able to get away, and a lucky woman to have a family to come home to.

What expectations do you need to check right now?

Last day

I can’t believe my flight leaves in less than 12 hours. I’ve had an amazing time, but I’m ready to go home. 

Today I lounged in the thermal pools and got a massage (which was AMAZING!). The place was very nice. 

I also took a walk they suggest that was totally amazing. It was only 2km long but every step was incredible.

Getting back to Quito was almost as hard as getting to Papallacta had been the day before. I think it’s definitely worth a visit, but it would be WAY better to arrange private transportation. The buses are a mess. 

I was able to avoid taking the bus all the way to the southern terminal because I just had them drop me at an over pass, where I took another bus into the centro histórico. I was pretty proud of myself for that. I found my hostal with no problems. 

Someone is coming to get me at 5:30am so I should try to sleep. After 15 hours of travel tomorrow (with a 5.5 hour layover in Mexico City!) I should be home. Thanks for putting up with all my pictures!

La Mitad del Mundo

Ecuador gets it’s name from being right under the equator, and there is a monument north of Quito where you can stand in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres at the same time.

It is pretty f*cking cool. 

Gravity works differently when you are standing directly on the center of the Earth. I got an egg to balance on the head of a nail. 

It was definitely a cool experience to visit the equator. I’m glad I went. 

I spent many hours yesterday trying to get from “the middle of the world” back to Quito and then to some thermal springs near one of the volcanoes. It was quite an experience, one I feel like everyone has to have in a foreign country. Ah buses in Central and South America: they are in so many ways a window into the country where they run. 

After what should have been a 2 hour trip stretched to 5 hours, I finally arrived. I have never appreciated warm water so much in my life. 

I have until 1pm at the springs’ hotel today then it’s back to Quito for an afternoon and final night at a hostal in the city. Someone is picking me up at 5:30am Monday to take me to the airport. 

See you all on the other side!

¡Esa vaina!

It’s Thursday night. It’s been a great trip. Since I have classes until 4pm, I need to spent my three hours of daylight each afternoon wisely. I got some Spanish books and picked up obligatory presents for family at the Mercado Artesenal. I have homework to finish after dinner and by the time that’s done I’m wiped. 

Today I feel like I really hit a wall of mental exhaustion. I knew it was going to come, but the suddenness and intensity really caught me off guard. 

I started to slip into that hole of “holy shit I still have so far to go, I’m never going to get there.” It was hard to crawl out. 

But I am improving. My classes are really intense and so worthwhile. My teachers are amazing. My family is incredible. I’m really glad I came. 

I can’t believe tomorrow is my last day of classes. Saturday morning I’m headed to “La Mitad del Mundo,” a spot directly  under the equator, where you can stand with one foot in each hemisphere at the same time. Then it’s off to some hot springs where I sprung (ha!) for a night in a touristy hotel so I could relax in the warm, natural waters or some really beautiful pools. I’ll be doing all the by myself, and of course there are no direct routes. 

Sunday afternoon I head back to Quito and early Monday morning I’m on a plane back to the States. 

I wish I could write more but my brain is mush. Instead, here are more pictures.