Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Wow, I didn't realize that it had been so long since I posted to this blog.  A lot has happened and I don't have my portable hard drive with all of the pictures on it, so I will just type.

The biggest news is that Brett returned from his misison in the Philippines in October.  It was an amazing feeling to see him again and know that he served faithfully and selflessly for two years.  He had lost a lot of weight (like 30 pounds) so is very skinny, but is healthy and that is good.  We will slowly fatten him back up!  He flew into Brazil to stay with us for a week then he and I flew up to Kennewick to have him released from his mission, give a homecoming talk at church, go to the doctor, dentist, and shop.  Then we traveled down to Rexburg to take him to college.  I was able to see Erin and meet her roommates.  Then Brett took Sadie and I down to Utah where we flew out of and Brett & Erin returned to BYU-I.  Brett is adjusting well to "normal" life and is having a good time in Rexburg, despite being cold.

When I was in Washington I picked up Sadie, our dog.  We weren't able to bring her down with us in August because we had paperwork to complete here before she could be shipped.  So she flew out of Salt Lake City and was reunited with our family again.  She loves being on the farm.  She can run around the houses and plays with a neighbor dog.  She faithfully watches over the kids.  We sure love our Sadie dog!

United Airlines update:  I filed a complaint with the DOT and my case was forwarded to someone else at United.  After a review of the case I was told that my expenses could not be reimbursed.  I was also told that they had no explanation as to why we were denied boarding in August.  I was offered travel vouchers equal to the amount we had to pay in airline ticket difference (just over $1000) and was told to submit my receipts for the four days that our luggage traveled to Brazil and back.  So, United has received that claim and now I continue to wait for a response.

Erin is doing well at her first semester at BYU-I.  She was blessed with great roommates and is having a lot of fun.  Lucky for her they are all staying next semester so will be together for a few more months.  We can't wait to have Brett & Erin join us on Sunday for two weeks over Christmas.

The kids have decided that they all hate homeschooling and want to go to school.  So they will attend a private school in Formosa called Colegio Sagrados Coracoes (everyone calls it Coleginho, which means little college).  School goes from February to December here so they will start after the first of the year.  They are all excited and so am I.  I think everyone will be a little happier to be involved and a little more busy.  And it will help them all develop the language more.  Kehli and I start language lessons at the Wizard Language Learning Center around the same time.

With the raing season here everything is lush and green - much prettier than when we arrived in August.  With the rain comes bugs, lots and lots of bugs.  Big bugs!!  We have also seen several Brazillian Wandering Spiders, which makes me very nervous.  They are a very venemous spider that is highly aggressive and fast.  We are hoping that some of the videos that we have shown the kids have scared them enough to watch out for them and leave them alone.  We killed one in the house last week and that freaked me out a little.

Things on the farm are going great for Mark.  They are done planting and the beans and corn are growing up fast.  We had some visitors from the States come last week and that is always fun to see someone from "home" even if they are coming to see the farm and not us.  More visitors are scheduled for January.

We are moving to a different house in the neighborhood in Formosa.  The one we are in is good, but the floorplan is weird and there is only air conditioning in two of the bedrooms.  The family room and kitchen do not have air conditioning and it gets VERY hot in those areas.  Another home became available that is a little bigger, has air conditioning and has a much more functional floor plan.  So, we never fully unpacked our shipment and packed up everything else.  We move on Thursday and Friday and then hope to be more settled.  Maybe we will even get some Christmas decorations up before Christmas.

Well, the kids all just walked in to get ready for bed.  I'll update more soon.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Just be kind...

If you want to know why the title of this post is "Just be kind" you will have to scroll all the way to the bottom of this post.  Between here and there is a quick update of our life in Brazil.

First, an update on my battle with United Airlines.  When I received their final correspondence denying any compensation and them saying that they consider the case closed, I filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Aviation Consumer Protection Division.  Now I have to wait patiently for up to 30 days to get a receipt of acknowldegement and up to 60 days for a substantive response to the complaint.  Meanwhile I am still out of pocket over $3000.  Grrrrrrrrr!

Homeschool is getting better, for the most part.  We cannot wait for our shipment to get here for many reasons, but a big one is that all of Adam's workbooks are in it that go along with his CD lessons.  Some days his lessons are VERY short without the books.  I'm sure he will go through another adjustment period when school really starts for him.  Evan is now working hard to learn Portuguese so that he can go to "real" school next year.  I'm prett sure Adam will go to real school as well.  Hopefully the girls too, but that is up to them.  Online school is not very fun for them and I'm not sure they take it too seriously.

We continue to see lots of wildlife around the farm.  When I go out for my morning runs I see a lot of birds.  One morning a flock of toucan lined the driveway and another morning a group of blue macaw flew by.  We are watching an emu and his nest for the babies to hatch.  The kids have named him Bernard and the eggs should be hatching any day.  One day Mark, Adam & Kehli were out driving around and saw some wild pigs and a taper.  A taper is a big animal that looks like a big pig with longer legs.  They are good swimmers.  Another day there was a hummingbird outside of Mark's truck window, so he rolled the window down.  The bird flew in and hoovered right in front of Mark's face for a short time.  It was amazing, but for some reason I can't get the picture to upload!  Adam is always catching something.  This is the biggest lizard he has caught so far and I was glad that I could talk him into letting it go before it got too stressed out.

This week we found some ticks on Adam - 4 in total, and one on me.  They are little ticks and not the kind that carry disease.  It scared the boys enough that they let me buzz their hair, which I was happy about.  Adam had two on his head, one on his back and one in his armpit.  Mine was just below my cleavage which seemed like a weird place.  I think it must have fallen down my shirt when I was hanging laundry on the line.  Now we search for them daily.  Yuck!

Kehli was asked to demonstrate something at youth group that is from the United States.  She chose peanut butter cookies, which everyone was happy about.  They don't really make cookies here, and if they do they are very overcooked.  So Kehli introduced them to our kind of brown sugar, shortening sticks, cookie scoop, silicone baking mat and that the cookies need to be removed from the oven before they actually look done.  She also took some chocolate chip cookies that were already made and told them about the different chooclate chips that we brought with us (semi-sweet, milk, and minis).  She google translated everything and seemed to do great!
 Evan is always building or creating something outside.  This week it was a bike jump made out of the neighbors old dog house that they tore apart.  He put one of our water jugs underneath and then borrowed bags of rock from the gardner to support the wood.  He jumped his bike a few times then decided he better stop before he bends something on his bike.  Mark told him that if he breaks it from carelessness, he wasn't going to fix it.
Yesterday Mark and I decided to go do some grocery shopping.  When we left there were three neighborhood boys here swimming and the girls were watching after them.  When we got home, this is what greeted us:
I'm pretty sure it was caused by rough housing, but neither of the boys will admit to anything.  Adam just says that he slipped and fell.  It looks a little better today but I'm sure it is going to be a wicked bruise in no time.  I asked Evan if the other boys left because they were scared that Adam got hurt and Evan said, "No, I told them to leave."  When I asked him why he said, "Because they were being mean to Vitru (spelling?)."  While they were all swimming another boy came and wanted to join them.  Vitru isn't as thin as the other boys and they started picking on him.  They pushed him in the pool before he could change his clothes, were calling him names, and throwing his shoes.  So Evan told them to leave if they couldn't be nice.  Those original 3 neighbor boys never came back that day, but Vitru came back later and wanted to swim some more.  
Whenever the kids ask me what I think they should be when they grow up, I always stop and think.  All of my kids are brilliant (and I'm not biased, right?) and can be whatever they set out to be.  What always comes to my mind are things like: happy, successful, respectful, hard-working - things of that nature.  But my final thought is always "I just want my children to be kind."  Evan has proven that he is just that and I couldn't be more proud of him.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Final Correspondence from United Airlines

September 13, 2016

Dear Ms. Child:

Again, I sincerely apologize for the negative experience you and your family incurred, and regret we are unable to honor your request to receive reimbursement of your out of pocket expenses in this instance.

I also understand the goodwill offered to you cannot make up for the time you lost, or the distress you experienced throughout this incident, however, the Electronic Travel Certificates offered to you and your family were offered as a sincere gesture in acknowledgement of your disappointment, and we hope you will accept the same in the spirit in which it was intended.

While I realize my response have not provided you with your preferred outcome, please be assured that we appreciate your business and remain committed to providing you with the best possible services you have come to expect when we have the privilege of welcoming you on board a future United Airlines flight.

It is our sincere desire to move forward in our business relationship with you, and we realize you do have a choice of what airlines you fly, and we would never like to lose a valued customer.

Ms. Child, as we have nothing further to add, we will consider this matter closed and will no longer correspond regarding this issue, but invite you to contact us again if we may address a different travel-related concern.

Given the opportunity to welcome you aboard in the future, we are confident your next experience with United Airlines will warrant a much more favorable report.


L.J. Rawcliffe
Corporate Customer Care
Case 10928043

Monday, September 12, 2016

United Correspondence #4

Just when I thought I was getting somewhere...

Dear Ms. Child:
I appreciate your effort in trying to resolve this situation with us.
Unfortunately another review of this case cannot justify any reimbursement for your expenses for your claims. I am sorry to advise you of this as I know that is not what you wanted to hear, however you will need to seek relief with TAM directly if you want further compensation. At this time, as a final resolution, I have authorized the original travel certificates to be voided and for a new Electronic Travel Certificate valued at $750.00 (a total of $150.00 per person) to issued to you for your future use as a gesture of goodwill. You should receive it via email at this same address within a few business days.
Ms. Child, I am sorry that your travel did not go as originally planned, and hope that you will be able to consider us for your travel needs in the future.
L.J. Rawcliffe
Corporate Customer Care
Case 10909584

And my response:

Dear Oscar Munoz, Dorothy Brown and L.J. Rawcliffe:
I am not an unreasonable person and feel that I have dealt with this situation in the most professional and patient way possible. What I cannot understand is how United Airlines is not taking responsibility for their mistake of entering us in the system as "no shows." Blame keeps being passed around in these email correspondences - first we were no shows, then we were too late to the gate, and now TAM Airlines is ultimately responsible. It doesn't make any sense.
TAM Airlines did not issue boarding passes that would not scan. At the gate two boarding passes would scan, but three would not. No one has told me yet why this was so. Is there something in our flight record about that?
TAM Airlines did not deny our passenger right of being allowed to board the plane despite having a United confirmation number and boarding passes. The plane was at the gate and the gate agent, Elderick, said that he was happy to see us because he knew we were in the airport and coming to the gate.
TAM Airlines did not have ticket agents that refused to come to the gate to help get our boarding passes scanned despite repeated calls to the ticket counter.
TAM Airlines did not put 7 of our suitcases on a flight to Brazil originating in Pasco, WA without us being on the airplane.
TAM Airlines did not enter 5 passengers in the system as "no shows" thus cancelling two other legs of an itinerary.
TAM Airlines is not responsible for the additional $3064.04 that I had to spend to get myself and four children to Brazil a week later than originally planned with four of those days without luggage. United Airlines is responsible.
United Airlines should take responsibility.
Gretchen Child
Case 10880330
Case 10892740
Case 10909584

Sunday, September 11, 2016

United Correspondence #3

I have now been assigned 3 different case numbers and this letter is from a new "Customer Care" representative.  I replied back with my current Brazilian cell phone number and I am looking forward to hearing from someone at United soon.
Dear Ms. Child:  
Your email correspondence was received in the Corporate Customer Care department. This email is being sent in acknowledgement of the same on behalf of Mr. Oscar Munoz.   
I regret I was unable to reach you via telephone number 1-509-438-9394, as expected on September 9, 2016, however I did leave you a voice message.  
I was sorry to learn of the problems you incurred due to the ineffective communication between United Airlines, Tam Linhas Airlines and Expedia, upon your United Airlines flight arrival into Denver on August 4, 2016, which created a "snowball effect" of disappointments for you and your children. For that, I am terribly sorry. I can only imagine your frustration and disappointment.   
Although we are working diligently to improve in all areas of our service, your feedback tells me we have some additional work to do.   
Please be assured that my colleague, Mr. Rawcliffe, will be in touch with you again soon regarding your additional concerns, and we thank you for your continued patience.    
Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention and for your continued patronage of United Airlines.   
We appreciate your business and look forward to you having a more positive experience when we have the privilege of welcoming you on board a future United Airlines flight again soon.

Kindest regards,

Dorothy Brown
Executive Services, United Airlines
Corporate Customer Care
Case:  10908268

Friday, September 9, 2016

A week on the farm...

I have made it a personal goal to be able to run up the driveway at the farm house.  It is steep and long and from the driveway at our house to the top where I turn around is about .75 miles.  Distance wise it isn't very far, but considering the fact that I really hate running, it is a challenge for me.  This week I started running 150 steps, walking 150 steps, and repeating until I got to the top.  I think I'll have to do that for another week because set 3-4 still feel like they are going to kill me.  At least it is shady most of the way and usually breezy in the mornings.
 On Monday we officially started our first year of homeschool.  Kehli was really not this grumpy, just putting on a show.  We are still adjusting and probably will for another week or two.  The girls do pretty good getting their lessons done, but the boys are having a harder time focusing.  I figured this would be an issue.
 Evan asked me, "When can I go to real school again?  Where I can talk to people."
 There are a lot of wild emu on the farm and a lot of nests around lately.  Did you know that the female lays a nest of eggs then leaves?  The male emu takes care of the eggs and the babies once they are hatched.  The last picture is a dad with 12 little emu running around.  So cute!

One thing that I really do not like about the farm house is the flies.  We had some concern about the Zika virus in Brazil, but we haven't had any issue with mosquitos.  The bug spray keeps them away.  There are these little flies that bite you and they make you itch like you have never itched before.  If you itch the bites stay for at least a month.  The first night we were on the farm, I got bites all over my left ankle and leg.  They still itch even though they look like they should be gone.  You can see in the first picutre the dried up looking bite on the bottom of the picture.  It was the first one I got last month.  On Monday I got some more bites on my foot that made it swell up like when I was pregnant.  It hurt to put on my tennis shoes for 3 days, but now I won't wear sandals on the farm even with bug repellant on.  The second picture is of the back of Evan's legs.  He was out one evening playing soccer with the neighbors and didn't put pants on.  The flies bite the most between 4-6:00 pm and love to bit on your joint areas.  I could not get Evan to stop itching so this is what happens.  I finally told the boys no more shorts and flip flops on the farm and I think they are understanding why.  These fly bites are miserable

When they first bite you this is what they look like.  A small bump with a little blood in the middle.  Then the area gets really red and super hot.  That lasts for about a day, then the itching starts.  Sometimes they will ooze a yellowish liquid and make a nasty crust.
 There is a lot of wildlife around the farm.  Thousands of different kinds of birds - at least it seems that way.  There are burrowing owls all along the edges of the fields.  On our way to lunch every day Adam counts how many owls he sees.  The Pequaria is about 6 miles away and takes about 10 minutes to drive there.  The most Adam has counted on one trip is 21.  We saw some macaw parrots yesterday, but I didn't have my camera with me.  Evan has requested a book of Brazil birds so he can learn the names of all of them
 I brought these two decks of playing cards in my carry-on bag on the airplane and it's a good thing.  Since our shipment still isn't here, we have been playing A LOT of Golf and 9-Down.  This week we have started playing Go Fish as well.  I wish I remembered more of the card games we used to play growing up.
 Kehli asked me to braid her hair and then took this lovely picture on my phone.
 Yesterday Neto and another cowboy brought some horses down to the house so the kids could go riding.  Evan and Kendall had to share and switch half way through.  When we get the fence done around the house they are going to bring a few down to stay.  The kids can't wait.  It will be a good learning experience for them.  I just hope they don't get too attached!

 On Monday Mark came home from work early not feeling very well.  Then he spent all day Tuesday in the bed, or the bathroom.  Wednesday he got up and tried to go to work.  He lasted for a couple of hours then was back in bed.  Thursday was the same.  By Thurday evening he was having such horrible stomach cramps that he couldn't talk or move.  I was finally able to talk him into loading up and driving to Formosa and go to the ER.  So we got packed up and grabbed the kids from bed. Rubens met us in there and went with him to make sure everything was understood.  They gave him a mixture of meds & painkillers in a saline IV and he was in and out of the hospital in two hours.  It only cost US$70!!  This monring he went to the lab to do some bloodwork, then the pharmacy for some prescriptions and pain killers.  He said the hospital stuff was better, but he is able to eat a little more today so that is progress.  We are hoping it is just a stomach bacteria and will be remedied witht he prescriptions.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

My response to United's denial letter #2

September 7, 2016

Thank you for responding again regarding our unfortunate incident last month.  Some of the information you shared I have not heard before.

You say, “Notes in your flight record indicate that one of our airport representatives contacted TAM in order to have them reissue the ticket and they refused.”  Who exactly called TAM Airlines?  When did that supposedly happen?  In the immediate hours following our passenger rights being denied to board the plane and before I left Pasco Airport, I was personally on the phone with Expedia and TAM Airlines.  Tickets could not be reissued because we had been entered in the system as “no shows” by United Airlines.  All that United Airlines had to do was change our status in the system.  No one at the airport would do that.  No one that I spoke to on the phone would do that.  If a United Airlines representative would have been willing to do that, TAM Airlines would have rebooked us on the next available flight. I agree that TAM Airlines did “own” our tickets.  In fact, Alexandra at TAM Airlines had an itinerary all ready for us but just needed United to change our erroneously entered status.  United Airlines would never make that happened.  We had a very small window where we could get any part of our ticket refunded and after spending all day on Thursday, August 4 and most of the day on Friday, August 5 on the phone, I chose to request a refund instead of lose out on an additional $6,000.

You say, “At that point we did our best to assist you.”  Had United done its best to assist me, you would have changed our status so that tickets could have been rebooked at no additional charge and our move to another country would not have been delayed by an additional week, with no luggage for the first 4 days of that.  That would have been the “best way to assist me.”

The travel certificates are a nice gesture, but do not compare to the additional $3064.04 that I had to spend to get myself and four children to Brazil.  A nice gesture would be a reimbursement check, as well as travel vouchers to allow United Airlines an “opportunity to provide the service that we deserve.”

Pasco Airport has already taken statements from those that were involved in the situation on August 4.  Clearly they understand that the problem was created there, and not because we were no-shows or too late to be included on the flight.  I’m sure that if security footage is pulled from that day it will show that we arrived at the airport, checked in and got to the gate in time to be included on the flight.  I am returning to the states next month and I am happy to gather that information from the Pasco Airport to forward to you.


Gretchen Child
Case 10880330
Case 10892740