Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Unstructured Structure

That word is not my whole mantra for homeschool.  Even it if it was, it is still so vital in our daily curriculum.

One of the greatest assets of homeschooling is unstructured time.  This may be time to play, create, draw, paint, think, read, etc.  I have found, in the short while we have been homeschooling (plus, 1 year), my children are happier, more willing to learn, and better listeners when I allow them "free time".  

Really, I don't "allow" anything. I know when they can't sit still, can't focus, or are being rebellious...we need a break. All of us.

Today is one of those days. I was so frustrated this morning because we were having so many problems from child #2. After pushing, pushing, crying, prodding, I let him take a break.  After all, if I push too hard, learning becomes, well, boring.

A friend posted this (or was tagged in this on FB).  Thank goodness for social media.

I agree with it fully and know that if it wasn't pouring rain, my children would be outside playing.

Of course, with this weather, they could go out and play in the rain.  It is 80 degrees after all.

So I gave them free time.

What are they doing?

The oldest is doing a math "game".  This comes from the child that is not a huge fan of math. #winning

Child #2 is reading on Epic. This is such a great site for books you don't have to go the library for. Best $35 we spent and it's been three days...He read/had read to him and entire 8 chapter book on Benjamin Franklin yesterday.  It was way above his reading level, so I didn't mind him getting help.

Child #3 did IXL preschool math on her own.  I didn't ask her and she wants to finish and get her "medals". She also wrote two letters to her cousin.

Child #4 decided to focus on his Starfall counting. Starfall has been fantastic. I am shocked by the progress the two youngest ones have made in such a short amount of time.  Both went from having difficulty identifying letters and numbers (not my finest admission as a parent) two months ago to child #3 being able to write her whole alphabet and #4 can identify the whole alphabet in random order.


Just so the 2 people reading this want to know all websites we use for our curriuculum:

Starfall $35/year.  But there's a monthly payment plan too. Perfect for Pre-K and K (ages 3-5).
IXL This was more expensive because we bought a year in advance with four subjects: math, language arts, science and history ($199/year for "two" children.  They have other payment plans too). We'd used this before and loved it for practice.  So far, it's been really helpful and the Hubs and I LOVE the analytics we have access to as parents. There's no hiding questionable work and we can see where they need some more help. We require them to show mastery (aka 100 percent & a "medal" before they move on).  I let child #3 do work on the other children's profiles because I can still track, compartmentalize, and follow her too.
Epic ($35 for the year) We got this after after purchasing the Reading Rainbow app. This app is perfect for older children and does the same thing (aka read to you) for the young ones like RR.  Definitely not as confusing.
Reading Rainbow Don't get reading rainbow if you have older children or have any other tablet than a kindle.  It's quite annoying and confusing to use for me as an adult. My children were confused also.  I am attempting to get a refund for the year we paid in advance.
Prodigy  My children love this game. They were introduced to it at their last public school.
Khan Academy We just started using this. I donated $10 to use it. I'd like to spend more time using it and learning, but I know it will come in handy. Everyone learns concepts differently and this will allow other teaching methods to learn these things.
 Our oldest loves chemistry, but I am definitely NOT well versed in chemistry. This was highly recommended by my sister-in-law who has lived all around the world and has/is homeschooling her children.  She did have a child just get a ridiculous ACT score and will be starting school at Texas A&M in January, so I believe this has quite a bit of merit...

There is also a random spattering of books, printable worksheets, and other supplements.  These are not quite VITAL, but they do help. (Our favorite, simple practice book is the Brain Quest book from Sam's Club.  It is probably available on amazon too.)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Home Birth

Those two words fill my soul with peace and calm. 

After our last eventful, uncomplicated birth, and expecting a baby on the island here, my soul started searching.  And last week, we got our answer.

Home birth.

If I tell someone here why I am doing this, they look at me like I am from outer space.  It is so foreign to many native Puerto Ricans.  I have one neighbor that tried to scare me with the "what ifs" and "think of your family".  Yes, thank you I have.  Another neighbor said it was fantastic.  I have a few friends that think it is amazing and others that think I should go back to the mainland to have the baby. I know it is intense.  I have done this four times before.  It is a process during which my mind focuses on the job that has to get done.  It is normal, intense, and awesome when you look back.

Birth here is treated like a disease. Birth is treated like a disease most places.  But here, exceptionally so. After research, I discovered several things that are not okay with hospital births here.

No. 1: C-section rate.  I read 60 percent in a research paper.  The midwife we saw last week said 50%.  Either way, it is way too much. It's not the rate for first time moms.  Its the overall rate.  So, if I had another birth like my third, which was uncomplicated, it was just slow due to her positioning, I could guarantee a c-section.  No. No. No.  I am not opposed to lifesaving c-section, but the likelihood of a complicated birth, with ZERO drugs/interventions on a 5th baby, is very small.

No. 2: Your baby pretty much goes MIA for 9 hours after birth to the nursery.  If you want to see them, feed them, you go to them.  No.

No. 3: Some doctors here do not let you go past 39 weeks.  I have always gone past 39 weeks and go as long as 41 weeks.

No. 4: General practice here is a lot of testing and telling patients what they will do, even if it isn't necessary.  The mother can even fight it or balk. Ultrasounds at every visit, multiple overall labs done three to four times a pregnancy (it's done ONCE in the mainland). I am not making this up.  I went to my "back up doctor" visit - I am not a fan of him, but we want a plan B - and he sent me away with another order for general overall labs and another ultrasound.  He even told me, "This is how they do it in the states."  To which I kindly said, "I've had four babies there and they don't. I have only ever had one set done in the beginning.  Ever." He had the gall to argue with me. I knew I would be in a losing battle, so I shut my mouth and started my prayers for a smooth, healthy home birth because I really didn't want to see this man in labor.   I later asked my midwife, "Do I have to do these things?"  She shook her head, no.  So I am sure I will have a doctor super thrilled with me next visit.  We are not flying back to the US to have a baby.  And I am not changing my mind.

No. 5: Fathers do not stay at the hospital with you.  You share a room and children are not allowed to see the new baby in the hospital.  Seriously?

No. 6. This is does not have an effect on our choice, but epidurals are not common here.  That was my main reason for having my first three in the take that off the books.

No. 7. Research has found that women that have had a previous, uncomplicated vaginal birth are actually safer to birth at home.

No. 8. It is safer for the baby to be born at home vs hospital because of bacteria.  My Dad, who I thought would be a tough critic, was my surprising ally.  He is an RN and said that the baby already has immunities to the bacteria in the home, whereas the baby and mother do not have those same immunities to things in the hospital. Jim Gaffigan, while hysterical talking about it, is spot on.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Homes in PR

So we have an awesome house in PR.  It's very large (by my standards) around 2,800 sq ft.  When you have a growing family of 7, I feel it is justified and perfect. (When it is clean I will post photos.  So don't hold your breath.)

It is all tile and some of it is dated - from the 90s - and we have given it a facelift in some areas.

I really love it.

But, being a homeowner stinks.

We came home to cucarachas (cockroaches), bugs in most of our grains, and some other necessary, quick fixes. 

We now have bug exterminator, a bunch of trashed food, and today we will have clean inverters (high efficiency-air conditioners).

AND I wish we had a dishwasher.  I need a dishwasher.  My children have finally started helping me, which makes it so much faster, but still, I would LOVE a dishwasher.

The problem is that the countertops are to shallow in depth to put a dishwasher by the sink.  I am so tempted to extend the counter top (in a L shape) with butcher block or stainless steel covered plywood) to get that thing to fit better.  We have space to extend it.  We have corian (whatever they are - the fake, plastic stone).  Can you cut this with out cracking the rest?  Because seriously, it would be an "quick" awesome fix if we could.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Learning Styles and Strengths

Homeschool is the ultimate way to learn about your children and their personal learning styles.

Child #1: definitely a "free spirit" kind of girl, yet mildly, she is a perfectionist.  She is very intelligent when she wants to apply herself.  Strengths are in science, social studies, and reading.  She is good at math, but doesn't like it.  She isn't exactly a follow the directions girl because she wants to figure it out herself.  I am trying to explain to her that having directions isn't "cheating", it is learning to do it "right".  This concept is slow in application, although today it was much better than yesterday.

Child #2: is a "get it done" kind of person.  He does not like to "fail" or "lose".  If his activities take him longer than he expects, he will have a melt down and there will be tears. He does not know how to lose graciously. For example, today, we were identifying nouns.  This is above his first grade level, but I know it is not above his learning ability.  So I challenged him.  21 minutes later and one big fit, he mastered the concept.  But to him, it took him 19 minutes too long.

Meanwhile, child #3 was skating and falling all over the tile floors.  She is going to be bruised tomorrow but her sheer will to learn helps her get up.  Her determination astounds me sometimes  and other times it confounds me.  Either way, I am trying to embrace it all and go with who she is.

Child #4, is re-potty training after regressing the last few weeks.  Yesterday was very successful, ZERO accidents.  Today: we're hoping for another successful day.

Me: I finished my 8 month long kitchen painting project while the kids did HS around me.  This may not have been the best use of our time but I couldn't look at that wall anymore!  (Do you see a pattern with child #3?  Oh yes, that one is MY child.)

I feel surprisingly patient with home school, which think is because we chose a curriculum that fit our family.  I did not realize how important this was until THIS time around. This is a game changer for sure.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Homeschool..Attempt 2.

A so called wrench was thrown in my plans - homeschool.  I was not too thrilled when this came across my plate.  In fact, I balked at it for a while (meaning weeks, because that is all the time I had to decide).  But, after careful discussions and prayer, I knew it was right.  I could give you a whole list of reasons and complaints about things, but I won't. I felt much more comfortable and not overwhelmed going into homeschool this time, even with a baby due in 4 months. I totally feel that this is tender mercy from above.  The Lord knew I needed some peace with our lives and he gave that to us, in the most unusual and unexpected way.

We did homeschool before and while it went okay. My expectations were too high the first time and because of that, I look back at it like a hot mess.  We knew we only had to do a year.  This time, we are looking at an indeterminate time (between 2-4 years or more) and my mindset is different.
The support system is different.
My children are different.
I am different.
Our curriculum is realistic and my expectations, realistic also.  The curriculum is not quite complete yet, but I'd rather wade in slow and add more as we go.  This is something we learned last time.  Too much, too soon means A LOT of tears for all parties involved.

I am using a few work books, but we are keeping most of our studies online.

We bought a year subscription to  This has math, science, social studies/history, and language arts.  We have only been using it a few days full time (my children used it before as a supplement to their school curriculum and loved it), and I am impressed.  I really want my children to self-guide their learning and I can see where their strengths lie already. I step in when they need help, but they clip on at their own pace most of the time.

I get daily, weekly, and monthly reports and they have daily analytics broken down within their site.  I can see areas that need work.  The site also provides more questions if they are struggling until they show that they can master it.  It's like unit test, but with each section.  I really like it.  I am sure I will test them every few weeks to make sure, but it is also sequential, so if they don't know it or don't have it mastered then it will show up in the next section and we can go back and review.

We use a few other sites for reading an AR quizzes (as they finish books, they quiz on what they read, earning points per book).

This blog post is coming during a break and it is over now.

Six Months of Happenings

All of the sudden six months has come and gone and I haven’t had a single blog post.  Maybe that is a good thing, or a bad thing.  I think it is a mixture of both.

My father-in-law, who was on deaths door when he was hospitalized and diagnosed in May, took control of his diet and looked to alternative therapies to help stabilize his health, as well as the growth of his cancer.

To some people’s surprise, the cancer did stabilize and he was able to seek more mainstream treatments with low dose chemo and specialized radiation, called proton therapy.  The proton therapy is much less invasive and tends to have less side effects than a standard radiation treatment.
We are praying these treatments extend the time he has.  The doctors are hesitant to use the word “cure” but they have said that the tumors can be shrunk, leading to a more comfortable life, no matter the duration.  He has six weeks of 5 weekly treatments and is driving to 3.5 hours to receive these.  He was very persistent (stubborn might be the better word) in getting the care he desired and is willing to go the distance to do it the way he wants.  I applaud it tremendously.

The six months for me was filled with incredible learning moments.  The hardest lesson I had to learn was that life gets messy and doesn’t go the way you planned.  Now, I know the general premise of this, but what I struggle with is the application.
so, I spent the first 3.5 months pretty miserable and not so fun to be around.  I think I said, at least weekly, “I am ready to get my life off pause.”
So 3.5 months in, after a “Come to Jesus” moment in my head, I kicked myself and quit using the "pause excuse".  I missed out on 3.5 months of my life because I wanted to just to back to what I had planned and was looking forward to for the previous six months.
And then life happened.
And then life REALLY happened.  Literally.  Among all this craziness, The Baby Daddy (aka my husband & extraordinairy man) and I decided to try for another child.  It has never taken us much to get pregnant, although staying pregnant is another story.  Other than a few minor helps along the way (progesterone supplement in the beginning), we are elated and are expecting a little girl in March.  I was so nasty sick this pregnancy and the first trimester. I traveled a lot for doTerra training and a wonderful vacation with my husband.
Morning sickness and flying/traveling are a crappy mix.  Just saying.

Being in Arkansas offered me an opportunity to attend special trainings for doTerra to help grow my essential oil and essential oil-based product business.  It was not the training I thought I was going to get.  It turned ou t to be a “growing experience.”  I did a lot of crying those three days.  It hurt because I made several self-realizations that really, really stung.  I mean, I thought I was perfect.  HAHAHAHA.  Well, that training was a shock to the system that I need to develop some very, very vital traits I did not possess at that time.  I came home from that training very subdued and a confused husband.  He expected me to be pumped up.  Instead, I was hurting because I saw huge weaknesses, especially ones I didn’t expect.
So now I we are back on the Island in glorious 85 degree temperatures - did I ever mention I am not a winter girl?  Visiting and skiing are awesome...but I do not like the cold.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

It's always 20/20

So, seven months ago, when we were packing our house to move here, I felt the beginning of a panic/anxiety attack.  At the time, I was packing suitcases for moving/living out of them for two months. While my husband and I were packing and I was feeling so overwhelmed, my heart was acting funny.  It wasn't beating fast.  It was beating HARD and super SLOW, but I felt out of control and panicky.  It was getting harder to breathe and my mind was screaming, "just STOP!"

I looked at my husband and said, "I need to stop now."  I dropped everything, laid down,  and tried calm down with deep breaths (thank you natural labor classes!) and used Balance blend oil.  I think I just stuck the bottle right under my nose and inhaled for at least ten minutes directly from the bottle.

At the time, I had no idea what I was feeling.  I described it a few days later to a friend, who then said, "it sounds like a panic attack."  What?!  I'd never had one but she described the few she's had and well, it sounded so similar to mine I couldn't disagree.

Fast forward to yesterday.

I am packing my house for our extended stay with his parents.  We have to pack up all our personal belongings because we are hoping (pray we can find good renters!) we will find renters while we're gone.

But looking at the enormity of it all...I guess that's my downfall.  I sometimes lack the ability to see small details when the big picture, all of the things that have to be done, are so overwhelming.

It started bad in the morning when I went to change a ticket for my best friends wedding in July.  I will spare you the details, but two tickets to the West Coast from his parents (which should be less than $1000) were going to cost us $2K.  Nope. Nope. Nope.  I cried on the phone.  I begged.  That poor lady really wanted and tried to make it right with the circumstances but just didn't have the authority.

Then I tried to pack stuff in the house into plastic tubs...and I shut down. My heart started beating harder, my breathing picked up, my mind went blank, and I was not functioning.

I got on my knees and cried.  I begged for help.  While I was praying, my sweet children, one by one, came wrapped their arms around me, until it was a big bear hug.  The oldest two cried.  The youngest two gave me sweet kisses and kept asking why I was crying.  That was my calm in the midst of the storm.

Our sweet firstborn picked up and fed her siblings leftovers when I was more or less checked out.  I am so grateful for her and that she took the initiative.

I took a nap hoping it would get better and it got worse when I got up to do stuff.  It had been hours of calm and storm and now the storm was winning.

I was texting my husband, who was really worried at this time, and had my good friend come over and check on me.

She asked me questions, and all I could answer is "I don't know" to everything she asked.  I just sobbed.

My friend gathered my kids and stuff and kept them at her house for a couple hours.  (I am so grateful for them or it would have been really bad when The Hubs came home.)  I stayed in bed for another 90 minuted before I could get all calmed down, took a shower, and then I tackled part of the dirty dishes.

The Hubs got home and got me out of the house that evening.  I came home much better from our date, but I still very much feel the lingering effects today.

So, like I put previously, I like details.  Now that I look back on this, and other experiences before, I realize that uprooting my life, changing things, causes me great anxiety.  This is particularly hard in this case, and completely worth it.

Now that I have 20/20 on this, I told my husband that our original career plans may not be such a good thing.  It required a lot of moving and at this point, I don't exactly have a great record with handling it well.  We've been leaning that direction for a while, so it's not a surprise for me to say that.  It just became very clear where we need to be when we're done here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Miracles, Part I

Preface: Please remember that all of these posts are from MY PERSPECTIVE.  This is my way of coping, my way of dealing with this situation.  All of this is my opinion and I fully accept responsibility for what I say.  Do not assume or think that this is how my family feels also (aka "she said this... so her family must feel the same".  That would be a negative.  We all cope with grief differently.  Mine is getting it all out there on paper.  Some how for me it makes it real and makes me face what it is.

First off, thank you for all your thoughts and prayers.  I know we have felt the love and support from all our friends.

 I suck at brevity.  I like to tell detailed stories; it is part of me and it's what helps me be a good storyteller.  (Also, editing helps when the stories get too drawn out.)

The last three weeks have been shocking.

They have also been miraculous.

Right after The Hubs told me about his Father's initial cancer diagnosis (after he was diagnosed with a second, different advance-stage cancer) and his father's wishes to avoid chemo and radiation, I sobbed.  I went outside and cried when my husband took a phone call, a very, inspirational, perspective-giving phone call.  I just ugly cried and called my Mom.  And cried some more.

And then I came in and we talked some more.  I knew at that moment we needed to get on our knees.

I didn't know what to do, where to go, what to think. So, I did what I knew was best. I got on my knees and send up a prayer of desperate pleading and peace. I asked for the Lord to put a path to follow in front of us and we would step.  We would follow.  We needed more than just guidance. We had so many emotions and thoughts but not a defined place we had to go.  I was lost in all my emotions and I was way over my head.  So I prayed for both of us; as we held hands, kneeling on the hard tile floor, begging the Lord to help us.

I had no idea that He would answer our prayers like he did.  He has put a path, a straight path, directly in front of us and we stepped.

The phone call he got helped us focus and do research; we found there were limitations on our ideas so we had to shift them slightly.

My husband has a great employer.  He loves his job.  We knew it was an option to have him transfer to a different office, the one closest to his parents, for 30 days and then extend it by 30 days to a max of 90 days.

Okay, we thought.  If that's all we get, we are okay with that.  It is better than nothing.

So The Hubs went in to talk to the assistant regional manager, who shared that he had lost his Dad years earlier to cancer and gave him some really good advice.

Then he asked him to put a timeline for his transfer, "what kind of time there are you looking at?"

The Hubs said, "well, I was, um....well..."

The manager said, "Put six months.  You need six months."

The Hubs said he was really shocked and thanked him.

He then called me.

To which, I sobbed and could hear The Hubs was on the verge of crying.

It was one of the tenderest blessings I didn't know specifically to ask for and one that you just don't hear about employees ever receiving.  Most of his co-workers have been really shocked to hear the time he got.  And they're also so happy for us.

There have been subsequent others, including finding someone to rent our house here.  This one hasn't been fulfilled yet, but it will.

A friend that gave me a book, Tuesdays with  Morrie, that has completely inspired me.  "To die is to learn to live."  It helps me look at this whole situation with a completely different perspective.

Our nephew was born at 33 weeks yesterday.  This is a miracle because his two other brothers were born at 26 and 28 weeks.  (Sorry, if this is not exact.  I can't remember exactly.)  So the fact that my sister-in-law could hold on and sacrifice herself to be on VERY STRICT bed rest impresses me more than she knows.

I have found two, long-time friends that are confidants because there is empathy there, not sympathy.  Those two women, I know were in my life always as my friends, but now it's more than that.  I can't explain it.  I just know it.

And the amazing group of women that surround my family and are so willing to help take care of my kids, bring us dinner, and just listen to me.

This whole process is miraculous.  I am sure there are other miracles we will see.

We will see so much life in this process.

In one week, we will be back home, back with family.  And it one week, I will miss here.  I will miss my island family.  I will miss it more than I ever knew I could. My heart hurts thinking about it, but we will be back.

Miracles happen and He delivers.

Friday, May 22, 2015


Preface: Please remember that all of these posts are from MY PERSPECTIVE.  This is my way of coping, my way of dealing with this situation.  While I appreciate thoughtfulness, I will admit that I am not open to any advice right now.  Someone gave me some yesterday and had they been talking to me face to face, I might have punched them.  All of this is my opinion and I fully accept responsibility for what I say.  Do not assume or think that this is how my family feels also (aka "she said this... so her family must feel the same".  That would be a negative.  We all cope with grief differently.  Mine is getting it all out there on paper.  Some how for me it makes it real and makes me face what it is.

I am a spiritual person.  Our family is spiritual.  Many times (especially, big ones) we make a decision, and then go to the Lord in prayer making sure this is the direction he needs us to go.

For me, when I get an answer that it is correct, it comes in a feeling of peace and comfort, which gives me confidence that it is the best for me and our family.

If it is a 'no' or a 'not right now', then I either feel one of two things: nothing or confusion.

Our lives for the past six months have been hectic.

But the last month has been horrible.

Three weeks ago, my grandmother passed away.  My sister and I had a very close relationship with my grandparents. I went out to see her last September and I knew that was my farewell to her.  My last memories of her fill my mind with joy and peace.  So even though I was sad at her passing, I had already accepted and gone through the stages of grief.  It helped me focus on her life and the incredible memories I have of her.

Just as I was recovering from that, our family got a bomb dropped on us, a figurative punch to the gut, and news that left us breathless.

I don't know if it is public yet, so I won't say anything.  But, it is horrible.  I am in a state of shock still.

That said, my husband and I got on our knees and asked the Lord for peace and strength.  We will need it.

We told our kids immediately.  The older two both cried, but our sweet O, who HATES to cry with people around, got angry and then sat with his dad and sobbed.  It broke my heart.  This  may be the most difficult time for my six year old.  He doesn't want comfort from me and I don't know how to help him.  I feel helpless with him. It is awful. 

My personal prayers have been one of putting my heart and mind in alignment with the Lord's will.  I know that if I see the big picture, the whole plan, then it makes this process "more effective."  I would never use the word "easy" or "happy" or "simple".  Because it isn't, for any of us.  But I feel that if I spend more time seeing what the Lord needs me to do or learn from this and not fighting against it because I'm wishing for something that won't happen, this process will be different.  It is going to hard, rough, sad, happy, miraculous, and peaceful; and it may be all those emotions at the same time.

I just don't want to waste time on things I can't change and I don't want to miss the things that I need to do, learn, hear, or feel.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bugs: Tropical Edition

This is a little bit of a "complaint" blog, but we live in such a beautiful place, this is a downside...just to balance the awesome out.

So, we have a lot of bugs here.

I haven't seen too many spiders, although I did see one that looks like this:

It is fire engine red on the underside and about 1/3 of an inch wide.  It was "protecting" my green beans, although it did a horrible job because something ate the leaves like my kids at a Sizzler/Golden Corral buffet.

Anyway, we have mosquitoes here.  Lots of them.  They are worst a night and aren't too terrible yet during the day.  They carry two pretty nasty diseases/sickness, Dengue Fever and Chikungunya.

We don't want either one. We know multiple people that have gotten it.  It is NOT fun.

We got tons of mosquito bites in our first house here, the rental we had for a month, because there were no screens on the windows and we had to leave them open so the air moved in the house.  It was a rough month.  I was pretty miserable just for that reason alone.

Anyway, we use doTerra TerraShield bug repellent and it works really well with ZERO Deet.  (BTW, if you want a bottle, it's pretty inexpensive.  Each concentrated bottle gets you multiple bottles of bug repellent.)

Anyway, the first week we were in our current home, we got these horrible, horrible bites.  I didn't know where they came from and I looked like I had chicken pox.  I was freaking out because I thought we had bed bugs because they showed up while I was asleep.  (It was NOT bed bugs, read on.)

Then, some women informed me about Mime/Majes/Midges/No-see-ums.  They are quite possibly, the worst insect ever.  I would like to know what God was thinking when he created them (maybe to drive man CRAZY).  They are so tiny.  Smaller than a gnat.  They come out around sundown and "go home" when it's dark.  So when it is beautiful and feels fantastic out, they're there to annoy us.

They hurt when they bite, like a little needle poke, and you slap where they bit, but they are quick and most of the time you don't get them.  And they love, love to bites at socklines.  They don't carry horrible diseases.  They can carry some skin parasites, but not something that will knock you out for a while.

As if that isn't the worst part:  those dumb bug bites don't start itching until about 5 or 6 hours later, while you are SLEEPING.  So you get to wake up in the middle of the night wanting to scratch your skin off.  It is a joyful feeling.  And it usually itches way worse day two and three.

We went on a walk Sunday night and I got at least 20 bites each leg.  They were unusually thick that night,and this is not normal.  Last night, I wanted to scratch my skin off my leg.  I took another doTerra's equivalent of benadryl and coated my leg in a diluted liquid mixture of lavender, lemongrass, and Zendocrine to help the itch.  Seriously, it is miserable until all the relief kicks in.  Sleeping is optional when you have this many bites.

This is just one side after three days and both legs are bad.  My friend this morning said, "Oh, you know they got you good when other people can see your bites without trying."

Needless to say, I'm a little edgy today after two days of little sleep.

The good news is that the TerraShield works amazing because it's an oil based bug repellent and the  Mime/Majes/Midges/No-see-ums do not like anything with oil (including sunscreen). The bad news is that you have to put it on for it to work and no one was wearing it Sunday.

Genius.  I know.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Talk

The Talk: How to do it and How NOT to do it.

On Wednesday, I had part of the sex talk with the 9 year old. I was really worried about this, but it was SIGNIFICANTLY better than I had anticipated.
With our oldest only being 9, I didn't want to overwhelm her so I let her own curiosity lead the conversation.
We talked about female anatomy, periods, fallopian tubes, eggs, ovaries, sperm, embroys, male anatomy, etc.
I could tell the "nitty grity" was over her head so I just mentioned that the sperm that made each of our four kids came from their Dad. Her face went blank like, "what? How does that work?"
And then voila, we had an anatomy lesson that she was seriously interested in and asked about 20 questions.
I even made a diagram of a uterus out of pringles lid and some saran wrap fallopian tubes.

Props to me.
My favorite fact was telling her about how baby girls are born with all the eggs that might make their eventual children.  She was in awe.  I felt like, 'yep, this is how this talk should go'.
I compared it to oranges...she has "immature" or green oranges that aren't ready and won't be for a while. But as a teenager, they will be like a ripe orange and can make a baby at that time (as a fertilized egg, not a spontaneous pregnancy).
To which she made a "ewww" face and shook her head.  We talked about intimacy and what it was made for.  She giggled a little at that and I tried to not go too in depth.
Reality is, most of it was menstrual-cycle centered because that is going to happen to someone she knows very soon, if not already. (Holy crap.)
And the best part of this all: it wasn't bad. 
In fact, I enjoyed it because I saw her grasp of what I was explaining to her and she seemed very interested.

And then today happened. We visited a really cool manatee rescue center. The tour guide explained how to tell the difference between a female and a male.

We had all ages of kids there, 2-17, and she used the scientifically correct language.

The oldest got it.  No questions.

When the 6 year old asked what a vulva was...oh my goodness.  He turned bright red when I explained it was where the baby came out.

He then plugged his ears when I hastily, simply explained the difference between "anus" and "vulva" along with the tour guide.  He was having none of that in public.  Looking back, it could have waited until later.  Fail: Mom.  

I thought I could just ride the wave of great talks like yesterday.

News flash:  the oldest is SO much more different than the 6 year old.  He was mortified, she was intrigued.

I felt horrible.  That was not how I expected to introduce him to female anatomy; via a huge plywood manatee with the anatomically correct placement of the holes.  Poor kid.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Guest Blogger: the Oldest

{Pre-blog entry from The Mom:  Our oldest will be blogging, since our adventures are as a family and today is the FIRST entry.  She is a fabulous writer and loves to tell stories.}

So,when we got to Puerto Rico, (At 10:00 at night.) We stayed in Dorado for about I'll say 4 weeks. During that time I met my FIRST friend: Alejandra.We played and laughed and played each day. She also taught me how to ride a longboard. Then, we moved to Toa Baja. And we have been to the beach, Old San Juan, San Juan, and the pool. I have met a lot of friends since the beginning. And  to end my entry by saying I am very blessed to live here and to meet my friends.                          

                                                                                           Sincerely, {The Oldest Child}

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Coqui

It took us six months here and we finally saw our first coqui.

If you didn't know, coquis (pronounced: co-key) are the indigenous frog species here.  They are so loud at night and say their name when they sing, thus, how they got their name.  I was anticipating a tree frog-like size. 

Um, not exactly.

We found/caught/tried to gently hold three today.  Enjoy these photos.  They are tiny.  Those things pack some sound out of those tiny frames.  The only get about as big as a quarter.

That is my hand.  Yes, I am not afraid of frogs, lizards, or many other amphibians/reptiles here.  Spiders are another story.

Three!  We have been trying just to SEE one and we CAUGHT three!

This little thing was already singing 20 min after being placed here.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Debacle of the white pants

So this week is International Day at my kids school. Our oldest is representing Argentina (which we are personally quite fond of because of my husband's two years living there and then converting our whole family to the amazingness of Argentine food) and our six-year-old, Mexico.

The oldest is wearing her Dad's old Riverplate jersey he got 15 years ago.  My favorite part is the beer brand on the front.  It isn't local and no one may notice. (In case of a phone call from the school,  I have a backup plan.)

This is the new jersey.  No beer label on this one.  I'm just not willing to shell out $50 for it for my kid.

But The 6yo needs and all white outfit.  This is a predicament.

Who in their right mind puts a 6 year old boy in all white for a whole day?!  I can't wait to see how not white these clothes are.   Anyway, I digress.

So I've been prepping for this for a month.  I needed white pants for him.

And since I didn't know about this during the San Sebastian festival, where I could pick up a pair of white pants anywhere, white pants are no where to be seen.

This kid is way cute.  This is the "traditional" type clothing I needed to find.

So after weeks of searching, I did find white shorts.  I bought them and showed them to the 6yo and after asking the teacher, he said, "I can't wear shorts.  They have to be pants."  If you know this boy, then you know there is no negotiating room.  He follows directions, and she had said no shorts.

Oh. My. Goodness. [Can you hear the sigh of dread?]

My girlfriends looked for me when they did their shopping.  They searched everywhere.  I even asked to borrow some.

Finally last night, I made some.

{I forgot to mention, I got my new sewing machine in two days ago.  It sews like buttah. I am one spoiled woman.}

I had no other choice.  I have never made pants.  I thought, "this will fail, or it may be an almost fail."  I've never made pants before and I have no pattern or know where to buy one here.

It turned out to be neither one.  I traced a pair of pants (four pieces total) onto an old white curtain.  Phhhsssttt, I don't have time for a mock up.

Cut, sewed (incorrectly twice by the way.  Thank goodness for seam rippers.), tried them on the 6yo a bunch, and voila! we had pants. He was so frustrated at one point, during the last fitting, he asked if this could be the LAST time.

And they fit.  Not just a little bit, but beautifully.  I told the 6yo to go show his dad.

"Wow.  Wow.  WOW."  There was no discounting the surprise in his voice.

Honestly though, I was just as surprised.  I did have to put extra side panels, like tuxedo pants, because they were a little too tight for him to play in.

They look good.  Just don't look to closely.  I'll post a pic later.  They're in the wash.

Friday, March 20, 2015


Obviously, we're not talking about and ACTUAL honeymoon.  That ship sailed 11 years ago.

I'm talking about that time when everything is new and you see things with blinders.

That's where people think are in the middle of here, although I feel like it is, but it isn't.

I knew coming here, it would be different.  It's a different culture, different mentality, different climate, different language.  Pretty much different everything.

I miss a few things.  I miss family and some very dear friends from New Jersey.  I [slightly] miss snow, but it is only when I burn my feet on the hot sand on the beach.

We are incredibly blessed to be here.  There are so many things that are not like I like them, but I just have to brush them off.  Most of the time, I say out loud, "welcome to Puerto Rico", meaning, that is how it is done here and I need to be okay with it.  And it helps me calm the anxiety or stress or frustration.

I really don't want to let that frustration stop me from enjoying my time here.  So many people miss what this island can offer because they're so mad about something that doesn't matter in the big scheme of things. I don't want to be that way.   I know it has it's quirks.  There's a lot that drive me crazy.  But, it is like that anywhere that isn't your culture.  It happened to us in New Jersey after we moved from the South.  It just is exacerbated by the fact that Spanish is the primary language and has so much slang (even my husband, who is fluent with experience in three different dialects [Argentinian, Mexican, and Castellano], is having trouble with it).

The more I am here, our family is here, I know that this is preparation for the next step in our lives.  I feel it to the depth of my soul.  We are here for a purpose.  We are here for, I'm sure, a whole host of reasons.  We have to learn, to grow, to change, to love, and to help.

I am so grateful for the other women, my friends, with the same mindset.  It is so impressive how much they enjoy and love.  There are a lot that don't.

I want to leave here, when our time is up, in tears.  That sounds weird, but I do because it means I hurt because I chose to love those here deeply, with my whole heart.

Monday, January 12, 2015


We have moved many times.  Most of the time, it's a EQ (Elder's Quorum) move.  But twice, it's been a professional, pack-up, load-up, unload, and un-pack move.  It's been beautiful.  I'm spoiled.

The last time, we had one glass dish broken.  Whatever, I don't care.  I didn't claim it.

As we were unpacking we found a few things here and there.  At one point, it was around $600 at the end of the first week.  (It would have been less, but the movers broke the legs off my sewing storage dresser, not a cheap thing.)

Then today...all $@^%* hit the fan.

When we were getting packed up, I told the movers to baby my sewing machine.  I even said it in Spanish, "Cuidado, por favor.
My beloved Bernina, one of the few gifts I have really, really wept, after receiving it (a fantastic gift from The Hubs), was pulled from it's protective case as I set up my sewing area today. "

As I put it on it's throne (aka sewing table), I noticed one of my "paint stripping" rubber gloves stuck to the front. 

What the heck was that doing in there?!

Oh snap. 

'Well, maybe it's just stuck to it from the pressure.'

No. [Insert expletives in my head]

The heat, chemicals from the stripper, and the pressure from items around it caused the rubber to melt - yes, MELT - into the components in my machine.

And I started to cry.

Do you know those days when you are so excited to do something that it drives your entire motivation for the day?

Yep, that was my sewing area today.  My space.  And as soon as I saw that sewing machine and I knew it was toast, the motivation was gone.

Now, this may seem so trivial, crying over a sewing machine.  It's so much more than that.

My sewing machine, while I'm definitely not a professional, and I, in fact, SUCK at quilting,  it is my happy place.  I can relax there, but I'm also challenged when I have to do something new.

I like to think I have a talent, [sometimes] to take an item, deconstruct it in my head, and then make it again at home.  That sewing area lets me grow that talent.  I feel good and confident when I'm there.  Sometimes I get frustrated, but to me, it means I have a chance to get better.

And right now, that talent has been temporarily sidelined again.  And I'm frustrated.  I have done zero sewing in over six months.  Between trying to "stage" the house (sewing machine was placed in storage) and moving, I've neglected my sewing machine.

The great news is that my old Bernina will be replaced at no cost to me. 

Side note: I did choke a little when my Bernina guy (yes, I have a Bernina guy.  Don't you?) told me what a new replacement would cost.