time to get decorate-y

tap tap tap ... is this thing on?

a nearly four-month hiatus was unintentional, but life's like that sometimes. seriously, though ... how long and exhausting and existentially brutal have the past four months been?!

but now it's time for spring ... new energy ... things shifting. time to think locally. and what is more local than finally changing up my daughter's room?

we've been talking about it for nearly two years now, and harper has changed her mind four different times. last week, though, the one room challenge started again, and i decided that's it: time to jump in and play along from home and make this room happen. over the next six weeks, harp's room will finally ... hopefully ... get that makeover, barring any new surprises (like the $1000 we spent in the past two weeks to find out if our aging cat is dying (test results: he isn't), or spending the past 10 days watching marc try to fix our dryer, fingers crossed that he could figure it out (he did)).

the room will grow up and and warm up, and turn into the den of pre-teenage coziness that harper wants. without being a literal DEN of coziness, like she said she wanted. ("mom ... maybe we could make a wolf den! like, wood and sticks on the walls, and a furry bedspread ..." hilde santos-tomas would have loved that idea.)

 

Hay-glued-to-living-room-walls-trading-spaces-1

we started with color ... what colors did she want in her room? she initially said dark blue, gray, aqua,  yellow. so i played around with that and came up with an idea. and she liked it. and then she didn't.

 

6a00d8341d1db453ef01b8d120185b970c-450wi

then i showed her the beautiful cole + sons birches wallpaper, and she loved that. and then she didn't.

 

6a00d8341d1db453ef01bb083ac334970d-450wi

i showed her rooms that used stikwood on the walls, and told her we could do something along those lines to bring in the "wood/den" feeling.

 

A21f550d0c4cc4a8d31551a43b8b310b

|via|

 

she thought that might be okay, then changed her mind.

after that, i sort of let the idea go for awhile. she wasn't in a place to be sure of anything, and i didn't want to make a move without her being on board. why waste time and money if she wasn't sure of what she wanted?

before the holidays last year, she said she was finally ready to get a bigger bed and update her room. we started with what kind of bed she wants, and talked about buying a wood headboard or making something, but then she spent the night with a friend who has an upholstered headboard and harp declared that she, too, wanted an upholstered headboard. we continued to talk through things, and then out of the blue she said, "i want bedding like what we have in the guest room." what we have in the guest room is this duvet cover from schoolhouse electric:

 

103528_1024x1024

and i told her, "harp: if you love that bedding, you can have it. we'll do the room around that starting point. what do you think?" and she was 100% in, and stayed there. (bonus points for not having to buy new bedding, just new sheets.) i began the hunt for options for a new bed, since she will be upsizing to a full from a twin. i showed her some upholstered ones, but she couldn't really visualize what it might all look like, so i made some mood boards to help her out.

first was a background wall color, then the bedding, a picture of her dresser (which will stay the same) and of a writing desk similar to the one i've had since college (which she wants to keep), and the prints that she currently has framed and on her walls. then i pulled in a couple of other pieces, and different upholstered beds from world market and target and wayfair so she could see how it might all come together.

 

Harproom2

Harproom6

Harproom5

she ix-nayed the gold one right away, but thought the natural ones looked okay, and she really liked the idea of bringing in the coral color on the desk.

time went by and we didn't do a thing. (holidays, general sense of ennui after the first of the year,  you know ...) about a month ago she asked when we could start her room, so i looked up the beds again, and the same ones were no longer available, though there are others that are pretty close. i remembered her comment about liking the coral, and threw in this wild card from target ...

Harproom7

 

i loved it, but she said no way, jose.

i also showed her this bed which, while still upholstered, also has a dark metal element that would play off the black metal knobs on her dresser, and the proposed pipe shelves.

 

Harproom1

she loved this one. like, LOVED. because i'm an idiot, though, i hadn't read any of the reviews about it before showing it to harper. turns out, many people who had bought it didn't like that it felt cheap, that the metal was brown instead of black/bronze, the upholstery appears beige online but is actually white, etc.

uuugggghhhhhhh.

i also saw someone on instagram had the same bed, and she said it was from pottery barn, so i checked there. yeah ... that bed has natural linen and a black/bronze frame, but it is also $1200 ... not the $280 that wayfair was offering. so i broke the news to harper, and she said that she really liked it because of the metal, which reminded her of henry's bed, and really ... she just wants a bed just like henry's.

yes, henry has an iron bed. not upholstered. iron. what harper apparently wanted all along but never told me.

again, uuugggghhhhh.

a quick search on wayfair later, i found a lovely metal bed that looks like a more feminine version of henry's. i did a little re-arranging of the mood board, and showed harp.

and she said, "YES! that's my room!"

 

Harproomfinal

the wall color is slightly lighter and slightly more gray. the bed is metal. the sconces in harp's room that we planned to keep will get replaced by these white and gold numbers from ikea. her ceiling light will get swapped out for a basket shade ... this ikea one, if the size isn't too big. her coral-painted writing desk will get these adorable bronze fox knobs from anthro. and the pipe and board shelves? i found this genius version on pinterest that will bring in a lighter wood tone and more of that coral/copper:

 

Static1.squarespace.com

|via|

 

the only thing left to figure out is the window treatment, but that will come as we pull it all together.

harp loves this plan, i love this plan, and i can't wait to get it started for her! as long as she doesn't change her mind about something else in the meantime ...

Save

Save


see you later, snowflake

christmas has come and gone, and with it, so too has snowflake.

our last 10 days with her and gray kitty looked a little like this:

day 16: snowflake and gray kitty were simply hanging out on a wreath at the bottom of the stairs. still, it took harper a bit of looking to find them. sometimes the most obvious is the least obvious, or something like that ...

 

 

121616

 

day 17: snowflake and gray kitty were battling each other in a heated game of "guess who" in the basement.

 

121716

 

day 18: they decided to hang out on the silver bells that adorned the banister. glad they didn't swing on them ... that would have been a little noisy.

 

121816

 

day 19: a warm, snuggly hiding place.

 

121916

 

day 20: time for snowflake and gray kitty to get fancied up and decorate the barbie tree.

 

122016

 

day 21: somehow harper missed this on her dresser first thing in the morning, but snowflake and gray kitty left her a little impression of themselves.

 

122116

 

day 22: they were there first thing in the morning, to greet harper when she went to brush her teeth.

 

122216

 

day 23: snowflake and gray kitty ambitiously spelled out a message for us on the day before the day before christmas.

 

122316

 

day 24: snowflake kept her tradition of bringing harper's christmas jammies on christmas eve. this year, she had a pair for wyatt and nora, too.

 

122416

IMG_1884

 

day 25: christmas morning, snowflake was gone, but she left a message - and photographic evidence - for harper that she enjoyed the cookie harp decorated and left for santa.

 

122516

 

another christmas done. another year with snowflake over. and who knows what the next year will bring, but at least we know that no matter what, snowflake will come for a visit, and will bring christmas joy and magic with her.

Save


snowflake, week two

it's about to get really snowy and really REALLY cold around here in the next 24-72 hours. snowflake may want to just hang out at our place for the weekend and skip the trip back up north.

i'll have harp mention that to her ...

in the meantime, here's a look at snowflake and gray kitty's second week of visiting us:

day 9: who doesn't love to build a blanket fort, grab some snacks, and spend the day snuggled up and reading? apparently, north pole elves feel the same way.

 

120916

 

day 10: snowflake and gray kitty gathered up some friends for a little photo op ...

 

121016

 

day 11: snowflake won a major award!

 

121116

day 12: apparently, we have a musical elf ...

 

121216

day 13: harper loves to sew clothes for her menagerie of teeny tiny animals. apparently, snowflake wanted to include her own garment into teeny tiny animal couture.

 

121316

day 14: nothing like finding an elf and a cat in your fridge to get your heart pumping at 6 a.m.

 

121416

 

day 15: and today, snowflake must have heard about the impending weather, because she and gray kitty are all set with popcorn and christmas movies, and look perfectly content to sit tight. truth be told, i'd really like to join them.

 

121516

Save

Save


our first week with snowflake

it's december. the year is winding down (which ... how?? already??), and the start of this month brings the high school swim season, dodgy weather, marc's busy season (well, busier than normal.), the holidays, and snowflake.

hey there, snowflake.

harper and i both searched her room the night before december 1, trying to find gray kitty, but we just couldn't find her. harp was philosophical: "maybe snowflake knows where gray kitty is" ... "maybe gray kitty went to visit the north pole and will come back with snowflake" ... etc.

she hoped for the best, and laid out a nice warm bed, a cup of water, and a nightlight to greet her elf. and in the morning, not only was snowflake tucked into her blankets, but so was gray kitty.

 

120116

 

and so begins our visit with snowflake.

day 2: snowflake needed a sugar recharge from her long journey. lucky for her, our halloween candy was still in a bowl in the entryway. in the morning, harper found her and gray kitty hiding among the candlesticks, with a little pile of candy wrappers around them.

 

120216

 

day 3: harp woke up to find snowflake and gray kitty had done a little overnight christmas decorating in the bathroom. (we've decided to leave up the lights, and perhaps make them a yearly thing; that pink glow is pretty cheerful.)

 

120316

 

day 4: snowflake earned her keep by bringing breakfast. that was an appreciated gesture.

 

120416

day 5: we got the christmas tree up and decorated, but snowflake beat me to putting on the tinsel.

 

120516

 

day 6: having missed out on the fun of decorating the tree, snowflake and gray kitty decorated their own tree.

 

120616

 

day 7: snowflake and gray kitty looked how i felt yesterday morning.

 

120716

 

day 8: apparently, there is a game of hide and seek going on this morning.

 

120816

 


ecuador, part let's finish this

i need to complete this round-up of our trip to ecuador before the chaos of thanksgiving/high school swim season/christmas/end of school year/graduations/first grandchild hits. because yes, it will probably go that fast.

but first,

YYYYAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSS, CUBS!!!!!

just had to get that out.

okay: ecuador.

the last couple of days in ecuador were a mixed bag. we were exhausted, we all took turns being sick for a day, and our enthusiasm waned. because of that, some of our plans got altered, and things we wanted to do and see got nixed. but before we hit the wall, there were a few really nice moments.

during our first week, we were able to have dinner at the home of one of marc's closest friends. matt and marc grew up together, matt attended college about an hour away from where marc and i went, so the guys were able to keep in touch and i was able to get to know matt. he was the best man in our wedding, and before that there is a long story involving spring break, a ratty shack on the beach in florida, and matt literally saving the day for me and my dear friend by letting us crash on his couch for a few days. needless to say, we love matt. he married a few years ago, and he and his family now live in quito, and he teaches at the academy where he and marc attended high school. his wife is lovely, and his kids are pretty great. harper and his eldest daughter totally clicked.

 

IMG_5011

IMG_4994

we also did a little grocery shopping with harp, and she had fun looking at all the strange fruit. she's the pickiest eater, but she'll eat any weird fruit you put in front of her. i guess that's a good thing.

IMG_5009

and she got her first haircut from aunt hannah.

 

IMG_5017

on our second to last day, we walked from the guest house to the academy, so marc and steve could show us where they went to school. matt was there, too, and gave the grand tour. harper's stomach was starting to bother her, so we missed most of the tour, but saw the best parts:

the gym ... where marc spent most of his waking hours and, apparently, was a god ...

 

IMG_5045

he said the locker room felt a little smaller, though ...

 

IMG_5029

and his locker is still there ...

 

IMG_5046

the last Must Do before we headed home was the teleferico ... a ski-lift/gondola-type ride that goes 1000 meters up, along pichincha. because harper was afflicted with stomach issues, and she isn't one for heights anyway, i stayed back at the house with her and hannah while the guys took the ride. i gave marc my camera and crossed my fingers. and being guys, about all i got from them about the trip was, "it was cool" and "the view was amazing." so just keep that in mind as you scroll through the pix.

 

20160820_153938

 (yes, this is what i was afraid of.)

 

IMG_8530

IMG_8523

IMG_8531

IMG_8511

IMG_8512

IMG_8534

IMG_8546

(with all those antennae, there MUST be a signal ...)

 

IMG_8539

IMG_8552

IMG_8548

(typical teenager move)

 

IMG_8562

IMG_8563

IMG_8634

IMG_8603

(stiiiilllll looking for service ...)

 

IMG_8638

and then they were home. since the boys got to have an outing, hannah and i took one last cab ride to an artist market in downtown quito for a few more souvenirs, and ended up with some lovely earrings that we dubbed the "sister earrings." (hey ... if the boys could have their fun ...)

and then that was that.

our flight home didn't leave until 11:30 p.m., so we spent our final day doing laundry, trying to fit all the souvenirs (marc bought one suitcase-worth of snacks) into our bags, playing some final games. as the sun started to set, harp and i said one last farewell to cayambe ...

 

IMG_8653

and then it was over.

we boarded our plane, and soon everyone was asleep. well, almost everyone. i can't sleep on planes. which means i got to see panama ...

 

IMG_5060

and cuba, which i actually woke henry to see, because he did a school project about taking study abroad in cuba and now very much wants to go. and also, we could see cuba!

 

IMG_5067

then there was lightning over the florida keys ...

 

IMG_5072

a super quick stop in atlanta ... (like, 90 minutes to deplane, get through customs, get to our next gate) ... and then we were on our way home.

it was a wonderful adventure, i'm so glad it finally worked out to take the kids and let them see the culture in which their dad grew up, and i know it was eye-opening for both of them ... and for me, too. it was great to finally get to know hannah better, and for marc to have time with his brother. the trip was worth every penny, every tired day, every day we thought the altitude would kill us, every day we thought diarrhea would kill us, every day we thought harper would kill us ...

and that's the end of the story. thanks for sticking it out.

Save


ecuador, part 4

i'm almost done. i swear. but ... it was 10 days. that's a lot of stuff to cover.

the trip to otavalo was a really great day. the ride there was through some amazing topography ... we were coming out of the altitude of quito through these strange hills of the andes, so dry and desert-like, and many are covered with this odd industrial run-off material. it was such an unusual landscape that we were all captivated by what was out the window. half an hour into the ride, we pulled off the road at an overlook and took in our surroundings.

IMG_8416

IMG_8411

IMG_8423

IMG_8437

another half an hour down the road, the landscape started to get more green. steve had heard from someone that there is a great place to eat just outside of otavalo, off the main road but near a lake. we decided to find it, and once we did, we were all so glad. to say "a little place by the lake" is such an understatement to describe what we found. the view left us all a little speechless and giddy.

 

IMG_8446

IMG_8447

IMG_8449

IMG_8451

the restaurant, which was part of a resort of small cabins, was literally on the edge of this lake, with the hill directly across from us. as we sat and ate, all we could see was the water and this amazing hill rising up from it. at lovely as the hills and mountains of quito are, i'm a water girl, and didn't realize how much i need to see water until we got to this place. my soul was instantly happy.

IMG_8453

IMG_8452

IMG_8455

IMG_8454

we reluctantly tore ourselves away after lunch, and finished our trek to otavalo so we could check out the market.

 

IMG_8500

IMG_8472

when marc and i were dating, i would often hear his family talk about the "otavalo indian market," but i had no idea what to expect. the center of town fills with booths full of textiles and sweaters and crafts and art, and the storefronts surrounding the market open up to sell food and other home goods. the people are incredibly friendly, but they are also relentless in their quest to get you to buy something. i had gone into it with the thought that i wasn't going to haggle; the price they asked was the price they wanted to get. however, when a blanket at one stall is $25, and two stalls over the same blanket goes for $11, you soon learn to find out what their best offer is.

(though it blew my mind every time that i would refuse an amazing, silky alpaca wool blanket for $18. i mean ... i would have bought 20.)

 

IMG_8460

IMG_8462

IMG_8466

IMG_8463

IMG_8464

  IMG_8471

 i was glad we'd chosen to go on a week day, when it was way less crowded. henry had already decided this was his least favorite activity of the trip so far, and after an hour of looking through the same sort of items over and over, your eyes start to glaze over. but we all found a few things to make us happy - marc, a soccer shirt; harper, an alpaca jacket; henry, a wooden bowl with an indian head painted on it; and i did get a couple of blankets and a silver ring - so it was a successful trip. after a quick stop for water at a place with an actual bathroom, we got back in the van to head home.

IMG_8479

IMG_8482

IMG_8486

IMG_8494

IMG_8504

and that was otavalo.

one more part, and i think this story will be finished.

Save


ecuador, part 3

part 1 ... part 2 ... life intrudes ... part 3:

our next big outing in ecuador was to mitad del mundo ... the center of the world ... the equator.

there are two centers of the earth, apparently ... the first was determined in the 1730s by a french explorer, and the official second site was gps-verified and developed in recent years. the new one is only 250 meters from the old one ... those early explorers did a pretty good job!

 

IMG_8218

 

we started at the newest one.

there is a replica village, complete with history of the area and some of the indian tribes. included in that history is a legit shrunken head and instructional seminar on how one makes a shrunken head. (allegedly, tribes no longer shrink heads. but still ... they have the know-how.) the most interesting thing about the process is that after cutting off the enemy's head, pulling out the skull, and filling the skin with a rock, they then sew up the mouth because they don't want the enemy's "evil spirits" to escape. (they couldn't escape through, say, the nostrils or ears or, like, the neck? and the spirits somehow live not in the brain or the heart but in the head skin? okay.)

IMG_8210

 

we continued through huts and kitchens and where they kept the cuy, or guinea pigs. (more about the guinea pigs in a bit.) our guide explained the way the indians lived, different activities and rituals (did you know if your husband died, you got to be buried with him - alive but drugged - so that you could care for him in the afterlife? thank god for feminism.), what it's like to live in the amazon. (the 10' python model was super encouraging ... encouraging me to not go to the amazon.)

 

IMG_8269

 

then we reached the line marking the equator.

 

IMG_8219

 

while at the equator, the guide did various experiments - how water flows down a drain in different directions, depending on what side of the equator she places the basin; how your balance is better right on the equator, how you have better leverage and strength on the equator, and so on.

 

IMG_8234

IMG_8245

IMG_8263

IMG_8267

 

then we got to try the famous "balancing an egg on its end because its on the equator" trick.

 

IMG_8230

IMG_8276

IMG_8309

IMG_8277

IMG_8285

IMG_8296

while standing at the egg balancing station, we could see a monument off in the distance. i asked what that was, and was told that it is the original site. remember how i said they are so close to each other?

 

IMG_8303

after egg balance had been achieved, we got our passports stamped with "center of the earth" ...

 

IMG_8273

then drove 10 minutes down the road to middle earth number two. this was the equator marc remembered going to when he was a kid, though much had been changed and built up since the last time he was there. he said it was all very impressive ... and it was. this was our favorite equator.

 

IMG_8314

 

IMG_8341

IMG_8361

our first order of business was lunch, and there were shops and places to eat all around the grounds. steve & hannah had a favorite restaurant, and there was a porch with tables and a lovely breeze.

marc ordered yet another ceviche, henry started with a big plate of sausage and eggs and plantains, harp had another choclo and some chicken soup, and i had a plate of corvina ... an ecuadorean white fish that is so yummy.

 

IMG_8324

however, before our meal arrived, we tried an ecuadorean specialty: cuy. remember what cuy is? yes ... guinea pig.

 

IMG_5018

it was interesting. i wouldn't say it was terrible, but i wouldn't say it was all that great, either. definitely a check mark on the list of exotic things to eat, though.

when we had finished lunch, henry actually decided to keep eating ... a cheeseburger, and then something else. i don't know what, because the girls decided to head to some of the surrounding shops while the guys (*guy) ate. half an hour later, we were all ready to walk off our lunches and check out the area.

we headed straight for the monument and climbed to the top. there was a great view of the surrounding area. as we stood there, we watched clouds envelop a nearby hill, and a small dust tornado swirl around a little neighborhood. the view was pretty amazing.

IMG_8350

IMG_8352

IMG_8355

back on the ground floor, we checked out the non-equator, and then wandered through some of the small museums scattered throughout the park.

 

IMG_8370

IMG_8375

IMG_8377

IMG_8380

before we left, steve & hannah took us to their favorite shop, run by an ecuadorean woman named elvira, and her son, whom steve & hannah have befriended and always visit when they take guests to the monument. elvira was just the sweetest lady, and couldn't get over how tall marc and the kids are. she has granddaughters harper's age, and didn't believe us when we said harper is 11. i tried to tell her that i, too, am "muy alta," but elvira just laughed at me.

she talked to marc for quite awhile about the last time he visited quito, his time there for school, all the while she and her son were helping our kids find the perfect souvenirs. harper got a stuffed llama; henry got whatever this is:

IMG_8381

(which, he says, will be worn at high school meets this winter. so stay tuned for that.)

it was so good to hear marc using his spanish. he's been more than reluctant to pull out that particular skill over the years, even though i have repeatedly begged him to be conversational with the kids so they will pick up some. he did a much better job that he thinks he can do.  henry also did a really good job understanding what he was hearing and responding to the best of his ability, having four years of spanish under his belt. i had four years in school as well, but that was a long time ago. still, i could understand more than i thought i would, and could offer very rudimentary replies. just enough to feel like i wasn't totally in the dark.

amazingly enough, for the first week or so after we got home, i found myself expecting to hear spanish, and thinking of spanish responses. it's very weird to try and switch brain gears. but it motivates me to try to learn another language. spanish would make the most sense, but i've always wanted to take french or italian ... who knows.

anyway, after the shop, we walked toward the entrance of the park to find the car and call it a day. along the way, there were about a dozen identical hummingbird sculptures and leaf seats, and all had been painted by different artists. harper loved these, and had me take a photo of her sitting in each one, with her camera. and i had to get a picture or two for myself.

 

IMG_8395

IMG_8401

IMG_8386

one last stop before we called it a day: there was a very cool modern building just outside the park, and it was surrounded by all these different flags. we were very curious about what it was, and discovered it's actually the united nations building for south american countries - unasur.

IMG_8409

and that was that. we drove home, cleaned up, and went to marc's favorite steak place for dinner to celebrate steve's belated birthday ... and marc had yet another ceviche. (count: four days, five ceviches.) it was a day full of information and sun and walking and food and spanish. we were all exhausted, but it was a really wonderful experience.

next experience on the docket: the otovalo market. and that will be part 4.

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save


ecuador, part 2

i left you hanging halfway through our bus tour of quito. but i did mention that our next stop was el panecillo, sooo ...

the drive from the basilica to el panecillo - the name of a 200m tall volcanic hill (called "the little bread loaf" - el panecillo) - goes through the historic center of quito, then is pretty much straight up to the statue of The Virgin of Quito, the tallest aluminum statue in the world.

the sights through the city were varied, from very third-world-esque block buildings, to really beautiful and intricate colonial architecture.

 

IMG_7910

IMG_7905

 

(you can see the statue in the distance)

IMG_7917

IMG_7921

(gringotts, quito branch)

 

IMG_7929

IMG_7936

(ecuadorean construction scaffold)

 

once out of the busier part of the city, the road begins to serpentine up the side of the hill.

IMG_7942

 

and then we reached the part of the trip where the bus has to essentially u-turn on a two-lane road on the side of a hill ... see that blue bus going in the opposite direction and getting ready to turn toward the bus in the center of the photo? we're about to turn 180 degrees in the middle of the road and do the same.

IMG_7950

 

we just trusted the driver, that he'd done this before.

turns out, he had, and soon we were on top of the hill. the density of the city continued to amaze me throughout the trip.

IMG_7960

IMG_7967

 

and then, there was the statue:

IMG_7970

 

the only statue of the virgin mary depicted with wings, from the Book of the Apocalypse. (which, i assume, is revelations?)

you can actually go in the statue and climb up four floors to look out, but our bus was stopped for too limited a time. instead, we walked around the park a little and took in the views.

 

IMG_7973

IMG_7975

IMG_7978

IMG_8006

IMG_8000

and we stopped by the vendors so the kids could have a snack - choclo, an andean field corn that is roasted and eaten on the cob. marc was eager to have it again, henry is always up for trying food, and harper - even though corn is on her list of top five worst foods in the world - tried a bite and decided it was amazing.

IMG_7992

IMG_7987

 

we used the bathroom - which cost us 25 cents for six squares of toilet paper, and the toilet had no seat - and got back on the bus.

heading down the hill was just as nerve-racking, because this time we knew what was coming, and we were driving on the side of the road closest to certain death.

 

IMG_8024

 

but after the first tricky turn, we knew to trust our driver, and just enjoyed the scenery for the rest of the bus tour.

IMG_8042

IMG_8045

the streets are so narrow that i literally could stick my hand out the window and touch the buildings. harper looked down at one point, and said the sidewalk had almost enough room for one person to walk at a time, with one shoulder on the building and the other shoulder trying to not get hit by the bus. those bus drivers are incredibly good at not running into a wall or pedestrian.

 

IMG_8065

IMG_8091

IMG_8074

IMG_8080

IMG_8101

we drove back through the historic center, and saw the presidential palace and a quick glimpse of the guards, and the plaza. it was so beautiful, and we made plans to return the following week to watch the changing of the guard and spend time on the plaza. sadly, by the following week, harp was sick and we stayed in. i would have loved to see more of the plaza area. next time, i guess.

 

IMG_8099

IMG_8100

 

and there was the basilica again ...

 

IMG_8105

IMG_8133

 

and more of those wires you don't want to hit with your head ...

 

IMG_8123

IMG_8157

 

we drove by soccer fields the way we drive by baseball fields in the states.

 

IMG_8158

 

it was a long day, and we saw so much. harper was too overwhelmed by it all, and ended the day with a major meltdown. she was too overcome by all the traffic and noise and spanish everywhere we went. so we put her to bed and promised the next day would be quiet and home-based.

we all slept in the next morning. harp woke up in a better state of mind, and we all enjoyed a more relaxed day. i got laundry done while harp sat on the front steps, trying to take pictures of all the birds that were flying around outside.

 

IMG_4847

 

i joined her in between loads, and together we looked at all the beautiful flowers growing in this small front yard.

 

IMG_8164

IMG_8181

IMG_8178

IMG_8175

 

the geraniums here have leaves that are more like those of a succulent.

 

IMG_8165

IMG_8182

IMG_8183

IMG_8189

 

and harp loved being able to pick a fresh lime ... which is called a limon ... just like lemon ...

 

IMG_8185

... which explains why, after 42 years, marc still doesn't know the difference between a lime and a lemon. (we figured out so many of these little things on this trip ... it helped me understand his brain so much better. like, all of the lunchmeat is labeled "jamon de ..." or, "ham of ... something". ham of turkey, ham of chicken, ham of ... ham. ham = lunchmeat. now i totally get why marc, for years, called every single sandwich a ham sandwich, regardless of what was on it. i literally thought he was being simple. but no, he was being ecuadorean.)

while we were busy enjoying the garden, the rest of the group took a trip to the grocery store. steve and hannah are moving to the coastal town of manta, where their mission will shift from guesthouse hosting to earthquake relief. so henry, to earn volunteer hours for national honor society, was able to help buy all the groceries and bag them in individual relief bundles for the mission. he was a big help to get that done before the next group heads to the earthquake-hit area, and ended up packaging 31 separate care bags.

  20160817_135937

20160817_135429

(store shelves aren't quite as tall in ecuador.)

 

IMG_8194

IMG_8196

 

it was good to have a restful day, especially for harper, so she could mentally and emotionally prepare for our next big outing: the center of the world.

and that will be part 3.

Save


ecuador, part 1

when i was a senior in high school, my mom decided to take a class at the local university. one night, she came home from class and said to me, "there is this boy in my class, and he doesn't say a whole lot, and he's from somewhere in south america, but you would make the cutest babies."

and i just rolled my eyes.

the next year, for whatever reason, i chose to go to said local university. and i got a nice circle of friends. and there was this guy in that circle who didn't say a whole lot, and mostly just went to the gym to play basketball. but he would eat at our table occasionally, and we got friendly. by the second semester of my freshman year, we had a class together and he would sit by me. one day i realized he was pretty handsome. so we tried going on a date. and it wasn't great. we tried another. and it wasn't great, either. and i kind of let that go. then he called me to play pool at the student union, and that was pretty great. then we hung out for a day. my mom worked on campus, so he walked me to her office after we hung out, and she took one look at us together, dragged me into a closet, and whispered, "that's the marc from my class!"

so of course i had to marry him.

but before we got married and made those beautiful babies, we traveled to ecuador (because he was from somewhere in south america) to visit his family. and that was 22 years ago.

IMG_3808

his family relocated to the states within a year of us traveling down there, so marc never had a reason to go back to his home. but he has always felt nostalgia for certain things - going to boarding school in quito, the perfect climate while living in the mountains, seeing the snow-capped volcanoes in the distance, and certain foods and fruit.

we always said that at some point we wanted to take the kids to ecuador so they could see where their dad grew up. i had found it very helpful in understanding why he was the way he was sometimes, and knew it would help the kids be able to relate, too. we had decided a few years ago to take this trip before henry left for college, and as luck would have it, marc's brother and his wife moved to quito about a year ago. so the timing was perfect: henry is halfway through high school, we now have family in the area and a place to stay, and harper is finally (maybe?) old enough to cope with a trip of this scale and distance from her comfort zone.

so in mid-august, we hopped a plane for 10 days in ecuador.

(hint: go potty now. this is a little long.)

IMG_4733

IMG_4739

(still handsome.)

IMG_7688

(the cutest babies.)

we left the house early tuesday morning, had a flight to atlanta, and then a five-hour layover before heading south. lucky for us, marc had sprung for business class for the second, longer leg of our trip, so we could have some leg room and a bit more comfortable ride.

IMG_4728

IMG_4727

IMG_7689

IMG_4743

along with the leg room, we also had in-flight movie options. henry chose "the man from u.n.c.l.e.," harper watched "zootopia," marc watched a superhero movie, and i? well, i spent some time with bing and frank and grace kelly in "high society," then moved on to "to kill a mockingbird." it's really lovely to be able to choose what to watch ... ahem.

IMG_4745

 

i also lucked out and got the best row-mates ever:

IMG_4747

this photo was taken before the plane even took off. they woke long enough to eat some dinner, then zonked back out. the older one was so sweet and helpful to her little sister. perfect little dumplings.

anyway ...

about five and a half hours later, we saw the lights of quito ...

IMG_4765

then we got through baggage and customs, found steve & hannah, and were on our way.

IMG_4766

our first full day there, we relaxed, let our bodies acclimate to being 9,000+ feet above sea level, and explored our home for the next 10 days. steve and hannah are running a guest house through their mission organization, and the guest house just happens to be the old boarding school dorm where marc and his siblings lived during high school. for the duration of our stay, marc and i slept in his sophomore year dorm room. he said the senior year room was the best, because the bars on the windows were loose and you could easily sneak out. but that room now has bunk beds, so ... no sneaking out for us.

Room

and the bathrooms were set up with three showers and two toilet stalls, so they were super spacious ...

IMG_4800

but marc said the house was much like it was back in the early 90s. even the groundskeeper is the same guy.

  IMG_8190

IMG_8202

IMG_7715

IMG_7710

(the room marc may have inadvertently set on fire 25 years ago ...)

 

out the front door, you can see hedge walls of lantana, as well as pichincha, a dormant volcano.

IMG_4776

IMG_8169

and out the back is cayambe, a not so dormant one.

IMG_8644

also in the back is the basketball court where marc spent innumerable hours of his youth.

IMG_7694

once the tour of the inside of the house was complete, we hung out and made plans for the rest of the week. around dinnertime, steve recommended a great place to eat that would give us a great view out over the city. we grabbed two cabs and were off on what was the first of several wild cab rides. through narrow streets full of drivers with very little sense of actual traffic rules, we bumped along and watched the driver honk his horn through intersections, to let people know stoplights didn't matter, and the other drivers were just in his way and he was going to go, regardless. once we reached the hilltop where the restaurant - cafe mosaico - was, we could see that the ride was worth it.

the view was breathtaking.

IMG_7718

IMG_7716

20160815_181226

20160815_175441

IMG_7720

the food was wonderful, even though hannah's didn't come out until everyone else was halfway finished eating. and marc got his first of many ceviche de camaron.

the cab ride back was a bit more than harp could take. it was pretty much the party cab of quito ... fur around the mirror, music, a light show, a metallic ceiling, and a little hammock hanging from the visor, among other accoutrements. the thing that pushed her over the edge, though: no seat belts in the back seat. she was pretty much a nervous wreck the entire ride home. poor kid. all we could say was, "welcome to ecuador."

IMG_4797

day two: we headed out for a different kind of road adventure: a big red bus tour of quito.

now, we are big fans of big red bus tours. we've enjoyed them in dc, we've enjoyed them in san francisco, and we enjoyed the duck boat and boat boat versions in boston and chicago. we love tours. it's the best way to get an overview of the city, figure out where you want to spend more time later in the trip, or just hop off and spend some time exploring right then and there, and then hop back on the bus when you're ready to move on.

quito's tour was no different ... with the exception of the traffic being way crazier, the roads way more narrow, and the hills so much steeper that - at certain points in the ride - we may have put our hands in the air. because it felt like we were on a roller coaster.

in spite of all of that, it was a wonderful way to get a glimpse of this city that sits five miles deep and 31 miles wide.

IMG_7725

IMG_7729

there is a lot of construction going on in quito, so these trucks lined the center of the street. their cargo? propane tanks for the construction workers.

IMG_7731

IMG_7732

IMG_7742

we realized that "watch your head" basically means "all the different lines across the road are going to be about 6" from the top of this bus, so ... watch your head."

the first stop along the way was at the centro de arte contemporaneo. i could have spent way more time here, but there were more places to go and things to see and do. what we did see while here, though, was fascinating.

IMG_7746

IMG_7748

IMG_7750

IMG_7760

IMG_7758

the above item was suspended from the ceiling, hanging at eye level. in the corner was a video, and over the speakers around the room was this eerie creaking, cracking, moaning sound, with echoing hums and whistles. as we read the information signs around the room and watched the video, we realized that the artist/scientist had taken a recording device up a volcano to where there was a glacier. then he lowered the recording device into a crevice in the glacier, and recorded the sounds of the glacier shifting and moving. those were all the noises from the speakers. the sculpture above is a 3d printer depiction of the sound waves.

so interesting.

IMG_7763

and this number ... the artist traveled all over the world to gather dirt and rocks, which he put into labeled metal canisters. then he created this balancing scale mobile, using the canisters as weights and counterbalances, until he achieved perfect balance across the mobile. on the wall was a schematic - a map, of sorts - of the mobile and where the canisters are from.

that was pretty amazing, as well.

 

IMG_7766

 IMG_7765

  IMG_7768

IMG_7775

next stop after the museum was the basilica del voto nacional ... the largest neo-gothic basilica in the americas.

IMG_7779

IMG_7802

this place is way cool. the architecture is absolutely amazing, both inside and out. see those gargoyle-like things hanging off the side? not gargoyles ... but animals. animals from the galapagos.

IMG_7804

IMG_7800

IMG_7806-Edit

IMG_7815

IMG_7818

IMG_7820

personally, it bothers me when churches spend so much money on their own looks. however, seeing this place, the money seemed so worth it. i couldn't get enough.

for a small fee, you can tour the inside, and see the incredible stained glass windows and flying buttresses and all those other fabulous trappings. for a slightly larger fee ... well ... i'll get to that in a minute.

first: inside.

  IMG_7827

IMG_7823

IMG_7829

IMG_7832

IMG_7836

IMG_7837

IMG_7839

IMG_7838

IMG_7842

IMG_7844

IMG_7848

IMG_7852

IMG_7856

IMG_7858

IMG_7862

IMG_7882

IMG_7873

while harp and i took in the amazingness that was the inside of the church, marc and henry and steve and hannah took the slightly different tour. it also went inside the church, in a manner of speaking, but it included a special look at the outside of the church.

 

IMG_7788

did you see the people on the gothic spire?

IMG_7788labeled

yup. they went there. first, they had to go to the third floor of the church. then another flight or two to reach the roof, where there was essentially a ridge pole-type bridge spanning the length of the basilica, between the buttresses and the roof.

  20160816_130400

20160816_132641

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

20160816_130405 from michele skinner on Vimeo.

and then once they spanned the cathedral and climbed the vertical ladder at the other end, they emerged up in the spire.

20160816_130826

20160816_132237

 

20160816_131925 from michele skinner on Vimeo.

20160816_132209

 and then they went back down, walked back across the church, then up into the clock towers.

 

20160816_133233

20160816_133458

20160816_133744

once they were safely back on the ground floor, we grabbed a burger across the plaza, and hopped the bus to our next stop: el panecillo.

and ... this is long enough. we'll get to the rest of the bus tour, and trip, next time.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save


... and summer's over

we woke up this morning - around 3 a.m. - to a massive thunderstorm. lightning, thunder, relentless rain. at 6 a.m., when my alarm went off, the weather was equally forceful.

the perfect way to start the first day of school.

i woke up harper, and her first words were, "is that rain?!"

yup. it's gonna be a raincoat day.

she quickly dressed in the outfit she laid out the night before ... denim capris, a white tank top, a white v-neck top she picked out at gap (from the adult side, thankyouverymuch), a hummingbird necklace ... was in and out of the bathroom, and eating a muffin, within 15 minutes.

someone was a little excited for the first day of school.

of middle school.

because ... my baby is in middle school.

w.t.h.

she eagerly put on her sandals, grabbed her backpack, made sure she had lunch money and an umbrella, and headed out the door.

the rain, thankfully, had subsided just long enough to get the first day of school photo.

IMG_8748

she was all smiles as the bus came, and she walked to it with two girlfriends.

and 10 minutes later, the texts started ... "mom." "mom." "mom." "i don't feel well." "i feel like i'm gonna throw up."

my poor little ball of anxiety. she hates the bus. she's nervous about a new school. she's terrified she'll show up in the wrong room, or at the wrong time. that she won't know what to do in the lunch room. that she won't have friends in any of her classes.

typical middle school fears.

i texted her back, told her it was just nerves, told her she would do great, told her no one would give her trouble if she ended up in the wrong room at the wrong time. told her to talk to her friends and take deep breaths.

and i didn't hear back ... so hopefully she got it all figured out.

the email from the principal at 7:45 stated that all kids were in classrooms and the halls were empty, so all looks positive.

and 20 minutes after harp was off to 6th grade, my 11th grader ate a muffin, grabbed his keys, and was out the door to get gas and head to school.

by himself.

not on a bus.

because he's a junior.

w.t.h.

IMG_8757

how?? how did we get here already?? i mean, wasn't HE just off to his first day of middle school???

i'm so confused, trying to figure out where the last five years have gone.

but he's ready. i mean, he isn't ready to be back at school ... he had a great summer full of friends and work and growing independence ... but he's ready to move forward. he's feeling the itch of almostdone-itis. this is a big year for him ... a lot of decisions to make, a lot of hard work and effort to put forth ... and i hope he's ready and understands that this is it. this is the big year.

summer moved so quickly at the beginning, as it always does, and then we consciously slowed down.

harper decided to take the summer off from swimming, so we spent a lot of time together, and she had some lovely play dates with friends. last week, to cap off the quiet summer, she spent some time on the lake with her bff from preschool to celebrate the fact that starting today, they will finally - again - be classmates. and while the girls took off across the water on their own, her friend's mom and i just shook our heads, trying to figure out how they aren't four years old anymore.

IMG_8662

IMG_8711

IMG_8742

henry, on the other hand, had the opposite of a quiet summer. he was heading to the pool every morning at 7 a.m., and then to lifeguard for an eight-hour shift, and then often to hang out with friends or co-workers in the evening. he carpooled with buddies or, once he got his license, drove himself, and felt the freedom that comes with your own time and your own money.

he didn't do any meets until the senior state meet at the beginning of august, where he cleaned up ... 6th place in the 100 free, 3rd place in the 50 free, and medals in all five relays - a 4th, a 3rd, two 2nds, and a first place finish in the 200 free relay that was .14 secs off the state record.

IMG_7014

IMG_7259

IMG_7459

IMG_7682

we are entering very different territory today. it was a very different kind of summer. who knows what this year will bring.

but good or bad, here we go.

Save

Save

Save

Save