Friday, February 29, 2008

February Wrap Up

My plan is to report on my 2008 goals at the end of each month to keep me from forgetting what they were. So:

1) Exercise: It was an ok month until I took my little shopping trip. As much as I had hoped shopping 8 hours a day for 3 days would count as exercise, I'm afraid it didn't (I did buy new running shoes, so that should count for something, right?). I came home and felt like I was starting from square one again.

Of the 25 possible exercise days in February, I worked out 19.

2) Pick Up After Myself: I focused on picking up my clothes instead of leaving them in a heap; I made improvements in this area. My room is looking better. Now I am trying to form the habit of cleaning Pedro's highchair up as soon as he's done eating, instead of what I normally do which is to clean it up right before his next meal (all the while cursing myself for having left it).

3) Execute New Laundry Strategy: It's going ok-I have to get better about doing the laundry in the morning and not leaving it for the afternoon which quickly turns into me doing it after the kids are in bed. Not fun.

4) Hug My Kids More: Going well. Lots of hugging here.

5) Learn Excel: Humph. I bought a book in Houston. I haven't looked at it yet.

6) Portuguese: I didn't start my lessons back up when the kids went back to school. We started receiving a local newspaper everyday and I was reading it with my dictionary in hand every night. It was helping-and then they must have figured out we didn't order it because it stopped coming. :(

7) Primary Songs: This month I learned Tell Me the Stories of Jesus, If the Savior Stood Besides Me, and I Love to See the Temple. I played in Primary last week-a lot less stressful than sacrament meeting, but still slightly nerve-wracking. Sunday, to introduce the kids to "If the Savior Stood Besides Me" I am playing and Margarita is going to sing a solo! That should be fun.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kids? What Kids? Can't You See I'm Reading?

Whew.

I just finished the third book in the Twilight series.

One week-3 books.

My poor kids. Actually, it was a perfect week to ignore them-Margarita has been gone on a week long field trip and Julio got strep and has been lying on the couch sleeping most of the week. So it was really like I was neglecting just 2 kids instead of 4. Well...and a husband. By Tuesday night he was pretty fed up. When I did put the book down to acknowledge his presence, it was almost as if he didn't want to hear about the crisis-du-jour of Bella and Edward. Go figure. Wednesday night I made myself leave the book in the kitchen until he went to bed so I didn't ignore him for the 5th night in a row.

Today, he went out of town, so I could finish the last book without guilt. Bwhahaha.

The books were kind of draining for me-like when I watch 24. I wouldn't say they were my favorite books ever, but they sure held my attention. I thought Meyer did a great job of accurately depicting the feelings involved in young love, heart break, parental love and protection. Bella kind of bugged me at times. But even so, I haven't been so engrossed since Harry Potter. I found myself wanting to read the books constantly-even in the car (despite the fact that I get very carsick very quickly).

Unlike the Potter books, where I was always sad to finish a book, I feel relieved tonight. I don't like scary books or movies and this was about as scary as I can handle without totally freaking myself out when I get up in the middle of the night to feed Pedro.

Bad vampires are very bad.

I'm glad I don't have to think about it again until August 2nd.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Kids? What Kids? Just Keep the Lobster Coming.

I'm back. Normal life has resumed. You'll have to forgive my lack of blogging-one of my purchases was the Stephanie Meyer "Twilight" series-I'm currently totally engrossed in the vampire love story. Will she or won't she become a vampire? (please don't actually answer that if you know). I am halfway through the second book. Give me a couple more days and I should be finished with the third and back to somewhat normal blogging.

I made it safely back to Brazil Saturday morning. Guapo and all the kids picked me up at the airport. It was so wonderful to be reunited with their little smiling faces. Well, Pedro wasn't actually smiling. He was MAD at me. When he saw me he buried his head into Guapo's chest. It about broke my heart, but, little babies have little memories and he got over it pretty quickly. He's my little buddy again.

The three days of shopping were fun. Expensive, and tiring, but fun. It was great to be on my own and not have anybody's schedule to think about for a couple of days-even though I had to force myself to remember that. Wednesday,my first day out and about, I looked at my watch and thought, "I better go home so I can call the kids, they will be getting home from school in a little while."

Can you believe I only bought two pairs of shoes? One pair of running shoes and a cute pair of sandals. Why not more? Space issues. I only had 3 bags I could fill and I had 3 kids' birthdays and Easter to buy for. It was Pedro who hit the shoe jackpot this time-I think he got 5 or 6 pairs and he doesn't even walk yet. Humpf. Wait until our summer trip when I will have 12 70 lb. bags available for filling!!!

Flying home was one of the best parts of the trip; I flew out in coach, but came home in 1st class.

First class is So.Much.Better.Than.Coach.

I had lobster twice in one meal! A half-lobster tail was a optional addition to the salad portion of the meal (ummm, a no-brainer there), and then was also an entree option. I, of course, had to take full advantage of my lobster opportunities. And then for dessert-a yummy made to order sundae. Mmmmmmm. I would have taken some pictures but I don't think that would have been too cool-I was trying to act like I actually belonged there.

After I stuffed myself until I couldn't eat one more bite, I laid my seat back,put up my foot rest and read my vampire book until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer at which point I enjoyed a few hours of comfortable sleep.

There are several obvious differences between coach and first class:

  1. The space
  2. The food
  3. The service

What I found most interesting was the less obvious difference that is a result of those differences: First class is just a happier place to be. Coach is a survival-of-the-fittest type place-essential resources are limited-space, water, food, sleep; therefore the passengers have to fight for for things like: space in the overhead compartments, control of the arm rest, seats that recline.

First class is happier because your needs are met-there's no need to battle for the arm rest-it's huge. Overhead space? They've got plenty. Food and drinks? Whenever you want. People can just relax. It had almost a slumber-party feeling about it-after dinner everyone got cozy with their almost-normal sized pillow and blanket, put on their sleeping mask and headed off to dreamland.

Too bad we're not rich and we can't fly like that all the time. It was a treat!

And now I've got to get back to my book. Sorry-but I am obsessed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Two Things

1. I love my country. Every time I come home I feel like crying. The cleanliness and order are just amazing.

2. Target. How do you people not go completely broke???

:)

Monday, February 18, 2008

3 3/4 Days of Peace

First, here's one of Juan Carlos's little heart-people. I don't know why but they just make me smile.

Tomorrow I leave for Houston. All.By.Myself.

I was trying to figure out how many days I've spent without my kids AND my husband since I became a mom nearly 10 years ago. The first time was when my grandpa died in April 1992 while we were living in Venezuela. I left Margarita (then 4 years old) and Julio (then 18 months) with Guapo for 3 nights. Then in December 1993 I went with my good friend to Miami for 2 nights and 3 days of crazy Christmas shopping. We bought WAY too much stuff and ended up having to ship numerous boxes to Venezuela which wasn't cheap.

So that's it-5 nights/7 days in 10 years. Not a lot-but it's hard to leave. I spend a lot of time thinking I could use a break and then when the time's upon me it's hard to go.

My life is mostly about my kids right now. I try to keep up on things that I enjoy doing, but if something needs to get sacrificed, that's what goes first. I have mixed feelings about leaving. These feelings include, but are not limited to: excitement, guilt, anxiety, relief, selfishness. I think I am getting a stress-induced cold sore and my fingernails are mostly gone from biting them.

I'm lucky to have a husband that says, "Go. It will be good for me to be with the kids for a few days. Have fun." (Am I a bad person for hoping he suffers just a tad?)

I am looking forward to just being by myself. I like to be by myself. I am staying with friends in Houston that we knew in Venezuela. They are our dear friends, but not like let's-stay-up-and-brush-each-other's-hair-and-giggle kind of friends. I will be able to come and go as I please, take a nap if I want or go to bed early.

Not that I'm going for long enough to take a lot of naps-I will leave tomorrow night, arrive in Houston on Wednesday morning, stay in Houston Wednesday and Thursday nights and then leave Friday evening to arrive back here on Saturday morning.

I am looking forward to:

  1. Flying alone. I don't even mind that two of my nights gone will be spent on an airplane. I have made so many flights with kids I stopped counting years ago. Even when they are well-behaved, which is most of the time, I am still a nervous wreck waiting for something to happen.
  2. Carrying 1 passport instead of the wad we normally travel with
  3. Target. Get ready for the Consumer Confidence Index to go up.
  4. Going to the temple. We don't have one here and it's been a while.
  5. Driving without a driver. Ahhhhh, freedom.

Margarita and Julio are fine with me going. Excited in fact; they want the American goods. Poor Juan Carlos is pretty sad about it-he keeps asking me why can't Gaupo go instead. And Pedro-poor little guy doesn't know what's coming. He loves Vanessa the maid though so I think he'll be ok. I keep having a fear that I am going to forget my breast pump-that would not be a fun plane ride.

I probably won't post again until the weekend.

Tchau.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Brazilian Valentine's Day and Other Random Thoughts

Happy Valentine's Day a day late. Brazil doesn't have a Valentine's Day. :( My kids go to a semi-American school, it's really like 90% Brazilian, but the classes are all taught in English and it follows an American curriculum. They try to celebrate the "big" American holidays, but they are never quite the same.

Living overseas the schools our kids have gone to have never celebrated: Columbus Day, President's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, or Memorial Day. When we started out I had big dreams of helping my kids appreciate their "Americaness" through meaningful educational discussions and coloring sheets of the first presidents and Martin Luther King, but alas, in actuality the days just kind of pass me by.

Thanksgiving's only slightly better. In Venezuela the kids had had Thanksgiving day off, and Guapo would take the afternoon off work and would celebrate with other Americans. Not so in Mexico City where they attended a British School, or in Small Town, Mexico where we had no American friends. And here in Brazil where they already have 3 of their own national holidays in November. Sorry Thanksgiving-there's no room for you here! To appease the few Americans at the school, they held a big turkey lunch for the kids and their families (of course they still had rice and beans, but it was a nice gesture anyway).

To celebrate Valentine's Day, the younger kids received a note that they needed to bring in a valentine card for each child in their class. Since the general population doesn't celebrate the day, there were no pre-made, pre-packaged Valentines which is, of course, the route I would have taken. I went to a paper store and spent close to $40.00 (sorry Guapo), buying paper, glitter, glue, etc. to make our own Valentines at home. Margarita (9 yrs) spent a lot of time working on hers and they turned out very nice. Julio (7 yrs old) didn't want to make any so I didn't force the issue, and Juan Carlos's looked like a 4 year old made them-very cute. All of the hearts had happy faces and arms and legs which made me smile.

That should have been good enough, but then I decided to be an over-achiever and make sugar cookies for all of their classes (I couldn't very well have Julio, one of only three Americans in his class showing up empty handed, and if I was going to make them for Julio I may as well make them for Margarita and Juan Carlos also).

Why do I do this to myself? Sugar cookies should only be made for Christmas-they are too much work if I do them by myself and too much of a mess if I let the troops help me. Oh well. Long boring story short-somehow, despite the very curvy drive to school, the slippery plates, the quickly melting frosting, the fighting and some tears, the majority of the 60 cookies made it to school. Phew!

I cracked up when Julio and Juan Carlos came home with a bunch of cards that looked like this one:


Yep. Full on cheesy greeting cards. They probably cost $5.00 each. The parents that gave those must have been appalled by Juan Carlos's personified hearts!

Gaupo got me these beautiful orchids. I hope I can manage to keep them alive for a while.


Random Thoughts

Juan Carlos asked me today if Grandma Sue (Guapo's mom) celebrates Christmas. I told him she did and he told me he's "pretty sure she does Hanukah"

A couple of days ago he told Guapo he's "a little bit American even though I've never lived there, and mostly Venezuelan." (Juan Carlos was born in Caracas)

Finally, I have a picture of me at the carnaval parade. No thanks to the people we were with that only got pics of Guapo-geesh like he's the boss or something. Luckily a friend of mine, whom I didn't even know was going to be there saw me and took this picture. You can't see the entire costume (like the knee-high orange boots), but you can get a better idea.

I kind-of look like an elf, don't you think?


And lastly-here's another shot of Kitty mocking me with her comfort:


Did you know in Spanish (at least in Mexico and Venezuela) you say "Happy Weekend" instead of "have a nice weekend"? Well, now you do. Portugues is closer to English: " a good weekend for you".

Happy weekend to you!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Did You See This? (Rated PG-7)

Check out this photo taken here in Big City on Sunday evening:


It was reported on here. We were watching the storm brewing from our deck, but got inside before the lightening started. As I'm sure you already guessed after seeing my awesome New Year's firework shots, I didn't take the photo. I didn't know about it until today when I picked up Juan Carlos from school and his teahcers had the photo, cut out from a local newspaper, prominently displayed at preschooler-eye level in their classroom.

I'm so glad (hear my sarcasm here people).

He was already crying and in my bed at the first sounds of thunder, rain, or wind that was too hard. We would spend lots of time assuring him that he would be ok, that our house would be ok, that the cats would be ok, that our cars would be ok, etc. etc. Now he has this image seered into his brain and we look like liars. He spent the rest of the day telling anyone who would listen about the Christ statue getting hit by lightening.

And we are coming into spring here-and that means more storms.

I can feel my already-limited, choppy-at-best, sleep slipping through my fingers...

Monday, February 11, 2008

I Want to go Back to Bed Monday

Thanks to all of you for the concern over my "assault". The telephone calls, the emails, the comments-you guys are so nice. I was mostly being a smart alek-yes, the little old lady hit me, but it was more funny than scary. I was a bit shocked, but no post tramautic stress disorder or nightmares. I don't really need counseling. Friday night Guapo and I will be out pounding the pavement again looking for more of Brazil's good eats. :)

My kids started school again today after a week off for Carnaval. That means since December 19th they've only gone to school a week and a half. Now we are in it for the long haul until June when we get to go home (yay!). The house is quite, Pedro's sleeping and the maid has the day off. I love being alone in my house. I just want to curl up in bed with a good book and then take a little-bitty cat nap.
Just like this:
I just don't think people can get that comfortable.
(P.S. Blogger users-is anyone else having problems with the spell check or is it just my computer?)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

I've Been Assaulted

Despite having had lived in moderately dangerous cities like Caracas, Venezuela and Mexico City, Mexico, I am happy to report we have never had any problems (well, there was that one time we were robbed by the police in Venezuela, but we weren't hurt).

Until tonight.

While walking home from dinner with Guapo, a short bag woman was walking towards us. I made eye contact and smiled. She coiled her arm back (me thinking to myself, "no way, she's not going to hit me") and proceeded to punch me, fairly hard for a little lady, in the shoulder.

I think I may need some counseling.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Carnaval 2008

The carnaval parade was incredible. It's one of those things you have to see to believe. It lasted from 9:00 pm Monday night until 5:30 am Tuesday morning and I didn't feel tired until around 4:30.

Here's a few things that maybe you didn't know about the parade:

1)Big City Carnaval Parade ≠ New Orleans Mardi Gras Parade

Carnaval itself is crazy, but the parade is pretty tame. Sure, there's a fair share of skimpy bikini-clad samba dancers, but nothing worse than you’d seen on the beach here. You have to buy expensive tickets to the event and you have an assigned seat; in New Orleans it's a free for all. And, there is no free stuff being thrown from the floats, such as shiny beads or cheap plastic cups, so the spectators don't feel a need to remove their clothing because it's not going to get them anything.

2) The Parade is not continuous.

The parade is actually 6 separate parades; 6 Samba schools each have 80 minutes from the time the first person crosses the start line until the last person crosses the finish line. There is about a 15 minute break in between each school; the start of each new school is marked by a big firework show.

3) The costumes??? Amazing, but not comfy.

Each school has between 3,000-4,500 participants and they are all dressed in intricate, detailed costumes. The best part of our night was that we were front row and just inches from the paraders and their awesome costumes. It was so fun to watch the faces of the people going by-everyone was so happy and excited. Here were some of my favorites:










Guapo and I had the chance to don some of those costumes and march in the parade. It was quite an unforgettable experience. We left our seats at 1:00 am to carry our huge costumes to the start of the Avenida, where we got dressed and then waited, in the very uncomfortable costumes, for 45 minutes before our school kicked off. I thought I was going to pass out or throw up most of the 45 minutes and I kept having this little voice say, "what are you going to do if you have to go to the bathroom?" because of course there were no bathrooms in sight and I couldn't take off and put all my stuff back on in time even if there had been. Luckily, nature was kind and it wasn't a problem.

Finally around 2:00am our school started and we danced/jumped around down the Avenida for an hour. My head was KILLING me. Check out my head gear (it hurts me just to look at this picture):

(Yes, that's an oil rig with a black feather for the gushing oil)

I left my camera with friends so they could take pictures of us in the parade (which ended up being totally blurry and therefore of no practical use), so I don't have any pictures of us completely dressed. Some other, smarter people were with, decided to keep their camera with them and they have pictures of us fully dressed. When they send them to me, I will post one of the complete costume. For now, here I am, post-march, with my and Guapo's costumes:



What am I supposed to do with these costumes now? They are huger than any of our closets, but how can get rid of them? What an awesome souvenir from Brazil.

See my blue shirt? Yeah. Everyone else had black shirts on. No one bothered to mention to us that we needed black shirts. We were the stupid gringos with blue shirts. Worse than that, no one mentioned The Song.

4) The Song.

Each school has a song that goes with their performance. During the parade, each school's song is repeated over and over and over the entire 80 minutes and every single member of the school is signing it. So that the spectators can join in on all of the singing fun fun, a CD with the songs from the 12 schools comes out in October.

We did not know this; we spent the entire time lip synching our song. My method was to spin around a lot so no one could get a really good look at my mouth.

5) Every year at least one floats starts on fire.

This year was no exception, the one below, which was one of the coolest that we saw, broke down right in front of us and was smoking like crazy. The funny thing was was that the paraders just keep right on smiling, shaking, dancing and singing The Song as if nothing at all were happening.



(see the smoke?)

6) This is a SERIOUS competition.

The 12 school that get to participate in the "Big Parade" go all out. We were told that the judges' decision is bigger than the country's presidential election; that as soon as the decision is announced there are accusations of bribery, intrigue and subversion. Sure enough, today when the results were announced, and our school, which had won the whole thing just two short years ago and has received rave reviews in the local papers yesterday and today, came out in 9th place our building's guard was certain there had been some monkey business going on. I'm thinking maybe it was the blue shirts.

Am I sad our school was robbed of it's deserved glory? Frankly, I am quite relieved. The top 6 march again on Saturday night and I just couldn't pull off another all nighter OR put that oil-rig head contraption on again!

Tchau!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sweet Dreams...

The parade was awesome, but we didn't get until 7:00 am. I would love to download my camera now and post about it, but I just got the kids to bed and I think it would be wiser to get some shut eye.

Hasta tomorrow!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

What I Can Tell You About Carnaval

Carnaval officially kicked off yesterday; unofficially, pre-carnaval festivities started a couple of weeks ago. I am not going to pretend to know a whole lot about carnaval-I don't. It's times like this when we really feel like outsiders. Not so much because we don't drink or par-ty-har-ty, or because Brazilians aren't very open and accepting (because they are), but because we did not grow up living and breathing Carnaval. It is a HUGE deal here. Monstrous. I can't quite grasp it. Whereas Christmas was lame and disappointing, Carnaval is Gi-Nor-Mous.

From what I can see (read: totally uninformed and over simplified) it's divided up into two parts: Blocos and Samba School Parades.

Blocos

Blocos are big streeet parties where people dress up and go out in their neighborhoods. Sometimes they parade from point A to point B but not always. Lots of music, dancing, vendors, drinking, etc. (can't talk about the etc. on my blog-but from what we hear it can get a more than a little wild-especially after dark). Today there were two very close to our house so I sent Guapo out with my camera. It was raining out, but this deters the partiers not in the least:


video






The church in these parts locks up the missionaries for a week and they send the youth to a camp, far, far, far away from the streets of Big City.

Parades

Parades are made up of competing "Samba Schools"- groups of people that spend 11 1/2 months of the year (no kidding) preparing for their 80 minutes in the spotlight; this involves making thousands of intricate costumes, between 8 and 12 floats, writing music, and choreographing dance. Then, the best of the best compete in two big parades. Each school has between 3,000-4,500 people that parade down the mile-long "Avenida". You must buy tickets (ranging anywhere from $100- $3,000 USD each) to see the parade as the Avenida is completely closed off to the general public. Six schools are competing tonight and six are competing tomorrow night. The winner then parades on Saturday.


Guapo and I will be going to the parade tomorrow night. We will leave our house at 7:00 pm to make it to the Sambódromo by 9:00. The six schools will parade until 4:00 am, putting us home by 6:00 AM, just around the time when Pedro wakes up. We will be watching from a box (think sporting event) where we will have food and a bathroom (that's good news since I'm sure I'll have to employ my breast-pump at some point during the night).

Stone-Cold Sober Samba-ers

The exciting news of the week is that Guapo and I will not only be watching the parade, WE WILL ACTUALLY BE IN THE PARADE.

The Samba schools make a limited number of costumes available to non-school members for a heafty price; someone from Guapo's worked offered him two costumes and he took them as we've heard it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our school's name is "Vila Isabel"; their theme is Workers of Brazil and so our costumes include a huge headress that is topped by an oil rig spouting black feathers. Sexy, huh??? We will be dancing through the street among 900other spouting oil-rigged headed people. Our school starts parading around 2:00 am; that's 9:00 pm MST, so if anyone has access to it on cable TV, check us out!

(you can be sure I'm charging up my camera battery tonight, what could be more bloggable???)