Friday, November 30, 2007


Working from home is awesome, now that I've been doing it more often and have become more efficient and disciplined about it. I'm wearing sweats, I've got my snack and my cup of coffee, and I have the TV on because I felt the need for some background noise. I'm free to take work calls immediately, because I'm not out interpreting somewhere, and I have constant access to e-mail. I know that's not such a big deal to most people who work in an office, but again, usually I'm out interpreting and can't check my e-mail all day. You can miss out on jobs that way.

Obviously, it's also wonderful because I waste no time commuting and get to spend more time with the boys. It's nice having someone take care of them at home, because it means when I'm done, I can just run downstairs and my workday is over. Also, I can listen to what's going on and have a good idea of how long they napped and so on.

That's also the hardest part about working at home. Right now they're all giggles and happy shrieks, and boy, would I love to go join them. Even for just a quick break. But I can't do it. They can't even know I'm here, or the minute I try to come upstairs the laughter will turn to tears and heart wrenching wails of Maaamaaaa... So I come upstairs in the morning with my coffee and my breakfast. If I want anything from downstairs later, I wait until they're at the park, or taking a nap.

They're no dummies, though. I'm starting to suspect they know I'm here and know that I'm off-limits when I'm upstairs. The other day, as they were coming upstairs for their nap, Primo was chanting, "Mama, Mama" quite happily. When his nanny told him Mama was at work, he stopped just outside of the office door and said, "AQUI." Yeah. No dummy.

So, not too bad for a rookie. I managed to blog 20 out of 30 days in November. Looking back, I suppose what strikes me is just how mundane my posts are. But it's a pretty accurate record of my life. Also, watching the posts build up is kind of addictive. I like my little blog. I think I'll keep it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The contents of my shopping basket tonight

  • Two gallons of milk (The real reason I went to the store. Two gallons will last three days, max.)
  • A container of plain yogurt
  • A baguette
  • A little box of Camembert
  • A bottle of Bogle Old Vine Zin, my favorite $10 bottle of wine

So far, it's been a good night.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Even before the boys were born, I had visions of them sharing a crib. Wouldn't that be sweet? I thought. Surely they would need each other and be comforted by each other's presence.

That lasted about eight weeks, or until Secondo started scooting around in his sleep and kicking Primo in the head. I can still picture the quizzical look on his face when I walked in the nursery one morning and wham, wham, wham, Secondo's feet in his little sleep sack were kicking him relentlessly.

Since Primo was our good sleeper, we just couldn't have that. P came home with a new (Craigslisted) crib when they were ten weeks old and I nearly fell and kissed his feet. It made such a huge difference--all four of us got more sleep, which was a good thing.

The other night I put the boys in the same crib while I read them their stories. Then I moved Secondo back to his own crib, and he started wailing. I tried to comfort him, and then the penny dropped and I put him back in his brother's crib. Not only did he stop wailing immediately, he started to do his trademark happy dance, which caused Primo to giggle hysterically and say, "Gagi, Gagi!"

I tried to separate them again (because I'm an idiot), and the results were exactly the same. In the end, I left them in Primo's crib. When I checked in on them a few minutes later, they both kind of raised their heads to look at me, groggy and content. After a few more minutes, they were both fast asleep. I separated them later that night, but I can hardly believe that they fell asleep together for the first time since they were ten weeks old. The feeling that came over me was just indescribable.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

More Thanksgiving

I saw this on another blog and loved it. It's a little late, but what the hey, I'm still feeling Thanksgiving-y.

Ten things I'm grateful for that money can't buy:

1. My wonderful husband, my two sweet boys, and the rest of my family.
2. Our health. I've seen too many people's health fail them this year, and I've cried many tears for a few of my friends and members of my family.
3. The wonderful memories I have of the loved ones I've lost.
4. My friends, both near and far. And my friends in the area are the main reason I love, love living where I do.
5. My husband's gourmet cooking. Also, the fact that he does 99.9% of the cooking.
6. The fact that I have a job I love so much I can still hardly believe I get paid to do it.
7. The sound of my boys' laughter.
8. The changing of the seasons, nice, crisp weather.
9. Afternoons at the park with the boys.
10. Phone conversations with my mom.

Ten things I'm grateful for that money can buy:

1. My shiny new MacBook. Mmmmm.
2. Our widescreen, 46-inch TV. It makes me not care that I don't go to the movies much.
3. Eggnog lattes.
4. Good wine.
5. My plane ticket to LA. I'm going to my best friend from high school's wedding next weekend.
6. Our cozy little condo. It's where my husband and the boys are, and it's home. Maybe I should put that under things money can't buy, but it's costing us a pretty penny.
7. The down comforter.
8. My desk chair, of course.
9. Books, both for me and for the boys.
10. My new work purse--I love it with a passion.

One more thing I'm grateful for: It was easier making the first list than the second.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The highlight of my day

I was at the park today with the boys and my friend N. We were just watching the boys run around, when Primo started saying, "Gagi, Gagi, Gagi!" His name for Secondo. He just sounded like he was so happy and excited he could hardly stand it. He ran over to his brother and gave him the biggest hug.

Twins don't interact much in the beginning, and it's been fun watching them become increasingly aware of each other. Now they have a blast together, run and play together, cry unless the other is around. But that hug today, full of the purest joy, was beautiful.

I'd never heard that one before

Today, when I was standing in line at Starbucks with the boys in the double stroller:

Mother, to her little boy: Look, twins! There's two of them!

Little boy: Only two of them?

Keen: [Laughs hysterically.]

I've never really minded getting comments about the twins. Are they natural? Are they identical? Who was born first? Ooooh, double trouble! And so on and so forth. I can make my answer as long and friendly or as short and curt as I want to depending on my mood. Mostly, people are just being nice, which I'll take any day over people who are bitter or mean, and I've had a couple of those encounters, too.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


When I was growing up, Thanksgiving Day meant nothing to me. We lived in Costa Rica, so it was just another Thursday. Although my brother and I were on summer vacation, my parents worked, so there was no celebrating in November. I don't really remember our Thanksgivings in the U.S. before that.

However, that's not to say that we didn't celebrate Thanksgiving. On some random day in March, my dad would randomly announce, "We're having Thanksgiving on Sunday!" Just because he felt like it. In the beginning, turkeys were not easy to come by in Costa Rica. My dad had to ask for leads about farmers who might possibly raise turkeys and would be willing to sell us one. The two of us drove all over Creation trying to find them. It was always the two of us, because I loved running errands with him. Later on, an American meat market started selling them. (Along with pastrami and corned beef.) Now you can get them at any grocery store, but in the beginning it was a challenge, which made it all the more special.

We would invite my mom's side of the family, my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, anyone who just wanted to come have a good meal and celebrate this Gringo holiday. We did it enough times that everyone started really looking forward to it, and people would ask when the next Thanksgiving would be. Sometimes we would do it twice a year, maybe more.

My dad's mother had taught my mother how to prepare a good old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner years earlier. She made everything but the turkey and the mashed potatoes. Those were my dad's domain, his Aunt Mary's family recipe. It involved adding a whole stick of butter and making them nice and fluffy with the mixer. And we would hoard cans of cranberry sauce family or friends would bring down from the U.S., until it became available in Costa Rica.

Things change. The celebration expanded to include my Costa Rican sister-in-law's family. My dad is no longer with us. It is now celebrated at my brother's house (the house we grew up in) and my mother has passed the baton to my sister-in-law, who now cooks a mean Thanksgiving dinner. I remember the day my mom pulled out all of my grandmother's old recipes and "trained" her. She was so nervous the first time, writing everything down in her little notebook, and now she's a pro. Heck, I've never been in charge of an entire Thanksgiving dinner, and I feel slightly guilty that I never took my mom up on her offer to teach me. I make some great side dishes, but they all come from those gourmet magazines and include ingredients like ginger and orange zest (though I can't stand stuffing that includes any weird ingredients, like oysters, nuts or raisins). My family, who still like their cranberry sauce straight from the can, would be appalled.

We're hosting Thanksgiving for the second time this year. No traveling, just some good friends who I can't wait to see. There will be eight of us at the table. We've decided to host Thanksgiving at home as often as we can. The Thanksgivings we've had since we moved here have been awesome, and memorable. There was our first Thanksgiving, which P and I celebrated alone in a rented apartment. The Thanksgiving we spent in the Midwest with his family. The Thanksgiving we celebrated with friends just four days before I gave birth, when I decided to have a glass of wine and someone got a great picture of me balancing my wine glass on my massive belly.

But every Thanksgiving I think about the old days, and miss them just a little. The days of celebrating Thanksgiving just because we felt like it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

And it's not even midnight

I finished my translations. I'm so relieved to be done. The office/guest room is even more of a disaster area than usual. On the bookshelf and on my desk: the bowl I used for breakfast, my huuuuge Café du Monde coffee cup (perfect for jobs like this one), two empty cans of sparkling water, and an empty glass of wine.

Tomorrow, appropriately, my main mission was going to be cleaning the guest room, since we actually have a guest arriving tomorrow and one arriving on Wednesday. Instead, my main mission will be interpreting during a deposition in the morning. I was assured it will be short--we'll see. Now my "cleaning" will consist of quickly putting all of the crap that's on the bed and the floor in boxes and shoving them in the closet.

I suppose this issue would be an entirely different post, but I have a hard time turning down work for no good reason, and I think my problem is actually defining what a good reason is. When it comes down to making a choice between cleaning my guest room, which I desperately need to do, or getting paid to work, well, that choice usually wins. Especially if I'm paying the babysitter anyway.

Just took a long break to console a screaming toddler. Secondo's having a bad night.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ode to my chair

A few weeks ago, I did a huge editing job. Every time I thought I was done, the agency I was working for would dump 50 extra pages on me. And then 50 more. I was interpreting during the day, and was editing on weekends and on weeknights until the wee hours of the morning. There was barely enough room in my life for anything else for a couple of weeks. My "breaks" consisted of playing with the boys in the evenings, bathing them, reading them some stories and putting them to bed, before I worked some more. That was when I discovered that I could work until 3:30 a.m., but not until 4:00. Somehow, it just seemed so much worse, especially if I had to get up at 7:00. That was a bad time, and it involved obscene amounts of coffee.

One of the worst parts about the whole thing was that I had no decent workspace. My fold-up desk in the guest room was crammed full of junk. Hell, I couldn't even get to it. My desk chair was a three-dollar stool from IKEA. (We used to have two of them--freebies we got with a purchase off Craigslist--but they're so cheap that one of them collapsed.) So I worked at the kitchen table, and in bed. By the time I was done, what with the lack of decent lumbar support and the 3+ hours of sleep I was getting, I was in so much pain. My neck, my back, my shoulders, you name it, it ached. My body was so relieved when I was done, and it took a few days for my body to get back to normal.

Once I got a check for another job I had done (I still haven't been paid for that particular job, and I'm starting to get antsy), I started looking at desk chairs. There was just no way I was going to go through that again. I ordered the chair online, assembled it and then waited for another big job to come my way. Also, I cleared off my desk. I'm so smart.

It's a weird chair. I ordered it online, sight unseen, which made me a little nervous. It cost $100, which might seem cheap of me, considering my line of work. But I honestly couldn't bring myself to go to Staples and buy a $500 desk chair (is there such a thing? Probably.), so I decided to risk it. Hey, I'm a freelancer, it's tax-deductible, right?

I've now put in a couple of days of serious translating and editing, and I am surprised by how much I love it. I thought I might, but I was basing that on the fact that I'd sat in a kneeling chair at a friend's place once while I used her computer and thought it was cool. It's true that the chair is a little hard on my shins. But when I get tired, I can rock it back, rest my feet on the floor and stretch a little. My back, neck and shoulders feel great, almost as if I haven't been chained to my desk for several days.

I hope it's not another 3:30 night for me. I'm thinking 1:00 or 1:30. But I do have a deadline to meet tomorrow, so I'd better get to it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Yeah, a little too quiet

It's so quiet around here. I start a job tomorrow, so I flew home tonight, leaving P and the boys back in the Midwest for another day. And it feels so incredibly strange.

I've traveled for work this year, so it's not like I haven't spent time away from them (but that's another post). But as I sit here tonight, I can't remember the last time I was completely alone in the house. It's been a couple of years, that's for sure. And I'm kind of relishing the solitude. I just found out I start later than I thought tomorrow, at 10:00 instead of 8:00. So I'm not going to pick out my outfit for tomorrow. I'm going to get up at 8:00 or even 8:30. I'll make coffee, or go over to the coffee shop. Then I'll put together what I need for work. There will be no mad rush, no making breakfast for little people while being assailed by plaintive cries of ¡Hambre, hambre, hambre! I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around that concept.

When I say things like that, I always feel like I need to include a million disclaimers. Of course, I miss them already. Of course, I can't wait to go pick them up at the airport tomorrow night. Of course, I already called P so I could hear their sweet, sweet voices.

But I'm so going to enjoy tomorrow morning.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fall colors

I was in court a few weeks ago and one of the defense attorneys I really like took a look at me and said, "Don't take this the wrong way, you look good, but are you in mourning?" And I was, indeed, dressed in black from head to toe, except for the white flowers on my blouse.

I suppose I didn't need to have to take it to heart, but it does seem like everything I own is black. So recently I've refused to buy anything black and have made it a mission to add more color. Black was just easy, you know, goes with anything, blahblahblah. And I have to say I'm pretty happy with the results. I now own a bright orange purse, and a purple one. So much nicer than my old black bag. I've bought a few tops in beautiful, rich colors. And I just feel so good. Who knew?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Some nicknames

I really hate to be all cutesey. And yet I'm also a teeny bit paranoid about putting real names out there. So for the purposes of this blog, my boys will be Primo and Secondo. Those are two of their many actual nicknames, after the brothers in Big Night, which I think has become my favorite movie ever. And believe me, there was some stiff competition. (Though I don't know...Barbara Billingsley as a Jive interpreter...that's hard to beat. Hmmm.)

As for me, many of my friends call me, well, Keen. And P is just going to have to be P, because the only nickname I have for him is the Spanish version of his name. Not too original, but we're not big into nicknames.

I'm off to bed. I suppose this was kind of an obligatory post--to myself, because who's reading?--but I wanted to follow through. Though this weekend will be dicey. We're headed to the Midwest for the weekend to visit P's family. It'll be nice to get away.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Shirking my civic duties

I left work today at 4:30. I got on the Metro, and as we neared the Pentagon, we stopped. And waited. And were informed there was a fire at the Pentagon, and waited some more.

I try not to think freaky thoughts on the Metro, which is usually not a problem for me. But I have to admit I hate being stuck on the Metro. I couldn't help but think about the teeny flashlight I always carry in my purse, especially once I smelled the smoke. I was relieved once we backed up and started moving again--our train was sent back into the District-- but I was even more relieved once we were on the tracks over the Potomac and I could see the Pentagon, all in one piece.

My 40-minute commute stretched into almost 2 1/2 hours. It wasn't until I got home that I remembered that the polls closed at seven. I had 12 minutes to rush over and vote, and didn't. But boy, that was some commute.

Monday, November 5, 2007


I have nothing much to say today. I do have lots of things I'd like to write about, all of which would require more time than I care to spend right now, time that I could spend zoning out in front of the TV, which is what I'm doing. It was that kind of day.

The boys were stir-crazy when I got home, so I put them in the stroller and went to the grocery store. We needed milk for the boys and potatoes for dinner. Then I came across a 12-pack of Sam Adams Winter Lager--on sale. I spent a good five minutes wrestling with it, desperately trying to figure out if there was a way I could stuff in into the stroller basket or get it home somehow. In the end, what with the gallon of milk and the potatoes, there was just no way, so I oh-so-reluctantly left it there.

I suppose I could have put it on one of the boys' laps, like I did with the huge pumpkin I lugged home from the store last week. One of the boys carried it home on his lap and was just pleased as punch about it. But, a toddler with a pumpkin on his lap = cute. Toddler with a 12-pack on his lap = just a tad inappropriate, I thought. Damn.

Ah, well. Again, it was just that kind of day.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

How I'm spending my extra hour

Falling back is not nearly as exciting as it used to be (an extra hour of sleep!) now that I have toddlers. When I got up with them this morning it was 6:30 after the time change, which actually wasn't bad. It could have been much earlier.

The house is a mess. The kitchen needs cleaning. So does my desk, and my closet. But instead of dealing with any of those things, I'm going to crawl into bed and just take a nap. It'll be my way of claiming that extra hour.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The streak is over.

There were two things that as a freelancer, I had always been proud of, perhaps somewhat irrationally. The first was that I had not taken a sick day since 1999. It's simple: I don't have a regular employer. I call in sick, I run the risk of screwing up an event, making a judge continue a hearing, pissing off my colleagues, or my client simply may not call me again. You really don't want to get a reputation as a flake. I've gone to work sick and just sucked it up, and a couple of times I was so hoarse that I really had no business working. That streak finally came to an end last year. In the end, I was more upset about it than anyone else. It was one of my regular clients, who was very understanding, and there were plenty of my colleagues around to pick up the slack. What upset me the most was that I wasn't even sick. My niece, who was here to babysit the boys, became violently ill, and my husband had fractured his foot over the weekend and was in a splint and on crutches. Definitely unable to take care of two seven-month olds. So I stayed home and tended to two babies, my niece and husband. Last Woman Standing.

The other thing I'd never done was double-booked myself. Finally, last Monday, I got that call. As I got off the subway to go to one job, I got the message from another client that said, "Where are you? Because you're supposed to be HERE." I still have no idea what happened. I'm so careful about updating my Palm, and I just do what it tells me to.

The first assignment was short, so I did go to the second one. I practically ran the twenty minutes to the subway station. They were short-staffed when I got there. I was stuck in a courtroom for an hour and a half with no replacement. It was also the day of a friend's funeral, too sudden and far away for me to attend. So I was sad, stressed and out of sorts. In all, a bad, bad day.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Why NPR is bad for you. Or maybe just me.

I was so very good this Halloween. I'm making such an effort to eat better, cut back on the sweets and wine, and go to the gym. I'm not going to extremes, but I'm doing well and have lost a few pounds. At the Halloween party I went to, I had exactly one hot dog, a small cupcake, and half a glass of wine. (Though I only stopped at half a glass because I was chasing my rambunctious toddlers all over the place and forgot about the wine. It was hard enough finding a couple of seconds to scarf down the hot dog.) I even went to the store yesterday and bought a few bags of half-price Halloween candy, figuring the teeny boxes of Milk Duds and Junior Mints would be the perfect size to toss in with my sack lunches. I'm not even tempted by them.

But then I listened to my podcasts and heard this Ode to Candy Corn. And I immediately became consumed by the desire to, well, consume candy corn. I scoured our local grocery stores and drugstores, hoping to find individually-wrapped packages, just to keep myself in check, but no dice. So I bought a bag and figured I would be good and eat it little by little. Right?

Damn that podcast. It had been a long time since I had candy corn. I never really give it a second thought. But yesterday, I was unable to resist it. I didn't eat the whole bag, which is good. Or even half the bag. But boy, it got the best of me. And it was sooooo good.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Here goes

So. I've been thinking about doing this for a while now. If I really think about it, one of the things that's stopped me is the fact that there are some really good blogs out there, and when I read them I think: Oh, if I can't be that good, then no. I can't put another bad blog out there. I just can't.

But really, who cares? This is for me. Maybe people will find it. Maybe they won't. Maybe it'll be interesting, maybe not. But if I keep obsessing over all that, or try to get every single word right, I'm never going to do it. Plus, I've read several blogs faithfully for a few years, and really, though I do love reading them, why not spend some of my time writing my own? I'd like to create something for myself.

About me: I'm in my mid-thirties and married to P, a scientific/academic type who is the only person I know who can be more scatterbrained than I am. We have twin boys who will soon turn two. We live in a place we can afford in a big city, which means the four of us (plus approximately one kajillion plastic toys) share about 900 square feet of living space. I'm a Spanish translator and interpreter and love, love, love what I do. I'm a freelancer, which makes me my own boss but also sometimes makes me feel like less of my own boss than you would think.

I'm trying to figure out how I feel about the blogosphere and being a part of it. Do I want to be found? Do I want to leave comments? How much personal information do I want to reveal? Is blogging even for me? Don't know. But I do know about National Blog Posting Month, which I thought just might be the motivation I needed to get myself to write. So, here goes.

That wasn't so hard.