Monday, December 31, 2012


Usually, on the last day of every year, I blog about the resolutions I have no intention of keeping. This year, however, I got paid to do it ( I know! Soon they will be sorry they hired me, and I'll be back at home, eating bonbons like the good Lord intended), and I don't want to repeat myself for that one reader who reads both this blog and our embassy blog, so there will be no ridiculous resolutions this year on Pulling Stakes.

However, I don't want to ignore the passage of another year. Okay, I lied, I would love to ignore the passage of 2012, because it was an asshole.  I lost my mom and my children's first home (my uterus, get it?), and spent most of the year in pain of one kind or another. But! Whenever things didn't go my mom's way, she didn't mope around like I enjoy doing.  She would be happy and grateful for the tiniest, most insignificant thing she had going for her.  "Well, yes, my house caught on fire, but I was so lucky that it was a cold night and I could warm my toes by the embers!"  That was how my mom rolled.  And so, I am going to list a few of the things I was grateful for in 2012, and dedicate it to my badass mom, who I miss every day. Obviously, the good health and love of my family are number one, but these are just a few of the things that helped me get through the year:

  1. Friends and family in the States, who dropped everything and were there to help us through the worst parts of the year.  Seeing your faces or hearing your words of love at such a low time in my life was a huge gift. My Dad even had the joy of listening to the details of my lady surgery from my gynocologist. 
  2. Friends in Brasilia, who helped with dog sitting and childcare, shuttled me around when I couldn't drive yet, and made sure my nails didn't look like shit, even though I felt like shit.
  3. My sisters.
  4. Laughter. At one point, after several long, agonizing days at hospice with my mom, one of my sisters said, "OMG, look at your Google histories!"   We scrolled through our phones and peed our pants laughing. [Google 'pinocchio p*nis tattoo at your own risk]
  5. Lindt chili dark chocolate bars.
  6. My cleaner, who knows that Olivia only sleeps with one specific cotton sheet, but everyone else is pretty easygoing about their bedding, and who cleans out my hairbrushes and refrigerator twice a week. Even if she does ridicule my portuguese and arranges the couch pillows all wrong, I still love her.
  7. Electric tennis rackets, so I can hear the sizzle of winged carcasses when I whack at the mosquitos.
  8. Having a job I enjoy is pretty sweet, as is FINALLY getting to wear all the shoes I bought "in case I ever get a job".  Unfortunately, now my feet are covered in blisters, but IT'S WORTH IT. Don't tell Mitch about the blisters, though, mmkay? For some reason he thinks I buy too many shoes I don't need. Like that's even a thing.
  9. Jack Daniels and Marcus James
  10. And finally, the thing I'm most grateful for about 2012 is that it is OVER, yo. 
Wishing you and yours a very joyful 2013
from Brazil!
[photo credit]


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Papai Noel

This morning, I dusted off my black heart, dragged my kids out of bed bright and early, and we went with the Marines at post to deliver toys to a local orphanage. We also brought our friend, Papai Noel (aka Santa to you northerners).

Apparently, Olivia considers this ratty red t-shirt and cutoffs her "holiday" outfit (see previous post).


Henry the Rice-Carrying Man
 We also helped deliver bags of food (donated by people from the embassy), clothes, and special toys for really sick kids (I did not take photos of the sick kids). They live in a facility attached to the orphanage, and it is run solely on donations.

It's been hard to get in the Christmas spirit whith everything going on lately, but today helped give me a little nudge.

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

We've been decking the halls around here a bit.  This is the family tree, which the kids decorate themselves with all the ornaments we've collected over the years. I learned a long time ago that it's no fun for anybody when someone with OCD helps decorate a Christmas tree, so I usually sit back and watch the festivities with a little Christmas cheer in my hand. 

Look! A real live elf.
This is my own personal tree:
There are two pictures of it, BECAUSE IT IS AWESOME. It has feather boas AND aqua balls. My husband, the traditionalist, thinks two trees are too much.  HA! I say. If you saw this tree in person you would feel warm and fuzzy inside, unless you were a grumpy bastard. Not naming any names.

Also, I hung a branch from the ceiling and hung some more balls from it.  I am a fan of balls at Christmastime.  If you were a grumpy bastard, you'd be all, "Why is there a branch hanging from the ceiling?  It's probably full of deadly spider eggsacs."  And I'd be all, "Don't be a hater, you brought me all the way to South America, where I don't have a proper light fixture to decorate."

Over the weekend, the three youngest kids and I went to the Embassy Santa Breakfast.  I was working the event, and we were running late, so I told the kids to put on some nice Christmas outfits. They were all out in the car waiting when I came out, so I didn't have a chance to appraise their attire.  For their annual photo with Santa.  To be preserved for all time.


La. La.



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Working Girl

No, not that kind of working girl. Just one that wears proper pants.  I just got home from my second day of work.  This is a big deal for me in that the last time I worked in an office was, let's see....NEVER (and I'm not counting volunteering, because you don't have to wear real pants when you volunteer).  Anyhoo, it's going pretty well.  Yesterday was the usual, forms, swearing in, forms, fingerprinting, lunch with my hubby at the embassy, and some more paperwork. At about 10:00, I looked at the clock as I was filling out my forms, and  had a little sad feeling, because that's normally the time of day I look at shoes online.  I was sure someone was buying all the shoes on the internet.  Someone that wasn't me.  I looked in the bottom of my cute purse for a tiny violin, but all I found was a melty tinted chapstick. By the time I got home, I was completely exhausted from wearing pants that button up and shoes that were super-cute-but-horribly-uncomfortable.  I was surprised and saddened when I walked in my front door and there was no party (or even confetti!) for me.  Not even a sign saying, "Woo-hoo!  You went to work today, Kate!  Good job!!"  So what's the point of even going, right?

And then, even though I went to work yesterday, I had to get up and go again todayBecause, apparently, 'going to work' doesn't just mean going one time.  Today was much better, because the forms were all done and I got to do actual work. The ladies in my office are fun and nice and helpful, and I think I will be happy there once I get used to not wearing yoga pants every day.  One of my tasks is to maintain/update/add to the embassy blog, so that was a breeze. Strangely, someone put up a sign above my desk saying something about being unrelentingly positive and not sarcastic or somesuch.  You can bet I threw that bitch in the trash. 


Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I've gotten several sweet messages from strangers asking how I am recovering from my lady surgery, so here's a little update.  First of all, I should clarify that I still have my ovaries, which is lucky, because they are adorable and I'm not quite ready for menopause.  Besides, Mitch is planning on doing his required unaccompanied tour when I hit menopause, which should be about the same time the girls hit puberty.  He's always been a good planner.

Tomorrow is my six week post-op milestone. For anybody who's had a hysterectomy, you know six weeks is the marker the doctors use to tell you when you can get back to your regularly scheduled programming. So, starting tomorrow, I can drive a car, carry stuff heavier than a glass of wine (big whoop), push a grocery cart (bigger whoop), and, um, do other things (whoopie!).  Yoga.  I'm talking about yoga, people.  I was kind of drugged out when I was released from the hospital, but I'm pretty sure the doctor said no housework for a minimum of 12 months, so I will still have some restrictions. Obviously.  Tomorrow also marks the forty-fourth anniversary of my birth, so I'm pretty excited that I'll get to go grocery shopping by myself on my birthday. Yes, I'm 44.  I joke around that I'm 29, but I think I'm going to start telling people I'm 54, so I can hear that I "look so young" for my age. Hopefully.  Anyone?   Tap. Tap.  Is this thing even on?

I won't tire you with details of my recovery, other than to say it took way longer than I thought it would and I got really sick of resting.  It's really quite boring, especially after you've melted your glasses and none of your backups have progressive lenses with which to read by.  My family took excellent care of me, and so did my cleaner and my massage lady, who, once she learned that I had a hysterectomy and not "liposuction for my fat belly", spent a lot of time working on my abdomen to help prevent something in portuguese, but I'm pretty sure it's not desirable, because it happened to her sister.  Or her brother.  Whatever, my portuguese sucks.  When I wasn't resting, my lovely friend Katie drove me to important appointments, such as to get manicures and pedicures, and out to lunch, never once making fun of my ever-present yoga pants.  So, you could say that my recovery was pretty easy. I know I am beyond lucky to have all the help I do, and despite my wine-ing whining, I am really glad I had the surgery. I wasn't functioning well at all before , and I feel great now, so yay for the knife!

Anyway, from here on out, it'll be all, carrying the laundry basket, wearing pants that don't pull on, and driving to the grocery store.  And working.  At a job. Yes, you read that right.  As soon as I get my security clearance (which should be easy to get as I've been a hermit for the past 10 years), I will be writing and editing the embassy newsletter.  For pay!  Thank gawd they didn't read this blog before they hired me, although I'm pretty sure I took out most of the  F-bombs just in case. 

I am going to need some new fucking shoes before I start working, though.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip.

For the past few months, our house has been leaking.  At first it was just a little bit, but now it's leaking constantly, no matter if it's raining outside or not.  Most of the ceiling fans have a pretty steady stream dripping out.  In the TV room, the water rolls to the edge of the fan blades and flies all over the room. It's like a little rain shower in there.  Pretty cool, huh?

We've put in a work order for the leaks, but basically have been told there's not a lot they can do, and that it should dry out after the rainy season is over.  In May. 

And that is another fine example of the glamour of Foreign Service life. On the bright side, it's a beautiful day today, so if we need a break from the indoor rain, we can go outside and dry off in the sunshine. Gawd, I'm such a Pollyanna.  How can you stand my constant cheerfulness around here?

PS, Good news!  I finally found a turkey! For $100USD, but I'm sure it'll be delicious, and there's no leak in the dining room yet, so Thanksgiving is looking better and better.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Rancho Canabrava

We took our three youngest kids to Rancho Canabrava yesterday, just outside of Brasilia.  We went with a bunch of embassy families and the kids had a blast doing an obstacle course a zillion feet off the ground.  There were tears of fear and sick stomachs from the girls when they started, but once they got past the first part, they loved it.  Mitch went with the girls, and Henry went with his buddies. I stayed on the ground (still in recovery mode), cursing my lack of Xanax. 
Thankfully, there was a puppy to help calm the nerves.

Henry handled the height like a champ.

Zipline to the finish!

The girls are grimace-smiling.  Both were scared, but insisted they wanted to do the adult course instead of the kids' course. And because in Brazil, kids get what they want, so they had extra guides to help them along. The workers at the ranch were amazing. Some spoke English, and they were wonderful with the kids. 

They're both smiling in these photos because this is the practice one to teach them how to clip their carabiners to the wires, and it was pretty easy.

Hole. E. Shit.

She kept it together.

This is where Olivia burst into tears. I wanted to shout to the guides to help her get down, but Mitch yelled at her, "Look straight ahead, stop crying, and just take one step at a time!", in what I thought was a pretty mean voice.  Just saying. However, it worked, and once she got over the initial fear, she loved it. I had to go away for a while at this point and take a lot of deep breaths and ask around if anyone had a flask.

This nine year-old was once inside my body.

Everyone wants to go back and bring Jack (who was home buried under schoolwork) next time. On the way home, the girls were wondering why there isn't cool dangerous stuff like that back in the States for kids to do, but then they decided theme parks were pretty cool, too.   I'm pretty sure I deserve some sort of award for keeping my shit together while my kids were merely a missed carabiner clip away from breaking their necks. Also, I got a sunburn.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Rain is Clearly to Blame

See this?
You might think it's a medieval torture device (you know, except for the electric part and the cheap plastic components and whatnot), and you would be right! Except for the medieval part.  See, I have this hair that turns into an afro during times of high humidity (for example, September-May in Brazil).  Now, I like afros, and would totally embrace my blonde afro, but it's only an afro in the back.  The front just goes all wonky and limp. 

So, I use the above torture device to smooth out my hair. Also, it's good for sizzling burns on the forehead and for melting stuff in it's general vicinity.  My long-suffering husband DESPISES my Instyler, because of the third-degree burns and the fact that it's always out on our tiny little bathroom counter.   More on this in a minute.

There's also been some glasses drama around here, because I'm an old lady with rapidly declining eyesight who can't see near or far.  A few years ago, I purchased my current glasses that I love.  They unfortunately were designer glasses and they cost as much as, oh, I don't know, like, a cow or something.  While I was in the States last month, the plan was to renew my prescription and get some new glasses, but due to my crappy eyesight, I couldn't get the glasses in time before I left.  I was secretly glad about that, because I couldn't find any glasses I love as much as my current ones, and I figured I could squint and stuff to make up for the declining vision. Also, I'm not allowed to buy glasses that cost as much as a cow again. Four kids to put through college, blahblahblah.

At this point, you're probably wondering, "What the heck does a non-medieval torture burning device have to do with Kate's glasses?"  And now that you just read that sentence, I bet you know.  Yes, kids, while I was in the shower, my glasses were busy getting melted by the Instyler.  They weren't even touching it (much), the glass lens just bubbled up from proximity. The melty part is right in the middle of the lens, so it looks like someone wiped boogers across the surface.   I know!  Imagine what that thing is doing to my hair!  So, I was kind of scared to show Mitch, who has had it with me complaining about not finding any cute glasses online and also with me complaining about forehead burns.  But then I remembered what Ralphie did when the Red Ryder BB gun broke his glasses in A Christmas Story.  He cried, and his mom was nice about it. And since I was so sad about my glasses, it was pretty easy to just let the tears flow when I went to tell Mitch about my glasses.  He thought I was dumb for crying over a pair of glasses I needed to replace anyway, but was disappointingly unmoved by my tragic loss of fashionable eyesight.

Anyway, I finally got online and looked at shoes for a few hours (no need to judge or question my methods), then I ordered some dumb glasses.

Related: The rainy season (obviously to blame for my glasses getting burnt) has also caused our ceiling fans to leak water.  Pretty sure that can't be good, but without glasses I can't see the puddles anyway.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Halloween, Ball, and Birthday

We've been busy partying between my naps around here, so I'm just going to throw up a few photos from our week.  For Halloween, Grace and Olivia picked costumes that went together again this year, but that also totally reflected their personalities.  If you've seen the Hunger Games, you'll know who Effie Trinket is, but if not, here's a little photo of her from the movie.

The instant Effie came onscreen, Grace knew she wanted to be her for Halloween, and it naturally followed that Olivia would want to be Katniss, what with her love of getting dirty and archery and wearing her hair in a braid.  So, basically, Olivia didn't even need a costume. I did buy her a District 12 Tribute t-shirt, though, since she doesn't own any clothing without a baby animal on it.

This is not really a costume, but it IS proof that having a stash of mustaches always pays off.  Sometimes in the form of candy, sometimes, in the form of a disguise for a quick getaway, and sometimes to entertain yourself by making the dog look like Burt Reynolds. 

 Jack had a Halloween fundraiser at his school. This is his inspired costume.  Can this really be my kid? One should never be too cool to dress up, which Mitch and I proved by WEARING COSTUMES TO HIS SCHOOL AND EMBARRASSING HIM. Oh, yes, we did. All his friends were delighted.

Yesterday was my second born's 12th birthday.  Every year he plans some kind of elaborate thing to do on his birthday and always ends up disappointed.  This year, he told me he just wanted a new video game, and to play it all day without laying eyes on his little sisters.  And breakfast in bed. And Kahlua pecan chocolate chip pie.  And since I am the lamest mother on the planet these days with my constant resting, I was more than happy to accommodate his wish. Brazil helped by having a national holiday so he didn't even have to go to school.  At the end of the day, he said it was the best birthday of his life.

Last night was the Marine Corps Ball, which Mitch optimistically bought tickets for without knowing if I'd be home from the States in time to go to.  I combed my hair and he watched a youtube video on how to tie a bow tie, and off we went. 

We had a lovely time, despite the lack of sofas for me to lay down on at the venue and my navy dress matching the tablecloths.  Happy Birthday, Marines and Henry!