Betty, Bill Gates, and Beer Pong

young-betty2Originally, today’s post lamented the lack of beer pong at baby showers.

No, really, it did. This is an important conversation to be had.

However, I recently also realized that today is World Polio Day, which is another subject that speaks to me, although it occupies a different part of my consciousness than beer pong.

You may remember that my grandmother lived with us for the better part of five years when the kids were little. Before that, I knew her mostly as the curly haired lady who lived far away, watched a lot of Lawrence Welk when she and Grandpa visited, and sent one or two crisp dollar bills in a card every birthday.

When she moved to town, after the death of her second husband, it didn’t take long before her regular anxiety attacks and inconvenient trips to the emergency room helped us realize that independent living wasn’t her thing. We had moved our little family into a much larger home, down the street from my parents, and there was space for a full apartment in the basement.

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Teenagers might one day be the death of me

stanley_valley copyOur wedding anniversary was Sunday, and Mike and I slept in separate rooms.

It wasn’t like that. He did spend the better part of an hour trying to make a fire for me in a teensy stove, but there wasn’t much for kindling and the wood may have been a little wet. The room would be warm enough anyway once all the girls returned to the cabin.

When I looked up this place online I read about a lodge that sleeps 50 on the shores of Alturas Lake with a view of the Sawtooth Mountains. There would be en-suite bathrooms, linens and towels and hand stitched quilts and a staff to serve meals in a common dining area.

It sounded rather swanky for a labor-day weekend orientation for twenty or so Rotary foreign exchange students, but maybe the intent was to start their year off with a bang.

In retrospect the fact that I thought we were staying in that lodge is a little funny.

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Embracing my inner curmudgeon

old_man_on_the_bench copyYou GUYS I’m on the Fun Committee!

Hang on. I just wiped out the stores in my enthusiasm department. I need to sit down.

I don’t mean to poke too much fun at the Fun Committee. Being assigned to a task that involves pulling people together for no other reason than to enjoy each other’s company is something I really enjoy.

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El jefe de la salsa

boss_of_sauceHow I, sort of, finally made Argentine chimichurri.

And Emeril wasn’t involved.

Nine years ago I took off to gallivant around Buenos Aires, Argentina, leaving my husband home with our two very young boys

The trip marked a turning point in my life – and it had nothing to do with testing Mike’s chops to care for a toddler and a preschooler solo (kind of) for period of weeks.

I returned from the trip, quit my stable, full-time-with-benefits job, launched a consulting business, and joined Rotary – the organization that had sponsored the trip. At that time our local district would partner with Rotary International to take a group of normally sane young(ish) adults, and ship them someplace else. In exchange, folks here would welcome a team from that district.

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Did I say I was ready? Yeah. Ignore that.

Bliss on the ski hill
Bliss is two parents alone on the ski hill

“Why do you want to go on exchange?” I ask my kid.

“Well, I like to travel, and I’m into learning new things.”

Good answer. Just the night before, Jack had told us he would be interested in going on exchange his junior year in high school. Now, I’m putting him through a mock interview.

We’re in McCall, the opening weekend of the little town’s winter carnival. Mike and I are part of a committee shepherding a gaggle of students in the Rotary exchange program. The group includes ‘inbound’ students from countries across the world, and soon to be ‘outbound’ students from counties across southern Idaho – sort of a foreign exchange cavalcade.

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Eight things I’ve learned hosting a foreign exchange student

guilleAnother teenager came to live with us this week. Given the stories you hear from me about the one we already have, you might think I’m self-medicating. Hold off on the intervention, we know what we’re getting into.

And not second-hand either. When we told people we were going to host our first foreign exchange student, we were regaled with horror stories, similar to what happens when someone finds out you’re pregnant, and feels compelled to share the most hair-raising details from their own labor and delivery.

But we’ve yet to experience any horror, hosting through the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, and the student who just moved in is our fourth.

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Visiting Semilla Nueva farmers in La Montana

DSC03205Friday morning we woke up bright and early in Xela to a street scene reminiscent of early mornings in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Xelanians partied quite robustly until about 5 am this morning after their soccer team won in a match against Guadalajara. Our hotel room overlooked the Central Park area, so we made good use of our earplugs – except Colin, who passed out around 8:30 pm and didn’t move all night.

Our hotel breakfast was slow in coming, so we set out on our own to find breakfast and coffee. We found a cafe that advertised a traditional Mayan breakfast for 20 quetzals (about 3 bucks). Mike and I had juevos revueltos (scrambled eggs) with black beans, roasted plantains and sausage. The breakfast was preceded by a milky drink that tasted faintly of tapioca and cinnamon. We found out later it was a corn-based drink called pinol. The boys didn’t care for it, but I thought it was yummy.

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Xela: The new Athens of the West

DSC03118Today we drove about 3 and a half hours through the countryside to Quetzaltenango, or Xela (Shay-la) as the locals know it. At a population of about 250,000, Xela is the second-most populous city in Guatemala. We’re at about 7,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by mountains.

Curt tells us that Xela is the only city of any size in Guatemala that retained its native name after the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors.

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The Bad A** Chickens and the Old City

IMG_0516After touching down in Guatemala City, we met up with the rest of our group and headed out of town to Antiqua. There was not much countryside on the hour-long ride, but here and there the jungle seemed to be reestablishing a foothold.

Antigua is the most popular tourist destination in Guatemala. It was the country’s third capital, founded by Spanish Conquistadors in 1543. It was the seat of the governor of the Spanish Colony of Guatemala for almost 200 years (an area which covered most of Central America and part of Mexico), until an earthquake destroyed much of the city in 1717. Much the the architecture is Spanish Colonial. The streets are treacherously uneven cobblestone.

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