Monday, March 3, 2014

August 2013

August was way less exciting than July.  No birthdays in our family, no foreign excursions, etc.  We did have the start of a new school year though!  That was pretty exciting because this year was the first for us to have three kids in elementary school.  It was pretty crazy.  I still can't believe that I only have one little guy at home (at least for the whole day).
On back to school night they all got to meet their teachers.

Ms. Marjorie Lynn in Kindergarten,
 Ms. Dondi in second grade
 and Ms. Fransen in fourth grade.
These kids all love school, so it isn't hard to get them excited to go back.  A new outfit never hurts though, right?  My two girls are very interested in their version of "fashion."  My control freak mothering took a back seat this year, and I let them be in charge of their outfit choices.  I'm not saying I didn't "help" along the way, but ultimately the choices were theirs...whether I like it or not.

Owen got to walk up to the school with the girls because he had his kindie interview that morning.
His first day of school came a few couple of days later.  This little man was pumped!

Did I mention that this happened in August too?  Yea...the wee one decided to throw himself out of his crib during his nap time.  It didn't swell or bruise, so being the amazing mom I am, I took him to church and Sunday dinner as usual.  He cradled it all day and night.  I figured the next day we ought to take him to the doctor.  He had two fractures.  One in each of the bones in his forearm.  Mom of the year!
We finished off the month in a fun way!  I think this will become a tradition for us!  We went to Colorado Springs and ran the Dirty Dash.  The grown ups did a 5 k with obstacles before going through the "Piglet Plunge" with the kids.  They had a BLAST!  It was pretty fun for the grown ups too.
 The anticipation was killing them while the adults were running (which was fair because it took us WAY longer than expected.  It was a 5 k for heaven's sake!).
 The adults finishing
The whole clan at the finish line after the "Piglet Plunge."
At first they couldn't believe that we were actually allowing them to get as dirty as they wanted.  Once they were convinced they went CRAZY!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Brazil Week Two

We spent a crummy night in a terrible Sao Paulo hotel but thankfully we left bright and early the next morning.  We rented a car and drove to Jundiai to make a surprise visit to Thiago and Erica who met Tom many years earlier.  Tom had the privilege of teaching him the gospel, and now I was going to see this man who was now a bishop and meet his wife and son.  We also planned to meet with the other Elder who taught Thiago.  We were surprised to also find Goncala, another person they had taught while there.  (Goncala and Thiago were baptized the same day.)  This was probably my favorite day of the entire trip.  For me, this was what brought closure and true happiness.  I was able to see where Tom had been, who he had taught.  They told me what Tom was like, and they spoke so highly of him.  We surprised them at the church building that morning, then we were invited to the bishop's home for the afternoon.  Homemade Brazilian food, listening to my wonderful husband speak in Portuguese and recover some forgotten friendships and memories.  They are great people and I am so thankful to have met them all!

Thiago, Tom, Guillherme, and Goncala moments after first seeing each other again.

 Erica and Thiago, Mom, Me, Tom, Dad, Guillerme, Goncala, and Diana (Guillerme's wife).
 At Erica and Thiago's home.

One night in Jundiai then we left the next morning for Brotas.  This was an artsy type of town.  We spent a few days there, and of course, they were the coldest days they had seen in a long while.  We knew it would be winter in Brazil, but the weather was still supposed to be beautiful.  More like a Colorado spring (if Colorado had more than 2 days of spring).  Pretty much everything we planned to do in Brotas was outside, so we couldn't let the cold stop us.
Pousada Frangipani was beautiful!

The first full day in Brotas we went on a ropes course high in the trees.  Everywhere we went in Brazil we met friendly happy people, and this day was no exception.  We forgot to bring cameras of any kind (we had so many camera tragedies along the way) and our new friends took pictures of us then emailed them to us!  We were so grateful!

 The we went into town, went shopping and looking around in the town and had a great meal!  If you haven't noticed, all the cities/towns had cobblestone sidewalks which I loved!  Aren't they cool?

The next day was white water rafting and zip lining.  Can I just remind you how COLD it was.  Yes, we were rafting in the cold.  Since nobody in Brazil was used to this weather, they weren't any better equipped for the cold than we were.  We got soaked in our regular clothes.  BRRR!  Did I mention that this rafting was unlike ANY other rafting I have EVER done?  It was WAY more intense and the rapids were HUGE!  I was really, Really, REALLY wet!  It was worth it though!

The next stop was a zip course.  Some of the longest and highest zip lines in the world!  All through the Brazilian countryside and among the stunning waterfalls.

On the way back the Frangipani we stopped for some fresh squeezed sugar cane juice.  The owner of the restaurant invited us in so he could explain what he was making, then he took us on a tour of the grounds where they grew everything that they served.  He was so nice, and the juice was delicious!

Next stop was Campinas.  We stayed at a beautiful hotel in the "silicone valley" of Brazil.  We looked around, went to a mall, and then FINALLY got to see the temple that they were building way back when Tom served there.  He was there when the broke ground, and while most of it was built, but he never got to see it finished.  So fun to be there together!  It was Tom's birthday, so that was a perfect way to spend the day.  That night we find a fantastic churrascaria where we ate until we were in pain.  It was delicious and so inexpensive!  What a way to end the trip!  We drove back to Sao Paulo and flew out the next morning.  It was sad to leave, but I was dying to see my babies! 

Brazil Week One

For those that don't already know, Tom lived in Brazil for two years while serving a mission for our church.  We met in December of 1998, we fell in love, and knew by June 1999 that we were going to be married.  That meant that the two years he was gone from September 1999-September 2001 were VERY LONG for me.  I knew that what he was doing was right, and it was important, but it was still so hard.  One of the hardest things was the fact that I couldn't even begin to imagine what his life looked like.  I dreamed for years that I would one day get to go back to the place he had been, and see the sights, meet the people, and experience the country.  I never could have imagined the incredible adventure I would have.  Tom's parents too us to Brazil for two weeks from the middle to the end of July.

After lots of fretting and tears we went to the airport, found that our flight was VERY late and if we were lucky we would BARELY make our connection out of Miami and into Manaus.  Luckily we made it to Miami with a few minutes to spare.  Do you know how big the Miami airport is?  It's HUGE!  We ran the ENTIRE length of it to catch our flight, which they were holding just for us.  We were so relieved to have made it.  (Our first glimpse of the rainforest from the window of the airplane.)

Unfortunately our luggage didn't make it, and since there is only one flight into the city from Miami a day, we were told that it would arrive sometime in the afternoon of the following day.  That's not good if you are leaving for the Amazon jungle bright and early the next morning and will have no way to receive it.  Well, better hope Tom's Portuguese is good enough that the airline and the hotel both understand what they are supposed to do with the luggage...we would find out when we got back from the jungle in five days...

We started in the north in the city of Manaus.  I had my first meal in Brazil in the fabulous plaza just as things were starting to come alive.  Families were coming out to see the musicians, performers, and vendors.  The plaza itself was beautiful too!

We got to visit a cute little museum in the plaza too.  The exhibit was a little known local artist that I fell in love with.  The pictures don't do it justice, but it was textured and layered and fantastic!
The next morning we left for Juma Lodge.  Have you ever been to the jungle for five days?  I hadn't, and I was a little scared and excited and naive.  
(Leaving civilization)

I wish I could give details of every day, and every adventure, but there are too many (don't worry, if you want any more information I have a book, and I am always happy to talk about it).  For now you will have to settle for snippets and pictures.
The meeting of the waters...the place where two rivers come together but do not merge into one for several miles because of the difference in temperature, pH and density.  CRAZY!  Not to mention amazing and beautiful!
 Ever been on the "Jungle Cruise" at one of the Disney parks?  Well, I've been on it live.  It was truly impressive.  No mechanical hippos though.

Thirty minute boat ride, followed by a long stretch on a bus, then take another boat the the flooded road for a couple hours.  No big deal, but you might want to grab a fresh coconut on your way.

 The lodge itself is fantastic and sort of indescribable.  
(Tom and I were in the middle hut, and Mom and Dad were in the one on the right.)
A look inside
The dining area.

Day one--arrival at the lodge and a couple of hours to explore/canoe/swim/etc.

Then our guide Joao took out out exploring, and we met our new friends Pretinha and Munsun (howler monkeys that came to be our little buddies).

Day Two- Our first jungle hike.  Where we learned about many traditions of the natives as well as secrets of nature.  (Tree sap/wax used to fix boats, ants that smelled like formic acid, the "woman tree" with abortive qualities, and our first encounter with a coconut grub--which Tom ate RAW!)

 Then we had a break for lunch and time to relax.  Then Joao took us piranha fishing.  We had quite a bit of success!  I actually ate it, and kind of enjoyed it!
Day Three- Another jungle hike, but not at all repetitive or boring.  This time we learned about a tree used as a temporary tattoo, a tree that was used as a bandage, then found more coconut grubs.  Everyone in our group had been joking ever since Tom ate the raw one that they would find one for me to eat.  I, of course, assured them MANY time that there was NO chance I would be eating one!  After hiking in the heat with Joao, we ended at a fantastic barbecue prepared by our boat driver, Victor.  We took a swim while we waited for the delicious meet to finish cooking, then had a great meal.  After lunch we went to visit a local family that lives on the river and grows manioc then they mill it and prepare it for the lodge (and others) to buy.
(Notice the tattoos on our wrists.)
 They found more grubs...
 then cooked them...
 and she ate one...
 and so did I...
Me, Tom, Patti, Clay, Helen and Angel getting ready to swim.
 The home of the local family.
After a busy day we had a short trip looking for caiman.  We were pretty unsuccessful at first, but finally found one that we could get to from the boat and Joao caught him and we got to hold him.

Day Four-  Early morning and a sunrise out on the water.  It was amazing.  Everything was silent and still until the sun came up.  The moment it was touched by the sun every inch of the jungle came alive.  The trees shook with animal movement.  The watered rippled with fish.  Such a cool experience.  Then we had a relaxing day.  A quick boat trip to a little lagoon, a swim, another barbecue lunch, and a nap in a hammock.  Tom and Dad were able to relax while Mom was eaten alive by the horseflies.  Then more piranha fishing where Mom and Dad were more successful, and we followed a pink dolphin back to the lodge.   Yes, that's what I said, a PINK dolphin.  So cool!  I wish I had gotten a picture, but he was too fast.

Day Five- Lovely breakfast and then a slow morning as we prepared to head back to Manaus.  There were several caiman swimming around outside the "restaurant" (dining area).  We had a lot of fun watching them and tracking them through the stilts of the different lodge buildings.  Then we left Juma and headed back to Manaus where we met Eni, who would be our tour guide in the city for the day.
That night we went to a concert in the Manaus Teatro.

Next stop, Sao Paulo!  My birthday was spent traveling.  Normally it wouldn't be exciting, but let's face it...we were in Brazil...