Baby

Rebirth of UR MOVING WHERE!

The decision has been made. The commitment is real. We're back and blogging again about our lives in South America! Check out this short video about our plans: httpvh://youtu.be/YrX5ahqHKTc

We're in Cordoba, Argentina and absolutely love it here. In the coming weeks and months, we'll tell you about:

  • Renting a house as foreigners
  • Banking and exchange rates- some great tricks
  • Travel with kids
  • Location Independent lifestyle/Location Independent Parenting
  • Renting a car (or "You Better Be Able To Drive A Stick")
  • Places to visit in and around Cordoba Capital
  • The Medical System and Health Insurance
  • Looking back at our time in Montevideo, Uruguay and Bariloche, Argentina

Thanks for following our adventures and we look forward to hearing from you!

Toddler Equipment

We have found that with baby stuff, having the proper equipment is essential, especially when traveling.  We wrote about our BabyEssentials list previously, but we have some revised observations now that we're past the baby stage and have a very tall 2-year-old. Since we don't have a car, we walk a minimum of 5 miles per day and about half of that with the stroller.  Our small umbrella stroller, which we loved, broke just before we left for the USA in December, so we brought another one here that we had in storage. Unfortunately with our daughter at the upper weight limit of this new stroller stroller, it is impossible to navigate these treacherous sidewalks and our daily travels are a pain, not to mention increasingly dangerous as the wheels like to get stuck.  Thankfully, we've found a great alternative and we've picked up a Mountain Buggy Urban Stroller holds kids up to 70 lbs (I will need serious help if I am trying to push a kid that big, bit it's great for our 33 pound/15 kg 2 year old!). I am so excited!

One thing that we planned for perfectly is a car seat (~that unfortunately doesn't get much use here). When our daughter grew out of her sweet little baby seat at 9 months, we graduated directly to the Sunshine Kids Radian80 Convertible Car Seat which is FAA approved for airline use, the only foldable car seat, and the only one with a steel (rather than plastic) frame. This amazing seat fits kids up to 80 lbs.  No need for a larger seat or a booster, which new studies are finding are not much help in a crash anyway.

Yes, we bring this car seat through airports and on the plane with us. It's heavy, but it makes for a well-behaved kid in her own, familiar seat.  When not in use, we fold it and store it in a suitcase.  Can't do that with any other car seat!

Surprising as it may seem, the Radian 80 also fit rear-facing into the back seat of our Mini Cooper when we were living in the USA.  I wasn't sure that the combination of a tall car seat and a small car would work, but it did and at 5'-10" tall,  I could still squeeze into the front passenger seat.

We learned our lesson with the stroller.  Montevideo sidewalks are a beast to navigate and very hard on strollers. Our first stroller had a good run of 9 hard months here.  Kids equipment to purchase new in Montevideo is expensive and many times not the best quality. Plan ahead and purchase in advance (before you get to MVD) when looking for the big items necessary to travel with babies, toddlers and even older kids.

 

Géant

We'd been hearing about this superstore in Uruguay called Géant Hipermercado (pronounced sheee-awnt, we believe), which was located just past the Carrasco area and wanted to check it out.  Géant was described to us as a something like Super Target or Walmart. There is only one location in Uruguay and because of the distance from our home in Pocitos, it was a whole afternoon event.

Geant outside

The DM1 bus run by Cutsca is the easiest and least expensive way to get to Géant. There is a full schedule available online. This bus stops at all the major malls: Punta Carretas, Montevideo Shopping, Portones, then Géant and finally out to Zona América (the tax-free business zone outside of the city).  There are a few stops in between all the malls and we caught it on the corner of Ellauri and 21 de Setiembre, right outside of McDonalds.  It is 24 pesos per adult and the bus was a comfortable coach-type with large reclining seats. With the limited stops, it took about a half an hour to get to Géant and it was fun to see parts of the city without having to drive ourselves.  The bus stops are very fast, so you need to be standing and prepared to exit the bus from the back when it stops.

Géant was a whole different world than what we've seen in the small grocery stores or malls around Pocitos/PuntaCarretas.  Géant was the anchor in a huge complex with a mall and casino around it.  The bus lets you off across the street, but it's only a short walk through the parking lot to the main doors.

Géant is owned by the Disco chain of stores (using the same 'Más' loyalty card) and it has many of the same items.  The store is huge, with 64 check out lanes and more selection than we've seen before in Uruguay, in nearly every category. There are appliances, home electronics, full grocery store, clothing, toys, housewares, books and some furniture.  We also noticed some larger "bulk" sizes in the food and toiletry areas.

Geant-inside

The selection of baby and child items here was better than I have seen at any one store before: clothes, diapers, carseats, highchairs, baby proofing items, diapers and tons of toys. Prices for these items still weren't cheap by any means (Geneva's 48 pack of XG Babysec diapers were 312 pesos and a pair of toddler fleece pants were 299 pesos) but the selection was good.

Do not walk into Géant expecting North American quality products though.  There is a different standard of quality in Uruguay.  Many items are made in China and are just different than what we have learned to expect.  I know that Uruguayos don't like these cheap products either, but it's all that's available.  I never thought I would miss my neighborhood Target store!

We walked out of there with a few random items that caught our eye, but nothing big. We stopped for a moment at the food court to grab a snack and off across the parking lot to the bus stop again.  You can bring your cart right up to the bus stop if needed. The DM1 bus took us back to our stop at Ellauri and 21 de Setiembre for another 24 pesos per adult and we had a short walk back to our house.

Géant also delivers for those living in Carrasco, Punta Gorda and surrounding areas. See their site for more details.

Hipermercado Géant

Av. Ing. Giannattasio y Av. A la Playa Tel.: 601 53 53

Hours 8:30 AM-10 PM everyday

Jardín Caminito- A Perfect Choice for Us

We love the jardín that Geneva attends.  Thank you a million times over to Suki for recommending it. There are so many things that I appreciate about Jardín Caminito: the atmosphere is extremely warm and open, the play is creative and inventive, family events are fun and frequent. The thing that I love most about Caminito, though, is the quality and quantity of communication between the jardín and the parents.

Caminito class

Information to the parents is spread quickly and readily via email, printed and handwritten notes.  We receive email messages frequently with news about meetings or recent happenings in the jardín. Even with Geneva's day-to-day activities, the communication has been incredible.  When we first started attending Jardín Caminito, we received three "books" that had been created for her:

  • One small book to travel back and forth that contains daily handwritten communication and questions.
  • One large book that mainly lives at Caminito but travels back and forth as well.  This binder contains printed song lyrics and other printed communication regarding materials that they need or specific activities that they are working on.
  • One large book lives at home where we can collect all of her artwork in a binder format.

All the parents of Jardín Caminito have access to an online photo album that is updated every month. Last week we received a CD of songs that they sing in Geneva's class, along with lyrics. There is even a rotating library of children's books and we receive a new book to borrow each weekend.  It is so much fun to read these sweet kids books in Spanish and it's as much of an education for us as it is for Geneva.

Last week Brad and I attended the "Reunión de Padres sala 1".  Nearly all of the parents of the year 1 class attended, along with the administrators and all the teachers (not just our grade).  We learned in detail what they are working on in the year 1 class and there was a forum where parents could ask questions about both the jardín and the children. The instructors knew that the spoken information in Spanish was fast and we may not understand all of it, so we were given a printed copy of the main curriculum discussion to read.  We also wrote private letters to our children as if they were reading them when they are 20 years old.  There were few dry eyes in the building after that exercise.

A few of the parents and instructors at the Jardín speak English and they are all very concerned that we understand all of the information and our questions answered.  I cannot express how wonderful this is when we do have questions. Although 95% of our communication with the jardín is in Spanish, it is great to know that we have people to turn to if we need clarification.

Several times both that night and previously, Brad and I have commented to each other  how we wouldn't get this level of hands-on attention in the USA. To the best of our knowledge, most US daycares do not have 2.5 hour long meetings like this to discuss our kids, their growth and progress.  Our daughter would not get kisses from all of the teachers and many of the kids, as we are walking into and out of the school each day. (So she get's a few extra colds along the way, you take the good with the bad!) She would not have an opportunity to go to a farm once a month in the USA, or have "classmates" that she could potentially stay with throughout her preschool years.

geneva-face-painting

Geneva frequently comes home with evidence of face painting or coloring.  They sing songs with various musicians coming to visit and they learn about  the world around them through daily exploration activities.  It seems that she loves the other kids as much as the activities and her teachers say that Geneva's comprehension of Spanish is great.  We are excited that she has an opportunity to be immersed in the Uruguayan culture and language for 20 hours a week and that she is thriving here.

Brad and I are making many new friends and receiving an education of our own through this experience. With all of the meetings and correspondence in Spanish, our comprehension is improving and we're learning much through the process of becoming integrated in a new culture.

Brad is attending a "Dia del Padre" this afternoon with Geneva at Caminito and I can't wait to hear all about it.  :)

More in the Daycare Story :)

Sorry for those of you who don't have kids and don't care about our daycare story.  I know there are others that want the latest on our meeting today with Caminito. Brad and I walked to Caminito today at about 2:00.  The afternoon session had just started and Gabrilela was leaving.  Jimena gave us a quick tour and asked if we could come back this evening when they would both be available to talk. We took a cab back at 6:30 and were there for a little over a half hour. They told us they are in the process of restructuring, cutting out the morning session (I believe the teacher for this session is leaving) and possibly adding another afternoon session for the 1-2 year olds. To do that though, they need to find a new instructor.

Long story short:  We'd love to start there ASAP but we don't have a spot until they get it all figured out. They said that they'd get back to us within a week and maybe we can start in two weeks.  We walked out with all the paperwork and fingers crossed that we'll be able to get in soon.

It could be a lot worse, like some daycare centers in the US where you are on a many-month waiting list for a spot to open up.  We'll just see how it goes!

Daycare Options

After much consideration and weighing the pros and cons, we have decided that we want Geneva in professional care outside the home instead of having a nanny.  The advantages of a licensed caregiver, socialization, language skills and a stimulating environment won for us.

We checked out two Daycare/Early Learning centers today and were quite impressed.  "Snoopy" (I doubt the name and likeness is licensed) came highly recommended by several people and "Humanitos" (Little Humans) was nearby and we wanted to check it out.  Both have highly trained personnel, great facilities indoor and outdoor play areas, and excellent pricing compared to what we are accustomed.

The rate for 4 hours per day, 5 days a week (80 hours per month) was between $110-150 per month.  There are a few additional costs for materials and special activities, but considering we were paying over $800 per month for two full days per week (64 hours per month) of  in-home care in MN, this is an incredible savings.

The two schools have a very similar format in that there are two sessions per day. Morning is from 8:30-12:30 and afternoon is 1:30-5:30.  You could opt to attend both sessions, but the above pricing is for one session only.

Snoopy has been around for 30 years, and has this location and another one named Goody across town. It is a very popular program and as a result, very busy. The building is a renovated home (as is Humanitos) and was absolutely bustling with activity. I was amazed with how many instructors there were floating around.  They also had an indoor "gym" (possibly a renovated sunroom?) which was nice and bright in the back of the building in case it was wet outside, like today.

Humanitos has been in existence for 15 years and was MUCH more calm, but with smaller facilities and fewer kids in each age group.  Very professionally run, the staff was extremely warm and friendly for our drop-in visit. I loved their indoor play area as well,  it was just within the interior of the building.  Both buildings looked very safe with the proper child-proofing measures in place.

The integration process is incredible at both locations.  It can take up to a week where you bring the child in for an hour (with parent present) and stay so that they can get accustomed to the new environment, knowing that you are there.  The next day, you stay for a little longer.  It will probably help the parents as well as the kids, although I think Geneva will start playing and think "Bye Mom, this place is GREAT!"

One thing that I was not wild about at first glance was the teacher-to-child ratio for the schools.  At Geneva's age group (she is almost 17 months), it is 1/6 at Humanitos and a possible 1/7 at Snoopy (but 1/6 with current enrollment). For toddlers, this seems like an awful lot of kids to one teacher, in my opinion.  I looked up the MN childcare standards though, and much to my surprise, 1/7 is the limit for toddler care in daycare facilities back home.

I do have to mention the cutest thing in the world:  The kids at both locations wear these sweet little "túnica" (smocks).  They are just so sweet when you have a room full of little kids together wearing all of the same smocks.  Can I get an "Aaawwwwwwwwww!"?

I have a referral from an Expat to one other center which I am definitely going to check out as well.  I don't know the exact location or format of the third center but I will add an update when I receive more info.

Posts to Come

We have a few projects in the works and wanted to let everyone know what will be coming in the next week, in no particular order:          X  Expat Travel Technology Series, Part 2: "How do I get my mail?"  Brad's weekly update on our tech tools.

        X  Setting up Daycare:  Two places that we've looked at, including our thoughts and prices for 5 half days per week in the post "Daycare Options"

        X  "Furnished or Unfurnished?" and why we chose what we did for our new home.

        X  Creepy Crawlies: Post took the form of “It’s The Little Differences"  to discuss lots of small things that are different in UY from those which we are accustomed.

  1. Firing up the Parilla: Our first attempt at an pseudo-Uruguayan Asado (pseudo because it was vegetariano)
  2. Photo/Video gallery via SmugMug

If there is anything you absolutely cannot wait to see, please send us a note.  We can pull some strings.

We will be updating this list to link to the topics after they are posted. 

Not All Is Rosy

Today I hit the wall. Not literally of course, but I hit the "I'm freaking-out-could-this-be-culture-shock" wall. I think it was more just general stress with lots of weird things compounding.  There were lots of tears involved, but fortunately a very supportive husband who along with Baby G gave me some much needed hugs.  Sorry for another list.  We've has a bunch lately--- 

1.) Pablo is sick. I'm not going into the details but it has to deal with his bowels and said evacuation. We thought it may have just been a stress related issue for him, coming to yet another new environment, but since it continued through the weekend, we have to call the vet. So, sick dog. Gross. Lots of cleanup involved. Plus, dog who loves people and toddler who loves dogs are hard to keep apart.

2.) VERY willful toddler. That goes without saying, I guess. She's our first, though, so we've just never been in this stage before. She is testing us like crazy and is still not extremely stable on her feet. A tall baby with a big Dutch head is just asking for trouble! It is taking constant vigilance to keep her safe. (Thanks Paul, you warned us!!) Not much unpacking, cleaning or cooking is being done. Email and blog posts are happening only during naptimes and after bedtime. I am full-time mommy, which I have never been before.

3.) Child safety standards are different here (I knew this before we arrived) and while I want to bring Geneva to the parks to blow off some steam, they scare the bejeebers out of me. Baby swingThink wooden baby swings with no crotch rail that are 4.5' off the pavers/concrete slab below. Or slides that have a small patch of sand at the bottom with a ring of bricks to keep the sand in. I envision kids cracking their head open at every turn. It is not unlike the types of playgrounds Brad and I remember from our childhood. My mommy instinct to keep my child free from harm is in overdrive. Thank god that Brad reminded me the life expectancy here is the same as the US. I was wondering how anyone made it to age 10.

4.) After the first two days of no water in the house at all, we now have water seeping from both sides of the plumbing wall, into the kitchen cabinets and the bathroom. We saw the water in the bathroom late last week and didn't think too much of it ("Hey, maybe I left the shower door open a crack."). But the water kept coming back at random times, from the area between the floor and baseboard. We couldn't figure out what was causing it. We reported a small amount of water to our rental agent on Thursday via email, then called on Friday to follow up. Within minutes, the owners agent called us and told us that a plumber would be here on Monday. Cool. We could deal with that. Late Sunday night though, I walked into the kitchen at about 1:30 AM to find water dripping from the front edge of a base cabinet (from the wood above the toe kick) and the musty smell that I originally detected was overpowering. The sink pipes were fine. This water must be coming from the wall.

Everything I know about construction says this is no good at all and we could have a serious mold issue. But wait, this is poured concrete/block construction with plaster. There is no wood framing, no sheetrock and no insulation for mold to feed on. The only "food" for mold here is the cabinetry. It seems like there must have been water before to cause the original musty smell that I noticed upon move in. I shot short videos of the water and Brad got a hold of the rental agents this morning. A plumber was over at noon and checked all of the exposed pipes and then turned everything off and checked the water meter out front.  No movement at all, so no internal leaks. Then he turned on the spigot to a drip, the meter started spinning. He said that our water issue is actually from the building next door and not coming from our wall. He confirmed that this building has had a problem with the adjacent building's water once before.  No more update as of yet as to the solution but the cabinets are still wet and the smell is horrible, so we are staying out of the kitchen until we have this resolved.

We're pushing for new base cabinets and a full clean-up of that wall. We'll keep you updated on the progress of that. We knew not everything was going to be rosy in paradise, but the last few days have been stressful indeed.

Thankfully the vet is two blocks away and is coming over tomorrow. One issue down. Yippee for small victories!!

Chivito

So tonight I just had to go out.  We went for a short walk, then enjoyed an early dinner. I had a crazy-big Chivito and a glass of wine to decompress at "Chivitos Marcos" (Corner of Louis de La Torre and Sarmiento). While the photo is not my exact sandwich, it is close, except mine was goopier and included pickle and hot pepper and was without fries. It was excellent and I will definitely be back again. Nothing like comfort food after a rough day!

The Baby List

Geneva in the toy bin

We have been recently corresponding with a couple who will be moving to MVD shortly with their daughter. They've asked great questions about traveling abroad with a baby and what to bring, and we've responded with our experiences thus far.  Another couple with a little girl just commented on this blog yesterday (what's with all the baby girls? They're the best, I know. But baby boys are portable too!) and I thought this would be a great time to publish our very extensive baby packing list.  

Whether you're moving to Uruguay, the UK, Australia or UAE (or wherever in the world your journeys take you) this list should help to plan out your move with a child.  Appropriate for birth to 2+ with some minor modifications, this is what happened to make the journey with us. 

I had been planning this packing list since shortly after Little G's birth.  We visited MVD to scope things out in March 2008, when Geneva was 3 months old) so I could really get a feel for what is available here and what is not. After talking to people here last year, I found that baby stuff in particular is not the quality that we are accustomed to in the US.  I wanted to bring as many things as I could that were portable, good quality and will grow with the baby.  I also brought a bunch of small stuff that I knew I could probably get here, but didn't want to worry about going out and finding it right away. I regret absolutely nothing in this list. Here goes:

  • Tripp Trapp® from STOKKE® Highchair with baby rail and cushion. Packs flat.  You can adjust the seat/foot rest to grow with the child and eventually become a standard chair that holds up to 300 lbs. Is a great design and we'll use it forever.  We have a 2008 model in red with the white baby rail and art stripe cushion.  The 2009  models are changed slightly so be sure the chair and accessories work together. 
  • Sunshine Kids New Radian 80 Convertible Car Seat   The only car seat that has a metal frame, FOLDS flat for storage/transit (great for getting through airports and into airplane seats) and fits up to an 80 lb kid. No booster seats here! This will be the only seat we'll ever need.
  • BabyBjörn Travel Crib Light I mentioned this one in a previous post and it really has been incredible. Set up takes about 30 seconds and pack up takes about a minute. Weighs a mere 11 lbs and comes with a sturdy bag that can be airport checked, or packed in a suitcase. Geneva loves the thing and we are still using it.  I wanted to get a "real" crib when we got settled down here but I am starting to reconsider if we really should get anything else.
  • Two mattress pads and few crib sheets including two jersey sheets that work well for the travel crib.  I didn't buy the baby Bjorn sheets because I just couldn't justify $30 each...
  • Clothes: 18 month summer and 24 month in both summer and winter- I get everything in lots off of craigslist and have the next two sizes boxed and ready to ship here if needed. 
  • All the sippys, plates, silverware to get her through the next year.
  • Cloth diapers- several different varieties including All-in-One's (AIO's), prefolds, fitteds, PUL covers and wool covers. See note below about diapers.
  • 4 packs disposable diapers Nature Babycare Eco-Friendly Diapers and several packs of wipes to get through the first few weeks
  • Chicco C6 Stroller Comes with a storage bag and shoulder strap.  Great for checking it at the airport.  We left our larger stroller behind and brought this one to MVD both times.  Was great when G was 3 months old and still great now with that she's 16 months old.  
  • California Baby Super Sensitive Shampoo and Body Wash I brought two 8.5 oz bottles and wish I had more because I use it as a face cleanser, too. I like this because it is unscented, biodegradable and tear free. 
  • Baby proofing stuff for cabinets and door knobs- A big help in the hotel rooms, too. 
  • Baby toys, books (English and Spanish), etc. Another post to come of some specific toys as well as the items I brought with us on the long plane ride here!  3 flights and almost 24 hours of travel,  I  had to have a few tricks up my sleeve!! 
  • Geneva in the tubSafety 1st Kirby Inflatable Tub Lots of hotel rooms and houses here only have showers (but they do have hand-showers).  I received the tip to bring an inflatable tub when we visited a family here from Canada.  It's been wonderful.
  • Clock Radio with white noise feature- We used this in MN and its been nice here to block out noises and create a great sleep environment for Geneva. We need to use it with a transformer since it is from the USA, but it's what she's used to, so we packed it up with everything else. 
  • Closetmaid 2 Pack Fabric Drawers Blue Cloth storage bins that fold flat.  I had used this style for my socks/tank tops, etc before baby and ended up getting two for Brad in blue and several for Geneva in a deep pink color.  They're great for toys, books and clothes (or the baby, as pictured at the top of this post) and once again, packs flat for transit. 
  • Small photos and momentos from home to keep a similar look to the room that she is used to
  • Several blankets including a few that were mine when I was a baby
  • Big Kids' Halo SleepSack - Pink This is the walker version with holes for little feet, rather than just the sack for infants. It will be great for cool nights where blankets get frequently kicket off.  I got the 2-3T size and it is huge on our tall girl.  Something to grow into!
  • Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 (Black) and Vision Pro for Mac Webcams are a must to stay in contact with the grandparents and other family back home via Skype.  We purchased one for us and 4 to give as Christmas presents this past year.  The reviews for this camera are outstanding and we have had the best experience with this after returning a previous webcam and giving others grief after also purchasing another brand of webcam.  This is the best!
  • There are also several other items that I will include in the next packing/toys post
Note on diapers: 
Disposable diapers here kinda suck. We've heard that from others here and discovered it ourselves. I actually know of one family that bought most of their disposables from Argentina.  We used a combination of cloth diapers and Naturebaby Care biodegradable disposables in the US.  I brought 4 packs of disposables here and all of the cloth diapers that we had been using.  We've tried a few brands of disposables here and the absorbency just isn't the same and one brand seems to be a very slim fit which has leaked badly for us. Sounds weird, but I can't wait to get some decent laundry detergent so I can start cloth diapering again. 
Thinks that I wish I could find here: 
  • Cheerios for the baby (or an organic/natural equivalent) - there is nothing similar down here except for sticky honey covered stuff. 
  • Unscented/natural laundry detergent- I'm sure we'll find it, but we haven't yet.  Everything readily available is scented
  • More California Baby shampoo/bodywash.  See note above.
  • More suppy cups.  Baby chompers are sharp and like to chew...

If you have traveled or moved abroad with young babies/toddlers, we'd love to hear your ideas and what has worked for you.  If we become friends via the blog and you're coming in this direction, be warned. We just bay ask you to bring something from our wish list!

* Note: All of the links above are Amazon because in preparing for this move, we hopped on Amazon all the time when there was something that we needed. We heart Amazon and are "Prime" members so we got free shipping in 2 days on most items.  Plus, there are reviews of all the products so you know what you are getting.  Brad had a good time practicing his HTML skills placing code for all of those links!

"Mi Amor"

Our Daughter is being exposed to so much Spanish love and affection by people that you would never anticipate in the USA.... EVERYONE!!!   Waiters and waitresses, delivery people and perfect strangers on the street coo and wave and talk to her like she's their own daughter or granddaughter.  It's amazing.  We encountered the same thing when we were here last year, but I figured it was because she was

The Late Dinner Hour

We're having an issue with dinner hour.  People here seem to work late, then have a snack or "Te completa" (coffee/tea, light sandwiches and pastries) at about 6:00, then eat dinner at about 9:00 or later.  Most restaurants don't open until 8 PM and don't serve their complete menu until 9 PM.  How do people do it with kids?  When we were in our home routine in MN, Our daughter