Friday, September 21, 2007

Calling All Francophiles

We are leaving Peru in just over a week for 2 glorious weeks in Paris - bookended by two 19 hour+ travel days with our delightful 20 month old (I can only imagine the posts that experience will yield). We are SO excited to be taking a vacation and visiting our wonderful friends whom we have not seen in far too long. We have both been to Paris in the past (not together) and have hit the highlights, which we will do again if only to take a picture of Caleb at each to remind him when he is older of just how amazing and generous and concerned about his global experience his parents really are. My parents had not taken me to Buenos Aires, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and Paris all before the age of 2 (never mind that he will remember nothing!). But, on this trip, because we are going to have more time than usual, we want to do some off-the-beaten path, "my favorite thing to do, sight to see, place to go in Paris" or "someday I would love to go here" kinds of things. So, we are soliciting input from our pool of readers many of whom we know are Paris lovers and in some cases aficionados of the City of Light. Send us your must-see recommendations and in return we promise to think of you while we are seeing them! How's that for a fair trade? Not that our blogging happens with any regularity, but I suspect that it will come a grinding halt while we are away, though upon our return we will blitz you with images and memories of what promises to be a much needed and spectacular adventure.

PS Any comments regarding magic methods for keeping the under 2 set happy on 10 hour flights are also welcome!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Looking for a Pet?

As we have traveled to various culturally and historically significant sites around Peru we have come across the Viringo (aka Peruvian Hairless Dog). The Viringo is an ancient breed of dog (it appears in ceramic representation as early as 750 AD) kept by the Incas and other pre-Columbian cultures throughout Peru. It is in fact hairless, apart from some hair usually on the crown of the head or tail, is prone to sunburn and dry skin and feels warmer to the touch than other dogs (though actually it is not - just an illusion because there is no hair to diffuse the heat). Recently, the Society for the Preservation of Peruvian Culture decreed that each historical site in Peru must also have a Viringo on site for purposes of authenticity - never mind the fact that the dog did not exist - and doesn't thrive - in all regions or the country. When the Spanish invaded and later conquered Peru they also nearly caused the extinction of the Viringo. However, the dog was revered in some cultures as a mystical symbol and these societies managed to maintain the breeds' existence so that it is no longer on the verge of extinction. Our latest trip to the North Coast of Peru took us to the town of Trujillo (see a future post on our adventures there) where we encountered some Viringo puppies for adoption. Caleb was enthralled and I am a sucker for puppies but must remind myself always that puppies grow up.

And beyond puppies or any variety of baby animal, I must admit I am not a pet person, actually, I'm not really an animal person. It isn't that I support, defend or condone animal cruelty or that I don't understand why people have pets, it's just that animals and I weren't meant to be. Frankly, this dislike is rooted in not wanting to be responsible for the upkeep of a pet. Kenny had/has a turtle (it lives in Utah now) and I was all too often in charge of feeding or watering him and hated it and I know if we had a dog, or cat or rabbit or monkey (Kenny's latest pet idea) the cleaning, feeding etc. would fall to me. Luckily, Kenny's chosen profession makes having pets nearly impossible. Of course we know people in the Foreign Service with dogs and cats (though we'd never have a cat since I am allergic and I tend to think that cats aren't very friendly anyway). But, the stories of shipping crates in the holds of airplanes and pet quarantines and shots and papers and on and on are typical and terrible and a sufficient deterrent. And so, for now, we are sans pets. And though the hairless Viringo puppies were awfully cute (or at least not as scary looking as you might expect a hairless dog to be), we have seen the grown-up version and it leaves something to be desired in a family pet.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Grandeur and Grandest

I am lucky enough to have 2 really exceptional individuals as parents. When I first lived away from home I thought that maybe I was just homesick all of the time and that they couldn't be that great. But, I've lived away from them on and off, mostly off, for most of the last 15 years and it isn't that I'm homesick, it's that my parents are wonderful people. They recently came to visit us in Peru and we were delighted to have them (as well as myriad other family members). My parents are predictable, in the best sense of the word, helpful, easily entertained, dependable, funny, intelligent, clever and even when they feel lousy (which they both did at some point during their visit) still a pleasure to be around. From my parents I have learned, among other things, the joys of reading, traveling, hard work, setting and achieving goals, patience (or at least the value of patience even if I don't always demonstrate this virtue), making time for fun, trying new things and being flexible. On top of all of this, my husband genuinely respects and likes my parents, a definite plus and they are SPECTACULAR grandparents. As grandparents go, my siblings and I definitely drew the short straw. Our grandfathers were good men who did their best and left legacies to be proud of.

On the other hand, our grandmothers were/are the antithesis of the typical grandmother. Not all bad, but certainly not the type you read about in books. For most of my life I remember my parents offering their apologies on behalf of their less than stellar mothers and promising to make it up to us by being great grandparents, like their own. Caleb is the first (and currently only) grandchild, after a wait my father insisted was entirely too long. And while their interaction with him is curtailed by geography, though we compensate with Skype and visits as frequent as feasible, my parents have kept their promise and then some. He adores his Grandeur and Grandest as they have opted to be called - clever, no? And especially now after their visit he loves to look at pictures of them, hear their voices on the phone, or see them on the camera phone. And really, who wouldn't love these particular grandparents? They lavish attention and presents on him, sing to him - music is high on his list of favorites, play games with him, teach him new things and generally delight in being near him. I am confident he will one day know just how lucky and special all of this is and how incredible it is to have terrific grandparents (Caleb has 2 others who are equally noteworthy) who adore him. Hooray for great parents who become amazing grandparents!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Toys for Tots

Recently Caleb reached the milestone age of 18 months. In addition to requiring another round of shots and doctor's visits this also meant that Caleb was now ready to attend Nursery on Sundays at church. Hallelujah! Caleb loves Nursery. He loves playing with the other children and the toys and snack time and singing time and going for walks and all of the other fun things that are encompassed in going to Nursery. However, after the first couple of visits to Nursery it became increasingly clear that the Nursery in our small and very poor church congregation is suffering from a deplorable lack of resources. Frankly, they need toys - age appropriate, non-choking hazard, colorful, educational, fun to play with toys. So, we dutifully set out to remedy this situation. Unfortunately, we discovered that the reason the current Nursery toys are so inappropriate (not to mention limited) is that appropriate toys really don't exist. We found all sorts of toys with tiny pieces perfect for lodging in windpipes and noses. We found all sorts of toys that looked like they were on the verge of dismantling even in their packages. We found some really fantastic fisher price and playschool toys that cost 5 times what they should have cost because they are all imported. So, we thought, we are just talking about a few toys (games, puzzles, books) this can't be that hard, their must be a solution. And then we thought, maybe we know some people who could and would be willing to help? And, so, this blog is a plea for that help. Maybe you have a toy box full of well-loved but forgotten toys destined for Salvation Army or the trash, maybe you sometimes have a sudden urge to purchase something for children between the ages of 18 months and 3 years while perusing the shelves of your local drugstore, maybe you have an habit and are looking for a productive way to satiate your obsession, whatever it is we would welcome your willingness to do so on behalf of these tiny tots. If you or someone you know can help us pull together some better toys for these kids, they and we would be beyond grateful (what I wouldn't give for a good old American strip mall right about now). As an added incentive, in that we are American diplomats, you can send these generous donations to a US address so domestic postage rates will apply. I prefer not to post our address on the blog, so if you can and want to help, leave a comment and I'll get back to you with the details. Not only will you be preventing highly unnecessary trips to the emergency room, you will be making some pretty underprivileged kids and their parents very happy.

Though not relevant I have included some pictures of Caleb because I know blogs with pictures are always more fun to read than blogs without.

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