December 5, 2011

Rolling in the Deep

Macy singing at EAB


November 7, 2011


We are conducting a scientific experiment to see how long Max's hair will grow before gravity kicks in.


August 14, 2011

August 6, 2011

Rio Quente

Recently we went to Rio Quente, the largest natural hot water spring park in South America.  It's located in the south of the state of Goias, making it about 5 hours south of Brasilia.  The water comes from a river called Ribeirao Das Aguas Quentes, and what is amazing is that the volume of water produced by this springs results in a constant flow of 6,228,000 liters of water per hour.  That means it produces over 149 million liters of water every 24 hours!    

We first let the kids play in the water which consisted of several kiddie areas, a lazy river for adults and another for children (in Noah language it's a lazy "liver"), a huge wave pool with a beach area, tube rides, water slides, etc.  I don't think we saw everything there was to see in just 2 days!  What made the water park unique to me was that it had beautiful Brazilian vegetation everywhere, unlike most water parks we've been to.  Also, the water was extremely warm!        

Then we headed to the zip line:

The zip line was probably 50feet high and 250feet long and landed in a lake.  We were so surprised that every one of our kids (except for Max, of course) did it!  They thought it was the coolest thing.  If you watch Noah's video closely (above) you'll see that his plan was just to jump right off, which wasn't allowed--you have to be lowered down.  And Macy went down Superman-style which was head first and face down!  We are always amazed and delighted (and sometimes frightened) at how adventuresome and fearless our kids are.  

Zoe zip lining.

You can get a good feel of how long the zip line is from the middle picture with Macy looking down.  Originally Kurt wasn't planning on doing it, but after the 4 kids went down and were wading in the water, he went for it.  They loved cheering him on.   

We also went canoeing:

Macy had a hard time paddling the canoe at first (thus the mad faces), but soon got the hang of it.  Being in clear canoes made the experience of having fish swimming underneath us even more amazing--we felt like we were just floating along without a canoe.  I don't know what kind of fish they were, but we were told that some were as big as 6 feet!  We saw that they had big teeth that stuck out of their mouths so they looked quite mean (Brazil=Piranha!!).  But they are completely harmless and you could even snorkel or scuba dive with them, although we didn't have time to do those things.   
My favorite picture is the one on the top right.  It's a great shot of the kids paddling and you can also see someone on the zip line landing in the lake right at that moment.  

Look how big those fish are!  

We had to hurry back with the canoes because next in line were men in sungas (speedos).  :) 

Then we headed to the Bird Park:

This is a Macaw, which they gave a nut and then sat on our shoulders.  I think the nut was supposed to distract the bird from pecking us, but somehow one got me on the cheek!  The Macaw was able to crack the nut with it's beak and eat the inside, which was pretty amazing to watch them do.  Noah was reluctant to hold the birds, but we convinced him that this may be a once in a life time experience.  The look on his face says, "I'm doing it, but I don't like it."    

Max's fear of birds started about a year ago when we were at dinner at Red Robin in the States.  While we were eating, Red Robin himself (in a huge red bird suit with red tights) came dancing over to our table and Max just lost it.  He was terrified.  Since that experience he has always referred to birds as "bad birdies".   
I think this experience might have helped ease his fears.  

Muito forte!  

We ended the day with a water balloon fight:

This is a view of Caldas Novas, which is the town next to Rio Quente where we stayed.  We stayed in a condo that had a really pretty view of the city from the back deck.  

It was such an amazing experience for all of us and we hope to go back at least one more time before we leave.  I loved that we were able to do things other than just typical water park stuff.  My personal favorite was definitely the canoe ride, but if you ask the kids their favorite, they'll say everything!        




July 19, 2011

Rancho Canabrava

We went as a family (and with our "almost cousins", the Bills) to a quaint little ranch about 45 minutes from Brasilia.  It's a little ranch in the middle of nowhere that has 2 ropes courses with a zip line and horseback riding.  Not to mention beautiful Brazilian landscape and a cute little pay-by-the-kilo restaurant.  It turned out to be a wonderful day-trip get away and I think that everyone (of all ages) had a blast.

First, the younger group of kids got suited up and went on the smaller ropes course.  

A tribute to Ishmael. 

The kids were probably 30 feet up and the whole course took them about 30 minutes to complete.  I didn't hear a single complaint, they were having such a good time.  And concentrating very hard on every step!     

Aja still had her cast, but she did a great job.  

At the very end of the course the kids were lowered down, like they were repelling a mountain.  It was such a cool experience for them.    

Zoe made a cat friend and Max, a dog friend.

Then we headed over to the course for the adults.  Macy and her friend, Lillian, were tall enough to do this course with us.  It ended up being much tougher than any of us had expected.  It took about an hour and a half to complete and was extremely challenging.


There were tubes you had to crawl on your back to get through, glass steps, wobbly logs, and even a spot where you had to jump off a (perfectly good) ledge into a rope web and from there climb up.  That was the hardest part of the course for me because I just couldn't get a good grip on the rope web when I would swing into it.  Macy is so adventuresome.  She completed the whole thing and then wanted to do it again.    

We had lunch and then ended the day with horseback riding.  It was one of those trips that was just perfect from start to finish.  I feel like we've been having a lot of those "perfect trips" lately, and I'm convinced that it's because our kids are getting older--they last longer and are (for the most part) well-behaved, they can participate in most the activities, and they appreciate it.  It's been years, but we are finally reaping the rewards of our labors--because heavens knows, I remember plenty of trips that ended in tears of frustration!  


July 15, 2011

If you haven't had a chance yet to visit, you need to check it out now, especially because my beautiful sister-in-law, Nadia, (and children) are featured!     


July 13, 2011

What we've been up to...

Beautiful view of a sunset from our back porch.

Macy playing with photo booth on my laptop.

I did a baby shower for a Brazilian friend in my ward and I was really happy with how it turned out.  I made tissue paper pom poms for the decorations, which looked great hanging from above my dining room table.  I wish I had taken a picture with the food displayed, but people were arriving so quickly that I didn't have a chance.

I got this idea somewhere online--I asked for baby pictures of my friend and her husband ahead of time and displayed them like a clothes line.  It turned out really cute, was a great source of conversation, and added a personal touch.  

The kids have been playing so well together this summer.  I found this note on Aja and Zoe's bedroom door (my favorite part is Servant: Aja).  They had the music up loud, were dancing and singing, and had decorated their room so cute with paper streamers.  Later, they had a "bedroom picnic" of fruit smoothies and granola bars.  

The Kid's Party Hotel

I made chore charts for the summer and it's been working out really well.  Some of the chores are: walking dog, load/unload dishwasher, sweep back deck, help with dinner, clean family room, sweep kitchen, sweep stairs, etc.  When they've completed the chore, they put the stick in the "done" pocket.    

I assign their jobs in the morning and if they finish them then they can have limited TV and computer time.  They also have to read for 30 minutes and the girls have to practice piano for 30 minutes.  Some mornings they wake up eager to get their chores done so they can play the computer (my kids favorite is Club Penguin), but I find that most of the time when we start our days without the electronics that they end up doing creative things like planning parties in their bedrooms, getting games out, reading, or playing legos together.  


July 10, 2011


It recently hit me that Zoe doesn't dress up in her animal costumes anymore.  

I can't tell you how many times she'd fall asleep in her costumes.  And before she learned how to put them on herself, she'd come into our room around 6am with her costume of choice for the day and ask for help.    

When Zoe was about 18 months old she started carrying a little baby doll around.  She was my 1st girl to do this and I thought it was the cutest thing!  And then shortly thereafter she discovered a stuffed animal--the world of animals had been opened up--and that was the end of that.  She's LOVED animals ever since then.

Zoe wanted to be a "T-rex with big teeth" for Halloween 2009 when she was just 6.  She's not your conventional beautiful little girl.  Never one to be the damsel in distress, in kindergarten she'd chase the boys around during recess making dinosaur noises.  Of course, the boys thought she was the coolest girl they'd ever met. 
She would never be without at least 1 stuffed animal in her arms.  My favorite was when she knew we were leaving to go out, she'd run and grab as many stuffed animals as her little arms would carry and head to the car like that.  And then she upgraded to dressing like an animal.  Playing with them just wasn't enough, she had to be amongst them.  Her response to what her favorite animal has always been, "All of them".

Skunk, tiger, lion, mean mouse with missing teeth. 

It would be hot August in Virginia and she'd have her lion costume on (her favorite) as we headed to Target or the Natural History Museum.  She'd have the most serious look on her furry face, like walking around with a 2 foot tail was perfectly normal.  She'd get looks and people pointing at her--adults would think it was the cutest thing and little kids would sometimes walk closely to observe, maybe trying to see if she was a real lion.  Over time she started to realize that she stood out, that most people were just plain humans when they went out, and relished in the extra attention her costumes brought.  More than once a stranger would kindly say to her, "It's a little early for Halloween, isn't it?" and Zoe wouldn't understand what Halloween had to do with anything and I'd just smile because every day was Halloween at our home.  I knew better than arguing with her when I was in a hurry trying to get everyone in the car and she was upset that she was without a costume.  I learned to say, "Get buckled, Zoe, which costume do you want?" and I'd search for it until I found it.  And I don't regret it. 

Still best friends.

This used to be a normal sight at our home.  Big animals doing regular daily activities.  I remember I used to ask Kurt, "Is she going to be okay?" and he'd reassure me she was going to be fine.  And she's more than fine--she's the most confident and unique little girl ever.   

When we were sorting through her assortment of costumes and stuffed animals before the move (she narrowed her stuffed animal collection down to about 100--and I'm not exaggerating--and all the costumes came with us, too) I remember thinking that by the time our 2 years are over and we're ready to pack up for our next post, they probably won't go with us because she'll be almost 10 by then.  So I didn't feel bad at all bringing every last one of them.  And just over the last couple months, although her love of live animals and all stuffed animals has not diminished, I have noticed that she hasn't worn her costumes at all.  Seeing an end to these sweet chapters in my children's life is always hard, especially ones like this that are beyond cute.

My favorite is when she'd dress up her animal costumes with hats, scarves, and dressy dresses.  The closest I ever got to getting a "princess-y" girl was a "princess-y" animal girl.....and I'll take it.  :)

She loves her hamster, Tiny (who she wipes her tears on when she's upset) and our dog, Rocky.  She loves to lye on him and her strawberry blonde hair is the same exact color as his fur.  Maybe she was a golden retriever in a previous life?  :)
She still plays with her stuffed animals and LOVES lining up all her Pet Shop toys, and tells me that she wants to be an animal rescuer when she grows up.  I think we might still have a little more time.  If only there was a secret formula to slow down these innocent moments.
She wore this rabbit costume until there were holes in the feet and the zipper in the back was broken.  She was so upset when she just plain couldn't fit into it anymore.    

Sleeping bunny.

Zoe (6years) and her old hamster, Fudge.