Thursday, July 5, 2012

New Blog

Hi everyone. I just thought you might like to know that I've just started a new blog called Mo-hawk Mama or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love my Mormon Liberal Identity. I'll still keep up with this blog to chronicle our family adventures, and I'll be posting more political/ideological and (dare I say) provocative things on the other.

I hope you guys enjoy it! I'd love for you to comment as much as possible whether you agree with what I say or not, so that we can start a good, healthy discussion.

You can follow the blog at

There's only 1 post up now, but I plan on diligently writing at least once a week.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Things we'll miss about Itacare

Ten things we'll miss about Itacare:

1) The plethora of wild and domestic animals. Well, I guess Rivs and I won't miss this as much as Harper, but a happy Harper is a happy mama. For the past 2 weeks, Harper has taken us on morning excursions to visit the farm puppies. She named the black and white one "Different Panda". I thought that was a pretty smart name.

2) The fact that the view from our house overlooks a pool, then a river, then the Atlantic ocean.

3) The streets are more crowded and lively at night than they are during the day. There is even a bar on the main road with shirtless black men bartenders wearing aprons. I'll probably miss that more than Rivs. Not that I've visited the bar, but come on... They're bartending half nude in the street. Don't judge me.

4) The $7 all-you-can-eat buffet where Harper eats free. Our whole family can stuff our bellies with soup, salad, bread, fish, chicken, beans, rice and whatever other delicacy they're providing for $15. There are these little spicy fried fish balls that Harper loves, although every single time the wait staff tells us not to give them to her because they're too "picante". Disculpe, but our daughter is Latina, okay?

5) The way toddlers can shake their booties like Shakira. We happened upon a street party a few weeks ago (people pull up with giant speakers in their cars, upon the trunk and let a variety of tunes and beats hit the streets). The men and boys do a mild variation of the "hip thrust" in giant circles while the girls get dooooown. I mean full on, knees bent to an impossible squat while the hips sway in perfect unison to the beat. Impressive. I stayed in the toddler section and made a fool of myself trying to shake my hips. Everyone was laughing at the hopelessly uncoordinated gringa shimmy, but Harper picked up on some dance moves. I'll have to get a video before we leave, because it's quite something, let me tell you.

6) The salgados. Salgados are sandwiches rolled and baked in pizza dough and they cost $1 each. Need I say more?

7) The fact that the less bum and leg you show while in a bathing suit, the stranger you look. I've become so used to seeing thonged bums that it will be hard to think people aren't wearing diapers on the beaches in Hawaii. I've also grown quite fond of Rivers in a "sunga" (you Northerners might call it a "speedo", but it's much more stylish than you think).

No photo required.

8) Getting to our house "the short way" is a slick and muddy uphill battle. It's really an adventure getting home each time, even if we don't always make it up. To the right of the mud road is an irrigation ditch, and to the left is a small cliff. Luckily we've only been stuck in the right portion of the road. A couple of weeks ago, Dave was driving up the hill in the rain. The tires were hardly getting traction, but Dave is Dave, and somehow managed to pull through. As soon as we made it up the hill, out of nowhere Harper says "Uncle Dave is like a Superhero." Yes, yes he is...

9) Giving a thumbs up is still cool here.

10) When we go to the weekend market, Harper now asks to go see "the pig head" (which is literally the butchered head of a pig).

I guess Rivs and I won't be surprised if Harper's elementary school teacher calls to inform us that our daughter acts like she was raised in a jungle...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Street Fights and Acai: Brazil is still okay in our books

I know, it's been a few weeks. There was a series of unfortunate events that, for a brief while, tainted my desire to glorify Brazil in blog form. What type of unfortunate events, you ask? Well, sparing the gory details, let's just say me and Simone were victim to an unprovoked street fight with some teenage mutant ninja hippies one evening, and Simone's head came into forceful contact with a wooden bat. I may have thrown all of my "peacebuilding" knowledge out the window to engage in (former students of mine-block your ears) verbally assaulting some military police officers who did nothing but stand by and laugh at us. This event kind of spiraled out of control in the subsequent days and for a week or so, we all feared for our lives. Luckily everything is now A "OK" and we're no longer under threat of impending assassination. Phewf! Close one. Don't you hate when that happens? Despite this experience, we continue to enjoy our time in Itacare, although we're thinking of leaving a few weeks early to spend some time with my former BYU-Hawaii roommates who lives in Rio de Janeiro, where Rivers served his mission. Rivs has been keeping himself occupied by learning how to cultivate the local agricultural gifts that Brazil holds. Here's some cool photos of him working with Arte Na Mata's fazenderos (or ranchers) to process Acai. What was once such an elusive and wildly exotic food now grows in our back yard. Harp and I help Rivs harvest the berries by holding out a big tarp as Rivs monkeys his way up the palm trees to remove the acai-filled branches. Then he soaks the berries overnight and mushes them with a mortar and pestle the next day to make the yummy purple pulp we turn into smoothies and Acai bowls. Yum.
Harper continues to find strange insects and wild beasts, but still enjoys the occasional domesticated animal. Yeah, that green thing in her hand is a giant grasshopper.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Raynors

Tonight Harper, Simone, me and Dave watched Lilo and Stitch huddled around Simone's MacBook eating stove-top prepared popcorn. It made me miss Hawaii. It also made me miss the wonderful Raynor family. Today, out of nowhere Harper sighed nostalgically and said "I love Parker". My eyes welled with tears. It's hard to think that our time in Hawaii has come to an end. Harper and Parker have truly been more inseparable than any two year old best friends could be. They've gone from boozing babies to beach babes.
On more than one occasion, we've watched Parker lean over and tell Harper "I best friend" (which we assume translates to "You're my best friend"), or witnessed Harper put her arm around Parker to say "I miss you Parker". We've even walked into a room while they were watch a movie together, to find Parker's head on Harper's lap while she gently stroked her friends' hair.
And just as compatible as Harper and Parker are, me and Lindsay have grown to be each other's other half in a way that's as extreme as it gets before crossing the line to lesbianism. It's a platonic love, but one so deep that I can't imagine living a normal life without her. Ok, maybe we're gay for each other. But only emotionally.
Yeeaaah I guess the bathrobe photo is a bit suspicious. That picture is from a girls' day that will have to be a blog post of its own. Let's just say it started with a groupon for a spa day and turned into a Vietnamese nudist bathhouse. Again, another post for another day... So to quell my own nostalgia and to make use of all these great Harper n Parker photos that have just been sitting idly in a folder on my desktop, I'm going to barrage this post with cute photos of the duo. I might cry as I do.
And of course this post wouldn't be complete without an honorable and much deserved shout-out to Matty, who let me steal his wife away from him on many a Friday and Saturday to escape the shackles of Laie and stresses of motherhood. I miss you guys.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Brazilian Wildlife

Hey! Guess what? We saw a sloth today. It was pretty awesome. Harper was napping and Rivs and I were reading on the deck couch when Dave burst through the front door excitedly yelling something about a sloth in a wheelbarrow. Dead? Alive? Stuffed? I didn't know. But it was definitely too interesting a claim to dismiss, so I matched his enthusiasm and hurriedly told Rivs to follow me. I debated waking Harper from her slumber, but considering her possessed Emily Rose-like demeanor she adopts when woken from a nap, I decided against it (for the sloth's sake, of course). Rivs and I followed Dave up the dirt road not really knowing what to expect. What we found was a literal manifestation of Dave's earlier ecstatic proclamation: it was a sloth in a wheelbarrow. Apparently a couple of the local boys who work on the eco lodge grounds saw him slowly crossing the dirt path and coaxed him into the wheelbarrow with a big stick. When we approached him, he sat like Buddah, relaxed with his arms folded and legs outstretched, but attentively following our every movement with his head that could do a 360. Really. It was a pretty amazing experience to be so close to such a wild and endangered animal. I felt bad that Harper couldn't witness it, but I figured she would have been so upset to not be allowed to cuddle it that it was for everyone's own good. Then, as we were leaving, Naco (the old telepathic artist who was laughing hysterically at our fascination with the sloth) invited us to see his sculptures. In the 5 minutes we were in his home, he professed to be the pope, invoked the goddess of Kindness, and informed us that he doesn't sleep because he has transcended fatigue. Then he gave Rivs a hug, blew me kisses and sent us on our way. I love that guy. Oh- we also saw monkeys this morning. They hang out over at our neighbor Chris' house, who runs a save-the-rainforest NGO. They were tiny little monkeys with ringed tails and white around their faces. Harper loved watching them scurry up the trees.
This is a photo from the beach we went to yesterday. You have to cross an ocean-river intersection to get to the 20 miles of untouched beach, so Simone and Bailey kayaked across,Rivs paddle boarded and me and Harp paid a guy 3$ to row us in a tiny wooden "lancha", or canoe. It was awesome to be so secluded but to be able to look across the water to the town of Itacare.
Uncle Dave went fishing yesterday. He caught an 80lb tuna, but gave it to the boat captain. He saved a few smaller ones for us, and Harper had a hard time understanding why they weren't moving. Sorry Harp. They're dead and in our bellies.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Arte Na Mata

Let me just preface this post by saying that we absolutely love living at Arte Na Mata eco lodge in Itacare. Our cabin is clean and cozy. We have a deck that overlooks the jungle, a river and the ocean. We live next door to Dave and Simone, the greatest hosts and companions. There are two fun women that come to our house every morning to cook us breakfast. We live down the street from Naco, an elderly artist who is a telepath from another planet. Actually, today he was Pinnochio and Rivers was an "amante"-or-lover of many women. He has a kiln in his house and makes ceramic sculptures all day. I'm starting to believe his stories. We are 5 minutes away from some of the most beautiful beaches set within the colorful and friendly Brazilian cultural landscape. Still, there are those few laughable discrepancies that come with living in a rustic paradisaical landscape (remember the annoying Costa Rican toucans?) I feel like I should mention a few so that I can remember them one day when our future children haze Harper for having lived in such tropical places while they will most likely be raised in boring America (no offense, U S of A). That way I can have a few tales of woe for them, just to balance the scale a bit. 1. The eco lodge is solar powered. Today it was raining. There was no power. I'm just starting to realize how creative one must be without the crutch of Yo Gabba Gabba or Disney to distract a toddler when it's raining. My trick so far: lots of play-dough and lots of forts. 2. The dirt road to the lodge is so bumpy and steep that you have to gun it in first gear in the 1-wheel drive Fiat in order to get traction. Rivers got stuck yesterday. We had to coast backwards in neutral at a 75 degree decline and make a second attempt. Luckily Harper found it amusing, raising her arms in the air and screaming "woooo hooooo!" I think we have a daredevil on our hands.... 3. It turns out that the squeaking noises Rivs and I have been hearing at night are emanating from a gang of bats that have decided to make their nest (or lair, or headquaters, or whatever bat homes are called) in our ceiling (which is also the inside of our roof). So far no nocturnal dive bombing, but I'll keep you posted on that. I'm expecting it at some point. Again, Harper loves the fact that we have bats living in our house. She'll stop, shine a flashlight on one of the sleeping creatures and say "Nanananana BATMAN!" 4. There are poisonous things here. Pretty much anything with teeth or pincers here also has some ghastly poison coursing through its body. Harper got bit today and I was convinced by the extent of her scream and pained expression (and shaking) that she had been stung by a scorpion or attacked by a spider. My initial instinct was to catch the creature so I could bring it to the hospital where doctors would undoubtedly extract its venom and create an antidote. Turns out it was an ant. Don't worry, she's fine. Her thumb swelled to a sizable girth, but Aunt Simone came to the rescue with topical Benadryl and some orange soda. Problem solved. Later, Dave informed me that he has some anti-snake venom lying around, just in case. Phewf. Really these are just things that enrich our experience here. It's feels like we're living a dream in this part of the world. I don't think Harper has picked up a toy since we've arrived (other than play-dough). Rivs is busy helping Dave with managing the lodge and harvesting fruit. I'm enjoying spending time with Simone, playing with Harper and lounging by the pool while she naps. This is how Rivs harvests coconuts. He later took of his shirt and asked if he looked like a Spartan. Yes, Rivs. You look just like Gerard Butler in that scene in 300 where his troops are parched, and the general grabs his trusty coconut lance to get to the fruits' sweet nectar. a
I guess this is that scene where the Spartan feeds some warrior animals. ( Must have been in the bonus material/deleted scenes)
This is Harper swimming with some fishing lures. Don't worry, Uncle Dave de-hooked them beforehand.
The storm a-coming.
Rainy day fun on the deck
Latest discovery: Harper loves Acai. Can you tell?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Latin America Part II: Brazil

Even though it took us 72 hours to get here, Itacare has been well worth the trip. We started with a 9 hour flight from Hawaii to Chicago, followed by a 12 hour layover in Chicago. Initially we were planning on finding a park and playing chess with homeless savantes to pass the time, but the weather forecast said 48 degrees, so we opted for a cheap car rental and a day at the Chicago Children's museum at the Navy Pier. Even though Rivs and I were running on about 3 hours of much-interrupted sleep, Harper had restfully slept the entire 9 hour flight, so she was ready to dig for dinosaur bones and hunt for butterflies at the museum. Rivs and I took turns sitting in toddler sized chairs to rest our weary bodies, knowing that there would be 2 more nights of sleepless travel. The second flight from Chicago to Sao Paolo was much better in terms of sleepability, since I slept on the floor (yes, at River's feet) while Harper took up both her seat and my own. Rivs industriously build a tent over Harper out of the blue thin airline blankets to shield the fight attendants' eyes from the woman sleeping in the fetal position at her husbands' feet, her head resting on a Brobee pillow. Just try to wake me up and make me sit in my seat, Ms. United Airlines. Just try it. The rest of the trip to Salvador airport was effortless, as Harper slept through both flights, including the one hour layover in between. Dave and Simone were waiting for us as we landed in Salvador, and checked us into an amazing hotel with A/C-and most importantly-a bed. Sleeping fully extended was amazing, let me tell you. The next day we set out for a 7 hour car ride from Salvador to our final destination of Itacare, which is right on the central coast of Brazil. It was dark when we arrived, but the next morning we opened our bedroom doors to this sight. Yes, the trip was definitely worth the discomfort and lack of sleep.
Harper has been in Heaven since getting here, although we've had to sternly warn her that the palm-sized "bird-eating-spider" (true story) was not to be cuddled, and the hissing 2 foot long lizard probably didn't want to be held. Luckily there are two cats, a dog and a horse for Harper to pet and annoy to divert her attention from the plethora of deadly and dangerous fauna. This is Bailey, Simone's amazing rescue Pitbull that is totally Ok with Harper following her around and trying to ride on her back.
And this is Simone and Dave on a motorcycle "walking" their horse down the street. Why not?
I think we're going to like this place. A lot.