Skyping Brazil

Oct 17, 2011

I don’t think I mentioned that Gilberto and Gabi are in Brazil right now.

They’ve already been there a few weeks, and this is how we’ve been spending a lot of time!



Getting to see my baby’s face every few days has made the separation a lot more bearable.

Did you notice how we’re using phones?  That’s ghetto Skyping.  It’s what you do when you don’t want to invest any money in fixing a speaker/microphone issue.

Did you also notice the crooked pictures on the wall behind Gabi?  They drive me INSANE!  Every time I’m in Brazil I try to fix them, but for some reason they won’t straighten out.  I even tried to put clear tacks underneath the leaning corner to hold it in place, but the tacks wouldn’t go into the concrete.  It’s becoming a really lame life mission to get those pictures to behave.

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The Loudmouth Wife’s Take On Soccer

Jun 22, 2011

Gilberto’s soccer team, Santos, just scored a goal.

How do I know?  Well, there was the traditional shouting of GOAL GOAL GOAL, followed by lots of excited swearing in Portuguese.  And a yelp from Gabi as he scooped her up for a huge bear hug.

I only heard all of this, though, because I’ve been banished upstairs for talking too loudly during the game. I swear I was only whispering, but it was still too much for his nerves to handle.  You see, he has to be on top of his game, without distractions from his annoyingly loud wife, or his team might feel it and lose.

Funny how I can talk at almost a yell trying to get his attention on a normal day without even a blink of recognition, but come time for his beloved team’s soccer game and my whispering drives him mad.

If Santos loses tonight, he will hold me entirely responsible.  The next time we’re in Brazil we’ll have to hang a dead chicken from a tree branch and have the Priest sprinkle holy water over me to cleanse me of my sin.  And I won’t even be able to laugh at the absurdity of it all, since Brazilians take their superstitions and cures very seriously.  I mean, VERY seriously.

One time I told Gilberto not to get so hyped up, that it was just a ball getting kicked around, and he made me take it back in both English and Portuguese and kiss the Santos badge on his shirt three times.


He’s already on the phone with his mom.  All of his immediate family members root for different teams, so whenever one of their teams scores, that person immediately gets on the phone to rub it in to everyone else.  We get a lot of calls from Brazil for the sole purpose of gloating.

It’s apparently a HUGE game.  Some sort of final?  And if they win, his team can add a third star to their shirts?  And the last time they got a star it was in the ’50s?  Or ’60s?  And it needs to be a gold star, not a silver star?  Oh, and it’s like a world domination championship, but NOT The World Cup?

I’ve actually never seen Gilberto this excited about a game before.  He’s dressed from head to toe in Santos gear, even thought it’s 80 degrees in the house and the only Santos socks he has are made of wool.  WHY a country that’s as hot and humid as Brazil even knows what wool is is beyond me.

And… Santos wins!  Gilberto is dancing around the living room with Gabi, singing the Santos song.

Me: Gilberto!  Are you going to have to replace all of your two star shirts with three star ones?  How much money are we talkin’?

Gilberto: Laurinha!  Come down and join us!  You don’t have to worry about your loud mouth anymore!

Me: I was asking about the SHIRTS and not my loud mouth, thank you very much!

Gilberto: Don’t be mad, sweetheart!  And don’t worry, I’ll only get one shirt.  Or two.  Well, maybe three.  Three’s not bad!

Not bad at $100 a shirt?  I’m glad I’m not going to have to do some weird Catholic voodoo forgiveness ritual now, but I’m not looking forward to adding more expensive soccer getup to the closet.

Oh, and I’ve just been informed that there is more excitement ahead!  Santos will now be playing Japan, or in Japan, for World Domination bragging rights and a GOLD STAR.  So I guess the whole chicken thing might still happen.

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Passing On The Torch

Apr 30, 2011

It’s official.  Gabi has the Brazilian soccer gene.


Most Brazilians have their kids playing soccer before they can walk, so Gilberto has been waiting six excruciatingly long years for his daughter to take the field and see what she’s got.  We had no idea if she’d inherited his genes, which are steeped in a long tradition of soccer greatness, or mine, which are not.

In fact, I’m pretty much a lost cause when it comes to sports.  I was kicked off the sixth grade volleyball team for continuously knocking down teammates, and shot an arrow into the gym wall during archery.  I won’t even go into why I didn’t make the softball or basketball teams.

Understandably, I wanted Gabi to be a bit older, and more sure on her feet, before participating in a contact sport.  Knowing about my tendency to trip on air, Gilberto agreed.  I am happy to say, though, that Gabi played her very first game today and ROCKED IT.

As goalie she kept the other team from scoring, and as forward she scored all three of her team’s goals!  Not even a minute after the game had ended, Gilberto was on the phone with his family in Brazil, passing on the great news.  They’ve been on Soccer Alert ever since I popped Gabi out, and based on the screams I heard coming from the other end, they are just as excited as Gilberto.

The man is seriously bursting with pride.

What I haven’t told him is that besides being terrible at sports, I also have a terrible case of beginner’s luck.  That arrow that I shot into the gym wall?  Was after my very first shot struck a bull’s eye.  We’ll have to wait until next Saturday to see if she’s inherited my genes after all.

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I’m Getting What I Was Promised, Damnit

Dec 18, 2010

Now that we’re FINALLY better, we have a little beef to pick (is that a saying?) with COPA Airlines.

Me:  I feel so much better this morning!  I think I’m finally, oh, operating at about 90% now.

Gilberto:  Do you think you have your yelling voice back?

Me:  My yelling voice?  You mean so I can yell at Gabi to stop playing with the water in the bathroom?  I did that last night and my voice totally cooperated.

Gilberto:  I mean for calling COPA.

Me:  OH YEAH!  Game on!

When we arrived at the Sao Paulo airport for our return trip home, we were told that our flight was overbooked and offered a sweet deal.  A direct flight (DIRECT!!) on Korean (KOREAN!!) the next day, $350 per person, and hotel and meals covered in the interim.  They had me at Korean, with their fully reclining seats and 24/7 buffet, so we agreed to the deal.  Sometimes it’s nice when you have more time than money.

We were ushered over to the Customer Service desk, and by the time it was our turn to be helped, the offer had turned from $350 in cash to vouchers that had to be used in a year, and a flight out that night on American Airlines with a layover at JFK.  Since we wouldn’t be flying in the next year, especially on a Panamanian airlines, and the evening flight would mean even more time without sleeping, and the JFK stopover would add 4 and half hours of travel time, we told them sorry, we’ll stick with the original itinerary.

Only we’d already been booted from the original itinerary.  We had no choice but to take what they were giving us.  So we left for the hotel STEAMING.  There’s really not much you can do in Brazil when things don’t go your way.  And Gilberto didn’t want to damage our return any more than it already was by causing a scene and getting carted away.  Though we were so mad we considered it.

We thought we’d try to get some sleep at the hotel and eat a LOT of free food.  But our hotel room was a disaster.  The AC was broken, and we couldn’t open the window because hurricane like wind whipped rain throughout the entire room.  The TV turned on and off at will.  In the bathroom, the light wouldn’t work and, AND, the toilet wouldn’t flush.  (Yes, we left them a present.)

So the seven hours we spent in the hotel with two kids was pretty miserable.  We were so happy when it was finally time to head back to the airport.  We only had two flights, a layover and a 2 hour shuttle ride left to contend with.

Gilberto and I can’t sleep on planes, and the kids really didn’t do much better.  So 37 hours after leaving Santos on a bus, we arrived at our front door, total disheveled, exhausted messes.  It’s probably why we weren’t able to fight of The Croup, which we’re pretty sure we caught from the guy sitting next to Gilberto on the first flight who kept coughing saliva all over Gilberto’s face.

So I have my yelling voice back.  And I just added Call COPA to my To Do list.  All I want is cash at this point.  Or to have all the credit put in Gilberto’s name so he can head home for a random trip.  I have a feeling it’s not going to go all that great, but I’m not beyond hopping in my car and driving 2 hours to LAX to descend on their corporate office.  I’m not afraid of getting carted off in the good ol’ USA.

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Heading Home

Nov 29, 2010

So long, Brazil!  You and I had a pretty good visit, this time.  We won’t talk about the other times.  Such a blot on our relationship.  Let’s be more positive and remember the last three weeks instead!

How you graced me with cooler weather and rain.  And wind!  What a refreshing wind.  But you also gave me some sun so that we could hit the beach and drink coconut water right out of the coconut, and fresh squeezed sugar cane juice with lime.  The sand so powdery fine it would fall straight through a sifter.  It’s much easier to walk miles on sand like that.  And push a stroller.  It’s nice to see that more Brazilians are using strollers so I don’t get as many weird looks as I used to.

How you fed me the most amazing food.  The food!  THE FOOD!  Cochinhas (a tear shaped chicken dumpling of sorts), pasteis (fried pastry stuffed with whatever you want), desert pizza, brigadeiro, rice and beans, fried yucca, cocada (soft coconut candy), the best bolachas ever (cookies).  Not to mention all the fabulous drinks.  Guarana flavored soda, grape keifer, fruit smoothies, BEER.  I have stuffed my gullet and have never been happier to be so bloated.

How Mason came here with only one tooth and seven binkies, and he’s leaving with five teeth, three binkies (where DO they go?), the ability to get up to a standing position without holding onto anything and how to scream to get what he wants.  Though we’re not so impressed with the last one.  And we’re hoping that one of the things he gained here, the crazy striped poopy diapers from the banana overload, does not follow us home.

How you finally, FINALLY, made it a law for kids to be in carseats.  I don’t know if your law requires them to be buckled in, though, because we saw a lot that had the straps cut out of them.  My MIL still tried to get us to not use Mason’s carseat, but I held firm.  Though if I didn’t have the law on my side it would’ve been just like all the other times.  Oh yeah, we’re not going to talk about the other times.  Sorry.

How fun it was to watch all the pantsuits and bloomers parade down the street.  They seem to have taken ladies’ fashion by storm.  But seriously, how could you let that happen?  It’s been my experience that whatever crazy fashion thing I see here, ends up in the States not too long after, and I don’t know if I can handle pantsuits and bloomers.

How you turn me into a girly girl, even if it’s just while I’m here.  Pink fingernails, flowers on my toes, giant bows on my sandals, lots of jewelry, and SHAVED LEGS.  I only shave my legs for you, Brazil.  And how this God awful humidty is actually good for something- my skin looks amazing!

How clean my kids were, with the standard two baths a day.  Sometimes more.  And how my MIL totally took over bathing duty, which was fine by me because they don’t have a bathtub and washing a baby in a shower when you’re not in the shower can get really wet and messy.

How good you are to families.  Brazilians love kids, and it’s awesome that someone will gladly hold your baby and watch your six year old while you’re getting your nails done.  And having a baby means getting to cut to the front of the line!  This will come in especially handy when we’re at the airport, finally heading home.

And most importantly, how my MIL actually held her cool most of the time.  And that it was Gilberto that ended up fighting with her this time, and not me.  (Yay!  Not me!)  She did do stuff like cut Gabi’s hair after we told her not to (though thank GOD it was only a trim and not the bob she had originally thought of doing), and would wake Mason up from naps if she thought he was sleeping too long, but all stuff I can let go.

Brazil, thank you for a much better trip than usual!  You remind me every time that I can get through anything for three weeks, but this time it was more fun than not.  And now I say goodbye.  See you next year.  San Diego, see YOU soon!

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Life As A Mango Cake

Nov 26, 2010

If you are what you eat, Mason is going to turn into a piece of fruit.  Or a piece of cake.  Or a fruitcake.

Brazilians love their fruit and they love their sugar, especially together.

My mother-in-law (MIL) has a mashed up banana waiting for Mason every morning when he wakes up.  Never mind that I want to mix it with the organic brown rice cereal I lugged all the way from the States.  No, the flavor of his fruit can’t be marred by something so healthy.  But what IS okay to put on the banana?  Chocolate milk mix.  And that’s how he eats it.

Just an aside on bananas: my MIL swears by their medicinal quality.  Who knows, she may be on to something, but I really doubt that Mason’s daily dose of bananas is what’s kept him from getting sicke here, as she claims.

MIL: See, Laura (they call me Laura because Laural is too hard to say, though my FIL decided Laura was too hard, too, and calles me Loress), see how the bananas are keeping him so healthy?  Look at his chubby thighs- that’s from the bananas!  Hear his healthy breathing?  That’s from the bananas, too!  Make sure you never stop feeding him bananas.  Promise me, okay?  OKAY?

Another funny aside about banans: Gabi HATES them.  My MIL went crazy the first few times we were here trying to get her to eat some.  She’d mash it, bake it, put it on cake, dip it in chocolate, freeze it, dice it into yogurt, all to no avail.  She finally gave up on Gabi, but now she has Mason.  And she’s in heaven because he LOVES bananas.

For lunch, Mason gets papaya and mangoes and watermelon.  A baby fruit salad.  And my MIL spoon feeds him whatever fruit smoothie she’s made for the day (the lime one is to die for!).  When we first got here I would try to give him vegetables first, but my MIL would frown and whisk him away to sit in her lap and eat his fruit and smoothie.  It’s no wonder he started spitting the veggies out.  He’s not stupid, he knows what the good stuff is.

Since lunch is the big meal of the day in Brazil, it’s also when they have their desert.  So after everyone is done eating, my MIL will fix herself an extra big plate of desert, usually cake, usually with some sort of fruit in it, and feed half of it to Mason.  That boy loves bananas, but he loves cake more.  He won’t move from my MIL’s side until the plate is clean.  Yesterday, I came into the kitchen and my MIL had him on the floor LICKING THE PLATE.  I tried to take it from him to put in the sink, and the kid got all frantic and clung on for dear life!

For the rest of the day, everytime the kid turns his head, someone is shoving some more fruit or cake in his mouth.

It’s a good life.

My MIL did the same thing with Gabi when she was a baby.  And then when she got older they added ice cream three times a day, cookies and sugary yogurt for a snack, and syrupy juice whenver she wanted it.  This trip has been no different, except they’ve been hovering to make sure she eats enough rice and beans.  She is Brazilian, after all.  They love their rice and beans, too.

I’m not too worried about the lack of anything else.  It’s only for three weeks, we’ll fix it when we get home.  But I do laugh when they wonder out loud why she has such a sweet tooth.  And I bet they’ll be just as surprised when Mason turns out to have one, too.

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Wax On

Nov 23, 2010

My mother-in-law has a waxing business out of her home.
Every so often a group of girls will come over and disappear into her crafting room, where she has a daybed.  About an hour later they’ll emerge, happily piling money into my mother-in-law’s hands.
Personally, I find it kind of weird that they go in groups.  I don’t imagine that they’re all getting their eyebrows waxed, which is the only kind of waxing I’d be comfortable letting others see me do.  Do they not mind their friends watching someone rip their mustache off?  Or worse, seeing them spread eagled for a Brazilian?  And I know for a fact, because I stupidly asked, that the latter is the most common type of waxing she does.
I also find the whole AT HOME SPA CARE thing fascinating.  There are lots of actual spas and salons to go to in Santos, but it’s equally as common to just go to someone’s house.  Or have them come to yours.  I’m totally on board with not having to get out of my pajamas for a manicure or hair cut, or going to someone’s house for a massage.  But waxing?  NO FRICKIN WAY.
I seriously can’t get over this whole waxing in the craft room thing!  (Though I think if she has a designated area it would be different.  Maybe?)
Regardless, it’s pretty obvious that I will not be getting waxed in the craft room.  Something Gilberto learned the hard way.  The first time we came here, he suggested I let her wax ME.  I made it pretty clear that not only was I a bit creeped out by a his mother’s room of many uses, she wasn’t going ANYWHERE near my nether regions.
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Mistaken Identity

Nov 18, 2010

Gabi saw this picture…

And said, “Look, mom, it’s Lady Gaga!”

Of course I had to repeat what she’d said in Portuguese to all the ladies in the salon, and everyone erupted in laughter, telling Gabi what a doll she was.  She didn’t quite know what her mistake had been (it’s strange to think she’s never seen a picture of Marilyn Monroe), but she was glowing form all of the attention.

I love going to salons here in Brazil.  They are bright, vibrant places full of chatter.  Women who have never met each other before give opinions on hairstyles and talk about babies and grandchildren and politics.  And Big Brother, which is huge here.  And my favorite, how to find a good maid or nanny.

I love the comraderie.  And I love that Gabi loves it, too.  It’s the perfect place for a girls’ day out.  Not to mention that you can get a manicure and pedicure for just $6!  I won’t even go into the incredibly cheap prices for waxing (it makes the pain TOTALLY worthwhile).

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Nov 16, 2010

Today I learned how to make Brigadeiro.  It’s a chocolate ball rolled in chocolate sprinkles, and is one of my most favorite Brazilian sweets.  And lucky for me, you can’t go to any kind of party here and not find it.

My mother-in-law made a batch today and let me into the kitchen to help.

It’s surprisingly basic for how good it is, and reminds me of how fudge is made.  Just two cans of condensed milk, about 1/2 a cup of butter and three giant heaping spoonfuls of cocoa.

Stir continuously on low heat until it boils.  Take off after it thickens, about another five minutes.  I, of course, did the stirring.  Sneaky mother-in-law.Look how small that stove is!  It has four burners, but no room for anything else.  I don’t know how my mother-in-law does it, but she gets four pans going on that stove almost every day.

Pour onto a buttered platter to cool.

The platter is on the sink counter.  See that lip that runs around the edge?  It allows for the counter to flood, and you just use a squeedgie to get the water off.  Which is super handy when you’re washing dishes by hand (oh, dishwasher, how I miss you).  It’s also the only counter space in the whole kitchen, so you have to squeedgie it dry when you want to make, say, gnochi, which requires lots of flour.

Spoon a bit of the chocolate into your hands and roll into a ball.  Then roll the ball in a bowl of sprinkles.

We put the kids to work.  Gabi’s in the yellow dress.  The other girl lives one floor below, and she and Gabi play together every time we come.  Friendship didn’t stop them from fighting over who got more sprinkles to roll their balls in, so I pulled out another bowl and made things even.

Keep going until your hands feel like they’re going to fall off.  Even then we had a few more to go until we were done.

As you can see, things got pretty messy, especially when we threw a baby into the mix.  Mason grabbed a ball off the plate and got his first taste of chocolate.  From the fit he threw when we took it away from him, we’re going to have another sweet tooth on our hands.

We went to a birthday party a few days ago, and I was popping these things like there was no tomorrow.  I’m so excited to know how to make them myself!

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As Real As Mason

Nov 14, 2010

Can you tell what this is?

If you can, my hat’s off to you.  When Gabi brought it to me the first time, I was like, what the heck IS this?  If you haven’t figured it out, here’s a hint.

That’s a popular Brazilian doll.  Pretty realistic, no?  And it’s going to get even more so.  If you still haven’t guessed, take a look at this.
It’s an umbilical cord!  I may be a bit behind the times when it comes to dolls, since I seem to be behind the times in everything else, but I have never seen a doll with an umbilical cord before.
I shouldn’t be surprised that Gabi loves it.  She was obsessed with Mason’s umbilical cord stump falling off, and checked his belly button constantly.  One day it was just gone, and she was so disappointed that she’d missed the big event.  I heard about it for WEEKS.
Now, thanks to her Aunt and Uncle, she can recreate what she missed to her heart’s content!
Another doll thing that I’ve never seen before is the hair.
They usually have little tufts of hair all over, with short curls or long braids.  I wrote about it the last time I was in Brazil.
As for the hair, that is something that Gabi does NOT like.  Umbilical cords in, tufts of hair out.  Which is fine with me- some of those tufted dolls look a bit on the sinister side.  I already get creeped out enough when I run into her giant Barbie doll in the middle of the night.
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