Wednesday, December 31, 2008

lazy summer afternoons

Do you remember those summer days as a child where you spent all afternoon in the swimming pool, only getting out to eat potato chips with dripping wet fingers and it didn't really matter if you got the chips wet because you ate them fast to ward off the starvation you were feeling from all that swimming? The kind where if you got out of the sun to sit under the shade of an umbrella, you automatically felt cold because your skin was so toasty warm from the sun? The kind where you could play with a frisbee in the pool by yourself for a really long time, alternately making the frisbee a launch seat for a rocket ship, a steering wheel, a water splasher, and a surfboard? The kind where you spent a lot of time perfecting your newly acquired skill of turning back flips?

That's the kind of afternoon Mac had yesterday and that makes me inordinately happy.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The favorite Christmas present of the year (for father and son)

The Nerf Blaster Turbo

What happens when you take a shower when the vultures are around...

On Christmas Eve, I baked a turkey that I'd ordered and planned to cook on Christmas Day before we made plans to eat with friends. The turkey was spectacular and cooked to perfection. It was untouched when I jumped in the shower. I was gone from the kitchen not 15 minutes and returned to this carnage left by the vultures:

Merry belated Christmas from us to you!

Jimmy and Mac join me in wishing you a wonderful Christmas. I know I'm a day late but shouldn't we celebrate the miracle birth that makes Christmas all year long anyway? I hope your day was special no matter where you were or with whom you celebrated.

My mom is here visiting for a month. She commented yesterday that we were having a Griswold Christmas. Normally she's busy on Christmas Day either preparing lunch for her whole family or making a dish or two to take to her sister's house for the family meal. As we'd been invited to join friends at their Christmas dinner, we literally lazed the whole day away. We stayed in pajamas until 4 in the afternoon, we ate turkey sandwiches smeared with cranberry sauce for lunch on an unset table, and we played with our new toys and read books. It was entirely blissful and I think it could set a new standard for future relaxed Christmases for my mother!

Blessings to you and yours during this holiday season of light and hope.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Madonna or Bust!

Last night we went to see Madonna in concert along with 69,798 other people. It was the last show of her Sticky and Sweet (or is it Sweet and Sticky?) concert tour and it was PHENOMENAL.

Before you start lecturing me, I know she's morally questionable and disgusting in many aspects of how she lives her life. But we got the tickets at a good price and so we decided it was worth the money to see one of the greatest music legends of our time. (And odds are she won't come to South Carolina next year when we live there and she certainly hasn't made it to Brasilia, Maputo or Guadalajara in the last 10 years so this seemed like as good a time as any).

The Sao Paulo newspaper reported that she travels with 250 people in her entourage and that it takes 5 days just to set up the stage. I can totally understand those numbers after seeing the show. There was so much going on - her; the band; dancers all over the place; djs; 6 huge screens that formed her backdrop that flashed different images, videos, etc the whole time; these enormous sparkly "M"'s that decorated the sides of the stage; this huge moving circular lighted thing that raised and lowered during different parts of the concert; etc. A baby grand piano was raised on the stage at one point and she drove out on the stage in what looked like an antique Bentley or Rolls early in the show. It was CRAZY INSANE.

We had great "seats" - I put that in quotes because there were no seats. We were in that part right by the stage where you stand for hours upon hours (yes, I know I sound old, but my back was killing me!). We were a maximum of 15 people back from the stage so we had great views of her. She didn't even start singing until 10:15, so when she stopped at 12:15am, I was DONE.

Before the concert, we ran into some people from the group "Meninos do Morumbi". Meninos is this wonderful organization here that was started in the mid-1990s by a great guy and musician named Flavio. Flavio's intention was to introduce music to adolescents from the slums as a means of getting them off of drugs and off the streets. The program has been wildly successful. There are some 4000 kids involved in the program - they come for various lessons now in sports, English, and music; and their music is sensational. They've performed for President Bush and other dignitaries so their exposure is enormous. But I digress. We ran into Flavio and his wife before the show with some of the kids from Meninos. They said that they were at the show as Madonna's guests. Some of Madonna's dancers had come out over the last few days to do workshops with the kids. As we were standing there, the dancers came out to get the group. They treated each other like old friends and then they took them backstage. How cool is that? So even good things can come from morally destitute people.

It was a memorable show and I'm so glad we went but wow, am I tired today. Apparently Madonna at age 50 has way more stamina than I do at 38 (and if you look at the attached photos of her, you'll see she's nothing but muscle so I imagine she's definitely got more stamina than I do!). She was out celebrating until 5am this morning. I fell into bed at 1:30am, don't think I rolled over until the alarm clock went off at 7am and I've hardly been able to keep my eyes open all day. So on that note, I'm off to bed!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Update on adoption front

Some of you have asked about our adoption efforts, and I really, genuinely appreciate your interest and concern. Sadly there's not much to report. We started the home study process and are nearly complete with that and that's about the only good news there is to share.

We really wanted to adopt in Brazil as this will likely be the place we live the longest in Jimmy's diplomatic career. As some of you know, the United States signed the Hague Convention on international adoption last December and ratified the convention (or whatever you do with a convention) in April. Brazil has also signed the Hague Convention, so it seems like it should be really easy to process an international adoption between the two countries. So much for my thinking on that matter.

The United States has Hague-accredited a long list of American adoption agencies and now Brazil has to choose a few of those that we Americans will use who want to adopt in Brazil. Seems easy enough, right? Well the meeting to discuss these agencies has been scheduled and postponed at least 4 times that I know of since October. Now it's Christmas time and not too much gets done in Brazil between Christmas and Carnival (end of February), so I'm not hopeful that the meeting will happen until sometime after February, which means there will continue to be NO adoptions by Americans in Brazil.

The psychologist who is doing our home study was confident as late as Thanksgiving that we still had time to adopt in Brazil given our departure next summer even with these delayed meetings. But I have just heard from her and she now believes this nonsense could drag on indefinitely. She has decided to assist in adoptions only in non-Hague countries and wanted to tell us that. Our home study could still be used for a Hague country adoption, but, for instance, if we decided to try for Brazil, we'd have to present our home study to one of these agencies that eventually Brazil will one day approve and that agency would review the home study and hopefully be able to use it.

And actually the same process will still happen if we go with a non-Hague country - we'll select an agency in the US to help us and they'll use the home study that we're nearing completion on.

In a big step forward, yesterday I contacted an adoption agency in the US that our friends, the Schnabels, used to adopt their girls from Ethiopia. As it's the weekend, I won't hear from anybody until tomorrow (hopefully they're working even though it's Christmas week), but we are moving forward and will now try to adopt in a non-Hague country. Ethiopia is our first choice.

At this point there wouldn't be much difference going Hague or non-Hague for us because we have decided Brazil is out of the running. The real reason we've decided to go non-Hague is because we'd have to get a police report from every place we've ever lived in since we were something like 18. That's fine for places like Columbia, South Carolina, but Maputo, Mozambique? It sounds so difficult that I can't even contemplate how you go about getting that done.

So we press on. The thing that makes me maddest and saddest in all this is that I know there are thousands of children in orphanages here in Brazil that are waiting to be adopted and because of bureaucratic nonsense, they're going to stay in orphanages longer instead of being placed with decent families who can provide them a home. It's infuriating but we can't beat our heads against a brick wall when we can find another wall that's a little softer, a little more accommodating and a little more willing to be knocked down.

I'll keep you posted as events develop!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Would you like an invitation to my pity party?

To paraphrase Donkey (of Shrek fame): "You cut me deep, Mac. You cut me reeeeeeeal deep."

Signed, Chopped Liver

Drag Queens delivered to your door

When someone tries to enter our apartment complex, they have to tell the main gate who they're here to see. Then the main gate calls our building porteiro who calls us to ask if they can be granted access. I have a very difficult time understanding the porteiro who works in our building in the morning. So imagine my surprise when he called just now and told me "Drag Queen" was here to see me and could they be granted access? The only person I'm expecting today is a consulate repairman and I'm pretty sure he doesn't go by "Drag Queen", so I expressed my confusion over who this could be. He said he'd quickly find out what sort of business "Drag Queen" was and maybe that would jog my memory over who I was expecting. Trust me, buddy, I'm not expecting anybody from the Drag Queen industry. But I heard him on his radio calling to the main gate and turns out it was the lady from the "Dry Clean"-ing place delivering our drycleaning. Drag Queen... Dry Clean... I can see the confusion!

Our new neighbors

A fruit basket delivered by our new neighbors, Elza and Felix!

When Elza delivered it, she said she knew it was customary in America to take a cake to your new neighbors, but she's not a great baker, so she brought us a beautiful fruit basket. I love them (the neighbors, not the fruit, although the fruit was exceptional) already.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"I had a really bad day at school"

Mac is usually so happy and cheerful, but yesterday he got off the bus with his head hanging down. He told me he had a really bad day at school. I asked what happened and he said he did something very embarrassing. I asked him what he did, thinking of all the really embarrassing things he could have done that might have scarred him for life. In gym class, he fell down on his head and "everybody laughed, even the teacher, Mom". I asked him if he would have laughed had it happened to someone else and he said no (of course not, says his mother sarcastically).

So I decided to tell him my most embarrassing school story of all time. It occurred in the 5th grade at a school that I'd only attended for a few months. It must have been Halloween (what other occasion would there have been to dress up in a costume?) and I dressed up as a hobo and wore a pair of my dad's pants as part of the costume. I rode the bus to school and when we arrived, I stood up to get off but the pants stayed down. Fortunately it was cold and I had on tights underneath and I don't know if anybody really even saw because believe you me, I was fast in pulling them up, but I WAS MORTIFIED. (Obviously I'm scarred still because I can remember the horror some 28 years later.)

So I thought this story definitely trumped the falling on his head thing. But Mac looked at me with near-disgust in his eyes and said "that's nothing compared to my embarrassment." There you go. I am now letting go of my decades-old embarrassment because it can't even compare with kindergarten embarrassment.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Batter up!

Yesterday ended the current session of Little League for Mac. This semester he only played baseball so we could focus concentration on one sport. I'm pleased to report there was marked improvement (and attention span).

Last semester there was a lot of playing:

This semester there was more playing baseball:

And, of course, the participation medal at the end makes it all worthwhile!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Going, Going, Gone

Some of you may not know that I left Jimmy and took up with Grizzly Adams. Okay, not really, but that's a little how Jimmy has looked since he "practice-grew" a beard for his Afghanistan tour. I was okay with the beard which was grown while on vacation in SC in October, namely because I was told it would be shaved off upon his return to Sao Paulo (on November 9).

Well wouldn't you know that some people actually liked the beard. They told Jimmy it made him look older (yes, it did) and more distinguished (maybe?), but none of those people were having to kiss him!

I was wholeheartedly in favor of beard removal as quickly as possible. Those people who voted in favor of the beard kept it on a little longer than necessary, but my vote still has veto power over everybody else!

Yesterday, Mac helped Jimmy shave it off. He was going to get rid of it in stages - a goatee for awhile, then a mustache, then a soul patch until there was nothing left. But he got so carried away with his little beard trimming kit that he shaved almost all the goatee part away, so it all went in one fell swoop. (Trust me when I tell you that the mustache was NOT a good look for him and we won't even address the soul patch).

So I am pleased to report that Grizzly Adams has left the building.

James, the older, distinguished version

The Sleazy Creep

The Jimmy We Know and Love

Monday, December 1, 2008

More photos from the Marine Ball

Some of the beautiful ladies from my Bible Study

Renee, Susan, and Laura

The Marine Ball

On Saturday, November 22, Mrs. Kay, Walker, Jimmy, and I attended the Marine Ball to celebrate the Marine Corps' birthday. The event was held at the Grand Hyatt in Sao Paulo and it was a lovely affair. We sat at a table with our dear friends Laura and Scott Tonks and the head of the consular section. Jimmy's USC friend Andrew Kaiser was supposed to attend with us, but sadly, he forgot to get a visa to come to Brazil. He's an international consultant and has traveled before to Brazil, so he knows the ins and outs of international travel; otherwise, we would've felt really sorry for him instead of just sort of sorry! He's gotten his visa now and will be arriving in Sao Paulo tomorrow. Better late than never!