Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Christmas in Utah 2013

We were so happy to be able to spend Christmas in Utah this year. All during the month of December, this little gem hung in our apartment hallway outside our door, and I was eager to get to someplace where Santa Claus wasn't threatened by his effigy hanging by a string.
Decoration or warning? You be the judge.
We arrived in time to attend church in my parents' new ward the Sunday before Christmas. They moved to Cedar City from New Harmony in the fall, and we loved their new home. Here are the kids in their Christmas Sunday clothes.
I sure do love these kids. His face is priceless.
At least he's being gentle.
Finally a decent shot of her in her Christmas finery.
We had our traditional Mary & Joseph dinner with Jake's family on Christmas Eve and then came back to my parents' house to wait for morning.

The new house is pretty much perfect for Christmas mornings. This is what we saw as we walked down the stairs on Christmas morning.
Christmas at my parents' home is always magical.
The kids slept in a long time, and all us parents were impatient to get them up. I know it won't be that way forever, but it was kind of fun. Being one of Santa's helpers is one of the great joys of parenting.

Joseph loved his new panda ornament.

And he was SUPER excited about real scissors just for him.

Nora loves her daddy. She had a good time ripping into presents too.
What a sweet little Christmas elf!
We had so much fun with both sides of our family, and we're grateful to them for putting us up and putting up with us when we invade their homes.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Thankful Tree and Thanksgiving.

For the whole month of November, we did a Thankful Tree on our entryway wall. We wrote one thing we were grateful for on a paper leaf and stuck it up on a big tree I colored during the kids' nap one day. It was especially fun to hear the things Joseph was grateful for each night and a good reminder that the little things are often the most important. I think "pizza" was on here at least twice. We are VERY thankful for pizza at our house.
The Thankful Tree in all its glory.
Click to zoom in and see some of the things we're grateful for.
We also went to Thanksgiving dinner at a friend's home with some other Americans and Brazilians who spent a lot of time in the US. I made a gorgeous apple pie. I have no pictures of the gathering, but I do have one of the pie. You can see where my priorities are.
My mom's perfect apple pie. It was a lovely taste of home here in São Paulo.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Rio de Janeiro, Part II

The next morning we set out for Corcovado, the giant statue of Jesus that is the iconic image of Rio. We parked the car near the train station, as there was no parking lot, and two men approached us telling us we needed to pay them to watch our car. Jake refused, and they insisted. This isn't an uncommon practice in Brazil, but usually people are much more good-natured if they are refused or are only asking a few reais. They were asking for R$30 or R$40 (between $15 and $20 USD), and we are notoriously cheap. I was nervous; in fact, this was the only time during our trip to Rio (where the crime rate is MUCH higher than in São Paulo) when I felt remotely unsafe. We walked over to the train station, but I didn't like the idea of leaving our car anywhere near those guys. All our stuff, including our computer, iPod, GPS, and clothing, was in the car. Jake ran back to the car while the kids and I waited for the train. He moved the car up several blocks and ran back in time to catch the train up the mountain.

Cristo Redentor is huge. Like, really, really big. I wasn't prepared for how big it is. It's 98 feet tall, and it sits on a pedestal of 26 feet. His arms stretch 92 feet. Huge! Check out the picture on the Wikipedia page for some perspective. The day was pretty cloudy, and it was raining lightly as we descended. A kind young man from Belo Horizonte offered to walk down with us, sheltering us with his umbrella. Folk wisdom here says that rain is dangerous, so we were doing the unthinkable letting our kids get wet. The clouds parted briefly a few times, and we got some great shots of the city and of the statue.

From the base.

Nora became less amused as the day wore on.

Me and the kiddos

View from the top
While we were waiting for the train to go down, Nora found water dripping from a tarp and played, mesmerized, in it for about 10 minutes. I love watching my kids try to figure stuff out and explore their world. Jake ran and got the car, and I got the kids strapped in during a single stop light. We found a mall and ate lunch and headed out. The city is really beautiful, a lot like a European city with old buildings and interesting architecture. I would love to visit again, but maybe we'll fly next time. On our way home, the kids were again not amused at the long drive, and neither slept well. Much crying and sadness ensued. I sat in the back seat for awhile, and they were a little happier, but the winding highway got the best of my stomach, and I had to move back up front. More tears. I'm amazed at how easy it gets to tune it out when necessary.

When we got home and unpacked, I realized we had left Joseph's beloved toy, Baby Panda, wrapped in the sheets of his bed at the hotel. He was heartbroken. I told him that we would ask the hotel if anyone found Panda and try to have him sent back to our house, but I also told him it was possible that Panda was lost and we might not get him back. (I also had a backup plan. Given that losing Panda was our fault, not Joseph's, I didn't feel bad about buying him a new one and having it sent to my mom's house for when we arrived for Christmas. We'd tell him that Panda must have gotten on a plane and gone to Nana's house to meet him there. Judge me for being willing to lie if you will, but my three-year-old has an engineer brain and needs a little more magic and imagination in his life.) The hotel had, in fact, found Panda and sent it to our home (for an exorbitant sum), but we didn't tell Joseph until Jake got home from work the night the package arrived. We told him there was a package for him, and when he opened it, I have never seen a kid more excited than ours. Take a look, and excuse the poor camera work.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rio de Janeiro, Part I

 In November 2013 we decided to take the kids to Rio de Janeiro. We thought we'd be clever and leave right after dinner on a Thursday evening, and the kids would sleep like little angels for the four-to-five-hour drive. Uh, no. We left later than we intended, our drive was much longer than we thought, and the kids were decidedly NOT little angels. Nora was quite upset at being in her car seat for that long, and Joseph just never went to sleep. Also, we grossly overestimated the quality of the roads we'd be driving on. 445 km, or about the distance from Cedar City to Salt Lake, ended up taking us about six hours. We arrived in Rio at about 2 am. The clerk at the front desk of our hotel kindly upgraded our room to one with another bed, and we all slept until 10 am. Nora only woke up once about 6 to nurse, and then she and I both went back to sleep.

Our first stop was Copacabana beach. The weather was cool and gray, so it wasn't great beach weather, but we figured we could play in the sand and get our feet wet. Joseph is terrified of the water and has been since a slip in a friend's pool last February. He wouldn't go any closer to the water than you see in the picture. We had talked about it before we left, however, and he knew he didn't have to go in or go any closer than he was comfortable and that he could play with some borrowed beach toys on the sand.
Jake is that tiny speck you see in the waves. I was too chicken to go in that cold water.

Nora really enjoyed herself until she tried to taste the sand and later rub it in her eyes when she got tired.

Squeeeeeeeeeeze!
 After a great lunch at an Arab restaurant right on the beach, we went back to the hotel for a nap. After naptime, it was on to Pão de Açucar, a set of beautiful giant boulders with killer views of  Rio. We took the trams up to Ursa, the first rock, and then again up to Pão de Açucar. The views of the city, beaches, mountains, and ocean were amazing. There was a significant temperature decrease as we went up too. Everyone looked at us like we were nuts because our kids were in shorts and tee-shirts, but we're used to that by now.
That's Corcovado (the big statue of Christ) on the tall mountain on the left. More on that later.

At the top of Pão de Açucar. Nora's saying hi.

Family portrait


Me and the Joe-bomb checking out the water.

Trams




After our trek, we found a street vendor selling churros filled with either chocolate or doce de leite. We got one of each. Joseph approved.
So did I.
After finding some pizza for dinner, we hit the hay excited for another day. (To be continued...)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Challah

I happened upon this article about the ritual surrounding challah, a gorgeous Jewish egg bread, and decided I'd better give making it a try. The bread turned out to be amazing (both in looks and in taste), and I've made it a few times since the original in November. But more important than the bread were a number of points in the article:
  • "[It is poignant] that Jewish bread took on the identity of the mitzvah (religious duty) associated with it."
  • "Women, traditionally the bread makers, came to express themselves creatively through two challah-related practices. The first is the very shaping and creation of challah....The second venue for creativity was the writing of prayers, t'chines, for the taking of the challah ritual. T'chine is the Yiddish name for the women's devotional prayers created by and for women among Ashkenazic communities.
    According to Chavah Weissler, in her work, Voices of the Matriarchs many t'chines, evolved around mitzvahs and rituals unique to women, among them, of course, challah baking. Here is a sampling of this most lovely of prayer genres:
    May my challah be accepted as the sacrifice on the altar was accepted. May my mitzvah be accepted just as if I had performed it properly…May the Divine grant that I and my husband and my children be able to nourish ourselves….
    Lord of all worlds, in your hands is all blessing. I come now to honor your holiness, and I pray you to give your blessing on what I bake. Send an angel to guard the baking, so that everything will be well baked, will rise nicely, and will not burn, to honor your holy Sabbath and over which one recites the holy blessing — as you blessed the dough of Sarah and Rebecca, our mothers…
I loved that idea of the Lord accepting my offering, my work, my soul, "just as if I had performed it correctly." I love knowing that my best efforts will inevitably fall short but that the Lord still accepts my imperfect offering if it's made with a perfect heart and perfect effort. This is particularly comforting when my work with my kids seems futile.

The other connection was to Alma 34 where Amulek speaks of praying over our fields, houses, animals, and everything that is important. These prayers over the challah might seem trivial, but the Lord truly cares and wants to hear from us about even these seemingly small things.

Here's the recipe I found. Now go give it a try!
Mmmmmm, bread.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Halloween

I am not nearly as creative as my sister-in-law when it comes to Halloween, but I made it work OK this year. Halloween isn't really celebrated much in Brazil, so we had to make do with what I had on hand.

Nora's was pretty easy. I used Joseph's newborn pumpkin costume my mom made and threw on a pair of second-hand Halloween pants and a green onesie. Adorable.
 Joseph's took some creativity. I turned a pair of black skeleton PJs (my mom sent them for last Halloween, but they didn't arrive before we left for the US on Halloween to get our visas) inside-out and put on a pair of his training pants over the top. The hat is from Jake's trip to China in 2011. Apparently, they're all the rage among teenage girls.
 We kind of slapped together Jake's costume the night before. He's an American tourist: socks with flip-flops, Hawaiian-print shorts, too-big shirt, throwaway undershirt, hat backwards, and enormous sunglasses. He made it authentic by roaming the office asking, loudly, if people spoke English and where he could buy a caipirinha.

The kids and I went to a friend's house for snacks and Halloween crafts. Joseph's "monster" consisted of three googly eyes on the the paper tube. He spent the rest of the time carefully lining up the stickers.
Nora turned 10 months old two days before Halloween. She's kind of adorable.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Sítio

People who live in São Paulo don't like to stay in the city on the weekends. Many wealthy families have weekend homes an hour or so drive outside the city. Other families will spend a weekend at a sítio. The best short translation of the word is "ranch," but like a dude ranch. There might be horses and other farm animals, walking trails, swimming pool, soccer pitch (of course), picnic areas, and grills for churrasco. We went to one of these sítios in October for a church activity and had a great time.
Swings. Joseph talked about them for weeks.

Nora had a great time in the front pack.

Going across the swaying bridge.

Bridge at the playground. I think he could have spent hours here.

Poking sticks in sand. It's good to be little.

It's not a Brazilian party unless there's soccer. Jake's in the blue shirt.
She was more than ready to get out of the pack. We had to keep a sharp eye on her because she wanted to put everything in her mouth and crawl down the steps.
Let's go, Dad!

Orange "bubble juice" at lunch.
 
It's also not a Brazilian party without copious amounts of grilled meat on sticks, rice, beans, and soda.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Joseph Turns Three (and General Update)

I'm planning on several catch-up posts in the next while. I hate scrapbooking, so this is the best family history my kids are going to get.

Joseph turned three in October.

Birthday Cheeser

With black and white balloons for his panda party later that week.
 We had a lot of fun celebrating with our little family and later with friends. On the night of his birthday, he had a meltdown at dinner so we moved celebrations to the following evening. He had a birthday pavê, and Jake kindly helped Joseph blow out the candles.

Make a wish!
He also had quite the gift haul. We had brought back lots of presents from family during our visit to the US in July.

That is one lucky kid.
I think his favorite was a new panda, dubbed "Squeaky Panda," from Nora.
"Show Mommy Squeaky Panda?"
That Saturday, we had a few friends from our ward over for snacks and cake. I had spent a long time planning and working on all of it, and it was incredibly satisfying to see it all come together. Everyone had a good time, and the food turned out great. Joseph was so excited to have a panda cake. Over six months later he was still talking about it.


Invitation, main cake, Squeaky Panda, and cupcakes.
Whew!
Our birthday boy!
I didn't get to his annual check-up until February (mother of the year right here, folks!), but his physical development is all on track. He's a little on the tall side and a little on the thin side. He was wearing 3T clothes on his birthday, but the adjustable waist on the pants had to be cinched in as tight as they would go or they would have fallen off. His 3T shirts are now starting to get a little small, and we'll probably be breaking out the next size before too long. I only put the last of his 2T shorts away about a month ago, so we'll be in 3T shorts for awhile yet, I imagine. His 3T long pants, while still cinched in almost as far as they will go, are beginning to get short. It's a good thing it's warm in Brazil for most of the year; shorts are much more forgiving.

Joseph loves to run and jump and play. He knows the names and locations of about 25 countries on our map and is always eager to learn more. He's got many of his books memorized. We have been working on letter sounds and just this week he started putting them together to make two-letter words. He loves numbers and has been working hard to count objects one at a time. We'll count beans into a muffin tin with the numbers 1-12 on the inside. Around Christmas, he started singing with us finally, and that has been fun as we've been learning the Primary songs this year. We've also been doing action songs like "Popcorn Popping" and "Do As I'm Doing."
We're so happy to have this fun little boy as a part of our family. His happy smile and infectious laugh brighten our days.