Monday, January 23, 2012

The End of Summer Vacation

Yesterday we took our three youngest children hiking at Jardim Botânico while Jack stayed home for his last day of sleeping in. We went with the intent to find a geocache, which we did (and got covered in ticks in the process), but there were so many creatures and things to see that the geocache was largely forgotten.

The look on Olivia's face is because there was a sign on the trail in portuguese with a giant viper on it. She was terrified of getting eaten by a viper or one of the crazy spiders we saw.

After a while of remaining alive, she adopted a better mood. Especially when several families of monkeys came by to say hello.

 No idea what was in that hole, and no one was too keen to put their hand in, either.
 Random caterpillar shot Grace snapped.

Not sure why Grace took this ant pic, as on any given day this scene can be found somewhere in our house.

Mitch and I celebrated and the children mourned the last day of summer vacation with a traditional Brazilian barbecue, and then off to bed nice and early for my little darlings.

And here they are, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the crack of dawn this morning:
 Yes, I locked them out of the gate. I didn't want to take a chance that they'd sneak back in.

See ya, suckers!

I sent Mitch off to return the 3rd grade classroom goldfish that we kept alive for six weeks (I know! I can't believe it either) and came in to my blissfully empty house. After doing some chores, I put on my workout clothes and headed back out to take the dog for a walk around the lake. This was the scene that greeted me:
 That's a two foot wide trench directly in front of my house, about five feet deep. No notice, warning, nothing. And the hilarious part is, the workers have disappeared. Oh, Brazil, you so funny!  Well, I'm off to find some kind of plank to throw accross it so my children can get in the house this afternoon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Yesterday, we joined a caravan of embassy families and took a trip to Cristalina, about 125km south of Brasilia. As the name indicates, the town is famous for being one of the largest centers of production and commerce of precious and semi-precious stones and crystals in Brazil. The road to get to the crystal mine tested the limits of our 4WD beast of a car, but I think everyone had a pretty good time.
I don't remember the portuguese name for this balancing rock formation, but I think the rough translation was something like, "Big-Ass Balancing Rock". Or some such.

 See my little boy right there in the middle? Remember the orange shirt for later in this story.

After we visited the Big-Ass Balancing Rock, we went to the mine, where there were hills and hills of crystals. You could take as many as you wanted. The kids each filled bags, and yes, being that I'm the world's best diplomat's wife, two of my children used Trader Joe's wine bags, because that's what I had in the car, yo.

 Look! We forced our teenager out of bed at the ungodly hour of 8:00am to join us.
Practicing his studied indifference.

This is where Grace slipped on the crystals and was telling me from the top of the pile that if I didn't come up an administer first aid to her tiny little scrape, she might possibly die from blood loss. I refused and told her to tough it out. She went back to foraging for crystals, while giving me the occasional "you're the worst mother in the world" looks, and finally forgot about her life-threatening knee scrape. You'll be happy to know she survived her injury and did indeed eventually get a bandaid when she was done with her collecting.

 Reservoir near the mine

Henry and his buddy walked to the "arcade" while the rest of us were getting settled at the restaurant for lunch. What does an arcade look like in a small Brazilian town?
Yep, those are big box tvs hooked up to Playstation 2s.  They charge by the hour, but the boys didn't find out how much, because it was time to eat.

After lunch we visited a geode factory, and the kids all bought souvenirs. I thought of buying something, and although the geodes were beautiful, they were super heavy (and would ultimately add to my weight allowance), and not really my style. Above is a random kid that was playing soccer outside the geode shop. He was smiling and gave me the thumbs up, but gave me his most serious pose when I raised my camera.

 What's a geode factory without chickens?

More geodes.

So, remember my little boy in the orange t-shirt? Well, there were about 70 or so people in our group, so when we were at the restaurant, a churrascaria, my kids were scattered about, sitting with their friends. When the waiter came by to figure out the bill, I used my best portuguese to tell him what our drinks were and which children were mine in the room, so he wouldn't forget to add what they had to our bill. I pointed to the table of teenagers and he figured out which one was Jack "the tall skinny boy" (in portuguese, yay me!), and then when I pointed out Henry, the guy started laughing and turning red, but he did know immediately which one Henry was, so I figured I had done well with me developing language skills. You would think I'd have learned my lesson by now.  As we were driving back home towards Brasilia, I picked up my English-Portuguese dictionary.

Which is when I discovered that I had told the waiter my other son is the one wearing an orange condom.

Camisa? Camisinha?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

World's Longest 'Summer'

Only 11 days until the kids go back to school. I'm not counting down or anything, I just looked it up on the calendar because we've been having so much fun, the days have positively! flown! by!
~Our heroine says, through gritted teeth.

We  had planned on taking some weekend trips to see some waterfalls and little towns and do some hiking, but it's been raining non-stop for most of the break.  Most of the kids' friends are smartly travelling elsewhere, and Mitch has been in Rio and Sao Paulo working all week, so it's just been the five us and the clocks. Tick. Tick. Ti----ck.

It hasn't actually been terrible. The kids are quite content to be out of school, play with what few friends have remained in Brasilia, and are even getting along pretty well. Look, here they are playing a board game:

Monopoly. Ugh, I know. They don't even invite me to play anymore because after about 20 minutes my eye starts twitching and I usually get up 'to get a drink of water', accidentally falling and knocking the board to the floor. It's all very dramatic, I assure you. Anyway, this particular game lasted two days between archrivals Olivia and Jack, with Jack the victor, but Olivia was a very worthy opponent. Grace lost all her money and property about 45 minutes in and quit with a flourish. She flicked her hair and said, "At least I still have my looks!" Then she flounced off to play with something that wasn't so boring.

Henry's been happy with friends he really likes remaining in Brasilia, so he's basically had one long, roving sleepover for most of the break. Tonight, I asked Henry to take out the garbage (which strangely gets picked up every day here), and his friend jumped at the chance to do it. "I never get to take out the garbage at home, our maid always does it!" Henry just smirked and I could see him working out how he could get his friend to do his other chores as well. The kid was just lucky we don't have a fence to whitewash.

Jack has been practicing his guitar so much that his fingers have cracked, sending tiny fissures of blood across the front of his guitar, but I'm not allowed to wipe it off, because apparently "it looks badass, mom." I should say so. He also recently informed Mitch and I that "If I'd had to grow up in the 80s I would have killed myself!", after we spent an afternoon watching some VH1 80s special. So, that was a nice time bonding with our teenager.

The girls have begun piano lessons and have finally learned to ride their bikes. They resisted for so long that they actually outgrew the bikes before they really had a chance to ride them. They'll be fine until we can get new ones, and being close to the ground is probably good for Grace, who rides like a drunken sailor, much like how she swims. But always with flair, and always checking to make sure I have my camera so I don't miss any of her moves. Olivia learned in two tries and was doing tricks and stunts the second day.

 "I wish our hill was steeper!"

Drunken sailor on the left.

At least she has her looks.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lazy Days of Summer

It's 1:00pm here and Jack has yet to emerge from slumber. He's trying to make up for yesterday when he was forced to get up at the ungodly hour of 10am so the maid could clean his room. Also, none of my children could remember the last time they had a shower. Don't worry, though, I'm making them go swimming today so they'll get rinsed off, at least.

Three more weeks until school is back in.