12.14.2009

Maria-by-the-side-of-the-road


It's been almost a year since I last wrote about Maria,

the woman with 12 children who lives in a patchwork one-room house of thatch, metal and driftwood. Perched on a knoll alongside Mud Hole Road, within walking distance of the sea but miles on foot to anything approaching civilization.

So many friends in Connecticut were kind enough to send clothing, toys and vitamins for Maria, her husband and the children at Thanksgiving-time 2008. And the day before Christmas last year, baby Hernando was born.

(Maria tells me he's it. Finito. No more ninos for her. Of course, it didn't take ME more than dos ninos to come to that conclusion myself, but to each her own.)

I confess that, other than lots of friendly waves and the occasional lift in my car to the main road, I haven't done much for Maria and crew in 2009. For a while I've fantasized about taking over a giant art project to do with the kids on the side of the road. Vitamins are nice but who's feeding their creative spirits? Paint would be just the thing. And big sheets of paper.

But wait, I'd need water for clean-up, it was pointed out to me. And where do they get their water?

How about play-dough? But no, that really requires a table, and they have none that I can see.

What if we made a giant paper Christmas tree, and all the kids could decorate it? Then they could hang it inside the little casa.

In the end, on Friday, I settled for a large tote of basic art supplies and toys, a heavy bag of groceries, and some baby clothes and shoes for Hernando that Hayden had outgrown.

And even better, I brought with me a visiting doctor, May Fan, who just left us after spending a month in our guest house while volunteering at Clinica Esperanza. Turns out Hernando and five-year-old Jose Luis were both infirma and needed a doctor's attention (more valuable ultimately than my romanticized art project, I suppose). She listened to heartbeats and looked into tiny grubby ears and told Maria what to do for them. She left behind a big container of vitamins and instructions for the de-worming medications, which the island's native kids are given every six months as a (necessary) precaution.

And in my enthusiasm I volunteered to drive them to Clinica Esperanza if the kids didn't get better. At which point Maria perked up and said, "Lunes." She was ready to go, one way or the other.

So this morning, I picked up Maria, baby Hernando, Jose Luis and six-year-old Grossilima and we drove to Sandy Bay, the kids doing their best to hide their curiosity about me and Delaney and Hayden. Hernando was wearing an old Onesie of Hayden's and a pair of his barely-used Teva's. Maria had on one of my isn't-that-a-shame-it-shrunk organic cotton tops. I have a feeling all of these items will get much more wear and tear, and appreciation, than they did in our house.

The clinic is at its busiest on Mondays, so the visit took til nearly 1pm. But in addition to meds, a referral, and cab fare for another day to Roatan Hospital for Jose's blood test, Maria left with a generous hefty bag of cruise-ship bedding and the promise of delivery of donated mattresses in a week or so.

I was feeling pretty good about all this until we reached the side of the road they call Home.

As we said our awkward goodbyes in broken English and even worse Spanish, Maria confided that she didn't have milk for Hernando, and clearly he was hungry. Leche con agua, I asked, pretending to stir a pitcher, trying to figure out what she needed.

Si, she said.

Seventy-two hours after my fretting over markers vs. crayons and the right types of rice and beans, turns out I had missed the obvious. What Maria needs most is milk for her baby.

I have more to do to make this family's Christmas bright.

I guess I will be grateful that I have the chance.



11.08.2009

Moona


"I want to put a sticker on the moon," Hayden says.

"La Luna," Delaney corrects.

"Moona," he insists. "I want to put the sticker there."


****



"Storm coming, Laney," Hayden tells his sister.

"Going to rain?" she asks him.

"Yes, and tunder wake me up," he says.

"Need to take our rain coats to kool," she reminds him. "We no want t'get wet."

***

"Me do project," she announces.

"Me need goo."

"And pens."

"And paper."

"Me no take a snoozy, Mommy. Me not finished with my project."

***
"Me want to be a Pink Butterfly for Hallween, Mommy," she said.

"Me be Blue Butterfly, Yeesha," he piped in.

"You're a Lion, Aynee," she reminded. "You no be Blue Butterfly."

"Roar," he said. "Me Lion. Me ROAR."

10.26.2009

And then there were.... 4?

Fridays are the days when Delaney and Hayden bring home their week's worth of artwork from Discovery Bay preschool.

Usually there's a painted paper plate and the Letter of the Week colored in the Color of the Week.

This Friday they had a surprise for Mommy. They had multiplied.

The class project involved stuffed, life-size paper-bag recreations of themselves.

Wearing their own clothes.

Looking freakishly like Delaney and Hayden, times two.

As if I needed that?

D1 and H1 were enormously proud of their alter-egos as they carried them out of the schoolhouse. The problems started when we reached the car.

They wanted D2 and H2 to have their own seats. They fought over which of themselves were going to sit in the front with Mommy. They complained that Mommy hadn't thought ahead to bring all of them juice for the ride home. We finally compromised on putting the dolls in the middle, between their car seats, and pretending to share our sippee cups.

Which worked fine, until they pulled their new friends onto their laps.

And started waving them around.

Eight new arms and legs flying around in my rear view mirror.

Eight new arms and legs hitting each other and screaming. Only these new kids can actually reach all the way across the car and smack their sibling in the face.

And then, as we turned onto Mud Hole Road, they all fell asleep.

Quiet.

Twenty minutes later we reached the house, and I prepared for the tricky maneuver of soundlessly transporting sleeping babies up to their beds. All good, except that I didn't realize that D1 has entwined her arms with D2's and, as I attempted to pull the seatbelt off, I accidentally pulled D2's arm off as well.

Rrrippp. Right out of its stapled socket.

Shoot. What if D1 wakes up and sees I've broken her project? Hurt her baby? Destroyed her work of art? What if she wakes up, period, and won't go back to sleep?

Shoot. Now I"ll have to spend naptime doing reconstructive surgery on a paper bag.

I'm more careful with H2 and allow him to take his nap on a comfy chair.

Later on we introduced Mike to his new children. He was overwhelmed.

By bedtime, as with all new toys, other appendages had been severed. It didn't cause nearly the trauma I had anticipated. We said goodnight to a pile of body parts for Mommy and Daddy to tape back together, good as new.

"Ban-day, Leesha," Hayden says.

"Medcin," Delaney instructs.

I guess if you've got two, you might as well have four.

No wait, did I really say that? At least these two new additions were mute and pliable. What will I do when Delaney and Hayden have actual friends come over? Friends that talk, and talk, and ask me for things?

Maybe I'll make a life-size Mommy doll. I'll prop her up in the kitchen. I'll stuff some band-aids in her pocket so she can put herself, and all the others, back together.

And then I'll go take a nap.

Now that's an A+ idea, if you ask me.


10.17.2009

A good night's sleep

Ever wonder what cruise ships do with their worn-out "stuff"?

Well, the Carnival Valor gives a shout out to Nurse Peggy as it passes by our shores.

Here, the Valor's Head of Housekeeping gives Clinica Esperanza notice of its bounty:


From: VALOR HOUSEKEEPING

Sent: Monday, September 28, 2009 8:08 AM

To: VALOR ENVIRONMENTAL OFFICER

Subject: Donation in Roatan

Good morning,

Please be informed that this coming port of Roatan, September 28, we are going to donate below listed items:

200 pillows;

100 blankets;

70 bed frames.

Kindly assist.

Thank you and regards,

Serhiy Bukarev

Asst.Hskp.Mgr II


Today, port o' call also included dozens of mattresses. They are temporarily stored on the clinic's second floor, in what will someday be the Pediatric Inpatient Unit -- a new children's hospital.

According to Miss Peggy, the beds won't sit there for long. Clinic staff gets the word out into the community and waiting lists materialize. "We'll have 80 people in line for 50 mattresses," she says.

It's customary for islanders to sleep many people in a bed. Sometimes a home will have only hammocks. Sometimes, if the family is fortunate enough to own several mattresses but has only a one-room house, they pull them out at night and stack them in a corner during the day.

I remember once, when I traded up a mattress back home, asking the salespeople how to recycle the old one. I was told that it's illegal to pass on used mattresses in the U.S.

How silly.

I guess I should stop complaining about Delaney and Hayden climbing into "the big bed" with us, and wondering whether Mike and I will ever get another good night's sleep. Instead I'll be re-newly grateful for all the plush pillowtops and organic cotton in our lives.

It's hard to comprehend inequity in the world, but it's inspiring to see one corporation making such a tangible effort to put something still useful to good use. And even more so to see how Clinica Esperanza can take a pile of items discarded by a passing ship, and turn them into treasure.




10.11.2009

Holy Mackerel

Last Sunday we sought out the air conditioning at Wendy's Mega Clown Jungle Gym. Our hopes for endless hours of entertainment were so high that Mike and I even brought along books to read. You'd think we headed for Starbucks on a pre-twins morning after a hot date.

Turned out only the room was hot and the clown was (as I've noted before) freakishly scary and far too big for unsupervised play.

So today we sought ocean breezes and the endless sand playground of West Bay Beach. We turned down invitations to swim with the dolphins, get our hair braided, or have a massage in full view.



Instead, after a swim and one ill-fated sand structure, we ended up on a Glass Bottom Boat.




Turns out the boat was a little tight below deck. The "glass" was on the windows that lined a row of skinny benches, not below our feet.


It was the narrowest space ever for a boat with the word "bottom" in it.



Kind of like the clown chute at Wendy's.



Once we were packed in, the skipper closed the door to the top deck. We were, shall we say, confined.




It was the longest 50 minutes for parents of twins in recent memory, but who's counting?


Delaney was less than excited by the schools of fish swimming on either side of her. She decided to take up photography, filling the camera with photos of my knees.

She snapped one of my face, too.
Since I'm always complaining that I'm never in the pictures of our family adventures, I'll post it here.

Thanks, Delaney.










In the midst of the fidgeting (theirs) and deep breaths to fight off claustrophobia (mine) we did manage to capture one fabulous underwater fish moment.



We also saw two sea turtles, which was a real treat. Unfortunately, my knees got in the way of that picture.

Next Sunday, we'll mix it up a bit and hit the Butterfly Gardens or Iguana Farm. Anyplace with wide open spaces. Or at least the prospect of Boat Drinks.

10.09.2009

Off to the Mall

The Mega Mall.

Our new suburban-like parking lot surrounded by a scattering of shops, on the other side of the bumpy windy mountain road from our home at Palmetto Bay.

Last Sunday Mike and I needed a mega dose of mall entertainment. At least I did, and I convinced him that he did, too.

We decided to hit Wendy's for a cup of hot coffee in a sublimely air conditioned interior, complete with kids' indoor mega climbing gym. We had come off of a night of very little sleep (two little wanderers in and out of "the big bed") and needed something that would wear these relentless sleepwalkers out.

Please note: Wendy's wouldn't normally be my destination of choice, for fast food or anything else. But here, we've come to appreciate it. Wendy's is the only food option in the San Pedro Sula airport, where invariably you are stuck with long waits til the puddle jumps to La Ceiba and Roatan. After flying all night or getting up early in the morning, Wendy's pancakes or chicken sandwich seem pretty darn appealing. Especially if you can remember enough Spanish to ask for the sandwich without the mayonnaise. And now, with its brand new island outpost, I can actually drive through and order something to go. Doesn't matter what, it's just the idea of it.

But this morning was all about the coffee. And the little hash browns (Hayden liked them, Delaney didn't). Then there was the main event, an enormously unsafe looking climbing thingy with a clown face that swallowed up my babies before I could stop them from trying it.

There's Delaney, at the top, enclosed in plexiglass.

Freaky, isn't it?

Plus, the a/c hadn't been turned on under the big top, so we sweated our way through the coffee and hash browns, just like we would've at home.

The babies went up and down the clown, loving every minute.

If only it wasn't so hot and the clown wasn't so scary.

Finally, with the lure of further treats, we went for a stroll around the mall. Admired the hamsters and parrots in the windows of Dr. Soto's new pet store. Sampled the mango gelato at Cream of the Trop. Marveled at the idea of a bank open on Sundays. Ended up at the market for some hyper-mega grocery shopping.


I know, we're not in Kansas anymore. The French Harbor Mega Plaza is a far cry from the Grove or West Farms. It's also worlds away from the Mercado or the Pulperias or even the old Eldon's, where you'd be lucky to find a fresh fruit or vegetable let alone a home-made waffle cone.

And, it's a destination. With twins on an island, that's a darn good thing.

10.05.2009

Balance

I've been thinking a lot about balance lately.

Last weekend Hayden emptied the outdoor fridge of its contents (beer) and made his first (world's first?) Salva Vida Leaning Tower. Look at that smile and that perfectly balanced pose.

He's started riding his baby-big-wheel while standing on the seat. Generally buck naked. Vroom Vroom.

Delaney has learned to hold her breath and swim underwater. Without a flotation device. Gulp.


Their new favorite game is "colors," in which they pour pitchers-full of colored water into dozens of plastic cups. The object is not to spill; that is, until they intentionally pour the entire pitcher out onto the slate patio stones. At which point I get out the broom and frantically try to sweep the colors away, afraid they'll stain. I guess I'm not much fun.

This morning I caught them each with one leg thrown over the second floor balcony, about to try to retrieve Delaney's blanket on the steps below. Their balance was impressive. I, of course, lost it completely as I pulled them from the ledge.

They've started coming into our bed each night (oh, I miss cribs). First comes Delaney, who crawls up and snuggles in the middle. Then a little while later, Hayden, who announces himself by saying, "YeeSHA!" (He's stopped calling me Mommy.) He wants to be pulled up, then wriggles around til he's perpendicular between us. Head pushed into my stomach and feet pushed into Mike's. I think we're tired all the time.

The last five weeks have been out of balance.

We've had country-wide lock-downs due to the political crisis in Honduras.

We've had a soap-operaesque who-dun-it rock the expat community

We've had bickering and clawing within our homeowners association (never again, thank you).

I've had a return to grant deadlines, development plans and event planning.

Mike's had the challenge of focusing high school kids' attention on an internet curriculum, on an island where the internet's hit or miss. We've also had colds, malaria, bug bites and bee stings.

Ah, paradise.

I'm looking forward to re-syncing. That's the plan for October. But of course, that was the plan for September, too. Maybe I just need to accept the imbalance for a while longer.


8.27.2009

Time and The Senator

by Michael Kintner

This week Hayden and Delaney turned 2 1/2. Forty years ago this week was my last week working for Senator Ted Kennedy in Washington.

Last week, Delaney and Hayden (with considerable help from Mommy) made cupcakes for my 60th birthday. Last week, I assigned my high school class a paper on Woodstock, which was 40 years ago.

Time has been on my mind, if not on my side.

Two-and-a-half means a lot. Hayden now tells me his is a Boy, even a "BIG boy." The twins now do "BIG jumps" into the swimming pool, going underwater. Two-and-a-half makes a BIG difference in school and camp placement.

The 60th birthday was no big deal. Several age-related emails and cards arrived from friends and relatives. Since I don't feel 60, I laughed. The caricatures don't mean much.

The death of Senator Kennedy does make me feel old... and sad. It is an end of an era. I have now lived to see John, Bobby and Ted pass on.

Senator Edward Kennedy was one of the most effective and respected U.S. senators. He got things done in an institution that is known for inaction, delay and worthless pontificating.

Senator Ted Kennedy fought hard against inequality and senseless wars like Vietnam and Iran. He was a champion for the poor, for minorities, and for the powerless.

Yes, he made mistakes in his life, even tragic ones. Opponents used these mistakes to vilify him.

Yet, the reality is that Senator Kennedy worked his way back to become the true conscience of the Senate. We can honor him by passing healthcare reform, with a public option.

He often called healthcare reform "the cause of my life."

I'm reflecting on this and wondering: what will be the cause of Delaney and Hayden's lives?

Only time will tell.

8.22.2009

Sunrise, Sunset

There' s a moment in the morning that sets the mood of the whole day, kind of like the first sip of coffee.

It's the moment when I look up and actually notice the Caribbean sea in front of me.

I can go for an hour, maybe more, without focusing on the ocean waves and expanse of blue that surround our house. So caught up in the first diaper changes ("change me pants"), first sippy cups of milk ("me more Nup"), first showings of Baby Einstein or Elmo ("me EV on"). First amazing gulps of Dunkin Donuts Hazelnut after a short night's sleep. All these things distract me from really looking out the windows.

But then there' s point when I do, and I breathe deeply.

This is so beautiful. This is mine.

If only I could keep repeating that moment throughout the day, like pouring another cup of joe and inhaling its steamy motivation. But the moment's fleeting. Stuff gets in the way. And time goes by and soon it's dun-det, with the sun going down behind us. We can actually watch it drop and be submerged by the water.

And I breathe deeply, because it's nighty-night time. Another day done. Hopefully lived well, or at least well-intentioned.

Buenos noches.

8.13.2009

Like Mice

Mike bought me a treadmill last Saturday. Belated 40th birthday present.

(Not in the same category as a blender or toaster gift. I really wanted this.)

It was delivered early Tuesday morning.

(Who would want/need a treadmill when you have year-round tropical weather and a pool and beach at your doorstep? Easy answer: air conditioning, satellite TV plus gorgeous views out the floor-to-ceiling windows while watching speed and incline and hundreds of calories burned.)

"Loco," said Mike to the two burly guys providing Roatan's version of white glove delivery. "She es Loco." They all chuckled and nodded vigorously. Private guy joke. Loco gringo lady wants to go round and round on a treadmill.

They might be right.

It's after dark on Thursday, and I still haven't used it.

I got close this evening: I had a plan. Mike would come home from his new job as high school director in Sandy Bay, and I'd get in 30 minutes right before Delaney and Hayden's dinner.

It had been a rough day. No babysitter. Mike away. 9am call from our Realtor, saying clients are coming unexpectedly. Rush to clean house AND supervise two toddlers simultaneously. Sweep one room, only to see flower petals, play dough and cracker crumbs covering the next room. No nap. Big mess of a malfunctioning diaper, all over both cribs, an hour before house-hunters are to arrive. Desperate trip to market for baby wipes and milk, ending with broken bottle of red wine at the check-out. I cry and admit I can't control my kids. Realtor cancels unexpected visit.

I get as far as finding my sneakers and the treadmill key. Then an invasion of enormous black ants. Literally. Swarming the entryway in grotesque pulsing lines and heading for the living room. 30 minutes of sweeping and spraying and cajoling ants and children away from the front door, back back back where you came from.

Senor Gomez, our gardener, says the ants mean that it's going to rain.

There's not a cloud in the sky.

I prep dinner and then try again while Mike and babies take a shower. I turn the fan onto high. Phone rings, right while I'm finding my perfect indulgent exercise-motivating TV channel. 20-minute conversation, mostly on the other side. Cardio not in the cards.

Dinner time.

Delaney devours her hamburger. Hayden is up and down and all around. He pulls on the tablecloth, bringing beef and broccoli hailing down.

Forget the treadmill, time for that glass of wine.

If only it hadn't spilled all over the floor of Eldon's.

I love them, at the end of the day. It's from dawn to dusk that makes me Loco.







8.07.2009

Shoot Me Now


As I washed my face this morning, I glanced out of my right eye to see a lizard on my hairspray, peering at me curiously from above the words "super bounce and hold."

Having just returned from New England vacation, I'm feeling overrun with tropical critters and lizards. This one was perilously close to my toothbrush.

But while lizards in the bathroom are old news, there's much to report on summer advances.

Hayden has learned two new songs.

Tinkle Tinkle SCAR, he sings. Tinkle Tinkle SCAR.

Over and over.

Until he switches to: I want to be-e a MA-CHO man. ("Me Boy," he tells us. "Big Guy.")

Delaney has learned how to somersault. Anywhere she can. Watch out, we'll be in a parking lot and she'll drop and roll. Super bounce and hold.

She has also taken up gambling, heading to the Crab Races at Bay Island Beach Resort as often as she can. She always names her first crab "Daddy."

And she's started dressing herself. Bro's green Croc's, baby doll dress, and sunbonnet. Of course, this is when she isn't UNdressing herself. In other people's houses. And restaurants. And airports.

In a magic moment one afternoon, during a times-two tantrum over the Fantastic Clean & Shine bottle, both kids figured out how to pull a nozzle. This quickly became a favorite new game, requiring the purchase of many different sized bottles. They spray anything and anyone.

Shoot me now.

Then they both learned, simultaneously, to crawl out of their cribs. In under 30 seconds. Completely silently.

Then open the door.

HELL-O! they said in delighted unison as they stood at the foot of our bed. They're here... Mike and I said to each other, helpless and sleepy, as we pulled four more arms and legs into bed with us.

We quickly converted their cribs to toddler beds (as if crawling out of a crib was any more dangerous than being two-and-a-half, loose, alone, in a bedroom/bathroom suite with second-floor balcony, with a partner-in-crime). Then we hastily embarked on a vigorous re-training program.

With sleep-guru and lifesaver Dr. Weissbluth's blessing, and encouragement from more than a few friends who've been there before, we've begun locking them in their room.

I know, horrible. But better than the handcuffs offered by Pauline. (Not sure why she has them lying around, but this is a family blog, so we'll let it alone.)

My Dickensian move comes after one so-called snoozy last week when the little darlings re-arranged the furniture, escaped to the balcony, narrowly escaped falling over into the pool, opened their bathroom door, filled the bathtub with water and pink bubbles (for Hayden), turned on the separate shower (for Delaney), pulled down all the clothes hanging in the closet, and started singing "Home, home on the range...." which is how I walked in on them.

Now we recite our sleep rules and perform other multi-faceted and odd rituals, then pull the door firmly shut behind us. I stand there on the other side holding the doorknob for as long as it takes. The first couple of nights Delaney went through the roof, hysterical. Crying and yelling. tugging on the handle. Breaking my heart.

Now she's more relaxed and strategic. She tries the door and says, "Aynee. Door not working. You try!"

At which point another 27 pounds runs across the room. Then, sadly, from Hayden (you can almost hear him shaking his head in the dark): "No work, Laney. Own beds. Now. Bedtime."

At least somebody gets it.

Some of the time.


7.07.2009

Curfews and Time Outs



Mike and I celebrated the 4th of July weekend focused on (obsessed with) Honduran democracy. He walked in the island's peace march. I read the briefings from the U.S. Department of State and what seemed like hourly messages from the Warden at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa.

***
We missed the memo that the country of Honduras was under government order of curfew at 6:30pm Sunday night. Fortunately, the three restaurants we tried to go to (with the babies, rarin' to go "oud da dinner") had heard the mandate from the mainland, and were closed up tight.

We turned around, hungry, and made it home just before sunset. Only then did we learn that the Policia were shaking their heads at motorists, pointing them home, and clearing out bars from the West to East ends.


***


"Baby Time Out," Delaney tells me.

"Baby's in Time Out?" I ask.

"What
did Baby do?"

"Eee hit Haynee," she explains. "No hit."

"What else don't we do in this house?" I ask her.

"No bite an no push," she answers.

"Did you tell Baby you love her anyway and give her a kiss?" I ask.

"Yes," says Delaney, and squeezes her doll.

***


How strange to be among those who feel convinced of one thing -- that the removal of a corrupt, though elected, president was actually the right thing to do -- but to know that this viewpoint was leading to "world isolation" and the threat of violence from neighboring socialist nations. Not even, necessarily, organized violence; today we learned that many of those "neighbors" from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba were already illegally in the country, quite likely paid to instigate disorganized chaos.

***
CNN reports that 4 are killed; that is proven incorrect, it was only one, one of those stirring up insurrection. And the shot that killed him wasn't from the militia.

***

The tide may yet turn. Obama is having to defend his position to Russian students.


Hillary Clinton's phone number is being circulated on Facebook. (Dial it, and you get an annoyed staffer.)

So is a petition to the American President in support of Honduran democracy, now with 5,605 signatures. Sign it at http://www.petitiononline.com/honduras/petition.html.

***
"Hayden! We need to water the plants, not the stones," I say in exasperation.

A minute later:

"Hayden! Water the plants, not your shorts!"

Later:

"Hayden! Please water the plants, not your sister!"

"Enough agua already. Time for bed," I say.

"No NO NOOO!" says Hayden.

"Not snoozy time," says Delaney.

"We're counting to Ten, then bedtime," I say.

"One."

"TWFO," they say.

"What's next?" I ask.

"FOUR," they say.

"Three, four..."

"Five!"

"What's next?"

"Nine!"

"Ok, Nine," I say. "Ten. Bedtime!"



Peace Rally photos borrowed from Bruce Starr. Thanks, Roatan Bruce.

6.30.2009

Pick Your Battles

These days it seems like Hayden is all about pushing our buttons. Come to think of it, the same could be said (in alternate moments) about Delaney.

What they want to wear, or don't want to wear...

what they want to drink (Pellegrino or Perrier), out of what type of cup...

which version of the Doggie Movie (old or new) do they want to watch (at least, as Heather notes, we are out of the Elmo stage)...

and whether there is Winnie-the-Pooh-Bear or (god forbid) Big Bird on the BACK of the diaper that's being proposed.

"Me Bear!!!!" Hayden will shriek if he spies a feathered yellow giant making its way to his bum. "Where Me Bear?" And then we dissolve in tears and refuse any pants whatsoever, forever redefining the "boxers or briefs" debate.

All of this has led me to ask: Are we offering too many choices? Are we too lenient with the sparkling agua? Are we the only parents allowing them to watch movies while they eat? (Yes, I confess we've fallen into that very bad habit. Not sure how to get out of it, so please leave any advice below as a comment.)

At the end of the day we are exhausted with the struggle. Two two-year-old wills are just too many. As we pick up the countless blue w/ blue top, pink w/ yellow top, yellow w/ orange top cup-combos containing the day's worth of Blue Juice, Green Agua, Tea (not really), Nup (milk) or Oranshe Juz, we understand how paper cups came to be invented. If only they could drink from them without spilling it down their fronts.

We realize how helpless we are to know which trigger is going to be "the big one." We watch with amazement as an offer of cottage cheese is met with "no no no Mama, go-gurt!"

So we were very surprised by "the big one", the 7.3 earthquake last month. And the one this morning, a 5.3 in La Ceiba. And the removal of the Honduran president on Sunday, for (among other Very Bad Things) illegally wanting to re-write the country's constitution so that he can remain in power beyond his term.

Some "big ones" shake more than others. In this house, the perfect storm involves just the wrong drink at just the right moment. In Central America, it seems to have been brewing a long time.

We're on high alert, despite it being way past bedtime. We'll count our sippee cups and rule in favor of the people, whatever color agua that turns out to be today. May the same be true for Honduras this week.




6.21.2009

Broomstick, anyone?

I'm overreacting, I'll freely admit that.

But as a frazzled MOM (mother of multiples) on Father's Day weekend, I claim that as my right.

You see, one of the downsides of living in a remote corner on a remote island is that Date Night happens only rarely, when someone is visiting us and gives up a night themselves in order to stay home with our two sleeping angels. Most of the time, Mike and I stay in.

Except on those "special" nights when we decide to take the twins out with us.

That requires monumental physical effort and mental preparation. Find the sippy cups; pack extra food and drinks in case they don't like the menu or our order doesn't come fast enough; organize diapers and wipes; get extra changes of clothes for when they spill their Agua; pack restaurant-appropriate toys, books, crayons, new coloring books and faithful Bobbies; add back-up toys so I have something novel to distract them with; find two pairs of Crocs that either Sonoma the Dog is using as a pillow or their owners have hidden and forgotten; change diapers and clothes before we leave for good luck; find car keys; lock the door; load up the car; load up the twins in car-seats; give them juice for the road and the "right" book each (Hayden's is blue); and then get in the car. And then get out of the car to be sure that you really locked the front door after all.

You truly can't remember.

You also can't remember why anyone thought this adventure was a good idea in the first place.

As I've said before, Delaney and Hayden are enthusiastic eaters. They love going "oud da dinner" and walk in wearing their "bah packs" from Meme filled with gear. They are basically well-behaved once we arrive and even more importantly, they are pretty darn cute. Most places welcome us and get set to be entertained.

But last night our welcome was thin. I probably brought the curse on myself by asking the young owner of the pool-side bar whether she was serving wine that came out of a bottle. (After years of visiting and living on Roatan, I've learned not to ask what kind of wine is available. The answer is Red and White.) But the last time we were at this particular oasis, the vino came out of a box, which is only acceptable to me at cook-outs for large numbers of people, not when I'm paying by the glass. Good thing I had asked.

I guess in retrospect we also made the mistake of trying to go out on a Saturday night. Even though it was all of 5:30 when we arrived.

I think, though, that if you are going to be in business, and you want my business, you leave your own bad day behind the counter. And if the customer is having a bad day, you fawn all over me -- and my kids.

As I said, I'm overreacting. But we had spent the better part of two hours getting to this point and to this restaurant. I was ready to have a nice evening and let someone else do the worrying.

Within minutes, Hayden spilled his cup of emergency Cheerios artfully across the entry.

Mindful that this was also a bar, and these were not peanuts we had scattered on the floor, I asked for a broom.

This would have been so easy except for the fact that Hayden loves brooms. And sweeping. And now he had found something exciting to do at this restaurant.

He swept up his Cheerios and then moved outside to the lawn. I relaxed and picked up my glass of from-the-bottle-red, smiling to myself that I was raising a boy who liked to be helpful. And I could sit here peacefully like a grown-up for a few seconds. He started sweeping a patch of dirt and gravel, like he does every day at home. Honestly, Mike and I didn't think anything of it. It was a lovely evening and a safe spot for them to play while we waited for our meals.

But it really ticked off this young restaurant owner, who clearly has never had to amuse/distract/trick/protect/mediate/stall/trick/coerce/encourage/coerce/amuse/distract two two-year-olds at once, ever.

"He's getting my broom dirty!" she shrieked and flew across the grass like the Wicked Witch of the Caribbean.

She grabbed it from poor Hayden's hands. Didn't say anything to him, or to Mike who was supervising; just yanked it away. Flying back, she didn't even acknowledge me, now standing in the doorway in astonishment, feeling the crumbs of a broken evening fall on my feet along with a few errant Cheerios from my lap.

I would have better understood if brooms were hard to come by. (They're not. They're everywhere.) I would have understood if she had said to me, "Would you mind bringing the broom back? We've spilled Cheerios in the kitchen, too." Or even, "I'm sorry, I have an overwhelming fear of dirt on my cleaning supplies." Then let me get the broom away from my son with an explanation he can understand.

Or just do away with the Kids' Menu and we'll get the hint and go elsewhere. Otherwise, be kid-friendly, and be friendly to kids.

It's just good business -- we'll spend more money the longer our kids are happy at your restaurant, and if we're lucky, some day soon we'll get a real Date Night out at your establishment. Then we can order appetizers and dessert, too.

I apologized to our other waitress (the owner-gal never reappeared), because the thing that concerns me more than some woman's attachment to her broom is thinking that my children might not, in fact, be welcome or well-behaved. So I am truly sorry if we pushed the limits of good toddler and parental dining-out etiquette. Next time, we'll leave the Cheerios right where they fall.

6.15.2009

Don't Lick the Art

Hayden has not outgrown his baby impulse to put everything in his mouth. Things other than food, I mean.

Sticks, stones, playdough, neosporin, chalk, soap, markers, sponges. You name it, he's tasting it.

Recently I had to pull him off a bronze statue, whose elbow he was sucking.

"Don't lick the art,' I said.

At Christmas Mike surprised us with a delectable new wooden sculpture by island artist Melvin. We called this "Christmas Fish" -- appropriate, if not original. Sure enough, Hayden climbed right on to Fish and tasted the paint. Here's a short, ridiculous family video (shot 6 months ago; our language skills have come a long way since then). If you watch closely, Hayden bends down to give Christmas Fish an, um, kiss, while he's riding it like an, um, cowboy. Giddee up.

Don't lick the Fish, Pirate.

The plus side of all this experimentation is that Hayden's a really good eater. His current favorites are grilled shrimp, pesto-covered pasta, bananas, guavas and prunes. However, I'm tempted to write to San Pellegrino and tell them how grossly we are misusing their oh-so-elegant product. Not only do we call it Green Agua in our house, but it is the one beverage that I allow Delaney and Hayden to drink from a real cup. This means lots of gurgling, backwashing and dunking. Last night, it was lasagna and broccoli dunked in the Pellegrino. I'll spare you the photos of that.


Hayden's also very interested in cooking. I'm imagining that he's going to fulfill my fantasy of being the Next Food Network Star. "Me Up," he insists, whenever I'm doing something in the kitchen or at the stove. He pushes a counter stool over and climbs up to watch -- or stick a finger in it.

Here he is with nanny Jesse, and Delaney is with visiting new-nurse Carrie-Ellen, making Jesse's birthday cupcakes last week.

Yum.

How do I explain that it's OK to lick the spoon?

6.11.2009

40 is the new...

So I turned 40 and got inspired to shake things up a bit.

I put on a dress instead of shorts, causing much confusion to Delaney and Hayden.

I ordered iced tea instead of red wine, causing much confusion to my favorite waiter at the Blue Bahia.

I decided to start swimming laps (and have done so twice.... OK, maybe once), causing much confusion to my husband who thinks he is just brushing the pool every day for the pleasure of the birds.

I debated over my birthday wishes: a) get serious about buying family health insurance or b) ask for a treadmill. I chose to apply for insurance, since it seemed easier to fill out an online form than to fly to San Pedro Sula looking for personal fitness equipment.

Or easier than actually getting on the treadmill.

That turned out to be only partly true, since the online form took hours and then required lots of follow-up. But as of today, after a year-and-a-half at the mercy of the Honduran medical system, we are now globally insured.

Then I realized I needed to reinvigorate my job search after being told that my resume was "eclectic." So far I've applied for three "virtual" remote jobs and one at the fancy family resort, Tyler Place. That's where I just confessed that I lied in order to make our reservation as Junior Midgets. I mean, if I'm going to bother to confess, and then promote them on this blog and elsewhere, I might as well keep going and ask for a salary, right?

Most fun of all, I decided to give this blog a fresh look. Hope you like it. Leave me a comment below and tell me what you think. You might also tell me what else I should do to make 40 new and different.

6.06.2009

Fibbing For Camp

Forgive me, I'm an idiot.

That was the subject line in the email I just sent to the fancy family resort that we hope to escape to this summer.

I, um, lied about Delaney and Hayden's birthdate just so they could be classified as Junior Midgets, rather than Senior Toddlers. The cut-off is 30 months and our babies won't quite make it.

I've read about Mothers Like That, who lie about their kids ages just to get them into the right school or class or, well, summer camp. And now I am one.
Mike thinks I'm crazy.

But you'd have done it too, believe me, if you'd spent the last 14 days pouring over the Tyler Place reviews on Trip Advisor and http://www.wejustgotback.com/. This resort gets hundreds of 5.0 ratings from families all over the country as the best place EVER to go with kids. The program sounds phenomenal, like a once-in-a-lifetime hands-on experience even if you're just 2 (or nearly 2.5). (Check it out at http://www.tylerplace.com/.)

It's not that I want Delaney and Hayden to grow up faster (well, maybe I'm stretching the truth there, too). It's just that I want them to have the Splash Pad and the Marionettes and the Fleet of Red Wagons and Tipi and the Treehouse (whatever that is). Plus a dress-up party and tending their own organic garden. All the outings to children's museums that we can't have while we're living on an island, packed into one glorious summer week.

But I've been consumed by guilt over my little white birthday lie and confessed (online, of course -- who could make a phone call like that?). Now I'm waiting to see if I've gotten us banished from the waiting list or relocated to an even more remote corner of the camp. (We're already booked at a full 10-minute walk to Lake Champlain and more significantly, to the dining hall. But at least we're there.)

Or if we're not banished, I surely will be branded as the Lunatic Liar from Somewhere South of the Border.

What makes this even more amusing is that I'm the girl WHO HATES CAMP and actually ran away from my dorm the one time I went (at the tender age of 15). I walked for what seemed to be miles just to find my parents at their hotel, relieved at last to be back in reassuring surroundings (and closer to amenities).

And here I am choosing, as the dream vacation from our permanent island vacation, a family camp back in New England.

Go figure.

At least now my conscience is clear. Delaney and Hayden will be 30 months at the end of August. Their days as Junior Midgets are just beginning.

6.03.2009

Earthquake Shoes and Other Tales of Clean-Up

My flip-flops are carefully aligned alongside my bed each night, a habit acquired from growing up in quake-prone Los Angeles. In case you have to jump up in the middle of the night and make a mad dash over rubble to get to the doorway as your house collapses around you.

Fortunately there was no falling rubble last week when the 7.3 earthquake hit sleepy (and sleeping) Roatan at 2:24a.m. Our houses did not collapse and in fact suffered minimal damage. Pictures were askew, the pools lost gallons of water, and the heavy procelain lid flew inexplicably off the toilet tank in one bathroom and crashed in a hundred pieces. We did have a film of plaster dust that coated floors and furniture in the bedrooms, but we needed to sweep anyway.

The wood and thatch home of Maria-with-the-twelve-children by the side of Mud Hole Road is also still standing. And so are the dozens of other shanty-like dwellings that dot our little villages. Click here to read more about the underwater shock resulting from a “left-lateral strike-slip faulting on the Swan Islands Transform Fault, a segment of the boundary between the North America and Caribbean plates”:

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsww/Quakes/us2009heak.php#summary

Islanders responded to the subterranean roar by going to church. The day after the earthquake, and the day after that, and even the day after that, there was a big collective “hush” over the island. Only 14 patients at the clinic, instead of the usual 60, reported Carrie-Ellen, our Hartford nanny who is here volunteering. (It was Carrie’s first earthquake ever, so now she has lots of stories to tell about her first clinic post since graduating with her UConn nursing degree.)

All schools were cancelled by order of the Municipality the next morning, so we were stuck at home. Delaney and Hayden helped with clean-up by “moving” neatly swept plaster piles from one spot to another.

Needing something productive to do, that afternoon we organized a massive wash of all porch toys and the very dirty foam alphabet rug. This occupied all afternoon, thankfully, and now the tool bench, barnyards, blocks and baby dolls all sparkle.

As the dust settled over the weekend, we apparently experienced some 300 aftershocks and an unrelated 5.0. Various clean-up efforts continued.

Through neighbor Heather, we learned that our mutual housekeeper of more than nine months has officially ditched us, taking advances on her salary from both families and departing for the mainland. That leaves us with lots of far more mundane cleaning than dusting around the earthquake shoes or participating in the Great Alphabet Rug Scrub.

So we were happy to quickly find new housekeeper Norma, though like her predecessor, Norma speaks no English. My instructions were limited to “limpiar aqui, aqui, aqui.” Clean here, here, here.

This seemed to work, but at dusk I realized she had scrubbed all of our many windows with a wet sponge instead of newspaper and windex, leaving a streaky residue that makes you think the plaster dust is still coming down.

Norma comes back manana and I will attempt to explain that agua doesn’t work on windows. It was also just as well that she didn't get around to washing the kitchen floor, since David and Isaac came over and urged Hayden to have a glass of juice in a big-boy cup. That, of course, required cleaning up afterwards.

On Monday Mike and I attended our final parent-teacher conference of the year (yes, the babies have now completed their first year of school!). Delaney got high marks for leadership demonstrated each day at --guess what -- clean-up time. Apparently she tells the older boys and girls when to pick up their toys, even following them around with a bullhorn (OK, a trumpet) to get her point across. That's my girl.

Hayden takes his cues from her and helps with clean-up too… though if, for whatever reason, Delaney is not in a clean-up mood, then Hayden can't be bothered either. This sounds more like the behavior demonstrated at home.


In fact, Hayden's final report card sported three sad faces for hitting and biting. "Hayden takes turns...sometimes," it said.

But both kids received "good" or "excellent" in the 38 measures they were graded against. Discovery Bay is a very thorough preschool.

We'll always remember their first school year, marked by no less than a massive earthquake. Hayden even noted the occasion by planting a Honduran flag in the sand, looking out to the mysterious sea.







5.24.2009

A Pirate's Mama Looks at 40

I've reached that milestone when it suddenly occurs to me, as I lie in the sun, that the premature signs of aging are no longer premature. I've just aged. Hopefully like a fine wine, but how can you be sure?


A number of suggestions have been recently made to restore my health and sanity, or at least the outward appearance of such:

  • Take a Disney cruise. They have on-board childcare and if we book now, we can get a $700 voucher for spa treatments.
  • Turn this blog into a book. First, though, the plot would have to thicken: Island Twins Mama & Her Midlife Crisis.
  • Put photos of bikini-clad Self in the blog to keep guys reading. (This from a guy who hasn't seen me in a while.)
  • Start a new blog that isn't so kid-focused. This could help ensure the continued relevance of Self to future employers. (This from that same guy.)
  • Take up yoga at Earth Mama's, or at least go buy some of its cute new organic clothing.
  • Start doing facial exercises, to prevent the need for future nips and tucks. (Seriously, this was suggested to me at a Mother's Day party.)
  • Swap houses with a girlfriend in North Carolina to gain quality time at Target for me and Caribbean vacation for her. This was a mutual suggestion born out of desperation on both sides.
  • Take the twins to Greece, because they love babies in the Mediterranean and might take them off our hands for an hour or two.
  • Pitch our crazy, lazy life to TLC to fill in the hole being dug by Jon & Kate. Even without a plot, Twins on an Island has more appeal than the dozens of Duggars, doesn't it? Heck, for $75,000 per episode I'd do my exercises and put on that bikini.
My own Pirate Hayden wakes up each morning looking for boats on the water. He can see miles of ocean from his bed and when he spots something moving, he shrieks with glee. "BoaT. BoaT!" He knows just what he's looking at. Looking at life on the other side of 40, I know no such certainty. But, I do know it's bound to be interesting. And, as I'm reminded in so many ways each day, I must treasure every second.

Take the poll and help me decide what's in store for 40+.

5.12.2009

San Pellegrino in a Sippee

I’ve decided that house-training your dog is not the same as house-training your twins.

Before Delaney and Hayden, I had neither dogs nor children. With Mike, I gained two large “babies” named Montana and Cassidy. I quickly learned how to feed, tuck in, walk, scold, coersce and otherwise manage two dogs. Then we adopted our own first-born, Sonoma, and my education continued.

With Sonoma, we went to Doggie Preschool.

We got homework.

We got handouts.

We got home and pretty much forgot everything we’d learned. But still, we felt on top of the situation.

I truly thought there would be some transferable skills in all this parenting of pets. For instance: “refill water dishes daily”/”refill baby bottles daily.” Or: “Let dogs out for exercise”/”Let babies out to give yourself a break.”

No, scratch that.

Let babies out to give them meaningful outdoor activity.

Of course that’s what I meant.

But I’ve concluded there are some big differences. With dogs, if you find it necessary to reprimand them for licking a twin’s plate while she was elsewhere distracted, just because the kiddie-table happens to be at doggie-eye-level, then you give him (the dog) a firm slap on the rear. You can add for emphasis, “Bad Dog. Bad.”

With kids, a different approach is encouraged. In the pool yesterday, after an incident involving a plastic car being hurled at Hayden’s face by Delaney, Mike said firmly, “Bad Girl. Bad.”

I gently corrected him: “You’re supposed to condemn the behavior, Sweetie, not the child.”

“Bad Behavior. Bad,” Mike told Delaney.

She just looked at him and picked up the plastic car again. (This time, we all ducked.)

But the biggest difference between dogs and babies has to do with expectations. Dogs are trained to appreciate the occasional left-over, or the special treat off your plate that you didn’t really intend to eat anyway.

Hayden and Delaney, on the other hand, have come to expect to eat Daddy’s cereal right out of his bowl instead of their own, or to demand “Ships” (potato chips) in the middle of the afternoon. Imagine.

As the ultimate in nervy, they have just figured out that Mommy’s Agua comes out of a pretty, green bottle. No more tap water for them. Now they, too, want San Pellegrino as the sun sets. At least they consent to drinking it out of their sippee cups. Offering them my Riedel glasses seems just a bit much, even for this out-numbered Island Mama.