summer camping

2013-01-19 11.02.08This summer, we camped. If I’m being honest, I’d probably rather do a fun hike or a picnic, and then come home and sleep in my own bed. I don’t mind so much sleeping in a tent. What I mind is packing the car with chairs, coolers, sleeping bags, and tents for seven people, and then coming home with the same stuff, only dirtier.

The first trip, I realized I really had no idea what I was doing (e.g. What do I need for washing dishes? Where are all of the flashlights? Wood or charcoal? Where to buy ice? ) and was a bit frantic. The place we were going closes their gate early in the evening, so there was a big rush to get there in time. Now our equipment is better organized, we’ve purchased a few helpful items and I’ve figured things out. Mostly.

That first trip, to a beautiful reserve called Yerba Loca, was lovely. Our second trip, with our friends the Hamiltons, was to a kind of dodgy campground where our neighbors kept us up the entire night. A learning experience.




IMG_49512013-02-08 11.38.43Matt also took Sam on an overnight backpacking trip. They were un-deterred by rain, and therefore had the canyon pretty much to themselves. Matt said, “It was ok — when it started really coming down, we’d just stop and hold the tarp over our heads until it stopped.” So matter-of-fact! Sam loves to hike and is our least-complaining kid, so a perfect companion for Matt. He would have gone on and on, but Matt had put most of the heavy stuff in his own pack and was tired before they reached their goal — a glacier. Still, beautiful views.2013-02-09 11.05.48 2013-02-09 11.13.06


real life

Yesterday was the first day back at school after our South American summer break. I was ready, and though they complained, so were the kids. They woke up in the morning ready to go, and arrived home happy and full of stories to tell.

We had a lovely summer, full of camping and swimming and friends, but by the last week, some of us were out of patience, and all of us were weary of togetherness. Time for a routine. Time for each to have a bit of life to ourselves.

So here I am with a minute to myself, perusing my own blog. I don’t seem to find the time and the creative energy to truly write very often any more, and my blog has become a place to share pictures of trips, and holidays, and birthdays. My kids love reading back and remembering those fun times. But I worry that it isn’t a reflection of what matters most.

It’s easy for us to become focused (even addicted?) to the exciting things in life. Pick your poison — for some it’s redecorating the house again and again, others can afford to travel constantly or spend all of their time planning birthday parties and holiday celebrations. And none of those things are wrong, if we show some moderation and restraint. Of course we enjoy having something to look forward to, and everyone is entitled to some fun and a hobby.

But I know without a doubt that it’s the regular days that make a life.

And sometimes it’s a struggle. I am a person who has lots of energy for a challenge. (Intercontinental travel with a bunch of small kids? Sign me up!) And I am incredibly calm in a crisis. (At least so far — God, please don’t send me a big one to test my theory.) But I sometimes struggle to find the strength to make dinner every night. Ok, I always struggle to make dinner every night. (But my kids appreciate my cooking so much more when it’s a change from toast and cereal!)

The day to day can be mundane. It can be a grind. I often lose my way in it.

I love the concept of the magazine Seeing the Everyday. It is all about finding beauty and meaning in ordinary life. I just found this on their website, “Cloaked in their very ordinariness, the prosaic events that truly shape our lives—that truly are our lives—escape our notice.” (Gary Morson) Doesn’t that express it perfectly?

So I’m going to try a little more consciously to be focused on today, especially the regular, sweet moments with my kids. And if I can find the time (I know they were at school for 7 hours yesterday, but it seemed so short!) I’ll try to share more on the blog about these everyday moments, because this, sadly, is my only journal, and I want to remember what life really is.

P.S. As much as I don’t care what you had for breakfast (sorry) I really like Instagram for this reason. So quick to share a moment. I just caught on (always a late adopter) and Anne taught me that the key is not to follow too many people — whose sweet, everyday moments do you really, truly care to see? Because after all, if we spend too much time looking at everyone else’s everyday, there’s less time left to make our own.

botanical gardens

DSC_0010We spent our last morning in Rio at the beautiful botanical gardens. They had all of the lovely things one might expect at botanical gardens, including amazing bromeliads and orchids.DSC_0036 DSC_0019 2012-12-27 12.56.26 DSC_0018 DSC_0014 DSC_0012 DSC_0026 2012-12-27 12.56.18 DSC_0053 DSC_0024 DSC_0023 DSC_0022 DSC_0045 2012-12-27 12.58.38 DSC_0038 DSC_0058Lovely to revisit our trip in pictures. What isn’t evident in the photos is the oppressive heat and humidity. By the last day, we were more than ready to return to Santiago, where our heat is moderate and dry, and our nights are cool!

a little more Rio

2012-12-26 11.10.43 IMG_2506 IMG_1092Another day at Ipanema Beach — why do my kids like to be buried in the sand? The beach was a little more crowded this time. Not a lot of privacy!IMG_1098 IMG_1104Beautiful viewpoint at the end of Ipanema. If you kept going toward the left (which is east) in the top picture, you’d reach Copacabana.IMG_0300 Mary’s school friend, Carolina, is from Rio and was home for Christmas, so we met up for lunch. Her mother, Cristiane, is a very gracious person. This was the first time anyone had ever said to me, “Why don’t we meet at our yacht club?” IMG_0299 IMG_0296Sugarloaf in the background.IMG_0295Their family doesn’t even own a boat these days, but I guess they’ve been members of this club for generations. It was a nice place to eat and fun to look around.

Christmas Day

IMG_4851We tried to set our kids’ expectations LOW about Christmas morning — the trip was our main Christmas present, right? Santa brought this little tree and one gift per person, plus a few books.DSC_0005The stockings weren’t lavish, but they were filled with American candy that Vicki brought in her suitcase, so everyone was happy.IMG_1083



DSC_0019Looks like we did ok with the gifts. I mean Santa did. Or whatever.DSC_0001 (2)Matt wanted to go to the beach, but the kids were more interested in relaxing…. (Can you believe the paint in this apartment? Rio is very expensive, and these apartments we rented were perfectly adequate and near the beach, but wow was the decor ugly.)DSC_0031


DSC_0027We did spend some time at the big pool downstairs.DSC_0007 (2)

DSC_0003 (2)This tiny pool the balcony was our own private play area — fun!IMG_0286We ended the day at The Hobbit, while Granny stayed home with the littles. I’m not going to lie, not my favorite movie. Too much fighting for me. But the boys all loved it and it was the perfect end for Christmas Day.

Christmas Eve at the beach








IMG_1057Why else to spend Christmas in Rio? We spent the day at Ipanema Beach — we found Copacabana more interesting for a walk, but Ipanema a bit cleaner.

IMG_1075Everyone loved the açaí smoothies.

IMG_1079 IMG_1077 IMG_0276We perpetually ordered too much food on this trip — if ever in Rio, remember to ask whether the entree is a single serving, or family style! But doesn’t this look like a feast appropriate for Christmas Eve? Delicious, all.


IMG_0125On Sunday, midway through our week in Rio, we took the ferry across the bay to Niteroi. This is not a trip for tourists, but a commuter ferry — during the week thousands of people would be on it each morning and evening. Sunday morning, it was relatively empty and a beautiful ride.IMG_0127 IMG_0132 IMG_0135 IMG_4825We were in Niteroi to visit these wonderful people — Paulo Grahl and his wife, Zuleika (love that name). When Matt was a missionary in Brazil, 20 years ago, they presided over his mission. He has seen them a couple of times since, but they were so happy to see him again, and to visit with his mother Vicki, who was traveling with us. IMG_4827 IMG_4828The Grahls’ daughter married one of Matt’s brother Andrew’s mission companions (everybody follow that?). He’s the tall one above. Their five kids were a lot more patient in the heat than ours were!IMG_0116Interesting to me that the Grahls were around our age when they served as mission president. The beautiful daughter just to the left of Sister Grahl above was born AFTER their mission. They would have worked with hundreds of young adults all those years ago, but we could tell how very much they loved Matt. Lovely, lovely people.