Adventures in Brasil: Rio

We visited Rio de Janeiro over the Corpus Christi holiday. Therefore, we arrived Wednesday night and left Sunday night. On Thursday we did an all day tour – Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain), Christ the Redeemer, the Selarón Steps, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and lunch at an all you can eat churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse). As it was Corpus Christi, the Metropolitan Cathedral was filled from the sidewalk to the altar with people creating religious sand art. Christ the Redeemer is quintessential Rio, but the view from the top is so close to the statue, that people lay on the ground in order to get a good picture!

 

On Friday, we did a 3 hour free walking tour of the Centro district. We were the only ones who wanted an English tour, so it was a private tour! This was an awesome experience, and we learned a ton about the history of Brazil and Rio. We walked by the Teatro Municipal, old aqueducts, Selarón Steps, original cathedral, and other historic statues and buildings. If you want our recommendation – skip the city tour and just hit those main attractions on your own, but definitely do the free walking tour! After the tour, we went to the Teatro Municipal for their tour. They do offer one in English, but we did not want to wait. While we didn’t understand the history of the building (and wouldn’t have been able to hear if we had understood the Portuguese as the babies were very tired and we often had to walk away from the tour group to keep their crying from interrupting), we were awestruck by its stained glass, marble, wood floors, etc. Next, we walked to the commercial district. There were so many street vendors! This area was fun to walk around and had a great vibe. Friday evening we took the babies for their first swim. Norah seemed at ease in the water, wanting to lay on her tummy and kick her legs. Naomi enjoyed the water but wanted her legs pointing toward the bottom of the pool.

 

After our long days on Thursday and Friday, on Saturday we decided to allow the babies to take their first nap at the hotel before we walked along Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. It was fun people watching, as different parts of the beach draw different crowds. We held the babies in the ocean, but they were not thrilled with the cold water, waves, and sand. We went back to the hotel and took them in the pool again. Derek then met up for a jog with some runners who were in town for the Rio Marathon. That evening we walked to Galeto Sal’s, which was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. The restaurant seemed local and not touristy, the galeto (young chicken and a Rio staple) was delicious!

 

On our last day, we again let the babies take their first nap at the hotel, while Derek went out to cheer for his marathon running friends. We then visited the Museu da Chácara do Céu and Parque das Ruinas in the Santa Teresa neighborhood. The museu was in a cool old house with indoor/outdoor living and awesome views of the city. While in Santa Teresa, we tried some German feijoada (as the southern part of Brazil is very German). It was light and tasty – carrots, potatoes, white beans, German sausage – served over rice. Finally, we visited the Palacio de Cachete to see where presidents lived when Rio was the capital. Overall, we loved Rio. It had so much culture, so many things to do, and the babies enjoyed eating lots of rice and beans!

10 Months Old and Adventures in Brasil!

In the past month, we have visited Avenida Paulista, Liberdade, and Casa de Francisca in São Paulo and have taken weekend trips to Rio de Janeiro and Salvador.

After both weekend trips, I found myself thinking that it was nice to “go home.” We have definitely come to think of our hotel in Sao Paulo as “home,” and we have gotten used to our routines here. With my Spanish, I am able to understand some Portuguese, but I sometimes get frustrated that I cannot speak and understand more Portuguese. Derek is able to communicate fairly well, but he definitely understands different words and phrases than I do. There are some cultural norms that we have become accustomed to and some which I don’t know that we would ever really accept. For example, Derek is regularly frustrated by how slow everyone walks.

Parents with small babies seem to be treated with more respect in Brazil than in the U.S. At the airport there is a separate check in and baggage check line for pregnant women, parents traveling with infants under 2, the elderly, and people with disabilities. There is also a separate line for this group of people at security. In the U.S., I feel like this group of people is allowed to pre-board, but that is the only accommodation parents with small children get. As well, if I walk into a restroom with a baby strapped to me, all of the women allow me to cut the line.

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Headed to the pharmacy to get Naomi (on front) some medicine
However, the obsession with babies is also frustrating at times. People are constantly stopping, pointing, staring, and wanting to talk to us. Any time we leave our apartment, we hear “São gêmeos? Que linda!” They then want to ask lots of questions about the girls’ names and ages, where we are from, etc. Sometimes we just pretend we don’t understand any Portuguese, so we can get where we are going! In Rio, we noticed that people were also especially touchy. When eating breakfast at our hotel, people would constantly touch the girls’ hands and heads and talk to them. This made it a little difficult to get Norah and Naomi to eat. When we were out and about, we were always trying to be aware of potential pickpockets, so it was disconcerting that people were constantly coming up to talk to us and touch the girls. Most people seemed to have good intentions, and many wanted to “help.” For instance, when we were at Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain), we fed the girls and changed their diapers. A woman came up to us and without asking began adjusting one of the girl’s hats, holding her head, etc. We repeatedly told her that we did not need help (in Portuguese), but she continued to “help.” We love that people are friendly, but sometimes we just want some space!

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On weekends where we have stayed in São Paulo, we have tried to make the most of our time here, by visiting various places of interest. Avenida Paulista is popular place to visit for many of the same reasons that people visit Michigan Ave. in Chicago. We visited the Museo de Arte (MASP), then walked along the avenue. We browsed street crafts, window shopped at knock off Polo stores, and saw mansions from the early 1900s mixed in with many financial and cultural buildings. It was the first time that I really felt like I was in a big city!

We have also been to Liberdade twice, which is the Japantown of São Paulo. There are Asian grocery stores (where we picked up some teriyaki sauce), stalls selling various Asian and Brazilian inspired crafts, and a diverse range of street food. We bought a carnival mask and ate some delicious kabobs, spring roll, dumpling, and washed it down with caldo de cana com limão (sugar cane juice with lemon). The food market is always super crowded but very affordable, so we think it is worth it to brave the crowds to get some yummy and cheap eats (USD$2-5 per item).

Finally, Norah and Naomi slept through their third Brazilian babysitting experience, while Derek and I went to Casa de Francisca. Casa de Francisca is a theater/bar in an old building in the Centro district which offers live music and food. I was thinking it would be like a dinner theatre, but it was set up more like a restaurant with tables, a dance floor, and a small stage. Interestingly enough, they also stop taking food orders when the show starts. The  music wasn’t really our style (think lots of triangle with some drums, accordion, singing, and guitar thrown in), but it was definitely a fun and unique experience.

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Naomi weighs 17.19 pounds (13th%), and Norah weighs 15.87 pounds (3%). Naomi was sick the week before their 10 month birthday, so she had not been eating well. However, when she is feeling well, she likes picking up and eating food on her own and tends to be very independent at eating. Norah really improved her pincher grasp this month and can now pick up food with ease, as well. Their favorite meal is pasta with pieces of cheese. In terms of motor skills, Norah clapped for a few days but then started flapping her arms like a bird instead. She also went through a period where she enjoyed wrinkling her nose and sniffing! She can now go from sitting to standing to sitting with ease, and everything has become a jungle gym. Naomi likes clapping, especially when we clap back at her. They both shake their heads back and forth, but Norah has been doing it longer and more consistently.  Both have 3 top teeth and 2 bottom teeth now, but Norah only has one of the two top central teeth and Naomi only has one of the two top lateral teeth! Norah likes turning pages of magazines, so we are excited to go back to the U.S. and read children’s books with her. Naomi has shown some stranger danger and is unsure when rotating maids (not our usual maid) pick her up.

 

 

Cooking Pho

A much delayed cooking story due to life getting in the way. This is a recipe we made back in March.

Since moving to the West Coast, one of my favorite foods has become pho. It combines some of the things I loves about other styles of food: it has a good broth, usually has copious amounts of tender meat, and often is quite spicy.

When we went to Vietnam for our honeymoon, one of the first things we did was take a food tour of Hanoi (the northern capital of the country). The tour gave us some insight into the making of a traditional pho, as well as a chance to taste the numerous different varieties offered by different street vendors.  I enjoyed it so much I almost exclusively ate pho from street stalls during our trip.

There are some decent pho places near where we live (outside of Seattle), and occasionally Michelle grudgingly agrees to relive the honeymoon glory days.  I really enjoy cooking, even though I am pretty sub-par at it.  I like finding new recipes and at least giving them a shot.  Well one of my friends sent me a link discussing how to prepare a good pho, and I was intrigued.  It looked fun! And intense.

The intimidating thing about pho is preparing a decent broth. Each street vendor in Vietnam has a secret family recipe/technique (well maybe not, but that’s how they sell it) passed down from generation to generation. It involves simmering a unique combination of spices, vegetables, and meats for hours. It also involves painstakingly skimming the broth from time to time to keep it free of any impurities.

We took the recipe from the Serious Eats, and hit up our local Asian market.  Even if the pho wasn’t the best we ever had, the excuse to go to the Asian market was definitely worth it. It’s a whole other world culturally, and it’s just right down the street.  So this recipe was a fun adventure in both shopping and cooking.  Without further ado, a Drayer take on pho:

Ingredients:

  • Two yellow onions
  • One clove of garlic
  • One large chunk of ginger
  • Whole star anise (I used 5)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce – I would add more. (This is especially important as all of Vietnam smells like fish sauce. Which in my opinion is one of the most disgusting smells in the world. But also indicative of authentic Vietnamese food. I knew I was on the right track when the whole house smelled bad.)
  • One teaspoon fennel seeds
  • One teaspoon coriander seeds
  • Two tablespoons of white rock sugar – I would add more. (We had to go to the Asian market for this one.)
  • One serrano pepper
  • One jalapeño
  • I would add one habanero (I think a perfect pho is spicy enough to clear your sinuses, but I also love Michelle – it’s a hard life full of tough decisions. Michelle won out on this one.)
  • One stick cinnamon
  • Three cloves
  • Salt to taste (I hate recipes that call for salt to taste.  At least give me a reference point!  I would recommend starting with one tablespoon and go from there.)
  • One pound beef brisket – this is a debatable addition. It is expensive and doesn’t really add a ton in my opinion. Get more flavorful and cheaper meat cuts instead.
  • One pound beef chuck
  • Three pounds beef shin (Need to get that marrow!  Yum yum. This was easier to find at the Asian market.)
  • Two pounds oxtail (This is the best part in my opinion. Frozen oxtail was available at our regular grocery store, but the Asian market had some great looking fresh oxtail that I think would have been better)
  • Any other meat you think would be fun and/or would contribute to a rich flavor to your broth. The fun thing about pho is you can make it up as you go and it will probably still turn out alright. The “cheap” cuts actually are pretty great for the broth as they often have a lot of flavor and you cook them for so long it doesn’t matter if they’re usually a tough cut.
  • Pho noodles (We had to go the Asian market for this. Also note that pho noodles need to be soaked for quite a while before a quick cook. Don’t leave this until you’re ready to eat or you will be disappointed…like us.)
  • Garnishes as desired
    • Hoisin sauce
    • Sriracha
    • Cilantro (This is required in my book. If you don’t like cilantro I’m not sure I can trust you.)
    • Mint
    • Bean sprouts (The sprouts we got were bitter and not good at all, border line ruining our pho. I strongly recommend tasting the sprouts before adding them willy nilly to your broth! Also we couldn’t find this at our local grocery.)

Actual preparation:

  1. Char the onions, ginger and garlic. I did this on a gas grill and it worked great. Basically just throw this stuff on the grill on high, turning occasionally for about 25 min. Everything should be blackened for best results. For the real deal you should char your add ins over an open flame but who has time for that.
  2. Clean the meat.  You can do this by putting the meat into a big pot of water and bring it to a boil for a few minutes (you don’t want to cook the meat just break up cartilage). After the meat cools you can rinse and scrub off any debris.
  3. Start your broth! You do this by throwing in your meat and other add ins like the onion, salt, fish sauce, cloves, cinnamon, etc. into a big pot of clean water. Simmer for about an hour and a half. Exact time isn’t super important. After an hour and half you can pull out any nicer cuts of meat such as brisket and chuck. You can cool those and save for later.
  4. Continue making that broth. I would simmer for another 4-5 hours. During this time use a strainer or something similar to take off the top layer of gunk and cartilage that will form. After 4-5 hours you can take the broth off the heat, remove all the aromatics, and strain till broth is clean.
  5. Add any last minute seasoning: fish sauce, salt, pepper, etc.
  6. Prepare pho noodles. PLEASE NOTE: these can take upward of an hour to re-hydrate!img_5925.jpg
  7. Serve your pho over noodles. Include any fun add ins you want like cilantro, jalapenos, the nice cuts of meat you set aside, sriracha, bean sprouts (though I don’t recommend these), etc.
  8. Be both disappointed that it doesn’t live up to restaurant standards and also impressed that you pulled it off, and it tastes pretty good.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Navigating The Brazilian Medical System

As some of you may know, I have started getting serious about running again. After a really poor marathon in 2015, I decided it was time to get back out there and have a good marathon experience.  I have been training hard through the first half of 2017 and had some good success in shorter races at the beginning of the year.

When I started looking at marathons, I thought it might be fun to do one while we were in Sao Paulo. After much struggling with the requirements for foreigners I registered for the Sao Paulo City Marathon on July 30 (the weekend after my work assignment in Brazil ends).  I was doing a great job of training while in Brazil, relying on a combination of our hotel’s gym and the wonderful park a mile from our place.  I was able to go on some really nice runs in Rio de Janeiro as well.

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Run along Copacabana and Ipanema

Unfortunately, while running two weeks ago I experienced some very bad pain in my hamstring. Bad enough I had to bail on my run and couldn’t get back to it for several days.  After giving the hamstring a break with no improvement, I decided it was time to explore the Brazilian medical system. Fortunately, EY provided international insurance (ISOS) for the duration of the trip. ISOS has a team of specialists on-call 24/7 with a range of language specialists to help book appointments and navigate local health care issues.  While the team at ISOS has been great, it is challenging at times to get a hold of them, as it can only be through calls to U.S. numbers (extremely difficult in Brazil) or email (slow response time when I am standing at a hospital trying to make a future appointment).

So I called ISOS to book an appointment. Despite assuring the team at ISOS that I needed an orthopedist, I was told that I had to go to a generalist first. I was impressed they were able to set up an appointment the same day. I headed to meet my new doctor at the lovely Centro Medico Sergipe building. Centro

There are very few people in Brazil that speak English, even in comparison to places I would not expect large English speaking populations like Peru, Vietnam, or Cambodia. I try to speak Portuguese with everyone I meet, but sometimes that proves to be a losing proposition as well. I have found that if I admit I don’t speak great Portuguese early in a conversation, most people won’t even try to understand what I am saying. However, if I never admit that I don’t speak Portuguese, people will generally work harder to understand me.  It’s weird. Regardless, through my broken Portuguese I was able to get in to see the doctor.

The one criteria ISOS used in booking my appointment seemed to be finding an English speaking doctor – so once I got into his office things went pretty well. But, for medical purposes the doctor’s English as a second language combined with my bad Portuguese still left something to be desired.  After an hour of conversation and mild poking and prodding, it was decided that I did have a hamstring injury (who would have thought). This meant a further referral to the orthopedic specialist as I requested in the first place. To add to the fun, my insurance would not cover the orthopedic specialist the general practitioner (chosen by my insurance) referred me to.

Which is how I found myself at Albert Einstein Hospital on a Monday night.

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One thing about Brazil: everything requires an extra degree of security. Whether that be to get off on a specific floor in your hotel, to visit the ID processing building, or in this case to visit the hospital. I had to have a photo taken, share my Brazilian and U.S. documentation, and have a finger print taken just to get in the door. I find this level of security adds a sense of stress and…heaviness to every day activities. Sort of highlights that you’re not in the U.S. anymore and things are maybe not quite as safe as you’re used to.

The nice things about Albert Einstein Hospital: it’s a gorgeous new facility and they maintain English speaking hospitality staff to escort dumb Americans.  So I was given a personal interpreter for much of the evening.

Eventually I was able to see the orthopedic specialist (after my helpful English speaking guide ditched me). The doctor spoke some English, but things were a little muddy in our communication. The ultimate result of our conversation was a “prescription” for an ultrasound and 10 physical therapy sessions.  I thought it was odd to get assigned physical therapy before seeing the results of the ultrasound, but I guess I am not the doctor here. The ISOS folks don’t have a local number to call, so I could not immediately schedule the ultrasound (I wasn’t going to pay BRL$700 on the hope I could get reimbursed). However, ISOS took care of it quickly the next morning when I was able to call and scheduled my follow up doctors appointment and physical therapy too!

So now I am now at my third Brazilian medical facility awaiting my ultrasound. I am honestly quite impressed with how fast and helpful the ISOS team has been (minus not having local numbers to call). The other remarkable thing is that I have not had to wait for medical personnel to see me. Appointments have started on time, every time.  Which is a nice change of pace!

Hopefully, the ultrasound shows no major issues and I am able to get back to running soon!

 

 

 

9 Months Old & Adventures in Brasil!

 

It is completely surreal that we are currently living in Brasil! The babies and I have been here exactly 2 weeks (of our 11 week stay), and Derek almost a month and a half into his 3 month rotation. So far, it has definitely been an adventure (as it should be!). Flying here, while stressful, went about as smoothly as it could have. My mom, Naomi, Norah, and I flew SEA-PDX-ATL-GRU. We had tight connections, but Delta came through for us. On the Portland to Atlanta flight, there were plenty of seats, so my mom and I were able to share a row! (There are only 4 oxygen masks per row, so usually only 1 infant in arms is allowed per row. However, if only 2 of the 3 seats are occupied, then you can have 2 infant in arms.) We met my dad in Atlanta and were not optimistic that we would get on a flight to São Paulo. However, we got lucky and 2 seats were available. My mom and I raced onto the plane at the last minute. We then sat at the gate for an hour while they finished loading luggage and fixed a toilet. My dad got on a flight a few hours later bound for Rio and then met us in São Paulo. The babies did pretty well on the flights. Naomi and my mom had aisle seats on the 9.5 hour flight to São Paulo and made friends with everyone walking by (including a little Brasilian girl who wanted to show off her stuffed animal). Norah and I were stuck in a middle seat, but the Brasilians around us were very nice and put up with Norah trying to steal their watches and bracelets. Unfortunately when we arrived in São Paulo, we found out our luggage had not arrived with us, but we were able to have it delivered the next day for a small fee. Derek and I are so thankful that my parents were able to make this journey with us; we truly could not have done it without them. My mom and Naomi are now best travel buddies!

 

Our first day in Brasil was just spent relaxing, and we quickly realized the importance of downloading an app (Viber or WhatsApp) so that we could all communicate! Our second day in Brasil, we decided to visit Parque Ibirapuera. Before heading over there, we stopped for lunch at a local  restaurant where we shared some delicious feijoada (bean stew with beef and pork). Derek said it was the best food he has eaten in Brasil! We took an Uber to Parque Ibirapuera. Uber has been amazing in Brasil, as they are readily available and fairly cheap! Parque Ibirapuera is like the Central Park of São Paulo. It is pleasant to walk around, as it is fairly shaded. There is a large lake in the middle, many play structures, soccer fields, bike paths, and a few museums.

 

Our third day in Brasil we visited the Catedral de Sé and the Centro district. The babies wanted to sing along during mass (especially when only the priest was talking). We briefly walked around the market in the Centro district and then ate a yummy Asian noodle dish and Chilean empanadas before heading home for the babies to nap. We went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner, where the babies were serenaded by a mariachi band. There was some confusion about the menu here, and we learned that rodízio means all you can eat. This was our last night with my mom and dad, who traveled to Rio for a few days before heading back to the U.S.

 

On the fourth day, the babies and I ventured out alone in order to visit Derek at work.  Up until this point, the babies had been struggling with sleeping. They didn’t get nearly as much sleep on the journey here as they usually do in a 24 hour period, and São Paulo is 4 hours ahead of Seattle. Plus, they are used to sleeping in a separate room! However, we finally seemed to turn a corner the 4th night and 5th day. It was definitely a rough couple days living in a 450 sq ft studio apartment with overtired babies who were crying for hours at bedtime and fussy during the day. We really needed more space, so we were counting down until we got to move into a bigger apartment on June 1. However, as seems to be the case in Brasil, it was a process. At first, the hotel seemed to have no idea that we were supposed to move. After many phone calls, emails, and conversations from me and an employee at EY, we were told we could move. I packed everything up the night before our move. On the morning of June 1, I was told we couldn’t move until after 5p, so I had to unpack some of the essentials for the babies. I went down to the front desk at 4:30 and was told that we actually couldn’t move until the next day because the room wasn’t ready. At this point we were quite frustrated, and EY began looking into other hotels for us. On the morning of June 2, I was told we could move in the afternoon. I explained that we needed to move between the baby’s naps, and I was assured that we could move at 12p. It seemed like the hotel just kept giving us what we wanted to hear instead of the truth, though… At noon, I received a call from the front desk asking if we were ready to move! Finally!!! Then a few minutes later I received a call back saying the room was still not ready! Derek and I went down to the front desk to see what the problem was. They said the room was not clean, which we didn’t understand as they had now had 36 hours to clean it! We said we didn’t care, we just needed to move. We finally got to move into our 667 sq ft room and everyone has been happier and slept much better!

 

On our second Saturday in Brasil, we went to the Zoologico São Paulo with some of Derek’s Brasilian and American co-workers. Norah and Naomi enjoyed the parrots, monkeys, and cats. That evening we went out to dinner (where we saw a nanny!) and then walked around the shopping mall until we found dulce de leite ice cream (the babies were sad that they didn’t get to eat any). On our second Sunday in São Paulo, Derek and I went to the Palmeiras futebol game with his co-workers, and the babies had their first non-relative babysitter. The soccer game was a very fun experience. The streets around the stadium were closed, so there was lots of tailgating with grilled street food, huge flags, cheering, etc. We were told that the babies did a great job for the babysitter. It is amazing what technology can do. I am part of a Seattle nanny Facebook group, and I asked there if anyone knew of babysitters in Brasil. Two women were able to put me in touch with relatives and friends here!

 

Norah and Naomi have graduated to size 3 diapers and weigh 7.2 kg (15.8 lb), which keeps them in the 8th percentile. They enjoy people watching on our balcony and plane watching at the pool. They also like the many floor length mirrors in our apartment and playing peekaboo. Norah and Naomi love mango and persimmon, but they are not big fans of broccoli. They have started to pull themselves to stand, and Norah likes when we help her stand and walk. She also loves splashing in the pool and practicing her yoga (especially downward dog). Naomi really likes eating necklaces (thanks Grandma…) and alternates army crawling and real crawling. They both are very curious and like to follow us around. Naomi has been fussy because she is teething (working on the top 4 teeth). Norah didn’t act like she was teething, but her upper right lateral tooth popped through on the 6th! They have been spoiled here. They get a lot more time with daddy, now that his commute is a 15 minute walk, and they are constantly being called “linda” (beautiful) by strangers, hotel staff, and friends.

 

8 Months Old!

Norah and Naomi are about 15.5 lb (moved up to the 7-10th percentile) and 27.5 inches tall (still around 52nd percentile). They still have blue/gray eyes and blonde hair, and they definitely know their own names now. It seemed like they did at 7 months, but we weren’t sure if they knew who was who and if it was just that they liked hearing mommy and daddy say a familiar word in a sing song voice.

Norah skipped army crawling, and went straight to crawling. She can even get from a crawling position to a sitting position. Both girls can now sit for long periods of time. Sometimes they forget about their balance and tip backwards instead of falling to the side. They are also now both belly sleepers. 

Naomi enjoys hair pulling, using Nala’s tail and paws as chew toys, and of course still bouncing. Norah likes saying daydaddadad, when Denali comes over for pets, and showing her excitement through flailing and kicking. They like playing with mirrors, rattles, and crinkle books, and they enjoy the sounds of their feet thudding and daddy making clicking and popping noises.

Their favorite foods are applesauce, bananas, pumpkin with nutmeg, blueberries, and baked squash. They also like picking up and eating puffs, cheerios, and teething biscuits.

7 Months Old!

Our little love bugs are definitely developing their own personalities! Norah enjoys snuggling mommy and daddy or just sitting in a chair and soaking in the world. She has started to get up on her hands and knees and rock back and forth. She wants to crawl so badly! Naomi is constantly moving. She enjoys her jumper or just bouncing while someone is holding her in a standing position. She has become a very fast army crawler, so we are glad our floors are now refinished and don’t provide any potential hazards.

After our 6 month appointment, we did the first baths in the bathtub without the baby bath. Both babies enjoy laying in the bath and kicking, and we can’t wait to take them swimming in Brasil! We also went on our first family run (puppies too of course!), after the pediatrician wasn’t concerned if they were in their carseats.

We tried our first foods – carrots, bananas, green beans, pears, avocados, kiwis, and apples. The girls have gotten better at opening their mouth for bites and are not as messy.

Right at the 7 month mark, Norah, Naomi, and mommy got to go on a mommy/baby vacation with 2 friends from birth class. We drove to Priest Lake, Idaho for a week. It was still quite cold, so there was no lake time! The girls decided they wanted to be like their friends, and both started sitting. Naomi can sit unassisted for a few minutes at a time, but both are still wobbly and need pillows behind them just in case!

Norah weighs 14 pounds 5 ounces, and Naomi weighs 14 pounds 6 ounces. Both moved from the 3rd percentile at their 6th month appointment into the 6th percentile at 7 months!

 

6 Months Old!

Hard to believe Norah and Naomi are closer to one than zero now! The doctor seemed positive about the babies’ stats during our appointment. She also gave us the go ahead to swim, run, and try solid foods! I was surprised that the babies didn’t weigh more. Naomi was 12 pounds 9 ounces (3rd percentile), 26.5 inches tall (78th percentile), and had a head circumference of 16 inches (7th percentile). Norah was 12 pounds 7 ounces (2nd percentile), 26.25 inches tall (70th percentile), and had a head circumference of 16 inches (7th percentile).

Earlier in the day, the girls got their ears pierced, so that I don’t have to keep painting Norah’s fingernails to tell them apart! Derek and I discussed this quite a bit, to make sure we were both okay with the decision. While it’s no worse than a shot, it is considered a procedure – so not a decision to make lightly. We have heard infant ear piercing can result in crappy looking piercings later because babies move around and have small ear lobes (the doctor said this is why they wait until 6 months to pierce). We also faced the challenge of actually finding a pediatrician that would do it. We did find a practice about 20 minutes away, and they were great. Norah and Naomi handled it like champions, only briefly crying. And now they look even more dazzling. We were surprised that they haven’t seemed to care about their new fancy earrings. It doesn’t bother them when I clean the earrings, and we haven’t had problems with the girls trying to pull at their new jewelry.

Norah & Naomi currently enjoy chewing on everything including our chins, noses, shoulders, etc. They like sticking out their tongues, playing with/eating their feet, standing and being airplanes (like always!). The girls have begun exploring our faces with their hands. They enjoy textures and scratching pillows, running their fingers through my hair and daddy’s beard, and smiling at everyone who talks to them. Our little ones are definitely growing and changing, as they can now make screeching noises, blow bubbles, and listen intently to us talk.

Naomi has begun army crawling much to my chagrin, as I was enjoying being able to leave them on their activity mat while I cooked, washed dishes, took a shower, etc. She has also just realized that she can cross her fingers. To add to the craziness of ear piercing and shots, Naomi also cut her bottom right tooth and the bottom left seems to be about the break through as well! What a 24 hours!

Norah the thumbsucker has adorably begun holding on to some fabric – her burp cloth, her sleeve, her bib, etc. – while sucking her thumb. She has some awesome sticking up hair and enjoys sucking on her bottom lip.

Now that we have told my employer, we can share our exciting news – we are spending 3 months in Brasil! We hope. Derek was selected to do a 3 month rotation in São Paulo, Brasil. After much research and discussion on health, safety, and costs, we decided the babies and I will join him for 2.5 months. While this is an amazing opportunity, it is not cheap or easy. We needed to figure out dog and cat care, buy tickets for me and the babies, figure out the costs of our housing situation in Brasil, get the girls passports, and get everyone visas. Getting baby passport pictures went better than I had feared and really their pictures look completely interchangeable. However, the visa process has been quite stressful, and we are still not 100% sure that we will get visas. The process requires many notarized documents, in person document delivery, and a hefty fee. We have heard that the process is difficult because they require Americans to do everything a Brasilian would have to do if they wanted to visit the U.S. Nonetheless, we are hopeful everything will work out and excited for this opportunity!

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Biscuits & Gravy

Prep & Cook Time: 60 minutes

Feeds: 6-8 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 2 c butter
  • 6 T flour
  • 4 c milk
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 package spicy breakfast sausage
  • 1 habanero/serrano
  • 1 can buttermilk biscuits
Cover chicken with water in saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook for 20 minutes, drain, cool, and shred. Set aside. Cook spicy sausage. Drain and set aside. Saute butter and habanero/serrano in a large saucepan; cook pepper until tender. Add flour, whisking until creamy. Add milk, salt and pepper; heat to thicken, stirring constantly. Combine chicken and sausage with mixture; heat through. Bake biscuits as directed. Serve chicken and gravy over hot biscuits.

5 Months Old!

I feel like there have been a lot of big changes this past month! Norah and Naomi like to help hold their bottles, and sometimes they are able to feed themselves for a short period of time. They started using a size 2 nipple, as the pediatrician suggested, and it has definitely helped speed up their eating time. The doctor said it should take them about 15-20 minutes to finish a bottle. While we are usually not that quick, I appreciate going from 30-40 minutes to 20-25 minutes. However, with the change to a bigger bottle nipple, they have been less interested in breastfeeding. It is bittersweet because breastfeeding was a struggle and I wanted to make it at least 6 months, but I also still hate how it schedules my life and often causes frustration both me and the babies.

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Naomi

After Christmas, Norah and Naomi moved from newborn to size 1 diapers. Most babies do not wear newborn diapers for over 4 months! We tried to move them sooner, as they were over 10 pounds, but their skinny little thighs just didn’t work with the larger diaper. We went through a phase where they wore size 1 diapers over newborn diapers at night because after 8-10 hours the newborn diapers would leak out the back. We are thankful to finally be in the cheaper diaper size and using a whole lot less of them!

At a whopping 13 pounds and 25 inches, they are now wearing size 3-6 month onesies and pjs, and we are finally out of 0-3 month pants! I am especially happy about the new pants size, as 0-3 months fit in the waist but were capris (thank you 15th percentile for weight and 52nd for height).

The girls are now becoming more mobile – pulling themselves forward by grabbing onto the edge of the activity mat, mattress, crib slats, the other baby, etc. They have also realized that they can express their dislikes through sounds besides crying. I love that they can recognize their sister and will smile and talk to each other and baby in the mirror.

I started a part time nanny job (3-4 days a week for a total of 21-28 hours). The little boy is a week and a half older than the girls, so I am learning what a triplet mom feels like! Norah and Naomi realized mommy was a little stressed about this new job, so they decided to start sleeping through the night the weekend before the new job started. While we think our babies are pretty awesome and have good temperaments, we also attribute it to Babywise and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby. We used a combination of the philosophies to foster positive sleep habits within a sleep schedule without sleep props. We have tried to “start as you mean to go.” Every day is a part of the process, and we are constantly tweaking our schedule to figure out what is best for our babies. We started the month with 90 minutes of of wake time, and we have now moved to 2 hours. Sometimes I feel like I get the schedule right because they wake up from a 2 hour nap or sleeping through the night and just happily lay in their cribs talking until I get them! Derek has thoroughly enjoyed the babies longer wake time and budding personalities! He has been a trooper because he has put up with the fact that due to our new schedule, the little ones sometimes go to bed before he gets home.

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Naomi the jelly bean butt