Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Recap

Our first non-American Christmas was certainly different, but it didn't suck, so I guess it was a win. It was definitely the first Christmas we made salsa with mangoes, limes, and avocados from our yard (okay, the avocados were from a tree outside our gate, so technically not "ours". Don't tell.
 The best way to eat a lime is upside down.

Does this look like Christmas Eve?

The kids started getting antsy in the middle of the day, so Mitch and I told them to do something constructive while we went for a walk. Because when the going gets tough, the parents get going, or something like that. They wrote a song while we were gone. I'm pretty sure it's going to be a number one hit. You can totally tell they put a lot of effort into it. At least ten minutes, anyway.

And that outfit Grace is wearing? We like to get dressed up fancy shmancy for dinner on Christmas Eve (and when I say we, I mean me and Grace, but everyone plays along, despite Henry 'mysteriously' locking his closet door and not being able to get a handsome shirt out of it).  Here is an example of what twin sisters will come downstairs wearing when you tell them to get all fancied up:
 Olivia pulled that skirt out from the back of her closet, where it was wadded in a ball and stuffed in a toybox. But hey, it's the first skirt she's worn all year.

 Dayum, those bejewelled dangly earrings look good with that turkey leg.

The Dad carves the roast beast, then carrots for the reindeer and cookies and milk Skol beer are put out for Santa Papai Noel (I think that's what he drinks. It's hot down here, man.).

The kids woke us at 5:45 sharp since we told them we'd lock them in their rooms 'til noon if they woke us a minute before 6:00 (apparently they thought there was a 15 minute grace period), and the boys claimed their electronics and disappeared with them pretty quickly. Olivia tore into her first gift. IT WAS A.......A............A......toothbrush?  Um, thanks, Mom and Dad. It's just what I wanted.

Whew. This is better:

 The girls also got a set of walkie talkies front Santa, but they're having a hard time using them, because every time they turn them on, the guards in the neighborhood come on whatever channel they're on and start yelling at them in portuguese.

We spent the rest of the day blissfully lounging around in our pjs and snacking on leftovers. I may or may not have had a bottle of champagne for breakfast, but in the spirit of Christmas, I shared with the guy I've been shacking up with.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

We Mustache You to Have a Merry Christmas

Remember when I told you about how I was sick with fever and ordered a bunch of mustaches?  Well, when I mentioned to Mitch to expect the order to arrive in the embassy mailroom, he stared at me for a long moment and said, "Sometimes, I think you are ACTUALLY crazy." And then, every day I would call him at work and say, "Did my mustaches come yet?"  The lucky bastid.  Anyhoodle, guess what finally arrived?

Unfortunately, this is it for our Christmas card this year. We just didn't get our acts together in time to get them made and sent out like we try to do every year, so consider this your Holiday card, and sent with love. Unless you've arrived on this blog by searching for 'mustache fetish', in which case, move along folks, there's nothing to see here.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Child Labor.

Our commissary got a big shipment this week and all hands were on deck to help unload. And when I say 'all hands', I mean even my underage, indentured servants were forced by their mean mother to help unload boxes and stock shelves. At first they did great, because manual labor was a novelty for them. Organizing and arranging little boxes of macaroni and cheese and taco shells and making them look nice was a favorite job of the girls. Henry had so much fun, he said, "Wow, I could do this for a living!" Whew, that's a relief. Now I can put his college fund towards my shoe allowance.

After a couple hours, however, the boys lost their enthusiasm and began complaining. "I'm so tired," Jack whined, every time I walked by him.  "I could go to sleep right on top of this box."  This went on for another half hour or so when I realized Henry was nowhere to be found. It turns out he was hiding behind a pile of boxes playing on an ipod. 
The girls remained excellent little workers (they still believe in being good the week before Christmas), but I felt like my pampered boys needed a little wake-up call. I outlined all the jobs they were going to have to do when we got home to make up for being lazy workers at the commissary, but I was foiled by Graca, who had cleaned the entire house including two refrigerators, changed all the linens, ironed and washed all the laundry, ironed my tablecloths and napkins, and swept all the patios  in the time we were gone.  Hmmm.  And I wonder how my boys got so lazy.

They all rallied from their labor-induced exhaustion when they got home and played outside in a torrential downpour. Okay, maybe I locked them outside. What? There wasn't any lightning.
Look at that water splashing up on their feet. Now they won't need to take showers tonight. Bonus!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Spirit

It's really hard to get in the Christmas spirit this year, what with the tropical weather and flip flops and whatnot. It's not for lack of trying, either. Behold!
I know! It's groovy, right? When we first learned we were going to South America and a live tree would be out of the question, I immediately went out and bought a white artificial tree. My reasoning was, if I'm going to go fake, I'm going to go all out, much like the cast of Jersey Shore.  And I luuuurve it. It was a little sparse (what do you expect for a tree that was $15 on 75% off clearance?), so I filled it in with white feather boas. Did I mention I love it? My traditionalist husband, however, does not. That's why you see the dumb green tree in the background. It was supposed to go into storage, but the evil moving company sent it here instead of our bed, so Mitch and I each get our own tree the kids get to enjoy two trees. Mitch's tree has all our family ornaments on it. It's actually just the top part of our ginormous 9 foot tall tree we used to put up in the entryway of our house. When we had a house. This sucker weighs a lot (about as much as the mattress of a king size bed!) and won't be coming home with us.

Hanging ornaments is exhausting work. Let's end the series of tree shots with one more of Whitey:

Ahhhhh. That's better. What's funny about this tree is that when kids come over they always love it, and adults are all, "Oh. You have a white tree. That's......different."   And Mitch smirks because he doesn't love it. Oh, he'll love it soon, though. If he knows what's good for him.

We also got two boxes of garlands that were supposed to go into storage, as well.

See? Fake pine garlands just don't go with palm trees and sunshine.  We've been watching all the holiday DVDs we brought, and I got out our stockings, but this is the first time since we got married that we don't have a fireplace. What to do, what to do?  Aha! I spied an item we have no use for....

A coat rack. Mirror rack? Coat mirror?

Embassy pancake breakfast with "Santa", can you help me find my Christmas spirit?
Nope, especially since my teenager was home in bed and I had to bribe my 11 year-old with $5 to take this photo with his sisters.

Eggnog latte, can you help me find my Christmas spirit?

Nope. Since it's not even real eggnog, it's a mix I got from Amazon to try and simulate the real (and by real, I mean a carton picked up in the dairy aisle at my local Safeway) thing.

Christmas mix in my ipod, can you help?

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, can you help? And why are you lined up for class pictures?

Nope. How about the school holiday program?

Okay, I admit that I did have a little Christmas spirit after seeing all those kids singing their hearts out in English and portuguese.  And seeing all the fifth grade boys stifling their giggles at the phrase, "Don we now our gay apparel!" was pretty amusing. But you can also be sure I was concerned about all those Santa hats and the spread of lice  *shudder*. 

I'm sure I'll find my Christmas spirit soon. The kids are out of school on Thursday FOR FIVE WEEKS (sorry, I had to type that in all caps to convey my feelings about such a long break), so we'll have lots of time for holiday baking and being together. Every day. FOR FIVE WEEKS.  Anyhoodle, think of me, all you people in the frozen north, as you are scraping the ice off your windshields. I'll be down here in Brazil, sitting on my patio with my fake pine garlands, drinking my iced 'eggnog' latte, trying to get my Christmas spirit on as I rub sunblock on my shoulders and wait for the gardener to arrive. What? the shrubs are beginning to block my view of the lake.

Friday, December 9, 2011


I've been sick all week. Yesterday I wandered outside in my delirium and stepped on a lizard with my bare foot.

Surprisingly, I didn't even shriek, but I think I may have become desensitized to Brazilian creatures. And not only from the ginormous cockroach incident, either. The other night I poured myself a bowl of cereal, and when I poured in the milk, hordes of tiny ants tried to escape the flood up the sides of the bowl. I'm feeling a little better today, so I went online to check my Amazon account and see what items haven't arrived from the North Pole yet.

I was somewhat surprised to find that in my fevered state I'd ordered a 36-pack of fake mustaches last night. I was able to cancel them and get the 12-pack instead, because really, who needs 36 fake mustaches?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


When we lived in Seattle, a favorite haunt of ours was the Tropical House at the Woodland Park Zoo. There was an exhibit of Brazilian Cockroaches that would absolutely make your skin crawl, even if you were a bug lover. Well, suckahs, I don't need to shell out cold, hard cash anymore to see giant, creepy, crawly bugs. I just have to wait for them to crawl out of my shower drain.

Don't hate me.

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 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.