After an amazing Halloween party at the kids' school on Friday, I came home to THIS... NO, I'm not referring to a dirty house, but our AIR SHIPMENT arrived!!!  Even though it was by far the smaller of the two shipments, it still felt like Christmas!  And now I have enough fun goodies from the States to keep me patient until the rest of it arrives!!! :)  Too say that I'm elated would be a gross understatement!  And not that you care, but this next part is more for my journaling purposes - the break down!  Because it's the little things that matter most. :)  So what was included that almost made me wet myself with excitement??

DISHES!  Not rented plain-Jane white ones, but our very own dishes!
Decor items for the boys' bedroom and bathroom
Laundry detergent - and LOTS of it!- for our HE machines when they come (they don't sell HE detergent here.. bummer!)
Books :)
FANS, and just in time too!
Shampoos and Conditioners
Water bottles
Dish Soap (a waste of space really since that is one of the rare cheap things I can get here.. oops!)
Dishwasher tabs
TUPPERWARE with MATCHING lids!!!  YES - it's THAT exciting! :)
Kitchen scale
Mixing bowls
Bake ware
Ziploc bags
Play dough toys - a lifesaver already!
CHARMIN toilet paper!  I am a loyal freak to Charmin.. I was JUST talking with Amazing V about how we were about to run out and how I didn't want to get the icky kinds they sell here.. someone upstairs loves me! :)
Pantry goods!  Just a few were snuck in.. A1 sauce (LOVE!), pasta, ketchup, and a bottle of Caesar dressing that I about cried over! :)
MY GRIDLE!!!  Dude.. I can now officially make breakfast for my entire family at the same time!  THIS is a NECESSITY in our home!
More bake ware
Cutting boards
Breakfast in bed tray (just in time for Sir L's birthday too!)
Drying rack
Light bulbs
Spice rack
Our 2nd computer - this one's for the kids, which means??  Mine will now be sticky free! :)
Paper cutter
MEDIA!!!  Movies and books to keep the entire American population in SP entertained! :)
Kitchen organizer
Misc bedding items
Roller blades for me and the kids (there's are for Christmas.. Shhh!!!)
Also snuck in and not pictured was PAPER!  We sadly ran out a month ago and we've been itching for some crafts around here!  We also have ink for my printer, and all of my home made "Family Home Evening" games and lessons which is SUCH a blessing!!! :)  Truly, this little taste of home was all I needed to keep me going until the rest of our stuff arrives.. I just may never come down off this lovely cloud 9! :)

A Brazilian Halloween

This past Friday the Bailey and Hunter had their class Halloween parties at school.  Since they got to dress up, Brandon and I took the opportunity to surprise Bailey with a Ballerina set and the news that she'll start her much desired lessons in a week! :)  Needless to say, I think it worked.. she was SOOO excited!  And dare I say, I haven't seen a cuter girl in a leotard!!!
For Hunter's costume we took the cheap and creative route.. he was the VERY appropriate "Chick Magnet"!  He has smitten nearly every female teacher at the school - it is SO sweet! lol  I blogged about it too on our Brazil blog here: http://minutesformama.blogspot.com/2011/10/lover-boy.html  truly priceless! :)

I took some pictures in their classes.. First off - Bailey's class:  Here's Bailey with one of her "best" friends Vivian. :)
Even though Halloween is not celebrated here in Brazil, the Brazilian moms sure know how to prep for it!  They brought in all sorts of goodies into the classroom - it was ADORABLE!
Bailey's teacher's were perfectly dressed too - I LOVE these women! :)
A nice class-action shot.
And the whole gang!  They really do have SUCH a fun class! :)
Hunter's treat table didn't dissapoint either!  I had to restrain myself.. SOOO yummy! :)
The little lover boy himself..
Hunter's teachers were Smurf's!  SO stinkin' cute! :)  We have been incredibly blessed in the teacher department - I truly couldn't be happier!
Enjoy his pre-lunch goodies :)
I was able to help out with a craft in Bailey's class prior to the costume parade where all the kids marched around the school in their Halloween best!  It was a fantastic day that just kept getting better.. when I arrived home, our air shipment arrived with some of our stuff from the States!  It was like Christmas!!! :)  *That event is on http://minutesformama.blogspot.com/ as well! :)


Dressed in White

I grew up in a country (the US) where everyone tries so desperately hard to be "politically correct".  What does that mean anyways?  To portray an image of equality despite race, income, or social status?  The truth is, this equality.. it doesn't exist.  Whether we want to admit it or not, to one degree or another every country has it.  A sense of hierarchy.  It differs from one place to the next, that thing at the top of the totem pole that everyone else longs to have or to be.  Bestowed through gender, bloodline, wealth, fame, or so many other avenues, there is always that "respect of persons" that comes from our own feelings of inadequacy in comparison to someone else's station.  Think about it.  Why do we dress up for certain people and not for others?  We change our clothes, our attitudes, even the way we talk depending on who we are with and where we are at.  Have you ever been "put in your place", or done so to someone else?  Hierarchy, order, station, status, place, calling, rank, position, standing, grade, class.. they exist in our homes, in our schools, at work, at church, even in our social groups.  And you know what?  I don't believe, when handled appropriately, that it's completely a bad thing!  Without the presence or sense of something greater than ourselves, we would feel no desire to progress, we would have no accountability for our failures and shortcomings.

Hierarchy is most easily noticed when comparing extremes. In the States, where there is an "upper, middle, and lower class" (and virtually everything in between), it isn't as easily recognized. However, here in Brasil, the "middle class" is just now starting to develop, but still has an incredibly LOOONG way to go!  We may reside in a bubble within Sao Paulo, but don't be deceived.. within walking distance there are what is known as "Favela's", massive slum-like places made of brick, tin, and any other scavenged materials that may have been found.  Each day, hoards of people walk from the Favela's (the more fortunate ones ride the buses), and head to the more financially affluent areas to work for their wages.
I desperately want to get some good pictures to capture the reality of some of these places, but sadly drive by shots are about all I have for now.  The comparison is humbling.
Culture is truly a fascinating thing.  A certain lyrics come to mind (courtesy of Disney): "You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you.  But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you'll learn things you never knew you never knew!"  How much I have learned in such a short period of time!  We have been in Brasil for just past 3 months now, and I am just as fascinated today as I was the moment I stepped off the plane by some of the cultural norms here that differ from the ones I grew up with. 

The first week we arrived I packed up the kids and headed to the park in an attempt to meet some fellow moms and make new friends.  I arrived at the park wearing a casual white pant suit and heels and immediately every eye was on me.  As I looked around at all the women I realized something - EVERYONE was wearing all white!  Later on it was explained to me.. All those women with children were the "babas" (aka the nannies), and all white is their uniform.  Well, no wonder they stared!  Who is this crazy new woman bringing her own kids to the park and wearing all white?!  Personally I think all white looks crisp and classy.  However, I wear it very scarcely and only if I'm feeling daring due to the fact that I have 4 kids who just LOOOVE to wipe whatever gets on them or comes out of them on whatever limb of mine is most accessible.  So naturally, my first reaction was "White?!  How stressful!  One little grimy hand and her outfit is shot for the day!  What about gray, or mud brown??"  Well, white shows everything.  A woman can't pretend to be clean if she's wearing white.  Either she is, or she isn't!  Most families have multiple white outfits available for their baba throughout the day to change into in case they get soiled.

I have truly come to admire so many of these women.  I watch them tend to these children, while their own are under the care of another, even cheaper hand.  They dote on these children, they love these children, they raise these children.  I recently finished the book The Help by Kathryn Stockett which was referred to me by a respected family friend of ours and helped open my eyes even further on the matter.
It is so easy to judge cultures that are different from your own. It shocked me to learn that while I thought the living conditions inhumane, the state education systems lacking, and the dispersement of wealth absurd, that there are those here who think that our lives (Americans) are the sad ones... an over willingness to leave family behind in pursuit of wealth, never happy or satisfied with current situation, and having an abundance of arrogance, greed, and gluttony. What a fascinating thing culture is! What it all boils down to is this: There is NO perfect culture in the world today. There are things each country excels in above others, things we can learn from one another if we would only be willing to open our eyes and be slow to judge. I hope that through the opportunities I am given to see cultures different from the one I originally knew, that I can change and adopt practices and values into our family that would help create our own "perfect culture", while remembering that what may be perfect for me, may not be so much for you!

So today, my hat is off to Brasil. The land of some of the happiest, most content, and hardworking people I have ever encountered. Willing to do whatever it takes to provide for their loved ones, and never uttering a word of complaint. If I can be half the woman so many of "the least of these" are, I say, I've made out quite well!


All Aboard!

People often tell me I am a very "relaxed" parent.  I don't stress too easily.. perhaps that is less due to the fact that I don't care, and more closely related to the sad but true realization that I may at times be a smidgen oblivious to my surroundings.  Example: If I'm stuck in a car with a bunch of whining kids, I don't yank my hair out, curl in fetal position, or start screaming obscenities & threats towards the back seat.. I push my internal "mute" button and entertain myself within until the moments of imperfection have passed.  Insane?  Perhaps.  But it sure saves me a lot of frustration!  Then, once things have settled down, I offer up the opportunity for everyone to discuss their frustrations civilly.  While this can be a great thing, it does come with it's down sides too.  I tend to be quite task oriented.  Please don't ask me to do two brain power things at the same time!  I can cook and talk on the phone while nursing a baby and handing toys to an impatient toddler without a problem, but ask me a question while I'm writing an email or reading a book and you'll likely get an exasperated sigh, an impatient glance or the occasional eye roll (yes, at times I am still 16).  Try to talk to me while I'm watching a movie, and I just plain won't hear you until you stand in front of the screen..  When I'm in the zone, I am IN THE ZONE baby!

So yesterday I organized a day trip to the beach with a few friends since the kids were out of school due to parent-teacher conferences.  After a truly PERFECT afternoon, we packed up our load and headed on our way.  It's an hour and a half (approximate) drive from my door to the beach, and I was beaming with pride that we made it there without the slightest hiccup thanks to my trusty navigation system.  So naturally I was more than willing to go wherever the sucker told me to, to get me back home!  My girlfriend and here cutie-patootie daughter drove with us which just made the drive all the more so fun, having a yacking partner.  We yacked and we yacked until we came upon what I assumed to be another toll road.  I paid my R$8 and pulled through the gate slightly annoyed that I paid to enter a toll road that was at a complete stand still.  SLOOOOWLY we inched further along, yacking away to pass the time, when suddenly my girlfriend mentioned, "Ummm, we're getting on a boat!".  WHAT?! 
Apparently I need to add yacking and reading road signs on the list of things I cannot do at the same time... but in my defense, what kind of navigation system tells you to drive across the water?!  I mean really..  Well, it makes for a fun adventure, and a first for me - never driven onto a ferry before!  The kids loved it too.  The rhythm of the car on water mus have relaxed them all because shortly after, everyone fell asleep which was simply lovely since our hour and a half drive turned into a 3 1/2 hour drive between the ferry, a highway accident (not involving us, thank goodness!), and the rush hour traffic due to it all!



I took Miss B for her first mother-daughter mani/pedi last week.  Like any true girl, she was in heaven to say the least!  As this is one of the very few affordable luxuries here in Sao Paulo, we were happy to help out the local economy! ;)
All grown up and feeling purty!
We went in the grand company of a great friend of mine and her sweet daughter.  Just look at these blonde beauties!
My gal pal and her little girly :)
Nothing quite beats having one on one time with your little girl!

Survival of the Fittest

In our fairly thorough preparations in coming to Brasil, we purchased a Pur water filter for the tap in the kitchen.  I despise spending money on stupid things (like bottled water), when you can save SO much in a worthy investment such as this!  Both my high maintenance husband and Amazing V still drank bottled water or milk since it "tasted weird"... babies... while the kids and I manned up and drank loyally from this beauty:
Yesterday we celebrated our 3 month anniversary here in Brasil... MY WORD time has flown!!! Today, remembering that the filter should be changed about every 3 months, I asked my man to make the switch. When he popped open the sucker we realized we had made one slight mistake in the initial installment... NO FILTER!!!  Oops!  Apparently water doesn't taste gross when it's actually filtered! :P
I am happy to report that the kids and I are are all alive and well despite drinking the forbidden tap water.. at least for now!  And you know what else??  The not-so-high-maintenance-afterall-hubster and Amazing V are now drinking from the Pur water filter since it is, officially, gostoso!!! :)


Rude Awakening

So I have a friend.  A very GOOD friend.  We get together twice a week for 1 1/2 hours and chat away, just her and I.  ....So what if I happen to pay her to come over?  She is worth every penny and more!  She happens to be my Portuguese tutor, but she's SO much more than just that!  She is my window to sanity, my mediator in miscommunications, and seriously a BLAST to talk to! :)  Okay, and of course she's Brazilian, so she's LOVELY.. so really I just invite her over so I can stare at her (You wouldn't believe me if I told you her age!  If only we were all so fortunate!).
Smile?  AGAIN?!  Can you please get the hang of your new camera so you can snap one and get it out of my face??  hehehe.. what a good sport! :)
This past Thursday she gave me some rather distressing news:  "For the last 3 weeks or so, Amazing V has been "helping" you by dumbing down her Portuguese.  That's why you can communicate with her so easily, but you have a harder time with others.  I know she's doing it to help you in the short term, but if we don't tell her to stop, it is going to really hurt you long term!"  Ummm, example?  "When she talks to you she omits most prepositions and verbs to keep it simple, like "Me, kids, park, big", instead of "I am going to take the kids to the big park.""  The result?  I am having MAJOR issues remembering when and where to insert all those pesky little words!  lol.  Sweet Amazing V, always trying to make my life easier!  How silly she must think I am, and yet she tells makes me feel like one of the most fluent speakers of her time, and then tries to take responsibility if she doesn't understand me.. like it's her fault!  Silly V.. ;) 

Not wanting to make her feel bad or take the blame for any setbacks in my language progression this may have caused, I twisted the wording a bit for her cute sake when I spoke to her Friday.  "Hey Amazing V, Helpful C (that's my tutor), told me that I am not always speaking in full sentences.  My Portuguese comes out broken, and I REALLY want it to be fluid so I don't sound like a freak when I try to speak in public.  I would love it if you would correct me when I say things wrong.  Pretty pretty PRETTY please correct me!  Tell it to me straight, I can take it, I promise!"  Okay, well really it didn't come out that nice since I apparently speak in broken Portuguese.. it went more like this, "Amazing V? Helpful C falei com eu e minha Portuguese esta quebrado.  E MUITO importante para me falar muito bom Portuguese.  Eu preciso voce falei eu quando eu falar nao bom, por favor.  Muito obrigada."  And you know what??  Imperfections and all, she GOT IT!!!  The result?  The remainder of the day she corrected me constantly when I spoke.  I know it sounds funny, but I LOVED it!!!  Hopefully she keeps it up in the days to come, because I am ready to nail this language!  Look out Brasil, here I come! :)


Trying to contain myself..

Dear Mr.Hooley,

Your air shipment is entering the final stages of clearance. Would you please be so kind as to advise the delivery address? Once the shipment has cleared customs we will contact you to set up a delivery date.

Please note that your sea shipment has arrived in Santos.

Best Regards,

Brazil International Movers
Tel. 00 00 0000-0000

Can this really be happening?!  I have been trying NOT to think about our stuff to make the time go by faster.. I think it worked!  We've been here for almost 3 months now and it looks like our things are in close view (well, at least the air shipment)!  *Is there a way to squeel in print??  Becuase I totally just did! ;)

Simba Safari

One thing I didn't think about while living in another country is that your holidays change.  Memorial Day is just another day here.  Same with the 4th of July, Presidents Day, Thanksgiving, and many others.. Sad, sure, but there are other days.. SURPRISE holidays that are typically just "ordinary days" to us, that are suddenly things to look forward to! 

This Wednesday was one of those "surprise" holidays!  "Dia das criancas" or in English, "The day of the kids" (okay, it was also a Catholic holiday in remembrance of Saint I believe, but either way - no school, and NO WORK for the Hubster - WOO HOO!).  So, I know you're just dying to know what we did for our very first "Dia das criancas", so I'll just get right down to it!

We drove the 30 minute or so trek to the Zoological (the Sao Paulo Zoo).  The only problem was the 30 minute trek for some reason took 2 1/2 HOURS!  As we naively wondered why there was SO much traffic, we slowly realized one very key point:  Today is "Dia das criancas"... EVERYONE who has a child of their own, or has a relative with a child, or a friend with a child, or thought ahead to rent a child for the day (ok, not really), is headed to the zoo!  We drove past literally THOUSANDS of people who parked miles away and were walking there.  When we drove past the entrance to the zoo it was a sight to behold!  You would have thought Justin Beiber was selling the tickets to get inside and was giving out free autographed shirts to everyone who got in.  And once you finally got in Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Beyonce, Katy Perry and Madonna were all offering free hour long massages to help promote their latest albums, which they were also giving away.. for free!  Ludicrous I tell you!  The hubster took one look at the enormous mob and said, "No way!" in as nice a way as humanly possible.  Visions of missing children, and pick pocketers danced through our heads as we realized it wasn't just "crowded", it was down right dangerous!

Not wanting to cause emotional episodes in our car full of excited youngsters we drove on knowing we had one more option, and desperatly hoped it was less popular than the first!  "Simba Safari" was PERFECT!  A drive through zoo, that was still crowded, but in comparison to the main zoo, almost vacant.  Plus, we were in the safety of our car, so all visions of lost kiddos vanished and mom and dad were able to breathe a sigh of sweet relief!  We purchased food for the animals and in we drove...
 First creature of note were these evil looking emu's.. we watched them terrorize the zookeepers and chase them around.  Needless to say, we opted not to feed them!
I was excited when I saw an ostrich in the distance and gave the kids handfuls of food for him reassuring them that he should be nicer than the emu's.  Whether he was nice or not I do not know.. what I do know, is that a giant bird in your face with a beak made for human dismemberment is terrifying to say the leats.  So naturally, I threw my food at him, snapped a picture, and rolled up my window as fast as I could!  The kids took my lead and chucked their food too, scrambling to the opposite side of the car with sounds of terror escaping their poor panicked selves.  Who knows?  Maybe I misjudged him.  But I'll take my chances and pay for it in the next life if need be!
 Gators galore.  Glad they don't like pellets because I wasn't going there either!
Princess P was quite enthralled and made sure her daddy was on his toes while driving with her oh so helpful (and wiggly) aid!
These guys were pretty slick, and the most active buffalo I've ever seen!
The deer were an all time favorite.  Sadly I cut off Mr H's head here, but I can vouch for him - that IS his hand feeding the deer! :)
Even the hubster got in on the action with these guys!
Happy children on kids day!
 The poor soul looked like he needed a bit more room to roam.. :(
The camels were another favorite for the kiddos..
I am a big cat kind of gal myself, and this one didn't disappoint!  B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!!!
The king of the Jungle was quite a beast too!  The boys especially LOVED him.  He even gave us an ear show and roared so loud our bones quivered!
We tried to feed the llama but she wasn't so impressed..  apparently her mother never taught her that it isn't polite to stare.. or maybe she was just giving us an eerie taste of our own medicine??
Tchau llama!
And last but not least, more gorgeous tigers! 
On our way home from the Simba Safari, we were quite starved when we happened upon a Pizza Hut!  The hubster rushed in to buy 2 pizzas to finish off kids day right.  When I say "we splurged", I am not just talking calories.. I almost choked when I saw the receipt for this one.  R$100!!!  But wait, my man got a great "deal" by ordering a specific crust and recieved 20% off of everything, so we only had to pay about R$83 which is approx the equivalent of $50.. yeah.  I hope they enjoyed it, cause it aint happenin' again! (Love them as I do..)