Lessons Learned While Riding & Driving in Manaus

We try not to spend a lot of time in the car here…as mentioned in this post. But because we only have one (rented Fiat Doblo aka boxy stick shift with no power) car, a lot of time ends up being spent driving or riding along.
G, M, & I take L to preschool in the morning before I drop G off at work and head back home.
I pick L up from school before Lunch.
And (since originally writing this post, a co-worker has graciously offered to give G a ride home each day-Thank you!!!) I take all the kids to pick up G from work at the end of the day.
I would estimate that to be at least 3 (generally terror filled) hours in the car for me de segunda a sexta (M-F).

G-master of the road

During one of the rides home at the end of the day, when the whole family was in the car, we drove by a stray dog digging in some trash. Unfortunately, this is a common sight here and I honestly thought nothing of it. Until L started laughing. He pointed at the poor creature and said: “That doggy’s eating trash! That’s silly!”

stray dog in Japiim stray dog in Japiim

At that moment we had a choice. We could either ignore the teachable moment and agree with our observant pre-schooler, or begin to teach him some compassion.

In Christine Carter’s book Raising Happiness she outlines how to raise kind children. You know what is number one on that list? Modeling kindness. If your children don’t see what kindness looks like, how will they ever be able to be kind themselves? Being positive and exposing them to need are also on her list. Living in Manaus it’s very easy to expose our kids to those who need. We do it on a daily basis when we drive through rickety, favelas built over the river on the way to Daddy’s office.

favelas favelas

I feel compassion when driving through those parts of town for the people who live there, but doing it every day has really desensitized me. It’s just part of the drive now. I need to verbalize my compassion so my kiddos know what that’s about and they can learn to feel the same. Volunteering here is out of the question for me, but I do what I can. I give change to those who ask and donate all of our clothes and shoes to those in need. M is constantly growing out of her clothes and just yesterday L asked why his old shoes were in the bag that we were giving away. It was a feel good moment to sit down and talk about how some little boys don’t have shoes so we can help them by giving.

How do you volunteer your time? Do you bring your kids along and involve them too?


One thing people need to stop saying to foreigners

I am white. I have blonde hair and blue eyes, but I magically don’t burn all that easily. I married a blue eyed, white man who does burn easily, and we have three, very white, very blonde children also with blue eyes.

We stand out here.

And I don’t mean like, you’re a little overdressed for the party so you feel slightly awkward stand out. We are a full blown circus act, sideshow, exhibit at a zoo stand out. It’s quite uncomfortable at times. G doesn’t understand why it bothers me, but the strong, red-bearded, Norwegian man that he is can take care of himself. Luckily he’s on my side, right? Being stared and hollered at (even while driving the van with all three kids in the back-not to mention when one is in the stroller, one riding on it, and one is strapped to my back) is disconcerting…kind of makes me not want to go anywhere just to avoid feeling that way. I can’t even tell you how many times strangers have rubbed the boys’ blonde heads, tried to hold their hands, or pick them up and give them hugs.

In any case, the one thing that no one should really ever say is “Are you foreigners?” I mean seriously? Sure, there might be some genuine curiosity there, but couldn’t you open with something slightly less obvious?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m hanging onto my American culture pretty tight (although I am making a huge effort to learn the language). Maybe it’s because I come from America that I’m used to diversity and find comfort in it, but then again there are plenty of people in America who don’t share those feelings with me. I wonder how the native Brazillian’s feel about me and my family being here. Kind of scary to think that it could be the same that some American’s feel about foreigners there.

Have you ever felt like you were on display?

Happiness Habits

When I read Raising Happiness, one of the steps was forming happiness habits. This step was not initially revolutionary for me. I read the section, took my notes, and moved on. When nap time got so bad I couldn’t stand it I decided to take action.

First, I took a look at Dr. Christine Carter’s worksheet and made my own spiffy version with lots of colors and space for stickers. I filled everything out, talked about turtle steps, and taped them on the wall just outside the boys’ room. I had a plan and it was going to work!

L's Happiness Habit Chart

I knew it was going to be difficult, but I didn’t know what it was going to do to my expectations. By breaking down my big goal of an easy nap time into tiny easily accomplished goals, or turtle steps, I lowered my expectations and didn’t get upset when the boys were using their normal diversionary tactics to delay actually going to sleep. I didn’t even get upset when they didn’t heed to their turtle goal that day. I simply said: Oh bummer, looks like you don’t get a star on your chart today…and kept going.

Let me be clear about this, my and the boys’ behavior didn’t actually change that much; my expectations of our behavior changed. And while it took lots of prayers, time and some tweaking to our routine, I am happy to say that we have an easy nap time! For the first time ever, really.

Celebrations are in order!


When I was fighting post-partum depression after T was born, the psychologist I had all of two sessions with before deciding he was pretty lame told me to do something for myself everyday. It didn’t matter if it was 5 minutes reading a book I wanted to get through or taking the afternoon to get a manicure. Just one thing everyday. I didn’t really take that advice to heart until I read the book A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. It was recommended by a more experienced and wiser mother at church after I reached out for some help with my particularly strong-willed, L. I was pregnant with M at the time and had just moved to Brazil. No patience, no village, no fun.

The book was an indispensable tool for me in prioritization. She prioritizes using the “Five ‘Ps’ of Married Life” that a priest outlined for her. After getting back into my jeans I thought you all might want to know how exactly I find the time with three small children to exercise regularly.

The 5 ‘Ps’ in order of importance:

I have organized my day with meals, my kid’s naps, and these things in mind. If I don’t keep my prayer life in order, I often notice that I get frustrated more easily and can’t show my kids how much I love them. If I don’t take care of myself I’m worthless to the rest of my family-and that includes working out. To quote a favorite movie: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” And because I don’t want to shoot my husband…I work out!

But really, in all seriousness, parents these days have a different world and different challenges to parenting than those of only a few decades ago. And in a few more decades, the challenges will be still different. We have all gotten really good at saying “take care of yourself”, but what does that really mean? I can easily see this being taken too far when common places for parenting advice say things like “schedule 10 minutes with each child each day.” That seems a little extreme. I think maybe, more appropriately, the advice should be: unplug and actually BE PRESENT with your child for 10 minutes (at least) each day. Try it. It’s HARD! We’re all so dependent on our electronics and being connected. Can you even make it 5 minutes without checking your phone?

Notice that Parent is the fourth ‘P’. after prayer, taking care of yourself, and nurturing your relationship with your spouse. And Providing is all the way down at the bottom. For me as a stay at home mom, this means providing the cleaning and cooking services that are a part of our daily life. For my husband, this means going to work everyday and bringing home a pay check. I think you can probably see how easily these priorities might get skewed.

I guess I didn’t answer the question yet, though. How exactly, do I exercise regularly? Well, I have carved out the hour from 8:30-9:30 as my work out time. Sometimes M is napping, sometimes she’s in the bouncer watching, and that’s OK. Sometimes T is playing on his own, and sometimes he’s on my back during push-ups and that’s OK, too. My kids will grow up knowing that it’s important for their mommy to take care of herself and they might also learn the importance of keeping active to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Maybe one day my boys will make sure the mothers of their children know that it’s OK and even important to take a break and step away regularly. Maybe M won’t burn out because she will already know how important taking time for herself is by watching her mommy. We all need breaks so we don’t burn out!

How do you prioritize?

LiveExercise & Liebster Award

Some great things happened this week!

First: Check out my interview at LiveExercise!

Second: I got nominated for a Liebster Award!

Leibster award blogger-image--560726812

A sorority sister from long ago at Imperfect & Fabulous nominated me for the award & I couldn’t be more excited. Like most new(ish) bloggers, I had no idea what a Liebster award was. Luckily, Lauren didn’t know either…so all I had to do was check out her blog post on the topic. I will answer some questions, nominate some bloggers, & ask them some questions of my own…here goes:

  • What blog post are you most proud of?

I put a lot of thought into every one of my posts, but I would have to say that I am most proud of my commentary on a mom’s post on social media gone viral.

  • If you could make one change, big or small, to your day-to-day life what would it be?

I would love to be able to just BE with my kids more. I know that sounds ridiculous as a stay at home mom. I’m always with my kids, right? But when I’m actually able to sit and play with them I want to be fully present instead of thinking about all the million other things I need to do. It’s hard for me to stay focused on the important things sometimes and I would love to get better at that.

  • What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

Eating baked goods after my kids are asleep…because then I don’t have to share!

  • What is your favorite part of the day?

When I’m on my way to bed an hour or two after the kids have fallen asleep & I can go into their room to tuck them in and give them kisses while they sleep.

  • Savory or sweet?

This is a tough one. I’m totally a fan of the combo sometimes…but if I had to choose one? Sweet.

My nominees:

So There.
playing at home

Casual Contemplations

My Questions:

  1. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  2. Who has influenced your writing style the most?
  3. What are you really good at, that others might not know about you?
  4. When do you write most of your posts?
  5. Why do you blog?

It sort of feels like an old school chain letter, but if it brings attention to blogs that deserve it, hey…why not! Here are the rules!

  • You must link back to the person who nominated you.
  • You must answer the questions given to you by your nominator.
  • You must pick 5 bloggers, each with under 200 subscribers, to be nominated for the award.
  • You must come up with 5 questions for your nominees to answer.
  • You must go to their blogs and notify them of the nomination.


My Mom Jeans Post led to the discovery of this amazing website called LiveExercise. If you have a hard time getting to the gym or running on your own, this is seriously something to check out. In Manaus, I don’t know where to go for dance classes and I don’t know the language well enough to join a gym-nor do I have the time/motivation to actually go regularly. My condo complex has a sala gymnastica, but it doesn’t have A/C. How you could possibly work hard enough to lose weight in a non-air conditioned room on the equator without passing out is beyond me.

With LiveExercise I can work out in the comfort of my own hard tile floored, air-conditioned office. Yes, I need to invest in a super thick mat. Right now I steal the foam tiles from the kid’s play area just to put under my knees or elbows. I don’t want to end up with bleeding elbows (Jenn G.).

Unfortunately, the internet here is kind of awful at times and I only have from 8:30-9:30am to workout. So if the web isn’t working when I can work it, then I have to trek down to the greenhouse my complex calls a gym room. I think I’ve made progress in two months. What do you think? These pictures span 7/20-9/20.

Before Starting LiveExercise July 20, 2013 August 17, 2013 August 24, 2013 August 31, 2013 September 6, 2013 September 19, 2013

I’ve only been working my way through the body weight workout series so far, but they have a TON of options. 10 minute workouts when you don’t have time, cardio, abs, etc. It’s really a family fitness destination. They have literally created shows for everyone from kids (6+) to grandma. Busy moms and dads, and expatriates who are much more comfortable staying at home, are the perfect candidates. Plus, you need almost nothing to get started. And if you have weights and bands already…they have shows for that, too.

Another SUPER cool thing is that you can workout with the trainers live. Because my workout time and bandwidth is so limited, I really can’t workout when the shows are live, but if I did I would be getting shout-outs from the trainers in real time. How motivating is that! I make it a point to comment on a show after I’ve completed it because I get feedback every time. The social media aspect is really fun and creates a close-knit community feeling you wouldn’t get from a gym or classes anyway. I feel like I’ve made friends with my instructor, but we’re thousands of miles away from each other and have never actually met.

Getting a shout out from Jenn G. prompted me to try on my pre-pregnancy jeans yesterday. And they FIT! WOOHOO