Moms and Explosives

It’s Mother’s Day in Medellin and it’s time to light some stuff on fire! Fireworks, paper lanterns, and my favorite, paper lanterns filled with fireworks. The sounds of the explosions bounce off the mountains surrounding the city, set off car alarms and drive dogs insane.

Mother’s Day is a very big deal around here. The boys have been talking about it for weeks, and this had me thinking about what I’d want if I could ask for anything for Mother’s Day. The first thing that came to mind was silence. Sometimes I just want it to be quiet for a little bit. If my kids bought a bunch of fireworks in my honor I’d be pissed! Is this just another way I am not like the Colombian mamas? Or maybe the fireworks are like the clay ashtrays and paperweights we used to make for our moms; there’s no nice way to say ‘no thank you, I don’t want that present.’ So they keep blowing things up to show how much they care.

The mom festivities in Medellin also involve a lot of drinking. The police reported 260 altercations before 5 pm, which was an improvement over last year. Those poor, poor mamas. Just take them out for a nice dinner and keep the police out of it! Maybe Colombia should start celebrating Cinco de Mayo, and then everyone could get their booze fueled antics out of their system before Mother’s Day. Or maybe it’s the fact that brunch doesn’t exist here. Introducing the mother’s day brunch might help keep the peace. You can only get so drunk before noon.

Judging by the pyrotechnics, Christmas, Mother’s Day and game day are the most important events in Medellin.  (Not just any game, of course, but I’m not enough of a football fan to know which games are the most important).

When Andrew’s parents were in town we were almost killed by the local team’s celebratory exploding paper ballon. Ok, that’s not true, but we did save one of Medellin’s tourist attractions from burning down. Or at least a tree.  We were enjoying a lovely afternoon at the Castle, once a private home that is now a museum and garden…

day at the castle

The sun was shining, the parrots were showing off….


We spotted Andrew’s doughier doppelgänger…


Andrew with 20 more pounds and a man purse.

And then this, a giant Nacional balloon, with a tail!


And then the tail disappeared.


And fell into a tree in a ball of fire.


The tail got caught in a tree and sent sparks to the ground, lighting some hay bales and dry grass on fire. I thought it would be best to alert the security guard. He thought it best to spread the fire around with a dry leaf.



A police officer got in on the action with some casual foot-tapping. Sam was in his underwear because he fell in a fountain earlier.


Man eventually prevailed over fire and the castle was saved!




Andrew climbed the tree and claimed a souvenir. Andrew’s parents question his decisions in life.

Happy Mother’s Day all! I hope your day was as eventful or uneventful as you hoped it would be.  I dedicate this fireball to you.



Moms, Dads, Awards, and Adventure

Things have been busy here the last few weeks. There were celebrations, the end of the school year, visitors, and we’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing with our lives. But things have been looking up. Andrew has more work lined up and the office-closing talk has cooled off a bit. It’s still uncertain if the work will last for weeks or 6 months, but we have bought ourselves some more time.

The downside of getting more work and trying to keep an office afloat with no support is that you have to work all the time. Andrew has worked pretty much every day of the last 2 months.  I spend the weekends on my own with the kids, trying to keep them entertained and trying to keep them from killing each other, me from killing them, etc.

Mother’s day was a big deal. It is the biggest holiday of the year here, after Christmas. They are serious about their moms. Every restaurant is booked and the celebrations go on for days. Apparently it is also one of the most dangerous days of the year.  There are more murders on Mother’s day than any other day of the year (again, besides Christmas). Something about families getting together and alcohol, and moms, makes you want to shoot somebody. And there are fireworks of course, lots of fireworks.  On really special days people make hot air balloons lit with sternos, loaded up with fireworks.  They float off in the breeze sending off little explosions and ending up who knows where, hopefully not starting a forest fire. We all survived the holiday.

For our family, Mother’s day coincided with our personal/professional upheaval and informing the kids that we may or may not have to leave for… DC, Denver, or somewhere else. I was feeling pretty bad for the kids, as we have certainly put them through a lot in the past year. Aiden told us it would be fun to go somewhere new. He was totally game for the next adventure. When I told him later that it looked like we’d probably be staying in Medellin for another school year he said, ‘oh good, because I had some plans.’ This kid is resilient, and that is making my life a lot easier. Aiden’s mothers day gift to me was a list of some of the character traits that describe me. Everyone loves a homemade gift, but this one came at precisely the right time.

Among other things, his card said: “you are respectful because you do not laugh at my secrets. You are persistent because when we have problems you make it better.  You are adventurous because you take us on trips. You are careful because you won’t let me get hurt.”

Thank you Aiden for making me feel better. Thank you for (occasionally) sharing your secrets with me and for being so adventurous. It’s really helpful, particularly when things are so uncertain and a little crazy.

Here we are, being adventurous:


With Andrew working all the time and school over (and no US style summer camp to keep the kids entertained) I have decided to take bold action. I am about to take the kids on a 5 week North American tour, solo. That’s right, me, an 8-year-old (who just happened to receive 2nd grade’s “most energetic” award, see below) and a 4-year-old who weighs 50 pounds and doesn’t like to walk, are about to embark on a journey that will take us to a dozen states and Canada, countless plane rides, car rentals and hotel rooms and couches.  Why? I don’t know. But we leave this Sunday.  It’s too late to turn back now.

Here is Aiden’s award from his 2nd grade teacher:


Do you think this is a message from his teacher that perhaps some medications should be considered?  Maybe it should say ‘good luck to your 3rd grade teacher,’ or ‘good luck to your parents.’  How can we harness this energy for good, particularly for a boy who thinks sports are pointless?

Father’s day was second fiddle to mom’s day, of course, but there were fireworks, and the occasional floating balloon of destruction. Andrew had to work, sadly, but we did have a celebratory breakfast and the arrival of Great Uncles Ilo and Lou, who got to be stand-in dads for the day!  We took them all over the city – Sam and Aiden were good tour guides and Lou gets props for going at a 4 year olds pace, which is not such an easy thing to do, particularly for a world-class traveler and Lonely Planet executive.

In honor of dad, here’s a picture Sam made at school.  All the other parents are represented and you’ll notice that Andrew is the biggest, which is probably pretty accurate. Sam said he gave his dad wings, which I think is a nice touch.



Juan Pablo and Lorena must feel very insignificant next to this giant winged creature.


On the metro cable with Ilo and Lou


IMG_6010 IMG_6032 IMG_6035

The uncles spent a few days in Medellin and then headed off to Cartagena and the beach.  Sam cried as we dropped them off at the airport and begged to go with them. And now I remember why I am taking these boys on a North American death march adventure; there are so many people we want to see. While they are happy living here, and are apparently game for anything, they are seriously social people and miss their family and friends like crazy. Aiden wants to live with his cousins in Canada and spend the summers with his aunts in Vermont or at his grandpa’s house in Kentucky (the coolest house ever- with frogs that live in a bathtub outside, and sheep, and chickens). When asked the other day who his best friend was, Sam said it was his grandma (and the boy he met on the trampoline at the pizza place whose name he didn’t know. But you get the idea).

So, off we go. Of course we all wish Andrew could come. But hopefully by the time we return things will have settled down a bit, and maybe our future here will be more certain. We’ll be back in Medellin just in time for the famous weeklong flower festival, which I am determined to attend in full this year. And then school starts up and we begin year 2 of our Colombian adventure. I think.

Happy summer!