Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: A Brief Summary

Foreign Service. Leap of Faith. Strength. Family. Paul. Sam. Peter. Change. Trust. Determination. Simplification. Uprooted. Replanted. Survival. New Growth. Challenge. Support. Home Redefined. Goodbyes. New Friends. Reassurance. The Unexpected. Anxiety. Courage. Inspiration. Thanks. Better Together. Resilience. Dream Becoming Reality. Flights. Faith. Adventure. Failure is not an Option.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Things you don't like to hear while eating lunch

Sam (from the living room!): "Just poop Mom! No Pee!"

Me (from the kitchen): "What the what!?"

Sam (waddling in grasping his big boy briefs in the rear): "Just couple little poops fall out over der. No pee though Mom!"

Me: "Oh my God, Poop! On the Floor!?"

Sam: "Sausy Mom, just couple poops felled out"

Me: (stepping carefully along a path of disguised poop nuggets that closely resemble spots on the marble floor to get them all before I step on one)

Sorry you missed it. :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


When I was little, my brothers and I would carry old margarine containers to the creek (read: ditch) across the street from our house in Blaine and collect tadpoles. Tiny little slippery creatures, that we knew would turn into something completely different over night, just like magic. Like proud parents, we would carefully return our catch to the backyard. On tip toes we would teeter our 'Country Crock crib' up on to the interior railing of the high fence in a special corner of our yard. The same corner that housed all our specimen. Including our bug capturing kit, old jars filled with home-made rose perfume steeping in the sun and our family pet cemetery (only home to goldfish and a parakeet). When we felt comfortable with their safety we would head inside and leave them to 'marinate', falling asleep dreaming of tiny frogs. Inevitably, by morning, they were gone. Not a trace of our tiny little tadpoles. Just like magic.

. . .

Peter Grey was born just 11months and 29 days ago. This is really not all that much longer than 'overnight' in 'adult time'. We brought this little tadpole carefully home from the hospital, so small we were scared we'd break him. Fearful of missing that one magical moment when he became more lean, sprouted another tooth, or his face became 'just so' and looked a tiny bit more like his Daddy's. I've placed him carefully up on the counter while I cook, so I wouldn't miss a minute, attended every bath-time, even when I knew Paul had it completely under control. I've slept so light as not to miss the faintest cry, yet every morning when he wakes up he is magically different. Somehow I always miss the transformation. Surely, like the magical tadpoles, I convince myself, the growth of these little babies must happen at night. I reach in to his crib each morning and he's bigger, with more wisdom in his eyes, tufts of new hair, baby feet magically disappeared into the night. Two little boys. From two little tad-poles. Just like childhood magic.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Sam is 3!

For those of you whos hearts I know bled to miss this moment....I captured it. For you. THE BOY IS THREE!!! Birthday wishes wished (he wished for Santa to bring more presents he confided later at bedtime). Candles blown out. Presents unwrapped. Santa zippy pj's back on. A stream of happy tears cried by mama. I think my mom may have been right when she recently announced, "it doesn't get any better than this."

We had pancakes with ice cream and sprinkles for breakfast (Sam's request), played in the pool, hunted down one of Brasilia's only McDonalds for fries at lunch. We baked a cake, played in the pool, with new trains, read a million books, ate sliders, smiley-faced french fries (a Brazilian favorite) and drank chocolate milk for dinner. I don't ever remember a happier birthday, and it wasn't even mine.

Thanks from the bottom of our french fry filled bellies to all for your sweet birthday wishes.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Sweet Boy


I simply can't imagine life without your sweet face everyday. You remind me of all the good things in the world. You teach me to slow down. In you I see all the best memories of my childhood and the littlest reminders of all the people in the world I love. From Great Grandaddy's ears, to Uncle Dan's eyes and Daddy's hands and so much more. You are the best snuggler in the world, you are creative and kind and so very smart. I want to bottle you up and keep you three forever, but I know you are destined for great things. So everyday along your journey, I will hold your tiny hand when you offer and beg when you don't, hear 'i wuv you mommy' a million times, stroke your baby soft cheeks every chance I get, play trains with you when you say 'come on lets come play with me' snuggle with you, read you a million books, lay in bed with you and whisper about our 'weeshes' as you fall asleep, Santa riding rainbows, and living in Thomas Land. I love you to the moon Puppy. Happy third birthday.



Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

(Photo, that I adore, taken by my Dad on our recent trip to Seattle.)

(If you are looking for a Christmas card from us....keep looking! It is coming, just in the form of a New Years-ish card this year!)

Merry Christmas to all!

The Hannas

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Where Winter and Summer Collide

Hot coco mustaches washed away by sips of cool water and streaks of sweat.

A 'snow sky': something felt, not forecasted, giving way to tropical skies dumping buckets of warm summer rain with just the flick of a switch.

Knee-high socks, traded swiftly for knee-high shaves.

Suits of snow, for suits of gabardine.

Pink noses, for pink cheeks.

Afternoons spent watching Granddad expertly snow-doze the drive, to afternoons spent shuttle watching for daddy's return from work.

Mornings in our zippy pj's, for mornings in our zippy pj's.

Evenings combing toy catalogs with Ma tucked neatly beneath a blanket, for evenings combing the sky for Santa through coconut palms.

Bags of mittens and hats, for bags of mangos and sunscreen.

Noses pressed to cold windows in awe of swirling snow, for noses pressed to walls of glass in awe of sea blue pools.

Falling asleep counting inches of snow and waking up to parrot songs.

Like anything truly great that transpires in life, nothing great ever comes without a huge crescendo. This was surely ours.


Monday, December 20, 2010


It has been a little over two weeks since we landed in Brasilia. Somehow, Elise and I were able to get 9 suitcases, each weighing in between 60 and 70 lbs, a pack-n-play, two car seats and two groggy toddlers through customs to the van waiting for us in sunny Brazil.

The van pulled up in front of our “Brazil house”. In preparation for the move, we explained to Sam that we would be moving to our “Brazil house”. This was especially important given the number of different places where we would be sleeping in the days and weeks leading up to us finally arriving. At the hotel in Everett where we spent Thanksgiving, I checked in, then ran chocolate chip cookies back to Sam waiting in the car. Once we unloaded and spread out in the room, Sam asked, “This my Brazil house?” No, not quite. When we finally did arrive in Brazil a week later, he asked again, “This my Brazil house?” “Yes! This is your Brazil house!” A few times over the next couple of days, as we were unpacking and stowing our suitcases, dipping our toes tentatively into the cool blue waters of our swimming pool, venturing out into the backyard for the first time, peering into the mango trees for the flash of bright green that might be a parrot’s wing, he would ask Elise, “How long we stay in my Brazil house?” We would answer for a long time. We weren’t going anywhere for awhile. This seemed to mollify him, if not make him happy and comfortable.

After a quick shower, I was whisked to the work for a few hours to start checking-in. The biggest challenge is going to be transportation. Due to the immensity and lugubriousness of government bureaucracy, our car won't arrive until February or March. The city is impossible to navigate without a car. Work sends a shuttle to pick me up and bring me home, but Elise is a prisoner in the house. You can imagine how well that is going over. So, the next day I went to the Cidade de Automoveis (The City of Cars) with a few colleagues from work.

To fully appreciate the City of Cars, one must understand a unique characteristic of Brasilia. Everything has a ‘sector’, a special part of town designated for that specific thing. For example, all the hotels are located in the hotel sector. All the fabric stores are quarantined to the fabric sector. Likewise, all the hospitals are in the hospital sector. Not kidding. Someone thought it was a good idea to put all the hospitals in one place instead of spreading them out throughout the city. New ones have sprouted since then, but I can’t imagine what procuring medical care must have been like in the 1950’s.

The City of Cars occupies its own special sector, just outside of town. Used car dealer is squeezed next to used car dealer, all in the same neighborhood, one right after the other. In between there are dusty, thatch-roofed shanties pouring draft beer. Men in denim-cut off’s and flip flops shoot pool in the open air. Each car dealer has one car with the trunk open, bass thumping, and several hawkers trying to lure you in. You walk through the dusty orange caking the dirt streets, trying to negotiate the purchase of a car in a language of which you just barely have a working knowledge. I ended up buying a used car last weekend, but am still waiting for the wire to clear from my U.S. bank to the dealer's bank in Brazil. Yes, I bought a car in Portuguese. Sam came with me to negotiate the finer points. Really, he watched cartoons through snow in Portuguese and read a comic book while I struggled through the wire transfer form.

The other challenge...this isn't Japan...NO ONE speaks English. It is much like the U.S. in that respect. It is such a big country (of continental dimensions, as I’m frequently reminded) no one feels the need to, but thanks to a modest investment in a few Brazilian fashion magazines, Elise is learning a few words and phrases here and there.

Brasilia reminds Elise and I a LOT like Florida, but perhaps the Florida of 20 or 30 years ago that neither one of us had the opportunity to appreciate. We remarked to one another how this place didn’t feel that foreign. It’s different, strikingly so, but not unknown. It rains. A lot. It will rain all night. It will rain as we go to sleep and still be raining when Pete wakes us at 6 to the rain splattering on the concrete outside our window. Our roof leaks in spots. The sky is big here. Tall thunder clouds can be seen hours away, coming or going. The sky is so big the bottoms of clouds can be dark, giving rain, rumbling, while the tops are higher in the sky, in full sun as though blissfully unaware of what transpires beneath. When we first walked into our house, there was something immediately familiar about it. I wasn’t sure if it was the gas stove, the fact that the kitchen was removed from the rest of the house (uncommon in American homes, where the kitchen is the social nexus of the home, though common in Brazilian homes where it is connected to the maid’s quarters and the pantry and, therefore, cordoned off after dinner) or the fact that we had mango trees in our backyard. It reminded me of Sitti’s old house in West Palm.

Our house is beautiful. It has 4 bedrooms, one of which, the one overlooking the sparkling pool in the backyard, we made into Elise's office. Another room will forever be called the lizard room, because of the lizard that snuck in under the screen and now lives in the a/c unit. There is a huge backyard with 4 mango trees, a lime tree, a banana tree and a coconut tree in the front. I can’t wait for our tent to get here, so we can camp back there and toast marshmallows in the fire pit. We have been told that there are monkeys back there, too, tiny squirrel-like things with flowy yellow manes, but we haven't seen any yet. Mango and breadfruit trees grow in the medians of the roads and are public property so during lunch or on my drive home, I can see people in the median throwing rocks and sticks into the trees to get the mangos down!

Last weekend, we ventured to the TV Tower, the tallest structure in Brasilia. Beneath it, there is an open air market with vendors selling t-shirts, trinkets, Indian jewelry, rugs, everything. There were churrascarias, buffets with people selling spits of meat. We ordered deep-fried pastels, and I had an Antartica. Sam took a moment to settle in, but soon was ogling kites and the giant fountain spewing giant balls of mist. A crowd surrounded two men engaged in capoeira, a graceful combination of martial arts and dance.

We ordered pizza one night and the guy brought us a 6-pack of beer for free. I didn't even ask for it. It was Skol, the worst beer I’ve had since Natty Bo in the basement of the rowhouse in Baltimore. The pizza had cream cheese in the crust. Everything is familiar, but everything is a little bit different, too. Elise bought chocolate ice cream that already had chocolate sprinkles in it. Sadly, there are no Starbucks here and, therefore, no sprinks doughnuts for Sam. On her initial shopping expedition, Elise bought plastic trash bags at the store for roughly the US equivalent of $24. I was told you buy trash bags from the side of the street. From the trash bag guy. Sure enough, last weekend, we were driving back from the store and spotted him, in the median, with a roll of trash bags wound around his forearm. We swung the car around and flagged him down and spent 20 Brazilian reais on trash bags. There are capybaras here—or so we’ve been told—though we haven’t seen any ourselves yet. They, like Elise and I and the boys as we slowly spread our wings, stroll right down the sidewalks and through traffic.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010



We landed. I think a week is good to have found the first spare split second to be able to collect my thoughts here.

It goes without saying that most of the last two weeks is a blur, with but a few instances of a blaring, eye-popping clarity.

One of the moments of eye-popping brilliancy was when Udie and I ascended the stairs to Uncle Dan’s new townhouse in Everett on Thanksgiving Day. I had flown into SeaTac and waited for Dave at the airport, sipping a hot cup of coffee. It had stopped snowing, but there was still slush on the ground. The two of us drove up together and came up the stairs. I hadn’t seen my family for two weeks. I could hear Pete squeaking at the top of the stairs and the muffled thumping of Sam jumping up and down on the floor above. Everyone was there and we all embraced. I swung Sam around and then family-hugged Pete and Elise. A Fat Tire followed shortly thereafter to top off Thanksgiving.

It is hard to believe it was only 9 days ago that we landed in Brazil. It feels like a lifetime. It took singular focus and dedication to get us to where we are today and it is only halfway to where we want to be. I will pick up our adventures upon our return to D.C. from Washington, where Elise and I and the boys spent a very cold and very snowy week. I shoveled the drive while Sam played in the snow. We pushed Petey in a sled and ate lunch at 9:30, craving Zips dashboard dunkers. The trip further legitimized the fact that—and I think I can speak for Elise here, too—for both Elise and I, our hearts lie in Seattle. (She wholly converted me, though it wasn’t a stretch, given my affinity for Colorado.) When this crazy roller coaster ride comes to end, you will find us there, I believe.

I recall from travelling with Sam when he was one, that this age, in particular, is hard on tiny travelers. Pete knows his surroundings are unfamiliar but he doesn’t comprehend why, and though Sam comprehends why is surroundings are unfamiliar now, it doesn’t make the transition any easier when you don’t understand what anyone is saying around you or there are no Starbucks or sprinks donuts anywhere to be found (Starbucks: Help! Ship us sprinks donuts or open a store in Brasilia stat!) and all the toys you now have in your possession are those your father was able to stuff into one of our many suitcases without overburdening it.

Despite a foot of new snow on the ground, we made it to GEG. The accumulated stress of packing, moving, travelling finally got to me—no small feat—and I cracked, taking it out on the guy at the Delta counter who told me it would cost the equivalent of a round-trip cross-continental fare in order to get my two overweight bags on the plane. We missed our connection in Salt Lake, then were diverted from BWI to Reagan, actually a very good thing…except our suitcases were going to BWI (not to worry, the suitcase fairy delivered them to our hotel in Crystal City in the middle of the night). We would be in Washington for less than 24 hours. After a long day of flying across the country, we crashed in a California Pizza Kitchen for beer and wine and…oh yeah…food for all. It took monumental effort to motivate out of that restaurant. Sam teetered off the booth and hit his head on the corner of the table. That did it.

The next day we sprinted to an Apple store for last minute repairs to Elise’s laptop, Barnes and Noble for Portuguese phrase books, Whole Foods for baby food…*sigh*…at the end, Elise and I stuffed 9 suitcases, two car seats (we had to rent two at DCA to make up for the two that went to BWI), a pack-and-play and our stroller into the back of a rented Toyota Sienna (our car was already on its way to Brazil by way or Miami). Elise took photos. We drove the short trip to the airport with a car seat in Pete’s lap. We pulled into the Budget return where we picked up a rental employee willing to drop us off at the curb. Elise sat in my lap on the passenger side.

The problem with singular focus and dedication is that it sometimes prohibits one from seeing the forest for the trees. To me, it never felt like we were embarking on a grand journey. That we were moving to a foreign land or that today it was winter but tomorrow it would be summer. We could only think about making sure everyone was dry and fed. That our papers were in order, that we weren’t forgetting anything. That you have picked up and carried and reloaded and weighed each one of nine suitcases all weighing at least 60 pounds but no more than 70. These moments only come 9 days after you land, when you have a minute, a second, even, to exhale and say we’re really here. We did it. Even on the long plane ride through the middle of the night, the family illuminated by the sole light emanating from Sam’s seat-back monitor playing Toy Story 3 at two in the morning, the entire journey was surreal. Even as we watched on that Sam monitor our tiny electronic figure of an airplane creep across the Caribbean, over tiny islands without names, into South America and over the Amazon, clocking our velocity, altitude and forward wind speed.

8:50 a.m. Friday, December 3rd. We landed in Brasilia.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Boa Viagem

"It is hard to be brave," said Piglet sniffing slightly, "when you're only a Very Small

Rabbit, who had begun to write very busily, looked up and said:

"it is because you are a very small animal, that you will be Useful on the adventure before us."

Boa Viagem!

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

'Twas the night before Brazil....

'Twas the night before Brazil, and all through the Raddison

All the Hannas were stirring with visions of their new 'Brazil house!';

All twelve of the suitcases were stacked by the door without care,

and Paul hoped the bellman would soon be there;

Sam and Peter were jumping like maniacs on their beds,

With Elise and Paul praying they didn't land on their heads;

With Paul in his Hopkins tee and I in my "I surrender!" 80's headband,

Were so ready to settle down for a short nights nap,

When down at the concierge desk arose such a clatter,

When our bags from Spokane arrived beaten and battered.

Away in the morning to Starbucks we'll run like flash,

For one last latte and sprinks donut to stash.

When what to our jet-lagged eyes should appear

But another Boeing 747 to jet us straight out of here.

With 8 hours in the air (more or less),

The pilot will beckon all the stewardess';

'On Grumpy! On Disgruntled! On Hairspray & Nails!'

'Get these people peanuts, caipirinhas and ales!'

We'll touchdown on the runway and won't waste an hour,

Paul will be whisked away to work and Elise will be trapped at home with two screaming boys crying all day. HA HA

(ok we ran out of steam, we're exhausted already!)

**Audience Participation!!**

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