Thursday, January 29, 2009

Honeymoon's Over

No one's perfect. Very true. This is an important thing to remember when you are contemplating getting rid of a bad maid and trading her in for "the perfect maid". I have learned over and over that if you fire one maid, the next one you get may be worse (see posts from Mexico City!).

In our case here in Brazil that would be pretty hard.

But, after bragging about my bread-making, super fast and efficient maid, I have found her flaw.

She has now worked here 8 days. Two of those days (that's 25%) she has brought her two boys. She tells me they are 11 and 13 but they look a lot more like 6 and 8.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love kids. I have 4 of them myself. But, when I am paying someone to come and work in my home I don't want to have 2 extra boys running around kicking a soccer ball inside the house and needing to be entertained. When my kids go to school, I enjoy the peace and quite of just having Pedro at home.

Does this make me a bad person?

And today, when she showed up she told me she brought them because one of them has a really bad ear infection. Awesome. I know ear infections aren't contagious, but symptoms that oftentimes accompany ear infections can pass germs.

Brazilian schools start in 10 days. I'm going to let it go until then because:

1) I don't like confrontation.
2) She is a really good maid (other than bringing her kids)
3) She's a single mom
4) I don't have any other maid options at the moment.

In the meanwhile, I'll just be up here, hiding in my bedroom with a bag of m&m's, counting the hours until everyone goes home (which is just about the time that my 3 big kids get home from school).


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Just a Couple of Things

1. The new maid, in addition to organizing all of the drawers and closets today, made 4 loaves of homemade bread.

2. Yesterday we saw a sloth in a tree at the kids school. How cool is it to see a sloth at your school??? Of course I didn't have my camera, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

3. After examining Julio's library book about WWI with the boys, I mentioned how I hoped that none of my boys would ever have to fight in a war, to which Julio replied, "Don't worry Mom, I'm not going to join... (pause) ...but I do want to be on a paint-ball team."

4. Pedro now knows most of the colors and can count to 10 in English and Portuguese. Smart little cookie!

5. Only 2 of 3 scheduled service men made it to the apartment today. The one that was here to fix the hot water heater that sporadically turns itself off for 24 hours at a time told me that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the heater and left. GRRRRRRR. The telephone guy fixed the phone and the plumber never showed up...

6. My kids are not allowed to play the Wii during the week-not until Friday after school. It's really ticking off Julio.

7. I finally set up my new ipod. I got it for Christmas (35 days ago). The last one took me like 4 months to set up. I have yet to touch the new camera. Why am I weird like that???

Monday, January 26, 2009

Different Strokes

Yesterday, we invited over a man from our ward. He's 86 years old and joined the church just 5 years ago. I had never talked to him that much (I'm in the primary all the time), but would always see him around. I didn't know he was married or single or why he was living in Brazil (he's an American with horrible Portuguese that he's not shy about using which is really cute) Before we left on vacation last month, he missed a Sunday which never happens. Turns out he had pneumonia. When Guapo went over to visit him he met his wife and their daughter.

So, they all came over last night for dinner. They were very nice- I had always wondered if the guy was all there, being so old, but he is totally with it-up on all the current events in the world.

His daughter is 21. So, she was born when he was 65. His wife is obviously much younger than him. I'm thinking the oldest she could be is 66 (that would have made her having a baby at 45), but maybe she's a little younger. Anyway, they met and married while living in San Francisio where they had planned to spend the rest of their lives.

Until one day the wife decided she couldn't live there any longer. She wanted to go back to Brazil, insisting their life would be much better there. She told us she couldn't hack the lifestyle of an American woman. She grew up in a well-to-do Brazilian family that had a staff of 6 people (cook, maid, nanny, gardener, butler, driver) which is common even today amongst the wealthy. She told me she couldn't stand the constantness of chores that she had in the States with no help. Exasperated she told me, "I had to make the food, and then remember the laundry, and then clean the house, and then cook the food AGAIN! I couldn't handle it any longer! I don't know how you women do it."

So they moved back to Brazil, hired their staff and had their daughter.

It was funny to me because I feel the exact opposite. I can't stand the constantness of having extra people in my house, even if they are here for my benefit. As we laughed about our differences, I explained to her how I feel like I can never relax when there's a maid in the house and she said, "Well, just go in your room and shut the door!" The thing is, I still know they're here and I just can't relax, even if Pedro is napping. So she told me, "Well, just leave then!" And that is what I find myself doing-looking for reasons to leave my own house because I don't want to be in it while there's a maid around.

I know, you might me thinking, "Well, why don't you just not have any help then?" But, just like it was the norm for her to live in the States without any help, it is the norm here to have help, and lots of it. Life is harder here than it is in the States. It just is. If I didn't have a maid I would waste half of my life waiting for repair men to fix all of our Brazilian appliances that seem to break about once a week. They give themselves a window of 9 am to 5 pm to show up. But, even then sometimes they just don't show up and don't bother calling to let you know. And, instead of heading out to Target for one-stop shopping, you've got to go to about 5 different stores during the week to get everything you need. And everyone else has maids, so there's no "if you watch my kid, I'll watch yours" going on.

She did say one thing that I've always believed, and have always heard expat women say, but I thought it was just a way to rationalize having the help. She said that it seemed that houses in the States are just cleaner than houses here. I wholeheartedly agree! I don't know what it is, but we sweep the house everyday (ok, not we, the maid) and you wouldn't believe the pile of junk that accumulates in just 24 hours. Our apartment is always open to the outside, so I'm sure that doesn't help.

I just thought our conversation was interesting; do I not like having a maid because that's not how I grew up, or is it something deeper than that, some independent American gene that came from my temporally poor forefathers that crossed the Atlantic, staffless, in hopes of a better life? It's quite likely that my new friend descended from wealthy Portuguese who did arrive in their new land with a slew of people to serve them. It's got to be more to it than just getting used to it, because I've had almost 8 years now with a maid and I think I like it even less now than I did 8 years ago. I've accepted that I'm never going to get used to it.

I don't know. I just know that when we finally get the word that we are going back to the States, I will not lose sleep over not having a maid anymore.

(Speaking of the maids, the new maid is still working out well. Last week she asked me to buy her a ladder so she could clean all the fans and walls up high, she asked why Vanessa wasn't in the habit of ironing every article of clothing (she normally irons Guapo's shirts like once a month, if I'm lucky), and she moves all the furniture everyday to sweep and mop underneath. I am in awe...)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Come Monday It Will Be Alright

If I hear the following phrases one more time, I might lose it:

"IT'S NOT FAIR" -Juan Carlos

"JUL-IO"-any and all of Julio's victims

School starts Monday. I love my kids, but I'll be very happy to drop them off after 6 weeks of vacation!

On a happier note, Pedro is calling pickles "tickles", so that's pretty cute.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What I've Been Up To.

Well, I've been back for just about a week. What have I been doing other than sweating, you ask?

Recovering from Strep

When I was in college I would get so worked up over finals that as soon as I was done and let myself relax, I would get sick.

That trip last week? At least as stressful as finals. So, when I arrived Thursday and got in bed, I pretty much didn't get up for three days. By Saturday night, I realized it felt a lot like the strep infection I had about 5 years ago; you know-the totally raw throat, the fever, the dreams about your 31 year old brother-in-law hunting gnomes for some kind of boyscout certification (yes, you Arnold). Being in Latin America where you can buy pretty much whatever you want at the pharmacy without a prescription, I began to self-medicate myself with amoxicillin.

24 hours later-no fever, no sore throat.

Ahhhh, much better.

Entertaining my Kids

My kids are STILL out of school. Until Monday. The Wii is coming in handy when it rains. Other than that, we've been swimming a couple of times and had some play dates. The beach is TOO crowded right now for my liking and will be until after Carnaval in the end of February.


I don't care what your politics are, yesterday was a pretty cool day in the history of our country.

Eating Cheese

For the first time ever, I was stopped in customs and my bags were searched.

I have always felt confident coming in with kids that they would let me pass no matter how many bags I had, simply because I had the kids with me (they love children here). Well, this time, the customs agent looked at me and the kids, smiled and let us by, even after I *vaguely* motioned to my 9 bags that were coming in tow with the nice little man that was helping us through immigration (read: butting us right to the front of any line we approached). So, I left the customs area (I was chasing 4 kids after a 24 hour ordeal). When our friend didn't join us momentarily, I knew I was in trouble. After chastising me for leaving my bags (to which I pointed out my 4 kids), they let me re-enter the customs area where I saw my poor bags, lined up in a row, ready to be searched. :(

You are not allowed to bring any product related to cows into Brazil. I know this. But, I love cheddar cheese. Real, American cheddar cheese. So, I took my chances, knowing it was going to be me with the 4 kids going through customs. 15 pounds of cheddar spread out in 6 different suitcases.

As my heart raced and my palms sweat, he missed the first one. (Yay!!!!)

He quickly found the second and told me it wasn't allowed, to which I gave him the, "Really???????-but-look-how-sad-my-eyes-look" look. He gave me the "stupid-gringo-my-job-is-so-lame" look and shoved it back in my bag. He then proceeded to find my entire stash, and since I had distributed it as such, it was quite obvious that I had been aware of the rule. But, the nice man let me keep all my cheese and all my other food too!

I gave him a smile and the thumbs up and left the airport with my 15 pounds.

I like that man.

Dealing with the Staff

I think 2 maids and a driver constitute a staff, don't you?

I had a new maid start yesterday.

The pregnant maid situation has continued to steadily deteriorate- Ohhhh, I have stories I could have blogged about, but 1) I always feel guilty afterward and 2) unless you've been through the maid situation, I'm sure after a while it's like, "OK girl with a maid, we're sick of hearing about your 'problems'".

She's going to go on leave pretty soon anyway, so I am starting her replacement a little early.

This woman is a cleaner. She has been scrubbing the walls and the floors and the corners. And she's fast-sometimes you can get a good cleaner but they take like 2 hours to do one bathroom. Not this lady-she's a speed cleaner. And she cooks 4 nights a week for me.

So Vanessa now basically has to do noth-ing. But I prefer that to paying her for sitting at her house doing nothing which is what I'm sure she'd prefer. Today was their first day together. Oddly enough (hear my sarcasm here, people)-it didn't seem to really bother her that someone else was here to do her job. She was perfectly happy today to putts around watching Super-Cleaner do her thing.

Obsessive Quilting

My sister-in-law found out she's having a little boy. So, it's time to obsess over another quilt. (Don't worry, I will reach my quilting-limit soon and take another 3 year hiatus-that's just what I do)

Here are the squares that Margarita and I got done tonight (Guapo's out of town so we could work all night without guilt):

Aren't they sooooo cute??? (Yes, they will have eyes eventually. They will not be blind animals)

And, that's about it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Back By Popular Demand...

my header.

Ok, so it was really only demanded back by:

1. Guapo (the photographer)
2. My mom

and I think Maine Mom might have said she missed seeing it on my blog.

It was a relaxing trip and I kind of wish I was sitting there right now. So, it's back.

Happy Inauguration Day!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

25 Hours 12 Minutes 37 Seconds

I made it.

A little sweat, a little throw-up (mine), a little diarrhea all over the place (Pedro's), and a fair amount of tears (mostly mine) and I arrived.

8 of the 9 bags are unpacked. (the 9th contained a candle that exploded and I just couldn't face it tonight. The one thing I didn't put in a ziploc bag.)

I am showered and no longer smell like poop.

And now I am about to drop.

(hopefully not wake up at 3:00 am, wide awake)

Thanks for all of your well wishes. :)

Night night.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Our flight to Brazil is delayed (an estimated) 5 hours. Which means it will (supposedly) leave at 2 am bringing my layover time in Houston to 8 hours. So, instead of flying the 10 hours when Pedro is normally sleeping, I will only be traveling for 5 sleeping hours (if I'm lucky).

Not good.

Thank goodness my dad is with us. We are all at a hotel close to the airport. We just ordered Chinese food.

The worst thing is that because it is an "estimated" time delay, they could change it at a moments notice, so I can't even get a few hours of sleep because I have to keep checking the status.


On the bright side (forcing myself here to be positive) first flight was really easy; Pedro slept about 1 hour and 15 minutes of the 2 hour flight. And, I have my dad here. And my toothbrush. And I have an Internet connection.

I Guess It's Time to Shave My Legs

I haven't shaved my legs in 10 days. That's why I love cold weather so much. No one even knew; Guapo's been gone, I wore tights to church. It's been great.

But alas, my departure time draws near. I will be going from 30 degree weather to 100 degree weather.

It's been a great trip. If Guapo weren't in Brazil, I'd just travel between my parents' and my in-law's homes indefinitely. But, we miss him, so we'll return to the heat, the maid problems, and living without Target for another 5 months until the kids get out of school in June.

My stomach is churning thinking about the next 24 hours of my life. My sweet dad is traveling with us to Houston today. He'll get us as far as boarding the flight to Brazil which will help a lot-checking in, 2 trips through security, a 3-hour layover in Houston. But I'm still so nervous. I think I'll be giving myself a dose of Pedro's Benedryl.

I've got 9 bags stocked full of I couldn't even tell you what at this point. Christmas presents, comfort foods, and a bunch of other random stuff including:

Trash bags in Brazil are so expensive, and I really love the forceflex thing.

Ok, this might just be my imagination, but most Brazilian bar soaps have a sligtly odd scent to them. ???

I love the smell of Downy.

This is a must, thelocal liquid dishsoap is awful! The very few bubbles that it produces last for about 45 seconds.

Close to 20 new books for bookclub.

End of the year teachers' presents. This year purchased at V's secret, 75% off, for a grand total of $6.25 each! Not bad.

Well, the razor is calling. I have to face the music and get ready to leave.

Wish me luck.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Vacation Update and Quilt

Wow. What a lame blogger I have been. It's just that this has been the best vacation we've had in a long time and I've just been enjoying relaxing and having fun.

We went to Utah for 10 days and finally got some snow.

We skied:

We tubed:

We played:

We spent 4 days in one house with 12 adults and 13 kids and no one fought (well, maybe there were a few kid brawls, but nothing out of the ordinary) and no one got sick. Amazing! Guapo headed back to Brazil a week ago and I stayed on at my in-laws for a few more days for some extra snow time and quality time with Guapo's folks.

I got to have a mini "bloggers-convention" with my friends Janice and Diane. We actually went to high school together, so I'm not sure it really counts as a blogger event, but they both blog, so I'm going to say that it does count seeing how I miss out on all other blogging events living in Brazil. Janice got take out from Cafe Rio and it was de-licious.

Thursday I made my first ever flight alone with the 4 kids. My mother-in-law came through security with me and played with the kids until it was time to board which helped immensely. And we got to curb-side check, and we only had 4 bags, and there was no line in security, and the flight was only an hour-so it was pretty easy. And pretty much not representational of the flight I am facing on Wednesday back to Brazil (no curb-side check-in, at least 8 bags, 12 1/2 hours of flight time, and for some reason I am almost always selected for the extra security check). Oh well.

My sister had her baby shower yesterday (which I might add was larger than my wedding), and I gave her the quilt I was frantically working on the first part of December. So now I can show you:

Here's a close up of one of the dresses:

I was pretty proud of myself because although I followed a pattern, I thought up and, with Margarita's help, designed the applique dresses. (creativeness is not one of my strengths)

We've got 2 1/2 days left which means it's time to finish up my shopping. You can bet I'll be hitting Target at least five times before Wednesday afternoon.