Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tis' the Season

It's almost December again-can you believe it?

I love Christmas time-everything about it-the music, the food, the presents, the shopping, the kids' excitement. I don't even mind that it seems to start earlier each year. If it were up to Guapo (and in his car, it is), we would all listen to Christmas music starting October 1. In the other countries that we have lived in (Venezuela, Mexico and now Brazil) things get started mid-October and it's not blamed on commercialism like it is in the States-it just starts early. I figure all the better-people always seem nicer during the Christmas season so why not make it longer?

What I don't like is to feel unprepared for the season, or like it rushes by me without having time to enjoy it with my kids. I have such fond memories of my childhood Christmases and it mainly has to do not with the presents I got (although I loved that too!), but with the things we did year in and year out like making Christmas cookies and fudge with my mom, wrapping presents and going to the same party every Christmas Eve. I loved that it was always the same

I want my kids to have great memories from Christmas so last year I came up with a plan for us to do something Christmasy every day in December. It sounds like a lot, but I just include things that we would normally do like "wrap teacher gifts" and "watch a Christmas movie" and divide them up over the entire month instead of trying to do it all in one week. I figure if I put some effort into it now, it will be easier in years to come because I will already know the majority of things that we are going to do.

So, today, I am going to cover the NEW (things we are trying this year). The next post will be about the IMPROVED (changes I am making from last year to simplify things), and the following will list our current activities. I think. I'm not really sure yet, but that's the basic idea.

Little Christmas Shop

I got this idea from a friend I made in Mexico City last year. She was a totally with-it mom of six-most of whom are grown now.

Throughout the year she would stock up on little toys and such that her kids would like to receive when they were on sale. Then, as it got close to Christmas the kids would start doing chores to earn up money to buy a present for each sibling and their parents. Then, one night shortly before Christmas the mom and the dad would set up a little "store" in a room in their house where the kids would go in one at a time with their money and buy presents (at a reduced price!) for everyone. (The mom and the dad would take turns showing the present for the other parent so it would be a surprise) The kids would leave with their purchases, wrapping paper, scissors and a roll of tape all in a black trash bag and find a quite place where they could wrap the presents.

The presents would be placed under the tree and another night they would have their family gift exchange.

Isn't that cute? I think it's a great idea. I really want my kids to learn about giving to others and not just receiving but in the past it has mainly been us, last minute, rushing to some store and them picking out things for each other and us paying for them. With this new plan:

  • The kids are thinking about giving for the entire season
  • I get free slave labor for a month
  • The kids get to choose the gifts from a selection that I picked out (When Guapo was in charge of Julio's shopping last year we ended up with live turtles)
  • Much less stressful than taking 4 kids to the mall-and probably a lot cheaper

We started doing the chores last week and although they don't love it now-I think they will love the end result. We are keeping track using a sticker chart:

Melodee Bells

Another friend gave me this great idea last year: Melodee Bells.

These are SO cool. Each set has 8 bells- one octave from f to f. They are brightly colored and each has the note name and also a number (1-8). My friend had 3 sets she would take to Christmas get togethers. She had familiar Christmas songs written out on poster board and below each word was both the letter note and the number associated with that word. Each person would get one bell (or two if they thought they could handle it) and we would sing and play the song. Everyone-kids and adults- loved it!

I told her I wanted to get some and she told me to get 4 sets because 3 was never enough. So I did; the link above was the cheapest price I could find. Not exactly cheap if you buy 3 or 4 sets, but she had had hers for years and years. I am planning on using them for Family Home Evening, any get togethers that we have or are invited to, and I am going to take them to each of my kids' classes for a holiday activity.

1st Day of December Party

Saturday we are having a very small (two other families) get together at our house to celebrate the start of December. It is going to be ea-sy. I'm getting pizza, making a veggie tray, buying drinks. We are going to watch the greatest Christmas movie ever (Elf) and try out the Melodee Bells. I'm sure I could make the food more "Christmasy", but Guapo will be out of town so I'm all about making things easy on myself. I'll use my Christmas plates-so it will be Christmas pizza.

Then, when it's dark, we are going to watch the official lighting a very large floating Christmas tree from our deck (complete with fireworks!).

Elf-Pizza-Bells-Big Floating Tree-Fireworks. Hopefully it will be a fun way to kick off the season.
Please share any cool ideas you have for Christmas this year!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Look Away!!!

You know how when you were little and you saw your teacher somewhere that wasn't school-like the grocery store or a restaurant-you thought it was weird? I always had it in my mind that my teacher was omnipresent at school; having no life of her own, she just sat around the school waiting for kids to show up.

Well, that's kind of how I am with my driver (I'm sorry for all the driver and maid posts lately, but this one was too good to pass on); as far as my subconscious mind is concerned, Sergio lives in my car. You can't blame me really-I go down in the morning and there he is ready to take us to school, I get the kids situated at school there he is waiting for me, I come out from the grocery store and there he is- ready to load up the trunk.

When I see him he always looks the same: jeans, button down short-sleeved shirt, leather belt and shoes, always looks like he just got a haircut (his 89 year old father is a barber).

So imagine my shock when we go to the end-of-year company party yesterday (yes, I know it was only November 24th-what does that tell you about productivity in December in Brazil?) and not only is he NOT in my car, but suddenly he's standing before me wearing nothing but a speedo. I felt like I had walked in on him getting out of the shower. My eyes quickly darted here are there searching for something, anything else to look at as we made our requisite small talk.

I avoided him the whole day because as I mentioned in a previous post, speedos aren't just for swimming here-they are lounge wear, dining wear, exercise wear. All-Purpose-All-Day-Wear.

I know I'm still going to feel weird tomorrow morning when he's back to living in my car. Gives me the heebee-geebees.

(And with that-I promise no more maid or driver posts for a while-it's on to Christmas fun tomorrow!)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Happily Ever After

So we survived our maid's wedding. Unfortunately for the ole' blog, it was pretty uneventful. It was a very nice ceremony with a fun reception afterward. Juan Carlos said our maid looked like a princess.

I took a shower and dug some make-up out of my drawer in the bathroom to prove to my maid that I could be presentable.

We didn't end up having to sit with her parents OR say a toast (thanks, anyway, for the offer Fabiola!). Sure, we got stared at and pointed at, but that's normal stuff for us because 1) we are obviously foreigners and 2) because we have four kids.

Vanessa got to see Pedro at her wedding.

I had such high hopes for a wealth of bloggable events but, alas, there was only one little thing.

That would be the driver we hired because our driver is on vacation.

You hire a driver to

1) drive you safely hither and thither, and,
2) to watch the car, especially when you are in not-so-safe areas like we were last night.

He pretty much failed at both. He is out of work right now (I am no longer wondering why), and it was quite apparent that in his past job he drove a manual transmission.

We have an automatic.

Every time the dude went to stop, his right hand would grope around for a stick-shift and his left foot would search for the clutch. His left foot always ended up (quite forcefully, I might add) on the brake. This would about send us all through the windshield. The kids would scream and I would poke Guapo in the back, trying not to laugh.

I understand it happening once, but he

He backed into a car parking in front of the church.

Then, instead of waiting for us whilst protecting our car, he joined us in the wedding. Guapo decided not to say anything because it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if my car got stolen (it's a piece of crap). After the wedding he drove us to the reception and joined us, uninvited, for the entire time, at our table. Please don't think I'm a snob- I love my real driver; we hang out a lot together. But keep in mind that we had never before met this guy and besides that, it's just totally against driver protocol.

Here we are at our table:

On the way home we were again subjected to a myriad of bad driving techniques: more whiplash inducing stops, driving with the emergency brake on, driving without the headlights on (for the first half hour), signalling to go around curves and then leaving the blinker on for the next 15 minutes. I made Gaupo promise he would stay awake so I could take doze off in between the neck-whipping stops.

Oh well. He was a nice enough guy, and we made it home in one piece, he just probably shouldn't be a driver.


Friday, November 16, 2007

"We're Going to Look Like Zoo Animals"

My maid gets married on Saturday.

We were invited a long time ago and I told her we would go. She lives about an hour from where we live so we were going to have the driver take us. But, Brazil has no fewer than 3 national holidays in November; one was in early November, one was yesterday (Thursday) and one is Tuesday. So, somehow the Thursday and Tuesday holidays conveniently turn in to a Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday-Tuesday six day holiday. So the driver is going to be traveling this weekend.

Driving in Big City Brazil isn't that safe. If you get lost it could really be a big problem (read: BIG PROBLEM). So, our driver gave us a name of another guy that we could hire to fill in for the day.

Gaupo wasn't We weren't too excited about going to the wedding when it was "free" but now that we are paying someone to take us he is we are even less excited. We will surely be the only foreigners for miles around. But, we have to go; she is so sweet and she's been talking about dancing with Pedro at her wedding for months.

Last night, as she was headed out the door, she told me:

  1. We will be sitting at the reserved table with her parents;
  2. Would we mind saying a few words ?(In Portuguese. And into a microphone), and
  3. Could I possibly wear make-up?
It was when I related this new info to Guapo that he aptly assessed the situation: "We're going to look like zoo animals." My plan to "just show up for a little while so she knows we were there" is turning into us sitting at one of the most visible tables and giving toasts. In Portuguese. Ahhhhhhhhhh!

It will be an experience, right? Hopefully a bloggable one, so all is not in vain.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Easy Family Home Evening Idea

(For my non-Mormon readers (let's see... that's you Liz!), Family Home Evening is something we do once a week, normally on Monday nights. The family gets together; we have a little lesson, have an activity, sing a little, pray a little, eat a snack. No matter what your religion, I think it is a fantastic idea because it gives your kids (and you) a time each week that they can count on to have fun and spend time as a family.)

I loved the talk Elder Oaks gave in the October General Conference. It was about how we spend our time and how there are so many "good" things out there to do we could never do them all-so we need to prioritize what we do. He suggested deciding what activities are "good," which are "better," and which are "best," and then make sure we are giving the "best" activities their fair share of our attention.

So, I picked 10 activities for each one of our kids, things they do everyday like: watching TV, doing homework, doing crafts, playing computer games, family prayer, etc. etc. I printed them out and put them in an envelope.

We first talked about the story of Martha and Mary. This story always hits a nerve with me because I'm pretty sure I would have been Martha, bustling about the house ticked off that Mary wasn't helping me. Mary picked the "best" activity that she could be doing at that time, giving her full and undivided attention to Christ. What Martha was doing was "good", but it was not the "best" thing she could have been doing.

On a white board I wrote "Good", "Better", and "Best". The kids opened their envelopes and they had to decide under which category to place each activity.

I felt like it was good because we weren't saying TV and video games are "bad", just that we can spend too much time doing them when there are other things that may be more beneficial to us. (Luckily, they put computer games and watching TV and movies under the "good" section.)

And although I didn't prepare myself an envelope, it really got me thinking about how I spend my time. I am not going to have the exact same experience as Mary and Martha, but applying those scriptures to my own life, I can see areas where I might need to stop what I am doing (like organizing my email inbox) and give my complete attention to something more important at that moment (like my kids).

With that in mind, at this time, it is "best" for me to go to bed!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tootsie Roll Anyone?

Do you love Tootsie Rolls? I really do. Someone from Guapo's company bought me a bag of 400 "migdees" from the States and I'm sitting here downing them. Yum.

Anyway. I'm feeling better after my big fall. I was really surprised how a fall can take it out of you for a couple of days. My boys were very disappointed I didn't need a cast-they thought that would have been pretty cool. I went up to their school today and EVERYONE knew. People I don't even know were coming up asking me about the fall. Nice, but embarrassing.

Let's see. I had a few things to blog about.

1. Tootsie rolls. Check.

2. Uno Attack.

Have you seen this game? It's Uno but with this little machine that serves as the draw pile that spits cards out at you. You have to push a button and maybe you won't have to take any cards, but maybe you'll have to take 6.

I really like games and I enjoy playing them with my kids. With a 4 year old, finding one that we can all play is quite a challenge. I mean, it's not that I don't love playing Candyland over and over and over again but sometimes you need a little variety (I want to burn that blasted little Plumpy card; it shows up every.time. some one's about to win). And I'm sorry, SORRY, but you just take way too long.

When we play this game, the kids laugh so much Guapo and I can't help laughing. They just love it when it spits cards out at Gaupo.

It's a little expensive for an Uno game, but I think it's worth it.

When we were playing on Sunday Juan Carlos (4 1/2 years old) laid down a wild card and we told him to "look at his hand" to decide what color he wanted. Baffled, the cute kid looks at his real hand (the one with 5 fingers) trying to figure out how that's going to help him decide.

And Julio (7 years) insists on yelling out "Two-No" when he has two cards left.

Good times, good times.

3. Geeky-Blogger

I was in the grocery store the other day and I noticed the name tag of the cashier girl. It was "Gabriella". I ALMOST said, "Hey that's my name too!" Luckily, since she was holding my credit card in her hand, I remembered that that's not really my name. (I'm just going to chalk that little lapse up to the fact that Pedro is still not sleeping through the night)


Wednesday, November 07, 2007


I am not a risk-taker with my body. I have a list of things that I will never do that includes bungee jumping and anything that involves dropping or being pulled through the sky. I haven't crashed skiing for YEARS because I stay in my "pie" formation most of the time. I don't do roughhouse play with my kids or with Gaupo. I am not clumsy. I have only ever broken one teeny tiny bone-one found in my left ring toe. No surgeries (except for wisdom teeth). Hardly any sprains, twists or bruises.

Why am I like this?

I hate pain.

Pain is my enemy.

Pain causes me to 1) throw up and 2) faint.

The day after I broke that little toe I passed out cold and then spent the rest of the day throwing up (this while getting to and from the airport and on a 2 hour flight). When the first real contractions started with Margarita, before the blessed epidural, I passed out briefly during each one. I always throw up during labor.

So imagine my complete and utter displeasure early this morning when, upon hearing Pedro stirring through the monitor, I groggily made my way out of my room and headed downstairs just to miss the first step and tumble the rest of the way down the stairs on my back.

Ugggggh. Slight shock to the system.

I cried out for Guapo and he came just in time to hold on to me while I passed out so I didn't slide there rest of the way down the stairs.

The left side of me is pretty banged up-my ankle, my elbow, my neck and my "pompi" (Mexican slang for tooshey) are all pretty sore. But, I am feeling very grateful because it could have been much, much worse!

Friday, November 02, 2007

My Life on Easy Street Will Soon Be OV-ER

Pedro's new trick:

He gets on all fours...

...but then his big noggin gets too heavy for him to hold up.

Ronald came over to say a very quick hello (look at that little death grip)

It won't be long now before he is into everything!