Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Few of My Favorite (Brazilian) Things

I realize that when I write about myself, I sound dejected and lonely all the time. Au contrair, my friends! I just happen to write more when I feel that way. It's a curse. So, lest you think I hate Brazil, here are some awesome things in my life.

The countertops by the sink have this fantastic lip, which makes cleaning them a snap because water doesn't get on the floor. This is especially handy because we don't have a dishwasher and our dishrack goes on the counter. Excess water gets mini-squeegeed into the sink. The only downside is that the corners are really hard to keep spotless. I've found that keeping an old toothbrush nearby for stubborn nastiness and towel-drying the corners after doing the dishes seem to do the trick.

My stovetop has a glass cover, and though it's annoying to keep clean, it automatically makes more counter space. Since I don't have many convenient outlets, I use the cover a lot when I'm using small appliances like my stand mixer or crock pot.

Mangoes. Did I mention I love them? I've never had a good one in the US (though that may be in part because I didn't know how to choose a ripe one: soft but not mushy, like an avocado), and they are abundant and delicious here. My kids love them too, so we go through a lot. Thanks to YouTube, I learned how to cut them for serving. Slice the sides off, avoiding the nut inside, and slice the flesh without piercing the skin. Push the skin like you're turning it inside-out, and slice off the cubes of fruit. You're welcome. Go eat a mango.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Playing trains together, August 2013.

As far as their togetherness, the kids are pretty good. Nora is far less maintenance than Joseph ever was, so when I have to deal with Joseph, she mostly keeps herself out of trouble. Now that she's very mobile, I have to keep a more careful eye on her, but she plays in one place by herself in a way Joseph didn't until he was 2.
Just before Mother's Day, May 2013
She likes to watch Joseph and tries to do what he's doing. Wednesday he was jumping inside the ottoman, and she had pulled herself up to the side to watch. After he jumped a few times, she started moving one of her legs up and down. He stopped and so did she. A few minutes later it happened again. He shrieks; she shrieks. It's fun to watch most of the time, but she doesn't realize that she's little, and neither does he. He wants to play rough with her sometimes, and I think she'd be game, but he doesn't understand the difference in their strengths and abilities.
Working together to hack into the computer, September 2013.
I hope they can continue to be friends, but he's also starting to realize that she has the ability to play with many of his toys and even ruin some of the things he's playing with, so sharing and taking turns are hard for him.
Playing trains together, August 2013.

He's affectionate and sweet most of the time. He likes to "Div her tisses?" when she's crying, and feels sad when he accidentally (or on purpose) hurts her.
Affection or smothering? You be the judge.
He is learning so much, both on academic and moral levels. I'm so proud of the strides he's made and how hard he works to be understood and solve problems.

Friday, October 11, 2013

And the Parents?

I wrote this post about two months ago, as it was supposed to go with the previous posts about Joseph and Nora. I have updated a few things.

Jake is hard at work in his calling and at his job. Rodizio on Tuesdays is the bane of my existence. When Jake is gone by 6:30 am and home later than 8:30, that means he sometimes doesn't see the kids for nearly 48 hours (Monday night at bedtime to Wednesday night at dinner). It means a long day for all of us. There is a lot to do at work, and, with a recent change as a department head and the big bosses coming to Brazil later this year, a lot of stress and responsibility. His church calling is demanding, though not much more than it has been for the last year or so, and between meetings, interviews, activities, and visits, he's a pretty busy guy. He is wonderful to be home as much as possible, and it's fun to see the kids light up when they hear his key in the door.

We've discovered a way to get our exercise as a family by going to the park together on Saturday mornings. Joseph goes in the jogger while Jake pushes, and Nora goes in the umbrella stroller with me. He runs two laps, I walk one, and if I'm feeling ambitious, I'll run one more after swapping strollers. We end with a quick ride on the playground horses and a liter of coconut water cold from two hours in our freezer. It's a fantastic way to spend a Saturday morning.

After the kids go to bed, we finish cleaning up from dinner and will often turn to Netflix for the evening's entertainment. We're currently in the middle of The Hour, a BBC series about a news program in the 1950s. We also do rentals on Amazon or iTunes and loved the newest Star Trek movie as well as a documentary about pro skateboarders called "The Motivation." Sometimes Jake will watch League of Legends games while I crochet (I just started an adorable top for Nora, and it's probably a good thing that it's a 2T size; I might not get it done before it fits her). We also started listening to This American Life from NPR, and I've really enjoyed listening to Conversations from the Mormon Channel.

My world revolves around the kids. Circumstances at this stage in our lives require that, but I look forward to our kids' increasing independence. Perhaps that's silly to think too much about when our kids are almost 3 years old and 9 months old (and we anticipate more children sometime in the future), but it's nice to think that potty training and tantrums won't last forever. It's fun to watch the kids learn so much and master some new skill. I'm excited that Nora is finally eating solids and that Joseph needs less help with the potty.

I sometimes get frustrated at my continued inability to speak Portuguese (though it's much improved from a year ago) and my impatience with my busy kids, and I have to remember that there are seasons of life, and that even though this season isn't exactly what I imagined for myself, it won't last forever, and I need to enjoy the many good things (fresh mangoes, anyone?). I miss public libraries and the ability to go beyond my neighborhood. I really miss my family. I miss canned beans (though we just bought a pressure cooker, and after several EPIC fails, I've had one success). I miss inexpensive, reasonably well-made products. I miss being able to drive somewhere just because I feel like it or the ease with which I used to run a non-essential errand. I miss sitting with Jake in Sacrament meeting. I miss being alone, but that wouldn't be much different anywhere else in the world.

 My life is good though, and my kids are wonderful. We're kicking butt with our student debt, which would not have been possible to this degree without this job. We should be debt free around the beginning of 2014! Woohoo! I often look around at the poverty and homelessness, even in our trendy neighborhood, and think as I have thought so often since our move to Brazil, "There but for the grace of God go I." I hold my kids a little tighter and try to be nicer to my husband, who works so hard for our little family. We are so lucky. So blessed.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Adventures with Joseph

Joseph's getting big and fun too. I finally hacked off his long hair at the end of April. It was getting out of hand, and he wouldn't stop twirling it as he fell asleep or when he got stressed or sad or pretty much all the time. We had tried to help him stop twirling through gentle reminders and changing a Frog & Toad story about willpower from not eating all the cookies to not twirling his hair, but all was for naught. He was getting a bald spot, so we finally took the plunge.
Pile of hair
After. Not too shabby for someone who's never wielded scissors before.
All ready for church with his new 'do. What a handsome little fellow I have.
I've given him a few cuts since, and this is how it goes.
Day of cut: "Wow! That looks pretty good. I am amazing."
Day after cut: "There are a couple of spots that I missed. Still, pretty good for someone who learned how to cut hair from a blog tutorial."
Two days after cut: "Uhhh, there are lots of spots that I didn't quite get right. Well, practice makes perfect, right? I'll get better."
Three days after cut: "What in the world was I thinking? This is a complete hack job."

I'm sure it will get better, and having a moving target who doesn't like to have the scissors anywhere near his neck or ears doesn't help. Oh, and don't suggest clippers. I borrowed some from a friend, and he ran away crying when I turned them on trying to show him what they were like. No dice.

He stopped napping around his second birthday, but we still have quiet time every afternoon (today's "quiet time" consists of jumping on the bed, moving it, and screeching). But every once in awhile, he'll be so exhausted that he'll succumb to the delights of a nap. This occurs about once a month. Shoot me. We put him in a toddler bed as soon as our stuff arrived in February. He only fell out once the first night, and has done a great job. Naps have been tricky, as he doesn't actually nap anymore, but at night he stays in and sleeps well.
"Bid boy bed!"
Finally fell asleep on the floor.

One afternoon on the way home from the store (just a few blocks away), nothing I could do would keep him awake. I let him sleep for about 45 minutes before braving the nightmare that awaited me by waking him.

He finally figured out how to jump and does it EVERYWHERE! I showed him how to jump off small steps, and he's getting confident (perhaps overconfident) with larger ledges.
"Jump off da swide?"
He loves to jump off the end of the slide and from one part of the uneven sidewalk to the other. He has a goofy little dance/walk he does when he's excited, and his language is getting clearer and more complete all the time. His Ls are still Ys, Gs are still Ds, and C/Ks are still Ts, but Rs are coming along, and every once in awhile one of those other sounds will be correct. "Div Nowra tisses?" means "Give Nora kisses." He's putting whole thoughts into complete sentences, and I love to hear all those thoughts. He frequently answers by repeating the question, but Jake's mom found that asking "yes or no?" at the end of a question helps him know how to answer instead of just repeat.
First attempt  at fingerpainting for the grandmas' Mother's Day gifts. Remind me never to send anything to the US from Brazil ever again. Holy expensive, Batman!
Counting and sorting sticks
His fine motor skills are coming along too; he loves stringing beads onto pipe cleaners (just a few of the craft items I got on our trip to the US) or sorting and counting colored popsicle sticks. He likes to count things in English and Portuguese, and he can reliably count up to 20 in both languages and can count objects up to about 6, and then he starts skipping objects or double-counting. He's got most of his small letters down but the ones that don't resemble their capital letters (d, q, e, h) still need some work. He's started to associate sounds with letters. I'll hear him say, "Buh buh B!" and then we'll talk about some of the things that start with B.

Time outs, at least the way I was doing them previously, ceased to be effective, and it wasn't that I just gave up too soon; I'd been doing them that way for months. In theory, the amount of time it took to do a single two-minute time out should have decreased, and it didn't. Once he realized that he could get of the time out chair, all bets were off. I'd spend literally 30 minutes chasing after him and restarting the timer. We realized that it was an attention game when I'd tap out and Jake would take over, and Joseph would be done within five minutes. As Jake is not the one doing the time outs 90% of the time, we had to change course. I found that clear, logical consequences, as well as a certain amount of relaxing my expectations, has resulted in a much happier, more obedient kid. That is, until I started potty training. I expected some pushback, but about the potty. It turned out his desire to control his world extended to all aspects of it. I've threatened spanks and time outs far more than I'd like, but now that he understands his own plumbing a little and can sometimes tell me when he needs to go, I'm hoping we can get back to better cooperation because he'll have more control over his world.

I was having a really rough time of it with him in late March to early April, and one of the things that got me through was a line in General Conference from Elder Enrique R. Falabella: "a child who sings is a happy child." Joseph was so miserable with the way I was disciplining him. Things he'd previously enjoyed (like showers) were no longer fun. I was miserable and totally convinced that I had somehow broken my child. But he sang (and sings) all the time. Lately, it's humming "Choose the Right" or "If You're Happy and You Know It," but that kid always has a song or is asking me to sing. It gave me hope that even though he was unhappy at the time, he wasn't lost. My sweet kid was in there somewhere, and with the Lord's help we could help him come back. In mid-April after yet another attempt at a shower with him screaming and crying, I got in there with him and he said something that made me realize that he didn't want to get his head wet. A month or so before, we were at a friend's pool. Though he could easily touch the bottom, he slipped and went under and didn't come up. I jumped in and grabbed him after watching him sort of flail for a second or two, but his head didn't emerge. He was pretty traumatized, and attending a baptism later that week didn't help. We thought he was over it, but we kept shoving him into the shower, which only made his fear worse. We were able to help him become more secure in the shower and that helped turn his whole little world right side up again. He still is freaked out by large pools (Cedar City Aquatic Center was a total nightmare. He wouldn't leave our arms), but another baptism a few weeks ago didn't result in his leaving the room, and I think we'll continue to progress.

Funny things he's said lately:
Proudly pointing to his fleece footie tractor PJs: "These are dress jammies."
After I asked him what his name was: "Sílvio Miller."
"W, X, Y, and......CAMEL!!!"
Looks over the city from our apartment window and says knowingly: "That's Brazil."

He loves to help me bake by dumping in the ingredients. He had a hard time not plunging his hands into the flour/brown sugar/batter/butter at first, but he does OK when I promise him the beater or spoon at the end. And he's getting better with it. Now it's just a matter of convincing him he can't actually crack the eggs or pour the vanilla by himself.
First cookie beater. I think the boy's in heaven.

"Yet's chet our tate!" (Let's check our cake!)

He's getting better and better about playing by himself for more than a few minutes at a time. One key was having the right kind of toys. I like that I can finally go about my other jobs without being constantly needed. It's only taken almost three years! It's fun to watch him talk through a problem or sing to himself as he plays.

Ikea trains. Best Christmas gift ever. Now if only he'd figure out how to "mate a tawh bwidge" (make a tall bridge) himself.

Playing with cars. He likes to take the taxi, rev it up, and let it crash off the windowsill. I don't mind unless Nora is under the window, and then I freak out. Poor kid.
He loves to wear Nora's hairbows. I never realized how sad it is for boys not to have accessories. We'll get him some superhero books or something so he can get into capes. For now, though, I think it's hilarious.
Looking sharp, dude.

I found him in here. "Snats in da dwryer?"
During a cold snap in June. When you don't have heaters or insulation, 55 degrees sure is cold.
 We sure are lucky to have this boy. As difficult as some days can be, I wouldn't trade him for the world. But does anyone want to fly to Brazil to potty train him? :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Adventures with Nora

I realized I haven't posted anything of substance in quite some time, and I'd like to rectify that, if only because I type faster than I write, and journal entries have kind of gone down the tubes too. This is the first of a couple of catch-up posts. Sorry about the picture overload, except if you're a grandma, then you're thrilled. :)

Nora has been such a good baby. She's hit all her developmental milestones on target and is affectionate and curious. She liked tummy time much more than Joseph and flipped back to front at about 3 1/2 months.
Two months
Get that elephant!
Look at those cheeks!
We are not amused.
Pretty in pink at 3 months.
4 months. Aerobics class?
Why yes, yes I am adorable.
Five months.
Cold day. I couldn't find any of her long-sleeved clothes so the too-small hat and Joseph's too-big coat had to do.
Around Mother's Day.
Sucking on her toes. That's my girl!
She loves looking at books and freaks out when you take one away. I'm a proud mama.
She couldn't wait long enough for us to finish eating before sacking out in the bumbo. Poor thing.
Nora is growing by leaps and bounds, but is also on the small side. At her 6 month appointment, she measured in the 5th percentile for weight and 25th for height. Not shocking when you realize I was about the same at her age, but still a tiny thing. She's still in 3-6 month clothes, though I'm about ready to get out the next size. She's happy and funny unless she's teething.
First three teeth.
Her first two teeth came in five days apart at 5 1/2 months. The third popped through a few weeks later, and the fourth and fifth emerged within days of each other last week. First three are on the bottom, and the next two are on the top, but the lateral incisors. If only they were the cuspids, we could call her a vampire. :) Just before our trip to Utah at the end of June, she was up on all fours and starting to rock back and forth and even make little scoots.
Ready to crawl!
By the time we got home two weeks later, she was making real progress with an army crawl. At seven months she was crawling like mad.
Sitting up with just a little support.
She finally sat up without supporting herself with her hands just after that, and moved quickly to pulling herself to standing.
Like a boss.
I've got places to go, Mom!
And then this week she started cruising along the furniture.

Yesterday she tried to take her hands away from the shelf she was leaning on.

I'll be shocked if she's not walking like a pro by nine months. It's so funny to see this teeny tiny person doing things even older babies don't often do. The girl's got places to go and things to do, and it's my job to keep her in one piece so she can go there and do it. Even though she's mobile, she's pretty self-contained.
Some"bunny" is busy.
I never knew I could actually get housework done while a baby was awake. I told Jake the other day that I think I got more done that day with Nora awake than I did Joseph's whole first year during his waking hours. She was a great sleeper (8 pm to 5 or 6 am) until she hit about 5 months, and then she decided she needed to wake up several times a night. Then she slept great the whole time we were in Utah and then was back to the same old tricks when we got home. Over the last few days, she's finally been sleeping longer at night (8-11 and then sleeping until 5 or 6 before a quick feed and back to sleep for another hour or so), and it's made a big difference for me. I'm hoping once I get on the ball with solids—I've been pretty lax, what with potty-training Joseph—she'll be sleeping longer during the night. She hasn't been feeling well the last couple of days (more teeth, maybe?), so she's been a little crabby and needy, but she is still so sweet and fun. More posts to come in the next few days.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Potty Training Status Updates I Thought Better Of

 ...And am now posting here for people who like me better.
  • People say that two in diapers is just so hard. Not true. Two in diapers is cake. Potty training an older kid with a younger sibling still nursing is the real nightmare. Props to parents of twins or more. I don't know how you do it.
  • We went through nine pairs of cloth training pants in a single day.
  • The goal for the week went from "A Place for Everything, and Everything in Its Place" to "Don't Do Anything That Will Send You to Jail."
  • I am astonished at the quality and quantity of bodily fluids coming out of my children right now.
  • People say that newborns are the best birth control. Lies. Potty training is the best birth control.
  • How, HOW do you have four accidents in an hour? What else is left after two? You haven't had a drink in hours!
  • Boy, am I glad Jake sprang for the dryer. They're not common here, but I'm sure grateful.
  • A lot of lights went on in his head after the first accident in training pants. It's good to know something besides the plumbing is working.
  • I am very thankful for tile floors right now.
  • I had a cuppa mint tea after a rough patch of five accidents in 30 minutes. Those Brits understand a thing or two about what to do in a crisis. 
  • That little tantrum (his? mine? whatever) just set us back about two weeks. 
  • In all my work with children of various ages, I've never worried that I wouldn't be able to outlast one of them. Until now. He's giving me a run for my money.
  • You know your husband is a catch when he offers to take a day off work to help with potty training.
  • I neither maimed my children nor drowned my sorrows in a bucket of ice cream after they went to bed thirty minutes early. I'm going to call today a win.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Saturday Mornings

On Saturday mornings, Joseph and I like to head out into Ibirapuera Park and do a 10k. Here are some pictures from our weekly adventure:
Strapped himself in and ready for Saturday to begin
Joseph patiently waits while Daddy is stretching
"Bamboo forest mazes"

A quick stop to ride the horsies... all eight of them

"Do the MISTY WATER!!"
Busy morning on the loop

The lake

Checking out a flock of geese on the lake.

I let Joseph out of the stroller and the flock of geese came to investigate.

If geese were as big as you were, you would probably flee to safety as well.

Ready to leave his new friends

On the way home we go through our Saturday street feira
Always something to catch your attention

Eying sugar cane juice.

Sugar cane juice with a twist of pineapple. The rewards of a hard day's run.