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

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Another iPhone Photo Shoot - V-Day!

Although we don't celebrate Valentines Day here in Brazil I thought it would be fun to put together a little photo shoot with the twins. We do celebrate a similar "holiday" in June, but it is much more focused on couples rather than friendship and love in general, (and less candy which is good!) It is hard to believe that this time last year David took me out for breakfast - long-haired and big-bellied and now my little ones are almost 9 months old!

Anyways, enough sentimentality for now. We have a nice stone/brick wall in our parking space outside and it's a great place for setting up a shoot. I made a simple heart garland backdrop with four colors of cardstock; red, dark pink, light pink and white. Each heart was taped to a string and the strands hung up with masking tape. It was pretty windy so some of the other hearts had to be taped down as well.

Since my last "photo shoot" with the twins in December, they have gotten a lot more mobile! Making it that much harder to get a good shot. Also it's quite difficult to get them in position and then run back, pick up the phone and get the shot before they move. Difficult, as in, impossible. Twin photo shoot tip #1 - have at least one baby-wrangler on the scene!


Props are always a good idea when working with babies. Obviously they thought my backdrop was fair game too. I was hoping the blocks would keep them in one spot, but they kept coming after the "love" blocks I wanted in the foreground. My ideal shot was one of them holding "x" and "o" with the "love" in the foreground. Didn't happen.

More attempts...
More toys brought out to keep them immobile. Finally I resorted to cookies.

This is the best I got! Lisa is just incredibly hard to capture because she is always on the move!

I'm still glad I got to capture them at this exciting stage, because they are growing up so quickly and I can only imagine how much harder a photo shoot will be when they are walking!

Happy Valentines Day Everyone!! Spend it with someone you love. :) 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Speaking Grace

Grace. It's kind of my word for the year.

Do you ever look at your children and feel like you are seeing them with fresh eyes? Almost as though you are seeing them for the first time, again? You notice the curve of their slightly upturned nose, the unique shape of their head. When I consider my children, they are Grace personified to me. I truly don't deserve them. They are not mine, but they are a gift to me. From the true Giver of Grace. And when I am struggling in the trenches of motherhood, feeling unworthy and under qualified, I am reminded of how much I need God's grace in my own life.

I want to speak grace.

I never really saw myself as overly impatient or quick to speak rashly or harshly. That, of course, was before I had kids! Somehow, in a matter of seconds, events escalate and I realize I am not speaking to them gracefully or graciously. Acknowledging that we are all sinners in need of a Savior has truly impacted the way I see my children - yes, they are beautiful, smart, unique, capable of many good things, but they are also sinners. And it is my job to guide and lead them to the only source of true goodness; a saving relationship with Jesus Christ and the work of His Holy Spirit to change their hearts. The way that I demonstrate this is often through my words - I want to speak of His love, His amazing grace. A book that my hubby and I are reading right now has really helped us to frame our everyday conversations (and confrontations) with our kids through the lens of grace. It's called (not surprisingly) "Give them Grace" by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick.

For me to speak grace into their lives, it needs to be working in my heart as well. I find myself mulling over this precious truth of God's grace in my life and praying for it to overflow to my kids. I want them to have a sense of grace in their lives and to see it at work in me.

So what does it mean to speak grace into the lives of my kids? It starts in my heart, receiving God's grace, allowing it to affect every area of my life. I pray for the fruit of the Spirit to be evident in my life; speaking with love, joy and patience. Being kind, gentle and compassionate. Always speaking the truth so that my kids can trust me. Using self-control when situations start to get out of hand. And in all things, good and bad, pointing my kids back to the heart-truth - that only through God's grace can I give grace to them.

Of course, I fail. All the time. I raise my voice, react too quickly, speak without thinking.

And that is what's so amazing about God's grace. He doesn't treat us as we deserve. Instead of seeing the sinful, broken being, He sees Jesus' righteousness and blesses us. This is the kind of grace I want to show my kids. And when I fail, His grace is sufficient for me.

He is working in my weakness to demonstrate His strength.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The 3 E's of Easy* Parenting

Parenting is one of those things you go into without knowing exactly what to expect. An often easily attained title, being a parent is not easy. It's a call to lay down your life for the good of another; to put off selfishness and put on the virtues of patience, grace, mercy and compassion. It's a life-long role you fulfill in creating and guiding the precious lives of your children. And while it is something many, many of us experience, it is also a deeply personal journey; for every family, every child, is different.

When I consider parenting, I think of the commonly used phrase, "it takes a village" - and in our day and age our "village" is considerably bigger than it used to be. For we are not only connected to our immediate and extended families and neighborhoods, but through communities, schools, books, articles, media, news, internet, blogs and videos, we are exposed to so many different ideas and styles of parenting. Rules, tips, projects, schedules - whatever you're looking for you can find in spades!

This is what I've been thinking about as I raise my kids in a foreign country. There are cultural differences in the way we are raising our kids. And there is just so much information available about how to parent that it feels overwhelming. While it is amazing to have the whole world at your fingertips, there is danger as well. Time spent reading or researching can take time away from parenting. How many times have we sat there, scrolling through Pinterest for the perfect project, only to lose the time to actually do it?

As we look for answers to our questions, we can fall into the trap of setting up unrealistic expectations for our family and our kids. No one's life is "pinterest perfect"and we can't expect it to be. Having unrealistic expectations also leads us to compare our lives to others, coveting their apparently immaculate play-room or well-mannered children.

This is not to say we shouldn't use Pinterest, or Google, or participate on forums, or share ideas and tips on raising our kids. We should, however, be discerning when it comes to what we read, and how long we spend online. This is something I struggle with as my mind is always going a million miles a minute and I'm thinking about new recipes to try, projects for the kids, blog posts to write and wondering how many naps should my 8 month old twins be taking? 

So in an effort to simplify my parenting "style" I've been concentrating on three "E" words

Engage - Put everything else down and engage with my kids, in whatever stage or phase they're in. Cuddle my babies while they're young. Create Lego, paint and draw, play hide and seek and invest in my kids lives. Enjoy this stage, because it is going to be gone before I know it. Interact with your kids and invite them to be a part of what you're doing. This is not to say you can spend every minute with your kids, but they need to spend some time with you with no distractions.

Embrace - This season of life is short. Already my five-year old feels so big and my twins, babies no more. Treasure your kids for who they are, love on them and show it! Literally, embrace them each and every day. Embrace your role for this season. It means dirty diapers, snotty noses, potty accidents and lots of spills to clean up. It also means late-night snuggles, reading books with your kids on your lap, watching them discover the world, taking first steps and finding their place in this world.

Evolve - This parenting gig is one you take on with no previous experience. You are learning on the job. It's a steep learning curve which never really ends. Don't get bogged down by "rules" but be flexible in finding what works for your family. If it doesn't work, try something else. You shouldn't need to defend your parenting to anyone else. If you feel defensive, maybe there is something you know you should change.

There is no one "right" way to parent. Be wise with your time and your mind; fill it with Biblical principles, advice from those you look up to and trust. Read good books, find worthwhile articles and spend more time parenting than reading about parenting! While I am far, far away from having this parenting gig figured out, I'm finding that having these three words to think about helps to direct my time and focus my attention on what really matters; my precious kids and this privileged vocation called motherhood.

And now I've got to run as my twins are clamoring for my undivided attention! I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Grace for the weary

It's 8:53pm. The house is quiet. Finally. You couldn't have known that mere minutes ago it was a bustle of activity; the business of getting to bed.

Babies nursed, diapers changed, toys picked up, bottles given.

Teeth brushed, pajamas donned, babies rocking in arms, in chairs.

Lights out, stars shine, fans whirring in the humid summer heat.

Patience wanes, babies lie sleeping while older ones resist. The air thickens with the tension of opposing wills. Abundant energy defies the call to calm down. Voices raised.

Prayers. For mom and child alike. Petitions for love, joy, peace and obedience. Forgiveness sought.

Songs. Lyrics fighting the feelings in the singer's soul. Truth sung over the lives of loved ones. Hope for the next day, new mercies to behold.


Received so that it may also be given.

"Goodnight kids, I love you"

...and then there's the planet where Zombies come from...

...and other weird things my kids say.

Elena, sitting on the potty without her shirt on, feeling her long hair on her back: It's wong, mommy!
Me: Yeah, honey, it's growing really long!
Elena: Almost I will be a woman!!
Not sure where she got this idea about womanhood and long hair...or what it says about me right now...
Lucas: Let's call them both Leila! (the twins)
Me: Why, Lucas?
Lucas: Then we'll always know who is who!

In the car after school, Elena sees some graffiti on the walls: (shouting indignantly) Somebody dwawed on the walls! Who was it? Maybe it was God!!

At the dinner table,
Lucas: Mommy! That baby is leaking from her mouth!

And a wonderful conversation between the two of them, in the car, after driving around the block in a vain effort to secure a parking spot:
Lucas: they're not sharing!
Elena: I like shawing,
Lucas: I like cars, but now they're mean, because they're not sharing; the road or the parking lots...
Elena: Dirty cars!
Lucas: Yeah, poopy cars, they're like little disobeying babies!

And just so Leila doesn't feel left out...

What crazy things do your kids say? Linking up with Rosie today.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Quick Takes

You know you have four kids when a "date" with your hubby means having an hour in the car "alone" (i.e., all four kids sleeping in the back) and you stop to pick up your favorite drinks and snacks to enjoy on the way.

There's not much point spending half an hour writing out your meal plan and grocery list if you take it to the store and then forget to look at it until you've finished shopping and put everything into the car. Forgot one thing? No way you're going back into the store!

Lucas: Mommy, your belly is really squishy...
Me: Yes, it is Lucas, because mommy had a lot of babies in there.
Lucas: Yeah, first Lucas was in your belly, and then Elena, and then Lisa and Leila. You're right mommy! That's a lot of babies!
Lucas: But how did the babies all get out?
Me: Well...
Lucas: Look mommy! Leila's awake!
Me: *phew* dodged that bullet. 
At least he didn't ask how the babies got there in the first place!

How can my babies be 8 months old already? The time is flying by so fast. They are well over 8 kgs (about 18 lbs), eating all kinds of foods, sitting and playing by themselves, crawling all over the place and already trying to climb up on the furniture. They babble and sing and love to laugh. It is getting harder and harder to get a good photo of them together!

A few random numbers for ya:
30 - The average temperature (Celsius) this week. It's been hot, folks!
4 - Number of times I was up in the night with the twins. And this was actually a pretty good night! Each was up twice.
3 - Approximate number of times my cup of tea gets re-heated before finally finished.
6:00am - The time Lisa decided to get up for good this morning.
70 - The length (height) of my babies (in cm).

Lucas and Elena are getting to a wonderful stage where they love to hear stories. Mostly at bedtime as I think they want to prolong the process as much as possible. What are some good books to read aloud to them? They are age 3 - 5.

I was pretty happy about this Angel Food cake I made for David to celebrate his birthday last week. Not too hard as long as you're careful about any oil, grease or egg yolk that can mess up the rising of the cake. Baked it in a tube pan, then filled the centre with fresh strawberries and "frosted" with whipped cream. So, you know, if you happen to have a dozen eggs lying around, give it a try! Here's the recipe I used.

Happy Friday everyone! 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Two Peas in a Pod

... Or not!

Aside from sharing womb time, Lisa and Leila are as different as any other two siblings. People love to know just exactly how different they are, often asking "who is more happy / sleepy / loud / smiley" etc. We have a tendency to make a lot of comparisons between our children - Lucas did such and such at this age, Elena didn't do such and such like that. Of course we never quite remember exactly  how it was with the older children, so it is quite interesting to be able to compare the twins in "real time" as they are growing up together - going through the same stages at their own pace and in their own way. 

So how similar are Lisa and Leila? In some ways about as similar as night and day! Lisa is our loud one - she was born first with a great big wail of a cry, bringing tears to my eyes. When Leila was taken out she had a small, delicate little cry. This has continued to be the case when they get vaccinations or when they had their ears pierced.

Leila in her favorite toy on the left and Lisa in hers on the right. 
As we've moved past the sleeping-all-day part, we now get to enjoy watching the two of them play "together" - side by side usually, and occasionally one crawls on top of the other. Leila is much more easily occupied by our baby toys, and quite happy to sit on her own inspecting the small details of all our toys and books. Lisa is much happier when she's close to someone (and thankfully Leila helps with that) and is much more intrigued with household objects like spatulas and TV remotes. Of course with the two of them everything also goes into the mouth... As I sit here writing this, they are playing on the floor fighting over sharing a balloon. 

We started our wonderful solid food journey about two months ago, and at the beginning Leila refused to eat off the spoon. So I'd let her experiment by herself with the food on her tray and feed Lisa with the spoon. I would say we do a mix of baby-led eating with finger foods and purees / spoon fed meals. 

Sleeping is where they seem to differ the most. Lisa is a cat-napper, often lasting no more than half an hour in the crib. She prefers to nap in a stroller or bouncy chair. Leila takes good, long naps, sprawled out on her belly in the crib. Lisa needs to be coaxed (rocked, bounced etc) into sleep, Leila gets fussy and we lie her down and within minutes she is sleeping. This has made it interesting to try to get them on any sort of reliable schedule together!

Lisa is our more "high maintenance" baby and Leila is just so laid-back it is amazing. They both love to smile, babble in different ways, play with Lucas and Elena and be held by mommy and daddy. 

With all their differences there is one thing that remains the same; every day we fall in love with them even more. What a surprise it was to learn we would be having twins - and each day they surprise us as they each grow into their own unique little person. Such a privilege to be a twin mommy! 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Four in Tow

This past weekend I had the opportunity to get all the kids out of the house for a birthday party. Hubby, unfortunately had other responsibilities so it was just me and the kiddos. Now with four kids age five and under, you might think it's a little crazy to go trekking across the city with them as the only adult. While it can be stressful, it beats being stuck inside the house all day, so I decided to go for it. There are several things to do to make going out with your kids an enjoyable time for everyone.

1. The Destination
Obviously I'm not going to want to take my kids to an event that is unsuitable - say, where they have to all sit quietly for a long time. We were headed to a kids birthday party, so I knew there would be lots to entertain the older kids. It was primarily for them that we went. There would be kids we knew for them to play with, and people to help with the twins.

2. Set Expectations
We had attended another birthday party at this same location about a year and a half ago. I had taken the kids by myself (obviously without the twins) and we'd had some issues with behavior and obedience. So this time I made sure to set the expectations of what we would do and how the kids were to behave while we were there. Combined with the fact that they are a little bit older and more mature, it helped to prepare them for going out.

3. Be Prepared
This means a fully stocked diaper bag; food for babies, snacks for older kids, changes of clothes for everyone, sippy cups and pacifiers, toys, blankets, bottles, etc. (See the next point for where to keep the mounds of baggage you need.) I knew we'd be parking on the street so I planned to arrive a little "early" - i.e., party is set to start at 2:00 and we arrived at 2:30 - basically the first guests apart from the family. This meant we were able to get a good parking spot close to their building. I would guess most of the guests arrived between 3:00 and 4:00. This is pretty typical for Brazil.

4. Use your stroller
While strollers are useful for carrying children (especially multiples), they offer more than just that and storage for all your stuff; the stroller becomes "home base". The older kids can easily find us when we're out. The stroller also helps keep us all together - when we cross the roads the older kids know to hold onto the sides of the stroller. They also discovered that they can ride on the sides of it. When momma says the train is pulling out, they hop right on. It's pretty hilarious (and heavy to push!), but helps when we need to get moving.

5. Stand Out
I learned this tip from an article about taking your kids to the beach. Dress them in brightly colored shirts so you can easily spot them from far away. I took this to the next level and also dressed in a bright shirt so they'd easily be able to spot me if they needed something. Here in Brazil it also helps to have blond haired kids as they're in the minority and easy to spot in a crowd.

6. Accept Help
One thing I have really noticed with twins is that people are much more willing to help. I had so many people offer to hold one of the twins while I nursed / bottle fed / changed the other. I met another mom of twins who could empathize with me. Also I can strike up a conversation with anyone on the basis of my babies. (Great for an introvert like me.) Some of the dads there pitched in as well - helping Lucas go on the monkey bars and watching Elena play.

All in all we had a great time; the kids basically slept all the way there and back in the car (about an hour and a half each way) and we all thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to get out, play with friends, eat good food, celebrate and make connections with our church (and wider) community.

What other tips do you have for getting out with your gang?

Friday, 10 January 2014

First Christmas

Before we get too far into January, I wanted to record some memories from the twins first Christmas. Lucas and Elena were very excited for Christmas this year, understanding more of the true meaning of Christmas and of course also looking forward to getting some presents. Lisa and Leila, at 7 months, had fun just coming along for the ride, and eating the wrapping paper. Oh, and stealing the other's gift...

 We had a nice quiet Christmas Eve at home with just our family; reading the Christmas story and watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special before opening one gift (gifts for the kids from their Auntie Grace and Uncle Drew in Canada).

On Christmas Day we had a nice breakfast of French toast and bacon before opening more gifts and getting ready to head into Sao Paulo for a big Christmas meal with my in-laws. My sister-in-law was also there with her two girls and her parents. The big kids did really well during our little service and then we opened gifts. Lucas really enjoyed helping grandma hand out all the gifts and stockpiling his own stash to open at the end.
Playing with / eating / opening their presents
 At the end of the evening when all the gifts had been cleared away and we were packing up to head home I managed to get a few shots of the girls in front of the tree.
Love their matching expressions. 
 Lucas is already asking to have the Christmas decorations back up in our home. It's a good reminder to keep Christmas in our hearts all year long. Hope yours was a wonderful celebration of the greatest gift - Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

If I'd had time...

Lots of people are taking time to look back over the past year, linking back to some of their favorite events, projects, recipes and posts of the year.

Unfortunately I didn't blog as much as I would have liked in 2013 - let's blame it on my twin pregnancy and their births and adjusting to life with four kids under five...

So here are my top ten posts I wish I'd written in 2013...

1. Post date - January 2013 - In January we celebrated Lucas' fourth birthday. Coming off the end of a hard first trimester and a few weeks of a horrible sinus cold, the only way we pulled off a party for him was with a lot of help from my mother-in-law. We had a "construction" theme, with a building site cake and a "build your own sundae" station.

 2. Post date - Feb 2013. Arriving on the day of the party was my brother Aaron, who came to visit us in Brazil for the first time. He was only here for ten days, but we enjoyed eating lots of churrasco (Brazilian BBQ), going to the beach, a water park and just generally hanging out and playing with the kids.

3. Post date - April 2013 - About four weeks before the twins' birth I did a maternity photo shoot with my friend from church, Raquel. We trekked across one of Sao Paulo's largest parks to find a quiet corner for some nice shots. Although I had hoped to get some good family photos as well, I'd forgotten how early the sun sets, and by the time the rest of the family arrived (and trekked across the park to find us) it was almost dark. Still I was glad to have taken the time to do it seeing as it was my last pregnancy and twins at that!

4. Post date - May 2013 - While I have mentioned the twins birth several times, I still haven't really gotten around to writing the full story. Most notable for being my first surgery and having a horrible recovery. As far as c-sections go, it was very routine. I kind of wished I'd had it filmed.

5. Post date - June 2013 - After growing my hair out for almost three years, (more out of laziness than a real desire to have long hair), it was getting to be too much to handle. Thanks to my pregnancies and breastfeeding, I haven't treated or dyed my hair in a long time. So my lovely blond hair was natural and chemical free. I'd hoped to be able to sell it for a nice amount, (natural blond hair is pretty rare around here) but I just didn't have the time to search out many options. In the end I was able to sell it for a little and get a nice hair cut which is much more practical for my lifestyle right now.

6. Post date - August 2013 - In August my oldest girl turned three! With the twins birth so relatively close I wanted to make sure she had a nice party. Of course, she requested a princess party. While I had planned to keep it pretty simple, I sometimes have a hard time doing that and we ended up with a big princess castle party with princess hats and wands, helmets for the "knights" and lots of food and fun!
 Elena really enjoyed getting to dress up in a fancy princess dress for the party.

7. Post date - November 2013. With life settling down, getting into routines with all the kids and our babies no longer "newborns" - I was freed up a little bit to help with a good friend's baby shower. It was so fun to get back into doing projects like this again. I really had a lot of fun with the decorating.
In case you can't tell - the couple wearing the "baby kit" (top right) are the expectant parents. Their first born, a boy, is due any day now!

8. Post date - November 2013. Since he had received a five year tourist visa, my brother decided to visit us again in November. As he had a longer trip he was able to visit Rio as well. Again, we enjoyed many of the same things; going out to eat, to the beach. He also met the twins for the first time. Now there is only one member of my family to meet the twins - my youngest brother. We're hoping he'll make a trip here this year. :)

9. Post date - December 2013. In 2012 we decided to host a small "Thanksgiving dinner" at our place for a few couples. We made a traditional turkey dinner. In 2013 we thought we'd like to invite more friends to share in the traditional meal and put together a big Thanksgiving meal for about 30 of the young people from our church. Needless to say we enjoyed a feast in early December; great food, fellowship, a "white elephant" gift exchange, and a surprise proposal!

10. Post date - December 2013. When it came to decorating my house in 2013 for Christmas I wanted to do something different from the previous year. I could have easily just pulled out all my nicely organized decorations and done something very similar, but I just couldn't make myself do it. I love re-arranging and doing things differently. So this past Christmas I decided to go with a nice traditional red theme.

So while I still have a lot of thoughts on the year past and many more ideas for posts for the months to come, I hope you enjoyed reading the ten posts I didn't write last year.

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