Another one of Luca’s favorite words which also seems appropriate to describe our past few weeks….wow for sure! First off, a word of caution – this is by far my longest blog post so before you dive right in, get yourself comfy and a cup of coffee or cheat yourself out of reading and scroll forward to see the pictures…either way, thanks for reading!
Where to begin? Ah yes…so, we did manage to leave on our R&R (“rest and recuperation” but neither John nor I returned feeling R&R’d…explanation to follow) trip before the anticipated government shutdown (which was fortunately averted although at the very last minute) and we headed north to a very windy and breezy city in which Opa was celebrating his 60th birthday. The climate change may have been a rude awaking for both kids who literally shivered and looked at us as if we were crazy to bring them to such coldness when the day before we were playing outside in shorts …
How were the plane rides (yes, rides as in we had one stop over) with the kiddos? Better than anticipated and I have to say, I am very proud that the 4 of us can now quickly and efficiently pack up 2 kids, 2 car seats, 1 stroller, about a zillion carry-on bags packed with every possible survival tool known to Mom (but that, of course, never carry the right toy/snack/item your toddler needs at any given moment), and take off 3 pairs of shoes and go through airport security without causing major delays or annoyances (suggestion to add this to a challenge on the Amazing Race). Out of all of our flights, we have yet to hear a peep out of the loudest and smallest family member and while Luca was not too keen on the starting and landing part (astonishing as we kept feeding him snacks to help his ears pop), he did pretty well overall.
Speaking of flying, might I just add a tiny little note on airline customer service (yeah, you can see where this is going…) or rather, a mere suggestion to flight attendants of a certain American-based airline: if you see a mom or a dad while boarding or leaving the aircraft who is schlepping a million and one carry-on bags in addition to a child who is strapped in his/her carseat while carefully trying to avoid bumping into other passengers (because families are now no longer supposed to pre-board the airplane…apparently it works out better that way…), and s/he is looking like she could oh, I don’t know, use a little help from someone who is walking behind her/him with 2 empty hands, why not gently tap said mother/father and offer your assistance … isn’t that what you get paid for? Oh right, never mind….you are there “only” for passengers’ safety and security – make sure you mention that to the four people seated at the aisle who met my diaper bag head-on while I was navigating the tiny aisle.
Airline friendliness aside, we arrived at the first leg of the race more or less rested (can you hear me laughing?) and found our way to our first host family, Oma and Opa, who needed to escape to their vacation house in a sunny State far away immediately upon our departure to recover from the noise and chaos we brought into their lives. Our reason to travel thousands of miles was to celebrate my Dad’s 60th birthday so party we did. We hung out with my parents’ childhood friends (yes, they also traveled half way around the world to party with him…kind of makes you think he’s a pretty big deal to them!) and were overwhelmed by the mere number of presents presented not to the person of the hour but to our kids – so here is the official THANK YOU (Danke schön!) shout-out to the very sweet and thoughtful presents that made our kids’ trip.
And it wouldn’t be a true family trip if we didn’t leave our traces at Oma’s and Opa’s… Luca finally enjoyed the luxury of bathing in a real bathtub, you know the one that’s not made out of Rubbermaid material. He was mesmerized by the water faucet (an unknown element during our bath times at home) and could have played for hours pouring water in and out of his stacking cups. During his first bath, my Mom noted that Luca was the first bather in their bathtub as they are firm believers in showering and haven’t used the bathtub since their bathroom was remodeled a few years ago. Well, wouldn’t luck have it that Luca found the one weakness of that construction job! Yup, after Luca’s bath we returned to the kitchen which is underneath the bathroom only to find a big water stain on the ceiling….oops… cue in an apologetic shoulder shrug from us along with a cute smile from Luca and all was good again (at least we think, well, hope anyway! I guess we’ll see if we get invited back).
Our next stop took us to a much warmer State where Grand-Mom and Grand-Dad eagerly awaited our visit not knowing what chaos was in store for them and that, yes, we would also leave our marks there. We filled our days with much needed shopping therapy and even Luca learned the art of shopping as he spent a good chunk of time one day in the toy section, carefully selecting which cars he would like to have (along with a bucket and a shovel) even though no one had offered or suggested to him to pick something out, and then refusing to hand them back when it was time to leave (I am told he had a pretty tight grip on the cars).
Aside from shopping, we spent time with old friends who again overwhelmed us with more presents for the kids (how did they know Luca likes cars I wonder?) and trips to the Zoo and Chuck E. Cheese, the ultimate kids’ heaven where Luca’s favorite game involved hitting ducks. To assure that there were no underlying hostility issues between Luca and real life ducks, we immediately took him to a nearby creek to feed the ducks and were relieved to see Luca treating the life versions much more pleasantly.
Other excitements include an early birthday celebration for Luca who turns 2 (!!!) next week, where, yet again, we were completely overwhelmed by all the presents and Luca’s dream of owning the most Matchbox cars in Brazil finally became a reality.
Oh, and what about the smallest family member? No worries – she certainly was not forgotten (I mean how could one forget her since she is so freaking loud?!). She grew and grew some more and is now even cuter than she was before we left. Oh, and she is also becoming very much a people-person who absolutely THRIVES on attention. Case in point, one of our friends was telling a fascinating story about his brother who spent some time researching the perfect ingredients for a new sandwich (you can see how this story can mesmerize an audience, right?). Jules sat in our lap paying every possible bit of attention to our friend (who, I should add, is a terrific story teller) and laughed and smiled along with him. She really loves seeing and talking with people and will frown and yell at you when you walk away for a short minute!
As we were wrapping up our US time and doing some last minute shopping, Luca came down with an ear infection that warranted a trip to the pediatrician only after he left his marks around the family room (thank goodness for good cleaning products and a good sense of humor!) so, very unfortunately for Luca, he had to fly home with aching ears which is not something I recommend others to try. Speaking of our return flight (and the same teeny bit of advice goes to the airline staff coming back as well since they were again oh so helpful), we must have sat behind the most inconsiderate passengers on the entire flight. Yes, I know it sucks to be anywhere close to a family travelling with two small kids especially one whose ears cause much pain during start and landing but that’s really no reason to consistently slam your backseat into the nose of a toddler who will then, surprise, surprise, start crying again because he is freaking scared that the seat ahead of him just attacked him for no obvious reason.
Worse though was the person in front of Juliana. During boarding, he asked if he could move his back seat and we apologized profoundly explaining that her infant car seat was tightly nudged in her seat and leaning against the back of his seat thus preventing it to be moved (yes, I know, it sucks for that passenger but come on, we have all been in situations where you just need to suck it up and deal with it. And if you can’t deal with it, change your seat!). Immediately after take-off, that passenger decided to take matters into his own hands and slammed his seat back so hard that her car seat almost flipped over. Very fortunately, Jules was in my lap at the time but both John and I were on the verge of smacking that idiot (who did not even turn around or apologize although this caused so much noise that several passengers around us looked in horror to see what had happened). He continued to make sudden back seat movements during the entire flight so that I had to keep Jules on my lap during the entire 10-hour flight home.
But we survived the long flight and arrived home, safe and sound. Luca recovered quickly but I came down with a flu-like bug a day later (as did Grand-Dad … when I say we leave our marks, I do mean it!) that left poor John pulling double shifts for the next few days as I could barely function as a walking zombie. But now, we are all recovered and back to our usual broadcast of life South of the equator!
So now you have reached the end of the longest update in this blog’s history so congratulate yourself by looking at some of our snapshots from our whirlwind tour home!
Putting the zillion of cars to use to illustrate a typical Sao Paulo traffic day…