Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

Jimmy, his mom, and Walker left on the day before Thanksgiving to travel to Paraty and Rio. Mac and I stayed in Sao Paulo to unpack boxes and because Mac had school on Thanksgiving Day (don't even get me started on why an American school doesn't have Thanksgiving Day off). Regardless, he missed enough school during our US trip in October, so I didn't think he could miss any more days.

His school, despite the idiotic decision to have school on what is the most American of all US-celebrated holidays (besides Independence Day which isn't celebrated during the school year), really is a fantastic school and does everything first-class.

On Thanksgiving morning, they hosted a Thanksgiving Prayer Service and brunch for Kindergarteners and their families and it was just perfect. The three classes had different roles in the program - one class sang a song, another told the Thanksgiving story, and Mac's class told what they were thankful for.

When it was Mac's class's turn, they all stood up in a row and held up a piece of paper that said what they were thankful for. Mac was right in front of me and so I could clearly read his paper, which said he was thankful for "his fish and his family." A blue beta fish named Pedro got higher billing than the people who gave him life. Go figure... He did have the good grace (or forgetfulness) to name his family first when he gave his oral presentation. (It's hard to understand in the poor-quality video, but he really did say family before the fish!)

The program was followed by brunch where we ate turkey, rice and gravy, potatoes, salads, and desserts. It was a lovely morning with my little Pilgrim.

Mac and I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner at our friends', the Wares, who open their home every Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful evening with great food and wonderful company. We are blessed with so much in our life here.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mac's 6th Birthday Party

Before I started blogging, I sent out an email about the first birthday party Mac attended once we moved to Sao Paulo. It was an elaborate and costly affair and I was sure it would be cheaper for us to vacation as a family at Disneyworld for a week than to spring for one of those parties.

So as Mac's birthday loomed closer and closer, I grew more and more nervous. Our apartment was too tiny (and too moldy although I didn't know that) to host even a few children, their siblings and parents. I checked on renting the party room in our building and that alone was about $250 to rent and it didn't really have the space for children to run around that I thought we needed. So we decided to have it at the consulate's recreation area. There's plenty of space with a soccer field, swimming pool, tables and chairs, and best of all: we weren't charged to use it!

Because we had just moved to Sao Paulo before Mac's last birthday, he didn't have a party last year and I've felt guilty about that for a whole year. So when faced with who to invite, I followed our Marine friend's life motto of "go big or go home". I felt strongly that we had to invite everybody in his class and then there were his friends in our complex and consulate friends and some kids on the school bus and church friends. You get the idea.

Because we were having it at the consulate and we had to get everybody on the security list, rsvps were a must which was a great thing for me. People don't rsvp here and so I had a clear idea of how many people we were expecting. And because the people expected numbered about 80, I knew I wasn't making food for that many people (remember we were in the temporary apartment with one pyrex dish, 2 pots, 1 measuring cup, 4 drinking cups, etc). One of the things I will miss most about Brazil is the plethora of services you can employ. We hired this wonderful company called the Blue Banana Buffet to set up three booths of food. We chose nuggets, mini-pizzas and mini-hamburgers and they threw in cotton candy as a prize. It was fantastic and easy and surprisingly delicious and all I had to do was make the carrot cakes at Mac's request. It was definitely the easiest birthday party cooking I've ever done!

The weekend of the party was overcast and rainy and we prayed and prayed for sunny weather for the party day (last Sunday). We woke up to beautiful weather in the morning but apparently we should've been more time-specific in our prayer requests because the wind started blowing around 1pm. The Blue Banana people told me rain was on the way (the party was from 2-5pm). Well by about 3:15, the skies opened up and we had a rip-roaring, thunder-booming, lightning-cracking, wind-blowing storm. I'm pretty sure it never rains inside those expensive party places in Sao Paulo. You only have these problems with the elements when you're trying to do a backyard-esque (aka affordable) birthday party.

Another problem you don't have in those party places is the electricity going off. Yeah, we had that problem too. The power went off and while the generator kicked on for the consulate building itself, the generator doesn't cover the recreation area. So our food people couldn't cook and we had a lull in food cooking and consumption for awhile.

I had several games lined up but they were all outside games and didn't translate well when played under a covered patio. I mean Red Rover just seems a little dangerous when children can skin their knees on concrete after busting through the locked arms. Finally the rain slacked off and instead of doing an orderly balloon toss game as I'd planned, Jimmy let the children have a free-for-all water balloon fight which they loved more than anything.

All was not lost, though. The sun finally came out, the children could swim, the electricity came back on, everybody ate and Mac had a great time. All's well that ends well. I'm glad that's checked off the to-do list!!

Three apartments, two moves, two in-laws, one Marine Ball, two birthday parties... all in three weeks!

I have survived the last three weeks and sometimes, survival is good enough.

When Mac and I returned from the US on October 29, we came home to mold. We had a mold problem earlier in the year but the mold was never visible (it was behind a closet that was supposedly fixed), so I was alarmed to actually see the mold on the wall. The Consulate acted quickly to get the landlord's repairmen in to fix the problem. But they couldn't find the problem. The aforementioned closet was pulled out and we found it was covered (and I mean covered) in mold. They started breaking into the concrete floor under where the closet had been to find the leak. They dug down several inches and the concrete several inches down was as wet as the concrete had been on the top. And they couldn't find the leak. So that meant they were going to have to break up the floor and walls (all concrete construction) to find the leak.

Photo of the side and back of the closet insert

As an aside, we took Mac to an allergist while we were home in October because of reactions he's had to nuts. The doctor diagnosed him with asthma in addition to the allergies. I really almost dismissed the diagnosis because I was so confident we didn't live in the moldy, damp conditions he insisted were triggers. So much for my medical degree...

Now by this time, we'd lost the use of two bedrooms due to mold so Mac and I were down to sharing the guest bedroom. This was cozy, but time was ticking. Jimmy and his mom were arriving shortly and as much as I love his mom, four of us in one bed was going to be a little tight.

On Wednesday, November 5, they pulled out the closet and discovered the mold and the house smelled worse than anything I could imagine (and the mold was so bad that it caused your nose and throat to burn). On Thursday, November 6, the post OSHA representative told me the apartment was unfit for humans to live in in the current state, and on Friday, November 7, the Consulate called at 7:30am to tell me to pack enough clothes for a couple weeks because we were moving to a temporary apartment.

So we moved to the temporary apartment which was nice and modern and not moldy but small and a minimum 25-minute commute to Mac's school.

We lived in the apartment for 2 weeks during which time we had a belated quasi-surprise birthday party for Jimmy, Jimmy's stepdad came (and had to sleep on the couch because the guest room was too small for anything but a twin bed), we attended the Marine Ball, Jimmy's mom got sick, we had Mac's birthday party (see the posting for birthday party news - coming soon!), and a moving company moved all our household effects from the old apartment to a new apartment in the same complex as the moldy apartment but in a newer building.

We started sleeping at the new apartment this past Monday. Jimmy, his mom and stepdad left for Paraty and Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday afternoon and they'll return on Monday, by which time the apartment will look more normal so they can feel more at home for their last few days of vacation.

Thankfully the apartment is really lovely. It's big and spacious and we can all breathe. Mac doesn't cough at all over here, which means that I have a HUGE 7-month supply of Zyrtec that it appears we may not need after all.

The best thing of all? We're totally unpacked. There is nary a box to be seen. Christmas decorations are up. It feels like home!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What a great night!

Last night I was determined to stay awake to see the presidential election results, but by midnight I was done. Actually I was done a lot earlier but that was when I made the decision to stop sleeping in the chair and move to the bed. For some great and terrific and inexplicable reason, I woke up about 2:15. I decided to turn the slingbox back on and tuned in just in time to see them declare Obama the winner. WOW. I then watched McCain's extraordinarily gracious speech and then I watched as Obama made the victory speech of all victory speeches. That guy is incredible and I am so excited about the next 4 (and, I'm confident, 8) years with him as our leader.

This morning when I woke Mac up for school, I told him that Obama won. Mac's followed the campaign with us and knew of our support for Obama. He asked "so he's the president now?" I explained that we had a couple months to wait but yes, he would be president.

I really wanted Mac to understand the tremendous significance of Obama being elected. My dear sweet son is so colorblind - thank God - that it took awhile for him to understand that Obama is a black man and that not too long ago, his being elected President couldn't have happened, even in what is the greatest country on earth. It was what I hope was a good teaching moment about equality, although Mac looked confused when I said that it didn't matter if a person is black, white, purple or green - we're all the same. Maybe I should have used a Transformer reference for the different colors?

Beyond that, we have a chance for real change and improvement. Oh, it's such a great time to be an American.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election excitement

I am soooo excited about this election and learning the results that I don't know how I'm going to survive the next 36+ hours!!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

the times, they are a-changin'...

Tonight Mac and I went to eat dinner at a restaurant with our friends, the Bregmans. The Bregmans have three children, aged 5 to 11. Rebecca, their youngest, is this adorable little pixie of a girl and she's just full of energy and spunk. She asked Mac if he wanted to come over for a sleepover. Mac and I have discussed the concept of sleepovers and we've read repeatedly a Franklin book about sleepovers but he acts like he's not ready to do it yet. (He's only ever had a sleepover at his cousin Hayley's and that's family so we don't really count it). So he told her that he'd never done a sleepover and then I said maybe she could do a sleepover at our house one time to show Mac how it was done. She suggested tonight, so we are now having our first sleepover and wouldn't you know it's with a girl! The times really are a-changin'.