Monday, October 3, 2011

Marvelous Moments in Mothering

My Grandad tells the story of being just a few years old and having a bigger kid shove half of an acorn in his ear. When he came home and told Granny, my great grandmother, she made some comment about him needing to quit telling tall tales (she probably then gave him a dose of castor oil to clean the fibbing out of him - although I'm just guessing on that part.) He never mentioned that acorn again. A few years later, Grandad was seeing the doctor for a problem with his ear. As the doctor was flushing out his ear, something fell out into the metal bowl with a "clank". After careful inspection, it turned out to be a partially disintegrated half of an acorn. As a mother, I'd think that would leave you feeling a little guilty. But Granny and Papa had four kids and a big farm (that was tilled with mules), and I'm pretty sure they didn't have indoor plumbing yet. Granny probably didn't have time for such things as guilt.

The last week or so, every time I put Gabriela's new sneakers on her feet, she says (in her most dramatic tone), "Ooooooo, tiiiiiiight". It's one of her favorite words right now, and uses it every chance she gets, so every day I've told her, "Look kid, these shoes are a size bigger than you normally wear, they are NOT tight. They're fine." And that quiets her down and she never mentions it again. Until the next time I put her shoes on her.

Last night, after the girls were in bed, I was in the bathroom scrubbing Gabs' shoes. Scrubbing shoes is not normally part of my routine, but I was doing it yesterday. Partially because they were black and yucky from walking the streets of Belo Horizonte and just needed it. Partially because I didn't want to get scolded again while on the streets of Belo Horizonte by some random woman. But mostly because I was tired of getting my clothes dirty every time I picked her up.

So anyway, I was scrubbing her shoes in the bathroom sink and decided to pull out the insoles so they would dry faster. When I did, a sock fell out of each shoe. Apparently, Eric or I (let's blame it on Eric) stuffed her socks into her shoes, most likely after she kicked them off in the car on the way home from supper, and we ended up carrying her and her footwear into the hotel. And apparently, instead of taking the socks out before the next time she wore her shoes, one of us (let's blame it on Eric) just shoved her little foot in there, wading up the sock into the toe of her shoe.

Turns out, her shoes probably were feeling a little tight every time we put them on her. We should maybe listen to the kid sometimes.

And I did feel a little guilty about blowing off her comment and the fact that she has been walking around with her toes all crammed up due to socks being shoved into the end of her shoes.

But then I remembered Granny. And it's not like she had a sock shoved into an oriface or anything. So then I felt better.

We are taking off this evening to make the journey back to the US after a glorious 17 days in Brasil. Gabriela will have clean shoes for the voyage. And they will be significantly less tiiiiiight.

Monday, September 19, 2011

44 lbs of kids, 146 lbs of luggage (plus carseats)

A 1.5 hour car ride, 3 flights (one international), 1 bus, and a taxi ride over the course of 26 hours is a little daunting alone with a toddler and an infant. But when Eric realized he needed to be in India for almost two weeks and then fly straight to Brasil for another two weeks, I saw no other option. Mama wasn't about to spend the entire month of September alone with the kids! Eric had all kinds of excuses as to why he couldn't take the children with him and leave me in peace for a month (some nonsense about needing to accomplish some work?)

So the girls and I drove up to Cedar Rapids on Thursday morning, hopped a plane to Dallas, killed 5 hours in the airport, boarded an overnight flight to Rio de Janeiro, made our way through customs and immigration, checked into another airline, and finally made it into Belo Horizonte's airport at 11:00 am on Friday morning. My Brasil BFF, Megan, met me at the airport and helped me lug the two girls, their two carseats, and all 146 pounds of luggage on board the airport shuttle bus to downtown BH and then transfer it all to a taxi and into her apartment. The president of Brasil happened to be making an appearance here at the moment we arrived and traffic was a nightmare. Our 10 minute taxi ride took 1 1/2 hours. I was rather delirious by the time we arrived. And very ready for a nap. The girls were exceptionally well rested and ready to party it up. Megan totally saved me.

The girls were AMAZING. No, really. I know they are my kids. And I know everyone thinks their own kids are awesome. But seriously. I was a bit anxious about the whole journey. I played out every imaginable scenario in my mind to try and figure out what I would do if my two year old darted off and snuck onto a plane to Abu Dhadi and simultaneously Lilian had a massive blow out while attached to me and we both were completely covered in poop. I think I was prepared to handle anything the kids, the FAA, or the airline might throw at me. But it was so easy. Despite that I probably gave myself an ulcer in the days leading up to our travels, the girls made me look like SuperMommy! You could see the not-at-all-pleased looks of airline employees, security checkers, flight attendants, and other passengers as they saw me coming with two little ones all by myself. But we had won them all over by the time we walked away and received so many compliments.

I talked to Gabriela a lot in the couple days leading up to our trip and told her all about what we were going to do and how she was really going to have to follow directions well. Our daily prayers included a request for easy flights, for Gabriela and Lilian to behave themselves, and for Mamãe to have lots and lots of patience and stamina. And oh how blessed we were!

Gabriela, who is basically a good kid, but is only two and doesn't always mind perfectly, did everything I asked her to do. The first time I asked. And never once complained. Never once whined. Never once cried (except for at the very end of our final flight when she really wanted to look out the window and I told her she had to sit down and buckle up, but it lasted less than 20 seconds).

Lilian was a total champ. She was so easy going and content. She is crawling and cruising like crazy and hates to be contained right now, so I was sure she'd have a hard time with having to sit in her carseat for such long stretches of time. She was lacking in the sleep department by the end of it all, but, same as Gabs, never whined or cried. At all!

There was one moment on the overnight flight at about 4:00 am when I looked over at my two sleeping beauties and got totally teary-eyed. Not really like me at all, but I was so overwhelmed with how well behaved they had both been despite missing naps and being rushed around and being confined to carseats and told they must be quiet. I think it was partially just the exhaustion setting in (as I hadn't had much sleep the night before either with all the last minute preparations for the trip), but I seriously had to stop looking over at the angelic children beside me for fear of starting the waterworks. Plus, I didn't want to get too attached to that idea of my children...I knew it wouldn't last forever and didn't want to be disappointed when they returned to their normal ornery selves later on. haha

I also decided that patience is a lot easier to come by when your kids are behaving. I try to be a calm, patient person on a daily basis, especially when it comes to dealing with the babes. And while I usually succeed and have a cool exterior, I am often boiling over on the inside. I was 100% calm and easy going throughout the whole adventure. That was kind of nice. :)

Eric arrived in Brasil about 13 hours after we did. He was a brave soul as he recounted how he hung out in the Admirals Lounge eating free sushi and drinking free wine and how lovely it was when got upgraded for free to First Class on two of his flights. (He has earned quite the status on American Airlines with all this traveling he's been doing the last year!) Luckily I had taken a nap before he arrived and was able to maintain that earlier calm and restrain myself from strangling him with the strap of one of the two carseats I hauled across a continent by myself with two children.

It's been nice to see my hubby and to not be out-numbered by my kids. After moving out of Megan's apartment and to our hotel on Saturday morning, we enjoyed a low key weekend with a couple different friends. It feels good to be here -even if it is unseasonably cool at the moment.

And after the great trip down here, I've decided to keep my kids. About Day 10 alone with them back home last week, I was considering selling them to the Gypsies.

Oh now, you know I'm only kidding.

I might have locked myself in the bathroom for 10 minutes of peace though. Okay, so it was 15 minutes. If it makes you feel better I did pay for it later. Do you know how big of a mess unsupervised children will make in 15 minutes?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Quick Trip to KC

The girls and I spent Sunday-Thursday in Kansas City, Kansas with my dad. He was attending a conference over there. We decided that 5 hours is a heck of a lot closer than 14, so we made the journey over to visit with him.

When Grandpa wasn't in meetings, we go tto hang out and play tourists. We went to the Kansas City Zoo, the Kansas City Children's Museum, the Agricultural Hall of Fame, and Harry Truman's home in Independence, Missouri. The girls and I had a good time with Grandpa (or BaPAAAAAW as Gabriela calls him) for sure!

Who had more fun in the water room at the Children's Musuem, Gabriela?

Or Grandpa?

Gabriela is especially enamored with elevators and requires lots of reminding of which buttons are okay to push (the one that takes us to the lobby, for example) and which she cannot (like the emergency call button...again.) After a lengthy conversation about why she can't call the nice operator, again, the Texas cowboy on the elevator looked at us and asked, "so where y'all from?" I smiled and casually responded, "We're from Iowa". At that moment, the elevator stopped and he got off. As the doors shut behind him, I realized what he was really wanting to know was what language I was speaking with my child and why. I suspect I might have left him confused about the geographic location of Iowa. "Well, dang, I coulda sworn that Iowa was a US state..." Oops.

I made it a point to regularly loudly say things like, "Lilian, you can sit over there next to GRANDPA, and Gabs can sit with me." Dad and I noticed we got lots of looks when we were together...I used to get the same looks back when I was in college and he'd take me to supper anytime he was in Athens for a meeting. Back then I could just call him Dad and straighten out any confusion. Unfortunately, when there are two young children involved, me calling him "Dad" just seems to make people think he is the father of the babies. And that I am a major gold digger.

Along those lines, I think my Dad got a good reminder of why 50-somethings don't normally have babies. Gabriela's super-human energy wears him out just a little (he seemed more ready for naptime each day than she did! hehe) and Lilian always surprised him with her go-go-gadget-arms that can reach anything she isn't supposed to have. There is no doubt he enjoys his grandbabies...but I do get the feeling that he, like most grandparents, appreciates that he gets to send 'em home when he's done with 'em! :) (Too bad you have to actually raise your own kids before you get to enjoy that's just as annoying as that whole having to work 30 years before you're allowed to retire. Why do old folks get to have all the fun?!? hehe)

We got back to Burlington in time for a friend's 5th Birthday Party (a pool party) yesterday afternoon. After returning home from that last night, more than a little exhausted after 5 days without Papai and a 5+ hour solo journey with the kids, I was harassing Eric about not having the garden picked, flowers watered, yard mowed, or laundry done. I might have gently suggested that had he left me alone with no children for 4 nights I could accomplish all kinds of things...I might have even gone so far as to suggest that he give me the opportunity to prove it. ;) He urged me to go into the storage room in the basement before I said anymore. Which is where I noticed he had changed out the water heater.

The water heater was on our to-do list as our old one was a little undersized and we recently came across a large high efficiency model on clearance and, with the available tax-credit and energy company rebate, it was only going to cost us $75 out of pocket for the upgrade. It's a natural gas unit and the existing water heater was completely hard-plumbed with copper pipe, so we knew it was going to be a quite time-consuming undertaking. Which it was, I am told. Turns out he didn't just goof off while we were away. I spent the remainder of the night apologizing and thanking Eric for getting it done solo. I plan on some serious relaxing in the jacuzzi tub with a glass of wine this weekend now that we have a water heater capable of filling it up!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

After 29 years, I have a passion!

Throughout my life, I've never had a single passionate interest or hobby. I was one in high school that was an active member of pretty much every extra curricular club. I was in FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America), FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America), FGE (Future Georgia Educators), Math Team, and 4-H, among others. I showed beef cattle, was in the Optimist Club's speech competition, and was a cheerleader. You name it, I was genuinely interested in it (so long as it had nothing to do with music - I have no talent at all in that department! The 6th grade trombone experiment proved that once and for all.)

The broad scope of my interests continued in college, not only in my extra-curricular, but also with my major work. Which might have had a little something to do with the six years and countless credit hours...but that's another story we won't take on today (or probably ever).

All that has made me, what I consider to be, a pretty darn well-rounded individual. I know a good bit about a lot and have a very unique set of experiences. I've changed the lower element in an electric water heater by myself. I've made my own wedding cake. I've designed and installed a complete landscape. I've sewn my own formal gown. There are a ton of things I enjoy doing and learning about. What my Renaissance soul has not been useful with, however, is being passionate.

I witnessed my older brother, Travis, pick up a guitar in high school and teach himself to be an awesome player; 15 years later, he can still be seen rocking out in establishments around Statesboro with his band, Dirty Uncle Bob. I watched as my middle brother, Justin, built a log cabin all on his own (using only hand tools) with trees he cut down himself and have seen the him make incredibly intricate wooden creations. They both are incredibly passionate about their hobby (which also sort of turned into a major and then career for Justin). I've always been a bit envious of them in that regard. And it's not that I think I'm not good at anything, but I've never been really awesome at any one particular pursuit. I've never been totally focused and consumed with one specific interest.

But after 29 years, I have found a passion. Something that I want to learn everything possible about. Something that amazes me, that inspires me, that brings me an immeasurable amount of joy. For the last 18 months, every book I've read has been about pregnancy, birth, or babies. I've attend classes, workshops, online discussions, and community programs about birth.

I love being pregnant. I love giving birth. I love newborns. Eric tells me we cannot have 20 babies of our own. He's pretty firm on the no more than a dozen thing. ;)

So I've found that the next best thing to having the experience over and over again myself is being involved with other families and witnessing the miracle of a new life entering the world and watching as two people's lives are transformed as they become parents. My work this year as a birth doula has been incredible. And it is nearly impossible to put into words how much I adore what I am doing.

My main priority remains my family and our home. As long as we have young kids at home, I will limit the number of clients I take on and how many classes I teach. It's fun to have a hobby I'm truly passionate about though. (And making a little play money with it isn't all bad either.)

I have a real business now (Mãe Amor Birth Services). And a real website ( My doula certification is caught up in a backlog and waiting to go before the review committee. But I did receive my HypnoBirthing Practitioner certification last month and will be teaching my first official class beginning in a couple weeks.

Business is good. The girls are growing and doing great. Life is truly grand.

I'll try to be around here a little more often to tell you all about it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The "Vroom Vroom Agua" Works!

Remember 8 months or so ago (you know, about the last time I actually published here) when I heckled my husband regarding his newly purchased heck-of-a-steal 13-passenger deck boat that actually functioned as a giant cumbersome canoe? No? Oh here, refresh your's priceless.

Well, I would be remiss if I didn't break the blog silence to tell you my husband is genius.

After a long winter in a friend's shed, moving the boat to our garage late this spring so we could work on it, finally getting one evening to run/diagnose the engine with two friends from work plus his multimeter and infrared thermometer, hypothesizing the problem was a bad resistor, ordering a $20 resistor, finally getting an afternoon to install said resistor, and Eric being the ultimate pessimist as we pulled the boat into the driveway to put it on the muffs and give it a shot...

The engine fired right up and ran for over 20 minutes, no problem. (It previously was dying after about 10 minutes.)

Always the ever so cautious optimist, I suggested we haul it over to Lake Geode and take it out on the water when the girls woke up from their afternoon nap. (Once and for all proving my unwavering confidence in my husband's mechanical abilities...not to mention his proven capacity to row that sucker back to the dock on his own.)

After an hour and a half of zipping around the lake Sunday afternoon, I would like to officially commend my dear hubby on a job well done. Gabriela was over the top excited to drive the "vroom vroom agua" (her name for the boat) and be out on the water. Lilian was happy too, so long as I kept feeding her a steady stream of Cheerios - that kid seriously eats nonstop now!

I think it's awesome that for a mere $21.14, the boat, whose previous owner spent hundreds trying to solve the engine issue and ultimately gave up and sold the boat for next to nothing, is fixed. Eric is still complaining that it was ridiculous to pay that much for a resistor and piece of wire which probably cost all of 75 cents to manufacture. Sometimes I have a hard time getting that guy to focus on the big picture.

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Refreshing Breeze?

When you live in a tropical climate, you find lots of ways to stay cool in the summer. After living in Belo Horizonte over two years, we thought we had figured out all the various methods for keeping comfortable. Going commando, however, never really crossed our minds. But the older fellow at the outdoor restaurant yesterday afternoon might be onto something. I mean, it is one less layer...

So how might one know that the gentleman was not wearing underwear, you ask? Well, I really wish I couldn't answer that. As it is, unfortunately, I can. Imagine if you will:

-A man sitting in the usual knees sprawled out fashion that men seem to like to assume.

-A rip in the crotch of a pair of pants.

-One of his, um, hmmm, well, "boys" hanging out. Way out.

One can only assume no undergarments are involved.

I shudder a little just recounting the experience. I may be scarred for life. There are just some things no one should ever see. I can assure you that this qualifies.

At some point during his meal, he must have felt a little cool breeze where one usually doesn't get a draft. When we left, after I spent the rest of our lunch refusing to look up from my plate, I noticed the poor guy had moved across the table to sit with his back to the rest of the restaurant patrons. And he was now sitting with his legs crossed.

Eric thinks the guy, whether he stumbled onto the idea accidentally or not, discovered a fantastic way to stay cool and comfortable. I, for one, am going to have to disagree!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Brasil Bound!

* I'm way behind on things around here. I have a bunch of posts started that I just haven't made time to finish and post. I want to get caught up . . . we'll see if it happens. :) Meanwhile, please forgive me that all my new posts were actually written 6 weeks ago!

Night time (and some day time) temperatures are in the single digits (F).

Snow boots are required every time I step out to get the mail.

My skin most closely resembles the color of Elmer's School Glue.

The girls and I are mildly cranky as our Vitamin D stores are quickly depleting.

My sleepwear currently consists of oh-so-sexy flannel pajama pants, a long sleeve t-shirt, and socks.

Lilian has a passport. And a Brasilian Visa.

I have a whole bunch of frequent flyer miles.

Eric needs to go down to Brasil for a couple weeks with work.

It's warm there. And sunny.

There is talk of a giant blizzard heading towards Iowa.

Eric recognizes that leaving me behind with two babies in a blizzard while he is in the tropics would be a bad idea. Very bad idea.

So tomorrow, we're going to Brasil! YAY!

We'll be in Belo Horizonte January 30-February 11 and then tack on a personal trip to Rio de Janeiro for a long weekend with friends there February 11-14. Next year, he's going to have a hard time topping Valentine's Day in Rio. :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lilian 4 Months

Oh My Little LiliBelle,

A month of tickles and giggles, beach and family. Long hours in the car and attempting to get you and Gabriela on matching nap schedules. What fun we've had the fourth month of your life!

After spending the better part of your existence crying every time your big sister bumps you, you've finally come around are just beginning to think that maybe she isn't so bad. You still have your moments, but for the most part the drama is subsiding. And that's sort of nice. Not that you haven't been a good're actually incredibly laid back and totally chill most of the time. But up until now you have been a little on the prissy side about the trying-to-be-careful-but-actually-sort-of rough treatment received from Gabs.

This month has brought with it the beginning of the bumbo seat. While you do seem to tire quickly sitting up and holding that noggin' upright, you much prefer to sit up and look around over reclining. The bouncy seat is seeing a lot less time now as the bumbo moves into the picture. You are also just starting to put weight on your legs and will try to push yourself into a standing position when you're in our lap. Along with that strength is the beginning of some mobility. Today, on your 4-month birthday, you rolled over for the first time (intentionally). And you seem most impressed with your new trick as you have rolled from belly to back multiple times and have even rolled from back to belly once today as well!

Your nighttime sleep has been great as you sleep from 8:00 pm until 10:00 am waking just once between 6:00 and 8:00 am to nurse. Just in the last week you've been able to stretch your daytime feedings to 4 hours apart too. I've started to make a real effort to get you napping predictably. I am trying to put you down 2 hours after you wake up in the morning and then again around 4:00 in the afternoon. We're not fully transitioned yet, as you rarely sleep more than an hour at those times and still cat nap a couple other times during the day...but we'll keep at it and get there eventually!

Your hair seems to lighten more and more each day, and your eyes are continuously messing with me. One day I am certain you're going to end up with brown eyes and then the next day they look bluish-gray and sometimes they even seem to have a greenish hue! I've decided to hold off on all guesses as to what your final eye color will be...we'll just wait until you're 9 months old and see what happens! :) Whatever color they are, they are big and bright and beautiful!

Your car seat has remained a happy place for you - and that's a good thing! After logging more than 50 hours in the car over the holidays, and a trip to Brasil happening in a few days, we are extremely thankful for another good rider!

You have gotten quite ticklish on your thighs and neck and squirm and giggle with delight when we tickle you. You love to be read to and we laugh that the best way to make you happy is to make you the center of attention. Anytime you get a little fussy, all it takes is someone looking your direction and speaking to you and you immediately light up and smile and coo.

Your 4-month well-child visit is going to be just before you turn 5 months old, so I don't have official stats. According to my at-home measurements though, you're 24.75 inches long (50th percentile) and 12.2 pounds (15th percentile). You wear 3-6 month clothes (most of the 3 month stuff is short on you now) and, when you use disposable diapers, you're in Pampers size 1-2.

Our days have more giggles and smiles because of you! We love you very, very much!

Eu te amo, princesinha!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mama's Little Bargain Shopper

I'm sort of a fan of shopping. And an even bigger fan of snagging good deals. There are a few consignment shops that I like a lot - especially when you're looking for little kid clothes. They outgrow everything so fast that I can often find things that either still have the new tags on them or that appear to have only been worn a couple of times. Consignment shops are also my favorite place to buy "play clothes", since, if I only pay 75 cents for a shirt, I really don't care what Gabriela spills on it or how dirty she gets!

I think that a lot of times consignment shops are over-priced for my kind of shopping. When I can buy new at Kohl's or Younkers for 60-90% off, then I refuse to pay more than that for used. But, when a consignment shop has a sale...oh boy, the deals can be fantastic!

Stuff Etc. in Coralville, Iowa had their annual 1/2-off sale, so I had to hit it up! I came away with quite a bit for the girls (mostly Gabriela):

10 shirts
3 pairs of pants
6 dresses
3 medium-lightweight jackets
2 heavy winter coats (one for each girl for next year)
1 pink peacoat

The grand total of all 25 pieces was just $58.51!

The store was packed, and I thought it might be easiest to shop without "company". So I sent Eric and the girls down the road to a home and farm store (you can imagine how much Eric protested) while I hit up the sales.

Once we got home, Gabs was pretty excited to unload the goodies!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Gabriela 21 Months

Dear Gabriela,

Seriously kid, the cuteness is killing me. As is the toddler orneriness! The last three months have been a bit of a blur as we settled into a routine with Lilian part of our days too now. We've managed to, well, manage and have gotten quite comfortable as a little family of four. And you, our little entertainer, kisser, and get-into-everything-er, have kept us on our toes and made the days an awful lot of fun!

You are a smart cookie. And I have yet to decide if that is a blessing or a curse. You observe everything - very closely. And you learn way too fast for our liking sometimes! You are constantly trying to figure out how things work and if you watch someone do something once, you remember it and we'll find you doing it yourself some time later. Whether it's plugging my camera into the USB port on the computer, starting the DVD player, operating my breast pump, using power tools (thankfully they were unplugged at the time!), pulling out the child safety covers and plugging things into outlets (we're hoping you don't combine that with the power tools thing before we catch you...), or running on the blender, there isn't much that gets past you. It's a bit difficult to let you out of our sight for very long. Not because you're a troublemaker, it's just that you're too inquisitive for your own safety right now!

You continue to be my big helper and love your baby sister to no end. The very first words out of your mouth each morning and after your naps are still, "nenê, nenê" as you take off through the house looking for Lilian. Anytime someone smiles or speaks to you when we're out, the first thing you do is point at you sister and say, "nenê, nenê" to make sure they acknowledge her too. If she cries you find her pacifier and bring it to her. You constantly share your toys with her and quite often attempt to offer her your snacks and drinks (no matter how many times I remind you she can't have real people food yet!) Anything I need for the baby - burp rag, clean diaper, wipes, clothes, bottle, pacifier, ANYTHING - you will find and bring to me, often even before I ask! And lately, anytime we remove her diaper or undress her, you insist that I take Lilian potty. You love it when she goes and often applaud her efforts. You are so proud of Lilian and never display even the slightest bit of jealousy.

The toddler finickiness with food continues. About the only thing I can count on you consuming consistently each day is milk. You love, love, love your milk and ask for it constantly throughout the day. I limit you to 30 ounces, but I'm pretty sure you'd drink a half gallon a day if I let you! Water is the other thing that gets you ridiculously excited. You'll yell out "água, água, água" repeatedly until someone acknowledges your request. Then as you're handed your drink, you get a huge grin on your face and say contentedly, "Aaaaaaahguaaaaa". You eat tons of different foods; I just never can guess what you're going to like on any given day. Or how much. Sometimes you eat like a pro football player. Other days I swear the only calories you're consuming are from your milk. I figure it's pretty much the status quo for your age though, so we never get too concerned on the food-front.

I should mention that you got your first taste of sweets over the holidays. You had a sucker at Halloween which was your first piece of candy. But at Christmas your Momo, with whom you decided you should stay close to at all times, was regularly handing you cookies and chocolates. We caught her most of the time, but you did sneak off with some of the good stuff without us noticing. (And we might not have known if it weren't for the crumbs on your shirt or chocolate on your face.) You also asked for ice cream for the first time while we were in Florida - so we gave you a few bites of ours and, as expected, you loved it! Some things you just don't like sweet though. I gave you some of my sweetened vanilla yogurt with your Grape-Nuts since I was all out of your plain stuff the other day - you hated it and handed me the bowl right back with a disgusted look on your face!

On the vocabulary-front, you've added "I love you" to your sign repertoire. Your new words the last three months have included, água (water), uh-oh (which you picked up from your cousin Hannah and quickly became a favorite), ah-gee (for ajuda/help), Papa (which you have used for both Grandpa and Papa), and Pa-pai (always whispered, unlike Ma-Ma which is always yelled). You are jabbering all the time now and try to repeat things we ask you to try saying. Most of what you say seems pretty random and unintelligible to us still. You do have about three different sentences you use quite regularly though - I just have no idea what they mean! They're rather long phrases and you say them the exact same way each time and with a lot of conviction, so I know you're trying to purposely communicate. Besides Portuguese, which you understand pretty much 100% of what we tell you/ask you to do, you're understanding a lot more English now after spending so much time with family over the holidays. It's a lot of fun to watch your language develop!

It has been fun watching you play with other kids. Unlike most toddlers your age who seem to want to parallel play, you always at least try to play with the other kids first. You love to give toys to others, but you're a little confused when they don't give you something in exchange or hand back whatever you just gave them. Your sharing isn't exactly self-less at this stage! :) You had a total blast playing with your cousins in Florida and spent hours playing 'beauty shop' with Hannah. Your newest obsession at home now is playing dress-up. You spend much of your day in other people's shoes, putting on hats, and coming up with interesting outfits (like the day I got you up from your nap and found you shirtless but still wearing your jeans...along with a swimsuit cover-up skirt.)

You are active, active, active and people are always commenting on how you never seem to wear-out. You go pretty much nonstop except for when we put you down for your naps (still 2 a day, each about 1 1/2 hours) and for bed at night. You love music and dancing and have recently started to put your head on the floor and flip yourself over. I'm thinking dance or gymnastics classes are in your very near future!

You keep getting taller and taller, but aren't putting on a lot of pounds. You are 33.5 inches tall now (75th percentile) and 23 pounds (15th percentile). 24 month/2T clothes fit you best (although usually a bit large in the waist) and you wear a size 5 shoe.

As you near the 2-year mark, you are definitely getting a little stronger-willed and a bit sneaky, but you generally mind pretty well. I am still waiting for your first official melt-down or I'm sure it's eminent! You tend to ask for help long before you ever get frustrated, which is a nice trait (although one I'm sure you didn't get from me.) 95% of the day you are happy and smiling and just a ton of fun. And even in the 5% when you get pouty or randomly cry for seemingly no reason, you're still pitifully cute!

Eu te amo, minha filha!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ending 2010 and Beginning 2011 in Florida

A little pictorial story of our time in Tequesta, Florida with Eric's sister, Tanya, Brian, and their 4 kids:

We weren't exactly expecting to need our winter coats our first night out in South Florida...but we sure are glad we brought them! (And no that's not some weirdly worn shawl I have on...Lilian was enjoying her toasty ride in the Baby K'Tan Baby Carrier!)

6-year old Madison had a 2 1/2' tall shadow throughout our visit - Gabriela loved tagging behind her. Madison seemed to equally enjoy the opportunity to be the "babysitter". I love this picture taken through the tank during our visit to an aquarium.

We weren't sure if Gabriela would be interested in the "touch tank" creatures or not. She jumped right up there and wanted to hold everything though. Including this sea urchin!

Brian is Eric's brother-in-law. Bob and Brian have been buds a long time. Brian started dating Eric's sister in high school. So Eric and Bob met and became friends in high school. (I think I have those details right...) Brian and Bob now live just blocks apart in Florida. While visiting, we wanted to catch up with Bob and his wife, Dawn (who is expecting their first baby soon.) While standing around chatting, Bob and Eric realized they were both holding babies. They were all like, "How weird is this?!?" Reminder #362 that we're closer to 40 than 18! YIKES!

Brian was working part of the time we were visiting, but he did get one full day to goof off with us. The 10 of us started off by hopping a boat over to Peanut Island, where JFK had an underground bomb bunker!

The girls enjoyed the quick boat ride!

We hiked around the island and wished it was warmer. There were lots of great snorkeling spots and pretty beaches! We also saw a whole bunch of manatees and fish!

After our hike we drive down to West Palm Beach and checked out the downtown area. We ate at an awesome pizza place with giant slices and great prices. I really only show this picture to illustrate how giant the slices were (for reference, that is a 6" sub on the far left side of the picture). And to mention that Gabriela ate MY ENTIRE SLICE!

Later that night we found a playground where the kids played a long time before climbing this bent palm tree.

We were invited to attend an awesome New Year's Eve Party thrown by a very generous couple from their church. Pony rides, a petting zoo, giant inflatables, magician/balloon artist, a special buffet, and on-site babysitting for the kids. Lobster and ribeye buffet, valet parking, open bar, and live band for the adults. All set at their incredible castle of a home and outside around their resort-like pool. Completely beautiful place. Incredibly warm and generous family! It was more impressive than lots of houses featured on MTV's cribs. Seriously. We were tempted to walk around and take a million pictures, but we figured that would probably qualify as tacky. So instead we just focused on enjoying the evening...and keeping our jaws off the ground.

All the kiddos joined us for a few songs after midnight. I had the pleasure of dancing with both Kaylee (pictured) and Madison before calling it a night!

Shortly after 8:00 pm, Lilian fell asleep and stayed in her carseat/carrier the rest of the night. We thought Gabriela would hang out with her cousins and all the other kids with the babysitters. She took one look at the giant room with all the kiddos though and was completely overwhelmed. We ended up just keeping her with us all night. She had a blast socializing and dancing, but, once it got past 10 pm, she pretty much just stayed on my hip and napped (first time she has ever fallen asleep while being held since she was like 8 months old!) She woke up to ring in the new year with us though!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Taking It Easy on Miami Beach

The day after Christmas we drove down to Tequesta, Florida (Palm Beach/Jupiter area) to spend some time with Eric's sister, Tanya, and her family. We decided that while in Florida, we should make our own little family beach trip to Miami. So we took off and drove the extra 1 1/2 hours to Miami Beach for a night on our own.

We scored a room at Hotel Riu Florida Beach for $109 using Hotwire. The room itself was nothing special, but it was beachfront and had an awesome heated pool. It was easily worth twice what we paid just on account of the location and pool!

We were impressed with how gorgeous the sand and water is at Miami Beach. After visiting some really incredible beaches in Brasil, we weren't sure how Miami would compare. The water was clear and a brilliant blue and the sand was perfect. We would have a preferred a slightly warmer, slightly less cloudy day so we could enjoy the water, but we had fun playing in the sand and taking in the scenery. And in all honesty, coming from Iowa in December, we weren't going to be real picky about the weather!

While playing on the beach, we even got a little reminder of Brasil as a plane flew overhead with a banner streaming behind it advertising Leblon Caipirinhas. How totally random is that?!?

Gabriela had a complete blast playing in the sand. She really wanted to get in the water too, but it was definitely a bit chilly for that. She and Eric built all kinds of sand creations while I laid out and tried to combat my intense whiteness a bit.

Lilian spent pretty much all her beach time napping in the beach tent. She sort of reminded me of her big sister at that age. There's no telling how many hours Gabs spent playing/napping in that tent during her first 8 months of life! (Long sleeves were rarely required in Brasil though!)

We enjoyed checking out Miami Beach, long strolls down the boardwalk, taking in a bit of the nightlife (being the responsible parents that we are and all, we had the girls out past 10 pm for supper that night!) and swimming in the heated pool. It was a very successful and enjoyable first beach trip as a family of four! And we loved Miami Beach so much that it might become a tradition for anytime we're in Florida visiting the Arnolds!