Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

January 30th. Hmmmm, obviously one of my resolutions isn't about procrastination. Maybe next year.

First a few thanks. Thanks to my real life friend here in Brazil whom I'll call "Ballerina Girl" because she used to be a professional ballerina; she's taking a course on flower arrangements (see "What Expat Women Do All Day" #2) and today when I got back from my run with Pedro the guard had these for me:

Nice, huh? And very professional looking. I told the guard they were from my boyfriend and not to tell Guapo. I shouldn't try to be funny in Portuguese, I don't think he got it. Oh well.

And thanks to bloggy friends Maine Mom and Marina for my blogger awards. I am so bad about making updates to my sidebar but now I will have an incentive! (my mom called me last week and reminded me to change Julio's age-she got it wrong on all of her Christmas cards because she used my blog to "double-check" the kids' ages and I hadn't updated it. He is 7 and has been for several months now. Sorry Julio.)

Ok, on to my resolutions. I contemplated for a while whether or not to blog about them and I've decided I will post the ones that aren't too personal. I'm a big believer in writing down goals and having to report on them. Nettie did that last year and I loved reading about how she accomplished her goals. So, I'm going to post them now and hopefully report on how I'm doing every now and then (read: when I can't think of anything clever to write about).

New Year's Resolution #1- Weight

Does anyone NOT have this as a resolution? I really am ok with my weight-I'm probably only carrying a couple of extra baby pounds and those can be found in my still-nursing chest region. But, what I want to work on is my attitude towards exercise. From the time Margarita was around 6 months up until I got pregnant with Pedro, I had a good attitude towards exercise. I expected myself to workout at least 4 times a week. With Juan Carlos's pregnancy I made sure my heart rate was up at least 2 1/2 hours a week throughout the pregnancy and then I ran a half marathon when he was just under 3 months old (ok, so not the smartest thing I've ever done-but I still had another kid so I guess it didn't do too much damage),

Then I got pregnant with Pedro and I fell apart in that department (and several others). I was so sick at the beginning and middle of my pregnancy and then by the time I felt OK I was so big I just felt like, "what's the point?" After his birth I suffered from PPD and just couldn't get it together enough to ever work out more than once or twice a week.

I'm feeling much better now and need to get back to it. I want to do something physical every day of the week except Sunday. Activities may include: running, walking, biking, swimming. To motivate myself I am planning to do a half marathon in June when I get back to the States with my mom who is my exercise idol.

Resolution #2: Pick Up After Myself

Do you ever see something in your kids that makes you go, "oh boy-that came from me."? That happened recently to me watching Margarita pig up her room. Drawers and closets open, clothes and shoes flung everywhere. Guess where she gets it from? Yep. I can finally admit it came from me. I always justified my messiness by telling myself I was the one who picked it up, so what did it mattered when I did it? But, it really is annoying. And I can't very well ask her to do something that I'm not doing.

So, I am making a conscious effort to put my clothes in the correct place ever time I change. And close the closet doors. And the drawers. . .

Resolution #3: Execute New Laundry Strategy

I loathe laundry. So I have, in the past, done lots of loads two days a week so as not to think about it the other five days of the week. However, doing laundry here in Brazil is even less fun than doing laundry in other places because their dryers are totally inefficient. Just to give you a clue as to how inefficient, you can set the time knob for up to THREE HOURS (that's not normal, right???):

And that's about how long it takes to dry a normal load. So, instead of wasting all the time and electricity, you have to hang up each load and let it partially dry and then stick it in the dryer for a hour or so to finish the job (did you want to see my running bra? Good. I thought so.).

This makes it impossible to do my two days of 3 or 4 loads. So, I am changing to 1 or 2 loads 6 days a week. I'm not happy about it, but it's necessary for now.

(are you wondering why I do laundry since I have a maid? Hmmmm. Well, that's a post for another day, but, long story short: 1) I have control issues, and 2) my maid's not the best cleaner in the world (she is however, good at other things))

Resolution #4: Hug my Kids More

I loved President Hinckley's message found in December's Ensign about how we treat our kids. Since he passed away this week it's even more special to me as it was his last written message. Not Mormon? Don't be afraid, this short article isn't too "Mormon-y" and it was just so uplifting to me as a mom. The part that stuck in my head was the following:

"There once was a commonly seen bumper sticker that asked the question, “Have you hugged your child today?” How fortunate, how blessed is the child who feels the affection of his or her parents. That warmth, that love will bear sweet fruit in the years that follow. In large measure, the harshness that characterizes so much of our society is an outgrowth of harshness imposed on children years ago"

I am affectionate with my kids, but now that I have 4 I think sometimes I give the majority of my hugs and kisses to the baby and Juan Carlos. I need to remember that it is just as important for Margarita and Julio. So I am printing out something that says, "Have you hugged your child today?" and putting it on my bathroom mirror.

Resolution #5: Learn Excel

I need to learn this program. I sick of having to ask Guapo, "Now, how do you make the numbers add up again?" I have been elected (ok, not really; the lady who was rightfully elected abandoned her post) to be the book buyer for my book club (it's as if they know how much I like to buy stuff) and must keep a updated file for the president (sounds important, doesn't it?).

(See "What Expat Women Do All Day" #2 and #6)

Resolution #6: Portuguese???

Still undecided if I want to put the effort in and REALLY learn it or skate by and try to preserve what remains of my now-sorry Spanish. I'll be sure to keep you updated.

Resolution #7: Learn to Play the Primary Presentation Songs

I just about killed myself learning to play the piano in Small Town, Mexico. There was no one who could play in our branch so I practiced and practiced so I could play on Sundays. I learned around 75 hymns. But, when I am not required to play, I don't practice and I really don't want to lose all of my earlier efforts. So, I am going to learn the Primary songs for the Sacrament meeting presentation this year, just in case I am needed. Those would be:

  • I am a Child of God (already know it)
  • Tell Me the Stories of Jesus
  • If the Savior Stood Beside Me
  • We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet (already know it)
  • Home
  • I Love to See the Temple
  • Called to Serve (have crashed and burned on this one several times)
  • When Jesus Christ Was Baptized
That's it. Well, and a few more personal goals, but you don't want to hear about those!


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

President Gordon B. Hinckley

There are so many lovely posts out there honoring President Gordon B. Hinckley, the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who passed away Sunday evening; I can't add anything new but just wanted to share my thoughts. He was the prophet when I joined the church almost 12 1/2 years ago and has been an important figure in my life ever since.

When I think of him I think of someone who was truly exemplifies Christ. He preached, and more importantly, lived a life of, tolerance, acceptance, optimism, kindness, hard-work, faith, and devotion. I always appreciated that in his addresses he never made you feel bad or guilted you into making changes in your life, he just gently encouraged you to try a little harder and to do a little better, to remember our past and look forward to our future.

I, like so many others, am happy he is once again with his beloved wife (and probably getting a well deserved break!), but I will miss his presence and in our church so much.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pedro's Pastimes

1. Gardening

2. Fine Dining

3. Origami

4. Modeling

Friday, January 25, 2008

Rudy on Fire

So my dad left this morning.

It’s probably for the best.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my dad and all, but that guy was wearing me out. You know in travel books, how they always have a paragraph that starts, “If you only have one day in such-a-such place…” and it proceeds to give you a seemingly impossible dawn-to-midnight list of places to go, restaurants to try, things to see? That’s pretty much my dad’s vacation philosophy no matter how many days he has. And he always comes prepared with at least one, but some times several, travel guides; all cross referenced with newspaper and Internet articles that he’s been collecting for the last 3 years. He didn’t disappoint this time, he arrived Saturday night with his Brazil travel book that I got him for his birthday last August well-read and well-marked (and then proceeded to read two other Brazil books that I had laying around).

I have done these types of trips with my dad before; Washington D.C., San Francisco, 5 Italian cities in 10 days. And I saw more of Mexico City in the three days that he was there last December than I did the whole other 10 months combined. “Vacation Rudy” has an attitude that’s almost palpable. The more he sees, the more excited he gets, the more excited he gets, the faster he starts moving and the more he wants to see. Guapo describes this state as “being on fire”. A new place just doesn’t feel like home until my dad has made his inaugural visit to get us feeling excited about where we are living. With his contagious enthusiasm, it’s no surprise that my two favorite cities in the US are D.C. and San Francisco.

Oh, and I should mention, he LOVES public transportation. If there’s a bus that will take you somewhere, why would you want to drive yourself? Or take an airplane for that matter? Once while we were living in Small Town, Mexico, he flew in to Cancun and then took an EIGHT hour bus ride from Cancun to Small Town, stayed for 2 days (plen-ty of time to see the big shrimp), and then hopped back on the bus for Cancun. He always chooses such complicated itineraries in the name of “saving money” but I know he really does it so he can experience the local public transportation and see a bit more of the country.

I’m sure he was sorely disappointed when he met Sergio the Driver whose primary objective is to keep me off of public transportation. What he really wanted to do was to catch the bus by our house that drops you off at the Metro station and then take the Metro to Centro. While I ultimately had to deny him his dream of riding the bus, after two days of catching him gazing longingly at the buses and signs for the Metro, I finally decided to be a nice daughter and agreed to have Sergio drop us off at the Metro station so he could experience at least a portion of Brazilian public transportation. (I’m not an uppity kind of girl, but I’ll admit I do have issues with city buses after having my parents trying to make me, unsuccessfully I might add, take one to my oh-so-affluent-high school.)

He had just 5 days to see the sites here (well, really only 4 since we Mormons are soooo boring on Sundays) and three of those days it rained. Did it stop Rudy? No way! We were out there pounding the pavement seeing the sites everyday. I won’t bore you with a detailed description of all that we saw but here’s an idea of all that we accomplished Monday morning until Wednesday night:

National Library (just the foyer; I told my dad it didn’t matter if he wore shorts. It did.)
Some other Portuguese Library type place -very cool old books
Lunch at some famous place-tasty
Some big, dark church
Dinner at my favorite restaurant-very tasty
Sugarloaf Mountain-always cool
Lunch with Guapo
3 separate laps around the 5 mile lake (ok, I only did one with him, I was recovering from whatever it was that my kids had last week)
Watched Star Wars 1 with the kids
Watched lots of 30Rock with me and Guapo (oh how I heart 30Rock)
Watched You’ve Got Mail with me
Played Monopoly with me and Margarita
Breakfast out
Modern Museum of Art
Some other cool, old building
Another, less modern, art museum
Lunch downtown
2 metro rides
1 Giant Ferris wheel ride-have you seen it on CNN?

Yesterday the sun finally came out, at least for a little while, so we did the “sunny” things. We went up to the Christ the Redeemer statue, did the beach thing after the kids got off of school, and ate dinner at our favorite pizzeria on the Lake.

The highlight of the day, and maybe the year, was when my dad treated me to a helicopter trip over Big City. It was AMAZING. It was my first time in a helicopter and I really had to force myself to get on it. I knew I would love it once we were up in the air but I had heard that the take-off process is a little scary. It was. I screamed but then I was ok. Here’s the helicopter:

Here we are before take off:

Yes, that’s Sergio the Driver (fully clothed, thank goodness). We had to have 3 people to go and my dad graciously invited Sergio to come along. It was his first time in a helicopter as well. I think he was just as scared as I was.

The views were simply breathtaking.

(my new header photo is from our trip! No more Christmas tree and it's not even February. Pretty good, eh?)

What a great visit. My dad is a great guy to do touring with. I feel so blessed that Guapo and I both have parents that are willing to come visit us wherever we are-it makes doing this much, much easier.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Most Depressing Day of the Year? I Think Not.

According to British researcher Cliff Arnall, yesterday, January 21, was supposedly the "most depressing day" of the year. Factors that create this "perfect storm" (forgive the overused cliche) of gloominess include: weather, Christmas debt, failed New Year's resolutions, lack of motivation, and nothing to look forward in the near future.

I, for one, had a terrific day. I agree that we are having bad weather. Big City, Brazil is very unlike my home state of Colorado where it can be snowing and freezing in the morning and then reach the high 60's by the afternoon (or vice-versa). Here, when the rain starts to fall you'd better grab some good DVDs because once it starts it doesn't usually stop for a few days.

My New Year's resolutions are still hobbling along-I'll post about them sometime before January's over. Motivation levels? Fine. Christmas debt? None. Something to look forward to? Three trips to the States-one in February by myself, our summer trip in June/July and now a fall trip to California thanks Guapo's little brother who just got engaged and is planning to get married in September.

And how could I possibly have bad day when I start it off with a bowl of frosted mini-wheats???

And how is it that I have normal, American cereal in my house?

Because my dad is here for a visit!

He came in late Saturday night and will be here until Friday.

Despite the weather we took a couple kids and saw some of the historical sites of Big City.

Then I made chocolate chip cookies:

And to finish things off right, we went out to dinner at my favorite Brazilian Steak house.

It was a perfectly non-depressing day!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

What Expat Women Do All Day

Thanks for all of your great suggestions for post ideas. I'll make sure to get to all of them. A couple of you wondered what expat woman do while their kids are at school (or with the maid).

Guapo and I saw The Nanny Diaries last weekend. Have you seen it or read the book? A college grad, trying to figure out what she wants to do with her grad takes a job as a nanny for the summer. The mom for whom she works is a "stay-at-home-mom" who fills her days with various "important" activities.

It's a lot like that. Favorite activities include:

1) Beauty Rituals. The expat woman spends a lot of time getting pretty. In the countries that I have lived in (Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil) services like manicures and pedicures cost a fraction of what they do in the States. Here in Brazil, which is the most expensive place we lived, you can get a manicure and a pedicure for around $20.00. It cost half that in Venezuela. Other cheap services include waxing, massages, and getting your hair styled.

I've noticed the prettier the locals, the more time the foreigners spend at the beauty salons. My last year in Venezuela, I actually started regularly blow drying my hair. I stopped as soon as I arrived in Small Town and I have yet to start again.

2)Lessons: Not only do we try to improve our looks, but our minds and bodies with lots of classes and lessons. Most everyone at one point or another tries to learn the local language either with a private tutor or in a group setting.

Tennis lessons are also a big hit. I have taken lessons for years now, but never actually played a game. Over the years, I've also taken cooking classes and painting classes that were fun. Dance classes and yoga are also popular.

3)Tours. Lots of organized tours so women can go together to see the local sites. Often these trips involve shopping.

4)Shopping. It's hard to find an expat woman who isn't a serious shopper. We tend to clean out the local artisans. Our homes are filled with crap from all the places we've lived and we often carry stuff back to the States to give as gifts. In Venezuela the big thing to buy was wood fruit and flowers; I have a crap load of pewter and talevera from Mexico. Lots of my friends bought up locally made hand-painted, handmade furniture.

I've yet to discover what it is in Brazil that I can't live without other than flip flops and beach wraps.

5)Travel. Often times the expat woman will become depressed and need to travel back to the motherland (usually to shop). In the two years and three months I lived in Small Town, Mexico I took 11 trips. Travel within the country is also very popular. Any break from school and the foreigners scatter to the various vacation sites.

6)Clubs. International Woman's Clubs, Newcomer's clubs, quilting clubs, book clubs, Mahjong club, Bunco club, cooking clubs, playgroups, dinner groups, lunch groups, breakfast groups, service clubs. Here in Brazil there's even a canasta group that meets once a week.

7)Surgery. When you are away from your country, family and friends it's the perfect time to have plastic surgery. Especially if you are sent to Venezuela or Brazil. I am not exaggerating when I say I had only two friends in Venezuela that DID NOT have something done. B00b jobs, liposuction, tummy tucks, nose jobs, face lifts, were ABUNDANT among both the locals and the foreigners in Venezuela.

(I know you are wondering, so, no, I have not had anything done. I did have laser surgery on my eyes in Venezuela-best money I ever spent)

8)Talk about their maids: A serious percentage of chatter amongst expats is about maids. And not normally stuff like, "My maid is the best!!! You should see how well she cleans the bathrooms." No, no. Sadly, it's almost always negative.

9)Eating and Visiting: Frequent lunches and "let's do coffee's". Some women I knew in Mexico would have a "desayuno" almost everyday of the week. These lasted anywhere from 2-4 hours.

10) Service: Lest you think we spend our days doing nothing worthwhile, some women get involved in the local communities and do charity work. Sadly, from what I've seen, this category is not usually the most popular.

11)Drinking: Sometimes I feel like I've been transported back to any given Monday during high school. It's strange for me to listed to full-grown woman, most of them moms to multiple kids talk about getting wasted over the weekend. Call me crazy. Many of the above activities are combined with drinking. The quilting group here meets at night and they drink while they quilt (maybe that'd help me sew better?). There are running groups that run and then get drunk. I didn't see this so much in Mexico but both here and in Venezuela, drinking is a serious pastime.

So, there you have it.

I write this lightheartedly- most of the women I have met doing this are wonderful. It's not an easy life and not everyone can hack it. You have to start your life over in a new place, often with a new language, every few years. People do the best they can to fit in and find their niche. All the groups and activities provide a way for women to make friends quickly. A few do take it to the extreme and go crazy once they have a maid to leave their young kids with.

Living this lifestyle has given me lots of practice at saying "No". I try not to fill up my days with things that don't directly benefit my kids or my own personal development. The time I spend away from Pedro I am usually at the school helping in one of my other kids' classrooms or out running and if I can take him, I do. I don't spend my days in the beauty salons just because that's not who I am or what I care about. And because of my religion, I always have opportunities to serve no matter where I go.

I really have loved this lifestyle and would recommend it to anyone who has the chance.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Post Something. ANYTHING.

I've got a real blogger's block going on here. I can't think of anything to write about. So I've got to post something in hopes of getting back into the swing of things.

The problem began December 26. All the presents had been opened and I no longer could play the Santa Card with my kids so they would behave; I looked at the calendar and realized I had a full month until my little cherubs would head back to school. It's summer vacation time here in the Southern Hemisphere. All of the planning and activities of Christmas pretty much wipe me out-how can I be expected to have a summer vacation after that???

Not only that, but I've never actually had a real stay-at-home kind of summer vacation with my kids-we are always traveling to the States and spending time with family and Guapo is with us for a good portion of the break. No endless days to fill with ???

I've still got a week left. (6 days 20 hours and 15 minutes, but whose counting?)

Luckily we joined a nearby club that has a great pool so we've been swimming everyday. That is, until the plague hit. I've been trapped in my apartment, with 4 sick kids and with the main air conditioner unit broken for the last 3 days. Lots to whine about, but not a lot of funny blogging material. Lots of this going on:

Today marks our 6 month anniversary in Brazil. I've done 4 international moves now. I've gone through the sames ups and downs in each place; feelings of excitement and like I could live here for a long time one day and feelings loneliness and like I've got to get out of here the next. Overall it's a good, beautiful place and we are happy, so I have a lot to be thankful for.

My recent reoccurring dream tells a lot about what I miss most living here: I've got 15 minutes in Target to grab everything I can. Oh how I love running up and down the perfectly organized aisles seeing all of the wonderful choices! I can't help it; I'm American, I need my STUFF.

On a very happy note, Guapo gifted me a bunch of miles so next month I am traveling, all by myself, 1st class, to Houston! My dream WILL come true. :)

(feel free to leave any blogging ideas-anything you want to know about Brazil?)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

First Post of 2008

Wow. 2008. Can you believe it? I graduated from high school six.teen.years.ago??? I swear I'm still like 24 or something. Oh well.

New Year's Eve was pretty cool.

We dressed in white (yes, that's just a white Gerber onsie Pedro's wearing-it's all he had. And Julio's wearing his karate pants. He wanted to wear the whole outfit, but we talked him out of it):

We walked to the beach in Ipanema:

Pedro was such a good boy even though it was 2 hours past his bedtime:

When I found out about the New Year's Eve white clothes thing, I had this image in my head of families, spankin' clean in their best white clothes, walking hand in hand on the beach; smiling, laughing, hugging, maybe even skipping from time to time. Kind of like 4th of July meets the temple.

Reality was a lot closer to a smelly, drunken college party complete with blaring techno music and rows and rows of port-o-potties.

Oh well. It was still very interesting. We stayed for a little while to have a little look-see and some snacks. We walked on the beach to look at the "offerings" people had left. Lots of candles and food and flowers. It was really hard to keep Julio and Juan Carlos from running around blowing out all of those tempting candles.

Then we went home and watched the fireworks from our deck while eating chocolate fondue (yum).

The show from Copacabana was AM-AZ-ING. The fireworks , which were fired from 4 barges, spanned the entire 2.5 miles of the beach. I've never seen anything like it. The show lasted for 25 minutes and the opening "round", although an entire minute early (someone got a little trigger-happy), was spectacular.

I am so frustrated because I am not a great nighttime photographer (implying that I am great during the day which is sadly, not true). This is the best photo I could muster up (hanging my head in shame):

Pitiful I know.

(Possible New Year's resolution-LEARN HOW TO USE MY CAMERA)