Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Easy DIY Christmas Photo Shoot

So a couple of weeks ago on a friend's blog, I was inspired to try a photo shoot with the twins for Christmas. I had hoped to do it some morning while the older kids were in school, but somehow the time got away from me. It ended up happening on a saturday afternoon, just a few days before Christmas. I got my inspiration and instructions from here. Unfortunately all I had to work with was my iPhone so I was somewhat limited. But I still loved what I came out with.

Check it out:
A nice easy set-up which would have been nicer if all my lights were actually working. But we made do. Lucas helped me test it out, and my first subject, Leila, just wanted to get her hands on my phone/camera.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! 

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Advent 2013

So, it's a little late to be writing about Advent now, considering Christmas is merely days away. Somehow December just caught me off guard (I'll blame my brother's visit from Nov 10 - 30). Last year I wrote about our Advent Calendar that we've used for the past four Christmases. While I had some ideas about doing a different kind of advent calendar using match boxes, I was already late so I didn't do anything drastically different.

I decorated our home with lots of red this year, so I wrapped match boxes (filled with two chocolate coins for the older kids) in red, blue and green snowman paper.

I did want a different way to attach the boxes so that after they were taken down there was still something on the calendar. I decided to make some cute numbered tags and attach it with a ribbon that would stay on after the boxes were taken down. I threaded each ribbon through the loop on the tree, then taped the number and the box to the ribbon. The box is easily removed from the bottom part of the ribbon.

We also found a better place to hang the tree this year - last year it kept falling down. I hung all the boxes with the numbers all mixed up; Lucas is enjoying the challenge of finding the numbers. With only five days before Christmas our tree looks emptier, but it's nice to see the ribbons and little number tags. Along with the lights we hung around it, I really like the set up this year!

How are you getting ready for Christmas?

Friday, 22 November 2013

6 Months - Sleeping, Slurping and Sipping

Well, we are here already - at the half way mark to one year! The days and weeks are just flying by, and soon the twins will be walking and talking. Thankfully for now they are still immobile. :)

And not quite sitting up on their own. :)
Our biggest change this month has been to start on solid food. We are still nursing a lot and taking a few bottles a day to supplement, and have tried avocado, bananas, cooked apple and runny oatmeal. Today we experimented with fresh orange juice (an acid free type that is often given here as one of the first "foods"). We are not having a lot of success, but they're getting the idea slowly. 

It looks like we are transitioning to two naps a day and it's becoming harder and harder to keep the two girls on the same schedule. They are just so different! Lisa is our cat-napper who we can't get much more than an hour out of, and Leila seems like she would sleep all day if we let her. Actually, using the term schedule isn't really accurate - what we have is a very fluid, flexible sort of rhythm to our day. It works for us and has enough structure for me right now. Nights haven't been the best either, but we seem to have turned a corner recently - I actually had one night with a five hour stretch! I'm hoping the addition of solid food will help them get through the night without needing to nurse.

When Lucas was born, we were far from family and so David started making videos of him, every day to share with our friends and family. (You can check out those videos here)

When Elena was born, we were closer to David's family, while mine was still far away in Canada - and I think we made four or five videos of her first days. (You can find more videos of Lucas and Elena here)

Predictably, the twins being the babies in the family are desperately behind in the video department. So I finally managed to piece together a little video of their first six months. 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Life Lately

Well, it's been a little quiet here lately, but only because life outside the blog has been rather noisy and busy! Here's what we've been up to...

Meeting a new friend - Through several connections I met a new friend, a young mom like myself who is expecting twin girls in the new year. I invited her over for coffee and twin talk.

Decorating - I had the privilege of decorating for a good friend's baby shower. I had about a week to prepare which is probably the quickest I've put together something like this! I'll be posting more about it, but here's a little look...
Teething twins - yup, we've started that lovely phase. Fussy, teething Lisa = baby wearing day!
Pool time - with a holiday on Friday, and hubby away on Friday and Saturday for a speaking engagement, we enjoyed two afternoons at a friend's pool where both Lucas and Elena made progress with their swimming. The twins were happy to sit in their chairs this time.

"Sunday best" - Elena loves choosing her dress for church each week, and I finally convinced her to choose this one she got a little while ago from her grandma. Lucas really enjoyed posing for these photos.
First foods - We started our first food adventures with the twins. They seemed very interested and ready but we've had a slow start. I'm happy to go slowly though; with the twins turning 6 months old this week it feels like their baby stage is passing by much too quickly.
What have you been up to lately?

Thursday, 24 October 2013

NOT a first time mom

I'm so glad I'm not a first time mom...

You wouldn't believe how many times I have thought this since the twins were born.

I remember feeling so overwhelmed before Lucas was born. I had hardly held a baby, dare I say it, I think I hadn't even changed a diaper. And now they were going to let me leave the hospital with this baby; that I was to feed, change, bathe, love and care for - without instructions? 

Due to his somewhat stressful arrival, it was hours before we really got to see and hold him. The feeling of cradling that swaddled little boy for the first time was so amazing. And, did I mention, overwhelming? We unwrapped his little blankets, holding him so gently, and also a little awkwardly as we tried to figure out how to hold a newborn...

Of course, after a day or two it all seems very natural, and you can hardly remember what life was like before. The learning curve for new moms is so steep, coupled with recovery from labor and delivery and at least a few weeks of severe sleep deprivation - it's no easy feat! And yet, we keep going back and doing it again? Why?

I think the answer to that is pretty obvious; it gets "easier" with each successive baby. I'll admit, when we were expecting Elena I felt quite anxious about going through the whole baby thing again, and questioned myself over so many details of the infant stage; would she breastfeed well? how would I balance a baby and a toddler? when and how will we start solids? can we synchronize their naps? And all that worrying for nothing - Elena integrated herself into our life so seamlessly and all those stages and milestones passed by so quickly and easily. (I know it's easy to say that now with two potty trained, sleep trained, food trained pre-schoolers, and at the time it probably all didn't "feel" easy - it just turned out easier than I expected)

I guess that's why they say the third time's the charm! When we first found out we were pregnant with baby #3, I had no doubts about my abilities as a mother and very few worries about how to include a baby within our day to day routine.

Then we found out we were having twins!

This unexpected surprise threw me for a bit, and my mind immediately raced weeks and months ahead as I tried to imagine nursing, bathing, feeding, soothing and looking after two little ones. So as we prepared for their arrival and made it through the first few hard weeks of infancy, this thought kept coming back to me, "I'm so glad I'm not a first time mom!". I think it would be so hard to have twins as your first baby experience and I'm glad I didn't have to go through that! Lucas and Elena prepared me so well for another baby - even the fact that they are so close in age! I already knew how to do all the newborn things - now it was just a matter of learning to do it with two.

So if you're a first time mom, or even a second-time mom, wondering about this journey of motherhood, be encouraged. It does get easier; and those skills of nurturing and caring for a baby come so quickly. Don't worry about having all the right "stuff" or following all the rules. Even if there were no cribs, strollers, car seats, baby bathtubs, bottles, pacifiers, baby swings (ok, this list could go on for.ev.er...) all your baby needs is you! Isn't that amazing? So don't stress out if your baby is hungry 2.8 hours after their last feed, or if they haven't had a bath in two days, or if they need an extra nap one day. Respond to their cries, listen to them, and gently guide them and grow them.

The biggest lesson I've learned from my twins so far has been about sacrifice. It was easy for me to imagine adding one other little one to our lives. So easy, and so little sacrifice. With twins I am constantly reminded of my need to give of myself - my time, my body, my dreams, for their well-being.

And we all know, that in the end, the sacrifice will be worth it. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Five months - Rolling, Rotating and Raspberries

It's been a pretty quiet month here, mostly because of all the sickness we've dealt with. Lisa and Leila were the best sick babies ever! They handled their chicken pox so well and we are so glad to have that chapter behind us.

Lovely photos taken by someone at church this week!
Increasing mobility has been the big thing these past few weeks. No more leaving the baby on the sofa to grab a diaper, wipes or clothes, lest a baby roll off! Leila can turn herself onto her belly in a matter of seconds. Lisa is still working on this skill, she prefers to rotate around on her back.

Remember how they used to sleep like this all night long?
 Now this is how they wake up!

This month they'll definitely be moving into their own cribs. Unfortunately we can't fit both cribs into our bedroom, so it seems fairer to move both babies into their own room, rather than keeping one with us and one on her own in a separate room. Sleep hasn't been the best this month either, which is keeping me from making the switch. Both girls are waking up at least twice a night. I'm thinking the kicking and moving around doesn't help! Hoping they'll start sleeping better soon.
Just a usual afternoon in the Portela household. 
Both girls are expanding their vocal abilities, and Lisa has perfected the raspberries. Leila loves to laugh, especially at Lucas' antics. Both the older kids love to play with the twins, although Elena is still learning how to be gentle. The twins are dying to sit up and are holding and playing with more of their toys. Next month we'll begin a gentle introduction to solids.

I just can't quite believe they are almost half a year old! The 3 - 6 month age is one I absolutely love (more so when the baby is sleeping at night, but I've gotten so used to it, I can hardly remember how many times I've been up by the next morning).

You think it's hard to get a good photo of one baby,... try it with two! 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Play of the Day

Alternately titled; "Who needs toys?"

Apart from one or two special items that my kids are really into, we actually don't get a lot of play out of our toys. It seems that kids can make a game out of anything, and if I can allow them to be occupied with other "things" and encourage their imagination and a bigger sense of "play" then I go for it. (As long as the mess is not too extravagant! See this bean experiment here...)

So for anyone wondering what my kids get up to when their toys just aren't hitting the spot, here are a few examples...

1. Let's use the chairs and stools to make a jail in the kitchen!

2. Mmmmm! Cinnamon and Sugar! Seriously, she was occupied with this little bowl for at least 20 minutes, and didn't even make too much of a mess. Nor did she eat all of it.

3. Oooh! Plastic containers! Admittedly this one didn't last long before he was into a "cooking" adventure involving juice, milk, flour, mustard, basil, nutmeg and parmesan.... I should have gotten a picture of that "cake" when it was done; Lucas and Elena actually tried eating it. Might have to guide the cooking a little more next time so it ends up somewhat edible.

4. Yay! Boxes to rearrange! 

5. Let's play TV! On the air, a special episode of the Backyardigans, for about 5 minutes before they rearranged everything into an obstacle course.  

Looking through these, it appears my kids spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Other things we do usually involve moving furniture in the living room to create "houses"or obstacle courses. Ok, who am I kidding, with four kids in our small-ish house and the baby paraphernalia, our house IS an obstacle course! 

What do your kids like to play with? 

Friday, 11 October 2013

When it Rains...

Be thankful you have an umbrella...

So, it's not been the easiest of weeks in these parts. We received some disappointing news, which has sparked a multitude of discussions and prayers and worries. Along with some unforeseen changes, life is feeling a little unsettled.

We've also been dealing with a lot of sickness, most notably in the form of chicken pox. As I'm writing this, new pox seem to be appearing on Leila every minute. She is the last of the girls to get it. Elena caught it from someone at school and we've just been waiting to see when the twins would catch it. Lisa seems to be over the worst already.
Chicken pox girls - love their expressions in this photo
On top of this, Elena came down with come kind of virus which left her unable to keep anything down for two days. Not even water. After a quick trip to see her doctor, we were assured it was just a stomach bug, and one dose of medicine seems to have cured her. Today it looks like Lucas has got it too.

While it is easy to feel overwhelmed when life throws a ton of stuff your way, I've found that having a positive attitude and looking for things to be thankful for goes a long way to helping me weather the storm. Some of my "umbrellas" in this latest storm include:

- A wonderful Skype call with an old friend that was encouraging and uplifting, even though we are continents apart, and haven't spoken in a long time.

- It wasn't actually rainy this week, which made it easier to be somewhat quarantined with three sick girls. A little sunshine goes a long way.

- Lucas had a whole day field trip on Wednesday, and we knew he was having a great time and well taken care of, so we could look after the girls and take Elena to the doctor.

- My hubby, David, who works mostly from home was able to rearrange his schedule to help with the kids; from nap time to bath time he is such a "hands on" dad and our kids love him to pieces. I do too!

- These verses from Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

This psalm is one that has been close to my heart for a long time. It is one that my mom used to read to us before she left us at boarding school at the beginning of each term. I love the image of God covering us, sheltering us from the storms of life. It doesn't mean that storms won't come; we need the sunshine and the rain to grow, but that through the storms we have a refuge. God is your umbrella. Even if you think you have nothing else to be thankful for, God is there.

What's the "weather" like in your life right now?

Friday, 27 September 2013

Chicken Pox

It all started with what we thought were a few bug bites, until she came down with a high fever and spent the night in our bed waking up every once in a while moaning and crying. The next morning I debated about whether she should go to school or not; the fever was gone and she seemed ok - until she almost fell asleep sitting up on the sofa. So home she stayed, as I tried to think of what bugs she could have been exposed to that no one else in our family had. Bed bugs was my first thought, since her bed is her own personal space, and the "bites" seemed to match the descriptions I found online. Except for a few things - bites usually appear on exposed skin and in groups of 3 to 5. Hers were on her back and stomach. 

When I dropped Lucas off at school the teachers asked about Elena and as I tried to explain in Portuguese about the bites, they asked if it was maybe chicken pox. I didn't really think about it until later that afternoon. Elena hadn't been vaccinated against it, and after David called the school, they confirmed that a student had it last week. So we've spent the week relaxing at home and keeping Elena as comfortable as possible. 

She has been an absolute champ about the whole business. She had a fever for two nights, and a bit of a dry cough but has hardly scratched her pox at all! We're already on the way up and she's getting her energy back. 

Now you may be wondering about our other kids - Lucas caught chicken pox as a wee 6-month old when his daddy got shingles, soon after we arrived in Brazil.
He also had two days of fever, but that was about it for him. So now we are wondering when / if the twins will catch it from Elena. According to the stats, they almost definitely should, but we haven't seen any real signs of it on either of them. Lisa had a dot or two, but we can't say for sure they are chicken pox. Of course, the disease has quite a long incubation period, so next week might bring another bout of the pox for our home! 

I feel kind of bad about not having Elena vaccinated, but there's not much point worrying or agonizing over it now since it's too late. Hopefully her immune system will just be stronger for fighting off the disease naturally. If by some miracle the twins don't get it, we will get them vaccinated for it. 

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Four Months - Turning, Toys and Tummy Time

Yup, it's that time again; another month has flown by and my little girls are already a third of the way to being one! It's been a pretty normal month for us; older kids in school, easy days at home. The girls had a bunch of vaccinations and did really well. Now we only have to go back in November.

Their doctor is on holidays right now, so we didn't get to a four month check-up, but I'm going to say they've definitely been gaining weight. Some days I just can't believe how big they are getting already. We've had some of that normal four-month sleep regression which isn't so nice, but Leila seems to be settling back quickly and hopefully Lisa will follow. For now they both still fit in the same crib at night, but now they move so much that one sometimes wakes the other up.

Development wise, we've seen the usual suspects this month - babbling a lot, grinning and giggling, starting to grab at toys, beginning to roll over. Leila has managed to master the art of rolling from her back to her stomach but can't get back around. Lisa is still working on it. They love interacting with people and don't like being alone. I guess it's good they have each other!

Leila in mid-turn
Lisa holding on to one of her books. 
Enjoying Sunday afternoon with Great-grandma and Grandpa
We're still on the basic 3 hour feeding schedule, and I think we're about 70/30 in regards to breastmilk and formula. It's sure going to be interesting to start the two of them on solids in a few months.
Leila makes the best faces! 
Look at those baby blues! (Lisa)
I love watching my little ones grow and develop, but it's kind of a bitter sweet process as these two are our last. *sniff* - they grow up so fast! I am trying to cherish all the sweet moments of snuggling and rocking them to sleep.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Signs of Progress

Language is a part of life we often take for granted. We talk and write, read and comprehend, interact and communicate with others, without giving a thought to the processes involved. It is so natural and instinctive.

However, when we are talking about a second language, it often feels very unnatural; fumbling over nouns and verbs, tenses and word endings. Hoping to somehow communicate and not make a total fool of ourselves in the process. I often wonder how my words come across to a fluent Portuguese speaker. I wonder if it sounds the same as a toddler learning to speak?

I've written before about my progress in learning Portuguese - a journey I've been on for almost ten years already. Granted I really only began a marked effort when we moved here four years ago. It's hard to motivate yourself to learn a new language when you don't really need it yet.

And while I have a long long way to go before I reach fluency (if I ever do) it is nice to see some signs of progress...

Phone calls
I am not a phone person. I would much rather text, email or message someone than pick up the phone and call. And this is in English. So you can imagine that I like to delegate as much of the necessary phone calling to my hubby as I can get away with. I find it much easier to understand Portuguese when I can see the person; I'm no lip reader but it does help. These days, however, I've found I can manage quite a few basic calls; setting up doctors appointments, calling for water or cooking gas to be delivered, and of course, mastering the pizza delivery dialogue.

Yes, I do dream sometimes in Portuguese, and I take it as a good sign that the language is infiltrating subconscious parts of my brain!

Shopping Lists
Making meal plans and a shopping list is essential in keeping our family well fed. Unfortunately, I usually find myself on the morning of my proposed shopping run scribbling out my meal plan and groceries list. Whatever word is shorter usually ends up on the list. Cucumber - too long, pepino - much better.

Word Games
I've recently found myself sucked into two word games that I play online with my hubby and other friends. Letterpress and Words with Friends. Imagine my chagrin when my Portuguese words just don't work. It's nice to see my growing vocabulary though.

There are a lot of expressions that you hear everyday; those idiomatic phrases that just come naturally to express surprise, delight, anger, or just to fill in the pauses in conversation. As I began my language learning, I wondered if those colloquial sayings would ever enter naturally into my conversations. Now, I find that they do, most of the time, seem to flow seamlessly. Of course, I think it took me about two years before I uttered more than a few words in Portuguese.

I have a lot more Portuguese speaking friends on Facebook now, and it's becoming easier and easier to understand the status updates, and even read articles that are linked up there. I enjoy reading a few Portuguese blogs as well. (Thanks Aline and Ariane :))

Now my days are filled with a lot more of the local language, and with Lucas and Elena attending a Portuguese-only school, we are speaking it more frequently at home as well. I still have a long way to go, but I am encouraged to see some small signs of progress along the way.

Have you learned a second language as an adult? What did you find most challenging? 

Monday, 16 September 2013

Why I'm glad my kids misbehave in church

Like many an idealist, I have an image of a perfect Sunday morning. It includes the mother, who, rising early, has time to shower and dress in her Sunday best before setting the breakfast table for the family. The children appear, well rested from a full nights sleep and take their places at the table without complaining. In a relaxed manner, the children are dressed, hair brushed, faces clean, shoes on and in the car ahead of schedule. The drive to church is pleasant and fighting-free. Children are polite to family and friends at church, sitting through the service without making a peep.

Ok, who am I kidding? This would never happen. At least not in our house. Sunday mornings are a rush of hastily downed cereal, chasing down toddlers to get dressed, tending to crying babies and trying to get everyone decent looking and in the car by 9:15 to make an hour long drive to church. And if we're lucky, momma leaves the house with matching shoes and no spit-up on her clothes.

Getting through the service is another feat. Easily distracted children with a short attention span, attending a service in their second language. Not to mention twins who used up a good portion of their morning nap in the car and generally need to be fed and changed. And did I mention my hubby works at the church and usually has responsibilities during the service?

But I am glad my kids misbehave during church. Ok, maybe not glad, but it sure helps teach me a few much needed lessons.

For one, it keeps me humble. There's not a lot of pride when you're on your hands and knees, crawling under the chairs to retrieve the toy car that went rolling off your son's chair. At other times, it's necessary to retrieve the child from under the chairs, or keep them from running around the room. (This was particularly difficult when I was 6+ months pregnant with twins.)
Lucas and Elena on the right side, actually paying attention to the children's talk.
 Secondly, it guards me against judging other families. I know how hard it is to teach and train your kids in acceptable church behavior and I'm far too busy splitting up a fight over the crayons to notice how your kids are behaving.
Lucas and I in the bottom left, and my best-behaved child (Leila) on the right.
Finally, it reminds me of how much I need God's help to get through every day. I do a lot of praying throughout the service, asking God for strength and patience as I wrangle my kids away from the communion table. It reminds me that's it's not about me. And isn't that the point, really?

So, on the occasional Sunday when you do find me, nursing one baby, with the other sleeping and my two angels sitting contentedly side by side sharing the crayons, I hope it's an encouragement to bring your family to church - no matter how they behave.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Southern Living

and I mean waaay south, like South America...

It's a chilly spring morning, here in the southern hemisphere. It's been a long, chilly winter over the past few months and we're ready for summer! Does that sound funny to you? I follow a lot of blogs, most of them written by gals in North America; my blog feed was full of summer BBQ's, beach trips, and other "summery" events. It always feels a little incongruent with what I'm experiencing here on the other side of the world. Not that we can compare a Brazilian winter with a Canadian one - but it's definitely not shorts weather!

It has been just over four years since I moved to South America. I'm still coming to terms with the opposite seasons. Christmas in summer is just weird for me. Even growing up in Bangladesh and celebrating a "green" christmas; it was still the cold season and we enjoyed bundling up, drinking hot chocolate and lighting candles all over the house. There's not much point lighting candles during Christmas here - they'd get blown out by all the fans we have going on. (More Christmas reflections here)

Our state of São Paulo lies in the southern half of the country, and contains beaches and mountains. Our city sits at an average elevation of 780 meters, so while we definitely experience a humid sub-tropical climate, the altitude alleviates the heat a bit, and it gets quite cool during the "winter" season.

I love this climate. It's a nice moderate one, with enough cold days to appreciate a hot cup of tea and look forward to the hot season; and enough hot days to enjoy swimming, smoothies and ice cream before longing for it to cool down. Since we don't have central air, I enjoy snuggling up with a shawl on a cold day and hearing the fans whirr on a hot one. I light candles in July and wear shorts in January.

Here's a sign we pass every week as we head into São Paulo for church - we are crossing the Tropic of Capricorn.

Now many of the blogs I read are turning to autumn - falling leaves, pumpkin recipes, fall fashion, back to school and the impending winter. It's kind of nice to be looking forward to our summer now - trips to the beach with the twins, getting our baby pool out for the kids to splash in, smoothies, popsicles and ice cream too, of course.

I am definitely more of a hot weather person, so I love our hot, humid summers here and after experiencing a few Canadian winters, I'm glad that here they are more like a cool, rainy Canadian spring. I guess if I could really have my way I'd spend June to August in Canada (summer!) and December to February in Brazil (summer!)

What's the weather like where you live? 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...