Saturday, August 8, 2009

Being Happy

I've been having lots of lessons on being happy lately. I've come to the conclusion that I'm too preoccupied to be happy when I should be. It's so ironic. We've had so many hard things to deal with in Brazil that, at times, I've longed (possibly ached isn't too strong of a word) to leave. But now that we are leaving, I am sad to go. It's just another example that happiness is just a decision. If I can look BACK and think of innumerable good things, I should theoretically be able to see the good while I'm living it.
And so, I'm practicing enjoying the moment and having some good success. For example, this week has been a financial nightmare, but since we closed our office here, Sheldon has been home a lot. Bonus? We all went to the beach with Dad, which hardly ever happens, as well as several nice family lunches, and even a few MarioCart challenges between my "five" boys.
It's nice how there are perks in every situation if a person is willing to acknowledge them. Life is the pits when you only consider the negative side of the equation. If I'm going to be lopsided in how I view my life, it's better to be lopsided toward hope and happiness.

Beijos, Beijinhos, and Beijaos, Kristen

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Birthday Week

I'm just recovering from a week of birthday parties. Liza had her 16th birthday on the 25th of June and we held a party in the Church on the 4th of July. Two days later we had a last minute birthday party for KKay's 8th birthday party at home.

Liza used her party as a value project. That may seem like a stretch, but in Brazil it's really common for the girls to have a 15 year old debutante party. They are huge. One I went to was about 5 times nicer than the nicest wedding I've ever been too. One of Liza's friends had one and it was in a magazine the next week because a big star attended. Another one of Liza's friends has decided to go on a study abroad to England for $15,000 dollars because that's about what a party would cost!

So anyway, Liza has been wanting to have a party for her 16th birthday party, but she wanted it to be big. So she designed this cute invitation.
We invited her class and the other class her age. She then planned games, menus, music, sound systems, people to come help serve, decorations etc. She was a stress monster for about 3 weeks. But the party came, she ran the whole thing, and she had a great time with her friends.

I made way too much food and we had the missionaries over for lunch the next day, which solved most of that problem, although I still have a 3 month cheese ball supply.

The next day we had a couple of families over for KKay's birthday and played games etc. Here most parties are family events, when you invite a child, you are inviting the whole family unless you specify otherwise. So we had 3 families over.

You have never laughed harder until you have played "Big Booty" with people who speak 3 different languages. It's hard enough to keep up the rhythm when you don't have to think about the number you are going to say, in which language, or, when you recognize the number. We had lots of hybrid numbers, for example, None, which was nove, and nine mixed. I said, Five and Cinco and got myself out. But the best part was Big Booty. Brazilians don't end many words with consonants, so we never had Big Booty, we heard more like Bee-gee aBoo-a-ty, hilarious accents. It was a riot. Brazilians usually sit around and talk at parties, so it was hilarious to see the competitive spirits rise to the surface.

We sang spanish, portuguese and english happy birthdays. The portuguese song is used for every happy occasion. They sing it to the same music, but, translated, it goes like this: Congratulations to you on this beloved day. Many felicities, many years ahead of you.

That is my wish for you. Muitos felicidades.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Happy Late Mother's Day!

I thought I would put on some pictures of the kids for our Grandmas who like to see their grandkids. Happy M's Day, Mom Sharon and Mom Carol! We love you and are thankful for your love, prayers, and kisses.

KK and his buddy, Nicolas (Elizangela and Nilton's son) on the way to Ilha Grande
Sheldon and Jens sitting by a scantily clad gal while I was throwing up somewhere.
Liza in the hat Aunt Melody bought her in New York at Uncle Rand and Aunt Vic's Wedding
Liza, Noah, Fabian and Fabiana, on the 8 hour bus trip to do baptisms for the dead. It's long but pretty fun. I can kind of relate to Laman and Lemuel having cabin fever on the ocean voyage. They got raunchy, we just get silly.

Jens posing in front of the airplane bathroom that has just been fixed after 8 months out of service! This bathroom is approximately 2 ft by 2 1/2 ft. It is right off the front room and it has been a royal pain to have our company tramp up to the bedrooms to use the "vazio."
Sheldon and KK. Love at FHE.

What is more fun than taking close up pictures in the car?Liza sporting her new bangs. This is her "mystic" look.

This was a great FHE moment. The kids were reading someone's old journal entries, maybe Jens'. It was a crack up!
Ashton is a super "hottie" in his school. The girls all love his blue eyes. He's actually had some kiss stealing going on...
This is Eliza and her cute friend, Mayara. Mayara likes Liza's high standards and Liza like Mayara's great math skills. She's a great friend when the portuguese is giving Liza fits.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Trip to Ilha Grande

Well, I am having troubles moving my pictures around, so we'll just start with this one. Pretend you're speed reading, that way the order of ideas is less important than the main ideas...When you're done reading, you'll have the whole story.

We found this earthworm looking guy on our hike. I was thinking he was one of those legless lizard, or eyeless snakes. I don't know....he was just taking a nap for all to see.

Noah thought we better put in a picture so our friends will remember us. We're at a fun family age right now. We aren't limited by little kids, but our big kids are still doing stuff with us, largly because Brazil doesn't have as much teen activities going on. (Opposite from us, their high school just gets harder and harder. Their senior year is school, Monday through SATURDAY, 8:00am to 5 or 6:00, no joke.)

This was the aquaduct system that feeds the little city still. It is almost 200 years old. The island used to have a big prison on it too, but that has been removed to promote tourism.

Two weeks ago, our friend Mike McMullin and his two boys, Andrew and Benjamin, came to Rio to visit. Our friends, Nilton and Elizangela, took us all to a really great island nearby called, Ilha Grande--creative name.

When we got to the dock to sail out, there were people all over because Sylvester Stalone was there making a movie, to be called, "Mercenary" I think. See that plane? He was in it.
Just so you know--it was filmed in Maragatiba, Brazil--not Cuba. We never saw him, but because all the local boats had to stay out of filming, our less than 2 hour trip took 2 and a half. A lady in our ward has a job on the film, stunt doubling for the main gal. Cool.
This is a picture of the kids stacked on the middle section of this little boat. It sounded really cool to go out through the sea on this quaint little boat. But I found out that I am a pathetic land-lubber. But my friend, Elizangela seen above at the beginning of the trip, was barfing with me later, so at least I wasn't the only one. BTW, I had to ask for life jackets. Nobody makes you do anything in Brazil safely wise. It kind of cracks me up...Our country everything is regulated. Here, stuff like this is just, do it youself. A boat full of kids on a 2 hour ride in the ocean, well, you want life jackets? My kids didn't appreciate my request. Note that Jens is "holding" his, just in case.
This is the boys waiting for the ship to come. It was actually a 2 hour drive to the port, and then 2 1/2 in the boat so it was kind of a long morning.
I wish you could have seen the panorama leaving this bay. All the lovely, colorful stucco houses. It was so picturesque!

Anyway, I kind of forget we live in a tropical paradise, because we always have homework, and I spend 3 hours driving people to work, school, and seminary almost everyday. But Ilha Grande was awesome. We went between 2 holiday weeks, so it was in full operation, but there was no one there, tourist wise. Ideal.

There were lovely black beaches, great hikes, great food. We stayed in a camping site near a little creek and were entertained by probably a hundred 6-10 inch crabs that gave the kids plenty to chase.I didn't get a big enough picture here, but this was the "slaves bathing hole", where they would bring whole companies of chained slaves to be cleaned after their horrific sea voyages. (For a super movie on this, see Amazing Grace) It was very beautiful, but I felt a little melancholy thinking of it's past.
There was a water slide just past the boys in the front to the right. It was great swimming, and the mouth of a really long hike. We didn't KNOW it was a 6 kilometer hike to the waterfalls until we were about 3 kilometers in. We'll have to try again next year....

Monday, April 20, 2009

Good and Shocking Shocks

Well, for those of you following the saga of our bank account, it's finally open again. It took 2 and a 1/2 months, which seemed like forever, but we are grateful that it actually opened again. We were beginning to wonder if it was one of those things that your great-grandchildren get a notice about, 75 years later: "It seems there was an irregularity in the bank and your great-grandparents have left you hundreds of thousands of dollars..." Too bad. I'll have to apologize to them now--no fun surprises.

Well, actually there was one fun surprise...maybe fun isn't the word exactly. I'm the new Primary President here in the ward. This is the second time I have been totally broadsided by this calling. The first time I had been in Cub Scouting: first, Wolf pack, then Bear pack, then Pack Leader. When the bishop called me, I was gearing up for Webelos. But no, Primary President.

I had been serving down here in the Young Women's Presidency. I knew the RS President had been called to the Stake, so things were in shake up mode. I was hoping to go into RS (somehow, I'm only there on vacation). But no, Primary President. The fact that children here don't often understand anything I say will be a difficulty. They look at me with skeptical or vacant looks, some cry. I'm not kidding.

Anyway, I have fond memories of Primary. Actually, I had a Primary Presidency Golden Age in Pleasant Grove--me, Pam Cardwell, Judy Mangum, and Beth was glorious. We had some great times and really long, no...I mean REALLY long meetings, but it was good times.

Here's hoping for more good times--for all of us.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Deep Thoughts

Hey, I've been out of the internet loop for a while. But since my neighbor is on her wireless today, I thought I'd sneak in a note. All this lack of computer, has forced me to think...

Who watched President Monson's talk at General Conference, Sunday morning session? It was the last talk of the session, so you know...I was tired, but also quite softened up spiritually (especially after Elder Holland's talk--he's a favorite). But anyway, just for context, Sheldon and I have been feeling very sorry for ourselves for a while down here. We had an accountant rob us of a lot of money, but what made it ten times worse was that, to stop him from taking all of our money, we had to put a "block" on our account. That was the fifth of February.

The block solved one problem but started another one because the bank didn't really have a system to reopen the account. We have been jumping through endless loops of paperwork, bureacracy, lawyers and judges...and actually it is still blocked and all of our creditors and employees are absolutely screaming (we are too!) because they haven't been paid since January. So, we are wondering what will happen to us, how and if our business is going to survive, and how much longer this nightmare is going to last etc. It's one of those things where you think you can't possibly live another day without a resolution to your problem, but another day passes and you go to blessed sleep (if your can) and you wake up with the same burden of Atlas on your shoulders...

And so when President Monson told this story about the lady who had to walk from Russia to Germany, with NOTHING except her 4 children, ages 7 to baby, I felt so much better! You really better go pull it up if you missed it. It was such a HORRIBLE story that it made my problems seem like tiddly winks. That night I had a nightmare that KK broke his neck and he was dead, sickly gray-purple, and then...I woke up. I just was washed with joy that my problems were temporary.

It made me think about why this lady suffered to the utmost. I am pretty much floored by the mundane problems of life! Why are there some who are burned to death in Ammonihah for their faith in Christ, and others who simply suffer the consequences of their own lack of experience? How in the world can these two experiences be analogous?

In thinking about this, my thoughts turned to the people who caused the suffering in these cases. For example, the war mongers in WWII--obviously they will be accountable for this woman's suffering. In Ammonihah, you know that every neighbor who silently consented to the murder of her neighbors, who offered no word of resistance or protest, but watched their friends and their friend's children incinerate, was massacred by the Lamanites. Somehow thinking about the other side, the causers of suffering, explained a lot for me.

I guess it's very simple. Some people die doing the right and some people die doing the wrong--and then they go to reap their rewards. It just hit me in the face that the Lord is just trying to get us across the finish line winning. The horrific things that happen in life are nothing compared to those that happen after this life. Horrific things will really happen to those who cause suffering. Those who suffered mortal atrocities, from their new state of peace, safety and undoubtedly glory, will be free to forgive their murderers. The righteous forgive and forget, but the wicked don't get to forget. They will not be free until they have experienced God's eternal punishment--which I think is an endless remembering of those very atrocities that they inflicted. Thus they suffer the endless atrocity.

I can worry about my house payment and every other financial disaster that happens to me, but that will all go away one day. The big thing is to do good, to die doing the right, because nothing could be worse than an endless reliving of our own mistakes.

Friday, March 20, 2009


FYI--In Brazil, most syllables that end in a "d" that are then followed by a consonant, have an 'ee' sound added to the end of the d. For example, KKay goes by his first name, Edmund. But no one calls him Edmund or even Edmundo. The first 'd' gets an 'ee' sound added. In other parts of Brazil it might sound like, Eddy-mundo. But the accent in Rio is such that
a "de" is pronounced like the letter "g". That means that KKay's name comes out, Edgey-mundo.

KKay-Edemundo is our first child to go to a regular school from the beginning. He is extremely diligent in his schoolwork. He absolutely will not tolerate being late to school. I bought him a Ben-10 watch and he tells me minute for minute how close he is to being late. His teacher is the ultimate authority. If she says he has to buy the workbook to learn English like the other portuguese speakers in his class, then there is no other alternative. Even the principal, who assured him that he doesn't have to buy it, cannot be believed. He wants to get his homework done the second he gets home from school. If, as usual, I don't have time to do it with him at night (when we're going to seminary) I suggest we do it in the morning, since school doesn't start until 1:00pm. If this happens, his first waking thought is to do his homework. I usually have to explain that I meant I would help him AFTER I make breakfast.

Today was Ashton's birthday. I put KKay off to make carrot cake waffles and we were all sitting down to eat them. KKay had his workbook beside him at the table, indifferently eating (because he is never really hungry in the morning), waiting for me to finish my breakfast and help him.

Noah looked over at KK and took in the situation. "KKay..." he menaced. "KKay, I'm going to do your homework..." KKay immediately rejected this idea.

"KKay.....I'm going to do your homework...."

KKay knew he was being teased, but he was nervous. "Mom, Noah's not going to do my homework, right?" "Right."

"KKay, I'm going to do your homework....and I'm not going to follow the directions. Mwaaghaagh."

Only brothers truly know how to torture each other.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Favorite Missionaries--Tamara and Kierstyn

I have two favorite missionaries in the field right now. They both happen to be serving (well one got home this week) in the Poland Warsaw Mission. One is my neice (who just finished). She is the preferred neice of the world because she plays with the kids in the pool, takes them places, and is generally super fun. The other is one of my best friend's daughter, who is also a favorite in her own right, who was our babysitter when we lived in West Valley. I have known her most of her life (since she was 10).

Ever since we got to Brazil, I have been receiving forwarded copies of their letters from their moms. It has been such a thrill. They have the best stories. They are amazing! I seriously feel a high when I read what they are accomplishing.

I was just reading Tamara's last letter, and one of kierstyn's letters, and I was so touched by how much fun they are having, and how much work they are doing. I just can't get over how wonderful missions are. I always encourage every girl I know to go, and every young man. But still, I am always a little shocked when they end up having such marvelous experiences.

I think no one can know until he or she goes what a gift missions are from Heavenly Father to the server. You think you're going to help other people, well, that's true. You think you're going to help the Church, which is true too. But, in Heavenly Father's math, every reason is 100% important. Or, in other words. you might think that going on a mission is 50% for other people, and 40% for your own personal benefit/growth, and 10% for the good of the Church. But actually, your mission is 100% for all of those things, and more, and there is no way to count all the good it does.

Being down here in Brazil is a lot like going on a mission because everything we do is showing the standards and beliefs of the Church. Liza went to a party last night, a big bash, a debutante ball. They are really popular here. She wore a dress with sleeves. She was the only one--lesson number one; dress standards. They had an open bar for everyone and her friends wanted her to try some things, but of course, she said no, not even a sip. Lesson number two: no alcohol. Then she had to leave at midnight because the next day was Sunday (which was too bad because the party STARTED at 9:00pm) This was the hardest for her (but she didn't really have much of a choice because we picked her up, but nevertheless) the third lesson was: keep the Sabbath day holy.

It's slow going, but it's the little things that count. Little examples add up, and one is eventually the grain that tips the scales toward the gospel. It's not a matter of convincing someone, or debating, or proving. The Holy Ghost confirms whatever truth you share, if you share it with conviction...and then it's up to them... and a little at a time is totally normal. Let's all be better missionaries. Who's with me?

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Seminary. I never knew it could be the refiner's fire. But when you only have 25-30 minutes between picking up from school and leaving, to drive 30-60 minutes through rushhour traffic every Tuesday-Friday night, leaving your three little children hopefully fed during those 25-30 minutes, to stay at home alone for 3 hours, until you get back at 9:00, well, it's a challenge.

We started this week. Friday night we started driving, but the rain was so heavy that it was 8 inches deep in some places so we came back.

Last year, I had this same problem. At times, I had to count backwards and breathe, like during childbirth, to handle the anxiety of moving at 5 kilometers an hour, through traffic so thick that you can reach your hand out the window and touch the buses (on either side of you).

I really think I would have given up, except one particularly horrible day, Eliza sat looking somewhere out the window, and she said, "You know mom, I don't think I could survive without seminary. It's like a spiritual cleansing after I have to listen to all the smutty stuff at school all day long."

So now, I drive to seminary, and I complain, but really, I'm glad that it's important to her and that it helps her. Noah is going this year and we are picking up a boy his age too. I've heard rumors that they might split the seminary, since we are so far from the Chapel, and let some of us do our own closer to home. We'll see if that happens. It has pros and cons.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Girl's Camp

Well, the first thing you need to know is that they haven't really had girl's camp (or boy's camp) in our Stake for 11 years. They've had youth conferences, but somehow the other stuff fell out of favor. So this year the Stake President decided to start up the process again. There was quite a bit of resistence--to the point that he was accused of apostacy for wanting to have camp, and in tents! (No really, somebody thought it was against the handbook to have girls camp and use tents. Maybe the previous leaders used that for an excuse to avoid it!)

Carnaval is such a carnal week down here that all youth camps and activities are ALWAYS planned the four days of carnaval to keep the kids off the streets during this time. Our church services (the week before Carnaval) was let out early to help people get home before the Parade of the Piranhas (transvestites--everybody goes drag for fun and to expose their stupidity) which passes in front of our chapel. The next week, church for the youth was at camp; the adults and primary kids combined with another ward. The missionaries are on house arrest that week too.

The last factor is that public parks aren't known for being safe. Going hiking at some of the forests around here is considered foolish because theives can be hiding anywhere and jump out when you are isolated. Anyway, there aren't really places to camp, and our stake doesn't own any land. But in Rio, many people live in apartments, so when someone wants to hold a big party (which is a very common thing to do) they rent a special party place. Most times these places are houses that have a pool and lots of land and room for a barbaque. So that's what the church did. We camped on the soccer field.

I had to put in some pictures of this house! It was AAAMAZING. It must have been the pinnacle of chic in the 1960's. I guess it was built for a judge that did a lot of entertaining. He died, and his kids arent' interested in the house anymore, so it's a party place now that will probably be bought out by land developers anyday.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


This is my new year's resolution--to make a record of our days here in Brazil and try to keep my friends and family in the know, a little better than I have previously done.

Welcome to Brazil. I hope you brought sunscreen!