Monday, March 31, 2014

Crazy Zoo

We went to this teeny tiny little crazy zoo. In general M and I are of the mindset that zoos are pretty sad. This type in particular, with small cages, random animals and being able to get shockingly close, was rough. The kids, however, loved it.




Friday, March 28, 2014

12 Months!

This was such a big and fabulous month for us! Most exciting is that we are communicating! You now wave goodbye, sign "more", "all done", and are saying your very first word "toda" (thank you) quite consistently when you want something. In general you have just been imitating both gestures and sounds all the time. It's so cute and you are quickly learning from us. On the flip side, you also tend to screech when you don't get what you want.

In the movement domain you are walking with a walker (or the large stool) or holding our hands. You seem most excited to "walk" so that you can  kick a ball or balloon. Overall though you still prefer crawling at lightning speed. Your favorite game is chasing a ball or balloon and you keep yourself entertained for quite a while doing that.


Other than balls, you are also a big fan of noisy toys, especially ones that make music, which you then dance to, bopping your body up and down or clapping you hands. Not surprisingly you also love playing instruments and have a particular affinity to the tambourine, although the maracas, xylophone and guitar also get some attention. You are interested in books and will listen to very short stories, but mostly you like to flip the pages on your own and move on from book to book. You really love going on walks but only in the double stroller, and preferably with your brother. You do not like the single stroller at all, and most of all you like being carried!

You absolutely love bath time. In particular: splashing, filling bucket and spilling, trying to "catch" the stream of water coming down and a recent game of pushing a ball underwater and watching it pop back up. Other things we are loving: you like to put toys into containers and not just take them out, you've learned how to turn on the iPod, and you've been playing really nicely with your brother.

You are now the proud owner of tooth number five. You love to eat puffs or oatmeal or frijoles for breakfast, fruit for lunch, and veggies, especially potatoes and sweet potatoes, hummus, or soup for dinner. And you blow on your food when it is too hot! Adorable. You can perfectly pick up an open cup of water and drink. You also like to start "spitting" conversations with your brother that send us into fits of laughter. Really it's not surprising, you have brought so much joy to our entire family. You melt our heart as you wave goodbye heading upstairs to the bath, and fill us with awe as we see your determination to get exactly what you want, all while keeping us entertained like it's your job. We love you beyond words!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pom Pom Play

My criteria for a successful activity mostly involves a ratio between set up time, to time played, where a 1:10 ratio is pretty much amazing....and that's what we had on this fine day. Last week we were home for many days in a row. Luckily, I had happened to pick up a bag of pompoms at the dollar store, and Little N found them under the stroller and brought them to me, asking for an activity. So we hopped on the computer and this is what we came up with.

1) Putting pom-poms through toilet paper rolls taped on the wall! He experimented with different sized containers and their positioning. Big hit in that it took 2 minutes to set up and kept him entertained for about 15.  

2) Sorting by color into a muffin tin. Another hit. We then went over the names of the colors together. To collect them back into the bowl, I called out the colors and he would find the correct one.


3) Practice with chopsticks. Little N re-sorted them into the muffin tin by color, and then used the chopsticks to transfer and collect the pom-poms. This was nice for some fine motor practice and because he could do this on his own.

4) Putting through a hole into a container. This seemed like it was a little too easy and maybe he would get bored, but on the contrary, Little N actually loved it. This time when we were taking the pom-poms out of the container, we counted together.

5) Gluing onto paper. At first I just put a ton of glue on a piece of cardstock and left him to make his own design but he was not really into it. So instead, I drew a caterpillar for him with circles, and he much preferred having a designated area to glue them on. He actually asked for more drawings, so we went on to make a flower and an elephant!



Monday, March 24, 2014

Pinterest Ball Pit Follow up

Way, way back I made a ball pit out of our pack 'n play. And for the past couple of months is has seen pretty heavy use:


Both kids have actually been playing in it at least a couple times a week. It's obviously a conspiracy to derail my selling baby gear. ;)


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Deactivated

It was time. It was past time. After months and months of debating and delaying, facebook is out of my life. At first I was keeping it to stay connected to the expat group, but I realized there was absolutely nothing being posted that was of any use to me. The only social events had turned into charity fundraisers and just highlighted to me how different our worlds. I couldn't handle the thought of seeing  one more post complaining about a maid.
Then I was keeping it to stay in touch with friends far away, but I realized that the vast majority of those people I really want to communicate with have email or whatsapp. I did the "birthday test", removing my birthday and lo and behold all the friends that messaged me are true friends (that also have my email).
But the cow that broke the camel's back? My closest group of friends, wives of the medical school students, disintegrated to the point that we haven't been able to get together even once all semester. With that and so much of my newsfeed already hidden there was really no point and browsing became a totally waste of time.
It's been a few weeks and I haven't looked back. Living in the real (non-internet) world is very freeing, and I highly recommend it!


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Our Big Family Trip

I'm not really sure how to even describe everything that we did during our big family adventure. For four years, I'd been itching to see other areas of Mexico that were not driving distance. After putting it off in favor of family visits and study time, we decided to finally take the plunge this past December, knowing full well that we might not have another opportunity to do this. I've mentioned that there was a lot of planning involved, and there was! I started by scoping out what we wanted to see, made an itinerary, booked flights and then hotels, and brought printouts of information we would need for our day to day. The way the flights worked out best, we actually came home for a weekend half way through and it was a perfect little break to unpack, do some laundry, and then re-pack. I'll start with what we did and try to keep the info short:


Part I- A: Yucatan
We arrived in warm and humid Merida for four days. One day we took a day trip to Celestun to see the flamingos. Then we went to the tiny town of Izamal...amazing. From there we took a taxi to Piste so that we could see Chichen Itza the next day. And then we went to Valladolid for a couple more days, where we saw Ek-Balam and a couple cenotes. To say we LOVED the people and food of Yucatan would be a gross understatement.


Part I- B: Quinata Roo
For the beach portion we spent the better part of a week in Tulum, first in rustic beach cabins and then in a larger hotel. We got one day in Cancun and then flew home for above mentioned re-packing. Little Boy had the time of his life; he is a beach boy through and through. Baby Brother on the other hand, thought that sand is a baby-torturing device.


Part II: Oaxaca
We spent just over a week in Oaxaca, including Christmas and New Year. We walked the town, visited several of the surrounding villages to see where handicrafts are made, and saw quite a few ruins. We had mixed feelings about this portion, partially because of the experiences with tourism-related people and partially because Little N was sick for about half the week. Nevertheless we came home with a few awesome souvenirs.


Gear:
During part I we took 3 bags: two hiking backpacks with clothes for the four of us and a third duffle with beach related gear, plus diapers.  This was so that we could each carry a bag and baby, and M carried the extra bag. With the limited amount of clothes we ended up doing laundry twice. Our most important pieces of gear were two Ergo Baby Carriers. We did not take a stroller (because of the lugging and buses), so we used the carriers every single day. They were super practical for the hiking days, and even around town when Little N would get tired of walking we would pop him in one. We also had the Ergo backpack that we used as our only daypack, but we found that it was more comfortable to wear it in the front with baby in the back (or visa-versa) rather than attached behind the baby. We decided to forego the carseats because we were not renting a car. We took a combination of buses and taxis and I was super tense every time we were in the back seat but with the amount of moving we did it was just not practical to lug them with us. During part II we did take a single stroller and that was nice to have around town because we could put our daypack underneath. Unfortunately Little N is very attached to his stroller, so he didn't want to walk too much and Baby Brother ended up being carried most of the time. (They were perfectly happy with this, but we were hoping that Little N would walk more, Baby Brother could be in the stroller, and our backs would be free...oh well). This time we took 3 (large) bags because it was much colder and we needed winter gear with us, but didn't need the mobility of backpacks because we weren't moving around.


Eating and Sleeping:
Apart from a bunch of snacks that I brought from home (dehydrated and dried fruit, nuts, granola bars), and we kept with us, we generally ate out two meals a day, a large breakfast and either late lunch or early dinner. The boys had to eat what was offered and it was not a problem at all. All our rooms had two double beds so Baby Brother slept with me and Little Boy with his dad. It was nice to not deal with a travel crib when we knew they would end up with us anyway and this ended up being a really easy arrangement.


Routine:
We found it much easier then expected to get into a routine even though every day was different. We did our main activity of the day first thing in the morning. The advantage to having kiddos that wake up early, is that we were able to eat breakfast and still make it to our destination shortly after opening, thus missing the big crowds that arrived later in the day. Baby Brother was on two naps; his morning nap would happen whenever he fell asleep in the carrier. In the afternoon we tried to head back to the hotel on most days so that Little Boy and Baby Brother could take their afternoon nap in bed. More days than not this went really well. A few times we stayed out later than normal (and then had to pay for it with some over-tiredness the next day), but mostly it was not too hard to be back at the hotel for baths and bed at the normal time. This was facilitated by the fact that it was winter and gets dark early anyway, so we didn't feel like we were missing out on travel time.


All in all it was wonderful! By the time we got back, M was happy to have a break from all of us, Baby Brother was happy to be back at home in his routine, Little Boy was happy to go back to preschool, and I enjoyed returning to some normalcy and being able to eat without thinking twice about possible MSPI ingredients. Obviously this was a lot more involved than a weekend at the beach for us, but given the time and funds this is definitely a type of trip we would take again in the future. Travel doesn't have to stop when you have kids!