Saturday, August 23, 2014

Everything is Awesome! - Weston

Capoeira at Boston Common
Here's the thing: this blog is a total failure. I have run dry of amused jibes, sarcasm, irony and anything approaching horror.  I just can't drop out of my elation, happiness and let's face it--out and out chortling--about being "home" in New England.  Frankly, nothing is going wrong. Nothing. Oh, okay, my kid broke his $7 Ninja sword within an hour of getting it from and there was that whole arm-break thing, but other than that, things are going well. Yeah, I have a woodchuck the size of a capybara patrolling the back yard, and skunks eating lawn grubs and leaving pits everywhere and my $70 bird bath has attracted nothing but poop so far but things are going well.

My niece made a mix CD for her birthday giveaway and the last song is "Everything is Awesome" and I have to tell you, it's my new theme song (yeah, I get that it is tongue-in-cheek but if it weren't...).  My kids are happy here though they still can't sleep in their own rooms. They have made fast friends not only with the neighbor kids but with the kids of a college friend who came to visit yesterday. Lalo even said "wow, she is really good at soccer" about the 10 year old and if you know Lalo, you would know that a compliment about a girl is a rare bird. Hang on, I have to go knock wood before continuing--I am so sure I am going to jinx myself...

As you probably know, I am a huge proponent of the American public school experience and so far, I am simply blown away by Weston public schools. First, both kids got letters from the superintendent of the school system, the principal of their elementary school and then today, their individual teachers sent them letters to welcome them. We went to an ice cream social for new families two days ago where I met several awesome (Everything's Awesome!) moms and PTO mamas (you know what I'm talking about).  We walked into the school's gym and it was nicer than their private school in Brazil. Their class size? 18. Class size in private school? 22. 

On Wednesday we had the kids' cousin over for a play date. When Lalo cried about his cousin leaving at 5 pm, I made a spur of the moment decision to go in with the boys to Boston where the cousin lives. There we met my sister-in-law who brought some stealth white wine in water bottles to the Boston Common and the kids collected acorns and played on the playground until full dark.  Ah, I should mention we did not give wine to the kids. Only pizza. Then I ran into the capoeira master for the group I had contacted two months ago from Brazil to see if the kids could join.  Then we (me and the kids, no capoeira master) slept over at my sister-in-laws house--nope, no change of clothes, no toothbrush--the walk of shame down Beacon Street the next morning brought back memories of college.

Today we went to capoeira in Brookline, a vibrant and fun community next to Boston. There we met up with Mestre Chuvisquinho (he of the Boston Common) and he said that the kids were doing capoeira in the park that day due to a scheduling issue. And then proceeded to give a class to the kids that totally kicked the butt of their São Paulo academy. In the warm sunshine of a neighborhood park. While the berimbau and drums played, I quietly sang to myself Everything is Awesome!

I know I'm jinxing myself. I know there will be bad days. I know I will hate something. But until then I give you full permission to skip my blog--I'm just not feeling the sarcasm, the wit, the fun. Awesome is perhaps not so great for my writing career.

Back when something goes wrong.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Neighbors - Weston, MA

Photo credit:

I am sitting here this fine morning eating berry crisp. It's delicious, and more so as it is 7 am and it just feels like a guilty pleasure (and 5000 calories). The crisp was not made by me since I am a true disaster at two household areas--baking and gardening. Oh, and ironing. Not so great at cleaning either. But I digress. The crisp has a longish story that accompanies it.

Two weeks ago a gorgeous yellow labrador suddenly appeared in our backyard as if materializing straight out of a tree. Very Harry Potter. My son and I ran outside and he ran to us and we played for a half hour with him--throwing a ball, petting him, my son body-hugging him. His collar read "Finley" and showed his address to be four houses down the road. It finally occurred to me that we were dog-napping and we walked down the street to return him.

When we walked into the driveway of a very large yellow house, arguably the prettiest in the neighborhood with a big red barn in the backyard, a young woman came out and greeted us and told us that Finley had escaped from "quarantine"--he had had surgery a while back and was not supposed to run around. My son and I looked at each other and said "ummm, well, we might have played with him a little bit." The young woman (turns out that she is the au pair) said she had to get back inside because there was a child sleeping. My son reluctantly left the yard--that boy needs a dog. A young dog. We have an old dog. Who is still in Brazil.

Later that afternoon when I was out with the kids, BH said two kids came by to thank us for returning their dog. I peppered my husband with questions--how old were they? Which school did they go to? Where does the bus come? BH answered that they looked a little bigger than the twins and that was all he knew. Sigh. As my mom would say "oh, mens."  

Every day my son asked if we could visit Finley. We walked by the house several times, too shy to ring a doorbell, but hoping we'd see someone around. We saw kid toys, a badminton net, but no kids. But then we had Neighbor Day yesterday. I love Neighbor Day. I moved back to the US for Neighbor Day.

Yesterday had already started well--the kids were off to the local farm for the third and final day of Amphibians Camp. They had actually become amphibians after a hard rain the whole day on the second day. I went to get my Massachusetts drivers license, which was less painful than I expected (though not a lot), visited the Community Rowing mega-complex on the Charles River to find out about going back to rowing, and headed home. Once home, I walked out the door, up the street and into the woods. We are surrounded by conservation land here and the trail network goes for miles. 

After picking up the kids at camp, we dropped by the grocery store to recycle our cans (not my favorite US experience but the kids love it because they get to keep the money) and ran into our next door neighbor and her 9-month old daughter. A quick chat then we got our money and our sushi (the kids love sushi--even supermarket sushi. I really can't figure out why recycling the cans is always a money-losing proposition. We made $1.75. Kids had $20 of sushi).

When we got home, I saw that the neighbor in front was out gardening. The labrador-loving kid saw that he had a huge black lab with him. We ran across the street. The neighbor is a lovely man in his 80s, a small twinge of a Scottish accent still with him, and we talked about neighborly things. The lab belongs to his son--Colby is 14 years old, staggers like Caju used to stagger, and is a gorgeous black bear. The neighbor suggested a pellet gun for the woodchucks--he had one in his yard the size of a cocker spaniel. Yikes.

While we chatted, the neighbor we had seen at the grocery store walked by. More chatting. Then we went inside to snack the sushi (not me--4 pm is a bit early for me), then set up the bird bath and decided to take a walk through the neighborhood. And bingo.

There was a little girl playing in the backyard of Finley's house. My two boys ran around the house and flushed like beagles the father and three boys from the backyard. Two of the boys are older--10 and 13--and one is younger (6). The girl is 2. Should I feel a bit sorry for this little girl with three older brothers? Wait, no, I feel sorry for any boyfriend she may ever bring home. 

The mom came out of the house as well and she said she was about to start an online writing course but she invited the kids to stay within about five minutes of us arriving. The kids played soccer, on the giant swing, in the woods, in the grass, in the house, and were still invited for dinner. And to stay later. One of the big boys would walk them home. From five houses away. Probably no American who has lived in a slightly sketchy place can understand the elation that I felt last night. My kids walked home, in the dark, with older kids. 

And I got a huge piece of berry crisp to take home with me. And I did. For breakfast.

A great Neighbor Day. To be celebrated every single day.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Where Fantasy Rules - Tuxedo Park, New York

Why yes, they ARE wearing capes in 90 degree heat

This past weekend I took a road trip down to Westchester County, New York to visit my sisters. Yeah, okay so technically I don't have any but I grew up with these two since I was around 5 years old and they're as close as it comes. In one of our inspired (and not just by alcohol) moments, we decided to go to the New York Renaissance Festival in Tuxedo Park, about an hour away.  The last time I had attended one was sometime in the early 1990s in the Bay Area of California. It was hot, dusty, wacky and entertaining. A fantastic combination--let's go!

Now for those of you not familiar with the American style Renaissance Festival, let me try to sum it up. Americans like to dress up. We do. This is the whole point of Halloween, Civil War reenactments, the Freedom Trail in Boston, the Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco and Mardi Gras (though those last two are more about not dressing at all).  

As far as I recall from my American history classes, we did not experience the Renaissance in the US. That stopped us never from dressing up in giant gowns, small corsets, codpieces, hats, and floral wreaths.  Seriously, it was 90000000000 degrees in the shade and people were in armor, velvet and furs.Oh, and one Storm Trooper who greeted any questions with "Long long ago, in a universe far far away" or whatever that folderal is.

Wait, so did I sum it up? No? Okay, get thousands of people together on 6 consecutive weekends in August and September in a tiny one-pub town in midstate New York, charge $29 ($19 for those of us with smart girlfriends who pay ahead of time), and provide entertainment such as a live chess game (awesome sword play, unintelligible dialogue), jousting (huge horse, funny Sir David against the Scot Sir Angus), Vixens en Garde (bad), belly-dancing (ummm?), Birds of Prey, and Rotten Tomato throw. The latter merits a moment. But first the food.

Live chess match.

Vixens en Garde spouting Shakespeare and bad innuendo

Sir David of the Blue & Gold. He won.
One of my sons entered the fair (or "Faire" if you will) chanting "Turkey Leg, Turkey Leg" until he got one. It was HUGE. Approximately the size of his thigh. He could not pick it up and I ended up picking it off the bone for him. Our whole strategy was to keep the kids so overfed and overdrinked (non-alcoholic please) that they would not notice how hot and sticky it was. So that was followed by ice cream, frozen lemonade, Root beer floats (VERY medieval), and who knows what else. I do appreciate that the fair was pretty well-priced--a lemonade for $3 was a lot less than we would have gotten taken for at Disney.

If you tipped the waiter or waitress, they would yell "Huzzah" and shake their parts. Some corsets are made better than others and that is all I have to say about that. Well, that and I think my 7-year old son just grew up very fast. 

Remains of the turkey leg

We spent some time at the Rotten Tomato toss where for $2 you could throw three peeled tomatoes at a man in a wood "cage". He would wait for your shots by insulting you very creatively. One of the "targets" was so creative and funny in his insults that I started crying laughing. Especially when one of my sons confused him by asking about his green eyes or why he was so mean. The other son wanted to throw the tomatoes but once I told him that he had to take the insults without crying, he quickly backed down.

The kids all invested in wooden swords and daggers and shields or floral tiaras. Some adults invested in beer. I did not have any chocolate covered bacon no matter how much I was tempted (not for one second).

Americans are very strange. I like it.


The Renaissance Faire is in Tuxedo Park, NY all weekends until September 21. Highly recommend, but go early!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Evil Inside - Weston, MA

My backyard

This is a photo of my backyard. I love my new backyard--it is the main reason I wanted this house. It reminds me of the Alemão, the ranch house we rented for three years in Brazil. It reminds me of growing up on three acres in Connecticut. It reminds me of all that is good about suburban living in the US.

It is the antithesis of my small walled stone-tiled backyard in São Paulo. Now there is no fence (okay my neighbor has a four-foot fence around her pool on one side but surely that is for legal reasons--and it's not electrified which is nice), no security....yet, it is the scariest place my kids have seen. Barely inside those woods is an evil.

What is it?  Two words. Poison ivy. My kids are terrified of poison ivy. I have to admit that it is more than partially my fault as I yelled at them the first day to get back from those three-leaved evil plants. Now they are frightened of clover. I am terribly allergic to poison ivy and expect that my kids will be equally susceptible. 

This should make me laugh. In Brazil, we were afraid of various things at the wild fazenda (ranch): poisonous spiders, poisonous snakes, the always-rumored jaguars, canine tick disease. Now we are afraid of plants, lyme disease and lawsuits.On the bright side, one of my sons found a tiny garter snake that he confused with a worm because it was so small and cute. Very few snakes in Brazil are cute, unless you see them through my sons' eyes and they clearly inhale too much white glue every day. 

So we have an awesome backyard. Just don't go into the enticing woods. There is evil inside.

Friday, August 1, 2014

I need a title - Weston, MA

Not my car

So yesterday I bought a car. The process was lengthy but somewhat more fun than I thought it would be. The main reason for this is that I went with my dad. Yeah, BH completely bagged out of car negotiations. In his defense, I had pretty much decided which car I wanted, which color and besides checking some pricing, I had it all ready to go. 

Off Dad and I went for a test drive. Our poor defenseless car guy was named Aurelio--for one moment, I thought he was Brazilian but in truth, he was just a really good sport. Dad and I joked our way through sport suspension testing, braking and rolling windows up and down (there is no multicultural moment so happy as moving from a bullet-proof car to a non-bullet-proof car).  I hope those window motors are the best as they will have to survive the twins putting the windows up, putting the windows down, up down up down...

I have to say that buying a car in the US is much like buying a car in Brazil. Except that I get to choose between 300 colors and options instead of three colors and two options packages. And cars cost twice or three times as much in Brazil. I sold my three-year-old CRV for almost as much as a new one costs here. 

I complained to Aurelio that the lady on the phone had said that the silver color was in stock but it was not. He said "that's not my department." Those are the phone people. Then my dad asked "how much does an oil change cost here at Acura?" and Aurelio said "I don't know. That is not my department."  And then we asked what was the best deal on the car and he said "I don't know, let me get my manager." And I pointed to the embroidery on Aurelio's shirt and said "you are Acura. You are every department to a client." And Aurelio laughed.

After visiting the Hyundai dealer next door, we discovered that things get worse. We met another sales guy (sorry, did not catch his name, hope it was a good one) who told us he was a "Selection Specialist." After asking a few questions about cars and servicing, we got the same responses about not knowing service costs (the service department was 10 feet away from his desk). And so we asked what exactly was his role at Hyundai. And we found out that a "Selection Specialist" is only responsible for helping a client choose the right Hyundai model and then he hands off to the "Sales Specialist" or perhaps it is the "clean-out-your-wallet specialist".  And so on.

So, I've decided that in the US, we all need titles. As you know, I have a garbologist who comes every Tuesday and picks up the garbage. And yesterday morning, I was visited by the arborist who told me all about ash borers and made me pity the deer last year which desperately chewed up half the rhododendrons even though they hate rhodos.  Do not call him the tree guy. He is the arborist. And fair enough, he does have a forestry degree I noted on his online resume.

I need a title. BH tells me I am the Head of the Motor Pool. The pool is one at the moment. Head of the Motor Puddle. I am also COO of this household.  Chief Entertainment Officer of small children. Hopefully I'll get a paying-job title soon. And then I can tell people who ask tough questions "that is not my department."