Childcare in Seattle: Hosting an Au Pair

If you google “childcare costs in Seattle,” you will be inundated with articles about how Seattle has some of the least affordable childcare in the country. Thus, when my husband and I decided that I would go back to teaching this fall, I was worried about finding affordable quality childcare for our one-year-old twins. Due to my concerns, I spent hours breaking down the pros and cons of the various childcare options available in our area, as well as the costs of each. Cost was important for us, because as a teacher, it would be easy to end up paying more for childcare than I make.

Childcare Options: Nanny, Daycare Center, In Home Daycare

As a former nanny, I was well aware of what a nanny would cost. A nanny for two children in Renton would be $15-18/hour on the low end. This doesn’t include the taxes we would have to pay as an employer. We would be looking at $28,000-33,500 before taxes for the 43 weeks of the school year. 43 weeks because it is fairly standard in the competitive Seattle nanny market to offer guaranteed hours for the nanny – paying for weeks when I have off – as many nannies cannot afford to take unpaid vacations when their employers are on vacation and therefore have to scramble to find fill in jobs. At a cost of 80-100% of my take home salary, a nanny did not seem like the option for us. A nanny share (2 families sharing a nanny at one or both houses) would be about 2/3 the cost, but nanny shares usually include little to no household chores. In addition, with three or more kids within a few months of age, it is a lot harder for the nanny to get the children out of the house. Daycare centers would have more oversight and some socialization but lack some of the personal attention of a nanny. For example, daycare centers typically do not follow a custom nap schedule, they would not allow the girls’ to stay in their normal environment, and there would not be any child related chores being done at our house. A daycare center would cost us about $28,000 a year or about 80% of my net income. Home daycares (or family daycares) are usually a good middle option. These are exactly what they sound like – daycares that people run out of their homes (some licensed and some unlicensed) and usually they take less children than a daycare center. Some home daycares will work with the babies’ schedules and are usually cheaper than a daycare center; however, home daycares usually do not have as much oversight as daycare centers.

The Best Childcare Option for Us: Au Pair

A final option that we considered was an au pair. An au pair would cost $19,750 plus additional expenses including room and board, phone, car insurance, and driver’s license fees. Even though each au pair agency structures their fees differently, in reality the total cost is pretty much the same across the board. We decided to go with Cultural Care Au Pair, as we had heard positive reviews from families in Seattle. An au pair would provide many of the benefits of a nanny (care provided in our home, the girls’ schedule would be followed, some child related chores would be done, etc.). My husband and I had discussed au pairs before we even had children. We realized the importance of exposing children to other languages and cultures at an early age, which really is one of the greatest benefits of an au pair. However, it is important to note that the Department of State has very specific requirements about how many hours an au pair can work. Au pairs are allowed to work up to 45 hours per week and no more than 10 hours per day. Au pairs must also receive one and a half days off per week and one weekend off per month. They also must receive two weeks of paid vacation.

Costs and Fees for Cultural Care Au Pair:

$75 application fee (often there is a code to waive this)
$300 processing fee (once you match with an au pair)
$300 domestic transportation fee (NYC to SEA varies from $100-$300 depending on your location)
$8595 program fee
$195.75 weekly stipend (paid directly to au pair for 51 weeks)
up to $500 in educational costs (The Department of State requires au pairs to take 6 credit hours (not online) at an accredited secondary institution)

Total cost: $19,753.25 (we received $500 off due to a corporate discount through my husband’s company so make sure to check if your employer has a similar discount)

Other costs:

  • $89 WA driver’s license + $65-80 for driving tests (OR the au pair could pay for her own international driver’s license if your insurance doesn’t require her to have a U.S. state license)
  • $30 phone activation fee (SIM card is free with activation) for our au pair’s iPhone + $20/month on our current plan which has unlimited text and talk in the U.S. (Other carriers have pay as you go for an average of $30-$50/month depending on the amount of texts, calls, and data)
  • $30/month car insurance increase (Some companies charge a fee for having an international license instead of a US license)
  • ??? increase in groceries and utilities

As we spent the summer in Brazil for my husband’s job, before we filled out our application and profile, we talked to a Seattle area local care consultant (LCC) to make sure we would be able to complete this process while living abroad. We were a bit worried as the Department of State requires a home visit (to make sure the au pair’s room is private and contains a bed, dresser, and closet) and an in person interview. The LCC assured us that it would be fine to do our interview online via Skype, but based on the timing we only had one and a half weeks to match with an au pair if we wanted her to arrive to our home on August 18th. We filled out the application questions and completed the lengthy process of creating an in-depth profile. We wanted to be honest so that a potential au pair would know if she would be a good match for our family. After connecting with the consultant for the Renton/Newcastle area, she told us that we actually could not complete the home tour and interview while abroad. However, she followed up with the account services department who said they could make an exception, so we completed our hour-long family interview through Skype and my husband’s parents, who are staying at our house, agreed to give the home tour.

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The Matching Process

We began to look for an au pair, knowing that we wanted a female Brazilian au pair who had experience with 0-2 year olds. However, initially we did not completely understand the process, so the beginning of our search was a bit frustrating. As we were not in the U.S., we did not get a lot of the support phone calls with the au pair agency to answer questions and get help from a matching specialist. After a period of trial and error, we finally figured out the process. We filtered for female Brazilian applicants who were 20+ years old (au pairs can be 18-26), who had childcare experience with 0-2 year olds, had at least 2 years driving experience, were not vegetarian, and had similar interests to us (were active and enjoyed the outdoors). This resulted in around 20 au pairs to manually screen. The process was quite time consuming as it was all host family led (you must screen candidate profiles, then “hold the au pair” so you can get her contact info, then ask her to review your profile and set up an interview if she feels you are a match). We had first interviews with five au pairs, second interviews with three au pairs, and a third interview with one au pair. During this period, we felt like we were constantly emailing questions, Skyping/FaceTiming interviews, and texting through WhatsApp, which is a popular messaging app in Brazil as it is cheaper to use data than texts. However, this was necessary in order to get to know the au pairs as well as possible during our short timeline. If we had had more time, we probably would have interviewed some of the au pairs a few more times and added some additional au pairs to our interview list. The most important things for us when we were interviewing au pairs were: ability to keep the girls safe and happy, driving skills (as we live in a suburb this is important for the au pair to get to her classes, meet up with friends, explore our area, and take the girls to play dates and activities), willingness to schedule activities around the girls’ nap schedule, English language skills, and our ability to connect with her (since she will be living with us and effectively become a part of our family).

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We matched with a young lady – Maria – who is 22 years old, has a degree in gastronomy, is from Santa Catarina, speaks English well enough that we can communicate, has similar interests to us, and we feel will be a great au pair. Our LCC was on vacation, so we informed someone else at Cultural Care Au Pair of the match on the deadline day for our preferred arrival date.

At this point our frustration hit a high point. After doing everything to ensure that we would be able to welcome our au pair on August 18th, we were told that again we had been misinformed! We were informed that a Skype interview was not an acceptable option. Thus, we would have to complete the interview and home tour after our arrival in the U.S. on August 11th, and we wouldn’t be able to host an au pair until September 1st. We had now been told three different things concerning the interview and if we would be able to host our au pair starting on the 18th by three different people. After speaking with one of the directors at Cultural Care Au Pair, we were able to get it worked out, and they agreed to let us complete our home tour and interview (again) on August 12th. Cultural Care Au Pair approved our au pair match, and we paid the processing fee. After that payment, we could not believe how fast the process moved. Our au pair’s flight to the U.S. was booked the next day and a flight to Seattle the day after that. Four days after we paid our fee, Maria was able to schedule her visa appointment.

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Why Cultural Care?

Obviously, we are in a unique situation, as we were trying to find childcare while abroad and on a short timeline. This posed some challenges, but we were also able to meet our au pair when she and her mom came to São Paulo for their visa appointments. When I asked Maria why she decided to use Cultural Care Au Pair even though it was one of the most expensive agencies for au pairs, she said it is because they have some of the most support for au pairs and a large number of families. (Also, Cultural Care Au Pair recruits heavily in Brazil. Of the 513 au pairs who were looking for families, 99 were from Brazil, 99 were from Columbia, and 94 were from Thailand. I have also heard that Cultural Care Au Pair is unique in that they set up actual offices in each country they recruit from.) I imagine we might have had a much better experience and more support if we had done the matching process while in the U.S., and if we decide to host another au pair after Maria, I will be interested to compare our experiences. Other families who have used Cultural Care Au Pair along with other agencies have shared similar sentiments to Maria from the family side – Cultural Care Au Pair by far provides the most support, especially during the matching process or when there is a need to rematch.

Adventures in Brasil: Salvador

The weekend after out trip to Rio, we rented an AirBnB in Salvador with the other 3 Americans who are in Brazil for the same program as Derek. Salvador is known for its colored houses, which reminded me of Valparaíso. We didn’t realize that the weekend we were visiting was the holiday for São João. On Friday afternoon, we walked over to the historic district, which was decorated with colorful flags and ribbons. We visited the Igreja da Ordem Terceira do Carmo (which boasts a carving of Jesus inlaid with 2000 rubies), Largo do Pelourinho (the plaza where slaves were once whipped), and the Igreja de Sao Francisco (which is famous for its tiles imported from Portugal, the amount of gold leaf, and the paintings on the wooden ceiling). We also wanted to visit the Mueso Afro-Brasileiro, but it was closed due to the holiday. That evening, we walked back to this area in order to take part in the feira. There was live music (we wished we had baby hearing protection) and lots of street food. Michelle had a caipirinha (the national drink which is made with cachaça [fermented sugar cane juice] sugar, and lime), and we shared salgado tapioca (like a tapioca crepe with savory chicken and cheese fillings), a plate of churrascaria style meats with typical Brazilian sides like farofa and rice, and coxinhas (chicken surrounded with potato and rolled in breadcrumbs then fried).

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On Saturday we went to breakfast at a typical by the kilo restaurant (we ate for less than $10), and then we tried to visit the Feira do São Joaquin – the largest outdoor market in the state of Bahia with produce, food, jewelry, crafts, religious items, etc. – but it was closed for the holiday.

Many people questioned our decision to move to Brazil for several months, especially with the babies. In the U.S., you hear so much negativity about the violence, drug, and disease problems of Brazil. The reality is that by Brazilian standards most Americans are very well off. This allows us to stay in hotels that are in very nice and safe parts of towns. We also make a point of being well informed about which neighborhoods are safe to visit, and we try to avoid going anywhere but the safest areas after dark.  Overall it is possible to have a very positive and safe experience here. The stories far outdo the reality.

All of that said, Salvador was one of the first times where we felt we made a bad decision that could have put us in a dangerous situation. Since it was a holiday, nearly every retail business was closed. We decided to walk the 2ish miles from our AirBnB to the Feira do São Joaquin. Since everything was closed, this meant we were walking pretty much alone on streets for most of the time and eventually passed under an elevated highway that was sheltering  a small homeless population, as well as passing in front of the entrance to a favela. This was not a good decision. You should not put yourself in a position where you are alone like this. When we got to the market, it was also closed and the few adults around were throwing large fireworks into traffic, seemingly with the intention of stopping traffic. We quickly got an Uber out of there. We definitely learned some lessons about having a plan and understanding our walking routes before heading out. Fortunately all ended well.

After we arrived back to the safer tourist district, we ate a relaxed lunch of Carne del Sol (a typical northeastern dish of salted beef left to cure outside) and Guaraná (a soda popular in Brazil). That evening, Derek’s coworkers babysat while we ventured out to the historic district on our own. It was much more crowded and the food was not as good as the previous night. We tried some Afro-Brasilian food which we only ate one bite of, as well as fried cheese, more coxinha, another plate of churrascaria style meats with typical Brazilian sides, and a dolce tapioca (this time the crepe-like tapioca with dulce de leche inside). For our last day, we took the ferry to Ilha Itaparica, where we walked along the beach and ate a lovely lunch of feijoada, with Derek’s coworkers. The views sitting outside the restaurant were beautiful, but in all honesty, this day was a little more expensive than we would have liked due to the cab ride to and from the beach, and didn’t really seem worth our time there.

Overall we really enjoyed Salvador, as it had a very different feel than São Paulo or Rio. It was fun getting to try street food and experience a local holiday. However, we would have loved to visit the museum and market that were closed!

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.

 

 

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