Babies Who Bite

Quite a few weeks ago (I’m really behind, but what’s new?) L was running around and dancing and being generally crazy (again, what’s new?) when he started roaring at himself in one of the mirror’s in M’s room. He got himself really worked up and ran over while I was changing M’s diaper and bit me on the leg. The second I yelled out in pain he snapped out of his self-induced craze, looked up at me and said a very earnest “Sorry!” in the cutest little voice you ever heard. After crouching down on his level and looking him in the eyes I told him: ” That really hurt! I forgive you, but you can’t bite!” This comment was inevitably followed by a “Why?” which led to the repeated explanation that it hurts and the question: “Do you know what it feels like when you’re bitten?” He admitted that he didn’t and I showed him. Yes, I bit L on the arm. Firmly. He reacted with an “Ouch!” which I promptly kissed and made all better adding a succinct “That’s what it feels like.” To which he replied “OK” with a smile and ran off to play.

Only a couple of weeks ago we started getting reports of L hitting at school. Obviously, I couldn’t use the same approach. 1: He wasn’t hitting me; 2: Delayed consequences wouldn’t have made much sense to L; and 3: That would probably warrant a call to child protective services. I had to do some investigating.

First I tried L. That went a little something like this:
Me: “Why did you hit?”
L: “I don’t know.” and in the same breath “Can we play soccer and go swimming when we get home?”
Clearly, I wasn’t getting anywhere there.

The next day I tried his teachers (keep in mind this is in broken Portuguese on my part):
Me: “Better, today?”
Teacher #1: “No, he hit, spit, and threw his shoes”
Me: “L, why did you hit again today?”
Luke: “Because I did!” With a happy, please approve of me, smile.
Me: “That’s not good.”
Teacher #1: “Talk with him.”
Me: “I do.”

We talked about it on the way home from school, in the evening when Daddy got home, and again on the way to school the next day. We taught him how to say he doesn’t understand in Portuguese so that maybe he wouldn’t get so frustrated with the language barrier and we stressed how it wasn’t OK to hit also giving him alternative behavior suggestions.

The next day he hit a girl in the head so hard with a toy that she had a mark. I was the mom of the boy who hits. Luckily, that day was a Friday, but you better believe I avoided ALL eye contact in the halls on the way out. Nobody wants to be that mom.

I really didn’t want to talk about his hitting again, with him anyway. That weekend G and I brainstormed a lot, I asked other mom’s for advice, and we even considered taking him out of school altogether. That Monday I went to pick L up with the intention of getting the OK to observe in the classroom the next day and finding out what the teacher does when L hits. After getting another bad report I had this broken Portuguese conversation with teacher #2:
Me: “What do you do when he hits?”
Teacher #2: “Just talk with him.”
Me: “What do you say?”
Teacher #2: (in Portuguese) “No, L, you can’t hit.”
Me: “Does he understand you?”
Teacher #2: shrug

I can completely understand where L is coming from at this point. I mostly want to rip my hair out when trying to communicate in Portuguese. Fortunately, I have managed to quell my frustration with laughing at myself. Somehow, I don’t think that will work for L. Unfortunately, I was not permitted to observe in the classroom (what’s up with that, btw!?!), but the director did assure me that she was not worried about his aggression. He has a new sibling and doesn’t naturally speak the language of the classroom. It will pass, she said.

The next morning we made a chart with 5 empty squares on it and I told L that if he didn’t hit at school he would get a star when he got home. I let him choose his prize and he chose a park day. Seems pretty lame, but there’s kind of only one park here…and it’s a big deal. Plus, it was his choice. Nothing like choosing your own incentive for motivation, right? I wrote park day at the end of the row and told him that if he filled up all of the squares with stars we could go to the park.

That day he did not hit!

We got home, he picked out a star and put it on his chart. Things went like that for three more days, but he can’t seem to get that last star. And today, he bit his teacher. I talk with his teachers, every day and am just at a loss of what to do. We all agree that he has to stop, but we aren’t sure how to get him there.

I’m not sharing all of this for advice, necessarily (I will gladly take it, though), but so that you Mom’s of the children who have NEVER hit anyone will understand. And I hope that you will stop judging the parents of the aggressive kiddo in your kid’s class or playgroup. It’s not a fun place to be and we’re all just doing our best in the circumstances that we have.

Frequent phrases I never thought I would say so much

1. Tush: because baby butts, especially little boys’ butts, are quite possibly the cutest thing to ever see.

2. Teeferz: baby teeth are known as teeferz. As in “Let me see those teeferz! Wow! You have so many teeferz! Your teeferz are SO bright! Did you brush your teeferz?”

3. Owie-Owie AKA pacifier. T made this one up. Have no idea where it came from.

4. No…followed by almost anything, really. No, you cannot feed crackers to your baby sister, for instance.

5. I’m in the bathroom: (yelled through a locked door) because every time, without fail, I enter that tiny room, someone needs me.

6. Tag, you’re it: Not while playing the game tag, but when “giving up” at bedtime and trading places with G…because I can only take so much of the diversionary tactics.

7. Aye: a little Portuguese exclamation sneaking into my day to day vocabulary as well as “aye, matey! the ship is off!” because nothing is so much fun as playing pirates.

8. That’s a one-that’s a two: from 1-2-3 Magic. A really fantastic discipline program that is helping me eliminate yelling and helping my kids listen to me.

9. Take a deep breath: a reminder for me and my kiddos when there is too much crying.

10. I love you soooo much. This one needs no explanation.


Even when you make that face, T.


Sometimes everything seems to go by so quickly. Many of the friends that were pregnant at the same time I was with L are posting pictures of their little ones as newborns nearly FOUR years ago. What? L will be four in just a few months? But he’s still just my melodramatic baby boy!

Melodramatic Baby L

That means T is nearly 2 1/2…oh-so that’s why he’s not my super agreeable barrel-chested boy all the time anymore. woot.

Agreeable Baby T

And M, my extra considerate baby girl…will be old enough to sleep train soon! Where did the time go? Not that I’m complaining…you know, since now I might get a little more sleep? I’ve already had to get her 3-6 month clothes out. She’s long and thin…kind of like mommy. L took a long time to grow out of his clothes as a baby (still the same). T grew out of them because he was thick. M is growing out of them because she’s tall.

Considerate Baby M

Sometimes everything seems to go by too slowly for anyone’s patience to hold…like when you’re waiting for your next vacation home.

And then there’s how I spend my time, everyday, over and over again like I’m on a merry-go-round that won’t ever stop. I really like predictability and auto-piloting as much as I can, but the flexibility for spontaneity is so necessary. Unfortunately, the opportunity for spontaneity when living in a country that you don’t have a firm grasp of the language with three children under the age of four is about nil.

Isn’t it funny how time can feel so different all at the same time? What do you do when the “I need to do something out of the ordinary” bug bites you?

How to Swaddle

It has come to my attention that many do not understand the fine art that is swaddling a baby. There are many blankets and many methods. Here’s how I do it…

This is for you, William, Kate, Prince George, & DDW (my fave Daddy blogger). DDW…you inspired me to take step by step pictures because I have a pretty sweet swaddle technique down.

I have no idea what the royal couple was actually doing when this picture was taken. It just looks like a poor swaddle. If they were not in fact trying to swaddle the young prince, my apologies.

The first step is to select the proper blanket-the royal couple have this one down. Size, shape, and the amount of stretch/give the fabric has are all important factors. Aden + Anais are my favorite. I have a set of the classic muslin swaddles and the organic muslin swaddles. They are both fantastic. The organic swaddles are softer and slightly bigger even though they are newer. I got the classic set when T was born & they have definitely been washed more than the organic set I got for Madelyn.

T Swaddled

Now, here’s how you do it…

Find a large flat surface. Like a bed (it doesn’t hurt to have a beautifully made quilt from Grandma on it, either). Put the baby down off to one side where she won’t roll off while you lay the blanket out.

Lay the blanket squarely and flat next to the baby. For reference, this is a casal sized bed. Roughly equivalent to a double. Even if your baby is small, it’s important to have what may seem like a huge blanket for a good swaddle.

Put the baby in the center at the top of the blanket. Her shoulders should be just below the edge.

While holding the baby’s left hand down at her side with your left hand. Take the top corner of the blanket on the same side (baby’s left/your right) in your right hand. (Yes, she always smiles wildly when I swaddle her.)

Fold the corner down at an angle, over her left shoulder and under her right armpit. I take my left hand out of the blanket after folding it to ensure the arm is down. I then keep the fold tight by placing my left hand on her right side.

With your right hand in between your baby’s tush and the blanket, lift her slightly in order to fold the extra blanket in between her and the other side of the blanket. (I like to think she smiles like that when I swaddle her because I know what she needs and she’s excited to go to sleep)

Now repeat on the other side. Hold her right arm down with your left and cross your right arm over to grab the top left corner of the blanket.

Fold the corner down at an angle, over her right shoulder. I take my right hand out of the blanket after folding it to ensure the arm is down. I then keep the fold tight by placing my right hand on her left side. In the picture below it is not tight because I had to fumble with the camera, but the tighter and neater your swaddle, the better.

While holding your right hand on the left side of the baby, slide your left hand under her tush and the blanket. Lift her slightly in order to fold the extra blanket underneath. It should be flat so that there is no lump for your baby to sleep on. (wild smiles, every time, I’m telling you)

Now pick up both bottom corners of the blanket, one in each hand and fold them up to lie on top of the baby. The now top edge should be at about armpit level.

Next I like to fold the top edge of the blanket down a little for two reasons: 1. it looks nice. 2. it adds a little extra strength to the part of the swaddle that needs to be the strongest. The part that keeps the arms down. I usually do this all fairly quickly to limit her movement in the process, but taking pictures obviously prevents that. With my hands at what is now the top of the blanket and the sides of her body, I fold my thumbs length (two inches?) down and use my forearms along the sides of her body to keep the blanket tight.

Then sweep your right forearm under the baby while lifting her slightly with your left forearm still at her side taking the blanket on the right side to the left.

Repeat on the left: sweep your left forearm under the baby while lifting her tush slightly with your right hand taking the blanket on that side to the right.

Now you only have a little blanket left. At this point I put my left hand on the right side of the baby and grab the extra blanket in order to pull it taut. The neater and tighter the swaddle, the better, but obviously use common sense here and don’t squeeze too much. I usually give the extra blanket one twist and then tuck it in to the top horizontal layer of the blanket. The twist is not necessary, just something I’ve done out of habit.

Photographers: how do I avoid that shadow in the future? I took quite a few pictures at different angles and couldn’t figure out what to do to get rid of it.

And now you have a happily swaddled baby!

Please note: I am aware that swaddling with a blanket can be dangerous (if the child gets herself un-swaddled then there is a soft blanket in the crib posing a SIDS risk). As a breastfeeding mom I wake often-sometimes every half hour-through the night just to check on my little bundle. I do not think that this is a risk for my family. If you do, here are some products that swaddle, but don’t pose the same risk as swaddling with a blanket:

Halo Sleepsack Swaddles: I received one of these as a hand-me-down (thanks Julie!) for Madelyn. They are fantastic and really help when you’re SUPER tired and can’t do a full blanket swaddle.

Ergobaby Swaddler: I don’t have one of these, but they look pretty ideal. They are a new product from the same company that makes what I think is the best baby carrier out there. The company name says it all with ergo, as in ergonomically correct.

All of these options keep the legs loose, which I think is important for proper hip development. As far as arm positioning goes, there are different schools of thought. In the womb their arms are curled up with the hands at the heart or mouth. However, swaddling like this makes it easier for the baby to fight her way out. You decide what is right for you and your baby. This is just how I do it.

Adventures in Manauaran Cooking

Everything is an adventure here. Grocery shopping, cooking, and eating are no exception.

There are a number of supermercados here…but as you may know from my “Manaus Moments” driving is an adventure, too…so I try to limit my time in the car. When we first moved here (End of November 2012) we were on a quest to find fresh milk. We found it once. Through months of trial and error and what felt like going to a different store every day of the week I’ve finally found a one-stop place I can usually get everything I need for a week in one go. Roma.

And when I feel like fighting for parking, walking up a hill, and struggling to order cuts and quantities of meat in Portugues and metric for my non-metric recipes, I go to the butcher shop Fino Corte.

The last time I felt like doing all of that I wanted to find something like Italian sausage to grill for an easy protein. If you put Italian sausage into Google translate, it shoots out salsicha Italiana. At the actual shop, in my broken Portuguese, I asked for that & they showed me something that looked like breakfast sausage. I mutely hand-gestured toward something that looked more like what I wanted and tried to ask if it was picante (spicy). The butcher, attempting to help me, held up the other sausages and said that they were spicy. After more gesturing, pointing, and smiling I got three links of what LOOKED like Italian sausage.

When buying such in the US, usually the casing is edible. Here, I have no idea. Furthermore, our small indoor grill is a sad attempt at a grill. This is what happened when we cooked said linguiça.

Sad, sad grill…


Is this casing edible? Why is there so much cheese? How should I cook it in the future?

cute thing

Super cute grill…I mean girl 🙂