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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Keeping Kiddos Busy in BsAs

As with most of the other mom's I know, now that the city has returned to normal after the January-February hiatus, I'm looking for activities to occupy the hours of Gretchen's day.  I know that I am a super fun playmate, but there certainly are times that she's looking to hang out with other kiddos.  So, here is a list of the classes and activities that I have come across while searching for ways to occupy my one year old.

Gymboree: www.gymboree.com.ar/
Location: Palermo, Guatemala 5614 (with other locations in the greater suburbs of BsAs)
Phone: 4775-8504 or 4831-0831
Gymboree offers music, art and general play classes for children 0-5 years old (separated by age, of course).  The instruction is in Spanish, but the songs and many of the games are in English.  You have the ability to pay per class (AR$100 each) or have them automatically charge your credit/debit card on a monthly basis and attend a variety of classes during the week (AR$300 - AR$450, depending on the number of programs you choose).  Gymboree also offers a first-time trial class for free, though you need to sign up for this in advance online.  If you sign up the day of your trial class, they wave the inscription fee of AR$150.  They keep an up to date calendar online with email updates each month.  Beware of January and February, their class schedule completely changes - in my opinion - for the worse.

Kindermusik: www.kindermusik.com/
Location: Inside the Museo Evita, Palermo, Lafinur 2988
Kindermusik class is taught by independent teachers, so you need to be cautious with which classes you seek out, but from what I'm told, Alcira is a great instructor.  The classes focus on music and dance for children 0-5 years old (separated by age).  They offer sign up for monthly classes, one class per week, for AR$360 per month.  There is a one time inscription fee of AR$300, though you are able to attend a trail class before committing to the monthly fee.  The classes run on a semester schedule, March 6 - July 12 is the first semester of 2012.

Ocampo Wellness Club Swim Lessons: www.ocampowellness.com.ar/
Location: Palermo, Ortiz de Ocampo 3250
Phone: 4802-8877 / 4803-2963
Ocampo Wellness Club is a fully functional gym with an indoor pool where you can sign up separately for swim lessons.  They offer "Mommy & Me" classes for baby's 6 months - 2 years and solo classes for kids 2 - 12 years.  Their indoor pool is great for little ones since they have a super shallow end for little ones to practice standing.  You can choose 1, 2 or 3 classes per week from AR$290, AR$370, or AR$450 per month.  They also offer prenatal swim classes for expecting mamas.

Museo de los Niños: www.museoabasto.org.ar/
Location: Shopping Abasto, Av. Corrientes 3247, Nivel 2
Phone: (054-11) 4861-2325
The Museo de los Niños is a children's museum located in the second level of the Abasto shopping mall.  In true Buenos Aires fashion, it is open from 1pm - 8pm Tuesday through Sunday and has a special calendar available on their website to discuss their hours on holidays.  Children 2 and under are free, as are teachers (when you provide a pay stub and DNI) and people over the age of 65.  For kids 2 - 17 tickets are AR$50 each, and adults are AR$20.  Also, using your DNI as proof, the entrance fee is waved on your birthday.  I have yet to go myself, but I've heard really positive things about the museum, and their website boasts special activity rooms for children 3 and under.  For the older kids, there are spaces where they can pretend to be a number of different "careers"; nurse, captain, mom/dad, actor, pirate, just to name a few.  Now that Gretchen is walking around, I'm sure we'll make the trip.

Bioparque Temaiken: www.temaiken.com.ar/
Location: Ruta 25, Km. 1, Escobar, Provincia de Buenos Aires
Phone: (03488) 43-6900
I have already written about our trip to Temaiken, but this is a great day trip for kids of almost any age.

Zoologico Palermo: www.zoobuenosaires.com.ar/
Location: Av Las Heras and Sarmiento (main entrance located at Plaza Italia)
Phone: 4011-9900
I have also previously written about the Palermo Zoo, but my perspective has changed a bit over the years that we've lived here.  I still feel like the zoo could use some additional funding, but if you don't go in the smack-dab-middle of summer, it's a much nicer experience. This zoo is open Tuesday - Sunday from 10am - 6pm.  General admission is AR$25, or AR$40 if you choose the "passporte ahorro" that includes the reptile and aquarium areas and a ride on their little boat attraction.  Their website says that tickets are free for kids under the age of 12 and over the age of 65, though I'm not 100% sure that's true.  I have been back to the zoo two times since my initial post, and both times were far better than the first trip.  It is a nice way to see the animals without driving the 30 minutes to get to Temaiken.

Jardin Maternal:  This is a general writing about the option of a "Jardin" or preschool for little ones as young as 12 months.  It is a much more culturally acceptable practice here to send your young child to "school" for anywhere from 2 - 5 days per week.  Depending on the school, they either speak Spanish or are bilingual and run anywhere from 2 - 7 hours per day.  Here are the list of schools that have a jardin level that I've been made aware of:

Bayard (Palermo): http://bayard.esc.edu.ar Castex 3348, Tel. (54-11) 4803-0902
Starts with preschool and continues to high school. *Bilingual.

Belgrano Day School (Belgrano): http://www.bds.edu.ar/A school that starts in preschool (2 years old) and continues through high school. *Bilingual.

Colegio del Arce (Canitas): http://www.delarce.com.ar/Starts in preschool (1 year old) and continues through high school. *Bilingual.

Nightingale (Palermo): http://www.florencenightingale.com.ar/ Bulnes 2571, Tel 4802-1913
Preschool only located in Palermo. *Bilingual.

Risas de la Tierra (Palermo): http://www.risasdelatierra.com.ar/ Cerviño 3760, 4802-2683
Music and dance centered preschool starting at 18 months. *Spanish only.

So there you have it - your one stop shop for all of my information on entertaining little ones during the day.  Please let me know if there is something I've forgotten, I'm always on the lookout for new activities!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gretchen's Birthday, Uncensored

For those of you who have been on the edge of your chairs, waiting to hear about Gretchen's next tooth, today was the day!  Her second front top tooth FINALLY made it's arrival this morning, hallelujah!

Aside from that excitement, as I was updating Gretchen's baby book today, I realized two things; 1) I take a LOT of pictures and 2) I post a LOT of really great, happy pictures, potentially skewing an outsider's view of our lives.  There are also a LOT of really funny pictures that probably more accurately capture the feeling of certain events.  With this in mind, here are some of the "outtakes" from Gretchen's birthday party that I thought deserved a second look.

Here is what happens when we take our eyes off of Gretchen for a moment.  My friend Milena hilariously captured our little mischievous one:

Yep, that's our daughter with a big, dangerous fork.  I'm pretty sure she was searching for more cake on the table, but she was pretty excited with this discovery.  In other news, Gretchen can reach most heights in our apartment now - be warned!

Here is our happy furious birthday girl after we removed her demolished cupcake.  She was not a happy camper.

And neither was her friend Claire.  I'm not sure what happened here, but what a sad face!  I think it was the hour in most children's birthday parties where there was just a collective break down.

Here is Gretchen's friend Lilly chomping away at a balloon:

And Talia, enjoying Gretchen's new Daisy Duck figure:

And now Gretchen enjoying another one of her new toys.  I'm pretty sure our entire living room was in someone's mouth at some point during the afternoon.

Including the fireplace!  This is where Kia chose to hang out during the party.

And here is one of the 32 pictures we took in an attempt to get our little ones in a shot together.  Notice the multiple arms and distraction techniques we are employing in order to get everyone to sit still.  What you can't see is Milena laying on the floor making sure that no one falls forward onto the floor.

And here is another example of what happens when we take our eyes off of Gretchen for a moment.  She also proceeded to pick up the glass on the coffee table and drop it in the middle of the floor a second later.

Lastly, here is the best gift of all (for now), the box from our new trash can.  She had a blast with this box - crawling through it one way and the other.  It occupied the better part of a day.

I hope you enjoyed this more accurate view into our lives.  With luck, you have a box at home that brings you as much joy as our trash can box brought us!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Any moment now, Gretchen has at least one, possibly two teeth that are about to pop through.  I've been saying this for months, since she is almost 13 months old and still only has 3 teeth.  But considering that I think that this might really be the week the next tooth comes through, I wanted to document the adorable single upper tooth that Gretchen has been sporting over the last few weeks.
Precious singular upper tooth

In other news, she now loves all telephones, and spends much of her day trying to reach the phone we keep in our living room:
"What, Mom?  I'm just getting the phone."
And here is a glimpse into a few of the additional photos that I took in an attempt to get Gretchen's tooth on film.

Here is where she grabs my camera strap:

And here is where she finds it hilarious that I keep backing up out of her reach:

We're on tooth watch!  And we go in for our 12 month doctor's check-up tomorrow - wish us luck!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Visiting Carilo

Carilo's "City Center"
As I mentioned in the Beach Baby post, we took our first full-week vacation in Argentina since arriving here in 2009 and went to a little beach community called Carilo.  This town is about 4 hours outside of Capital, a little south of Pinomar (another popular beach town) and and hour north of Mar del Plata (the grand-all, everyone-goes-there-in-the-summer beach city). It is a great, smaller alternative to the two previously mentioned towns on the Argentine coast, though it is much more low-key with less commercial shops, restaurants and bars.  It is also seen as being a bit more expensive, though we didn't notice a huge difference from the prices in Buenos Aires.

We made the cardinal error of booking our hotel too late.  It is a well known fact that a large portion of Buenos Aires skips town during the summer months (Jan-Feb) and heads to the beach, so recommendation #1, if you're going - book early.  Many places will only book week or two-week stay minimums during these months, so be sure you know what your hotel/apartment's policy is before getting too far into the booking process.  Some places will only rent Sun-Sun, some Sat-Sat and other non-flexible rules like that, so again, be sure you know what you're getting into.  We consulted many of our friends and coworkers, and then Trip Advisor and a number of other websites for hotel recommendations, but found sparse information online when it came to hotel reviews and general information about the town.  After emailing back and forth with a number of hotel/apartments, I finally gave in to calling and trying out my Spanish because the information exchange over email was generally cryptic and incomplete.  For example, a room that sleeps 5 adults may only have one bedroom with a sofa and a futon that provide the beds for 3 of the 5.  Or an apartment with "3 habitaciones" (3 rooms) may actually only have a kitchen, dining area and a bedroom.  This was important in our search because we were looking for a place with a bedroom for Jon and I, a room for my in-laws and a separate room for Gretchen (if we're going to be there for a week, we at least wanted to get some sleep...). I ended up booking a place called Terrazas de Carilo, an apartment with a full kitchen, 2.5 baths and 3 bedrooms.

I could go on and on about how the shower curtain fell on Jon's mom during a shower, or how they gave us watered down dish soap (a used container for washing our dishes that was clearly diluted with water), or how they provided one stained dishcloth with a hole you could fit your whole hand through, or how any room with a drain smelled like a fishing boat - but I won't.  I'll just say - don't stay there until they've done at least US$500,000 in renovations.  On their survey at the end of the week, I gave them a whole lot of "malo's" (bad/unsatisfactory).  But it DID have lots of space, a parilla on the porch and some very friendly staff members.

Gran and Poppa walking along the beach
Most hotels I spoke to offered some sort of "beach service" which generally provides a few chairs and maybe an umbrella on the beach.  Our beach service was a kind of hut with plastic lawn chairs that was a little ways from the actual water - so we abandoned that spot and used the beach service guy, Willie, to rent better chairs (AR$30 for a lay-down chair, AR$15 for a low-sitting beach chair; per day) and put them closer to the water.  I am unclear as to if Willie rents to people that are not included in his beach-service domaine, but I imagine him or someone else provides that service.  Moral of the story is that beach service is different depending on the hotel, and my Spanish is not strong enough to determine between styles of chairs and umbrella/huts - so I would just remove that factor from my decision making process while booking a hotel next time around.

The roads in Carilo are made of sand, and therefore behave the way that packed sand generally does.  They are nice to look at and made the town feel more quaint, but we had some serious pothole issues both on our way in and out of the town, and there was some significant flooding during the 4 nights of rain we experienced (to the point where I didn't think our car was going to make it out of town).  The other factor regarding the road is the popularity of 4-wheelers and motorbikes - great for fun-loving kids, not so great for sleeping babies.  I would choose to stay in a place either further from the beach access or in a room away from the street if I were doing it over again - those suckers were loud.

Don't get me wrong, we really liked the town - we would just do some things different when we travel next time around.  The downtown area was adorable, and we were able to pick up a few keepsake items from a great little shop we found on the last afternoon we were in town.  We also tried a number of restaurants in the town, our favorites being Bar de Tapas (great for a sit down meal) and Jalisco (an impressively good Mexican restaurant that offers delivery - and a commemorative tote bag to boot!).  The beach is very similar to the eastern shore of the US, North Carolina or New Jersey, it was clean, well maintained, and had surprisingly competent lifeguards every 100 meters.  Our sunny days were wonderful, though we had an unanticipated number of rainy days (which, according to the locals, happens every year in late February at the beach), so the weather, combined with the hotel really tainted my view of this specific vacation.

If you're headed to Carilo, or anywhere on the Argentine coast, do your research, try not to travel at the same time as everyone else in the country - and, for goodness sakes, book in advance!