Sunday, March 21, 2010

11 Months

Dear Gabs,

It's hard to believe you are just a month away from turning 1! Where exactly does the time go? This month has been an exceptionally great one and you are amazing us at how fast you are learning.
You officially have a first word. Much to your Mamae's delight and your Papai's chagrin, it's "ma-ma". And boy, do you love that word. You must repeat it a couple thousand times each day, most of which occur when I walk into the room where you are. Never are you more proud of yourself though than when your hard working father arrives home, you quickly crawl over to the door to meet him, and the moment he scoops you up you look at him, grin a sly and knowing smile, and say, "Ma-ma!" He really loves that and usually gets you back by tickling you until you're nearly out of breath. (I should also note that he has since started trying to get you to say Dada or Papai. He doesn't care what you call him, he just wants you to say something that he can claim as his own!)

Most of your random babbling has been replaced this month with "Ma-ma", but you also thrilled your Aunt Kelly when she was able to get you to say her name. (Papai loved that too.) You say "Kkkkk". It sounds like you are trying to clear your throat, but you say it in response to someone prompting you to say Kelly, and you look at her when you say it, so we're counting it as your second word.

Besides your first words, you've been busy perfecting your gross motor skills. You can now crawl on your hands and knees in a more normal way (although you still generally prefer army crawling when you're in a hurry) and everyday you are getting closer to walking. Not only do you cruise the furniture and makes laps around the living room now, you can also cling to walls and make your way down the hall. You can stand alone for about 10 seconds, but you think it's hilarious to fall. So generally when we let go of your hands to let you fica no pe sozinho, you immediately throw yourself to the floor and have a giggle fit.

Just in time to sing Parabens on your birthday, you finally started clapping. It quickly became one of your favorite things to do. If you want someone to pay attention to you, you clap. If you're bored, you clap. If your Papai or I praise you with, "Muito bom, Gabriela!", you clap. If a stranger smiles at you, you clap. When your Nena tells you, "Bravo!", you clap. And, much to my surprise, without doing anything else, I can instruct you to "bate palmas", and you clap. The funniest is when you're on your hands and knees and you get the desire to clap your hands. You know if you clap you'll land on your face, but you'll clap anyway and just brace yourself for the face-planting. (I only wish I could catch it on video!)

As I mentioned before, you are learning at lightening speed these days. Everything you understand (nouns, commands, etc) is in Portuguese, but as you spend more time with extended family and friends we're sure you will start to understand English (and Spanish!) too. (The research on raising bilingual children says the majority language will come - it's the minority language that poses the greatest learning challenge. Hence the reason we speak Portuguese at home with you.) You know lots of body parts and will point them out when we say the word: head, nose, mouth, tongue, eyes, belly, feet, hands. You are learning the names of more and more of your toys, often surprising me that you know it. (For example, we were sitting in your room reading a book the other day. I pointed out a vaca in the book and you immediately crawled away from me and grabbed your big stuffed cow. We don't play with the cow very often, and I had no idea you even knew that one!) You can also follow lots of different commands that we give you, with or without any sign to go with it. The cutest right now is "Coloque seu pezinho dentro sua boca!" (Put your foot in your mouth!)

Your routine has mostly stayed the same this month, except that the 1-hour+ long morning and afternoon naps have shortened to just 45 minutes. (Which saddens me greatly!) We are trying to give you more of the food we eat, when we can, to start the transition to real family meals and are also introducing more spices and flavors to your food (while trying to avoid processed crud, lots of sodium, and sugar). You're not too sure about spicy-hot stuff yet, but you do love yellow mustard. Curry, cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper have all gone over well too. Unfortunately, you figured out this month how to take food out of your mouth. In the past you would just make a face and swallow more slowly if you weren't crazy about something. This month you have started digging the offensive material back out of your mouth and tossing it onto the floor. That's fun.

Some of the highlights of your month have included a weekend trip to downtown St Louis, going to daycare at the YMCA for an hour twice per week while Mamae takes aerobics classes, helping Uncle Nathan pick out a big shiny ring for soon-to-be AUNT Megan (you have excellent taste in jewelry btw - you love diamonds! That's my girl! Your father is scared!), your first rodeo (well, just bull riding and bull fighting), a weekend trip to Quad Cities with Uncle Nathan, going to Jimmy and Jenna's wedding up in Cedar Falls, and the parent-initiated disappearance of your pacifier that you slept with (which was actually a pretty easy transition). Oh, and you also got to share some real big news with family and friends!

We've had a lot of fun this month. You continue to be quite the little social butterfly, you thrive on interaction with other people (especially strangers!), you give Mamae and Papai the best hugs and slobbery kisses, and completely light up with huge gummy smiles whenever one of us enters the room. You enrich our lives more than we ever even imagined possible and make each day so special.

I love you more and more with each passing day,

Thursday, March 18, 2010

And the pacifier goes away (mostly)

I don't really like pacifiers (or chupetas, as they're known in our house). Never have. I've just seen one too many five years olds trying to talk to me through a hunk of plastic, I guess. So my intention was to not give Gabriela a pacifier. Like is often the case though, once I actually became a parent, I ate my words. A couple weeks into her life, it became obvious that the kid had a serious need for non-nutritive sucking. And since I was really getting tired of her constantly sucking on my pinkie finger, or my shoulder, or my shirt, or anything else she could get her mouth on, I gave in. I gave her a pacifier.

Once she was a few months old, I started making the pacifier live in her crib and only gave it to her at naps and bedtime. Although my sleep-time only rule hasn't applied in the car or when we're out in public, as sometimes just keeping her quiet is worth whatever attachment issues I might be creating.

My plan since it's introduction has been to take it away once she's a year old. But a few weeks ago my dear little Gaberdoodle decided throwing her pacifier out of her crib was a really fun game. Until she realized that it was then out of reach. And then she would stand in her crib, starring at her friend laying on the floor, and scream until someone came in and gave it back to her. It was a fabulous distraction and way to stay awake. Especially during naptime.

Well, mean ol' Mommy had enough. Last week we embarked on mission Sem Chupeta around here. I started by taking it away at bedtime, since that is when she usually goes down really easily. The first night she cried a couple minutes, but since then she's been fine. This week I decided to take it away during naptime. She's missed it a little, but overall naptime goes better without the distraction she created by throwing her pacifier. I still keep it with me in the car and when we're out, just in case, but I've been a little slower to give it to her. My goal is to have it gone completely by her first birthday.

In an effort to let us all sleep better, I did give it back to her on Saturday night when we were staying in a hotel. She never sleeps nearly as well when there is someone else in the room, so I figured I'd break my own rule while we were away from home. That might have backfired a little though as Sunday night at home she screamed her head off and refused to be comforted after we laid her down. Luckily it only took 20 minutes before she fell asleep. Which, to Mommy, isn't too bad. But for her big softy of a Papai, it was torture. He looked at me about 10 minutes into her fit and said, "Why don't you just give her the chupeta? She was such a good girl this weekend!" I gently reminded him that we weren't taking it away as punishment! And the longer we delay going pacifier-free, the more drama it will surely entail! And then I made some comment about him needing to toughen up.

Long before we ever had kids, Eric harassed me saying that he was going to be the fun Dad and that I'd have to be the mean Mom. That's yet to be determined exactly, but I do know that he's a total sucker for tears. He has little tolerance for whining, but let a tear fall down the little Princess' cheek! For his own sake, I hope he toughens up before she realizes that is all it takes! Meanwhile, maybe I should take a lesson. Wonder if a few tears would get me a new fridge and oven? Might be worth a shot . . .

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why Eric Looks So Pouty

If Eric looks a little pouty these days, this video should explain it. Gabriela has a new favorite syllable. And she's figured out it has some meaning to it. We're going on Day 6 of her saying it constantly. All day long.

Eric's favorite moment is when he comes home, Gabriela crawls over to him, and the moment he picks her up she looks back at me and says, with a big grin, "mama!" Pobre Papai!!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lesson From a 10 Month Old

If you were to ask what was my philosophy on being a stay at home mom, I'd say that I try to treat it like it's my 8-5 job. Meaning this: If I worked out of the home, the taking care of the house stuff would have to wait until after 5. And if I worked out of the home and Gabriela was in daycare, I would expect that she was being taught and played with during that time. So, despite feeling like I should be doing lots of other things sometimes, I attempt to make my "work day" about my kiddo.

That certainly doesn't mean I don't do some laundry or fix supper during the day. Nor does it mean I give her my undivided attention all day long. (I think independent play is a very important skill and we certainly do incorporate that into our routine!) But what it does mean is that while Eric is at work, I think teaching and playing with Gabriela should be my number one priority. Not checking my email, not scrubbing the house, not preparing 7-course meals to be ready the second Eric arrives home, and not creating wikipedia pages dedicated to my knowledge in nuclear physics and basket weaving.

Sounds like a pretty good philosophy, right?

Now let me go ahead and say that I fail at following through with it probably as often as I succeed.

Some days it seems like there is so much I need to get done or something so pressing that I let the little rugrat crawl around at my feet while I try to accomplish some other task.

And sometimes she gets whiny and wants my attention, and I attempt to appease her by tossing a toy her way or singing and talking to her while I focus my efforts somewhere else.

Yesterday was one of those days. Since it isn't really something she can "help" me do yet, I often wait to clean up from breakfast or lunch while she naps. But yesterday I had other things I wanted to accomplish during nap time. As I filled the dishwasher, hand-washed a couple pots and pans, and then got distracted sorting through some mail and preparing some things to be filed, Gabriela was constantly underneath my feet. She kept pulling herself up, holding onto my legs, and whining to be picked up. After all my efforts to distract her failed and I could no longer listen to her whine, I picked her up and, exasperated, asked her what she wanted.

Her little face lit right up with a giant grin the second I lifted her to my hip. Then (and this is the part my heart melted into a big pile of mush and I promised her she could have a pony, I don't care what her Daddy says) she grabbed both sides of my face with her chubby little hands, turned my face towards hers, and planted a huge kiss right on my lips. Then she sighed and laid her little head on my shoulder for a cuddle.

It's rare that I get all gushy and emotional, but I have to admit that I was fighting tears.

I guess as much as I like to think I am teaching my child, she is teaching me just as much or more: completely unconditional love, pleasure in life's simplest moments, slowing down and enjoying each day, being a mommy is an (the most?) important full-time job. These are things my little Gabster teaches me every single day. Sometimes she teaches with uncontrollable laughter, sometimes by a smile, sometimes through a great big spontaneous slobbery kiss and cuddle. But everyday she teaches me. For me, it's been the greatest I-never-expected-that element of parenthood. (Definitely beats the heck outta meconium poop and explosive vomiting!)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Me" Things

I love being able to stay at home with Gabriela. There is no place in the world I'd rather be, most of the time. But some days Mama gets tired. Sometimes Mama needs there to be more to her day than feedings and potty breaks and children's books and silly songs. And occasionally I need some motivation to get out of my pajama pants and do something to get my heart rate up (other than listening to a teething baby whining for hours at a time) or really engage my mind. And while Eric is really awesome to take over baby duty the second he gets home in the evenings, that isn't always soon enough. (Hey, I'm just being completely honest here.)

While I know that spring is right around the corner, we still have a fat layer of snow on the ground and it is still too cold to play in the yard or go for a nice, long walk. So for the sake of my own personal sanity, I decided to figure out some things to do just "for me".

The first is a bit of a change in "what I want to do when I grow up" (a question I'm not sure I'll ever be able to answer since my interests tend to shift A LOT!) I first had the idea while living in Brasil and then really started to research and pursue it once we moved back. I am now beginning training to become a certified birth doula through DONA International. I loved being pregnant (well, until those last 10 days when I was post due and so ready for Gabs to get here), adore being around pregnant women, and really want to help encourage and assist women to pursue the birth experience they want. Don't ask how someone who started college majoring in Landscape Architecture then went to Agricultural Engineering and ended up in Environmental Science decides she should assist women having babies . . . let's just say I like being a very well-rounded individual. Actually, I really like the term "Renaissance Soul" coined by the author of a book by the same name.

Anyway, I am attending a birth doula training in April, taking some basic childbirth classes now, and getting started on my required reading list. I eventually have to attend three births, and then I can apply for my certification. But hopefully I can get it all done within a year or so. The closest doulas I can find in the area are well over an hour away in Iowa City, so I really think that there is a need in the Burlington/Southeast Iowa region. I am super excited as it could be a great opportunity to do something I (think I'm going to) love, while still being able to be a stay at home mom!

And in the not-so-life-changing category, I signed up for two classes at the YMCA starting this week. They offer free babysitting while you workout, so I signed up for 20/20/20 (20 minutes of aerobics/20 minutes of strength training/20 minutes of pilates) on Tuesdays and a 45-minute pilates/yoga class on Thursday. So far so good! I'm sore, which is nice. Gabriela is having a blast watching all the big kids in the daycare room (she's been the youngest both days, so far). And it makes for a nice Mama break a couple times per week!

I got the nicest compliment from the pilates/yoga instructor this morning too! She asked if I was just visiting or lived in the area. I told her I had just signed up for the class, that it was the first time I had ever done pilates or yoga, but that I really enjoyed the class today and was really looking forward to it. She looked at me sort of funny and said, "Really? You looked great! I was watching you and thought 'wow, she's good, I'm going to have to step it up a notch for her!' " And so what if I was the youngest (by probably 20 years) in the class? I'll still take the compliment. ;)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

St Louis for the Weekend

After spending a couple months getting our house cleaned up, organized, and put together, our sea shipment from Brasil arrived last week on Thursday. And our house once again turned into a disaster area. Given that we have plans for the next five weekends, the only rational and logical thing to do was stay home and work on the house.

Since I obviously don't do logical and rational (especially when I have been stuck inside with a 10-month old for two months), I got on hotwire and started searching for a cheap last minute trip somewhere. Anywhere. So long as it was warmer than Burlington. And cheap.

There were absolutely no great deals to be found on flights, so I had to limit myself to drivable locations. I ended up being able to book a room at the Crown Plaza in downtown St Louis for $54 per night. The weather channel said it would be sunny all weekend and a good 10 degrees warmer there than Burlington. So I did a little arm twisting to my more rational and logical husband. And we spent the weekend in St Louis.

We drove down after Eric got away from work on Friday and arrived in St Louis about 9:30. Our hotel was steps away from the Arch and the weather didn't disappoint. It wasn't exactly balmy, but sunny with highs in the 40's at least made it possible to spend a good chunk of our days outside and walking.

After sleeping in a bit Saturday morning, we spent the rest of the day walking through the park surrounding the Arch, venturing down to Union Station, checking out the 6-story Macy's, and just wandering around downtown.

Gabriela fell asleep in the Bjorn during our long walk to Union Station. And I think she would have stayed asleep for quite a while if it hadn't been for the guy at The Fudgery ringing a dinner bell and yelling at her to wake up so she didn't miss out on free fudge.

The change of scenery was good for all of us. I know I needed to get out of the house and play outside, but I think Gabs did too! After a rough last week, we were both in much better moods after some time outside on Saturday.

On the walk back to our hotel after supper Saturday night, we got to enjoy a beautiful moonrise at the Arch!

We checked out Sunday just before noon and drove over to Forest Park to spend some time at the St Louis Zoo.

Some of the animals weren't out, as they cannot handle the cold winters, but it was another beautiful day so we enjoyed strolling though and soaking up some sunshine.

It was a quick trip, but an enjoyable one. A family weekend where all we had to do was play was exactly what we all needed to shake the winter blues! Unfortunately, the unpacking/putting away fairies didn't stop by our house while we were gone and clean things up. So now we're dealing with that.