Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I'm getting a tiny bit better at navigating day-to-day life in a country that doesn't speak English. I'm learning that it's better to just throw it out there than to not even try. Brazilians, while they may laugh at you, are also laughing with you at your crap language skills. I practice with my maid every chance I get, because she's a captive audience, poor thing. A few weeks ago, some shoes I bought for the Marine Ball arrived. Man, they looked sexy and cute on Zappos.com. Black, silky, and strappy. I tried them on and they fit perfectly. And then I stood up and fell on my booty. I got out the measuring tape--four inch heels.  Zappos lies!!!! So I wore my boring-but-comfortable 2 1/2 inch strappy sandals and we left the ball early anyway because I was sick. Boo hoo.  The next day, when Graca came to clean the house, she spied the Calvin Klein box and said something like, "lindo" and "sapatos".  Now, I know enough portuguese to know she liked the shoes. I pantomimed for her to try them on and she declined, using words like "pés" and "grandes". I didn't know what pés are, but I'm pretty sure she was saying her feet were too big. Well, it was her lucky day, because I have huge feet. And they fit her.  I know she'll wear them because she walks to our house from the bus wearing four-inch heels all the time. Later that evening, I noticed that all the shoes in my closet had been neatly arranged and organized.

Today I had a whole conversation with Graca. And when I say "conversation", I mean a butchered, pathetic attempt at communication. I was making a latte, would she like one, yes, but no steamed milk, she's allergic to milk, that sort of thing. I was pretty impressed with myself so I began a new conversation with her about the kitchen. Here is where I say that Jack has been teaching us the slang words in portuguese, and I think I mixed them up. What I'm saying is that I think I told Graca that I wished my tiny asshole had windows. Because she laughed. At me and with me (I hope). Cuzinha? Cozinho?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Caldas Novas

Happy late Thanksgiving!  What? You're all going on about Christmas now? Whatevs, I can't get into the Christmas spirit when it's 85 degrees outside.  We had a lovely Thanksgiving meal with many new friends this year, then hit the road for some resort time. Caldas Novas is the the largest hydro-thermal resort in the world.  It's about a four hour drive from Brasilia, unless you go the long, circuitous route because the lady inside your GPS is an evil, evil witch. We had a great time and the kids want to go back soon. We were joined by another embassy family with similarly-aged kids, so our boys weren't "forced" to hang out together.

Jack and Henry couldn't get enough ziplining off of a high cliff into the warm waters. There were  huge fish lurking about which would scatter as soon as the kids hit the water.  Grace didn't even attempt it, but I paid for Olivia to try and she burst into tears on the way up to the platform, so Henry gladly took her spot:

Jack's at an awkward angle because I told him if he didn't protect his head, I'd kill him.

On our way to the swim-up bar.

The bartender refused to give me my caipirinha until she was satisfied I could pronounce it properly. Every time I messed up, she would pull the drink farther away from me. The water in every pool was like a bathtub, which came in handy when the skies opened up in the afternoon.

Our hotel had four pools which were geo-thermally heated. Brazilians are pretty relaxed about rules. There were people eating and boozing it up all around the edges of the pools, but we steered clear of the "booze pool", which was full of basically naked people drinking from 8am on.  The first ten minutes or so after our arrival, the kids noticed all the thongs and speedos and teeny, tiny bikinis, but after that, it was no big deal. As Henry said, "you seen one bumpy butt, you seen 'em all." Even grandmas wear thongs here.
 The long climb up to the slide in the rain.

 Guarana Girls

Every time my little drama queen struggled to get out of the pool, there happened to be a Brazilian adult to help pull her out. I'll have to do a post on how much Brazilians love children here. Grace didn't really care for this bit of familiarity, as you can see on her face. She's calculating how to get out fast enough so the lady next to her didn't give her a boost.

At our hotel, we met the author of this book, who happens to live in the hotel. He gave us a signed copy of the book, and was an incredibly gracious, welcoming man.  I read it on the way home and highly recommend it for travelling or living in Brazil. It's full of many useful tips that most phrasebooks don't tell you.  Osmar De Almedia-Santos is also a physician and advised us to avoid the booze pool as well. You don't have to tell me twice, mister.

The drive home was quick and the countryside was gorgeous. The tiny little towns along the way were fascinating and we saw a side of Brazil we don't normally see in Brasilia.

 'Boa Viagem'~Safe Travels
 Tiny kid on a tiny horse

Fairly deserted on a Sunday afternoon

After all that resting and relaxing, we were exhausted by the time we got home and happy to lounge outside with a glass of wine in our hands and our dog (who had his own adventure at some new friends' house) at our feet.

Monday, November 21, 2011


On this parenting journey, I've ridden in an ambulance with my semi-comatose daughter, had another child lose consciousness on the way to the hospital, dealt with swallowed coins, popcorn kernels in the ears of two children, three kid concussions, a broken toddler foot, ear-tube surgery, and delivered premature twins via emergency c-section.  Apparently, the universe thought I hadn't experienced enough parenting trauma. On Friday afternoon, Mitch called with the news that our oldest had somehow been hit in the head during his game at a soccer tournament outside of Sao Paulo, way on the other side of Brazil. The only information we had was that it was a head injury and he was on his way to the hospital, an hour away from the camp the kids were at. You haven't lived until your child is hurt in a developing country and you have no way of knowing if he's okay and no way to reach him or anybody who might know anything.  I died a thousand deaths, gathered up the kids and headed to the embassy. The next several hours were a blur. I do remember that there was some crazy hysterical lady there, who may or may not have been me. The embassy staff was amazing and helpful with translators and medical advice. I was able to speak to Jack at one point, finally, but he was slurring and not making much sense. That conversation terrified me. We heard conflicting reports about what had happened from different people: that he had been hit in the head by a soccer ball, that his head had been hit by another kid's head, and that he had hit his head on the ground during a celebratory tackle. It turned out that all three were true.We were in close contact with his school principal (who had ridden with him) once they reached the hospital, which was very helpful. The head CT came back normal, at which point I was finally able to breathe a little. They kept him for observation and he flew home on Saturday. The actual story of those three hits and the events leading up to the ambulance ride were worse than what I had even imagined had happened, making the fact that my child is now home and relatively in one piece somewhat of a miracle. After he woke up from his blackout ("I didn't lose consciousness, mom, I don't even remember anything but waking up on the field" Um. Okay, son.), he decided to go lie down. A few hours later, he woke up vomiting, seeing double, and unable to walk. I'm so glad I didn't know the details until he was home, breathing, flesh and blood.

It's a shame you can't really see the rainbow of colors under his eye.

Oh, and Jack's team took 3rd place in the tournament, but according to Jack, "Our school won for best injury. Represent!" Not sure what that means, but I'm 43 today, which means I'm officially too old to know what the hell these whippersnappers are talking about these days.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Getting settled.

Well, I finally got everything put away around here. It's really hard to make it feel like home when you don't have your own furniture and the furniture you are using is not to your taste. I'm not a huge fan of covering everything up with tablecloths and slipcovers, because it reminds me of those table tents we made as kids and I don't like my furniture looking like it's harboring a criminal or a creature. Or worse, another kid. So, here's what I came up with (for now, suckahs!).

The entryway, before:

And after:

The clocks show west coast time and Brasilia time. So certain people will stop waking up their nana.

The living room before:

And after:

Chess corner underneath the lovely folk art whale my old man picked
up in an antique shop for me one Valentine's Day.

These pics would have looked much better with lovely lighting, but the electricity isn't working in parts of the house today. See how blasé I am about that? I'm totally becoming assimilated to living in Brazil. And yes, I have slipcovers on the couches, but I had no choice about that, as I'm sure anyone would agree. And yes, they're also white. But cotton and washable (I hope?). I had both red and white slipcovers that I'd gotten when we were in Virginia in anticipation of receiving ugly state department couches, but only one of the red slipcovers made it to Brazil. I put it in the TV room.



This room is still snoozeville, but I never go in here, so I probably won't do anything more to it. It's where the kids play video games.

The bedrooms are pretty boring, and I only have a before shot of the girls room, so here it is. It seems to have developed some sort of pink and green fungus on the wall.


And after:

Not too easy on the eyes, is it?

I'd love to show you a before and after of the kitchen, but it would sadly look the same. And finally, the dining room.


Of all the state department furniture we received, There were two things that I thought were really heinous. This china cabinet is one, which is mirrored and lights up:
There's really nothing I could do to change it up that much, but I did paint a huge piece of paper the same color as the wall and cover the mirror with it, as you can see above. We spend a lot of time in the dining room as a family, and the lighting was really harsh and bright, so my long-suffering husband changed out the light fixture for me. We'll change it back when we leave. The new one is shown above. Thank you, good, old, reliably cheap IKEA!

The other uber-heinous items that we just sent back to the warehouse were these pineapple lamps. Nothing I can say about them that the picture doesn't already say.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


My middle child turned eleven last week. We went to a churrascaria called 'Porcão', but we call it "Poor Cow" for obvious reasons.  They bring swords of sizzling meat to your table as often as you can take it. One of my daughters (let's call her Caligula) thought this was the greatest restaurant she had ever been, or would ever go to. The meal ended as many of our meals end, with her hunched over the toilet in the restroom. But was she done? Apparently not, as her words on the way back to the table were, "I think I'd like to try those chicken thingies they're bringing around right now."

I'll have some of that!  Um, I mean the meat, you guys. I'm talking about the meat on the sword. Sheesh.

Look at that face. And this is only round two of the meat delivery.

Just lettuce and tomatoes for Caligula's twin. And one piece of sushi.

On Saturday, Henry had about six of his closest buddies over for a party. I used to plan all kinds of theme activities for their parties when the kids were younger, but Henry just wanted to have a water fight now that he's too cool for themed games. I ordered a bunch of Super Soakers, and they spent four hours soaking each other, breaking a few times for pizza, cake, and beating each other with pool noodles on the trampoline. It was the first time my November boy was able to have an outside birthday party, and I think everyone had a pretty good time, plus there was the added bonus of being able to spray the table and patio down with a hose. Clean up, done.
*faces blurred on purpose, although I AM a crappy photographer.

Zombie cake

Friday, November 4, 2011


Last month I took the girls in to the med office for their several-months-past-due eight year-old check-ups (hey, I was switching countries, which qualifies as a pass in my book, and whoa, was that ever a hyphen-heavy sentence). First up was eye exams, and Grace whipped through hers quickly. Olivia was next. I was standing behind her, and I watched as she covered one eye and read the first, second, and part of the third lines. Then she stopped and was very quiet and still for a long moment. I saw her wipe a fat tear off her cheek.  That was all she could read. It tore my heart out, but the crappy vision came as no surprise in this family. We talked up how cool glasses were and went to a website where she could upload a photo of herself and virtually try on lots of different styles. I picked out one pair for her and she picked out two. They arrived yesterday, and she put them on and walked around the house, checking out the crystal clear view through her new eyes . She stepped out onto the patio.

"MOM!!! HAVE YOU SEEN OUR VIEW?! IT'S AMAZING!"  I may or may not have gotten a little choked up at that point. I looked right at my lovely, bespectacled daughter. "Yes I have, Olivia. The view is beautiful."

These are the ones she picked out to wear to school today. Two points to whoever can
 tell me what that photo is of over her shoulder.