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Monday, May 30, 2011

Eat At Randall's!

 Seriously. Go there. Today.  Randall's (Malabia 1530 between Honduras y Gorriti, Palermo: 4832-5070) is a new American-diner-style restaurant that just opened in February.  This place is great!  All (well, most) of the conveniences of a diner are available in this quaint new place, things that you didn't even know you missed from the US.  We went on a Sunday morning for breakfast and for the first time in over a year and a half I ordered a cup of coffee that came in a large mug!  And they asked if I wanted more when it was low!  Compared to the Barbie-sized teenie cups of espresso-style high-octane coffee you would receive anywhere else, this was a great way to start your Sunday.

The laminated place mat menus are chocked full of traditional American breakfast items; pancakes, Belgian waffles, biscuits and gravy, build your own omelet - and those are just the breakfast items.  Should we have stayed for lunch we could choose between, buffalo wings, BLT, chili, mac and cheese and more.  Best of all??  All items are available at all hours of the day!  I never thought that the Denny's business model would be such a welcomed change!

We ordered and ate like fools.  Nix that, we ordered and ate like Americans.  Our plates came with sides of syrup, Heinz katsup and French's mustard were brought with the diced potatoes and my husband's Coke Light was never empty (free refills!  Can you believe it?!).  Obviously, there were subtle differences between our items and what you would see on a plate at IHOP, but the bacon was right, the syrup was there and we were happy little campers.

Don't get me wrong, this is not just a breakfast spot.  Randall's offers a full dinner menu as well along with happy hour deals, most notably the 2 for 1 beers.  The website, their business cards and some other details are still in the works, but we will give them a pass considering they are still so new.  The restaurant opens at 6am Tues - Sun, a risky venture for a place in Bs. As. considering that most people aren't even away until midday on the weekends, but we appreciated it.  We arrived at 11:30am for breakfast and we were the only people in the place for at least 45 minutes.  This worked out well for us, considering we had a total of 4 babies under the age of 1.  The place was definitely family friendly, although I would definitely request that they add a changing table in the restrooms.

We highly recommend this place for an American-style meal.  And I would love to see it succeed, so like I said at the beginning, go there! Right now. Today. And enjoy!

***UPDATE:  As of November 17, 2011, Randall's has closed permanently.  RIP, American breakfast. :(

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gretchen's Favorite Things

Today, Gretchen is three months old!  These last three months have been incredible in so many different ways, as we get to know our little girl and as she gets to know herself.  Most recently, she has begun to develop preferences to games, toys and activities - and she has been very clear about things that she dislikes as well. 

So, in honor of this three month milestone, and the fact that it coincides with the Oprah show's last week on air, I call this post "Gretchen's Favorite Things".

Gretchen loves anything that floats above her head.  She loves the bear mobile in her crib, although she only spends nap time in her crib, at night we still have her in the pack and play.

Her most favorite toy since the day we brought her home is the space-themed activity mat that we lovingly refer to as "the planets".  She loves to kick her legs and smile at her floating buddies.

 She likes sitting up like an adult.  We started this for pictures and because it looked funny, but she has started to really enjoy it.  I love how her arms just hang there, she hasn't quite mastered what to do with them yet.

Her preferred method of sleeping is while she's being held.

If that is not available, she sleeps best in the swaddle blanket.  Although this is not necessarily one of her favorite things, it is a favorite of mom and dad because she sleeps for 8-10 hours at a stretch when she's all wrapped up.

Smiling is her new favorite activity.  This smile just warms my heart.

Gretchen loves riding in her stroller.  Thank goodness, because it is our preferred method of transportation.

This baby stretches more than anyone I have ever seen.  I absolutely love it, it is also one of my favorite things.

Gretchen loves sucking on her hands and staring at lights.  This picture captures both of these activities perfectly.

She has recently discovered her own reflection and it is remarkable to watch her discover herself.  

 The one thing she dislikes more than everything, you may even call it her least favorite thing, is tummy time.  Supposedly she should spend at least 20 minutes a day on her tummy, however she only tolerates it without crying for two or three minutes at a time.  We keep working on it, but we have a long way to go before she likes it. 

She is a wonderful baby and we have enjoyed every minute of these last three months together.  Happy 3 month birthday baby girl!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Have Passport, Will Travel

Someone was looking out for us because today something magical happened... Gretchen's Argentine passport arrived!  We are now safe to travel outside of the country.

This officially ends the Legalizing Your Baby series.  It has been a crazy road, and considering that Gretchen will be 3 months old tomorrow, I truly believe that we accomplished this in the least amount of time possible. 

Look at how excited our little princess is!  We cannot wait for her to meet the rest of her family, and now we are finally able to take a breath and just be excited for our trip. 
I dare you to say this isn't the cutest photo ever

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Legalizing Your Baby: Permiso a Viajar

The next step of our process doesn't actually legalize your baby, but it does allow you to travel legally with your child. I have heard this document called a number of different things, for the purpose of this post I will refer to it as the "permiso".

The permiso is a legal authorization signed by both parents and notarized (by an Argentine notary public or escribano) that states that the minor child can leave the country. This document can be obtained for each individual trip, or as a universal permission for all future trips for the child. The permiso is designed to prevent child abduction - by making it more difficult for a single parent to take a minor child out of the country without the consent of the other parent. In theory the only time you would need this document is if you were traveling alone with your minor child, however, as with most things in Argentina, it is smart to be over prepared. Depending on the immigrations agent that you have, you may be asked to produce this document even if both parents are traveling together, be prepared. Also, if you have a minor child, this is something you want to get taken care of as soon as possible just in case some sort of emergency arises and you need to travel solo.

Anyways, as far as obtaining a permiso is concerned, I am a little fuzzy on the details, but I'll tell you what I know. An escribano can prepare and authorize this document for you, and we went to Escribania Maschwitz - Tucuman 715. Here are the documents we needed to complete the permiso:
  1. Original passports of both parents
  2. Original DNIs of both parents
  3. Original DNI of the baby
We verified that all of the information was complete and correct in the document and then both Jon and I signed the page. Three days later we had the completed permiso in hand, complete with notarized legalization. This will now be one of the documents that is always in our travel portfolio when Gretchen is with us. I have looked for more thorough information to share about obtaining this document, and the best information I have found is on the US Embassy website and the Ministerio del Interior site, but these resources aren't really that thorough (my apologies).

Now that we have this, we are just missing one last piece of the puzzle. The Argentine passport. Let us hope it arrives sometime within the next 6 days... Or someone is going to be a not-so-happy camper.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Legalizing Your Baby: Obtaining a Social Security Number

Who could deny this face??
At the advice of my friend Kelly and the Anonymous comment left on my Baby Passport Received post, I decided to try my luck at the Embassy and apply for Gretchen's Social Security number. The package containing her new passport gave nice, clear instructions on how to accomplish this very task, my only hesitation was not knowing if the Embassy would keep the documents needed to complete the request.  Good news!  You only need to show the documents.  Even Better News!  The whole thing took less than 30 minutes. 

The funny thing about applying for a Social Security number is that the window is only open from 8:00am - 11:30am Monday - Friday, except Wednesdays.  For some reason, they are closed every Wednesday.  So today I packed up my good little sleeper and we arrived at the Embassy around 11:15am.  As with the other times I have been to the Embassy (to renew a passport and to apply for a passport) it was no necessary as a US citizen to wait in line to get in, I approached the shaded window to the left of the entrance door, showed my passport and gained immediate entry.

I followed the instructions I was given and approached Window 16, which is actually a fingerprint window, so I waited for my number to be called and approached the correct Window, #17.  To apply for my daughter's Social Security number I needed:
  1. My US passport
  2. My daughter's US passport (and the instructions specify that the passport needs to be signed by a parent with the child's printed name in the signature line, who knew?)
  3. My daughter's original birth certificate, the Certificado de Nacimiento
It is also helpful to know both parents (aka - my and my husband's) Social Security numbers.  I don't have his memorized, but they were able to look it up in some sort of database.  I was asked for a mailing address for where I wanted the card to be sent, and that was it.  If you choose to have the SS card sent to a local (Argentine) address, the waiting period is ~2 months, if you choose to have it sent to a US address, the waiting period is 2 weeks.  We have not had good luck receiving mail in a timely fashion so I opted for the US address option. 
If there is Social Security money left when she retires, I'll be smiling too.
So far, this has been the easiest part of the Legalization process.  Thanks to Kelly and Anonymous commenter for your help! 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Legalizing Your Baby: Argentina Passport & Permenant DNI

Waiting Area #1
Another step in legalizing our Argentine-born baby process is to apply for Gretchen's Argentine passport, without which she is not able to leave the country.  This process changed recently (May 9, 2011 to be exact), the biggest change for us is that you now need an appointment with the Registro Nacional whereas before it was only necessary to go to the building and wait in line. 

Here are the steps that we took in this new process to apply for our newborn's Argentine passport:
  1. Get a DNI for your baby.  You need the DNI number to make an appointment.
  2. Go to the Registro Nacional de las Personas website to make an appointment.  Print the appointment confirmation.
  3. On the day of your appointment bring the following items to the Registro Nacional de Las Personas, located at - Humberto Primo 243 in Centro:
    1. The appointment confirmation, 
    2. Both parent's original DNIs and (US) passports,
    3. Original DNI of the baby,
    4. The baby's birth certificate (Certificado de Nacimiento),
    5. $130 pesos,
    6. The baby and at least one parent.
After we were inside the Registro, things progressed very smoothly.  It is very similar to the DMV in the US.  We waited in a preliminary line and received a numbered ticket.  We moved to the first waiting area until our number was called, where we approached a window, presented our documents and paid the processing fee.  We progressed to the next waiting area and waited for our number to be called a second time - this is where the passport processing truly began.

At this final step we were asked for all of our original documents again so that the agent could input all of Gretchen's details into the computer.  I was then fingerprinted and asked to sign on my daughter's behalf.  The agent took Gretchen's photo and fingerprinted her thumbs, which was quite the process on a 10 week-old, but worked after the 3rd or 4th attempt.  We were told that her permanent DNI (the one we received at the Civil Registry is just a temporary, handwritten version) would be delivered to our house in 5-10 working days and her passport delivered in 15 working days, and we were sent on our merry way. 

Today marks the 5th working day since our appointment and I am pleased to say that we have received her DNI!  Now we are holding our breath and crossing our fingers that the passport is just as timely, as we have plane tickets to the US in (count them...) TEN working days!  Let's hope this new passport process is swift!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Legalizing Your Baby: US Passport - Received!

Though the peacefully-sleeping-baby gods have not been with us this week (or last week, or the week before...) the US-citizenship gods are on our side! Today we received Gretchen's US birth certificate (more accurately called the Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or CRBA, certificate) and her US passport. She is officially a United States citizen now - hooray!

You may remember from my first post about the US Passport process that we were told to expect our documents to be delivered in 10 working days. This ended up being an understatement as our original appointment with the Embassy was on April 15, 20 working days ago. No complaints here, we're just happy to receive them.

Gretchen is relieved that she can never be president
These documents came with instructions on applying for a Social Security number, something that I hadn't given much thought to. According to the instructions, we can apply through the Embassy - this is nice, we thought we needed to apply in the states - but they require you to submit the baby's US passport, original birth certificate and the passport of one of the parents. Considering that we plan to travel internationally within the next month, we are going to wait until our return to turn in all of these important items.

We now have 2/3 of the documents needed to bring our child to the land of the free, more updates to come on the progress of our other adventures in Legalizing Your Baby paperwork.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My First Mother's Day

One of the strangest things about living in the Southern Hemisphere is the opposite season effect.  In September it is just starting to get nice outside, over Christmas it is usually in the 90s and May marks the beginning of fall.  This has me constantly trying to remember what month it is, and this time of year seems to be the most confusing because the leaves are falling off the trees over springtime holidays such as Mother's Day.  Any other year this may have me scrambling last minute to figure out what to do for my own mom, but this year I had this particular holiday etched in my memory because it is the first year that I, too, get to consider myself in the ranks of those we call "Mom".  And what a Mother's Day it was.

My fantastic husband arranged to take me, and his parents who were also in town visiting, to a lovely brunch at the Four Seasons Hotel (Recoleta, Posadas 1086: 4321-1200) here in Buenos Aires, something that we had been talking about doing for over a year.  If you are considering attending this brunch let me make two recommendations; 1) Don't eat for at least 24 hours before going to maximize on the amazing food. 2) Wait for a special occasion to go, it truly is remarkable. 

The hotel itself is a stately looking tower that is very nice, but doesn't stand out compared to the other beautiful architecture of the city.  Brunch is held in an extension of the hotel, a renovated home that for obvious reasons is called La Mansion. 
La Mansion is a part of the hotel, and available to be reserved either as individual rooms or as a whole house reservation (which we've heard unofficially that it costs $35,000 per night in its entirety.  We also heard that Coldplay rented it and stayed there last year when we went to their concert).  The brunch dining room is located off of the lobby entrance-way, where you are greeted by a claw footed bathtub holding bottles of champagne and a smiling hostess that hands you a glass.  
Towering Glasses of Delicious Salads

The dining room is comprised of four rooms, each room is decorated as one of the four seasons, three of them are used for seating and the fourth is filled with brunch stations. 

Each station is prettier than the last, from the salad tower to the iced ceviche tub to the paella stand, the food and the presentation is artful. 

Tub Full of Cevice
Bubbling Pan of Paella Surrounded by the Ingredients
We were seated in the "autumn" room, which, lucky for us, doubles as the dessert room.  The hardest thing about brunch is making sure you save room for dessert. 
Incredible Dessert Spread
Baby Gretchen Slept Through the Whole Afternoon
 It was also a special day for our own moms, who were both celebrating their first Mother's Day as Grandmothers!
It was an amazing day, made better by the fact that Mother's Day in Argentina isn't until October so we didn't have to deal with the restaurant craziness that is American Mother's Day - huge bonus!  What an incredible way to celebrate being a mom - Happy Mother's Day!