Friday, April 27, 2012

Ooh la la! Indeed

The thought of international travel alone with two children under the age of three causes me some anxiety. But there is apparently something magical about airports and planes with Gabriela and Lililan. They seriously morph into little angels with no desire other than to behave and do as I ask.

And this is why I am pleased to announce that we will be selling our home and moving into an airplane.

Just kidding. I think.

The trip over was quite smooth, except for the last 30 minutes or so.

It was our first time ever flying out of Peoria, and I love that airport now. Cedar Rapids and Moline are fine, but the free parking (right up close!) may have won my heart. Combine that with security personnel who did not open every little pouch of Plum Organics Baby Food (best snacks EVER as far as my kids are concerned...sucking pureed fruits and veggies from a pouch = great happiness) to test them for explosives, and I may never fly from anywhere else again! Not that I'm against airports preventing people from boarding with explosives, but I do take issue with opening sealed food pouches which then must be eaten OR REFRIGERATED. (Which is what has happened on previous flights!)

The girls were amazing on both the flight to Dallas and then to Paris. They each had a snack on our first flight and then took their afternoon naps. Once in Dallas, we made a mad dash for the children's play area for an hour before making our way to our gate.

Gabs has been especially pumped about this trip. She is finally old enough to be able to look forward to future events and she completely understood the whole concept of flying this time. Sitting on the plane, she kept telling me she wanted to "voa no ceu!" (fly in the sky). Earlier in the week, when I was telling her about all the fun things we were going to do on this trip, she nodded and agreed it would be a good time. And then she excitedly added, "E Bobbi vai ao vaso na aviao!" (And Bobbi is going to use the toilet on a plane!") So we made sure we did plenty of that too. I think I lost count after a dozen potty trips in the air. As a side note, Mamae does not share her enthusiasm for airplane lavatories.

Our flight to Paris was not without some excitement, lucky none that involved my offspring. An older gentleman starting having heart-attack symptoms a few hours into the flight. When the flight crew asked for any doctor on board to come to the back of the plane, I glanced at the map and noticed we were on the edge of the North America continent, about to begin the journey over the Atlantic. I knew at that point we would probably be landing soon.  Who decides to fly over the ocean for several hours with a possibly seriously ill passenger and no place to land?!?

The plane made a U-turn and after a while, we landed in Stephenville, Newfoundland, Canada where we were met by an ambulance and the gentleman was taken off the plane.  He seemed to be doing alright, and I overheard the doctor say he suspected his problems were actually related to dehydration.  I made a little tent over the girls with blankets, so the lights coming on wouldn't awake them.  Everyone who passed by during our 2+ hour stop got a kick out of them snoozing away through the whole ordeal - which all went down just a few rows behind us. 

Turns out, it's a little tricky landing a commercial airliner at a random airport.  We were going to land at an American Airlines-affiliated location, but they had freezing rain and ice.  So we re-routed elsewhere.  After the detour and an impending second take-off, we were going to need more fuel to make it to Paris.  After a fuel tanker finally arrived sometime about 2 am local time at an airport which was not open at the time, the captain had to figure out a way to pay the guy.  It was apparently a complicated situation involving AA corporate and someone reading off credit card numbers to the captain to relay to people on the ground.  All in all, we were 4 hours late arriving in Paris.  Which actually was great for my little people, since they got a solid 8 hours of sleep between supper and breakfast.  I, on the other hand, did not.  But as any mother will tell you, it is much better for mama to miss sleep than babies to lack sleep!

I knew all along that the trickiest part of the trip would be from baggage claim to the hotel in Paris.  Eric would be tied up at his conference, so I would have to drag my sleep-deprived self, two children, two backpacks, two rolling carry-ons, two carseats, a stroller, and 1 large checked bag all the way through the airport to our hotel - which was located within a different terminal from where we were arriving.  Luckily, I had a plan: LUGGAGE CART!  And was happily greeted by may happy rows of carts at the baggage claim.  It was still a little awkward, since I had to push the very over loaded cart, with Lilian attached to my body, manage Gabriela, and still drag an item or two behind me...but the seas of people parted and we managed just fine.

Unfortunately, our trip to the other terminal required getting on the train, there was no walkway.  And luggage carts are not allowed.  UGH! 

There was neither time nor space to be photographing my solution, so I will try to describe it as best I can:
I put Lilian in her carseat and had it strapped to one of the rolling carry-ons (thank you Travelling Toddler strap!). 
I had my backpack on and made Gabriela carry hers on her back.
I used a luggage strap to attach the second rolling carry-on (with 2nd carseat attached) to the large checked bag.
Then I laid the folded stroller over the top of the train I just created.
I pushed Lilian's set-up with one hand in front of me and pulled the long train (of suitcases, carseat, and stroller) behind me with the other hand, and had Gabs grab hold to a piece of something somewhere, so she wouldn't be lost in the shuffle.

We made it into the elevator and down to the platform with some ease, although graceful it was not!

The train was sitting there when we arrived, so I chose a less-crowded car and started to enter it.


And then I am pretty sure I uttered something people often refer to as French.

I still had my long train of luggage to drag on, which wasn't going to fit straight in, and I needed to locate my eldest child to make sure her body wasn't about to be crushed by slamming train doors. As I half debated stepping back off and waiting for the next train, I imagined Lilian sitting in her carseat getting stuck inside and me standing helpless on the platform as the train sped away.  At that moment, a guy from inside the train quickly pulled Gabriela from the doorway inside the car.  Both kids on the train, I was definitely committed now.  So I nearly knocked down a couple folks as I, ever so not gracefully, pulled and twisted and shoved and got the rest of our belongings inside with us.  I also found out that the doors will, indeed, re-open when they hit a solid object.

My hair no doubt a mess, my entire body more than a little sweaty, and my teeth in dire need of a good brushing after our 21-hour journey from home to Paris, I spent the next two stops trying to ignore the combination of pity and disgust coming from the French passengers around me with their scarves, fancy boots, and perfectly arranged hair. 

At our stop, someone grabbed Gabriela's hand to lead her off and as I was maneuvering all our other stuff off, a middle-aged man grabbed the luggage train to try to help me.  And it would have been a great help.  Except he did not understand the finer intricacies of moving 150+ pounds of stuff with a suitcase on wheels.  He attempted to get the whole thing to rise up on the suitcase's wheels by yanking on the handle with the sort of force required when moving 150 pounds of stuff.

Problem was, suitcases (as I have learned from lots of travel with heavy loads) need a gentle touch.  They are not made to withstand the sort of abusive weights I make them carry.  You must speak nicely to them and never. ever. yank.

Or else you end up holding the handle of the suitcase in your hand.  And only the handle.

He felt badly, but obviously had other more pressing personal matters to attend to in the airport (like catching a plane or something.)  So I took the no-longer-attached-to-my-suitcase handle from him, assured him we were fine, and sent him on his way.

We eventually made it into the hotel lobby thanks to Gabriela's ability to push the stroller along for me (without even being able to see over the top!) and the kind assistance of a young Frenchman who helped us along the last 300 feet of the journey.

As I wheeled into the hotel lobby, Lilian lost it.  For the first time on the trip, Lilian decided she was tired, hungry, and in need of a diaper change.  And was none too happy about it.  She wailed as I left my heap of stuff, including kids behind me and walked to the reception desk.  Where the two Ibis employees surveyed the situation, turn around, and walked away. 

I think my French was getting better by the minute, as I am pretty sure I muttered some under my breath.

I waited over 5 minutes before they returned.  It was a long 5-minutes with Lilian crying, Gabriela petting her and saying, "It's okay, Yay-Yay, you're okay", and I tried to pretend that I didn't know the two short little curly-headed blond people 15 feet behind me.

No luggage cart, no bellhop, no one willing to help me haul my little motley crew to the elevator across the lobby, we hobbled along on our own.  Upon the reaching the 8th floor, I tossed everything out of the elevator and walked down the hall with the girls and a few of our bags.  My plan was to put the girls safely in the room and run back down the hall to grab the rest of our stuff.

What I didn't consider was that Lilian, who was still crying, would really freak out when I locked her in a strange place and walked away during the height of her distress.  Which would cause great distress for her sister.  Who would open up the door for her poor little begging sister.

As I came back around the corner with our bags approximately 14.3 seconds after I had shut the hotel door behind me, I was met by a member of the housekeeping staff exiting a room.  Her eyes got big at the sight in the hallway:

-Lilian running wildly down the hall in the opposite direction (which happened to be towards an open stairway)screaming, "MAMAAAAAAEEEE, MAMAAAAAAEEE" while bumping into walls in her tired, teary-eyed stupor.

-Gabriela running towards me yelling, "MAMAE, LILIAN SAIU!!!  NO YAY-YAY!  MAMAE!!!" (Mommy, Lilian got out! No Lilian! Mommy!"

-Me running down the hall dragging suitcases and carseats and yelling to Lilian that I am coming and to stop and not go to the stairs.

The poor little lady's shocked expression summed up my feelings exactly as she exclaimed, "OOH LA LA!"

Friday, April 13, 2012

Jet Set

If I lived hundreds of years ago, I totally would have been a nomad. While I've got nothing against "roots", picking up and going and a frequent change of scenery brings me much joy! In fact, if it weren't that whole part about the frozen tundra of a land bridge (we all know I hate the cold), I like to think that I'd been with those folks who (according to the Bering Strait Theory) decided to wander on over to the Americas and see what there is to see over there. Of course, I also like to research the heck out of trips...Lonely Planet didn't exist back then, did it? Hmmm, maybe I wouldn't have been so adventurous without a guide book.

But I digress...

The point is, I like to go and see and do. Travel excites me. And it's been too long! I haven't been anywhere in months.

While Eric has been all over creation here lately with work, I've been at home chasing our "chillins". But that's about change. Woohoo!

We leave in just a couple hours to head to Chicago for the weekend. Eric was invited to a Patent Banquet his company puts on for everyone who has gotten a patent issued during the last year. So we get to get all fancied up and enjoy dinner and drinks while the girls stay with friends there in the area.

We'll spend the rest of the weekend playing in Chicago before Eric flies out for Italy on Sunday afternoon.

The girls and I will return home and begin preparing for our big journey!

Next week, Gabriela, Lilian, and I will fly over and meet Eric in Paris, where he will be for an expo. After Papai is done with all his European work-stuff, he's going to take some vacation and we're going to play.

We're renting a car and driving down through France and into Spain. We'll stop in Barcelona before continuing down the Mediterranean coast to Valencia, where Eric's youngest sister has been studying abroad this semester. We'll hang out there a few days and then fly over to Ibiza, a small island off the coast of Spain. A few days at the beach there and then we'll head back to the mainland and start out return drive back to Paris.

When we get home, it's going to be May.

And that means summer will be upon us.

And we have lots of fun stuff planned for this summer too.

And I am a very, very happy person!

(I've just got to get through the flying internationally with two children by myself thing first. I know they'll do fine - they always do - but that doesn't change the fact that I get a little anxious at the thought of being outnumbered by my little people in airports and on planes and in a foreign land for many, many hours! Y'all pray for me!)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Disappointed, But GREATLY Blessed!

Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. -Philippians 4: 4-9

These verses from Paul's letter to the Philippians have given me motivation and comfort on numerous occasions in life. And I once again found myself turning to these words and striving to apply them daily over the last week.

Eric and I were ecstatic to learn on March 11 that we would be adding a new baby to our family sometime around Thanksgiving this year. We began talking about birthing plans, discussing rearranging rooms, and wondering if we'd have a third girl or our very first boy. We were planning to make the big announcement to family and friends the first week of May after enjoying it being our own little secret for a while.

And we really were excited for a little more time to pass so we could tell Gabriela and Lilian. Lilian is ALL ABOUT babies these days. She spends her days toting around dolls, shushing them to sleep, and wrapping them in blankets. Gabriela has taken to telling us regularly that she wants a "nene pequeno" (little baby) at our house. And when we get to spend time with the babies of our family and friends, the girls are absolutely in heaven! (The baby, not so much usually...ha!)

So when I woke up Saturday, March 24 with heavy bleeding, our hearts ached. I called and chatted with the on-call nurse from my midwife's office. I knew what was happening and that at 6 weeks pregnant there was nothing to do but wait and see...but I needed to hear it from someone else, I guess. She suggested I plan on coming in Monday.

After a physically and emotionally exhausting weekend (which included doula-ing at a beautiful birth into the wee hours of Sunday morning), Eric and I went in to see my midwife (who I had just been working with Saturday night) on Monday morning. When she walked in, she crossed the room and wrapped me up in a hug, saying, "I'm so sorry, Emily" followed by, "You had quite a rough the day Saturday, now didn't you! Though I never would have known it."

My midwife was fabulous, as always: super encouraging and supportive. I spent the next couple days a little sleepy and a little sad, but overall I was blessed with an incredible amount of peace. On Wednesday Eric was scheduled to leave on an 8-day trip to India. He wanted to stay, but I encouraged him to go.

Thursday afternoon I got a phone call from my midwife. I had taken in the tissue I passed on Saturday, and she had received the report from pathology: molar pregnancy.

At first, that prognosis seemed to make the loss a little easier. Due to a rare (1 in 1000 chance) doubling up of DNA at the time of fertilization, instead of a baby forming, an abnormal group of cells developed creating what's called a "mole".

But the more information I got about molar pregnancies, the more concerning it became. A D&C (surgery to clean out the lining of the uterus) is almost always indicated to be certain to remove all the abnormal cells. In 15-25% of cases, chemotherapy is recommended because the abnormal cells persist and can spread into the lungs and other organs. A hysterectomy is not uncommon after a molar pregnancy (though normally not a first step unless the woman wants to be done having children.) In most cases, doctors need to monitor the woman's hormone levels (hcg, specifically) for 6-12 months to ensure the cells do not re-present themselves. And in order to be able to monitor hcg levels, the woman must not become pregnant during that time.

I went from being relieved that I hadn't in actuality lost a baby to disappointed that I would have to delay having another child plus a little nervous about the other health complications that could arise. Surgery. Chemotherapy. Not exactly things you are expecting to be thinking about when you decide to add to your family!

My midwife asked me to come in Monday, April 2 to check my hcg level (through a blood test)and do an ultrasound. Those two things would help us determine the next step. Eric was prepared to come home early, as if a D&C was necessary we would need to do it right away.

I dropped the girls off at daycare so they could play for a couple hours, and I headed to my appointment this morning. The nurse checked my hcg level first and had me wait to see my midwife.

My hcg levels were untraceable! After a normal, uncomplicated miscarriage (as if there is such a thing!), it normally takes a few weeks for your hcg levels to drop to zero. With a molar pregnancy, it usually takes weeks to months. My hcg level dropped to normal, non-pregnant status in a week! My body did what it needed to do, and it did it quickly! No doubt, The Great Physician helped my body to heal!

After also consulting with one of the obstetricians in the office (and checking additional references), we came to the conclusion that there was no need for further testing. There is no reason to avoid future pregnancy for any amount of time. My body is perfect. Okay well, there is a dimple (or two or three) on my thighs, my arms stand in need of toning, and there's an inch or so to pinch on my belly...but from a functional standpoint, PERFECT. hehehe

There's no denying that the entire experience was difficult. It was hard for me to talk about (so I mostly didn't). But it has given me greater empathy for people who deal with difficult pregnancies or losses so much greater than what I went through (which in hindsight seems so trivial). And having my husband half a world away when what I wanted most was his embrace was tough. But I felt God's presence. I know the peace I had in my soul was coming from Him. And there is no doubt that having two bubbly fun little girls keeping me busy and entertained helped.

One of the sweetest moments of the last 9 days occurred on the day it all began. I had just taken a mid-day shower to help me relax a bit. After getting dressed, I got a little overwhelmed and, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I dropped to my knees in my room to pray. Gabriela walked in, tapped me on the shoulder and asked, "Whatcha doin', Mamae?" Without looking up, I told her that I was asking God for help. Without hesitation, my sweet girl got on her knees right beside me, folded her hands, and said, "Bobbi vai razar tambem." (Gabi's going to pray too.) As if I wasn't crying enough already!!! (Oh my gosh, I can't even sit here and think about the moment without tears!) She remained right beside me while I silently prayed and when I whispered, "Amen", she said the same, and then gave a great big hug. I am so often at a loss for the right thing to say or do when someone is hurting, yet my almost-three-year-old knew exactly what my heart needed!

If it is His will, we'll hopefully be making that baby announcement later this year (as if enough of you haven't been suspecting and anticipating it for months now...hehehe) Meanwhile, I'm counting down the days until my hubby gets home (3 more days until Thursday!), enjoying this fabulous weather playing outside with the girls, and thanking God for all the many blessings in my life!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Making Mommyhood a Little Easier

You know the old saying, "It takes a village to raise a child"? Well, I'm not sure about that. I am certain though that a village helps keep a mama functioning at full capacity.
Back in September or so, one of my stay-at-home mommy friends suggested a girl's night out for dinner. So a few of us girls got gussied up and put on clothes that we normally can't wear (you know, the stuff we don't want covered in boogers or milk), left the kiddos with their fathers, and we had a lovely supper. We had some wine, we had lots of laughs, we actually were able to finish a conversation without telling anyone to sit down, take someone potty, or stop a little person from slinging their food across the table. It was AMAZING! We decided it must be a monthly ritual. We weren't sure how the hubbies would feel about it. But I guess seeing how we came home happy and refreshed and how that worked out to their advantage...well, they haven't complained a bit (or at least mine hasn't!)
Then about the end of January, as the gloomy days of winter were really settling upon us, one of the mommies had the most fabulous idea: we should meet once a week in one another's homes for coffee and a playdate. Having as many as 10 children all under the age of 4 in one house (sometimes your own) might seem a little crazy. And it usually is. But to sip on coffee and chat with several other mommies (even while chasing after kids and breaking up the occasional toy battle) does very good things for morale. Tuesday mornings are a highlight of my week. Gabriela and Lilian absolutely LOVE getting to play with their friends. And I love getting to visit with other mommies who understand the joys and challenges of spending all day, every day with little people who make big messes and tend to need a lot of things wiped.
The high for today is supposed to be in the 80's (highest temp of the year, so far). So this morning, the girls and I went to a local park with two of the other mommies from our Tuesday morning group. Our five kiddos played and ran and giggled and squealed. As I basked in the sunshine and chatted with my friends, I said a little thank you prayer for these women in my life that have made my (and my children's) winter so much brighter!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sometimes Life Requires a Plan B

And sometimes even on Valentine's Day.

I have always had a thing for Valentine's Day. Since 3rd grade, I pretty much always made sure to have a boyfriend, or later in life, a date, on February 14. As lame as it sounds: 1. I've always wanted the fairytale. 2. I'm a sucker for romantic. 3. I like hearts and flowers and red and pink.

Post-kids, Valentine's Day has a little bit of a different look, but it is still fun to celebrate with all my loves.

Since the 14th was on a Tuesday this year, we decided to really celebrate with the girls the weekend before. That way, Papai could enjoy an entire day of love with us too!

We woke up and had some family cuddle time before I made heart shaped Belgium waffles topped with chopped strawberries and whipped cream. Eric cooked up some sausage and formed it into a heart (sort of). After that we gave the girls their presents: a percussion instrument set to share and a pair of sunglasses for each of them.

Most of the rest of the day was spent making music, dancing, and lookin' cool in the new shades. We stayed in our pajamas until almost lunchtime and just had a jolly good time together. (There were only a few moments throughout the day that I questioned our sanity for buying the children a drum and other loud toys...fostering musical talent be danged! I like QUIET!...but no, really, I wanted them to have a chance to make music since I am so seriously deficient in that department! And they do LOVE it!)

A couple days later, as the real Valentine's Day rolled around, we decided to avoid the hassle of a sitter and fancy meal on such a busy day. Instead, we decided to opt for all going out for Mexican food (a family favorite - both girls are obsessed with salsa, they eat so much of it when we go out) and then making a fun dessert together after the kiddos were in bed. has been happening an awful lot the last several months, Eric got stuck in the office. He was hoping to be home by 5:00 or 5:30. I think I held out until about 6:45 at which point the girls were starving, starting to get tired, and beginning to frazzle their mama's nerves (who had been pretty excited about a nice evening on Valentine's Day). Not having planned to cook supper, I had nothing ready or thawed out. So I grabbed a frozen pizza and threw it in the oven. Eric got home right about the time I started cutting it up...

Extremely apologetic and a little annoyed with his job, he joined us for our special V-Day was, after all, rising crust frozen pizza (ooooooohhhh-aaaaaaaaawwww . . . special, no?) I tried to hide my own disappointment, and got Gabriela pumped up to have Eric open his presents from me (shiatsu neck massager - since his neck is always bothering him, some new shirts, and a special Year of Romance package I created with an envelope to open each month of the year with special "date" suggestions for us - it was really fun to make!) He pulled out some presents for me too (some cute new clothes and coffee he knew I'd like.)

We finally put the monkeys to bed, a little past their bedtime, and then he inquired as to what kind of dessert I wanted to make with him. Exhausted from an extra-long day with the girls (plus an extra little one I babysat for a friend that day) and a smidgen pouty from not having things go as planned, I suggested he just go get the ice cream from the freezer and two spoons. We collapsed on the couch and ate ice cream out of the container.

My 13-year-old version of me would have been most disappointed. (To his credit, I should add that Eric had shown up unannounced at lunchtime and brought me a bouquet of roses and a card.) And admittedly, the 30-year-old version of me really doesn't like it when plans fall through. Which seems silly since the plan was nothing stellar; it was just our local Mexican restaurant. But getting significantly less time with my sweetie on the Day of Sweeties made me sad, I guess.

But, you know what? Life happens. I'm blessed to have a hard working husband with a job that supports our family so that I can stay home with our children. He totally adores me and tells me I'm beautiful even when my hair is in a messy ponytail and I'm looking completely grungy and not even a little bit cute. We have a nice house, reliable vehicles, and even some fun toys. I have two gorgeous girls that make everyday exciting and full of laughter and joy. We have a wonderful family and some awesome friends. And you know, I AM living out that fairytale I always wanted.

I just didn't know that sometimes my fairytale would involve frozen pizza on Valentine's Day. But aren't the surprises in the story what make life fun?!?

And let's be honest. After getting to spend last year's Valentine's Day on the beach in Rio de Janeiro, I think we all saw the disappointment coming this year! hahaha

Monday, February 13, 2012

New Year, New Schedule!

About December last year, I determined that we needed a change around our house. Our days seemed long, the children were bored, and I was just absolutely exhausted by the end of the day.

I took a long, honest look at myself and our days, and I posed this question to myself:

If I were paying someone to keep my children every day, would I be happy if this is what they did?

I found it quite convicting. I realized much of my day was spent trying to "get stuff done". Sure I sat and played some with the girls, and they got fed, and all that jazz. But a majority of my time was spent trying to engage them in some activity to keep them out from under my feet (or off my lap) so I could accomplish something. And the result was 1. Gabriela was bored and getting into trouble, 2. Lilian constantly trying to cling onto me, and 3. I was frustrated because I couldn't get anything done.

But maybe the worst of it was when I really thought about that big question above. I would be pretty unhappy with my daycare provider if she spent most of her day trying to keep a clean house, handle paperwork, answer emails, etc. I want to be at home raising my children and taking care of their needs. But if I would not be content with a paid babysitter doing what I was doing during the day, what does that say about the "at home with mom is best" argument?

After a big slice of humble pie and admiting my shortcomings to the hubby (who is a smart guy and responded with something like, "Well, it's fine if you want to change things, but I think you already do great with the girls"), I decided I needed a great big attitude and outlook adjustment. Along with a new plan!

The first thing I decided was that I need to approach this like a paid job. From the time Eric leaves in the morning until he is home in the evening, I am the babysitter/daycare provider/preschool teacher/whatever you want to call me. Instead of me being out earning an income to help support our family, we have made the choice for me to be the kids' careprovider. That is my job while Eric is away from home. Now obviously, I am also trying to run a household and a small little birth business, and I am going to have to deal with some of that throughout my day. But my main priority should be caring for, educating, and raising the girls.

I know myself well enough to know that if anything was going to change, I needed to develop a specific plan and put it in writing. (Let's be honest, I am not very accountable when it's all just in my's WAY too easy for me to justify not doing it!) So I pulled out my little netbook one day the first week of January and created my plan of attack. It looked something like this:

8:00 Girls up and get dressed
8:30 Breakfast
9:00 Preschool Lesson
9:15 Sibling Playtime
10:00 Lilian Naps/Gabriela Helps Me with Chores
10:45 Gabriela Arts and Crafts Time
12:00 Lunch
12:30 Bible Story
12:45 Physical Activity of Some Sort
1:00 Independent Playtime in Their Rooms
1:30 Gabriela Naps/Lilian Reads, Cuddles, and Plays with Me
2:00 Lilian Naps
3:30 Wake-Up Snack
3:45 Sibling Playtime
4:30 TV Time (While I Fix Supper)

I figured I had better see if it stuck for a while before actually sharing my ambition with the world. Six weeks later, I am ready now to say that it has been wonderful!

We pretty normally break the routine. Like on Tuesday mornings, we have a standing playdate with some other stay-at-home moms and their kids. Lilian misses her nap, Gabriela misses chores and crafts. We regularly have to run errands sometime during the day. I delay naptime a little if I know we have something in the evening that the girls need to be well rested for. If Lilian is still sleeping at 8:30, I let her! But just having a schedule to fall back on when we are home and things are "normal" has been a game-changer for me!

The "preschool lesson" has been great too! I decided to keep it real simple to start with - especially since Gabs isn't even 3 yet. But each day after breakfast, while they are still strapped in their high chair and booster seat, I spent about 15 minutes to introduce a letter, number, and shape of the day. We talk about each one, find lots of examples, and I get to sing, jump around, and be silly. Both girls LOVE it, Gabriela is doing great with learning (even Lilian has been picking some of it up!), and I must admit that it's a fun way to start my day too!

Along with the new schedule, I created a cleaning schedule for myself, and I have Gabriela help me while Lilian naps in the mornings. It has been really helpful in "making" me keep up with the housework a little better and having the house stay "company-ready", which is one of my goals for the year.

I have been trying hard to save other random responsibilities (and pleasures, like anything involving the internet) for their afternoon naptime or independent playtime.

The new routine has provided me with the structure to teach, permission for myself to play more, some one-on-one time with each of them, and a time to do things with Gabriela (crafts, etc.) that Lilian isn't old enough for. They are never bored, and I have seen big improvements in behavior since no one is fighting for my attention anymore. I actually manage to get a whole lot more done now, and everyone is happier.

It's been lovely. And while I don't think it is the perfect schedule or solution for every family, my-oh-my has it made a big difference for us! Just by changing my attitude and deciding that teaching and playing with the girls is my JOB has given me the freedom to save the dishes for later and just sit on the floor and play. And guess what? I actually get more dishes done this way! And save my sanity. (For the most part...Can you really be completely sane when you spend all day with a 1 year old and a 2 year old? Evidence would suggest that you spend your time talking about poop a lot more than a normal person should.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

An Explanation of Why Eric Will Soon Be Gray

Alternate Title 1: An Explanation of Why Gabriela Might Not Be Allowed to Leave the House Until She's 30

Alternate Title 2: An Explanation of Why Eric is Requesting Firearms for Every Major Holiday for the Next 16 Years

While the jury is still out on our little Lilian, I think we can safely assume that Gabriela is going to give her father a lot of gray hair. And it's not just because she is my daughter and I have it coming to me. (Stop smirking, Dad!)...

I'll share a few pieces of recent evidence to support my theory.

Concerning Behavior Example #1: Dressing Like the Women Featured on TLC's What Not To Wear

I hit up a consignment shop's half-price sale a couple weeks ago and bought a bunch of stuff for the girls. Gabriela, who LOVES clothes, was beyond excited when I got home and she got to go through it all! It was like Christmas all over again. After sorting through, removing tags, and getting everything ready to be washed, Eric and I went into the kitchen to prepare lunch. When we called Gabriela in to eat, she came strutting into the kitchen wearing one of her new outfits. Well, if you consider a denim skirt and ruffly bikini top an "outfit", that is. She was ooooohing and aaaaahing and twirling to show off her dining-wear of choice. (I wish I'd captured the moment, but the second I suggested that it wasn't an acceptable outfit, she stripped naked.)

Concerning Behavior Example #2: Dress, High Heels and Pearls. Minus the Dress

Her outfits of choice are always interesting. She is constantly changing her clothes throughout the day and she love dress-up. Her father found it mildly concerning that when she got a box full of dress-up clothes and accessories from her Nena and Papa, she chose to strip down to her panties and wear the heels and jewelry...and refused to put on a dress. (She also totally flipped out when Nena tried to put the clip-on earring on her. I guess it's a good thing I went against the grain in Brasil and didn't pierce her ears as a baby. Seems she loves accessories, but not if it involves her ear lobes.)

Concerning Behavior #3: Forget the Used Lot, She Wants NEW!

Walking through the airport after seeing Grandpa off on Sunday, we walked past a Model T on display. Gabriela stopped and observed the vehicle, looking it over well, before asking, "What dat, Mamae? What dat?" I told her that it was a very, very old car. Thinking on that answer for a moment and then turning away, Gabs shook her head and firmly declared, "Bobbi* nao gosta carros velhos." (Gabi doesn't like old cars.) And then with a little bounce and skip, said, nearly singing,"Bobbi gosta carros NOVOS!" (Gabi likes NEW cars!) *She calls herself Bobbi or La-lela for Gabi or Gabriela.

Concerning Behavior #4: A Fondness for Good Looking Fellas (Besides her Daddy)

While sitting in the truck waiting for Eric outside of his office last week, lots of people were exiting and walking past where we were parked. As each person walked by, Gabriela would ask, "Quem isso, Mamae? Quem isso?" (Who's that Mommy? Who's that?) I knew the names of most of the people, so I was able to tell her.

After playing this game with about a dozen people, out walked someone I didn't recognize. He was young (oh, okay, so he was about my age I think...maybe "young-ish" is the better term?), tall, dark, and what an unmarried woman might consider rather handsome (not that I notice those things at all...I only have eyes for you, my Dear). Gabriela asked the same question, "Quem isso, Mamae? Quem isso?" I told her I didn't know his name, but that he was a colleague of Papai's. Gabriela watched intently as he walked on by and then responded with a big smile and nodding her head emphatically, "Oooooooh, Bobbi gosta da colega do Papai!" (Gabi likes Papai's colleague!)

Concerning Behavior #5: Sometimes a Photo Speaks For Itself

I regularly find the child in her room, scantily clad, and up on her vanity posing in front of the mirror.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The One About Poo

I know, I know. It's been forever since I've posted. I'm sure I've left everyone with lots of questions about our life: How is everyone? What are the girls up to these days? How cold is it in Iowa right now? And with any luck, I'll get to that stuff one of these days. Today however, I am led in a different: The girls' digestive systems. Yes, let's break the silence on the blog with some good poop talk...'cause that's what you do when you're a parent. You talk about poop.

We'll start with the little one. Lilian, my sweet Lilian. Whose first word was "mama" just before 11 months. Whose 2nd word was just about a month ago. It was "gaaaaa" (gas). Yes, my little petite cupcake's second word was gas. And to date, it remains her favorite. She enjoys announcing to the world whenever she toots or burps. She is also quick to let the world know when anyone else around her passes gas...and she often points at the offender. You can't get away with anything around that one. Be warned.

It should also be noted that besides being highly entertained by bodily functions, there is something about the car seat that makes the kid fill her diaper. You frequently go the door on her side and are met by a giant, contented grin, maybe even an excited squeal, and the stench of a poop-filled diaper. Which often escapes the diaper (always escapes if she is wearing a disposable) and fills up her pants legs and possibly even the car seat. I'm not sure if her pleasure is derived from the fact that she feels better with her bowels empty or that she finds humor in knowing the mess someone else is about to have to clean up. Either way, it's really quite charming. (<--insert sarcastic tone here)

And then there is Gabriela. Or Miss Fiber as I believe I might start calling her. More than once she has snuck off with a box of prunes and totally chowed down until I caught her. (Note, a child who eats a half pound of prunes in the morning will be spending the afternoon sitting on the potty. In the case of my two year old, that is considered a benefit of said activity. Much like her sister's fascination with gas, Gabs gets exceptionally excited about pooping.) When not eating copious amounts of prunes, she enjoys bran flakes or All-Bran bran buds, fruits of all kind, sweet corn, beans...she's a proctologist's dream patient. The kid loves her fiber. Which I'm going to credit for afternoons like today.

Just as I got up the counter at the bank today with two children en tow, Gabriela announced that she needed to "faz cocô". It's moments like these that I am thankful we speak Portuguese, as I don't believe everyone in the bank wished to hear about her need for a toilet at that moment. I asked her if she could wait just a few minutes, and she told me she could. Although the look in her eyes said otherwise. I asked the teller if there was a bathroom we could use, but I was informed there was no public restroom. I told Gabs she would have to wait just a moment. The transaction at the bank counter was taking longer than it should. Gabriela continued to remind me she needed to poop. I explained that the two year old really needed a potty, but the nice teller explained to me that we were not allowed to use the restroom at the bank. Moments later, as I continued to wait on the teller to finish our transaction, I watched as Gabs got a most concerned look on her face, and then, with tears building, she told me that she had cocô in her new monkey panties.

It should be noted that a diet high in fiber leads to rather soft stools. Rather soft stools are rather difficult for a two year old to control. And getting poop in your new panties is really upsetting. Especially when they are your favorite ones with monkeys on them.

It's not a lot of fun to clean soft poo out of monkey panties in the bank parking lot either - you know, since we couldn't use the bathroom there, and I wasn't about to make the poor kid sit in her car seat with her pants full. That's for Lilian to do. Which she did. On the way home from the bank.