Friday, October 31, 2008

Why October Was Such a Great Month

The stuff you already know:

1. Instead of planning and executing a difficult birthday party, I got to go to Argentina.

2. Alfajores.

3. My little sister announced that she's expecting.

4. We got to go to a soccer game.

5. Pam and Jim kissed!

6. Julio got baptized.

And now for the new good news:

7. We bought tickets to go home for the holidays! I can't tell you what this does for me. Holidays overseas are not easy, especially Christmas. It was ok last year, if you like sweating A LOT while you open your presents. I cried yesterday because it's Halloween today and we are not there to trick-or-treat. So, to know that we will be at home for Christmas and New Year's will keep me in a good mood until December!

8. My very cute and talented sister-in-law announced that along with my sister, she too is expecting! They are due 6 weeks apart. Yeah! What's better than TWO new babies in the family? Here she is with one of my aunts:

And here's her goofy husband (my brother, whom the kids lovingly refer to as "Uncle Monkey",. I can't imagine why.):

No, that's not his real hair. Now that I think about it, he probably won't like that I am posting this picture because he really is a good looking fellow. hmmmmm, oh well. He never reads my blog anyway!

So, as you can see, it's been one of the better months. :)

Happy Halloween (speaking of the which, the kids went to school dressed up today. Not for Halloween, but for a "Spirit Day". If you remember correctly, we already "went" to Halloween, last Saturday.)!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Margarita's Beef with Brazilian Halloween

Here's Margarita dressed up for her school's Halloween party last Saturday (the 25th):

She doesn't look happy does she? I mean, I know she's a female vampire and all, but Bella was happy for the most part, right?

It's because she's been annoyed for much of the Halloween season this year because the students of her American international school (who are 90% Brazilian) don't know how to talk about Halloween correctly.

If I am understanding her right, they use the word "Halloween" much as we Americans would use the word "Prom".

Here are a few examples she gave me (when they say "Halloween", they are referring to the school's Halloween party),

"Are you going to Halloween this year?"

"Did you have fun at Halloween last year?"

"Halloween's on Saturday" (the 25th, not the 31st)

"See you at Halloween!"

Apparently they don't care that Halloween for us is a day, and that day is always October 31st. Halloween for them is whenever the school Halloween party is, and lasts just several hours.

She even made me go and see the signs that have been taunting her:

So, she's tried to explain to her friends the difference between "Halloween" and "Halloween Party" and they give her the ol' "that's what I said" or "what's the dif?"

(I have no gripe with how Brazilians celebrate Halloween-I don't know how to talk about their holidays, so why would they understand something so very American? And the party? It was one of the best family Halloween parties we've ever been to! I've just been amused watching Margarita getting so worked up defending Halloween)

Happy Halloween! (except that I'm afraid that you all missed it. Maybe next year!)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Parenting Highlights...

Yesterday Julio got baptized. It was a great experience watching him prepare for it the last few weeks. He was very aware of what he was doing and took it very seriously. The first thing he said to me yesterday morning was, "Today's my baptism day!!!"

We chose the wrong day to do it. Yesterday was the election for the mayor of Big City. Brazilians are required by law to vote; if they don't vote they are fined, they can't receive a passport and they can use any government provided services. Interesting, huh? Understandably so, almost everyone participates which means A LOT of traffic.

So not many came, but those who did made a lot of effort to get there and we appreciated it. The water was very cold (and slightly brown, eww), but Julio didn't complain a bit. Juan Carlos said a sweet prayer, Margarita sang "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus" very well, I gave a talk, and Guapo preformed the baptism.

In the end I was glad it was as small as it was. It seemed really special and very much a family affair.

(see post below)

...And Lowlights

(I couldn't talk about Julio's baptism and poop in the same post, it just didn't seem right)

...and then this morning the kid woke up with the dreaded stomach virus that Pedro and I had last week. Even before I had eaten breakfast, he went into the bathroom to throw up, and as he did, he suffered from the other common symptom of this particular stomach virus. On the floor. Poor kid. He apologized and explained he couldn't sit down and throw up at the same time. I told him that in the future, if it were at all possible, I would much prefer to clean up vomit off the floor.

On the bright side, I got a ton done putting off cleaning the bathroom including:

  • two loads of laundry

  • cleaning out the kitchen trashcans
  • disinfecting the kitchen trashcans

  • unloading the dishwasher

  • loading the dishwasher

  • cleaning out the fridge

  • sweeping the kitchen floor

  • organizing the DVDs

Finally, after about 2 hours, I got up the nerve to enter the bathroom and got the job done.

I guess you've got to enjoy the good moments, and laugh at the bad ones, eh?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I've Been Such a Good Girl. This Week.

Guapo's been traveling all week and I somehow accomplished the great feat of not watching any of The Office while he was gone (we normally watch an episode together each night, sometimes two if I'm feeling particularly weak). Even today as I lay in bed with Pedro's stomach virus, I resisted!

Last week, on the other hand, he was gone for just one night and I couldn't help myself, I just had to watch the last two episodes of season 2. I was kind of glad though, he's not into the cute Jim and Pam thing like I am, so I got to enjoy the chick-flickishness of the final episode in peace.


And now he's back and I must go watch whilst eating an alfajor (I'm telling ya Ballerina Girl, we'd better do the hand off soon, your box is looking pretty tempting!).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


October was turn to host my bookclub. That entails keeping the books safe for the month (which is the sole reason I volunteer to host):

...and hosting two meetings. My first meeting a couple of weeks ago was kind of a bust. My cinnamon rolls didn't rise and I had to serve them anyway because everyone knew I was making them, and one of the new women has celiac disease and of all the food I made she could only eat some fruit salad. I felt bad.

So, today I planned for some gluten free items (black bean dip, an Asian salad with the ramen noodles on the side, and a colorful veggie tray). She didn't come. Only 4 women (out of about 15)actually showed up today and look at all of this food.

Oh well, I rather host a small group, and my kids had tons of snacks after school.

Having the books gives me the opportunity to sample lots of books. I start a lot, but I don't know if you've noticed or not, but there's a lot of crap out there, so I don't actually finish a lot of books. But, I've gotten lucky lately with a few books that I have really enjoyed. So, if you are looking for something to read here are a few ideas:

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World. By Eric Weiner.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie. By Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows

Unaccustomed Earth. Jhumpa Lahiri.

Infidel. By Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Once the 4 bookclub women left, I headed off to quilt group (the life of an expat women is very demanding) Remember my square that I made? Ten other women have finished and I got to bring home the new squares today (you can click on it to see it larger):

Cute stuff, don't you think?

Monday, October 20, 2008


One of the best things about expat life, by far, is the travel. I love the fact that last week we could visit Buenos Aries for 2 nights-we could never do that from the States! (Well, we probably could, but it wouldn't be that much fun what with the 20 hours of travel involved.)

We saw some cool stuff in two days.

Tango dancers in the street:

The Argentine equivalent of the White House, only theirs is the Pink House; They currently have a woman president and Julio wanted to know if that was the reason the house was pink (it's not):

I gained about 5 pounds eating these little babies:

Mmmmmm. Alfajores. They are these sandwich cookies with dulce de leche (delicious carmel like substance) in the center and then covered with chocolate or meringue (my personal favorite).

I brought home 4 boxes as my souvenir. (I may even have a box for Ballerina Girl, but only if she visits me soon, otherwise I will have eaten them all.) Yum!

We saw the biggest tree I've ever seen. This is only ONE tree. Note the little people in front of it:

And we saw the coolest cemetery ever. I am not a lover of cemeteries, but this one was so cool we visited it twice in two days. The individual family tombs were like little houses lined up on streets; each one was different and each had a door that locked and most had windows you could look through. Some had the caskets on display (closed, of course), others had photos, flowers, or statues. Very cool.

This one was opened and they let us sneak a peak. They guy who was cleaning it up let Julio sweep out the doorway (Julio accepted) and then offered to let Julio go down the stairs (Julio declined):

and here is where Eva Peron (remember Evita? Don't Cry for Me Argentina?) was put to rest. We were expecting something extraordinary and lavish, but it was just about like all the rest (except for the variety of fresh flowers and the plaques along the side):

We had an awesome time!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Julio's Best Birthday EVER!!! ( least for me)

Hello from Buenos Aires, Argentina!

(we just arrived this evening, so this is the best photo I've got so far of the city.)

This month Julio is celebrating his 8th birthday and we offered him either a) an American-style birthday party (read: totally lame compared to the Brazilian party that our kids are dying to have) or b) a special trip to Argentina with just me and Guapo.

...and he chose the trip! (with little or no coaching from me, I might add)

You don't know what good news this was for me; birthday parties totally stress me out. Sure he had fun last year, and the year before that there was the funny thing with the boy that we were sure was a girl, but, it always takes me days to prepare for and even longer to recover from children's birthday parties.

So, not only do I not have to have one, I also get to visit Argentina for a few days without the entire crew. The best part is, we get to spend time with just Julio which doesn't happen that often. We are going to have a great time!

Tonight we ate at a great Argentine steakhouse whose decor was all about soccer-perfect for Julio.

Tomorrow we'll be touring the city on some kind of double-decker bus.

Happy Birthday Julio, we love you!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Let Sleeping Babies Lie

I always get kind of jealous when I read Maine Mom's blog. Quite frequently (at least it seems to me), she'll post a picture of one of her babies sleeping in some random place, at some random time. It's so cute!

My kids just don't do that. For the most part they will only sleep in their beds at their nap time or bedtime. None of them would even fall asleep in my arms at church when they were exhausted (am I doing something wrong??? Am I not a good bouncer? Arms not soft enough? What is it???)

Pedro did fall asleep that one time in the library, but that wasn't under my supervision, (the librarians kidnapped him for a while). They probably bounced him with their soft arms and then laid him on the ground:

Well, finally, he did it on my watch last week and I have a picture to prove it:

Then I had a vague memory of Margarita doing the same thing long ago, and sure enough I found a picture of her sleeping in her highchair:

And, while I was looking for that picture I found this bonus one of her sleeping on the floor:

I have no recollection of it, but it's really cute. I especially like the one sock on, one sock off thing she's got going on.

She looks almost as comfortable as kitty:

So, in 10 1/2 years and 4 kids, I have only had my kids fall asleep in non-conventional places approximately 4 times.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Brazil- Where Soccer is King

In honor of Children's Day here in Big City, the most popular of the 4 city teams played in the world-famous Maracana stadium and children could attend for free. The soccer games here can get a little rowdy, to say the least, so our Brazilian friends told us this would be a pretty tame game to go to since a) it was the Children's Day game, and b) the game meant nothing-they were playing a team from another state that wasn't very good.


First, the stadium is HUGE. It officially can hold 95,000 people, but when it sells out, they just open the gates and let everyone in. I read at one game, they crammed 195,000 people in!

Second, imagine a important televised sporting event in the States; and now think of the few crazy guys they zoom in on with their chests painted and their foam fingers and then multiply that guy by 95,000 (or more) people.

CRAZY STUFF. And we're not talking about a world cup game. This was a game that meant noth-ing.

Here's the outside of the stadium:

Some big flags. and some flares (flares + flags = fire hazard):

A really big flag:

A smoke bomb of some sort?:

People filling the aisles (for the entire game) (another fire hazard):

Near the end of the game, there were roman candles being lit in the stands (big fire hazard).

Another interesting aspect of the game was the inter-fan relations. The first several rows of people insisted on standing up, which then forced the next rows to stand up as well, so the fans back by us were completely preoccupied with getting these people in the front to sit down. I'm not sure why, because, personally, I could see just fine. (My theory is, is that soccer really is kind of boring, and therefore the fans have to find other ways to amuse themselves.)

It started just with profanity. If I didn't know Portuguese cuss words before last night, I certainly do now. I also learned some choice new body gestures.

It progressed from profanity into profanity + light-weight trash- balled up napkins and paper and such being thrown at the standing offender. Next it escalated to profanity + mostly empty plastic cups. Near the end of the game it was (you guessed it) profanity + hot dogs.

I have to say I was pretty impressed, I'm thinking in the States getting called some variation of the F-bomb in conjunction with a flying hot dog would probably lead to a fatality. No one seemed to get overly excited by it-the normal reaction of the standing offender was just his (or her) own string of profanity and lewd body gestures.

And all this at the special Children's Day game-isn't that nice? My personal favorite was the guy behind me who would stand up with his little two year old boy in his arms and scream until his face was almost purple. Awesome!!!

It was a very interesting (and educational) night.

I'm always amazed at how lively Brazilians are in whatever they do.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Best of Brazil-Attitude Towards Kids

Today the kids had an ice cream social at school to celebrate "Children's Day" which is on Sunday. I have seen advertisements for celebrations to be held all over the city-it's a big deal here.

Pedro likes to feel like one of the big kids now:

Children's Day is very indicative of one of my favorite things about Brazilian culture: Brazilians love kids! Seeing that I have 4 such creatures, I really appreciate this about Brazilians. When I lived in Small Town, one of my best friends was Brazilian and I had never met anyone who got so excited over kids that weren't her own. I thought she was just a super unique person, and come to find out, there's a whole country of people like her! (not to take anything away from her, she is a wonderful person!)

It was one of the first things I noticed when we moved here last year, how people gushed over Pedro. And having lived here a bit longer, I have seen so many more examples of it:

-Sometimes when I am out running with Pedro, a group of scary-looking-tough guys will be walking towards us and I get a little nervous because of all the street crime here. But, it never fails, as we get closer they all get big goofy grins on their faces and they wave and say hello to Pedro. I tell Guapo that Pedro is better protection than a dog in these parts!

-All stores have a special express line for people shopping with kids under 5. (during busy shopping hours I make sure I have Pedro with me, just so I can use this speedy line!)

-In the airport, when you arrive with kids, everyone ungrudgingly lets you go to the front of the immigration and customs lines. And, we have no fear of getting stopped in customs with our 18 bags and $1000's of dollars of merchandise (there is a $500 limit on new goods) as long as we have the kids with us. We push them up in front of us and they are our golden ticket with the customs agents.

-Places like malls and the larger grocery stores have, in addition to normal restrooms with changing tables, rooms designed just for changing diapers and nursing moms.

-Brazilians expect kids to act like kids, and so they are not at all shocked or annoyed to have kids running around screaming. Even when kids are misbehaving (like Pedro throwing a fit in the store because he wants down NOW!!!), they seem more amused by it than anything else.

-Some of the nicest restaurants have indoor play areas for kids (usually staffed with someone to keep an eye on them).

-Teachers are very loving and affectionate (and not in a creepy way) with their students. Every morning when I take the kids to school, I always see kids being greeted by their teachers with big hugs and kisses (again, not in a creepy way, it is part of the Brazilian culture to kiss when you greet someone-once on each cheek). The same thing happens at the end of the school day.

Brazilians just have a different outlook on kids that I find refreshing. They are very respectful of childhood- it's like they really get that children are only children for a brief time, and so they find them and their actions and their words enchanting (for lack of a better word). They nurture and care for their kids unlike any culture I have ever seen before.

I feel like living here has helped me to better appreciate and accept my kids for what they are-kids!-and not little people who should act like adults.

(Oh how I wish I could bottle it up and give it to all the people we will ever have to sit next to on long flights!)

So, give your kids an extra hug on Sunday in honor of Brazilian Children's Day!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


I know, two posts in one day, what is the world coming to?

Just a quick post to mark what could be a significant change in our lives.

Today a friend called for Margarita (10 1/2 years). Not to set up a playdate, not to ask what the homework was in math class, but because she was "bored". She called...

She got on right as I was taking Juan Carlos to his swimming class, and she was just getting off when I got home-about 50 minutes later.

She said, brimming with enthusiasm, "I've never talked on the phone just to talk. That was fun!"

At least it wasn't a boy, right?

My Recent Projects

***First off, to avoid accidental feline-induced hypnosis, DO NOT look directly into the cat's eyes!***

When Pedro was born, I decided to take a sabbatical from quilting for a while. I'm a fairly laid back person, but when it comes to "projects" (this includes, but is not limited to: quilting, reading, organizing toys and clothes, and very occasionally, cleaning) I tend to be just a tad-bit type A. Type-A-project-fiend doesn't go well with a nursing baby and 3 other kids that also kind-of like having a mom around.

But now that he's a little older I've started up again. My first post-baby project was to finish a quilt that I actually pieced before he was born. It had been taunting me from a closet in my bedroom since we arrived in Brazil over a year ago. I pulled it out when we got home from our summer trip; I had 6 weeks before our California trip to finish it as a gift for Guapo's sister whom we were going to see there. So, I worked like crazy and finished it just in time for the trip:

I really like how it turned out. I'm not sure you can tell from this picture but it had A TON of quilting:

And now that it has been delivered, I am working on a Christmas "friendship" quilt with a group of 21 other expat women. A friendship quilt is where each participant chooses a design of their choice and then makes a block for each of the other women in the group. So, I will eventually receive 21 other squares, each one different and give one of my squares to everyone else. Then each woman can embellish the squares to her liking and put the quilt together however she wants.

So here's my block:

Cute, huh? And, here are 22 copies of my block:

Here's an example of my type-A-project-ness: the group is meeting today, and the "homework" for this week's meeting was to wash the background fabric so we can cut it into squares.

Hmmmmm. Think I'll skip meetings for the next month or so...

Monday, October 06, 2008

How Did I Ever Live?

...without The Office???

And how is it that none of you told me I should watch it? Living out of the country, we miss out on a lot of TV shows, and the hype that goes along with them, so we never actually saw an episode until about a month ago. I do remember once, watching a clip from the show on More Cow Bell and just going "what the heck???" (When you see Dwight out of context he is pretty creepy-don't you think?)

And now I just ordered season 3. I am an addict.

(Sorry non-cat fans, I kind of like the surprised kitty, at least for now-it makes me smile. Please visit me, despite the weird cat!)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Good News Friday

Alas, just when I thought my younger brother and sister would never reproduce (with their respective spouses, not with each other mind you), my wittle-baby sister anounces that she is pregnant! And, somehow, she kept it a secret for 13 weeks (I, on the otherhand, have to tell people the second I find out). Now she's 15 weeks along and doing well.

Here are all of us siblings this summer at my mom's birthday party, little did we know she was expecting.

We can't wait for the new little one!

And I'm also happy because I figured once my sister or sister-in-law got pregnant I would have this need to "share in the experience" and have another baby (especially after my sadness due to weaning Pedro). But, I just feel happy that I'm not the one suffering from morning sickness or gaining weight! I can cheer from the sidelines and I am ok with that. I'm even ok with handing over my maternity clothes (giving away the baby clothes could be a totally different story).

So, it's all good.

Have a great weekend!

(PS: Guapo hates the surprised cat. What do you think?)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Trouble in Kindergarten

Juan Carlos (5 years old) came home yesterday a tad bit quiet. As he was walking home from swimming (in his swim trunks) with Guapo, he broke down and started crying. Between sobs, he told Guapo he had gotten in trouble at school. Guapo tried to ease it out of him, but he wouldn't budge; he even suggested that Guapo just call his teacher to find out about it.

So, they get home and Guapo asks me if I knew about this problem and I told him, no, I did not and I went to try to get the 411 from Juan Carlos.

This triggered AN HOUR (no exaggeration here) of crying and no information except for the fact that he had to "talk to his teacher" about it.

You can imagine how hard I was racking my brain trying to figure out what the heck a kindergartener (more specifically, my kindergartener who is not at all the troublemaker type), could do to bring on this kind of remorse.

Finally, after he calmed down a bit, he agreed to tell me in the morning what had ensued in his classroom. I told him he would have a much better night's sleep if he just told me about it now and didn't have to think about it any longer.

At last, last he revealed his crime to me: while amongst classmates, he said, "I hate sisters," which was overheard by his teacher who then proceeded to talk to him about it.

I know his teacher well, she was Margarita's teacher last year, and she is a complete sweetheart, so I was certain that she didn't come down too hard on him for his comment. I still couldn't believe that that had caused such a reaction from him, so when I saw her today I asked, "What happened yesterday with Juan Carlos?" and she looked at me, totally confused. When I explained what had happened at home she was completely surprised. She told me she heard him say it, called him over and told him that wasn't a nice thing to say and THAT WAS IT. She felt horrible that he had spent so much time worrying about it.

I don't think we are going to have to many disciplinary problems with Juan Carlos.

(And I should mention that he adores Margarita, so I'm not sure what the context was, but I certainly wasn't about to bring it up again!)