Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mornings by the Bathroom Light

We have been back in the United States for about a week. We visited Chipotle for the first time today. Fortunately, both boys loved it, and Loulee, the Brasileira, had black beans and rice, so how could she not approve? Thus, our re-indoctrination to all things American is nearly complete. I have yet to do chicken wings and a DQ Blizzard, which may be the last items on my American fast food bucket list, having already checked off Starbucks, doughnuts, and fried chicken.

This eight weeks of vacation is part of a Congressionally-mandated home leave, a required period off between overseas assignments in which we are to become reconnected with American culture and society. It ends up being a nice sabbatical in between jobs, though made logistically complicated by the fact that we are essentially homeless. The townhouse we own in Florida is occupied by annual renters, so we are relying on the warmth, kindness and hospitality of our parents after we scrubbed plans to spring for a monthly rental when I lost a small fortune last summer when said townhouse suffered a massive water leak not once, but twice.

Though I cannot thank my mom enough for hosting our collective chaos for three weeks and Elise’s parents in advance for five weeks of more of the same, and our accommodations and the service have been five-star, it will be nice to have our own roof over our heads again. Even if it is for only nine months, it will be every bit the home as our home in Brazil was and our home in India will be.

I can see home leave becoming obsolete at some point. Due to the ubiquity of American culture, due, in large part, to the internet, reassimilation is hardly difficult. That being said, it was much easier to avoid the ugly, current political dialogue in Brazil than it has been here, though Elise and I have made a pact to avoid television. In the end, home leave, becomes all about the food.

Without being anti-American, Elise and I have decided the true purpose of home leave is to encourage you to get back overseas. A few mornings ago, we made a stop at Dunkin Donuts on the way to the library. Elise ordered coffee, one of the first opportunities she has had to do so since we returned, “May I have a tall iced coffee, please?” The women behind counter barked back, “I don’t know what you’re talking about! ‘Tall’ is Starbucks! You mean ‘small’?!” Well, obviously this woman did know what Elise was talking about and made the conscious decision than rather than politely correct her and serve her a small iced coffee, she would make a spectacle of herself. A few minutes later, in an exchange with a co-worker, she proclaimed, “I don’t speak no Spanish!” Obviously. Ignorance and idiocy know no national boundaries, but we were both happier not being able to understand when ignorance and idiocy were uttered in our immediate vicinity. By way of example, as we were walking into Publix the following morning to order a sheet cake from the bakery for the boys’ birthday party, we suffered through a telephone conversation the youth behind us was having on his cell phone that began, “Dude, we are partying hard tonight!” The conversation lasted five minutes. If that conversation had been in Portuguese, it would have been very easy to ignore. In English, it was audible spam, and we will never get those five minutes of our lives back.

We don’t worry about going over the “fiscal cliff”; we are about to go over the “exhaustion cliff” spawned by pre-5:00 a.m. mornings with Clementine. In truth, everyone is faring better than expected. After an initial rocky week, Peter’s disposition has improved. Perhaps, he thinks, this America place isn't so bad after all, with your bounce houses, choo-choo trains, libraries and Chipotles. The boys go down easy for naps and at bedtime, though they are sleeping on twin mattresses on the floor of my Mom’s room in an L-configuration so there heads nearly touch. Pete’s screaming has gotten better, though he may be hitting more, unfortunately. At least it is slightly more subtle. I know a terrible thing to say as a parent.

Clementine has just been off her usual nap schedule the past few days and has been too exhausted to stay up much past 6:30 p.m. which means she wakes waaaay before the sun even thinks about rising. I scoop her up from the pack ‘n’ play and we lock ourselves in the bathroom so as not to wake the rest of the house and we play in the fluorescent glow off the under-cabinet lighting. As each older brother wakes and joins us in the tiny bathroom, Clementine crows like the rooster taking credit for the sunrise. Doubting the sun would ever rise, I downloaded an app to my iPhone telling me when the sun will rise and set. It gives me hope that, indeed, the sun will come….eventually, though it’s not quite as useful at 5:30 a.m. as Youtube.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Palm Beach Zoo

Aunt Jackie was kind enough to treat us to a morning at the zoo. We arrived just as they opened, maybe a little too early as we saw more people hosing things off inside cages than animals, but it was Clementine's first time to the zoo and given her monkey-like ooing and ahhing, I would say she is a fan.

We didn't see any bears, but we did get to see how Sam and Pete would stack up against a black, grizzly and polar bear. My money's on the kid in the Atari t-shirt.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Back in the U.S.A.

After two years living in Brasilia, Brazil, Elise and I and Sam, Peter and Clementine returned for eleven months in the United States. The grueling overnight transcontinental flight was made worse by the fact that I couldn’t tear Peter away from the behind-the-seat entertainment center and he stayed up most of the night watching cartoons which made the morning harder than it had to be or should have been.

Truth be told, we’ve been riding the roller coaster that is Pete’s emotional state since we returned. He is taking his physical extrication from Brazilian culture harder than the rest of us. This is not surprising, given his age, and the fact that he most likely remembers nothing about living in the United States and only knows how to live in Brazil. He says frequently that he wants to go back, but that is what Sam said when he was Pete’s age. Not to discount Pete’s longing; we all long for some of Brazil, despite the bounty laid before us every day.

I think all the hype is just too much for Pete. It’s too much for anyone, but Pete isn’t old enough to have the equipment yet to deal with such monumental changes. Then put Christmas and Santa Claus on top of it all, and forget about it.

There is a scale that measures the amount of stress associated with huge, life-changing events, and just because we do move every two years or so, we can’t discount the fact that moving is very high on this scale. Moving to a completely different country, even if that country is one most of us find more familiar, should be even higher. The United States is less, not more, familiar to Pete than Brazil. Clementine has never even been to her “home” country.

Sam has asked me several times if everyone will speak English in America. Even today, as we walked into the mall, he asked if everyone in all the shops speak English. When Pete was suffering particularly acutely a few days ago, we made him beans and rice, and I spoke to him in Portuguese. It sounds silly, but they are small, familiar things, that hopefully will help him transition to his new home. Pao de queijo will help, too.

Upon landing in the Atlanta airport, Sam, Pete and I immediately made a Starbucks run. The Starbucks was on the complete opposite side of Terminal B, but we made it there and back in thirty minutes, though I had to carry Pete the entire way due to his extreme fatigue. I am almost certain the man in line in front of us was Brazilian and spoke Portuguese, but I was too shy to find out. We made it back to Elise and Clementine just in time to board, only slightly scalding Pete once with hot coffee.

We have not had much time to miss Brazil. We’ve had to buy new cell phones and sign up for a calling plan that we hope we can get out of in eleven months without offering up my firstborn. We had to buy a car and a Christmas tree and new bikes for the boys (shhhh! don’t tell!) and see relatives and friends.

Unfortunately, the two times Uncle Bill and Aunt Jackie and my brother came to visit, I was nearly asleep though it was only seven. The person who invented time zones did not have kids, unlike the person that invented the overnight transcontinental flight, and everyone was up at 3:30 a.m. our first two nights back, 4:40 on the third and 5:15 on the fourth. By the fifth morning, we were blessed with a Christmas miracle when everyone slept in until 6:30. Unfortunately and ironically, it is those mornings I find it most difficult to get out of bed. Even 3:30 was easier than 6:30, and I spent most of the day in a haze induced, again ironically, by too much sleep. I’m just not looking forward to doing it all over again when we go to Spokane, but there we can hole ourselves up downstairs until we hear the jet engine-like whir of Grandad’s coffee maker firing up at 5:00 a.m. Here, we had to hide in the bathroom until a reasonable hour, though I don’t honestly think anyone got any additional sleep over all the cooing, crying, giggling and screaming that came from a tiny bathroom filled with three children, one adult, a juice box, two bowls of Life cereal and a basket of toys.

I think it is too early to give general impressions of being back in the United States. There are certain aspects of being back that I genuinely enjoy: Starbucks, good microbrews, guacamole, and the convenience of parks and recreation. Either Clementine is getting a little bit older or the conveniences of the United States make parenting three children easier. Honestly, I just think I am more patient. There is an incredibly liberating power of being Blackberry-less and I can, for the first time in a long time, dedicate one hundred percent of my attention and energies on my wife and family. I was not looking forward to the end of my time in Brasilia, but the end was inevitable, and when I handed over my Blackberry, I was given Clementine, it seems. I would make that trade any day.

I always compare the attention I was able to give to Sam to the attention I am now able to give to three. Sometimes, I let myself become frustrated, because all I want to do was make a Lego with Sam or make a train track with Pete, but couldn’t because of the needs of a third, the baby, Clementine. I would have to hold her or feed her and didn’t like not being able to give each of my children the dedicated focus I was able to afford Sam when it was just he and I. But as the boys get older and are able to play together in a more sustainable (and sometimes quiet) manner, I get Clementine, and have the feeling that I am having, for the first time, moments for her that I have not yet had the time to have, time like I had with Sam.

Maybe it is sad that I had to come back to the United States and leave my job, to discover her. In my defense, Elise’s success at nursing her has, selfishly, been to my detriment. I haven’t been able to put her down for naps or bed the way I did with Sam and Pete. In a perfect world, Elise would have had time to pump a bottle of milk and I could have performed this nightly ritual as I did with Sam and Pete, but, alas, in truth, every day was survival and chaos, if not carefully-orchestrated chaos, and I usually did the boys bath and bed routine, because it did not require me to spontaneously learn how to lactate. I will have to do a better job in the future of balancing the demands of my job with the demands of my family. I hope this, too, is a skill I can learn.

I compare this vacation to the time we visited Elise’s parents in Washington, four or five years ago, when my career in commercial real estate was going down the tubes and I was having to cash in my 401k and life insurance to merely pay bills, much less pay for a vacation. I could not enjoy myself and though it was a perfectly pleasant time with many fun activities planned, good beer and good food, I could not relax, because I didn’t feel as though I deserved to. I didn’t feel as though I had earned a vacation. I feel the complete opposite this time and can’t wait to get back to Washington to drink it all in (literally and figuratively).

I deserve this vacation. I earned it. We all did. I feel as though our first tour exceeded all of my personal and professional expectations. We didn’t just survive Brazil. We thrived in Brazil. Clementine is physical proof of that. Mine and Elise’s bond is stronger because of Brazil, because of what we accomplished there together. I love Elise deeper because of Brazil, because of what she did there. I am more proud of both Peter and Sam because of Brazil.

I said earlier it was too early to give general impressions of being back in the United States, because I am still comparing everything to Brazil. Brazil is like a phantom limb I can still vaguely feel. I don’t want to lose that feeling. Nothing is as green as Brazil. Not even Florida. And everything is too neat, too orderly, too clean. But I won’t say more than that for now. In all fairness to the United States, I should, at the very least, give it a chance. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Last Night in Brasilia

On our last day in Brasilia, I had to work, tidying up loose ends at the office, like returning my Blackberry and completing my check-out with HR. At home, Sheyla fell from the edge of the bath tub while cleaning the wall in the bathroom and left at noon to go to the hospital for x-rays, less a reflection of the potential seriousness of her injuries and more a comment on public health care in Brazil (she was fine several hours later), leaving us much the way we'd arrived in Brasilia...Elise and I, Sam and Peter in an empty house, surrounded by nine giant red suitcases. Only this time we had Clementine.

It seemed fitting (if not incredibly stressful) to have it be just us during our last hours in Brazil. As I said, it was just us when we arrived and it would be just us as we left. We finished packing and ordered pizza and somehow made it through dinner, eating on only paper towels, having already packed up everything else, including the welcome kit.

We left on an overnight transcontinental flight which departed at nearly midnight. The shuttle came at 8:00, and Mauricio drove us to the airport, and we left Brazil. For now.

Sam up to his usual silliness. Over and over, he would announce throughout the day, "This is going to be the best night ever!"

The coconut palm in our front yard.

The banana tree in the back.



Cozinha sem pratileiras.


Everyone took early baths and put on their pajamas to sleep on the plane. Sam and Pete started waiting for the eight o'clock pick-up at six.

Our two years in Brazil ended much the way it began, hand in hand. 

Photography by Elise Hanna.

Feliz Natal

Photos by Elise Hanna

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Kindness of Strangers

For the past year or so of our time in Brazil we have frequented a little cafe tucked within a local mall called Casa do Pão de could say it's our new Starbucks. We arrive usually just as neighboring stores are opening and we eat way more pão de queijo than we should, sip cappuccinos, eat açaí and talk about the week gone by and the week to come. It is even tiny Clem's favorite spot. 

We aren't the only regulars, usually a table of coffee klatch retirees who look a bit like the Brazilian moffia, with black leather fanny packs, transitions lenses and cigarettes at tables clearly marked "No Smoking." But, they remind me of my Granddad's old coffee club so I feel comfortable in their presence. Smoking, or non. 

Located directly next door is a ladies shoe store called "ED":

Usually we find a spot to the far left of the outdoor seating area, keeping our clan just out of the center of the restaurant at tiny cafe table for two, that we beef up with four chairs and a stroller.

ED for the past nine months or more has had a whimsical window display of origami cranes and a rainbow of colors that the boys study and marvel at and just beyond that works a quiet and beautiful Brazilian girl by the name of Leticia.

She always smiles and waves at the boys from behind the display window and one day a while back began to tear pieces of receipts from the Cielo to fold little white origami birds for each of the boys each and every time we arrived. The boys wait patiently munching pão de queijo, mouths rimmed with açaí mustaches, watching her fold and giggling anxiously from their plastic cane seats. Each Saturday or Sunday that she completes the birds she sweetly gestures for the boys to come and retrieve the cranes and they cross from our table together into the store and return beaming, flying the cranes through the air.

As I began to think about saying goodbye to our favorite spots and of some of the people that made such a profound impact on our time in Brazil, I thought about Leticia.  Whether she had just arrived to open the store, had four customers to tend to, or would have just liked to take a break from her post within her mother's store, she always took time to take special care of our boys whom she didn't know at all and quite frankly didn't have to care about. I felt like leaving without saying "thank you and tchau" just wouldn't have been right, but didn't know how to thank her for such a simple gift that meant so much to us. 

So we talked about it with the boys and decided to make a special stop at the grocery store this morning on our way to coffee. Both Sam and Peter scanned the floral department and finally decided on tiny potted violets, in pink and purple. We had them wrapped in paper and we headed to the cafe.

When she arrived to open the store this morning, with a gleaming smile for the boys, she scarcely dropped her bag and turned on the lights when she paused behind the counter to begin to fold the tiny cranes.

When they were ready, she walked out and handed one to each of the boys and one today to Clem. The boys in turn each handed her a tiny potted violet. 

We scarcely speak the same language and until today never exchanged more than a simple "obrigado," but the beautiful friendship that was made today from the kindness of a stranger, on the cusp of the holiday season, on the eve of our voyage out of Brazil and in the midst of a tragedy in the media was enough to heal a million hearts.

I snapped a photo, we exchanged names, emails, facebook addresses and tears and headed off to enjoy the rest of our last Sunday in Brazil.  

I think we are all thankful we didn't let this moment pass us by.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thank you's: Part One

I'm not going to call this series of goodbyes, because if you've read this blog long enough you know I stink at goodbyes. They are messy and pathetic and my nose run and my eyes swell. So this time I've done some thinking and I don't dare call these goodbyes, because the impact that the people featured here in our last few days in Brasilia have had on our family are really something to be thankful for and the love they have given us is something that we will always carry with us. They have loved us, smoothed our rough edges, loved our children and showed us, in ways we could have never known, how to love.


Our midwife, helped me realize one of the most important things I've ever learned: The gift to know and to trust my body, and in all the rest of my life I will never doubt it again. I am stronger, I stand taller and I hope because of this, someday Clementine does, too. Paloma stood witness to the most empowering experience of my life and showed me and my entire family such kindness that I am forever grateful. She eased Clementines passage gently into the world here in Brazil and mine into a new me. 

We had the most wonderful opportunity to meet Paloma and about thirty other home-birth families this past Sunday for lunch and to say goodbye. Clementine, usually a little uncomfortable with unfamiliar faces, was perfectly at peace in Paloma's arms even though they hadn't seen each other since Clem was just one month old.

Tia Cris: 

Today was Sam's last day of school here in Brasilia, coincidentally (and thankfully), also the last day of school before the long holiday break. We brought cupcakes to celebrate and Paul and I both walked Sam in to thank his teacher for her kindness. Sam's school has not only made a huge and lasting impact on Sam, but on our whole family. They call him "Sam-I-am" and tell him they love him and they hug him, because they can....and they should and in their likeness the kids all hug each other, when they are sick, when they are sad and when they say goodbye. I am a big dreamer, in my mind filled with thoughts of unicorns, rainbows and sunshine, I could have never dreamed up a preschool experience for Sam one bit better, not here, not there, not anywhere. Culturally, it brought us deeper into Brazil, linguistically it gave me a bilingual, perfectly loved and meticulously educated boy. He has more confidence, more kindness, more spring in his step and more songs in his heart because of their love. I leave here kicking and screaming for many reasons, not the very least of which is that I can't bear to take Sam out of his final year of pre-school.  We learned today, however that Tia Cris's brother, a pilot in the Brazilian Air-force, will be moving with his family (including his five year old son) to Washington, DC on a scholarship to complete his masters. We have all exchanged information and hope that Sam can meet her nephew and they can play together, we can chat about Brasilia and Sam can keep up his Portuguese.

Good things. Good people.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

4 Days

A deeply spiritual friend once told me that she thought I needed to be close to the ocean, so that my heart "had room."  At first I laughed, then I thought about it and I knew it was true. Ever since then I get a little nervous when I move somewhere far from the sea. I couldn't be more land locked here in the middle of Brasilia or feel more free for the skies are the seas of this city.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pack Out

I don't know that the shock of a giant moving truck rumbling up to your front gate, or ten large men piling out and dispersing throughout your house with the same authority as an inconspicuous drop of food coloring turns a cup of water pink, ever gets easier. 

The initial shock wore off quickly yesterday after we'd "desmontado" some of the spaces that held the most spiritual weight for me,  like Clementine's room, 

the boys room, 

the day bed,

and our bed,

the place where just minutes after her birth we held Sweet, 7lb Clementine,  in our arms.  The most peaceful moments in all my life many of which have happened here, in this home. 

Eventually yesterday I became numb to the gut wrenching, but all too familiar sounds of screeching tape. I watched the piles of boxes grow and box-shaped outlines of my belongings replace the home that we created here and made our very own in every way we are allowed.

Sam has proven to be the most calm entity during this move. He insisted that he skip school, to "oversee" the happenings and we quickly acquiesced knowing that it was simply what Sam needed to ease his passage out of Brazil. An important lesson for us all to choose our battles and give a little where hearts are concerned. 

He never once broke from his self-imposed job of "FINK Project Manager." He sat atop stacks of boxes surveying his crew. He intermittently made rounds about the house, giving each moving man a Brazilian thumbs up as he asked them if everything was "tudo tranquilo?" As we stepped out with the boys to a much needed respite from the insanity for lunch yesterday, he reluctantly put our Embregada, Sheyla, in charge, leaving her instructions to watch the men carefully in his absence and to please give them water if they needed it

He and Peter spent the day weighing themselves on the industrial scale in between boxes of our things, as I weighed boxes of shoes teetering on the edge of making our weight for our air shipment to DC, a very fine line between taking enough toys for the kids and enough shoes for me. A delicate balance of the life of a diplomatic mother and meeting attending shoeaholic. "Hi, my name is Elise...I've got 33 years...worth of shoes."

Once Peter stopped yelling "I don't want to go to Washington DC! I don't even like Washington DC!" A place he can't even begin to remember from his first year of life (and we had assured him that he could take his blanket) he loosened up a bit. We indulged his worries with gummy worms, wagon rides for both the boys and their blankets, in the world's tiniest radio flyer wagon and an afternoon movie in lieu of naps.

Clementine was a little out of sorts yesterday, having only known the peace and tranquility that is our home in Brazil, she was a little uncertain of the chaos unfolding. We know though, from experience (what little that we have with just one tour under our belts) that the most important aspect of moving with babies is that it doesn't matter where they are or where they sleep, as long as they feel loved and safe they are always home.

The whole Clan-Hanna was in bed by 6:45 leaving Paul and I to a quiet house, stacked with boxes, a couple of caipirinhas, cold spaghetti and hot showers.

I pray for a lot of things as another huge change unfolds in our lives: For the continued sense of peace that I feel in such a time of insanity, the understanding and sense of adventure that grows within our kids each day, for our family to draw even closer in our travels, for our stuff to not sink on a slow boat to India and for Paul and myself to remember at least enough Portuguese to know when we arrive in India a little less than a year from now that we didn't in fact pack tacos in our household effects. I hope that sweet Clementine loves the USA, but always keeps the gift of tranquility that she has experienced in the past nine months....that we all do.

In just a day and a half, just a half a day more than it took in Florida we packed up our house. It seems we've acquired a few more belongings in the past two years, but the experiences the love and the tiny person that we've acquired since our arrival in Brazil two years ago, could never fit in just five containers on the back of a truck. 

I felt strangely lighter and a little more free as that truck drove away, leaving only the most important items in my possession and an empty but totally full house that we have to run around in and ease our way out of just the way we came in, in the "ultimo" six days that follow.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pack Out: T Minus Two Days and Counting

Our original plan of attending breakfast with Santa sponsored by my work were scrapped when both Elise and I succumbed to a wave of anxiety over how much we had to do before our pack out on Monday. What had seemed like a necessary distraction, just became a distraction, and the thought of bathing three kids and dressing them in what passes in Brazil for Sunday finest only to be elbowed out of the buffet line and left with ice cold pao de queijo and coxinhas was made more unappetizing when we realized we had so much to do.

The hardest part, of course, was convincing Sam that it really was a better idea to stay home and putter around the house helping mom and dad than to go have breakfast with Santa Claus. But Sam has been miraculously helpful in the last few, incredibly stressful days. It took some hard negotiating, but once we threw in an afternoon trip to the toy store, he acquiesced, and Elise and I were able to do a bit of last minute organizing over and around Loulee and the boys playing Thomas trains and Legos.

I try to calm my nerves by telling myself it will all end up in the same place eventually and that what is really important is that we are all together and no one gets left behind in Brazil. Since every waking moment is spent either working or taking care of three incredibly demanding young ones, it was impossible to carve out sufficient time to do the organizing I wanted to do. I just hope my running shoes don't get to India a year before me and my name plate from my desk ends up in my luggage. A lot of good that would do me. I try not to worry, but we lost a Christmas garland of Anthropologie mittens Elise bought in Seattle somewhere along the way and I keep kicking myself to this day that I can't remember where I packed it.

I tell myself that this pack out can't be more difficult than our pack out from Florida where I cradled an eight week old Peter through the entire day. But the numbers are not in our favor. Fortunately, Sheyla, our empregada, will be here to share cradling duties. Moreover, I am not sure this move carries the same emotional weight as that one did. A lot more is known now. We are going back to a place we have been before, Washington DC, and we know how long we will be there. And we know where we will move on to after that. India. None of this was known to us when we moved from Florida. We know nothing about DC or Arlington. We didn't know if we would stay for a few weeks or a few months. We didn't know we would be coming to Brazil until we received our assignment on Flag Day. We might as well have been boarding a bus for the moon. Or Peshawar.

But I am sure it is too early to estimate the emotional impact of this move. I am sure the full weight of it won't hit us for another week, when we depart. Since moving from my position in the environment and science section back to the political section, I have had an opportunity to exhale. And reflect. On the shuttle ride home yesterday, I rode with one of my colleagues who was also departing post; he was flying out that night with his wife and daughter. I asked him in a very-open ended way, "So, what do you think?" I explained that I had meant my question to be open-ended and I was curious to hear is general impressions of his own time in Brazil in what was also his first assignment. I don't think anyone is as enamored with Brazil as Elise and I. But in his position he had to work until eight o'clock every evening. Had I had that job, my impression of Brazil may have soured a bit, too.

We leave knowing this is not goodbye, but "see you later". There is no part of me that doesn't think we will see Brazil again. Maybe everyone thinks that when they leave a place. Or, perhaps, we are unique in this view. Maybe if we were leaving Ouagadougou we wouldn't have the same confidence that we would see Burkina Faso again.

When he got home from the toy store, Pete and Sam played with their matchbox cars in the front yard. They make a mud puddle with the hose and submerge all 100 of their cars in the thick red clay then spend most of the rest of the time, hosing the mud off. They skipped naps. Who has time to nap when you only have a week left in Brazil?

Friday, December 7, 2012

"Revivendo Sonhos"

Last night, Sam performed in his third musical presentation in Brazil, "Revivendo Sonhos" or "Reliving Dreams". He and his classmates were dressed in their pajamas and carrying teddy bears, and the stage was decorated with a panorama made of balloons, with a light blue balloon sky and green balloon mountains and  including a wooden cut-out of life-size kids flying in a hot air balloon.

About two-thirds of the way through the show, Sam's class finally came on and Pete made his way to the aisle. He started down the aisle and toward the stage and when Elise stopped him, he burst into tears. All this time he thought he would be joining Sam on stage to sing and dance.

Let me tell you, Sam has come a long way since his debut, when he stood beside a May Pole, paralyzed by stage fright. I would like to say that Sam was one of the more animated and synchronized of his peers, but, honestly, I couldn't take my eyes off him to compare. He knew all the words, and mouthed the song and sang to the Brazilian tune which started off slowly, almost like a trance, before both the tune and Sam popped to life and strutted their stuff.

Of course, we made the mistake of being on time to a performance in Brazil, getting Sam to the theater by 3:30, the requested hour. All the other parents brought their kids thirty seconds before curtains up. Though we had good seats, two hours later, both Pete and Clementine had reached the limits. Even I was ready to go after Tia Giselle started inviting the Brazilian moms on to the stage for a number, including the one that insisted on video-taping the entire performance on her iPad right in front of us.

The show ended with the entire school signing along with and dancing to John Lennon's "Imagine". I belted out the words, perhaps the only one in the theater that knew them all with Peter standing on my lap waving his arms. By this time, we had earned the right to be goofy and draw a little attention to ourselves.

Whatever the take-away was from the show...whether it be that all children have the right to grow up and realize their dreams of living in peace and health and harmony or whether everyone should embrace their inner child and worked, as all three of our children slept until 6:50 the following morning. This is a big deal, as Clementine has woken for the day no later than 5:30 in the past six months. Ironically, I felt less awake and ready to face the day at 6:50 than I normally do at 5:30.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Oscar Neimeyer 1907 - 2012

There are obituaries everyday, and as we near the end of 2012, the network evening news will take us through the annual, year-end ritual of reminding us of everyone that passed in 2012. Ray Bradbury. Rapper MCA. Senator Arlen Specter. Whitney Houston. But none of them....No, not even Ray Bradbury....touched our lives like Oscar Neimeyer. It is nothing so strong as saying it is like a family member died, or even the family dog, but it is oddly poetic, uncannily fitting, that he passes just as we leave Brasilia, the monument his modernist architectural vision created.

From nothing, he and Lucio Costa, the urban planner who designed Brasilia's distinct plane-shaped layout, created, not only the capital of Brazil, but a place we grew to love and call home. One of my favorite buildings he designed is, perhaps, one of the last one's he designed, the Electoral Supreme Court that sits directly in front of the building I work in. I could do without the silly domes bubbling out of the immaculately coifed grass in front, but I love how if one follows the curve of the building, it will eventually merge seamlessly with the sky, due, in large part, to thousands of louvers tinged with shades of blue.

I can only dream of leaving such an indelible impression upon the world and I do. Much less of continuing to do so until I am 104. That's 2076, Elise. You will be 97. Clementine will be 64. Our Deus quiser...will be in their mid-thirties probably having children of their own. Maybe they will be named Oscar. Who knows what the future will hold. Are you ready?

(All images | Elise Hanna