Both of my parents come from large families of five siblings. I have always loved the loud, boisterous gatherings we had growing up–so many personalities, so many different houses to visit, so much food, and so much love. My one regret was not having any cousins my age, but there were plenty of little minions to boss around and frankly, that was perfect for my domineering oldest child tendencies.

Now that I am older, I only find more reasons to cherish being part of such a tight-knit extended family. It is a massive and priceless support network of people who have been an important part of my life from either my birth or theirs, and also a source of endless entertainment. Sometimes I get sad that my brother and I are only two and B and his brother the same, and that unless we all pump out children like we’re Mormons with no tomorrow, our kids will likely grow up with significantly smaller reunions.

This may have engendered the occasional big family aspiration. Fortunately (or something), I’ve heard child birth is painful and that terrifies me, so those thoughts are of an ephemeral nature. Too many children is completely out of the question…too many being three or more.

And then there was cooking class to seal the deal for all eternity.

Initially, I was stoked about my biggest turnout ever. Nine kids! I was all, “2013 has been great for Lo’s Kitchen and we are gaining more students with each passing week and blah blah woohoo blah!!!”

Then reality set in. That reality was that every single rascal apparently chugged a gallon of Redbull shortly before coming to class, and everybody was experiencing a simultaneous crazycrazycrazy surge that lasted the duration of class and then some. Seriously, I thought I was going to lose my head (my voice was already a hopeless cause).

THEY WERE BARBARIANS.

Wild, uncontrollable savages from a forsaken jungle where children are mainlined sugar through constant IV drips. I thought about getting my tubes tied and I’m not even married yet.

Not that I have ever considered something as terror-inducing as producing nine children, but we will see if I can even muster up the courage to hold cooking class again next week much less have any sort of family in the future. I’m not even sure I’ll be able to eat mashed potatoes for a long time.

Phew.

They look deceptively calm and orderly in these photos. NEVER TRUST PICTURES.Lo's Kitchen 003Lo's Kitchen 007Learning to use a vegetable peeler.

Lo's Kitchen 012Lo's Kitchen 014Knives were definitely not my wisest decision.

Lo's Kitchen 015Lo's Kitchen 016Mashed potato madness.

Lo's Kitchen 009NEVER.

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You’ve Got Mail.

April 7, 2013

[Must remember these moments when I am back in the States.]

I trudged up the ramp, crossing my fingers that the box from my mom was awaiting me in the post office. Paraguay does not have a national postal system, so all post offices are individual, private businesses. Therefore both incoming and outgoing mail deliveries are unpredictable and certainly not prompt. I know these discrepancies well by now, but the excitement of packages often has me optimistically hoping against instinct anyway.

As I approached the tiny office, I could see through the tinted glass that a large ladder was blocking the door. My heart immediately sank thinking they had closed spontaneously for maintenance as businesses are apt do, regardless of working hours, in Paraguay. I did not give up all hope though as I observed an employee at the counter. Unsure if the office was open, I hesitated at the door and made inquiring gestures at the lady. She shrugged her shoulders unapologetically and halfheartedly waved me in.

I slowly pushed in the door until it was flush against the ladder. There was an exceedingly small gap, and I dubiously considered entering. But the tantalizing promise of brand-new (and much needed) v-neck t-shirts and jars of Cookie Butter (also much needed?) were enough to spur me forward. I inhaled sharply, sucked in my stomach, and proceeded to clumsily cram myself into a space more adequately suited for newborn babies. Singular.

The counter jammed into my hip and my bulky shoulder bag did not help the situation. Still, those were small inconveniences compared to the moment when I noticed the wet, brown splotches on the counter. Perplexed and disconcerted, I dared myself to glance up. Immediately over my head, perched on the ladder, was a maintenance man fiddling with a half assembled air conditioning unit that was dripping the muddy goo I was now also trying to evade in my already tight niche.

Side note: in Paraguay, for every guy on a ladder, there is sure to be another ‘earning’ a day’s wage by holding the base of the ladder secure. Except most of the time, that individual is more about nap time than vigilance.

As was the case with this particular dude as well. His arm dangled casually over a middle rung as if were the resulting dead weight that occurs when one is fast asleep. Were an accident to happen, the personage on top would surely have died, and this one on the bottom left undoubtedly sans appendage and then some.

Add his creepy, close-range leering to the cubbyhole mix. He sure had some serious x-ray vision for someone who was half asleep.

I nervously and rather impatiently waited for the mail lady to check on the arrival of a package (yay! it came) and then to of course take her sweet time gathering the paperwork necessary to release the box to me. An eternity passed before I could hastily scrawl out a signature and make off with my treasure to a safe haven free of raining poop and predators.

It took a few attempts to wrangle my way out of that otherworldly vortex newly armed with a large box. I felt like those birds that mistakenly fly into houses and then proceed to slam into the glass windows repeatedly before they discover a more effective strategy to escaping. Eventually, I was liberated.

Then they moved the ladder.

 

Celebration Sunday 006The crew with the birthday girl.

I clattered down the cobblestone street and pulled onto the dirt stretch in front of Primero de Marzo. Even though I was my usual twenty minutes early, the children were already waiting outside the cancha en masse. Then they surrounded my car before I could even put it into park, pounding on my windows and clamoring cheerful “Hola, [Lo]!’s” left and right. Everyone sure woke up on the right side of the bed that morning.

It took several minutes for me to communicate via charades through tinted windows that they all needed to take a few steps back in order for me to be able to open my car door. The second my foot stepped down, everyone started jostling to help me unload the car.

They actually argued over who got to assist with lugging stuff across the muddy field. Some mornings I am just so dang proud of these little guys.

After some seriously precarious squishing through the bog that is Primero de Marzo (it rained this week and soggy havoc was yet again wreaked on the compound), I put everyone to work blowing up balloons and decking out the place in festivity. Nothing like a party to unite legions of rascals, I guess, because they were all so calm and cooperative and helpful. Little chums were giving hugs, older chums were sharing, and one sweet dumpling even picked me a weed flower. Precious.

Then just as I was settling into this wondrous world of sugarplums and rainbow gumdrops, a balloon popped and with it, the candy-coated bubble of utopian behavior. Gone were the encouraging words and kind gestures and docile temperaments. Boisterous (but normal) chaos promptly ensued and proceeded to flail its crazy head around for the duration of our Saturday morning program.

By the time, Y showed up, her birthday celebration was in full-fledged wild animal mode. Ain’t no party like a hyper OANSA party!

Haha. Feliz cumple, Y!

Celebration Sunday 002Celebration Sunday 005Celebration Sunday 007

Doing wild jumping jacks for the duration of the microwave time to get exercise in.

Consuming your seven-hundredth cup of coffee for the day and as a result, jabbering inconsciently to yourself knowing full well no one is around to judge you.

Glancing at the overflowing sinkfull of dishes and eating a[nother] brownie instead.

Certainly not shaving your legs for months.

Snickering at your own discordant off-key singing and purposefully mangling the rest of the song at a higher volume.

Frantically cooking up buttered pasta with fried garlic and onions because the latest food memoir on your Kindle has driven you to a voracious hunger frenzy. At midnight.

Dying for even a little good cheese and instead settling for a sprinkling of iodized table salt.

Forcing yourself back out of bed at the last minute to grudgingly brush your teeth even though no one will be around to suffer your morning dragon breath.

Drifting off to blissful beauty sleep in brown tights, crew socks, woolen foot paddles (with pom poms), high-water sweatpants, and yesterday’s wrinkly t-shirt.

Counting the days until a roommate banishes the glorious albeit absurd freedom and instates in its place instead, something worth its weight in gold and then some, SNUGGLES.