Sunday, 14 September 2014

Same Same

...but different.

It doesn't really matter where you are in the world; many aspects of daily life remain the same. Part of it is the practice of routine; setting up those little rituals that bring order to chaos, making things familiar in the midst of the unknown. Keeping our way of life helps when we are faced with transitioning into a new situation - a new job, home, language, culture. After all, kids still need to be bathed, fed, snuggled and put into bed.

Of course, making a huge move across the world has meant that many areas of our life have had to change. And that has been, for the most part, a good thing. While we have tried to keep our home routines fairly similar to what they were in Brazil, some things have just had to go.

Our kids still eat oatmeal for breakfast, but here I also have to pack lunches for school. (Very thankful, however, for the option to buy school lunches every once in a while when I don't manage to get their lunches packed)

While our kids had two bedrooms in Brazil, here we have packed them all into one (very large) room, and they love it.

We have adjusted so quickly to not having a car or using car seats. The twins sit pretty nicely on our laps when we go out and about in the tuk tuks.

I am surprised that we've managed without a microwave or oven. The microwave was used daily in Brazil for heating food, milk for the babies bottles, and mommy's half-finished coffee.

I can no longer drop the older kids at school and come home to snuggle with my babies and enjoy a second breakfast. While technically I am working "part time" - I spend almost every day at school planning lessons, working on organizing and keeping up the music department resources, oh, and teaching of course. :)
On the way to school with our neighbors. 
I have been so amazed at the way our family has adapted to our new reality; the kids are thriving in school, the babies love their nanny, and both David and I are feeling productive and fulfilled in our various jobs.
We're putting these kids to work! :)
All this is not to say there haven't been hard adjustments to make or challenges to overcome, but we celebrate the progress we've made, and press on to deal with the problems at hand - like how we have had no running water at our house for the past day.....

Sunday, 3 August 2014

First Days

Stepping out of the plane and down the steps brings back memories of other hot countries. The heat hits you like a wave, the humidity washing over you, leaving tiny beads of perspiration all over you in its wake. The hustle and bustle of the airport thins out as we become the last people there. Arriving at midnight to a quiet city, we slowly make our way through the dark and mostly empty streets. We fill a large van with our multitude of suitcases and children. No seat belts, let alone car seats, we hold our babies on our laps.

The early morning brings the sun, and again, the heat. We venture our from our guest house to find food. The streets are bustling, narrow and bumpy, filled with scooters, motorcyles and tuk tuks. The few cars we see seem much too big for these roads. Driving here is a dance, a slow dance allowing each other to pass through the smallest of gaps.

(Breakfast at Koffee Corner)

We settle in at a cafe that is to become almost a daily ritual for the next little while. Tropical plants abound and the whirr of a fan is a constant and reassuring sound. We are in the search for our new home, and spend about two hours our first afternoon visiting several options. Lisa and Leila tag along with us in a sling and carrier as we get in and out of a tuk tuk following a real estate agent around our corner of the city.

Many of the houses here are narrow, long, and tall with lots of stairs. A big balcony on the roof is where the laundry is washed and hung. We have not seen many tall buildings, most houses are 3 or 4 stories, and apartment buildings up to 5 or 6. After much searching we have settled on a 3 story duplex at the end of a closed street, across from some other teachers of our school. Unfortunately we are not to move in until the week school starts. Until then we have a small two bedroom apartment close to the school.

(the view from our fourth floor apartment)

The children have loved traveling freely in the tuk tuks, and already it seems normal to me. Bangladesh travel was very similar and was the way I grew up. We try to keep the babies in a sling or carrier, and we are very thankful the tuk tuks are larger than the baby taxis found in Bangladesh and India. We can easily fit our family of six in one tuk tuk and there is even room between our sitting area and the driver for our double umbrella stroller!

We have found the people of Cambodia to be very friendly and helpful. It is difficult to communicate without knowing any Khmer, but many people know a bit of english.

Tomorrow we start more orientation at the school and have one week before school starts on August 11. Lucas has been asking almost every day if he will start school so we think it will be a welcome change in our crazy routine to be back to a predictable schedule. It looks like Lucas and Elena will "car pool" to school in a tuk tuk with some other children on our street.

(The kids playing on the grounds around our apartment)

As the sun goes down, the city breathes a collective sigh of relief as the temperature drops a few degrees. We sleep to the hum of the AC, thankful for a roof over our heads, new friends and colleagues, and an exciting few years ahead in this wonderful country!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

A New Adventure

As if life wasn't crazy enough living in a foreign country with four children five and under, we decided two short months ago to move. Not just to another house, or another city, but to another country. Across the world. I'm writing this post from Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

It's a long story of how we got from there to here but I will just say that we felt God's clear leading in the way doors were closing for us in Brazil and opening up here. Although it was a crazy six weeks, we managed to sell and giveaway almost all our belongings (including selling our car two hours before leaving for the airport!) and packed our life into 12 suitcases.

The travel was grueling as you can imagine, with our little ones, but we were so blessed to have my mother-in-law travel with us to Canada. We had scheduled a little "down time" with our families there before heading here to Cambodia. The 8 days we spent there were busy and full, but also had many moments of rest, relaxation and fellowship with friends and family.

(Leaving São Paulo with our 12 suitcases and 7 carryons. Lucas was in charge of the double stroller)

(Lucas and Leila on the plane)

We left Canada on July 25th early in the morning and arrived in Phnom Penh around midnight on July 26th, thanks to a 13 hour time change. The 30 hours of travel there were only made possible with the help of my brother, Aaron, who decided to come with us. Having him here has been a huge help as we try to find housing, do work orientation and take care of the kids. They have been real troopers through the whole ordeal and massive life change.

We will be spending at least the next two years here, working for an international missionary school; I will be teaching secondary music and David is one of the two counselors. As a missionary school, they encourage us to be additionally supported. If that interests you, there are options with our mission organization, World Outreach Ministries. If you would like to receive our newsletters and updates send me a quick email and I can add you to our mailing list.

It's been an interesting few days since we landed, since the home the school had planned for us turned out to be way too small. So we've been staying in a small guesthouse while we (and the school) look for other options. Hopefully we'll find something soon because the laundry is piling up!

I have lots more to write and hope to be able to keep a little bit of a record here on Dual Voltage.

(David with Lisa in a tuk tuk - common form of local transport)

Monday, 21 April 2014

The Art of Almost Sleeping

Of all the things that changed when I became a mother (what didn't?) - the one that took the hardest hit was my sleeping schedule. My first pregnancy didn't really affect my sleep at all - just gave me license to enjoy those afternoon naps even more. However, none of my babies have been "good sleepers" - so when my first son was born I had to make some serious changes and adjust to living on less, much less, sleep.

Now with four small kiddos to look after I have pretty much made my peace with just not getting as much sleep as I would like. And most days I have enough energy to get through the day without a nap, although I do occasionally take a little "power nap" at about 8:30pm when they are all finally, blissfully, peacefully sleeping.

Part of my adjustment to this stage of life and less-than-ideal sleep is my perfection of what I like to call The Art of Almost Sleeping. After many years of stumbling through in a sleep-deprived stupor, I've mastered a few levels of almost sleeping...

1. Sleeping in the car, or a chair, straight up. I always used to find my head bobbing when I'd attempt sleeping in a car or bus, but somehow after having kids I am able to sit with my head straight up and basically lock it into position and almost sleep...

2. Sleeping while the kids watch TV. This isn't something I do very often, but occasionally when I am in desperate need of a little power nap I am somehow able to simultaneously block out whatever children's program is on, while still keeping my ears open for crying babies or whining children. And when the program is over? Somehow I miraculously wake up right when it is over so the kids don't end up watching hours of TV while I snooze on the sofa.

3. Nursing babies while lying down. I may have mentioned before how lazy I am when it comes to night wakings. As my confidence in nursing grew, I started bringing the baby to bed with me, nursing them on my side and enjoying a few moments of almost sleeping. Of course, there are times when I wake up about two hours later and think I should probably put this baby back in the crib...

4. The "One-Eyed Mama". This is a technique I developed which makes the night wakings much easier. You can read about it in detail here. The past few weeks haven't been easy with the twins being sick and waking up multiple times each, and this technique not only helps me forget how many times I get up every night, but I'm getting so good at it, I could probably walk to the twins room and back with my eyes completely closed. Just have to make sure I pick up the right twin and return them to their own crib. So far I have not woken up in the morning to find two twins in the same crib, but it may well happen at least once! 

And if that's not almost sleeping, I don't know what is....

Friday, 7 March 2014

Five on Friday

Or... How we gave up TV, adopted 3 cats and almost ate glass...

1. Want to know how easy it is to break a wall-mounted TV? One five year old, one heavy duty sippy cup and momma's back turned for one minute... So we've officially given up TV for the time being. Honestly it's not all bad. In fact, it's great for the kids! They are upset about not being able to have "movie nights" with the big TV but we do have the option of using our iPads to play something for them. What would be best is if we could fix this TV or get another one exactly like it and not tell the kids. David and I do miss being able to relax at night catching up on a show or two.

2. So this happened last Monday night...

By Friday we had no solution in sight, and we were leaving on Saturday, so we made sure they were stocked up with food and water and decided to just see what happened. Turns out they happily hung out at our house and when they ventured out were picked up by a neighbor who came by on Tuesday night to bring them back. When we told her they weren't really our cats she offered to take them in to a pet shelter. So we are happy that they are gone and that we found a good way for them to be cared for. While the kids had a fun time with them, they have only mentioned it once, so it seems to be a good ending for everyone.

3. I was enjoying the wonderful smell of a new chicken dish cooking away in my crock pot and when I went over to take a look realized the entire glass lid had shattered leaving tons of tiny glass shards in our dinner! Not sure how it happened, but I'm sad that my six month old crock pot had such a short life. Of course it still works and I'll be making tin foil lids for a while until I can figure out how to get a replacement. For this busy family I love cooking with my crock pot!

4. How did the babies get to be nine months old already? Seriously, someone stop them!
They are growing up so fast! Crawling all over the place, pulling up on all the furniture (and my legs) and taking a few steps holding onto the sofa. They both weigh in at 9 kgs (20 lbs) and are 74 cm (30 inches)

5. In other random news, while we were away at our church's youth camp someone decided to graffiti up our front wall. Fortunately we only have a small slice of wall since our two gates pretty much take up the whole space, and guess what they decided to use? A small piece of sidewalk chalk that was lying inside our gate. Just makes me laugh because it is so ridiculous!

So, that has been our last week and a bit. Also had our gate smashed in by a rookie driver (thankfully their insurance will cover replacing our gate), went for a 4 day camp with our church which was great, and my brother arrived to visit Brazil for the first time on Wednesday. Life is full!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

A Day in the Life with Four Kids

Note: all times are approximate and only in a very vague way represents a "typical" day...

10:00pm - 4:30am Not even going to guess how many times I was up to nurse or put another baby back to bed...

5:00am (ish) Notice Lucas getting into our bed and falling asleep. Take Lisa back to her crib.
5:50 Leila up to nurse, doesn't go back to sleep.
6:10 Take Leila to bathroom in her rocking chair so mommy can have a shower.
6:20 Shower done, Lucas is up. Go to get changed and find Lisa awake as well.
6:30 Everyone in the living room except for Elena (still sleeping) Nurse Lisa.
6:45 Elena gets up. Change twins diapers, clean up kitchen and start getting breakfast ready. Fruit and juice for Lucas, banana and granola with milk for Elena and mommy.
7:00 Lie babies down in their pack n play with bottles of milk, while we eat breakfast.
7:15 Make oatmeal with apples and cinnamon for the twins breakfast.
7:30 Dressing older kids for school and feeding babies.
7:45 Getting everyone cleaned up, shoes on, hair done and into the car.
8:00 Leave for school.
8:15 Return home with twins. Leila fell asleep in the car, Lisa follows about 10 minutes later.
8:30-10:00 Mommy cleans up the house, does dishes and has second breakfast (finally, a cup of tea!), while babies nap.
10:15 Lisa is up from her unusually long nap. Leila follows about 15 minutes later.
10:30 Nurse Lisa and then Leila.
11:00 Wash dishes and prepare lunch for babies.
11:30 Lunch for babies - rice, carrots, broccoli and beans. Fruit for dessert.
12:00 Bath time for twins. It's much easier to give them a bath in the morning when the older kids are at school!
12:20 Bottles for babies
12:30 Play time
1:00 Lisa goes down for a nap, Leila is tired, but resists.
1:00-1:30 Alternate between eating lunch and trying to put Leila down for her nap.
doesn't she look tired?
1:30 Try lying down with Leila to rest a bit. Doesn't work.
1:50 Give up with the napping and buckle Leila into the car seat to go pick up the kids from school. One minute in the car and Leila is sleeping. Lisa stays (sleeping) at home with daddy.
2:10 Return with kids.
2:15 Leave big kids with daddy and buckle Lisa into her seat to go to the doctor.
2:30 Leave for doctors appointment. Spend ten minutes driving around the office trying to find parking. Nurse Lisa while we wait to see the dr.
3:45 Finish at doctors (routine check up) and head to the pharmacy to pick up a few things.
4:15 Home again, nurse Leila.
4:30 Wake Elena from her nap.
5:20 Whip up some supper for the twins.
5:30 Supper for the twins and making supper for the rest of us. Elena helps to feed the twins as I run back and forth between them and the stove.
6:15 Supper - whole family at the table, twins having their fruit dessert.
6:30-7:00 Kids watch one of their favorite TV shows, Jelly Jamm.
7:00-7:45 Big kids have baths with daddy, mommy gets twins changed and ready for bed, nurses Leila and then Lisa, dressing the big kids in between.
7:45 Daddy takes the big kids to bed, mommy finishes getting twins to bed, one more bottle and some medicine for Lisa.
8:15 Twins are out.
8:40 Big kids are out.
8:45 - 11:00 Mommy enjoys a cup of tea, conversation with hubby and a TV show before hitting the sack (a little later than usual - and it caught up with her when all the kids woke up before six the next day!)

If you made it all the way through that, congratulations! Today is shaping up to be pretty similar - at least until 10:30am - twins are waking up from their nap now. Onward and upward we go! Have a great day, readers!

Friday, 14 February 2014

7 Quick Takes + A Giveaway!

A lot of people have a bucket list called "30 before 30" or something similar. I don't have a list like that, but one thing that seems to be a recurring idea is to make sure you go to a concert of a favorite band or artist. As I was reading this point on someone's list, I thought to myself, well, it would have to be someone I really like for me to get to a concert. (Being more of an introvert, not particularly liking huge crowds, plus the issue of babysitting...)

So, to make a long story short...
I am so excited to see The Piano Guys with David! If you haven't heard of them, you should go check them out! I have been a fan of theirs for a long time. I've even played some of Jon Schmidt's piano music. A big thanks to David's parents for gifting us the tickets and offering to babysit our troop while we enjoy an awesome date!

So my wonderful mother-in-law just got back from a trip to Canada/US and, as always, offered to bring some things back for me. Without thinking I asked for some chocolate chips for baking. (Not available here or cost prohibitive :)) Unfortunately I didn't realize just how hot it was going to be when she came back. Let's just say my chocolate chips are a little less like chips and more like a, um, block? Nothing a little fridge time can't cure though. :) I may just have to eat some of the more melted ones.

Poor Elena is going through a tough time, being in the middle of the family. Not quite big enough to keep up with Lucas and often bears the brunt of his teasing. Now at times she is also tormented by the twins; they love crawling all over her if she lies down on the floor.
What do you do when your babies start crying? Especially if you can't pick them up or attend to them right away? In our house there seems to be a special quality to one particular children's song that just quiets my babies down right away. I'm not sure what it is about "The Wheels on the Bus" - but it works like a charm every. single. time. (It also means I sing this song a lot!)

While many people in the northern hemisphere are suffering through lots of winter storms, we are having a rather hot summer here. And what's better on a hot day than a nice slice of watermelon?

Did you know this week was Random Acts of Kindness week? Neither did I, until I read a friend's blog. Anyways, do something random and kind for someone today.


Here's my random act of kindess - a "random" Giveaway for a $15 Amazon Gift card. Use the rafflecopter below to enter. For an extra entry, like us on Facebook. Should a US resident win, they will receive an gift card, a Canadian will will an gift card.  a Rafflecopter giveaway
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