Monday, December 31, 2007

A is for A New Arrival Wrapped in Red Tape

No, this is not an announcement, the baby is not here yet. But, with under 4 weeks to go and the fervent hope that we'll have even less than that to wait, all thoughts have turned to his imminent arrival.

In some ways it feels like we are having our first baby since the bulk of my baby "stuff" is back in Peru and we (read my parents) have acquired a crib, clothing, toys, all manner of newborn accouterments etc. so we could keep what we brought with us to a minimum. I still need to get a few more essentials (bottles, pacifiers, some warm weather gear for baby since Utah feels a lot like the Arctic these days, and some other miscellaneous things), and then all that will be left to do is wait.


Yesterday I received a packet in the mail from the State Department about the procedures for having a baby. Foolishly I thought the hardest part would be the labor/delivery and sleep deprivation adjustment. Not so. After perusing this veritable mountain of paperwork I am certain dotting all the "i's" and crossing all the "t's" is going to be the most taxing part of this whole experience. Seriously, I don't think I can fully describe all the information necessary to acquire, submit, fill out, file etc. just so I am allowed to take my baby with me not just out of the hospital, but basically anywhere, not the least of which will be back to Peru.

Apparently within almost seconds of his first breath we need to fill in his birth certificate (another reason why deciding on a name sooner rather than later would be a good idea - still no progress here), request a SS# - expedited of course, book a return plane ticket, get 2 passport sized photos taken and apply for a passport, call the State Department and notify them of his status change from "pending" to "existing" dependent, submit paperwork to change our per diem allowance to include him and that is just the first page of instructions - there are about 30 more. I thought I was tired thinking about having another newborn, but this makes me exhausted. Kenny has worked for the government for awhile now and we have dealt with our share of bureaucracy and red tape, but really, this is ridiculous!!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

M is for My Favorite Things About Not Being in Peru

Obviously we have been on hiatus from the blog, but not for nothing. Caleb and I left Peru about 2 weeks ago for the long trip to Utah. Though it ended up being a fairly easy journey when all was said and done, the beginning did not bode well for that as Caleb started throwing up more than I thought it was possible for a 25 pound body to do while we sat in the airport waiting for our plane. Thankfully Kenny was with us and able to help with clean-up and cuddling and calming. My change of clothes came in handy as did Caleb's and we sent the vomit drenched articles home with Kenny to be disposed of appropriately. Luckily once we got on the plane and settled Caleb went right to sleep and slept for most of the 6 hour flight to Atlanta - though not always in his own seat and for far too much time on my lap which wasn't all that comfortable since baby #2 is taking more and more lap space with each passing second.

The layover in Atlanta was the worst since I was exhausted and Caleb was raring to go. We waited forever in the customs line and then went to get our luggage for rechecking. I found a nice skycap to help us even though I couldn't tip him since I was only carrying Peruvian currency at that point. Security was a nightmare as TSA types and other passengers stared at me oozing impatience and anger as I removed mine and Caleb's shoes (never know what might be hiding in a 1 year-olds' Robeez), dismantled the stroller and carseat to send through the x-ray machine, placed his jacket and my jacket and his water bottle in the loose items bucket, put our two small (but necessary) carry-ons on the conveyor belt and then put everything back together again on the other side. I suppose someone could have offered assistance, but that would have been TOO easy. Anyway, we made it through our second flight without incident and arrived in bitterly cold Utah (20 degrees when we landed) tired but happy to be done traveling for awhile. Can't wait until our return trip with a 6 week baby along for the ride!

Okay, on to my favorite things:

About a year ago, Caleb's doctor told us he might have a very rare heart defect and that we would need to wait until he was a bit older the verify this one way or the other. So, one of our first errands in the US of A was Primary Children's Medical Center to see a Pediatric Cardiologist. After his initial consultation he is fairly certain Caleb is just fine, but we have scheduled an echo-cardiogram for after the first of the year to make certain. A fantastic children's hospital with amazingly qualified and helpful doctors just minutes from my parent's house tops my list of favorite things!

My guys: Caleb and Kenny (Okay, so Kenny is still in Peru, but he is always a favorite thing)

Caleb's first take-home art project - we are so proud of his "obvious" artistic abilities

Endless canned tomato products - a real luxury in Peru

Snowsuits - Poor Caleb is in shock from the cold


Christmas morning and footed, themed pajamas

Cool Whip - 'nuff said

dollar movies - we took Caleb to his first full length feature and he sat through the whole thing very happily

Of course the list of things that I am loving is so much longer than this, but if I didn't cut it somewhere this hiatus would become permanent. Hooray for the USA!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

T is for Trujillo

As I have been tying up loose ends before Caleb and I head north for our extended stay, I was reminded of one final trip we recently took which never received any blog time.

A couple of months ago, we visited the northern coastal city of Trujillo, with a side trip to Chiclayo. Trujillo is roughly 8 hours by car from Lima (being the "rich" Americans that we are, we decided to fly instead). The day we arrived was also the day dedicated to celebrating the life of Santa Rosa de Lima. She is the patron saint of Peru with a shrine in Lima. She is also the patron saint of the police and there is a particularly large celebration in her honor each year in Trujillo.
Santa Rosa de Lima in all her glory

don't be put off by the riot gear, this was a celebratory processional

We next ventured out to the Temples of the Sun and the Moon. These temples were constructed in roughly 600 AD by the Moche culture, though very little is actually known about these people or this time period. Luckily, thousands of ceramics survived this period as did the two temples leaving behind far more clues than were left by many other pre-Columbian cultures who inhabited the same and surrounding areas. As you can see from the photos below, many of the decorative frescoes and much of the structure of the temple has also stood the test of time. This was a fascinating site to explore and all the more interesting because of its remoteness and limited tourist draw.

these frescoes are at least 1500 years old

us on the backside of the temple

sometimes no rain is a good thing, erosion has been tremendously slowed

The next stop on our visit was the Chan Chan Archaeological Zone. Chan Chan was built in 1300 AD and was the capital of the pre-Columbian Chimu Empire. In addition to being a Unesco World Heritage Site, Chan Chan is also the largest pre-Columbians city in the Americas and the largest adobe city in the world. The Chimu were eventually conquered by the Incas. The Incas were much more interested in expanding their kingdom than acquiring wealth so much of Chan Chan's gold was left intact until the Spanish came and pillaged the entire city. Over the years, Chan Chan has also been the victim of grave robbers and thieves. Some examples of the riches can be found in museums throughout Peru and the world, but much of it is lost forever. Despite this, the ruins of Chan Chan are vast and extremely impressive.

Caleb walking amidst the ruins of Chan Chan

more ruins - notice the fish design

us at Chan Chan

an underground fed water source in the middle of the ruins

The next day we visited Chiclayo and several surrounding sites. The most impressive of these is the tomb of Sipan and the museum dedicated to the contents of this tomb. The tomb was discovered in 1987 and consists of several chambers filled with the remains and artifacts of various rulers. Excavation continues at the site and a new tomb was discovered in the last few months. The recovered artifacts are housed primarily in the nearby museum (sorry no photographs allowed or we could wow you with images of a nearly unparalleled collection of gold, other precious metals and semi-precious stones), though they have been displayed in major museums all over the world. If you want pictures, the discovery of the tomb was covered extensively in National Geographic in 1988 and 1990 with tons of accompanying art or you can click here.

the museum - the exhibit inside was really spectacular,
sorry you'll just have to take our word for it

site of the original tomb - the skeletons are replicas (we saw the originals at the museum)

the site is still being excavated

We also visited the local marketplace which is known for housing the largest concentration of practicing herbalists and witchdoctors in Peru. There were all sorts of plants, bones, pieces of animal (some dried, some still juicy) and various talismans and charms available for purchase.

witchdoctor stall

The final stop on our visit was to the, apparently, famous King Kong factory. The King Kong is a dessert made from something that is supposed to be shortbread, but isn't, layered with manjar blanco (Peru's not as good version of dulce de leche - I think we've mentioned this before), peanut flavored paste or various types of jam. Anyway, the dessert is so sweet it made our teeth hurt to eat it, but it is sold everywhere in the region and the locals LOVE it. Oddly enough, apparently when the movie King Kong aired in the city in 1920 people compared the shape of the dessert to the great ape and the dessert was forever dubbed King Kong. We don't see the resemblance, but maybe it was shaped differently or at least more ape-like 80 years ago.

the famous to some San Roque King Kong dessert factory

king kong desserts - if you see a big monkey staring back at you let us know

Monday, December 10, 2007

S is for Schwinn Roadster

Santa Claus visited our house over the weekend and brought Caleb a Schwinn Roadster Tricycle. Needless to say he was in love at first sight, or so he seemed. He played with it for about five seconds and then discovered that Santa had also brought a Fisher Price Airplane - between the two gifts it was all we could do to draw his attention back to his other presents. We knew he would love the airplane because ever since Paige sent it to our nursery children it is all he thinks about. The moment we arrive at church he starts saying "airplane" and continues to do so all the way through our services until he can finally get it in his hot little hands.
Caleb and his "trike" as he calls it - we didn't know he knew that word

after a quick adjustment his feet now reach the pedals, but we're still
working on understanding how they function

more fun with the trike

(he wanted to but was not allowed to take it with him to bed last night)

momentarily distracted by the promise of candy

another superfluous gift

a winning combo!

The lesson here is that nearly 2-year olds are easily satisfied with very little and these elves went WAY, WAY overboard. Some presents are still unopened and that is how they will remain until they are donated to some other worthy cause.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

I is for Invitations

Dear Party Throwers (we include ourselves in this category),

Remember the good old days when people sent out paper invitations through the mail with addresses and stamps and sometimes RSVP cards for things other than weddings? Sure it took more time and killed trees, but it was nice and thoughtful and really, who doesn't like to receive anything in the mail other than catalogs, bills and junk?

In the past week we have received no fewer than 10 invitations via email or evite to build gingerbread houses, shower an expectant mother, celebrate various birthdays, sing Christmas carols, and attend myriad luncheons. Of course the volume is due mainly to the season, and in our case the mode of invitation is the direct result of Peru not having anything that even remotely resembles a mail system, but I suspect the situation would be the same even were we not in Peru.

Now, I know this is Christmas card season and everyone is feeling like they have done their best for the USPS bottom line, but it isn't December all year long and stamp prices are constantly on the rise (9 cents in 10 years) so, the postal folks claim, they can continue to operate in the black (as if we believe this is the goal of any government agency). What if we all banded together in response to rising stamp prices and in homage to the good old days and for our next function actually sent out a paper invitation - GASP!! As an added incentive think about when you open your mail how thrilled are you to receive something that wasn't massed produced or doesn't end with a "you owe this much" section?

In our house we are very lucky in the mail department as Kenny parents send holiday cards for every holiday and my parents each write to us once a week (and they include a letter for Caleb too). My parents starting writing to me and each of my siblings when we moved away from home and now write (with actual pen and paper) six individual letters every week - we've saved our letters and they are a great record of our recent history.

So the challenge is to pick an upcoming event and using the Christmas card address list you have recently updated and your beloved printer, cricut machine or some elbow grease surprise your friends with an honest to goodness, hold in your hand invitation. And while I can't guarantee stamp prices won't continue to increase, I can promise you'll be glad you accepted this challenge.

Happy Inviting!

PS If you're in our vicinity next month look for one of these in your mailbox to celebrate Caleb's 2nd birthday

Friday, December 07, 2007

R is for Repetition

Before we had kids I swore I would NEVER be one of those Moms that EVER let or set her child in front of a television instead of, well, anything else. Sooooo foolish!! Then, I became pregnant with baby #2 and didn't feel so good, okay, so it was more like lousy and it was too easy to turn on a movie and let Caleb watch that while I lay on the couch concentrating on keeping my meals down. Luckily, the feeling of lousiness was short-lived and replaced with lots of visitors and travel and outings to the park and walks and I thought I was saved and could still be the "perfect, totally engaged, always focused on stimulating my child" parent. SO, SO, SO FOOLISH!!

Then, we took a trip to Paris and with the 30+ hours of flying and 7 hour time difference, Nemo and Dumbo and Pinocchio and all their friends came back to visit and since then have never left. Caleb started saying "Nemo" over and over and over again - and while we didn't always acquiesce, sooner or later it was too hard to ignore his pleadings and we gave in. Eventually, we discovered that "Nemo" was also the word for movie and so we didn't have to watch just "Finding Nemo" anymore, we could watch (among others):


Winnie The Pooh

Mary Poppins

And as many episodes of The Backyardigans as possible (I must admit,
we are all big fans of this program and I feel like it is less of a zoning out
opportunity than some of the fare we indulge him in)

Caleb has since learned to say "tv" instead of Nemo and now wakes up every morning and from all naps saying "tv?", "tv?" "tv?" No, he doesn't watch tv as often as he would like (we have convinced him there are other fun things to do), but that doesn't seem to effect his repeated requests to view any and all options in our vast (thanks to grandma and grandpa) kids movie collection. I will say this, his love of tv is going to make my solo flight with him from Lima to SLC via Atlanta next Friday much more pleasant!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

H is for Ham

I am married to a die-hard, loves to quote, watches every episode, owns 8 seasons on DVD and will be acquiring the movie the second it is released "Simpsons" fan. My family was not allowed to watch "The Simpsons" when it first aired in, wait for it, December 1989!!! So I never caught the fan bug, and still haven't really, but since marrying Kenny have certainly seen more than a few minutes of several episodes. One of my favorite "Simpsons" moments goes as follows:

The scene: Lisa (middle child and only family member with a semblance of a social conscience) is becoming a vegetarian in protest of something or other. Homer (the father and devoted carnivore) is more than a little taken aback.

Homer: Are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?
Lisa: No.
Homer: Ham?
Lisa: No.
Homer: Pork chops?
Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal.
Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.

Though I am loathe to admit it, I have to agree with Homer on this one, the pig really is a truly wonderful, magical animal. I like pork chops, a lot, and bacon, come on, and then, there's ham. Doesn't matter if it's honey baked, brown sugar glazed, maple cured, apple wood smoked - I love it. I especially love ham at Christmas - there is something so festive and lovely about sitting down to a dinner surrounded by friends and family with a gorgeous, steaming ham in the center of the table. Really, who needs traditional centerpieces when you could just go with this?

With our Christmas dinner just days away (remember, we are celebrating early), I sat down yesterday and decided on a menu: Ham (of course), sweet potato casserole (made with brown and white sugar and about the best thing I have ever seen done to/with sweet potatoes), green bean casserole (because we have french fried onions we didn't use for Thanksgiving), dessert (still deciding on this), rolls (for leftover ham sandwiches) and maybe something not cooked or fried or dripping in fat...maybe. Then, Caleb and I headed for our local grocery store to do some shopping. As usual, never more than when we are looking for traditional America foods is it painfully obvious we are not in Kansas (or any of the other 49) anymore. But, the guy at the meat counter was very patient and very helpful and after trying EVERY single available option we settled on something that is called Smoked Virginia Ham but can't possibly be. I will dress it up and put it on a lovely platter and it will work and I'm sure Christmas dinner will be all we could have hoped at this point in our lives where managing expectations has become the norm. If anything, my love for ham will only been heightened as a result.

Helpful meat counter guy - do not be fooled by the "hams" in the background,
they are really just bologna in very convincing ham clothing

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

C is for Cookies

Very soon after Kenny and I married I introduced him to the wonderful world of after holiday sales - he knew about Christmas and Thanksgiving, but he had no idea similar events existed for Halloween and Valentine's Day and even sometimes obscure holidays like Flag Day or Arbor Day. And, most importantly of all, he didn't know these events happened at every store, not just Best Buy. Our favorite after holiday sale place to shop is Williams-Sonoma, and we always come away with several "can't afford not to, never in a million years would have if not on sale" purchases. Kenny has become so converted to these sales that he has joined the W-S email list and never fails to visit the physical or virtual store in the immediate wake of every holiday. One of the saddest things about living overseas is knowing that we are missing out on so many "don't really need, but isn't it/aren't they cool" sale purchases - oh the sacrifices one makes for advancing the cause of freedom and democracy!

After Christmas a few years ago Kenny, while dutifully and gleefully indulging his new vice, stopped by W-S and purchased their Holiday Storybook 3-D Cookie Cutter Collection. He was so excited to make cookies, it was all I could do to explain to him the heresy of making holiday themed cookies NOT in conjunction with the appropriate holiday - can you imagine?!

The next year I was very pregnant and not up for the challenge of sugar cookies (my general belief is that they are a lot of trouble and there are far easier and better tasting varieties of cookies to be had with less mess and pain) and the year after that was Caleb's first Christmas and everything else got lost in the excitement of that. So, this year Kenny started telling me his sugar cookie making plans several months in advance and at last I acquiesced and we got to work. To his credit, he bought all necessary ingredients, made the dough and frankly did most of the decorating. I did help a little, rolling the dough, baking and some minimal decorating.

masterpieces and memories in the making

I was skeptical about the 3-D cookie cutters, but he insisted we use them and the results were surprising. My only advice would be to make several of each variety or you might end up with a decapitated snowman and a lame reindeer too. Or, opt for gingerbread from the outset, it's probably more durable.

we've still got plenty of dough, so maybe we'll try the 3-D cutters
once more this year, stay tuned...


Design by Custom Blog Designs/FreeStyleMama Creations