BRAZIL: On the Move, Part I — the patchwork house

BRAZIL: On the Move, Part I — the patchwork house

patchwork houseWhen we first married we lived in an apartment in the heart of a big metropolis. It was practical to live near everything we needed and be able to do all of our errands by foot or bus (in fact, we had no car and walked to work). However, we missed having green. We started looking for a house in a nice region on the outskirts of the metropolitan area, near a forest reservation.

When we finally found a place we could afford to rent it wasn’t exactly your typical house. The owner had built two tiny guest houses in the back of a property he had initially planned to build a regular house in the front of later on; but that never happened.

On the upside we were living glued to a fragment of Atlantic rainforest and our son now had a huge garden to play in. On the downside, the house wasn’t exactly practical.

One of the guest houses had two rooms, a kitchen and a terrace. There we installed our son’s room and ours. However, the kitchen was so small it would only fit the fridge OR the stove, so we had to put the fridge in the second guesthouse and crossover all the time, sun or rain.

The second guesthouse, in turn, had a living room/terrace, one room (which became our library/office), the main bathroom and a pantry of sorts (we squeezed in the fridge instead). The roof had no lining, which wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t have constant animal visitors coming in (lots of funny stories about that!).

Later on, when we were able to buy the our place, we decided to apply our limited funds to adapt the two guesthouses. An architect friend did his best to join them together into a single, more conventional house.

Our bedroom was expanded and incorporated the tiny kitchen and part of the terrace. A living room was built to join the two houses, which took the shape of a “J”. The main bathroom and former pantry gave place to the new kitchen. Part of the terrace became the laundry room. We lined the roof, installed mold-proof open wardrobes, and installed a large bathtub where our two other children were later to be born.

Nevertheless, all of this did not happen at one time. As I said, we had limited funds and every time these funds began to wane we had to stop.

At three different and stressful moments a lot of work was done in the house, including once, when during three very challenging months, we had to live at my mother-in-law’s.

Now, years later, we still live in a very unconventional house.

Besides the bedrooms, we never put in windowpanes or doors. The terrace/living room still opens completely into the forest – a curse and a blessing all at once! And even though our financial situation has improved considerably over the past few years, it has been four years since our last attempt at home improvement.

Aside from the occasional efforts to clean/fix the roof from the huge amount of leaves we get, we haven’t done much. Every time we think of all the stress involved we decide to postpone any kind of big project.

Despite everything, I love my house and its garden. I believe things will get better as our children grow older and we have more time and energy for housekeeping and improvement. My husband, on the other hand, thinks there is no way to make this house work and we should just move elsewhere, even though he also loves the closeness to the forest. The truth is he would like to live on a small farm, although I have safety concerns. Thus, every once in a while we go house or farm hunting.

Stay tuned! Part 2 coming soon…

How about you, what are your stories with house remodeling and moving? Please share below?

This is part 1 of a two part, original post to World Moms Blog from our contributor and mom of three in Brazil, Ecoziva.

The image used in this post is attributed to Karen Roe. It carries a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog. Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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BRAZIL: Children and Social Media – A Risky Relationship

BRAZIL: Children and Social Media – A Risky Relationship

3975852051_997e28826a_zImagine the scene: an eight year old girl with a Facebook account – allowed for by her parents. I will call her Maria. Maria’s parents both work full time and after school she stays at home with the maid. She has full access to the computer and knows how to navigate the Internet quite well.

Several hundred kilometers away, a grown man creates a fake Facebook account using childhood photographs of a famous teenage singer. He contacts Maria and she accepts him as her online friend. They chat. At one point he says he loves going to the beach and sends her a picture of the singer, when around age eight, at the beach. “I also love going to the beach!” she says and, when prompted, sends him a picture of herself at the beach wearing a bikini.

The friendship progresses over several days. Maria is happy because she and the cute boy seem to have a lot in common. One day he asks for her phone number. He says his birthday is coming up and he wants to invite her. Using a child’s voice, he talks to her briefly and then asks if she can talk to his father. The “father” says the “birthday” will be a lot of fun: he will pick her up at school and take them to the mall, to the movies, for ice cream and other fun things.

He also tells her not to worry about talking to her parents. He will call them later and they will work everything out.

The day of the “birthday” arrives. The man gets to Maria’s school and tells the porter he is her uncle. The porter says he will have to call Maria’s parents to get permission for her to go with him. “No problem,” he says, “while you call I will go pick her up in her classroom”. Her parents deny the story and the man is not able to leave the school grounds with Maria. At this point the school staff has started to get suspicious and they are able to record the number of his license plate and inform the police.

The man is later intercepted at the state border. He has a criminal record and has already spent time in prison for molesting children. Unfortunately, as there was no formal accusation, the police are not able to arrest him.

The scary situation I described above is a true story that happened to the daughter of one of my husband’s colleagues. The topic came up in a talk how nowadays children are so computer savvy, and my husband commented on how we limit the kids’ screen time: we have no TV set at home; the eldest has limited time on the Internet and no social media or e-mail accounts; and, more recently, we have cut all screen time for the two smaller kids (both under four) with the exception of days at grandma’s and the rare trip to the movie theater. At that point the co-worker stated that nowadays it is impossible to control kids’ screen time and recounted what happened to his girl.

Valdemar Setzer*, a professor at the Computer Science Department of the University of São Paulo (USP) researches the impacts of screens on children and advocates that kids – for lack of maturity – should have no access whatsoever to the Internet (teens included). I recently heard him talk and a lot of what he said only confirmed my own opinions and reinforced the hard decision of eliminating all screen time for my two youngest kids at home.

On the other hand, it also got me thinking about how part of the problem doesn’t have to do with the screens themselves: it is much more about parents and children who spend way too little (quantity) time together, parents who overwork to make ends meet and are (understandably) too tired to play or do outdoor activities with the kids and the end of the day or during the weekends, or simply parents and kids which communication needs to improve a lot.

I am not trying to be judgmental here – I am grateful my job is flexible and allows me to have a lot of time with my kids, but I know other parents are not so fortunate.

However, even in my case stories like this make me once again rethink my priorities and find ways to organize our family life, as there is always room for improvement. After all, there is nothing more important to me that my children, and I believe that is the case for most parents. Also, despite all the benefits the Internet and other new means of communication have brought about (such as bringing together mothers from around the world in this blog!), for me real, active life is always better than the passive life that goes on “behind the screens” – not only for children, but for adults too!

And you, do you control your children’s screen time? If so, how? Please share your story!

[*] Prof. Setzer’s website is loaded with information on the effects of screens on children, including stuff in English – http://www.ime.usp.br/~vwsetzer/

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Eco Ziva of Brazil. Photo credit: Sinistra Ecologia Libertá. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog. Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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BRAZIL:  The Clown, Ice Cream Cakes and Emotional Trauma – Part II

BRAZIL: The Clown, Ice Cream Cakes and Emotional Trauma – Part II

This is the second post of a two-part series. To read part I of this post, please click here

clown cakeIt was my fourth birthday party. Since we were moving to Brazil soon, it was also a farewell party, and a big one. It was the only big birthday party I have had in my entire life. I remember it was held at some sort of club, there were a lot of people and a hired caterer (something almost unthinkable for my mother!) And then there was the clown. And he wanted to paint my face.

I was completely and irrationally terrified as only a four-year-old can be. While most of the other children were loving it all, I wanted nothing to do with the clown and his face paint (and certainly not on my face!). My party was ruined. In fact, I hid in the kitchen the entire time.

I don’t know exactly who stayed with me in the kitchen, but I don’t think it was either of my parents – at least not all of the time. Of course they were probably running around organizing things and tending to the guests. What really comforted me at that moment was the food, more specifically the dozens of intricately decorated mini-ice cream cakes. I recall later telling someone that the good side of the party was that I had stayed close to the food the entire time.

Although I hadn’t thought of it in a while, this story is not something that had been forgotten or hidden in my mind, as it has been told and retold over the years by my mother. The interesting detail that came up now was that of the ice cream cakes. When I remembered the ice cream cakes I felt like I could eat a ceiling-high pile. I felt like I had been looking for them my entire life. It was such a visceral craving it felt like nothing else could fill up my void except for those ice cream cakes. Right now writing this I want those ice cream cakes so badly it almost hurts.

It is interesting because here in Brazil ice cream cakes are rare – I believe I have only seen them for sale once in the more than 30 years I have lived here. I don’t know why this particular detail only came up so strongly now, nor what has been triggering this strong need for comfort and protection, which originally was a need to be shielded from someone scary (the clown) who wanted to do something I did not want to do (paint my face).

I don’t know if this is related, but it is also funny because I was never a big fan of makeup. Also, once when I was six and went through a brief period of interest for makeup, I got a kit of child makeup and ate several of the flavored lipsticks that came with it!

Perhaps this story will bring about significant change in my relationship with food, perhaps not, but it does bring up several issues related to my relationship with my own children.

For instance, it has reminded me that no matter how I try, it is impossible to protect them from every traumatic incident or foresee the lasting effect of seemingly small events on their lives. On the other hand, it is also a strong reminder not to belittle the things that upset them – what might seem insignificant or minor to me may be a huge deal to them and I must give them the best emotional support we can at all times.

Please share your stories about your relationship with food. Do you interfere in your children’s relationship with food? Do you actively foster a healthy relationship with food in your home?

This is the continuation of an original post to World Moms Blog published by our writer in Brazil and mother of three, EcoZiva. You can read Part I here.

The image in this post is credited to Chris Martin. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog. Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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BRAZIL: The Death Of A Father

BRAZIL: The Death Of A Father

4313869603_c36f1e0159_zAs I write this I am still in shock from the sudden death of Eduardo Campos, Brazilian presidential candidate and ex-governor of Pernambuco (the state where I reside), who died on August 13 in an airplane crash.

At this moment I am not considering the political aspects of his death – although it will surely bring about significant changes to the Brazilian political scenario. I will not go into a spiritual/religious discussion here, but death has never been something that has bothered me when I think of the person who died per se. I think the person who died will be fine in some way or another.

What does bother me is the suffering of those who have remained alive, especially in two situations: when the deceased one has left parents, or when he has left small children.

Thus, for me Campos’ case is twice as sad. He had five children (four boys and one girl), with ages that ranged from 22 to seven months. In addition to his children, his mother (the politician Ana Arraes) outlived her son, and I cannot think of a greater pain than that.

Dedication to family seems to have been a recurring theme. An obituary published by The Economist said: “Yet in many ways Mr. Campos was socially conservative, a Catholic and a family man. He married Renata, a childhood neighbour and playmate. They had five children”.

His strong links to family even marked his death – Eduardo Campos died exactly nine years after his grandfather, Miguel Arraes, a prominent political figure who was exiled for almost 15 years during the Brazilian dictatorship. Campos’ youngest son was named after him.

Another striking image was his widow’s plea that a special memento be found and returned to her: a chain Campos carried with the image of five Catholic saints, one for each child, plus the letter “R” for Renata.

Unfortunately situations such as these, when mothers or fathers, sons or daughters die, are common and happen any minute. Yet when such a situation reaches the media because it has happened with someone prominent and young (he was 49), at what seemed to be the high point of his career, it is a reminder that we must savor every moment with our loved ones.

Being truly present when we are with our parents and children, and any other people who are special in our lives is the only way we can, at least in part, diminish the fear of their death.

Do you talk about death with your children? Have they ever been exposed to the death of a loved one?

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Eco Ziva. Photo credit: Prefeitura de Olinda. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog. Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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BRAZIL: The Clown, Ice Cream Cakes and Emotional Trauma– Part I

BRAZIL: The Clown, Ice Cream Cakes and Emotional Trauma– Part I

ice cream cakeI have been an emotional eater for over two decades and over the past six years or so – when I became fully aware of the matter – I have approached it from multiple angles and using all sorts of techniques. I have worked on issues related to my father’s death when I was a teenager, my relationship with my mother and childhood issues of all sorts. I have undergone several different types of therapy, from the more traditional ones to art therapy, Gestalt therapy, family constellations and energy psychology. I have used EFT, NLP, reiki, homeopathy, ThetaHealing and many other alternative treatments.

The positive side has been that I have learned a lot throughout this process. Trying to create a healthier relationship with food has undoubtedly been what has most helped me stay on my personal/spiritual growth path over the past few years.

Emotional eating is a complex issue that can have multiple causes. These causes generally carry specific purposes which might still “serve” the emotional eater in certain ways, such as eating for a sense of comfort or protection or even to “numb” oneself of difficult feelings. Thus, they can be complicated to release unless the person becomes aware of the underlying events that gave food such emotional significance and are able to let go of that.

For instance, it might be that, as a child, someone gave the person something sweet every time he/she was upset, so the person developed the habit of eating sweets every time negative emotions come up. Letting go of that habit would then involve things like: becoming aware of the pattern and how it began, finding ways to heal the inner child that is used to being given sweets instead of the true attention or emotional support they need when negative emotions come up, and realizing that there are now adult ways of dealing with negative emotions.

Additionally, I believe we can only stop emotional eating when we truly want to. It is not like one consciously wants to continue having an unhealthy relationship with food (although one could, as surrender can also be a good tool!) but it can take time to become aware, deal with and let go of the multiple unconscious blocks around the pattern.

In my case, for example, I recognize that I have frequently side stepped certain issues and have not gone as deep as I could in certain treatments. On the other side, respecting our pace and giving ourselves the time to deal with the often painful issues – as opposed to judging ourselves and making ourselves wrong for “failed” attempts – is essential.

In my case, after three years of great improvement, my second pregnancy (which ended up in a miscarriage), followed by the pregnancies and births of my two youngest children, brought my emotional eating back to square one.

It was no surprise to me that pregnancy would once again bring up issues that would be difficult for me to deal with, but I expected that things would get better after the babies were born and began to get older. However, even though my youngest is now 16 months old things have worsened terribly and over the past few weeks I have gained more than 5 kg (11 lbs).

I have still not figured out what is triggering this new fallback, yet while using a combination of the techniques I have learned over the years, a story I hadn’t thought of for many years came to mind. I will tell that story in the next part of this post.

TO BE CONTINUED…

And you? Please share your stories about your relationship with food. Do you interfere in your children’s relationship with food? 

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in Brazil, Ecoziva.

The image used in this post holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog. Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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