Sunday, September 21, 2008

No baby yet, and no signs of imminent arrival...

I've been enjoying my break and spending more time with Love Bug. She's taking a music class and a gym class, which she will continue with Daddy after he arrives this weekend. She's been doing more learning activies too and now knows two colors- green and blue! She also knows a few letters and can say she's 2 (with two fingers up). We taught her to count like the French and Italians- starting with the thumb as one, the index finger as two, and so on. It think it's much easier to do and actually makes more sense. Just a warning- if you're ever in Europe and ordering food, don't hold up the American two fingers, because they will think you mean three, since they've mentally counted your thumb. Susan, does it work the same way in Germany?

I've also finished all my shopping for the baby. We got a bassinet with the playard, since he will also sleep in it on trips once he's outgrown the bassinet. We also got the baptism stuff (since his Christening is a few weeks after he's born). Finally, we got a double stroller. Go check it out- it's actually more of a sit n' stand type stroller and it has a neat attachment on the front to hold a baby carrier too (you can see this on the third picture). It's the only stroller for two kids that fits in our tiny, Italian elevator- very exciting!

No baby yet and we're still on target for a c-section in a few weeks. B will let you know when Dragonfly arrives and how we're all doing! Until then, I'll be praying for cooler weather and an easy recovery.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Girl After My Own Heart...

Love Bug not been allowed to watch TV until now, as many of you know. My pediatrician in France really encouraged us to avoid it, and besides creativity and learning skills, one of his reasons was actually that it would be a special treat one day, when we want to use it to allow us a break.

Well, everyone... that day has come.

Love Bug has started watching movies to give me some time to relax, because I really need it. My ankles are now "cankles" and my pants have gotten too tight, just in the waist, because my belly is so big. I need some major relaxation. We've been getting movies from Netflix and seeing what she likes. So far, her favorites are this and this... and I couldn't have picked them better myself. In fact, I'm not relaxing (as was my original goal) because I'm singing and dancing along with her.

And, in other news, I'm not taking a blog break- it's more of a "sporatic blog" exercise. It must be contagious because it seems that many people are either gone entirely or just not posting very often. It's hard with the baby coming and all I need to do to get ready. Plus, my hubby B, is arriving here in two weeks, and you can guarantee that I won't be around then at all. We have lots to catch up on, especially spending time just the three of us before Dragonfly joins our family. Keep checking back... I will be around... I just need some time to myself too. And no worries, B will post about Dragonfly once he arrives.

I know some people like reading blogs that post a lot, so forgive me. I will still comment often I'm sure- I have my Google Reader set up so well now, so I don't have to check my favorite blogs each day... just when they have a new post. I look forward to reading about how all of you are doing and can't wait to share our baby news in just a few weeks!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Donating Cord Blood

We've gotten lots of information about cord blood donation from private banks over the last few months of my pregnancy, all coming from places in the United States. I didn't get any in Italy or in France, so I'm assuming they mostly do public donation.

We are big believers in doing things for the good of everyone in society when possible, so we've decided to donate our cord blood to a public bank. I hope we'll never have any need for it, but I did ask the pediatrician for her opinion. She told me that since we have no family history of diseases that require cord blood for treatment (which there are only a few rare ones now), it is safe to assume that most people won't need their babies' cord blood.

I found a website about donation and found that my hospital does participate, so they are sending me a kit. I hope our cord blood is usable and maybe it will even be used to help someone. Please go look at the website or pass it on to friends if they're pregnant. The best time to do it is before 34 weeks, so they have time to mail the information and the collection kit.

In case you didn't see my post about organ donation, I'm also a big supporter of that, as well. Go check out this website for more information and tell your family that you want to donate your organs and tissues if anything would happen. We did it when my Dad passed and it was one of the best decisions we've made.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Another Blog Award

I wanted to pass on another blog award I've received. Carrie was kind enough to give me the Blog Friends Forever Award. I'm so excited that she included me and it's very fitting. We have so much in common, including our birthday (right down to the exact year), and I always enjoy reading her blog and getting her emails.







I'm passing the award onto these wonderful blog friends:
Cheri- who shares in my struggles in a crazy life of moving every few years and husbands who work for the US government (Military in her case, State Dept. for us).
Tootie- is one of my favorite bloggers. Most of her posts are upbeat and always make me laugh.
Susan- who always has interesting stories about life in Germany, and I usually end up feeling less crazy myself when dealing with a European lifestyle.
Nicol- who despite her stress in selling her house these days, is always an enjoyable blogger.
Danielle- who was my partner in a recent swap and is a new friend. I've loved getting to know her.

The "Rules" for those of you who want to pass on this award:
1. Only five people allowed.
2. Four have to be dedicated followers of your blog.
3. One has to be someone new, or recently new to your blog, or live in another part of the world.
4. You must link back to whoever gave you the 'Blogging Friends Forever' award.

There were so many wonderful bloggers to choose from and I hope to include more of you next time!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Our Bilingual Experience

My husband is a second-generation American. His grandparents were from Canada and their family roots can be traced all the way back to France. He grew up hearing his grandparents, great-aunts, and great-uncles speak French. As in many American families, B's father (and his siblings) never learned to speak French. Partly because the older generation wanted a private language to only speak amongst the adults, but also to make sure their children were fully integrated in the United States.

As my husband grew up, hearing more and more French but not really understanding, he became more interested in learning. He took French in school, and when an opportunity to do a foreign exchange to France was offered, he jumped on it. Oddly, he was sent to a small town in Brittany, which was in the same region of France his ancestors came from. There were no English speakers around, and even those that spoke a little knew better than to help him. So, he sat in a French high school, and with his French family every night at dinner, and didn't understand a word... for months. Then one day, around November, he suddenly realized that he knew what the teacher was saying in history class. From there, he never looked back. His new goal was to perfect the accent, and he did. Even years later when we moved to France as newlyweds, he fooled most people and they believed that he was a native speaker.

Even before we knew we were moving there, we always talked about being a bilingual family. We always planned on including French in our daily lives, but we didn't work out all the details until we were actually expecting Love Bug. Our techniques may seem extreme, but our goal is total fluency. Many children achieve a good level of comprehension with just a little exposure. I've even met one ten-year-old who could speak perfect English. When questioned about how she learned it (since no one she knew spoke English and she didn't learn it from school), she said it was from American TV shows. Here's how we planned to handle everything:

- We agreed to start right when Love Bug was born. We read in books that the earlier you start, the better. This is true for two reasons. First, as you age, even in childhood, you become less receptive to new languages. (My husband learning so well as a teenager is the exception to this rule.) The other advantage to starting at birth, according to many books, is that it's easier to make a big lifestyle changes at the same time. We already had the crazy disruption of bringing Love Bug home, why not start with a new language in the home then too.

- We agreed to have B speak only in French, and respond to me in French. I speak only English, and respond to his questions in English. Around English speakers, we continue this and I just translate to family or friends if they would like to know what he is saying. The only exception is that B will speak to other people in English, when he's not speaking to Love Bug too. We read that many children struggle if you don't make clear language division... between parents or between the home and outside world.

- We had the wonderful advantage of actually living in France when Love Bug was born. We stocked up early on books and toys in French, and many friends in France have helped us (since they know our hopes for her and our other kids) by continuing to send us more books, toys, and even a few t-shirts with French on them!

- Our family knows that if they buy any language toys, these toys must have French on them. Any DVDs they buy must also have a French language track on it, not just subtitles.

- Our goal is to have Love Bug (and now Dragonfly) listen to, and eventually speak, French for 20 - 24 hours a week. This is the recommended time period to make sure they are completely fluent.

- We plan to enroll her in French preschool (yes, they have one near our place in Italy) and as we move around the world for my husband's job, most places have a French school. There is even a French Montessori school where we will end up living in the US. Once they start middle school, our kids will go to regular public school in the US, or American schools if we're overseas. While they are in French grade school, I will work with them at night on spelling and vocabulary in English, so they will learn both.

So far these techniques are working very well for us. Love Bug understands B in French, and she understands me in English. She prefers certain languages for certain things, but this is normal. She also confuses words sometimes, and this is normal too. To describe things, she uses words like "chaud" for hot, and "belle" for beautiful. She also does body parts in French, like "nez" (nose) and "bouche" (mouth). When talking about toys or food, she speaks in English. Love Bug also calls us "Mommy" and "Daddy", but B also uses these words instead of "maman" and "papa" to avoid confusion in what to call us.

If you want your children to learn a new language, it can be started at any time really. And you definitely don't need to be bilingual yourself. There are many language schools that offer a few evening classes a week for kids of all ages or you can enroll them in all day immersion schools if you would like. There are also summer programs, including summer camps, with complete immersion, which are very effective. Obviously many programs offer Spanish, since it is so useful in our country. Another good choice, my husband has said, is Mandarin Chinese, due to their increasing wealth and power in the world. Most new language-oriented jobs opening now are in Spanish, Chinese, and even some Arabic. It's important to anticipate what languages will be useful if you would like your children to use them. They can really learn anything if you're not concerned about usefulness.

Do you have any questions about teaching your children another language? I might be able to help with all the books I've read on the subject, and in living overseas myself. Does anyone have a bilingual family and want to share how it works for them? What techniques or learning programs have your used? I'd love to hear what others hope to achieve!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Backwards Works-for-me-Wednesday: Room Sharing & Which Bed to Use

Living in Rome, we have a two bedroom apartment. This is normal, since rents are really high and we chose to live in the city to keep my husband's commute short. Fortunately all the rooms are large and give us a lot of room to stretch out. The one problem comes in now that we are having our baby boy in just a month. Our daughter is going to be two in November, and at some point, these two will share the second room.

Because I breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, we'll probably keep the baby in our room until around that point for feedings and to make life easier with frequent night wakings. If he starts sleeping through the night earlier (which our daughter did easily), then we'll move him at four months when the risk for SIDS decreases.

Any tips for making the transition to one room easier for our kids? My daughter has slept through the night since she was just 10 weeks old and sleeps really well, so I don't want to mess her up. I think she could tolerate minimum noise, but a lot wakes her up. Do kids get used to more noise or will they adjust to a sibling crying and be able to go right back to sleep?

Also, what about the bed? We plan to use the 4-6 months to move her to a "big girl" bed, leaving enough time afterward so that she "forgets" that her brother is taking her bed. We have a single bed, but because it's older, it's really high off the floor, but I guess we could do railings- any recommendations? Or should we buy a toddler bed instead? Most of the sheet sets she likes (since we want her to pick her own) are in both twin and toddler sizes... what should we do?

Some things to consider:
- Moving isn't an option.
- We want to move him as early as possible. Our pillow talk, etc. are a very important part of our marriage. Our daughter moved at four months and that was perfect.

Can you help me with tips for a smooth transition? What kind of bed should we use for our two-year-old? Anything you can offer is really appreciated!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Laborious


Love Bug just seconds after her arrival!


I saw this on Rocks in my Dryer. Even though I'm too late for the link, I still wanted to participate in this meme, especially after the topic of my last post!

How long was your labor?
Didn't have a labor! My daughter didn't drop and nothing was happening, so my doctor ordered a CT scan (with low dose radiation) to see what was going on. This seems strange to Americans, but it's just how things are done in France. She even consulted the Head of Obstetrics and they agreed that trying to induce would do a lot of damage to my cervix (possibly requiring a cerclage in future pregnancies) and the likelihood of me ending up with a c-section anyway was almost 100%.

How did you know you were in labor?
We just arrived at the hospital and casually got ready. Once the OR was ready, they wheeled me down and Love Bug was out in 15 minutes.

Where did you deliver?
A small hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France- the closest Western suburb of Paris. We lived just down the street and it was so convenient.

Drugs?
I had a spinal block, which is just like an epidural, except the tube isn't left in your back. The anesthesiologist (who was the cutest little French man I've ever seen) just gave me one dose for the c-section. I could feel everything again about 5 hours later. By the way, the spinal block/epidural is actually pretty painful when you have no other pain to compare it to. I can see how it would bring welcome relief if your labor was really bad, but it's not exactly the little pin prick you would prefer when you aren't already in labor!

C-section?
Yes, but I'm not upset about it. The goal is a healthy baby and without modern medicine, I probably wouldn't have survived childbirth, and Love Bug probably wouldn't have either.

Who delivered?
My doctor was the only American and one of the only women in the Obstetrics Department at our hospital- and she was wonderful. Despite all her patients and the long waiting list to see her, she still called me at home a few times during my pregnancy just to give me test results or check in. She gave me her personal cell phone number early in the pregnancy and told me to call her directly if I had any problems.
During the delivery, she kept translating everything she said in French to the anesthesiologist/nurses/etc. back to me in English. My husband thought this was strange since my doctor knew I spoke decent French. But as I told him, she knew better, since she had a c-section herself. Your mind doesn't function well when your abdomen is cut open, so my native language was about all I could handle.
(By the way, my husband- who does speak native French- said that translation was not direct and she left out a lot of the details or scary things when she was talking to me. Also a great idea, since I probably would've been even more scared than I was already!)



Thanks for all your wonderful responses to my last post. I appreciate the wonderful advice, words of faith, and prayers. I've decided to just wait and see what Dragonly does, pray about it, and just move forward with whatever my husband and I think is best. I'm lucky to have such great readers and friends!