Thursday, July 29, 2010

Motherness is next to Godliness

Motherhood is a uniquely spiritual experience. Being constantly in the service of someone else is a quick way to receive inspiration. It may seem like it's simply a byproduct of being together so much of the time, but there have been many occasions that I feel inspired to do something that is essential for that time and place.

When Giovanna was younger she especially needed my protection and there were numerous nights when I woke up completely out of the blue to catch a need of hers right in the nick of time. One day I awoke from a nap very suddenly to dig her out of the pile of pillows that had fallen around her on our bed, despite our best efforts to keep her safe. I will not forget that soon. It was the last time she slept with us in our bed.

As children of a loving God, I feel like we are privy to spiritual gifts with which to bless each other, when we decide that treating each other well is what we want to do. As a mother, my most important task right now is to raise a healthy and safe baby girl, and it's comforting to have help and inspiration when I come to unchartered territory.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Grandpa Gaga"

This past weekend, my dad and Emili drove down from New Jersey to meet Giovanna for the first time. I like to think that Gigi is always like this, but I have to say that she was on her absolute best behavior the entire weekend. I hope it made them want to come back!

The weather was not on its best behavior however, and the scorching heat kept us indoors most of the weekend. We ventured out on Saturday morning to the Carrboro Farmer's Market, and on Saturday evening we spent some time at the pool, but even the pool water was too warm to be refreshing! Luckily, just being together was all of the fun we needed...

Thinking that I was extending a special opportunity, I told my dad that he could decide what he wanted Gigi to call him as she grows up. Marcos' parents have taken to using the words "Grandpa" and "Grandma" in Portuguese, so the sky's the limit for my parents. If they want to, they can even choose simply "Grandma" and "Grandpa" without any confusion. Well, after some time he announced that he wanted to be called "Grandpa Gaga" because of his admiration of a Lady by the same name. I'm still deciding if we should humor him, or if the name "Grandpa Gaga" will be like a bad tattoo: when you're eighty years old you might really wish you weren't stuck with it! Here is the Farmer's Market:

For those of you who live in Chapel Hill, you might need to check out the hotel where my Dad and Emili stayed. It's called "Aloft" and it is across from Glen Lennox. Walking around their room, all I could say was, "This is so grooovy" because that is exactly what it is. It is part of the "W" hotel series, and it was outfitted in completely retro attire. If Marcos and I ever need a quick getaway without going far, this is exactly where we will go!

(I can't, can't, can't get over this face!)

On Saturday evening we watched the sun set from Maple View farms, equipped with ice-cream from the General Store. Our weekend was really fun, and we feel lucky to be living on the East Coast so close to my dad and Emili. Giovanna really scored with our families...

Sneak Peek on Naturalization

Our gorgeous friend Aline is from Rio de Janeiro. She and her family have been like our extended family here in Chapel Hill (hooray for the Brazil connection!), and Aline became an American citizen last Friday. It was so cool for Marcos and I to be there and get a sneak peek into the process of naturalization, because we will be there next year!

Aline and her husband Dwight have two kiddos, Josh and Bella. Apparently, after the ceremony, Bella told anyone who would listen, "Guess what? My mommy's an American!".

The process of becoming an American is SO interesting. Part of the ceremony was fairly standard: we sang the National Anthem, the group of new citizens swore allegiance to the flag, and there were some sufficiently cheesy videos about how America is made up of immigrants, and my favorite, Lee Greenwood singing "God Bless the USA", with a slideshow of Americana in the background. The part that Marcos and I found totally fascinating was the oath that the new citizens took, renouncing their homelands and swearing to basically die for this country, if necessary. We were amazed at how powerful the language was. It confirmed for us that this process is a big deal. Sure we've been sending the Department of Homeland Security big bucks since we started the naturalization process just after we were married, but for those who take citizenship seriously, this is a really important event.

Giovanna was pretty excited too!

Congratulations Aline! Next year it will be our turn!

Giovanna's Baby Blessing

In the LDS church, we don't baptize babies, but we do give them a baby blessing. Because baptism is a symbol of making change, accepting Jesus Christ as a personal Savior and exemplar, and trying to give up the not-so-nice parts of ourselves, the church has kiddos wait until they are at an age of accountability before they are baptized so that the event is meaningful. Babies are pure and lovely and don't have not-so-nice parts, so we give them a blessing that announces their name for the records of the church, and blesses them with certain bright things we hope for their future.

We wanted to record Marcos giving Gigi her blessing so that we would have it for our records, but of course there was a technological glitch and nothing was saved! Fortunately, a friend of ours writes incredibly fast and was able to catch the entire blessing nearly word for word. This was taken from her notes:

Marcos blessed Gigi that she would know that her parents love her, and that she has been born into a loving and caring community. He blessed her that she will be confident in her relationship with God, that she will have the courage to do the right things, and that she will have the gift of discernment so that she will know how to choose. He also blessed her with a giving heart; that she may be generous and quick to serve. He blessed her to look to Jesus Christ for an example, and that she will be a leader who lifts other's hands when they need help, and who will be meek and teachable. Finally, he blessed her to have a close relationship with us (her parents), to trust and listen to us, and that she will look to those who have gone before her as an example.

The night before Gigi's blessing Marcos was very nervous about messing up on his English, but he did a beautiful job. Seventeen priesthood holders stood in a circle around our baby and held her up during the blessing, and she quietly looked around and sucked on her fingers. That's the part I was nervous about - her being calm!

Most often, baby blessings are a reason for family members to come together, so when my dad told us that he and Emili would be driving down from New Jersey to visit on the weekend of July 25th, we scheduled Gigi's blessing for that Sunday. The couple on the left are our friends who drove two hours from Greenville to attend the blessing. Because there were four families coming to Gigi's blessing from other parts of North Carolina, our friends the Austins were super duper kind enough to help us host a lunch after the blessing so that we wouldn't have to send our friends home hungry after church! The Bramwells came from Wake Forest...

The Hills came from Raleigh...

And three generations of the Day family came from Greenville! This picture below cracks me up: if my calculations are correct, between all of the families present (there were a bunch of nieces visiting from out of town), there were 19 kiddos under the age of 16. I can't even imagine the chaos that our tiny apartment would have been if we had not been able to have lunch at the Austin's house... thank. you. so. much.

And of course, the next best thing to do on a Sunday afternoon is to take a nap. Once we changed Gigi out of her Sunday dress she was ready for a snooze. So were the members of the Day family.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A House of Order

One of the things that Gigi's birth inspired us to do was get our finances in order. Just today, for example, we opened a savings account to start putting money aside for her college fund. We named the account "Berkeley", because "Harvard" was just too cliché. Hey, we can aim high.

Our current project, however, is to figure out a good life insurance policy. We have been meeting with a really great financial planner who is helping us to learn the language and nature of the larger financial sector. He has some smart recommendations, but I am finding that the more people we talk to, the better informed we feel. When is the last time someone asked you, "So, how's your life insurance policy?". I have been asking my friends that question lately, and I feel wiser every time someone tells me their story. Between the questions of ten years vs. twenty years, and how much to insure for, and how much is a reasonable premium to pay each month, there are a kazillion different decisions to be made. And ironically, in the end, we all just hope that we won't have to cash in for a very, very long time.

So, now I'm going to throw it out to you: how is YOUR life insurance policy, if you have one? I hope it's not rude to pry into your finances, but if you wouldn't mind sharing a few pointers, or the reasons behind why you went with one policy over another, I would be so interested. Even more than the actual dollar amount you pay each month, I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches. Marcos and I are just starting to learn the language of the financial world, and I am soaking it all in...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hie ho, hie ho

It's off to work I go...

For years I have wondered how I would do with being a mom. I never questioned how in love with my children I would be - I fall in love with everyone else's children so couldn't imagine there being much of an issue in that department - but I always wondered if being home full-time was the thing for me. I love to be busy, I love to interact with my community and learn things, and I always figured that for my personality, being the best mom meant having some of my own things over on the sidelines, one of which would very likely be at least part-time work.

Since Gigi has come along, I have fallen hard for this little girl. Although I have kept up some of my sidelines activities, I have also been surprisingly satisfied to be a full-time mom, even if there are days that I don't quite make it to the shower or never take a step outside our apartment. I figured that for the next year or so I would simply be Gigi's mom, and enjoy a full year of breast-feeding and being front and center for all of her developments and growing.

And then it happened: right after I started feeling completely in my element, a job offer came along, and I took it! Out of the blue, my boss from my first year of grad school (who is the Director of Recruitment, Admissions and Financial Aid at the UNC School of Social Work) contacted me with the proposition of taking on some of her responsibilities while she is out on maternity leave this coming academic year. After a weekend of a lot of thought and prayers, I had the impression that this was something that I should go for, and so starting the second week of August, I will be working at the UNC School of Social Work. I have signed on for 20 hours a week, and so munchkin will be spending a few more hours with Daddy. With Marcos working primarily from home, the decision for me to take this job was loads less frightening.

But oh, the mixed feelings! I feel... excited for this opportunity to rub shoulders with great people in the School of Social Work and potential grad students from all over the country, I feel a bit intimidated by the amount of work, the importance of the work and the massive shoes I have to fill, I feel sad that Marcos may have the chance to see Gigi's accomplishments before I do, I feel scared that I will not do a good job in this position, I feel happy about the things we will be able to do with an extra income, I feel flattered that I was sought out for a great job in this economy, and I feel grateful that I am able to have such an ideal set-up: half-time work for just a year, great pay, Gigi gets to stay with Marcos, and I get all of the accumulative experience of a really cool job.

So why do I already miss Gigi?

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Watching a baby grow up is fascinating. Gigi's new social developments remind us that she is a Prieto - always good for a chat, and always happy to be part of the social scene. Unfortunately, being a socialite has its difficulties as well; as a newborn she was happy to sleep whenever she was tired, regardless of her surroundings, but now Gigi doesn't sleep well when there are social interactions to observe. Marcos very wisely pointed out today that it makes no sense for us to be frustrated and baffled when she becomes overtired or fussy, because often we spend time with our friends out and about, and her sleep sometimes becomes interrupted. We have had countless discussions about how we refuse to be the type of couple who falls off the face of the planet socially when kiddos come along, but we will have to work on striking a new balance. It only takes a few hairy days for parents to determine that their children's restful sleep is worth a few changes.

These are some of my new favorite photos of Giovanna (especially the first one, above). She looks so sweet and kissable when she sleeps that sometimes I have to sit on my hands to keep from waking her...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Food Yays and Food Nays

Food Yay: Insalata Caprese using basil leaves from my potted plant, the most flavorful tomatoes ever from a local farm (via the Community Supported Agriculture box), and fresh mozzarella from Trader Joe's. Such a refreshing and easy summer salad!

Food Nay: Spam Musubi. The stuff in the blue can is a Hawaii staple food, and feeling a bit nostalgic the other day, I bought Japanese sushi rice and tried my hand at Spam Musubi (a rectangle of tightly packed rice with a slab of spam fried in teriyaki sauce on top, all wrapped in seaweed... for those of you from the mainland, I know right? Nasty! But for those of you from Hawaii, sooo ono!). As far as Spam Musubi goes, it actually turned out pretty good, but after not eating much meat over the past month, spam was not a kind way to reenter the world of being a carnivore. I spent most of the time suppressing my gag reflex! I think that I am totally cured of spam curiosity.

(Noooooo! Don't do it Betty!!! Don't open the can of SPAM!!!)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Music at home

I was such a perfect mom before I had a child. I dreamed of all of the ways I would enrich my children's lives by providing a house full of varied and unique learning experiences. One of the areas I was particularly gifted (in my dream world) was in the area of bringing music into my home. I would sing kooky kiddo songs with my guitar, and teach my children how to play all sorts of instruments, and have dance parties and clean up parties to classic music like the Beatles White Album or do mirror singing with hairbrush microphones to Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares". It was such a rich life, and it had an awesome soundtrack.

And then there is reality. The reality is that I picked up a guitar at a friend's house a week or two ago and realized that I haven't touched my own guitar for nearly a year. A YEAR. I'm out of tune, out of practice, and out of calluses. Not only am I not using my guitar to play for my baby, I'm not really using my voice either. Even when I rock her to sleep I go for vibration over melody. I'm not a song, I'm a purring sub-woofer.

So to those of you musical geniuses out there (Chelsea? Jocelyn? Nick? Anybody else who has a good thing going on?), how do you bring music into your homes? I'm not kicking myself yet, because I'm only 3 months into this game and there is plenty of time to improve, but I would love a few tips from people who have lived or have seen musical success.

My future teen-agers thank you in advance for helping me to be just one bit closer to hip.

3 month update

Giovanna is three months old, and we love her more and more all the time. If that's even possible.

Within the past few days, Gigi has started to belly laugh when we make silly noises, or when we tickle her sides. It is difficult not to laugh when she is laughing... She also sleeps like a rock through the night, which gives us more reasons to laugh and be happy!

After a good meal, Gigi is usually awake for a while. We try to interact with her for a few minutes, we let her sit with us while we do other things, and sometimes she plays in a bouncy seat that has hanging toys within her reach. We attended a number of pool parties this week, and that bouncy seat totally saved us... I think it's our new favorite thing to carry along. Gigi gets to bat at the toys with her hands, and Marcos and I get to jump into the water together!

This girl is strong. When we hold her under her arms, she stands very solidly and she holds her head up and looks around. Our new favorite development is that she has found her fingers and she knows how to use them. I was nervous at first about her sucking her fingers, because they are impossible to take away at age 9 if your kiddo is still sucking, but it has been amazing. She sucks her middle and ring finger, which I call the "I love you" hold and Marcos calls the "Spiderman" hold, and she is able to soothe herself for hours, literally. She used to scream when she woke up and was hungry, but now we have to check on her after a few hours because it is likely that she has woken up, stuck her fingers in her mouth, and is content and sleepy just sucking her fingers.

And lest we get too comfortable... we have an eight-hour roadtrip in the planning stages, which is sure to throw a wrench in our schedule. Stay tuned!