Thursday, April 30, 2009

Happy Birthday (zzzzzzz) to (zzzzzzz)You!

Tonight we have been invited to the birthday party of our 87-year old friend from church. He's American, but his wife's Brazilian so this will be a Brazilian shindig.

When my grandpa turned 90 a few years back we had a lovely party for him with all the family, a nice bbq lunch, and a cake with his photo on it. It started at noon and lasted for a few hours (until it was time for grandpa's nap).

Would you like to take a guess at what time the party starts tonight for our 87 year old friend?

9 pm.

And we're in Brazil, folks. That means people won't even start showing up until 10 or 10:30. Our maid is staying tonight and I was trying to explain that I don't want to be out too late and she laughed and said, "Oh, you won't be home anytime before midnight!"

Don't old people usually go to bed early?

It's going to be a little embarrassing for me, spring chicken at 34 years old, to be dozing off at the old geezer's party.

And, what the heck do you get for an 87 year old who's not your grandpa??? I somehow don't think a coffee cup with a photo of my kids would be appreciated, what do you think? Is it totally lame to get him a tie?

Ideas and suggestions are welcome (and encouraged)!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Don't Grocery Shop While Hungry, Don't Blog While Grouchy

We had a great weekend. When you live somewhere in the circle of this photo:

It's nice to get away where there's a little bit of space around you.

I was so worried about the house being creepy, but it was fine. Old, but at least not haunted. The only problems were: 1) several of the mattresses were non-existent, there was only a box spring where their should have been a complete bed. Interesting. And very hard. We took a couple of the free single mattresses and put them on our bed. Problem solved.

The second was a lack of hot water. We had (barely) lukewarm water, but that's not really good enough for my showering needs. I came home greasy-headed and in much need of a shower (see below).

Besides that, we had a great time-the kids ran around and got to be "normal" kids instead of apartment dwellers. Margarita's best friend's family joined us for a couple of nights so we had 7 kids total-2 girls and 5 rambunctious boys.

The grounds were huge.

We had our own soccer field:

Here's the fishing pond where the boys caught lots of little fish using homemade fishing poles and worms they dug up themselves (ewwww):

we had lots of trails to explore:

and even a place to have a fire outside where we roasted hot dogs:

(what is it with boys and fire?)

And, since we were up in the mountains it was much cooler. We were able to have a fire in the house each night. One night we even roasted smuggled-in marshmallows. Mine was per-fect:

Pedro's new thing is praying before he puts anything in his mouth-even if it's a second serving of something we've already blessed. So, before he ate his marshmallow:

He had to say a prayer:

Too cute!

So, why am I grouchy? I'm just having one of those month long phases days where I just want to go home. Wednesday night before we left, the water stopped working on the second floor of our apartment (where our bedroom is and three of our bathrooms) after the building had cleaned out their water tanks. So, we left Thursday and the building manager told us he would have it fixed by the time we got back on Sunday.

I returned ready for a hot shower yesterday afternoon and it was still broken. No matter how many times I reminded the kids NOT to use the toilets, it seems they all had impaired memories and very active bowels. Grrrr. Someone came today to fix it and it turns out we needed a new water pump. So, $200 later, we've got a new, installed pump. I'm entering the shower (finally), when I realize that although there is now water, there's no HOT WATER. I get my towel on and call him back; it finally it gets fixed right, but ugh! Why is everything so hard here sometimes?

Besides that:

1) I'm almost out of my smuggled-in Tide detergent (I don't know why but having American-scented clothes really cheers me up)

2) I'm almost out of Pedro's contraband huggies

3) I'm completely out of my stash of American candy

4) Pedro is 1/3 angel, 2/3 tyrant right now (ok, so being in the States probably won't alleviate this problem, but he is playing a large part in my grouchiness)

I want to go home and eat cheese and chocolate chips without worrying about how much longer until they run out. I want to drink cold, fresh milk from the container and water from the tap! I want good ice-cream that doesn't cost a small fortune. I want one-stop shopping instead of going to 6 different stores to get what I need.

I want Target. Now.

The good news is that my brother- and sister-in-law are coming on Saturday and they've agreed to be my mules (suckas!). So, at least I'll get a few things to hang me over for the next 53 days (no, I'm not counting or anything) until I go home.

Thanks for letting me vent. (Don't get me wrong-Brazil's a great place. I'm just missing the conveniences of home. I'll be better tomorrow. Or at the latest, Saturday, when my stuff gets here.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Taking Another Risk

...the birthday party being the first risk. It went rather well, so I'm hoping my next bet is as successful.

We don't travel here like we have in other places we've lived. It's just too dang expensive-and they are very strict about the number of kids in a room-so we would always have to have 2 rooms. We have spent a total of 2 nights in a hotel here as a family the last 2 years. That's not even entirely true, because we left Pedro behind, poor kid.

It's only partly the money though-it's just not that fun to travel with a toddler. Having to fight with him to go to sleep in an unfamiliar location? Trying to enjoy a meal at a restuarant? I just don't want to spend a lot of money to do that- I can do it for free at home, thank you very much. I know someday it will be easier, but right now it's tough.

Anyway. The problem is that when there's no school I have 4 kids in an apartment. No yard. No neighborhood. Just three wild boys who tend to irritate one another (and me) after being together for about 15 minutes. Not pretty.

This week the kids have their Spring/Fall break. They also had last Friday off-so really it's not a week-but 10 days. I knew I would be crazy after about Tuesday, so I started looking around for things for us to do this weekend. The first option was a decent hotel in the mountains. Their 4- night special package for a family of our size would have cost us upwards of $2,000.00 USD.

I think I would prefer to go crazy in my apartment.

But then a friend told me about a site where you can rent homes.

So, tomorrow we will leave to stay in the same mountain town for 3 nights at a cost of around $100/night. I am a little worried though, because the site only had pictures of the outside areas of the house, which looked lovely-pool, soccer field, fishing pond, forest- but no pictures of the interior of the house. It could be totally nasty and creepy.

Looks nice, at least on the outside. We'll see...

In other news (things I don't want to forget):

...I took the kids to the zoo today. A mean money threw a paw-ful of mud all over Margarita. Pedro told me the armadillos were "awesome"...

...Pedro calls Yoda "Soda" and the W11 numchucks "dumbchucks"; he also calls both of my parents his gender-neutral creation "Tampa". It's not pronounced like the city, it comes out sounding much closer to "tampon"...

...Julio cannot be physically separated from his soccer ball. It irritates me to no end to hear the constant kicking of it, but then I try to remember we live an an apartment and the poor kid doesn't have a yard to go to...

...speaking of soccer balls, Pedro can play "kick-it" all day long. When we kick the ball to him he always says, "nice one!" so cute...

I hope not to post again until at least Sunday-if I post earlier that means we've returned prematurely from our scary rental house.

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Now I Get It.

Now I get why Brazilians out-source all of their birthday parties.

It was so.much.easier than a normal birthday party for me. The most stressful part of the 7 hour day was walking the 18 kids across the street to load them into the 15-seat van (no one wanted to ride in Guapo's car with Pedro):

Once we got to the farm-it was smooth sailing. They provided all the food (including the cake) and even decorated with the must-have birthday theme table:

They entertained the kids for 4 straight hours. I had my doubts, I admit. I thought about requesting a 2 1/2 hour party, but then decided not to since I was paying a fair amount of money for the party. They rotated the kids through a variety of activities including:

Feeding ducks:

Feeding livestock (one kid even got a free ride on the bulls horns-he climbed up the fence and grabbed on which freaked out the bull who swung him around into the pen. A little scary-but it all ended well. Luckily his mom was there so I didn't have to relay the story to her after the party.):

Riding horses:

Milking cows (I couldn't resist-I had to try it):

Playing with a friendly rat (ewwww, I could resist):

and they even had a zip-line:

Thee were only a few minor annoyances. Two kids didn't RSVP (after sending out an invitation and 2 emails begging for RSVP's)- one showed up at our house with her nanny and her cousin. They other showed up at the farm two hours late with her mom and her brother. These two cases were annoying because they didn't RSVP to start with, and then they brought extra people. Since it was a pay-per-head situation, I wasn't thrilled.

Then, one of the kids mom's picked her up an hour and a half late (after I'd had her kid for the last 7 hours). How can you do that???

Other than that it was a great day and I'd probably do it again. Even Pedro had a good day despite missing his nap. He got to try fresh cow's milk:

It took him a minute to decide:

but ultimately, he declared to Gaupo, "That's good milk Dad!"

When I was undressing him for his bath when we got home, I was shocked at what I found in his diaper:

No, I wouldn't show you a poopy diaper. Look a little closer:

Those are little stones.


What the heck? I didn't notice him collecting and depositing them, but I can't figure out how else he could have gotten them in there. No wonder he had a fit being strapped in his car seat on the ride home.

It's over and I am relieved. :) No more kid birthdays for 6 months.

Wait a second.

Did I mention how much I love Juan Carlos? This is a post about his birthday.

Let's see, he is such a cute boy with a very sunny disposition. When he smiles, it lights up the room. He gets excited over the littlest things. He collects anything he finds when we are out and about and calls them his "treasures". When I arrive in his classroom to help out he always stops whatever he's doing, runs over to me and gives me a big hug. When I drop him off at school I'll watch him head up the stairs to his classroom and without fail he'll yell down at me, loud enough for the entire elementary school to hear, "Bye mom-I love you!" I know he won't do this forever-so I cherish it each time he does it.

Even though Pedro is my baby-Juan Carlos is my baby. My mamma's boy. I've told him I've made a deal with the Tooth Fairy that he can't loose any teeth so he can stay my little boy. He halfway believes me I think because everyone else in his class has lost a tooth except for him.

The day he has a loose tooth will be a heartbreaking one for me.

I love you Juan Carlos, Happy Birthday!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What Have I Gotten Myself Into Now?

No, I'm not talking about the half-marathon. This makes that look like a walk in the park.

Tomorrow we are having Juan Carlos's 6th birthday party. Semi-Brazilian style.

Unless you live here, I don't think you can truly appreciate the importance of birthday partys in the social life of a Brazilian child (or their parents'). The parties are huge events that include all the family and all the friends of the birthday person. And, oftentimes, family members of the friends. And, of course, friends of all the family members.

Parties are normally held at a "Casa de Festa", (party house) and have a variety of activties for kids of all ages, including, but certainly not limited to:

Zip lines:

Climbing walls:

Various mechanical rides:

And my kids' personal favorite-tables filled with candy to be eaten at at their leisure throughout the party:

I have no problem with going to these parties, other than the fact that they normally last 4 hours and I'm sorry but I just can't do a kid's party for 4 hours (famous last words...).

My kids adore these parties!

My kids WANT these parties for themselves.

Never gonna happen.


They cost thousands of dollars. I am not exaggerating. I looked into one a while back (after listening to my kids whine about how everybody has a party like this) and the cheapest option was close to $2,000.00. No, no. My kids get small parties at home where we order pizza, I bake a cake from a smuggled-in boxed cake mix, we play freeze-dance and the limbo, and they get to invite a few of their friends whose mothers I know won't also send along their brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, etc.

Do I love this kind of party? No. The thought of doing it off-site is very appealing. No cleaning. No cooking. No entertaining. Less stress. But I'm fiscally responsible person (except when it comes to shoes, of course)-so what can ya do?

Then, last month, when I went with Julio on his field trip to the "farm", I noticed a pamphlet about having birthday parties there. Interesting. It turns out they cost a (small) fraction of what these party houses charge.

So, I start thinking... maybe I can give Juan Carlos the kind of party he's always wanted-where he can invite his entire class and I can be the HERO!

I pick out the cheapest packet, which is a party held on a day mid-week of course, and I start looking for a day during the week that the kids don't have school, but that is not a Brazilian Holiday (we don't want too many people on the farm while we're there). So, tomorrow their school has a teacher in-service day. Perfect. And next week is Spring Break (well, really Fall Break if you want to get technical). Excellent. That mean's a lot of people will probably be traveling, right? -so I can get the all the credit for inviting the entire class but chances are only a few will actually be able to come!


Long story short.

It appears that practically no one will be traveling before Saturday and that everyone was more than happy to get rid of their kid for a day. The entire class is coming. I have to rent a very large van to haul all these kids out to "the farm" which is over 75 minutes away. The party will last 4 hours. Followed by the van ride ride home.

Basically I am hosting a 7-hour birthday party/kindergarten field trip without the teachers for fifteen 5 and 6 year olds. On the upside-this is a super-nice group of kids. But still, it's a lot of kids.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Do I Dare Mention It?

Am I superstitious?

I have to admit I'm a little afraid of my blog. Sometimes it curses me-like the thing last week with Margarita having the goal to not miss a single day of school. I know I already harped about this but she made it all the way from August 2nd when she started school until the day after I posted that without missing school. That's eight months! Then I mention it on my blog and she gets sick? I mean, isn't that weird?

And last year, I let it be known via my blog that I was going to run a 1/2 marathon. Then at the height of my training the 192-hour flu hit and left me with just 3 weeks to build back up to 13 miles. I think not.

So, I'm doing it again. I am starting to train for a 1/2 marathon in June in Colorado. "The Slacker Half Marathon" to be exact, which is quite an oxymoron if you ask me. I've got a little more than 2 months to get in shape. I haven't run one now since Juan Carlos (now 6 yrs old) was just a baby. I think it's about time.

It's also helpful that we have a wedding two weeks later (yay for Guapo's sister!) and why that motivates me to get in shape (it's not like it's my wedding), I don't know, but it does.

So, blog, whatcha going to do about it?

(Why am I mentioning this at all if I am, in fact, superstitious? Two reasons. 1) I have nothing else to blog about and Easter's over. And 2) because I'm nervous about actually having to run it-so if there are any "forces" out there that prefer that I not, I'm cool with that. It's better than just being plain lazy.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter...

From Brazil...
I hope you all have a wonderful day. :)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Odds and Ends

Broken Streak-The Blog Strikes Again

Poor Margarita, the day after I blog about her goal of not missing even one day of school this year, she comes down with a fever and can't go. :(

Best Apple Cake Ever

I love apple cake. I have serious issues when it comes to making pie crusts, so I have to assuage my love of apples and cinnamon with cake instead of pie. I have tons of recipes (well, so really only 5) and am always trying to find the best one.

The Search Is Over.

I will be throwing out all other apple cake recipes the next time I organize my recipes. This baby is the bomb of apple cakes. Don't let the spring form pan scare you off (they don't scare you? Hmmm, I guess that's just me)-it is so worth the uneasiness I feel about using it.

1 3/4 c sugar, divided
1 t vanilla
2 large eggs
1/2 c softened butter
6 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 c flour
1/4 t salt
2 1/2 t cinnamon
3 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced

Preheat oven to 350. Beat 1 1/2 cups sugar, butter, vanilla and cream cheese at medium speed until well blended (about 4 min). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture beating at low speed until well blended. Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Combine half of this mixture with the apples in a bowl, and then stir into the batter. pour batter into an 8 or 9 inch spring form pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour until cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cool completely before serving (good luck with that! We can never wait-I think it's better warm anyway)

Looking for a Good Book?

In my last few months of reading, I have read two books that I thoroughly enjoyed. They are both books I bought for my book club; the first I was a little embarrassed to introduce to the group-the storyline is so...gruesome and sounds so awful-but it had so many good reviews on Amazon (4 1/2 stars and an unusually large number of reviews-372) that I ordered it anyway. After seeing that it hadn't been checked out after a couple of meetings I decided to give it a try (truth be told, I was feeling just a tad insecure in my role as The Book Buyer).

The book is, "The Hunger Games" by Suzzanne Colins.

I could NOT put this book down. I took it with me on my little trip to Argentina last month and I read the entire flight (not what I had planned on doing since I rarely fly without children-I was thinking more of a nice long nap), and then I kid you not, I was reading every time I stopped moving, no matter how briefly, in the airport (waiting in the immigration line, waiting for my bag, waiting in line to use the cash machine, waiting for the taxi to pull up, etc, etc.).

The story line is not something that would normally attract me: a futuristic world where the central government requires yearly of each of its outlying "rebellious" provinces, one male and one female youth to compete in a nationally broadcasted reality-show where they fight to the death until one victor remains. Awful, huh? I know, it just sounds hor-rib-le.

But, I loved it. Romance, action, bravery, perseverance, friendship, loyalty.

The second book is, "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett.

It is set in the Mississippi during the 1960's and is told from the perspective of three different women: two black women who work as maids in white households and a white woman recently returned from college with hopes becoming a writer who struggles to fit in to her old life. She comes up with a plan to write a book that tells the personal stories of several maids that she knows. You can imagine that it's not easy to find even one maid who is willing to risk her job, or possibly her life, to share such stories in a book that could be read by their employers. She eventually finds 12 who are willing and writes her book, at a very heavy price for both her and for the women she interviews. But, along with the struggles and losses, there is also triumph of the human spirit-and that's why I loved it so much.

I think I'm drawn to books that involve issues of domestic help since I have lived in countries where it is commonplace, and have had domestic help the last eight years. This book really made me think about what some women give up to have their "freedom" from the mundane-ness of child rearing-the chance to be there consistently for their children in the simplest of moments-to give a hug, wipe a nose, or read a story before nap time. It made me glad I've never employed someone solely as a nanny-sure, I like to have a maid that is capable to babysit here and there when I have to be out-but I have never wanted someone else to be in charge of my kids. A lot of people do that here.

Anyway... two good books.

The Current Bain of My Existence

Library books.

I feel like I am in a constant state of searching. The three older kids are each allowed to check out 3 books, 1 DVD, 1 video and 1 magazine at a time. That's a potential of 15 different objects in my home at any one time that must be returned at some point to the school. There is always something lost...

And that's about it from here...

Friday, April 03, 2009

Happy Birthday Margarita!

Spring is our big birthday time around here. 5 birthdays in 2 months.

Margarita's was a few weeks ago, but, I was so wrapped up in the little photo project that I didn't blog about it before. Here's my baby 10 years ago when she was turning 1 year old (sadly, this is the best picture I have of her on that day-how did that happen???):

What can I say about Margarita? Just that you should all be jealous that I have such an awesome daughter-I really don't think they come much better. Sure, we have little disagreements at times causing her to leave us notes like this one:

But, those moments are few and far between. If I could freeze her age at 11 years old, I really think I'd give it some thought; she's:

  • helpful

  • kind

  • smart

  • cute

  • inquisitive

  • creative

  • independent

  • friendly

  • happy

She gets great grades and is a good friend to many at school. Here she is with her Destination Imagination team that won their country challenge last week:

They acted out their own updated version of three little pigs complete with songs and dances they had written and choreographed. She is so excited to travel next month to Tennessee, of all places, to compete in the global finals.

Her two goals this year at school are (I repeat, she gets excellent grades, so it's not like the girl's not motivated, but these are her two goals):

1) to not miss a single day (except for school related activities)


2) to wear the same Nike tennis shoes everyday

She takes them very seriously.


I feel so grateful everyday that she is my daughter. Happy Birthday Margarita!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

It's No April Fool's Day Joke-I'm Back

Ok. My photo situation is finally somewhat under control.

I haven't obsessed like that in I don't know how long. I have been dreaming about photos every night and working on my little "project", that felt like at least a part-time job, incessantly.

Here's what I did:

1) Scanned, divided, cropped, named, dated, and organized HUNDREDS of snapshots from pre-digital days.

2) Scanned or downloaded all professionally taken photos including ALL school photos, both individual and class photos.

3) Imported all the digital photos stored on our PC-this includes photos from our first digital camera-purchased in mid-1998 until I got my laptop 3 years ago-on to my laptop so I could have all of our photos in my photoshop organizer. These were in pretty sloppy shape, so it involved a lot of looking through each folder looking for misplaced or duplicate photos.

4) Went through all my emails looking for ones with photos that I wanted to keep, and that were big enough worth keeping.

5) Went through all of our CD's and DVD's that that people have given us with photos of various activities, and downloaded, organized, and named each file.

6) Backed up all of these photos in at least 3 different places.

And now I never want to take another picture again in my life. Kidding, kidding.

So has life stood still during the madness? Of course not, life has been busy.

Highlights include:

1) After a grueling 24 hour labor, my sister delivered a sweet little baby girl.

2) Margarita's Destination Imagination Team won their country finals challenge, enabling them to travel to Tennessee for the Global Finals where she will represent Brazil (Is this situation comical to anyone else? My American daughter will travel to the States and be, as far as anyone there is concerned, a Brazilian.).

3) Pedro split his chin one night last week around 8:00 pm when the kids were all ready for bed and Guapo was out of town (of course). I had to load all four kids into a cab to go to our pediatrician's friend who is a plastic surgeon. Although he needed it, he didn't want to put him through the trauma of stitching him up so he taped and glued him up (with the very same products that I have in my first-aid kit) and charged me $250.00.

Pedro had peeled everything off by the next morning.

Oh well, it's pretty far under his chin and he's a boy, right?

Sorry, I'd show you photos of all three events, but at this moment, I don't have it in me to download anymore photos and mess with my perfect organized photo files.

Maybe tomorrow. I promise I'll be a better blog friend in April. :)