Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blessings to you in the New Year!

I'm writing my New Year's post and greetings a few days early. Tomorrow we are headed to Rio de Janeiro! Now, this isn't your usual get-away. Oh no! AND this isn't just a family vacation. Nope! THIS trip is the 'extended family vacation' with Renato's family. Yes, that's right, there are 10 of us going on this trip.

You see, Renato's uncle lives in Rio, and the family has never gone to see him, so they thought now is a great time to go. (I've heard that Rio is the "place" to be for New Years in Brazil....I guess they have a magnificent fireworks display at "Copacabana" one of the famous beaches....yes that's the Barry Manilow song, "at the Copa, Copacabana". That song has been stuck in my head for the past 2 weeks.) So the whole family is going, plus a girlfriend....that makes 10 people. And the really funny part of the whole thing, is that we're going with only 2 cars. And I'm not talking mini-vans, or suburbans here people....I'm talking about TINY (like Ford Escort) sized cars. We're actually driving our car because we have one of those toll-road passes that lets you drive fast through the tolls, and there will be A LOT of tolls to drive through. Oh, and did I mention that the drive time could last anywhere from 6 hours to 10 hours....they're not really sure.

HA! Can you believe that!! I'm sorry, but whenever I think about this trip, I start giggling and laughing. I just can't imagine all of us in these 2 TINY cars for 10 hours. I'm American, so I'm used to what I would now call "luxury" travel. By luxury, I mean a big vehicle with lots of leg room and lots of "bells and whistles"....like a radio. (Cars here don't come with radios...you have to install them yourself, and our care doesn't have one.) I just wanted to give you a picture of the reality of travel here in Brazil, compared to the US. But, I am ready for an adventure!!!

I am looking forward to the trip though. It'll be great to see Rio and see all of the famous spots, like the Christ statue on the hill, and the famous beaches like Ipanema, and Copacabana. AND Renato's uncle only lives 5 minutes away from a really nice, and not so busy beach. Yay! It'll be fun taking Camden there too. Hopefully he'll like the sand this time. We took him to the beach last year when he was a year old, and he didn't really like the sand at all.

So the plan is to leave REALLY early tomorrow morning...like 4AM (yikes!) and travel through the day, so that we can be there for the New Years Eve fireworks. Renato, Camden, and I will be staying at Renato's Uncles house though. The beach and a HUGE party (and I mean HUGE), is not where I'd like to take my almost 2 year old.....or have him stay up until midnight. (I don't even know if I'll make it.) But I'm sure we'll enjoy our New Years Eve at Renato's Uncles house, just the same.

I pray you all have a wonderful and blessed 2009! Wow, it's weird to even just write that, and soon it'll be a reality! I'm sure I'll have lots to blog about and lots of pictures of our trip next week. Happy New Year!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Feliz Natal

Merry Christmas from Brazil....or in Portuguese, Feliz Natal! I pray you all had a wonderful Christmas. I wanted to share a little about Christmas in Brazil.

Christmas here in Brazil is not celebrated as much as in the U.S. Here it's more about some time off from work, getting together with either family or friends, and seeing how much you can eat and drink. Sad, I know. It seems the REAL meaning of Christmas has been lost here. But at least we can know the real meaning in our hearts, and not let the media or culture dictate what Christmas is all about to us.

Anyway, back to a Brazilian Christmas.....Santa here is called, "Papai Noel" or translated to "daddy Christmas". Even gifts here aren't that important. Families here only usually give JUST to their immediate family, and usually only 1 gift per person. (Which I tend to think is more than enough, but that's just me!) Christmas Eve celebrations start late in the evening....like 8:30 or 9PM, so that they can then celebrate Christmas at the stroke of midnight. So they either get together with friends or family, then eat late at night. When midnight strikes you go around to EVERYONE at the party, wishing each person individually, "Feliz Natal", and other blessings, along with the traditional hug and kiss on the cheek. (That's a Brazilian thing...you ALWAYS kiss people on the cheek when saying hello or good-bye.) The Christmas Eve celebration lasts well into the night, then people usually sleep in on Christmas morning and then get together with family or friends again later in the afternoon on Christmas Day.

Like I said before in an earlier post, not many people decorate much at all here either. Hardly anyone has a big Christmas tree in their house, but they may have a small one. But that's about it. I did see a few houses with a few lights up, but not many.

Our Chirstmas Eve was spent pretty quietly until the evening celebration. I made salmon for lunch, which was a bit special....since you don't get a lot of salmon here. We went to a family friends house to celebrate. Renato's family all went too, so we celebrated together. We got there about 8:45PM. (Just a side note, Camden's bedtime is 7PM....so it was a VERY late night for him...we finally put him down at 10:45. His eyes were sooo red! Poor little guy, but he had fun until he went to sleep!) We ate at about 10:30. The traditional meat for Christmas here is ham. There was lots of good food (which is always true in Brazil!), and it was displayed beautifully (which is also a Brazilian thing...the food always LOOKS fantastic!).

They had a "white elephant" type gift exchange, which was super funny. It was called "Amigo Secreto" or secret friend, and there were a lot of outrageous hats and cheap toys for all. :) When midnight struck, we kissed and hugged everyone....even the people you just met a few hours before. We stayed for until about 1:15 and headed home. I knew that even though Camden went to bed super late, he'd still wake up at about 7:30AM....and I was right!

I wanted our Christmas morning to be special and start a few new traditions. I decided that I'd make cinnamon rolls for breakfast and then we'd open gifts (only Camden had gifts), talk about Jesus and the real meaning of Christmas, then just enjoy our morning.

I looked for a good recipe online for the cinnamon rolls and I found a TERRIFIC one! Oh my goodness....these were the BEST cinnamon rolls I've ever eaten. Camden also LOVED that he didn't have to eat his oatmeal/rice/fruit cereal that he eats everyday....he kept saying, "NUM, NUM!" after every bite of the cinnamon roll! I had to include a picture and the link for the recipe. You have to try these cinnamon rolls!!

Anyway, we had a good Christmas and pretty low-key. I know that it was special celebrating it in Brazil with Renato's family and that was nice. The weather wasn't even that hot, which was a huge blessing! I kinda liked the rainy Christmas day weather....better than hot and humid!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Comparison Game

It is the Christmas season...and it's only a week away! Wow! One of the more "popular" blogs out there does a wonderful Christmas Tour of Homes. How you play, is that you take pictures of all of your Christmas decorations in your home, post them on your blog, then link to her blog. I stumbled upon it yesterday and there were over 700+ links to other blogs, all of these women showing their homes and decorations. I thought, what fun!!! I LOVE to get new ideas and of course, to peek into other people's homes. Well, I got a lot more then I was bargaining for.

After the first few blogs that I visited, I started feeling sad/bad about my own circumstances. The pictures on these blogs were amazing! The decorations were incredible and gorgeous, and the homes were absolutely beautiful. I started looking around my humble little rental home. Most of my furniture hand-me-downs, hardly anything on the walls to decorate. For Christmas, I only had up our very tiny and very sad looking tree (that we had bought a few days before). I had started the comparison game in my head. I don't know if you ever do this, but I start comparing what I have to other's and then a feeling of "not measuring up" comes in. I was thinking....there is no way on God's green earth, that I would ever post any pictures of my very sad x-mas tree...and it being our only x-mas decoration at the time, next to these beautiful homes and gorgeous decorations.

I finally just stopped looking at the blogs and shut my computer. That's when God started speaking. He reminded me very quickly that last year, I didn't even have a home. (We were in our nomadic period of staying with friends/family before we moved to Brazil.) He also reminded me that Christmas isn't about decorations or how "pretty" your house looks. It's about Jesus, and the condition of our own hearts. When I looked into my heart, it wasn't very "pretty". I had a lot of lies and ugly things to get rid of before my heart would be truly ready and "beautiful" for the spirit of Christmas.

Since then, I've been looking around my house and appreciating everything I do have. (Even my sad and tiny x-mas tree!) Now I am so thankful that I have it! I have a home, my wonderful husband, my spunky son, baby Dawson on the way, and a very blessed life. I'm doing the most to make my home filled up with as much "Christmas Spirit" as possible. And that doesn't mean any fancy decorations, but the condition of our hearts.

Renato and I have talked about some family traditions we can start now with Camden and carry with us wherever we are in the years to come. Some traditions that aren't about what we buy or put up around the house, but what we fill ourselves with. We want to fill up with joy, peace, and love, then spread that to those around us. We've talked about what we want to do together Christmas morning as a family, and start some fun traditions like a special breakfast, and other fun activities.

With my heart changed, my home and all of my very minimal decorations are so beautiful to me. I can't wait for Christmas morning to share with Renato and Camden the joy, wonder, and blessing of our Savior's birth. AND, now that I have my heart cleaned out and "beautiful" once again, this evening I'm sitting with my husband on the couch, in the light of our little tree, listening to beautiful Christmas music, drinking some hot tea, and thoroughly enjoying that tour of homes on the blogs once again. I'm loving looking at all the beautiful homes and gorgeous decorations...without even a hint of the comparison game sneaking in!

Thank you Lord for changing my heart and opening my eyes to You and all You've blessed me with.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cookie Decorating

Well, I'm in the middle of trying to get my x-mas goodies and cookies done. This year we're going to give some friends and family (grandparents) a "x-mas goodie" tray for x-mas. So I've been busy making all sorts of yummy things. All the things I'm making you don't see here in Brazil, so it'll be fun to see what people think. I actually had to bring a HUGE jar of peanut butter with me, sprinkles, and marshmallows, so that I could make some of my favorite treats. I've never seen marshmallows here, peanut butter comes in a tiny little container and has tons of sugar added, and I've only seen a few sprinkles. So I planned ahead was able to bring a few things back to Brazil with me from the US.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon decorating the sugar cookies. We had so much fun and I must say, they are the cutest cookies I've ever decorated. :) Camden had his first "sugar high" too. He just licked all the frosting and sprinkles off the cookies we gave him to decorate. At least it kept him busy, but now we are sure that we want to keep as much sugar as we can FAR FAR AWAY from him. YIKES!

We had fun family time though, and that's what really matters!

Posing with our cookies. Renato said that noone here will want to eat them. They don't decorate x-mas cookies here, so it will be fun to give these away to our friends and neighbors.

Here are just a few of the cookies. Aren't they cute??? I actually had to put them in the fridge for awhile to get the frosting to harden and set...it's just too hot here.

This is my super creative husband concentrating on decorating his cookie. My goodness did he ever get fancy! He's all about the details, and well....I'm not. I'm just about getting the job done. Although, I did have some creative moments myself. :)

Posing with a cookie.

He can't wait to dig his teeth into this cookie!!

Look at that face! This is after he helped me lick the spoon after we dipped peanut butter goodies in chocolate. Too cute!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Surprises and Blessings

I wanted to take some time to document some of the amazing surprises and blessings God showered us with while on our trip. Before we left, I prayed specifically that somehow, the expenses of our trip would be taken care of and that it would be full of fun surprises. Well, let me just tell you, God delivered! :)

I'm just going to mention some of them here, but I really need to write in my journal all of the awesome ways we were blessed.

1. A friend from high school emailed me a few days before our trip and invited us to a Third Day concert that was going to be in Bismarck while we were in ND, their treat. It was such a fun night out with this couple and we saw a great and uplifting concert too!

2. A friend of mine took me shopping for Camden and baby (didn't yet know it was a boy) at some outlet malls and the store we went to was having a MAJOR sale. Can anyone give me an AMEN for really nice, new, brand name clothes for $0.99!!!

3. We kept hitting major clearance racks at the stores we went to because we were looking for summer clothes, and that's what was on sale. I don't think I ever paid more than $12 for anything....most everything was in the $3-$7 range. Hallelujah!

4. Our 15 hr. drive to CO and back would have been super expensive, but gas decided to hit some all time lows just for our trip. One way of our trip (from ND to CO) only cost us about $70 in gas....now that's a surprise! I was expecting the prices to still be very high. And my dad let us use his really nice and new Toyota Sienna...blessing! (This was total luxury for us compared to what we drive here in Brazil!!!) (AND I got to drive a LOT in the states...oh how I miss it!)

5. It was amazing how provision and money just kept landing in our hands....here are just a few ways. A church gave us a "love offering", during my girls brunch with friends,they pulled together to come up with some money to help us buy clothes and things we need, some people just handed money to us, and Renato got paid from my brother and parents for helping on the farm while he was there. (Also there were x-mas gifts thrown in!) Praise God!

There are countless other blessings, but I just wanted to name a few. This trip was such a blessing in so many ways, but I think seeing friends and family was the best blessing of all. We came back so refreshed and ready to go. This trip was just what we needed.

I'm truly amazed, once again, at God's faithfulness. I was kinda stressed about the trip, with all the traveling and expenses, and logistice, but again, God was faithful. Thank you Lord for wonderful suprises and blessings!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Pictures from our trip

My dad had to get out his accordian to show Camden, and of course Camden thought it was wonderful! He would dance and dance and want Papa to play it all the time.

Camden climbing on some bales of hay. He loved being outside as much as possible....but he could only go out when the weather was warm enough. (Which he didn't like very much!)

His favorite activity....riding in the tractor with Grandpa.

We had an early Thanksgiving/Christmas party with my family. Camden got the best gift ever....a GUITAR! He LOVES music and he plays his guitar everyday now. Usually he gets it after we wakes up from his nap, then sits on his bed and "serenades" me through the monitor before I get him. Too cute! He's our little worship leader!

"Helping" grandma do some baking.

Camden doing some "treating", as he could only say "treat". :) He went with some cousins to some family and friend's houses. He was so excited about all the candy, but he's never even really eaten any. I did let him eat one whole Tootsie roll though that night....which of course he loved! (And a few licks of a very messy lolli-pop.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Back Home in Brazil

As of Nov. 28th, we set foot back on Brazilian soil. Our month long trip back to the U.S. was wonderful, but we're glad to be back home and back to a regular routine. (Even if it is crazy hot here!) I have pictures to share, just not today. That would require more effort then I can afford right now....Camden was up most of the night coughing, so that means that we were up too. So I thought I'd quickly post an update then catch a nap.

We spent most of our time in North Dakota with my family. It was such a fun time. I'm not sure what happens to me, but when I get to ND, it seems I fall into a time-warp and don't get anything done. I feel like I did absolutely nothing the whole time I was there....maybe it's just about being "home" and relaxing for me. Camden LOVED the farm. There were a few really nice days where he played and played and ran and ran and ran. Then there were some very cold days too, but he enjoyed them in the house with mommy and grandma. (Since daddy was outside the whole time helping my dad and brothers with tons of work that needed to be done.)

My parents farm is a bit like "Old MacDonald's Farm", in that it has most all of the animals you would sing about....a little boy's dream! He would run after the dogs and cats, we'd go see the cows, sheep, pig, and chickens. And since my brother and his family also live on the farm, they still have all of their old toys and swing set up, so Camden had a wonderful time playing with all sorts of "new to him" toys. But, I think the hightlights of the whole adventure of grandpa's farm, were riding on the 4-wheelers and most of all, the tractors! I think they have 3 4-wheelers on the farm now, so Camden would run from one to the other and sit on them and pretend to drive. He LOVED being on the tractors! My brother and dad would take him out with them and he couldn't get enough.

Now Camden's favorite toys are tractors. He's always saying..."Tractor, Papa, Cows, Bales". All together in one sort of "sentence", if you can call it that. :) We took lots of video for him to watch now that we're in Brazil too, so I'm sure once he sees it for the 1st time, he'll be asking to see it everyday.....if not every 10 minutes. :)

We spent 1 week in Colorado Springs. We made the 13 hour drive (15 hrs with an almost 2 yr. old) and it went well. Camden certainly is a super traveler!!! We spent all of our time meeting with as many friends as possible. We were absolutely exhausted, but yet it was so refreshing to be around and catch up with so many people that we love.

I have so much more to talk about, but I'm running low on my energy battery, so the rest will have to wait. As I said before, we had a wonderful trip and lots of fun. We loved getting to see so many family and friends. We certainly are blessed by each and every one!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Ultrasound Drama of '08 has Ended!!

Yes, the ultrasound drama continued on here in the US. Yesterday we were supposed to have that free practice ultrasound. Well, the lady called in the morning and said that her machine wasn't up and running yet. She felt really bad about it, so she scheduled us for another ultrasound at a different facility today. She even paid for it. That was so sweet of her!!

So, as of today, we finally got our ultrasound. And it was still free!! :) It was at a really nice little office downtown in Colorado Springs. Within about 5 seconds, we knew what we were having.....a little BOY!!!! He definitely wasn't shy this time around. It was also a surprise that we got some 3D and 4D time as well. We even got a CD with all the pics and a DVD with the 4D video on it. He is definitely a handsome little boy. It was so special to be able to see his little face and watch him open and close his eyes and move is mouth around. What a little miracle!

After all the drama, we were able to see our new little addition and handsome little man. We can't wait until everyone gets to meet Dawson Daniel Cassula by the beginning of March!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yes, I'm Still Alive

It's been a long time since I posted and there are several reasons for that. First, we've been busy traveling thousands of miles. We are currently in Colorado Springs and are having a great time meeting with friends and catching up on their lives. Our week here is super jam-packed with appointments, but it's so worth it getting to see as many people as possible. Second, slow internet. While in ND, my parents have "so-called" high-speed internet, but really it's not. I've gotten spoiled and anything that isn't light-speed fast drives me crazy. But we've had a great time while in ND and on the farm. Camden LOVES being outside as much as possible chasing the dogs and cats, playing with toys from my nieces and nephews, and riding on tractors and 4-wheelers. Third, I've just been taking a bit of a blogging break, which has been nice.

Also an update on the ultrasound drama. We had our ultrasound right before we left for the states and the baby is perfectly healthy.....but bashful. Yes, that's right, the little stinker wouldn't move and show us if he's a boy or she's a girl. So we were still on a hunt for another ultrasound. A friend was working at a pregnancy center and could get us in for free. Yay! But no, our friend actually quit the week before and couldn't get us in. (I wasn't surprised at all because that's just the way this ultrasound drama has gone.) But I then googled "ultrasound in Colorado Springs" and I got a few sites of places with elective ultrasounds. I called the first one to see if I could get in the week we'd be in CS. But she didn't open for business until the week after. I plead my case with her and she said she could help me, if I could help her. She said she could "practice" on me for free, but no pictures or dvd's or printouts. YAY!!!! What an amazing blessing! So on Friday we get to try to see baby again, but this time with a 3D and 4D ultrasound........FREE! So after Friday I hope and pray that we'll be done with our ultrasound drama!

So hopefully my next post will be about our baby girl, or baby boy. I also want to post pictures of our trip so far. See ya next time!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Yes, that's a good title for this update. This morning we got a call from the clinic and they had to cancel our ultrasound for tomorrow because the machine broke. Then they gave us another number to call to check to see if they had any openings.....well, that Dr. is on vacation this week. I just shook my head and said, "Well, that's Brazil for ya!". I wasn't even too upset yet. Yet, being the important word here.

I started thinking, hmmm, I'm going to be in the US, maybe I can just get an ultrasound done there. So I called my friend Tara and she gave me the number to a friend of her's that's a PA and works in an OB/GYN office. I called the PA and she said they could do it, but that it costs about $480. (I almost choked when she said that!) $480!!! I had no idea they would be that expensive out-of-pocket. I was thinking maybe $200. So, there went that great idea, and that's when the tears came.

It can get soooo frustrating here. Nothing seems to work smoothly here, and if it does, it's an exception. So it was just one more thing to be frustrated about. So, I locked the door to the room I was in, cried a little, talked a lot to God, and threw myself a little pity-party.

When I came out of the room and Renato saw me, he knew he needed to get into action. (Have I mentioned before how wonderful my husband is???) He started calling around to all the cities close to us to get an ultrasound....for this week. I didn't think it was possible, but my God is good! (And my husband is awesome! He has to call for all of my "womanly" appointments because I can't speak Portuguese. AND he never, ever complains. Yes, my husband is awesome!!!)

Not only did we get an appointment for Friday morning before we leave, but....get this....it's totally God......IT'S FREE!!!!!!!!!! Yes, that's right. I mentioned in the previous post about having to pay for the one scheduled on Tuesday, but this one is within our insurance boundaries and is therefore....FREE! Yes, I am blessed by an incredible God who knows my heart and my frustrations. Thank you Lord!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

An Exciting Week Ahead!!!

Well, it's a lazy Sunday afternoon here in Brazil. It did cool off a bit the past two days and has been a little rainy, so the weather has been much more to my liking. It's supposed to stay in the 80's all week.....and I love the 80's!

We've got some pretty exciting events taking place this week. FIRST......our ultrasound is Tuesday morning! YAY!!! I'm praying really hard that the baby is cooperative and shows us if she's a girl, or he's a boy. :) The stinky part is that we thought our insurance covered this ultrasound....and it does, but only if you do it at the hospital, and they only do them a few days a month. Since "exciting event #3" is coming up, we weren't able to get a "free" ultrasound, we have to pay for one....and not even a really cool one, like a 3-D one. Just a regular old one....that from our experience last time, takes really bad pictures and you can't even really make out the baby in them. But like I said before, the real excitement is finding out if it's a boy or a girl!

Exciting event #2--OK, so this one isn't nearly so exciting, it's just another Dr. appt on Thursday morning, but I get excited every time I get to hear the baby's heartbeat.

And the MAJOR Exciting Event #3 is......we're leaving for the U.S. on Friday night!!!! Ok, really it'll be Saturday morning, because our plane leaves at 12:50 AM...yes, you heard me correctly. At about 1 o'clock in the morning, we'll be getting on a plane headed towards Dallas. From Dallas, we move on towards Chicago, and then we SIT ON OUR BE-HINDS FOR 8 HOURS WAITING FOR OUR NEXT PLANE TO FARGO, ND. Yeah, I'm not very excited about the 8 hour long lay-over in Chicago. Especially with Camden.

I don't know about you other moms out there, but I remember the days very fondly, when I was traveling without a child. I had a ritual every time. I'd of course bring a new novel/book along for the trip, but then I'd also stop at an airport bookstore and purchase a new magazine to browse through at my leisure on the trip as well. Now....I don't even think about bringing anything along to entertain me....nope, my entertainment is my 20 month old running around all over the place and TRYING to keep him entertained.

SO, this week will be exciting, and also busy trying to pack and come up with ways to keep Camden occupied...on the flights, and on our lay-overs. If any of you have any great travel tips, please let me know!!!

SO, USA, here we come! Starbucks and Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and White Chocolate Peppermint Mochas, here I come! Mexican food and Chinese food, here we come! (Can you tell we're excited about the food???) But, the most exciting part is seeing my family again and our friends. We'll be spending most of our month long trip in North Dakota with my fam, then we'll take a road trip down to Colorado for a week or so.

I'll be keeping you updated throughout the week, once we get back from our ultrasound. And seriously....if you have any travling tips for a 20mo. old, please leave a comment!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sometimes, You Just Gotta Laugh

Ok, I need to type this up quickly before I forget, or life gets in the way.....

The past 2 days here in Brazil, summer has shown up. It's gotten hot, and very quickly. It's been in the 90's the past 2 days, and I haven't been very happy about it. Pregnancy and heat just don't seem to go very well together. We do have a few air conditioners in a few rooms, and a few ceiling fans, but of course, never in the rooms where you need them, when you need them.

While I have complained, Camden has been a trooper. As you can tell from the previous post, we just get out the hose and play in the cold water. He loves it! Well, tonight when he's trying to sleep, it's a little bit of a different story. Usually Camden is a champion sleeper. He sleeps consistently 12+ hrs a night, plus a long nap during the afternoon. I really can't complain at all. He's always been a good sleeper. But of course, some things get in the way of sleep sometimes, like colds, fevers, vomit, and now, the heat.

About an hour ago I hear Camden crying. I went into his room, which has the ceiling fan going full blast, and it was still super hot. When I picked him up he was sweating. He had a onsie on, so I took that off and just left him in his diaper. I left and thought he'd be off to dream land.....not so much. I went in one other time a few minutes later, and nothing was wrong...he was just hot.

I've got the monitor on while I'm sitting here on the computer listening for him. Well, just a few minutes ago I heard him kinda talking and whining. I thought I'd just wait it out. Then he started calling for me. Not crying, just yelling, "MaMae" (mama in Portuguese), "MaMae". So I decided to go check it out, probably give him a few stern words of "Camden! It's na-night time. NA-NIGHT!" And then leave....that was my plan...and I was a little aggitated that he wasn't sleeping yet.

I turned on the lights in the room beside his, because I cannot see at all in the dark. When I opened the door, he was sitting on his bed. I went over to him and started to tell him to go to sleep, and lay him back down. As I was laying him down, he said "MaMae" again, and handed my something. His Diaper! Yes, I guess he really was hot! And I couldn't help but start laughing, because it was just one of those funny moments. Then of course, he thought it was REALLY funny. I tried to regain composure and put on a new diaper and tell him that's a "No, NO!". Then I found a light pair of shorts to put on over his diaper, to help with the naked baby syndrome. :) At least he "told" me what he did!!!

I pray that he can go to sleep now and cool off a little.....and of course keep his diaper on throughout the night. Otherwise, that could be one big mess in the morning!

Wordless Wednesday

Cooling off when the weather in Brazil heats up!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Good morning! After another busy weekend, it's time to think again about the week ahead, and what I'm going to feed my family. It was kinda nice last week not having to cook everyday, but I know that I didn't eat as healthy as I usually do. Of course I'm soooo happy to have my husband back. Since last fall, neither one of us has worked out of the home, so we've pretty much been "together" for a year now, and it's been such a blessing. So it really stinks when he's traveling. But, we're back to normal now, at least for 2 weeks. Back to the routine!

Monday- Rice, Beans, Grilled Steak, Salad with tomatoes

Tuesday- Baked Potatoes, Baked Chicken, Salad with fresh beets and carrots

Wednesday- Baked Eggplant Parmesan, Rice, Salad

Thursday- Rice, Beans, Beef, Veggies

Friday- Alfredo Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Monday, October 6, 2008

No Menu Plan Monday This Week

That's right, I get the week off from Menu Planning! My Hubby is gone for most of the week on a business trip, so it's just me and Camden to fend for ourselves. I have enough left-overs and other random things I can throw together, that it'll just be a last minute thing for most meals. (Plus, the bakery is just a few steps away from our house, if need be.) :) SO, I get the week off, but to confess, I'd much rather have my husband home with me then have the week off. It's always a struggle with Renato being gone here in Brazil. I have no car (not that I'd really drive it anywhere anyway), and I don't speak the language well enough to really venture out too far. We do take walks (weather permitting....today is a rainy day), and I have my English students that come to the house, but that's about it.

Exciting news though....yesterday we finally connected with a couple that knew Renato when we were in Colorado. We had run into the husband, Daniel, a few times around town, but I couldn't place him or remember him. Yesterday they invited us to their little girl's 2nd birthday party. As soon as I saw the wife, Jana Ina, I remembered them. They were even at our wedding, and she was pregnant with their first daughter at the wedding! They both speak English very well and they have 2 girls, 2 and 4 years, and they live only a couple blocks away from us. Praise God! We're looking forward to being able to connect more and Jana Ina and I talked about walking together, so that's super exciting.

So Praise God, we finally connected with another couple our age and in the same stage of life we are in.....AND they speak English. A huge blessing indeed!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Some pics of Camden and Daddy in a city close to us called Piracicaba. It was a beautiful day!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

OK, so I'm not really new to Menu Planning. I've been doing it for awhile, but just not "officially". I thought if I'd put my plan online it would help me stay accountable a little bit better. Also, I love to look at other people's blogs for ideas on menus, so I thought I could join the party. You can check out more menu ideas at orgjunkie.com.

Since I live in Brazil you'll notice a few things. First, I'm only going to plan for lunches. The main meal here is lunch, not dinner in the evenings. It's also worked out nicely with our schedule to have me cooking the big meal in the morning, so it works great for us, especially since Renato is also working from home. Also, Brazilians eat and cook fresh rice and beans daily. I am not a Brazilian. I CANNOT eat rice and beans every day. I just can't. But I've compromised and I do cook them usually 2 times a week. And actually it's kinda nice because you don't have to come up with a "new" idea for every day.

Like I said, I'm not going to post my breakfasts or dinners. Breakfasts are rotating fresh bread from the corner bakery with cheese and meat, or homemade granola with fresh fruit and corn flakes (the only non-sugar cereal here in Brazil). Dinners we just sort of come up with at the time....leftovers, sandwiches, anything.

So, here goes.

Monday--Rice, beans, baked honey-mustard chicken, fresh salad with tomatoes

Tuesday--Baked potatoes with cheese and hambuger BBQ for toppings, fresh salad with grated beets and carrots

Wednesday-- Meat Tortellini Carbonara, and left-over ratatouille (frozen from last week)

Thursday--Rice, beans, grilled steak, eggplant with tomato sauce, fresh salad with tomatoes

Friday--Spaghetti made with home-made tomato sauce we made last week, fresh salad

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Busy Days

I know that all of us have busy days. Especially those mommies who have more than 1 child to take care of, but I just want to know, where do the days go? They are going by so fast! I know I only have one little blessing right now (with one more on the way of course), but it amazes me how the days and weeks seem to be just flying by. And of course those certain days when Camden is really crabby and needy seem to go by super slow...of course. But in the grande scheme of things, even those "bad" days go by fast.

Today was a good day. We all woke up fairly happy to start a new day, because we all know, we don't all wake up like that every day. (Especially if Camden decides to wake up super early and start "singing" or talking when it's 4am.....) But today started off well. I got up with a list of things to get started on. Laundry, baking, preparing lunch, etc. So I was off and running as soon as my feet hit the floor. I ended up spending the whole morning in the kitchen baking and cooking. When I finally sat down to eat lunch, I sort of collapsed in the chair and ohhhh, did it feel good to finally sit down after a long morning of standing on VERY HARD tile floors.

I was exhausted by 1pm, but I felt so accomplished when I looked at all I got done. I got 2 loads of laundry done, baked 2 delicious pans of banana, zuchinni, chocolate chip bread (which I'll share the recipe for soon), made a double batch of granola, and cooked up a HUGE pot full of Kneophla soup (a North Dakota favorite soup made out of little dumplings).

I love days like this! It feels so good to be able to take care of my family in practical ways and feel so blessed that we have more than enough provision for our little family. I'm counting my blessings today that I'm healthy, blessed with a wonderful family, and loved by an amazing God who leads me with a gentle hand along the path He has for me. On days when discouragement and discontentment stir in my heart, I need to remember wonderful busy days like today and count my blessings.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Brazilian Weddings

I've been to 2 different weddings the past 2 weekends here in Brazil. I thought they were pretty interesting, so I wanted to give you a "peek" into some Brazilian culture.

The 1st wedding was for Renato's cousin. It was fairly big and traditional. The ceremony was held in a Catholic church. The only main difference I saw was that they have a different way of having attendants. They pick married couples generally to stand up for them and as many as they want. At this wedding there were probably 10 couples. The couples stand together and actually face the congregation and the couple, up towards the front. And they don't have matching dresses or suits. They just wear any style/color formal dress they want, as well as with the suits. So it's quite colorful.

The reception was in a big hall across town. They served bite sized cheeses and meats, sandwiches, along with grilling some yummy beef and chicken. It was nice and all were having a good time. Renato's family is very large so I even got to meet a few aunts and cousins I hadn't met yet. Camden had fun chasing other cousins around and getting lost in the big crowd. (there was a guard at the door so I knew he couldn't get out of the building, so we just let him run free!)

The second wedding was much different. It was for Renato's friend. He lived with Renato a while in Denver many years ago. The wedding was in downtown Sao Paulo, the 3rd biggest city in the world, that is about 1 and 1/2 hours from us. This time Camden stayed with Grandma and Grandpa. The wedding was late in the evening and weddings always start late here in Brazil, so I knew there was no way Camden would make it. (We didn't make it home until 1:30 am!)

I also had a hunch that this wedding would be on the fancy side and thought we needed to dress up a bit more for this one. Boy am I glad we did! When we walked into the hotel where it was at and saw the people and how they were dressed, I still felt a little under dressed. The price of a room at this hotel was $20,000 (reis not dollars) a night. Yikes! This was a small wedding of about 70 people or so. Renato had some friends there, so it was nice to catch up with them too.

This was the 1st wedding I had ever been to that had nothing at all to do with any religion whatsoever. It was just done by a justice of the peace. They still had the couples stand up for them, maybe 6 couples this time. But it was sad because there was nothing touching about the wedding at all. They just all signed the certificate (all the attendants too) and then they exchanged the rings. No vows, no music, just totally dry. It only took about 15 minutes total....and that's stretching it.

Then it was hor d'ourves and open bar time, which lasted about an hour. But the exciting part was, it was all very fancy with waiters walking around with the "snacks" and drinks. And I got to try caviar(sp?) for the very first time. It was good, just tasted salty. After about an hour they escorted us into the formal dinner, which was very yummy. They had music and dancing. They also had complimentary cigars for your enjoyment. (Thank goodness we left just as some were starting to "enjoy" them.) This was definitely the fanciest wedding I had ever been to.

So two weekends, two very different weddings. It was fun to see a little bit of how culture can differ here in Brazil. And I'm totally bummed I didn't bring my camera to either wedding!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11-Where were you?

Another September 11th is upon us and once again we all go back to that scary day 7 years ago and remember.........

I was single and teaching 5th grade at the time. Our school started at 8am and I always got to school very early to prepare for the day. So I had no idea what was going on. The kids came in as usual and another teacher came into my room and asked if I'd heard what was happening. I can't remember who it even was or what really happened next. She told me that something was happening in New York, and that's all I knew.

My schedule was that my students had "specials" (music, art, pe, etc.) at 8:15, and for about an hour. As soon as I dropped the kids off, I went straight for the office. Everything was buzzing. The phone was ringing off the hook, everyone looked frightened. The principal said she had a TV on in the library with news coverage, so the other teachers that had some "free" time and I all went to the library to watch. At that time the first tower had only been hit. While I was standing there with unbelief and confusion at what was happening, I watched the second plane hit. I couldn't contain my emotions any longer. I just was praying and thinking about all those people.

Well, after "specials" were over, I had to go right back to teaching and put on my best face. Of course the kids knew right away that there was something wrong. They saw the shock on my face and tears in my eyes. I told them generally that something very bad was happening. (I have no idea what I actually said, but it was something along the lines of terrorists attacking the US in New York and Washington, D.C.) Then of course that opened up all sorts of questions. What are terrorists? Why would they want to kill Americans? And so forth. All that I can say is that I did my best job answering the questions. Then of course, being a teacher, we just had to move on with the rest of the day.

A lot of our kids in that school had parents in the military, so those kids were especially nervous. Then we had all kinds of parents coming in and pulling their kids out of school for the day. I have no idea how I even managed to get through that day.

I do remember driving home in some sort of trance. All the while looking around me at others in their cars and wondering how they were taking the news. Did they know anyone killed? What were they thinking? Usually driving home I'd just zip right past everyone and not really care about the people in the other cars or really think about them or their lives at all. But not that day. We were all Americans. We were all in shock. We were all affected in some way. It didn't matter if we were democrats or republicans, christians or jews, young or old. We were all Americans, and that's what united us together.

We remember. Where were you?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Girl's Day Out

Yesterday I had a lovely day with some of my students, which have become my friends. Both of the girls had the week off and invited me to have a girl's day out with them. I, of course, jumped at the idea of actually getting out of the house, and being able to spend some time with some girls.....which I don't have much opportunity for. Since we've been here in Brazil, if I've gone anywhere, it's always been with Renato. There are many reasons behind this. 1. We only have 1 car and I need practice driving a stick anyway, so I'm kinda scared of driving here. 2. Language...meaning, I don't speak it very well. 3. I'm just not "independent" here, like in the U.S. I can't conduct any type of conversation well enough to really be out on my own. (although I do try!)

SO, yesterday was the perfect opportunity to get some much needed "girl time" and to practice my Portuguese. And practice I did! I spoke more Portuguese yesterday then I have in months! (I guess that just proves I need to get out more without my "translator", AKA Renato.)

We had a great time exploring a city about 20km away. We went to the mall, then to a riverwalk sort of place. It was lovely to be out by the river. It was a little hot yesterday, so being by the river cooled us off. Here are some pics of Barbara, Viviane, and me by the river.

I also got to try something new yesterday called, Caldo de Cana. Which is juice made out of sugar cane. It was really interesting. They guy just ran the sugar cane through this machine that squeezed the juice out, then also squeezed in either some pineapple or lime. The pineapple was good, but a little too sweet. I mixed it with some lime and it was yummy! It's so fun, because they just do this in a little cart stand along side of the roads here. Renato doesn't like it, so I never had tried it before. I definitely exceeded my "sugar intake" for the day with just one cup of that stuff!

Here's the sugar cane ready to be squeezed.

Here's the juice guy running the sugar cane through the machine to squeeze it.

Here we are enjoying our yummy juice!

What a blessing this girl's day out was! I look forward to more!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day Meme

So this is a different sort of "Labor" day that some bloggers are celebrating in blogland. It's fun, so I thought I'd join in. You can check out the other "Labors" at Rocks in my Dryer. http://rocksinmydryer.typepad.com/shannon/2008/08/laborious.html

How Long Was Your Labor? 15 hours

How Did You Know You Were In Labor?
Well, since Camden was 7 days late, and my Dr. was leaving town on vacation, and there was room for me in the hospital, they started my labor with pitocin. I didn't originally want to have pitocin, but when you're a week overdue, you're just ready for that baby to come out!

Where did you deliver?
At Penrose Community Hospital.

Yes. I also didn't want an epidural, but after 7 hours of pitocin enduced contractions, and still only dilated to about 4, I gave up. I was already getting tired. I'm so thankful I did because I still had a long way to go. And with Camden having such a HUGE head, I needed to push for almost 2 hours. If I wouldn't have had the epidural, there's no way I would have had the energy to push his big head out!

Epidural story? (OK, I made that one up.)
My 1st epidural didn't work. I thought it did because it took away a lot of the pain. But after about 15 minutes I was having a lot of pain again. Well, the Dr. who does them was now in surgery, then he had an emergency c-section. So I had to wait another 1 1/2 hours for him to come back to do another one. THEN....here comes the good part (or not so good part, if you were me), he couldn't get them to work. Yes, I said "THEM". He poked me and "tried" 8 times before he finally got it to work. I heard him at one time say, "OK, I'll try one more time." That's when I wanted to turn around, grab him by the shirt collar, and scream in his face, "You better get it right then, Mr.!" But thankfully, I held my composure, and just continued to pray with all my heart that it worked. And praise God, it did. (Thankfully I didn't know till the next day how many times he tried. I looked in the mirror and saw all the "holes" then asked Renato how many times he tried to get it to work. My back was just a little bit sore for a few days.)

No. Praise God.

Who Delivered?
Dr. O'Connell. He was my Dr. and was on-call that weekend before he went on vacation. He also is a member of our church, so that made me feel very good about him from the beginning. Although he did have to wait a while for me to push Camden out. The nurse got him really early because I was pushing so well.....not well enough for the big head though. :)

Pregnancy in Brazil-Part 2

Yay, second trimester here I am! Thank goodness I have noticed a small increase in energy, which is nice. I had my ultrasound a few weeks ago. Everything looks good. It's always such a blessing to see the baby and hear the heartbeat. It's so exciting! And I was pretty relieved to only see 1 baby. I don't know why, but this happened with Camden too. A few days before the ultrasound I start thinking about, "What if there are 2!?!?!?!" and it always kinda freaks me out a bit. I would love twins if I had them, but the thought is always just a little overwhelming.

The ultrasound was pretty normal and a lot like the U.S. The pictures we got were very bad though. Just copied on paper. We were able to get a DVD of it though, which was nice.

Today I had another appointment. From now on we'll only take early morning appointments because otherwise, we've waited in the waiting room over an hour each time. Today, we only waited about a 1/2 hour. Much better. The only thing I really don't like, is that I have to take off all my clothes and put on the lovely gown, just to hear the heartbeat. Yeah, nice. AND she couldn't find it. This machine she was using, I'm sure was VERY old. I'd never seen anything like it before. She tried for about 5 minutes and said she heard it for a second, but then lost it. She was pressing so hard it was even a little painful. But, she didn't seem worried about it, so I'm trusting God that everything is OK and praying that next time, the heartbeat is strong and easy to find!

One exciting point was actually getting my weight taken. I was pretty scared because, well, I've been "expanding" more quickly this pregnancy then last. So I had a feeling I'd gained a lot of weight. Well, what a surprise! Only about 400grams, which is roughly 1 lb. Which I was very happy about. :) (Yes, you know you're pregnant when you're excited about gaining a lb.)

Here's a little craziness from Brazil. My 1st appointment, my Dr. stated that I can't get my hair colored/highlighted until at least after the 1st trimester and then only with "special" coloring that my hairstylist will know about and use. I've heard a while ago, the U.S. did the same thing, but I highlighted my hair the whole way through last time. So, I humored my Dr. and didn't get any highlights until now....but you better believe, this week I plan on using my "box kit" that I brought from the U.S.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Surprise Pick for McCain

I usually stay away from politics and hardly ever get excited about anything that has to do with politics, but I must say, since I found out McCain's VP pick this morning I've been a bit excited.

It was definitely a surprise for everyone. We only get coverage over the internet and see snipets of interviews, and read articles, but it was funny to see the speculation around who McCain would pick. I must also admit that I was quite nervous about who he would pick. Usually the VP selected makes me nervous, or it makes me feel better about a candidate. Palin as McCain's VP makes me take a sigh of relief. I don't know much about her and will be doing a lot of investigating the next few weeks/months, I'm sure, but she seems to really bring balance to the McCain ticket, which was much needed. I'll definitely be giving my friend Sarah a call (she's from Alaska and her family still lives there), and I'll be asking her many questions about what she knows about Palin, and more importantly what her family thinks about her as Governor.

I just have a feeling that the Obama team is scrambling around like little confused rats, trying to figure it all out, and that kinda makes me giggle. (not that I think Obama or anyone on his team are rats, it was just a good "mind-movie") I also really respect McCain for the upcoming ad he's going to run tonight. I saw a preview of it on the internet congratulating Obama for his historic acceptance of the Dem. nomination. I thought it was nice to see him "taking the high road" and seeing the historic value of what is happening in the country. Very nicely done.

Again, my feelings could change over the next few months, but right now I feel McCain made a VERY smart move, and one that nobody seen coming. That's the best part of it all! So we'll see how it all turns out come November.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Camden is Growing Up!

Camden is already learning important things from Daddy......Like how to take care of personal hygiene. :)

AND he's mommy's helper in the kitchen. He does a great job of keeping the spoons and mixer's clean! :)


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tension in the House

***UPDATE: Team USA WON the GOLD in Women's Soccer!!!

Yes, there is currently tension in our house.....all because of the Olympics. :) Right now we're watching Brazil vs. USA for gold in women's soccer. Tomorrow it'll be Brazil vs. USA in women's volleyball. Since the Olympics have been on, it seems a little as if time is standing still. In the mornings we have a hard time pulling ourselves away from the TV. (Mornings are live for us here in Brazil.) And then again late at night is also live for us, so we've stayed up way too late a couple nights watching random competitions.

This morning we've been laughing about "tension" in our house. I think Renato feels a little more strongly about it then I do. I'd actually be happy for Brazil if they won, but of course I'm an American through and through and am cheering for the good ol' U S of A. (Although currently in the soccer game it seems as if Brazil is "outplaying" the US.) So GO USA! We'll see which great country brings home the gold. (And yes, both Brazil and the US are great countries!)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ignore the Baby on the Right.....

OK, so I don't know what happened, but my cool little baby counter on the right of the screen has somehow gotten messed up. I tried to fix it the other day, but everytime I check in it's a different week. So, I'll probably end up deleting it and trying again, because it is kinda cool.

This weekend I'll be 12 weeks pregnant. The first trimester will be officially over. I'm hoping that the 2nd trimester will bring new energy so that I won't be so tired anymore. But, the 1st 12 weeks has gone great. (even with a few days of nausea) I'm so looking forward to feeling the baby move! I can't wait! Also, this Tuesday is our first ultrasound, so I'm sure I'll be filling you in with an update soon after. So, right now, just ignore that I'm 19 weeks pregnant and go about your merry way. :) Have a blessed day!

Monday, August 11, 2008

"I am Free"

We've found a church to attend here in Americana, or should I say, the church found us. :) The pastor actually showed up on our doorstep asking about English classes. After our first meeting and talking about English and ministry, we knew that it was just more then a chance meeting. God has something planned. Isn't God funny, how He brings people into our lives? I love that the pastor just showed up at our house!

Anyway, Renato and I are excited to see what God has planned for us with this church. The pastor has asked us to help organize the church and has asked Renato to help pastor the church. So we'll see what happens!

The worship is very upbeat, with lights, fog, and even dancers, which is great. (Camden LOVES the worship! He stands in the front of the aisle and claps and dances, it's so adorable!) I've enjoyed the worship, but it's hard for me to understand the words of the songs and they haven't been familiar to me at all.

Well, last night was such a blessing to me! (The main church services in Brazil are on Sunday nights...I think it may be that Brazilians like to stay up too late on Saturday nights to get up for church in the mornings, but that's just my opinion.) :) ANYWHOO, like I was saying, the worship was great last night! First they started out with a Matt Redman song, so it was so great to know the tune, and know what the translation of the words were.

THEN, I was completely blown away. The next song was "I am Free", by Jon Egan, or to those of you not from New Life Church, it was recorded by the Newsboys. (the words: I am free to run, I am free to dance, I am free to live for you, I am free!) So it was a song from MY church. I was so excited and felt so blessed by God to be able to sing that song, that was so familiar to me, even though I was in another country. It really felt like home. I even got tears in my eyes while we were singing, just because it touched my heart. The past few weeks, I've been struggling with homesickness quite a bit. So hearing a song from home was such a sweet, sweet sound to my ears. (And healing balm to my heart!)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Recycled Tea

Tea is very expensive here in Brazil, and there aren't many flavors. Since I got pregnant I've been trying not to drink many caffinated beverages....so that meant giving up my morning coffee. I thought about buying decaf, but a tiny little package is twice the price of a big package of regular. So, I moved on to tea....all to be disappointed with the selection and price.

But, I learned a great way to make my own tea from fruit. It's a good way to use every part of the fruit you're eating, instead of just throwing it away. I learned this from my mother-in-law who told me, "We don't waste anything". Which is so true.

It's really simple too! I made my first tea from pineapple. We bought a fresh pineapple to eat as a family. When I cut it up, I saved the hard peel. I washed the peels off, then put them in a pot. I added enough water to cover the peels by about an inch. Then I added a few cloves. I boiled it for about 20-25 minutes (which smelled sooo good). Then you just strain the liquid from the peels through a very fine strainer. And Presto! You've just made tea! How easy is that!

I'm so excited to try it with other fruits as well. I'm looking forward to trying apple, orange, and whatever else I can think of that might work. I also bought some cinnamon sticks to put in with my next batch of tea.

The pineapple tea turned out great! What a treat and a great way to use every part of the fruit you eat. Cheap and easy......what more could you ask for? Try it yourself and tell me what you think!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hot Dog!!

Brazil has some interesting takes on pizza and hot dogs. For instance, you might find tuna, peas, corn, and other various toppings on pizza. I've gotten pretty used to this and I actually really like the tuna pizza. (It took me awhile though.)

Since we arrived in Brazil, Renato's been telling me about this little hot dog stand across the street from BIG (Brazil's take on Walmart). The only thing is, it's only open in the evenings, and we teach every weeknight, and weekends we just haven't gotten a chance to stop by. But, last night after church, we had some time to swing by and pick up a hot dog. (In portuguese, a hot dog is called cachorro quente.)

I knew that I wouldn't be getting an ordinary hot dog with mustard on it, although I was hoping for sourkraut. Nope! Not even close! If you got "everything" on it, this is what you would get.....mashed potatoes, cheese, a cream sauce, shredded chicken, peas, corn, and little slivers of potato chips. Yep, all that on a hot dog! I wasn't too sure about the mashed potatoes, but Renato said I need to try it with everything first before I can judge.

I'm glad I took his advice. It was actually really good. A whole meal in one hot dog! And the best thing about it was the price. One hot dog, totally loaded, was only R$4. (Brazilian money) Which in dollars is about $2.40. Not bad for a whole meal. :) I have a feeling we'll be heading back to that hot dog stand again, but it won't take us 6 months to get back there, like it did to get us there the 1st time.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Pregnancy in Brazil-Part 1

I've decided this will probably be an ongoing series of posts over the next 6 1/2 months. Since my last pregnancy and delivery was in the U.S., it's already been interesting here in Brazil to see the differences in health care and such. I'm sure I'll have plenty to write about as the pregnancy progresses.

One huge blessing is that my Dr. speaks English fairly well, which was a big relief. As soon as I walked in, she started speaking to me in English and that has put me a bit more at ease. Renato will still come with me to all my appointments, but I feel a lot better knowing she can understand me and I can understand her. Praise God!

Another huge blessing is that we have really good insurance. They even have their own hospital, and the whole delivery and hospital stay is covered 100%. Praise God!

One main difference I've noticed is that in the U.S., my Dr.'s office was a one-stop-shop for everything I needed when I was pregnant. I got all my tests done in the same building, my ultrasounds, everything, so it was very convenient. It's not like that at ALL here. I had to get blood work done and a urine test. I thought at least they'd do the urine test in the Dr.'s office, but no such luck. We had to go to a separate place to get all the tests, and man did they take a LOT of blood. I felt like I was giving blood! Then they tell you when the tests are done, because YOU have to pick up the results and then take them with you to your next appointment. This was all a bit odd for me, but it worked out ok.

At 12 weeks I have my first ultrasound, which is always very exciting. :) I knew this probably wouldn't be at the Dr.'s office, so I was expecting that. But I wasn't expecting to have to take the order form from the Dr. to the insurance office to get it ok'ed first, before we could get the ultrasound done. And I'm sure we'll have to pick up the results and deliver them again.

It's all a bit much for me, especially in the U.S. when everything is very convenient. Thank goodness we don't work daytime jobs. I have no idea how people who work full-time here do any of their appointments.

Next time I'll write a little about my Dr.'s visits and the differences there. Thank God the pregnancy is going well (even though this time around I've had a little nausea, yuck!), and as I said before, I'm sure as time goes by, I'll have even more brazilian pregnancy stories to tell you about. :)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Yummy Granola

I've been meaning to use this as a "Works for me Wednesday" post, but Wednesday's don't seem to be working for me right now.

Here in Brazil, the traditional breakfast is rolls from the closest bakery with meat and cheese, and of course cafezinha, which is REALLY sweet and strong coffee. I love the breakfasts! But I do miss my cereal. The sad thing is, that the cereal selection here is very bad. The only unsweetened cereal they have is Corn Flakes. And they are super expensive!

So to try to mix things up a bit besides corn flakes one day and bread the next, I've been making granola. It is super yummy with fresh fruit in the morning. We also like to mix it in with our corn flakes. I found a good recipe I use that you can use as a "master" recipe and then add your own favorites to it.

Master Granola Recipe Makes 1 quart

Adjust oven rack to middle position, and heat oven to 275 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch metal pan with cooking spray, then set aside. Mix oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, salt and Extra Ingredients --except dried fruit -- in a bowl. Bring syrup, oil, water and any Flavoring indicated below to a simmer in a saucepan over low heat. Drizzle over oat mixture, and stir to combine. Pour mixture onto prepared pan. Working a handful at a time, squeeze cereal to form small clumps. Bake for 30 minutes. Stir in dried fruit. Continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool. (Granola can be stored in an airtight tin for up to two weeks.)

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 Tbs. dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup Extra Ingredients (see complete list below)
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 Tbs. flavorless oil, such as vegetable or canola
1 Tb. water

Extra ingredients can include: nuts, dried fruit, coconut, cereal, etc.
Flavoring can include any of your favorites: cinnimon, vanilla, pumpkin spice, ginger, etc.

*I use honey instead of maple syrup because we don't have syrup here and it's wonderful.

Hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we do! It's definitely a nice change for us and hopefully you can save a few cents and make your own granola instead of buying it!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sweet Brazilians

OK, so this post is way late. This happened the week of my birthday, but life just seems to get in the way sometimes.

We've been tutoring English for a couple months now. I've really enjoyed it because I get to use my teaching skills and I've always loved teaching 1 on 1. I've also loved getting to know our students. They are great people and make teaching easy. (Of course I'm used to 6 year olds, so teaching adults is much easier!) Well, Friday is one of my favorite days to teach because we've got 2 good friends that come together. These girls are so much fun and we have a good time together.

The Friday after my birthday, it was well past 7pm so we thought that they weren't coming. A few minutes later our doorbell rang. They were late because they went to buy me a birthday present! It was a huge basket full of all kinds of goodies. I was just blown away! Now remember, I've only known these girls for less then 2 months. How sweet is that? One of them actually called me on my birthday to wish me a happy birthday as well, in English, so I was pretty impressed. :) These girls were just so thoughtful and sweet.

As a teacher, I've always taught in low income schools so I've never gotten many gifts. And the communities that I taught in just weren't very big into "thanking" the teachers. So to get a really nice gift after only 2 months of knowing someone, like I said, really blew me away. I was totally blessed!

Yum! Thank you Viviane and Barbara! You are soooo sweet!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Crazy Prices!

The cost of living here in Brazil is pretty comparable to the U.S. in some things. Like the price of clothes is about the same, food here is a little cheaper, and rent/housing is a little cheaper. But anything you buy, like electronics, cars, books, tennis shoes, just to name a few, are extremely more expensive. I like to think I've gotten used to the crazy high prices here, but sometimes I'm still a little blown away.

Before I continue to tell you the outrageous price I saw yesterday, I must explain a little more about Brazil. Cooking here is much different then the U.S. They don't have "prepared" foods here. Like packages of meals put together, or cans of soups. So I usually can't use any "quick" cooking type recipe because it always calls for a can of this, or a package of that. Everything is from scratch here and fresh. So I'm adapting my cooking skills as I go. And I must say, I can cook up a pretty good "brazilian" meal of rice, beans, and meat, if I do say so myself. :)

Anyway, back to what I saw yesterday. Renato and I were in our local supermarket to do our weekly grocery shopping. I saw something at the end of the aisle that caught my attention, because it looked unbelievably familiar. As I walked closer, I could not believe my eyes! They had CANS of Cambell's soup!!! About 5 different kinds! I was so excited I almost grabbed a few to put in the cart because like I said before, they just don't have this here. Then, I happened to glance at the price.... and quickly put the can back on the shelf. Again, I couldn't quite believe my eyes. ONE can of tomato soup was priced R$7.98. This price is in Brazlian money, but still. Even with conversion to US dollars it's $5.00. Crazy! I know it's imported, and I may get to a point that I feel I MUST HAVE some tomato soup, I may just pay that much, but let's be realistic here. My budget for the whole week is
R$100. So there is no way I'm going to shell out R$7.98 for a can of soup.

Just thought I'd give you another little snapshot into my life here in brazil. I guess I will never cease to be amazed at things here. :)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Another Crazy Brazilian Party

This past Saturday, my in-laws had a huge party at their house. It was called a "Festa Junina", which is translated, June Party....although it was already July. It's a party that celebrates "old country living". They dress in country type clothes, have live music and certain dances they do, and decorate with colorful flags and bamboo. It was a fun party and everyone had a good time. I wanted to share a few pictures of it, because my words alone in description would never give the party justice.

Here we are, "a little bit" country. :) I had fun with my pig-tails, reminded me of my childhood days.

Here's a pic of a family that really went "all-out" in their costumes.


More Dancing!

Renato's grandma and grandpa. Grandpa was having the time of his life! He loved the music!!

Like I've said before, Brazilians love their parties!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

This morning in my quiet time, I was taking the opportunity to reflect upon my life and all that God has done. My life truly is a miracle. I want to share a little bit of what I wrote in my journal this morning:

Here I am, 31 years old, married to the best husband in the world, have the smartest and cutest little boy in the world, am pregnant with another beautiful and perfect baby, live in Brazil, and am serving the God I love. Wow, I am blessed! I'm so grateful today for You Lord. What an amazing wild ride my life has been. If anyone would have asked me 5 or 6 years ago where I'd be today and what I'd be doing, my answer would have been drastically different then what You've blessed me with so far. I'm so excited to serve You for my next 31 years. I can't even begin to imagine how You'll continue to move, change, challenge, love, and inspire me in the years to come. Hallelujah for the miracle of my life!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Our Recent Newsletter

Dear Friends,
Where have the past 6 months gone? It’s hard to believe we’ve been living in Brazil for 6 months already. So much has happened and we want to give you an update of how God is moving.

Housing: We stayed with Renato’s parents for about 3 months before we found a house to rent. The house we found is such a blessing! Here are a few of the blessings: Good area of town, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 bedroom closets (houses in Brazil usually only have the walls, you bring your own storage), and kitchen cabinets (usually the kitchens are totally bare).
We were also blessed by Renato’s parents who gave us many “used/old” furnishings. This was amazing, because we only had to purchase a washer, microwave, water dispenser, stove, table/chairs, TV stand, and buffet table. Furnishings in Brazil are VERY expensive, so Praise God for “hand-me-downs”!

Transportation: After almost 2 months without transportation, we were able to buy a car. It may be small, but it gets us where we need to go!

Teaching English: We needed to find a way to earn money here in Brazil, since we don’t have enough monthly income from the U.S. to fully support us. So we started teaching English. It’s been great! Michele is able to use her “teaching skills”, and Renato is able to teach them techniques for learning a 2nd language. We have 8 students so far!

Personal: Renato has been busy with pursuing other business interests. Michele has applied for her Brazilian Green Card, and is trying to learn Portuguese. Camden is busy keeping his parents on their toes.  He is growing into such a fun little boy, with a HUGE personality. We are spending a lot of time taking walks, reading books, and playing together as a family.

Ministry: After 6 months of “transition/adjustment” time, we feel we finally have an outlook for what God wants us to pursue ministry-wise. God is placing so many people around us that Renato knew from Denver, it’s just amazing! We feel we’re being called to really serve and get to know the people He’s placed in our path. So we’re beginning a weekly Bible study/fellowship time on Sunday mornings, and inviting the people we’ve met so far. We are so excited to see how God moves in the lives of these people.

In March, we traveled to Belem (in northern Brazil) to work with a church we know there and minister. Renato was able to travel into the Amazon once again to visit the churches along the river. He also had a chance to speak at 2 of the church services in Belem.

Prayer Requests:
1) Ministry opportunities/Bible study. Pray for God to guide us and to give us wisdom and vision.
2) Finances. With furnishing the house and making an unexpected but necessary trip to CO in May, we had to pretty much wipe out our “one-time” donations savings account. We also need about $400 more in monthly donations.
3) Michele can always use prayer for learning Portuguese!  Thanks!

Thank you for your continued prayers and support! Your prayers are POWERFUL and we feel them daily.

**Please consider becoming one of our monthly financial supporters. Like we stated before, we need to increase our monthly donations by $400. We need only 8 people to donate $50/month, or 16 people to donate $25/month. If giving monthly doesn’t work, you can help us “build-up” our one-time donations account. Every cent you donate is a HUGE blessing!!!!
Send in donations to: Now Hope
PO Box 62337
Colorado Springs, CO 80962
**Write CASSULA in the memo**
Or contact Now Hope by email for credit card donations: brian@nowhope.org

We’d love to hear from you! Here is our Brazilian contact information:
Renato & Michele Cassula
RUA Benedito Correia #45
Bairro Sao Domingos
Americana, SP- Brazil 13471-150

Emails: renatobrazil_3@msn.com cheled77@hotmail.com
Website: http://mybrazilianlife-michele.blogspot.com
Home Phone: 011-55-19-3621-3997 Cell Phone: 011-55-19-8204-2633

Our continued thoughts and prayers are with you!
Renato, Michele, and Camden

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Going Green

"Going Green" is definitely a popular movement throughout the U.S. It's starting here in Brazil as well, but what I've found, is that Brazil is just naturally a lot more "green" in the sense of taking care of this planet. They run a lot of their cars on alcohol, sugar-cane alcohol, and they've been doing it since the beginning of the 80's. The U.S. is making big gains in ethanol which is great.

Since I've been in Brazil I've definitely gone "Green"! First, doing laundry here is Green because they don't have dryers, so big points there. Also, they don't even have hot or cold settings on the washers because most all water here in Brazil is cold. Houses usually have reserviors on the top of their roofs to warm the water in the sun, and that's the water for showers. All the other water from the facets is cold. SO no wasting of hot water here.

Second, all stoves/ovens are gas. I don't know if this is "green", but it saves electricity. Also there are no dish washers to waste tons of water and electricity. I'M the dish washer!

Third, and this is the best ever, the house we rent has solar panels to heat our water. Let me just say a huge, "THANK YOU JESUS!!!" for this amazing blessing! After living without "hot" shower water for a couple of months, I will never again take for granted a hot shower. (Especially since a really steaming/scolding hot shower is close to heaven for me.) They do have electric shower heads here that make hot water, but they aren't the same, and not "green". Our solar panel also heats the kitchen sink water, so that means on cold days like today, I don't have freezing cold hands from doing the dishes. Again, "THANK YOU JESUS!!!"

Fourth, we have a "low flow" shower head to save the precious hot water. (And I need to mention, that if we have a couple cloudy days.....no hot water....but again, this is Brazil, and most days are sunny.)

Fifth, most of the veggies we eat are organic. Straight from grandpa's garden. I'm so thankful for our organic veggies because they are good for us, and of course even better.....they are FREE! :) Thank you grandpa!!

These are some of the ways we are "Going Green". What are some things you are doing or that work well for you? Please share!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Good Times in the Good Ol' U.S.of A.

I wanted to post a few pictures of our trip to CO. It felt sooo good to be back on familiar soil, even for just a week. We loved being able to see friends and family during our short trip. Camden didn't have such a great trip. Since he is teething (which is a perpetual state latetly), he's more prone to pick up "bugs" along the way. We had to make a run to emergi-care with him and found out he had an ear infection. Poor little guy. He was pretty miserable most of his time in the U.S. Thank goodness for medication though, because it got him up and going again by the end of the trip.

It was a great trip, but coming back to Brazil this time around was a little difficult emotionally. I think it was because for a week, I was surrounded by the familiar....friends, surroundings, family, food, English....and it just reminded me of what I'm missing out on here in Brazil. Thankfully after a day or two, Brazil became my "normal" once again. I'm just so thankful for what I do have. I'm one blessed woman!

Grandma & Grandpa doting on Camden.

Some friends at our BBQ.

We're blessed to have such terrific friends!

Daddies enjoying their boys. Ethan is Camden's friend since the womb. :) The boys are 3 days apart.

The Fast's and the Cassula's.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Camden's Favorites

Here's a list of Camden's current "favorites":

Animal: Dog, Horse, Bird

Food: Strawberries (new today!), Mashed Potatoes, Meatloaf, Bananas, Grapes,

Game: Chase

Activity: Wrestling with Daddy, Reading Books, Going Ba-Bye, Taking Walks, Talking on the Phone

Words he Says: Mama, Dada, please, milk, ga-gwa (water), ball, bird, na-night, ba-bye, beeza (Portuguese word for great-grandma), "b" for book, nana (banana), grp (grape), snack, baby, and others I'm sure I'm missing

Words he Signs: please, thank-you, milk, drink, eat, all-done, dog, bird, more, fish, hat, baby, and others I'm sure I'm missing

Here's a funny picture of when we dressed him up like a wrestler. A young "Nacho Libre". Too cute!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Fun Day

Today was a beautiful day here in Americana, Brazil. We went to a restaurant/hobby farm/kid fun place today. Sorry for the wierd description, but that's what it was. We went with some friends who actually speak English because they lived in Denver for awhile. They have 2 older girls, and they younger one, Kelly (11 yrs old), had a great time taking Camden around and playing with him.

The restaurant was good, kinda like a buffet. Really nice. While we ate, we watched people getting horse rides in the arena next to the restaurant. Great entertainment for Camden while eating! After we were done eating we headed outside to the hobby farm to see all the animals. Camden LOVES animals and was so excited to see all the birds, horses, goats, and rabbits.

Then he played and played and played!

AND he got his 1st horse ride........and loved it!

Camden was so pooped after his afternoon of fun, he fell asleep on the 10 minute ride home. Which for Camden, is a VERY rare occasion!