Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pedro the Great

When Margarita was around 15 months old and we were dirt-poor and living in D.C., we did a babysitting swap with a family that had one little boy her same age. The first time he came over Guapo and I were in shock at how different two babies could be. While Margarita sat quietly on the floor playing with her toys, Stephen quickly surveyed our apartment and located all available buttons that were on the TV, VCR, computer, light switches, and boom box (or from where I came from, a "ghetto blaster". It was 9 years ago, there were no ipods). He went from one area to the next at lightning speed as we tried to keep up with him. By the end of the night we were both EXHAUSTED.

We thought there was something seriously wrong with Stephen (ADHD?), or that his parents were doing something wrong.

...then we had Julio (now 7 yrs old) and realized that there was nothing wrong with Stephen (or his parents), that he was a boy and on the "active side" of normal, as was Julio.

...then we had Juan Carlos who gave us very few toddler problems and we forgot all about what it was like to have a terror in the house.

And now we have Pedro.

I write this not to shock or impress you with his toddler "capabilities", I know that most toddlers are a handful, but so that when I am pining for another baby in a couple of years, I will be able to look back on this post and accurately remember the work that a toddler is.

Things that MUST not be left within Pedros reach (and his reach has gotten a whole lot higher since he learned to drag stools and chairs around with him). We have had experience with each:


Hand lotion
Body lotion
Foot lotion
Face lotion
Baby lotion
Diaper rash ointment
Bar soap
Liquid soap
Baby soap

Toilet Paper
Baby Wipes
Dental floss


Toilet Bowel brushes


Cords that connect things to the computer
DVD players
VHS players
Light switches
Baby monitors
Alarm clocks
Power strips

Paper towels



Water coolers


Dryer sheets

Dishwasher soap

Cat food
Cat water
Cat litter

Lego war fighter planes hand-crafted by Julio

Rocks that can be thrown off our 9th floor balcony
Other items, both large and small, that can be thrown off our 9th floor balcony

Cupboards that open

Drawers that open

Doors that open

All liquids

The kid is a walking cyclone. It's a good thing he's cute!

If you'll excuse me, I've got a mess to clean up.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Swimsuit Discrimination

In the very crowded areas of Big City, scattered througout the apartment buildings, are businesses that have swimming pools that are used exclusively for swimming lessons. We have one very close to our apartment, so I signed up the Juan Carlos (5 yrs.) and Pedro (18 mos.).

I have written a couple of times about Brazil's great fondness for the speedo swimsuit, or "sunga", for men. Neither the boys nor the man in my life have "gone native" in this aspect. When we go to the beach or to the pool they all wear their swim trunks and we look like the total foreigners that we are (the bermuda style shorts are not as shocking I'm sure as my and Margarita's one piece swimsuits-now those are a DEAD GIVEAWAY that we are not locals. And of course there's the white skin, that doesn't help so much either (some of us being whiter than others)).

Anyway, my point being, our choice in swimwear makes us stick out, but we're fine with that.

I'm not sure where my prejudice against the speedo comes from, but it is definitley there, deeply embedded in my subconscious mind. Where I grew up, the only time a guy wore a speedo was if he was on the swimteam and he was competing. He would wait until the last possible second to disrobe and then would quickly grab a towel as soon as his race was over. Despite their efforts to be "exposed" for as little time as possible, we still made fun of them.

I don't know where Guapo's discrimination of the speedo comes from, but he probably has even stronger feelings against than I do. So, we don't buy them for our boys.

When Juan Carlos started his lesson though, I was sure they were going to force me to buy one since, of course, that's what everyone else wears. I can deal with a dress code in a class type situation, so I bought him one and presented it to him. He was not happy but agreed to wear it under his regular trunks. It has yet to see the light of day. His teacher asked me why he doesn't have one after his last class; I showed him that he was, in fact, wearing the "sunga" but that he felt uncomfortable wearing only the "sunga". He was cool with that.

I sent Pedro in his swimmer diaper and his little trunks; I certainly wasn't going to waste the money buying him a "sunga". He's 18 months for crying out loud, it's not like he's going to be competing anytime soon. I went to his first class and there was no problem. (I should mention, though, that his teacher and I did not hit it off. She's one of those young women that has no children, but yet, somehow feels that knows everything there is to know about them-especially my kid. Irritating.)

Vanessa took him to his second lesson (not because I'm lazy folks, but because I was helping out at the school) and when she came home she informed me that the teacher wants me to buy him a "sunga" because HE IS TOO HEAVY IN THE WATER FOR HER TO WORK WITH HIM WITH HIS TRUNKS ON. Does she think I'm stupid? Too heavy? My 18 month old that weighs under 25 pounds? In the water? Puh-lease woman!

(shaking my head and sighing in annoyance)

Deciding that this was not a battle worth fighting, I bought Pedro the stupid "sunga". Here he is with it:

At least he likes it more that Juan Carlos does. (As long as it's on his head, I won't mock him too much!)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Experiencing the Olympics in Brazil (As an American)

Do you love the summer Olympics as much as I do? Gymnastics, track and field, swimming. Weeks of free entertainment.

If you do, here's a little tip: don't travel to a foreign, non-English speaking country during the Olympics.

It has been an annoying go at it. First off, it's all in Portuguese. It just not as pleasurable trying to translate while I watch. Not ideal, but I can live with it.

Here's my main beef: instead of showing the interesting, universally popular events, events that I, and everyone else, likes, the majority of what we're getting here is:

  • soccer (big surprise, I know)
  • handball (? I didn't know this was a real sport)
  • women's wrestling (Ewwwww, ewwwww, and ewwwww)
  • rowing
  • ping pong
  • sailing
  • beach volleyball
  • the 50M men's freestyle OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER (Brazil's only gold medal thus far)

Ok. So I am exaggerating a little, but not much.

And, lastly, they've got this bizarre Portuguese-speaking-bucked-teethed-Chinaman-puppet-thing that E*PN Brazil uses to cover the games. As a PC-minded American it is just about the most politically-incorrect thing I've seen in a long time. He speaks Portuguese with a weird Chinese accent, and every time he gets around Chinese people he just says "Ni hou, ni hou, ni hou, ni hou" over and over again while the poor Chinese give an obviously uncomfortable courtesy smile because they know they are being filmed.

***disclaimer: I, of course, realize that Brazilians, who are very proud of their country and huge sports enthusiasts, are interested in watching their fellow citizens compete EVEN if it means watching women's wrestling. I know that in US we do the same thing. This is just a post about an American watching the Olympics in Brazil. :)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Case in Point

Last night's dinner:

Chicken legs, spaghetti, and some kind of weird potato salad with green olives in it.
I feel bloated and fat just looking at the picture.
That is all. May your dinner have fewer carbs than mine.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why It's Great to Have a Maid Who Cooks Dinner (Other Than the Obvious Benefit of Not Having to Do It Yourself)

Our maid cooks dinner for us 3-4 times a week. I personally love it-meal planning is not my favorite part about being a mom. I don't mind the actual cooking so much, it's just the "what are we going to have tonight?" that gets me down.

So, I really only have to plan 3 meals a week which is pretty much a cinch.

We do have several issues however with her cooking. They are as follows:

1) Carbohydrate Overload. Let me preface this by stating that I am not exaggerating. There have been nights when she has prepared all of the following:

  • Rice and Beans (Brazilian staple)
  • Pasta
  • Mashed potatoes OR French fries
That's just how Brazilians eat here. A totally normal, acceptable, meal is lasagna and mashed potatoes. Strange, don't ya think?

I am not a very assertive person when it comes to maids. I rather clean my own toilets than have to tell someone she's doing a bad job at cleaning my toilets (sadly, this is not just an hypothetical). However, in this one area, I did bring it up because as Americans we just don't eat rice, spaghetti and french fries in the same sitting (at least we don't). I tried my hardest to explain, without making her feel bad of course, that although we just LOVE her food, we eat rice OR pasta OR potatoes, but never more than one at a time.

I have now mentioned it several times and it doesn't seem to be getting through. When she returned Monday after our vacation we had: rice and beans, and spaghetti.

Tuesday night I guess she made up for it by going totally Atkins on us. We had: ribs, salad, broccoli, green beans, and carrots (not the vegetable medley you may be picturing; they were all prepared, cooked, and served separately). No rice, beans, OR pasta that night. ???

2) Desserts. She makes desserts that are too yummy for their own good. Brazilian flan is even better than Mexican flan (Sorry BOFF). No further explanation necessary.

3) Garlic. This isn't really an "issue" so much as an FYI.

When you think of garlic where do you think of? Italy, right? You might want to add Brazil to the list. They use so much garlic here you wouldn't believe it. We go through at least 4 heads of garlic A WEEK (again, I am NOT exaggerating). When we arrived from Mexico last year I was going to write a post entitled, "Garlic: the New Chile". I never got around to it.

I love garlic, so I'm in heaven smelling it cooking in my kitchen especially when I don't have to peel it.

4) My Kids.

They LOATHE it when she cooks.

The moaning and groaning starts the second they sit down and doesn't end until they take their plates to the sink. "What! This again? Blah Blah, Blah Blah Blah Blah".

And herein lies the reason why it's great to have a maid cook: my kids now LOVE.MY.COOKING.

You'd think we were eating at their favorite restaurant what with the rave reviews I get. Juan Carlos actually looked at me tonight during dinner and said, "Thank you so much for making this mom, I love it." And Margarita said, "I could eat this every night!!!"

It is perfect conditioning for when we move back to the States and I become the sole provider of meals.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

When School Supplies Offend

So my kids went back to school on Monday. August 4th. So early, don't you think?

July 31st was my last night in the States. Where do you think I was? Spending the last few hours with family, looking out over the beautiful mountain view as we sipped lemonade on my in-laws' porch?


I was at Target, frantically shopping, of course. And I'm not too proud to admit that as I was jamming my rental car's teeny trunk full of things I can't possibly live without, I was crying. I just don't know that you can fully appreciate Target without living without it 11 months of the year. Maybe you can.

Anyway, my last trip was dedicated to foodstuffs and school supplies. Margarita's list had on it "4-ring binder". I had only heard of a 3-ring binder, so I figured it was a typo and purchased her the 3-ring binder of her choice at a cost of $5.99.

When she got to class on Monday, it turns out that, sure enough, there is a 4-ring binder and she must have it unless she wants to be punching holes all year. So, we head off to the local papeleria (paper products store) where I purchase 5 dollar roles of scotch tape when I am desperate. She tells me that's where all the kids in her class bought theirs.

The cool one, the one that "everyone" has, costs guess how much? Just take a stab in the dark.

If you said $75.00 USD you are correct!!! (I'll have you know there is nothing special about this notebook-it would cost MAYBE $10.00 in the States. MAYBE.)

The less cool, but still acceptable, 4-ring binder will set you back $60.00 USD.

And then there was a junky plastic one that Margaritia obviously didn't want that cost $10.00 USD.

Guess which one she got?

Yep. The cheap plastic one. I have to give her credit though, she didn't even complain. She's a good girl.

(oh, and one other thing, I bought a stupid toothbrush today for $7.00. Ouch.)

Target withdrawals are painful... (and expensive)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Remember Me?

Do you ever not blog for a while, and then when you go to start, it's really really hard?

That's where I'm at right now, so I figure I am just going to post a little nothing post to get me started again.

Quick review:

-My BIL "WonderBoy" was, in fact, able to fix my computer a couple weeks after it died on me. I didn't have any software on it though until we got back to Brazil on Saturday. It's good to be reunited with my computer again.

-The vacation with the maid was wonderful-I highly recommend it! I've decided I really only want a maid when I go on vacation; now that I'm back in my normal life I'm finding myself annoyed by having someone in my house again.

-Returning to a home in a country that is not home, no matter how cool, fun, and pretty the country is, is hard. Sometimes it is harder than others. This is one of those times.

-Returning home in first class does make it a tad bit easier. Guapo was upgraded and like the gentleman he is, he gave me his seat while he somehow managed the 16 hours of flight time with the 4 kids ALONE. Do I have the best husband or what?

-My kids started school yesterday. Because their summer was so quick (7 weeks), and we were gone for all but 2 days of it, it doesn't feel like they are starting a new year but just picking up where they left off in June. But, alas, it's true: Juan Carlos (5 years old) is really starting kindergarten this year.

-And I have an annoying cold that is making me grouchy (in case you didn't notice).

So that's what we're doing. I lost my bloglines info with the computer crash, but slowly but surely I will make it to visit you soon. :)