domingo, novembro 01, 2009

Yesterday was Halloween. We went to the mall. We bought a Christmas tree. Since the Halloween party at school was moved to the 6th, I am still finishing Ju's snail costume. Halloween here is only about scary characters and none of his friends can understand how a snail is scary and tell him so. I am feeling distinctly unHalloweeny, which is very unlike me as it was always my most favorite holiday ever. I hope it kicks in for Friday. I am working on a sort of costume for the night party - something involving this top hat and vampire teeth. For the day I think I will be an owl at school. That is, if I can finish the costume on time. At least I have the hat as back up.

quinta-feira, outubro 29, 2009

Conversations with Ju -

Ju enters the bedroom, completely soaked in his clothes.
"Ju, why are you all wet?"
"I have to fix my hair. We are going to two festas!"

Reading a Halloween book, and seeing that the main character just went into the "witch's house" in the story and decide to predict what will happen next in the story.
"What do you think will happen?"
"I think she's gonna get him and put him in her panela" (pot)
"Oh, you mean her cauldron? Yeah, maybe. And then what will happen?"
"She's gonna make him be a.. a.. a sandwich!"

In other news, our Halloween comes late this year - due to the long holiday weekend coming up, the school decided to move our party to the 6th of November. This is good because I have more time to finish Ju's snail costume. But it's pretty funky already with all the Xmas decorations up, only to get worse the farther into November we go.

terça-feira, outubro 13, 2009

Haha, I always wondered what the words to that song were...

quarta-feira, setembro 09, 2009

Over the summer, Ju learned a song at Quaker meeting. It is a song I sang as a kid, written by a local folk singer called Carol Johnson. What they did in first day school that got him to learn it when I had sang it to him for years before hand, I will never know. This song is called "Love Grows." His first version went like this -

"Love grows, one by one, two by two, three by three and four by four...."

After a month of this, he had corrected it and would sing it at random in the car whenever he felt things were getting too quiet.

Then the other night, as I was putting him to bed and staying with him "just for five minutes, please please because I love you" (and then he bats those long eyelashes at you and gives you a silly smile), he began to sing it, whispering, in Portuguese. He sang the entire chorus, it seems, completely translated by himself.

"Amor crecer, um by um, dois by dois e quatro by quatro"
"Amor crecer, faz um ciculo e vai bater na sua porta na frente"

When I asked him later in the week if he had sang this song at school, thinking maybe his Portuguese teacher translated it (I shared the song with the whole school a couple of years ago and now everyone from grade 2 - 7 knows the lyrics and sang it for a school wide presentation), but he insists he figured it out himself. I will have to verify this, of course, before I get too excited about how cool this is.

segunda-feira, setembro 07, 2009

Queimadas, for those wondering where it was. I loved it.

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quarta-feira, setembro 02, 2009

Hi all, I swear I'm not dead or lost or anything. I spent my usual month in the USA in June/July and just have not gotten back into the swing of blogging quite yet. I promise more stories soon though. Lots more. Just let me get through my current MA course and the start up of DI and I swear I'll get back into it.

sábado, maio 23, 2009

Sometimes in the afternoons, Ju and I will do sort of research projects to figure out how things work, mostly focusing on science. We spent some days looking at videos of tornadoes and hurricanes and discussing them because of the recent weather patterns.

He has always be very fascinated by the elevators in the mall, watching them go up and down, so we made our own elevator on the stairs one day to learn about pulleys. It was a good time for Ju and for Duse who thought that we had hung string that moved just for him to play with.

Ju got annoyed several times as Duse would quickly knock our string off the pulley with his constant pawing, but I think all in all the activity was a success.
Ju generally wakes me up early on any given day when I'd rather not be up early. It begins with him running into our room, getting on me in bed, usually asking for me to look at this thing he made with leggos or playdough or grabbing a cat who was pleasantly sleeping on my legs or my hair. He will run in and out of the room for about 20 minutes, and then begin telling me to get up because he wants breakfast. Usually I can waylay him a bit if I don't want to get up quite yet and he finds something else to do until I go downstairs. This morning was much the same story, except when I rolled over and told him to give me a few more minutes, he took it upon himself to get what he wanted. I could hear him moving things around downstairs, and eventually I heard the sound of granola being poured in a bowl. As the granola is kept on a shelf above the sink, I decided I had better get up in case he was doing something even more dangerous than climbing up on the kitchen counter. He must have been really hungry and unwilling to wait for me, got his stool from the bathroom, used it to climb up on the counter, got down the granola and the cashew nuts, climbed back down, got his own bowl out, served himself half the container of granola (about 2 cups) into the bowl, and was just about to put milk on it which he had gotten out of the fridge on his own as well. Although it's nice to see him so independent and it may mean I get to sleep in in the future, it may end up being an awful waste of food. Maybe it's time to put a scoop in the granola, and perhaps take it out of the glass container and put it in plastic instead.


As I was typing this, we had this conversation.

"mommy, look, the car is on the pedga."

"it's on a what?"

"it's a pegda."

"a playdough?"

"no, a pegda!"

"a peda?"

"no, a pega!"

"a what? a prega" (nail)

"no! a peda!"

"a playdough?"

"no! something else, hard!" (hits his fist on the floor beside the car)

"oh! you mean a pebble?"

"yeah, a peddle."

sábado, maio 09, 2009

We went to the supermarket today to do our big bimonthly shopping trip. To pass the time, Ju and I wandered over to look at the fish on ice. There were some whole salmon and some red fish. One of the red fish was chopped up into fillets, yet still connected by the skin and with the head attached. Ju and examined it and had the following conversation.

"Mommy, why's it like that?"

"All chopped up? Why do you think it's like that?"

"Because the tubarão came and shwish shwish swish." (motions what I think is swimming)

"The shark came and cut it up?"

"Yeah, he cut it."

"How did he cut it, do you think? With a knife?"

"No, he did it with his sail." (he has been studying dinosaurs at school and is probably thinking of Spinosaurus)

"Oh, you mean his fin? On his back, right?"

"Yeah, he cut it with his fin. He came and went swish swish swish."

quarta-feira, maio 06, 2009

Ju has figured out ANY is part of the negation of English, so he says things like "Mommy, there is any cars coming. We can cross."
More rain.

A friend had told me yesterday her house was filling up with water - today I heard she lost everything. There was over a meter of water in her house. I can't get in contact with her and I want to know how she is and what she needs. She has two boys.

terça-feira, maio 05, 2009

Are you paranoid about swine flu? We sure are. There are stories passing left and right about confirmed cases (there have been no confirmed cases in Brazil, as of yet), paranoid parents wanting me to tell them about every sniffle or cough that I witness in the class, people canceling their trips to Disney, you name it. At the moment I can feel myself getting a cold of some kind, nose feels like it's filling up with something, feeling a bit tired. Just watch, I'll go to school sick tomorrow and the parents will assume I caught swine flu just because I am American (yes, seriously, some of these parents think that way and I wouldn't put it past them to tell people they meet as much as well).

And lets not even worry about the rain (more on This Week in Bahia). It has been raining a lot lately, as it usually does at this time of year. The last week of April had more rain here than was predicted for the entire month. It's still the first week of May and we have already surpassed our expected rainfall for May as well. It has been raining pretty much nonstop since Saturday. Today the whole city was a giant traffic jam. I had kids who were supposed to go home at 12 still in my classroom at 2:40. Parents couldn't get to the school to get them, and the ones that were able to arrive where then stuck there with no way out with all the flooding. By 12 several people were out digging canals in the playground to try to direct the water around the building instead of into the preschool classrooms. I tried to make it an educational experience anyway and took the kids in small groups to look around at what was happening to the grounds. On the news they recommended that one not drive on the roads that usually flood during heavy rains - they listed every road that is a "main vein" to get to anywhere else in the city, except the Orla, which is two lanes in each direction. The mayor, or someone, advised everyone to just stay put at home for their personal saftey, lest they end up floating away in their cars. Mostly people were just stuck wherever they were at 10:30 when the major rain really began taking hold. Ceilings caved in, houses collapsed, lakes and rivers filled up, taking over roads flooding houses. And this isn't an unknown phenomenon - it happens nearly every year. Why nothing is done to improve drainage is beyond me. I don't want to think about it too much because there is nothing I can do to change it.

Ju's 4th birthday, by some miracle, was clear, cool and miraculously rainless. We got a bit more involved with games this year and sent the kids running all over to find the hidden 4s we had concealed all over the garden after a rousing game of pin the baby stegosaurus on the mommy stegosaurus. One of my favorite parts of Ju's birthday is to have my best friends here in one place for a day. Two of my girlfriends always stay till late (they are the LIXO as we say here, they go out with the garbage, when the party is over) with kids and husbands and everyone has a great time. I learned my lesson from last year and used only non-dye-running materials to decorate and therefore was able to actually enjoy the party. Ju was the only one to go in the pool, initially because he dropped a new car and it sank to the bottom (did I mention that he swims to the bottom of the pool by himself now?) and then I think just for the joy of trying to get the other kids wet. It wasn't exactly pool weather as I was cool enough to leave my hair down, but I think he is slowly turning into a fish, or perhaps a bobcat - don't they swim?

We have been reading The Missing Piece Meets the Big O. Ju has many parts of it memorized and likes to practice the exchanges with me at odd times during the day. He also can pick up the book and "read" some of it to us. He has learned several phrases and words just from watching things like Oswald and Sesame Street on DVD and now I see he is beginning to get more of them from books as well. The book fair is coming up at school, so I hope he will finally get to acquire a book of his choosing. I am curious to see what his tastes are and what they may be based on. He loves all the books I have chosen for him in the past.

I have been sewing a lot lately, creating things that come to my head during water bike. I don't have enough time to do them all justice. Eventually I will put some photos.

In other news, I see my Sandal boots have arrived in the States, finally. Come on USA, get with it - they came in and seem to have gone out of style almost a year ago!

terça-feira, abril 21, 2009

"Mommy, you insane!"

"I'm insane?

"Yes, like the cats."

Well, at least I know where he learned that one.

segunda-feira, abril 20, 2009

As tomorrow is a holiday and today we had off because our school administrators wisely assumed that few students would come to school on a Monday before a Tuesday holiday, I got up early and went to the 6 AM water bike class. I absolutely love water bike. I feel energized and de-stressed when I leave. Anyone with the opportunity to try it should, in my opinion, and I am constantly badgering people here to come check it out (haven't succeeded yet, though).

Walking back from class at 7 AM, I found myself in the company of at least 50 other people, mostly women, possibly many of them housemaids, on the way to work. I enjoy walking and prefer it to taking the bus if the weather and distance permit. There is a woman who has a juice stand near the pool who was doing a small breakfast rush. A little farther up the street there was a woman all set up to sell "mingal" - kind of pourage like warm sweet breakfast liquidly thing. At the end of my street there is a guy who sells some kind of bread and coffee which I never noticed before (possibly because I rarely walk so early in that direction). It was so pleasant to walk with so many people, I wonder if they found it as pleasant as I did.

domingo, abril 19, 2009

Some fun Ju logic from the last weeks:

Reading The Lorax one night with Ju, he noticed the picture of the Lorax lifting himself away by the seat of his pants.
"Mommy, I (mimes grabbing himself by the seat of his pants), I can fly?"


During the recent (recent being like in 2008) mayoral elections, there was a jingle for "Nilton 50" that got played so often one could sing it quite easily. My husband took the tune and the slightly modified the words to sing a song about our nanny, Neta, calling it "Neta 40" because she is 40. Ju loved this song and would sing it to her all the time and she adored it (we are SO lucky to have such a great nanny, but that is a story for another post).

One morning this week my husband sang another modified version - "Juju 40" and the following conversation took place:

Maridão - "Eu quero Juju quarenta!"
Ju - "Eu não sou quarenta. Quarenta é de minina. Eu sou quarento!"

For those who don't speak a romance language, there are feminine and masculine words in Portuguese. One cannot use a feminine adjective to describe a masculine object (like Ju evidently realizes himself to be), and Ju realized right away that that "a" at the end of "quarenta" did not match the fact that he is a boy and hastened to correct his father's mistake. He is beginning to become aware of grammar, at least in Portuguese- cool!

(He still says "It didn't was me" though, and "I did see it there, mommy. Yesterday I did see it." )

segunda-feira, abril 13, 2009

I have not posted recently not for lack of things to write about, but for lack of wanting to write about whats on my mind because it continues to piss me off. None of what I want to write is pleasant and so I don't write it.

domingo, março 22, 2009

I just noticed the other day that Ju is now producing the "lh" of Portuguese - he no longer says "Olla, mommy!" but "Olha, mommy!" For those unaware, this particular phoneme of Portuguese is similar to the sound of putting the sound of l and y together in English and is difficult for Americans to get right. Many people here have told me they can always spot a gringo because of their lack of proper "lh." Mine is okay, if I do say so myself, but it hardly holds a torch to my not-even-four-year-old son's who gets to speak it naturally. Since I find that I generally find that I follow the same kinds of time lines for speaking Portuguese as children here do (i.e. a child will not use the past tense correctly until around or after age 4, I have been here for more than 4 years, and I find I am using it mostly correctly and innately), there may be no hope for me, as I have been in Brasil longer than Ju has been in existence.

sábado, março 21, 2009

I have been living here about 5 years and I generally can hold my own in Portuguese, although occasionally on the phone I have trouble with people who don't understand that they need to speak slower rather than louder. I was trying to spell something on the phone yesterday - I generally have no problem remembering to say the letters in Portuguese rather than English, except for a few like Q. But what to say when you want to differentiate between things like B,V,D,E etc? I found myself reverting to names, rather than words - V de Victoria, B de Bernardo. I could not for the life of me come up with the usual things like we use in English like B as in boy, V as in valentine. I have no idea what the "regular" words used in this kind of context are. I should probably find that out.

domingo, fevereiro 22, 2009

I suppose as part of being a Quaker, I have always had a strong anti-war, anti-violence view of everything. I am constantly trying to instill this in Ju, although it can occasionally be challenging here. When he was given a bunch of made-in-China war toys (plastic hand grenade, knife, gun, etc) there was no question that they would become a donation for kids in the street. I refuse to have anything like that in the house. He is not allowed to watch Power Rangers, Spiderman, Batman, or any of those fight-and-kill violent styles of programming. (I cannot understand why anyone would expose a child so young to these kinds of ideas, although it seems to be the norm here at least in Brasil.)

People here allow boys to be much more wild, misbehave much more, and in general seem to discipline them less about proper human behavior, in my opinion. Girls are put on a much shorter leash. There is a certain view that boys "need" this kind of play where they kick and wrestle with each other, that it's a boy thing and I will never understand. Maybe so. But how much of this is what boys NEED and how much is what we put upon them with expectations based on society? Boys are given toy guns, girls are given dolls. I know I've had this argument with myself before and it never seems to resolve itself. And there is always the view of "well, all these other grown men grew up playing these games and they turned out okay, so why does it matter so much"? I could ramble on about this forever.

Anyway, there were some things I liberated after a time, like Looney Tunes, thinking that they really weren't that harmful. Woody woodpecker is very popular here and all the kids disappear from the outside area of the condo at 6:30 to go watch it. I hadn't really paid much attention to the content of these cartoons, having watched them myself when I was about seven or so. It's just a cartoon, why does it matter? But Ju's behavior at school and with us (direct disobeying of rules, lack of respect for other people's space, hitting and bothering people) has gotten so bad in the last several months, I have been forced to reconsider that age old argument that violent cartoons are bad for your kids. The Looney Tunes characters do horrible things to each other - hitting with mallets, blowing each other up, pushing off of cliffs, getting run over by cars.... And Ju laughs. He laughs at all of it. It bothers me that he finds this funny. I never put much stock in it before, thinking that kids know the difference between real life and cartoons, remembering how I felt at that age when some adult made a comment about how these violent shows were affecting children, thinking that these adults assumed we were all stupid kids who didn't know the difference. Maybe for a seven year old this is true. Maybe. But perhaps for a three year old, this division is a little fuzzier. Certainly when I saw Ju begin head butting people after watching Woody Woodpecker, I started to rethink this line.

So now the Looney Tunes DVDs are banned. Woodywood pecker has gone the same way as Power Rangers - not allowed. We just got some new video tapes of Dora and the Magic School Bus and something called Yo Gabba Gabba that Ju absolutely loves. The desire to have him relate to "normal" Brasilian boys at school by being able to talk about the same characters and play the same games is usurped by my concern that he may end up in the principals office because he broke some kid's nose by head butting him. Lets see if TV really makes a difference.

sexta-feira, fevereiro 20, 2009

"Mommy, I have a 'ien.'"

"You have a what?"

"A... a... a this" (points to my ring)

"Ah, you have a ring."

"Uh huh, a eeng."

I feel like I've had this conversation before.

sábado, fevereiro 14, 2009

terça-feira, fevereiro 10, 2009

Lela, the cat I brought from Michigan, won't touch anything except cat food and raw meat, and occasionally some cooked chicken or lunch meat. Ju's two cats (Brasilian vira-latas) eat nearly everything that is put in front of them - meat, bread, oatmeal, raisens, apples, mango, papaya, jack fruit, carrots, peas, if it comes from our plates, they will eat it. They are both rather persistent at asking for hand outs as well, which makes it seem a bit like we have very agile dogs living with us, except that they climb up on the table when we're not looking and steal the food from our plates.

sábado, fevereiro 07, 2009

"Where we going, 'eing'?"

Ju uses this word frequently now, when talking in English and in Portuguese. "Hein" is like 'what' or 'huh' depending on the context. It's quite common in conversation in Portuguese, but when he uses it in/with English, it makes him sound like someone from the U.P., eh? I am a Michigander (still don't like that word, I am not water fowl) but I am not a Yuper. My son, however, is beginning to sound like one.

domingo, janeiro 25, 2009

Sewing. It's something I always watched my mom do as a kid. I did it by hand for many many years due to an irrational fear of sewing machines (much like my fear of ovens) and their ability to do some horrible damage to fingers if one wasn't careful. Last June I spent $100 on a 3/4 (easier to transport) sized sewing machine, finally determined to conquer my fear and make good on my comment of "well, why pay for that dress/shirt/shorts/whatever-fill-in-the-blank when I can make it." It sat quietly in a cupboard for the last 6 months, until, finally, with three days left in my vacation, I decided to try to play with it.

It still smelled new, the whole three bobbins it came with were still inside their plastic bag inside the removable arm that allows you access to space where you insert them (the name of which still escapes me). I took it out and then went on a hung for the manual that I had left out next to my computer all those months ago, that I read and reread trying to convince myself that I was perfectly capable of using this machine as it had come highly recommended by a friend who bought the same one for her four year old to begin sewing on (come on, if a four year old can do it, I sure can, I told myself).

Where is it? I searched all over, took books down from the shelves... nowhere is this simple manual, so comforting. Hmmm, now what. Well, if a four year old can do it, it can't be that hard. I just randomly tried to thread it, thinking it seems too simple, I must have missed a spot. Okay, let's try to fill a bobbin instead. I dropped some thread on the spool peg. Now what. Okay, here's a hook and another little peg that look like they make it run strait at the bobbin peg. Oh, I remember I have to pull out this round thing on the side. That I do remember reading. And.... Yes, the bobbin is winding! Success! So I had managed to bungle my way through making a bobbin.

So, let's try threading again. Having given up on finding the manual at home, I tried online - Janome does not even list this machine on their site. The manuals site has nothing either. Hmmm, is this really a Janome? Not sure. But I do see some one has posted on a forum that there are guide arrows on the machine, showing you where to thread. Sure enough, there they are. So I thread according to the guide arrows. Hmmm, this seems too easy. There's a little hook there above the needle, since it's so easy to pass the thread in there, it probably goes there, now through the eye and.... Now how the heck do I get the thread from the bobbin to come up? I know it has to go through that hole on the bottom. I try several things that I now can't remember, and nothing works. I am sure this is the key to making this machine work.

Suddenly my husband finds the manual stuffed in an envelope with other random papers from the desk area. From the manual I see I have to thread the machine (which I did correctly, yeay me!) in order to get the bobbin thread to come up, okay, so far so good... And at last I managed to get the thread through the little hole.

Ju watches me do some practice stitches on some random green fabric (the only scrap fabric I have) and gets extremely interested in how the machine moves, what parts do what, and watches avidly as I sew my first project - a dress I have been sitting on for about 6 months. The more I sewed, the more I got creative about it until what should have just been a quick hemming job turned into a shortened dress with triangular inserts that make it spin out flat to show off your underwear (if you're into that) with puffy pockets and straps. Actually I'm still not sure about the straps. And after discovering that I am not all that hot at sewing strait, I decided to do some "decorative artistic" stitches along the bottom and other raw edges rather than hemming. I'm pleased with the result and eager to do more. I just wish fabric weren't so expensive here.

sexta-feira, janeiro 09, 2009

And wouldn't you know it, but as I finished my massive cleaning fest yesterday, it seems one of Ju's kittens knocked over the same potted plant on the veranda that has been knocked over twice before. The pot is (was) made of a dried coconut shell held together by some steel wire in the middle. It is now splintered beyond repair. The plants are no loss really, since they had been torn from the pot and ripped to shreds several times before, probably by the same mystery kitten. They were just barely hanging on. I guess it's a sign that I have one too many pots up there in the middle of the kitten highway.

In other news, apparently the huge massive snow that I am so sad to miss this year trapped my mom in GRR and then again in Chicago and then she got stuck in Miami because she missed her connection. Anyway, now she's there and we are here, up early but not in a rush anymore to get to the airport. I didn't sleep very well between the kittens bounding in at 2 a.m. and some kind of security alarm going off around 3:30 and continuing to sound for another half an hour, so it will be good to get a nap in too. And I'll have time to clean up the mess on the veranda.

Ju is watching Planet Earth, again. At least if he's glued to the T.V. it's educational, as shown by this conversation we had yesterday:

me - "Ju, it's time for a shower and bed.

Ju - "Why?

me - "Because it's dark out and time for sleeping."

Ju - "Why's it dark out?

me - "Because the sun set and that means it's time for sleeping."

Ju - "It's dark out because the terra esta rodando." (the Earth is turning)

me - "Yes, that is exactly what's going on. The Earth is turning and that's why it's dark out."

quinta-feira, janeiro 08, 2009

This particular vacation, I am spending a much better part of my time (where does that expression come from anyway, it makes no sense!) cleaning up the house and playing housewife. I don't feel particularly deprived of vacation fulfilling these duties because I spend pretty much the rest of the year not doing any of it except an occasional floor sweeping or load of laundry. We give our maid her 30 days of vacation at the same time I have mine, and my husband takes off a few weeks and we get to hang out as a family, go to the beach, and maybe travel for a couple of days somewhere outside the city (leaving lots of food for the cats). As my mom arrives tomorrow for a two week (the remainder of my vacation time) visit, I have been making an extra effort to have a "Brasilian clean" house, rather than just "American clean." This means sweeping daily, walking the floors with a wet rag to pick up spare specks of dust, doing most of the laundry, and cleaning the bathrooms. All of this has taken most of this week to complete and I am much more in the groove of cleaning up.

Our bathroom has a lot of issues. The sink leaks, the toilet has gone through some flushing problems, and now the shower faucet is broken, so the only way to turn it off is to shut off the water completely from the bathroom. Even with this "emergency handle" shut off, there is still a great amount of leaking going on and my bathroom is constantly wet, dripping, and has recently grown a lot of mildew. I just noticed how bad it had gotten and took bleach and a scrub brush to it, hopefully to better my sinus and asthma problems, which have been bothering me for some unknown reason (at least until now). Nearly all rooms here have a drain in the floor - this greatly facilitates cleaning your floors. You can empty the floor of objects, fill up a bucket with bleach water, spread it around and then scrub with a broom. Sweep all the water into the drain, then rinse with clean water, and presto - super clean floors! I spent over an hour in each bathroom that gets daily use today and am now waiting for the floors to dry. (Well, the one in my bathroom won't.)

No matter how often I sweep, the floor looks dirty again about half an hour later. Everything is left open here all the time - doors, windows, and there are no screens to keep bugs, leaves, etc. out. Dust is a constant problem. So is cat hair, now that we have three cats in the house.

These cats of Ju's have taken over. The climb up anything that will support their weight - nets, hammocks, curtains, plants, things hanging on the hat tree - and seem to have no fear or respect for human tendencies. I sweep the floor, and they follow me from room to room, trying to get under my feet, having no fear of the broom. I hang laundry to dry on the veranda and they climb up on top of the rack and take a nap on it, knocking several pairs of underwear and socks down in the process, covering everything with cat hair. I go to open the door to take out garbage or sweep and they sit down right in front of it as invisible forces of resistance and don't even jump up out of the way when it starts to move, but rather resign themselves to "riding" it like little floor dusters, staring at me with bemused expressions, completely unconcerned. When I clean out the cat box, they hop in as I am scooping and dirty it further. I don't blame Lela for being cranky with them - they are like Ju, they seem to respect no limits.

I have no idea how to end this post, since I have been trying to write one for several days, but always seem to be uninspired when I am sitting here at the computer (which is far less frequent than most of you probably think).

Off to put Ju to bed.