Saturday, June 18, 2011

Free time

It's T-minus 6 days before we move from our house and not one single thing is packed.  Not one.  We have spent this last week enjoying our little house and each other.  We've spent time visiting with friends and at the end of the day, we are too tired to read, work, or watch TV, much less pack.

Hopefully, I'll be able to post about how the move went after we move.  We are also planning a few roadtrips before Billy starts school in the fall (August 1!), so I'll let y'all know how roadtripping with a hates-to-be-in-a-car-seat 11 month-old little boy goes.

For right now, here is a preview of the place, house, and school!

Picture of the main street of Maplewood, Missouri.  Maplewood is a town within the city limits of St. Louis and it's only 10 minutes away from Washington University.
Billy was accepted to several business schools around the country, but we had narrowed it down to Tulane University in New Orleans, Georgetown University in DC, and Washington University in St. Louis.  Tulane and Wash U offered Billy really competitive scholarships.  We ended up choosing Wash U because of its ranking and (for me) the way they wined and dined us at the admitted students weekend.  Although we love, love, love New Orleans and would love to live there some day, we had to choose Wash U.

Olin Business School at Wash U in St. Louis.  Doesn't it look like something out of Dead Poet's Society?
Plus, the cost of living in St. Louis is amazing (for the 3 bedroom, 2 bath house we ended up renting at $1200, we would have gotten a 1 bedroom apartment in DC.  Dumb, right?)  Although St. Louis has its issues with crime and what not, the area where we're going to live is actually quite nice and very family and dog friendly.

Our adorable new house!!!  It's also got a beautiful back yard for the doggies.
We are planning to road trip it from St. Louis to New Castle, PA, and then to Charleston, WV, Charleston, SC, and back up through Nashville up to St. Louis.  Billy's doing a lot of driving this summer (moving our stuff from SLC to STL) so we may be tuckered out, but this may be our last free summer before Billy gets super busy.

As for me, I will continue to work on my dissertation while Billy's at school and work everyday to be inspired to finish and to lead a happier healthier life.  Oh.  And to be the bestest mom and girlfriend that I can be.  yada yada yada.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Desmond enjoys onomatopeia

Desmond is going to LOVE comic books when he grows up.  Check this video out of him cracking up when I say the word "POW"!

Our trip to Florida and Colombia

This will be Desmond's 7th time flying.  He's 10 months old now and flying with him is getting so much harder.  I really wish we would have taken more trips when he was younger.  All he would do was sleep and he was so tiny and really couldn't move, so he was the perfect accessory: quiet, still, and cuddly.  Now, all he wants to do is to stand and touch the air vents and the lights, lean over and grab at the person sitting next to me, look over my seat and flirt with the people in the row behind us, and grab at people's hair in the row in front of us.  We have to be equipped with different playthings in order to last 3 hours on his short attention span.  It's exhausting.

Flying back from Florida, our flight left at 6pm EST (4pm MST, which is his usual nap time) so he slept that whole flight to Houston.  We had a 2 hour layover in Houston where he could sprawl out on the floor at the gate, eat cheerios (we gave him some french fries...his first foray into yucky fast food.  Hopefully, there won't be too many times that that happens), and release some of his energy.  By the time we got on the plane in Houston, it was 8:30pm MST, which meant it was time to put Desmond to sleep.  Perfect!  He slept the whole way home.  This was in contrast to our flights out to Florida and Colombia, which were during the early to late morning hours.  He was up practically the whole time.

It was nice, however, to see family and to let my extended family meet Desmond.  First, we stopped off in Florida to stay with my mom, stepdad, and little brother for a few days.  My mom was so excited; she bought him swimming trunks and pool/beach toys to take him out to the beach.

At a little beach in a park.  Yes, parks in Florida have beaches.

The water was super shallow, perfect for babies and kids.

Desmond loves the water!  Me?  Not so much.

Abuelita and Desmond.  I hate it that my own mother has better legs than me.  Heck, her mother, my grandmother, has better legs than me.  I got my short stumps from my dad's mom.  

My mother is so funny.  She acts like a crazy, drunk Lily Allen...except she's not drunk.  She goes in this crazy frenzied dance just to get a rise out of Desmond.  She dances around like a banshee, closing her eyes and throwing her head back.  It's the funniest thing I've ever seen.

My mom about to take a bite out of Desmond.

This onesie is awesome.  It has a picture of Darth Vader and says "Who's your daddy" on it. 

My mom getting ready to dance and shake it for Des. 
After Florida, we hopped on a plane to go to Colombia so Des could meet his abuelito.  My whole family loved Desmond and were enthralled by his light hair and fair skin.  "Mire ese gringuito!" they would say.  But they really did love him, and tried their hardest to find vestiges of our Colombian lineage in his face (they say he has their nose).

My Tia Martha giving Des a bath.  He fell in love with my aunt and every time she walked into a room, he would break out in a huge smile (see picture below).

Des's face when he saw my aunt walk into the room.

Desmond eating at a typical Colombian restaurant.

They bought Des a chocolate cake for his 10 month birthday.  He tried to eat the candle.  While it was lit.

His first taste of chocolate cake.

My Tia Aura feeding Desmond some lemon gelato.

Desmond sunbathing with my aunt. 

In La Calera, a small town outside of Bogotá, ready to eat some delicious food.

With my cousin Jorge and his fiancee.

Billy getting ready...

Acting like a kid.

Most of my cousins.   Look at how Billy stands out.  Desmond would, too, if his hoodie weren't covering his khaki-colored hair.

My cousin Juan and Des at Alpina, Colombia's biggest producer of milk products (they make arequipe, avena, and all sorts of other delicious treats)

Hopefully he'll inherit his dad's workout ethic

Des loves watching Billy workout.  We have one of those pull-up bars that hangs off of the door frame and Billy uses that to do a few pull-ups here and there while we watch our nighttime tv.  Desmond has just recently become fascinated with pulling and holding things (like the bar on the ceiling of cars...what's that called?  The Oh Shit! handle?)

Here's a video of Desmond working out with Billy and (gasp!) enjoying it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A bilingual child

I am currently visiting my family in Colombia, the country of my birth. 

In La Calera, a small town near Bogotá.  All of my cousins loved and adored Desmond and spoke to him solely in Spanish.  At my request. 

I lived here until I was about 4 years old, when we moved to Miami Lakes, Florida.  My mother, a Dominican by birth, and father, a Colombian, spoke both English and Spanish.  However, for the first four years of my life, I was raised by people who spoke to me solely in Spanish.  Although I've spent the last 26 years of my life speaking English (I learned through a mixture of my mother speaking it to me, preschool, and Sesame Street), I still hold on to my Spanish (although not as well as I'd like to).  I hardly ever use it day-to-day.  Sometimes, months go by before I speak to anyone in Spanish.  However, once I start using it in conversation, it comes back pretty quickly.  Even though the general idea is that if you don't use it, you lose it, I believe that for children who learn to speak a different language when they're young (before the age of five), this doesn't apply to them.  It applies more to the likes of those kids who have to take a foreign language in school and never use the language outside of class.

This is how I remember some of the kids in my high school foreign language class.
That's why we made sure to hire a nanny who would speak only Spanish to Desmond, so that he would constantly be exposed to the language, instead of having it forced down his throat by the mandate of a school board superintendent.  Since I speak Spanish as well and since almost all of my relatives speak mostly Spanish, I feel that Desmond will continue to use it throughout his life.  I plan to expose him to other languages as well as he grows older.  Even if he doesn't completely master, say, Japanese, researchers have shown that just being exposed to it in early childhood will help the child grow and develop an "ear" for it later on in life.

Furthermore, data from studies have shown that bilingual kids, although not necessarily smarter than monolingual kids, have different learning capacities and processing and are better multitaskers.  Dr. Bialystock, a professor of Psychology at York University in Toronto, says the following about bilingual children:

As we did our research, you could see there was a big difference in the way monolingual and bilingual children processed language. We found that if you gave 5- and 6-year-olds language problems to solve, monolingual and bilingual children knew, pretty much, the same amount of language.
But on one question, there was a difference. We asked all the children if a certain illogical sentence was grammatically correct: “Apples grow on noses.” The monolingual children couldn’t answer. They’d say, “That’s silly” and they’d stall. But the bilingual children would say, in their own words, “It’s silly, but it’s grammatically correct.” The bilinguals, we found, manifested a cognitive system with the ability to attend to important information and ignore the less important.

There’s a system in your brain, the executive control system. It’s a general manager. Its job is to keep you focused on what is relevant, while ignoring distractions. It’s what makes it possible for you to hold two different things in your mind at one time and switch between them.
If you have two languages and you use them regularly, the way the brain’s networks work is that every time you speak, both languages pop up and the executive control system has to sort through everything and attend to what’s relevant in the moment. Therefore the bilinguals use that system more, and it’s that regular use that makes that system more efficient.
 She also states that being bilingual can also help ward off Alzheimer's Disease.  Many parents believe that teaching their children more than one language at a time from infancy can result in language development delays.  This is what they told my mother about my youngest brother.  (I'm not sure if she completely quit speaking to him in English, but I know that he can understand Spanish a little bit and speak it even less.  I'm sure it's a remnant from the years my mother and step-father spent speaking to him in Spanish.)  However, research has shown that this is simply not the case.  Both monolingual and bilingual children achieve basic language milestones at approximately the same rate.

If you decide to start early and to teach your baby or tot a second language, it is important to realize that you cannot adequately instill the basic tenets of Spanish, French, or Mandarin via DVDs, books, or CDs.  Language acquisition occurs when the baby or toddler is provided with consistent face-to-face time with a person speaking that language.  Although part of my knowledge of English comes from Oscar the Grouch, I was also spoken to and read to a lot in English by my mother and my teachers at my Montessori preschool. 

My part-time English teachers.  "One button, two buttons, threeeee buttons!  Ha Ha Ha!"

For more information on raising bilingual children, go to the page for the Center for Applied Linguistics.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Best way to lose baby weight without really trying

Or at least not gain any new weight.

I have probably put Desmond in a stroller 4 times in his young little life.  He hates being strapped in and forced to recline/sit in things while Mommy and friends get to walk around and chit chat.  (although, carting a car seat/stroller combo in and out of your car is a workout in and of itself.)  I've pretty much always used a sling or a carrier to tote him around.  And that, my friends, is the secret for keeping postpartum weight to a manageable level.  Wear your kid.  As much as you can.  Go for a 15-minute walk and instead of pushing a stroller, wear your baby and now you've added a few extra pounds to your humdrum walk.  You'll be panting in no time.

Don't let wearing your baby lull you into a false sense of weight-loss security.  To maximize the benefits, you SHOULD also exercise and you SHOULD eat healthily.  I don't do enough of either, hence why my weight has floated just above or below my weight at 1 month of pregnancy.

Like I've said before, I try to find things to do that will include taking Desmond out and about, getting my walkercise in as well as experiencing something new.  Especially now that we're leaving in less than a month.  In the past few weeks, I've taken him out to Red Butte Gardens to teach him some botany, the Live Green Festival to teach him about being an eco-friendly baby, and the Living Traditions Festival to expose him to ethnic foods, music, and crafts. 

Taking a picture of Des while wearing him in the Ergo.

At RBG...I wish I had a house with a backyard like this.

At the Live Green Festival, in front of the bike rack.

At the Living Traditions Festival, listening to some soulful gospel singers.
So, go out and about and wear your baby on a walk.  You'll lose weight and your baby will love being close to you and part of your day-to-day interactions.