Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Textbook Parenting

It had been a little over 24 hours since pacey had done a gainer off the end of Salto do Tororó. Nap on Day 1 did not go well. Despite having gotten up at 4:30 a.m., Pete cried for an hour before falling asleep for 30 minutes, then getting up and crying for another hour. During the day, he was fine. He barely asked for pacey at all. But the kid had yet to figure out how to put himself to sleep without it.

After work, we took Pete to the toy store to pick out a special toy just for him to make his heart feel better. I had heard the expression ‘like a kid in a candy store’, but the same could be said of Pete in Brazil’s tiniest toy store. Thank goodness there are no Targets or Toys ‘R’ Uses. Though the toy store was the size of a broom closet, it took Pete a half hour to zone in on what he wanted (or, more accurately, what I had already picked out for him that was within our limited budget), an Imaginext sky racer plane that was 90 Brazilian reais or approximately 45 U.S. dollars. The same plane retails on Amazon for $11.99.

But my son was in pain. His heart was hurting. He had acted all day like he’d been dumped by his girlfriend. Drastic measures were in order to avoid the heartache of the previous night. You couldn’t put a price on this plane, reais or otherwise.

After a special dinner for Peter at our favorite burger ‘n’ shakes restaurant, we went home, guarded against the prospect of another night filled with heart-wrenching tears. I had spent my free moments earlier in the day Googling “giving up pacifier cold turkey”, to get an idea of how many days of this we would have to endure. I stumbled upon parenting websites where clever moms proudly blogged about the various tricks they’d employed to rid their children of pacifiers. Mothers who sabotaged their children’s pacifiers by snipping the tips off of them so as to eliminate the resistance seemed deceitful. It seemed overtly cruel—regardless of how effective it might have been—to do on purpose to a pacifier what Sam had done by accident. Mothers who took their children to Build-A-Bear and had the pacifiers sewn inside a stuffed animal seemed naïve. Pete was way too smart to fall for that. He would’ve taken a kitchen knife to the chest of that stuffed animal and carved the pacifier right out of its cotton stuffing heart.  Interestingly, no one had thrown the pacifier over the edge of a waterfall.

Later, when sharing these vignettes with Elise, I optimistically (though, perhaps, a little cynically) commented that I had read only success stories. All the children on parenting blogs gave up there pacifiers….eventually. Or, no one was going to go on the internet and blog that after 10 days of screaming and crying, they finally caved, rushed to the drug store and bought a trove of new pacifiers. It either didn’t happen, or it happened all the time and all the failed mothers and fathers in the world were too ashamed to admit it in online public fora.

We came home. Did face-bath, hand-bath, foot-bath (a blog post in its own right) and slipped on pjs. We brushed teeth. I read Sam a chapter out of a Magic Treehouse book while Pete played with his new plane on Sam’s bed. The whole time, Elise and I waited for the other shoe to drop. The whole time, I kept waiting for Peter to ask, “Where’s pacey?”

I closed the book and put Sam in his bed. I asked Pete if he wanted to sit with me. He pointed to his bed. He wanted to lie down. I picked him up and put him in his crib. I gave him his plane and a book on planes (for good measure). A few moments later, he pitched them both on the floor. Elise came in a rubbed his back a few times. He might have said something then about pacey. I’m not sure as I fled the room shortly thereafter, hoping to escape what I was sure was still coming. Elise told him good night and left the room. A few minutes later, he was asleep.

The next morning at the breakfast table—airplane in tow—Pete announced, “Me throw pacey in waterfall, get a new toy, bigger boy!”

I smiled at Elise. Textbook.

I don’t want to jinx us. Day 2 is shaping up to be exponentially better than Day 1, but we may not be entirely out of the woods yet. I still have to wait tosee if I get my chance to brag on a parenting advice website.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Something to Hold On To

Needless to say, the last twenty-four hours have not been fun for anyone, least of all, Petey.

Elise and I took turns comforting Peter has he tried to fall asleep without his pacey. Elise stroked his back and hair as he lay in his bed.  She told me later that he looked up at her in the darkness and whispered, “Pacey gone forever?”

A few minutes later, I took over. Letting him sit in my lap, I held him until he fell asleep. Maybe he was just exchanging one vice for another. But what else is a parent supposed to do but comfort their child when they are in pain? I told myself, one night, a trend does not make. I knew I would not have to hold him to put him to sleep every night, but tonight it felt like the right thing to do. I told myself I would worry about tomorrow night tomorrow night.

He gripped his blankie, all that he had left, to him, burrowing his face in it. His mouth worked against something that had been there for the better part of two and half years and was now….gone. He smacked his lips together as though trying to work peanut butter off the roof of his mouth. He just didn’t know what to do with his mouth. It made my heart crack.

At 3:00 a.m. Clementine woke up to eat. She had a hard time falling back to sleep so I held her, too, until she drifted off, then lay her gently back into her crib. I turned the monitor off in our room and closed the door, hoping for quiet, but if there was none, at least Elise could sleep.

At 4:30 Peter woke, crying, begging for pacey. I couldn’t get him to go back to sleep. Afraid he would wake Clementine, I pulled him out of bed and let him lie with me on the bed in the guest room. I tucked him next to me, his body touching mine in at least three places, knees, elbows and head, possibly more. His eyes were wider in the dark than they were in the daylight. He chewed on blankie. This was novelty. I had never lied with Peter to fall asleep. He had always been the champion sleeper. It was Sam that we had had to coax, lie with, cajole back to sleep. Pete had always just rolled over and was out. Plus, he slept in his crib, so it had always been impossible for me to lie down beside him as I had so often done with Sam in his bed, my legs hanging off the end of his toddler-sized frame. So, it was actually kind of….nice…to have a slumber party with Peter.

Until Clementine started coughing. “Clementine awake,” Pete whispered.

“You wait here,” I told Pete, then got up to see if I could nimbly reinsert Clementine’s pacey and will her back to sleep.

No such luck. She had fallen asleep at 6:30 last night. It was now almost 5. She squirmed in her crib, glanced up at me and cooed. She was up for good.

And, of course, Pete didn’t wait there like I had told him to do. Rather, he had followed me into her room. Knowing Pete would have to go back to sleep lest he terrorize the whole house during his waking hours, I put him in bed with Elise. This is the first mistake I made, because evidently he never went back to sleep, just kept nagging her for chocolate chip pancakes.

The second mistake I made was letting all this happen on a Monday morning, when I didn’t have to suffer through the hellish product of my own incompetencies. Instead, I shuffled off to work, not knowing what else to do, leaving Elise to piece back together the damage I wrought. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Long Goodbye

Elise and I had decided the time had come. It wasn't like he really needed it anymore. And we both felt it had become more of a crutch than comfort...Though he whined for it all day long, he seemed happier without than with it. Without it he was a bright, caring, articulate, well-mannered, well-spoken young boy. With it he was a whiny little bitch. There was really no doubt we were doing him a favor. The question, of course, was how were we going to get rid of it.

The 'it' in question? Pacey.

The time comes in a young boy's life when he just has to let go. That time came for Peter recently, when he was able to ask for it by it's full name, 'Pacey-Fire'. Just like that. Two words.

In reality, this had been a long time coming. Sam had given up his pacey just as he turned two, right when Pete was born. He had been chewing on them and eventually he chewed holes in all of his pacies and just didn't like them anymore. I naturally assumed Pete would do the same thing. Boy, was I wrong. Pete wasn't going to give up on it that easily. He was going to need some help. We tried weening him from it, restricting pacey to the car and bed. But that didn't work. He whined for it relentlessly all day until we caved to two minute intervals. Our tolerance had been weakened by the arrival of a real baby, Clementine, and lack of sleep, and gradually pacey began to infiltrate more of the waking hours of the day. Pete was going to have to go cold turkey.

I don't mean to sound cruel. This was as hard for me as it was for him. He was getting bigger. When I told Pete he was going to be giving pacey up soon, forever, I got emotional. This was a big deal. No one knew that more than I. I could easily put myself in his place. Having something that brought him so much comfort taken from him wasn't going to be easy. We don't know yet how hard...or easy...it will be.

This was to be a monumental right of passage. And so it was.

I had heard somewhere--I don't have a lot of inate parenting wisdom, but a few kernals do seem to pop into my head every now and then--that you had to make a big deal of it. So, we did. I think it was my aunt who had told us that when my cousin Andrew was ready to give up his pacey they went and hung the pacey on the pacey-tree where the pacey-fairie would come and pick it up and pass it on to the next baby that needed it. So, I came up with a similar parable. Pete would throw his pacey over a waterfall (we are in Brazil after all). The pacey would float down the river to a new baby who needed his pacey.

Now, all we needed was a waterfall.

Enter, Salto do Tororó.

Again, fortunately, we live in Brazil and waterfalls are easy to come by. We drove about a 1/2 hour outside of town to a waterfall we had never been to before. It wasn't on any map and the directions I was able to get off the internet (in Portuguese) were vague to say the least. We were to drove down DF-140 for about 6 kilometers until we got a bend in the highway, then we would turn right onto a dirt road. Easy enough, I thought.

I warned Elise that I had no idea where I was going or how difficult the trail would be once we got there. But we were badly in need of adventure after being sick for the past two months (literally), a preposterous malady that went through all five of us two and a half times, finally culminating in a day when I literally slept 6 hours, which is not easy to do with 3 kids unless you have the most amazing wife in the world (thank you thank you thank you, Elise).

We drove down DF-140 until we got to the border of the Federal District and the state of Goiás and a small town called Alphaville, a residental suburb out in the middle of nowhere. We had obviously passed the waterfall, so we turned around and pulled into a gas station where I asked for directions. Somehow, we had passed it again coming back the other way. So much for my thinking there might be a sign off the highway telling us which random, nondescript red earthen dirt road we were supposed to bounce down.

We had to stop for directions two more times before finally finding the right dirt road. Of course, we knew it was the right one, because it was the bumpiest and we followed two mountain bikers down it because somehow I was sure they knew where they were going.

We pulled into a small grass lot. Finally seeing the small plaquinha that read, 'Cachoeira'. As me and my two boys tumbled out of the car. Two other couples who had followed us in kindly offered to help us down the trail. I told them we'd be fine and that, in fact, there was a third baby that we were going to have to somehow get down the trail, too. No, we'd be fine, I thought, as I waved them off.

Like I said, I had no idea how long or technical the trail to the waterfall. We put Pete in the backpack and Clem in the baby bjorn. Sam, our hiker, would blaze the trail, and off we went.

We hiked, scrambling over rocks and down stone steps. Sam was a trooper. The trail descended into a broad valley that was greener than the surrounding landscape, parched as it was from the lack of rain; It was still the dry season. We stepped down into brush, and the trees grew thicker. We finally heard the rush of water. We came upon a narrow stream, and a bridge that was nothing more than three logs across it, with a tangle of wire for a hand rail.

We paused. I had no idea how we were going to get our three kids across it. A family caught up to us from behind. Six or seven strong, between the lot of them, they were carrying all the fixings for a churrasco, charcoal, a grill, a cooler, beer, etc. One by one they crossed the logs. It was like something out of Indiana Jones. Okay, if they can do it, I thought, we can do it. Elise went first, camera in tow, Clem strapped to her chest. I went next, fully planning to leave Pete on the other side and come back for Sam. But before I could, three shirtless brasileiros came bounding down the path. Without barely a pause, the burliest of the three, scooped Sam up and easily carried him across the stream. We'd made it! "How are we going to get back across?" Sam asked. I told him we'd worry about that later.

We continued down the path, loosely following the stream, until we came to the top of the waterfall. There were three guys wearing bicycle helmets standing on the edge of the waterfall. They were strapped into caribiners and had every intention of rappeling down the face of the waterfall. Awesome! I thought. I wanted to get their card or their number, but Elise had other intentions. Like not seeing her husband plummet to his demise, so we carried on.

Unfortunately, we never made it to the bottom of the waterfall. The path was too steep. We had made the right decision. As it was, Sam barely made it back to the car after his 2 km plus hike on undulating terrain in the hot mid-day Brazilian sun. We found a shady spot on the bank of the stream and stopped for water, bananas and pretzels. Sam and Pete took their shoes off and threw bits of pretzel in the water, watching the fish jump and nibble at them.

After a few minutes, I pulled Pete's pacey out of my pocket. I looked at Elise. With my eyes I asked, do we do this?

"We both have to agree," she replied.

"If we don't do it now, we won't do it until after your parents come," I cautioned.

Elise spoke up, "Pete....

"The time has come. It's time to say goodbye to pacey and give pacey to a new baby that needs it, okay?"

Pete's pitching arm was warmed up from feeding pretzel sticks to imaginary piranha, so he barely hesitated when I handed over pacey. I knelt down. I wanted him to appreciate the gravity, the finality of the situation. Pacey would be gone forever.

Elise offered him one final suck, but he didn't take it. He held the pacey high over his head. The sun filtered down through the jungle trees. The stream babbled in front of us, running over rocks for the precipice ahead, the water, and everything in it, racing for the edge like so many lemmings. He threw it.

Pacey sailed through the air and landed with a plop in the stream. It floated. We all waved. Then it got caught in an eddy and started floating back toward us. It was as if it didn't want to leave. It curled back toward the bank before it was caught in the downflow. It bobbed in the foam, banked back toward us, disappeared behind a rock, before finally floating downstream. Once the downflow caught it, it raced away.

"Bye, Pacey," Pete called after it, waving "Bye, Pacey."

Pacey disappeared beyond a crook in the stream. We knew it went over the waterfall, even if we didn't see it.

Then, Pete tried to go in after it. I held his arm and pulled him back up onto the rocks. We packed up our things, put our shoes and socks back on and started the long, hot trek back to the car.

Once there, we all piled in. In his car seat, with his blankie....now, only his blankie....Pete cried, "I want pacey back! I want pacey back!"

He cried and screamed on the way home. Elise and I questioned if we had done the right thing. This would either go down in history as the most brilliant parenting move, or we had just scarred him for life. The jury is still out. He cried until he passed out.

When we got home, Elise sat and held him until he fell asleep. This will be hard on all of us. No one more so than Peter, but never let it be said that it is easy for parents to watch their kids get older. Because no matter what happens from today forward, one things remains unmistakable.

Pete is a big boy now.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bounce House Attendant

Sam is on winter (summer?) break for 3 weeks so we rented a bounce house for him and Petey and a few friends for no reason.

The bounce house attendant:

She is awesome. She only wakes up when she sense personal injury is imminent.

Here, she moved. The kids were keeping her up. Yes, that's Peter. He is roaring at her while sheis trying to sleep.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sam on God

"Well, he doesn't wear shoes...because he lives on a cloud."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

She Laughs...

but of course she does, she oozes sunshine and beauty and happiness. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

What a difference a year makes: Festa Junina

More on the festa later, including video of the sweetest Gaucho dancing you've ever seen, until then, my heart(s):

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Because nothing brings a family together on a Sunday morning like brewing a batch of red ale. This is our first batch, a test batch, which yielded 16 bottles. I'll let you know in 4 - 5 weeks if we turned out a nectar of the gods or something that tastes like it was mixed in a bucket by a bunch of toddlers in their pajamas. 

First came the necessary evil of washing and sterilizing the bottles. This is where Sam came in especially handy. I'd be lying if I didn't feel a little like Tom Sawyer painting the fence, "C'mon, Sam, you want to wash 30 stinky beer bottles. Look how much fun it is!" 

Here is the unfiltered brew. Notice the beer sludge on the sides of the bucket. Don't worry. Much care was taken to ensure no sludge made it into the final product. 

Pete inspecting the brew...

Evidently, he did not read the warning label...

In order to keep the sludge out of the bottles, the brew is siphoned from the fermenting bucket to the bottling bucket. Hmmm...the beer doesn't appear to be siphoning very well, guys.......

Blek! That's better. Nothing like a mouthful of warm beer sludge at 9:30 in the morning.

Pete was the official bottle cap counter guy.

And Sam held the bottles while Dad bottlecapped. Go Team Hanna! Too bad they won't get to enjoy the fruits of their labors.