Sunday, October 30, 2011

By Small and Simple Things

At the beginning of September, I caught wind of a free weekly mom and kiddo music class and thought, "Gigi loves music and dancing. She'll really enjoy this". We showed up the first week, and instead of enjoying the songs, rhymes, movement and story time, Gigi wandered around the room, swinging her arms at the other kids, mashing in the buttons on the CD player, hollering when I tried to reign her in, and generally being a massive disaster. I couldn't believe it: I was The Naughty Kid's mom. I left the class that day absolutely mortified, and pretty sure we were never going back, or at least not until Gigi was twenty years old and had learned how to sit still.

And then, by a stroke of divine intervention, I attended Women's Day on the Saturday of that week, and just happened to be in the same group at the same table with the exact woman who was the head of the music class. In case she recognized me, I decided to get it over with first and apologize about Gigi's behavior. Surprisingly, she brushed it off and said that there were plenty of kids who were wandering around, and that they all started out that way, and that in a few weeks I would be surprised at how much better Gigi would sit during the classes and that I should not stop coming. It was exactly what I needed to hear. We haven't made it every week, but when we go, we always take a receiving blanket to put on the ground so that Gigi knows where her space is. She still wanders, but when I remind her of the rule and bring her back to her blanket, she doesn't melt down anymore, she simply sits until she forgets the rule and gets up to wander again. I have also been using a washcloth to mark her space when we do Family Home Evening lessons at home and at friend's homes, and when we do music time at home. She is just little and requires a visual reminder of where she is expected to be. At times I feel tempted to throw in the towel (no pun intended) because everything at moments feels very fruitless, but I've continued to use this system because it's important to us that she learns how to sit still for short amounts of time.

To bring the story full-circle, today in the hall at church I passed the woman who had just left Gigi's nursery room where she had taught the littlest ones a short lesson. She said, "Gigi was so engaged, and she did so well staying on her carpet square!". I wanted to throw my arms around her neck! My Gigi, was engaged and stayed on her carpet square? Yeeessssss! Maybe all of the corralling over the past few months has finally paid off.

And the second miracle of the day? After telling Gigi every night for the past five months to say "ahhhh" when I brush her teeth, tonight she said "ahhhh" for the very first time, and I was able to brush her teeth quickly and effectively. After five months of daily requests, she finally pulled through. It was amazing.

I guess all this is to say that I am learning in parenting that by small and simple things, repeated very often and with more than a small measure of patience, great things DO come to pass. If it is important to me - whether it is healthy eating, or good bedtime habits, or enforcing consequences for my child's bad behavior - it is worth sticking it out. Because no matter what we tell ourselves, our kids are not going to wake up one day wanting to eat healthy foods, sit still all on their own, and mind their parents if they have been taught nothing but the opposite.

And if you do know any kids like that, I'd like to adopt them. All of them.

This is Gigi today at nursery. It wasn't her first week, but she has only been a hand-full of times. After sitting in Sacrament meeting as a family for an hour and ten minutes (Gigi is finally getting better at that too, thank goodness), at 18 months Gigi can finally join the nursery while us parents shuffle off to Sunday School and the third hour class. Gigi's nursery class of 8 or so kiddos is mainly boys, and one is a hair-puller. Sigh. He's sweet, but his hand has a magnetic attraction to her curls. The little ones do puzzles together, head to the gym for playtime, come back to the room for snack time, have a *short* lesson, activity and music time, and then clean up and do bubbles until the parents arrive. For the first few weeks Gigi was all over the friends, food and play time, and barely looked back as she sprinted to the nursery room, but now she has picked up that we're gone from her for a looong time, and so she has some ambivalence towards nursery. She had some sad moments today, but the sweet leaders were unphased by her crying, and were good at redirecting her to something interesting. Luckily, all of the doors have little windows, so I am able to duck out of my classes and come peek in on her. Some day she will love this time in nursery...

...maybe as much as she loves running around outside after church.

Set Backs

I am so happy that I've gotten to week 6 in my Couch to 5K training regiment, but I've had a few set-backs. From the very beginning of my running streak I've had a really painful left heel, and have come to the conclusion that I have a heel spur. Heel spurs are such a disappointing diagnosis, because there really isn't much to be done about about them (spurs are a little outgrowth of the bone). However, the painful heel has helped me to run more on the balls of my feet instead of landing on my heels, which is a more sustainable way to run anyway. So despite the pain, it was working.

And then this week I broke my toe. I was over at a friend's house playing with the kids, and as I got up from the floor and walked through a door, I managed to just knick my pinkie toe on the frame and when I looked down my toe was pointing at about two o'clock, when it's supposed to be at twelve. I instinctively reached down and pushed my toe back in place and it was the oddest sensation. It didn't hurt at first, which was making me wonder, but after a minute or two I felt the dullest, most nauseating pain. I was on ibuprofen for a day or so, and I iced it for a long time, but now it's swollen and bruised black and blue. I will tape it well and run on it, poor little guy, but I'm giving him about a week to heal. My running friends have told me things like "listen to your body" and "pay attention to secondary injuries caused by changing your gait to compensate for your injury", so I'm getting the clue that I need to roll this one out slow again.

Last week in Couch to 5K I ran 2 miles on my final run of the week. I was really feeling like although my body doesn't look different on the outside, I feel strong, fit and I am actually enjoying running for the first time in my life.

And here I am now, back on the couch...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Welcome Lil' Acorn

Last week Tuesday a few friends and I hosted a baby shower for our friend Jamie, to celebrate the coming arrival of her new little boy! Jamie is so talented, so good at suspending judgment, and so careful at crafting her communication with other people that I can't wait to see the incredible little person that her son will become. Jamie is a licensed massage and bodyworks therapist, she was leading the local capoeira group for a long time (before she was injured playing), and she is so laid-back that planning her party was enjoyable simply because we were pretty sure that whatever way it ended up, she would be nothing but grateful. We need more people like her in the world!

I assigned myself to decorations, and the themes I decided to run with were: autumn, cheap, and reuse. We've been on an acorn kick lately over here, so it was how we bridged the ideas of babies and autumn. Kind of cheesy, but it was a baby shower, so something had to be cheesy. The banner was made solely of materials left over from our wedding (!) and an old calendar.

And meet the lady of the night... sweet Jamie Taylor.

I don't have extensive experience with hostessing and menu planning, but I have to say that I think we aced it this time. One of the best things about being part of such a supportive church community is that everyone is happy to help, and with a hand full of people each bringing a dish, the bulk of the work didn't fall to any one person. I am salivating just looking at the spread again: quadruple-layered chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting, stuffed dates (which were so good they converted a few of us to dates, I might add), close-to-heaven apple custard pie, mixed nuts, grapes, everyone's favorite pumpkin crunch bars, one of Abby's signature cheese platters with crackers, and veggies with dip. It was the perfect amount of healthy for those who didn't eat a proper dinner before they came, and such a large part indulgent, autumnal bliss of a dessert spread.

We also served hot spiced cider, and my mom made her famous peach punch. Over by the punch bowl we decorated with some little acorns I made for the party. They are hand-felted from loose wool fibers, and then glued into real acorn caps from our gathering adventures with Gigi under the oak tree outside our front door. I was actually thinking to purchase them from an etsy shop, but after noticing how many venders were selling them I figured they couldn't be rocket science to make myself. They were a bit laborious, but relatively easy. A few youtube videos later...


Sarah and Rachael, and the group (below) at present opening time. Jamie is extremely well resourced and has been given so much from other people (including a set of cloth diapers and a diapering service for a few months), so this party was a book party! The bulk of the gifts were our favorite children's books for Jamie's little collection, and it was really fun to see some new titles.

And that about wraps it up. These photos of rooms full of happy women enjoying good food and each other's company makes hostessing so worth it. Jamie, we wish you the most beautiful labor and birth experience as a new mom, and that the joy of meeting your son for the first time will some day be eclipsed by the love you feel for him every day of your life!

(Some close-ups of the centerpiece we made for the party, but back at home where the lighting is better for my camera).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall, fall, fall

Fall is my favorite season, hands down. I recently was talking to someone about fall, and they said that it was depressing because it reminded them that winter was coming, and that at least with spring things are moving in a good direction.

Fair enough, but I still love fall the best.

Is it the cooling weather? Or the wind and the leaves, or the warm apple cider, caramel and apples, leggings and pumpkins, soups and bread? YES! When I gush like this, I almost feel like a traitor to my homeland of Hawaii - the land of ONE season - to be loving all of this good mainland seasonal swoon.

Here is how we enjoyed fall this week:

My mom and I took Gigi to meet our friends Kim, Kinsey and Kaitlyn and enjoy some pumpkining in Apex.

Marcos, Gigi and I went to a double birthday party for sweet Noah and Ellie, and there was a gigantic bounce house. Gigi's true love, however, was the tiny toy house. And the chocolate cupcakes.

And then we hosted a pumpkin painting family night for my work friends Lisa and Rachel, and their darling families. I put out small pie pumpkins in our weed patch out back so that the kiddos could pick their pumpkin from the "pumpkin patch", the kiddos made a beautiful mess painting the pumpkins on the back patio, and then we herded them out to the park for run-around time. It was so nice to spend weekend time with my work friends and their families - such amazingly quality people! After park time it was back inside for white bean and chicken chili with rice, and we finished off with a food craft project of dipping apple slices into melted caramel and rolling them through chocolate sprinkles for dessert. I was so pleased that the evening went so smoothly and that we all enjoyed ourselves so much. I have found that part of the art of entertaining in a very small space is making sure there is a time and space flow - particularly when kiddos and dinner time merge on your turf.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hi, My Name is Over-Committal

Sometimes I think about things.

Lately I've been thinking about settling, and how when you settle down in an area for an extended period of time, your community of friends, neighbors and borrowed family tends to grow and grow, but unfortunately, your time in a day to have social interactions rarely does. This month of October has been really über extended with great activities and even better people, and when we looked at the calendar tonight to add in four new activities to the next week and a half (a pumpkin carving party, a soup dinner party, a dance party and a babysitting venture - woohoo!) we felt like we needed to find a solution to being too busy. Marcos' idea was "we'll just have to spread time with our friends out a bit more", and my idea was, "we'll just have to move".

(Kidding. I'm committed to Chapel Hill... at least until we get our billion dollar business opportunity and it involves moving to a place that starts with an "M" and rhymes with "eunuch"...)

And I know full well that I sound like a lame-o here, complaining about the blessing of having very good people in my life to spend time with, but I do feel like we are becoming borderline over-committal. How are we ever going to resist the temptation to sign Gigi up for a concurrent schedule of pageants, ballet lessons, cotillion club and clarinet lessons if we can't figure out our own stuff first?


Sunday, October 16, 2011

18 months

I'm forcing myself to sit down tonight and post on this sweet blog of mine. Gigi turned 18 months old an entire 6 days ago, and October has been such a whirlwind of fall festivities that I literally have not had time to sit down and give you overly-detailed run-downs on the multiple facets of Giovanna's development. I'm sure my lack of blogging keeps you up at night. But just so you know, we have been busy with very serious and important things.

Where to start? Last time I covered Gigi's physical development, and then realized the next day that I completely forgot to mention the part that I really find most fascinating: her own awareness of her physical needs. Like, isn't it slightly amazing that Gigi can now tell me when she's hungry, when she is tired, when she feels pain, when she needs help, and most recently, when she is going to go "poo-poo"? I like surprises, but taking the guessing out of this game has really been great. There are, of course, still moments when she wakes up in the middle of the night and we feel lost about what to do for her, but this whole talking thing is really dreamy.

And speaking of talking, Gigi is solidly moving and shaking in that area. When she was 16 months old I was trying to stay awake on the bus one day, so I wrote down a list of all of the words she knew and used regularly in context. At that time I came up with a list of about 40 or so words in English and about 20 in Portuguese, and I'd say that her vocabulary has probably doubled since then. When I think about the thousands of words we adults use on a daily basis, her little vocabulary doesn't seem like much, but I have to remind myself that kaukau ("food" in Hawaiian), poo poo, owie, ajuda ("help" in Portuguese) and night night are only five words, but they open up entire worlds of communication. I've watched in awe as she has ventured into three-syllable words, and now into four-syllable words. My personal favorite, hands-down, is when she attempts "helicopter". Marcos' favorites are when she says "Papai", "bochecha" (cheek), and "batata" (potato). And above all else, I find it remarkable how brave she is: when we tell her to "say ____ ", she always gives it a whirl, no matter how completely she mangles the word.

And I think that's where we'll end today! I was hoping to finish up the saga tonight, but I'd still like to talk about her social life and personality, so we'll pick up next time right HERE.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Turning 30

This weekend I turned 30. Young, Hip, Happening, and 30! I used to think that anything over 25 sounded really old, but as my parents and grandparents have pushed up into the decades, my new standard for old is more like 85, and 30 is the new 20. What it all boils down to is this: 30 simply caught me in a good place. I'm working at a job I enjoy, I'm mothering a little girl who keeps me young, I'm running, my marriage is invigorating, and I love a lot of people. I definitely haven't achieved much success by worldly standards, but there will always be time for that in the coming decades of my life.

Once I decide I care about those things, of course.

I realized this year that the nice thing about Marcos and I having birthdays in the same week is that it becomes a week of celebrations that we can share without feeling too awkward about all of the attention being on ourselves. On Monday night the Hills made their annual Birthday dinner for us (we chose Kim's spaghetti as usual - life alteringly delicious!), on Tuesday night we had the dinner for Marcos that I already posted about, on Friday night we had our Brazil-connected friends over for Brazilian food and tres leches cake, and on Saturday we had an impromptu potluck picnic with friends at our neighborhood park because God's birthday gift to me that day was the most perfect weather of the year. It was beautiful outside.

And for lunch on my birthday we went to Maggiano's as a family. Chicken fontina, caprese salad, creme brulee... mmmm...

After lunch we cruised the pedestrian zone at the mall to stretch our legs after a big meal. We couldn't pass the Apple Store without squeezing in a message on the walls of free paper dedicated to the memory of Steve Jobs. His death this week made me feel a sense of loss I haven't felt for a celebrity since the death of Princess Di. Even though I'm not very buff in a technical sense, I know enough about his life to be completely in awe of the vision and genius this man brought to the world. The next time I find myself in an ice-breaker and have to name the three people I would most want to talk with over dinner, I think Steve Jobs will be on the short list.

And that wraps up our birthdays for the year. Whew! Next? Gigi's half birthday, and what being an 18 month old looks like in the Prieto casa.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Lately I've been drowning in a pool of I-love-you-ness for Marcos. I think part of it is that we're far enough into our marriage to stop sweating some of the small things, part of it is that we're up against enough external obstacles (figuring out parenting? finances?) that we really are learning how to be on the same team and counsel with each other, part of it probably has to do with my mom being here and alleviating stress because of her constant service on our behalf, but most of it has to do with the fact that Marcos is just a tippity top quality human being.

And yesterday just happened to be his 27th birthday. Happy Birthday, my LOVE!

Since Marcos bought himself an HP touchpad tablet on super sale a month or two ago, we didn't bother with gifts yesterday. Instead, we decorated the table for fall and made a meal fit for a King. And by "we", I mean my mom, who helps me to fulfill so many of my good intentions. By the end of each day, Gigi has grown thoroughly bored with our home, and needs attention, so we switched off cooking and taking Gigi for walks outside until the meal was complete.

And there you have it: a meal fit for a King. We made turkey meatloaf with the famous Pratt family piquant sauce (soooo good), baked potatoes with sour cream and chives, fluffy white rice (Marcos requested two starches), fresh steamed green beans, and an amazing salad with my mom's famous papaya seed dressing. It was heaven on a plate.

And to top off the night, my friend Becca called and said, "We're making cupcakes. Can we bring some over?", and so we finished dinner on a sweet note with our sweet friends. Becca didn't even know it was Marcos' birthday when she called. She's just that amazing.

I feel like our life is simple in so many ways, and I hope it stays simple even when we become rich and famous... because who knew that simple could be so happy?