Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bilingual Baby Board Books

Reasonably priced bilingual English-Italian board books aren't terribly easy to find in the United States. I was happy to discover the English-Italian "My First Bilingual Book"series from Milet on Amazon. There are books for colors, opposites, animals, fruit, numbers and more. Check out some of my favorites (and help support this blog) in my Amazon store.

And a special thanks to our friends who purchased our son his first bilingual books!

For more on raising a bilingual child, you might be interested in reading about The Bilingual Edge and The Bilingual Family.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

One Month from Today: "Are you ready?"

The baby's due date is one month from today.

One. Month. From. Today.

Folks keep stumping me with the question, "Are you ready?" Sure, we've read the books, built the crib, bought a stroller/car seat combo, taken related classes at the hospital, chosen a name (no, we're not telling), met with a pediatrician and knocked a number of other things off our to-do list.

But, can anyone ever be completely ready to welcome a new human into the world and her home? Parent friends have been telling me that we'll be ok as long as we have a place for the baby to sleep, some diapers and a car seat that we'll be ok. I guess that means we'll be ok.

At first, I was viewing the due date as a sort of deadline for everything, including gigantic projects. I thought I should finish writing and editing my next book and reading all of the books I've ever wanted to read. Of course, that's ridiculous. And the perfect way to bring on a panic attack.

While having a child will change our lives - and radically change our schedule, especially in the beginning - it is in fact a beginning, not the end. (And I try to remind myself of this fact when I get overwhelmed.)

There will always be lots of things that I still need and want to do. We'll do our best and work to slowly come up with some kind of schedule that allows us to integrate our old and new lives. With changes, of course.

This is where my Dad's "Dad-isms" come in handy:

Be prepared for the unexpected. 

Know what you don't know. 

With those in mind, we can only do our best. Here's to a new adventure... that might start any day now.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

Unlike Father's Day, which is a different date in the U.S. and Italy, Mother's Day is the same. This year it falls on Sunday, May 12th.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers and everyone who mothers (at home, in the family as an aunt, as a friend, in a classroom or somewhere else.) In particular, happy mother's day to my mom and our late Aunt Dora.

I am very much looking forward to meeting our son next month. Am I officially a mother before his birth? Considering all of the movements, including hiccups, that we've been sharing, I'd vote, "yes." And I look forward to celebrating with his father over some fresh pasta this weekend.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Best Advice... So Far

As a first-time mom, I've appreciated friends offering advice and sharing their experiences with me. Preparing for baby and facing the unknown can be daunting, no matter how excited I am to meet the baby next month.

Here's some of the best advice I’ve received so far:

We love the advice givers, but their voices should never replace our own -- even when we don't know what we're doing. Because you never feel like you know what you're doing.

Enjoy the birth...I know that sounds odd, but even the pain (I went no pain meds) is empowering after...we're capable of an amazing feat.

Use the hormones to your advantage.

All you can do is what you think is best.

You're going to love being a mom more than you ever expect.

Resist the competitive parenting environment, because it's stupid.

Our bodies are MADE to do this. You can handle anything this birth will ask of you, because you have been carefully designed by nature to do just this work. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Kimberly O'Connor From 'Poet's Guide to Motherhood' Responds With Clear Advice About Writing After Becoming A Mother

Thanks to Kimberly O'Connor for inviting me to write on her blog, Poet's Guide to Motherhood, about my plan to continue to write and teach after giving birth this June. Today, she responds to my post with both encouraging words and her own experience of writing as a mother. Reading and hearing other parents' stories makes this new adventure seem just a little easier. Thank you, Kim. 

Kimberly O'Connor is a writer, a mother, and a Young Writers Outreach Instructor for Denver's Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She has taught a variety of literature and writing courses at the middle school, high school, and college levels. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Appalachian Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Copper Nickel, Colorado Review, storySouth, Tar River Poetry, and elsewhere. 

You Will Write Again

I live in Denver, Colorado, a city that boasts over 300 days of sun a year. The last two months, however, have been mostly snowy. On the days it hasn’t snowed, it’s been cold and cloudy. Last year, the temperature was reaching record highs in the 80s and 90s by mid March and throughout April. Last week, in late April, it was so cold and snowy that some of our baby plants died. Tomorrow it is supposed to snow again.

Recently, Chloe Yelena Miller wrote a lovely post for my blog wondering how her new baby will affect her work and writing. Several people have expressed doubt to Chloe that she’ll be able to write and work after her baby comes. Chloe’s post hit home for me because I vividly remember being in the same boat. I was different from Chloe, though, in that while Chloe is vocal about her resolve to keep working and writing after her baby comes, I was my own worst skeptic. Almost as soon as I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I was terrified I would never write again.

Almost four years later, I want to say—to Chloe, to my past self, to anyone else who needs to hear them—the four words I longed to hear back then:

you will write again.

As I considered what to say in this post, I kept thinking about how it came to be that I was writing it at all, how I had changed from the scared and worried new mother who wanted to write to the slightly less new mother who sits down to write, regularly, several times a week. I thought I’d offer a few things I’ve learned along the way.

First—and this sounds crazy—don’t write.

There will be times, especially right after the baby’s birth, when writing really is impossible, or at least is was for me. Though I’ve read essays by mothers who wrote while breastfeeding or while their babies slept, I found that I needed the time Amelia nursed to watch Teen Mom, and that I needed the time that she slept to clean my house or google “four week old won’t stop crying.” Or to go on a walk, or to go to the grocery store alone, or just to think my own thoughts for a few minutes. As I adjusted to my new life, I began to feel like writing again, but Amelia was 18 months old before I wrote my first real poem. During the time I wasn’t writing, I worried. I still thought I would never write again. But then, eventually, I did.

Once I did start writing again, I learned a few other things. Getting help—from a babysitter, family, neighbors, my husband—gave me time to myself. Next I learned not to fill that time with a million impossible errands and chores. I write at home, at the dining room table. Before I became a mother, I almost always sat down to write in a very clean house. Being in a clean, neat space seemed to help me focus. Now, I almost always sit down to write in a very messy house. Right now, there are bits of popcorn and scrambled eggs across the table, just feet away from me. The beds are unmade; the floor is scattered with crumbs and Lalaloopsie dolls. But it turns out I can write no matter how clean or unclean the house is. And whatever I write will last a lot longer than my clean, neat house would last.

Also, I have learned to be flexible about how and when I write. I used to write only in the mornings. I wrote in a journal, as well as on my computer, and I had lots of drafts going at once. Now, I write when I have time. Sometimes it’s the mornings, sometimes the afternoons, sometimes both or neither. I have also found that my writing process has changed. I still go through several drafts of poems and essays, but on the whole, I finish things faster. My first drafts—maybe because I spend more time thinking about them, waiting for time to write—are more complete. And, people who read my poems seem to like my new work more than my old work. Becoming a mother has added, perhaps, a certain gravity, or an urgency, to my poetry that it didn’t have, maybe couldn’t have, before.

The most important thing I’ve learned about writing as a mother is that it—“it” being the time to write, as well as the having something to say—will come again, and it will come when it comes. Sometimes I plan to write and I get to write, and sometimes I plan to write and Amelia wakes up with a fever and stays home from school, and I have to wait. Just like the Denver spring, the writing not might not happen when I expect it, or when I want it to. But it always happens.