Sunday, November 30, 2008

Going Out With a Whimper

So, next year I will not be so naive as to think that I will actually post every day in November. However, I would like to point out that I will have posted 21 times this year, up 3 posts from last year. That's about 66.66 of the time, according to my calculations. (P will give me the exact figure as soon as he reads this post. I, on the other hand, am all about approximations.)

It's a cop-out, I know, but I'm going to end the month with a one-word meme I saw and liked. It's kind of amazing I didn't resort to more memes this month, anyway, so I'm not feeling too bad about this one.

1. Where is your cell phone? Purse
2. Your significant other? Kitchen
3. Your Hair? Curly
4. Your Skin? Dry
5. Your mother? Firecracker
6. Your favorite thing? Sons
7. Your dream last night? None
8. Your favorite drink? Wine
9. Your dream/goal? Happiness
10. The room you’re in? Living room
11. Your ex? None
12. Your fear? Loss
13.Where do you want to be in 6 years? Here
14.Where were you last night? Home
15.What you’re not? High-strung
16.Muffins? Bran
17.One of your wish list items? Wii
18.Where you grew up? Costa Rica
19.The last thing you did? Ate
20.What are you wearing? Fleece
21.Your TV? Huge
22.Your pets? None
23. Your computer? Mac
24. Your life? Busy
25. Your mood? Mellow
26. Missing someone? Family
27. Your car? Dented
28. Something you’re not wearing? Makeup
29. Favorite Store? Ross
30. Your summer? Humid
31. Like someone? P
32. Your favorite color? Blue
33. When is the last time you laughed? Tonight
34. Last time you cried? Tonight

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Three, Three, Three

My boys are officially three years old. I think I'm supposed to write my boys a sweet letter on my blog or something in honor of their third birthday, but I'm feeling nowhere near that inspired.

I got to hang out in Secondo's classroom for his birthday celebration during snack time last week. I took cupcakes. They were made from a mix, which I found in my pantry, and the frosting came from a tub, also from my pantry. Secondo missed the bus that morning, which meant that I had to drive him, which meant I was frosting the cupcakes as I was running out the door. Then I dropped the container several times in the parking lot, so those were some sorry-looking cupcakes. I wasn't too bent out of shape, because of course, the kids didn't care. Secondo bent his head over and tasted his cupcake with the tip of his tongue, then decided he was done, just as he'd rejected a cupcake at a friend's birthday party the week before. The boy has finer tastes; one of his more frequent requests is "pan con Nutella, por favor."

Because of the holiday break, Primo's celebration will be next week. His teachers suggested muffins instead of cupcakes, so those will not come from a mix. I make good muffins.

At home, we bought cupcakes from our awesome local place, one of the runners-up in the Washington Post's cupcake wars. Things were quiet because of the holiday, but we had two friends in town, so we figured that was enough for a party. We didn't have birthday candles, so we lit tea lights instead. It didn't matter, because they refused to blow them out, anyway. We sang "Happy Birthday" and "Cumpleaños Feliz." They got a couple of gifts, and like their last two birthdays, the evening couldn't have been more low-key. I figure soon enough--probably next year--they will know about all about birthdays, expect parties and gifts and more elaborate cakes. Which is why I enjoyed this one so much.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

On Thanksgiving three years ago, I was nearly 38 weeks pregnant with twins. My c-section was scheduled for the following Monday. We had been invited to spend Thanksgiving in the District with a group of friends who weren't traveling that year.

Somehow, all of them were either vegetarian or didn't care much for turkey, so it was decided that if P and I wanted turkey, we needed to bring it ourselves. Which is how we ended up wandering the streets of Georgetown after finally finding parking several blocks from our destination on a freezing-cold, windy night in November, with me in my flip flops because they were the only shoes that fit my swollen feet, carrying a turkey.

It was a wonderful evening. I parked my huge self on the couch and barely moved all night. I requested a half-glass of wine (because I could finally see the end in sight) and someone got a picture of me balancing it on my belly. P left after a while for Union Station to pick up a friend who was arriving from New York.

After that night, P proclaimed that he would never again take a turkey anywhere and that if he was going to make the turkey, people needed to come to us. So that's what we've done ever since. He makes amazing baked rockfish to make sure the vegetarians have something to eat other than tofu and side dishes. Some friends have been here every year, others come and go. My friend from New York has come every year and always makes tres leches for dessert. It's become a tradition and has replaced pumpkin pie.

Happy Thanksgiving. No matter what you have for dessert.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Things That Are Long Overdue

So, I was sick a couple of weeks ago. So sick that I had to cancel work, which I'd only done once before in nine years. I only canceled because I was physically unable to interpret--if I'd had a desk job that didn't require that I talk nonstop for half an hour every hour, I probably would have toughed it out. And on the day I stayed home, I started having trouble breathing, but I decided to wait and see if things got better the next day. I used to have allergic wheezing fits as a teenager that put me in the ER every so often, so this didn't seem that bad.

Things weren't better the next day, so I called my PCP and made a same-day appointment for later in the morning. I only did it because this time work had canceled on me, and the boys' nanny was at the house, so there was nothing standing in my way. And even then, I wheezed and coughed my way through Primo's parent-teacher conference before my appointment. (His teachers didn't seem to notice. As P said the other day, they don't exactly give me the warm fuzzies.) The short walk there and back had me gasping at my front door.

I made it to my physician's office, and after the nurse took my blood pressure three times because she thought her reading must be wrong, people in the office dropped everything and came running. A nebulizer treatment brought it way down. I was given a breathing test, an inhaler, antibiotics, and a chest x-ray. In the end, it was bronchitis, not pneumonia. My doctor patted me on the shoulder and gave me a little pep talk as I was about to leave. "I can't believe that not coming today was an option," I told her.

Not exactly a near-death experience, but it kind of shocked me into action. When I went back the next week for follow-up, I scheduled a physical. My last one was about six years ago, even though I've had a couple of issues I should have had checked out. I've packed on weight, which at this point can no longer be attributed to the twins. It was easy to think I was too busy, that I had no time. But we're all busy. Who has time? I realized I've been an idiot, and completely negligent. So my physical is tomorrow, and even though I could stand to get in shape, take better care of myself, I'm feeling better than I have in a long time.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Totally Cheating

I've apparently resorted to cheating in order to try posting most days in November. You know, when you start a post one night, save it and then finish it the next day so it will post with yesterday's date. Maybe you don't know, maybe it's just me. I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to cheat. NaBloPoMo officially has me crying uncle, even though I blew it early on so I suppose the pressure was off, really.

Ah, well. I am enjoying it, and will soldier on until the end of the month, even if I don't quite make it every day.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Musings on the Boll Weevil

[Edited to thank my friend Noelle, for pointing out that it's boll weevil, not boil weevil. I'm shaking my head in amazement that I could be SO WRONG about a word for SO LONG. Even though I looked it up beforehand just to be sure. Sheesh.]

This is the best English/Spanish dictionary ever. I am a translator and an interpreter, so I have shelves full of dictionaries, but this is the only will not travel without. I bought it for myself as a graduation gift when I got my MA, and it's what I always recommend to people looking to take the next step, when they find that their average bilingual dictionary is no longer all that helpful. It is by no means comprehensive, but in in you will find all kinds of useful general and technical terminology, like end borrower, input-output, straddle carrier. And of course, boll weevil.

For some reason, whenever I open this dictionary, it seems to fall open at gorgojo, which is a boll weevil. The entry is near the top of the page, and after so many repetitions it felt like the word had been burned into my brain. Ha ha, I would joke to myself. If it ever comes up, I will be ready. I will be ready, and I will dazzle everyone by coming up with the right word for boll weevil without so much as batting an eye.

And then, of course, it came up. I was interpreting at an informal gathering for a few Latin American visitors who were doing a Q & A session with a high-school class. One of the students mentioned the boll weevils, and of course, I could not for the life of me remember what the hell it was. I motioned desperately to my colleague, who helped me out, but my moment had come and gone. And I was bummed, even though remembering the word for boll weevil is less important during an informal chat with high-schoolers than it is during, say, a highly technical conference about the boll weevil.

That's how my job goes. Sometimes a word I know, a word I know well, just won't come to me when I need it. It's one reason you need to be good at looking things up on the go, it's why you need to have good colleagues backing you up, and you have to be able to ask for and accept help if you need it.

The nice thing, though, is that it works both ways, and I often experience the flip side, like I did the other day. An attorney who was questioning a witness asked him if he was colorblind. That word often stumps me, since it doesn't come up that often. And yet this time, the word daltónico just rolled off my tongue. Good thing, too, since it came up many times and ended up being an important issue.

[The link to the glossary will take you to the Google Book Search page, which I just discovered, and I love it. If you're interested, it will allow you to peruse a pretty hefty chunk of the book. Pretty amazing.]

[I'm done geeking out about dictionaries now. Good night.]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

On Co-sleeping

When Primo and Secondo were newborns, we only had one crib. The boys slept in it together, and we thought that would last a while.

Then Secondo started scooting around on his back in his sleep. Just a little, at first. But when thee boys were eight weeks old I woke up one morning to Primo's cries, went to check on them, and realized the reason he was crying was because Secondo had scooched over was kicking him in the head. Obviously, that could not continue. Not so much because I felt bad that Secondo was beating up on his brother, but more because when you have newborn twins, anything that interrupts their (and your) sleep is a very, very bad thing.

P did some hunting around on Craigslist and came home with a beautiful Pali crib a few days later. I was so happy I could have kissed his feet. We separated the boys as soon as we could put the crib together. But it made me sad that we had to do it so early. What about that twin bond? What about being so close together in the womb? Weren't they supposed to feel comforted by each other's presence? Obviously not, because they didn't seem to care and they definitely slept much better. So did we.

When they turned two, though, Secondo decided he wanted to be with his brother in his crib. Even though he could be completely oblivious to Primo's presence all day, he whined and cried until we put him in there--and then Primo whined and cried, because though Secondo doesn't kick him in the head anymore, he loves to stomp on him and sit on him, and there really isn't enough room for two hefty toddlers in one crib.

When it was time to move them out of their cribs and into big boy beds, the choice was obvious: We moved them into my old queen-size futon. Partly because it was already in their room. Partly due to space considerations in our tiny condo. But mostly so they could be together. It's worked out beautifully--it's big enough so that they rarely fall out (and it's close to the ground when they do), and it's the perfect spot for reading bedtime stories. And even when they start out at opposite ends of the bed, they always end up moving towards each other. One's head will be nestled on the other's shoulder, or they'll hold hands. Tonight they are in the shape of a T, with both of Secondo's legs resting comfortably on Primo's belly.

I know this will end eventually, too, and when they're old enough, we'll move them into bunk beds. But I'm enjoying this while it lasts. And if I'd known how much they would enjoy sleeping in the same bed as toddlers, I might not have felt so wistful when they were eight weeks old.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Things I Like This Week (Or: My Brain Is Fried and This Is the Best I Can Do Tonight)

  • The aforementioned brioche and Nutella. Our local bakery makes the best brioche, and we don't get it often, but when we do it's a huge treat. P keeps trying to convince me to do weird stuff like turn it into French toast, but I maintain that the only way to eat it is with Nutella. End of story.
  • The Radiolab episode about the War of the Worlds radio program seventy years ago. I had some general idea about what the whole thing was about, but I found it so fascinating that I'm listening to it again. I had absolutely no idea that someone thought it would be fun to try it years later in Quito, Ecuador. People died. Crazy.
  • Listening to Pandora while I'm translating and spending a couple of bucks a day on new music.
  • The prosecco you can get at Costco for $10. I have no idea what it's called. But if you like sparking wine, try it.
  • Eric Herman's The Elephant Song. The boys have been obsessed with it lately, and I can't get it out of my head. "Gotta like frogs, running through a maze for some cheese."
Good night.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


It started when Primo was about eighteen months old. I remember because my brother and sister-in-law were here for a visit, and she and I noticed that Primo was downright engrossed in a book about numbers. We started to point at them and name him for him. Then, for fun, we asked him, “Where’s the eight?”

A pause. Then he slowly pointed to the eight.

“Where’s the zero?”

Another deliberate pause, and he pointed to the zero.

From there, it was on to letters and the sounds they made. All before he was two. Then we started on syllables. I found an old Spanish first-grade reading primer at a book sale and he was as engrossed in that as he had been in the number book a year earlier. Mi mamá me mima has become one of his favorite phrases.

He loves to type on the computer, using this awesome program for Macs I’ve mentioned before. A couple of months ago, my mom and I were sitting with him, egging him on. Mama, he spelled. Daddy. Nana. Words he knew. Words we knew he knew. “Qué inteligente.” my mom praised him. And then as a joke, she added, “Spell inteligente.”

ENTELIGNTE, he tapped out, rendering us speechless.

He’s just taken off from there. “Spell calabaza,” I urged the other day. C-A-L-A, he typed. Then he looked at me and asked, “¿Con B o con V?

Con B,” I told him, completely floored, and added, for good measure, “y con Z.” Pleased, he turned back to the computer and typed, CALABAZA.

He spells words out phonetically, in Spanish, even when they’re English words Island becomes AILENT. Nancy becomes NANSI. IKEA becomes AEKIA. Recently he threw a major fit before bedtime because he wanted me to spell words for him on the Magna Doodle. I finally gave in, and after we wrote a few words together, he settled right down and went to sleep. He often greets our friends by spelling their names. His preschool teachers told me that he refused to go to the playground the other day until he spelled EXIT with wooden letters. He spelled CAT, one of them told me, starting with the T. He didn’t spell it backwards, he just started with the T and worked his way back. He’s reading complete sentences as quickly as I can write them on the Magna Doodle, an activity that makes him giggle delightedly.

When he first started to show an interest in letters and reading, I promised myself I would only encourage him, never push him. But he's insatiable, and as much as I give him, he's always ready for more. And now he’s taken the next step by himself—I noticed a shaky PR on the Magna Doodle the other day when I came back from work. Later, I watched him write it several times.

I don’t mean for this to be an obnoxious bragging post. It’s just that I’m truly fascinated by the whole thing. And to be honest, when I’m in a bad place, I’m slightly worried about it. If we’d never had that intervention with his teachers, I think I would feel nothing but pride, I’d be thinking my son is brilliant, it never would have occurred to me that anything might even be wrong. I wish I were utterly oblivious. But he does echo language a lot. I have a hard time getting him to answer questions. The letters are bordering on an obsession. P and I used to joke that Primo showed more of the “classic” signs of autism than Secondo. When he was younger he had this need to line up toys, straws, silverware. I completely disregarded the best advice I received—and followed—early on with Secondo, which was, “No obsessive Googling, it will just freak you out," and found out about hyperlexia, which--you guessed it--freaked me out.

I told Secondo’s new doctor, Dr. B, about Primo. “Trust your instincts,” he tells me. “They’ve been great so far.” The thing is, I don’t know anymore. My instincts do tell me that Primo is just fine. That he’s smart as a whip, a brainy boy, a boy who likes taking books to the playground, nothing more. And then I hate myself for doubting that, because I'm insanely proud of him and amazed by how smart he is. But his teachers planted that seed of doubt in my mind. And then I think of P's friends, whose son was diagonosed with PDD-NOS. They didn't catch it until he was older. He was reading, his mother tells me. We just thought he was smart. And if it weren’t for Secondo, I think I would find it really easy to laugh it all off, call his teachers crazy. But there is Secondo. So I’m heeding the advice I give other people, which is, It can’t hurt. Even if you're wrong, at least you’ll know.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I have a long translation due on Thursday, and after being sick for a while and having a house guest, I started to freak out about finishing it. Today, thankfully, it started looking like meeting the deadline would at least be humanly possible--I wasn't so sure about that earlier. So I'm sneaking in five minutes to blog.

The translation includes autopsy reports, and my background research has been interesting. I found out that the three top hits and the most easily available autopsy reports are those of Nicole Brown Simpson, JonBenet Ramsay and Terri Schiavo. I also needed information on fingerprinting corpses and found many graphic images I wish I hadn't seen--and I say this as someone who doesn't bat an eyelash when interpreting for a medical examiner. I was, however, incredibly excited to have the original reports in Spanish, because it cleared up a lot of outstanding questions I had about the terminology I already knew in English.

Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be cold, and I heard flurries mentioned on the news. I will be happily holed up in my office translating, in my fleece pajamas and slippers, sipping a latte and eating brioche and Nutella. And even though I'll be working very, very hard, I'm looking forward to that.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Another Midnight Post

So I missed another day. I'm not making excuses, just stating the following facts: An old friend is in town, we've eaten delicious Ethiopian food for several meals in a row now, and drunk good wine. Plenty of it. We've hung out and she's also looked after the boys for me, because I've been working doggedly on a translation that's due on Thursday.

Also, we've been googling old articles from the Onion that we remember from way back. So I'll leave you with this one. Even though I'm opposed to the mere mention of Christmas before Thanksgiving, this one cracks me up every time. And considering it's the Onion, it's surprisingly G-rated, too.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Our meeting with Miss C today was wonderful. I was glad I'd skimmed Secondo's IEP. His progress was evaluated using a series of codes that I can't remember. But he did get a couple of Ms for Mastery of a skill, a few of his skills were considered Emerging Skills, and he should be on track to meet those goals by the end of the year. I'm not so interested in the goals, exactly. What matters to me is that he seems like a different boy than he was when he started school, he's much more engaged, there's less echoing and his language is so much more purposeful than it used to be. Miss C is a new teacher, and I sing her praises to anyone who will listen.

We also met with his speech therapist for the first time. I had no idea that she speaks Spanish fluently, and she told us she often uses it with Secondo during their sessions. I could have wept, I was so excited.

[Anyone notice how I often get my November posts in right under the wire, before midnight? I think this one will still count for my Thursday post, even though it's now Friday.]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I will be working at a conference tomorrow morning. The timing was perfect--the place where I was originally supposed to work tomorrow canceled on me, and I'm busy in the afternoon, so a few hours of work will fill my morning nicely. The only information I have is the name of the organization where I will be working, a link to their website and the name of my colleague. I like knowing details so I can read up on the subject and prepare a glossary, but tonight I've been wading through pages and pages on their website and I have no idea what information is relevant.

Tomorrow afternoon we have a parent-teacher conference with Miss C, where we will discuss Secondo's progress in meeting the goals set forth in his IEP. I've heard a million horror stories about IEP meetings, but ours went swimmingly. I do realize, though, that that's because it was our very first meeting and we were not evaluating his progress, we were setting goals, goals that sounded good to me so throughout the meeting I nodded enthusiastically and occasionally chimed in. Goals that I no longer remember. So tonight I dug out Secondo's IEP and reread it in preparation for tomorrow. I was reminded that his progress will by measured using the very specific, numerical criteria established several months ago, even though it's obvious to me that he's progressed by leaps and bounds.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When Interpreters Dream

I spend a lot of my time looking up words.

When I translate, I have plenty of time to research terminology. I’ve gotten good at Google searches, I have several specialized go-to dictionaries, and in a pinch, I can e-mail or call colleagues from a particular country and ask for their opinion. Sometimes, even when I think I’ve researched something thoroughly, the perfect word will come to me when I’m editing my work, after I’ve set the translation aside for a little while.

Interpreting is different that way—you do it on the fly. If I’m working by myself, I can look things up as I go, or weave words in later or correct myself if I need to. If I’m lucky enough to have a colleague who’s got my back, he or she will jot down words for me and help me out as I go along.

And sometimes, picking someone’s brain is really the best solution. No matter how many dictionaries you own or how many search results you find online, the results can be unsatisfying. There’s nothing like asking your audience. Your clients are, after all, experts in their field, and they can often clear things up for you in an instant.

A difficult word came up recently, one I’d had to interpret many times before. I’d found acceptable—and correct—solutions, but I still wasn’t happy. The conference was on sexual violence and the word was “advocate.” When it’s a noun, you can use the words defensor, partidario, or you can turn the word into a phrase, which can be clumsy, not to mention difficult to fit in your interpretation. When it’s a noun, you can use the word abogar. The problem is, those words can be confusing if the context is legal, because a defensor can be a defense attorney and an abogado is an attorney, whereas the word advocate has a different connotation. I’ve searched message boards and there are long threads devoted to the word, but no one has the perfect answer.

After the role of an advocate (in the context of rape and sexual violence) had been described at the conference, I went up to the women who were my clients. “See that woman over there?” I asked, pointing at one of the advocates. “In your field, what would you call someone who does her job?”

One of them then proceeded to give me the perfect word, a word that had never turned up in all my searching. It was such an elegant solution, so smack-yourself-on-the-forehead obvious, a word that was a complete revelation. I immediately jotted it down in my steno pad and thanked the woman profusely. It came up many, many more times that day, and I loved having the perfect word to use.

And then I forgot it.

I have absolutely no idea what it is. I know from experience I won’t find it online, though I’ve looked, hoping I missed something the first time. I look at the stack of dozens of steno pads in my office and am daunted by the prospect of looking through all of them, and I curse the fact that I didn’t label the pad, that my system is so haphazard. I’m always hopeful that someday the word might just come to me again, or that it will reveal itself to me in a dream. Seriously.

Lesson learned. Ever since, I’ve recorded those notes on my iPod Touch when I’m on the go, so I won't forget them again. But I still mourn the loss of that perfect, perfect word.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Books, Books, Books

My dad was a big fan of celebrating special occasions. He especially loved celebrating them on dates that were not the actual dates of the occasions. I’ve mentioned before how we used to celebrate Thanksgiving whenever we felt like it, sometimes several times a year, and rarely in November. Christmas was often celebrated whenever my dad came back from a trip to the United States. It’s hard to describe just how incredible the ritual of the Opening of the Suitcases was when I was growing up. There were special gifts like walkmans and cassette tapes, magazines, Hershey bars and all kinds of assorted candy that was locked in a trunk and rationed throughout the year. My dad always milked it and made the most out of each reveal, so that my brother and I were always craning our necks practically drooling in anticipation while we waited for him to pull out whatever was hidden beneath the dirty laundry in his luggage. Christmas was always a fun time—tamales! rompope! huge manger scenes!—and an important holiday, but gifts were not big part of it. Nothing could have compared to the Opening of the Suitcases.

And my birthday, which was in May, was always celebrated in July.

There are a lot of bookstores in Costa Rica that sell books in English now, and there are even used bookstores which are full of books that tourists have left behind. But when I was growing up, there was only one. It was called simply The Bookshop, and it was so small and cozy. And they had a huge sale every year. In July.

My dad took me every year. It was my birthday gift, and I was allowed to buy stacks and stacks of books. After I was done picking out my favorites—books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madeleine L’Engle and James Herriot, the Great Brain books, Trixie Belden and every book in the Oz series—my dad would always steer me towards the saleslady and ask her what else she might recommend for a girl my age, and I would add some more to my pile. When I got home, I would spread them all out on my bed and look through them carefully, and deciding which one to read first took an eternity.

My parents passed their love of reading down to me. The yearly shopping spree at The Bookshop is the only time I remember money being no object. When I outgrew my own books, I moved on to my parents’ books. They had an aversion to fiction, so I read many, many memoirs, written by teachers, actors, doctors, books about the Cold War and about Holocaust survivors. We took to initialing the inside of the front cover of the books we’d read, so it was easy to keep track of who had read what. Even though we watched some TV every night, it was always turned off at some point so we could all have some peace and quiet while we all read in the living room together.

And now, I'm making every effort to pass that love of reading on to my boys. I didn’t start reading to them as early as they say you should, but I felt silly reading to them when they were newborns, just like I felt silly talking to them when I was pregnant. (Also, they got to hear my voice half an hour per hour while I was interpreting. I figured it didn't matter that what they were hearing were court proceedings in Spanish.) Once they could sit up, though, there were always board books strewn around the floor along with their toys. When I started reading them stories at night, I had a captive audience—their room was so tiny that there was only enough room to wedge a chair between both of their cribs. I would sit and read to them every night while they stood in their cribs and peered over the top.

When they were that small and had no say in the matter, I read to them almost exclusively in Spanish. That ended once they were big enough to grab a book and bonk me in the head with it insistently until I agreed to read it to them, so I began reading to them in English as well. What I’ve found, though, is that we keep coming back to the books in Spanish again and again, to the point that even P often reads to them in Spanish because those are their favorites and those are the stories they want to hear.

This has meant I’ve become quite passionate about children’s books in Spanish. I’m always on the lookout for them—new on Amazon, used at library sales, from friends and relatives who come to visit from Costa Rica. P often comments that our place looks like a bomb went off in Barnes & Noble. And while we started with Buenas Noches, Luna and the Eric Carle books in Spanish, the boys quickly moved past those (though I won’t say they outgrew them, because we recently went through another Eric Carle phase and they seemed to enjoy the books even more than they had before), and I’ve discovered many, many wonderful books since the days of La oruga muy hambrienta.

I’ve added an Amazon widget to my blog that reflects our current favorites, just for fun, and I’ll comment on what we’re reading occasionally as well, both for my own benefit as well as in hopes that it might lead someone else to discover something new.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sick Days

So, I obviously took a couple of days off from blogging. Damn--I would have liked to make it through NaBloPoMo successfully! But other things took priority, like breathing, which I was having a hard time with for a few days. The good news is, I was able to cancel work, see my doctor, and get better. Also, it was decided I don't have pneumonia, which definitely qualifies as good news.

Back to work for me tomorrow, and more posts later.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Little Fluff

I spent one morning this week at a fancy law firm interpreting for an interview. It was very emotional, boxes of tissues were passed to people. And then, I stood up to leave and reached across the fancy conference table to shake the hand of one of the attorneys. And proceeded to knock over my entire glass of water, covering the entire table. At least it was only water, not coffee or Diet Coke (both of which I’d been drinking), and no attorneys, laptops or documents got wet.

What I said, in a feeble attempt at levity, was, “Hey, at least we’re not in federal court!”

I didn’t finish the entire thought, which was, “Because when you spill water all over the defense table in front of a federal judge in the middle of a big trial, now THAT’S embarrassing!”

Trust me. I know. I am a klutz.

[I have a feeling NaBloPoMo may include several more mindless anecdotes. At least until the shakes from my fever subside. And until my ISP gets its act together. Curse you, Verizon! I don’t mind missing a day, but not if it’s Verizon’s fault. It’s 9:28 on Wednesday and I'm sure I'll be going to bed before things are up and running again.]

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Notes From the Couch

Yes, I'm parked on the couch watching the election results roll in. Who isn't? The wine has been flowing freely (I'm sure that will go nicely with my Theraflu later). Not the good wine, though, not just yet. The last time we prematurely opened a bottle of the good wine was during Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series, and we all remember how that worked out. At least, we Cubs fans do.

The fact that Primo, at the age of not-quite-three, can read and spell is a topic for another post. But here's what he wanted to type on the computer today, over and over. His mama is so proud.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Perfunctory Post

It's November 3rd, which I'm pretty sure is too early in the month to post a token blog entry. But the boys are sick, I'm sick, and with the time change, we were all up early in the morning. All I can think of right now is the Theraflu that is sitting on the kitchen table, Theraflu I plan to take as soon as I can heat up the water. Tomorrow's job will be a very stressful one, so I'm going to conk out and hope things are better in the morning.

And also, I need to get out of here early tomorrow morning and VOTE!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hello, November

A year ago, NaBloPoMo inspired me to start a blog. I thought it would motivate me to start out, since the concrete goal would be to post every day. I posted 18 times that month, which wasn't bad, for me. Since then, I've only posted a few times a month (or once a month, in some cases), but this year, I'm going to challenge myself to ramp up the number of blog posts. I'm going to unoficially do NaBoPoMo again. So, here goes.

One of the reasons I started to blog was because I felt so strongly about teaching the boys Spanish and I wanted to chronicle their language development. And then I held back, because it became clear that Secondo's language development was delayed, and I felt guilty posting language-related stories because most of them would have been about Primo.

One year and one autism diagnosis later, I'm over that. Things are what they are. Primo's language development continues to amaze me, and Secondo's language development has become a cause for celebration, not a source of worry like it was last year. That is a huge relief, and overall, I'm feeling optimistic and ready to tackle November.

I have to say, October kicked my ass. It's not all doom and gloom around here, though. Many of the events I'm writing about occured a few weeks ago, and I'm over them and am moving on, but I need to get them out. So there will be more posts about autism, because it's become a big part of our lives. But there will also be more posts about language, about the wonderful books we're reading. About my work and other things going on around here. Things that have seemed unimportant lately, things that have taken a backseat to autism.

But you know what, here's to the unimportant stuff.

More tomorrow.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My Other Son

In my career as a translator and interpreter, I’ve discovered that Spanish speakers often start sentences with the words “Por una parte…” It means: On one hand. It is a phrase that just begs to be completed. And the speaker will ramble on and on, and I wait and wait for the por otra parte. The logical conclusion, on the other hand. But most of the time, it doesn’t come. I’ve come to realize it’s just a quirk of the language, and it’s so common that I usually just omit it entirely so as not to leave the English-speaking audience hanging.

I look back over my last post, which I only wrote a few weeks ago, even though it feels like much longer. There was also a Diagonosis: Part Two, which I composed over and over again in my head. It was, in a nutshell, about the fact that Secondo was officially diagnosed with autism. It was about the kindness of friends and how the simplest of gestures made things better. I may post it later, but lately I’ve been thinking about how I left the audience hanging.

The thing is, por una parte, there’s Secondo.

Por otra parte, there’s Primo.

It is noon, and preschool is out. My mom has taken Primo out into the hallway, and I am shuffling around the classroom, waiting for his teachers to finish up so we can talk. I have been out of town for two weeks and they have already talked to my mother, and to P. But I have asked to talk to them because I am Primo’s mother, and I need to hear this for myself.

We sit around a table, the three of us. The chairs are tiny, and I remember them from when I was a student teacher in a kindergarten classroom. I learned to sit in them, but what I really remember is the bruises. I always had a line of bruises from the knees down, from all of the tiny furniture.

Primo doesn’t make eye contact, they say. He doesn’t talk. When we talk to him, he parrots back exactly what we’ve said. He doesn’t participate during circle time. He doesn’t even sit in the circle. He sits in that little red chair, behind the circle. He plays by himself on the playground. There’s another little boy who tries to play hide-and-seek with him, but Primo just wanders off, he’s not interested. You know, it’s fine that the knows all of his letters, but that’s not the only important thing.

We really think he needs to be evaluated.

We’re not saying this because of the issues you’ve had with your other son.

What they’re saying is not news to me, because I heard it from my mother and from P. But their tone is flat and defensive throughout, like they’re eager to get their grievances off their chest, and like they can’t believe they have to repeat this a third time. I can’t really remember what I say. I do remember telling them we’re wondering if we should leave him in preschool another month, and I ask for their opinion.

Well, one of them shrugs, he’s not disruptive.

And suddenly I feel the tears start to well up. I try to hold them back, because the fact that I’m starting to cry makes me mad. Not because I mind crying in front of others, necessarily, but because I have been bombarded by negative statements and this last one makes me realize that they have not said a single positive thing about my son. Nor have they shown a single shred of kindness, which would have made this so much easier to bear.

One of them points me in the direction of the tissues, and thanks to Snick’s comment on my last post, before I even reach for one I think, I’ll bet these tissues are FUCKING SCRATCHY, and I am right.

I leave the room, scratchy tissue in hand, and run into the director, who is happily chatting with my mom. It is obvious that neither one of them expected me to emerge in such a state. The director touches my shoulder and tells me I can call anytime, and I can tell she means it. She also sends me down the hall to talk to an education specialist who happened to be observing Primo’s classroom this morning. I tell her the story, give her some background information.

A week later, I am on the phone with someone from the county school system. She remembers who I am, which I find both comforting and depressing. I schedule an evaluation for Primo. And I can’t believe we’re doing this again.