Friday, October 31, 2008

Where was this low-hanging blog fruit yesterday when I was desperate for material?!

So yesterday, I had nothing to blog about, and I was too tired to do so. Today, my friend, Lori, tagged me with one of these "getting to know you" things, which would have been something I could have handled even in my very tired state yesterday. Today was entertaining in its own right, but can be covered by the "to-do list" section of this post, so this is going to be sort of a "twofer." (Pictures to follow in a seperate post another time). I'm no good at tag and don't enjoy being "It," so if you like this little diversion and want to post your answers on your blog, please feel free, but no pressure.

Rules: Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people & posts their names, then goes to their blog & leaves them a comment letting them know that they have been tagged & asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you've answered the questions on your blog.

1. was newly married to the man of my dreams.
2. was in the thick of my senior year of college, probably cramming for mid-terms and praying for passing grades.
3. was a co-teacher of the freshman Sunday school class (along with Jeff) at the church we were attending.
4. was living in a teeny little low-rent apartment surrounded by, let's just say "interesting," neighbors.
5. was taking myself much too seriously and worrying about things that would never make one ounce of difference.

1. Teach reading.
2. Join the procession to give the mummy of Pharaoh Khufu C a proper burial.
3. Visit chocolate factory.
4. Shoe shopping.
5. Scope out the birthday cake selection at the local bakery.

2. Give Jeff flying lessons and his own plane.
3. Buy really cool gifts for everyone I know...all the time.
4. The usual material things, I guess--new house, new car, new furniture, new clothes, new shoes, etc.
5. Fly first class.

1. Haskell, TX
2. Belton, TX
3. College Station, TX
4. Austin, TX
5. Vila Velha, Brazil

1. Kids Klub counselor (after-school care for elementary-aged kids)
2. Texas A & M bookstore clerk.
3. Personal aide to elementary student with Cerebral Palsy
4. Entrepreneur--first gift baskets, then sugar scrubs
5. My fave (and by far the most rewarding)--a Mommy!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Falling Short

I want to be witty, charming, amusing, entertaining, interesting, or at the very least, informative. But tonight I find myself only tired and without anything to offer. So, I will put myself to bed and, hopefully, sleep through the night, so that I will be fresh for you tomorrow. Until then...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Whole New Beach Experience

The beach that runs along in front of our building is pristine. Not only is it (thankfully) realatively free of trash, it is also (disappointingly) relatively free of shells. But today, thanks to my in-laws and their genius of walking down the beach in the other direction, we were able to enjoy a whole new beach experience. The sand changes from ultra fine to downright coarse. And the further along you go, the more shells there are. We collected gobs and gobs of beautiful shells, and we had a blast! We will definitely be going in that direction again, now that we know the treasures that can be found.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Starting the day off with a bang

Here, we have drinkable yogurt rather than yogurt you eat with a spoon. (You can buy the spoon kind, but it's very expensive). I'm not crazy about just sitting down with a big glass of yogurt, but I do love to pour what amounts to thick, flavored milk over my granola for breakfast. And, we have so many flavors to choose from, that breakfast becomes a bit of an adventure. Yesterday morning was more of an adventure than I bargained for, though, as I reached for a brand new bottle of coconut yogurt. After shaking it for a few seconds, as instructed, I pulled the little plastic ring, and POW!, the lid shot off, hit the ceiling and sailed across the room. And chunky, fermented yogurt shot out like a geyser, soaring right over the rack of clean laundry drying under the ceiling fan. Thankfully, most of the clothes were spared, though the ceiling, floor and kitchen counter were thoroughly covered. Some even managed to make it into the bedroom, a good 12-15 feet away. And I just stood there with my mouth agape, completely stunned by this turn of events. I can honestly say I have never seen anything quite like it. It took Jeff and me both to clean up the mess and it smelled pretty bad, but still, it was truly amazing--especially the part where it sailed right over the laundry. Simply amazing. Wish you all could have been here. We would have had a good laugh and then sat down with a big bowl of granola and yogurt--but not the coconut kind!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ancient African Feast

This week Ruth was studying Ancient Africa in her History class, and her project for today was to prepare an ancient african feast. She did a great job of getting everything ready and was able to really impress her grandparents upon their arrival. Plus, everything was really yummy. (Even Max enjoyed it)! Here are the menu and a few pics:

Chicken With Figs
Papaya Stir-Fried Rice
Fried Plantains
Date and Banana Bars (we substituted raisins for the dates)
Date Chewies (we substituted prunes for the dates)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Max was here!

And here. And there. And everywhere. And, my Bible no longer starts "In the beginning." It's more like "In the middle somewhere." If I turn my back even for a second, the little Max Monster sets to work--emptying garbage cans, discovering unknown piles of grunge, taste-testing things that I don't even want to know what are, attempting to escape from the apartment, and, of course, ripping pages out of any and all books--with as much delight as one little baby can possibly muster. I think he thinks it's a game to see how many times a day I can pick him up and move him to another location. It's more than a full-time job, and, frankly, it's wearing me out! I'll be glad to have some extra eyes and hands for the next few weeks as Jeff's parents visit, followed immediately by my mom and grandmother. Maybe with that many people on the job, someone will actually remember to close the bathroom door before Max can get his hands all the way down into the "splash zone".

Monday, October 20, 2008

Making Space

We are preparing for the arrival of Jeff's parents on Thursday. They will be staying in our little apartment with us, so today my job was to make space. I rearranged furniture (which, if you know me at all, you know I was probably going to do anyway) and cleaned out closets, and I was amazed to find out how much space we actually have. We will certainly have a full house with 7 people in 600 square feet, but I don't think it will be uncomfortable. (And I hope our guests don't disagree). I sort of feel like I could design one of those tiny space rooms they have in IKEA stores--only the furniture I'm working with here is way, way less cool.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Public Service Announcement

The time changes here tonight. We are "Springing forward." For Texas, that puts us three hours ahead of you, meaning it's almost midnight here and time for bed.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Another Month of School

Here are some of the things Ruth has done in the last month of school:
  • Wrote and "published" her own book about tropical birds.*
  • Wrote a list of her own laws, following the example of Hammurabi.
  • Started the vocabulary wall.
  • Stomped her Dad several times in our "Vocabulary Throwdown Challenge."
  • Made own address book with family addresses and phone numbers.
  • Finished the first Spelling book, which she was scheduled to finish in December.
  • Made a book about the seasons.
  • Learned about money by setting up a store.
  • Played "Grammargories."
  • Finished the first math workbook, putting her on track to finish all of first grade Math in December.
  • Learned place values to the hundred billions.
  • Lots of other fun and interesting things that I don't remember ever doing in school.

*If you already read this post and are wondering where in the world that tropical bird book is, well, it's not online. Sorry. If you really want to read it, let me know, and I'll send you a copy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fresh Bread

When we first arrived in Brazil, we did what Americans do. We bought groceries in bulk in an effort to cut down on our trips to the store. That is NOT what Brazilians do. They buy things in small quantities and go to the store often. They buy fresh bread every morning (and sometimes in the afternoon, too). We scoffed at this practice when we first arrived. But now, well, now, things are different. We still buy some of our groceries in bulk, but not our bread. We know the difference between fresh bread and old bread. There is something truly amazing about eating the bread while it is still warm. Not only does it taste better, but there is the added benefit of the pleasing aroma filling the apartment. It's absolutely irresistable. We thought buying bread to last the week was a good idea, until we tasted the difference. Now we are hooked, and I dare say, even snobby about it. It's fresh bread or no bread for us, thank you very much.

Small wonder, then, that the Lord commanded the Israelites to gather the manna in the morning. Every morning. They couldn't live off the old stuff. It would go bad and even disappear. Imagine trying to live off the same loaf of bread for two weeks. For two months. For two years. For twenty years. The bread would become stale and moldy and eventually just turn into dust, with nothing left that even resembled the bread you started with. Sounds awful, right? And yet this is how so many Christians live their lives. "Well, I had an experience with the Lord 20 (or even 2) years ago...," they say. We can't live off these old blessings. We need the fresh bread every day. The Bible says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good..." (Psalm 34:8). Just a taste of the Lord leaves us wanting more. And the more we have, the more we want. Once we get a taste of His fresh revelation, we can't abide a stale walk with the Lord. This is a challenge for me. I have many excuses why the old bread is o.k. But the longer I go without a new experience with the Lord, the hungrier I get. And once I've had just a taste of the Lord's goodness, only that will do.

Lord, give me Your fresh bread from Heaven today. I can't live without it, and I don't even want to. I have tasted Your blessings, and they are good. I am thankful for all the ways You've blessed my life, but I don't want to try to live off old blessings. I need to hear Your voice today, and I need a new experience with You. Let my life be filled with the pleasing aroma of the bread that comes from You.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Conversation Over Dinner

Ruth: This chicken was a girl because there are breasts.

Me: Well, actually, all the chickens we eat are girls. No one really eats roosters.


Ruth: What do they do with all the feathers? Do they make clothes out of them or something?

Jeff: I think sometimes they grind them up...

Ruth: And make chicken smoothies??!!

[General hilarity on the part of the parents]

Jeff: Well, I was going to say they make fertilizer, but chicken smoothies certainly sound interesting.

(Katie, maybe these tips will help you make better use of your farmyard fowl).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Vocabulary Wall

In the course of her schoolwork, Ruth comes across words, from time to time, that she doesn't know--as you would expect a first grader to do. Jeff and I didn't want her to just skip over these words so we tried to think of some way that would make her want to really learn the new words. We really didn't have to spend many brain cycles on it, though, because as soon as she found out that hanging them on the wall was an option, she was completely on board. So, when she comes across a word that she doesn't know, in any subject, she writes it down on a card. Then, we look up the definition together and write it on the other side of the card. Then, I write an example sentence, using the word. We drill these like flashcards. When Ruth can say the definition and use the word in a sentence of her own, she gets to hang it on the wall. (This serves a dual purpose--one utilitarian, one decorative--since our walls have been pretty blank up until now).

Ruth now has 35 words on the wall, including, but not limited to the following:


Having the words up on the wall makes Ruth more aware of them and encourages Jeff and I to use those words more often in conversation. Ruth loves to catch one of us using one of "her" words, and she is thrilled to no end to see them in print again in other reading assignments. Just another way the Watts Academy is making learning fun.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Monday, October 06, 2008

At what age do you forget?

Childhood is so carefree, so fanciful, so fun. And, I want to know at what age do we abandon the simple joys of life: the thrill of pushing the elevator button, the excitement of switching beds with your sibling for the night, the delight of receiving the paper towel roll when all the paper towels are gone, the hilarity of bopping your baby brother on the head with a diaper over and over as he belly laughs, etc.? And more importantly, why? Why the constant effort on behalf of adults (myself, first among these) to stifle what is so very clearly "the good life?" Kids get it. They know what life is all about. We would all do well to immitate them, embrace those simple joys and remember rather than forget.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Taking it on the chin

Nothing can make you cry like the sight of your own blood. And we had crying and blood in abundance tonight after church. Jeff and I lingered in the sanctuary after the service to talk to some friends, while Ruth and Weston went out into the courtyard to play with the other children, just like they always do. Apparently, Ruth was skipping--which is technically not "running," (but is still not on the "Gaits Allowed" list)--when she crossed paths with a boy running the opposite direction. And by "crossed paths," I really mean crossed faces/heads. The force was great enough to knock Ruth to the ground, where she then did a face plant on the tile or on the concrete. My mommy-ears picked up on my child crying and I came to see what the problem was. As I mentioned before, it was just all blood and crying--along with a few hysterical Brazilian women and a cacophony of unintelligable Portuguese. Fortunately, by the natural course of life, she had already lost her two bottom teeth (and hasn't yet fully gotten in her new ones) or the damage would have been worse. She did loosen up a third tooth and cut the gum a bit (thus the bleeding), and she will certainly have a bruised and sore chin/jaw. Overall, though, the dramatics stemmed almost exclusively from the sight of her own blood. Cleaning the spilled blood off her leg and shoe seemed to help more than the ice and Motrin. By the time she went to bed, she had regained her happy face and was already making big plans for what she would eat for breakfast.

What we need around here is a little excitement, don't you think?!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Lest you think Thursdays are boring

As I returned the laundry keys to the porter this afternoon, he informed me that even though I thought I had signed up do do laundry next week on Tuesday and Thursday, either through his error or mine, that wasn't going to be possible. Instead I would be doing laundry on Wednesday and Thursday. O.k. fine. "Can you just sign me up for Tuesday and Thursday for the following week?" I asked. "No problem, " he assured me. So, off I went to my happy little abode, where the scent of clean laundry filled the air.

A few hours later, Weston woke up from his nap completely soaked. (Being able to go potty by yourself doesn't really count during naps). "O.k." I thought, "the extra sheets are hanging on the line now, and we have a good breeze. They should be dry by bedtime (hopefully)."

A while later, I loaded up all the kids and we headed off in one direction, while Jeff headed off in another--but not before Jeff asked me if I had my key. I always have my key, so I didn't even bother to check. (On Thursdays I have Portuguese tutoring, and the kids love to go and play with my teacher's kids. At that same time, Jeff goes to our friend's English school to assist with the advanced English class). Moments after I arrived at my Portuguese teacher's house, her husband took Ruth and Weston with him to go pick his kids up from school.

Just as my teacher and I sat down to begin, the phone rang. It's Jeff. This unnerves me, because I can only think that something terrible has happened to him en route to his destination. No. The only thing that happened was that he heard from his brother and is changing his plans so as to have an opportunity to spend some quality brother time with Alan. He named the restaurant they were planning to go to and told me he would just meet me at church a little later.

Just as we finish up the Portuguese class, in walk the children with quite a tale to tell. Apparently, after they picked up the other kids from school, Mr. Douglas insisted on taking everyone out for ice cream. Yippee! Unfortunately, Mr. Douglas doesn't speak much English and Weston's urgent bathroom message couldn't be conveyed in a timely manner. So, once again the boy was soaked--and covered with pink ice cream, I might add. Oh well. What can you do?

We arrived back at our building, where the big kids gleefully made a dash for the elevator, as always. They were already there and inside when the porter stopped me. Turns out that one way or another, the laundry days I wanted for the week after next are not going to work out. I can do the laundry on Wednesday and Thursday, but not on Tuesday, as requested. I spend a few moments discussing this with him, and look up to find Ruth standing by my side but not Weston.

I didn't have to ask where he was, because about that time I could hear weeping and wailing ascending through the walls. That's right, Weston was on a solo elevator ride and he was completely freaking out. The porter immediately got on the phone to who-knows-who, trying to get them to intervene. I hopped on the other elevator with the other kids, seeing that the one Weston is in has been called to our floor, and thinking he might get off there if it seems familiar to him. The weeping and wailing continue and increase in volume and severity, as we are now in the shaft next to him. We arrive on the 8th floor but Weston isn't there, though we can certainly still hear him. I pushed the button again and a few seconds later the door opened to a sad and sobbing little boy. I wanted to cry, too, I admit.

Well, at least we are home and can get him into some dry clothes and feed him some dinner. That will surely make him feel better. But, wait, where is my apartment key?! No really. WHERE IS IT??!! This is unbelievable! It's nowhere to be found. So, we ALL hop back on the elevator to see if the porter has a spare. "No," he says, "but if we want to have one made to leave with him for next time..." He has no time to finish--and really there is no need--since my brood and I are already halfway out the front door.

I know where the restaurant is that Jeff was going to. I will just go get the key from him and this will all be over. Oh, but the sidewalks here in Brazil. And this darn double stroller. There are no ramps. These kids are heavy. And it's rush-hour. At least it's close. We made it over to the restaurant, only to find it seemingly closed and completely devoid of patrons. O.k. the church service will be starting in an hour. I'll just go grab something for the children to eat at the little convenience store across the street from the church and wait for Jeff.

A table is procured and food is purchased. We will all feel better after we have something to...
You're kidding me! You spilled your water?! Oh well, we'll just clean it up with these slick, plastic completely unabsorbent napkins. (Think little plastic sheets you get your doughnuts with at the grocery store or possibly popcorn bag).

Meanwhile, I'm scandalizing the entire nation of Brazil by drinking my water straight out of the bottle instead of pouring it into the flimsy plastic cup provided. Fortunately, though, I had my kids drink out of those cups. This diverts attention away from my faux pas, as one of those cups has been left within reach of the baby and water is now streaming down another side of the table.

Finally, we meet up with Jeff, snag the key and scoot on back to our apartment, only to find that Max has a very messy diaper, requiring me to use the dreaded Brazilian wipes, which are akin to the aforementioned napkins but really sudsy.

From where I sit, I'd say Thursdays are anything but boring.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Bane of the Bathroom

I guess it's high time I told all of you about the special plumbing in Brazil. It's simple. It's delicate. It does not accept toilet paper. That's not ideal, but it isn't a problem. We just put the paper in the trash can and move on. And, each bathroom comes equipped with a bidet-like sprayer to make clean-up a snap. The problem comes when you add a curious, newly-independent-potty-goer to the mix.

It's definitely a love/hate relationship. For some reason, if a parent is helping said potty-goer, he makes a huge fuss when his little bum is sprayed. When he is taking care of his business all by himself, however, it is nothing short of thrilling to attempt to spray not only the bum, but the entire room. And I have to say, I can't really blame the guy. That's just too much temptation. But, it's no good for the next in line to come in and sit on a wet seat and step in and around little puddles on the floor (even if it is just water--oh please, please, please nothing but water). And it's no good for the one who continually has to clean up the mess. And worst of all is when those people are one and the same. I think you get what I'm saying.