sea monkeys

The cold never bothered me anyway.

It’s that time of year when winter seems long – even though in my area of Ontario, it hasn’t been that tough a winter… I’m still thinking of green leaves with wistfulness.

Here’s my three-year-old in her FAVOURITE OUTFIT, showing off her dazzling lack of tuning, made up for by her soul-deep commitment to the role. May it warm your heart in the midst of the snow… or at least make you giggle a bit.

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One Decade of Marriage

Dear Sean,

It’s hard to believe that it has been ten whole years since the day we pledged ourselves to each other as husband and wife. A decade sounds long, but feels short these days.

On the other hand, ten years is short, in a way, since our story began long before that.

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It has been almost twenty-four years since we shared a Grade 9 Enhanced Math class, in which you were gregarious and funny and cocky, and I was quiet and cerebral and nerdy, and you volunteered to run our Christmas gift drive, and I noticed when you were writing on the blackboard that you had a cute butt.

It has been twenty-two years, give or take, since we spent enough time in our mutual group of friends for me to know that, in addition to your class-clown side, you also had a quiet, cerebral, nerdy side, and a philosophical, argumentative side. It was a mysterious and interesting combination.

It has been nineteen years since the high-school graduation breakfast where you made everyone at our very long restaurant table laugh so hard we practically choked on our pancakes.

It has been close to fifteen years since we both prepared to leave our hometown on long-term journeys, and you suggested unexpectedly that we should write letters to each other – letters that would become highlights of my challenging, exciting, homesick, turbulent, emotional, unforgettable European odyssey.

It has been thirteen-and-a-half years since the Christmas when you thought you’d lost your chance, and wrote me a story to win me over – not realizing I was already yours.

It has been twelve years since we euphorically painted the walls of our first shared apartment in our new city, so broke we could only afford to rent kids’ movies at the video store a block away.

It has been almost eleven years since the Tuesday night in October when you proposed to me, in our bedroom, with me in pjs and my hair a mess – partly to cheer me up after a bad day, and partly because you simply couldn’t wait for the weekend and the official proposal plan. I was struck speechless by the beautiful ring you had chosen. (To this day, you can’t sit on a secret gift very long.)

On that beautiful wedding day ten years ago, I promised that for the rest of our lives, I would laugh with you, play with you, challenge you and protect you; that I would not hide from you, but would confide in you and be true to both of us; that I would be your comfort, your friend, your lover, and your partner in times of joy and of pain; and that above all, I would love you. And of course, you promised the same to me.

We’ve done, and still do, all of those things. In these ten years, we’ve had the joy and the pain. We’ve both changed workplaces more than once. We bought our first house. We conceived four children, birthed three, and were blessed to keep two.

We have struggled with work and stress, sleep and health, time and money, and finding those often-delicate lines of communication between openness and injury. We have been stretched by the delights and demands of parenting our dazzling, frustrating, wonderful kids.

Despite three very close calls that almost ended our relationship in the first two years, and many experiences to test us since then… I’ve never doubted the strength of our promises. We are a great team, and I feel so lucky to know it.

I love parenting with you, knowing we have each other’s backs, and knowing that if I’m not at my best on a particular day, you will summon your extra patience and balance things out.

I love that we laugh at the same things and enjoy the same forms of entertainment, especially the games we geek out on (Settlers, Yahtzee, Cribbage, Gin, all forms of Trivia…).

I love that we can have a difficult argument but still manage to listen to each other; that we can make our way through thorny topics, and still hug at the end – and mean it.

I love that I’ve lost count of the number of times you’ve rescued me, in both big and small ways, and always without complaint.

I love it when I make you laugh unexpectedly, and you hug me and say, “I knew I married you for a reason!”

And I love the moments when the reasons I married you are so clear, too. When we’re snuggling – still one of my favourite activities in the world – and we get the giggles, and then the kids pile on top, and there’s tickling and limbs in faces, and it’s the best.

When you’re telling me about something you’ve been learning about, and your curiosity and passion remind me of the importance of wonder in life.

When I’m fretting for some reason, and you make the kind of frank-but-insightful comment that cuts through my overthinking, and brings the issue down to its essence.

When our children do something cute or astonishing or both, and we look at each other incredulously: how did we ever make those??

When we suddenly find ourselves in a moment too steamy to blog about.

When you know the answer to that question I’ve been wondering about, or know how to fix that thing that’s not working right.

When you squeeze my hand because you know we’re thinking the same thing.

When I can hear you reading stories to the kids, and you’re so tender and great with them.

When we’re singing together in the kitchen or in the car.

When we make a new plan for our life together, and I am buoyed by your optimism.

In just a few weeks, we will move to the next chapter of our lives, in our new house. I can hardly wait to see what the next decade will bring to the little family we’ve made.

Love you jillions, for always,

Di

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A Smiley Video for a Happy Frozen Friday

My kids love the movie “Frozen.” Like almost all kids. And I’m not ashamed to say that I also love it; I’ve probably seen it a dozen times and I could still cry every time, if I let myself. I will most likely go on about the reasons why another time.

For now, here’s two-year-old AB’s side of a (highly edited) conversation we had in November about the plot of Frozen. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll probably recognize a concept or a direct quote here and there. You may also notice some outright fallacies. If you haven’t seen the movie – don’t worry! This information doesn’t make enough sense to contain spoilers.

Mostly, I just love her sense of drama. I wish you could see her, when E closes his bedroom door – she’ll go knock and sing the whole first verse of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” complete with wistful “Okay, bye…” at the end. Or even better, the two of them do an inspiring version of “For The First Time In Forever” – with many bits missing, but the passion is there.

Anyway, here’s this. I hope it makes you smile. Happy Friday!

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Happy Second Birthday, Rainbow Baby

AB's second birthday

Dear Delicious Little Girl,

Two years ago yesterday, you came peacefully into the world, and immediately began howling. It was a day joyous beyond description for the people who love you.

Since then, we’ve learned a lot about you. Some things we learned right away:

  • You like to be snuggled – but not every second.
  • You are unafraid to use your voice to express yourself and your needs.
  • You have a strong set of pipes.
  • Your beautiful eyes can break hearts.

Other things it has been our privilege to watch developing:

  • You love music and dancing.
  • Your smile and your excitement are infectious.
  • You are really into books and stories.
  • You learn fast – when it comes to things you care about.
  • Your verbal skills are, quite literally, off the charts.
  • Your dramatic skills are also pretty stellar, especially the trembling pouty lip + tragic wilting combo.
  • You know exactly what you want (even if it’s the opposite of what you wanted three seconds ago), and you will furiously stand up for it.
  • You will try any new food that’s going – in fact, you insist upon it.
  • You are independent such that if we weren’t watching, you would just wander right off without us.
  • You are determined, and you really, really, really want to do it yourself.
  • You are very observant of people, and somehow, you already understand how to be compassionate.
  • You adore your big brother and want to do everything he does.
  • Your cheeks are so kissable, we can hardly stand it.
  • You give wonderful hugs.

There are many moments every day when I just marvel at the fact that we are the family who gets to take care of you.

Here is a little video to celebrate you. It includes many of the people who love you – but I wish it could show all of us who know the heartrending gratification of loving your adorable little self, and watching you grow. So fast.

Happy birthday, Sweetie. You’re the best.

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Ukulelove, for the winter blahs.

Okay, lovely Di-hards, here it is – the antidote.

In all honesty, I love winter. (Mostly.) So if I’m feeling blue, as if this particular winter may never end, I’m sure a lot of you are feeling the same way. Especially if you, like me, are not going anywhere tropical or even remotely warm this March break.

Today, the temperature is up to almost freezing – relatively balmy – AND it’s my Hubbibi’s birthday! (I love you, Sean. xoxoxo) Birds are singing – the hardy ones – and hope is in the air.

SO, I decided to send you all a silly little song to help lift some winter blahs, like a sun-kissed virtual hug. It features:

  • my beautiful ukulele
  • my neophyte ukulele-playing skills
  • a little word-nerdery
  • a repetitive refrain so you can sing too! And best of all,
  • gorgeous photos of Hawaiian scenery. So you can pretend you’re there.

That should do the trick. Right? Oh, and maybe take some Vitamin D as well, to complete the illusion.

And just so you know… This performance of “Ukulelove” is dedicated to all the ukulele-learners out there, especially my inspiring musical friends Wild Wes, StarGirl, Ozfire, and their sunny mama. xoxo

And now for the credits:

  • Music and lyrics are copyright D.C.S. Stephens (aka Dilovely), 2014.
  • Vocals, ukulele, and body percussion also by Dilovely. Oh, and whistling. Recorded using GarageBand for Mac.
  • All those breathtaking tropical photos are courtesy of my wonderful cousin Q and her also wonderful new husband, who honeymooned in Hawaii last fall.
  • All those beautiful scenes with penguins in them are movie stills from Dreamworks’s Surf’s Up.
  • Other movie stills/posters are from (in order): Blue Hawaii (starring Elvis Presley), 50 First Dates, Hotel Transylvania, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Me and Orson Welles, Lilo and Stitch, Her, Some Like It Hot, and The Princess and the Frog.
  • Right near the end, there’s a photo (by Merna Ryan) of my uke hero, James Hill, and cellist/accompanist/artist/wife Anne Janelle. Because obviously.
  • Photos of koa tree and artisanal toffee from Wikimedia commons.
  • That’s me playing with my head cut off because I don’t love videos of myself, but wanted to show you that I can indeed change chords, for real. Lucky for you, I put on pretty nail wraps (from Jamberry) and a lap blanket (crocheted by my mom) to hide spruce up my yoga pants.

AND, here are the lyrics, in case you are wondering.

This is my Lady, hear her strings a-singin’
She sounds like ocean breezes and skirts of grass a-swingin’.

(Refrain) I love to play my uku-uku-le-le-le,
Ukulele let’s go play.

Her lovely shape is round like a pineapple,
She’s got a sunny sound that’s indefinable.

(Refrain)

She’s made of special wood from a tree called the Koa,
Her shiny toffee colour is beautiful, for shoa. (told you I was nerdy)

(Refrain)

Her case has a pocket, a flap, a strap, a door-hinge
a zipper, and the colour’s a happy dapper orange. (oh yes she did)

(Refrain)

I L-O-V-E my U-K-U-L-E-L-E
with an A7, D major, C sharp augmented, E7

(Refrain)

The best part, from my ukudelic point of view
Is when I get to strum and sing and play with YOU!

I love to play my uku-uku-le-le-le,
Ukulele let’s go (ukulele let’s go) ukulele let’s go play!

***


 

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Four Months Old

Dear Baby A,

On January 30th, it was four months since the day of your birth. I know it’s the worst cliché ever, but I can’t help it: the days have flown by. I cannot believe we are already here.

Life with you and your brother has its exasperating moments. There have been lots of runny noses between the two of you, and some rough nights as a result. I’ve been frustrated many times. I’ve asked myself What is going on with this baby?? on more than a few occasions. When you cry, I feel my nerves fraying rapidly.

But I’m never actually frustrated with you. You are still pure innocence. You do what your circumstances dictate. And honestly, most of the time you are a sweet, happy, laid-back baby.

We love it when you talk. You get on a roll, making all kinds of sounds, both lilting and screechy. I can’t get enough of it. (It’s even cute – though slightly less so – when you decide that the middle of the night is a good babbling time.)

You’re also very physically motivated. At your two-month appointment, you impressed our doctor with your posture on your tummy: he looked at you pushing up and said in surprised tones, “She’s way past forty-five degrees.” (Whatever that means – it’s definitely good.)

When we put you on your back on your mat to play with toys suspended above you, you grab them right away with very deliberate hands, and fully engage with them. You’re great at getting your own hands into your mouth (so good that you regularly gag on them). And once we tried you in the jolly jumper, you got the hang of it almost instantly.

At four months, your brother was also grabbing things and making cute sounds, but you’re even more determined. We’re pretty sure you’ll be crawling and walking earlier than he did.

Speaking of your brother… it’s amazing to see how much joy you get out of each other’s presence.

Also, you’re just delicious. Your cheeks are delectable and your eyes are lustrous and your soft little hands are irresistible. Your chortles are still rare enough that it feels like a gift when they happen. When you grin at us, it’s so captivating that we ask ourselves, What could I possibly have done to deserve this awesomeness? Could I be as wonderful as she thinks?

Basically, when I look at your sweet little face, it makes me so happy that I feel like bursting. In a good way. I love you more than my heart can even hold.

Here’s a silly little video I made to celebrate.

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The Police’s Greatest Hits, covered by a very small amateur

Hey there, fellow Di-hards. Auntie Em here. Most of you probably know me, or at least know that I am Di’s sister, live in the basement, and look after E pretty often. During the school year, we spent at least one day a week together while Mummy was at school with the other kids.

Sometimes on our E&E days, we do some musical experimentation. We have listened to Les Miserables while doing the dishes and Once on This Island while making muffins (E can sing the animal sounds from the beginning of Mama Will Provide). We have listened to Prince  (E didn’t think much of the music but was entranced by the photo of Prince on his motorcycle in his frilly suit). We have watched Shoshan (aka “the crazy car song”) by Shye Ben Tzur on youtube ad nauseam, and Peter Gabriel’s animated videos are threatening to become a favourite as well. Sometimes, with Mummy, we have wild dance parties in the living room to Mika or Vampire Weekend, and E frequently requests David Francey for quieter times.

Some of these experiences have video documentation and may make their way onto this site in the future. But what I have for you today is the culmination of a few days in which E and I were listening to album of greatest hits of The Police.

The song “Can’t Stand Losing You” was the first hit that took hold, and “the car dance” was born: it consisted of all present standing in line-dance formation, holding a toy car, and twitching said car in time to the music, with a big circle at the long “youuu.”

“Message In a Bottle” was quickly popular as well, being extremely catchy, and E was curious to hear the story of the man on the island without any friends but a clever plan to find some. (Maybe he’ll retell it for you one day.)

But “Roxanne” was the one song that was stuck in my head all day – somewhat inconvenient considering that the lyrics are not necessarily ones which it would be savoury for E to repeat at the babysitter’s house at random! So, one day while we were out and about, taking the bus to the university and then downtown, having gelato at Planet Bean and so on, we experimented with our own lyrics. The word “Roxanne” remained intact, and a few other bits, but we just made up our own words, and rhymed whatever we could with them.

We made this video just before bedtime when we had spent the whole day together, one day at the end of June. By this point we were perhaps a little punchy. But we were singing, and it was fun.

(Warning: there might be a bit of yelling! In case you have babies sleeping, you might want to use headphones or watch it later.)

 

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