Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Architects of family

"As parents we carry the blueprints, the dreams of what our family could be. The plans change, the whole thing goes way over budget, there are unexpected additions, and the work never ends. Still through the messiness of construction we see one another with such depth and hope."

Simplicity Parenting | Kim John Payne M. ED.

I just started reading this book, literally, I'm only four pages in and I'm inspired, I'm feeling reinforced in my motivations for our style of parenting and hopeful. More on this book to come I'm sure...


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Waiting Place (Part Two)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a dreadful spot in our lives in which we had arrived, the Waiting Place. Much to our chagrin….we are still there.

Though we are still waiting, the painful slog of inactivity has been replaced by the gleefully welcome signs of motion. There is movement. Like wedges melting off a glacier, activity is sloughing away from a massive mountain of inactivity. By way of example, our bid list arrived, and Elise and I dug in, pouring through post reports and cultivating the informed and not-so-informed opinions of friends and family. We sat at the dining room table, faces encapsulated in the digital gloaming of our respective laptop screens, swapping the names of exotic destinations as though playing ‘Go Fish’. “Kathmandu?” “Guangzhou?” “Yaounde?” Flippantly throwing about the names of places most would never fathom visiting, we will get to call one home. We have a habit of focusing on the less desirable places we could go which spur worry and dread and forget about the wonderful places where we will more likely end up. Such is human nature, I guess.

As always Sam and Pete force us to remain in the present. Peter is in the incipient stages of potty-training, sporting Thomas the Tank Engine underwear like Tom Cruise on the set of ‘Risky Business’. We set the timer on the microwave oven to 35 minute intervals, then sprint to the only bathroom with a step stool (we don’t dare move the step stool to a more centrally-located bathroom; I would hate to throw off his mojo) to fazer xi-xi. He is not content with the tiny whities we haphazardly pull from the bin of underwear in his wardrobe. He insists on seeing what’s available for himself, then peruses the selection of handed-down briefs with the same meticulousness one might use to buy a car or a house. “Emily?” he will ask me, one of Thomas’ Friends.

“No…we have Thomas, Percy or Gordon.”


“How ‘bout Cookie Monster?”

He shakes his head.

The arrival of packages is still a cause for celebration. Sam’s new car seat came yesterday, and I face another weekend, tackling the unenviable task of trying to fit three car seats abreast in the back of a 2011 Subaru Outback. Wish me luck. Two weekends ago, I ran a half-marathon. That same afternoon, I spent two hours wrestling car seats in and out of the back seat, trying to fit three across and allow both doors to close. I needn’t tell you which was the more exhausting endeavor.

I finally bought same the book ‘Dinotopia’. I found it on eBay for $1. The cover price is 30 times that. I was quite proud of myself. It is the story of a fictitious island where dinosaurs live in harmony with their human caretakers. It is told in such a realistic, convincing style that I am half-worried that Sam may mistake it for fact. Nevertheless, I am happy to read it to him, as I am as fascinated as he is by the concept. Human mothers can employ dinosaur nannies that strap the babies to pouches slung across their finned spines. “Do you think we should get a dinosaur nanny to take care of our new baby?” Thankfully, Sam wasn’t too keen on this idea.

And each day that passes means our baby girl that is stirring….Nay…! She hardly stirs. Let’s try that again…our baby girl that is trying to judo chop her way out of Elise’s stomach is adding kilos. One day when we least expect it—maybe, today—she will run out of room, and there will be no more waiting. Days passed in anxious anticipation will be distant memories. There have been moments of unease, when that part of the unknown that is not thrilling or exciting but exudes a sickly pall creeps in. Will we be able to handle three kids? Can we even handle two? Will we go to Juarez? How will we get food on the table? Will she sleep? Will we ever be normal again? The lack of movement, the waiting encouraged this line of self-doubt.

I tend to forget

With Elise, we can do anything.

And parents less-capable and less in love than us have succeeded.

We’ll be just fine.

On Sunday we found giant red pillows, rode a bicycle train, jumped in our pool, took naps and had movie night.

Who knows what next Sunday will bring?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Exhi(bits) from the weekend

Last night in our long quest to replace the "Amazing Zilda," our former empregada/Brazilian family member/the someone who loved our kids and cared for our house and let Paul and I go out, keep in touch, like really, instead of just emailing each other all day and passing each other ten times in the hall in the evening without ever getting to exchange a word.....

...we've finally interviewed a gem. She was so shining from beyond the gate that even though she was 45 minutes early for her interview and I had no idea what I'd say to her in my painful Portuguese until Paul arrived home, that I let her in anyway. She marveled at the kids, said "Gra├žas a Deus," when they batted their tiny eyelashes at her and basically shined like a little angel sent straight from maid/nanny heaven. I managed to fumble my way through initial questioning until Paul arrived home to recap. We exchanged glances as if to say, "Holy wow! This might finally be the one."

...and just in the nick of time.

We checked out a super cool art exhibit I'd spied from the road this Sunday, more images to come on my photography blog. Until then a few snapshots of the giant pillows:

...and speaking of cool exhibits...and giant pillows...

T-minus one week until our estimated date of arrival for baby girl. Here I am exhibiting all 39 weeks of us:

...and Sam's exhibit:

A portrait of me! I could not feel any more like this drawing looks. Minus my nipples, which are not showing as this sketch would lead you to believe. I applaud him embracing his mother's attention to detail and abstract artistry, however.

After visiting the giant almofadas we swung by the Praca, an open square amidst the government buildings. The boys had spotted a "bicycle train," earlier in the day and it didn't disappoint. It blared house music (Sam's favorite) and the boys rode around for R$5 each for half an hour dodging pigeons, while Paul and a few other visitors pedaled themselves silly in the blaring Brazilian sun. It was one of those moments that you kick your adult self out of the way and throw your whole self into the sheer joy of your kids.

I stood in the middle of the square chasing (and dodging) the "train" like a crazy woman, beaming, laughing hysterically on the verge of crying from happiness and oozing the joy that was one of our last weekends as a family of four, but I've never really been a fan of even numbers anyway.

Until then, we're keeping it odd:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sprinks Sunday!

Sprinkle Chef

Homemade (Baked!) Sprinkle Donut recipe found here.

Happy Sunday to all!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

38 Week Ultrasound…SOOOOO NICE!

Elise and I went to see and hear our baby girl for the last time before we meet her in person in a few short weeks (or days, if Elise has anything to say about it!). It had been almost three months since the last ultrasound so I hadn’t recalled the contagiously gregarious nature of the ultrasound tech until Elise reminded me as we were waiting in the tiny reception area, knees drawn to our chests so as not to dimple the personal bubbles of the other couple there. “You remember,” she started, “He’s the one who always says, ‘Jesus Christ!’”

No, I hadn’t remembered this, though it would all soon come rushing back to me.

After a few minutes of requisite pleasantries, the doctor invited Elise onto the examining table. She sat down, crinkling tissue paper, and leaned herself back.

“Oh! Jesus Christ, right!” the doctor exclaimed, noticing the obvious challenge in gently lowering oneself with a 38-week belly. Elise smiled wanly and would later tell me that wasn’t exactly what she was thinking, though perhaps appropriate at the time.

The doctor greased Elise’s belly up and got to work, quickly finding the head, kidneys, femur and hair! The discovery of each vital organ was accompanied by a reassuring, “SOOOOO NICE!” or “SOOOOO GOOD!” I appreciated his enthusiasm as to the biological soundness of our soon-to-be-born-baby-girl.

I cringed as he measured the circumference of the head, hoping he wouldn’t tell Elise the exact measurement, or, perhaps more accurately, hoping he wouldn’t tell me so I would have to imagine the exact measurement. But he didn’t. It was, however, “SOOOO NICE!”

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The familiarity of uncertainty

This blog before anything else is the memoir of our lives, a story of our love, a daily baby book for Sam and Peter and soon for baby girl. It is catalog of triumphs and mistakes, not to be forgotten, a place to stash our most precious memories. A way to put our lives in perspective when we read back to discover just how far we've come. We carefully recount the times in our lives that we feel we have successfully (and unsuccessfully) navigated, certain we would never care to re-live, but appreciate them for all that they taught us and for the stepping stones that they provided. Even as I read back on these moments I wonder how that was even me that wrote those lines, they are now so far removed from my conscious. You feel certain that things could never be that hard again and in some ways they never could be. We've learned from our past, but there are some things that are simply beyond our control and most certainly in the hands of someone greater. Maybe we didn't get the full lesson in round one, so we are given round two...

. . .

Two years ago this March, Paul and I received a call that both pushed and pulled our family to its limits. Perched in our freshly painted bedroom on the coldest week I'd ever experienced in our Jupiter town-home, I snuggled tiny Pete, just four weeks old, in our fluffy, white, down comforter while Sam and Paul whiled away the hours of nothingness, joblessness, sleeplessness, and uncertainty, by pretending to trek up and down a mountain (where we wished we could be) on our newly laid, hand-carved, wooden staircases...the last of the big money, we naively never guessed we'd shortly be without. With Sam in the hiking backpack, the guys delivered me coffee and tiny diapers throughout the day.

Upon hanging up the phone, decisions had to be made, both out of desperation and a rare opportunity to select our dreams from the fanned out lining of a gypsy jacket of jewels. Shortly thereafter, bottles of tears were shed, bunches of boxes were packed, moving men were fed while Sam played at Nanny's and Pete was soothed to the sounds of tearing packing tape. Too many painful goodbyes were said. We packed up our life, our boys and our courage and we left the only house we'd ever known as a family and as a family we drove blindly, but certainly, together to our new life in the Foreign Service.

Shortly after we arrived, from our 18th story perch, we struggled to categorize lists of places throughout the world that seemed perfect, doable and those unimaginable to bear for two years together or apart. Late at night over cups of wine and in between feedings, we submitted our list and we waited...

We struggled to find meaning in our new life, to learn, to day dream and to just try to imagine where the next two years would take us. I sleepwalked through weeks of depression, Paul and I shared many emotional challenges while navigating our new life and thank God we shared (as always) much grace between each other in those eight months. The boys and I would bid Paul farewell each morning before his walk to FSI to build the foundation for our dreams of world travel. He bid me farewell to learn to be a new me: A full-time mom, a city dweller, a free lance artist, a mom of two and Foreign Service wife, which is not at all unlike entering a totally different and strange world. I pushed through it all with the chance meeting of a nurse practioner who'd been in my shoes before and just may have been an angel, one great friend, an amazing husband and reassurance that this would be the last time we'd ever be in a situation quite this hard. Ever. Again. This was unique and could simply not repeat itself. Or so we thought.
. . .

As I type this I sit on that same cozy bed all the way in Brasilia, Brazil, with my babies snuggled in their own beds in the next room and Paul napping soundly on the sofa during our long Carnaval holiday weekend. We made it. We are a continent away and the world goes on, just as we knew it would. Our family is happy, just as we have strived for it to be and our marriage grows more deeply and in unspeakable ways daily. Our new baby girl is due to make her appearance in just a weeks time. We have traveled and explored. We are rich in newer and more wonderful ways from this leap of faith than we ever thought possible, but in the background, visions of the past creep their way into my dreams at night and by day I struggle through, yet again, some of the same uncertainty and fear I had two years ago even though or even because we've done it all before.

We received our bid list for our next posting last week. We're just nine short months from saying goodbye to Brazil and most painfully, goodbye to our friends and all the wonderful memories of this home. As we sit around the dining room table nap-time after nap-time, late nights and in betweens and sketch images in our minds of potential days spent in Kathmandu, La Paz and Paris, a tiny girl kicks me from within, both a reminder of the joy that is to come and the reality of the uncertain cycle of Foreign Service life that is about to begin again. Just as we knew it would, just not quite as astonishingly similar.

We've done this all before right? What were the chances we'd ever do it again with a newborn baby? What were the chances that the list would be delayed and that we'd turn it in until just a few weeks after a baby is born? That we'd be waiting for answers after sleepless nights and between the helpless cries of a newborn baby. What were the chances that at just eight months after having a baby that we'll likely, once again, be in DC with Paul adding another story to our love of adventure in a classroom at FSI, while I sketch dreams, from temporary housing amidst the cries of toddlers and infants, of our next two years in a place I can barely dream of? Surprisingly the chances were better than we thought.

It is all the same, but all very different, too. Although that doesn't seem to completely ease my fears. Sometimes I think I catch a hint of worry in Paul's usually calm and reassuring eyes, too. Wondering how close this will bring us to the edge again. Not that we'd ever let each other fall, but instead steady one another on the stable ground and remind the other to look out beyond the jagged cliffs and onto the beautiful horizon. Just like we always do.

The next nine months will seem a blur and my goal is to remain as present as possible, to enjoy each moment in this beautiful and perfect place that was selected just for us. To cherish every moment with the people that surround and to trust, as December rolls around too quickly again, we'll find ourselves with bags packed, all our things packed within a mountain of red suitcases, tiny maps of unfamiliar places in our pockets, arms filled with three tiny bodies we've built with love, clasp our hands and move on. For better of for worse. Together.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Carnaval Light

We are just coming off of the high of a five day Carnaval weekend. We sent Sam off to hit things off first thing Friday morning at his Brazilian preschool, where they let the kids wear "fantasia" or costumes and had a party complete with music and confetti. Of our two costume choices, Sam chose Peter's sized 18 month old, Stegosaurus costume which fit, perfectly not at all. But, whatever I'm unsure of all I've seen of Carnaval that anything is really supposed to fit...or make sense. He practiced a little head-butting which is always necessary no matter the habits of the dinosaur.

"Rawred" and showed off his "dinosaur eggs" (pao de queijo).

...but did not jump into the car with Paul to head off for school until he had practiced walking like a dinosaur and falling on his head like a dinosaur.

We spent a lot of quality family time together and by Sam's request went to "a place I never been before," and ate at "restaurants I've never been to before." He always claims, "I need to see something different, I can't take this same old thing anymore." We have no idea where he might get this (ahem) but we are sure it will serve him well in our family.

Due to my current state of nine month pregnicity we were unable to be where we had hoped to be this year...on a romantic and wild get away to Rio to experience the real Carnaval. So instead we packed up the boys and rolled down to Parque da Cidade for kids Carnaval.

Neither Sam nor Pete knew quite what to think. While standing in line for an aerosol can of 'espuminha' or some kind of spray soap everyone was spraying festively into the air, an airhorn bleated nearby, and Pete burst into tears. We quickly exited the Baratinha and headed straight for Nicolandia, the amusement park oasis at the heart of Parque da Cidade.

Pete has yet to master moderation. His moods oscillate between euphoria and misery, though--thankfully--we have been getting more of the former than the later. It was a treat to see him genuinely thrilled. Beaming from ear to ear, he couldn't contain his glee. I had to physically restrain him as we waited in line for the rides, his tiny Crocs spinning in the dirt like a cartoon roadrunner.

We never really thought the boys looked alike, but Elise noticed that when they smile, one is a dead ringer for the other.

Pete, the little daredevil, showed the form of a natural in the saddle, one hand on the reins, the other on the horn. And, of course, he could not ride the caterpillar without examining the wheel and tracks, watching exactly how one engaged the other. Thank God he had a seat belt on (as it were) lest he tumble from the car and spill onto the tracks.

Spent, we headed home in front of the darkening skies. The streets were still quiet. The 'real' party wouldn't start until midnight and the lights in the Sambadrome wouldn't dim until dawn. It wasn't Rio or Salvador, but it everything one could expect or want from Carnaval given where we are. I had to promise Elise she would get a 'real' Carnaval in Rio someday, though I don't imagine she would trade for the one we had this year.

elise & paul

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Potty Training Fail

Some days you win, some days you lose.

We were thankful when he rounded the corner with the potty on his head, that he hadn't actually used it this time.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Today Pete leaned over awkwardly from the bitsy training potty laid his head in my lap where I sat reading him a book, awaiting his "gift," and said "mmm mommy. yuv you."

I'll take it any way I can get it.
Is there a better day in a parents life than when your children tell you they love you for the very first time?

Not that I've yet experienced.

Words with Pete: Two Years

Motorcycle: "Moga-mo"

Jelly Beans: "Belly Jeans"

Hot Dog: "Wa-Wog"

Watermelon: "Moga-mella"

Oreos: "Circle round and round and round cookies"

Strawberries: "Strawbellies"

Elephants: "Fuffants"

Muffins: "Fuffins"

Lion: "Ligon" (Tiger/Lion hybrid ala Napoleon Dynamite "Liger." You can't even teach kids pure awesome like this.)

Lightening McQueen: "Lightening DuQueen" (Cars: the movie, clothing, sippy cup, backpack, lunchbox, flip-flop, taker-overer of the world)

...and now a little something we like to call, "Twisty Nose"

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bid List!

After much anticipation we finally received our bid list today:

Brazil, we will be very sad to part ways, but I have a feeling we will see each other again.

In the meantime, Bangkok, Kathmandu, London, Nassau, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Dubai, Calgary, Florence, Lisbon, Ankara....

We hope to make your acquaintance soon and have the good fortune of calling you (or one of 230 others!) home for the next two years.

A lover's semi-holiday

Happy belated Valentine's Day! We spread the love all the way from the USA to Brazil with a care package from Nanny that included conversation hearts that we repackaged late Monday night to take to school for Sam's class.

Brazilians think we are completely ridiculous, for a lot of reasons, but particularly on this day, when we describe Valentine's Day, with we can most closely relate it to here in Brazil, "Dia das Namoradas." This is the Brazilian equivalent of Valentines Day, which falls here on the 12th of June, but is ONLY for "girlfriends and boyfriends." So we really creeped them out by sending Sam to preschool with treats reading "Marry Me" and "You're the One," to pass out to both boys and girls in his class. "Crazy Americans."

Putting together the treats, "Hole Puncher Man," and I sat across from each other at the kitchen table. Paul returned from putting Pete down for bed and I asked him to Google Valentine's Day to tell Sam the story about St. Valentine. I think it's important to honor our country's holidays or teach the boys about them so they don't lose touch with their inner lover's on days such as this. Paul refused, reminding me that all the stories about Valentine's Day were about being in jail and dying, which hello! Love?! That's what it's all about! Am I right?

So, Paul made up his own story, none of which I remember. Sorry Paul.

Oh and...PS: I'm never cutting his hair again, because those curls, it turns out, are attached to my heart and each time someone cuts one a little piece of me dies. It is really bad.

These, my tiny loves, extra huggy while saying goodbye to Sam for school. Paul waiting, keys and tiny puppy dog briefcase...ok backpack, in hand while the lovers tear themselves apart.

For our lover's holiday we treated ourselves to a trip to visit our Doula. One last appointment before baby girl is due, to sharpen Paul's labor massage techniques. Then we were off to dinner at Parilla Madrid, a Spanish tapas restaurant, where you can hope to, but not find any Spanish tapa on the menu, but instead a "Rodizio" of small Brazilian plates. Yummy, yet confusing in their culinary pride. I decked myself out in my least muumuu-like outfit I could wriggle in at this precious, advanced maternal state and photographed my least pregnant part. Just to prove to everyone leaving work in the embassy parking lot as I waited for Paul, that: "Damn girl! She's still got it." Whatever that might be, the sharp lines of my nose perhaps.

Paul's gift to me, though lovely (I picked it out) was caught up in the awesomeness that is DPO mail. My gifts to him, a variable cornucopia of odds and ends: an evening of arranged child care, a visit complete with Powerpoint diagrams of lady-birthing-parts from the Doula, a wedding photo framed after six years of marriage, one more night in our bed before he is forced out by the sheer mountain of pillows that I require to support my inner tiny human.

The government, however, did come through with a much awaited gift: Arriving just a day late (or so we are promised) the key to our future, The bid list. Part II, III, IV....I've lost track, of our lover's adventure soon to be determined...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Meia Maratona

Weekend? What weekend? We kicked off Saturday bright and early with swim lessons rolled right into lunch and a cupcake baking/nap marathon.

We were invited Saturday night to some friends home for a pre-race dinner with the rest of Paul's running mates, so I baked Brazilian colored cupcakes in honor of: their first "Brazilian Half," my sweet tooth and to feed all nine kids in attendance.

We had an impromptu 37/38 week photo shoot on the way out the door to prove just ohhhmmaaagawd how big I am getting, but also how cute and excited these little boys are to welcome their baby sister to the world.

Paul had no trouble rolling out of bed at the usual insanely early hour that we arise, courtesy of Peter, and we hung out watching a little "morning tv" and making signs to cheer on our posse. We headed just to the end of our conjunto with snacks and water, where Paul promised to pass by sometime around 8:30.

Shortly after 8:30 (typical late start time. Brazilian style) he flew by.

Always the Superfan of his dad, Sam was eager to run and collect Paul's sweat drenched race shirt and visor that he'd shed on his way by to lighten the load for the last few miles.

...and while we didn't make it to the finish line, my friend Morgan snagged this picture of the big finisher...well finished.

This afternoon we spent fitting three car-seats together like puzzle pieces into our car to make travel happen for the next 9 months or so until we leave Brazil and finishing sewing baby girl's bedding (yes I did! pictures to follow as soon as our crib arrives!) in a furious nesting/sewing frenzy.