Counting Blessings

I know what you're thinking.. "What does one do to celebrate an American holiday when you are not in America??"  Why, you head to the beach of course! :)  Brandon and I took the kids and headed northeast about 3hrs to the most rustic beach house I've ever laid eyes on.. A-MAZING! :)  We shared the joint with some friends of ours and had a wonderful time!  3 days in the warm sun, and a legit Thanksgiving meal (back to back with an authentic Brazilian churrascaria - Mmmmm) made for PLENTY to be thankful for!!!
For the sake of overbearing you with photos, I have arranged them into these handy dandy collages.. does it give me away that I have just as many shots of the food as I do of the beach?? lol
And the beach house of course! :)  Couldn't leave that out of the collage brigade! :)  All in all, good weather, great food, and amazing friends made a "family" holiday without family not only bearable, but FUN!!!


Foreign Communications

Today was the primary program in our ward here in Sao Paulo.  Bailey was given a part which we practiced until she had it memorized.  ..Turns out it's quite difficult to memorize a part in a foreign language when you have no idea what you're saying!  Her part was "Posso mostrar reverencia pelas coisas e locais sagrados."  Aka "I can show reverence for sacred things and places."  I wasn't sure if she would do it under the pressure of an entire congregation of Portuguese speakers watching, but bless her cute little soul she did it!  And didn't skip a beat either! :)  I had her "replay" her moment for keepsake purposes.. I am SOOO proud!  I have yet to speak at that pulpit myself - GO BAILEY!!! :)

History in the making

I am not a confrontational person.  I despise it.  I loathe it.  When faced with confrontation I get shaky, nervous and anxious.  I can't keep emotions in check and most likely will start crying.  So when faced with the following scenario, I took the chickens way out and decided to write an email to those involved instead.. I'm such a baby! 

To whom this may concern,

My name is Erin Hooley, and I currently have two children in the Lower School program at *name withheld* (K4 & K5). My family and I moved to Sao Paulo 4 months ago from the United States. Yesterday, we had the great privilege of attending the annual Thanksgiving celebration put on by the *name withheld* PTA. It was a WONDERFUL event, and a great family day for us and all else who attended! As an American citizen, I appreciate the efforts that went into acknowledging this great traditional celebration of my home country. The food was wonderful, the decor provided by the students was beautiful, and there was an abundance of activities for every age group!

I do however, have one concern. As I was photographing some of the events and works of art, I came upon the main display that was placed outside the main entrance doors to the cafeteria. As everyone entered they were able to read the basic facts on the first Thanksgiving. It was a darling display, but revisions had been made that were misleading. In two places, the word "God" had been covered up with white out (I have attached pictures for your review). I know that there are times when being politically correct may be necessary, but regarding historical events, I feel that important truths should not be taken out. "God" had everything to do with the first Thanksgiving, and I feel it is a dishonor of the celebration to remove Him from it. 

The term "Pilgrim" is derived from that of "pilgrimage" which is a religious journey. They came to America to find a land where they could be free to practice religion as they wanted. To have a religious opinion different from that of The Church of England, under the reign of King Henry VIII in the 1600s was dangerous and punishable by large fines or even death. After receiving much persecution, the pilgrims attempted to gain the blessing of the King and had petitioned him to allow them to form their own church. The King denied the pilgrim's request. After an unsuccessful attempt to reside in Holland, in 1620, the Pilgrims moved back to England and prepared to leave for the New World.

The Thanksgiving celebration is a time when we celebrate the successes brought about by the journey the pilgrims made to the "New World"- a journey that never would have taken place without the quest for religious freedoms and the ability to worship "God" as they choose. Religious freedom is one of the most cherished rights that our Constitution promises us as Americans. Not all countries around the globe allow their citizens that right. I feel it is a disservice to misrepresent the holiday as something that erases Him altogether. Despite whatever our beliefs may be, history is history, and in the first Thanksgiving, "God" was very much a part. With all the incredible hard work that goes into such a successful production, I feel it incredible that this seemed to be the only hiccup in the entire day! :) I know it may be the last thing on your mind, but I thought it important to bring to your attention. I am not aware of who did it or why the revisions were made, and really that doesn't matter, but as the majority of the people who attended the celebration were not US citizens, I feel it important to have our countries' history portrayed correctly, and feel strongly that that can be done in a strictly informational manner without encroaching on ones personal beliefs. I greatly look forward to attending the celebration next year, and would be happy to assist in anything that may be needed to make it a success for all who attend! Thank you again for all of your wonderful efforts in making each school year memorable.


Erin Hooley

For further research and study on the tradition, I have included some helpful articles:

Now you may now be thinking I am a total spaz case, but it is an issue that astounds me!  As a society we are so willing to talk openly about everything whether it be safe sex practices for teens, politics, gay/lesbian relationships or race and gender discrimination, but when it comes to religion, we are scared stiff!  Why is that??  One look at the Constitution and you can hardly argue that the United States wasn't founded by God-fearing men!  Why are we so afraid to admit it?  Acknowledging history doesn't mean you have to agree with it.  Despite whatever we personally believe, we can still be open to learning about others' beliefs as well.


Children a Plenty

If we are lucky, and play our cards right, sometimes we are privileged enough to have those special moments in our lives that change us forever.  Yesterday, my husband and I were blessed to have one of those "moments".  We were able to volunteer at the annual "Angel Party" which is sponsored by the American Society of Sao Paulo, among others.  230 or so orphans were given a day that will not soon be forgotten - by them, or anyone present.  Shows were performed, games were played, and prizes were given, all in honor of these sweet, and deserving children...
I was asked to help with the photography which was the most amazing job I could ever have hoped for!  Looking for and capturing those special moments of spontaneous joy in children.. is there a better job in the world?  I think not.  These posted are just a sampling of the pictures I was able to take:
There were sports to try - some with the aid of pro athletes which was so fun for the them!  These guys were great with the kids. :)
Even my sweet hubby was assigned to man one of the "American Football" booths - reliving his glory days with a bunch of amazing kids?  I don't think he minded one bit!  (He's the cute one in the blue polo by the way..)
There were carnival type games in the gym where the kids could win prizes.
Face painting, manicures, arts and crafts - you name it - these kids deserve it above all others, and FINALLY, got it!
With other sponsors such as Haagan Dazs, Nestle & Habib's (pizza), the kids didn't go hungry either!  There was PLENTY of food to go around! :)
All tuckered out after a long day and a full tummy! :)
It amazes me how some of these youth have gone through so much of their lives without a place to truly call "home".. a luxury I have taken for granted all my life.
Each color shirt represented a different orphanage home.
Brazil even has its own "Beiber" :)  The kids didn't care that it wasn't the real deal.. they LOVED it!!!
The best part of the day?  Without a doubt it was when the kids each recieved their gifts from Santa.  Each child had a sponsor that purchased a backpack, a pair of shoes, socks, underwear, a new outfit and a toy... I've never seen such immense happiness!  It was all I could do to keep my emotions in check until we left the venue:
A day I shall never forget.  Full of joy in its purest form, and children with smiling faces - they way they ought to be.  In a perfect world, it would have ended with a new mom and dad to take each one of these precious children of God home, and love them the way every child is meant to be loved.  I pray that I will never be the same again.


3rd times a Charm

Look out world, it's official!  Our little whirlwind has turned 3!!!  Sir L is the rough n tough, bruiser, linebacker-in-the-making son we all adore.. maybe it's his smile, his shocking baby blues, or the fact that after he's finished destroying the house and tackling his unsuspecting siblings he snuggles better than anyone I know!  He's always good for a laugh, endless story books, or an impromptu game of "put all the food back in the pantry and fridge". ;)  Thank you little man for keeping us laughing, and ensuring I don't have too much time to be idle!  I love you more than you love binks (aka. pacifiers.. and sorry again we had to take them away..)!  Happy Birthday buddy!!!
We had a nice intimate get together with some friends here in Sao Paulo in honor of the big day - complete with a sandwich bar, cake and ice cream, and some pool time!
Sir L got sufficiently "car" spoiled and LOVED every second of it!
One of my personal favorites was an iguana from my good friend Vivacious V and her sweet family to mock our (or "my" rather) naive experience with a live one: http://minutesformama.blogspot.com/2011/09/mother-of-year.html
We have been SO blessed to find such great friends out here!
After one failed cake attempt, we opted to keep this one in the pan.. topped with "match" candles, and we were ready to sing!
Mr H couldn't contain the excitement and was itching to help out his brother...
After this picture, Sir L gave Mr H a piece of his mind - apparently he didn't need (or want!) the help! ;)
Down at the pool we had a perfect afternoon of sun and fun - I am LOVING springtime in Brazil!!!
McKay helped us wear out the kids.. everyone slept GREAT that night!  THANKS MCKAY!!!
Later that night we gave Landon the gifts from us which included plenty of sand toys for the beach,
The "David" books, which I never did find cute or funny until now ;)
= one very HAPPY birthday boy!!!  We have been SO blessed to have this little guy in our lives!  No amount of unbroken household items could ever replace the joy I get when I see his sweet face light up!  We love you buddy!!!  HAPPY 3rd BIRTHDAY!!!