Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 in Review

Lots of people are taking time to look back over the year, taking note of the highlights, seeing how the kids have grown. And since I don't really have any other way that I have been documenting the year, I thought I'd have a go at it too.

*Warning: Lots and lots of photos in this post!* Most of them of my cute kids, so I think you'll survive. :)

January 2012
We were finally getting settled into our tiny little apartment, eagerly awaiting my parent's first trip to Brazil to visit us and get a glimpse of our life and ministry here.
We took my parents up to a touristy hill town nearby, celebrated Lucas' 3rd birthday and of course just enjoyed having them around for the day to day events. 
 Lucas, of course, had a Cars themed birthday party that we celebrated a little late, but with a lot of friends and family.

February 2012
With my parents here, we had to take a trip to the beach. We also enjoyed lots of good meals together, in our home and out and about. It was the kids first trip to the beach!

March 2012
We had a lot of sickness, doctors visits, clinic trips and medicines in February and March.

April 2012
Lucas was going to school every day from 8:00 - 2:00 and because we lived so close (I could see his school from our balcony) Elena and I would walk him to and from school. At this point she was still using her stroller most days. Sometimes Lucas would help.

May 2012
We received a notice from our landlord saying he wanted the apartment. We had 60 days to find a new place and move. Turned out to be a really good thing for our family.
Lucas and Elena were really developing their friendship and learning to play together.

June 2012
We managed to find a nice house only a few blocks from our apartment, and moved in the first week of June. It was the biggest and closest move we've made in our marriage (and we've moved a LOT). We can hardly remember what it was like to live in our tiny apartment. Lucas misses it because we had a playground on the compound.
The movers so kindly deposited EVERYTHING into the living room. Can you find Lucas in this photo?

July 2012
We celebrated my birthday by spending 3 days at the beach! And it was nice to leave our messy house for a few days to relax.
Lucas and Elena really loved the kids pool at our beachside hotel. David especially loved the hammock. We're a little disappointed we don't really have a space for one (or two) at our house.

This was a month I was really looking forward to, as both Lucas and Elena were starting school again!
We also celebrated Elena's second birthday with a party at our house. Poor Elena was so sick on the day of her party that she crashed on the sofa before the party even started. She perked up when all the guest arrived though!
August was also the month I started blogging regularly again. I think I've had at least 3 or 4 blogs over the past, um, 8 years, so I'm glad to be back into it!

September 2012
We were nicely getting settled into routines of housework and school. We enjoyed a nice picnic lunch outside under our carport one sunny Saturday morning. 

September was also the month that Dual Voltage got a big makeover!

October/November 2012
Enjoying fun snacks!
Big news! (October) and Bigger news! (November)

We spent a few weekends at my in-laws, helping to take care of David's grandma while David's parents  were away.
Fun at Grandma's playground and Grandpa's desk.

 Christmas projects. (Didn't get time to blog about it - maybe I'll save it for next year!)
 Trying to get some nice family photos. Elena has changed so much this year! Lucas is just a little taller and skinnier. :)
 Family photo fail. Elena's expression on the right is about how I was feeling about the whole process...
15 weeks pregnant! We had a nice, relaxing family Christmas this year.

Looking forward to 2013, bound to be an exciting and challenging one with lots of changes in our family!

Christmas Highlights

Since it's already December 31st, I thought I'd better highlight some of my favorite moments from our Christmas celebrations this year. The kids faithfully opened their little advent boxes every day, even though some of the candy melted on a few of the hot days!

On Christmas Eve we spent the evening together enjoying finger foods and watching the Charlie Brown Christmas movie before reading the Christmas story and allowing the kids to open a few presents. Needless to say it wasn't an early evening but we were hoping that at least we'd get a few extra minutes in the morning. 

Christmas morning the kids opened their stockings and we had crepes for breakfast and tried to leave the house in a somewhat clean state before heading off to my in-laws for our big family meal. 

We missed having the whole extended family there but still had a great time enjoying the food and company.
The "young families" table - two brothers and their families.
Of course we had to get a photo of the whole gang which sometimes takes a while with squirmy kids, but this time I think we got it in one or two shots!

The kids really had fun playing together. Elena and her cousin Sophia are only three months apart.
Top photos: Lucas and Sophia cuddle on the sofa during our reading/meditation time.
Bottom left: Sophia and Elena - Bottom right: Helping Lucas open a gift.
We had a nice relaxed afternoon and evening before heading back to our home. Of course we had also tried to get a nice family photo a few days before Christmas, but both kids were extremely uncooperative! Here's our best shot.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! Now, on to the New Year with lots to look forward to. Can't quite believe that next year we will become a family of six.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

The Bump: 15 Weeks

Ever since we found out we were pregnant I have loved following along several pregnant bloggers weekly bump updates. I know there is no way I will keep up with a weekly one, but since this is definitely most likely my last pregnancy I hope to write one every few weeks at least! Plus, you know the belly shots are going to get crazy in the last few weeks!

Here we go!
Yes, it is a huge bump for 15 weeks, just remember it's my third pregnancy and it's TWINS!
How far along: 15 weeks as of Dec. 23.
Development: At my last doctors appointment we measured both twins at about 8 cm (crown/rump) on the ultrasound. According to our measuring scan everything looks good and they are healthy.
Movement: A few times I have thought I felt them moving, but it's still pretty early for that. From the ultrasounds one is very active and the other seems a little more calm (probably because he/she is squished into the top of my uterus. :))
Weight Gain: Since my first doctors appointment (around 5 weeks) I have lost over 2 kilos.
Maternity Clothes: Not yet, but some of my pants are totally out already.
Stretch Marks: Um, no new ones as far as I can tell. :)
Best moment of my week: Seeing the babies on the ultrasound and having a dinner date with the hubby.
Worst moment: Waking up in the middle of the night to deal with a sick toddler and a big mess.
Sleep: So thankful that both kids are sleeping through the night. I just have to get up once to pee and I'm good. :)
Miss Anything: Having energy and motivation to keep the house in order. Sleeping on my back or stomach.
Food Cravings: Spicy noodles, hot curries, dill pickles.
Aversions: None really, just can't eat much of anything since my stomach seems to have already shrunk a lot.
Gender: We have a guess from our last ultrasound, but hope to find out for sure in a few weeks at our next one. (Yes, we get a lot of ultrasounds here in Brazil, and I'll probably have more than usual with my "high-risk" twin pregnancy!)
Symptoms: Nausea, exhaustion, sore muscles.
Labor signs: Thankfully none.
Belly Button: Stretching already, what can I say? Third pregnancy, with twins!
Rings: On.
Mood: Generally happy.
Looking forward: Can't wait to really start feeling them move inside and then to have the kids feel the babies moving.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Cookie dough and tears

If you had taken a peek into my kitchen a few weeks ago, you would have seen a slightly pregnant woman, apron tied snugly around her waist, leaning over the counter, stirring a big bowl of sugar cookie dough, and soft streams of tears flowing down her cheeks...

It was a beautiful, sunny, Brazilian summer day early in December. The kids were off to school, and this momma decided to get a head start on her Christmas baking. The sweet sounds of Christmas music drifted through the house as she sifted and stirred the flour, sugar and butter.

It was when a certain song started playing, that she was brought to tears. It was one of those songs, you know the ones, where the marriage of music and lyrics is so sublime you cannot help but be moved. The words and images evoked, along with the rise and fall of the melody and the swell of the chorus stirred up emotions so strong that the woman could not even sing along. Feelings of grace, awe, wonder and faith. A deep stirring within her soul. A hope and a longing for its powerful words to be fulfilled.

It was a song known intimately to her, sung many years ago and yet the parts and harmonies, the words and dynamics remain so strongly etched in her memory.

The story it tells is of the true meaning of Christmas, not just that we remember Jesus' incarnation, his death and resurrection, but we also anticipate His coming again. It is this truth that we celebrate at Christmas and from which stems all the joy, peace, hope and love of the season.

As the music played, the woman made no attempt to curb her tears, but rather, cherished the moment, soaking in the words and the truth presented. Simply, a Christmas memory that won't be soon forgotten.

Have a listen, and bask in the wonderful truth of this season. (Scroll down to see the full words)

"When He Comes Again" - by Rebecca Peck 
When He Comes Again by RSBC on Grooveshark
When He came, He spent His first night on a bed of hay
When He came, He left Heaven without wealth or fame
Wrapped in rags, Christ had no sign of royalty, 

The truth of who He really was the world could not see.
But when He comes again, On a cloud of majesty, 

Every eye at last shall see, He is the great I am, 
When He comes again, The hosts of Heaven with Him, 
He'll bring to earth a kingdom without end, When He comes again.
When He came, He was rejected by the ones He loved
When He came, He drank freely from Death's bitter cup, 

Betrayed and broken, Jesus hung in agony, 
The truth of who He really was, the world could not see.
(Repeat Chorus)
The hope of all the ages the everlasting Lord, That baby boy from Bethlehem shall reign forever more.

(Repeat Chorus)

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Christmas Cookie FAIL

One of my favorite Christmas memories from my childhood is sitting around our big dining table, with my mom, siblings (and maybe some friends) listening to Christmas music, tree lights on and decorating a huge pile of sugar cookies with all colors of icing and fun sprinkles.

So even though my kids are very small now, it's something we've attempted the past two years already. And this year I learned something VERY important - don't ever try a new recipe for the first time with your kids.

It just. didn't. work.

It was a new sugar cookie recipe that included baking soda, baking powder and cream of tartar. And the recipe didn't seem to have enough flour. So when Lucas and I tried to roll it out, all we got was a big, sticky mess. I had mixed the dough while the kids were in school, and it had chilled in the fridge until we were ready to bake the cookies.

I also realized I had the occasion to use this "situation" to teach Lucas some things too. He is in a stage, how can I put it nicely, where he is exploring the full range of his emotional capabilities. So before he had a complete meltdown about our futile cookie attempt, I tried to help him see how we could keep trying, sometimes things just don't work the first time, you have to be patient while mommy figures this out etc.

In the end he and Elena were happy to just play with the dough, adding flour and colored sugar to their hearts content, and making a big mess out of it.

Of course I didn't give them all the dough and was able to salvage a few cookies later on that we had fun decorating. And next week we'll try again with my old stand-by recipe (aka - my mom's :))

What Christmas traditions are you passing on to your kids? 

First World (Decorating) Problems

Last week when I was getting my Christmas decorations up, I faced a truly serious (first world) problem. My string of lights was too long for the shelf I was decorating! What was I to do? Double the string? Let them hang off the edge? I didn't want to just waste the lights, so I decided to create a little light jar that could contain some of the lights and give a little extra something to the shelf.

Here's what I used:
- A tall, straight vase (about 20cm tall and 8cm wide)
- A plastic tube that was holding some ornaments (20cm by 5cm)
- A bunch of straight white twigs
- Some little white snowflakes
- Silver/Turquoise ribbon
 I needed the inner tube to keep the lights contained, and the first thing I did was to do a test to make sure my little led lights wouldn't melt the plastic of the tube.
Once I had the inner tube in, I just dropped the white twigs around it, spacing them somewhat evenly. Then I added a few snowflakes here and there, and wrapped my ribbon around the middle. 

When I set it up on the shelf, I put a bunch of lights in the inner tube and topped it off with a pine cone to hide the wires coming out of the top. Now even with the lights off it looks cute. 

There you go! A simple project to deal with those pesky first world decorating problems. :) 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Deck The Halls

Have I mentioned I love decorating? When it comes to Christmas, I'm no different - I love pulling out the garland and the white twinkly lights. Since we've moved around a lot in the past 8 years, I've been able to decorate lots of different homes for Christmas (even my in-laws!) and it's always a lot of fun coming up with new ideas. Even when we spent two Christmases in the same house (only once in the past 8 years!) I decorated differently both years.

So now that we are set up in a new house (hopefully for a few years), I thought I'd share my Christmas decorations. While I love the traditional Christmas colors, this year I thought I'd experiment with blue, silver, white and turquoise. 

I decorated our small table-top tree with white lights, a wide silver/white ribbon, some bell garland, white twigs, blue ribbons, pine cones, and blue, silver and turquoise ornaments. I used a turquoise scarf to cover the table and a fluffy white baby blanket as a tree skirt. 

We don't have a fireplace or traditional "mantle", but I usually clear off any shelves and decorate them with garland and lights. 

We have a nice big wood valance over our living room window and it also got a nice garland with lights, white twigs, a few ornaments and pine cones. In the middle is a star with a few ornaments hung underneath. Almost two years ago, a cousin got married and I was able to keep some of the decorations she used in her January wedding. The little blue, turquoise and white bobbles are making their second annual appearance in my Christmas decorating (Thanks Charissa!)

There's a little peek into our little house. We also have some festive poinsettias in the window and I still have to hang my wreath on the front of our house. When I finished all the decorating and turned only the Christmas lights on and invited the kids to come see the living room they gasped and said, "it's bootiful, momma!" (Still doesn't keep them from taking all the ornaments down though!) 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Treats from "Home"

Home is a somewhat ambiguous concept for me; my birth country, passport country, "growing up" country and current country are all different. That, combined with years of international expatriate living, means that I have a lot of different foods and treats that I've come to love and miss when they're not available. So no matter where someone is traveling, I usually have a list of a treat or two I'd like them to bring back for me. For instance, if you live in (or are traveling to) England, I would ask for a package of Percy Pigs.

So when my mother-in-law planned a trip to the US and Canada, I had a long list for her. The bonus of traveling there is you can find more than just "Canadian" or "American" snacks.

My mom put together a small suitcase of goodies for my MIL to bring back for me, mostly some Asian goodies that I miss.

1. Dill Pickles - apart from being a stereotypical pregnancy craving, my whole family has loved dill pickles for. ever. In fact, one year when we were home in Canada for Christmas, each of us kids got our own huge jar of pickles as a Christmas present.

2. Chanachur - India and Bangladesh have the best snack foods. There are all different varieties of spices and ingredients, but they are all crunchy and spicy and great with a cup of chai (preferably bought on the street in Kolkata or at a train station).

3. Mango Pickle - The hot kind, pickled in tons of oil and super spicy. Goes great with any curry. Developing a taste for this at boarding school made the sometimes bland meals much more appealing.

4. Spices that are not readily available here in Brazil; Cardamom pods, ground Cardamom, and ground Coriander. Essential for making curries and a home-made spiced tea (chai).

The other half of my list, I left for my MIL to buy as she could. You can tell she traveled during the Thanksgiving season, we really miss a good turkey dinner here. (Although we do usually have a Turkey for Christmas with different side dishes)

5. Turkey Gravy - not much to say about this, what's a turkey dinner without gravy?

6. Dip packets - we find a lot of dressings here, but dips are rare, usually imported and expensive. We also don't have sour cream here (the usual ingredient to mix with the dip packets, but I've discovered that plain yogurt (strained for a while) is a great substitute.

7. Beef Jerky - this is one of hubby's favorites and occasionally we find some (in Canada) that has been exported from Brazil (we have good beef here) but it's not sold locally in this format.

8. Stuffing - nuff said. Can't have turkey without stuffing and cranberry sauce (see number 11).

9. Black Licorice - I love this stuff, and so far haven't found it here, unless by some rare occasion it is imported (and therefore super expensive).

10. Pumpkin Pie Mix - now this one is purely indulgent. I could make a pie from scratch, but given my recent energy levels (and a desire for a full-on turkey dinner) it's nice to have a pie in a can. Of course, I still do have to make the pie crust...

11. See number 8.

12. Apple Cider - this also falls into the "indulgent" category as I could make this stove-top style (and would have a lovely smelling house to boot) but especially given my caffeine limits it's nice to have an easy alternative.

Now it's not that I don't like Brazilian food - I do. I somehow got over my black bean dislike just before my first trip to Brazil. It's just nice to have a "taste of home" (homes) sometimes and I can blame pregnancy cravings on at least some of these items. So we enjoy them while we have them, and enjoy all our other Brazilian treats when we don't.

So if you ever want to send a random care package, these are some ideas. ;)

Saturday, 1 December 2012

An Advent Tree Calendar

I always grew up doing Advent, in our churches we celebrated the four Sundays before Christmas, and at home we usually had some kind of calendar (the best ones were the ones with chocolates) and our own Advent candle wreath and I even remember having a chocolate advent calendar at boarding school one year that my roommates and I took turns opening. 

As our family has moved around a lot in the past few years, we have hardly spent Christmas in the same country twice, let alone the same house. So a few years ago my mom gave us a re-usable Advent Tree and I think it's been nice to do the same thing three years in row even though we haven't been in the same place. 

Here's what we do. We collect match stick boxes through the year. (Or if you're like me, you go to the store on November 29 and buy 20 boxes of matches for $2.00 since you can only find 4 around the house. I now have a big ziplock bag full of matches and no way to light them....hehehe) 

We fill the boxes with small candy or chocolate and wrap them up. This year I am doing a blue, white, turquoise and silver theme with our decorations, so I wrapped half of the boxes in white wrapping paper, and the other half in turquoise.

My supplies; tape, scissors, wrapping paper and boxes.
 Our Advent Tree is a jute tree with 24 loops for hanging ornaments or, in our case, boxes on. It came from Bangladesh I think.
 I decided to arrange the boxes in lines of white and turquoise. Each box is wrapped with ribbon and tied to the tree. If I was really organized I would have made cute little number tags to also add on to each box. As we take off the boxes, I tie the ribbon back on the loops in a bow.
Here is our finished tree! I put it up on the wall with a removable hook. Each day the kids get to open one box, share the contents and we talk about how Jesus is the best gift of Christmas. Of course, we also have to talk a lot about patience and waiting, several times a day, as 24 hours is a LONG time for the kids to wait for the next box.

What Advent traditions do you have?

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