October 21, 2016

Color Ourselves Into the World

I made paper dolls with the kids this week. For the younger kids we worked on colors and their dolls had Halloween costumes. For the older kids we worked on colors and names of articles of clothing. All of them loved the activity, which surprised me. Mostly because I don't think of 13 and 14 year old boys as liking to color. But they did. And so did the girls. I guess that's why adult coloring books are popular...because everyone likes to color.

I did my best to choose paper dolls that reflect their physical make up. But it was hard. Because the better designs, the simpler designs, the designs that weren't wearing lederhosen (seriously) were of people of northern European descent. Yeah. So not really my demographic. But still the show must go on. So I chose the designs best suited to the lessons needs. Because seriously, kids can color hair any color they want, right? 

Here's the crazy thing...most of the younger kids colored the hair blonde. We had one brunette, one ginger and one scribble monster that was completely black. But the rest colored the doll hair blonde. Seriously. There isn't one blonde in the joint. I've got the lightest skin but even I have dark brown hair.

I asked the girl smiling why she was coloring the doll with blonde hair (as I conspicuously colored mine dark). She told me blonde is beautiful. What?! 

And as I looked around all of the girls were coloring blonde hair. What?! 

I took a brown pencil and colored my skin super light. What's interesting is that it's the most realistic skin coloring I've ever done. I mean I've always used the peach or apricot color for my pictures I shouldn't, though. The super light brown looks more like the real me. So what color do these golden brown-skinned beauties of mine color the skin on their dolls? Peach. WHAT?! 

Whoa. How about we save orange skin tones for Trump and we stick to something more natural? And seriously, the color of their skin is beautiful. Despite my positive example, they colored their dolls using the beautiful colors of their choice. 

Why do we hate our hair, no matter what it looks like? I have straight-ish hair but always slept in curlers as a child and as a teen I always had perms. My sister always got the blonde dolls for Christmas and I got the brunettes/gingers. It probably made life simpler for my parents when there were only two choices in the store. But just once I wanted a blonde doll, too.

About 2% of the world's population is blonde. It's most common in the UK and Scandinavian countries. So why do we idealize blondes as children? Is it because it's what we don't have? I have to admit that as an older teen and young adult I came to embrace my hair. It's a pretty color. It grows quickly. I haven't had a perm in literally 25 years. I don't see myself getting another one for the rest of my life.

With the older children I teach, I also found some of them coloring their dolls more similar to themselves. I like that. To me it shows maturity to accept ourselves as we are. To view ourselves as beautiful. And to color ourselves into the world.

September 5, 2016

Flying Nuns

The past several months, I have been volunteering once or twice a week to work with children in an after/before school care facility run by a group of nuns. On occasion, I bring my kids if they don't have school or I'm there in the afternoon. Brazilian schools typically run a morning group of kids and an afternoon group of kids. Each session is about 5 hours long. So the nuns have activities and programs in the morning and then lunch for afternoon school kids and lunch and the same but opposite for the morning school kids. I teach them English.

There are a lot of kids! Close to a hundred, I think. To help me learn their names, I mimicked what one of my college professors did on my first day of class. He lined us up in the front of the board, had us write our names on it and then stand under our names. Then he took a photo, had it developed after class, and then over the next few days, he memorized everyone's names. Truly brilliant. I loved that he called on me by name in class...not very many college professors can do that.

 Well, my efforts are not as hard core as my professor, but I do have quite a few of the names down. Some of the names are familiar to me and some are a little different. Juscineia is one of the more unusual ones...it seriously took me 3 months to get that down. She's awesome so I have a bit of motivation to remember. 

Sometimes, I get frustrated with my students. I think I'm giving them a valuable and marketable skill with my classes and hopefully a leg up in future life...but they remind me of my children who are more interested in goofing around than having class. One group is doing really well, though. We split it in half - girls/boys and now there is a lot more participation and speaking happening. I like smaller groups no larger than 6 or 7.

My Portuguese language skills are slowly improving. The people who I really want to talk to are the nuns...and I'm so frustrated with my inability to do that. In addition to the twice a week group classes that I've been taking since February, I've added two different one-on-one teachers this month. And I'm making a point to be more vocal and practice speaking.

I don't really know anything about the children's home that I volunteer in. Originally, I thought it was an orphanage. And while they do have a handful of teens that live there, the vast majority don't. I realized that on Mother's day when they were making cards for their moms. 

Sometimes people leave their non-slip socks at the trampoline park. Tymon brings them home to me and I wash them. Last Monday, a day when the park is usually closed, the kids from the children's home came to the park on a field trip and we were able to use approximately 80 pair. Three of our kind-hearted employees volunteered their time to come and help supervise them. Plus a couple of the nuns and also a handful of other adults who helped transport all of them.

They loved it. And Tymon loved holding hands with one of the nuns...he helped steady her on the slack line. Ha ha. He made sure I got a photo of it. Like anyone would believe he's held hands with a nun...or that both of them kissed him (on the cheek) when we left.

This video reminds me of The Flying Nun. Except no special effects (aside from slow mo) are used.

These nuns are pretty cool. Last June the PE teacher brought in skate boards for a week...and these beautiful ladies got right on them. I think I just like to imagine nuns being straight-laced. But in reality they are people who like to break up the monotony of the day doing fun stuff.

August 30, 2016

A Mango By Any Other Name...

...would taste as sweet. But holy schmoly there are so so so many varieties of mangoes out there. Year round in Sao Paulo (so weird that I've actually been here a year and can say this), two types are in every grocery store produce department and produce market and also street market: Palmer and Tommy. Today at the market there were those plus two more: the Rosa and Bourbon. I've seen other varieties and heard that the Verde ones are awesome...but I haven't tasted that one, yet.

In order with the bottom photo, there is the Palmer, Tommy, Rosa and Bourbon mangoes. The Bourbon is as tall as my palm...so tiny in comparison to the others. The Palmer is a touch bigger than my hand.

My favorite is the Rosa, which has been around for about the last month so it must be in season. To me it tastes like a cross between a nectarine straight off the tree and of course, a mango. In short, it's pretty close to heaven. Today the price was R$5 per kilo...or $1.65USD per kilo. I used to remove the skin in a very messy fashion every time I made smoothies...until a Brazilian watched me do it and told me you could eat the skin. So now our Vitamix blends the skin and flesh and my kids fight over who gets to suck on the seed.

What I wonder is what kind of mango we have in US stores...because I didn't realize there was more than one type before coming to Brazil. Same with bananas...maybe I should do a post on those, too. One produce market I like to go to frequently has at least 5 to 6 varieties of bananas. 

March 30, 2016

Fingers Toes and Dedos - A Teensy Graphic Post

So there we were, in the middle of Tymon's English class, learning about units of measurement and the appropriate use of "how much" and "how many" when one of our friends asked me to come outside. 

Jocelyn was hurt. She'd been running around and then all of a sudden her foot hurts. And she bled on the stairs. Jocelyn has NO idea if she ran into something or what. She just knows that no one else stepped on her and she wasn't climbing where she shouldn't have been. So weird.

We had walked to church so one friend drove us home and another told Tymon that we left. It took me a while to be able to clean up Jocelyn's foot enough to figure out the extent of the injury. Was just one toe bleeding? Or two? Did her nail pop off? I just didn't know.

In fact, just this afternoon, when we cleaned it out again, did I realize that she got cut right above her toenail. And I repeat, this is all a mystery to her. Crazy. She's a trooper for pain, though. Doesn't really complain. Jocelyn told her brother that I said she was brave. Yup. She proved that in the dog bite incident.

So after I put my wound care stuff away, we had family scriptures and prayer. It should have been bed time, but I looked into the kitchen and saw the mountain of dinner dishes that had been skipped because we had soccer (the boys) and English class at the church. I asked each of the family members if they loved Jocelyn. Everyone said yes. Then I asked them to help her do Jocelyn's chores, which were the dishes and counters.

We worked together in the kitchen for half an hour. Everyone helping. It was the best family work experience we've ever had. No whining. No complaining. Just showing Jocelyn that we love her.

After we were done with dishes and counters and wiping cupboards, I showed my kids photos from my trip home a couple of weeks ago. They loved the stories I shared. I told them of the work party my siblings and I had with my parents. That we each contributed to the best of our abilities. No one was upset that someone else wasn't doing their share. No one whined or complained. We just worked. Together. And it was wonderful.

Serving Jocelyn showed the boys that not only is it possible to work together and not fight but it's actually enjoyable. They were kind and thoughtful. It's not always like this. In fact, most often it's not. But this time it was. And it was wonderful.

March 20, 2016

Working Together

I went home last week. My myself. To do taxes. And meet up with my siblings to help my parents get a few things accomplished. The week passed quickly. I don't think I slept more than 5 hours each night...because there's no time for the frivolousness of sleep when each day is packed so full.

My brother picked me up from the airport and we went to my office to find a box that would fit my Vitamix...which was really the most important of my plans that needed to be set in motion as soon as I arrived. The UPS guy told me it'd take three days to get to Nevada...which meant there was no way Vitamix would get the package in time to check out my blender and send me a new container.

My siblings and I haven't been alone with our parents in decades. Yes, we've all been together, but always with other people around, including our own families. It was like a step back in time for me. When I was a daughter instead of a mother. I think the best part about being together was the way in which we worked together.

Nowadays, when my children have chores, I'm faced with near constant contention.  Everyone's into everybody else's business and keeping track of who's worked the most and who's not doing their jobs. I ask for peace, but often add fuel (think raging blow torch) to the flames and make a bonfire.

So here's the down low. Our parents have collected more than 40 years worth of who-knows-what in their home. It's a lot. I'm pretty sure an episode of Hoarders could be made there. We joke about bringing in a dumpster and my dad gets panicked that we're going to throw out all of his stuff. And we tell him that we'd like to work with him so that we can find out what family history items are there.

My brothers had a plan when they came over Friday afternoon. I had arrived Wednesday and when we pulled into the driveway that night there was a 2-3 inch deep puddle the size of a car where they usually park their car. So I called the gravel company and had them dump 15 yards (17.000 Kg) in the driveway. My parents had been out that afternoon worried, I'm sure, about what we were doing. We worked all afternoon and evening to get that gravel spread and to fill in the holes that caused big puddles. We also cleaned up the junk storage along the perimeter. They were so surprised. And pleased.

So, my brothers have some muscle and were able to move the wheel barrows around to dump gravel where it needed to go. I can shovel gravel from a pile into the wheel barrows, but often if I try to move them, I'll tip them over five feet shy of where they should have gone. My sister has some wrist issues and doesn't lift very much at all. So instead of doing what we did as kids by wanting everything equal and fighting to make it so, we accepted where we each were at and focused on what we could each do. While I was filling wheel barrows, my brothers were cleaning junk and my sister was raking gravel. Then my brothers would move loads for me. We worked so well together. I loved it. It's the first time we've ever been all together at the same time doing a project like that. Of course we all work together in the driving school, but this was different. It was truly a labor of love.

It gives me hope for my kids. Someday, I hope sooner than later, they will figure it out. Just like my siblings and I did. We can do amazing things together when we play to each other's strengths.

I was disappointed to be leaving without my Vitamix and was making arrangements for our eventual reunion when my brother called me the afternoon before I left and told me UPS had just delivered it. YES! The only problem was that my suitcase was full of stuff from my shopping spree...in my basement. We left a lot of stuff behind. Stuff that I like. But stuff that we didn't have room for. So I repacked a few items. Dropped extra stuff back to my basement. And found myself in possession of two suitcases packed to the limit and a 45 pound carry on.

As luck would have it, my first flight was totally booked and they asked for at least 15 passengers to check in their carry on luggage. I had been nervous about lifting the bag...I mean I had to make it look easy, right? Ha ha. But it turns out there is no weight limit for carry ons (on United anyway) and so I volunteered. So glad I didn't have to lug that around.

And we're back into smoothies! Vitamix is awesome, both the products and company. And no, I don't get paid to say that. Though I wish I did. Today we had a guava lime smoothie. So good. I'm going to have to try that combo again soon.
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