Sunday, January 29, 2012

Things That I Can't Make Up My Mind About

I feel utterly unable to make a decision about a pile of things that range in importance from "extremely" to "not at all." So in no particular order, here they are:

1. Preschool. Miss M will be about 2 years ten months when we can put her in preschool. But SHOULD we? I just can't seem to answer that for myself, in part because I don't know what she will be like as a little person at that point. I feel like it should really depend on her, and where she is at, and that the information that is key to this decision won't be available to me for many months. But preschool applications are due NOW, and the waitlists are just insane.

My gut is telling me that 3 half days a week would be perfect. That would be about 10.5 hours of more structured interaction/play outside of our home, which sounds about right to me. But, I've found just two programs that I like and which are convenient to where we will be living. They are both full day only programs. Sure, your kid can attend PT, but you still have to pay FT. . .which is about $1300 a month. Ouch. Plus, all of the other kids attending will be there FT, in all likelihood. I think FT is out of the question. It's just too much at that age. If I needed the daycare, I would do it, but I don't, because T. will still be staying home. I will continue to look for the "right" program, but I'm kind of losing faith that I will find what I want. I mostly want something that will give her another form of stimulation, start to teach her to settle down in a structured environment, and give T. a bit of a break.

There is also the fact that if we put her in preschool this upcoming year, she will then have to do two additional years of preschool, because she won't make the cutoff for kindergarten until four school years from now (January birthday). Does she really need 3 years of preschool? That seems excessive to me.

2. Baby names. We found a name early on that I loved. We've struggled for a middle name, but we've been solid on the first name for many, many months. Only, now I'm having second thoughts. I have lots of "maybes," but I'm really having trouble. Finding the right middle name seems like an impossibility right now. Argh. There are so many names I love, but not for this child, for various reasons. Picking a name is so much harder than I ever thought it would be, especially the second time around.

3. Car. I've just learned that there will be some limits on what we can import when we go to South America, so the Volvo might be out. . .as may be ANY new car. Which means that we may be in the position of having to go to the U.S. and immediately attempt to purchase a used car. . .which sounds like a giant nightmare to me. We are supposed to go to my MIL's (rural) home for a couple of weeks immediately upon returning to the States. I cannot imagine not having a vehicle. We can rent, but that seems like a waste of money, since we need to buy, anyway. This is such a pain, and I don't care about it at all. . .except, it must be dealt with.

4. Big girl bed. We still have Miss M in her crib. She can climb out of it, but rarely bothers. I want to transition her to a regular bed, in part because in a few months we'll want the crib for the baby (although, we've got some time, because we'll use the bassinet for a while). The problem, really, is that the crib is still in our room. Because of the layout of our place, it's just made sense to let her sleep in our room until now (she has night terrors, and keeping her in our room means she is easy to get to). With the baby on the way, I'm anxious to move her, though, because I don't want her to be woken up by night feedings. I can't decide if we transition her from crib to toddler bed (the crib is convertible), and leave it in our room for a few weeks, and then transition her to a "real" bed in her own room. Or, should we move her right to her own room and a real bed? We've always been slow in our transitions before, and they've always gone well. Crib to regular bed in her own room seems like a giant leap. On the other hand, we have only 6 weeks until the baby is due.

5. To doula, or not to doula? It's a little late to find anyone good. But, after a recent hospital tour, I'm not sure I want to be doula-free, after all. The promise of having my own midwife (and doctor) wasn't quite all it's cracked up to be. The midwives are just glorified nurses, and don't seem to have the ability to suggest alternatives to medical intervention, which is what I wanted. I found a doula who does acupuncture and massage, and contacted her on the off chance she's free. We'll see. I'm going to explore my options on this one. I think I'd be better off with a doula, but it just feels like a lot of work at this point.

In addition to wrestling with all of these decisions, I still need to unpack and wash the newborn clothes, pack away and reorganize some of Miss M's outgrown things, wash the bassinet bedding and bouncy seat cover and get those ready for the new baby, get the baby swing set up, and order various items from the U.S. that we'll need (ie, the stroller converter kit for the carseat) but which we cannot buy here. That may not sound like a lot, but it feels insurmountable lately--especially when the baby presses on my cervix or bladder in weird and uncomfortable ways.

P.S. I thought she was head down, but then realized she was still transverse. Although since then, I think she might be head down again. I'm kind of stressed that she'll be transverse when it's time to deliver her, since I really, really don't want a c-section.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

34 Weeks

Crap. I lost a half pound this week! I'm at 138.8. I'm really going to have to step up the eating game. I don't know how I managed to LOSE weight! Luckily, I had to go to Brussels on business (thank goodness for European trains!), and brought home loads of fancy chocolates.

I am feeling really good. I think the baby has turned head-down in the last few days, as I am much more comfortable. Occasionally, my bladder or cervix is very uncomfortable, but it's much better than when she was sideways. It's funny. When I was pregnant with Miss M, she spent a lot of time wedged up under my ribcage on the right side. This baby hasn't really done much of that at all. I suppose it's in part because she's been sidewise (uncomfortable in other ways), and in part because it's the second time around, and things are stretched out, so she doesn't need to be scrunched up under my ribs. I feel little movements down low in my pelvis (hands, maybe?), and sometimes what might be a foot on my right side. She seems much more mellow than Miss M was, but that might just be because my memory of Miss M's pregnancy isn't as clear as it once was.

Brussels was fine. I really didn't want to go. I was cracking myself up thinking of how much I didn't want to go. Two years ago I would have been so psyched for the opportunity to go to Brussels on a business trip. How things have changed! T. was paranoid that I'd go into labor while I was there, so he insisted that he and Miss M come with me, which was nice. We've been to Brussels before, and it's not one of our favorite cities. Still, they caught a few museums while I attended endless meetings, and we managed to squeeze in one really good dinner. Miss M fell asleep at the restaurant (which mercifully had comfy bench seats) shortly after eating her dinner, so we had a long, relaxing meal, complete with dessert. Those moments are few and far between these days, and will only get more scant in coming months, so we really enjoyed it! I was hoping to get in the hotel pool, because it had been so nice a few weeks ago to be weightless. Unfortunately, the pool was ice cold--not exactly the relaxing swim I was looking forward to.

My friends surprised me with a wonderful baby shower last weekend. I truly did not know about it until I was heading to my friend's apartment, and then I sort of figured it out (a few weird things had happened, but I only pieced them together on the way there). I was wearing sloppy maternity clothes (jeans and a wrap sweatshirt, and ugly winter boots), and was completely mad that T didn't make me wear a better outfit! It was fun, though. We played one silly baby game (you couldn't say the word "baby". . .needless to say, I came in last). We got some great gifts (not that we needed anything): a wonderful old silver feeding spoon, some cool baby socks, a couple of cute outfits, and a year-long family membership to the local zoo, among other things. I particularly love the zoo membership and the feeding spoon--so thoughtful!!! They had gone out of their way to travel all the way across town to my favorite bakery for my favorite cupcakes, too. So yummy!

Today, I am going to see a play with a friend. My sister gave me the tickets for Christmas, and was hoping to go with me, but she had something come up. I'm really looking forward to seeing the play. T took Miss M hiking for the day with another friend of ours, so I have a few hours to myself before I have to leave. I've been reading birth stories (Ina May Gaskin's great book "Guide to Childbirth," which really put me in the right, positive frame of mind before MIss M's birth. I feel like I've barely focused on the birth at all, and I've been feeling a bit disconnected from the whole thing. Then it occurred to me go to back and read my old blog posts from the tail end of Miss M's pregnancy and her birth. It felt so special to read them, and so empowering to read back over what I wrote about her birth. There were things that I didn't even remember. It's funny how quickly you forget. Anyway, it has all made me feel more connected. Just six weeks to go! It seems unreal.

And now, I'm off to eat second breakfast and to take a bath.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What Mommy Says

My sister was watching Miss M recently, and playing "animal sounds" with her:

What does a kitty say?

Miss M: Meow

What does a doggy say?

Miss M: Woof-woof

What does a duck say?

Miss M: Quack-quack

What does a lion say?

Miss M: ROAR!!!

What does mommy say?

Miss M: I love you!

That just melted my heart. Mommy does indeed say "I love you," very, very often.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

33 Weeks

Argh. I only gained a quarter pound this week. I'm at 139.4. I am just enormous, and never hungry. I feel like there's no room for food. I am going to have to get better at force-feeding myself snacks in between meals, as it's the only way that I'm going to add more weight.

I think the baby has shifted to head-down again. When I walk, I can feel her bouncing on my cervix. It's super comfy, let me tell you. It's like being stabbed in the hoo-hoo. As I walked to catch the train on Friday morning, I had to keep stopping, because I kept getting so uncomfortable. But hey, if she's head-down, I will put up with 7 weeks of being stabbed in the cervix.

Things are otherwise good. I feel like I'm bigger than with Miss M, but weight-wise, I'm right in the ballpark of where I was at this point in her pregnancy. Plus, I'm in much better shape this time around, so the weight really is mostly baby. I was really tired Friday, and went to bed at 8, but I've been staying up way too late trying to sort through all of the things I need to get done. I can't believe we're going to have another baby in the house in less than two months! Time is flying by.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


I am not a car person. I want a safe, reliable vehicle, and beyond that, I could care less what I drive. It's not a status symbol for me, and I don't care what other people say. Oh, and also, I'm really cheap. I don't want to spend a lot of money on my cars.

When we lived in the U.S., I needed 4WD. I lived in a cold and snowy place, and I often had to drive hundreds of miles in bad weather on an emergency basis. I also drove 100+ miles every day, regardless of the whether. Because I put so many miles on, I always bought new vehicles--a small, moderately priced SUV. I put about 120,000 on them, then traded them in. For me, this seemed to strike the right balance between affordability, safety, features that I needed, etc. It was practical.

When Miss M was born, my car was about a year old. I felt like it was a safe vehicle to put her in, and it worked out fine. But then when we moved here, we sold our vehicles. We live in a major metropolitan area with plentiful public transportation. When we travel, we often take trains, and rent a car when that won't work. We haven't had a car since we got here, and it's been fine.

When we go back to the U.S. next fall, though, we will definitely need a car again. We'll be spending a lot of weekends with family, giving the kids a chance to spend time with them, and that will mean driving. We'll need a car to go get groceries. We'll want to make day trips. Plus, for two months, we'll basically be visiting rural or suburban areas where you can't get anywhere without a car.

When we move to South America, we could go either way. We could live without a car, I suppose, but public transportation is much more limited than here. We'll want to get outside of the city, which will be impossible without a car. It's possible to rent, but renting is kind of a hassle. I'd really like to get away on weekends, when we can. Buying a car there seems to be out of the question--vehicles are super expensive. Taxis are really cheap, but only work inside the city.

So I am torn about what to do. Option A would be to buy a used vehicle for maybe half the price of what we would spend on a new one. The is cost effective. I have been setting aside some money to do this, and could pay cash for it, so we'd have no car payment. We could either drive it while were are in the U.S. and sell it, or we could bring it with us to S.A. But, I worry about reliability, and what happened to the car before we bought it. It's also logistically challenging, because we'd have to buy something after we got back to the U.S., or have someone else find something for us. I have a family member that wants to help us find something, but then we'd be stuck with his choice, and I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that. It's complicated.

Option B is to buy a new car in the U.S. We could get it all arranged before we go back, and just pick it up when we land in the U.S.. If we did this, I would likely get another small, modestly priced SUV. It would be a good vehicle for our use in the U.S. and we could take it with us to S.A. It would be a good vehicle for South American roads, too. It's a bit more money than a used car, obviously, but not a ton more than I would spend to get a reliable used car.

Option C is the one that I'm struggling with. We have a chance to buy a new Volvo at a very, very good price. We could buy it here, and have it for the rest of our stay here, which means that we'd be able to use it for road trips during my maternity leave and beyond. We have been talking about attempting to do a two week driving tour before we leave here. There are places we can't visit without a car. We'd be able to ship the car home, and use it as soon as we land in the U.S. We could ship it to S.A., and it would be a good, albeit slightly large, car for there. The downside is the cost--even with the excellent price we'd pay, it's still a pile more money than buying a new SUV, and probably twice what I'd spend on a reliable used car.

The thing that gets me is the safety. I'd feel so comfortable driving my kids around in a Volvo. I think it's the safest of all of our options, and I just can't shake that. Plus, there is the convenience of being able to have it here, and have it ready when we go home, etc. We could even drive it for the next year and sell it for at or even slightly more than what we paid for it (it's THAT good of a deal). Plus, Volvo's warranties apply internationally. A lot of new vehicles void their warranties once you take them outside the U.S.--not helpful for someone who is moving outside the U.S..

But then there is the money. It feels so imprudent to buy a new car that costs that much, even thought it is a very, very good deal. It's outside my comfort zone, although we could afford it. Have I mentioned that I'm cheap? Plus, I had really settled on the idea of buying a used vehicle and paying cash for it, until this great deal came up on the Volvo. Then I circle back around ot the safety issues. I'm just so torn.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I have a million things I want to blog about, like why buying a car is a weird emotional investment as well as a financial one, and about the bad stuff that happened around the holidays. But I'm perpetually exhausted (doing too much for too long after Miss M goes to bed, combined with night terrors, combined with crazy work, combined with 8+ months pregnant). And I'm wrangling with the preschool question, too.

What age is right? How do you know when a child is ready? How many days a week? Full days or half days? I just don't know what to do.

Miss M will be two months shy of 3 when we are able to put her in preschool. If we skip it for next fall/winter, she will be just shy of 4 when we are next able to put her in. Because it's so hard to find a preschool opening where we will be located next fall, we really have to make a decision now, and apply and deal with wait-lists, etc. It's impossible to know where Miss M will be developmentally and socially nine months from now, so it's a little hard to come to a decision. I worry about whether she will be too young. I worry about whether she will be bored if she stays home. I worry about whether it will be too much for her. I worry that she won't be challenged enough if we DON'T put her in preschool next fall. I want her to be happy, and I want to make the right choice. And I do recognize as I agonize over this decision that it's just preschool, and her whole educational career won't be ruined by our decision at this juncture. But still. . .

What feels right to me is part time, half days. Maybe 3 days a week? But, the school I like the best is FT, or PT if you pay for FT. Even though it's PT, they still require full days (ie, your child can attend two or three days a week, but they must be full days). That feels like too much time at preschool.

I'd love to hear thoughts. Or better yet, send me your magic 8 ball to help me decide, as on some days that feels like as good an option as any for making the "right" parenting decision.

Monday, January 16, 2012

This and That

On Saturday, I had my hair cut in the oddest salon I've ever been in. I've gotten used to weird storefront combinations--the coffee shop that is set in a shoe shop, for example, or a housewares store that also sells baked goods. The hair salon where I booked my appointment (using a coupon I found online) was in a vintage clothing store. When you walked in, racks of vintage coats and dresses were mixed in with gothic mirrors and salon chairs. The waiting area was in a second room, fitted with fainting couches mixed in with vintage jewelry and turn-of-the-century nude paintings. Just beyond that was another room with more salon chairs, and a room for bikini waxing, and another for nails. So, you basically could buy your outfit and get your accessories and head to toe grooming all in one spot. All of the people doing cuts and color were pseudo-punk types who were talking endlessly about being drunk. Despite the odd setting and the frank discussion of substance abuse, I got a very good and much needed cut. I was mulling over long bangs, and after messing with my hair for a while, the stylist concluded that he wasn't sure how they would fall, and didn't think I should do it. Instead, he wanted me to do full bangs. I just couldn't commit to it. I haven't had full bangs since I was in middle school, at least. I did get a lot of long layers, which I'm not so sure about. It looked really fabulous when he dried it, but I won't spend that kind of time drying it, and it's curly if I don't blow it straight. I've only washed it and thrown it in a pony the last few days, so I still don't know how I'll make out when I actually try to do something with it.

I also got a prenatal massage on Saturday. I can't seem to find a true day spa experience in this city. I want something nice and relaxing, and which also feels good. Instead, there is always an ambiance problem, or a technique problem. I want to send the spa technicians to the U.S. for training. This place looked so promising, too, but alas, it was not to be. Even though I told the woman my lower back was bothering me, she spent all of her time on my upper back, and kept doing weird things alongside my spine and in my shoulder blades with her fingers that really, really hurt. Then at the end, she just left without saying anything, and didn't come back. After I paid, the receptionist didn't even say thank you, or come back again, or anything at all! It was just really odd. The silver lining is that even though parts of my upper back are sore and she didn't spend much time on my lower back at all, for whatever reason, my lower back is feeling MUCH better. I was able to walk around to my appointments today without pain, which was a nice change of pace. I never used to like massages, but I am such a believer that they can help. Now I just need to find a good place.

We had our 32 week doctor's appointment today. I had some regular contractions on Friday night, which went away after I drank a pile of water and laid down for a bit, and I've had some stabbing cervical pains, so I was a bit worried about preterm labor. The contractions didn't hurt, but they were every five minutes or so, which had never happened before. My doctor said that I can expect my uterus to be "a bit more irritable" with this pregnancy, and told me to rest if it happens again, and to call if it goes on for more than an hour. She did a quick ultrasound to make sure everything is okay, and indeed the cervix looks perfect, so that was reassuring. The bad news is that I've become a lot more uncomfortable overall in the last few days, which made me think the baby had once again turned from head down to sideways. Indeed, she is once again transverse. I'm a little bummed, as I was hoping she'd move and stay head down, both for the sake of my comfort and for my peace of mind that she was in the right position. The doctor assured me that she still has plenty of time. I'm hoping she's right. I also had blood drawn to check my blood levels (mainly, anemia), and to check for gestational diabetes. My doctor does a blood test, rather than the glucose challenge test. She says the blood test is just as accurate, which I thought was interesting. I also learned that they do not routinely screen for Strep B here, which surprised me. I was negative last time, but do want to be tested again, just in case. They gave me the option, so I'll go ahead and have it done at my next appointment. I gained about 5 pounds this month, which was a relief after only gaining two last month, and my blood pressure is pretty much exactly where it was last month.

Pregnant women are not seen by their doctors or midwives as often here as they are in the U.S.. I think for first pregnancies, women are seen half as often as women are seen in the U.S., and for second pregnancies, they see the doctor even less often. Because I have private healthcare, I am seen more frequently, but I'm still not seen quite as often as in the U.S. At this point in my first pregnancy, I was seen every two weeks. My next appointment isn't for three weeks. My doctor will then see me two weeks after that, and then weekly. From 32-36 weeks in the U.S., I was seen every two weeks, and then I was seen once a week. It's not a huge difference, but I find it interesting nonetheless.

My sister watched Miss M while we were at our appointments, so we grabbed breakfast and had a mini date while we were out. We also did a bit of car shopping, as we discovered a car dealership right near the doctor's office. I wanted to check out some things in person, although we'll be buying an American car obviously, and not a local one. There are just some things you can't do over the internet. It was nice to have a little bit of time that was just the two of us, since we hardly ever do that any more. I've almost forgotten what it was like to just go do something spontaneous (not that car shopping was the most exciting thing to do). It was really nice.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

32 Weeks

Wow. Where did this pregnancy go? I can't believe I'm at 32 weeks.

Overall, I'm doing fine. I'm starting to have some trouble with the stomach muscles under my bump (ie, they hurt), and the trouble with my lower back is off and on. I'm still walking a mile and a half most days, and no doubt this is contributing to the pain, but it's necessary. It's impossible to get around this city without walking. Even if I just walk the minimum, it's still substantial, and I do need to be able to get around. Hopefully, this continued exercise really will lead to the easy birth I've read about! My weight this week: 139.2. So, something like 3.5 pounds in two weeks! I can live with that, given how worried I've been about gaining enough weight.

I think (hope, pray) that the baby has indeed turned. I had a dream a week or so that she was turning, which I think was prompted by the fact that there was a lot of movement in my belly during the middle of the night. I was sort of semi-conscious at the time. It feels like she might have turned. She's been fairly active lately; even though my placenta is in the front (which cushions the blows!), during a work event a couple of nights ago, I could look down and watch my dress moving around throughout the event. It was kind of funny.

T. bought me this great belly balm that I've been using, and it means that my skin isn't itchy, which is really nice. I've actually been using it all over my body, because I'm dry and itchy all over. I hate the water here--it's really hard, and really drying, especially during the winter! They say that every pregnancy is different, and that's definitely true. With Miss M, I had a really dark linea negra. I thought it would never fade, but after time, it did, and disappeared entirely. With this pregnancy, I don't have one at all. I thought that was really weird. I still don't have any stretch marks (yay for that!). I didn't get any with Miss M, so hopefully that will hold true.

Today, I'm scheduled to get a haircut (my firsy since I've been living here--yikes!. I'm also getting a pregnancy massage, whick I'm really looking forward to. I'm trying a new day spa. Hopefully the place is a good one. Then on Monday, we have a doctor's appointment and an appointment with the midwives who work at the hospital (I get a midwife and a doctor for the birth).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Potty Training. . .or Not

We haven't started potty training yet, because I don't think Miss M is ready. But, we bought a potty and it's in the bathroom, and we've started talking about the concept. Occasionally she'll say that she has to poop, and I'll ask if she wants to use the potty, and she says yes, so we attempt, but nothing successful yet.

Today, T. called me somewhat flustered. It seems that he'd gone to use the bathroom, only to have Miss M run in after him. She had disrobed and was no longer wearing her diaper, and once she got into the bathroom, she promptly said "uh oh," and peed on the floor. Then, she proceeded to apologize, then asked for a bath. When T. went back to the living room, where she had taken off her diaper, he discovered that she had pooped, and there was poop all over the couch (likely because it fell out of her diaper after she removed it).

All i could do was laugh. I guess we should step up our efforts.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy Birthday Miss M!

Dear Miss M,

Today you are two. I just can't believe we've had you in our lives for two whole years. We are so very, very lucky. You are such a happy, laughing, funny little ball of energy. We are just so totally in love with you.

This weekend for your birthday, we went away to this amazing family resort. It was kind of like summer camp for families. We stayed in a one bedroom cabin that had a full kitchen, living room, and a patio that looked out into the forest. You were delighted to feed the ducks that waddled up out of the nearby pond in a perfect little line, just like Make Way for Ducklings. You saw deer and squirrels and all sorts of birds, and found it all just tremendously fun. When we'd ask you if you could find any animals, you'd run over to the glass doors, peer out with one hand up to your forehead, and then said "animals are hiding." It was priceless.

We took you to a bunch of toddler classes, and you had a ball. You've changed so much in just a couple of short months. Back in October, you painted for a bit, but eventually lost interest and started to wander the room. In the first painting class I took you to, which involved tempura paints and glitter and construction paper animal cutouts, you took to it with glee. They gave you all sorts of sponges and rollers and paint brushes and stamps, and big dishes and little dishes of four different colored paints. You just adored it, and you did a fabulous job. When I told you it was time to go, at first you said no, but when you saw all of the other kids leaving, too, you quickly helped clean up and didn't make a fuss. I was SO impressed.

We played on the playground after that, and you were fearless. You wanted to climb all of the tall stuff and use the big slide and climb on the balance beam that slated upwards and generally do all of the things that make me cringe. But I want you to be continue to explore your horizons, and I don't want you to adopt my fears, so I swallowed my own reservations and stood next to you at the ready as you climbed 'round and 'round. You always held on, and you never once slipped. There is a life lesson in that playground for both of us.

Later that day, we did a different class, which involved a tromp through the woods, playing with a parachute, lunch, and a visit with a character from a cartoon that you like. You zestfully ran through the woods with the other kids, but weren't so sure about the parachute games and songs. When the character showed up, you were equal parts frightened and thrilled. After I picked you up, you turned on the charm full blast, smiled, giggled, and patted him on his nose. It was adorable.

We also painted pottery together. All of the other parents were painting their kids pottery for them, or telling them what to do. I let you do it all yourself. You had your choice of pottery to paint--a plate, a mug, a little cup, a cat or a dog. You chose the cat. I asked you which paints you wanted, and you pointed them out. I let you take the brushes you wanted, and then you painted it all yourself. You chose all colors that look great together (all blues and yellows and pinks and greens--such an eye, for two!), and when we got the cat back from the kiln, I was blown away by how fabulous it is. I just love it. You did such a good job painting it. I am such a proud mama!

You and daddy did another class together, too, and he also had a blast with you. When we weren't in class, we were in the amazing pool complex. You loved the toddler water slide, and just loved playing in the pool. You've only been to two swimming lessons so far, but you are already swimming under water. It's crazy! Daddy tells you he's going to put you under, and your mouth is always open when he does it, but somehow when you come up, your mouth is closed, and you haven't inhaled any water. We can't figure out when you shut your mouth, but you clearly do! And you always laugh like crazy when you come up out of the water.

For your birthday today, daddy made you a big breakfast. You ate all of yours, and part of mine! Then we went to the playground before setting off for home. On the way back, we took in a famous site, which you referred to as "big rocks," and then promptly returned your attention to the nearby farm animals. Well, at least we got some cool pictures of you on your birthday! Upon arriving home, you promptly destroyed the playroom, lugging out all of your toys and generally making a mess. It was a great birthday. Next week, we'll have a party with your friends.

At two, you are incredibly curious. You love to fiddle with things--buckles are a favorite. If someone leaves open the baby gate, you go and latch it (you haven't mastered the ability to unlatch it yet, though--last week daddy and I were in another room, and you went and locked yourself in the playroom, then screamed for "help" when you couldn't open the door to come back). You adore the Legos you got for Christmas. At first, you struggled a bit with the train tracks we got you, but you've quickly figured out how to hitch the pieces together and create a track for yourself. I'm impressed by how fast your skills have come along.

You have a large vocabulary, and every day you surprise me with a new word. When we saw a real live ladybug this weekend, you correctly identified it. While playing on the swings, we heard a bird that sounded like an owl, and you pointed up and said "owl!" I'm pretty sure you've never heard an owl in the wild before, so I was amazed that you could identify the sound. You call your sweatpants your "comfy pants," which makes me laugh. Your favorite song to sing is "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," and you randomly bust out with it. You know the alphabet, you can count to 15, and you are starting to correctly identify some colors, although we are still working on a few.

You are still not the best eater in the world. One day you will eat something, and the next day you will not. You've never eaten whole bananas before (you don't like to touch them) and have only eaten them mashed. Today, you asked for one, and ate almost all of it--after downing a full pear, a bowl full of grapes, and two giant slices of pizza. (Of course, you have plenty of meals where all you will eat is a cracker and a slice of cheese!). We generally try not to argue with you over food, and present you with an array of healthy choices. We leave it to you, what you will eat at any given sitting (generally, this involves a protein, a grain and a fruit--there are limits, of course!). You love all fruit, but refuse to eat vegetables. We are working on it, but it's slow going!

You are just a joy. I say that a lot, but it's really true. I love hanging out with you, because you are just so much fun. I really, really enjoy you. I never could have imagined how much fun it is to be your mother, never could have imagined what a big personality you would have, how smart you would be, how just generally amazing you would be. Thank you for being you.

Happy birthday, baby. I love you always and forever.


Monday, January 2, 2012

30 Weeks, Happy New Year, and a Birthday

This is a big week or so for us. I hit 30 weeks on Saturday. It is a new year--Happy New Year! And, Miss M turns 2 a week from today. We have much to celebrate right now.

So first, the pregnancy: I only gained a couple of ounces this week (sigh): 135.8 pounds. I'm trying to up my food intake, but it's hard. I feel like I am force-feeding myself, but I'm worried about whether the baby is getting the right nutrition (I'm sure she is, despite my neuroses--I eat a healthy and balanced diet) and gaining enough weight (this I worry about, although my doctor isn't worried at all). I'm trying to cook new and different things to tempt myself into eating. Tonight I made a roast chicken stuffed with fresh ginger, with roasted pineapple, peppers, hot peppers, carrots and onions. After everything is cooked, you take half the veggies and puree them in the food processor with a little sugar and balsamic to make a sauce for the chicken. It's a pretty delicious meal, although also fairly healthy and low-cal. To compensate, I also made brownies. I am on my way down to the kitchen in a minute to get a second one.

Overall, I am feeling good, although my skin around my belly button has been feeling sore (like someone is scratching me with a needle), and I'm still having trouble with my back. There is also a fair bit of pulling around my belly. I am still walking about a mile and a half a day, which feels good while I'm doing it, and is keeping me somewhat in shape, although I am REALLY slow, at this point. I talked with my doctor about whether I should cut back, and she advised against it. She said I might find myself even more uncomfortable, if I move less. The discomfort makes me cranky by bedtime, and my husband is getting sick of me (Miss M is getting all the good bits of me, and he's getting grouchy demands). The upside to this is that he now thinks we should stick with 2 kids, rather than 3 or 4 (as if that's even possible!), because he doesn't want to ever deal with me pregnant again. :) My evil plan is working!

The arrival of the new year has shocked us into realizing just how many things we have to do in 2012! We've been thinking of 2012 and all it holds as something very far away, and now suddenly it's here. The baby will be here in just 10 short weeks. We now have just 9 months left in Europe. When we first got here, it felt like we had forever. Now, time is dwindling. Have I mentioned that we leave here this fall, and head back to the U.S. for some training? I can't remember. We'll be there through the winter, and we are really looking forward to it. After that, I've accepted a job in South America, which we are also extremely excited about. But a new baby and another big move mean all sorts of things to work out, and things I've not had to worry about before.

For instance, preschool. Miss M will turn 3 a couple of months after we get back to the U.S.. Initially I thought that we wouldn't bother to put her in preschool until we moved to South America. But it's becoming increasingly clear that we really should put her in next fall. One, there is the socialization. She loves other kids, but even with play dates and park dates and swim lessons, she doesn't get enough interaction just staying home with daddy. Two, there is the structure. In taking her to a few art, etc. classes, you can tell that she hasn't attended as many formal classes as some other kids--they sit quietly while she wanders and explores. I think we need to ease her into something that will teach her that she must sometimes sit still and pay attention. Three, there is T's sanity. She is an awesome kid, but she is a busy kid. I think he will be at his wits end with an infant and trying to keep up to her. Four, she's ready for a new intellectual challenge. It will be really good for her. And five, we're looking at Spanish immersion schools, so that Miss M gets a little language in before we head south.

And yet, while I intellectually can assess the situation and say that we should explore preschools, she seems too young. How can I let my baby go off with strangers? I've never even let a non-family member babysit her. She's always been with us. Always. It's a little hard for me to emotionally consider this. Good thing I have 9 more months! By the way, despite the fact it's so far off, thank goodness I actually thought to check this week. Preschool applications for next year are due by the end of the month!!! This seems like sheer insanity to me. And there are interviews. INTERVIEWS for preschool. I didn't even have an interview for grad school, and I went to a top school! But anyway, I've narrowed it down to a few schools, and I'm waiting for more info from them.

In connection with preschool, I also just realized I have to get Miss M the hepatitis vaccines. I delayed doing them until she was older, but they require multiple jabs, and it turns out that at least Hep B is required for preschool. That wasn't something I had given any thought to. Luckily, we have a two year checkup coming up, so we can hopefully take care of the first series then. Preschool also made me think about college. . .as in, I still hadn't set up the college account for Miss M. So, in the waning hours of the old year, I finally set it up, and set one up for the baby, too. I've asked my mother to spread the word that gifts are nice, but we'd love for people who want to send birthday presents to Miss M or baby presents for the baby to consider putting money in their college accounts, instead. I hope people don't think that's too forward. People have been very generous with us, though, and we are bursting with toys and baby clothes. I did also set up a baby registry on Amazon. We need a few odds and ends like new bottles, new baby gym toys, and diapers. If people insist on sending something, I thought it made sense to register for the types of things we need. It's a very short list, though.

What else in 2012? Well, we still haven't come up with a middle name for the baby, or even really settled on a first name. I need to work out just how long I'll be taking for maternity leave. I think it will be 10 weeks, but I'm still trying to sort the details. I need to wash the bassinet bedding and the baby clothes, and find somewhere to stash them all in this house (which has limited drawer space). I have loads of projects at work that I need to get whipped into shape in the next few weeks, so that they will be okay floating out there while I'm on maternity leave.

On the less important/fun side, we are also toying with doing a relaxed-pace road trip toward the end of my maternity leave, but have no details worked out about that at all. If we're going to do it, I need to figure out how to make it work. We also need to buy a car in the U.S. (we sold ours just before moving here, and use public transportation or rent when we need one), to be ready for when we land. We are also toying with a trip to Disney in the fall. We were going to do it for Miss M's 3rd birthday and invite the grandparents, but I figured out that I won't be able to take time off next January, so we thought we'd spend a week in Florida before I start the training I need. It sounded really lovely way to transition back to the States at first (American resort! Kiddie pool! Warm weather!). But now, trying to negotiate multi-family logistics is starting to look like an unpleasant task. Everyone has their own ideas of what they want to do and where they want to stay. Ugh.

Finally, we have Miss M's 2nd birthday. I've just bought her a few books, because really, what does the child need two weeks after Christmas? But her real gift is that we are taking her away for a family weekend. We're going to a place that has a big indoor kiddie pool, tons of toddler activities, and great playgrounds--not to mention a quick spa treatment for me and lengthier ones for T, and a real fireplace in our room! I am so looking forward to it. It's the kind of place I would have never visited before I had a child, and now I can't wait to take her there and watch her reactions to everything. I think she will have a blast, and it will be great to just hang out and focus on her. I'm so looking forward to peaceful family time.