Wednesday, January 31, 2007

When riding in a pickup bed is a privilege

Even though our casa is small I find I can stay busy caring for it. After our tub had to be removed and the plumbing in the courtyard repaired workers were sent to replant the landscaping. We then discovered that one of the front doors needed leveling. I mentioned it to Brian Partridge and this morning he sent someone to fix that too. It might help that I live directly across from the Loreto Bay offices; I'm able to summon up help easily.

Roch came by yesterday and added support to our bed frames so that we're not sliding toward the middle anymore. And Gustavo, the new furniture guy in town brought by a chaise lounge for the terrace. It's the rustic Mexican tanned pigskin and cedar strips style so popular here; not my first choice, but there's not much available in Loreto. I predict Gustavo will continue to do a brisk business here. He tells me he wants to bring ATM machines to his location which is off the highway. That would put him in direct competition with the only other owners of a single ATM machine in town--the banco. God knows, we could use another location to draw money from, but can he really wrangle away a little control from the bank?

I seem to be falling into a comfortable pattern. I get Allie up to her usual French toast accompanied by the usual coaxing to get her spirits up about school. School, for her is only three hours (due to our special arrangement) so I hold my ground with her. The rest of the day she is free to run with her friends, like Carly. Essentially, what she's getting is three hours of Spanish lessons daily followed by hours of free time. All she has to do is wear a school uniform and hair ribbons in exchange. When I inquire how her day went I get a pout and a reply in the negative, but occasionally she slips up and shares a little of the fun she's had. Last night she jumped on the sofa to recite a little Spanish song she learned. She was so darned cute in her ponytails singing in perfect Spanish. I tried to remain low-key lest I appear to have glimpsed behind her stance of misery and force her to pick it up again for my sake.

We are eating well, thanks, in part, to the existence of Dali's, a tiny supplier of food from the U.S. There we can get good and clean quality beef, chicken, lamb, as well as things like pasta, seasonings, condiments, and other hard to find food items. I repeat often how much for granted we take our abundance and selection back home. Here you really have to seek and search for the things it takes to make American-style meals. The owners of Dali, a young couple from outside the area, are another example of a breed of entrepreneurs who have determined Loreto to be ripe for the picking. In contrast to the slow, home-spun attitude of the locals there is a growing buzz of ambitiousness as more outsiders try their hand at making-it.

Sarah and I seem to be the only people using the once-majestic, former John McEnroe mega-court tennis center. Most courts are dusty and cracked, and our balls soon turn black, but we are thrilled at the opportunity to play under the sun, surrounded by palms and eucalyptus trees with gorgeous views of the the Sierras. Our kids run free on the grounds while we play. Yesterday, hers brought their two newly adopted street puppies. Today, her little son brought his friend, Santiago, and their bicycles--can't do that at the private clubs back home. For a few days we had Rene's red truck while he drove the SUV to Cabo. Besides having satellite radio with Disney Channel Allison was thrilled for the permission to do something we'd never do (in part due to the fear of arrest) back home: She rode in the back of the pickup bed. Gasp! Of course only on the Boulevard, only at Homecoming Parade slow speed. I could have repeated the route ten times for the joy it gave me watching her and her dog soaking up the sunshine.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Hoping for Strawberries

Going on three weeks here. I think I'm a little past the, "what the heck am I doing here?" stage and moving on a feeling of belonging again. I'm thankful for the familiar faces; we can pick up where we left off. I've been the recipient of some warm hugs and greetings that surprised me and left me with the impression that I was returning to a remote island where the ones left behind were overwhelmed to be rejoined. They offer things. No hot water?--shower at our house. (Ariel) It's dark out--here's my flashlight. (Peter) Don't have any dishwashing detergent?--here's a box. (Camille) Forgot your shorts?--here's some to borrow. (Diane) No car?--please borrow my spare. (Rene)

I'm especially thankful for the Allen family (other Loreto Bay homeowners) who are here for one year. They are renting a home in Loreto while their custom home is being built. Sarah has become my fast friend and confidant. She and her three children have been here since last August. Stuart flies down as frequently as possible, and as Robert has yet to arrive she and I are sharing the similar experience of being "on our own." People must think people like us are crazy. What possesses women with young children to temporarily uproot from the comfortable U.S. to remote Baja? (Come down and have a Margarita ocean-side and we'll share our theories with you.) Sarah's taken full advantage of their stay here. She and her kids are mastering Spanish like we never did. They have plenty of Mexican friends who are always visiting at her house. Her friends are so gracious as to rival my people's southern-rooted hospitality. So much cheek-kissing! Maybe it's a small town thing. Women band together, exchanging favor after favor, looking out for one another. It would be an interesting thing for a study. I believe women adapt to and improve any situation, shape any camp into a community. I often repeat something my oldest son said to me when he was eleven or so. He'd been sitting quietly contemplating something when he looked up and so earnestly asked: "Mom if we didn't have women, would we be civilized?" (He's a fast learner.)

However, I feel more isolated from the culture living in the Loreto Bay development in Nopolo. I tend to see Americans and Canadians mostly. I must say, I've met more Canadians here than anywhere else in my life, eh? Neither do the cheek-kissing thing that I encounter in Loreto. Living in town Sarah is seeped in the Mexican culture and seems to be thriving. I envy her sociability. She has made friendships mostly with other mothers who invite and include her in everything. Maybe I'll be more willing to focus on friendships now that all the problems I had with my casa chica have been taken care of. I must give Loreto Bay Company high marks for resolving matters so quickly. Our tub upstairs leaked through the wall to the floor below (broken pipe). Workers had to take out the tub, tear out a wall, and dig out my courtyard to repair the plumbing. I had other, more minor issues that were taken care of promptly. For all the discomfort of construction, with its noise and dust, I have to say the good care I'm given makes up for a lot. I went to pay my the fee for reconnecting my electricity today. When my number came up and it was my turn to haggle with the bored and disinterested clerk, I was surprised to see Rodolfo from LB owner services walk in--just in time to help me. That was especially fortunate.

I also know and hear the negative things that occur down here, it doesn't take but a few days to get up to speed. Maybe that too, is a little of the small town mentality. Heck, we don't even get newspapers or mail in this parts--what are we supposed to talk about? Most talk centers around Loreto Bay Company, rightfully, since we all have substantial dollars riding on its success. I can't imagine what an undertaking it is to build a huge development out of the ground, but it's bound to be fraught with missteps, misunderstandings, and mistakes. Living here, in the unfinished project, we are privy to the realities of the processes. We are mingling with the employees so we hear things we're probably not supposed to. No suspense intended; If I knew something dreadful I'd be writing about it.

I'm just pretty happy with the things that are going right. I have Internet connection and cable hook-up, though I'm still struggling with the missing "a" key on my Dell laptop. I have to pound repeatedly on the key to bring up the "a" which wears on my fingertip as much as my patience. Do you have any idea how the "a" is used in language? I played tennis with Sarah yesterday. I think the courts are only slightly better maintained than last year, but oh, what a pretty setting. I'd like to play everyday. I'd like to create a kids clinic, but tennis instructors are non-existent here. Shame not to put this wonderful tennis center to good use. I'll keep hoping someone will turn up, some wonderful retired tennis pro who would love to bring tennis to the young people of Loreto. While I'm hoping let me add something to my wish list: Please let there be delicious strawberries at the Saturday market (tomorrow) and please, if there are, let there be enough left for me when I finally wake up and get out the door.
See, these are the real worries of life in Loreto.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Second Chances

Our solution for schooling Allison appears to be a success. She greets Manuel with a big smile and goes with him eagerly. He sits her at the very front of the classroom. This photo I snapped while she was with the fifth grade class. On the board the sentences in red marker pertain to the fifth graders, while the words in blue are specifically meant for Allison (although I think she already knows her Spanish numerals). Along with her specific lessons she joins along with whatever the rest of the class is studying. Overall, it's a workable solution.

My life evolves around Allison for now. As we settle in and Robert joins us I know I'll spread out a little. There is plenty to do once I make the commitment. I would like to help get a community center started in Loreto Bay. As more people move in there is a need for social organization. Also, Colegio Calafia could use a boost. My friend, Sarah, who's living here with her children wants us to put together a fundraiser. Then, there's always the idea of starting some kind of business here. All in good time. For now I'm happy meeting and chatting with people, overseeing repairs and maintenance to the house, and guiding Allison through this time of transition.

Every day we extend ourselves further into the community. It doesn't take to long to become familiar faces again. Here, people seem to long for friendship and connection. The couple who cared for Betsy come by daily to take her for walks on the beach. We've warmed up to each other quite a bit. Our "arrangement" feels like joint custody--Betsy being the beneficiary of lots of attention. Initially, Allison believed they were plotting to take her dog back. I had to assure her that they had Betsy's best interests at heart and we should give them a chance to be our friends even though we felt they weren't happy at first to see us reclaim our dog. But, now I see this couple as very sweet. We may end up good friends.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Surprise Solution

Another morning off to a bad start as Allison cries and pleads not to be sent to school. She's really quite heartbreaking, but I am determined to be firm and make her go. After all, how bad can it be? She made it through a semester here last year though she was only six and not fully aware of herself. After six months back home, including a partial semester at a well-appointed American elementary school, I imagine she sees Colegio Calafia as draconian in comparison. At seven she is better developed in reasoning and all week long I have been made the victim of it. "How could a mother be so cruel?" she cried. "You don't know how terrible it is. You don't have to sit there all day. Please don't make me go"

So today I tried sitting there for at least an hour. I deposited her to her seat up front and looked for a place for myself in back. Good news for me that one or two of the thirty students were absent leaving me a vacant desk to squeeze into. The teacher was late to arrive. A young assistant stood up front doing nothing more than waiting while the children hollered and jumped about. Many of them had long sticks (I assumed brought for some craft project) that they were flaying about poised to take an eye out. The assistant seemed not to notice. Finally, the teacher appeared and instantly the children stood at attention to recite a greeting to her before resuming their rambunctious activities. She called for no order for several minutes while she prepared herself. Then she went to the dry erase board (a recent improvement from last year's chalkboard) and began writing today's date. Next, she was directing the children to recite aloud the day, the month, the year, which they did with gusto, especially two rather large boys who barely fit into their aluminum desks. These two boys, I soon discovered, held command over the others through the power of volume. Their outbursts were so loud as to be painful to the ears--at least to mine. "Mom the kids are really noisy and you can't hear the teacher."

After everyone was sure about the day/month/year I waited for what came next. Many minutes passed in which I had ample time to study the room's features, something I'd not done before; I'd never taken the opportunity to really examine it. As I am taking inventory of the class resources I am constantly checking my judgment, trying to put things in the best light. Except for Allison and her refined sensibilities, this second grade class is happy and content regardless of the material lack. They appear delighted in their continuous uproar. The teacher and her assistant don't seem troubled. Scream away, kiddies. Nothing like last year's teacher who yelled and swatted her way through first grade reigning terror down on her little subjects. Even the Director is new and of a more mild disposition, (I don't think tardiness carries the same shame and terror as it did under the previous Director) though I do remember her checking all the kids' fingernails for cleanliness the other morning so I have some hope that she can hold the standard I so admired in her predecessor. I remind myself we came (again) to experience something different, to learn Spanish, to gain an appreciation for the things we take for granted at home. Allison will be better for it. And see how Carly and the other American kids are faring so well? In time that will be Allison. Oh please, God, sooner than later.

There are no reference books or world map to consult, no multi-media stations, no cubbies stocked with construction paper, no reading nooks. Backpacks (mochillas) clog the aisles between the desks as there are no individual cubbies marked with a student's name to stash them. A deteriorated plastic trash can sits near the door opposite a water cooler bearing an empty jug. "Mom, I had to go to the bathroom today, but I forgot my toilet paper." I think, "They could use a little help." I'd be happy to provide Dixie cups and fresh water and toilet paper. Would that be well received or would it be insulting coming from a foreigner? Was I in such a fog that I didn't notice last year?

Now, finally, the maestro is back to the board. She divides it down the middle with a marker.One one side she write Zonas Culturales, on the other, Zonas Naturales. She cues the children to throw out examples of both. The screaming begins again. Allison keeps her head bowed. Museo, Teatre, Parque, go into the left column. So far only El Mar is offered for the right. Carly's contribution. How easily it rolls off her tongue. See, Allie? You too, will get there. Fifteen minutes pass on this exercise. I grow impatient. For fun, the teacher draws the tragic/comic masks associated with the theater. This takes three minutes. A mother walks in to pull the teacher aside in conference. A student leaves for the bathroom, a desk tumbles, the volume increases. Allie sits there lifeless. I stare at her ponytail and feel anguish again as I feel forced to make up my mind. I really am immobilized as if two separate entities were at debate in my head. If I reject this school as inferior then we are on our own, nothing gained, maybe so much unknown to be lost. It feels like defeat on several levels as well as rude and snobbish behavior. But I ask myself, if we were in America and I was sitting in a school of this caliber observing if it were worthy of my young daughter, would it pass? How many minutes would it take me to reach a decision?

So I did something I am very out of the practice of doing--I pleaded for help from above; not directly to God, but addressed to any spirit that might care or take an interest in me. I resolved to feel calm and assured. I sat a few moments more and when nothing spoke to me or no bolt of inspirational thought came to me I made my decision. I called for Allison to get her things.

She followed me solemnly towards the school entrance where I looked for the Director to make my apologies and say we were not returning. I found her but had no luck in communicating since she spoke no English. I felt some distress and wished that there were someone near who could help us. And at that exact moment she and I together caught glimpse of Manuel, the part-time English teacher, coming through the gate. She grasped his arm and we went to her office. I explained to him my decision to withdraw Allison. I told him to inform the Director that we are grateful for the welcome given, but we see no solution to this unfortunate fit. Allison does not have enough understanding of Spanish to manage in the classroom, and there is no help whatsoever for her. She is a bright girl who wants to learn and is painfully frustrated in the current situation (which I put her in). It is no fault of the school; I would not expect them to accommodate her special need. But it would have been so nice is help were available. If only her teacher knew some English. "If only you, Manuel, were her teacher

Manuel replied, "Oh, but I will be, then." Here my eyes grew wide. "What?"
"Yes, I will keep her at my side and she will learn the Spanish while I teach English. It will be no problem to do so." He repeats this to the Director in Spanish and she begins nodding. "She can follow me to the different grades as I teach." The Director keeps nodding obviously happy we've landed on a solution.
"We will be working only on learning your Spanish. Would you like that, Allison?" She whispers to me that she thought we were going home. She must see in my face a stunned expression and goes silent. We both listen intently to the Director and Manuel discuss this new possibility. I urge her on with a grateful smile and it's apparent to me that she is comprehensive of the kindness being worked for her.

Manuel, she knows and likes, no doubt, as the one authority in school who can communicate with her. I have observed before that when you are a confused foreigner the level of gratitude you feel for anyone who can speak for you is immense. The Director all the while is caressing Allie and bending to smile in her face and Manuel is giving me his schedule which amounts to three hours daily which I see Allison is agreeable to and the whole morning has turned from hopeless to promising. The sudden turn has me overwhelmed and I want to hurry away so I can sort my thoughts privately. Already the questions: Had I left the classroom a moment earlier, I would have missed Manuel and his solution. Would Allison and I be heading home then?

Manuel and Director Franny and my own daughter can't suspect that the amazement I'm showing over this simple resolution is not owed to the parties involved, but to a higher power that at this moment I am rapidly becoming aware of. And as moments pass in the discussion of this new improvements, I am feeling myself rapidly detaching--dissolving into a floating observer whose eye is looking desperately around for the spirit that is surely hovering over us. Allison and I leave both in a confusedly happy state. It's obvious she is lifted by the immense concern finally bestowed on her state of suffering (and in her mind, she's suffered) and I feel for the first time in ages that somebody up there finds my troubles worth hearing. I feel cared about. We both do. And that is food for the soul.

The rest of the day Allison is in a happy state. She practices along to a Spanish CD on her laptop. She plays with her dog. Workers come and go all afternoon making repairs to our house. At dusk, we take Betsy for a walk on the rain-soaked golf course. We meet a lone golfer who talks to us awhile. We snap some fragrant branches off a eucalyptus tree to carry home. On our return we are stopped by Rene Olono driving home. He welcomes us back to Loreto and inquires about Robert, his buddy. He will watch over us ladies. Robert need not worry. We must be on foot, he wonders, but I tell him I have rented a car. Oh no, that won't do. We must take his other vehicle; It just sits there. We put Betsy in the back of the truck, her first, and she rides like a Baja dog down the highway as we go to fetch the car.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Loreto as Usual

The night before Allison started back at Colegio Calafia I had to endure her whimpering and declarations that I was the meanest mother in the world. All the way to school she cried and true to her pronouncements I did feel like the meanest mother. I was sending her back to that inferior Mexican village school that looks like a penal institution even more so since they built a new solid wall around it. But once I settled her in with the assurances of all her English speaking friends that they would look out for her I felt confidant that her attitude would improve. I believe that one more winter here will help her grow fluent with Spanish and then we can say we accomplished something. When I picked her up in at the school day's end she was racing around the playground laughing with friends and not eager to leave. What relief to me that I held my ground and made her go to school.

Meanwhile I am taking care of matters concerning our house. I found the municipal office where I paid my property taxes for the year, which were,(are you ready?) $136 dollars. I actually felt good about paying that. Next I have to pay the trust on the Fidecomisio, schedule pest control (la cucaracha!), order some repairs, and wax all the woodwork. Nothing much has changed in the six months we've been away. Workers are busy putting up houses in Loreto Bay. There's constant noise from the construction and always lots of laughter and hollering. I'll take that as reassurance that they are content on the job. I rented a tiny car to get us to and from home to the town of Loreto where Allie's school sits on the same dirt street. It's a stick shift and I haven't mastered the agility necessary to get it over the numerous speed bumps smoothly. Better I just blow right over them and "Watch your head!" I do enjoy the looseness of Mexico when it comes to driving. Here I think nothing of driving wrong way on a one-way when it makes the trip shorter. And a stop sign here is an exercise in pretense. Everyone rolls right through, except the stop by Allie's school where the policia stand guard. The dirt street to the school is always hosed down with water to keep down the dust and you have to respect that.
The bruised bananas at the grocery store sit under a cloud of fruit flies as usual. I said hello to the vultures picking away at dead tabby cat in the street and wondered why they hadn't found the bloated cow that's been on the side of the highway since I got here last Sunday.

I can pretend it's a resort we live in but it's a long way from becoming one. Our casa is very elegant and the views of the mountains and the sea are rivaled only by the night time display of brilliant stars in a deep dark sky. I admit the wonder that accompanies a new experience has waned since I'm now a returning veteran. I feel like I'm picking up where we left off. What am I looking to learn this time? I'm guessing it will be about strengthening friendships here and working harder to learn the language. Without the language you can't say you know a place or a people. I want to be able to have a deep conversation with a Mexican and hear what they have to say about their world and see how it compares to what I say about their world. Until I do that I am only guessing. I might find out they really don't like us and wish we would take our gringo butts back home to our smooth streets and pristine grocery stores where the fruit comes sanitized and polished and Animal Control removes road kill before rigor mortis sets in. Oh yeah, and back to our high American taxes. $136 dollars! So what's a few dead bloating cows in the road when it means your taxes are next to nothing?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Life without the "A" key

I have a missing "a" key on this cheap lptop I brought to Loreto Bay. And since I HAVE NO INTERNET hookup in my casa I am writing my the hotel pool where the only light to see the keyboard is the illumination of its screen. Why bother I wonder? Mybe because I need to maintain some measure of a routine since once agin I've turned my life upside down. It would help if Robert had come with us but he won't be here for another two weeks.

Our casa needed mucho TLC. I'm gld I packed a garden hose so I could wash it down. Some furniture split from the heat or humidity. There are other matters to tend to, one being getting Allison enrolled for school which she is loathe to do. Suddenly I am the world's worst mother to her. Unpleasantness seems to be the order of the day. When we went to pick up our dog from neighbors who were caring for her we were met with a cold reception. Obviously, we're unfit owners having left our dog for so long. Originally, we planned to return to Loreto in six weeks, but couldn't. The couple we left her with were very kind to tke her and when we told them of our delay they gently insisted we give them custody of the dog. But, eventually, they had to leave and passed Betsy on to this couple in December. The understnding was that we were coming back for her.

The new dog-sitters really, really liked our Betsy and probably felt like doggie saviors rescuing this purebred from her poor fate. I guess they resented our reclaiming her and my goodie thank-you bag didn't suffice. I don't blame them, but it is Allie's dog and she had no say in the matter except that she begged me to get Betsy Mayflower bck, boo-hoo hoo, and being a good mother I promised to do so. SO on our first day reunited with our dog, she gets out and runs away. Someone returns her to the couple. Allie goes to get her and gets a scolding for being irresponsible. Cries to me. Okay so we have neighbors who don't like us. Beinvenidos.

I had to endure Allie's dramatics over hating Mexicn school and thought we've jumped a hurdle when I took her to sign up and all her old friends ran to greet her. Alex-son, Alex-son! But, tonight, on the eve of her first day she is moaning and making my life miserable with all the arsenal that a precocious 7 year old girl can muster. No mtter that every adult who hears her complaints expresses the same sentiment: "Oh, Allison, one day you will look back on this experience with so much gratitude. You'll know Spnish and that is a very valuable skill."

This is bout all I cn write now under this conditions. I must trudge bck to our casa and put my abused daughter to bed. Did I mention we had no electricity for the first two days? (We hadn't mde arrangements with property management..irresponsible,again.)

I am suddenly filled wth the conviction tht once I have my "a" key bck harmony will be restored to my life.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Fifteen thousand bucks, that's what it will cost you to take the first punch. This is aunt Sara to my son Beau's black eye at dinner tonight. She should know, she's a prosecuting attorney and has a good idea about the cost to defend yourself in court after defending your ego in public. While common street sense mandates that he who gets the in first punch has the advantage, the law lays the blame on the cowboy first on the draw. My sons are in that testosterone-driven period of life where offenses against them are taken as serious breaches of conduct worthy of a fight. Usually they are provoked by the same common elements: drinking, insults, and girls. Somebody says something insulting and the offended one says, "Are you messing with me?" to which the offender remarks, "Yeah, and what are you gonna do about it, (insert expletive here)?" And then someone is supposed to beat someone up. At college, Ryan has been in several fights this year, none of which he started. For him just being muscled, good-looking and garnering the attention of the females in the crowd seems to make him game for attacks. That's not to say he didn't throw the first punch.

Beau never looks for a fight, but on this occasion he was guilty of being in the company of two beautiful young girls that somebody else, somebody drunk and stupid, thought were fair game for harassment. When Beau objected, well, gee, that's the language of threat to idiot drunk boys, so bring-it-on. Coincidentally, at that very moment, Ryan and his 6 ft. 4 friend walked up on the scene. Ryan voiced his objection and probably flexed some muscle. When the offender pressed into him Ryan surprised him with his fist. Then someone punched Beau in the eye. No one is sure exactly what happened next but it amounted to people getting pulled off each other by by-standers.

In the telling it sounded amusing and noble that a brother should stick up for a brother and for the honor of lovely young ladies, and it was especially funny the part when the drunk offender lurched in Ryan's face with his fingers posed in the gang sign language muttering, "Are we cool, dude?" Ryan's answer was the cold-cock which knocked the idiot senseless to the floor. Yeah, we're cool now.

But we must remind ourselves that this is not the wild west and fist fights are labeled physical assaults where participants are named offenders and victims and go to jail and pay fines and acquire criminal status. I find myself feeling ambiguous about this because I want my sons to stand up for themselves even with physical force when necessary, however, I don't want them or any others to suffer any risk that comes from force both of the fist and of the law.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Wake me up when we reach Loreto

That's it, we are going back to Mexico. I can't get my seven year old to keep her stringy hair out of her face. It's time to move back to Loreto where the nuns at Colegio Calafia will make her ponytail stand at attention. She'll be angry with me over the return to the austerity that doesn't include hours of Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel and trips to McDonalds. We've collected an entire army of Happy Meal toys, characters to movies I didn't know existed. We came home just in time to celebrate Christmas and re-load. Going back to Loreto will be a relief for me, but she'll see it as deprivation. We tell ourselves that one day she will be grateful for the time spent there and remember the happy times.

I don't know how long we will stay this time, but it'd be nice to be there all winter. There are more people in Loreto Bay now as more homes have been completed. Several families are there with children attending schools, so the experience should be better for Allison this time. The season for the return of the whales is close so we will be there to enjoy baby whales swim alongside their mamas. Ryan will soon be back to college and Beau has opened his wheel and tire business and has to fly on his own. We reacquainted with friends, though not all of them. We celebrated four family birthdays. Robert took his boating trip down the east coast to Florida and said he cured himself of the desire to own a boat. I fell back into keeping house and family harmonious and content. The boys seemed exuberant to see me in the five or ten minutes they'd hang around. It's mating season and I just have to turn my head to the drama of it all having lived it once; it's too tiring to witness. The girls are older and prettier, but not wiser to the mindset of young men who just want to have fun.

Our sons are definitely too big for the nest especially with their entourage in tow. Ryan can summon his posse to our house in a matter of minutes (the miracle of cell phones.) Usually they all go to the basement where there's a partial element of privacy, but we still hear the guitars and laughter and smell the occasional cigarette smoke that sends one of us down to scold. We made room for this since we are happy for these times to be together as a family, and most of these kids we have deep affection for having watched them grow up. Occasionally, the kids would sit and converse with us and one time serenaded us with guitars so we could see how talented and wonderful they were before they ran off the drink a beer or whatever. But still, they are big boys, disruptive and messy and not so cute that I overlook the labor and expense required to live with them. My laundry is never finished, the milk carton is always empty. Cars litter our driveway and I can't walk through the house in my underwear if I so wanted. I've let Allison run wild like a hippie-child in a commune. It's easy to overlook her in a crowded house. I've had to summon her from the depths of the basement where she was cuddling up to one of Ryan's girlfriends, talking about God-knows-what while being in earshot of the occasional profanities that young people so easily emit. Thank God for St. Joan, who comes over almost daily for Allie's dose of proper schooling and moral instruction.

Sometimes I scold myself for not running a tighter ship, for sleeping at the wheel, for not shielding my last young cub from the constant lure and call of the sirens of sea of American pop culture. Mom, Can I have a cell phone? Lauren has a cell phone. Can I get my ears pierced? Just one more hour of television. Pleeazze? I'm hovering over the decision to pull hard against the reins or just let go and go with the flow. Beau warns I'll make a weirdo out of his little sister if I think I can shield her from the world. Let her duke it out like the rest of us had to. But what if I can change the world we live in? That's what I used to say. Now I just want to search for the existing world that suits me and move there. And where would that be?

So you see why lazy seaside Loreto Bay looks appealing for its wholesomeness. Ironic that I sometimes I feel we must run away to Mexico in order to bring our daughter up with good old fashioned American values like respect and gratitude. What Loreto offers is protection that comes from isolation. It's easier to control your child when there is less to fight against. Here I feel the constant bombardment of negative influences on my family. Here kids grow up too fast, but not too-equipped. What they are really good at is making fun of things. It's the Jon Stewart mentality of ridiculing everything. I think Jon Stewart is very funny, but my brain is too cured to be influenced. I guess I don't care if they adopt that mocking attitude after they move out and I'm no longer under obligation to be their moral authority.

I don't know what has happened to me. When did I grow so tired? Where's the tigress in me? I only long for rest and peace. Other people's problems make me weary, including my own family's. I try hard to appear interested, and initially I might be, but years on earth have shown me that there is little I can do but listen, people will do what they want and with all the drama you'd expect. Boys will break girls' hearts, things will get lost or stolen and maybe found again, high expectations will meet with disappointment or glorious fulfillment. It is what it is, and que sera, sera.

I'd like to be a better person. I resolve every new year to at least try. I say I want to give more, to help more. I want to be a better parent. Truth is I do, but I don't want to work hard at it anymore. So what I'm opting for is the minimalism of village life in Loreto. And let the nuns of Colegio Calafia back me up about the hair.