Friday, July 18, 2014

Gramma's Visit and More!

Two weeks ago, my mom came to visit!  I love my mom so much. She is just the best ever, and when she comes on vacation here to visit us and Ezra it is like a vacation to me because she is so helpful.

She got in late on Saturday night, so we went to Johnny Rockets, a huge treat for us because we almost never eat out, then came home and went to bed early. (My mom was really tired since she flies standby and didn’t make her flight on Friday night so she ended up staying the night in the airport and flying out Saturday.)

Church was wonderful the next day, especially in Young Women’s, my favorite part of each Sunday. And on Monday, I took my mom to the Fruit and Spice Park. It is so fun having her come out so often, because little by little, I feel like she is experiencing so much of Miami. We had a great time there, but we left early because it started downpouring. Since we were in the agricultural part of Miami, we stopped at a couple fruitstands on our way home and bought some big, beautiful, Florida avocados, pink guava, white guava, and passionfruit.

Our tourguide told us that if we put our ears up against the tree, we could hear the water inside it! I could actually hear it! It was really cool.
All the mango trees down in Homestead looked just like this. Full of ripe, heavy fruit.
My mom made us a Thai dinner that night, which of course was absolutely. The next morning, she and I took a walk on the beach, stopped at Target because she wanted to buy Ezra some cute new clothes, and were off to the airport. I was so glad she could come. We had such a good time and it was hard for me to let her go!

We loved that Tanner didn't have to go to school on the Fourth. We went swimming, went to the bishop's house again for the next Brazil game, and watched fireworks on the bridge over the Intercoastal. At the bishop's house, Ezra made another Brazilian friend--Tatiana Alder. She used to be in our ward but is now in the branch since the ward split. She is a lot of fun and it was good to see her. She loves babies, and Ezra loved her.

One fun thing we did last Saturday was chaperone the youth at the temple for baptisms. I've been a Young Women's leader forever, but it was my first time doing it. Can I just say one time more how much I love my Young Women? They are all so sweet and so good and my life couldn't be more enriched or more blessed in any other calling than it is by working with them.

The next day, Ezra looked really charming in his Sunday clothes, especially in his sweet bowtie that my friend Kendra made. I couldn't help but take a bunch of pictures.

This week was Ezra's good friend Naz's last week at church before he moves back to New Jersey to be with his mom.
Church is very exhausting for some of us.
 This week has been so much fun. I haven't taken many pictures, but on Monday, my friend Donna, her neice, Ezra, and I went to the beach and then pool with some of our friends. Ezra ingested about half a cup of sand. We all had a great time. On Tuesday, we went to a birthday pool party, and yesterday, we went to the splashpad with Star and Brock, but as soon as we got there, they kicked everyone out because the weather started looking stormy. It was literally as soon as we all sat down and got wet. Ezra did like his 15 seconds at the splashpad much better this time though so things are looking up. Because we got kicked out, we headed back to Star's apartment and planned the boys' double birthday party (coming up in two weeks--can you believe it? Neither could we!) We've decided to have it at this big sprawling park called Greynold's that I pretty much love. Anyways, while we were planning, the boys played. Ezra loved Brock's blocks and became an expert little tower builder.

Well, it’s official: I’m finally caught up! And I’ve made a goal to do a bi-monthly blog. Once a week is just too much for me. It’s just too hard to keep up, and let’s face it—sometimes a week will go by without being all that entertaining. But once a month seems like too little. My whole purpose in keeping this blog is to keep family up-to-date on their little grandson/great-grandson/nephew/etc., and twelve posts a year is just not enough for that. I know for a fact that certain grandparents have a built-in need to see that charming little face much more often than once a month. So I think that meeting in the middle and posting every two weeks should be just about right.

My next goal is to post around the 15th and 30th of every month. I was talking to my very good friend Sheri today, and she told me how much having a set date to post has helped her keep up. It’s worked for Jocelyn as well, so I have high hopes that marking a date will keep me on track. It will ensure that the timing of my posts is predictable, that the content of each post is about the same length, and most importantly, that I don’t feel like such a spaz each time I post. Let’s just say I like organization.

See you at the end of the month!

Sister dos Santos's Visit

This is the first of two posts today! If you still want to read both, be sure to look for the next one, coming soon!

These past three weeks have been absolutely wonderful, beginning with the visit of one of my best friends and favorite companions, Sister, or Aline, dos Santos. She is from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and we served together for three and a half months in my favorite city in the world, Piripiri. Basically she was not only the nicest companion in the world but also the funniest, and I remember my time with her as just being completely happy. When she told me she was coming to Miami, I could not have been more excited. Tanner and I brainstormed about every fun thing I could do with her and about all the fun American foods I needed introduce her too. It all went off perfectly. It was the best week.

I picked her up on a Tuesday from her aunt’s house, where she’d been for a week doing all the Disneyworld stuff (I am so glad she got to go and that she had so much fun!). The first night, we planned out each of the seven remaining days that she’d stay with me. We planned outdoor activities in the mornings and indoor activities in the afternoons. (It usually rains in the afternoons here so we didn’t want that messing up our plans.) I wanted to show her the beautiful and fun places in Miami like the beach (naturally), the Deering Estate, and the Everglades alligator tours. She wanted to do a lot of shopping at the outlet malls, Walmart, and whatever other cool places I was willing to show her, like the dollar store.  We both wanted to go to the temple to do an endowment session together. I am so glad we planned, because it helped us pack a lot into a short time!

Ezra eating pancakes Sister dos Santos's first morning. I tried making her every truly American food or dessert that I could think of (although I'm sure most of them are from some other country and I just don't know it), including pancakes, waffles, root beer floats, chocolate chip cookies and homemade ice cream sandwiches, s'mores, hamburgers, and puppy chow. I also made sure she had some of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food--big win.
Wednesday, we went to the Deering Estate and to the Dolphin Mall. The funniest thing that happened was that as we were leaving my apartment, Aline saw a standard, yellow school bus. “Sister!” she said. (We of course still call each other “Sister.” First names, after calling each other “Sister” for so long, are just too weird.) “We have to find one of those buses and take a picture in front of it!”

Apparently, American school buses are really cool. Well, not really sure of where we would find a bus to take a picture with, I promised her we would, and we went on our way. When we got to Deering Estate, lo and behold, a yellow bus was parked right in front. She was so excited and ran up in front of it to take a picture. She didn’t see the driver sitting in the front seat, but he saw her, but he yelled down to her that she could sit in his seat and take a picture there if she wanted. So she climbed up and got to take a picture in the driver’s seat of a yellow bus. Simple pleasures.

The Deering Estate was fun. We took the traditional picture in front of the palm trees, and best of all, saw some manatees! There were two of them right next to the pathway. They were only feet from us. I love seeing them every chance I get, and I think it was really neat for Sister dos Santos too.

On Thursday, we went to the beach. I invited my friends Star and Donna, hoping that everyone would get to know each other a little bit. Unfortunately, the language barrier was a little intimidating to everyone, so there wasn’t very much for me to translate. But it was still fun. Aline did pick up the meaning of the word “yucky” when Brock was eating sand.

We tried snorkeling, but Aline wasn’t the strongest swimmer, not having had access to pools or the beach for most of her life, and it was just scary for her to try to stop breathing out of her nose and breathe out of her mouth (totally understandable), and so we gave up pretty quickly. She did practice in the shallower water for quite some time, where there were actually quite a few fish.

The best part of the morning though was when the two of us decided to go out to a sandbar, but she was scared of drowning, so she sort of held onto me and floated the whole way. I was holding Ezra in front, and moving in the water with two people on me made for slow, hilarious, going. We laughed a lot as we made it back to shore.

And of course Ezra loves the beach. He loves eating the sand and playing with the sand toys, but he especially loves being in the water. He just smiles and smiles, splashes a little bit, loves when we turn in circles, loves when we jump up with the waves, and is always just happy to be out there.

On Thursday night, we were able to do a session in the Fort Lauderdale temple. It was my first time through that temple (It was just dedicated in May), and it was so beautiful and such a good experience.

Friday morning we went to the pool. Tanner had a short day at school, so when he got home, Ezra was still napping and he just stayed with Ezra while we ran down. It was such a nice day, and as much as I love Ezra, it was nice to swim around and without holding him. Sister dos Santos said that in Brazil, only expensive clubs have pools, so she hadn’t been to one since before her mission. So she really enjoyed it and I was especially glad we went.

That night we had a girls’ night with some of my friends. We played cards and talked. It was fun. I invited one of the new girls in our ward, Isabela, who happens to be from Brazil, so it was nice that Aline had someone besides me that she could talk to. She was really nice and I am excited to have another friend in the ward. I can’t wait to get to know her better!

It was nice because we got to see Isabela again the next day. On Saturday, Adriana, the bishop’s wife, invited us over to watch the Brazil vs. Chile World Cup game. (Adriana is Brazilian, and she invited everyone in the ward that had something to do with Brazil.) So it was the bishop’s family, our family and Aline, Isabela’s family, and another couple. We ate pao de queijo (Brazilian cheesebread), drank Guarana, and spoke Portuguese. It was a long, drawn out game that ended in overtime and penalty kicks, but eventually, we won! 
We celebrated the win with tacos at Chipotle (they don't have tacos in Brazil). Yum! It's actually only the second time I've ever been there. She loved it.
On Sunday we went to church, which was fun, because I got to translate everything for her! I was lucky that she’d already been with me for several days, so I was already warmed up in my Portuguese. (You would not believe how many words you forget in four years—and I still can’t believe that it has been four years!) The Young Women were especially nice to here. They wanted her to stand up and introduce herself while I translated, and they didn’t care about the language barrier at all. They just asked lots of questions and I loved that. So church was really nice.

Our last full day together was Monday. We had left it open to whatever we wanted to do that day, and it turns out the thing that Sister dos Santos most wanted to do was go on an alligator tour! On our way to the Everglades, I pointed at the water next to the freeway and said, “See if you can spot any alligators!” just as a joke, but there in the middle of the river was a huge alligator just swimming along! It was neat to see one before we even got to the park.

We went to the Sawgrass Alligator Park. She loved the boat ride because we got right up next to them. She got a really neat picture of one that looks like it’s half-underneath the boat. And Ezra was adorable in his lifejacket and earplugs. I didn’t take any pictures of alligators on the tour (the pics of the alligators are all hers)—I just got pics of Ezra.
Can you spot it?
Has there ever been a cuter kid?

After the tour we walked through their wildlife exhibit. The park actually had a lot of cool animals including the Florida panther and some other big cats, a cute little fox with big ears, and some gigantor Burmese pythons that have kind of taken over the Everglades and eaten all the small prey. The government is trying to remove them all but it looks like it’s pretty much impossible at this point. We all got to take pictures with a little alligator too. Sister dos Santos was really scared and she was saying, "Hurry, take it, take it!" through her teeth the whole time. "Have you taken it yet?!" Ezra wasn't scared at all. He just looked at it's little face right next to his leg and was like, "Hmm."

Aline felt really bad for the kimono dragon. She kept saying, "Aww, it wants to get out!" She is more compassionate than I am. Let's just say I was glad it was in the cage.
Ezra loved the pig.
And the chickens and the ducks.
Weird multi-colored bird. Can you name it, Jocelyn?
Burmese python. Scary!

Chillin' like a big boy
Ezra loved the fox. It was so cute! He kept reaching for it.
Before we left, we shared a sno-cone, and Aline taught Ezra how to drink out of a straw. It took him about 40 tries, but he eventually got it.
Ezra playing with a toy alligator
On Sister dos Santos's last morning with us, Ezra and I got to be little models for my friend Kendra's cute online shop of baby bowties, women and girl hair bows and necklaces, and headscarves. It was a lot of fun. There were tons of women and kids there playing with bubbles, eating snacks, and most importantly, taking pictures! The kids all loved modeling, especially Ezra, who knows how to smile when the camera comes out. Even Aline had a good time, and kept saying afterwards how cool it was that we do things like that.

Here are some of my favorite shots Kendra got of us:

Since I have a good camera, I helped her out a little (very little) with the photography. Here are some of my favorite pics I got:

And here are some behind-the-scene pics (I love these! Especially the mom photos.):

Add hours and hours spent at outlet malls, Walmart, Target, Ross, and the Dollar Store, and that was our week! It was so much fun. Sister dos Santos was just as good of a friend as ever, and so much fun to be with (and boys, she is single!). I loved having her visit, was sad when she left, and am already looking forward to her coming again next year, which apparently is highly likely. So hooray! I get to repeat this whole experience soon. Now check for the next post! I am posting two today to catch up!