Thursday, March 31, 2011

Corrida das Estações

Last weekend, after much training, I attempted my first South American 5K. This is different than an American 5K, in that when you are running, the signs along the way are in kilometers, not miles. As in "hooray! you've made it 1k!" which makes me really excited until I realize a "K" is less than a mile. Oh and everyone is speaking Portuguese and wearing regular running shoes, except me, but that is how I like it. So......I did it, all by myself. My running partner, the other half of our running "Clube de Dois" missed the registration and there I was on my own...with a fabulous cheering squad.

Once I tackled my first hurdle, attaching my time chip to my Vibrams sans laces, and my second using a Brazilian honey bucket, I was off to the start line.

Being the passionate individual that I am, I was a bit overcome with reality as I waited in a crowd of Brazilians on the Esplanada in Brasilia, Brazil, about to run a 5k that I had found the time to train for, while becoming settled in a foreign country while raising two small boys and well you get the idea. Living the dream. So I felt a rush of emotion that threatened to spike tears as the countdown began and I tiptoed my way to the start line. I peered left and right for my boys and the other half of my running clube as I wove along the esplanada.

Another quick way to standout, don't wear your race-shirt to the race! "Hey white girl!"

Taking it all in (all 95 degrees of it) I ran down the main road (much like the Mall in DC) flanked on either side by government buildings and crazy cool, although, widely criticized for it's "communist-looking" architecture. I nearly missed the 5K turn around and headed for the 10K which was a challenge I wasn't quite up for, but instead headed back down the road towards the 5k finish.

Paul was designated "Race Photographer" a job which you can see he took none too lightly.

Yielding this lovely landscape of the National Congress Building.

I scoffed at the first water stop at three kilometers, noting that Paul wouldn't have wanted me to get water, I could hear him saying, "It's only a 5K Hew, you don't need water," I spotted my crew with Paul, "look at me I didn't take water!" cheering for me as I crept up on water stop number two, just shy of four kilometers, where I caved. I took a tiny, icy, foil-topped cup and dumped it on my head, took a sip and it was just the "hello! move it!" I needed to make it the rest of the shadeless route to five. I finished at 30:32 or something close to that, not great, but "Brazil!" So you get the idea.. I grabbed water, bananas and babies and spent the rest of the day relaxing with my lady friends at spa day.

Post Race Reunion

Mini-Coach Hanna and I on the awards platform. We decided to take first in the "USA, Mother-of-two, in hot pink Vibrams" category.

So race one of four races, (one for each season/estacoe) is complete. The races I am told reward you with a quarter of a medal for each race and you are given, upon completion, a lovely frame to gold your completed 'pie o' seasons.' A marvelous goal for me.

Come over here and let me wuv you!

It has come to my attention recently that my little Puppy Dog is growing up. I hate it. I want him to stay little forever and ever. I am tempted to become the Duggar lady and just keep having children, so that someone will always be little. Smart, right!? ..... but with growth comes wisdom, so even though my little baby boy is slipping away, the babyness is being replaced with an intelligent and thoughtful little boy.

Recently he has grasped, what love is, and how important it is to express and has a great, if not sometimes tad-bit over-the-top, need to assure Paul, Peter and I of it. He tells me at least ten times a day (which is clearly not enough for any mother) "Mommy, I love you" and also tells me, while Paul is at work, "I wuv my Daddy," and Paul while he is home "I wuv you Daddy." He hugs our legs and "My Peter, my favorite friend's" whole tiny body randomly (and sometimes with wreckless love-abandon) looking up at us post hug with those big brown eyes and single, giant curly-cue dangling on his forehead and says, "Ahh, I wuv you." He does the same to his brother, but "Pee-doh" is a little leary of the attack hugging, knowing full well that sometimes, Sam running towards him with open arms does not always a hug result. So he runs away giggling, Sam chasing closely behind, eyes stricken with the concerned look of someone in need of loving someone, shouting, "Pee-doh! I want to wuv you!"

Yesterday as I sat with him at the boys tiny table in the kitchen, he looked at me and said, "Mommy, always I love you when I'm happy, ya ya, always I love you when I'm sad."

Better yet, we attended a party last weekend, where Sam found the dance-floor mid-evening in exchange for the toy filled backyard and danced all of his favorite moves with the hostess, nearly 40 years his elder. As we buckled him in the car shortly after his typical bedtime, he deliriously announced to Paul and I, "I love everyone, I love everyone!"

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Asleep: Monday, 2:55 a.m.

I hear the familiar slap of bare feet on the wood floors. Then, a poofy-haired silhouette framed by the light from the office closet.

He's holding his favorite Richard Scary book, almost half his height. I look at the clock.

Sam: "Me not sleepy andy-more."

Sometimes, I think I am a much better parent at 3 in the morning than I am during waking hours. I somehow get myself vertical and guide Sam back to his bed. I lie down next to him. This used to be easier before his toddler bed arrived and he was sleeping on a twin mattress on the floor. Now, I squeeze between wooden rails meant to keep him from rolling onto the floor and often become his defacto headboard and fotoboard, with my feet dangling over the end of the bed. I prop them on a bean bag chair for comfort. I wait for Sam's breathing to become even and measured. I wait for him to stop twitching and writhing like he has ants in his zumpies. Then, I carefully extract myself from his side and tip-toe back to my own bed and fall back to sleep.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Da Boys

Sam (while cutting out heart shapes from homemade play-dough):
"Look Mom! I made love!"

Peter (while trying on Sam's backpack this morning before school):

Good Lord, I love these boys.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Real Reason I Go to Work

This morning over pancakes in the kitchen, Sam: "You go to work today?"

Me: "Yeah, I have to go to work so I can make money to pay our bills and buy us nice things."

Sam: "And bring home packages?"

Me: "Yes, and bring home packages."

A Party for Afghanistan

One of the aspects of my new job that I was not expecting is how close global events now feel. It would seem obvious that Elise and I are more in tune with what is happening in the world, since I work for an organization that tries to manage world events. Not only because global events may have a direct effect on how we live our daily lives, but more so because global events directly effect people we know now, new friends.

A family working in New Zealand and vacationing in Christchurch was caught in the earthquake, buildings crumbling around them as liquid earth bubbled from fissures splitting the ground beneath their feet. A family moved to Cairo with their newborn only to be evacuated a few short months later, the husband having to stay behind, separated from his family, the wife having to go home and raise their family alone, not knowing when she could return. A young man in Tripoli was instructed to return to his apartment and extract only his most prized possessions. A ferry was coming to get him in a few hours and take him from Libya. He would have to leave behind his favorite violin, one he’d been playing since he was in seventh grade. He would have to look into the desperate faces of women and children eager to flee the coming war and he would have to tell them there wasn’t room on the ferry for them. These are all stories from new friends, people we have met in the last year. These are all stories that could have been our story if we had gone to New Zealand or Egypt or Libya instead of come to Brazil. Maybe that’s why they hit so close to home.

This time next year, Elise and I will know where we will go after we leave Brazil. It seems way too soon to have to wonder where that will be, but some colleagues at work who arrived a year before us are now finding out where their next posts will be.

Elise and I were invited to a party this Saturday for a friend who had found out where his next assignment was, though they were less than thrilled to hear. The invite did not mention where they were going.

“Oh no,” I wrote, “Where are you headed?”

Kabul, Afghanistan.

It is one of those questions I wish I had never asked, not ever having imagined that would be the response. Now I was forced to respond, though I didn’t have words.

I saw him later in the hall and shook his hand and told him that I hoped he didn’t find the words that I had mustered patronizing. He said of course not and that he hoped I could make it to the party on Saturday. Spirits were high. They had to be…if for no other reason than for their two kids. He was going to Afghanistan, and they were throwing a party.

This is the right thing to do. Not everywhere we will get to go will be Rome or Paris or Brazil. Not to say we will necessarily sleep on straw mats with scorpions or be separated by civil strife, but my friend has already shown me how to act if we ever receive less than perfect news. Smile and have a party.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Presidential Stand & Listen

The ONLY bad thing about being a big dreamer: The dreams you dare to dream can take you up, up and away above the cloud-line, but sometimes don't set you down so gently.

* * *

As planned, I suited up for the big day yesterday, snagged my official "Meet & Greet Pass" at the embassy and rode on over to the convention center on a big huge bus, palms sweating, butterflies fluttering. Where I waited....

Paul got off work shortly after I arrived and we ran to each other, arms wide spread across a crowded reception hall to embrace in excitement for what was about to be. (We are very undiplomatic about our love for each other.) We chatted, held hands and sighed heavily at updates informing us of the President's late-running schedule. I leaned on Paul, he leaned on me. We took turns stretching our aching sciatics and calfs from heels and runs. I held our spot while Paul delivered to me, tiny white paper cones of water and we accepted the occasional saltine cracker that was passed to us to avoid passing out of sheer excitement/exhaustion. We swindled a few fellow waiters into taking our photo...

and we took a few photos of ourselves....

...and then three and a half hours, of standing in heels-and politely maintaining our modest spot just two rows from the front later- he arrived. It was a bit of an out of body experience and would have been more so, if my aching feet hadn't been a constant reminder that I was still, in fact, in my body. I tried to take as many pictures as I could, using my best professional photography trick of holding my camera as high above my head and dodging random point-and-shoots and hands and arms and balding heads as I could and praying. I really just wanted to be as present in the moment as I could. Ambassador Shannon introduced him and he gave a short speech to thank us for our hard work and service, then headed toward us to shake our hands.

This, friends.....

is when I should have let go of all diplomatic wifery and all my lady-like manners and just butted my way to the front, but who wants to be "that person" in front of THE PRESIDENT....I didn't (some did, not sayin', just sayin'). I held back, but a little voice in my head kept shouting, "Once in a LIFETIME opportunity!" ...and so I handed off my camera and purse to Paul and squeezed my way to the front. After all, the people in the front had already had their opportunity, but in true diplomatic (read: Pantera mosh pit) style no one stepped back and I was too late. I missed his outstretched hand by no more than two inches. I was crushed. As he slid further away, my disappointment grew. Dream big, fall hard. I had built up in my head, National Anthem playing, my eyes locked with his, words exchanged, compliments given, business cards exchanged. I retired home to my brood and settled down for a good cry. Ya! SO?!

But, in the end (like I've let it go, I so have not let it go yet) I got to be in a room, with about 150 people and hold hands with my husband, as our president spoke to us. And so he didn't have time to shake our hands, we were there, together and well....we looked really good, which is always the sign of a successful event. True.

And what's more, Paul captured this photo, which totally deserves a spot on the front cover of Time magazine. So not all was lost. Until next time Mr. President......

Friday, March 18, 2011

Presidential Wears

Our lives have been entangled the past few weeks. Both consciously and subconsciously, work and personal, with the impending visit of President Obama, who arrives in Brasilia tomorrow. I have lent my husband to his and his family's safety and happiness upon arrival here, many a late hour and weekend this month. The boys are wondering who the man in the suit is that leaves shortly after they awaken in the morning and who gently kisses their sleeping heads at night when he gets home. However, this sacrifice does not come without reward. Tomorrow afternoon, I will slip on a very special dress that I stumbled upon shortly before our departure to Brazil. You know, in the unlikely event that I would get to meet someone important, WAY important.

Well it seems unlikely has become likely. When I spied this dress designer dress on a discount rack, four months ago I had to have it. I nearly wept when I peeked inside at the size....and then I did what any crazed fashionista would do, I tried (to try) it on. When Sam's attempt to zip it up from his tiny dressing room stool failed, I gathered up all my self esteem, cantelevered my half-zipped self from my slatted dressing room door and beckoned a saleswoman to zip it up for me. Nearly a size and a half too small and a size I haven't worn since having the boys. I remarked to the sales-lady as she grabbed handfuls of back fat and stuffed them inside the dress and turned beet red struggling with the zipper, while screaming "suck it in mama!" that I still had a touch of baby weight to lose, but I hoped I'd get there, someday. And, I did.

In the back of my closet, and the back of my mind, I kept this little number, until today, when I thought, "It's now or never girl!" I slipped it on and zipped it with ease, twirled once for Pete and then whooped loudly and obnoxiously for goals and deadlines and just-in-cases and the perfect dress for the perfect occasions that may or may not ever happen, but sometimes, just sometimes do (fingers crossed).

Tomorrow afternoon, I will suit up for a "Meet & Greet" with the man himself (along with 399 other well deserving people) in hopes that I can shake his hand and make all my doubts and fears and the hardships of the past year melt away when I come face to face with the man (not the political party or the senseless arguments over which we are divided as a country), an individual who represents change in our country and in the lives of all its people and who inspired us, as a family, to choose to drastically change our lives, in the hopes of aiding and inspiring change in millions more is worth meeting in my book....and looking fabulous.

[Cue National Anthem]


He's on his way...!

In all the craziness, explaining to Sam why I was having to work late and on weekends, Elise told him it was because the President of our country was coming to visit. Sam asked, "He staying at our house?" Elise responded, no, but it sure feels like it.

I Care Too Much

I recently attended a video conference at work aimed at new hires hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia, Joseph A. Mussomeli. Other employees like me had emailed in random questions for the ambassador to answer. Do you have any tips on how to deal with a difficult supervisor? Do you have any tips on writing a good performance review? Blah blah. Etc. (I try not to pay too much attention to questions like these, because a) I don’t think I would have gotten to where I am now not knowing the answer to questions like these and b) if I haven’t figured it out by now, I’m never going to.) Someone asked the ambassador if he had any tips on interacting with superiors or with subordinates. Ambassador Mussomeli admitted that he when he started supervising others he was not good at it. Though, at the same time, he realized it was not because he faulted the ability or desire to lead or mentor. He was a good father and he was good at leading and mentoring his own children.

So what was the difference?


He cared….loves, probably more apt…his children and did not feel the same way about his subordinates. So, on a conscious level, he realized he had to ‘care’ about his subordinates in order to better lead and mentor them. It is sad that he had to come to this realization in order to learn to be a better supervisor. Though impressive that, even at a high level of the organization, he recognized one of his failings and sought to actively improve upon it. So, as he told himself, if he loved and cared for those working for them with the same level of respect and admiration than he had for his own children, he would become a better mentor to them and leader of them. This is, in fact, exactly what happened, as many will attest to, including some—but it was suggested during the video conference, not all—in Ljubljana.

I think of myself as an incredibly laid-back, hard to stress out person. I think this has changed somewhat after becoming a father. I find myself losing my temper more quickly and in situations in which I know, pre-fatherhood, I would never have been so uptight (although one or two longeneckes helps a lot).

For a long time, I attributed this to lack of sleep. As many of you know, Peter only recently…like this week…sleeps all the way from the time we put him down to sleep around 8:00 until 6:00 in the morning. Prior to that he had this habit—perpetuated by my extremely low tolerance for hearing my boy cry (said tolerance further lowered by lack of sleep)—of getting up at 5:00 in the morning for a sip of milk which in my bleary-eyed quasi-slumber I was only too happy to grant him if it meant he would sleep another 30 minutes or hour. This lack of sleep was further compounded by the fact that since Sam has been in a big boy bed for most of the last year, he pays his parents occasional visits in the middle of the night. This didn’t use to be a big problem for me, because he used to always seek entry into our bed via his mother’s side, which got me off the hook for having to decide whether or not to grant him passage. Nowadays, for whatever reason, he’s started sneaking in on my side…maybe because my side of the bed is closer to the door and, thusly, his room…maybe because he figured out that I’m the one who will usually grant him passage either because I’m the softy or I’m too tired to argue (whereas the other gatekeeper started turning him away)…who knows…?

But I know I can’t blame it all on lack of sleep, because as tired as I might feel in the morning, I still get 6 or 7 good hours of sleep which any sleep deprivation research institute will probably tell you is sufficient. I now believe the problem is I care too much.

I care too much how Sam behaves because I want him to grow up to be the best little boy and most respectful and thoughtful young man he can be. I care because I want him and his little brother to get along like Elise and her brothers do and like my brothers and I wish we did. I care because I don’t want him to wallop on his little brother, kick him, head butt him, push him over or take trains or Matchbox cars from him. I care because I want him to listen to me. Not because I am on a power trip or feel the need to control him, but because I have important (and not so important) things to show and tell him. I am realizing that I don’t think I would get so mad if I didn’t care. Sometimes, I just want him to listen to me. It doesn’t matter what I’m saying.

Elise has called me on it on many occasions as we are trying to implement a consistent system of ‘managing’ Sam’s energy, energy that is akin to that produced by a small star going supernova, the turbines on a jet fighter, nuclear fission or a pack of wild mustangs. She has a calm and predicative system of escalating warnings (much like the Defcom 1 countdown in “War Games” or the color-coded terrorist warnings announced over airport intercoms) followed by measured counting. She tells me I act like everything is hunky-dory, until I suddenly fly off the handle and start throwing things (including select epithets) like an Olympic shotputter. So, when I found myself in the later frame of mind, I try making a conscious decision to either implement the measured counting or walk from the room. I’ve been walking from the room a lot lately.

When all is said and done, I would rather care too much than care too little. I knew it was going to be hard work being a parent. I think a lot of people think the bulk of the work occurs in the first three years with washing bottles, changing diapers, sharing sleepless nights. I think that is what I thought. But I would argue that this is only the tip of the iceberg, that the real parental lifting starts at three. This is go-time. This is when what you say and do really matters. This is when he will look at what I do and how I react in certain situations and possibly mold his future actions and reactions to mimic mine. Which is scary to think.

That being said, there is one characteristic that I know he already has from Elise and I…he cares too much and feels too deeply. These aren’t bad things.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Bedtime Roundup

Two tiny cowboys...

One lengthy glance exchanged...

A bitsy hoe-down...

A swift duel...

A short-lived moment of celebration...

Before the tiniest cowboy's horse was startled by the howls of blanky and the he rode off into the sunset crib.

and then only one cowboy remained...wide eyed, until 9:30ish when we forced him to sleep under the his room. Ok we don't really have stars, but we so need some.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Little House on The Ebay

A recent email-versation:


> How much would you pay for 13 of those 'My First Little House' books? S&H is $7


> No idea. Two roosters? A bale of hay? One days work on the cabin? An hour of live rollicking by Mr. Edwards? Dance lessons from Pa? A tin bowl of corn mush?

We are longing for Barnes and Noble. We want to go there on a rainy Saturday and order coffee and be glared at by the "Children's Department" manager as we read ten gazillion books to our kids, let their imaginations (and dirty hands) run wild on the train table, eat pastries, sip our hot Starbucks beverages and unintentionally leave a few crumbs behind while we sit on tiny benches for hours and leave with just one book and a couple of screaming toddlers.

...and if we couldn't do that we'd want to go to the library and arrive pink cheeked from a brisk walk, park our stroller in a non-indicated "stroller parking" area and abandon ship while we parked ourselves mid aisle to read and sip milk and coffee secretly from our insulated sippy cups and leave with two screaming toddlers after we checked out ten gazillion books, like we had just the day before.

We need new books, English books. If reading the same book for the ten thousandth time was harmful to ones health...we'd both be dead. We're desperate. Even the kids are desperate: I actually overheard Paul tell Sam last-night, "Listen pick out two books, but I'm not reading any coloring books, baby board books with only three words or puzzles."

Hence the emergency virtual Amazon shopping trip Paul was taking this morning for a few books* to add to our collection.

*We like little house books. It takes us back, way back, to the way it should be. More on that when I review my latest read "Radical Homemakers" I'm going off the deep end, in a good way....or was I always off the deep end?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bedtime Confessions:

Paul says prayers with the boys at night before they drift off to read 40 more books and sneak out of bed 16 times sleep. We never really did this as kids, because who has the patience or energy left for praying with a toddler and an infant when the day draws to a close? Not I. "Pray quietly, as you close your little eyes," I say. Anyway.....every night Paul starts and then someone giggles, or screams or says something naughty (usually me) and Paul says "I've opened the lines here people! Everything you say can be heard now!" Like perhaps we are in the midst of a seance. It is hilariously comical and whichever lines Paul is opening, the receiver is sure to hear a myriad of laughter each evening before we pray for each (and every) family member by name and Sam adds a few odd things like "books" and "hair."


Monday, March 7, 2011

True Story

When we asked Sam this morning, on a scale of 1-10 how excited he was that Nanny was coming to visit in just a little over a month. This was his reaction:

(I don't have time to make this stuff up people.)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bom Carnaval!

We're rolling into a five day weekend of Family Carnaval Fun. We started the fun a little early in true Hanna style this morning with "silly socks" for all. While we will not be jetting off to Rio topless this year, next year is looking good....for Paul...the topless part I mean. This year we will partake right here in Brasilia in "Carnaval Light." A splendid array of photographic coverage to be featured here next week....

Bom Carnaval!

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Last weekend our HHE (Household Effects) arrived, technical government speak for "our stuff." Ours came in the form of about 3,000 lbs of things that make our home look like our home. Packed like Tetris cubes on a big truck that spent the previous night, broken down, in the middle of God-Knows-Where, Brazil, guarded by a nice driver, who (as my wild imagination had decided) spent the evening beating off natives in grass skirts and banana leaves from making off with my children's toys and my beloved food processor.

We were excited when this (fully intact, un-ravaged) semi truck arrived in front of our house a whole five minutes ahead of schedule last Monday morning.

Ok very excited.

To be polite (with crow-bar and lock snapper in hand) we were asked by the driver if we possessed the key to the shipping container (that we can only imagine was last seen in Storageville, MD or a sweltering port in Miami months earlier.) We exchanged glances, despite the already snapping lock, that may have read a little like, me to Paul: "Somebody better have that effing key or I'm driving to Rio!" and Paul to me: "I know you are already halfway to Rio Hewie, don't make a scene, they will get it open." Snap! With a unnervingly quick and casual swiftness, lock pieces scattered the pavement in front of our house and our things were unveiled........almost.

We rejoyced,

Took pictures of our new friends and house-guests for the day,

and watched as each and every box we saw packed up that last, rainy and emotion-filled, Florida day was unloaded off the truck and stacked in our foyer in Brazil. Nearly a year ago, without knowledge of where or when we may see these things again, Sam soaked up precious last moments with Nanny, Peter, just 6 weeks old was strapped to my chest as Paul and I bid farewell to our home. Last Monday we were reunited again with it all. Together.

The boys discovered spots among the boxes just as I remembered doing as a kid on moving day and Sam anxiously (and obsessively) asked which boxes were his as they piled higher and higher.

I baked banana bread, served coffee and kept water glasses filled all through-out the morning for the movers, while Paul checked in each of our 300+ boxes and our maid (God love her) washed all ten thousand pieces of kitchen-ware and began to put things away. Sam unearthed legos and dump trucks and Peter took his last nap in the pack and play and excitedly said goodbye to it and hello to his crib after a three month stretch.....and stretch he did, he had nearly outgrown the playpen and had to either curl up or sleep diagonally after we sent the wobbly,embassy drop-side crib packing.

With beds put together and things beginning to fall into place we are feeling more settled.

What was the thing you were most excited to receive you ask? Truly the most important thing we received after a year without our things:

An appreciation for the fact that these things are not even the slightest part of what makes our home feel like home. Instead the fact that we are, wherever we go, always together, that does.

Brasilia, Brazil

Some days it seems as though we can see the whole world from here.