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!