Tuesday, June 30, 2009

QT with Uncle Nate

As I was getting dressed this morning, I left Gabriela to spend a little quality time with her Uncle Nate. I heard lots of Gabriela giggles coming from outside my bedroom door, so I grabbed my camera and went to see what was going on and try to finally get her laugh on video. (I've tried repeatedly for the last few weeks, but she will always stop laughing when the camera is out.) She only gave me a couple chuckles for the camera, but then she finished her video session with quite the little finale!

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Latest Happenings

We're keeping plenty busy now after our week of rest!

Gabriela has been sort of trying to hold her bottle. Eric's been giving some encouragement. I think she looks waaaay too big holding her own bottle! (And that hair just keeps on growing!)

A quick family photo we took before heading out to the Festa Juninha (sort of a fall festival) held by Eric's company on Saturday night. (Check out Little Miss' boots - hehe)

Gabriela was so awesome Saturday. She was in the most playful mood all day long! Then we left at 7:30 for the party and she fell asleep on the way there. She had trouble sleeping at the party, with the live band and everyone wanting to see her and all, but hung out happily in her stroller until falling asleep around 10:00. We left the party at 12:30 that night and then went at 3:00 am to the airport to pick up my baby brother. She was moved around and woke up so many times, but she didn't fuss a bit. We made it back home with my brother at 5:00 am and all finally went to bed. Gabriela woke up at 9:30 Sunday morning, ate, and then I put her back to bed so we could still sleep. She slept until noon, as did the rest of the household. Gotta love a kid that lets Mom and Dad sleep in late on a Sunday morning!!!

Sunday night Uncle Nate got to give her a bottle - but he hasn't taken me up on the offer to change her diaper yet. They've been getting along pretty well (despite the fact that she just booted him out as baby of the immediate family.) They have been picking on each other pretty much non-stop though. This seems to be her favorite expression when Uncle Nathan pesters her:

And really, I can't blame the kid. She hasn't quite mastered rolling her eyes like her Momma can, so this has to do for now when it comes to dealing with Tio Nate. ;)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nevermind the Bomb in my Bag

Operating on a daily basis in a language that isn't your native tongue comes with plenty of difficulties. Most days I think we do alright, especially Eric who is pretty much completely fluent now. But we still run into new vocabulary just about every single day. For example, after spending two hours in our prenatal class back before Gabriela was born, Eric leaned over to me and whispered, "What the heck is "parto"? She's said it like a million times now!" (Parto = Birth, hence the reason it was used a bit that day.) I leaned back over and whispered to Eric, "You didn't read the material I gave you to introduce you to all the pregnancy/birth vocabulary did you?" Totally busted!

And that is sort of how it has gone with the baby-relevant Portuguese words. I have a lot more free time during the day to read and explore baby-related stuff, and so that is the single area in which I know more than Eric. (His Portuguese totally blows mine away, so I am not at all claiming to be more fluent than him - I just have more "baby" vocabulary.) And so a few weeks ago a Brasilian mommy asked a question about breast pumps and I was excited to pick up some new vocabulary and later that night pass along my new knowledge to Eric. "They use the term bomba elétrica (which literally is electric pump) when referring to the breast pump that I have", I informed Eric.

Now, fast forward to the airport in Natal when we are going through security. I was carrying Gabriela in her car sear along with the diaper bag, and so Eric got stuck hauling the breast pump among other carry-on items. Eric went ahead of me and then I got held up as they wanted the car seat to go through the x-ray machine, so I had to remove the sleeping kiddo from it. Meanwhile, they wanted to go through Eric's things.

I walk up and joined him just as they are looking at/talking about the breast pump (in Portuguese, of course). As he opened up a couple of compartments to show what he could, Eric was explaining that it was a bomba elétrica and that really there wasn't much to show. He told the security agent that the working parts of it were sealed inside the carrying case and there just wasn't much to see from the outside. The agent seemed a bit confused/concerned and finally asked what exactly the contraption was used for. Pointing to my chest (thanks Dear, I think I forgot to thank you for that part), he told her it extracts milk. She seemed okay with the explanation and allowed us to continue on to our gate.

Just as we were settling in to our seat on the plane, I had a revelation. My eyes got big as the light bulb flicked on and then I started giggling. It just occurred to me at that moment that the word bomba has more than one meaning. Yes it can mean pump. But bomba can also mean bomb. And that would probably explain the security folks' concerned looks.

The crazy American was nonchalantly explaining that he had an electric bomb, but that it was all self-contained and he couldn't show them the working parts of it.

And that, my dear friends, is how my husband almost got arrested. Had the situation been reversed and we were Portuguese-speakers going through security in the US when we made the translation error, TSA would probably have detained him rather quickly before he got to the part where he was pointing at my boobs.

And for future reference, I think we'll use the term extrator de leite. Especially in airports.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

4 Days in Natal

After returning from São Paulo on Sunday night, June 7, we left on Monday evening and headed towards Rio de Janiero. We stopped for the night in Juiz de Fora and then early Tuesday morning continued on to Rio. We went to the US Consulate to get Gabriela's Consular Report of Birth Abroad and also apply for her US Passport. Later in the day we visited our friend, DRL, and her precious new baby (exactly 3 weeks younger than Gabriela). That night we met up with one of Eric's college friends, Justin, and his girlfriend, Amanda, who came to Brasil for a couple weeks. Then the five of us hopped a late night plane (Gabriela's first) to Natal.

Natal is in the state of Rio Grande do Norte located on the coast in the northeast of Brasil. Fabulous beaches abound and pretty much all we did there was play in waves and lounge around on the sand.

We stayed in a hotel on Praia de Ponta Negra. The water there was a gorgeous clear blue-green color with great waves.

Our set-up down on the beach wasn't too bad either. A huge umbrella, lounge chairs, and Gabriela's new beach tent we bought just for the occasion. And the guys that were waiting on us hand and foot was rather nice too.

The weather played with us all four days we were there. Each morning we woke up to an overcast/rainy day which left us debating just staying in bed. But we'd drag our butts out of bed and go have breakfast. By the time we finished eating, the clouds rolled away to reveal a bright blue sunny sky!

While most of her time was spent hanging out in her beach tent (and keeping an eye on/talking to the fish and crabs that decorated the sides of it), Gabriela did put on her swimsuit, slather on the Baby SPF 50, and pose for a photo shoot on a couple occasions.

She drew quite the crowd of onlookers whenever she hit the sand!

I think she's ready for Baby Sports Illustrated. ;)

And she even went out into the water and got her toes wet. (Although I think she would have swam off with the fishies if we'd let her. The kid seems to love water!)

Besides spending time on Praia de Ponta Negra where we were staying, we rented a car and drove south to Praia da Pipa one day and north to Praia de Genipabu another day.

Gabriela got hungry on the drive back from Praia da Pipa, so we pulled off to feed her and stumbled upon a really pretty beach. And got to see a rainbow!

We really enjoyed ourselves at Praia de Genipabu. The beach there is really wide and flat, surrounded by huge sand dunes, and had big waves to play in (and get beat up by).

Praia de Genipabu is known for having great dune buggy rides and there was no shortage of people offering them to us. While I would have loved to go on the wild ride if Gabriela wasn't with us, she was. So we thought it would be best to keep our feet on the sand. I thought I had a pretty good excuse (a seven week old baby) to turn down all the offers and figured the guys selling the rides would leave us alone. But no such luck. Every single person who came around tried to convince Eric and me that it would be no problem to take Gabriela along. Of course, since there were four of us adults there wouldn't even be room to buckle in her car seat, but we could just hold her in our lap . . . it was safe they assured us. One guy even added that she would be perfectly safe unbuckled since his buggy had a roof on it. But hard as they tried, no amount of smooth talking was convincing the safety-police-parents. So Gabriela did not get to go on a buggy ride.

We also had to argue on a couple occasions that we needed 5 seats in vehicles (or more specifically seat belts) when we were arranging shuttles to/from the airport, supper, etc. Everyone kept telling us we could just hold the baby or, if we wanted her buckled in, we could hold the car seat in our lap. Nobody we dealt with could understand why we refused to let Gabriela ride in a vehicle without her car seat being strapped in. (I've had the same response from taxi drivers in BH when I make them wait for me to buckle her car seat in before I let them drive off.) Based on my experience and the number of kids I see jumping around in cars here, I would dare say Brasil needs to do a little work still on educating people about the importance of keeping kids safe in vehicles! Almost every adult I see driving is buckled up, but yet their kids aren't . . . strange.

Anyway, we had a fabulous trip to Natal - our first visit to Brasil's northeast. It is really gorgeous and we can't wait to get up that way again!

This is how I found Eric and Gabriela after I came out of the shower on our third day in Natal. I guess all that time on the beach wore them out!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My 2-Month Old

My Dear Gabster,

Most people talk about how much their babies get spoiled by everyone. I would have to say it is the other way around with you. You are such an incredible child I think that you spoil us! This month we have put you in travel situations that could leave even full-grown adults grumpy and out of sorts, but you have taken it all in stride and it hasn't bothered you a bit. You could be the poster-child for flexible, easy-going babies! Given how much your Daddy and I like to travel and play, you fit into our little family so well and we couldn't ask for a more perfect kid for us.

Watching you grow and develop brings us such joy. As the one responsible for your nourishment, you have no idea how happy I am when we weigh you and see that you've gained weight - you're over 10 1/2 pounds now. And the way your Papai gets all excited when you obtain a new skill is about the most precious thing ever. This weekend you reached out and grabbed the "Cy" on your play gym (instead of just your usual batting at it). By the reaction of your father, one might have thought you just discovered the cure for cancer!

As if you didn't already have us wrapped around your little finger with your adorable toothless grin, you decided to bring a giggle into the mix the day after you turned 6 weeks old. You and I were folding laundry and talking that afternoon, and when I picked up a pair of your Daddy's underwear you let out a hearty chuckle. Two days later you laughed at Daddy as he was dressing you in Campos do Jordão. You're still a little stingy with the laughs, as we normally only get a couple of them out of you per day, but you crack us up each time you do it. We do need to talk about appropriate versus inappropriate times to giggle though: last week you nearly gave your Momma a complex when you looked over at me from your bouncy seat as I was coming out of the shower naked and then you laughed - a lot. You just remember, kid, that it's your fault I look like this!!! ;)

You continue to do great in the sleeping and eating departments. Papai gives you your bath, a bottle, and lays you down, still awake, by 8:00 pm. You put yourself to sleep without a single cry and then you wake up around 6:00 am for a diaper change and feeding. Then you go right back to bed for another 3-4 hours. During the day you go 4 hours between feedings now. And while I don't know exactly how much you're eating when you nurse (although I do know you're fast and furious about it - 20 minutes and you're done), you take 6-7 ounces from the bottle at night!

There have been lots of inconsistencies/firsts while we traveled and entertained guests, but you made due just fine: sleeping in your car seat while we ate supper after your bedtime, taking a bath in the big jacuzzi tub with Mommy at one hotel, taking showers (which you surprised us by totally loving) at the other hotels that required me holding you while Daddy washed you, napping in your tent on the beach, being fed lots more bottles than usual, traveling long distances by car and plane. And all the while you captured the hearts of everyone around you with big grins, lots of happy babble, and your easy-going demeanor.

I love you lots my baby girl,

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Campos do Jordão and São Paulo

To kick off our travel season, we drove down to the state of São Paulo on Thursday, June 4. Eric and two coworkers wanted to attend a big trade show in São Paulo City and they also needed to stop in Campos do Jordão to make some arrangements for an upcoming project. Eric was driving our car down and invited Gabriela and I to tag along and take in the sights.

I was slightly nervous about taking my 6-week old on her first road trip with two other people riding with us, but she did great. It was a 7 hour drive to Campos do Jordão on Thursday, 3 hours to São Paulo on Friday, and then 8 hours back home on Sunday. Gabriela was quite the happy little passenger; she only required a couple quick stops for diaper changes and never really cried at all in the car. (I took pumped milk and gave her bottles en route so everyone wouldn't have to wait on her to nurse.)

We arrived in Campos do Jordão early in the afternoon. It has the highest elevation of any city in Brasil, so winter time (our current season here in the southern hemisphere) brings some much cooler weather. It was about 50 degrees F when we arrived and dropped below freezing that night.

Eric and I became quickly aware of two things upon getting into town and checking-in to our hotel room:

1. We have really acclimatized to the mild/tropical weather of Belo Horizonte

2. We are seriously annoyed by the obsession with "fresh air" . . . especially when it's freezing cold outside and the inside lacks a proper heater. And even more so when we have our baby girl with us.

50 degrees didn't sound all that bad (I mean, we came here from Iowa for goodness sakes! I don't think it reaches 50 there until the first week of June or something) but the air certainly had a bite to it. I'm not sure if it quite warranted the scarves, gloves, stocking hats, and heavy down coats everyone there was wearing, but I'll admit that I could have used one more layer of clothes.

I thought the open windows everywhere in BH drove me nuts last year, but when I walked into my hotel room and it was even colder in there than it was outside (thanks to the windows being wide open, but no sunshine warming things a little like outside) I found myself asking por que? all over again. After quickly shutting the windows, I was excited to find that at least the room had a portable little heater in it. But my enthusiasm was snuffed out when after three hours of running the "heater" on high, the temperature in the room had only risen from roughly 45 degrees to about 50. As the temperature plummeted outside that night, our room never got warmer than 55. I dressed Gabriela in footed fleece pajamas and double swaddled her in an attempt to keep her warm. She survived, but her little nose and cheeks were cool each time I checked on her.

And the open-window phenomenon wasn't only limited to our hotel room. The doors to the hotel stayed open while the reception desk staff wore their winter coats; the doors and windows in the restaurant where we ate supper were letting in the nearly-freezing breeze while the waiters and patrons wore stocking hats and scarves. Everywhere we went people were shivering and putting on more clothes - and yet doors and windows remained wide open. I proposed a very simple solution to the two Brasilian friends traveling with us:
Shut the windows. And the doors.
They just sort of laughed and made some reference to my American-ness. Apparently I'm missing something about the benefits of open windows in sub-freezing temperatures.

But outside of wanting to ask everyone in Campos do Jordão if they were raised in a barn (since that is what you'd get asked back home if you left doors hanging open in the winter time), I enjoyed the quick trip to the town.

It didn't feel like Brasil at all to me. The architecture has a distinctly European-inspired style. And there was that whole part where I was freezing my butt off. (A bit different for my version of Brasil since I spent the previous weekend in the pool!)

Up at Pico do Itapeva, the elevation is over 5900 feet and the views are spectacular.

We left Campos do Jordão on Friday morning and headed to São Paulo. The guys went to the trade show while Gabriela and I took it easy hanging out at our hotel. Eric didn't get back until after 10 pm, so we didn't get to do any exploring of São Paulo until Saturday.

After doing some wandering around on Avenida Paulista, where we were staying, we met up with a new expat couple for lunch. I have been exchanging emails with the female half of the couple for about a year and they just got moved down to Campinas, SP recently. They are expecting a little girl in October so we had plenty to talk about!

Sunday we hit the tourist route. We did the walking tour of São Paulo as suggested in my Lonely Planet guide book. We got in a nice walk that morning before hitting the road at noon to come back home. A few pictures from our walk:

Gabriela's first subway experience. I was impressed with how safe, clean, efficient, and inexpensive the metro was in São Paulo!

The Cathedral Metropolitana at Praça da Sé was incredibly huge and pretty inside.

Beside Parque Anhangabaú with the Teatro Municipal in the background. (It was quite windy that day, so we kept Gabriela pretty much covered the entire walk which didn't bother her in the least since she napped most of the morning!)

Inside the Basilica of São Bento. (5 seconds before I spotted the sign indicating no photography allowed. Oops. At least I was courteous enough not to use my flash.) It was standing room only when we arrived as the monks were putting on a Gregorian-chant concert.

This was really the first time we had spent much time in the state of São Paulo. It was a nice trip, albeit a bit quick. There is a lot more we would like to see and do there if we get the chance. The thing that made the biggest impression on us: modern, well built, and maintained highways . . . that's one department that Minas Gerais (as much as I do love my state) could stand some improvement!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Almost Too Good To Be True!

I know it's not nice to brag. But it's awfully hard not to when you have the best baby in the world. And I realize I may be a bit biased, but I stand by my claim just the same.

Gabriela has been such a trooper! In the last two weeks, she logged in around 40 hours of driving time and 8 hours on flights. She endured entire days spent on the beach, numerous meals (some of them 3+ hours long) out at restaurants with friends, rather "different" bath conditions, sleeping in 5 different hotel rooms (and not even in her play yard, since we didn't have space for it), and temperatures ranging from 28 - 90 degrees F. Only once in the last two weeks did she get to have her usual bedtime routine. For ease of traveling (and so I didn't have to haul around 107 pounds of dirty diapers), she wore disposable instead of her usual cloth diapers. And she took it all in stride.

She is sleeping a lot less during the day now, but she is still so content and happy in any situation we throw her in. Despite serious inconsistencies in her schedule, The Gabster miraculously has continued sleeping through the night, only waking once between 5:00 and 7:00 am to eat before going back to sleep for a couple more hours.

She loves to be held and cuddled, but she is also good at entertaining herself for long stretches of time by taking in all the sights and "talking" to any object within her vision range.

We have such a flexible, easy kid, and given our tendency to travel and play, Eric and I consider ourselves supremely blessed! Travel stories and pictures are coming soon before we hit the road/air/railways again in 11 days. For now, Mount Laundry calls . . .

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ready or Not, Here We Go!

Tomorrow morning we're going to begin a 2+ month stretch of travel and/or visitors. Planes, trains, automobiles, and hotel rooms here we come! Gabriela's agenda looks a little something like this:

June 4: Drive to Campos do Jordão
June 5: Drive to São Paulo
June 7: Drive to Belo Horizonte
June 8: Drive to Juiz de Fora
June 9: Drive to Rio de Janeiro (go to consulate and become American too!)
June 9: Fly to Natal with visiting friends Justin and Amanda
June 13: Fly to Rio de Janeiro
June 14: Drive to Belo Horizonte with J and A
June 14-16: Show my guests around BH/surrounding area
June 28: Uncle Nathan arrives in Belo Horizonte
July 2: Fly to Vitoria/Vila Velha with Uncle Nate
July 5: Ride the train from Vitoria to Belo Horizonte with Uncle Nate
July 10: Drive to Rio de Janeiro with Uncle Nate
July 12: Drive to Belo Horizonte with Uncle Nate
July 17: Fly to Miami, then Chicago, then Cedar Rapids, Iowa
July 20: Drive from Urbana to Burlington, Iowa
July 24: Drive back to Cedar Rapids
July 27: Fly to Atlanta, Georgia
July 27-August 3: Spend time in Colbert/Athens/Perry, Georgia
August 3: Fly to Miami, then Salvador
August 4-10: Vacation with Papa, Nena, and Aunt Kelly in Salvador and Morro de São Paulo
August 10: Fly to Belo Horizonte with the grandparents and aunt
August 14: Fly to Rio de Janeiro (everyone else is driving, but there's not enough space for all of us, so Mommy and I get to take the quick trip down on a plane!)
August 16: Drop the Iowa folks off at the airport in Rio and drive back to Belo Horizonte
August 17 - Eternity: Either really love or really hate the car seat, stroller, and BabyBjörn

She's either going to prove to be an excellent traveler and a very flexible child, or she is going to teach her parents a big lesson about over-scheduling a 6-week old! ;) Either way, travel stories will be in copious supply real soon.

And for a little picture update on Gabriela:

Her thighs and arms abound with little fat rolls now! And she has learned how to make big splashes in the tub - watch out Daddy!

Her hair is growing, especially in the back. The kid's going to be sporting a sweet mullet real soon!

This human "S" is the form she takes anytime I put her in her crib for a nap. This is also how she has rolled herself over on a few occasions. She rolls from her back to her side and then bends her head back far enough until she flips over onto her belly. If she happens to land with her mouth on her hand, then she happily gnaws on that for a while. Otherwise she gets mad and yells for one of her servants (Mom or Dad) to flip her back over.