Once upon a time my sweet 6yr old daughter asked me if I could JUST ONCE, pretty pretty please be the first one in line at car pickup after school.  Being the sucker that I am, I told her I would do my very best to be early enough to be the first car there when those gates rolled open.  Not that I am a late person.. oh no, being "on time" doesn't mean anything when the clock strikes that magical number.  This is one of the top American schools in Sao Paulo.  Lower, middle & upper schools all combine into one very space efficient campus.  Please note that I mentioned the CAMPUS is space efficient.  Off campus, the streets surrounding the school are as much of a mess as any other out here.. and a raving madhouse at "pick up time"!  But today.. today was going to be different.  TODAY, I was going to be first if it killed me!  After picking up Sir L at noon (he only goes half day), we stayed close by and I took him and Princess P to lunch.  Then we went back to stake out our place in the front of the line.  90 minutes before the gate was due to open (that's a full hour and a half folks!), and THIS is what I find:  I'm not first, not second, good freak, I'm not even 10th!  I am 12th.  12th!!!  That brown gate seemed to laugh as I stared at the great chasm that separated me from being the crowned "first car in line".
As I sulked back in my car, I felt completely and utterly defeated.  I tried not to glare at the grouping of men across the street who'd beaten me to the chase.  I know them all too well.  These men are the very reason I've never attempted to be first in line before.  No one does.  These men are paid (literaly!) to beat me to the punch!  Drivers.  Aka "Motoristas".  Ahh yes - there is a very large population in middle to upper class Brazil who have these men at their beck and call to run errands, pick up kids, and even walk their toy poodles.  The ones you don't see here in their friendly huddle are sleeping off the time in the comfort of the vehicles they drive.
The more time passed, the more I was just dying to get the inside scoop, so I sucked in a deep breath and jotted across the street with Princess P in tow for support.. if you've never approached a grouping of 20+ grown men all by your lonesome, let me just tell you - it's somewhat intimidating!  Here is what I said, followed by the not so direct translation of what I was trying to say (if you speak fluent Portuguese, don't judge, we work with what we've got!):

"Com licença, uma pergunta para voces.. Que horas voces gerlamente chegam aqui?" ("Excuse me, minor question for you.. what time do you normally arrive here?")

Rather confused as to why I cared and who I was, a few of them began to reply, "Meio dia".  ("Noon")

"Nossa!" ("Good heavens!")

"sdhgaksjhdgakshdgaklhsd" (a bunch of mumbo jumbo spoken waaaaay too fast for me to try and reiterate it all here..)

Me, teasing and laughing (hopefully sarcastic humor translates through Portuguese better than through writing), "Minha filha me perguntou se eu posso chegar primeiro so uma vez, mas voces sempre me ganham!  Eu chegei uma hora e meio cedo hoje e eu estou numero doze!  Talvez uma vez eu posso chegar mais cedo do que voces, mas hoje voces sao bem rapido!"  ("My daughter asked me if just once I could be first in line, but you guys always beat me!  I got here an hour and a half early today and I'm the 12th in line - one day I'm gonna do it, but my word, you guys are crazy fast!)

After more joking and laughing about the situation, I asked them if I could take a picture.. they were such fun guys I couldn't help it! :)  It must have flattered them, because the next thing I knew, they were all conducting each other and moving cars around to get me up further in line.  They all promised that they would save me a space in front whenever I wanted and just to wave them down and they would remember who I was and help me out.  (If you have ever picked up kids from this school, you understand what a HUGE deal this is!)  I assured them that I only had ambitions to be first once and that if they were dedicated enough to sit there and wait for 3+ hours each day, they deserved that first spot!
After car shuffling, laughing, and thumbs upping my way up the line, they managed to get me in the 3rd spot before the gates began to open. :)  What AWESOME guys!!!
It may not be first but I'm not complaining!  3rd place winners get ribbons too you know!  Who's laughing now gate?!  Sucka! ;P
As I drove in, the look on my daughters face made it all worth it (okay, it would have been worth it anyways to get in on the driver fun for one day!), as she yelled out, "Oh my gosh!  My mom is almost first!!!"  Priceless.


Hooley Camp & an EPIC Failure

One of life's simple pleasures is escaping the hustle and bustle of our everyday crazy hectic lives and heading outdoors.  Camping.  It's how everyone used to live before brick and stonework, electricity and the iPhone.  Accept, as you can see here, we cheated - we opted out of slaying animals and making a fur tent.. okay, we even opted out of the pop ups you can purchase at WalMart, and we went all high class and shnazzy in a wonderful generator hooked up trailer.  Spoiled, I know.  The conveniences of modern living in perfect harmony with the great outdoors!
Don't mind how dirty my kids are - we may have had access to a trailer, but shockingly I never did take advantage of the on board shower.. it just didn't seem right..  Bubbles.  Another of life's simple pleasures.  Thrilling and exciting for some..
..and incredibly serious business for others!
A short drive away and we were at the lake.  Have I mentioned lately how much my kids LOVE the water?!
Shore side with Gma & Gpa H and the sis in law :)
The hubster braved the cold water to take the kiddos out on a little family expedition.
My sweetheart looks like a nudist here (not that I condone that sort of behavior in public).  It makes me smile.. I'm immature like that.
Little girls, chubby thighs, and bags of Cheetos.  It doesn't get much cuter than that!
Some of the hubsters' Aunts and Uncles brought their canine pals to camp too.  My kids were in their glory!  Someday, we need to get a dog.  But until having to take it down the elevator to relieve itself isn't in the cards, neither is Fido.
Helllllooooo handsome. :)
Gpa was a good sport too.  You have NO idea how hard it was to track down a paddle for each child!  Sometimes, "sharing" just isn't in the cards!
B received some instruction on skipping rocks.
With daddy's help, it worked fairly well :)
Princess P got plenty of Gma time and managed to wrap yet another poor soul around her funny little finger.
Another hop, skip and a jump over and we were in a cute little park!  The kids loathed* every second of it.. (*reeking with sarcasm) 
Here is were the EPIC failure comes into play:  As we were about to wrap up our fun filled outing, the little hooligans saw a gal setting up the strangest thing..  "Mommy, what is that?"  "That's tee ball - baseball for kids."  "What's baseball?"  WHAT?!?!   Here we are, living it up in another country in hopes to submerge our children into the wondrous depths of cultural diversity, and they don't even recognize one of their own countries most favorite pastimes?!  Sadly, the coach heard them and after I'm sure, rolling her eyes underneath her sunglasses at me for being a lousy American, she invited each of them to take a swing before her practice started.  I contemplated singing the Star Spangled Banner, but realized that they would probably ask what song I was singing and then the firemen close by would spray my incredibly deserving rear with their fire hose.  They loved it. I got teary eyed. We are still Americans after all! 
Sir L had stance man!  I was thoroughly impressed..
And Princess P?  Well, she had the confidence to hit it out of the park.  That would have been awesome. And redeeming. :P
In my defense,  afterwards I made a mad dash over to Target and purchased a tee ball set for Christmas! :)


Take it Outside

June.  Let's just pretend that it wasn't ions ago in blog world shall we?  Thanks.  Once upon a time in June, we went on a boating trip with my fabulous Aunt & Uncle in Elko, NV.  It was superb.  Each day was superb for different reasons.  Day 1, we sat on the shore and waited for the wind to die down so we could enjoy the water.  After shivering violently on the shore, we opted to return to the nice warmth of the house and put on actual clothes. 
 It wasn't as disappointing as it sounds though - H learned how to play volleyball, which was ADORABLE!  
 WILSOOOOOOOOOOON!!!  Sorry. Couldn't help myself. :)
My handsome man spent some sweet moments with his girls,

and L got to have the horse swing all to himself.  Sometimes not having to share, is just plain FUN! ;)
Day 2 was ideal as ideal could be for a day on the water!  The kids were SO excited it made me get all teary.  What, you don't cry when your kids are happy?!  How utterly strange of you..
H with my cutie patootie sister.
..and Princess P with my other cutie patootie sister.. she's got great teeth.. :)
My dad always used to tell us how groovy he was back in his day.. I never quite saw it until this shot.  Pure magic dad.  Pure magic!
Miss B was ecstatic when it was finally her turn to brave the tube with Grandma.
Mr H went on the tube as well, but it wasn't his all time favorite moment. 
That's the sign for "STOP".. he then told me that he wanted to just help me take pictures instead. :)
Sir L?  He was in his glory.  This is his "thumbs up".. I suppose I should teach him the right way, but it's just so cute I can't help but to leave it alone!
And Princess P?  Well she's just plain nutty.  No fear.  She would have gone out alone if I had trusted her not to jump ship!  Someone needs to tell her she's only 2.  Ask her and she insists that she is 5.  Hmmm..
I do so love boat and water shots.  They make me smile.  Especially when the little man is wearing daddy's hat :)
Our Elko trips are one of the great highlights of the summer!  It's a feat trying to get these guys to come out of the water for 2 seconds..
Accept to eat that is ;)
Good food, great company, and a full days worth of perfect weather.  What more could a mom with a Nikon want?! ;)  Thanks Aunt L for another FANTASTIC time!!!