Sunday, June 27, 2010

First Post From Colorado

Well, I guess it's about time that I get back to posting, huh? The last 10 days have been extremely busy and full. You think I was crazy with my pre-move organizing? That was nothing compared to the frenzy since we arrived here on the 19th. I want to have everything just how I want it immediately and it's just not possible, but I sure give it my best effort. All other activities such as blogging, reading, remembering important birthdays (sorry Abs- happy birthday!), piano playing, and sometimes eating, sleeeping, and showering have all been put on hold until today.

May we never move again-I don't think I can go through it.

So, I'm going to show you some photos of the house-it's not "done" by any means, but if I waited until it was, I probably wouldn't post until 2024.

My sister-in-law was in charge of choosing paints, furniture, bathroom remodels, etc, etc. She did a fantastic job and if I were to have another child, I would owe it to her for her incredible effort in our behalf.

Here she is with her favorite update-the master bath (and yes, she always looks that cute-you know how those designer types are):

Just so you get an idea of how much she did, here's a before picture of the bathroom (that's carpet on the floor):

We didn't do much in the kitchen, but what she did do added a lot I think. Here's the before:

And the after (sorry it's a little messy-no more maid-mamma's tired!)

She added this awesome mosaic (I heart mosaics) back splash (isn't that just a fun to say?):

That's my new Kitchen Aid-apparently I need to make some banana bread with it.

Here's the family room before:

and after:

The TV's on the coffee table because our entertainment unit hasn't arrived yet and we still need another chair and some curtains in there, but you get the idea. I love the green paint and the new beefed-up mantle and that she got rid of that nasty wood paneling.

Here are a couple of different views of the dining room-I love the metallic plum paint, the leafy chandelier and the velvet chairs that the kids aren't allowed to get near (practical, I know):

Here's the living room (sorry, no before here; just imagine a boring rectangular room with white walls:

The mirrors were one of my few "finds" of the whole process. I love them. My mom 's neighbor was moving and gave us the piano-yay! It desperately needs to be tuned, but it works.

Here are two more bathrooms-no before here either but they were very similar to the master bath-icky with carpet. Now we have granite on the counter tops and natural stone tile on the floors:

And here's the master bedroom; we're still working on the accent pillows and shams for the bed and we're missing one dresser (I don't want to share):

I'd show you the boys' rooms, but they are too messy for photos right now and Margarita's room needs a little more work before it's photo worthy-but at some point I will post pictures.

Here's the BEAST of a lawn that we have spent hours upon hours this past week giving us all sore backs and blisters. We have a very vigilant HOA and it's going to be a big job keeping them off our back:

Julio receiving his first mowing lesson (he proceeded to mow about 90% of the lawn):

Finally, here's the lovely view from the lake in our neighborhood:

It's great to be home!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What I'm Taking From Brazil (besides flip-flops)

This morning, after I dropped off my kids for their last day of school, I went to my favorite spot-an outcropping of rocks in between Ipanema and Copacabana. I like to stop there halfway through a run , turn off my Ipod, and just sit and enjoy the beautiful scenery while contemplating life.

Brazil's been a tough place for me. I've spent a lot of my time feeling lonely and like I'm just not quite apart of things. That's not to say that I don't like it here, it was just hard. On the upside, I feel like I've gained a perspective that I didn't have before-one of what it must feel like to be an immigrant far from home; that will make me more sensitive to people in those types of situations in the future. I've also used my free time for running, piano, and reading, so that's been good.

I was sitting on those rocks thinking if I had to live permanently in one of the 4 places we've lived out of the United States, I would choose Mexico City, but if I had to choose one of the places to actually be from, I would choose Brazil. Does that sound strange? I felt like I personally fit in better in Mexico City, but if I were a Brazilian, I would love Brazil and find it very hard to leave my country for another because the culture is so rich here.

Some things that will stay with with me through the years about Brazil and Brazilians:

...I appreciate how much Brazilians love children. They have a patience and affection for kids that I haven't seen anywhere else.

...I love that no matter what problems they may have in their lives, they are for the most part very happy. They seem to know that there is much more to life than a paycheck.

...They spend their free time with their extended families.

...Speedo's aren't just for swimming.

...There's an ageless attitude here-people are physically and mentally active from childhood until death-there's less of an "I'm too old" attitude.

...They smile easily and are very inclusive.

...They LOVE, LOVE, LOVE soccer! It's different than with our sports teams in the States-it goes almost all year round and there is always some tournament going on that people are excited about. Rio has 4 teams and you must be affiliated with a team-that's sometimes the first question you are asked when meeting someone for the first time. And once you have your team-there's no switching, that's a cardinal sin around here. I've actually had a conversation with a seemingly reasonable woman about how her son actually changed jobs and moved his family out of their town and state just because his wife's family was putting pressure on their kids to join "their" team!

In the States you'd say, "I'm a Bronco's fan" but here you'd say "I'm a Bronco"-there's a lot more ownership.

Soccer adds a dimension and diversion to their lives that we don't have.

Speaking of the which, today's Brazil's first game in the World Cup. It's practically a holiday. The kids are getting out early from school and Guapo's 7:40 am doctor's appointment was cancelled due to the game at 3:30. Everyone (with a capital "E") is dressed in yellow and green, including the dogs:

A couple of Brazilian customs that will stick with me:

After living here, I will never be able to allow a departing guest in my house to open the door for themselves, it's considered very rude and a guest will wait all day until you open the door for them.

And I will never be able to set my purse on the floor (it makes me uncomfortable just looking at this picture:

Purses and bags must be placed upon something, otherwise you are destined to lose your money. If you, without knowing this, put your bag on the floor, believe me you, someone will move it for you in a jiffy!

On the other hand, I won't miss feeling uncouth when I grab french fries or pizza with my hands instead of using a fork, or when I drink directly from a can of soda instead of using a straw. :)

In conclusion...

I'm ready to go. I'm happy about the change we're making- my kids will get to experience living in their own country and won't have to worry about moving anytime soon, and we'll be near family (and a million other things I'm looking forward to-let's not forget about Target). I think having observed the richness of Brazilian life as an outsider has increased my desire to be back in my own country, enjoying everything life has to offer there.

Life is really good.

Time to pick up the kiddos.

More tomorrow...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

If this isn't a sign, I don't know what is...

This is my box of Kirkland Plastic Food Wrap. It contained 3,000 square feet of plastic wrap. I've always had a special bond with this particular plastic wrap purchase and have felt it deserved it's own post about, but I've just never done it. Until today.

I bought it at Costco when we first moved to Mexico City in August of 2006. I have used it almost daily since then-almost 4 years now.

It ran out tonight; just four short days before we leave Brazil. Just four days before I'll be able to go to Costco again and buy some new plastic wrap (maybe not quite such a big box this time). I love it when the stars align like that. :)

Goodbye plastic wrap, thanks for serving me so well over the years and staying with me til the end. Your sticking power really blew away the local Mexican and Brazilian competitors.

Now it's time for us both to move on.

(yes, I know I'm weird)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Elephant in the Room

Ok, be honest. What's the first thing you thought of when you heard we were moving back to the States to be "normal" people again?

I imagine among my friends and family it was some variation of: "However is she going to manage without her maid and driver? This should be entertaining."

I'm right there with ya.

I've had maids (of varying degrees of aptitude) now for 9 long years. When I left Louisiana in 2001, Margarita was Pedro's exact age (3 years and 3 months), and Julio was just 8 months old. So, basically none of my kids know what life is like without a maid. I don't know what life is like with 4 kids without a maid.

I'm scared.

My fears fall into 4 main categories, cleaning, cooking, taking up permanent residence in my minivan, and occasional childcare. Let's examine.


For the last 9 years I've been doing "recreational" cleaning; a load of laundry here, a little windexing there. Most nights I leave the kitchen spotless because enjoy doing so. I do a little cleaning and then I feel good about myself, "look at me, I'm cleaning!" But, on any given night, if I'm too busy or too tired to clean up after dinner I know that my kitchen will be spotless by 8am the next day.

And can you imagine how lazy kids are that have had a maid? I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that our kids make their beds everyday before school and do 3 chores in the afternoon. They are basically pigs. Oh, we've tried various types of job charts and chore schemes over the years, but at the end of the day, when we tired of the constant effort that is required to maintain such programs, we knew and more importantly, the kids knew, that maid would do it. It's just not the same.

Keeping my house clean is going to be a real challenge. Cleaning just isn't a good fit with my personality; I am a goal/task-oriented person. I like things that have a starting point and a ending point and ways to mark progress and success. This is why I loved school so much-quizzes, tests, and a final exams that marked the END of the class.

Cleaning, as you know, is nothing like this. There's no start or stop and no one is grading me (at least not to my face). It is a never-ending, thankless task. I read on someone's blog once that the laundry isn't done unless everyone's naked-so, so true.

It's going to be a shock for all of us.


Pretty much the same story as cleaning, but I enjoy it more. I did almost all of the cooking during our time in Venezuela and Mexico. I even got into doing freezer meals and planning month long menus in Mexico. But for the last three years, I've enjoyed the luxury of only having to cook my favorite dishes on the weekends. The difficult part of cooking for me is the dreaded question, "What's for dinner tonight?"

I know I'll get into a routine, and get some kind of plan going, but it will take a while. If you know of any good cooking blogs (or cleaning blogs, for that matter), please let me know.

The good thing is, as I've mentioned before, my kids hate "maid food" and think think whatever I cook is AWESOME. Who knows for how long that will last...

Taking up Permanent Residence in My Minivan

I've only had a driver for the last 4 years, but oh, how I've loved it. If I had to pick between a driver and a maid, I think I'd go with a driver. Although I'm an oddity here in that I take my kids to school everyday (with my driver), he removes a lot of the burden of being a mom. He does playdate drop-offs and pick-ups, any errands I don't feel like doing during the day, and picks up items at the grocery store.

Whatever I ask, he has to say "yes" because that's his job. It's the best.

Shortly, I'll have four kids in three different school, all involved in multiple activities. It's a good thing I like my car and listening to audio books cause I think I'm going to be in it a lot.

Occasional Childcare

Although I'm not as concerned about this issue, it will still be more difficult. One of the things I'm most proud of about my 9 years overseas is that I never turned over mothering to someone else; no maid was ever in charge of bathing, feeding, bedding, overseeing homework, or caring for my children. I never had a "baby nurse" to get up at night with my newborns. I didn't participate in ongoing activities that took me away from my babies and toddlers other than helping out in the older kids' classrooms. I know these things might sound funny to someone who hasn't lived in a country where maids and nannies were the norm, but it would have been very easy to have had more help in this area.

Because I haven't I can say I know exactly what it means to have 4 kids at home. But, it has been super convenient to have someone here during the weekdays who was always available to stay with the kids for an hour or two here and there. I'll miss that. I don't like like to inconvenience other people with my kids, so I'll be lugging them everywhere until they are old enough to stay by themselves (except for when my mom wants to watch them!).

I know I'll survive-one of the important things I have learned living this lifestyle is that people, in general, are very adaptable. But it could be a rough adjustment for all of us. :)

Monday, June 07, 2010

What Was I Just Saying?

Yes, I realize how hypocritical this post is so quick on the heels of the last. But, allow me to clarify. I'm not so much "anti-stuff" as I am "anti-useless-stuff-that-takes-up-too-much-space". I'm all for useful stuff. And what's more useful than shoes? I mean, you've got to have them, right?

And Brazil's Havaianas are the hands-down best flip-flops in the world. (So what if they offer little to no arch support and after 3 years of using them my foot is a size larger, requiring me to buy all new shoes (dang it! ;)? ). And, they are so cheap here-just over $10 USD a pair-compared to close to $30.00 in the States. Let's not forget I'm leaving next week, and I probably won't return to Brazil for years, if ever. And, did I mention Margarita and I have the same size foot right now, so we can share shoes? So when I buy 2 pairs, it's really like I'm buying one for me and one for her? And, flip flops take up hardly any space at all.

So what's a girl to do?

I love them. All of them.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

thoughts on stuff

So they came and took the boxes away on Friday. They arrived at 8:45 while I was still in my pj's and were out by 11:45. When my friend, who was planning on taking my big boys for the afternoon, called at 12:30 to see how things were going and I told her they were gone (please will you still take the kids?) she asked, "Are you sure that was a Brazilian company?" It was very un-Brazilian service-not to be a bratty expat or anything-I'm pretty sure most Brazilians would agree, things don't generally go so smoothly here.

It was a good day. Not only were they out by 11:45, the movers also made a point to tell me that the move went so quickly because I had everything so well organized-thank you very much. And, on top off all that, when we packed out of Mexico for our move to Brazil we had 204 boxes; Friday we had, drum roll please...


Sure, they may have used some bigger boxes, but certainly not all of them were 2X as big. There was some stuff that belonged to the company that we brought from Mexico and that will be staying here in Brazil for the next family-pots and pans, some kitchen appliances, some bedding and towels, storage baskets, tv-trays (thank goodness-I've hated those things since we bought them in Small Town), etc. Then there's all the stuff I have systematically eliminated over the last three years-lots of baby gear (with the exception of Guapo's brother's crib-get ready Abby, it's on its way!), cruddy Christmas and Halloween decorations, clothes, unused toys, some of my treasures, etc, etc.

I feel uber proud to have whittled it down to 100 boxes full of only useful, or cherished, or both, items.

But here's what I've learned about shipments over the last nine years: we will get ourselves all settled and cozy in Colorado and be doing just fine when one day, several months from now, a big truck will show up in front of our house with 100 boxes and I will think, "What am I going to do with all of this stuff? We were doing just fine with the stuff that's already in the house. Where am I going to put it all?"

Happens every time.

I've become much more aware of my "stuff" over the last nine years due to the moving process, the lack of easy access to American stuff in the places we've lived, and the struggles I've "endured" with trying to maintain a stash of my favorite stuff (namely: rash-inducing power shopping, lugging around 70 lb. suitcases and dodging customs agents). Due to this "awareness" I have become much more anti-stuff than I used to be. Basically, I don't want stuff taking up space in my house that is not useful to our family-simple as that.

More stuff=less free space=more clutter=harder to keep clean and orderly

(btw, my goal is to use the word stuff 100 times, in honor of my 100 boxes)

I have mastered stuff removal-I always have a growing pile of stuff in my closet to give away, and I thoroughly enjoy finding new homes for my stuff. But there's another side to this-the intake of stuff into our house. I wouldn't have to be purging all the time if we didn't have so much useless stuff in the house to begin with. The stuff has to come from somewhere.

So, as we move into a house where we hope to live for the indefinite future and will not have the requisite purge every 2-3 years, I will focus more of my energy on the prevention of stuff intake. I've thought of a few areas where I can cut down on intake:

1) Books: we all enjoy reading in our family, and are very excited to use the public library. I will only buy books that I know will be read multiple times. (and, besides the library, my mom always buys all the latest and greatest books-hehehe)

2) Kitchen appliances: I will not be buying a juicer, popcorn popper, George Foreman grill, or electric can opener (I'm sorry, but I am completely prejudice against the electric can opener-I mean, how hard is it to open a can?) or other appliances that I will only use once a year and will take up valuable kitchen space.

3) Sale items: man, am I a sucker for sale items. I will buy something that's not quite what I needed or wanted just because it's on sale; later on I will get rid of it and buy what I initially wanted or needed-and I end up wasting money instead of saving it like I intended. I will try to think clearly before making these kinds of purchases.

4) DVDs: we'll be renting movies and then only purchasing those that we truly love.

5) Promotional Freebies: I don't know how many free water bottles that we received at various activities I got rid of. Or bottles of hotel shampoos-we don't need them! Something in our human nature makes us get really excited when there is free stuff to be had, but I end up tossing most of it in the end. Better to not bring it home in the first place.

So, please share with me your ideas on how to reduce stuff intake as we move back into a very stuff-oriented society.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Boxes, Boxes, Everywhere

Part one of the move was completed yesterday, much to my surprise due to movers' late arrival:

It was a team of three men and one woman and they were fast. They had everything boxed up in less than 5 hours (thanks of course to moi, who had everything in such ship shape)

Today was a Brazilian holiday (didn't we just have one?), so not only did I have lots of boxes around, I also had lots of kids around.

I bet you can guess what this ladder was being used for, can't you?

Yep, several boys, whom shall remain nameless, were using it to climb up to the top of the boxes and then were jumping down onto the bed.

It was a lot of work keeping the kids off all those tempting boxes! Luckily we didn't have any trips to the hospital, and the boxes should be gone tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

La Dee Da

For the first time in weeks, I have nothing to do. The movers are packing, the kids are at school, so I'm just hanging out.

After all of my work and stress (that I just discovered gave me a cold sore-boo-h00, and made me lose 5 lbs-yay!) I was sitting here this morning at 10:15 waiting for the packers to arrive.


My kids will all be coming home in 6 short hours and they haven't arrived yet.

So I call and they tell me that they don't normally arrive until 10 because of "traffic" (??? Really? You can't plan ahead for something like that?), but if they hadn't shown up by 10:30 to call back. I had to leave to go to book club (what will I ever do without my maid to hang around the house so I don't have to?), but they did eventually show up around 10:30. When I got back at 12:15 they were just starting their hour long lunch break.

Can you see the smoke coming out of my ears?

Oh, Brazil, there are some things I just won't miss.

So, now they are working again until, I dunno, 3:30-4ish? They'll put in a hefty four-hour work day.

Anyway, I wanted you all to get a look at, and say goodbye to, the worst car we've ever owned:

We bought it when we arrived here from the guy who was in Guapo's position before him. Over the three years I don't know how many thousands of dollars we put into it and then we sold it for a whopping 40% of what we paid for it. In it's final months with us, whenever we were stopped at a traffic light you would have sworn you were sitting in one of those massage chairs because it vibrated so bad. And about once a day during the last week, the fuse that was over the air conditioning and turn signals would burn out.

Awesome, awesome car.

And poor Ballerina Girl's driver bought it. Oh well, he'll probably sell it for parts and do pretty well. Whatever, as long as it's not my problem anymore.

Here are me and Sergio the driver spending our final moments with the van:

We look pretty sad, eh?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect (or really, really anal)

At some point tomorrow morning a group of movers will show up here with their brown boxes, tape, bubble wrap, and recycled-looking paper ready to pack anything and everything they can get their grubby little hands on.

I'm ready for them.

Just so that I can pat myself on the back later on in life (or, sooner, like tomorrow night), let's take a look at what I've been up to the last couple of weeks.

First Task: Sorting. I can think of 5 main categories and various other sub-categories:

1) Trash: a) recyclable paper (must be taken to the school) b) must-be-shredded paper c) "easy" trash (can be placed in any trashcan inside the apartment, larger items just outside our door on our same floor) d) "high-maintenance" trash (must be hidden in on a different floor of the apartment building as "someone", aka Julio, will take it out because it's not trash at.all.)

2) Give-Away items that go to: a) the maid, b) the driver, c) the piano teacher, d) the doormen, e) Juan Carlos's teacher, f) Julio's teacher, h) Pedro's teacher, i) the school library, j) church

3) Items that go on the plane with us: a) carry on, b) checked bag

4) Items that belong to Guapo's company

5) Items that belong to the owners of the apartment

So, every.single.item from in my house has been sorted into one of these 5 categories and is now somehow arranged so that hopefully the movers won't take anything that doesn't belong in Colorado.

Second Task: Arranging. My best friends the last few days have been all of my Rubbermaid boxes and my label maker. More than 50% of the packers' job tomorrow will be putting my boxes into their boxes.

Julio's room:

Gotta love those labels (even if I'm the only one who respects them):

Juan Carlos's and Pedro's room:

Juan Carlos's and Pedro's closet:

I should mention that I have personally gone through every one of these boxes-there is not an item out of place. For one fleeting moment in time, all games have all of their pieces, the costumes are all folded neatly and their accessories are in a separate bag, the three different kinds of trains that we have are all in their own boxes, all little bouncy balls have been disposed of, there are no cars in the airplane box, or vice versa, and with a moderate-to-high level of confidence I can say that I just may have located every last rouge Lego in the entire house.

Instead of leaving the items in the room of origin, I created more work for myself by making umpteen trips between the three floors so that most things are in the living room so as to speed the packaging process along:

And a special thanks here to my maid who somehow managed to keep it looking clean and presentable throughout the process.

Everything's disconnected and ready to go (this was one of Guapo's jobs-excellent work!):

I placed the things that are going with us in our bags in designated closets and cupboards which now have tape "X's" on them:

Things that I can't realistically stick in the closets, but that need to stay here (don't mess with my Internet, dudes), have orange dots on them:

Hopefully they'll get this-it's the worst (speaking from experience) to have a half-full (half-empty?) trash can delivered after months of sitting in a hot, stuffy container:

This afternoon, the moving company brought over 4 industrial strength dehumidifiers:

I'm pretty sure it's completely pointless since it's raining out and house is leaking like a sieve in almost every room. Oh well... it's the thought that counts, right?

It's kind of ironic that on what we hope will be our last move for a long time, I feel like I have it mostly under control. At what cost has this organizational masterpiece come to pass, you ask? Well, my kids probably wouldn't tell you I've been the funnest mom lately. Unless their idea of fun is sifting through tens of thousands of Lego's looking for non-Lego items, which it didn't appear to be. That and I haven't shaved my legs for days-that takes way to much of my precious time.

Guapo says I'm like one of these:

He's right. I am a (did I mention that I also baked homemade chocolate chip cookies today for, and attended, Julio's going away party today, practiced piano, posted on my blog, AND ran my fastest 3-miler in about, oh I dunno, 3 years?). I guess, in sporadic instances such as this, it's ok. If I felt like this all the time I would certainly be getting some counseling, or more likely, medication.

Guapo's not even here, did I mention that? When I found out that Guapo had to travel this week, leaving me solo to do this two-day move, one of which the four kids will be home for (aggggh!), I was not pleased. But after further reflection, I realized it's probably better for both of us that he not be here. When one person is obsessive about organizing and the other doesn't care about it so much, it can put a little "strain" on an otherwise perfectly happy relationship.

Before he left I asked him to go through some of his stuff. After sifting for a few minutes he says, "I don't know what to do with this stuff, can't I just stick it all in a box and go through it there?"

Ummmm, wrong concept.

Oh well, at least he gave it a go. Here's his box now, properly labeled:

Wish me luck tomorrow!