January 29, 2006

Island life

The weather hasn't been typically tropical, unless you're talking about hurricane season, which is supposed to be over and done with. The Christmas winds have turned into Valentine winds, starting long after they should have finished and considerably stronger than usual. Our first few days were quite nice but rather breezy, and the second half of the first week was downright miserable with near gale force winds and sheets of rain. Then we had some lovely weather (bordering on, I shouldn't even think it though Laura said it out loud, "almost TOO hot") from last Monday until Friday. Yesterday it turned crummy again, raining and windy, though today we have "only" the wind.

I've decided that since I can't do anything about the weather, and since most people in North America reading this are annoyed with me anyway for being in the West Indies in January, I'm just going to ignore it. Which includes letting the kids go swimming a) even if it's raining and b) when it's sunny even though they should be doing math because, let's face it, the sun won't last and the math will always be here. I'm also going to make lemonade out of lemons when it comes to the fact that, probably because of holiday and trip-planning induced brain fog, I completely forgot that Daniel was perilously close to the end of Singapore 1A and that I meant to bring along the start of 1B. Oops. So his formal math lessons may be coming to a screeching halt sometime next week, though I think I might have him nearby when Laura starts more multiplication work (four times tables) shortly. And continuing in the lemonade spirit, in part thanks to the weather and the fact that we have way more than our usual two channels (not to mention my father's incredible video collection) at our disposal, I've added some extra TV to the rotation. You might even go so far as to call it the new Boomerang homeschool curriculum, with oodles of old cartoons, especially Hanna-Barbera gems like Top Cat, Magilla Gorilla, and Wally Gator. Oh, with some National Geographic and Animal Planet thrown in.

Our day starts pretty early, at least on the sunny days. We have breakfast on the verandah, joined by some of the banana quits (little yellow birds) trying to steal sugar crumbs from the table, and while Tom and the kids have eggs or pancakes, I enjoy my toast and guava jam, with fresh coffee made by my father.

After breakfast, Laura and Daniel do a bit of math, which as you can see by the above is turning into a very little bit of math. And it's distracting too -- lizards climbing up and down the columns, the sound of the lawn mower from the end of the garden. So soon it's pool time, and Tom has installed the unauthorized homemade diving board, which makes the kids shriek with joy. One of our very kind neighbors, a widower approaching 80, who lives on the ridge above my parents' place, stopped me at the bank the other day to tell me how much he enjoys the sound of children's laughter. Bless him for another 80 years.

By then, it's time to follow around Dad, or Grandpapa, or the gardener, or plant the watermelon seeds from yesterday's lunch, or help me make lemon squares for dessert, and then time for lunch. After which it's time for some reading and reading aloud; our family readaloud at the moment is "Owls in the Family" by Farley Mowat, Laura is working her way through the collected stories of Felicity (one of the American Girls), I'm rereading Claire Tomalin's biography of Jane Austen as I do every trip here, and I'm reading Hakim's History of US/volume 2 to everyone.

If it's a normal day with normal weather, the hottest part of the day is over and the kids spend another hour or two in the pool, while I play lifeguard and read some more and the houseguest tries to swim laps in between crazy diving children. Yes, I have suggested (in both official languages) that he take his exercise before or after us, with no luck. I don't mind, and the kids sure don't, if he doesn't.

Another reason I'm willing to put up with my parents' French houseguest -- not only did he arrive with about 40 pounds of delicacies from France (fancy chocolates but no unpasteurized Brie) but he's also doing most of the dinner time cooking. Last night we had spicy lobster with Basmati rice, the night before Moroccan sausages with couscous, and sometime this week duck breasts with cognac and walnuts. Not exactly as I would prepare the main ingredient in the case of the lobster and duck, but hey, I'm willing to put up with a lot in exchange for enjoying such delicacies.

Speaking of food, my parents took us all to lunch at the Four Seasons resort this afternoon. The kids think Four Seasons is a magical place (and having seen how there seemed to be no wind there at all today, I'm inclined to agree) and had a marvelous time; Laura in particular had been quivering with excitement ever since hearing the news, because getting all dressed up in one's best sundress to go to a fancy restaurant and ordering from a menu one can read all by oneself is about as good as it gets. We had a table by the beach, and after enjoying lunch they were able to run down to the sand and play for a bit while the adults enjoyed their pina coladas and tropical sorbets. And in full hearing of my father, an elderly Englishwoman leaned over to me on her way out of the restaurant and purred, "Congratulations, dear. What beautifully behaved children." I thanked her and flushed, and it wasn't all the rum.

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