Saturday, October 30, 2010

Weird pregnancy moments

When you have the remote control balanced on our belly as you are stretched out on the couch. And then you see it rock back and forth, like a rowboat at sea, powered by the kicks of a creature below that bump.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mr. Bear visits the library

Our library held an animal sleepover recently. When River went to pick up Mr. Bear, he received this photo, showing what his stuffed animal was up to in his absence. What a cute idea.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When a child builds a life overseas

I found this interesting, since I probably put my parents through something similar. But at that stage in life, one isn’t reallythinking about the parents. When at one point my mom expressed some concern, I told her not to worry, because if anything happened to me,I’d die doing what I loved.

But I do have to note that this woman is only 23. She still has along ways to go before her biological clock begins ticking. And what then? Will she come closer to home, as I and many others do? Or will she find a way to build a family overseas? And in that case, what will be the implications for all three generations of the distance and the cultural divides?

I always imagined raising children overseas and I always imagined that at least one of them would come from an orphanage. I think that vision is probably the cause of some of the decisions I have taken in raising River. In some respects - raising him to be a primary
Spanish-speaker, putting him in a preschool where he is an ethnic minority, avoiding a lot of the English-only and more stereotypical activities, and hoping to soon plunge him into Chinese – I think I may be trying to give him that overseas experience, as much as possible, from home. I sometimes long for the excitement, diversity and challenge that comes with overseas living and I long for my child to experience that.

But as I’ve reached my mid-30s, I’d learned my parents are sad to live a plane ride away within the same country, able to see River only 3-4 times per year. I’ve realized it makes me sad to not have family support nearby, to not have those constants in River’s life. If I was in Nepal and he saw his grandparents only 1-2 times per year, I’d feel that lack even more intensely.

I have friends who have done it – who skype with their Canadian grandparents from Moscow. A woman who left one of her sons in the U.S. and moved with the other to marry a man in New Zealand. They manage to keep up the bonds. But I think a lot of intimacy is lost.

Part of Mark’s lack of enthusiasm for putting River into a Chinese school is that he fears River will one day leave us for China. It is easier for a male to build a life and a family overseas than it is for a female.

Monday, October 25, 2010

extended separation

I expected Mark and I would have separate sleeping quarters for a while after the birth. Last time, taking turns caring for the baby, while the other got half a night of quality rest, worked well for both of us. But I didn’t expect the separation to start several months before the birth. Mark is now permanently located on the couch and I have the luxury of a full queen-size bed to my gigantic self.

Thinking back to last time, I’m pretty sure we stayed in the same bed until the birth. But then, sleeping on my left side had me facing out from the bed. Now, sleeping on my left, has me facing in. With a Froogle in front me of me and another pillow behind me to prevent me from moving onto my back, I take up too much room. In this way I disturb Mark. His snoring, breathing and movements disturb me, taking away from what feel like precious moments of uninterrupted sleep. Then we both get awakened by the shrill old-fashioned alarm our tenants recently purchased, and which goes off at 6 a.m. on weekdays. So we’ve decided it works better for both of us to have some space to ourselves.

I feel I have a lot to look forward to in the spring. Not only the arrival of our daughter and the opportunity to see and get to know her, but a reduction in my girth, an easier time sleeping, at least between night-time wake-ups, and eventually, being able to share a bed
with my husband again.

A student doula?

Over the weekend we met with a student doula, a woman who has gone through the training, but has not attended any births, besides those of her own children. She has given birth to two children, which I think is even more important than attending the births of others. But still, it’s a big experience gap compared to our last doula, who had three children of her own and had attended over 100 births.

Our holiday-season due-date doesn’t work for our prior doula, and we are hesitant to spend $800 when we have a little experience under our belts and I plan to accept pain relief on the earlier side. Nevertheless, we started to worry about the quality and quantity of staffing available over the holidays, what we’d do if we got the one doctor in the practice I’m not comfortable with, and/or a nurse that wasn’t helpful. Perhaps it would be helpful to have someone in the room we knew ahead of time and could count on, even if she wasn’t highly experienced. Perhaps we could find a mutually beneficial arrangement in which we help her meet her qualification requirements and she helps us with support at a minimal cost. So our former doula put us in touch with her student.

She seems like a nice person, someone I’d be happy to share a cup of tea with, someone I could handle being naked in front of when circumstances call for it. She only charges $100, so I thought she was fine for the price.

But in the car ride home, Mark brought up concerns about her chatty nature. During the meeting, I was fine with it, because she came across as friendly. But he made me think, do we really want a chatty person during labor, especially someone who admitted that she may get nervous, although she swears she’s confident and capable of doing the
job? When we looked for a doula the last time, the ones I liked best were the doulas with a yoga or massage background, the ones who exuded a sense of calm and zen-like peace. Perhaps because that’s not my personality and I found that tranquility a good counterforce to my more goal-oriented focus of let’s get this thing out.

Mark seemed to indicate that he wouldn’t be comfortable under the guidance of a chatty person. I told him that if he wasn’t comfortable, then we should skip it. Because one of the main functions that we want a doula for is to be able to guide Mark. If he’s not comfortable with her, then I won’t be comfortable, and it’s not worth it.

I agreed that a more zen-like person would be a better match. However, the likelihood of finding a perfect zen-like student, who is fully available over Christmas and New Year’s, is very remote. We have no other candidates to consider. We had met another doula once who really rubbed both of us the wrong way, and that wasn’t the case with this one. I actually liked this woman - she just might not be the perfect person to guide us through labor. However, I think we are looking at either her or nothing.

As her first potential clients, I imagine she’d be devoted to the job and would try her best. She’d be willing to take pictures and/or write a birth story and I am always appreciative of good record-keeping. She could be a potential source of advice. If she doesn’t know something herself, I think she’d make use of her teachers and student network to find things out. Unless there was a major snowstorm (which is a risk) or she is sick, she would be a familiar face that we could count on seeing. So I don’t see that there is much
to lose in trying her out for $100.

If we hire her, she’ll come to our house for a longer meeting and hopefully Mark could make clear to her what he needs to be comfortable. We have two weeks to think it over, but I think we are learning towards becoming the first practice clients for a doula-in-training.

If you’ve used a student doula, how was your experience?

nostalgia and the act of making a baby book

I’m trying to catch up (slowly) on my posting chronologically. But I’m skipping ahead with this one because I need some advice.

I’m fully in the nesting mode and one of my projects is to attack the baby book – or rather three-year book. I’ve asked my husband to make a video of River’s first three years and it’s my job to make the book. I’m going to go with one of those digital photo books you can order, to make the task easier.

I last left off on photo and video sorting in December 2009, so last night I went through the second half of December and the first two months of this year. Reliving those moments filled me with an incredible sense of nostalgia. Yes, this is the same little guy I know and love. But he is so different, in such a short span of time. It amazes and astounds me. And it makes me feel so lucky to have experienced and participated in those moments.

Part of my sentimentality may be due to pregnancy-induced hormones. But even Mark seemed nostalgic upon watching River make star-shaped ginger-bread cookies with him last holiday season.

River stood upon on a chair and watched papa intensely. He wore his cotton diaper and a mustard-yellow shirt.

“He was chunkier then,” Mark commented, referring to the thick thighs he still had then. Now he is so lean.

“Say three,” Mark said in the video, counting the cookies they had made.

“Four,” River said.

“Ok, that’s close enough,” Mark replied.

Ten months later, it’s hard to even fathom River messing up a number. Now Mark recites the first line of a nursery rhyme and River finishes it.

The fact that we neglect to realize the magnitude of these changes, even in such a short time span, makes me want to record them for River even more. I’m excited about this project and hope I make something that will be memorable.

A couple of questions:
1. Can anyone recommend a good online baby book maker? Right now, I’m planning to use one of the major sites, like Snapfish. That would limit me to photos, some text, and the monthly letters I’ve written to River. But if there is a site that also has pages for growth charts, firsts, etc. that would be pretty cool.

2. How many pages can you have in one of those digital photo books before it gets too big? Thirty-six months is a lot of ground to cover.

3. How many copies would you make? I’m thinking I should have one on the shelf for River and one for safe-keeping in a firebox or other safe place. Should I make copies for the grandparents? Anyone else?

4. What should I do with the things that can’t be put into a digital book – the first lock of cut hair, the baby hat worn at the hospital, a trinket from my baby shower, other little mementos like that?

5. Any suggestions of video-making software appropriate for an inexperienced person?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Maybe I should watch my weight

I just looked at some recent photos of myself on the digital camera and I look fat. Not just pregnant fat, but my face is fat and my hips and thighs are larger than I’m comfortable with. I told Mark I think I’m fat and he responded, “You are pregnant.”

He asked where I was compared to last time. While I still have a lot of weight to gain compared to last time, when I look back at my records, I see I was at my current weight in week 33 last time (the pounds really piled on in the last 7 weeks – Halloween, Thanksgiving and cold weather probably didn’t help). So I’m two weeks ahead of my last pregnancy’s weight chart.

Part of me thinks there is no reason to deny myself when I’m dealing with lots of other discomforts. But another part says it’s not fun to not feel good about oneself either. Maybe I should listen to the doctor and try to limit my weight gain.

How do you balance taking care of yourself with being nice to yourself during third trimester and in the post-partum months?

Realizing goals as I go along

This afternoon Mark was in charge of River and I was supposed to be off. I heard him wake River up from his nap after only an hour of sleep. I could tell from River’s cry (normally he gets up cheery and talkative) that he was still exhausted. I felt a pang in my heart that he should have to get up when he’s still tired. Perhaps I could relate, since I was in bed taking my own nap, and also resented being woken up. I thought River would be crabby all evening as a result.

When I went into his room and urged Mark to go do his errand without River, River’s head fell onto my shoulder and I knew he was still tired. I sang him a song and told him I’d put him back in his crib with some cars and books, for quiet time. I wasn’t sure he’d fall back asleep after such an awakening, but at least he could have a little time to transition alone to wakefulness. I don’t think he touched the cars or books and we woke him up an hour and a half later.

The pain I felt at him possibly being forced to get up when he wasn’t ready made me realize that it’s quite important to me to have a well-rested child. That wasn’t a goal I set out with when I became a parent. But it’s one that over time has assumed importance.

River having adequate rest has benefits for us. It means we have more down time and that when he’s awake, our job is easier because he’s generally in a good mood. I also know that research points to adequate rest as having all kind of implications for learning and intellectual development. But mostly, I think I just appreciate how nice it is to wake up fully rested and to greet the day prepared. It’s no fun to slug through a day. River will have plenty of time to experience that in his life. As long as I can, I’d like to protect him from demands that cut into his sleep and let him enjoy the world on his schedule.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

advertising breastfeeding as a weight-loss tool to low-income populations

What do you think of this ad, directed at WIC recipients in New York?

I think it’s great to promote breastfeeding, especially among low-income populations. These babies need the close touch and health and intellectual benefits of breastmilk as much, or more so, than other babies.

But come on, is weight loss really scientifically proven? It didn’t happen for me until I stopped breastfeeding. And how is a working, low-income mother supposed to manage breastfeeding without a reasonable leave, support to buy a several-hundred dollar pump and related equipment, and the conditions necessary to be able to successfully pump (if that’s even possible)?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Possible cool birthdate

I realized the other day, that if this baby happens to be born on New Year’s day, which is entirely within the realm of possibility, its birthdate would be 1/1/11. How cool. 1/11/11 wouldn’t be bad either, but I think that’s too far out to be realistic.

So I’ve decided that the lifetime benefit of a very memorable birthdate would be worth giving up the tax deduction for a December birth. But I’m hoping that it doesn’t choose January 2-10th for its entry. I’m rooting for either a tax deduction or a cool birthday.

Handling aggression from other toddlers

River is not good at handling aggression from other kids his age. He is sweet, he shares, he’s calm and happy. So when other kids are possessive, mean or physical, he doesn’t know how to react. He appears to be shocked, as though his concept of the world is caving in. As parents, we also feel at a loss of how to deal with it.

This weekend we happened upon a block party on our street. It was hosted by a group of houses where there is a heavy concentration of small children. So it was a nice opportunity to meet some other families nearby and River had a blast with all the toys and activities set up in the street.

From a distance, we saw River playing with a razor scooter. Then we saw a little boy run over to him and wrest it away from him. River tried to resist, but failed and walked away. I figured sorting out possessions is best figured out by kids and I didn’t intervene.

But then I watched this kid block River’s path as he tried to walk away. The toddler then put both of his hands on River’s shoulders, near his neck, and tried to physically stop him. River shouted “No, don’t do that,” but his eyes were filled with fear and a sense of disbelief.

At this point, I intervened. No one has the right to physically intimidate my child, or any child, or any adult. When River saw me, he buried his head on my shoulder and cried.

The boy’s parents didn’t see the details of what had happened. His father may have seen that he caused River to cry, but he didn’t inquire into the matter.

A little later, River was sitting at a table, painting a pumpkin and minding his own business when this same tyke reappeared. He stepped right up to River’s face and said something in a very aggressive tone about him needing to go inside. River immediately burst into tears.

The boy’s mother saw this happen and told her son he needed to be nice. I told her he had physically intimidated River not long before and that is why he was so upset. The mother told the boy to be nice and to offer River some gifts from the prize bucket, which he promptly did. The mom said he was tired.

The parents seemed like perfectly nice people. But this kid, about two months older than River, was mean and aggressive. My instinct as a parent is to keep River away from him. If River were to encounter situations like this in school or childcare with any frequency, I’d be tempted to remove him. I just don’t see any reason for him to feel frightened or threatened. I know one needs to learn to make their way in the world, but is learning to fight at age 2 or 3 really the way to do it? Part of my brain is telling me to not be a helicopter parent and to let him be independent and figure things out. Another part of me is telling me there is no positive benefit to him being intimidated by other kids and if others aren’t able to control their own children, or the environment where the children are interacting, it’s my job to keep him away from these kids.

In terms of allowing independence, I think I’m pretty liberal. I have a huge amount of trust in him and will allow him to explore, wander and try a lot of new things on his own (example – use garden shears to cut flowers at farm at age 2.5) without my intervention.

I feel pretty confident in his ability to take care of himself and his environment. Where that confidence wanes is where other kids get involved. Neither he nor I have any control over the way they behave.

The next day, we met a friend at a children’s museum. Her daughter is about six months younger than River and significantly smaller. My friend said her daughter is in the “terrible twos” and is having a difficult time sharing. She says her daughter will arrive at the playground and think the entire playground is hers.

There were several instances in which she wouldn’t share with River. While the mom tried to insist that her daughter share, generally River walked away and I was able to distract him. But in one instance, she came up and wrested a wheelbarrow out of River’s hands, sending him to my shoulder again in tears.

I’m sympathetic to parents whose children are aggressive. There was one instance, when River was about 18 months, where I saw him push another little tyke from behind, without cause. It was a horrible feeling as a parent to see my own child provoke and potentially hurt another. It made me wonder what I could be doing wrong. I felt ashamed.

I’ve read books aimed at parents of what are sometimes called “spirited” boys, which reassures them that aggression and misbehavior is normal, that they will grow out of it, and that the parents need to implement appropriate consequences. Which is all fine and understandable. But the consequences come after the act. And the act involves hurting another child. I don’t want my child to be the target that other kids learn their lessons from.

We’re in this strange situation where we have a physically large, solidly built child (in the upper percentiles for height and weight), who is physically very risk-averse (he’s almost three and just started walking up and down the stairs without assistance this month – no surprise, he’s never fallen) and emotionally very gentle, understanding and analytical.

Our current strategy has been to identify those kids we think are not good influences on River and limit his contact with them, while promoting his contact with the kids he clearly plays well with. But starting now, and increasingly as he gets older, he will be in situations where I don’t know the kids or how they behave, nor will I necessarily have any knowledge of what happens to him there. I’m going to join a class trip to the pumpkin patch later this week, primarily in order to get a better sense of who the other kids in River’s preschool are and to see if I can identify some Spanish-speaking kids with whom it might be worth trying to cultivate friendships. At the moment, I know virtually nothing about them.

I see plenty of articles on dealing with bullies at older ages, as well as on how parents and teachers can handle aggressive toddlers. But I don’t see much on what to do with non-aggressive toddlers. What is the best strategy for helping them become confident, independent and integrated with society, while also protecting them from unnecessary stress or harm?

Smart phone babes and toddlers

A recent article in the New York Times addresses the use of smart phone by 1, 2 and 3-year olds.

My husband got a smart phone a couple of weeks ago. Or rather, I bought it for him. I had promised him a storm chasers tour as a 40th birthday present. But he decided he’d rather have a piece of technology. He says this phone has made his life complete and he’s a better and a happier person. He insists I would be a better and a happier person if I had a smart phone too, which I doubt.

Given how much he treasures it, I expected he’d try to keep it away from River, who shows an interest and a propensity to figure out anything electronic. While he doesn’t allow River to manipulate it, he does use it to entertain him.

“I want cat!” River will call out, and Mark goes to an interactive kitty on the Droid, where River can pet it and make it speak.

Mark will lay on the couch and River presses in alongside him to watch the screen. One afternoon, when they were in this position for at least 40 minutes, I expressed concern that it seemed like a lot of screen time. Mark said he was watching YouTube videos of things that interested River, like dolphins and whales.

Perhaps it is a good thing to have immediate access to vivid real-life images. When I come across an unfamiliar word or term in a book, it’s a huge help to be able to google it and see a photo. But I also think that interacting with the real world is equally, perhaps more, important, and Mark tends to be impatient when River is entranced with a flower, a tree or a storefront window while on a stroll.

If you have a smartphone, do you let your kids use it? What do you think is the right balance of teaching technology and making sure kids are engaged with the world?

Birthday party madness

Today a colleague asked my opinion on birthday planning for her soon-to-be three year old. She feels obligated to invite all ten kids in her son’s preschool room, even though he just moved up to preschool and barely knows them. She also thinks she needs to invite another ten kids from an adjacent preschool class who share a room. She was saying that her son gets overwhelmed in the big party places, but didn’t know where she could hold a party for 20 kids that wasn’t overwhelming.

While we have attended most of the parties we’ve been invited to, and some have been at formal facilities, we have never thrown one ourselves. So I don’t think I was of much help. I told her I’ve also been thinking of how to celebrate River’s third birthday. I found myself torn between wanting to limit it to three kids, per his age, as I’d like to stick with, between wanting to foster interaction with Spanish-speaking kids, between wanting to see some of my own friends with kids, and wondering how to navigate the kids who speak Spanish vs. the kids who speak English option.

I’ve also been feeling like we haven’t seen our own friends enough lately, but I’m not up for throwing an adult party and a birthday party in the final months of my pregnancy. So my most recent idea was to have a brunch for our friends, ask them to contribute a dish instead of a gift, and have birthday cake and ice cream at the end. It would be a bigger crowd than we’d otherwise have for a party, but I think River would be satisfied, there would be lots of kids to play with, he wouldn’t end up with a pile of presents, we’d get to see our friends, and my preparation would be limited to making a cake and an entrĂ©e and getting the house in order. Since the focus would be on adults, I wouldn’t have to worry about organizing things for the kids. Mark is OK with this idea, so it’s currently the frontrunner. I do want it to be special for River, but have been thinking of making it special mainly via the cake and perhaps some decorations.

I suggested a smaller, lower-key play center to my friend, saying perhaps her son would be less overwhelmed there. She said she was concerned that without organized games, the older kids in his class, almost four years old, would be bored, despite the room full of toys to play with.

“But isn’t the focus on your child on his birthday?” I asked. “Who cares if a couple of kids from his daycare don’t think it’s the best party they’ve ever been to?”

She seemed to be torn. She mentioned that she hasn’t seen her friends with kids enough recently either, but that inviting them plus the preschool classmates would be too many guests. Otherwise, she could only invite them if enough preschool classmates declined and there was room.

I’m just glad I’m not facing that stress. I admit, I’ve been to some places where I’ve thought it would be cool to have a party, like the children’s museum we recently visited. But if we do that someday, I want it to be because it’s special for River and because it’s worth the money, not because an institution has set a norm that every kid is supposed to throw some big party and invite everyone, whether they know him and care about him or not.

This is when I’m glad we’re in a low-income preschool. Just to attend the parties of 20 classmates and bring 20 gifts can be a real financial burden, not to mention hosting a party or multiplying this all by two or three or more for families with more than one child. I feel a bit guilty sending River to school with a $40 lunchbox, knowing that most of the kids in his class can’t afford something like that.

A Mexican mother told me how sad her kindergartener is because his classmates throw these big parties. Since he can’t afford to match them, and is ashamed of doing something smaller, he does nothing at all for his birthday. I see no reason to set up those expectations for toddlers.

I know the pressure may hit us one day, or perhaps just the temptation of letting someone else handle the work. In the meantime, I’m glad to know that even though I’ll be full-term pregnant by River’s birthday, we can escape the party madness for one more year.

How do you set norms and expectations for parties in your family? How do you decide how many to invite and where and how to host it? If there is a tendency to invite the whole class and you have resisted that, have there been any negative repercussions?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Being pregnant means you can't give airplane rides

When we first told River about my pregnancy, he didn’t really seem to process it. I told him again, a few weeks later, when he asked me for an airplane ride. I was too far along to be able to place my feet against his chest and lift him into the air with my legs. I felt bad denying his request, and explained why I couldn’t do it. That time, he seemed to understand.

There has been no more mention of airplane rides since that discussion weeks ago, and in fact, I’d forgotten about them.

Last night Mark pointed out my belly to River and how the baby in there would be coming out in a few months.

“Your stomach is very big,” River said.

“Yes,” I agreed.

“That means you can’t give airplane rides.”

At first I was taken aback. What does a pregnancy have to do with airplane rides? Then I remembered how I’d combined explaining the news to him with a denial of his request for an airplane ride.

“Yes, you are right,” I said. “After the baby comes I can give you airplane rides again.”

“Si,” he agreed, seemingly comfortable with the idea that rides would come again and that waiting for this bump to grow and then disappear is nothing out of the ordinary.

I know that memory should be functioning at this age. I imagine it starts much earlier than when we, as parents, are capable of noticing it. But still, I find myself blown away every time I’m confronted with him pulling out a single fact or incident he was exposed to once, in passing, weeks or months beforehand. The brain is a fascinating thing. I’m coming to accept that my child’s brain now contains a vast collection of impressions, connections, facts and memories that form a basis for all his subsequent interactions with the world. Still, I can’t help but marvel at what it is capable of doing, and how little of it I understand.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Making a dream come true

I think if River had the chance to make a wish, like through something like the Make a Wish Foundation, it’s quite possible that wish would be to ride a school bus. He doesn’t know that places like Disney World or Sesame Street exist. But he does know that school buses exist, and he has never been on one. When he started preschool, he was under the impression that he’d get to go to school on a bus. Sorry, no luck.

So today I had the joy of making arrangements to make his wish come true. His preschool is planning an outing to the pumpkin patch next week. They are going on a day he doesn’t attend, but they offered to add him to field trip days on his day off if we’re interested.

When I initially inquired, they said they didn’t have room on the bus, but we were welcome to attend if I could drive. I said in that case, we’d skip it. I take him to a farm almost weekly. Driving to a farm with me wouldn’t be very special to him – not special enough for me to miss a morning at work. It’s the bus that would be the most exciting part of the excursion.

I asked if perhaps I could take some staff members in my car and they could find room for River on the bus. Suddenly, the director remembered that one child would be gone that day and River could have her spot. So the plans are on. I’ll drive there and meet them (I’m curious to attend in order to meet some of his classmates) and he’ll board, ride and disembark a bus with his classmates and teachers.

Tonight I get to break the news to him that he will be going on a bus next week. And next Thursday, he’ll actually have his dream experience of riding a bus (a minibus, but I don’t think it will matter) with a bunch of kids. I sure hope it’s a bright yellow school bus.

If only it were always this easy to fulfill the dreams of loved ones. Easy or not, it feels great when it can be done.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Playgrounds to salivate over

I wish I had some form of rapid transit that could convey me and my child to some of these super cool playgrounds.

Advice for parents of teenagers

We are still just over a decade (thankfully!) from the teenage years, but some of these tips look like they’ll be useful to have on hand then.

Beautiful words

“Can I please go do a caca (pee/poo)?”

The end stage of potty-training, when not only are there no daytime accidents, but we don’t have to ask him if he has to go, is great.

Someday perhaps, he’ll wake up in the morning dry after 12 hours. But until then, we’ll enjoy the calm days.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Caldecott honor books

I know some people pay attention to the Caldecott winners, sometimes even focusing on these books in building libraries for their children. I admit I haven’t paid much attention so far. Our library has a shelf where the librarians rubberband together piles of 5-6 books they say are guaranteed good reads for ages 3-6. Since I focus on providing River’s literary exposure to Spanish, and Mark doesn’t put much effort into the book selection process, I usually just grab these rubber-band piles and bring them home for Mark.

I imagine those piles include some Caldecott winners. But a recent article on the demise of picture books has made me want to expose River to the full array of award-winning picture books. And if there is a lot of demand for these books, perhaps it will help allow the publication of future winners.

I’m also a list nerd. So I plan to start working our way through this list. The downside is that since I don’t read to River in English, any books that don’t have a Spanish version will have to be read by Mark.

Does anyone know if there is anything similar available for picture books in Spanish?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

End of biking - week 27?

I think I might be about done biking. Perhaps I’ll fit in another trip or two, so I can feel I made it into the third trimester. I could probably still handle it physically (though not easily) and would give it a go on a warm, sunny day.

But it’s been in the 50s upon waking the past few days. I’m not interested in bundling up and then navigating the roads as an extra roly-poly cyclist. I also get a bit more sleep when I take the train instead, which is an attractive benefit at this point.

Despite the brand new bike mirror I had installed last week, which I’m very excited about, I think the bike is likely to sit in the garage for the remainder of the next six months or so. See you on the other side.


Among the recent stresses in my life has been the situation of a family I am close to who recently left their country after being victimized by ethnic violence. During the week or so when they were at risk, I was consumed by worry and a feeling of powerlessness. I called, I read the news, I stayed in touch with people in the know. But there was nothing I could do to stop the possibility of people coming to their house to attack them. Once they decided to emigrate, I used the power of the internet and got in touch with anyone I knew who might be able to help them.

They have been in limbo for over a month, living in a single room, without authorization to work and without jobs. The administrative system where they are is very corrupt. They asked us for some money, which we were willing to send, but we were nervous about their prospects.

Several people I contacted a few months ago responded and I just found out today that one friend, who leads a company where they are now living, was able to offer them jobs.

I’ll send the money to help them get legal permission to work. Once they have those papers, they will have employment by a rather good firm. And they have passed the first step of being legally allowed to stay in the region they are living in.

I’m so thrilled – both for their future safety, stability and security and for the tremendous good that the internet and global networks can do. By sitting in my living room and sending targeted messages, I was able to help a family that had undergone trauma find a new start to life. This is a happy day.

Wear your baby like a far northerner

I must admit this concept raises some questions for me – it seems fairly expensive, what happens as you gain/lose weight, etc. But if you are planning for multiple kids, live in a cold climate, spend a lot of time outdoors, or have extra money to spend, these coats modeled after the amautik look pretty cool.

A little drinking during pregnancy may be just fine

That’s good news, since I have guiltlessly indulged in a glass or two of wine several times during this pregnancy. And I hope to have a few more in partial consolation of the third-trimester blues.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Is coming home and finding your child’s art project on the table. Even better, two projects done in only four hours of “school.” It’s beautiful to see that he had the opportunity to be creative, to express himself, to make a mess, to have fun with other children.

I’m so happy that the 2.5-year-old class we intended to put him in got canceled and that they allowed him to enter the 3-year-old class, where he has the positive influence of older, more social and more advanced kids. I’m loving escuela.

Preparing for number two

I admit I’m hostage to my hormones these days. This weekend, I pulled over and handed the keys to Mark because I was about to burst into tears while driving over a disagreement about whether to go first to the apple farm or the office supply store.

Probably part of this hormonal onslaught is a great feeling of sentimentality that River has less than three months left as the only child. I want to spend more time with him, to create memories with him, to enjoy his presence while I can be fully involved in his almost-three-year old mind.

Today I made a list of special things to try to do with him over the next few months – zoos, museums, special events. This weekend it will probably be a family outing on a pirate ship. I’m already thinking about his third birthday, which comes just a few weeks before my due date. It’s the first birthday he’s actively looking forward to, and his last as an only child. So I want him to love it. Any ideas?

I put making his baby book (or book of the first three years) on my task list and asked Mark to put making a video of his first three years on his list. Deadline – before I go into labor.

I think I’m not officially in the third trimester until tomorrow, but I’m certainly feeling and acting like it.

For those with more than one child, what do you wish you’d done before your second was born? Anything you did that really wasn’t worth it?

33 months

Like the other significant developmental leaps that have occurred in River’s short life, month 33 has been a big one. Within a period of a few weeks, he suddenly became a real person. Someone who inquires where I’m going, where I was, what I was doing, and takes in my answers with acceptance and thoughtfulness. Someone who points to a whale in a book, then points to a page with a seal and says, “Whales eat these,” with confidence. Then asks me what else whales eat, forcing me to look it up. Someone who takes great joy in the arrival of fall and the falling of the leaves, who will open the curtains and stare contently when he’s supposed to be napping, wanting to watch the leaves turn color and drop. Someone who understands things – what the different colors on a stoplight mean, what the different lights on the electronic toothbrush indicate, how to use a pair of garden scissors to cut flowers at the stem, how to choose the right tomatoes off the bushes.

The connections that have been made are more complicated. I can see his retention and hear his constant questioning. Now in the role of teacher, I’m explaining things like how waste is removed from port-o-potties, or how water comes down drain pipes. Though he’s physically very cautious, so far, he has no fear of ideas. We talk about monsters (and have put up Halloween monster stickers on our front door) and mention the death of animals without him showing any concern.

I’m starting to see how at this new stage, a stimulating preschool could be a good investment. By next fall, I think he would benefit greatly by being in a situation where he’s exposed to new ideas on a regular basis, where he learns how things work, where he has the chance to build upon what he knows and make new connections.

The building of a mind, a personality, an individual, is such a beautiful process to watch and to participate in. I’m a captive spectator.


For the first time ever, I put up Halloween decorations. River helped me. He was very excited to help inflate the blow-up skeleton ball and to help put Halloween-themed stickers on the doors and window. I don’t think he’s quite sure what Halloween is, but he’s excited about it already and knows it involves carrying a pumpkin that he can ask neighbors to fill with candy.

I never had an interest in putting the work or expense into decorating before. My mom used to do it and I recall her feeling resentful that she had to do it all herself and no one appreciated it. The fun comes from River’s excitement and appreciation. If it makes him happy, if it extends the magic and the enjoyment of various celebrations, then it’s worth it for me to do.

Now that we have some permanence, and some storage space, I can buy decorations at a discount after the holiday and store them in a labeled box. Pull out, decorate, enjoy, and put away. I think this is a sign of becoming a full-fledged mom, or adult, or perhaps conformist. But so far, it’s fun.

When and how do you decorate? Why do you decide to do it?

Sunday, October 3, 2010


It’s been a rough week or two. Difficulty sleeping, leg cramps, fatigue, feeling large and clumsy. When I treated myself to a foot massage yesterday, the masseuse pointed out the swelling in my legs. I had recently noticed my face looking puffy. Today when I went to the gym, I peed five times in two hours. That’s an average of once every 24 minutes.

I expected this stuff to come, just not so early. But there is not much I can do about it, besides trying to get sleep and exercise, letting myself take it easy, and taking advantage of whatever makes me feel good (reading, exercise, sleep, massages, yoga, buying clothes that fit, time spent in nice weather outdoors or with people who make me smile, good food).

So I’m thankful for this weekend, in which I was able to visit an apple farm, get a massage, watch some programs, read, shop for clothing, take leisurely strolls and get breaks from childcare. If I could set an ideal schedule now, I would work half days, followed by a nap, a walk on the treadmill at the gym, quality time with family and a good book. I have virtually no ambition to accomplish things beyond nesting-type projects. This too will pass. In the meantime, I can only make the best of the situation and take advantages of the pleasures that are offered when they are available.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Week 27 thoughts

What did I get myself into?

It is too late to get out of this?

Are bodies really meant to do this?

Can I really make it through labor in this condition?

Remind me about this, please, when I start having baby thoughts again.

Three more months? How many days until Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas?

Ow. Yawn.

The benefits of having more women around

The more females in a group, the higher the collective intelligence.

More signs that getting and keeping women in the boardrooms can be a good thing for industry.

Big and bulky

It feels like someone attached a helium pump to my stomach sometime in the last two weeks and blew me up. Between weeks 25 and 27, I have exploded.

It’s getting me down. I have now reached the point of disability, where I’m no longer able to function as normal. I think River is being impacted by this. I can no longer pick him up as I used to, I can’t play the same games with him, it’s not easy to lift him into his crib, and I’m increasingly tired from poor sleep and not being able to take a nap in the afternoons, making me less patient. It seems unfair that he should start losing quality interaction now, three months before the baby even arrives and it makes me feel bad. I’m just grateful that the spacing is such that he doesn’t need the same level of care and interaction as he did a year ago.

Last night I was so exhausted I didn’t even want to talk. Mark asked why I didn’t rest and I explained that even resting is difficult. Because the baby is heavy enough to squish my organs, it’s not comfortable to lie on my back. I still struggle to adjust to spending so much time on my side.

I’ve got all the accessories ready – a Snoogle pillow, a wedge pillow for below my hip, another pillow for between my legs. But it takes up a lot of space to use all these accoutrements, especially if I’d like to switch sides at any point. Last night Mark kindly offered to sleep on the couch, allowing me the whole bed to sprawl out upon. It helped. If I had the choice, I think I’d cut down to half time work now, so that I could work for a half day and follow that with a nap.
I’m trying to distract myself with the many things on my plate – work, a statistics class, an online literature class, socializing and daily life and responsibilities. But I’m still spending a good chunk of each day thinking how large and uncomfortable I am, counting down how much time is left, and feeling disheartened by the large number that remains in the countdown.

When I get bummed, I want to eat. But another part of me says perhaps I need to stop eating, or reduce the quantities and the sweets I eat, if I want to limit my size somewhat. Right now, the disheartened emotional eating is winning. So I spend time shopping online, looking for secondhand pieces of the brand of clothing (Isabella Oliver) I’ve found makes me feel halfway good in my protrusion and spending more than probably makes sense on things I’ll use for only a few months. But I understand I’m in a place where I’m susceptible to the power of anything that can make me feel a little better about myself. Whether that’s a massage or a piece of clothing that fits well, I’m at the point where I’m willing to pay for that luxury.

Has anyone been at a similar place around week 27? I feel like it’s too early for this, though this website doesn’t reassure me:

By about 27 weeks pregnant you may start losing some of the energy you experienced during the second trimester. Your body will expend a lot of energy in the upcoming weeks as your baby continues to mature and develop. As your uterus continues to grow during your pregnancy week by week, the demands on your circulatory system continue to rise, creating extra fatigue. This is a good time to try to fit in a small catnap or two if you can during the day. Even 15 minutes of rest can help you feel energetic and recharged during the day.

Any chance it will go away, that I will regain energy and vigor? Or do I just need to hold out for another three months and hope that perhaps this one will come early?