Safety

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.

 

Why Uruguay?

While planning the move and telling everyone about it, the first question, as the blog name suggests was "You're moving WHERE??!?!?", which was quickly followed by "Why Uruguay?" For us, this answer was clear after a long list of considerations.  We wanted:

  • High standard of living
  • Relatively low cost of living
  • Similar time zone to the USA
  • Spanish speaking
  • Safety
  • Cultural opportunities/experiences
  • Good infrastructure
  • Good health care system
  • Stable government
  • Positive attitude towards foreigners

That list rules out our favorite place

Locks, Keys and Security

19 KeysI mentioned before that we received an insane number of keys upon move in. Well, we still don't know where they all belong, but there is truly a key for everything (19 total).  Our back windows have keyed locks (2) each with its own key.  The back door as well, another key.  The storage/servicio room outside, another key.  Closet doors and bedroom doors lock, all with different keys.  We have three keys needed just to get in the front gate and front door.  

There are a few areas that do not have keys  though.  The windows in front that face the street front windows have wooden shutters that lock from the inside via a lever, so surprisingly, no key needed there (but there are also metal bars that are between the shutters and windows which is very common in Montevideo) .  The mailbox which is located at our front gate also doesn't have a key, at least not from the house side.  

Here we also have three locks on the front door, a security system with motion detectors inside and out, and cameras in the front and back courtyards viewable from a special monitor.  Pretty elaborate system and in terms of security, better to over-do it and be a bit excessive than the alternative!  

And all this in a great part of town.  Don't read the above information wrong, this is a wonderful neighborhood with low crime.  In all of Uruguay, violent crime is extremely rare and the overall crime rate is low but petty theft is viewed as common.  If you leave something out, it may just find a new home.  We don't want that so we're using all of our security features available to us!  

When we lived in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis (not known as the best part of town) for 7 years, we had only one key that opened the front, back and garage-to-house door.  The windows "locked" with a standard window latch, not a key. We also had a security system with glass break sensors but we never left windows open and never considered bars on the windows because of fire escape reasons.  Different construction here. Different standards, as I have noted previously, make bars on the windows nearly a non-issue.  

Half-closed shutters

As we've seen throughout our travels, the differences between the USA and the rest of the world are interesting.  There is so much to learn in a culture.  We are just taking a fingernail to the surface right now.  Not everything can be judged from our USA eyes, nor should it be.  The best lesson we've learned: It is what it is.

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!

We're in!

Well, it's been another interesting, exhilarating, wild 24 hours!  I wouldn't have it any other way!! living room-move inWe're in the house.  A cute little furnished one level on the border of Pocitos/Punta Carretas.  There really is just about everything within 8 blocks.  For the last 24 hours though, that has not included running water.  What????  I said the same thing.  No running water. We got all the boxes and suitcases moved and we were starting to get things unpacked when the water in the kitchen sink slowed to a trickle.... and then stopped altogether.  I thought the water must be shut off to the building. No, all the lines were on.  What could be going on?  I called Jorge, he'll know what to do (thankfully we have Jorge!) Well he tells me that half of the city is out.  A main burst and they don't know when it'll be restored.  Hmmmm.  Okay.  The Disco (supermarket) is 2 blocks away. We'll get a few 5 L jugs of water, but no shower, no flushing toilet and no hard-core cleaning of this place before we unpack.  

Here it is 24 hours later and still no running water.  El Pais (newspaper) says they are working non-stop to fix the problem, but it was a 40 year old concrete main that is very deep.  They hope to have it repaired by the end of today.  All of the coastal and downtown neighborhoods are affected including: Buceo, Pocitos, Punta Carretas, Parque Rodó, Barrio Sur, Palermo, Cordón, La Blanqueada, La Unión, Parque Batlle, Tres Cruces, Centro, Maroñas, Flor de Maroñas, Cerrito, Villa Española, Pérez Castellano, Larrañaga, Bolivar, Brazo Oriental, Jacinto Vera, La Figurita, La Comercial, Villa Muñoz, Sayago, Peñarol y Retiro. 

Happy Earth day!  We're conserving water!!

Other than the *minor* water issue, we are thrilled to be in the house.  It is working out really well for us, and we're getting into our routine.  Internet was set up this morning and Brad will comment on that. I met with the security company who came by to make sure we understood the system. There was a technican with very good English as well as another "translator" that they sent with. They left a manual for the system in English and also gave us the phone and email information for an English speaking customer service agent in case we have additional questions.  I appreciate the English help but certainly didn't expect it. Talk about service!  The technician also stopped by again this afternoon to make sure he got the monitoring setting correct.  After he left, he said that he was questioning himself if he did the final setting and he hadn't.  At home, I would have expected a phone call to set up another time to come by a week from now or something.  Wow. 

Next thing to arrive this afternoon should be our two furry friends, Pablo and Paloma!  I am thrilled that after a month they will be part of the family again.  I should learn all of the Spanish commands that they have been hearing from their temporary family.  For a month stay for both dogs I think it ended up being 7000 pesos ($280 or so).  Plus we had a minor incident with a need for a vet visit  and antibiotic shot for Paloma's bladder infection and a refill of her perscription food.  Still not nearly the cost it would be in the US, and the vets come to you instead of you carting a sick animal to them.  Seems more humane to me. 

So that covers the gamut:  House, water, technology, dogs.  There is so much more to say but I have to leave something for later.  

Please send good vibes this way that can fix water mains. We need water soon!!

Safety Standards

As we are starting to look for places to live, all of the US building code standards are flashing before my eyes. Life abroad is very different and that goes for building code standards as well.  Not that this or any other country are wrong, just different and we have to view it with different eyes.   For example:  

Egress:  Many bedroom windows, if there are windows at all