Ever since moving to our neighborhood last summer, it is clear to me that I am a gringa. I first realized this when Matt and I went grocery shopping for the first time to stock the fridge and pantry; we hit Food Star, the grocery store that most resembled Van's IGA, our old haunt in Great Falls. One foot in the door and we realized we probably were the only non-Spanish speakers that had shopped there in some time. We received lots of sidelong glances as we worked our way through aisle after aisle of Goya products, Salvadorean/Peruvian bakery specialties, and dairy items en Español.
A few weeks later, we decided to walk over to the local Salvadorean restaurant to pick up a take-out menu. Matt stayed in the parking lot with the girls while I ran in. I can only describe my entrance like this: you know how in old Westerns where everyone is hanging out at the saloon, slightly out-of-tune piano plinking away, and the bad guy walks through the door? And everyone stops to swivel their heads around? And the piano playing stops abruptly? And you can hear people breathing? It was like that, only no piano, and with approximately 30 or so Salvadorean men smoking cigars and cigarettes. Swiveling their heads to peer at me, the peculiar little gringa who dropped in to say hi. A bit like a deer in headlights might.
Then there are the wonderful grandmas at the bus stop, none of whom speak English more than a few cursory expressions. We are the only non-Spanish speakers there unless you count the handful of people who speak Bangoli first. My lack of Spanish skills kills me, here more than anywhere else. They love to cluck at the girls, especially Bridget, the bebé bonita. It is always muy frío. She is ocho months old. And that is where my ability to keep up with them ends most of the time. Last week Abuela Terésa presented Bridget with a knitted hat that she made herself. It was absolutely touching how happy she was to see Bridget wear it. I asked my former Spanish-teaching mamá to help me compose a thank you card in Spanish, which knocked their socks off. Remind me why I didn't take Spanish again? Oh right, because I was too busy studying Latin and Japanese. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade that experience, but would it have killed me to squeeze in a year of Spanish? Note to former self: no it would not have.
Anyway. Fast forward to last weekend, when Matt and I ordered from one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants. I've never had Peruvian food before moving here, but I must say I am a huge fan. Plantains, eggs, rice, peas, steak, french fries in stir fries... it's very unusual to me but also very, very good. And they don't mind the no habla Español part when I go in to pick up our food. (Ed. note: when we order out, Matt is responsible for ordering/picking up Thai food, I am responsible for ordering/picking up Peruvian food. In case there was any question about husband/wife roles in our family.) While I was there waiting for them to finish up, I asked if they could please include an order (it was very hard for me not to say trough) of this yummy roasted corn something-or-other appetizer that you get when you eat in. It is far superior to chips and salsa, and maybe far superior to a good 75% of food I've ever tasted. She nodded, and when she brought back our bag I feebly said "gracias," trying very hard not to feel like Alex Trebec. Because I surely have a neon sign above my head that says NEIGHBORHOOD GRINGA DOESN'T SPEAK SPANISH.
I get home 59 seconds later and we pull out our food. No yummy roasted corn something-or-other to be found. Instead, I have a GIANT EAR OF CORN. GIANT. With kernels the size of... FOOD FOR GIANTS. Served with a piece of...cheese? Is that cheese? Huh. I look at the menu again to see if I can match up what is front of me with what is on the menu. Lo and behold, it appears that I have ordered off menu. ME! THE NEIGHBORHOOD GRINGA! After wolfing down my giant ear of corn + cheese, plus the meal itself (Bisteck a La Limena) I settle down with Google to figure out what it is I've just eaten. Apparently, a variety of corn aptly called giant corn is grown only in the Andes Mountains in Peru, and is often served with fresh cheese. I highly recommend it. I can hook you up with the secret menu for those in the know.
If I can teach myself to cook (2005, check) I can teach myself how to speak Spanish. I may still be a gringa, but at least I can ditch the neon sign. We'll see how it goes.
Bad news: Just as Maddie went back to school this week, I caught her yucky kindergarten germs. Wow, if stomach flu is no fun in and of itself, it is about 8000 times less fun when you have three children.
Good news: I am finally feeling better.
Bad news: I had to cancel the Marquette-Dillow Reunion.
Good news: We're rescheduling for March.
Bad news: Now I have to wait until March to see them.
Good news: That should give me plenty of time to get caught up from having the stomach flu in January.
Bad news: It may take me that long to get caught up on laundry.
1. Katherine had the funniest Ten on Tuesday ever today. Hey, did you know she was still pregnant?
2. Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only person who misses an entire sack full of miscellaneous Christmas stuff when packing up for the year. Our house isn't very big, yet I still keep finding Christmas things I missed. How is this possible?
3. I'm not sure why, but today I was thinking about my elementary school librarian Mrs. Ehrenzeller. I can't remember what she looked like, exactly, but I do remember what the library looked like.
4. I'm afraid I'm turning into Weird Goodreads Girl. Whenever you add books to your "to-read" shelf, anyone who is connected to your account receives that information on their update emails. I add a lot of books to this particular shelf. People must be sick of it. The scary part, though, is that I've always collected book titles to read at this rate—but prior to finding goodreads, I scribbled them on pieces of scrap paper, post-it notes, calendars, napkins, whatever was on hand. No one was aware of the sheer volume of book titles I collected then.
5. The Marquettes are coming to visit this weekend! Oh, I am so excited. Nancy is my oldest friend; I was eight months old the day she was born. We've been friends ever since.
6. Sometimes I love the Air Force, and sometimes it makes me really crazy. That's all I'm going to say about that.
7. Gracie missed being three feet tall by her third birthday by a half inch. She brought Piggyboo, Mickey Mouse, and exactly one half of her doctor kit supplies with her to the well-baby appointment today.
8. Maddie was home sick again today, recovering from the stomach flu.
9. If you are quick at math, you'll note this means I had to take all three girls to the clinic. AGAIN.
10. Welcome to the world, Audrey Mae L—!
1. Did you know you can redeem all your change in the green CoinStar machines at the grocery store for gift certificates and not have to pay a surcharge like you do when you redeem it for paper money? Yep. Amazon, iTunes, Eddie Bauer, charities... there are a ton of options. Matt got a $92.92 iTunes credit for Christmas. The funniest part? As I was jamming the machine with glee at The Grocery Store That Has All the Crazies In It before Christmas the machine flashed this message:
"My, you have a lot of change. Wait a moment while I catch up."
Someone actually programmed that machine to say that. I accidentally laughed loudly enough for people to hear me when I read it, further cementing that grocery store's reputation as The Grocery Store That Has All the Crazies In It.
2. It's Cool Seasonal Melamine Dishware time at Target. Valentine's and Easter/Spring themes. You have to go looking for it on weirdly placed endcaps, but it's there and it's the coolest I've seen them do yet.
3. We invented a really good smoothie yesterday:
orange juice base (maybe a cup?)
vanilla yogurt (3/4 large container)
frozen sliced strawberries (slightly more than half a bag)
frozen blackberries (slightly less than half a bag)
small handful of wheat germ (not even for its healthful qualities, but more
for a slightly nutty taste that really tastes good)
I never measure smoothie ingredients, just eyeball them. I normally use a banana or two to sweeten it/thicken it, but I didn't have any this time and I think this one would have been ruined by bananas anyway.
4. The crockpot seasoning packets found in the spice section are worth looking at. I randomly picked up one for a pork roast (to make pulled pork sandwiches like we used to get at Bird Dog BBQ) and it was far better than I imagined it would be.
5. A good place to find 8 x 8 American Crafts albums right now is Rocky Mountain Hobbies
1. Maddie was home sick again today, because apparently kindergarten is very germy and she is very defenseless. For a kid that has been to the doctor approximately four times in her life outside of well-baby checkups (and all for the same mysteriously recurring case of swimmer's ear) this is unsettling for me. But I've been assured that kindergarten is germy everywhere, and most kindergartners toughen up by first grade. I am absolutely amazed thinking back on the handful of kids who got "perfect attendance" certificates each year. Perfect attendance is harder than it looks.
2. Because Sickie made us miss the park today, Gracie, Bridget, and I had a picnic in the backyard while she was sleeping.
3. Picnics with cameras often turn into impromptu portrait shoots.
4. It was about 68º during our picnic lunch. Gracie still felt the need to go get her parka halfway through lunch, though.
5. I am very, very, very ready for Katherine to have her baby. Not as ready as she is, I bet.
6. I'm going to try and go see Juno with Deb this week. Hey Bridget—I'm not telling you what night I'm going, because I've heard it's a lot better than August Rush and I'm not all that interested in coming home early again to hang out.
7. Maddie had a bad dream a few nights ago and came barreling into our bedroom to tell us about it around 3:30 a.m. The conversation went something like this:
Maddie: C-L-A-M-S CLAMS.
And then I swear she rolled her eyes. Don't you spell clams and roll your eyes at me in the middle of the night, missy.
8. I've had very good luck with Craigslist since we moved here. I am 4/4. Microwave, dining room table/chairs, enlarger/darkroom equipment, Target Milano chair/ottoman. I told the lady who bought the chair and ottoman last night that I'd throw in the cat for free. She thought I was kidding.
9. Renee is waiting for me to send my list of things to do to her; it's a little accountability game we've been playing for a few years now. I am a-scared to write it all out. It is that long.
10. The novelty of seeing the Washington Monument on a regular basis has not yet worn off. I'm thinking it probably won't.
We spent the last days of 2007 in Ohio, dreaming of snow and missing it by a day (boo). It's hard work to get this crew packed up and ready to go anywhere, especially across state lines—but it sure is nice to see our families and friends, even if it's never for as long as we would wish. We certainly filled our days up, though:
• two present exchanges, one with Nana and Papa, one with Grandma and Grandpa, and even more extended family meals on both sides
• a trip to Don Drumm, one of my favorite places on Earth; I window shopped about $5000 worth of beautiful things, but only bought two boxes of cards and a birthday gift for Jill. It took great restraint, let me tell you.
I didn't bring my camera for some stupid reason, so this photo is shamelessly stolen from Library Bookie.
• a visit to the Christkindl Market in downtown Akron, where Matt and I were on the lookout for a smoker for Bridget that had some sort of bird theme. We found one at the first booth and startled the nice man working there when we walked up, saw it, and had our cash in hand in less than a minute. I'm sure we gave him some additional "crazy Americans" material for when he returns to Chemnitz. Again with the no camera business!! What was I thinking??
• Matt went to see Kent State play Cleveland State with Pa while I managed a meltdown by exhausted, worn-out, wired, and out-of-control Gracie. Poorly. You have to have some rain to appreciate the sunshine, right? (insert eye-rolling here)
• Thankfully, Gracie did have lots of fun other times.
• As did her sisters. It's so difficult to go back to the Mama and Daddy Show after having the Nana and Papa and Grandma and Grandpa and Aunt Laura and Uncle Shaun and cousin B and cousin M and Aunt Marie and Uncle BJ and cousin Lily and Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa and Great Uncle Howie and Great Aunt Dianne Show.
• We video-skyped with Aunt Katherine and Uncle Ben twice—now that was super cool. We also got the giggles when we realized that for a few minutes when Uncle Ben was reading Olivia to Maddie and Gracie that all the grown-ups were sitting in the other room—how easy it would be to hit the road. See you, Uncle Ben! Call the cell if the girls disappear from your view! Heh.
• I got to hang out in Marie's craft room for a few hours with Marie and Missy, which was very fun. I like hanging out in Marie's craft room because she has so much cool stuff to look at; it's hard for me not to touch everything and then steal it when she's not looking. I mostly refrained, and only made off with an old copy of Blueprint and Scrapbook Trends, both of which I'll return to her.
a file photo shamelessly stolen from A Day in the Life, because guess what? No camera again! There is one cute picture of the three of us, but it's being held hostage until a photo CD shows up in Marie's mailbox.
• Maddie and I saw Enchanted—which was fantastic, by the way. Not only that, but we went with a whole crew of aunts and nieces: all the grown-ups had at least one niece in attendance, and all the girls had at least one if not two aunts (in addition to their mamas). That sounds like a story problem. The little girls (Lily, Gracie) had to stay home and nap.
• I got to visit with one of my oldest, dearest friends (and also the matron-of-honor in my wedding) for the tiniest amount of time. I haven't seen her in five years, and it was really, really good to hang out even if it wasn't nearly long enough. I was so excited to have her hold Bridget, and only a little bit afraid she would run away with her (she is a mama to four boys, none of them babies anymore).
• D and I tried to take pictures of the toffee-making, Pioneer Woman style, and realized that's a lot harder than it looks. There was a lot of running around giggling afterwards, though, which was funny indeed. Something to do with catching M licking the chocolate spoon.
And that's the end of 2007.