Monthly Archives: April 2012
Yes, I said zucchini.
Yes, I have been hanging around Pinterest boards.
Yes, they were delicious.
No, I didn’t save any for the kids.
BUT, I promise that they would love them. They are big fans of the lovely, green summer squash, known by some of my friends as a courgette.
The ones I made were dipped in milk, then flaxseed, sprinkled with parmesan and broiled until crisp.
We are talking the entire process in under 10 minutes.
I would give up french fries for these.
Zucchini sliced very thin
1/2 cup of Milk
2 cups of breading of your choice (bread crumbs, crushed crackers, crushed cereal, flour, flaxseed meal, or any combination)
Other fun seasonings (chili powder, paprika….)
- Spray a wire rack with olive oil, place on a foil covered cookie sheet
- Pour milk in a shallow bowl
- Combine all dry ingredients in another shallow bowl
- Dip zucchini slice in milk
- Dip zucchini in dry mixture
- Place on wire rack
- Sprinkle with parmesan cheese
- Put under the broiler for about 5 minutes
- Enjoy with ketchup or ranch or maybe tzatziki.
As a diversion from the downers lately, I will take a moment to reflect on our son. The boy who oozes charm and has a devilish twinkle in his eyes.
As a little tyke he would easily make friends where ever he went.
This boy disappeared on the beach, only to be found chatting with some older gentlemen, fishing with their poles and sharing a coke.
And when I couldn’t find my soccer superstar? He was sitting in the stands, chatting up the soccer moms.
While spelling and handwriting are not his forte, his social IQ is off the charts.
This kid will never be without a hot meal, a cold beer, or a place to stay. I have never feared for his future successes.
Like most kids he loves to talk about his “when I grow up” plans.
For years he wanted to be a fireman. Great, he has the genes for it.
And then, after enough episodes of Cake Boss, he decided to own a bakery. In this case, he has a staff of sisters and a mother to boss around!
BUT, the last few months have led me to believe that there might be a different direction in his life.
Our hotel family has been beyond wonderful here in Puerto Rico. The folks that share our home are absolutely the highlight in our sometimes unfortunate circumstances. Every day after school Harry heads down to the front desk to get the mail. In recent weeks his trips to the lobby lasted longer and longer and longer. And eventually his trips downstairs turned into an hour of sorting mail, numbering keys, and shelving food in the mini market.
Harry has officially become a trainee, complete with uniform and name tag. He makes coffee, chats with guests, unloads boxes and sometimes offers his inventive ideas at staff meetings. While they have not re-engineered the speed of the elevators, they have implemented Harry’s recycling program. It goes something like this: 1)Harry created drop spots around the hotel. 2) He empties them daily. 3) His mother drives the bags full of plastic to a local recycling drop. I am so glad he still includes me in his plans.
He lives for “work.” All complaints of school and homework have vanished – as he knows that if he wants to work, he has to complete both. He sets off each afternoon with enthusiasm and comes home with stories about the guys at the desk. And somebody is pretty popular when his mom bakes a batch of cookies or cupcakes to bring to work.
Well today was a proud moment in a mother’s life. My little boy was named employee of the month. He was actually shocked speechless at the announcement. How lucky he is to have such a caring and successful mentor.
I think we have a future hotelier in our midst. I am just fine with a resort in the family, as long as it means dear old mom has a luxurious place to vacation well into retirement.
So, so proud of our “Employee of the Month.”
Yesterday was one of those days.
I feel like I have been saying that a lot lately, but it was.
After a miserable month of Grace’s head aching, we received a referral to see a pediatric neurologist AND an actual appointment just 24ish hours later. That can be miraculous stateside, but in a foreign land, that is like a miracle and stars aligning and winning the lottery all in one moment. AND, it appears that this specialist, let’s call him Dr. Neuro, is THE pediatric neurologist on the Island.
So – one might think that yesterday would have been spectacular.
Let’s put those feet back on the ground, and remember that this was yet another new doctor, in an unfamiliar hospital, and I had to drive through some of the more, oh let’s say “off limits,” parts of town to get there.
The hospital itself was a beautiful building with fountains and manicured lawns. I would actually say that the facility was on par with the Governor’s mansion, maybe even a bit more fabulous.
My very specific directions to get to the doctor’s office were:
”A building next to the hospital, office 208.”
With Grace and Harry in tow, we followed signs and detours through a maze of hospital construction to the building named: Pediatricos. I was feeling pretty proud – it was a building next to the hospital and labeled just for kids. At the check in desk we were informed that we were in the wrong place, BUT they were very familiar with Dr Neuro, there was a lot of head nodding and smiling, and I was armed with newer, more specific direction.
“In the big building to the right of the hospital, on the second floor.”
So we walked to the front steps, looked to our right, entered the “big” building. We took the elevator to the second floor. We stepped out onto a stark hallway and the elevator shut behind us. It smelled surgical. Every other human being we saw was missing 1 or more limbs. We were not in the right place. We kept pressing the elevator button, but it took an eternity to arrive. The stairwell was locked. I hoped there wouldn’t be a fire. Answering my prayers, “overly inquisitive” Harry, and “I have no filter between my thoughts and my words” Grace remained silent.
Back in the main lobby I spoke to someone at the information desk. (Note to self, always stop at the information desk FIRST. No awards will be handed out for figuring it all out on one’s own.) She, too, knew who Dr. Nuero was. I figured this guy must be hot stuff. Her directions were the most specific.
“Down the long hall, through the sliding doors, across the street, past a fountain, up to the second floor.”
Finally, FINALLY we found the correct building, floor and room.
With all the prestige this guys seemed to have, I was a little disappointed in his teeny, tiny office.
The waiting room was about 10×20, with 20 chairs, all of which were filled with waiting patients.
I stood at the sign-in desk, but the receptionist was MIA. As the minutes ticked away, I had a line of 5 people behind me. The door into the office opened into said line. Just about every 5 minutes I was whacked with another incoming patient. I could feel my own anxiety levels rising as the room grew more and more crowded and the office television blared with the too-loud sounds of BUZBY.
I was so happy to see a smiling receptionist return. She was completely unphased by the chaos and handed me a clipboard stacked with forms. All in Spanish. As quickly as I could, I signed away my bank account and possibly my child’s brain to science.
We were ushered into a patient room. The walls were lined with framed articles: about Dr. Neuro, written by Dr Neuro, and then a lot of random photographs of dogs and Jennifer Lopez. (Separate photos of dogs, and of Jennifer Lopez, not dogs with JLo.)
I was unimpressed with his bedside manner before we even started.
While working with other patients, he walked into our room to get a folder and made no verbal acknowledgement of us at all.
And so we continued to wait. The worried mother. The moaning, pained child. The chimp-like boy who was playing rock paper scissors with himself. (Maybe we had an appointment for the wrong child?)
And then it was our turn.
He looked at her CT scan.
He didn’t ask any questions.
He wasn’t interested in her family history.
He didn’t want to see any of her records.
He didn’t look into her eyes, or her ears.
He didn’t ask what her headaches felt like.
He didn’t ask about allergies or changes in our environment.
He didn’t ask, or look, or listen to anything.
I wanted to talk about the circumstances leading up to the headaches, the blood results, the anxious behavior.
He wasn’t interested.
He just ordered more tests.
And we signed out. Mazed our way back to the car. Paid our parking charges. And headed home.
All the build-up: the Dr. visits, blood draws, phone calls, referral requests and searching for the damn office that led us to less than 5 minutes of nothing, reduced me to tears.
No answers. Just exhausted and exasperated and empty of all resources.
And so we ate dinner and went to bed and woke up.
Today is another day.
And for those who may be worrying about my frequent facebook comments about having a cocktail, I include this photo:
Dozens and dozens of our UNUSED “free drink” coupons. Honestly, I am too tired to even mix a drink most nights let alone go downstairs to the bar. And I probably drink more wine at Mass on Sundays than any other day of the week.
So, rest your worries.
But if anyone wants to know where all the Easter chocolate has disappeared to, I am pleading the 5th.
Happy Hump Day.
Happy Earth Day!
Aside from photographing people and places and food, I also love to shoot flowers and foliage. I am amazed by the textures and colors produced by nature.
Enjoy some shots from Hawaii, Long Island, the Netherlands and England.
AND – extra credit for anyone who can look at these photographs and guess who one of my all-time favorite artists is.
A dear friend turned eleven.
We made a date for birthday-gift-photo-shoot.
And it rained.
We decided to carry on anyway.
We took cover…
dodged the raindrops…
enjoyed the cloud cover’s soft light….
and tiptoed through lots of puddles.
At 11 years old, she is so sweet – inside & out!
It has been a challenging week. Oh what the heck, it has been a pretty challenging school year.
It is hard to give a quick summary of the things we have faced at school.
I have kept “publicly” quiet about it.
I don’t know why – Diplomacy? I don’t like to complain? Why bother talking when there isn’t anything that I can actually do about it?
But the thing is, I was complaining, A LOT! To my Prince, to my kids, to just about anyone who would give me a minute of their time. And I got sick of hearing my own voice. The negative me is not a pleasant person to be around. In an effort to improve my quality of life and that of those around me, I shut up. I gave up complaining for Lent.
The thing is, the stuff didn’t stop happening.
And I didn’t stop being bothered.
So I did stuff.
I scheduled meetings, and did research, and I found out our rights, and what was being done elsewhere, and I found other parents who were just as angry, and helpless, and they too, were trying to stay quiet and keep the peace.
Without going into dozens of details – they might have to be held out for the days when this is all behind us and I write a book – I can state a few basic facts.
My children attend a DoDEA School.
Their peers are 96% local children.
92% of the children get ESL training.
There is NO Spanish training in grades K-5 for the 8%.
Yet, as you can imagine, the lunchrooms, playground, hallways, and even part of their academics are held in Spanish.
I turned to teachers and principals for help.
Perhaps after school tutoring? I would pay!
A spanish learners club?
I couldn’t find help.
Actually – no one even wanted to admit that there was any Spanish being spoken.
I went to the school board. The shocking response was: “Now you know how we feel when we visit your country.”
I say shocking, because I mentioned earlier that they go to a Department of Defense school. On a US Base.
Technically we are in “our” country. And even Puerto Rico is a little bit part of “our” country… we carry the same passport, and the only reason that 96% of locals can attend the school is that they are Americans and their parents work for the US government.
But that statement opened my eyes. It wasn’t just about words. It was culture. And anger. And a hate that I didn’t cause, but that my children were feeling the brunt of.
We live someplace that wants to be Puerto Rico. A majority of the people don’t want Americans telling them what to do. I get that. And at school, I think it is resented that when almost everyone speaks Spanish, they are required to speak English. So they don’t. And it only hurts a very small portion of kids.
Except that those are my kids in that little portion.
Every day I drop off my children at a place where they are generally unwanted. Where they look different. And sound different. And kids take their things.
And some days they are singled out and belittled.
And other days they are ignored.
And some days are fine, and good.
And I want to pull them out. But they have just as much a right to be there as anyone else.
And I thank God every day for the other few, those others who are stranded here with us. They provide friendship, and support, and an understanding that no one else can give.
I pray that this experience makes my children empathetic. That someday they will remember, and reach out and help someone else who is different, and lonely.
Yesterday I went before the school board to plead for equal treatment. You see there are laws that mandate that Spanish-speaking children get English classes…. but no one ever thought of making a law that works the other way around.
In a small library, at a meeting that usually only has about 15 people (mostly board members and principals,) it was standing room only. I feel like they heard us.
I share my speech:
Have you ever wished that you could go back in time and do things differently?
If I only knew then what I know now, maybe I could have prepared my children better, maybe I could have made it easier…. but hindsight is 20-20. And such is the life of a military parent.
In getting ready to move our 4 children here, we talked about living in a different culture. They had already lived in Europe, so they had an understanding of different language, different food, different customs…. But I assured them that while they might feel like an outsider and at times, uncomfortable in their new city, every day, when we drive through the gates of a US Military Base, we are at home. Every morning when they walk through the doors of a Department of Defense school, they will belong.
And I sold them on Puerto Rico as if I were a great travel agent… snorkeling, beaches, a rain forest, AND for the first time in their academic careers, they would be in school with kids JUST LIKE THEM. I promised them classrooms full of children who had moved all around the world because of their parents’ jobs. And why did I tell them these things? Because that’s how it looks from afar.
The website shows that the population is 60% military, another 25% FBI and DEA… And I made assumptions that like all the other schools worldwide, there would be a great diversity of children and teachers. And when I asked, I had been assured that it was an English Speaking school.
My first suggestion would be to give incoming families a broader image of what the schools have to offer. I don’t think acknowledging the bilingual aspect is a bad thing. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want their children to pick up another language. But when you’re not expecting it, the surprise can be overwhelming.
Especially when you are 6, and you live in a new home, and you are lonely, and you feel different and you look different and all the kids that your mom promised would be your new friends you can’t understand, and they don’t understand you.
Right now, on the school websites, the links for new families lead to a dead page. If you look on the High School page, the curriculum link leads back to the main DoDEA site and it appears that the high school offers a variety of languages and AP courses that don’t actually exist here. For a parent trying to make the best academic choices for their teens, it is very frustrating to agree to an assignment under one impression, and find something different once you are here.
My next suggestion is for when families arrive. A new family orientation before school starts would be so helpful. Families could tour the building and meet the teachers. I can’t tell you just how much easier the first day would be, knowing that registration is complete, that they can find their classroom and that they understand how to get to their bus at the end of their day.
During those first few weeks of school, pairing up the kids in a mentorship program would give them a person to count on. For the little ones, it would be a friend on the playground. For the teens, someone to sit with in the frightening masses of a middle school cafeteria. This could be the start of breaking down fears and starting communication.
And communication is huge! Antilles schools are not just English Speaking schools. They are English AND Spanish. While a student who only speaks English will advance academically, they never get to be a part of the full community. For so much of the community is in Spanish. On the playground, in the hallways, in the lunchroom, between teachers….. the relationships take place in Spanish.
English-speaking kids could really use a course in Survival Spanish. If a child only speaks Spanish they are given ESL training. DoDEA’s program is in place to meet both their social and academic needs. I am not requesting extra or better treatment, I am asking for equal treatment. In DODEA schools in 12 other countries there is a HOST NATION PROGRAM. The children learn words that are meaningful and age appropriate. I am not talking about conjugating verbs, they are learning language to introduce themselves, to make friends, to ask for help. AES does have a culture program in place. In March my 2nd grader brought home work sheets about leprechauns and St Patrick’s Day. While that is fun, and cultural, he needs to assimilate here, in Puerto Rico.
I know that language differences come into play when looking at the dramatic differences in academic levels. This is a concern for all parents, not just military. I know that meeting every need of every child in every classroom is asking for a miracle. I don’t have the perfect solution. What I will say is that the kids who are moving often don’t have a lot of room for error. And it is worrying to look at test scores and wonder how far behind my kids might be when we arrive at our next location.
Yes, I am already thinking about our next location, because even though it feels as if we just arrived, we aren’t too far from leaving. That is our life.
I know some of you understand it well, but not everyone grew up in a military family. It would be great if the training that teachers and counselors got was focused more on the emotional and academic needs of the kids and less on acronyms and the rank structure of their parents.
Our kids don’t hold rank.
They don’t get promotions based on the number of elementary schools they attended.
When we give them 6 weeks’ notice to pack up, say good-bye, and start over somewhere new, they aren’t awarded any medals.
But just like their parents who serve, I think they are HEROES.
And so, today I plead with a school board and a community and a country that is so rich with culture and heritage: Please welcome our traveling children who aren’t really “from” anywhere. Teach them your language. And help them fit in for the short time that they call Puerto Rico their “home.”
The words that follow any rude remark and erase its sting.
The cute acronym that when paired with a smiley face can make any outrageous claims a meaningless joke.
Yesterday was one of those parenting moments that I hate. No one is sick or hurt. No cars crashed. There hasn’t been a financial loss. It was one of those lesson teaching days. When you see a behavior and you must nip it in the bud. Immediately.
In our home, my husband and I own the cell phones. We pay the bills. We let children use them, mainly for our convenience. The rules are – at any moment, upon request they must be handed over. We do hit or miss text checks. Yesterday we saw some texts – that even though they were meant to be “joking” they were not funny. Especially if the messages were seen by the wrong eyes.
So we had that lecture. The one about “what if a teacher, a parent, another friend saw this message? What if it was forwarded out singly – without the text that followed it that said jk:o). When your name is attached to words that can be shared in a very public way, you must think, very carefully, before you hit send. And what if……..” I am sure you can imagine the direction this conversation went.
And just when I was feeling pretty lousy about the downside of my parenting tasks,
Harry asked: “Someday when my daughter does something like that, will you help me take care of it?”
It’s nice to know I have a at least a marginal approval rating.
Have a lousy Saturday. jk :)
We had a little Spring Break get-away with friends.
Our destination had more wildlife than people.
It was less than a 2 hour drive.
We only stayed for 3 nights.
But it was just enough to feel like a world apart from the close, crowded, chaos that we call home.
Ponce is the second largest city in Puerto Rico. But compared to the largest (San Juan) it felt like wide open space.
We stayed at the Hilton Ponce Golf Resort and Casino. http://www.hiltoncaribbean.com/index.php?destination=ponce
Compared to the other Hiltons here in PR (The Conquistador, El San Juan, and Caribe Hilton) this one was smaller and less posh, but incredibly family friendly, well maintained, with clean, bright, spacious rooms. We enjoyed the resort so much that we didn’t do any of the sightseeing that we had mapped out, we just stayed put and played.
Our days went something like this:
Wake up…. no alarm
Hit the breakfast bar – omelets, bacon, sausage, potatoes, pancakes, waffles, fruit, yogurt, breads, muffins, cakes, cereal, fresh fruit and coffee.
Take note, this is an open-air hotel, so we were often joined by the birds.
While the parents lingered over coffee and the paper, the kids fed the fish.
And talked to the parrot. Take note – no fingers in the cage, Coco might bite.
Then it was time to hit the pool.
Most of the time there were more iguanas than guests.
I occupied my hours watching them go up and down and up and down…
This guy was on his way to startling a certain bathing beauty.
This one liked to have his tail stroked.
Look at the feet on these creatures!
The two reptilian guards let Harry know that he was trespassing on their turf. It goes without saying that I never went near the hot tub.
Now, the iguanas were not the only crawling playmates, there were crabs too.
Meet Kermit the Hermit.
The beach was not what one might expect when envisioning a Caribbean beach – no white sands or turquoise waters.
For those who want to soak up some sun and listen to the waves, there were some “decks” set up along the shore. It was kind of tacky, covered in faux grass, but these tanning platforms solved the beach dilemma.
The water was not conducive to swimming. BUT, the rocky shore was like a treasure hunt – beautiful rocks, shells and sea glass. I spent hours with the kids searching – we came home with a bag full of finds to include orange sea glass.
When the animals were done playing, and the kids got bored with the beach, the activity hut was well stocked.
The kids occupied themselves playing connect four.
Playing miniature golf
More Connect Four
And when they worked up a good sweat, there were plenty of tropical drinks.
I love this post-biking shot of Grace with the little beads of sweat on her nose.
The only thing that pulled me from the chaise lounge each afternoon was my date with the gym. The resort had a good gym with a variety of equipment, plus paved trails and sidewalks. After a lazy day it felt good to get a few miles.
As the sun went down, the kids settled in with dinner and movies, while the adults went to the hotel’s different restaurants. I would highly recommend La Cava. I am still thinking about the perfectly cooked tuna steak with sweet plantain risotto and lightly steamed vegetables. Everyone else appeared to enjoy their meals just as much – lamb chops, steaks and really nice wines.
When our vacation days were up, we packed our bags begrudgingly.
As we left town, we took a look around the city.
It seems that we missed a few things.
Here is a firehouse that our little wanna-be-a-fireman would have wanted to chek out.
The town square had some great statues
There is also an art museum.
And a castle.
I suppose we will be putting PONCE back on the “to do before we leave” list.
Today was all about the eggs.
We dyed them.
The kids went old school – food coloring with vinegar, crayon resist, rubber bands, and polka dot stickers.
Now we have this, multiplied by 3.
They were just as enthusiastic today as they were back when they were cute. (2007)
We also ate eggs.
Until today I never made deviled eggs. I’ve never been fan and I can only attribute it to the mayonnaise. I don’t like it, my husband doesn’t like it, the kids don’t like it. BUT, we do like hard-boiled eggs and now that we have 3 dozen colored ones, I need some options. I saw a recipe for bacon and cheddar deviled eggs, and a little light bulb went off. Maybe I could replace the mayo with plain greek yogurt? Or maybe cream cheese? I mixed the yolks with cream cheese, chopped bacon grated cheddar, salt and pepper. They were a big hit. I see them again in our future. Most likely multiple times this week.
We also made nests for eggs.
Here is a brownie and frosting version.
And a rice krispie version. (Chex and pretzels added for nest-like texture.)
Now, late into the evening, this Easter Mommy stuffed the eggs.
Tomorrow we hide. We hunt. We eat. All in celebration of new life.
And speaking of eggs, and life, I will leave you with one last thought on the topic. We were debating “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” My dear and rather serious 10-year-old defended the chicken theory “God put chickens on Earth and then they laid eggs.” So, we quickly questioned “How do you know God didn’t put eggs on the Earth and they hatched into chickens?” With an evident duh tone in her voice she answered “God’s a mammal, and a male. He can’t lay eggs.” So there you have it folks. Mystery solved.
Have a wonderful day and may there be an abundance of your favorite jellybeans.