Thursday, September 20, 2007

The loves of my life

Family ties

Although Nolan will not remember it, some day we will tell him that many of his family members were there to welcome him on his first day.

For me, I feel very lucky that I was able to have both my mom and sister present for the birth of both my children. When I gave birth to Nico, we lived in California and my mom flew out from Ohio to be there for the special day. This time, with us back living in Cleveland again, my sister flew from California to Ohio to be here for Nolan's birth.

As was the case with Nico, Aunt Linda and (maternal grandmother) Ah-ma were present at the hospital during his birth. Nolan was also greeted later in the day by his big brother Nico, his maternal grandfather Ah-gong, his paternal grandfather Grandpa Rich, and Grandma Marilyn.

Vic and I are blessed to have so much support from our family. It was wonderful being able to share this special day with them.

New brother for Nico

Nico is very excited about being a big brother!

During the second trimester, we began to prepare him for the arrival of a new sibling. We kept him involved in the progress of the pregnancy. Throughout the rest of the pregnancy, Nico would often ask to speak to the baby. He would rest his face on my abdomen and say, "Hello Baby! This is Nico, your big brother..." After that, he would tell the baby about his day, sing a song or vent about things that bothered him. One day after I scolded him about something, he told me he needed to speak to the baby immediately. He then announced to my belly, "Hello Baby! This is Nico, your big brother. I'm sorry, but your mama is a booty head. Sorry about that."

Vic and I were worried that Nico would resent having someone intruding on his turf. So we enrolled him in a Sibling Preparation class at the hospital and read books to him about babies and families. Nico was particularly interested in a book that really isn't geared toward children: "A Child Is Born". He was fascinated by the photos and often studied them before falling asleep at night.

On the day of Nolan's birth, Vic picked up Nico from school and brought him to the hospital. Nico was thrilled to meet his new brother. He wanted to kiss him over and over!

It was amazing to see Nico so ecstatic about the arrival of his brother. I was also happy (and surprised) to see what Nico had picked out to wear for the day: a t-shirt that says, "I love Mommy".

Bundle of joy

Since Nolan arrived via a scheduled c-section, it was a much different experience from the labor and delivery ordeal I had with Nico (14 hours of induced labor, failed vacuum extraction, emergency c-section). By the time Nico was born, I was exhausted and delirious. With Nolan, I was awake and alert.

As you can see from this photo of me taken after Nolan's delivery, I am smiling. In the photo of me taken after Nico was born (no, I'm not going to post it!), I looked like I emerged from sort of major natural disaster - a tornado or something!

After Nolan was born, I was allowed to hold and cuddle him in the recovery room almost immediately after he was delivered. I kept saying over and over to Vic, "I'm so happy, I'm so relieved!" The pregnancy had been stressful and emotional, especially in the last trimester when I was on modified bed rest, so I felt incredibly blessed to be able to hold a healthy baby boy in my arms at last.

Vic and I are so happy.

Introducing the newest addition to the family...


Nolan Thomas was born on Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 9:38 a.m. He weighed 8 lb., 8 oz. and measured 19 1/4 inches.

Nolan arrived via scheduled cesarean section. The surgery went smoothly and everyone is doing well. Vic, Nico and I are thrilled to welcome baby Nolo to the family!

Labor and delivery - the finale

This time it's for real!

The day of the baby's arrival has finally come. This time, as opposed to the last time we headed to the labor and delivery unit, we arrived at the hospital knowing what to expect.

Vic, Linda and I got to MacDonald Women's Hospital at 7 a.m. My parents arrived a little later. After answering a lot of questions about my pregnancy and general health, the nurses hooked me up to monitoring belts and started an IV in my wrist (I'm such a chicken about those things and Vic had to hold my hand while they did it). I was really nervous and excited, and I guess I must have had a lot of adrenaline going because the baby was kicking like crazy. The belt kept falling off my belly.

Soon the attending anesthesiologist came in and talked to me about the epidural/spinal block procedure. Then, Dr. Chapman arrived. It was so comforting to see him. By that point, it was really reassuring to see my own doctor after talking to so many strangers - doctors and nurses I had never met before.

The epidural procedure was nerve wracking. When I delivered Nico, only three people were in the room when I got the epidural: me, Vic and the anesthesiologist. When I had to hunch over so the doctor could insert the needle, I was able to lean on Vic for support. This time, Vic was not allowed in the room and I had to lean on a nurse for support while the needle was inserted into my back. I was really nervous and shaking a bit. The nurse I was leaning on told me to drop my shoulders and try to relax. It seemed like there was a chorus of nurses and residents behind me saying, "You're doing great, you're doing great." I was sitting on the bed hunched over for a long time, it seemed, so at one point, I asked, "Is everything OK?" The chorus answered, "Yes, you're doing great!" Finally, I remarked that my legs suddenly felt really warm. Maybe it's my imagination, but it seemed like the chorus chimed in, with relief, "Good!"

The medicine kicked in quickly and soon I was unable to feel anything below my chest. The surgery team lifted me onto another bed and laid me on my back in preparation for the c-section. Someone pricked my abdomen with something sharp and said, "Do you feel that? Does it feel sharp?" I kept getting poked until I didn't feel the sharpness anymore.

At some point, Vic was allowed into the room and it was incredibly comforting to have him at my side. Then, I saw Dr. Chapman and the resident assisting him prepare for the surgery. Then it was time for the main event, the real deal Holyfield!

I didn't feel any pain during the surgery at all - maybe just a little pulling sensation, but that's it. But then I heard the most amazing sound of the baby's cry. It was awesome.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The final, final countdown

Today was a great day.

In the morning, I had a visit from a friend, who dropped off some really nice baby hand-me-
downs. I also had a massage, which was much needed! My sister arrived from San Francisco in the late afternoon - it was great that she was able to be here for the birth of the baby, just as she had been for Nico's birth.

In the evening, we took Nico to Grandpa Rich and Grandma Marilyn's house for a sleepover (since they would be taking Nico to school the next day while Vic and I went to the hospital). Then, Vic, Linda and I had dinner with my parents. We had a nice meal, a belated birthday celebration for Linda, whose birthday was a few days ago.

I asked Linda to take this photo of me, on the last day of my pregnancy. I am ready for this nine-month journey to end. Besides being emotionally prepared, I am more than ready physically - I'm huge!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The final countdown

This morning, I had my last weekly OB-GYN appointment before Thursday's scheduled c-section. It was the first time doctors looked at the fetal monitoring chart and said, "The baby looks great!" In previous appointments, the baby sometimes seemed sluggish and the doctor would have me drink juice to wake him up a bit.

Today, Dr. Chapman, was a little late for my appointment because of a c-section surgery that ran long. So while he was driving from the hospital to the clinic, his colleague, Dr. Reider, stopped by to check on me. He's the obstetrician for two of my friends - he was also in my fifth grade class! He wished me luck on Thursday.

I'm starting to get a little anxious about the surgery. With Nico, we ended up with an emergency c-section after 14 hours of induced labor. By the time we decided to opt for the c-section, I was exhausted and just ready for it all to be over; there was no time to be nervous.

I'm nervous now.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Gentle Beginnings

Nico received his permanent kindergarten class assignment on Friday. His teacher is Mrs. Miracle!

For the first few weeks of school, Nico and his kindergarten classmates were kinda pooled together and shuffled between both teachers until everyone got to know each other. Then, the school decided how to divide the students into two balanced classes. I'm not sure what criteria were considered.

It was a bit unnerving not knowing right away who Nico's teacher would be, but other teachers I know tell me that this approach is thought of as an innovative one. One teacher referred to it as a "pilot program"; another told me that at Berkeley public schools, it's called "Gentle Beginnings" (not to be confused with the *other* Gentle Beginnings, a doula service).

So far, kindergarten is going well. Nico doesn't seem to mind that a lot of what they are learning right now is review from what he's already mastered from preschool. Vic and I are supplementing this with workbooks that challenge him a bit more. We're happy that Nico's reading skills are developing nicely. His main academic interest is math, though. Sometimes, we'll hear him in his bedroom randomly reciting addition facts: "2 + 4 = 6!"

I think he's going to take after Vic that way.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Britney Spears loses it; I'm not far behind

I'm a pop culture junkie - I admit it. Everyone who knows me even moderately well knows I can't resist celebrity gossip and that I watch more reality TV shows than anyone should be allowed to (being an insomniac 8.5 months pregnant on modifed bed rest doesn't help).

So I just got off the phone with my sister in San Francisco. She doesn't have cable TV, so I gave her a breathless 15-minute critique of the MTV Video Music Awards: "Sarah Silverman's jokes were funny but really inappropriate, and pretty vicious - typical of her, you know. And I missed her performance, but I just read reports that Britney was a total train wreck!" I announced. "I saw the photos and someone should have told her not to wear that outfit - she should have canceled instead of going onstage like that. Is she nuts? I mean, I know that she just had two kids and that takes a toll on your body, but I'm sure no one forced her to wear that sequined bikini! Oh, and I didn't see this part either, but I guess Kid Rock and Tommy Lee got in a fistfight in the audience during Alicia Keys' performance!"

After I hung up with my sister, I sent an email to a friend who is a fellow pop culture addict, inviting her to dish with me.

Then I had a moment of clarity.

I'm 37, it's 1:48 a.m. and I'm calling and emailing people about Britney Spears' latest antics.

Who's the real biggest loser here?

Arrivederci, Pavarotti

Luciano Pavarotti was eulogized yesterday in his hometown of Modena, Italy.

The great tenor made opera accessible to audiences worldwide, performing alongside artists including James Brown, Queen, Barry White and U2's Bono.

To me, his divine voice will be best remembered for his performances of “Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's “Turandot” and Schubert's "Ave Maria".

Grazie Luciano.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Chinese School question

The time has come for us to make a decision: Should we send Nico to Chinese School?

When I was around his age, there really was no question about whether or not I would go. My parents, immigrants from Taiwan, just assumed that my sister and I would attend the Saturday morning Chinese School program. My mother became one of the volunteer culture class teachers; my dad served as principal the year I graduated from the program.

Especially in the past year, Vic and I have debated what to do about Nico's cultural education. Even though Nico is half Taiwanese, we think it's important for him to understand and appreciate his Asian heritage. Plus, after our trip to Taiwan, we really want to reinforce Nico's understanding of his cultural identity.

We did some investigating into the Saturday school programs in the area and learned that there is one nearby at Shaker Heights Middle School. The Chinese Academy of Cleveland offers two different tracks: a traditional Chinese language and culture program and a Chinese as a Second Language (CSL) program. When I was growing up, there was only the first track. But now, with more families in the area with parents who are not native Chinese speakers, the second track presents an option that makes Chinese language education more accessible.

A few weeks ago, we went to the school's welcome picnic to meet other families and learn more. My mom came too and I was surprised to see that she knew some of the people there. Even 30 years after she was a teacher in the program, she still had connections to the community. One of our family friends, a CSL teacher, introduced me to the principal of the school. Speaking Taiwanese, she introduced me as my father's daughter and he smiled. "Oh, I know your dad!" he said. "I work at Case in the biochem department." I told him I worked at Case too. Then, I bumped into an old classmate of mine from Case - we were in the same Chinese class together nearly 20 years ago. Now he has kids in the Chinese School program. Small world!

So all of this presents a lot of decisions for us. If we enroll Nico in the traditional track, I would have to be the parent primarily responsible for Nico's Chinese education since I am the parent who can speak (hardly anymore) and read (barely anymore) Chinese. If we enroll Nico in the Chinese as Second Language program, Vic or I would have to attend alongside Nico, so that the parent and child would both be invested in learning together. This would give us more flexibility in allowing both parents to participate in the program, alleviating some of the pressure on me; however, Nico would not have the language immersion experience that the traditional track would be more apt to provide.

My mom really wants us to enroll Nico this year, but my dad advises us to wait until next year. Vic is concerned that the window to learning a new language could close by then, but at the same time, we have so much going on right now: Nico's adjustment to kindergarten, a new baby due in two weeks, etc.

We have a lot to think about.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Surprise Baby "Sprinkle"

Last night, a few of my friends threw a surprise baby shower for me. It was a very low-key, casual event - so much so that instead of referring to it as a shower, they called it a "sprinkle"! It was perfect and a total surprise. Vic knew about it, apparently, but he's very good at keeping secrets. (He says his secret to keeping secrets is just to forget.)

For several weeks, some friends and I had planned to get together for a quiet evening at my house after our kids' bedtimes to hang out, have some snacks and drinks, and chat. So I was totally surprised when Bethany, Claire, Joslyn, Kathy and Anisa showed up at my door with cake, flowers and gifts!

Bethany, a ridiculously organized planner, had us play two baby shower games. I was so relieved that these didn't include the "How many toilet paper squares does it take to span the pregnant lady's midsection?" game. She also made really cute, delicious star and moon shaped sandwiches. Claire brought flowers and a lemon cake from Whole Foods. Everyone brought gifts for me and the baby. As Nico would say, it was "so awesome!"

The best part was the company, though. Since I'm on modified bed rest, I had been feeling isolated and a little down. It was so nice to have friends over, especially for girl time without spouses and kids. I try to connect with my fellow working mom friends often, mostly by email and phone, but in person whenever possible. Before I got pregnant, whenever we could get everyone's schedules coordinated, we planned Girls' Night Out excursions that are a lot of fun. The last big one we had was at the House of Blues where we went to see a Michael Jackson tribute band - so hilarious! (Bethany is convinced that was the night I conceived.)

Mostly, though, we have smaller Girls' Night In gatherings at one of our homes. It's nice to have time to unwind and get away from the stress of our daily lives. It's great to share experiences with women who understand the challenges of the elusive work-life balance. I met these friends through the Cleveland Heights-University Heights early childhood program three years ago when our children attended Stepping Stones, its full-day preschool program. The parents we've met through Stepping Stones are amazing - interesting, engaging people from diverse backgrounds. Doctors, lawyers, professors - and one theater director- these moms are brilliant, creative, hilarious and inspiring.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Nico's first day of kindergarten

Nico is growing up too fast - this week, he had his first day of kindergarten at Roxboro Elementary School in Cleveland Heights.

We've taken Nico to the school a few times already, so the building was not unfamiliar to him. For the past two years, we've taken him to the Roxboro Arts Festival. In April, we attended the Kindergarten Open House and registered him, met the kindergarten teachers and principal, and took a tour of the school.

On Thursday, he had an orientation day where parents stuck around for the first two hours. Vic walked Nico to school, while I drove. We debated whether or not I should even go, since I'm supposed to be on modified bed rest. In the end, though, I decided to go - I couldn't bear to miss such a milestone in Nico's life. Plus, once I parked myself into one of those teeny kiddie chairs, I was able to stay put for most of the orientation session.

Nico was so excited about kindergarten. He wore his black Transformers glow-in-the-dark Autobot logo t-shirt that Auntie Linda got him for his birthday. The shirt has "Nico 5" ironed on the back and Nico loves it. He also wore new Cars running shoes that Ah-ma bought him and a new Cars backpack that Vic and I got him from Target. I'm not really into getting him things that are plastered with brands and action figures, but Nico thinks plain clothes and gear without characters on them are boring and he only wants to wear things that are "awesome".

We learned that Nico's school is trying something new this year with the kindergartners. Instead of randomly assigning the students to the teachers, for the first three weeks, the students will spend time with both teachers in groups that will flow back and forth. At the end of the period, we will find out who the permanent assigned teacher will be. For now, Nico's home teacher will be Mrs. Miracle, who looks very young and is stunningly pretty. Vic and I wondered if Nico would notice. He didn't. He was too busy playing with the "awesome" toys in the room.