Saturday, February 28, 2009

the taxi movie

We used the same taxi driver that we had in Otavalo to take us to Lake Cuicocha (a volcanic lake at the base of mount Cotachachi). Mari (the only woman taxi driver I have known) saw that the boys were a bit unsettled and so down came the in-roof video player. Wow! Then, on came the movie she had picked, WANTED (Angelina Jolie 2008). Do you know what happens in the first 4 minutes of WANTED?
I knew the violence was coming and was wondering how I was going to ask her to shut it off, but then the office "getting -busy" scene came on. I said, " close your eyes.", just like I remember it being done (only it was for dancing or underwear commercials for me). Marshall said, "why?" Stewart said, "What are they doing?" I was speachless. I was trying not to freak out. Stay calm, stay calm.
It was over then, good thing it only lasted 30 seconds.
Maybe she read the look on my face or the questions that had begun, but she soon changed it to Monsters, Inc. in Spanish. I was thankful. The rest of the trip was quiet.


I've talked to the kids about the foods of Ecuador for a long time. One of the foods that peaked their interest was cuye (coo-i-e) or guinea pig, they've been interested in trying it.
Today was destined to be the day. We started out by going to the Otavalo animal market where the people come from all over to barter for pigs, sheep, cows, dogs, chickens, rabbits, cats and cuyes. We had to be there early, before the hotel opened their kitchen, so we took along some warm bread. The boys hardly ate it, just held on to it for comfort as they witnessed all sorts of animal shoving and selling. It was packed.
They really liked the rabbits (those are familiar and almost always look clean and not agressive). They also were facinated with the little cuyes. I was agasp at how the little creatures were picked up and shoved in potential buyer's faces, "Estas son muy grandes, no son pequenos. Tome lo! No son los pequenos. Y un buen precio, te doy las tres para tres dollares cada uno. Son grandes. Lo ve?" ("These are big,not the small ones. Take it! They aren't the small ones. At a good price too. I'll give you three at three dollars a peice. They're the big ones. You see?)
Well they sure looked small to us.
Tonight, for dinner at Hacienda Chorlavi in Ibarra, we tasted for ourselves. It was served with the head and claws and all, on a bed of rice and hominy with potato on the side.
They tasted small to me. A good experience for a mediocre taste.

Friday, February 27, 2009

children and condors

While we are staying at our last hotel in Otavalo, it seemed as though the owners had a general dislike of children. Hints like the fact that our room was the farthest from the central part of the building, the owner’s ‘first-impression’ request of me to make Stewart put a rug down (for fear of it getting dirty), and our e-mail correspondence recommending we stay elsewhere seemed to make me think that we were not freely welcome (the condition was- if your kids are good then you may stay but feel guilty and tense the whole time...)
I later had an interesting conversation with the owner, Margaret. As we talked, she gave me lots of advice about not riding buses, watching for pickpockets, etc. There were stories of how children had broken this or that, and destroyed this or that and how much money it had cost her to have destructive children at her hotel.
I understood.

I think I said something about the complexity of children’s naievete and genius. I said something about how culturally our children are not accepted freely, rather they are sequestered until they reach a certain level of maturity (or have been manipulated to achieve a desired behavior).
I don’t think she heard me,
I said something about exampling mutual respect for one another, and responsibility.
She agreed, and said somethi
ng about parent’s responsibility to pay for damaged things.
I agreed.
This very thing has caused me much anxiety when we are in these unfamiliar places. (I freaked out when Stewart dropped a piece of pottery at a shop we had to gone in to get stamp. All those touchable things! I paid $2 to recover the goods lost but I was still bitchy about it.) I try to stay away from shops and museums. I aim at providing enabling experiences, where I don’t feel the pressure to control, A difficult feat when traveling.
I haven’t studied child psychology and I don’t claim a full understanding of children. I do know that they are amazingly complex. Their understandings are surprising. It seems that their brains are like shifting puzzles, full of continually developing nuances. They get a lot of things, and they do an excellent job of pretending to get things, when they think they are supposed to. They are easily manipulated (manipulating comes naturally to me with my kids, even though I don’t want it to).
They are equally controllable and not.
So, what do do? How do I introduce them to the world (without over-explaining and being tuned-out)?
I want to learn how to nurture the essence of who they are. How do I provide experiences which enrich their person-hood, and awaken their understanding of how others in society interact with each other and their world? And, how do I facilitate three unique individuals growth at one time?
All of this makes me feel overwhelmed.

I don’t know how to do this reasonably.
Sometimes, I see that those around us are enlightened by their presence. Around the next turn people seem annoyed (or annoy-able). I wonder how to maneuver through these situations.
I decided not to take the kids to the market in which Otavalo is famous for. They were either too tired or too hyper. I'm sad about that. We leave Otavalo today and to north to Ibarra.
Photos: At El Parque de Condor

Thursday, February 26, 2009

otavalo and peguche

Otavalo is not that far north from Quito. We took a taxi for $7.50 per person. The driver was like speed racer, at least that's what we talked about on the drive, to keep us from being sick. Marshall has always has car sickness feelings, made worse by our driver today. He moved up from the back of the taxi to get some air. I was worried that he would puke. He didn't, thankfully, due to the clean mountain air, smell of eucalyptus trees and tons of mental redirecting (towards speedracer).
After checking out the grounds of Ali Shungu hotel, where we are staying in Otavalo, we went to Peguche waterfalls. It was beautiful, especially the sounds and smells.
The kids got really wet while wading through a part of the river. Marshall was saying that he was like Survivor Man and that Stewart was like Man vs. Wild. guy. Nigel just liked throwing rocks in.
Picture one: Nigel taking charge of our room key and grounds tour.
The whole day goes to show that a good story goes a long way.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


The things that seem obvious to me, like the jagged wall tops may be interesting and new to others, like it was to Marshall and Stewart today.
"Why is there a open bottle on the top of the wall?"
"To keep intruders out."
"What are intruders?"
"People who may want to go inside someone's house when they are not invited?"
"Intruders may want to go in so they can steal.
People like their home to be their own."
"Do you know how you like your things to be yours?"
"Yeah. They're like robbers."

Here, there are guards who carry big guns even at the grocery, gates on all the windows, tall fences and jagged-topped walls. People expect bad doers.
In the U.S. there are varying degrees of bad- doer assumptions, depending on where you go and who you talk to, but it's not obvious in the same way. And in places like Japan (based mostly from conversations with Japanese friends), robberies are totally unexpected happenings.
What I think is that we need new locks on our doors... maybe...or maybe some broken glass bottles strewn upon some cement here and there.

Oh yeah, I released the restrictions on my comment posting area. No more jagged glass!

Dorry and dirty laundry

We spent the day recovering after Marshall and I had some kind of food poisoning the night before last. We all got long naps. Our outing was limited to the close-by park, which incidentally was being spray painted and we had to evacuate because of the fumes.
At the guest house, the older boys can roam freely. I found them playing their Leapsters in the outdoor laundry room. I think they like their privacy and being able to find their own special places.
When I told Mike about this in our Skype chat today he said that they were making their own Ecuador memories. He then reminded me of one of my memories, pretending to make tiles on the outdoor laundry, called la pila. I had such fun being methodical and serious about something and would spend hours doing this. I didn't have to explain it to anyone, it was my own private work, which I only shared by choice to my fellow workers (friends from down the street).
The boys love the dog. Dorry is her name. Nigel was terrified of her at first, but has come around, on his own terms (with Mama at his side). She reminds me of our cocker spaniels, Toby and Ruff, who we had here in Ecuador.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

a bleak day

I can't remember when I've thought I lost one of my children. Today I thought I lost Marshall at La Carolina park. It was so crowded because of the Carnival break and he just disappeared. He was found happily playing not 5 min later. I just held him and cried.
Now, both he and I are sick (BK maybe? It wasn't even street food.)
Thankful that Stewart & Nigel didn't eat.
I miss Mike and being in my own house.
I wasn't a patient Mama today, fell asleep with the kids I was so worn out.
I am feeling unsettled too, not yet knowing where we will be staying Thursday and beyond. I've got to figure that out.

Photo one: The kids on the rocks at La Carolina. I loved mastering these when I was a kid. Marshall said this was the best park ever, despite me crying on him.
Photo two: The Carnival fight was over by 8:15 am. They were covered with espumante Carioka (spray foam made for Carnival).

Marshall said he missed Brant today.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

from Marshall and Stewart

Marshall and Stewart were thrilled by the zip line experience at the Mitad del Mundo (Equator). Few of the play things in the park were safe enoughor clean enough for kids according to US standards, just like the Hot Shot Tot Lot in Fountain Square.

for dad and dave

for Dad: the descendents of the hummingbirds you photographed on Sancho de la Carrera, and an accordion man that grandma Edna would have enjoyed

for Dave: Marshall and Stewart in front of your place of birth, Hospital Vozandes, and our stinky fighting flowers

rolling with it

I find it so challenging to "roll with it". I get so caught up in my plans and what I want that any change or flexibility itself is something that throws me off. It's an area of weakness for me, something I've identified as a main reason that I become bitchy. So, I'm trying to losen-up, and give things up. It has to happen daily for me. A main reason that parenting has been so personally challenging for me is because now I must give up some of my "needs" to allow for my kids "needs" (and husband's too). This is hard!
So, why d
o I say this today? The story follows...
We started out this morning even though I wondered if the kids could handle it, but I pushed on. The kids, after all, were excited. We reached the corner and were waiting to flag down a taxi when Stewart dec
ided to start peeling paint of the gate. I asked him not to, but he didn't acknowledge and then proceeded to eat the paint (or at least appear like he was eating the paint as I later found out). "We'll have to go later.", I said calmly and walked back to the guest house. Stewart threw a fit and began crying, a sure sign of the need for rest and not outing. We all took naps.
It was hardto give this up. I was trying TOO hard to make it work on my terms. Once I let it go (and after the kids rested) this realization occurred to me,
Selfishness is always there. It's the same thing I'm always talking to Marshall about too, saying, "It's not all about you Marshall". I'm seeing that it can't always be my way and that in order to get along, I must see their needs and then roll with it. I factored into this trip a lot of "hanging-out" and down time, and am so happy when I see them playing their Leapsters whenever we're back at the room. This is their need right now, their way to rest and be familiar and good at something.
Later, we went to Colonial Quito, strolled about, took a little carriage ride around and went in an old gold-leafed church and watched the candles burn down. We ate a weak
"seco de gallina" at a hole -in-the wall joint which Marshall called "fancy". A friendly kid approached Stewart and sprayed him with some foam stuff (smells like soap and cologne that kids spray along with water during this season of "Carnival"). Stewart cried but then came around when I bought him and Marshall some and they could defend themselves proudly. They plan a big fight with it tomorrow.
We taxied our way to "El Panecillo". It is a statue of the virgin of Quito and she sits on hill that looks over the city. The view is splendid. It seems like the city has doubled since I was here. It is sprawl, on every lot of hill or mountain they have built up. The city so vertical, sitting in a narrow valley that runs north to south, I suppose they had no other alternative.
Marshall seemed intriqued by the snake at the virgin's feet and how she has him chained. We were talkingabout its symbloism. He asked about the virgin and if she was higher than her son. I said that I didn't think so. He said, "but she is his mother." Then we got blue cotton candy and went on our way.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Friendly Birthday Nigel & other shots

Picture one: Have you been making friends? yes! The kids light up people's faces. They see we look different too, and maybe they're smiling about that (with our sun hats, backpacks and attributes that are not accessory driven.)
Here Nigel and Stewart make friends at the ball pit. Nigel and Stewart tend to be timid, but not with other kids. Marshall is usually friendly and met a boy at the ball pit who he said was his best friend in Ecuador, his name was Juan.
Picture two: How do you get around? We get around... today by bus, yesterday by taxi, the day before by stroller. For me there is anxiety when it comes to getting somewhere, because there is so much organizing to do. Do we have water bottles filled? Are your things in your pack? How about a rain coat? Me? I've got to have diapers, sunscreen, snacks, water, money and lip gloss at the very least.
Today, our bus ride was crazy. There were no seats and as soon as we got on, the driver bolted out. I told the kids to hit the floor, "Just sit down now and hold on!" Some lovely ladies took our situation into account and decided to scrunch so we could have their seats. The ride was all emergency brake, let someone on, bolt away. Marshall and Stewart loved it! I was nervous and trying not to let it seep out. Nigel was tired and wanted to nurse. No room for that here so crying ensued. He fell asleep shortly after crying despite the careening bus situation.
The next step... bus with kids, travel pack and stroller.
Picture three: How we've been sleeping? fine, together works great for us! I sleep on either side of Nigel, depending.

Pululahua and El Mitad del Mundo

Today we went to see one of the few inhabited volcanic craters in the world- at Puluhua. The fresh breeze that rose out of the crater was beautiful, as well as the view. There is a mud path that you can take down but it was partially washed out because of all the rain.

We visited the Equator too, which is an entire attraction, with several museums, shops and restaurants even though the real Equitorial line is a little ways away. You could guess that Ecuadodr is named after the Equator.
Besides eating their first Ecuadorian empanada, the highlight was playing in the amazing kids park.

Friday, February 20, 2009

miscellaneous shots

Picture one: the kids and I sitting in front of the senior lockers at the Alliance Academy ( the K-12 school of my youth). I left half way through my junior year, did not graduate with my class.

Picture two: the kids walking down the path on the side of the dorm, where I lived when I was one, in 4th grade and in high school. I remember running up and down this lane with my dog, Toby and riding my bike up and down here and thinking it was scary because it was so steep and bumpy.

Picture three: the kids and I happened upon a board that I think used to be a part of a huge crate. It has my dads name stenciled on it. The crates are how we sent the things to Ecuador that we needed for each 4 year term. Packing the unpacking the crates was a big deal. It used to take months to get them out of customs after they had been shipped by boat . By the time we got them it seemed like Christmas. We finally had our toys and plates and photographs and other useful junk.

Picture four: It is sunny today, Nigel's birthday so we spent a good part of the morning chilling on the roof of the garage, watching the planes fly into the city. I never noticed that planes go only one direction here, always flying northward.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

a long day

We are here!
We had such fun traveling together, except for the Miami airport when they almost didn't give us boarding passes because we had to eat before we found the gate, when Stewart decided to ride the people mover in a very creative and dangerous way and had decided not to listen, and during the last flight when Nigel was deliriously tired and wante d to jump and climb everything. For the last flight, four hours was our max, taking into consideration that we had been on two other flights and in transit all day.
We were greeted by Kelly and Daryl and a bouquet of roses- a warm surprise on a chilly night.
Two beds were pushed together for our sleep situation, which was perfect because Stewart and Nigel were quite uncomfortable with being in a new place and being so exhausted. Nigel puked in the night and Stewart pooped! We got up way too early.
I wanted to go slow to see everything, not wanting to be disappointed by my memories, and wanting to see things fully and when I was ready. Quito is dreary today, which makes me feel sad. I cannot see any mountains, except Pichincha, which is hard to see because of the buildings above ours that block the view.
The dorm looks just as I remembered it. It's great to be here!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Going to Ecuador... Why?"

Our family is going to Ecuador because I need to think about my childhood memories, expose the kids to another aspect of our world, and share an adventure. I need Mike to see the places that were mine for the first 17 years of my life, and understand my "other" home.
For 17 years I have envisioned the mountains and longed to breathe my Ecuadorian experience again. I left with a weight of bitterness on my shoulders, which has diffused into a deep sadness.
"Why take the kids?", some have asked. We are grabbing the opportunity to share the wide world with them. As we remember the vividness of our childhood experiences we realize how rich this could be for them.
"It will be so difficult with kids!" YEAH, it will and I'm definitely nervous! On the other hand, it seems like we are coming out of a place of difficulty which has strengthened us, so we're going for it.
Don't you think the challenge of exploration and risk is enlightening?
We leave in the morning!

Monday, February 2, 2009

relinquishing control

This strange thing is happening at my house. We are relinquishing control!
TV? Okay.
Candy? Okay.
Batman Lego video game? Yes.
Eat again? Okay.
M&M's? Okay.
Watch this, mom! Sure.
The dictatorship is being overthrown by the dictators themselves.
How can it feel equally strange, gentle and powerful?

I can see now that this change has been coming for years. Primarily, I have been shocked at the bitchiness that's in me, and exhausted by the battles being fought in our "house of love".
"How did this happen? This isn't me!", I said so many times with sadness and dismay.

The expedition began sometime back, winding along our attempts to parent wisely, and our failings.
Our emotional lives seemed to implode a few times leading us to new thinking about who we were. These dramas came out of hiding and into relevancy as we searched for new meaning as parents. Slowly, Mike and I learned that we wanted something different for ourselves and our kids. It was a slow shift, lined with other major changes and loads of personal issues.

Reading the thoughts of John Holt, Charlotte Mason, John Taylor Gatto, Alfie Khon, Rebeca Wild, and others have helped us see the new road before us. Natural family learning and discovery is the basis of our control relinquishment. At first, more questions than answers flooded our minds. We decided we would try it (
let the children learn freely as they experience for themselves, including self-regulated learning). After all, what could be worse than the battles we were having and feeling like we were being mean all the time.

My experience so far has been terribly difficult and personal for me. I am realizing how control-oriented I am, mostly for reasons like; wanting to be seen as a good mom, or because that's how things were done when I was a child, or simply because life is easier for the leader in a controlled environment. It is strange how relinquishing these controls is nearly paralyzing for me. I don't know what to do or how to react in most situations. I'm realizing that maybe having all that control gave me a sense of accomplishment or meaning.

I was inspired by Sarah Parent of to "let go", welcome asking myself the question, "why not?" and to say "yes!" more. In one or more of her podcasts, she suggests that when you release control, the pendulum will swing in the opposite direction and eventually the children will begin self-regulating and figuring out for themselves what is best. We're curious to find out.

We are on a path that is unique to us, thus we advocate only finding your own way in love.
NOTA NUMERO DOS: The photograph above encapsulates how I've felt for sometime. Mike is actually most the laid back and "nice" one in our family.