Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas in Christmas City

Natal means "Christmas" so it seems appropriate that I would tell you about what we did here in Christmas city over the holiday.  On Christmas eve we took the kids to Geraldo's house with a bag full of toys and a plate full of home made cookies.  Jonah and Andy chose some very nice toys from their room to share with four children who, otherwise, wouldn't get any toys for Christmas.
 They were very happy to receive us and to play with the kids for a while.  They were all headed out to sell popcorn in town for the rest of the day.Then we returned home to get ready for the Christmas party at our house.  It was the least stressful Christmas party I've ever thrown because several church members showed up early to prepare all the food.  We ate, played games, and exchanged gifts.  Normally, Brazilians eat Christmas dinner at midnight on Christmas eve but they were very respectful of the fact that we have small children, who would be looking for traces of Santa at sunrise, and left just after midnight.On Christmas morning, the kids opened their gifts and played with their toys as John and I sat and drank coffee in front of the fan, assembling and inserting batteries into each toy they unwrapped.Then we did something really fun.  We defrosted the freezer.  (I'm not being facetious.  You have to remember that it's extremely hot here at Christmas time.)  Defrosting the freezer meant having a snowball ball fight in the summer and it was fun.Then Santa brought John and me the best gift of all - peace and quiet.  This crew showed up to take our kids to the beach for the afternoon:
  It was a nice surprise and a very thoughtful present for the whole family.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Gestational Diabetes

My mom raised pure breed dogs throughout my childhood.  To save time and money she always gave them the necessary vaccines.  When John and I got married we adopted one of the puppies and I assumed I would learn how to vaccinate her.  I loaded the syringe, pulled up the skin on the back of her neck, and... could not bring myself to put the needle in.  No matter how I tried to convince myself that it was no big deal I just couldn't do it.  So when my doctor told me a couple weeks ago that I have gestational diabetes and that I would have to prick my finger to check my glucose levels, I thought about that dog from twelve years ago and thought there was no way I could do that.  I did it though and I've done it six times a day for two weeks.

At least I don't have to give myself a shot, I thought.  That was until several days ago when she told me that, despite my strict diet, my morning levels were too high.  Yesterday I went to the diabetic pharmacy where they taught me how to give myself an injection.  I told myself all the way home that I was going to walk in the door and just do it.  That's what I did and I'm proud to say that I am now ready to vaccinate that dog.
I will have to inject myself with insulin every morning until the baby is born.  As unhappy as I am about the whole thing, I am thankful for modern medicine allowing me and my baby to have a healthy pregnancy.

Monday, December 8, 2008


It seems Brazilians can't get enough carnival.  Many of the major cities celebrate carnival and have their own off-season version as well.  Natal is no exception.  The city just hosted its eighteenth annual "Carnatal" during the first weekend in December.  It draws about a million people to this city of 800,000.  The party spans about fifteen blocks and drastically changes traffic patterns for about four days.
In order to be in the action, you have to order a special t-shirt that will ensure your place inside the ropes.   There, a large truck with a popular musical artist performing on top slowly drives through the sea of people .  Drinks are served and bathrooms are available to those wearing the shirts.  People outside the ropes and without the t-shirts don't have access to a bathroom or much-needed security but are welcome to follow the music along.  These people are nicknamed "popcorn". 
Here's an areal view of this year's event:
  We're not in this crowd.  We stayed home as much as possible.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Friends Becoming Brothers

Tális began coming to the Let's Start Talking (LST) English classes about six months ago.  Because most of the LST workers only stay for weeks at a time, he ended up reading through parts of the English Bible with about four different people.  After some time he began to show interest in the Bible itself over and above English alone.  So he began a Bible study in Portuguese.  After a couple months of that and with what he had already learned from reading through the Bible in English, Tális was ready to take what he had learned seriously.  He's the one that came to our house on Thanksgiving day to speak with John; he's the one that said he wanted to be one of us - a member of our church family.

Tális brought a friend to church once and then brought that same friend back to our Halloween party.  Jefferson decided to return to the monthly English worship soon after.  John preached a message on the futility of trying to be a Christian on your own.  He said everyone who claims Christ as his leader must also claim the church family and be a part of it.  He made the point that you can't have one without the other.  Jefferson was intrigued by this idea and asked for further study with John.  After only about five studies, Jefferson was ready to be baptized.  He had already been studying on his own and had a very good grasp of basic Bible knowledge.  He had just never been exposed to a church where he thought he fit in.
When Tális (in the water with John) heard about Jefferson's decision, they decided to take the step together.  It was a beautiful day at the Comunidade de Cristo when two friends became brothers.

Monday, December 1, 2008


On Thanksgiving day we had about twenty people at our house - the church leaders and their families and five Americans.  The star guest was a guy who asked John at church on Wednesday if he could come over to confess his sins.  John told him to come over and celebrate Thanksgiving with us and spend the day at our house.  

We had turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, rolls, salad, deviled eggs, peas, mashed potatoes, cookies, and pies.  It wasn't exactly like home because the ingredients here are so different.  The sweet potato casserole looked like it was topped with chocolate because the brown sugar here is so dark.  I'm not complaining because it was the first time I've ever seen sweet potatoes here and that was a real treat.  I found one small container of pecans too - another miracle.  We can't buy cream of mushroom soup so I had to make that before I could make the green bean casserole.  Then I topped it with onion flavored chips because there aren't any French fried onions around.  Forget the corn; it's tough and not something we eat very often.  What I personally missed most were the pumpkin pie and cranberries.  Despite all the substitutions, the group was very gracious and seemed to enjoy the meal.

The highlight of the day had nothing to do with all the food, however.  We sat in a circle and took turns sharing something for which each of us was grateful.  When it got to Tális, the guy John invited over at the last minute, he said he was touched by the way we were all like a family and said he wanted to be one of us.  
Saturday afternoon we celebrated another Thanksgiving at the church.  All of the English students were invited to experience an authentic Thanksgiving feast.  Someone said "American food is great" and was disappointed when we told him we only eat like that once a year.
What a treat to have two Thanksgivings and with such a wonderful group of people.  One of the Americans got a care package with canned pumpkin and cranberry sauce just in time for the feast.  That was a nice touch.Everyone was invited to write something for which he was thankful on a paper leaf and tie it to a little tree.  Jonah wrote that he was thankful that the baby would be here soon, and Andy drew a picture of someone and told me it was God.  He said "I'm thankful for God.  Will you write that under my picture and put it on the tree?" 
I too am thankful for God and thankful for children who are thankful.  I am thankful for a good marriage.  I am thankful for a church family who love each other and who reach out to those around them who don't yet know the blessings of being part of a church family.  I am thankful for the opportunities and challenges that have presented themselves to us over this past year.  I am thankful for you who read this blog and for you who support us financially and in prayer.  I hope your Thanksgiving was as special as ours.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Andy's Fourth Birthday

Andy turned four on November 26, less than a week after we moved into our new house.  Because his birthday fell on a Wednesday, we took advantage of the fact that we would be at the church to have his party there after the evening class.  A lady from church made his favorite cake - chocolate with chocolate icing.  I bought some balloons and hot dogs. When we arrived at church for the study, there were several people waiting to help me put everything together for his party.  Because I was exhausted and it was about ninety degrees, I was only prepared to blow up some balloons.  They assured me that balloons alone would never do, and they broke out all the party decorations from the church closet and arranged a very festive room.  They also cooked the hot dogs and prepared the drinks.
We expected about twenty people to stay after the lesson for his party.  Not only did everyone from the church stay, but we had several visitors celebrate with us as well.  In the end, it was closer to fifty.  Fortunately, we had enough hot dogs, drinks, and cake for everyone - all of which was served to our guests by other church members.Then came the presents.  They showered Andy with gift upon gift. 

Everyone seemed to have a good time, especially Andy. 
I was very grateful for all the help I received from the diligent church members who were as interested as I was in seeing Andy have a great birthday celebration.  Because I was so hot and tired from the relentless heat and recent move, they took it upon themselves to run the whole show.  I was able to take a few pictures and sit under the fan for most of the time.  Despite my pitiful state and thanks to our church family in Natal, Andy had (in his words) "a weally gweat pawty."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Last night we went to Geraldo's house.  He lives about twenty minutes outside of town in a very humble neighborhood.  Since his baptism a couple months ago, he has been trying to get all his neighbors to come to church with him.  Some of them have come but others are afraid of church because of past emotional or financial abuses they've witnessed in organized religion.  Others simply can't afford to take off work or pay the bus fare it would require for their families to make it into town.  So John had the idea to take church to them.

We scheduled to meet at five o'clock.  We picked up some bread, ham, cheese, and drinks and made it there at about 5:30.  The rest of the crew showed up at about six.  We actually got started closer to seven.  That's par for the course around here. 
There were about ten adults present, including Geraldo's wife Socorro and Francisco, who now lives with them.  John talked about the importance of community.  He explained to them that God comes to us in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He also made the point that we can best understand the Bible if we learn it as part of a community and not try to understand it all by ourselves.  He introduced the idea for a weekly study, in which we will read together through the book of Mark, that will start next Saturday.  The group seemed very receptive and welcomed us back.
The kids, who numbered about the same as the adults, played together in the house and watched a video while we talked on the porch.  Jonah and Andy had lots of Portuguese practice.
Afterwards, Geraldo fired up his popcorn machine and we all hung around talking for a while.  We're very excited at the prospect of sharing the hope we have in Jesus with people of Geraldo's neighborhood - people who, as he tells us - need the hope and purpose he now has.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween Party

The kids love Halloween, but Brazilians don't celebrate it.  So we took advantage of the fact that LST throws American themed parties for their English students and put together a Halloween party that was fun for the Americans and educational for the Brazilians.  

Jonah and Andy were Power Rangers: 
Mom and Dad got in on the action too.  With a little creativity and some simple materials we became a butterfly and a butterfly catcher: 
Which worked out well with Cris's flower costume: 
Whoa, it looks like that butterfly has had one too many flowers already.

Here's the rest of the gang making some last minute costume adjustments before the party:
We started the evening out with a mummy wrapping contest.  Each team had about two minutes to make a mummy with toilet paper:
The judges chose this this scary mummy as the winner:
The prize?  Well, chocolate of course.

Then we had a parade of costumes to show off our creativity and to judge the best costumes:

The woman at the well took second:
And this hillbilly family won first place:

The prizes were chocolate and more chocolate.  We wanted the Brazilians to get a feel for what Halloween is all about.

Andy gets it.  His favorite part was definitely all the sugar:
Jonah's favorite part seemed to be this Jedi costume.  He followed this guy around like a stalker, asking him about every detail of his outfit.  I know what the boys will be next year.
Towards the end of the evening, we served hot dogs, popcorn balls, and other sugary goodies.  Then everyone went trick-or-treating at the classroom doors of the church.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy!

We're having another one.  I must admit, I was looking forward to the possibility of pink lace and ribbons around here but I am absolutely thrilled that we're having another boy.  John threw his arms up in the air and let out a whoop like his team had just won the Superbowl, so I guess I don't have to tell you how he feels about it.  

Now we just need a name.  Andy is sticking with Jack, which we kind of like, and Jonah has suggested Skippy, which we kind of don't.  The floor is open to suggestions.     

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Jonah's Birthday Party

Jonah turns seven on October 16th, but we had his party today so all his friends could come.  He wanted a Ben 10 party so I made this cake:
Here's the birthday boy, wearing his first present of the day - a Ben 10 Speedo:
Jonah was very excited to run down the road and greet his first guests at the bus stop:

Plenty of friends showed up and it was a great party.  I wanted to have a record of all the kids present so I asked John to help me round them up and make them smile.  Notice the only two kids who aren't cracking up at John's antics:
We had churrasco (Brazilian barbecue), beans, rice, corn bread, and salad:
Jonah opened some presents:
We sang the lively Portuguese version of "Happy Birthday" and ate cake:
Jonah clowned around:
While Andy hung out with his girlfriends:
The kids enjoyed the pool all day:
And last, but not least, we popped the candy balloon, which is like a Brazilian piñata.  First, you spin it:
Then you pop it:
And the kids go wild, falling all over each other to gather candy.  Well, most of them.  Notice Andy standing behind the chair on the far left while Marisa hands him candy under the tree:
In the end, Jonah was exhausted, a little sunburned, and extremely happy: 
He said he had a great party, and he's apparently already planning for the next festivity, because he asked if tomorrow was the day to go trick-or-treating.