Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Welcome, New Visitors/ Sejam Bem Vindos

I decided to take a look at my stats today and I found out that because my "online friend" Zee linked to me in her latest post (she decided to take up my handwriting idea from the other day) several new people visited my blog, many from Brazil, since Zee used to blog in Portuguese and was/is very popular at that too.

So I want to say "hi" to those visiting for the first time, or, perhaps, "Oi, sejam bem vindos" (Hi, welcome). I also wanted to let you know that Zee has cool new blog templates that you can use as well as the cutest crafty things that you can buy from her Maria Joaninha (Maria "Ladybug") site.

Last but not least, I found out I had lots of visitors from various blogger searches, most really interesting and nice like "academic moms" or "birth stories," but there was one search that was not so nice, so I included an asterisk in the word synonymous with "undressed" that appears twice the previous post so my blog doesn't come up in malicious searches.

Oh, and for those who read my "Hot weather" post (two posts ago), I went back and included a pictures of our pedal boat ride.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Happy 2nd Birthday, "Baby" - Linton's Birth Story

If you read Kelvin’s birth story, you may remember that it took me over two months of pregnancy to find out I was expecting him. The second time around, however, I “knew” I was pregnant the moment the baby was conceived. Two days before the requisite “two week wait” ended was my mother-in-law’s birthday (September 23), so I bought a good home-pregnancy test and used it first thing in the morning before calling her up. Sure enough, a second faint pink line appeared and we told my MIL she had a special birthday present, but it would arrive only 9 months later.

Little did we know this “birthday present” baby would simply refuse to be born while his paternal grandparents were around, and was born on the same day they flew down to Texas for his uncle’s wedding. He also refused to be born on his paternal grandfather’s or his father’s birthdays (May 23 and 26) – he needed a day only for himself, May 30. Yep, that’s my youngest son, he knows what he wants and he has a mind and a will of his own!

The pregnancy itself was OK. I did feel some nausea in the first months, and because I decided to keep on breastfeeding my oldest son, who was only 18 months when I got pregnant, I had Braxton Hicks contractions during the whole pregnancy, very strong ones when I nursed (soon my oldest was only nursing once a day in the morning – thankfully). I gained a humongous amount of weight, around 58 pounds. Since I’m really skinny (I usually weight 100 lbs at most), it wasn’t that bad, but I became quite big, since my belly’s circumference was the same as my hips’!
The bad thing was that I got lots of really ugly red stretch marks (see picture above) and that almost none of my nice maternity clothes fit anymore! When I found out I was pregnant I got to buy many cute summer items for a dollar or less at the Old Navy’s out of season sale in September and October - most of them didn't fit anymore at the end, though :(

The last month (May) was infinitely long… Although the baby was only due on June 2nd, since Kelvin had come 17 days early, I was thinking Linton would be early to, but no, he had other plans. The in-laws came to the country (my MIL was with us for 3 weeks and my FIL 2 weeks), I thought I wasn’t going to my M.A. commencement but I went, I walked and walked, climbed many many stairs – when Kelvin was born, my mom thought that what triggered labor was that we went to the mall and I climbed 3 floors up to the parking lot, so I climbed those stairs several times trying to see if it would get labor going, but it didn’t work!

Finally, on May 30 I felt strong contractions in the morning. I started timing and realized this was finally it. As my dad and Kelvin drove out to the airport to bring my in-laws, my hubby, my mom, and I drove to the hospital. The saddest thing was that my in-laws’ flight was delayed and they were inside an airplane only 45 minutes away when their second grandson was born!

We arrived in the hospital and Dolores, the nurse-midwife who checked us in, was the very same one who helped deliver my oldest son – what a coincidence! She even remembered us and she attended Linton’s labor as well. My mom even told Dolores that she “sees” her often in the pictures of Kelvin’s labor. I was 3 cm dilated and after the monitoring I went straight to the hot tub – this was around 10:30-11 am. I was happy when my dad and Kelvin got there and Kelvin found it very interesting that his mama was taking a bath. He stayed for a few minutes with me while we took pictures and filmed him kissing my belly.

Around noon-1pm, I got out of the water and was checked again and I was 5 cm, but things progressed quickly from there because the doctor broke my bag of waters. My husband completely miscalculated the time it would take for me to finish dilating, since it took some 3 hours to go from 5-10 cm the first time around, and I’m sure I could have started pushing more than half an hour earlier. The contractions started getting extremely strong, almost unbearable and when the nurse came at 2:30 to check on me and asked whether I thought I should push and I said I thought so (I had been feeling lots of pressure for quite a while then) – she literally ran to get the doctor. When the doctor saw me, she almost despaired because she realized I was almost giving birth in that water – oh, and how I wish I were, it was very cruel to be forcefully pulled from the water to give birth on a bed!

When the doctor pulled me up so I could get out of the tub, I could feel the baby’s head down in my vagina, I think he was almost out! When I got on the bed – completely na*ked! – I just got on all fours and didn’t want to move because the contractions were just too strong (the contractions and the hurry prevented me from putting on a hospital gown). The doctor had to beg me to lie on my back -- I find it absolutely outrageous that doctors make us deliver babies on our backs merely for their own convenience, so they can see better and reach better to ease the baby out! I laid on my back and I think it must have been hilarious to see me then!! For my first baby I pushed for 1h30 and I watched it all through the mirror, so I wanted the mirror again. They wanted me to push and I kept saying: “Turn the mirror this way so I can see!” “No, it’s in the wrong position!” Then I told my mom, “Go to that side to take pictures, mom” – I was a pretty bossy laboring woman, but I had no idea that it would take only 3 pushes to get him out! No need for that mirror.

The only thing I regret is that the doctor didn’t ask me to pull him to my chest myself like I did with Kelvin, but soon after Linton was born he was put in my chest and thankfully he stayed there for quite a while. They covered us with a warm blanket (remember, I was completely nak*ed) and we just enjoyed our togetherness and meeting each other. I practically didn’t tear and I do have to credit the doctor with being very skillful in her perineal massages and easing the baby out – I was so “bossy” that when the baby’s head was coming out and it hurt a lot, I exclaimed “Are you cutting me?” but of course she wasn’t it was just his head… He was born 2:42 (roughly 10 minutes after I got out of the tub), weighing 6 lb. 3oz. (3.4 kg) and measuring 21 in.

Meeting him was beautiful, of course. He had such full lips and I thought he looked like a little monkey. After the nurse got him under the warming lights, checked him out, took his footprint, put eye ointment, a hat, and swaddled him, he was given back to me, and when I put him to my breast, he sucked powerfully (which helped contract the uterus, although it was painful). Kelvin was sleeping when Linton was born and my dad was with him, but my mom when to get them soon after. I was happy that Daddy was holding the baby when Kelvin came in (I had tears in my eyes when I read in this excellent book, that it’s best that the mother not to be holding the new baby when the older child first meets him/her). It was the cutest thing – the first thing Kelvin (then 2 years and 3 months) said was “Can he walk yet?” ("Ele ja sabe andar?") After Kelvin met his new brother and received a present “from” him, I got him on the bed with me, hugged him tight, and fed him Italian ice, which he loved. Then, daddy brought the new baby closer and we had several pictures of the family taken. We were a family of four now, which was great!

Linton is a really delightful child. His smile is beautiful and although he does have fits of rage once in a while, he is quick to laugh and loves to hug and cuddle with us. It’s not easy to manage the boys’ jealousy of each other and I think I would have waited a little longer to have the second baby, but the timing couldn’t have been better. I was able to deliver Linton on the same hospital that I had his brother (even with the same nurse!) which was extremely convenient, and we enjoyed the same pediatrician until he was 2 months old and we moved here to Philly.

Oh, and he was extremely "precocious" since he got to experience air travel when he was only six days old, but that’s another story! He also went over his birth-weight at 5 days old, but this is probably because I kept nursing Kelvin throughout the pregnancy.

Here’s the picture I took when Linton was 3 days old and chose for the birth announcement:

And this is him sleeping at 1 day old and 1 hour ago:

Happy Birthday baby, I can't believe you're two already!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Getting Better and... Hot Weather

A quick update:

We're mostly better from the flu, except for my mom who's still a bit congested and coughing a lot. Whatever virus hit us, it was a pretty nasty one. I'm glad that the kids didn't suffer much. My husband, my mom, and I had a hard time with cough, upper airway congestion, and now, lots of yucky stuff being expelled. I had a hard time with sinusitis, but I think that's gone now. We didn't go to the doctor (mostly because me and my parents have expensive or complicated insurances) or take any prescription drugs, but I guess that's the way to go with viruses... Lots of water, vitamins, cough drops, herbal teas, etc...

On another front, I'm pretty sure I'm having trouble with my liver and gall bladder, so I need to change my diet completely and try to get healthy on that aspect - maybe I should even see a doctor. This weekend I felt sick again like I did in Massachusetts. My mom had exactly the same problems when she was my age, and her gall bladder was removed some years ago, so we're pretty sure this is it. I also did some googling and found this site pretty helpful.

This weekend (late on Saturday, Sunday, and today) my parents decided to stay home and my husband, the boys, and I went to Maryland to my brother- and sister-in-law's house. They were just getting sick there - my poor nephew was pretty miserable today -- which didn't stop us from going to the National Zoo, but it did make our stay there shorter (his sickness and the extreme heat).

Wow, I'm always taken by surprise by how quickly it gets really hot. My husband always says that it's not that the temperature changes that dramatically - it's that our tolerance threshold for it is extremely narrow. I know it depends on the person, the place, the humidity (it's extremely humid here in the summer), but generally under 18- 19 C (64-66F) it feels a bit "chilly," and above 28-30 C (82-86F), it starts to feel quite hot.

In spite of the heat, we had some fun yesterday in the late afternoon - we went to a state park which had a great playground for the kids and then went on a pedal boat for the first time with the boys. My son initially resisted the life-preserver, but then he enjoyed being on the boat while my nephew had no problem with it being put on but screamed to take it off during the ride which had to end earlier for them.
Here's a picture of our family's first boat ride!

Then, we picked strawberries, how great is that!? Today we really shouldn't have gone to the zoo, given the heat and my nephew's cold, but the boys did enjoy seeing a giraffe, elephants, a gorilla, monkeys, and hippos... too bad the lions and tiger were sleeping, of course.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, no we didn't get to see the baby panda, they're issuing tickets for the panda exhibit and I didn't find out about that until last night, so they were obviously gone :(

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Our Breastfeeding Odyssey, Or Persistence Pays Off – Part I

I'm still quite sick, so while I can't post something "new," I leave you with this huge post I wrote a while ago, it's just the first part of the story, actually :)
I knew I wanted to breastfeed my son, so I attended the breastfeeding class offered by the hospital, I read about it, and waited for the baby to be born… I never, ever thought it would be so unbelievably hard for me to do it, though. I also didn’t know then just how much I desired or needed to breastfeed him and to what lengths I’d go to be able to succeed.

The trouble started already in the hospital. After Kelvin was born (in March 2002), even in his very alert first moments with us after the birth, it was not very easy to have him latch on to my breast. The only way it worked more or less was when the nurse literally shoved his head against my chest. He was a very sleepy baby and wouldn’t wake up to nurse at all. I tried hard, but he hardly ever latched on, the best position was side-lying, but I needed someone else to help push his head towards my breast, since in that position I couldn’t see his head very well. I had opted for going to a bedroom with a double bed for me and my husband instead of a hospital bed for me and couch/ bed for him, which was OK, but perhaps not so much on the second night. I won’t ever forgive myself or the nursery staff for what happened on that second night-early morning.

Since the baby was born over two weeks early, we were not as prepared as we should have been; we hadn’t brought home the crib we had ordered, since the store was an hour away. My mom had arrived a few days before with a huge bag full of baby clothes, blankets and everything else we’d need until the baby was one, but there was no dresser to put it away, so on that first day at the hospital, my husband left me alone to go buy a dresser for the baby’s things. He was exhausted when he came back to spend the night at the hospital with us, so around 4 am when the nurses came and suggested that they take the baby away so we could sleep, I agreed. At 7 am I woke up and wanted my baby. Poor hubby was sleeping soundly, though, and I didn’t want to bother him by talking to the nurses in the intercom, so I waited a little longer, since I thought they would know better and bring him to me. They didn’t, though!! It was past 8 o’clock when I finally got up and went to see where he was. I asked why they hadn’t brought him to me and they replied that it was because he was sleeping soundly and didn’t wake up. Of course you’re supposed to try and wake them at least every 3 hours for them to nurse when they’re newborns, and I can’t believe they didn’t bring him to me!! In his case, later I learned that his sleepiness and lethargic behavior were probably consequences of his jaundice. Anyway, we had scheduled the circumcision for that morning and they had told me that the baby shouldn’t nurse for one hour before and after that, so when I asked whether I should nurse him, they repeated that information and said that the doctor should be there any minute. Why did I listen to them? Why? The doctor didn’t arrive until ten a.m., he was circumcised around 12 and I finally tried to nurse him at 1 p.m. (When my second son was circumcised I found out that the not nursing for one hour after the surgery doesn’t actually exist!) – isn’t that unbelievable? Since 4 am without nursing? Thinking about that morning in the in the days (and even years) to come was sheer torture for me, I just couldn’t believe I had been so naïve and inexperienced and had not stood up for my son (one more reason why I definitely despise hospital births).

It probably wouldn’t have been a big deal if my son weren’t so jaundiced. No wonder that two days later when the doctor saw him she said he was dehydrated and asked me to supplement with formula. On our pre-birth visit with her she had already mentioned “finger-feeding” (with a dental-type syringe that has tubing on its tip) as a good way to supplement if needed in case the mother wants to breastfeed. His jaundice was pretty bad, though, the bilirrubin count went from 9 to 15.4 in a day (no doubt because of the over 8 hours without nursing), then to 19.5 in the next day (Wednesday). At 20-22 they usually hospitalize the baby, but they sent a bili-blanket (a blue light blanket, that goes around the baby – the light breaks down the bilirrubin that is excreted in the urine and feces, that’s why hydration is so important) to our house immediately. Even though my milk came in on Tuesday, and I was so uncomfortably engorged that I had to sleep with ice packs on my breasts that night, the baby still wasn’t latching on and nursing effectively, and I felt extremely worried.

On Wednesday night, the day the bilirrubin peaked, when we came home from the university clinic and started using the bili-blanket which was delivered on that same evening, I experienced the most heartbreaking moment of my life as a mother until the present. This moment came to define the significance of breastfeeding to my mothering experience. It changed me forever and made me acutely sensitive to other mothers’ breastfeeding troubles. As instructed by the pediatrician, we started to supplement by “finger-feeding” formula to our baby with the syringe, and late that night, while my husband fed him, I tried to use a cheap electric breast pump that my friend had sent me the day before – I later learned that those are no good, but I didn’t know it then. When no milk came out, I despaired. I didn’t know better, so I thought that I had no more milk, that I wouldn’t ever be able to breastfeed my son, and I cried my heart out. I cried and cried, huge heaving sobs that shook my whole body, and my husband, who was extremely concerned that if the jaundice didn’t get better our son would have to be hospitalized (the hospital being 45 minutes away – a big, “scary” teaching hospital, not the small one where I had given birth) joined me. I think we wept together for over half an hour. I just couldn’t stop crying – I had never felt so helpless in my life. Now I know that my despair was definitely enhanced by the hormonal drop, and part of the so-called post-partum “blues,” but those moments of utter despair will remain etched my memory forever. I think I have never felt such profound sadness and despair.

In the morning, things didn’t look so grim – they usually don’t when the sun is shining and it’s a bright new day. We went to the doctor for blood tests again, and the bilirrubin count was high, but not too bad (18.5). For you to have an idea, my son was so “lethargic” that he wouldn’t cry when they cut his heels to get blood for the tests. He even slept through it once!! All he did was sleep that first week – we tried every suggestion in the book to wake him up to nurse (stripping him naked, splashing cold water on him), but nothing really worked – this is one of the side effects of the Jaundice.

Nothing seemed too daunting to me now, after I had been confronted with the dark faces of fear and despair on that Wednesday night. I kept trying to have him latch on, with little success. I found out about Medela’s Supplemental Nursing System (SNS scroll down the link to see it) thanks to a picture on Dr. Sears's The Baby Book (I’ll be always thankful to him for that), which we showed to our pediatrician on Thursday. She called the lactation consultant at the hospital who responded that she had it, and that she could sell it to us. We decided to wait until Saturday morning when the hospital had a free lactation clinic. The lactation consultant was great – she saw that we were pretty desperate and actually gave us the SNS for free, and we rented a breast pump immediately. From then on I pumped day and night for one whole month, thankfully we only had to use formula for one more day and from then on my son only had my milk – even though he wasn’t latching on to my breasts. We tried to use the SNS but were unsuccessful, so we kept finger feeding him with the syringe.

To be continued…

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I haven't had much time or disposition to write lately and you'll soon know why. I thought that using the title's format (stolen from a famous film I haven't even seen and don't know much about except the title :) to talk about our looong weekend away (5/11-15) in Massachusetts would be a good idea.

The Good
- Packing and travel on Thursday (5/11).
Thanks to my forgetfulness (I didn't go to a LLL meeting in the morning), the packing and getting ready to travel went on extremely smoothly when it's usually very stressful for me (I'm always afraid to forget something essential). I even got to plant some flowers in the front yard before we left (I have pictures coming your way soon). The trip was great, we left 5:30, almost 6 and got there around 11 p.m. No traffic whatsoever, not even in the George Washington Bridge - yay!

- The meeting with my advisor and committee member.
The meeting was good, I was able to get a good feeling of what they expect of me and we had a very good and long conversation.

- Seeing our "old" friends.
We visited and saw a few friends while we were there, people we hadn't seen in almost a year - including two brand new babies (our former neighbors' and some old time friends').

- Visiting the in-laws and helping them out.
It was great to be with the in-laws again as they adapt to their new life in this country. We didn't help a lot, but at least helped them to get cell phones - it's a beginning, huh?

- Spending mother's day with both moms.
I need to write a separate post about this, since we had a similar day exactly 10 years ago. The celebration wasn't pompous or anything, but we went to IKEA and had excellent and extra cheap salmon together!

- Trip back (5/15).
In spite of some problems (more below), the trip back was also smooth, with no traffic and no delays.

The Bad
- The weather - it was absolutely awful.
It rained HARD every. single. day. It was truly a deluge, and it was also pretty cold because of the dampness.

- The meeting with my advisor and committee member.
The meeting in itself was not bad, but some of its effects on me were. I have to write a separate post about this as well. In a nutshell, it was a reality check which made me realize how hard it is to deal with different people reading your work and how in comparison, my advisor's "advice" ends up being absolutely useless. I felt pretty crappy about the dissertation for days.

- Locking the keys inside the car on a rainy afternoon.
Yep. That was
my fault, yes it was. When we got to where my in-laws live we went straight to church where they were attending a program. Hubby, dad, and Kelvin got out of the car first and I stayed with my mom to nurse Linton. When we left the car I knew that the baby had played with the locks and had locked the doors and I even asked my mom whether she knew if they had taken the keys, but I let her close the door. When we were leaving and DH asked "who's got the keys?" I knew we were locked out. It's good we have 24h roadside assistance in our insurance, so a tow truck guy came and unlocked it for us at no charge. My in-laws' temporary apartment is just one mile down the road, so we went ahead in their car (even without car seats). Problem was solved quickly, but it was still pretty annoying.

The Ugly
- I got sick.
Well, I don't know what happened to me, but on Friday morning I wasn't feeling OK, then I ate a Boston creme donut (my favorite) and a croissant, and I felt positively sick. I vomited a few times and then, after sucking on and chewing some ice, I felt better. I also felt (less) sick on Saturday, but it passed quickly (and I didn't vomit again). It was pretty awful and I wasted two perfectly good mornings because of it. I've been pretty sensitive to greasy stuff lately, my mom's always had problems like that. I really have to be more careful about what I eat.

- Boys with high fever.
Very early on Sunday I felt that Linton (my youngest) had a really high fever, and I gave him Tylenol the whole day. On Monday it was Kelvin's turn (and Linton's fever was gone) - and, because he's older, he was very whiny and clingy. He was pretty sick because he simply fell asleep by himself on the airbed. In spite of their sickness, the trip back was great. We had to stop once because Kelvin complained of a tummy ache, but apparently it was just gas.

all of us are sick now. The boys got worse when we arrived home, sneezing, runny noses, coughing. I was the first one to get their virus and I felt AWFUL all day Friday with a sinus infection, headaches from that, runny nose, the works, I'm a little better, but not completely (it seems now the coughing will start - it has been bothering Kelvin for days now). Then it was my husband, and now my mom is totally knocked out by it. We're hoping my dad's virus sticks to the mild symptoms he's having (scratchy throat - that's it).

So... that's the situation right now here at home, it's a sick house... but hopefully we'll get better very soon, and we have to, or else we can't go to Maryland to visit my in-laws because my SIL is pregnant (due at the end of June!!).

Friday, May 19, 2006

My Son and My (future) Doctorate

K (my 4 year old): “Mama, did you buy a doctorate?”

Lilian: (smiling) “No, sweetie, I’m going to earn one after I defend my dissertation, after I finish writing my dissertation.”

K: “But mama, when is all that going to end?”

L: (serious) “Next year.” (knock on wood)

K: “And then you’ll sell the computer, right?

L: (I look at him with a “What do you mean?” look in my face)

K: “Then I’ll be able to play at the other computer all the time.”

A minute later when I came to the computer type up this conversation:

K: “Why do you always have to be at the computer?”

Then he went downstairs to have a snack before bed and after checking a blog or two I went down, sat by him and answered:

L: “So I can finish the dissertation.”

K: “Why can’t you do this faster?” was his reply.

Me: (deep sigh)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Turmoil in São Paulo (Brazil)

I've been really scared and appalled at the "dystopian"* scenario that has been unfolding in São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, where I lived for 12 years. There was a massive and coordinated rebellion of prison inmates in the whole state of São Paulo that simply paralyzed the city on Monday afternoon/evening. Public transportation buses were set on fire, policemen were killed and, in turn, many innocent people were gunned down by police just by looking suspicious. These events prompted most of the commercial establishments to close their doors and dismiss their employees early on Monday and people deserted the streets at night, fearing attacks from the rebellious criminals. The situation hasn't been stabilized yet.

Violence and criminality in Brazil are getting completely out of control, particularly because of the huge and unnaceptable social marginalization of millions of people. The majority of Brazil's population is undescribably poor and a tiny minority holds over 90% of the country's wealth. To make matters worse, like one friend emailed us yesterday, in Brazil the police, the military, and the government have a hard time to exert and maintain their authority. One of the legacy of years of political repression caused by the military dictatorship (1964-74/84) is a confusion between authority and authoritarism; therefore, the police and military are afraid of being accused of being arbitrarily cruel to criminals and sometimes back off when attacked by them.

These criminals are meticulously organized, with pre-paid cell phones to communicate to each other (even inside prisons) and regional organizations such as the PCC (Primeiro Comando da Capital - First Command of the Capital [city of São Paulo]) - the group that organized this week's attack as a protest to the transfer of high profile criminals to high security prisons in the state's interior - and the Comando Vermelho (Red Command), a similar organization in Rio de Janeiro. If you want to check it out, this is how CNN reported these events.

* I have taught a course of "Dystopian Fiction" (called Brave New World) a few times. Some novels that describe a fictional dystopian scenario are: Zamyatin's We, Huxley's Brave New World, Orwell's 1984, Octavia Butler's The Parable of the Sower (and sequel), Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale, and many many others.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Why Babies Do That (Blog Book Tour)

I have another Blog Book Tour post coming your way, this time about a wonderful new book by Jennifer Margulis, editor of of the award winning anthology Toddler: Real-life Stories of Those Fickle, Irrational, Urgent, Tiny People We Love (Amazon link to Toddler, you can also read a Literary Mama review here). I first heard (actually, read) about Jennifer Margulis when Catherine Newman, one of my favorite mama writers, mentioned her own contribution to Toddler in her weekly column. I found out about the Blog Book Tour through Dawn (one of my favorite bloggers and also mama writer) and I was delighted that Jennifer included me - thank you! Now, on to the book.

I'm absolutely sure that most people have already looked at a baby and wondered why he or she is acting a certain way. Have you ever wondered "Why do babies grasp onto things so tightly?" or "Why do babies look so keenly at human faces?" or "Why do babies drool?" or "Why do babies flail their little arms and legs like miniature kickboxers?" Have you ever asked yourself "Why do babies love to be bounced and jiggled?" or "Why do babies waddle when they walk?" If you're a new parent, or when you were one, you certainly wondered in a bleary-eyed chronic sleep deprived state "Why do babies resist going to sleep?"

These are just a few of the 40 questions answered in a very straightforward yet scientifically sound manner by Jennifer Margulis's Why Babies Do That: Baffling Baby Behavior Explained. The answers are accompanied by stunning pictures of babies. Just take a look at the cover!!

This book has the best of two "approaches" to baby books: it has the delightful, endearing pictures and look that you can expect from a "gift book" and the reliable content of a child development book, just in simpler language. It is certainly a wonderful present for new parents and/or grandparents, maybe even aunts and uncles!! And now I can't wait for Jennifer Margulis's book about toddler behavior since she's planning to write one! I'm even thinking of sending some questions her way :)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Daughter I Didn’t Have

Should I feel like I am betraying my sons and their precious existences which have brought me inexpressible joy by writing about the daughter I wanted either one of them to have been and that was not?

Should I even think about this? Well, reading It’s a Girl definitely got me started.

When I struggled with this preference for a girl during my first pregnancy I actually felt jealous of my husband and my mother because they did not have a preference at all. I really wanted to feel that way but I couldn’t change how I felt no matter how much I tried. It didn’t help much that I had the weight of my mother-in-law’s intense desire for a granddaughter as her first grandchild, since she had four sons in her pursuit of a daughter. OR to make up for the daughter she never had. I wanted a daughter for myself and a granddaughter for her and my daddy, who also leaned towards a girl (probably because that was what I, his girl, wanted).

My husband was late for the ultrasound that day in October, 2001, so I was alone when the technician told me the news. I felt deeply disappointed, and I may have shed a tear or two. When my husband arrived, I tried to smile and told him that no, it wasn’t a girl, it was a boy we were having. On that day, starting in that darkened room, I prepared myself for the arrival of my second son. I reasoned that I might as well do it right there and then because, in my fatalistic thinking, if I hadn’t had a girl the first time like I wanted (“just to guarantee that I would have a girl” – as I used to think), then the second one wouldn’t be a girl either. I was very glad I prepared myself for that afternoon two years later in the darkened ultrasound room when I found out my unborn baby’s sex without the technician saying anything. When she first put that “wand” in the cool gel that was coating my belly, his “signature marks” were the first things I saw on that screen. “It’s a boy, isn’t it?” I said immediately, and she agreed. And I was happy that I would have two boys to grow together and be friends. I felt so guilty the first time around because of how I felt slightly depressed for days, as if all the excitement had drained from the pregnancy for a while and that didn’t happen the second time around – “See, I already knew I was going to have a second boy!” I said and thought.

Let me go back to the girl, though, in spite of the fact that now that I have reflected more about this issue, I feel really hesitant “to go there” and to explore my feelings regarding the daughter I didn’t have. I haven’t thought about my reasons for wanting a girl in years. I have pushed these thoughts and feelings to the very back of my mind once I became a mother of sons, but maybe it will help me somehow to go looking for them right now, in the context of the readings I have just done in It’s a Girl.
~~ ~~
I think one of the main reasons why I wanted a girl was that I wanted to raise her differently from the way my mother raised me. See, I already “smell” trouble here… Would I really be able to do that? I mean, one of the reasons I became a feminist was the way my mother talked about gender roles and my rebellious attitude about it. She kept on saying that my desire to write was foolishness and that I lived in “dreamland.” She even said cruel things like “You dream too much, you like listening to music, writing, and you don’t worry about cleaning your room or house keeping matters - you won’t find this ‘prince’ you are looking for,” or “if you want to write like that you’ll never get married.” I feel hurt me just by writing those things. Needless to say, I didn’t take her words to heart, I kept on writing and pursuing my dreams. A few years later I did meet a wonderful young man and we eventually got married – of course she was wrong (and this terrible guy I wrote about before here was squarely wrong as well). This negative baggage didn’t preclude me from being “close” to my mom, or as close as we could be given our differences. We never fought or argued, I was a good daughter, pretty obedient and compliant. These disagreements did create a distance between us, we don’t see eye to eye in many issues and we don’t discuss them.

Of course, there were also the “superficial” things like pretty dresses, my infatuation with the pink color (not that I wear it that much, reds looks much better on me, for instance) and pastel colors, long hair that I would be able to braid and style, the girl books that I adore and which were the original topic of my dissertation. Shortly after I found out I was having a boy, I wrote in my journal something like “how am I going to write my dissertation about girls when I’m not having my girl!?” – I eventually changed the dissertation topic a few months after my son was born, not because I had a boy, obviously! :)

One of the things I always longed to do was sharing my journals with my daughter. Sharing my feelings from when I was younger, maybe her age. I have always written these journals with a future daughter in mind. I wonder now whether my sons will ever be interested in reading them, and, would a daughter be? If she weren’t, it would break my heart!

I longed to raise a daughter who would be strong and who would never hear that she couldn’t do something because she was a girl or a woman. Now, I have to be fair and emphasize that I never heard that from my own mother, a strong woman who got her college and master’s degree many years before my father and who was an excellent professional – but I heard constantly about countless other things that I needed to do or ways in which I had to behave because I was a girl and I wasn’t too happy about those. I wanted to raise a little feminist girl who would stand up for herself and be confident of her value.

Oh, there are many things I’d like to say to this daughter of mine. I’m not certain, but pretty confident that I would have been able to transcend my problems with my own mother in my relationship to my daughter since most of them have to do with traditional gender roles that she “acquired” coming of age in the 50s and 60s in Brazil and having the “machista” father that she had. Her mother was also a strong woman who, to help support the five children she had with her idealist and poorly paid preacher husband, went to nursing school and became a nurse and midwife in her late thirties. Wow, my grandma was one tough lady, now that I’m thinking about it. She had me in tears many times with her stern reprimands. She passed away in Brazil during my first year here in the United States.

In writing this I realize that I am fully happy with my two boys, though, which is a very good conclusion to reach. If we decide to have more kids and a third boy shows up, I’ll be undoubtedly happy to have him too! He already has two brothers and two boy cousins to play with – his coming would actually complete a full basketball team! Not that my hypothetical daughter wouldn’t have be an excellent team member to play with her brothers and boy cousins! :)

P.S. I wrote this on Friday night, before I read any of your comments to the previous post since I was not able to go online until now (we're traveling in MA since Thursday). I hope those of you who liked it will enjoy this one.

I'm slightly editing this post (adding links, correcting typos) on 5/9/2015, nine years after I wrote it-- because I'm about to give the link to a friend. I also need to share what happened back in 2006: I inadvertently published this post on Mother's Day (having written it two days earlier on Friday) and, even more inadvertently, my mother READ it a few days later because it she sat to check her email at the computer and the browser window was open on my blog! That caused quite a stir and she was really upset with me because I say some strong negative things about her there. I did my best to fix the situation with her, but I decided not to retract my words or delete the post. I was just more careful about what I wrote from then on. It was a really tricky situation, but it didn't dampen my enthusiasm for blogging my life one bit.

Friday, May 12, 2006

It's a Girl Blog Book Tour!

As most of you know, I have two boys, but I missed the It’s a Boy blog tour. I didn’t want to miss the It’s a Girl tour, particularly because I have always, for as long as I can remember, wanted to have a daughter. I dreamed about sharing with her my love of “girl books,” like Little Women, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s "Little House" books, Anne of Green Gables, Secret Garden, Alice in Wonderland and many others (my original plan was to write my Ph.D. dissertation about these books). Furthermore, I love pink, so I longed to dress my little girl in cute pink clothes and to let her have long curly hair, something I’ve always wanted, but have been unable to do because my hair is curly and too fine and just doesn’t grow long. My husband has thick wavy hair and I was hoping she would take after him. I could have written an essay just like the one by Katherine Weber, except it’d be titled “The Girl We Didn’t Have,” instead of “The Boy We Didn’t Have.”

So, I really wanted to read this book. When I brought it to be signed by Andi at the It’s a Girl Mother Talk, she wrote: “A vicarious thrill read!” Well, it has been a vicarious pleasure for sure, but not exactly the way I expected. One of the things I kind of “expected” from this book was some consolation for the fact that I didn’t have a daughter. Thoughts, for instance, on how it’s harder to raise daughters because we mothers were once girls ourselves and that it’s difficult to separate ourselves from our daughters and not to expect too much of them – the way it looks like it’d be with me (e.g. the hair issue above). However, I didn’t feel this way reading many of the essays. In spite of the fact that these difficulties do exist, most writers featured in the book expressed their experiences as mothers of girls in very positive terms.

I also expected to feel very sorry for myself and my daughter-less state when I read about all these great girls, babies, toddlers, tweens, or even bulimic teenagers. That’s not the way it worked out either! I caught myself, instead, constantly thinking – the same way it happened during the last Philly Mother Talk discussions – that my boys had many characteristics that were similar to those of the girls described. Both of my boys are extremely verbal and like to have long conversations and read stories with me. My oldest son is a sensitive child, much like myself, who says that he’s sad when his brother cries and who is quick to tell me “Mama, don’t be sad/ frustrated/upset – I love you, I’ll be with you.” Of course they’re very much boys in their love for cars, trucks, and trains, but my oldest enjoys playing with dolls as well, sometimes! In addition, some of his favorite bedtime stories are episodes from Alice in Wonderland or the Little House books – and I can’t wait for the days when my son knows how to read and can enjoy these books on his own. I hope he still likes them then… It's good to realize that I can still share my "girl books" with my boys after all. (Oh, both of my boys have curly hair, and though I've let my oldest grow his long, we had it cut last week - I hope they both let their hair grow long when they're teenagers!! - Like Jo(e)'s sons, of course :)

Oh, and last but not least, I was also pleasantly surprised when I found two essays in the book written by mothers who actually didn’t have daughters! Like Vicky Mlyniec's "Daughter Dread" and Jessica Berger Gross's "Garden City." Mlyniec has two boys like me, and the last sentence of her essay will be echoing in my mind for a long time: "If we pay attention, there's much to be learned from all our children, even from the ones we don't have." I hope the girl I didn't have can definitely shape my life even though I never got to meet her and style her long curly hair...

Thursday, May 11, 2006


I had this "bright" idea while writing a list in the car last Sunday - I wrote it right in the bottom of piece of spare blank paper where I was writing my list, so it doesn't look as good as it would if the paper had lines. I hope those of you with scanners can post something similar. In this "digital world" of typing, we sometimes forget to write the old fashioned way, don't we? I think a person's handwriting says a lot about his or her personality. What's the name of that "science" that interprets handwriting?

Edited to add: I forgot to include how I write my name, I guess that's one of the words we write more during our lives, particularly when we're younger. Here you go:

P.S. 1 For those who didn't see them by any chance - don't forget to check the cute pictures in the previous post :)

P.S. 2 I should be packing for our trip now! Can you tell I hate packing? (even more than unpacking)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Boys and I

I was going to write a whiny post about how I wasn't happy about blogging and that I didn't think I had many readers, bla bla bla, but then I decided not to. I am going to post some picture of my boys instead. I have "branded" them with the blog's URL, something I saw at All This - thanks for the idea, by the way! Do you think it's helpful? At least it makes me a bit less uneasy about posting pictures of my sons.

I have good reasons not to be posting more often - we're now undertaking the second home improvement project - putting a shed in the backyard, and I have been to Home Depot three times in less than 24 hours to get concrete and other building materials. First, with my dad, then with my mom and kids, and last, only with my 4 year old. I used this opportunity to improve my little garden in the front yard with white concrete "scalloped" edgers (couldn't find a picture online), which I have to install this evening because...

Either tomorrow late afternoon/evening or very early on Friday we'll be leaving for Massachusetts. I have a meeting with the advisor and another committee member (the picky one), and I'm pretty anxious about that. Then on Saturday my husband will speak at the 5th year anniversary and reunion of our little church group on campus. On Sunday we'll spend mother's day with both our moms and we'll drive back probably late on Sunday night... Phew, I'm tired just thinking about it, but I think it's going to be a fun (and hopefully productive) weekend. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with some pictures :)

Three cute cousins and a television.

Each boy standing in the hole we made to get dirt to level the ground for the storage shed's floor.
Two pictures we took at Longwood Gardens last Sunday. Linton's nursing in the first one.
The now "famous" Brazilian flip-flops, Havaianas (means Hawaian). The boys love them. I'm not in the picture, but I own several pairs :)

On Friday it's my turn in the It's a Girl blog tour, so I'll be back!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Home Improvement II

Just some pictures of the new floor for you, while I work on other posts of a more "serious" nature :)

It looks pretty good, doesn't it?'

We also rearranged our living room and I LOVE the results (I haven't taken pictures yet). Now we need a dining set. I don't know when we'll buy it because we don't have much money, but I want to buy it at IKEA. The tables I like are this or that, and this is the chair I'm absolutely in love with. Both are quite pricey, that's why I want/need to have a job too so we can buy things we need (or hubby needs to get a good paying gig)! We've used a donated table and four 17 dollar folding chairs for TEN years - don't you think it's time we invest on something good and beautiful? Well, too bad I haven't finished the Ph.D. yet and we're still kind of waiting for our lives to start... We're getting tired of this though -- come on, we're 35 already! (technically not yet - hubby in late May, me in July :)

I didn't write last week because we were busy on Wednesday night and all day Thursday with a visit from the in-laws, who just arrived in this country to work and live for several years. My brother- and sister-in-law also came from Maryland to have lunch with us on Thursday, it was great to see them, particularly my future nephew -- my SIL is due on June 29th with another boy (my in-laws' fourth grandson!). The weekend was pretty busy too... More later.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

As a SAHM I Should be Paid $134,121 - I guess Caitlin Flanagan disagrees

My husband just forwarded this CNNMoney article to me titled "Being a mom could be a 6-figure job" and he lamented that right now he can't afford to pay me all that since his own salary is roughly 1/3 of that amount :)

This figure was determined by by calculating the hours and pay of housekeeper, cook, day-care teacher, janitor, and CEO among other functions that stay at home moms do*. Cool - huh? Except that we DON'T get paid a penny for our work! And now women like Caitlin Flanagan are saying that we should be just happy with our inner housewives and stop complaining!!

No wonder she could not stand up to Stephen Colbert when she went in his show weeks ago. Speaking of whom, I finally got to see his "speech" demolishing Bush at the White House Correspondents Dinner -- thanks for the link, Jo, but I just couldn't see the videos, but my husband found it in 3 parts at

I wasn't able to see Caitlin Flanagan's Colbert Report's appearance at Salon either, but the Comedy Central website makes it available, so you can see how pathetic she looks. Right now this is the page where you can find Flanagan but as new shows are uploaded, it'll go down the page to the next page, I suppose. (What Colbert had to say about his appearance at the Correspondents Dinner is currently here and he began with a hilarious talk about the immigrants notshowing to work protest of Monday, May 1st that's worth seeing).

I was surprised to get my copy of Time magazine yesterday and see that Flanagan had written the last page's essay, titled "We're Here, We're Square, Get Used to It: Why the Democratic Party is losing the housewife vote," I guess you can read it here, at least during this week. She argues that the Republicans keep winning because the democrats have alienated the average white men and their housewives. She's always been on the democrats' side of policy making, she says, but that right now she's being driven away because women like her, who are happy to stay home and care for their family and their man, who have a traditional family and go to church every Sunday are being made fun of by the democrats. Hmm, how interesting. Worse of all - and apparantly what motivated her argument - every reporter who comes to talk to her about her new book promptly assumes that she's a conservative Republican, and she's upset that her traditional views on marriage would prompt that assumption.

See, I think it's OK that women choose not to work and stay at home with the kids, but as plenty of other bloggers out there have already stated [I'll include links later, promise], the problem with Flanagan is that she's arguing that women should be happy with that, and stop complaining that society owes them something if they stay at home. I'll take the 134,121 dollars instead.

*They also calculated what working mothers should earn for their second work journey at home, and it's not bad either!! It's $85,876 (for working moms who work 44 hours per week).

Monday, May 01, 2006

Home Improvement - I

My dad is quite the handyman. He can be a carpenter (e.g. he built a nice desk and shelves for me when I was a teenager), a painter, a builder, even a bit of an electrician at times. When he came to visit for a month back in 2002 when my oldest son was born he was happy and busy with various projects. First, he removed the almost 30 years old (yellow) wall paper from the kitchen, painted the walls in two tones of green I picked, matching with the pretty border I chose, and put new flooring:
Here's part of my old kitchen (not the current one). I think the cabinets are too dark (I love light or "natural" colored wood), but I adored the new stove we put in - I miss it so much! We also (dumbly) replaced the ancient (yellow) dishwasher for one of the "better" ones (with two of those turning things that spread the water) - when we should have saved at least U$100 by putting in a cheaper one. Lucky new owner. At least we didn't replace the fridge, which was not really great (but we did have to buy a new fridge for here, since strangely [for us] here in PA many houses don't come with fridges).
This photo offers a better view of the wall and border, since it was taken on the night we were moving (you can see some of the mess).

Then, still back in 2002, with the help of my mom and my hubby, my dad removed the old caramel color carpet from the living room and they put in "oak" laminate flooring. The following year (2003) he painted the finished basement. In 2004 we basically concentrated in de-cluttering so we could sell the house and move.

Ever since we moved here we have wanted to put laminate flooring in the living room. Even though the house is only 4 years old, the carpet has some stains (the previous owners had a big dog and cats) and is completely torn by the basement door (the dog again). We started removing the capets on Saturday night and we had to do it carefully, particularly with the padding since we decided to save it to put it in the basement (if we do get around finishing it like we plan to).

In the pictures above you can see the how the room looked when we moved in (2004) and when we started removing the carpet on Saturday (that's my dad there rolling up the padding). Last year when I spent two months in Brazil, hubby painted it this warm peach color.

The funnest part for me was removing the wooden piece under the "vinyl" flooring in front of the door. I thoroughly enjoyed removing each single nail. Removing the staples from the carpet padding was not as fun, but I did it quite quickly and efficiently.
The house was a huge mess last night, but I think it was /is worth it!

The picture below was taken late in the afternoon yesterday. We did some more progress (and I already took many more pictures), and tonight we're planning to finish.
I'll post more pictures of the finished results later, OK?

Random Notes (Bees, Teething, Arrivals et ali)

  • On Saturday I was stung by a bee right on my left tigh, can you believe it? Where was I? What was I doing? I was not outside by some flowers, I was playing the piano inside the church. OK, there were several lilies there. I felt the sting and saw a red, slightly bloody mark, but didn't realize it was a bee until I felt a bug crawling on my neck (yuck!) and brushed a huge bee to the ground. I HATE being stung by bees!! Last year I was running after my cat in the yard and I stepped on one!! Luckily I removed my foot quickly and it was not so bad. Not this time, though. My tigh hurts a lot, the poison has spread and it itches terribly. I am mildly allergic to it, though not as seriously as my mom.
  • It is taking me forever to write the next post because during the day today I couldn't get Blogger to upload any pictures, and, as usual, I wanted to include tons of pictures in the post. I really don't know why I'm so obsessed with pictures, my mom thinks I'm crazy. Right now it's working OK and the post should be ready soon.
  • I'm really stubborn, if I want something to look a certain way or if I want to tell something a certain way (like all the pictures I want to add to the next post so I can "tell" my story the way I want to), I don't stop until I'm satisfied. This is pretty tough with the dissertation, particularly in the part of the collection of data. I can never stop until I'm absolutely sure that everything is precise and correct, so it takes me forever...
  • It's pathetic, because I'm trying to post all these pictures and write that post, finish this one and revise a dissertation chapter all at the same time. Talk about multi-tasking!
  • I had other things I wanted to add to this "random notes" post, but I can't remember them right now. Well, the most important one was telling about the bee, since it didn't fit at all with the subject of the next post!!
  • Yay, I remembered - I wanted to say that my 23 month old is teething - the molars are coming, at least 3 of them at once (the bottom ones). He does seem to be crying and whining more than normal, so I guess it bothers him.
  • Last, but not least, my father- and mother-in-law arrive in the U.S. on Wednesday. We won't see them until Mother's Day (when we're scheduled to go to MA) because they are going straight to Massachusetts. It will be pretty interesting to see how they will adapt to living here instead of just visiting.