Monday, July 30, 2012

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Indian cultures give special significance to the lotus flower, which emerges from murk completely clean of any mud.

We named our daughter after one of the Sanskrit words for lotus.

I felt it appropriate considering she was born in late 2008 when the economy tanked and we were fighting two wars.

The flowers bloom in late June to August, and close up for the day if the temperature surpasses 88F.  So we picked a mild day to drive an hour and half into Anacostia DC.  The traffic sucked.  and following the gps, I drove through a neighborhood where I though folks might be trying to sell me a dub.  But we made it in time to see the flowers.

I'm glad we visited.  Check it out sometime.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Quail Update. We've Gone Free Range!

This Sunday morning my neighbor came and softly knocked on the front door at 8:27 in the morning.  I was in the kitchen making smoothies for the kids, not sure if I had really heard a knock or my imagination.  Still in my pajamas I answered the door.
"Sorry to bother you so early, but I think one of your quails got out and is in our back yard."

uh oh.
So I dressed and headed over there with a butterfly net.  Her husband had started chasing it around the brush and wood behind their yard.
I handed him the net and he snatched him up.
Luckily we have such cool neighbors who don't mind that their suburban dream house turns out to be next to the Beverly Hillbillies.

I plopped him back in his pen.

That's not the first time one has escaped.  Since we added the free range addition, one or two gets out almost every day by passing around the tunnel ramp.  But usually they just hang out next to the pen, trying to figure out how to get back in.  They are communal birds and don't stray from the flock.

It's pretty silly actually.

Oh except this guy above, who Nala spotted living in our garage a couple days ago, eating bird seed.  When I finally found him, he flew into our other neighbor's front yard.  At 10am in the morning I tiptoed around the front of their house, net in hand.  I felt like Elmer Fudd.  "Shh, I'm hunting quail."  

I nabbed him before anyone drove by wondering what the hell I was doing.

The quails grace us with an average of 10 eggs a day.  I haven't had to buy any chicken eggs since they started laying.  You can sub three of them for one chicken egg in recipes.

My mom's Romanian cousin cured her asthma by taking 4 raw quail eggs for 49 days.

We love the silly little creatures.  It's been great raising them this year as we've been able to keep them safe from the predators.  We've seen a red fox, a raccoon, and a big black snake.  But nothing has succeeded in penetrating our defenses this year.

We recycle the egg shells and manure into our compost.  Really we're just a goat away from living on a farm.

Here's a cute series of a mama rotating her eggs.

Monday, July 23, 2012

To Show the Beautiful Moments

I sincerely feel like I must have been an explorer in a previous life.  Someone traveling the seas and land, crossing new terrain, walking steps never walked before.  Nothing makes me feel more at peace than walking through an unpathed forest, stepping over logs, navigating wilderness, or watching the water and scenes pass from the deck of a boat.  I have some deep embedded spirit of adventure that tastes joy from a slice of the unknown.  When traveling I always seek those off the beaten path spots that allow me to connect with that inner explorer and remember what it felt like to be at the helm of a new discovery.  
And with the life of an explorer comes the work of documenting the experience.  All explorers kept logs of their journeys and hardships, historical records of what did or didn't go wrong to serve and aid in future ventures and to explain what that venture was like to the world.  And I think that's where my desire to blog comes from.  Most days it's tough to find the time to write.  But I feel a tremendous pull deep inside me to document our life.  So that's why I'm here in front of the computer today.  To show the beautiful moments.

 My brother convinced us to let him dig a pond in our front yard.  So that's what we were up to today.

 Covered in dirt like a monster truck

The beautiful passion flowers that grow like weeds in our front yard.

My brother brought his dogs.

Nala's favorite article of clothing is this sleeping beauty hooded towel dress.  If only I could find another one but they don't seem to make them anymore.  We've tried getting her other pink towel dresses, but nothing takes its place so far.  I don't think she's even seen Sleeping Beauty the movie.  She just likes it because it's pink.

Speaking of pink, I bought a pink hello kitty shirt for myself thinking it would win me cool points with Nala.  Mari has an angry bird shirt and Kaio thinks that's super cool when he wears it.  So I get myself this shirt and Nala sees it and swipes it!  She grabs it straight out of the Target bag and runs off to her room, "Mom, pink is my favorite color, you can't wear pink!  This is my shirt, I'm going to take it to my room and keep it until it fits me."
She sure put me in my place.

Kaio's getting into superheros and especially spider man.  He's been wearing the new spider man pajamas day and night. In 100degree heat!

This week we took a bike ride and it marked his first bike ride out of the neighborhood without training wheels!

Sweet kids.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dropping the Ball!

I realized today that I do not have things under control at all.  My kids are 5 and 3, I've been home with them full time for a year now, you'd think I'd have figured out this motherhood thing.  But, no, I'm just flying my the seat of my pants on a daily basis.  I can't remember the last time I had dinner ready by the time Mari got home.  Most days he gets home and then I realize, oh I should cook something.   Same for lunch, the kids have hot dogs and cheese cubes with salad almost every day.

And I wish I could look around the house and take pride in all the cleaning and organizing I have been doing instead of cooking!  But, the house is a mess.

It's this whole SUMMER thing.  It's just got me off track.  One week we're home, one week we're gone.

 The kids were in camp last week in the morning so we were out of the house till 2 every day.  My summer semester started and I've been taking classes two nights a week.  Plus, our renters dropped the bomb that they're departing the lease early and I've been showing the place 10times a week.   Then when it finally looked like we had secured new tenants, an air quality inspection uncovered mold behind the washer dryer.  So now I'm dealing with that.

Luckily my mom is in town to help out.  She's been cooking dinner most nights, which just makes me forget to think about food at all.  Today I actually gave the kids leftover half melted ice cream cake for lunch.  Dude, what is wrong with me?

I'd just love to, like, look at a new recipe in a cook book or magazine and get all the ingredients to make it.
It sounds so easy.  But seems so impossible to accomplish because it involves focusing long enough to read a recipe, making a list, and going to the grocery store.  I must be in a food rut, huh?
Kind of like putting away the papers and mail on the table seems impossible right now too.

I tried to enforce a 'quiet time' today and ended up injured as Kaio dropped a monster truck on my arm from the top bunk while I read Nala a story about The Cookie Monster.  It hurt and I started crying, but more out of hopelessness and frustration at the lack of control than pain.  Then I passed out asleep on Kaio's bed and woke up abruptly to one of the kids barging in, bellowing about being hungry.  By the time I peal off the bed, he's downstairs eating a chocolate ice cream bar.  So that's two meals today consisting of ice cream!

So July is a crumbly piece of blackberry pie.  I hope I can figure out how to get back into a grove this week. and actually have a little bit of a schedule.  Or, not, maybe summer is all about playing video games and eating ice cream.

mom, now can i fly like a kite?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Language of the Heart Story of How I Met My Man

I scared the crap outta my dad when I emailed requesting him to send my birth certificate down to Brazil so I could get married.  My dad was always pretty supportive of my path in life, no matter how strange it seemed.  But with that email he actually called down to Brazil to talk to me (he'd never tried to call me before, not on my birthday, not on Christmas).  "You've only known him for four months....  If it doesn't work out you'll have to get divorced and who knows what the laws are down there..."

It seems a little crazy in retrospect; decide to get married after only spending solid 2 weeks with someone, but it ended up being the best decision of my life.  Given the language barrier it could have been a gamble, but I felt safe enough with my heart in his hands to take the chance.  And I kept reminding myself that people who date for years still get divorced or grow apart.

So yeah, another gushy post.  But that's just how I've been feeling lately.

Mari and I met in 2002 while I was on a cultural interchange studying Amazonian culture and ecology.  Ironically we met a few days before I was scheduled to leave, although we found at least 6 different times  when we almost met before then.  This angered me at first.  Just thinking about how much more wonderful my time abroad would have been if I met him earlier and how great it would have been to know him for longer.  Five years later I even got a little pissed with him for not going to the concert I went to on our first night there with our mutual friend!  But he had a girlfriend during those times, and thinks fate kept us apart until he was emotionally available.

We barely kept in touch after I returned to the states.  Just emails here and there, occasional letters, a phone call on my birthday.  Then my mom suggested we take a summer trip back to Brazil together.  So we returned to Brazil for a week.  Mari and I reinforced our bond and mom got to meet him.

Another year passed with scarce contact.  We just weren't the long distance relationship type.  But I always kept him in mind, like Sandy's warming summer fling in Grease.  And after graduation, with our rare contact, it seemed like things might be left at that.  A warm memory of touching hearts and a connection that transcended language and culture.

The next chapter started in Portland, OR, at a coffee shop across from the public library.  Ten-o-clock in the morning with a cup of vegetarian minestrone soup and some multigrain on the side.  I sat at an outdoor table, perusing a flyer for a pre-Burning Man party.  This morning was so Portland.

So Portland because I was job hunting.  The city had a 7% unemployment rate.  Portland has more coffee shops than gas stations, more vintage digs than business suits, and more bikers than the Tour de France.  It's a big city with a small San Francisco feel.  Many people from San Fran were moving to Portland.  Specially guys wanting to escape from their ex-girlfriends.

Me, with a shiny BA in Psychology, I had the qualifications to work at a coffee shop or as a bartender.  All stores asked for resumes.  Coffee shops asked for a resume.

I had just taken the Max back from my premier job interview post grad, not at a coffee shop, but a naturopathic clinic for an office manager position.  Now, in front of the library I was contemplating whether I was lucid enough to make any major decisions.

The job interview went fine, for my first time.  Except when we started talking about vacation time off.  I sat frozen, struck, when the beautiful long blond haired, gentle faced naturopath said, "1 week for the first year.  And we urge you to take your leave at the same time as us."  Abruptly I realized that I'd be working for a year.  That's not weird, I know, people do it all the time.  But a year of 9-5 was something college had not prepared me to do.

There are those times in life when we see a fork, some turning point.  A million things rational to do, easy things.  But I wanted an adventure, before... before... no forever.

Then I walked across the street into the library and bought a plane ticket departing for Ecuador in four days. Spent the next many months doing things like this, and this.

In the next chapter, around six months later, I finally made it to the mouth of the Amazon, almost two years since Mari and I had last seen each other.  My plane arrived two minutes after Mari left work.  His number was the only phone number I had there.  So I left the airport for a better location to wait.  To the boat harbor where Belem's best brewery is located. There, I'm beaming and freaking out.  I felt glowing, like a polished stone, dipped in caramel.  Alive with anticipation.

Here the sun sets with pride, like a newly finished painting, still glistening wet.

I just sat, watching the boats float by, watching the people float by.  The sun set and live popular Brazilian music began.  I am floating on a ship of lime, love, and sugar cane liquor.  Each drink a little bit stronger than the last.  If I could stop from drowning it would be an accomplishment.  If I could keep my head on the ground for the next hour, that would keep the night real. But already, I'm flying away staring at the palm tree on the dock in front of the clouds above the Amazon waters.  The fronds waving in the warm wind, tempting the sky and streetlights.

I was trying to keep it cool but drunkenness spilled from my smile and splashed the table next to me.  One of the fellows started a conversation.
"Where are you from?"
"I'm from Washington."
"I'm from Rio, he's from Athens Grease, and he's from London, England."
"Well, we're all from capitals then.  Except you cause Brazilia's the capital."
"Yes but Rio used to be, and it is still the cultural capital."

Yes.  He goes to the buffet for a second course.  But first he hands me his card, "I live in Salvador now, if you ever go, call me, you have a place to stay."
I wonder what that means, Mr. Insurance Services.

The #1 lesson I learned traveling as a girl alone is that its dangerous to be nice to a man and trust their words.  And maybe I was naive and sheltered from this in the States, so lucky to always be surrounded by such great guys.  So yeah, it was a learning experience to find that most men try to hump you.

And so I end up in Brazil banking on the hope that the boy I came to find is different.  Because, after six months traveling, I was starting to become a feminist.  Ahhh!  That word used to scare me.

I was so nervous.  And when we talked on the phone he said, "I'm coming right now."  Which in Brazil means I'll see you in 100 minutes.  And I was waiting and thinking, God I hope he sees me first.  I hope I play it cool.  I hope I don't squish his face when I try to kiss him.  And most of all I hope he sees me first.

Ack.  This is turning into a really long post.


For me it wasn't exactly the words that he said, but the feelings I got when he spoke.  I always liked hearing him in Portuguese more because he spoke with confidence and without stumbling.  The cruddy filter of a second language just didn't bring the same satisfaction, like a conversation condom.  I mean, there were things I couldn't understand and things he couldn't understand.  We didn't have all the precise words to articulate effectively.  But there was some connection there and I perceived good intentions.

I really fell in love when a week after we met he came to visit me at my friend's house in Brazil with a gift.  He could of brought me flowers like polite guys usually do.  Or he could have brought nothing like too hip guys usually do.  But he carefully selected two ripe mangoes from a fruit stand along the way.  Delicious mangoes won me over, there couldn't have been a more perfect gesture.  It was just my style: romantic but unusual, beautiful and succulent.

And every time I felt a little uncertain about whether we were right for each other, I'd recall the memory of the mangoes.  A symbol of our wordless connection.

It seems crazy that only two weeks after I met him in 2005, we started the process for getting married.  But I'm glad I trusted my heart because now we've been living in the US for 6.5 years and he speaks
English perfectly, and the words he says are the right ones - better than I could say them myself.  I just listen to him and think he's so cool.

I went to the Plaza de Republica, one of the many small concrete parks around the city where cart vendors park themselves to sell ripped CDs, hair clips, coconut water, and other things.  In this particular park vagrant artizens referred to as 'hippies' aggregate and make Amazon jewelry from seeds and plant material and sell it on the street.   I bought us a couple of 50 cent rings made out of a seed and we used these during the courthouse ceremony.  The rings broke in a few months, but we still have them.

I only understood about 30% of the vows I repeated.  The Justice of the Peace who married us was large and wearing a hot pink boa atop her judge robe.  When we handed her the rings, she looked at me and said, "Americana?"  Then she looked at both of us and said, "I hope you guys are legit."  lol.  We didn't even tell his parents.  Mari's sister Carol knew and she was there with us, crying, which surprised me cause the whole event was so surreal.  

Dad ended up sending the birth certificate.  My mom talked him into it.  Then when I needed a sponsor for Mari's visa, my dad sponsored him, reluctantly but he did it.  As soon as they finally met dad realized he had nothing to worry about.

And then only four months after Mari moved here, I was pregnant with Kaio.  In a perfect twist of fate, Mari's job contract ended right after Kaio's birth and we returned to Brazil for two months of my maternity leave.  We also had our official wedding then.

And the rest is still being written.


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