Saturday, November 21, 2009

7 Months

My Sweet Little Gaberdoodle,

First off, can I please just say, "STOP IT!" I know that I am your mother and all, but seriously kid, if you get any cuter I'm just not sure I'll be able to stand it. Really. Between those adorable ringlets, your sparkly blue eyes, that huge gummy grin, and your giggle, oh the giggle . . . how am I ever going to discipline you? (Oh and you're composed at least partially of my DNA, so there's no doubt you'll be getting yourself into plenty of trouble soon enough.)

This month has passed by as quick as any. Between a visit from your Tio Justin and Daddy's friend, Jimmy, trips to Rio, Ilha Grande, The Pantanal, Bonito, and Ouro Preto, along with parties and getting together with friends, we have barely had time to breath around here. And as always, you have taken it all in stride. (Well, to be completely honest, the month started off a little shaky when you were less than the perfect happy traveler in Rio and Ilha Grande. I think the combination of a whole lot of time in the car, you teething, and us pushing a little too hard and not making any time for naps was really to blame though.)

You were a complete superstar on our trip to The Pantanal in Mato Grosso do Sul. We stayed three nights at an all-inclusive fazenda/pousada in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by caimans (like alligators), piranhas, and mosquitoes galore with temperatures that soared into the 100's. Some might argue that it is no place for your average 6-month old infant, but, as you continue to prove time and time again, you are anything but average! The dozen or so late 20-ish European guys who were staying there with us started calling you "The World's Coolest Baby" and all wanted their picture with you by the end of the trip. You make your Papai and me very proud to be your parents! (Although your father is hoping that was a one-time thing and you never have that many boys infatuated with you ever again. hahaha)

Besides learning how to fish for piranhas and flirt with boys, you worked on a few other skills this month too. You can finally sit and play for long periods of time, and we no longer have to worry so much about you tipping over and bonking your head. You are able to entertain yourself a lot longer now that you are sitting up to play with your toys (and that is a huge help for your Mamãe!) You push/pull to standing like a pro now, with something to hold onto, and are standing for longer periods of time. You've decided laps are definitely made for standing, not sitting. And then there's the crawling. You are sooooo close!!!

You're quite the active little thing and are beginning to make it a lot more interesting to try doing anything with you in our lap or on our hip. You like to grab everything, which is usually followed by putting it in your mouth. (The lady at the airport seemed less than impressed when I handed her our chewed-up boarding pass the other day. And while I normally try to not let you eat things like paper, I happened to be distracted by picking things up after going through security and you took advantage of the opportunity.) Besides gnawing on things, you are currently obsessed with faces, feet (and shoes), hair, and jewelry.

A lack of teeth hasn't been holding you back in the eating department. Your favorite time of the day is, without a doubt, any time you are eating. The second we put you in the Bumbo and start getting your food out, you get so excited you squeal and your arms and legs tremble with anticipation. You eat three meals per day now (usually around 10:00, 2:00, and 7:00) along with your four nursing sessions (at roughly 8:00, 12:00, 4:00, and 8:00). Your favorites this month are beans (red or black, mashed or whole, you don't care, you just love beans - such a Brasileira!) and plain, unsweetened yogurt. And while you would be totally content eating only those two things, for the sake of nutrients and variety we also have been giving you: avocado, banana, pear, apple, papaya, watermelon, acerola, grapes, oatmeal, pumpkin, carrots, peas, green beans, and, just recently, beef. We're going to wait a while before giving you any more oatmeal though. You have thrown up (explosively) on two occassions now and oatmeal was the only common demoninator. We'll try it again in another month or so. You're not really loving the pumpkin and carrots, so we have to sneak those in between other bites, but otherwise you seem content with everything we give you. We continue to try out new foods each week and add them to the rotation.

Our potty mission is going way better than I ever expected. You figured out real quick that you are more comfortable when you use the potty and you go pretty much every time we take you. When we are at home, we have gone good parts of the day without you wetting your diaper and we make it to the potty about 75% of the time when you need to poo. (Other times you go first thing when you wake up, before you make a peep.) It will get a lot easier once you start using some sign language, but you already try to tell us when you need to go. Of course, it is sort of hard to distinguish your I-need-to-poo-whine from your I'm-bored-whine, but hopefully your sign language abilities will emerge real soon!

In an effort to control the ever-growing mop of yours, we had to start using hair bands. Your little clippy-bows just weren't doing it any more. And then I decided to give pig-tails a shot. You hated the whole rubber band thing for the first week (since it requires a lot more time and hair-pulling to accomplish), but I explained to you that you were a girl and were going to have to learn to toughen up. (Hello! plucking, waxing, high heels, child birth . . . being female requires pain tolerance!) You are no longer bothered by me fixing your hair. But that doesn't mean you ever hold still long enough for me to get a straight part!

The final highlight of your month was meeting Santa for the first time. He made his grand appearance at Patio Savassi, so we took you to go pass along your Christmas Wish List and make good with the big guy. After the two kids in front us of (who were only a few months older than you) bawled and screamed, I think Papai Noel was awfully excited to have a smiley, happy baby in his lap. And we were pretty sure his helpers were just going to keep you - they had little interest in returning you to us!

It's been a fun month for sure! Watching you grow, learn, and develop makes everyday incredible!

I love you bunches my munchkin!

P.S. You're still my little squirt. Just 15.2 pounds (15th percentile) and 26 inches (25th percentile). Although not from a lack of eating - you're my little piggy in that department. ;)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Family of 7 . . . Wait, Make That 11!

(Above photo from

On Thursday last week, I received an email telling me about a very special family. I don't know if it was crazy maternal hormones, divine intervention, or what, but their story really touched me, and I immediately sprang to action trying to find out more and come up with a plan to help. I rarely ask anything from my readers, but I am going to right now. Please read on and then (if you desire to) help this incredible family.

Manoel and Eliana are farmers who live way out in the country in my state here, Minas Gerais. They survive and raise a family on a mere R$400 per month (that's US$230 . . . per month!) They live in house without electricity and only one toilet. They are simple people and live a simple life, but they are anything but ordinary.

They already had 5 children: 2 girls (15 and 11 years old) along with 3 boys (7, 6, and 3 years old). But they wanted one more child to complete their family.

Imagine their surprise when Eliana, who has never taken a single medicine to prevent or encourage pregnancy, found out she was carrying quadruplets!!! Yes, that would be four babies. The chances of that occurring naturally are 1 in 729,000. And the chances of giving birth to four healthy babies when you already have 5 others at home has to be astronomical!

Miguel, Ezequiel, Natanael, and Ana Raquel (pictured above left to right) were born on October 12 in Belo Horizonte weighing between 1.530 and 1.820 kg (3.4 - 4.0 pounds). They were all born healthy and after a couple weeks in the hospital were released to go stay at a family member's home here in the city. Then on Friday, the 1 month old babies were given the green light to travel home to Piranga.

But before they left, Eric and I made a trip over to visit them on Friday night and talk to their parents about how we might be able to provide some support.

Natanael (far left) was not happy about his sister sitting on him! And she wasn't a fan of her brother screaming in her ear. Miguel and Ezequiel were quite content little fellas though.
I later confessed to Eric that holding these four precious little babes made my ovaries ache for more babies . . . but scared my uterus into hiding! ;)
(And on a side note, could I be cheesing any bigger here?!? hehe)

The second he had a little breathing room, Natanael calmed right down and even gave me a little grin before he dozed off to sleep in my hands. Ezequiel (on the right) and I bonded right away: I got to give the little guy a teeny tiny bottle of milk, since our arrival coincided with feeding time.

Eric snuck in a little cuddle time with my buddy, Ezequiel, too. We both had a hard time getting over how itty bitty all the babies were! (Pictures really cannot capture their tininess!)

After holding babies and getting lots of newborn cuddles, Eric and I sat down at a table with the proud parents, Manoel and Eliana, while some family members took over babysitting for a few minutes. Mostly we let them talk and tell us about their family. We listened as they spoke about how richly blessed they feel, but how scary it is to add four babies all at once. They told us about their home and how the local government has been telling them (and seven other families who live nearby) for years now that they are going to get electric lines run to their small community, but how it never happens. They spoke with excitement as they announced that, as of November 28, they are supposed to have electricity (after some family friends learned about their situation and wrote letters to the governor of Minas Gerais.) Manoel and Eliana told us about the outpouring of support they have received from the community in Belo Horizonte in the way of diapers, formula, and baby clothes.

A view into the room where all of the donations were being stored. A truck was going to haul all it to their home near Piranga over the weekend.

Afterwards we shared with them a little bit about ourselves and then how much their story had touched us. We explained that we wanted to share their story with some of our family and friends and try to raise some money to help. I told them I had no idea how much I would be able to raise, but promised I would do my best to try and assist them. They thanked us sincerely and said they really didn't require much money to live, but a little extra would sure help ease some of the burden. It was some point shortly thereafter that tears started falling all around the table.

Manoel and Eliana are two of the most sincere, humble people I have ever met. They are not seeking a book deal or a reality TV show. They haven't gone on talk shows parading around their family or crying about how hard they have it. They are loving parents who merely want to take their babies home, reunite their family (the other children having been staying with relatives back home so they can attend school), and go on living their life. They are the kind of people you can feel good about helping.

There has been a great outpouring of love and support for the family in the way of physical donations. They should be set on diapers and formula for quite a while. But they will no doubt incur more expenses in the coming months and years, and there are many things they would like to do to improve their home for their growing family.

Finally having electricity sounds fabulous and will certainly make day to day life more convenient. But they don't actually have any lights or appliances (refrigerator, washing machine, etc.) yet. Why would they if they've never had electricity? They will also have, for the first time, an electric bill, which is far from cheap here in Brasil. (Eric and I pay about 6 times more per kWh here than we did in Iowa!)

I am not a salesperson and I usually hate asking for money, even when it is for charity. But this is a case where a very small amount will go a very long way in helping a deserving family. They make R$400 per month (US$230). They support a family of 11 (plus Eliana's aging father who lives with them) on less than US$8 per day. A donation of $5 or $10, the amount I might spend on a given trip to Starbucks back home, means so much to them.

If you have a desire to help this loving family, I would request that you click on the Paypal DONATE button on the left at the top of this page. This will take you to Paypal's secure site where you can make a donation using your debit or credit card or your Paypal account if you have one. The money will collect in my Paypal account until December 21 when I will withdraw the money and deposit it into Manoel and Eliana's account at a local bank here in Brasil. (Eric and I will personally cover the service charge Paypal charges me so that the family will receive 100% of what you give.) If you wish to donate, but would prefer not to use Paypal, then please email me at and we can make other arrangements.

This is not something I've ever done here on my blog, and I don't plan to make it a recurring theme. But this family really touched my heart and this was the best way I could come up with to help them. Thank you for reading and, if you feel led to give, thank you for your help. I will update on the fund-raising progress and on the babies in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, please feel free to share this link with others. Lots of people making just very small donations would make for an incredible Christmas present for this family!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Turn This Baby Loose! Mama's Got Floors to Clean!

The inability to perform some functions (such as putting together a lasagna with steaming hot ingredients) while simutaneously holding/feeding/entertaining an infant is the driving force behind developmental milestone achievement. At least at our house it is.

Last night I was trying to fix supper. Gabriela decided 1. she would rather yell than play by herself (thank you emerging seperation anxiety) and then 2. she could not wait another minute to be fed. Meanwhile I had lasagna noodles that were going to get soggy if I didn't get my lasagna made.

And that's when Mommy decided it was time to try finger foods.

Given that these days absolutely everything, big and small, gets picked up by those dimpled little hands and immediately goes into her mouth, I figured Gabs could manage to feed herself bits of banana (in the kitchen with me so I could supervise, of course!)

She took a slightly untraditional route about it though. It cracked me up, so I had to stop, get the camera, and record it. I ended up with soggy noodles anyway . . . but it was worth it! :)

Pictures from our incredible vacation will be coming soon!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Well, that's one way to end vacation

Yesterday was Eric's final day of vacation. We took Justin to the airport at 3:00 am, got back home around 5:00, and then crawled in bed until 11:30. (Love it when Gabriela sleeps in too!!!)
After that we were up and running errands for most of the afternoon. We fed Gabs her supper at 7:00 pm, then went for a family walk, rented a movie, bought a frozen pizza, and decided to put the baby to bed and spend the rest of the night bumming on the couch.

It was going to be the perfect relaxing night to end an awesome, but very busy, vacation. And then we were reminded that when you have a child, things don't always go as planned.

We were just about 30 minutes into our movie when I heard a couple little cries come from Gabriela's room. Eric and I looked at each other and noted how strange it was for her to be awake, much less crying, after 10 pm. She always goes to bed so easily and sleeps so well.

I hopped up and went to check on her. Then I hollered across the house for Eric to come too. I was going to need reinforcement.

Gabs was swimming in a sea of vomit. No, not baby spit-up. Vomit. It smelled like vomit. It was chunky like vomit. Some of it had apparently come out though her nose. She had spun herself around to get her face out of it. So now vomit was caked onto the belly of her onsie and she was kicking her feet in it, splashing it around. Awesome.

She was smiling though, so I took it she was feeling better at least. Eric went and filled her tub with water, deciding that a bath was going to be the only way to deal with the mess.

Meanwhile, I stripped the baby, mopped up as much of the vomit as I could with a clean cloth diaper and then threw the onsie, sheet, and mattress pad into the washing machine.

By the time Eric got Gabs out of the bath, she was starting to cry and you could tell she wasn't feeling well. She was so pitiful! Eric was cuddling with her and trying to get her to drink a little water while I put clean sheets in her crib. And then Gabriela proceeded to puke again. And again. And again. Completely covering Eric and the floor in her room.

And oh my, no doubt about it. Vomit. Stinky, smelly vomit. It covered Eric's arms, shirt, shorts, and even soaked through to his underwear. And then there was the floor. Vomit everywhere.

How does so much come out of such a little person?!?

And poor little Gabs just whimpered and sort of went limp. She was exhausted.

Part of me wanted her to drink something so she wouldn't get dehydrated, but I really didn't want her make her throw up anymore. So we just spent the next hour cuddling with her and trying to keep her comfortable.

After it appeared she was done hurling, we put her to bed in the pack-n-play in our bedroom so I could hear her if she got sick again and could check on her throughout the night. She slept peacefully until she woke up hungry at 5:30 this morning.

This afternoon she seems to be all better, although sleepy. I am a little weary of giving her solids today, so I am just nursing her extra. So far she has kept everything down and is happy and playing when she's awake.

There are a lot of variables from yesterday, so we're not sure why she got sick. She has a stuffy nose and some drainage going on. She got 2 vaccines yesterday. She was extra hungry and ate a good bit more than normal last night at supper. Maybe she picked up a little stomach bug. Who knows?

But Eric has now been shot with poop and covered in puke. She really seems to save her best for him! Daddyhood isn't for the weak.

Meanwhile, maybe this made Eric's return to the office after two weeks off a little more appealing! Things like this rarely happen there.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Reverse Function

Although Gabriela cannot move forward in a prone position, her reverse works just fine. I've watched her push herself back more than 10 feet in a matter of seconds (while she was excitedly trying to get to a toy in front of her, bless her heart!)

And she doesn't just limit the reverse function to her floor time - she also likes to use it while in her crib. She has been sleeping swaddle-free most nights for the last two weeks. And now I frequently hear her either laughing like a lunatic or crying in frustration and walk into her room to find scenes like these.

Her bedding set only came with bumper pads for three sides. I am thinking about moving the one from the head of her bed to the other end. Although the second I do that, I'm certain she'll start crawling forward and bonking her head on the rails then! (And to be honest, I do enjoy the good giggle when I walk in and find two little legs kicking like crazy out the end of her crib!)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Canela and the Surrounding Parks

After visiting the national parks of the Serra Gaúcha, we arrived in Canela, Rio Grande do Sul on Sunday, October 18. We had absolutely awesome weather for the day and a half that we were there and got to visit a lot of parks in the surrounding area.

Gramado, the city neighboring Canela, is the better known of the two. They both have a Swiss mountain village feel to them though - with Gramado possessing more upscale shops and hotel while Canela is home to more budget accommodations.

Once we got into town, we drove around and ended up with a cute little room at Vila Vecchia.

The main square in Canela is centered around an enormous beautiful church, Cathedral da Pedra.

Sunday evening we went over to Cervejaria Farol (Lighthouse Brewery) and watched the sunset set over the landscape from the top of the lighthouse while enjoying a chope. You could certainly feel a German influence in that place!

We got up early Monday morning to make the park circuit before we had to drive back to Porto Alegre to catch our plane that afternoon.

Parque do Caracol was the first stop of the day.

This park is home to the most famous waterfall in the region (130 meter free-fall). We had read that there were stairs, approximately 750 of them, that took you down to the base of waterfall. We had already decided that, since we had a lot to see and do that day, we wouldn't tackle those.

But the second we saw Cascata do Caracol (the waterfall), Eric and I looked at one another, smiled, and said at the same time, "Let's do the stairs!"

So down, down, down we went. According to the signs, it was the equivalent of a 44-story building. (And goodness knows, unless the thing was on fire, I would never volunteer to take the stairs in a skyscraper!!!)

Despite that my legs were starting to buckle underneath me by the time we reached the bottom, we were handsomely rewarded with gorgeous scenery that we couldn't even come close to capturing on camera. (And the mosquitoes gave me quite the warm welcome as well down there.)

Double rainbow - so awesome!

We were getting hit with a pretty strong mist, so we didn't stay at the bottom for too long though.

And then we headed back up the 750 steps to ascend the "44-story building". Surprisingly enough, going up hurt the ol' legs a lot less. My lungs on the other hand . . . ;)

After reaching the end of all those steps, we continued around several other trails in the park to get up close and personal with the stream at the top of the waterfall.

Obviously, they were serious about trying to not disturb the native vegetation. Remove the fallen tree? No way. Just build a little handrail and a couple steps over it! HA!

Since Gabriela can sit unsupported now, I thought I'd plop her down on the rocks here in front of some flowers for a couple pictures. She immediately plucked a bloom (which is against the rules as according to all the signs posted in the park) and tried to eat the evidence.

Next she struck a pose or two for the camera.

Then something on the ground caught her attention.

And next thing I know, she flings herself towards it. (Luckily, the ever-quick Mommy arms swooped in to make the catch.)

Next stop was Parque da Ferradura which features trails to various lookouts over a horseshoe shaped canyon.

And more stairs.

Along with some inclined trails. (Oh my poor legs!)

There were several awesome lookout points and the views were really nice!

Then we drove over to Parque Floresta Encantada de Canela where we rode the teleférico 20 minutes over 800 meters up and down the mountain across from Cascata do Caracol. The chairs are made for two people, but since he had Gabriela in the BabyBjörn they made Eric ride seperate from me for "safety reasons". Eric argued that the two large men who climbed on the chair in front of us weighed a heck of a lot more than the three (2 and 1/10?) of us, but rules are rules and so I had to ride sozinho. :(

The chairlift floats over a sea of hydrangeas (which were just beginning to bloom) and gives awesome views of the waterfall and canyons.

We made one final quick stop at Castelinho which is the oldest house in Canela (built in 1913-1915 and the walls of the first story were all built without nails.)

After that it was back to the airport in Porto Alegre for us.

It was a really awesome trip and provided us with a completely different experience from anything else we had come across in Brasil. The landscape and climate were quite a change from the usual steamy beaches we tend to flock towards. The people were decidedly lighter-skinned (although we still didn't see many blondes, where we were anyway) and they spoke with an accent that was unlike any other we'd heard in Brasil. Our recent experience in Rio Grande do Sul is probably the last thing I would have thought of if you asked me to describe Brasil two years ago, but it is an absolutely beautiful place and I am so glad we got to see this "other side" of Brasil!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Checking In

Just a quick note to let everyone know that Week 1 of vacation went great with Justin and Jimmy! The weather started off rainy and overcast, but things turned around for us and ended up not being too darn bad at all!!!

Gabs and I aren't used to being outnumbered, but we've been getting along okay with all these boys.

Ever seen a mermonkey? My brother seems to be just that. (See "lovely" mermaid above and coconut-fetching monkey below.)

Meanwhile, Jimmy has apparently been working on turning Gabs into Little Miss Hollywood.

Jimmy is headed home now and the rest of us are headed towards the Pantanal! We'll be back home next weekend. In the mean time, wish us luck with the 6 1/2 month old who seems to be teething, suddenly dislikes napping on the go, and refuses to suffer in silence! She's been a little firecracker this last week!