Saturday, December 31, 2011

Feliz Ano Nuevo!


We decided not to go to Banos today or at all this trip. Mark and I are just not up to putting on bathing suits right now. Definitely next year. We decided to just wander around the city again into parts unknown. We found a lot of quiet residential streets and a great playground. Finn made a friend on the zip line and they handed each other the seat. The little girl had a dog named Snoopy. He would chase both of them as they rode down the line. I asked her if the dog bit and she gave me some long synopsis nothing of which I understood. Usually I can get the jist of the message, but this time, nothing. I choose to think that she was telling me that the dog did not bite.

We went into a few great shops and will return to purchase items later. We found the Mansion Alcazar and asked to go inside and look around. It is a hotel and restaurant and just gorgeous inside. Mom, we will set you up here in style if you would like. It is really beautiful. Patrick wants to go to dinner there so we may splurge, but I'm not sure it is all that kid-friendly.

While we were eating lunch we kept seeing horses trotting down the street followed by decorated cars and floats. Clearly a parade was forming in the park so that was our next stop. We hung around the park watching everyone get ready for the parade. There was a lot of excitement. It wasn't that long of a parade so we stayed to watch the whole thing.

After that the kids and I were a bit tuckered out so we headed home while Mark and Pat went around shopping some more. Kinda sounds funny that the guys continued shopping, doesn't it. He he. While we were walking home we turned down a street that was under construction and the whole road had effigies dressed up as construction workers on the machinery. It was really cute.

Not being from here we did not realize that nothing would be open after 4:oo on New Years Eve so when we went to get dinner everything was closed. Luckily another resident was ordering pizza and we joined in on her order. We had to call three places though before we found one that was open. Erin is here from Iowa and she and her husband are in the process of adopting a 4 year old little girl. Her name is Audey Anna and she is as cute as a button. Erin has a 3 year old at home with down's syndrome and Audrey also has down's. Pretty amazing people. Erin was a lot of fun to hang around with even though she was pretty preoccupied with Audrey. She seems like someone who I could have gotten along well with.

The fireworks have started and Patrick joined right in. He has been itching to shoot some off for about three days. We hung around in the garden, ate our pizza, had some cervezas and chatted with the other gringos. The kids played with Audrey.

Tomorrow will be a late morning. We can sleep in because nothing will be open. We are meeting Chelsea at noon and walking up to her house. I am really excited to see her house and what her neighborhood looks like. I am also excited to see the inside of her house.

What I don't like about Cuenca at all are the diesel fumes and the graffiti. Both are so obnoxious that it almost ruins the experience. Almost. I can see past the graffiti, but it really is hard to breathe near El Centro and we will have to use scarves when we go into town.

I can't say enough about this weather though. Today was like an early summer day. Bright blue skies, bright sun and balmy breezes. After our walk I laid on the bed and watched the trees blow in the wind. It was so peaceful.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Long Day

This trip is about seeing the city, but it is also about seeing if we can live here. So, the only way for us to do that is to walk the city and become familiar with it. Which means A LOT of walking. We got up fairly late today and headed out after a breakfast of bread. The Ecuadorian diet is very heavy on starches and carbohydrates, and as many of you know...I am addicted to carbs, so this will be a lifestyle adjustment for me. I will have to learn to shop and cook in a way that will meet my family's needs as it did in the states.

We walked all the way to the end of town to visit the Museo de Banco Central. On the way we saw a small aboriginal museum and stopped in for $2 a piece. The inside courtyard was stunning with greenery and skylights. The museum was very nicely done and worth the money. It is interesting to walk down the streets and look into doorways only to see hidden areas that are like nothing you've seen. Inner courtyards with beautiful gardens, well-appointed stairways leading to very expensive inner houses, etc... Before going into the museum we wanted to get lunch. We have been dying to try an almuerzo. An almuerzo is a very cheaply priced lunch that usually includes soup, a meat dish with rice, juice and something else like a banana. When we asked about the almuerzo he pointed us to a place on the menu and we ordered from there only we weren't ordering the almuerzo, we were ordering something more expensive. Scammed! we are learning though. Knowing the language better will help.

The Banco museum was okay. I liked the floor that had histories of all of the different indigenous groups of Ecuador. What I didn't like was a modern video installation on the first floor right as you walk in of a woman being tortured with submersion in water. It took place in Guatemala. It was real and it was horrendous. I have no idea why that is considered art. It made my stomach hurt.

I had a great idea to then walk to the mall and check it out. See what was there and what to expect when we move. I thought I knew where it was. Just around the next corner. So, we walked and walked, and then hailed a cab. Turns out it was a lot farther away than I thought it was and we were happy to have gotten a taxi. The mall was a lot larger than I thought and had everything that you expect to be in a mall. We did a walk through and compared prices. There is a bungee jumpy thing in the mall that we had seen on a video back in Ohio and Finn really wanted to do it. I was glad it was still there. He had a blast. They were really throwing this one little girl around. I was worried they were going to snap her neck, but she was fine.

Attached to the mall is a huge supermarket/walmart-type store. We priced things there and then got a few groceries. Some orange juice, yogurt, a pineapple and some hand-cut bacon. Milk comes either in boxes or pouches and is very expensive. We will definitely need to get a goat although I have seen more cows in backyards than goats. Yogurt is a big thing. Any toiletry type thing is expensive. Hairspray, deoderant, shaving gel, etc...

We took a taxi back to the hotel and then caught our breath before heading out for dinner. Right now Finn and Tali are playing with a message kit they got in their stockings, Mark and Pat are fraternizing with the neighbors (there is some kind of a potluck tonight - they brought our freshly cut pineapple) and I am updating the blog. Patrick met some kids when he went to watch them ride their bmx bikes. He met a guy named Byron. He is 20. They are going to meet up tomorrow night and do some more biking. No language barrier for Pat!

Tomorrow we're going to see if we can catch a bus that will take us to Banos. Banos is a small town about 30 min. outside of Cuenca where they have thermal spring baths. You can also get massages, have lunch, etc... It should be fun.

We are already hearing fireworks in anticipation of tomorrow's holiday. When we walked to dinner some people had cordoned off a part of the parking lot that led to the pharmacy. They had bottles of wine, a sound system that was booming music and an effigy that they were taking pictures with. I wondered if it was their boss as it was a man. After they took the pictures they started getting ready to burn it. Different strokes!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

We're here!

We have been here 24 hours and are starting to feel a bit settled in. We got to the airport around 4. Thank you, Dad! We got through customs with no issues except for them taking every hair product I owned. I blame myself, but I was not happy to be hair productless yesterday morning. I looked like a wet poodle.

The flight was delayed due to weather I believe, but I can't be sure. It went from Columbus to New York and then to Cleveland. I think it was an issue getting out of New York. Anyway, because of our delayed flight we did not get to Miami until almost 10:00. Took a taxi to the hotel and then tried to find a place to eat at 11 at night. The IHOP was open but less than desirable due to the clientele. We decided to order a pizza to the room. Not a great idea. No one would deliver. Finally at midnight we gave up and just went to sleep hungry and exhausted. We had 4 hours of sleep before we had to be back at the airport. Needless to say we were fried! The LAN flight was very enjoyable for an airplane ride. Pillows, blankets, a nice meal and courteous staff. Pretty too. Finn snored most of the way.

When we got to Guayquil we looked and looked for our van service driver but he was nowhere to be found. Finally he showed up an hour late looking very harassed. We were all excited to not be on a plane and to finally be on the ground and on our way. It was fun to look out the windows and see the vegetation and people along the road. Then we began our ascent into the mountains and it was beautiful! That is until we hit the clouds and an hour and a half of terror began. It was a true test of my new "letting go" mentality to let our driver have control and to sit back and just be. There were times that he could not see 10 feet in front of him. We continually were stuck behind slow moving trucks and all of the car drivers were jockeying for a passing opportunity. It was a nail-biting ride to say the least. I read today that the overpass from Guayaquil to Cuenca takes you 14,000 feet above sea level. Once we came out of the clouds the last hour was breathtaking. We drove through Cajas National Park and then everything became very green and lush. Finn slept through the whole thing but Tali oohed and ahhed.

Our driver had no idea where our place was so it took a while to get here. It is an old place and a little beat up, but very homey and comfortable. We have two bedrooms, a small kitchenette and a little sitting area. There is a balcony with a garden below where alot of the gringos congregate. The best part of the place is that it backs up to the Tomebamba River, which is one of 4 rushing rivers that runs through Cuenca. We left our window open last night and it is so loud that I don't need my sound machine!

We were so exhausted that all we wanted to do was eat and then sleep. We ended up wandering aimlessly until we found an open restaurant and paid a lot of money for dinner. It was good though and hit the spot. Mark and I were a bit dizzy and we attribute it to altitude, but that is the only symptoms we have had. This morning we were fine.

Today our goal was to ride the double decker bus and get ourselves situated in the city. We went to a very nice little restaurant for breakfast where they spoke English. Our waitress was from Vermont. She is married to an Ecuadorian and has been here three years and loves it. She does miss snow though. Finn and Tali split a french toast with egg and bacon sandwich. I had yogurt with granola and fresh fruit. The juice was fresh and very good.

We passed a good 4 hours walking around and making sense of the place. We spent a bit of time just relaxing in Parque Calderon. It is very pretty and quiet there despite being in the middle of the city. They have pleasant music playing and the birds sing continuously. People are walking around or sitting on the benches taking in the day. We walked to the 10 de Agosto market and saw the newly butchered meat on one side, and the fresh fruits and vegetables on the other. We were very happy to note that we could use the bano for a dime. It is always good to know where the bathrooms are when you have small children.

We had a great 2 hour drive on the top of the bus through the city. I already know so much about this place that I feel like I've already been here. I recognized a lot of places from what I have read on other people's blogs. My favorite part was driving up to the scenic overlook of Turi. The city below is just beautiful. We went to the Eduardo Vega gallery which is something I had wanted to do. He is a ceramic artist and his work is gorgeous and very reasonable.

We hopped off the bus at the river Tomebamba and walked home for more money. We headed out for dinner and decided to try our first "hole in the wall" meal. Tali and I split arroz con pollo (rice with chicken and a yummy plantain), Finn had sulchipapa (hotdog flower on a bed of french fries) and Mark and Pat had seco de pollo (chicken leg, rice, tomato and avacado salad, french fries). 10 bucks for all of it and it was very good. Then we had the best ice cream that rivaled Jenny's. Three cones and a sundae. 5 bucks.

Right now we are enjoying some beers on the little patio garden outside of our apartment. Everyone here has been super friendly and very helpful. A little bit of Spanish goes a long way and I am happy that a lot of my spanish is coming through. The weather had been great. Everything I have read is true. You need a hat, a coat, sunscreen and an umbrella at all times. We did not have to use the umbrella today, but throughout the day we experienced quite chilly and then very, very hot over and over again.




Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas

We had a wonderful Christmas this year. Surprisingly, everything got done and I wasn't too stressed about much. I had a few moments though. :) Our program at work went very nicely. Room 104 represented! We sang Put One Foot in Front of the Other from my favorite Christmas movie. I taught the kids motions to go with it and they were the best by far again. The only spoiler was a certain someone who haunted the church and would not go away. My blood pressure rises to high sky levels every time.

The Christmas party was a lot of fun too. Lots of good food and laughter. I hear it got pretty crazy after I left per the usual. I started fighting something the next day and was under the weather for a couple of days. I stayed home on Monday and it was a good thing I did because the school called and had me pick up Finn. He had an earache. We took him to the dr. that night and he had an ear infection. He has now been on antibiotics for 10 days so he should be okay for our flight later on today.

On the Friday before Christmas we did a ton of running around. We had to sign our final contract on the house at 9:00 at Crocker Park. We will know by the end of January if the bank will accept the offer. If they do then we will have to be out by March 15th. It is very unsettling to know that we may have to do a fire drill evacuation and I have no idea where we will live. I am going to really have to go with the flow on this one or I will worry myself sick. After signing the contract we went to Trader Joe's and picked up a few things for the party, and the massage place to get Nana's gift. Then we went to Target and bought new shoes for Finn and Tali since we will be walking so much in Cuenca. Lunch at Wendy's and two stops at the bank to get our money for the trip. All in 1's, 5's and 10's. Such small bills looks like a pile of money. I have no idea yet how we will stash it all.

I had a 2:00 hair appointment after that. I got my hair cut and colored and Tali had a new feather put in. Then off to the dr. for Tali who has not stopped coughing for a month or so. When we took her to the dr. the first time he said she only had a cough and told her to drink honey. This time it turns out she has pnuemonia! Shit! So, now Tali is on an inhaler and antibiotics. Good thing we took her back in. She is still coughing this morning, but after using the inhaler it greatly decreases. I am worried about her breathing in the higher altitude.

After the dr. it was on to the vet for Scout. She has an ear infection too. Crap! All of my babies are feeling poopy. :( Then back to the pharmacist for Tali's drugs and over to the liquor store for holiday drinks. Wow! Quite a lot of running around. We didn't get home until very late. Mark, Finn and Patrick went to visit Grandma Franklin while all this was going on.

Christmas Eve was a lot of fun at Nana's. She invited the neighbors and we really enjoyed the meal and the company. The next morning it was back to Nana's after opening our gifts. Patrick and Erin had come over the night before and it was nice to have all of the kids under one roof. Finn and Tali were very happy with their gifts. Finn's favorite are his Legos for sure, and Tali's is her DSi. She just loves that camera as I knew she would.

My favorite gifts were the watch I got from Amanda and Chris, and the photo album my mom made for me chronicling my life from babyhood to adulthood. It is such a special gift. I started crying when I opened it and I couldn't stop. There are a lot of memories stored in that little book.

We came home around 12 and rested up before heading out to Ann's. I really enjoyed talking with the twins. We didn't stay long though, because we were so worn out.

Monday was the party at our house. I bought too much food as usual. Sorry Dad! It was great to see Kathy. She looks awesome and seems very happy. I miss talking to her. Around 10:00 Leo really started to feel awful. His stomach was bothering him and he couldn't stand up. Amanda and Chris ended up taking him to the emergency room just to make sure. They came home around 2, so I am assuming that he is okay. We were all asleep and I haven't talked to them yet.

Pretty soon I will start pulling things together. Dad is coming over at 3 to take us to the airport. Mark has to get to the bank and pick up a few things from Walmart still, but I think we are ready for the most part. I am both nervous and excited. For some reason I am worried about the language barrier and I don't know why. I have visited both Guatemala and China and didn't know the language so I dont' know why I am so freaked out this time. I think it is because this is going to be our home and I am hoping that I like it and that we fit in. I am also worried about the flight. Not a fan of the airplane, but I have to be strong for the kid's sakes since this will be their first flight.

I will post more once we get there. Bon voyage to us!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

House and other updates





We got an offer on our house. It is so low that it is almost criminal, but I guess that is what the market is holding now. Someone is going to get a very nice property for very little money. Right now we are still in negotiations. Hopefully we can get a final contract signed soon and the process moved along. Right now the closing date is set for March 21st, I think. I don't know if that is feasible for the bank, but I am not really looking forward to moving in the dead of winter. I have to look on the bright side though and realize that the sooner we move, the more money we can sock away. It is a daunting task to consider though.


Dolly and Samurai went to Lee's yesterday. It is weird not having any animals to take care of anymore, but it is kind of nice too. I was starting to dislike going out on cold mornings. It also frees up a lot of time for me, so that now I can work out again in the mornings before work. Four chickens were killed by what we think was a raccoon. We have only two girls left and I was desperate to find them a good home before we leave for Cuenca on the 27th. Luckily, Finn's Reading teacher is going to take them. Now all we have are the two cats. We have come full circle in 4 years. Donkeys to sheep to goats to chickens to horses and back around again. What an amazing experience owning, learning about and caring for these animals. I learned so much about myself and gained a lot of valuable experience.



Weekend events: Spent a great evening with Uncle Steve watching Star Wars and playing on the Fire. Tali, Finn and Steven bonded over Angry Birds. We had a nice steak dinner and just relaxed and talked. We really enjoyed seeing him.



Saturday, Tali and I went to a Girl Scout cookie selling rally. Painful. That is all I'm going to say. We have another meeting this Thursday to give out awards. I told Jennifer that she will have to find someone else to take over for me in February because I have no idea where we will be or where we will be living in a couple of months. Mark, Finn and Pat went to Columbiana. They picked up my new wedding ring, went to visit Grandma Franklin and then had dinner with Mark's harem.



Sunday, we met Lee at Fin, Feathers and Fur to pass Dolly and Samurai to her. Dolly moaned contentedly the whole ride. She is so funny. Our Christmas presents to ourselves this year were nice rain/windbreaker jackets and really good hiking boots. Things that you always need while in the mountains are a waterproof jacket, umbrella, sunglasses and hat.



This week is our holiday program so I spent a lot of time this weekend working on the power point presentation, polishing things up and grading papers. Friday we are going to STRS for the final meeting. Mark has 4 years for sure that we can buy. We are waiting on the paperwork for the 5th year. We are hoping to go to see Amanda's office and then maybe out for lunch before our appointment.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving

On Wednesday we went to visit Mark's mom. We are a bit worried about her. She doesn't seem to want to live with Krista anymore, but we can't get a lot of information out of her.

On Thanksgiving we went for a nice hike on the bikepath and then headed to Nana's. Collen and Dick, Kim and Caleb, and Mary were there. It was a nice, quiet meal. Caleb kept everyone hopping. Finn and Tali said they had a good time with him. Then we headed to Aunt Gretchen's and had more pie. Doug started razzing me the minute I walked in, but luckily he left and went home soon after that. We had a nice time with everyone. I didn't want to go home. Mark spent Thanksgiving with Erin and Patrick in Akron.

Yesterday we slowed down and just hung around all day. It was a very lazy day. I did get a walk in with Scout.

Today went for another walk. The weather has been just great. Finn had a bday party and someone came to buy our hay. Moving right along. We had an inspection done on Monday last week and thought we had a potential offer, but we haven't heard anything yet.

Checking Up

I woke up in the middle of the night last night worrying about the donkeys and Ruby. Every time I drive by their house I don't see them outside. It made me start to wonder if they were still there or if they were in a stall. I just had to see how they were for myself. So, Mark, Tali and I went for a visit today and the donkeys are doing great! They are with the big white mammoth gelding and everyone seems content. They have access to a nice open area to get exercise and fresh air. Pickles has lost a lot of her fat and they both look to be in great health. I was so happy to see them. On the way home we passed Ruby's house and Sam and Ruby were taking a walk, so we stopped to say hi. Ruby could have cared less about me, but I was so happy to see that she was muddy and looked like she had had a great time running around outside. Sam is going to board her in January and ride her this winter. That will be good for both of them. So relieved that my animals are being cared for and have happy homes. Now, I can breathe a sigh of relief and let them go.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Farm Sitter

We have a farm sitter all set up for when we visit Ecuador in December to watch Dolly, Samurai, the chickens, Scout and the barn cats. But, then a realtor came over to look at the house and wants the chickens. I let Lee know that someone may make an offer on the house tomorrow and she has decided to pick up Dolly and Samurai in December instead of waiting until Jan. or Feb. So, that only leaves Scout and the cats. If Amanda will watch Scout then we can ask the neighbors to watch the cats and we will be able to save a boat load of money. Its weird how things fall into place sometimes.

This week should be great. Only two days of work and one of them will be party/movie day.

I tried to take my Nook back after playing with Mark's Fire. I like the way the Fire is easy to manipulate. Unfortunately, they won't take it back without the packaging. Hoping that Cathy will let me use hers.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Catching Up



Last weekend the goats left and it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. Linda and George are very nice people and it was clear that they were going to take great care of our animals. They got here around 8:00a.m. and met the goats. Then we talked in the house for awhile and got warm. The wind was coming out of the southeast and it was very cold even though the sun was out. The girls loaded up very easily once Raisin was in and the boys followed suit. Then George and Mark loaded up as much hay as their truck could carry. I guess hay is very expensive in Georgia. Around $10 a bale and we wanted to help them out as much as we could. The trailer was very, very small and the 5 girls were definitely cramped. I was worried about Holly because she had been away from the main herd for so long. I didn't know if she was going to get pushed around, but there really wasn't any room for them to get a good start. I also worried that George would have to stop short and that they would all be smashed against the wall.

I didn't really stop worrying until we got a call from Linda saying they had made it back safely and all of the animals were out of the trailer and in their new homes. The boys gave them quite a struggle as they moved girls around trying to get everyone where they were supposed to be. Romeo jumped the fence, of course. I think George was a bit exasperated, but that's how bucks are. A challenge twice a year for sure. They said that Ivy and Amelia were both flagging so they probably didn't get bred by Samurai. I was afraid of that. He is just so little. Even now, he has shown no interest at all in Dolly. Hopefully that is because she is already bred by Uno though. I'm afraid that if he didn't breed Ivy and Amelia, then he probably didn't breed Juliette either since she is so tall. Maybe Raisin though.

Sunday we went to the Lego Kid Fest with Mom. We had a great time. It was the perfect amount of time to do everything and leave tired. We loved the ferris wheel.

The rest of the week went by quickly. Tuesday was voting day and we were encouraged by our union and administration to take the day off and help at the polls. Mark and I went, but there was nobody there. Nobody. Nobody voting and nobody standing with signs. We voted and then went for a hike at Mill Hollow with the kids and Scout. It was a gorgeous day. We had lunch at Fresh Start and ice cream next door. We went to Inspired and Mark picked the woman's brain about an online fair trade store.

Wednesday was long, long, long. Left at 7:30 to get to work on time for Parent/Teacher Conferences and then two hours after. Didn't get home until 7. Long. Long. Long.

Friday was Veterans Day. Mark and I had the day off, but the kids went to school. We were having a showing that day for the house so Mark and I cleaned for two hours and then headed out to get an e-check, only the facility was closed for the holiday. We went to Tractor Supply and then out to lunch. Fresh Start again. I love their BLTs.

Yesterday we opened our garage sale. We had a nice steady stream all day. Colleen Jenkins stopped by. She had grown up in our house and I invited her to come in and see all of the renovations done by the Holkenborgs. She was amazed and walked around exclaiming how different it all was. The Jenkins raised 7 children in this house. Crazy. Other people stopped by and chatted and hinted about wanting to see the house. I told them to call our realtor. I'm not about to just let strangers walk around in here. I was a little annoyed.

Yesterday was also my 45th birthday. Yowza. We went out to dinner at Moosehead with Dad, Eileen and Pat. Good food as always and birthday cupcakes from the store next door. A very nice evening all around.

This morning Mark made me breakfast. The kids said Happy Birthday to me again and gave me a standing ovation. It was so funny. Like I had done something amazing. Tali made me the funniest card. It says Happy Birthday to Mother on the front. On the inside is a hotdog saying Hi Birthday Girl. :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Saying Goodbye Through the Tears





I woke up last night at 4:00a.m. freaked out that I hadn't said goodbye to the goats. Of course I have been trying to prepare myself, but this is going to be a much, much harder goodbye. Really hard. Raisin pressing her head against my chin and chest, eyes half-closed while I stroked her chin. Juliette's beautiful face and those floppy ears. Holly's sweet, sweet personality. Uno...the first animal born on our farm. I will miss even his stinky self. I have to keep reminding myself that I am burnt out. I need a break. And they are going to a great home. Oh, but this is hard. :(

We have an appt. for someone to come look at the house tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ruby, Amy and Scooby



all left today. I was surprised by how emotional I was after Ruby left. I really loved that horse, even if she didn't love me, and I shed some tears when she was gone. I feel like an era in my life has ended. The sadness is tempered by the fact that she as well as Amy and Scooby are going to great homes. I hope that Samantha will grow to love Ruby like I did.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I HAD A GREAT DAY AT WORK!!!

The first one this year. May they continue. :)

134

Last weekend was very relaxing. I read a lot and drove to soccer games. Ben's game was very exciting against the bigger and older boys. They crushed them 6 to 2. Ben and I went to visit Kirsten's farm on Sunday. This is where Amy and Scooby will be living. I was happy with the facility and the condition of the horses. A little worried about the mini donkey though. Speaking of donkeys...I haven't been able to visit Pickles and JoJo and I really want to see them. I haven't seen them outside either so I hope they are okay.

A lot going on this week. Meeting tomorrow morning, buddy breakfast friday morning, girl scouts thursday night and our classroom party. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for having everything ready to go for this week. Forgot the doughnuts for Friday though.

Ruby, Amy and Scooby are all leaving on Saturday. I feel like I should be sad and upset about saying good bye, but really I just feel relief and happiness that I have found them good homes. I am excited for Samantha to enjoy Ruby and love her like I did. Maybe Ruby will love her back. She certainly didn't care for me. I am also happy that Kirsten is so excited to have Amy. I think the kids will really enjoy riding her. She is the perfect lesson pony.

George and Linda are debating whether to buy our whole herd. It would be great if they could all go to the same home. Its a lot to take on though especially with the goats they already have. I also have an offer for Holly and the chickens.

Work is still work. Very stressful. I am biting Mark and the kid's heads off at night. I really need to find a way to zen through this year. I am excersizing now so maybe that will help.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Crazy week

What a crazy week leading up to today. The plan was for us to go camping at Beaver Creek this weekend for Halloween. I was really looking forward to it since I haven't camped at BC for a long time. I wasn't looking forward to the cold though. Our furnace broke and I wasn't sure if we were going to be able to have it fixed in time for our farm sitter. I didn't want her staying here without heat when it was going to be so cold. So, I gave her the heads up on that. Wed. I got word that yes, it could be fixed on Friday. Camping is a go. Then Amanda called on Wed. night and said that Chris' grandpa had died in a car accident and she asked if I could come down to watch the boys so she and Chris could fly to Florida for the funeral. Of course I said yes. The only caveat was that I couldn't leave until Friday afternoon because I had to get an echocardiogram and Scooby was going to be gelded so I needed to keep an eye on him for a couple of hours. All good. Then our farm sitter texted me that she was in the hospital and didn't know if she could do it. Then our car broke. URGH! Thursday night. Farm sitter can come, but car is not fixed so Mark, Finn and Tali will not be able to go camping after all. Friday morning. Vet is NOT able to geld Scooby until Sat. so I will not be home for that and Mark will have to take care of everything. Mark is sick and glad that they are not going camping. In a few hours I will head down to Columbus and hang with Ben and Leo. They both have criss-crossing soccer tournaments and various people are picking up and dropping them off at all different times. This should be an interesting weekend.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekend Update

We had a great weekend with family to celebrate Finn's 8th birthday! We went bowling on Saturday at the Oberlin College Lanes. It is a very small alley with only 6 lanes, but perfect for a birthday party. Unfortunately only 1 of Finn's friends came. I think it was because it was a busy soccer Saturday, but it would have been nice if the parents would have at least let me know they weren't coming. Finn's face was so sad as he waited for his friends that never came. It broke my heart. Luckily, Gabriel showed up and then came Auntie, Hannah, Ben and Leo. They took his mind off of it and we were soon all happily bowling. It was actually nice to spread out over the 4 lanes and probably would have been much harder to get everyone on a lane, so that was actually a plus. We had pizza and cake, and then they turned on the Glow Bowl, which was a huge hit with the kids. It made Amanda and me a little nauseous though. Mom showed up and we headed home a bit later. Dad and Eileen, and Dad came over and we hung out as we usually do and had some food and drinks. Finn got lots of Legos and Transformers. The boys spent most of the time building with the Legos.

Amanda and the boys left today, and Mark and the kids and I went to Barnes and Noble to fix my Nook. Took about 40 min. but its finally working properly. I really, really love it.

Dad put Rosetta Stone on my computer and Tali and I began our lessons today. I love how interactive it is and Tali was very excited when she got parts of it right.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Goat Breeding



When we got home from work today Dolly was clearly in standing heat. She was down by the buck pen, along with all the other hussies, teasing and taunting the boys. We locked up the girls, got Dolly on a lead and enticed Uno to come out of the pen and have his way with her. She took it like a pro. I hope she settled, but we will follow the same procedure tonight and tomorrow. After a cigarette break we put Dolly, Raisin, Holly and Amelia in the barn pen and let Samurai out to stay with Ivy and Juliette. That was a lot of running around and moving of goats. Took up most of the night, but all goats are with who they are supposed to be with and since we are "driveway" breeding Dolly to Uno that meant that Uno could stay with Romeo. Phew! I had a moment of indecision when I considered breeding Raisin, Holly and Amelia to Samurai as well, but then I came to my senses and thought about the bother of trying to sell the babies in the spring.

This week University students come to work with our boys. Preconference info is due, the kids don't have school on Friday and I have a PD the same day. Thursday is Girl Scouts. Friday, Oscar is going to his new home. :( Saturday is Finn's birthday. In between all of that I have to somehow bake a cake, order cake and pizza, and buy Finn's birthday gifts. Another Phew!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday

Today was just as busy as yesterday. I was going to go grocery shopping at 10:00 and I should have stuck to my plan. Instead I got the great idea of taking the kids to the Wooly Bear Festival. What a nightmare. After parking and waiting in line for the shuttle we got on the bus. It had no air conditioning and none of the windows would open. I got an instant headache bloom and felt like I couldn't breathe. When we pulled up behind the other bus to unload the driver would not let us get out because he had to let us disembark exactly where the other bus was letting out passengers. Even when I told him that I wasn't feeling well and asked him if we could get out he said no. Ridiculous! I told him that if I threw up on his bus he would have an even bigger problem. Jerk.

So, then we waded through 100,000 people all crammed into a 4 block radius. This is the biggest one day fair in Ohio. Wish I would have read that before we left. I held onto both of their hands and we tried to move through the streets. It was impossible. After about 5 minutes of this I asked Finn and Tali if they wanted to leave. They both said, Yes!

Then we tried to find somewhere to eat lunch, but everything was crowded. It was a crappy morning all around.

Dad came over and tried to install the spanish Rosetta Stone, but it just won't work. John and Holly came over to get the donkeys. Another fiasco. Pickles went in the trailer but only after we man-hauled her in. JoJo would not go in for anything. We tried to put a rope behind her, but she fought and fought and started slipping and panicking. It sucked. Finally we moved the trailer up onto the cement and she walked right in. Geesh. I rode with them in the trailer. JoJo looked out the window and shook, but she took it pretty well. Pickles leaned back on the halter the entire ride. She did not let up the pressure once. When we got to their new home they walked into the barn and were greated by Radar, a ginormous white mammoth gelding. Radar wanted to climb over the walls to get them. He pawed the ground and was very obnoxious. I hope he doesn't hurt them. He seems pretty crazy.

Mark and Pat worked hard today again scooping manure and flattening the pasture. Pat dug out the goat pen. I will put the girls and guys in together tomorrow.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Busy

We had a lot going on today. Our new realtor came today at 8:30 and we think he is going to do a good job. We hope so anyway. By early next week we should have an idea about how much to ask for the property.

Then Rob stopped by at 9:30 and we did everybody's hooves. Scooby was very good. I think he did very well for his first time. So now I feel good about sending the donkeys and Ruby on their way with trimmed feet. I asked Samantha to come by tomorrow instead because I was so darn tired after my girl's night out last night. :)

Then Pat, Tali and I went to the passport place again to get Pat's paperwork going and to redo my pictures. Of course, after I redid them today I found the originals when I got home. Figures! But I am happy to say that everyone's paperwork is in the mail. I have a feeling that we are going to have to do some extra work for Finn and Tali, but I've got my fingers crossed.

Oh, I forgot. The tractor was delivered at 9:00 so Mark has been busily pushing manure and rocks around all day. It is still super wet so we didn't make as much progress as we had hoped.

Tomorrow is grocery shopping, more cleaning out of closets and packing. John is coming to get Pickles and JoJo around 1:00 and Dad is coming over too. Samantha is coming over at 3:30 to lunge and ride Ruby.

We got the video about Cuenca and I have watched it twice so far. It is a good representation of things you need to know about the area. Some good, some bad. But it did get me excited to visit in Dec. I really need to work on my Spanish.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Happy Homes!

Ruby, the donkeys, Amy and Scooby all have found happy homes!!! I am so relieved. Ruby is going to the same family as the donkeys, but will live at a different farm down the road from them. A 19 year old girl, Samantha, who reminds me of me will now love Ruby like I did. Scooby is going with Amy and will be used in a birthday petting zoo until he is old enough to train to ride. I can't say how full my heart is now that I have found all of my equine lovies good homes. Today is a good day.

Reservations

I booked our stay at the Hotel Otorongo. It is a very quaint hotel/apartment complex on the Tomebamba River. Each unit has a little kitchen so that we may still cook should things get crazy during the holiday festivities. For a two week stay the cost is $450. Amazing.

I also booked our flight. We are going to fly through Miami to Guayaquil. Then we will take a 4 hour van ride up the Andes Mts. to Cuenca. I am looking forward to staring out the window. I hope its a clear day.

We are on our way!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weekend




Last week we cleaned out the red shed to use as a staging ground for a garage sale and for boxes labeled Goodwill or Keep. Yesterday we began to work on the closets and upstairs. Its amazing how many articles of clothing I don't wear that I must have lugged with us when we moved here 4 years ago. But this time, out they go! A Goodwill store opened at the top of the street, which seems awfully serendipitous to me.

The sun finally came out, so after breakfast I am going to walk Scout who is looking like a little blimp and then I'm going to continue with the upstairs. My goal is to finish it this week.

John is supposed to bring a deposit for the donkeys today and they should be going to their new home down the street next weekend. I'm happy that we will be able to visit them and make sure they are okay before we leave. Next weekend Ivy and Juliette will go into the barn pen with Samurai, and Dolly will be penned with Uno. I stupidly sold Mr. Tumnus not thinking that I would still need a wether. Now we have to ask our neighbor if she will let us borrow their Nubian wether, Frankie, to put in with Romeo so that he won't be alone. I wish someone would take Romeo already. Some lady wanted to buy the three does left and Romeo, but she didn't want to breed them. I kept telling her that they were too valuable to not breed, but she still asked if Romeo could be banded. Finally she got the message. I didn't understand her wanting mini-Nubians that she wouldn't breed. Weird.

A little girl from Firelands is interested in the chickens. She will be stopping by this week. I'm ready for them to be gone too. All they do is sit on the side porch when it rains (which it has been doing forever it seems) and poop all over the place.












Friday, September 30, 2011

Ecuador or Bust

We are headed to Cuenca for Christmas. We found out today and we are very excited. We are going to be there for almost 2 weeks. Now I need to book the flights and find a place to stay. It might be a bit difficult finding something in our price range since Christmas and New Year's Eve are such big holidays.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Goats



I spent some time with the goaties this evening listening to them munch munch while the raindrops pattered on the roof. Juliette took Raisin's role as calm comforter tonight. She held her face next to mine while I stroked her chin. Her eyes were half-mast. She is such a beauty.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday

Today we had 47 children in our room. We made it work, but it wasn't fun. Molly had 53 and she is by herself. After we heard on the news that they were not going to lay off those 300 or so teachers we went into work ready to congratulate Sheila. That was short-lived because she was STILL laid off despite what the media said. Now she has agreed to work as a sub doing the same job making sub pay. Are you frickin kidding me?????

Remember that if you put your turnpike ticket into the self-pay slot and then the machine won't take your washed $20 bill to NOT back up and out of the lane to search for a dollar in change because you will really screw up the process and you will have to get out of the car and go get the turnpike lady and listen to her bitch at you that now she is going to have to get you change and now she is going to have to lift the gate manually so that you can get through and while you are waiting for her to lift the gate manually someone pulls in behind you and lays on the horn 5 times because he thinks you are stupid and are just sitting there taking in the ambiance of the tollbooth.

For future use, there is a "Help" button on the screen. Duh!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Weekend Update

Friday we talked at length with our lawyer and he referred us to a very aggressive realtor. Hopefully he can help us get this house sold. We also went to get the kids' passports. We've decided not to visit in December though. The amount of money we would have to spend to get there can now be saved and put into either getting the house sold or the actual move. I am still into considering visiting in the spring.

Friday night Tali and I went to star gaze at the Girl Scout camp while Mark and Finn saw a movie. Saturday we attacked and cleaned out the red shed. We now have a great staging area for our garage sale and a place to put boxes once they are packed.

We have had some interest in the chickens and some people who live down the road visited and looked at the donkeys. I kinda don't think they are interested though. We'll see. Maybe they'll take Scooby.

Friday, September 23, 2011

What will today bring?

Yesterday was much better. We changed our rewards/consequences back to last year. I don't know what we were thinking. If it isn't broke, don't fix it. Then, T threatened a teacher and will probably be removed from the building. Maybe we will actually be able to teach this year.

Today we are heading to see our lawyer. I don't know what he will tell us, but hopefully it will be good news. Then off to the passport processing office to get that ball rolling. Unfortunately the kids don't have school today, so we will have to take them with us.

Tonight Tali and I are going to star-gaze with the Girl Scouts. It will be a late night.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Another crappy day

I'm sorry, but I think this year is going to be full of them. Found out that the teachers who were hoping to stay in their jobs (because Eric Gordon had said so) were given the notice today to be prepared to be laid off again. Our 4th/5th split teacher is one of them. She is a great teacher and this will be a huge loss to Clark. Not only that, but she has approximately 14 4th graders and 22 5th graders. If her position is not filled those 4th graders will be coming to our room increasing the already full room from 34 to 48. Need I say more. But they are staffing us at 40 to 1, so what does 8 more matter, right? Quality education all the way! The position is now posted as "open", but I predict that the district will hold these open positions over our heads asking us to make more concessions in order to keep these teachers. Our classroom is already unbearable. I can't imagine teaching 48 students. However, it is already being done in Cleveland. Michele had to give up her desk for 4 of her students because there are not enough desks in her room for 57 students. In another Cleveland school any high school students who do not make it to class on time are forced to sit on the floor or stand. Its a disgrace. 159.

Anxiety




I had a bout of anxiety last night and clearly it hasn't gone away this morning since I am up at 4:00. Having the realtor come through and say you have to do this and this and this and this really sucked me under. I don't want to bust my butt to get this house ready to sell. I wish someone would just come in, fall in love with the house and buy it with all the contents attached. But I guess this will be the first step towards really moving forward. Since we moved here not 4 years ago we shouldn't have too much stuff, right? Right. Luckily Mark has a light under his butt and he will be my motivation.



Amy, Dolly, Samurai, Ivy and Juliette have all been spoken for. The donkeys are our greatest worry right now. We are so afraid that we will not find them a good home and they will end up at auction either separated or on their way to a slaughter house. Mark would send them to be with us in Ecuador if he could.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Friends

We spent a great weekend with Joe, Michele and the kids. I thought there was a Cultural Festival in town. So after getting my hair done we headed up there only to find out that its NEXT weekend. Bummer. We were starving so we went to the Mexican restaurant for lunch. Mexican food with a Chinese child and a Guatemalan. That's cultural, right?

When we got home, the boys shot the rifle at targets and the kids endlessly argued about who rides the zip line and when. Boy can they fight like brothers and sisters. Finn was all drama as usual.

We had a great fire and the kids ran around like crazy people, ate popcorn and watched a movie.

Today I got them up on Amy and each one had a nice, little ride around. We relaxed and hung around some more and then the Popes headed home.

Now I am going through paperwork and making sure we have everything taken care of for Friday. We are going to see our lawyer to get everything straight in our heads and get our passport photos taken so we can get those in the mail and on their way.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Worst migraine ever. I couldn't even order the kids food from McDonalds. I know, I know. McDonalds. But I was desperate. Can you say 37 kids crammed into a tiny room with nowhere to walk.

164

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Roller Coaster

Is roller coaster one word or two? Today I felt much better about the move. Cathy was accosted by her neighbor, yet one more person who has decided to hate teachers for whatever reason, and she was really needing a hug. Only a teacher, especially an inner-city teacher, can truy understand the sense of helplessness and hopelessness that we now feel towards our job. Those people who love to judge us, on top of Issue 2 have taken away from us the joy of teaching. We no longer look forward to going to work. We dread it. It is just another job now. One we don't like to do. There is no gratification. No sense of nobility or higher cause. There is only routine and a sense of why bother? What we have to give is no longer good enough, and you continue to beat us with that daily. At the end of this we will be left with "teachers" who only stick around for a few years while they finish another degree or look for something else to do. Teaching will no longer exist as we know it now. It will no longer be a calling. A lifelong mission with lifelong teachers who teach because that is what they love. And it sucks.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Guilt

So here begins a year of gut-wrenching guilt about leaving my family. How do I explain that we would never think to undertake this momentous upheavel of our family were we truly happy here. Sure, we have a beautiful farm and jobs. But at what price? After 16 more years of my job surely the stress will kill me. Many Cleveland teachers die or become cancer-riddled within three years of retirement. I watched Margaret die not three years after her last day. I want a better life. A slower one. With good, healthy food and clean mountain air. Not only for myself, but for my husband and my children. I want to feel the freedom of determining and designing my own life. Here, we are at the mercy of the government officials who tell me that I have to increase my years of teaching from 8 to 16. I thought I was on the downslide towards retirement, but now my time left has doubled. People say to just accept it. I don't think they know me when they say that. I have never been one to shy away from a challenge, an opportunity, an adventure. I pride myself on that which makes me, me! I am not afraid to take this leap. What makes me shake with fear is staying and living this life that is being determined for me by others. I just won't allow it. I can't.

166 days.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Boy Scouts

Yesterday we spent a very nice day at Hale Farm and Village with Finn's Boy Scout Troop. It stormed and rained all day, but then would stop and the sun would come out. We saw the blacksmith, the broom maker, the candle maker, the basket weaver, the spinner, the potter and the teacher. The kids made their own candles. It was a lot of fun.

After we got home, Dad and Eileen brought over Tom and JoAnn to see the farm and to meet Mark, Finn and Tali. We enjoyed seeing them. The sun came out, but everything was still wet. Finn showed them how he goes on the zipline.

This week our focus will be on setting up our financial time line. Papers for travel money have been signed and will be put in the mail today. Hopefully we will know in 2 - 3 weeks. If we don't visit in December it will have to wait until June. I don't know how that will affect everything. Passport renewal papers have been filled out and Mark will send those in. I think we need a new passport photo though.

Soccer practice tonight and Wednesday. Protest at the Board tomorrow. Somehow I have to fit in laundry and grocery shopping. Another busy week ahead.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fall

We watched Big last night and the scene at the end made me so nostalgic for Fall. I am really going to miss it when we leave. And Halloween, my favorite holiday. Knowing that we are leaving though gives me an opportunity to cherish this last year and revel in all of the things that make Ohio, Ohio.

Another thing I am grieving is the school system here and the great friends Finn and Tali would have made had we stayed. The grounding that that would have given them. I really love the community that is Firelands schools, and I'm going to miss that.

Today we are headed out to Hale Farm and Village with the Boy Scouts. Should be fun!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Passports

Today I found our passports. Finn's, Tali's and mine has expired. Mark's is good for another year. We are hoping to visit Cuenca in December, a couple of days after Christmas for two weeks and take the kids. I think it will be good for them to go there first and then be able to come home. Traveling to Cuenca at Christmas should be very interesting because it will be during Holy Week and the Ecuadorians love to party! Hopefully we will be able to get out of the city and at least see parts of the outskirts where we would ultimately like to live. Just waiting to hear from my annuity guy. For some reason he is hemming and hawing. Don't like! In the meantime, we will get our passports and visas in order so that we will be ready to go!

The Big Decision That Will Change Our Lives Forever

I think it was 2004 when George Bush was reelected that we began to consider moving out of the country. At that time we did not like the way things were headed, and unfortunately it has not gotten any better, even after Obama was elected. We first began to consider warmer locations like Costa Rica about a year ago. We narrowed our search down to the highlands or the central valley, but to our dismay we found out that no foreigner can hold a job that a Costa Rican can. Good for them. Bad for us. We threw around a couple of ideas for possible jobs, but I found that law to be constraining and I didn't want to have to try to find a way to make it work. It seemed too hard. For example, we read a story about an expat who opened a B & B. You can own a business in Costa Rica, but all of the waiters, cleaners, etc... would have to be Costa Ricans. So, this man was helping out a busser and bussed one of his tables. Unfortunately, immigration stopped by at that moment, saw him bussing the table and in the end he was almost deported. I did not want to fight those rules.

My stepmother told me about a show called House Hunters International. I watched it once and was hooked. I am now obsessed with that show, and everyone I ask who has seen it is also obsessed! It was that show that turned us on to Ecuador. We saw a show about an expat who was looking for a home in Cotacachi. I was immediately drawn to the sites and sounds of the market in Cotacachi. And the prices for houses were amazingly low! There began our journey into Ecuador. We immediately began scouring the internet for sources on the country. We bought books and maps (which haven't arrived yet). We read blogs and found friends on Facebook and Yahoo groups.

So, why Ecuador? Many reasons. Some of them are subliminal. More a feeling than an actual reason. On one side we are stressed out by our jobs and the failing economy. On the other side we love the fact that in Cuenca the temperatures are spring-like all year round. The mornings and evenings can be chilly. Sometimes around 40 degrees, but it warms up throughout the day usually around 70. We love that we can be at the beach in 3 hours or the rainforest or the mountains. We love that most of the food is organic. And local! We have heard that the Ecuadorians are very family-oriented and like foreigners, even Americans. And it is very cheap to live there.

We have decided to live in Cuenca for at least the first year or so until we scout out the area and decide where we want to put down roots. We are going to be able to buy 3 years of Mark's military service and he will be able to start collecting his retirement pension in 2 years. His pension will be plenty to live on and we won't have to even work if we don't want to. We WILL work, but how awesome is it that we don't have to if we don't want to! You can rent (and we will rent. Don't want to buy again for awhile.) a very nice house for $400 - $600 a month. Apartments, nice apartments run around $280 to $300. We know a family of 6 and their grocery bill is only $50 a week.

We are in contact with some teachers from Guayaquil who work at the International School there. They would like to start an International School in Cuenca. That would be exciting. Mark is also considering starting an orphanage school or a school in a small village for indigenous children. There is also a need for B & B's in Cuenca. So, we see a lot of potential opportunities there.

It is with a heavy heart though that we make this decision. The thought of leaving my family and friends is devastating. Selling our animals and our farm is going to be heartbreaking. But every time I think about staying I think about going to work. And the thought of 16 more years in this school district makes me want to run through the streets screaming. And it is only going to get worse. This year I have a class of nice kids (although we are starting to see some serious signs of bullying), but we have 38 of them crammed into our room. In about 2 weeks we may lose our 4/5 split teacher. If that happens her students will be split between my class and the 5th grade class. That would mean 10 more students. We cannot move as it is. The children have no room to line up. I am hoping that reason will prevail and she will be allowed to keep her job. Michele has 60 8th grade students in her homeroom class. 60 8th graders! What is wrong with this system??? As I said, it is only going to get worse. And I won't even talk about Issue 2.

So, while moving away from family and friends is heartwrenching to say the least, we feel that we must make this move for the happiness of ourselves and our children.