Sunday, February 27, 2011

Solto Do Itiquira

On Saturday we caravanned with a few other families to Salto Do itiquira, a waterfall just outside of Brasilia, the second largest waterfall in Brazil. We packed snacks for the boys, stopped for cafezinhos and rolled out in the "Sub" for it's first South American road trip.

Our brand new GPS complete with Brazil maps was not quite as useful as we had imagined. The tiny blue car that represented us, was driving through the middle of nowhere, but in a southwesterly direction. Which was not far from the truth, but we'd hoped for a bit more "global positioning" than this:

It was (as we are told) one of the most accessible waterfalls in Brazil, meaning it had a designated parking area, restaurant (with power), and paved walking paths all the way to the misty base of the fall. We spied toucans and monkeys swinging from trees on our walk out.

Sam and Paul went for a dip in the chilly waters at the base of the waterfall and Paul (despite my glares of caution) attempted to show off his impressive swimming skills by swimming directly into the current, which was no match for Mr. Hopkins as he crawled nearly to the base of the falls. We later watched a Brazilian man swim in place for about five minutes before giving up. Go Bluejays!

Pedrino and I watched comfortably camera in hand from the sidelines.

We walked up a bit further into the misty and undescribably green cliffs surrounding the falls and quickly pulled out my camera for a round of family photos before we all became water-logged.

Hanna's in the Mist. Peter loved every second of it, but Sam was not so keen on the waterfall shower.

After we dried out on our walk back we headed to a highly recommended local restaurant, Dom Fernando's, and ate an amazing home-cooked meal, complete with friend bananas, pepper scented rice, feijoida, and pao de quejio, followed by a tiny hot beverage that I could only describe as melted dulce de the world's most adorable and rustic tin cup.

The kids played on the ever present red, blue and yellow playground while we took turns watching them and eating our fill of lunch.

On the way out, the owner (also our server) noted that on weekends they offer free horseback rides for kids. So we indulged the groups 10 kids and let them take turns being led around a grassy pasture by a widely grinning and patient young Brazilian man. Sam would have nothing to do with the idea of mounting up one of these beasts (read: tiny brazilian horses) but we nearly had to tackle Peter as he made a bee-line directly through a cow-pie to saddle up. Seriously, how many one year olds can say they rode a horse? Ya. So we indulged him, too. Hey was squealing and making barking noises (this is currently his only animal sound) and then held on tightly while Paul walked with the horse in a tiny circle. He was, like a tiny cowboy in training, in heaven for the entire two you can see.

The boys napped on the ride home and Paul and I enjoyed our new fave Brazilian radio station, "Club 105.5" playing all today's Brazilian hits, we held hands and marveled at the gigantic and seemingly endless sky filling with storm clouds.

(a link to a complete gallery from our trip forthcoming)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Car Seat Diaries: Year 2

You may remember the original Car-Seat Diaries post a mere inspiration for the obsession that has become this years collection. We love to drive, it is in our blood (right Dad!) so these pictures speak loudly to me when I review them at the years end. Journeys to adventures, drives to the airport, Ma and Granddad in the front seat, me squished in the backseat, holding tiny hands in the dark, road trips to DC, road trips to Seattle, silly songs, tears, ok the occasional car sickness, laughter, and quiet. You see a small boy growing in a car seat, I see a whole year of change, houses, cars, countries, friends, hearts and minds.

(Don't fret! I'm working on Peter's first year...well second year....babies are facing backwards for their first year and since our little runt is still so small and we are overly cautious, he remains rear facing for another month or so.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chegou (Finalmente)!

Our furniture arrived yesterday! It was supposed to have arrived Friday, so we would have the long weekend to unpack and put stuff away, but then I received the following email on Thursday:

“G-Inter Transports informs below that the truck with your HHE broke down on its way to Brasilia.”

It broke down?! Elise and I were both picturing the truck, curls of steam coiling from the hood, leaning on the red clay shoulder in the middle of nowhere, Brazil with armed bandits on horseback carrying Sam’s children’s books and Pete’s stuffed animals off into the jungle. Needless to say no one was pleased. But arrive (chegou) it did, finally (finalmente).

Before we left DC, Elise and I conferred over the packer's inventory from when they packed us out of Fla. We had to put a check mark next to boxes or pieces of furniture we wanted pulled from our storage unit in Maryland. It might sound as exciting as the finale of an episode of Wheel of Fortune where Pat Sajak takes you on a tour of a Hollywood studio spruced up with backdrops made to look like Hawaii, a Winnebago and a brand new car, but it was more like the most expensive guessing game either one of us had ever played. The inventory was basically a rapidly-fading carbon copy of a truck driver’s illegible scrawl, so we ended up somehow pulling and shipping all our glass table tops without the corresponding tables the tops are supposed to go on. Of course, the last thing you want hanging around a house with a tottering one-year old are giant slabs of glass.

Fortunately, I believe that to be the extent of our (my) miscalculations. Elise baked banana bread and made coffee for the movers in the morning and chocolate chip cookies for them in the afternoon. I stood checking numbers off of an inventory sheet as the movers brought in boxes, which was the best test yet of how well I could understand my Portuguese numbers between 1 and 300.

I screwed together both Pete and Sam’s beds as Elise gave baths. Pete is stuck at a 5:00 a.m. wake-up call for a sip of milk. It is mostly my fault for continuing to indulge him, but, in this, I have sought the path of least resistance, and it still seems easier to just give him his sip of milk, knowing he will roll over and go back to sleep for an hour (or a half-hour, as was the case this morning), rather than suffer through the alternative which is “sleep-training”, a fancy way of describing listening to him scream his head off for an hour. Pete has been sleeping in the pack-n-pay for the past 3 months which is probably about as comfortable as sleeping on the floor or a bed of nails, and I was secretly hoping that he would sleep right through 5:00 a.m. in his comfy new bed. No such luck.

At ten, Elise was still putting shoes away, but I was fading, so I took a shower and crawled into the fluffy embrace of our cloud-like bed. Our bedroom is again the nest, the place of such repose and tranquility it could float miles above the Earth that Elise worked so hard to build in Florida. Which is a good thing, considering the amount of things requiring our attention and an allen wrench.

Friday, February 18, 2011


I hope that when my boys are all grown up with children and lives of their own, that they still fly from opposite ends of the country and choose to spend their vacation with their mom and dad and siblings like we still do. To put their kids to bed and sit all together on one big hotel bed, to eat Ivar's fish and chips and clam chowder, mom's homemade pumpkin pie and drink Fat Tire beer, laughing and loving (and entertaining their father post emergency room wrist breakage!) Should Paul and I succeed at this, all other of our life's accomplishments will look small and unimportant.

I've always believed the best gift you can give a child is a sibling, or several, these guys are why. In them I will always have a support system, a best friend, a confidant and shoulder to cry on, a room-mate, a ride, an ear to bend, a place to stay, money to borrow, someone to help me pick back up the pieces of my heart help me move I'm not quite sure I can....and I for them. For this I am eternally grateful and constantly striving to create the same for Sam and Peter.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Report Cartao

Today a friend came over while our boys were at preschool together to do a cool project (photos to come) and confided in me a story about our sweet boy.

You see Sam has taken to preschool like a fish to water. No tears, all smiles, new found confidence, a sense of importance and all around better behavior at home. This is not always the case during the first weeks of preschool as you know. We were unsure of how Sam would adjust, but for the moment our boy is quite joyful having found a place he loves here in Brasilia and that fills us with joy....that and this story:

Our friends son...not so much. He is nearly two years older than Sam and just not feeling like he likes school. She reports that tears flow everyday and I can hear the breaking heart in the voice of his mom. So when she reported this morning that he refused to get out of the car at school, she came in to see if anyone could help. She immediately spied Sam at a table alone eating an early lunch (8:30am...he takes after his mother) with a wide grin on his face, she asked his teacher if Sam might come out and help. Sam agreed and the teacher walked with him out to the car where the little boy sat, firmly (re)buckled into his seat. My friend reports that Sam took him by his hand and encouraged him sweetly to "Come in, it's fun! We'll play, we'll have snacks. Don't cry."

Sam later reported to me that "____ had a good day. He didn't cry, he played and had fun day!"

I was so proud of him, I nearly cried. We've always seen this quality in him and encouraged it, I just hoped that when given the opportunity on his own he would let it shine. Looks as though he did.

Super Sam: "Thank you. My work is done here....milk please!"

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Escola Days

9:00pm, The night before:

Sam tucked neatly in his bed. Tiny uniform laid out.
Puppy dog backpack packed with preschool essentials:
extra Thomas Train underwear, extra pants and snacks.
I asked Paul if we could include a tiny piece of Blanky in case of a tear-wiping emergency,
he said "No." He was probably right, but I sniffed sadly and slumped away as if I were
Blanky's owner myself.

7:30am The Big Day:

Tiny bento box lunch packed with watermelon, a peanut butter sandwich, crusts
neatly trimmed off, goldfish crackers, golden raisins and a treat......

Ok two treats.


I melt.

Puppy & Mom
(sporting "I cried myself to sleep because my baby is going to school tomorrow eyes")

Puppy & Dad (and Wandering Pete)
(Dad sporting his diplomatic/"Which way to PTA?" suit)

Zippy: "Ready to go!"


Rainbows on your first day of school are ALWAYS a sign of good luck.


PTA! PTA! (oh wait do Brazilian preschools have PTA?)

Tiny lunch tables....again heart melting.

Sam's tiny classroom


8:10am, Goodbyes

We said our goodbyes, promised to return just a few hours later and headed off into the morning. It was a little strange to not have my little buddy in the back seat to narrate our drive. We dropped Paul off at work and then drove aimlessly for a few minutes deciding what to do. It seemed I could do anything (or anything a bit easier) with only one little munchkin to tote around, but instead it seemed I couldn't really do anything, not yet at least. From the backseat not once, but twice on the drive home, I heard Peter grunting questioningly and peeked back to see him pointing to Sam's car-seat. He looked at me as if to say "aren't you forgetting someone?! Where is Sam?" We dropped in unexpectedly at a good friends house who we knew would understand and where the echoing quiet wouldn't weigh so heavily on our hearts. We chatted for a bit before heading home. At about 10:30 the school called to tell me that Sam was feeling sad and could I please come pick him up. I raced over to the school, thinking I find a red eyed little boy waiting for me, but instead found Sam playing, smiling and waving "Hey!" to me, "Me just ready come home."

And we did.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Tomorrow when we wake up life will look a little different. Our morning will be a little more rushed. Choosing an outfit for the day will be a little less difficult. Breakfast will be a little more important. We will all load in the car together as a family and quietly wind together into the morning sun through the streets of Brasilia.

Tomorrow we will shed rivers of tears. Peter will be sad. I will be sad. Paul will no doubt be sad.

Tomorrow I will entrust a little bit more of the world to the care of my sweet little boy and I'll share a little bit more of my little boy with the world.

Tomorrow when we wake up we'll be the parents of a preschooler.

Tomorrow Sam will be a preschooler.

Tomorrow I'll pack my first school lunch, a day I've looked forward to my whole life. I'll label all Sam's things and place them neatly with his lunch, sippy cup of milk and a treat in his little puppy dog backpack for snack-time.

Tomorrow hand-in-hand Peter, Paul and I, with tears streaming down our faces will walk our proud little curly haired boy into his first day of school and without him we'll walk out. We'll pull ourselves together and be confident in the fact that Sam is ready for more, a time that comes in every mans life. Then we'll confidently approach a few mornings of our week in a different way than we have grown accustomed over the past three years and it won't be easy at first, but then it will all become normal, as it always does.

Tomorrow I will be early to pick him up. I won't be able to help it.

I've been through this all before, or so it feels. I haven't felt like this since we drove my big brother Dan to his first day of University. Dropped him by the door of his new dormatory and waved goodbye, through rivers of tears, through a windshield of cold Northwest rain as I held tight to my Mom and Dave.

We've been through this all before, but still I haven't felt like this since I accompanied Dave on a summer's adventure to a tiny and damp, one room cabin in Montauk, NY. Where with Paul's hand in mine we waved goodbye through rain streaks smearing our windshield, as tears poured down my cheeks.

Both times, both experiences were simply the next step. The next stepping stone on the path of life. Sam could not be more ready. I am just not quite sure if we are.

All my love and luck tomorrow sweet angel boy. We know you will win the hearts of teachers and friends tomorrow and everyday and we know that you're kindness and intelligence will serve as your compass when we can't be near. We love you Puppy.

The Rainy Season

Recently, the rainy season hasn't lived up to its name. I miss the rain. I think I am the only one in Brazil who does. The days have been long and hot, then I remember it is summer.

Last weekend, following a weekend of exploration that took us to the market in Guara on Saturday and the Parque da Cidade on Sunday, we mostly stayed in. But we can only stay in so long before Elise and I (and probably Pete and Sam, too) feel the urge to do something bem brasileiro.

Saturday we drove up the Botanical Garden, a jungle and less a garden, that Elise had been to a few times with her new running partners. We took advantage of our recently arrived air baggage (it finally arrived after ten weeks when it was only supposed to take three to four weeks to arrive. This wouldn't have been that big of a deal except I put Elise's Christmas present in it, foolishly thinking it would arrive in time for Christmas, and the carefully crafted diaper plan Elise and I had constructed relied on its timely arrival. We had shipped ahead enough diapers to get us through the shipment when reinforcements were to arrive. They never came and our diaper plan unravelled and we were forced to binge on a $53 pack of diapers that sent me sniffing the crotches before putting the boys in the bath to see if I could--in good conscience--reuse the diaper. Usually, I couldn't.). I unfolded the jogging stroller, having pumped air in the tires of all the strollers and trikes (and even the car...phew!), and plopped both boys in for a jog through the jungle with Elise in the lead. Jog through the jungle is no exaggeration, we saw two toucans fly over on our run, then perch in the tree above, their long, hooked noses perfectly silhoutted in the morning light, the sun showing orange through one of the hollow beaks.

We were in a festive mood, so we invited friends for a pool and taco party. They have 5 kids, so it is kind of like asking Katrina over for dinner, but it is always fun, though hard work it is welcome work and dishes always go faster with a bottle of Bohemia close by. Kurt, the patriarch, interviewed for this job the same day I did back in November a year ago, though on the other side of DC. We sat a few chairs from each other in orientation. We roomed together during the team-building retreat in West Virginia and sat next to each other during the Flag Day ceremony when we received our assignments and...yes, we were both posted to Brasilia! Now we share an office. It will start to get creepy if we are posted to the same place for our second assignments.

Earlier in the day, Sam and I built Elise the Seattle Space Needle out of Lego Architecture. Sam did 90% of the work and showed the precision and patience of a boy twice his age (that would make that boy only 6, so maybe it was the precision and patience of a boy three or four times his age). We are ready for more: the Guggenheim, Fallingwater, Imperial Star Destroyer and locomotives. As I am writing this, Sam and Elise are supposed to be picking out our next project on (courtesy of 'Ma and Granddad).

Sunday, we returned to the TV Tower to indulge our native fix. We beat the lunch crowd and packed styrofoam self-serve bowls with rice, feijoada, grilled chicken and sausage. All that was missing was a painfully-cold can of Antartica. We piqueniqued downwind of the giant fountain in front of the TV Tower, cooled by the mist blown off it. Pete walked around, letting me feed him yellow rice and watermelon. Then, we wound through the tightly-packed kiosks in search of souvenirs for family and items for the home. Elise bought four tiny ceramic pots for the kitchen to hold flowers or something similar as part of a dinner place setting...of course, I can't give away all her secrets.

Sam starts pre-school on Tuesday.

Changes are happening. During our daily routine, nothing feels distant or remote. Then, I look at a map and see that we are in the middle of a massive country. No matter where I stand in this city, the sky is enormous and it feels like I am looking down on the city and the hills and the sky and hills would go on forever if scope of my vision let it. And then, too, I feel small and far away, gazing out at so many clouds and so much sky and land. I have to work tonight until midnight. I am writing this from the fifth floor of one of the nicest hotels I have ever stepped foot in and I have stepped foot in a Ritz-Carlton so that is saying a lot. The large bay window opens up on four aquamarine swimming pools below and never-ending hills of jungle and in one part of the sky clear, eastern-facing dusk, the part of the sky that goes to sleep first, turning shades of violet and indigo and often goes unnoticed while everyone else looks at the sunset on the completely opposite side of the sky and in the other part of the sky is a thunderstorm falling on the hills, lightning shooting and tickling the forest.

I am only twenty minutes from the house, but it feels too far away and I miss Elise and Sam and Pete, in addition to the rainy season. I hope they pick out some good Legos.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Last week Peter repeated "car-car" again and again as he wandered around the house on his new found legs and naturally I thought, "he's a GENIUS! He can say car!" Until.....I dropped a box of crackers on the floor outside our pantry this morning spilling crackers all over the tile floor and Peter rejoyced, "crar-kar!" Of course I still think he's a genius, I'm his mother, I just feel a little bad that I obnoxiously waved a toy car in his face like a goober saying "yes! car-car!" all week when he was, in fact, begging for crackers. I'm sure if I'd looked closely enough he'd have been rolling his little green eyes at me and saying something like "just get me a cracker lady!" Listen carefully....

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Good Things

I am beginning a much needed, long envisioned makeover to our blog. Please bear with us as we begin construction...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Journey to Brazil: A Study in iPhone Photography

Full station wagon every square inch of interior area filled with suitcase.

Notice the car seat on top of the pack 'n' play on top of Sam. We had to rent car seats because our car seats went to BWI while we went to DC.

Sam saying goodbye to Nanny.


JK Bridge.