Last week, the weather showed us how flexible it can be in September. On Tuesday it was 34C (93F), feeling like 42C (108F) with the humidity. (Inside my school, ’twas even hotter.) So although school has started, we were reminded that IT IS STILL SUMMER, Y’ALL.
Then a few days later, it got down to almost freezing at night. What the what?
Let’s look at some differing ensembles worn by Baby AB this past spring and summer, in honour of the dazzling temperature acrobatics.
Here’s a skimpyish one, from May. I call it “Butter Me Up.”
And ZING, here’s a cozy one. I call it, “Hug This Bear.”
Back to skimpy! “Sweet Pea”, because obviously.
And toasty again! I call this one “Cordurosy”, because the jacket is fine-wale corduroy and so is the trim on the jeans.
And finally, here’s a hybrid. Let’s call it “Too Cute To Be Named.”
When we were kids, we had one jillion pencil crayons, courtesy of my dad. Mostly Laurentians and Prismacolors. They were kept in three old sorbet containers, one for warm colours, one for cool colours, and one for neutrals. We spent a lot of time colouring, and knew well the nuances of Deep Yellow versus Lemon Yellow, Dark Brown versus Photo Brown, etc.
One of my favourite colours was Carmine Red. The pencil itself had a rich, waxy consistency on the paper, and was a stunner when you used it wisely.
The pants and trim of this lovely set, which I call “Paislicious”, are Carmine Red. It’s a nice change from straight-up pink. Super-sassy gift from a family friend. (I’ve also always had a soft spot for paisleys. The majority of my dad’s neckties are paisley – though not carmine – and he used to go to work in them looking very elegant indeed.)
The softer sister of Carmine is Salmon. I don’t recall a coloured pencil named Salmon, but I’m sure I would have overused it if we’d had one. And the delicate details of this knit one-piece are so gorgeous I almost can’t stand it. (See it paired with long sleeves here.)
And the shoes, the shoes. (Hand-me-downs, in perfect condition). Ach. SO GREAT.
Sometimes you frustrate me. Sometimes you scream way louder than is called for, and sometimes your melodrama gets tiresome. Your reluctance to let me do simple, important things (like change your diaper or wipe your face) is aggravating.
But know this: I love you more than waterfalls and music and fresh peaches and the big blue sky, all put together. I am so glad you are a feisty, strong-willed girl who will let the world know what she wants and needs without mincing words. In fact, there’s nothing mincey about you.
On Friday, we had a scary moment. We had just barely begun dinner when you started gagging. You’re a baby with a very active gag reflex, and you love to feed yourself finger foods, so we are used to the sound… but then it kept going. You couldn’t swallow a bite. We couldn’t see anything in your mouth. You couldn’t even successfully drink breast milk. You just gagged and cried as your eyes watered.
It was one of those times when all the worst possibilities come into parents’ minds. Thank heaven your airway was never blocked – we were grateful for the crying to tell us that – but still, how could we help you? How could we even figure out what was wrong?
We called Telehealth after a few minutes, having seen blood in your saliva, starting to feel panicked. Were we overreacting? Were we underreacting? They agreed with our instinct to go straight to the hospital.
We put you in the car and I said I would go; Daddy would stay with E. Daddy said, “Can you handle this? Are you okay?” And I knew I could. I went into get-this-business-done mode. Get this baby some help.
Your crying waxed and waned during the trip – sometimes it was just sad groaning… until suddenly you gagged up a bunch of something, and became completely calm. So calm, in fact, that I frantically checked my mirrors to make sure you hadn’t lost consciousness or something. But no, you were just totally, abruptly normal.
When we arrived, I cleaned you up (with glove compartment napkins) and found the culprit: a piece of clear flexible plastic about two centimetres long and half as wide. Something discarded and practically invisible. No wonder we couldn’t see it.
I know you’re mobile and quick (just shifting from commando crawl to knee crawl) and curious about everything. I know I can’t be expected to vacuum every day (like most parents). I know it’s impossible to avoid all hazards, especially since your brother, despite constant coaching, is still wont to leave chokable things around the house. (It has become routine to say “Blah” and stick out my tongue so that you will imitate me and we can check if you’re actually chewing on something you shouldn’t be. Yep, five-star parenting.)
I still felt like a bad mama that you swallowed something so inedible.
We were grateful that it wasn’t a tiny chip of metal of the kind Daddy inadvertently brings home from work on his boots sometimes. Who knows what that would have done to your little esophagus.
We sat in Triage and you smiled at the young woman next to us. Then we went to see the Triage nurse and you were perfectly mellow as she took your temperature and blood pressure. She gave you her pen to look at, and when she took it back, said, “Thank you!” Then of course you went into showoff mode and said “Thank you!” a bunch of times right back. (Well, okay, if I’m honest, it’s more like Gack you. But still.)
We were recommended to see a doctor, just to be on the safe side, so the next step was more waiting. You made the guy in the wheelchair grin, and you had the couple across from us doing all kinds of silly things with their heads and their fingers. Everyone around you was smiling. At the ER, of all places.
You are such an incredible gift.
Soon we had a thirty-second visit with the doc and were on our way home, where Daddy could hardly wait to hug us.
It felt kind of like when I gave birth to you, ten-and-a-half months ago. Coming home from the hospital on the downward slope of an adrenaline rush. Recognizing anew what an amazing, magical creature you are. Overwhelmed with relief and joy that we get to keep you, that you’re ours. But it was even better than bringing home our newborn Baby AB, because now we know you: an outrageously entertaining, spirited, cutie-faced, kissable daughter. We love you infinitely more than we did that day, even though we loved you indescribably then. Every day we are re-thrilled and re-smitten – never more so than on Friday.
Where we scored the luxury of a cabin with a bathroom (thanks for being a baby, Baby AB!).
Where Sean was able to be with us for four happy days.
Where we ate three home-cooked meals a day – none of which was prepared by me!
Where I noticed that after all those years as a cook, followed by a few as a camper, my urge to use the staff side of the kitchen is finally waning.
Where almost all the days were bright sunshiny blue-and-green, perfect Camp weather.
Where I often didn’t know the location of my four-year-old son, and that was FINE. (He would be playing in the sandbox or at the “park”, making forts in the Meeting Centre, colouring in Nelson-Hall, doing crafts at kids’ program – usually with a whole troupe of other kids.) Sometimes, he even ate at tables with neither parent present. Plus: first bunk bed experience. TOP BUNK, BABY.
Where we warned E that there would be no iPad/screen time of any kind at Camp – and he never even asked for it. Not once.
Where being outside, usually in the dappled shade (my favourite kind), was, as always, the default. Fresh air all the time. It does a body good.
Where I realized that I like yoga after all – with the right teacher.
Where the conversation is reliably satisfying.
Where it’s a good idea to contrive to synchronize the kids’ bedtime with that period of evening where the mosquitoes are most relentless.
Where I got to be ukulele coach (!) and strum along with the sweetest musical family (not my own) to present “Blowin’ in the Wind” for Talent Night.
Where Baby AB charmed the sandals off most of the Camp community, with no apparent effort on her part.
Where young girls (and some older ones, and some boys too) made it their goal to entertain her.
Where I could give her to almost anyone, and they would treat each other like family. (Amazing, the number of things I was able to do kid-free.)
Where I could mention Sebastian, especially to those who were there two years ago, and not feel that I’m being offensively sad. Because the empathy is unconditional.
Where it dawned on me that Family Camp is the place I feel most safe, for myself and for my family.
Let me expand on that.
It’s partly the way the kids stick together, and the older ones take really good care of the younger ones. There are amazing role models all over the place. There are no roads and no strangers at Camp, and the beach is separate. I never worried about E.
It’s partly the fact that we are all there for the same reason: to be together. Even if we don’t know each other when we arrive, we consciously form a community. One of the moms, when Camp ended, posted this article about community-style parenting; it made me so grateful that we have a place where, once a year, our family can experience that.
And I’ve realized that the reason this works is trust. Magically, this is a zone of unpretentious, non-judgmental parenting. We all know we are just people who love our kids (and each other’s kids) and are doing our best. If my child is having a meltdown, everybody gets it. If my child is being adorable, we all get that too. All of our kids are awesome, as well as being occasional (or frequent, depending on the day) pains in the derrière. I admire and learn from the parenting I see, knowing it’s impossible for any family to sail smoothly all the time. I don’t feel judged by the other moms (and rare dads), even when I’m judging myself – like when my kid eats nothing but bread for dinner (MOTL).
My hope is that our kids are inheriting this attitude of acceptance, which will set the tone for Junior Camp and Intermediate Camp when they’re bigger, and that Camp becomes the place where they learn to be their best, realest selves. That’s what it has always been for me.
What a wonderful week. (I miss you all, Family Campers!)
Jeans on a baby are undeniably cute. Any time you see a baby in “grown-up” clothes, it just tickles the medial ventral pre-frontal cortex, amiright?
Unfortunately, they’re not very practical – hard to get on the baby, and hard for her to sit properly with them on. Especially because she’s cloth-diapered and therefore has bubble-butt. Jeans are especially not designed for her.
So we’ve tried them a couple times, and always end up leaving them off after the next diaper change – but it’s okay, because that’s enough time to take a photo and immortalize them.
Here is a special little fashion post in honour of my big brother. Happy birthday, Ben!
Not counting her parents or her own big brother, you might say Uncle Ben is Baby AB’s biggest fan – and vice versa. Their faces light up when they see each other.
What is particularly awesome is that Ben has been living in Ontario this past year, having lived for a long time in New Brunswick, where we didn’t see him nearly often enough. I love seeing my kids get to know him.
Ben is a guy worth getting to know. He has a great, expansive sense of humour. He’s smart and nerdy in really good ways. He has a sense of fascination and wonder and enthusiasm for all the cool stuff in the world – the same one that regularly got him into trouble he had as a kid. He has the penmanship of an artist (which I tried to emulate, once upon a time). He’d know how to save you if you were drowning. He makes a mouthwatering macaroni-and-cheese from scratch. He gives really, really good hugs and shoulder rubs. And he is full of love.
Hope you’ve had a really happy birthday, Ben. I’m so glad we all get to hang out with you. We love you!
It’s here. This day has been homing in on me for weeks.
As I begin to write this, at 2:21 p.m., it was exactly two years ago that my husband and I wandered around the mall with my induction prescription in hand, wondering how we’d manage family phone calls to tell everyone that the baby had died.
In the last few weeks, I’ve been realizing that hot weather is now a trigger for me. It gets warm and sticky and suddenly I think of cabbage leaves and ice packs and bitter sage tea (it wasn’t any better iced). Sorrowing days. Plans and purposes unhooked, dangling. And so much crying. Writing and crying.
And, as I am grateful to remember, enormous love.
We have been using the air conditioning more than usual, because my coping skills diminish in proportion to the rising humidity. I regularly get tears in my eyes over some inconsequential thing; at first I kept thinking, What is wrong with me?? But once I made the connection, it all made perfect sense.
Feeling grouchy, frustrated, and short-fused is not cleansing grief. When I’m just grumpy, and not feeling close to my Sebastian, it just makes me depressed. And anyway, how do I put into words what it means to “feel close” to a son I only held in my arms once he was already gone?
I have a friend whose beloved stillborn son should have turned four just as my firstborn did. She is an amazing source of wisdom and words that fit perfectly. She says Crying is love. This is exactly true. Crying is the best way I know to access what I have of my son – which is mostly just love.
As I was telling another caring friend who wrote me a much-needed note this morning, a day like this shows me how seldom I let myself think deeply about Sebastian. I can’t afford to get weepy every hour (especially because E already does that). Reality needs me to function reasonably well.
Even at times when I am thinking of him, I’m not necessarily feeling him. Yesterday, our little family took a trip to the local pottery shop to make a clay memorial marker for Sebastian. I was glad we did, but mostly I thought about Are those letters straight and Is E getting bored and It’s almost Baby AB’s nap time and Please don’t let anyone impale him/herself on an etching tool.
I guess that’s for the best. I mean, I know it is. I wouldn’t have wanted to weep all over our clay masterpiece. But it’s a good thing there are days like today, when I can sink into the sadness for a little while (the length of a baby nap). Strangely, it’s sort of a good sad. Good in a heartbreaking way, because that’s how I get to feel close to my baby.
Last night, waiting for sleep, all I could think of was his face. I still remember it – I deliberately tried to imprint it on my mind – but it’s getting harder. I thought about the feel of his cheek, so incredibly soft, but cool and pale and lean, never having had the chance to fill in. I lay there and listened to his sister breathing beside me, she of the warm, rosy, very chubby cheeks. My heart was so full, it was hard to breathe.
I know there are countless ways to lose a child. When I hear the awful stories of other bereaved parents, I usually feel grateful that our loss was as simple and peaceful and unpreventable as it was. At the same time, when I think of how it felt to let my little boy leave my arms forever… the pain comes back, sharp and raw. The simple version of loss still hurts a lot.
Also when I think of E, and how he would have played with his brother, how they’d probably share a bunk bed already, and chase each other, and squabble over dinky cars… and how I’m not sure we are succeeding in keeping him reminded that he once had a baby brother he never met – how one of these days, it will suddenly become real for him, and I don’t know what we’ll do then… Those thoughts hurt a lot too.
I ferociously wish I could protect my E from this loss, and I’m incredibly thankful for him and for my vivacious little rainbow girl, and I miss my tiny unknowable boy so much, and I love all three of them to death-defying heights.
As I finish writing this (having done some reality in the interim), it’s 10:36 p.m. Two years ago, I was feeling the first twinges of contractions, and I was just over four hours away from giving birth.
So tomorrow is Sebastian’s birthday.
A lot has happened in those two years. I know I am different. Still his same mom, though.
Currently in our city, we’re experiencing warm and very humid weather. In truth, Baby AB is wearing mostly the minimum these days. (Which, as it happens, is the most delicious getup of all. I’ll do a feature soon.)
Still, there’s a lot to be said for summer dresses. Lots of room for air.
This is one of my faves. I took these photos in May and shamelessly featured my flowering shrubs, since I bought them (and maybe even helped plant them, I think?) and they make my yard look, you know, garden-y for a little while in the spring, before it becomes evident that I do a terrible job at keeping up with weeds.
Travelling with little kids is tough and stressful. As such, it would be easy to kvetch about the monkey wrench in our travels to my cousin’s wedding in New Mexico last weekend – the storm that delayed our flight from Buffalo, meaning the folks at Washington Dulles didn’t have our gate ready, meaning we missed our connecting flight to Albuquerque, meaning we had to stay overnight outside DC and had to take an itinerary “through” L.A. to get to NM the next morning, meaning we missed almost a whole day we could have spent relaxing with family members we see far too rarely. I can’t deny it was a shame that we missed that time.
But just prior to our departure, I had finished reading Little Bee, by Chris Cleave. It’s about a young girl who escapes to the U.K. from war-torn Nigeria and then spends two years in a refugee detention centre and then escapes from there illegally (don’t worry, I’m not telling you anything you don’t find out straightaway). Great read, and it really puts things in perspective. It reminded me how easy things like travelling are for me, being legal, Canadian, white, financially stable, etc.
And overall, even with the glitch, things went well.
First, a few Things I Was Grateful to Have Along:
Travelling companions. On the way to New Mexico, our kids had two aunts, two uncles, and two grandparents around in addition to their parents. This made unexpected waiting times in airports MUCH more manageable.
The Ergo (baby carrier). Honestly, I don’t know what we would have done without it. Baby AB napped in it many times in five days, and even when she was awake, it would calm her down to be in it. LOVE our Ergo.
Baby Mum-Mums. I can’t deny they work in a (hungry/fussy/wiggly) pinch: distracting and edible. And she’s neater with them these days.
Other airplane snacks. The penguin crackers, trail mix, etc. ended up being even more important than we’d predicted, since we had that much extra airplane and airport time. And a very picky four-year-old.
The iPad. E spent a rather excessive amount of time playing Angry Birds, but it sure smooths things out when you have an immediate activity that requires no other equipment (doesn’t even need a tray table) and completely engages the little guy.
The regular pad. I am very much torn when it comes to screen time for kids (but that’s another blog post). Suffice it to say, I was happy E spent some time with his notepad and coloured pencils too.
Other Stuff I Was Grateful For During Travel:
My parents – and grandparents – who made it affordable for us all to come.
My dad, who organized and booked almost everything, figuring out best options for hotel and car rental, and braving the cruel arbitrarity of flight prices.
Nice border guards – in both directions – who wished us well as we crossed with zero hassle.
E’s enthusiasm, which really kept us all going when things went wrong. He was a total trouper, despite a couple of short nights in a row. It’s hard to be too upset when your preschooler is hopping with joy at the moving walkways, escalators, shuttle trains, and – oh yeah – airplane rides. All the airports’ decorative elements (art, rainbow walkways, light-up floors) are worth double with a little kid. Even at 11 p.m. on the bus to the hotel in DC, when Baby AB had finally had enough and indulged in a good howl, E was comforting her: “Isn’t this amazing??” When we finally arrived in NM, having spent most of two days doing the plane thing, he said, “I wanna go on some more planes!!” He is now an expert. He can talk with ease about departure gates, and refers to planes as “aircraft”.
The charismatic rationality and politesse of Uncle D, who, when we missed our flight, decided not to bother with the giant grumpy Customer Service line, and instead charmed vouchers for food and hotel from some staff at the United gate. (They were going to say it was on us, because it was a weather-related delay, but he diplomatically pointed out that if our gate had been ready, we could have made our connection.)
A voucher-funded cheese quesadilla at Fuddrucker’s, served by a sympathetic staffperson even though it was closing time.
A voucher-funded stay at the Westin Washington Dulles, a seriously swanky hotel with pillow-top mattresses, leaf-shaped soap, and lovely-smelling lotion that lasted me for the rest of the trip. Even if we only had about seven hours to enjoy the place.
My endearing baby. She was a trouper too, beyond all expectations. On every flight, people commented on how well she did. You know how air travel can be a tricky-yet-boring exercise in pretending other people aren’t in your personal space? Impossible with a baby. She stared directly into the eyes of my seat-mates, sometimes even reaching out to caress or whack their arms, and they all succumbed. Don’t know how I got so lucky.
The Magic Boobs. They helped immeasurably with avoiding screaming-baby syndrome. TOTALLY worth any awkwardness at whipping out the nipple in very close proximity to strangers.
The Sky Mall guy. I think Baby AB got a crush on him. She told him “Hi!” a bunch of times, and then there was some pretty heavy licking. She learned to look for him in the seat pocket on every flight.
The kindness of strangers. The lady who let Baby AB play with her bracelets, the young woman who held her when I needed to find something in my bag, the different men who brought out their inner dads to flirt with her, the guy who changed seats so our family could sit together, the flight attendant who chatted with E and gave him a set of gold pin-on wings to match the blue ones Grammie gave him. People were really, really nice. It made everything easier. (MOTL.)
The vigilance of Donna, sole flight attendant on the little plane between L.A. and Albuquerque. Thanks to her, we now know ALL the rules: no carry-on straps in the vicinity of feet for takeoff/landing (lest they become entangled during taxiing); baby cannot be in “harness” during takeoff/landing; if you’re at the front of the plane with no seat in front of you for stowing things, overhead bins are the only option; baby must be in (the lap of the person in) a certain seat because of something about oxygen masks, and if you forget and start to pass the wiggly thing across the aisle to Daddy to give your arms a break, DONNA WILL REMIND YOU. NO BABY-PASSING. We were SO SAFE on that flight.
Arriving at our destination! Especially after the slick L.A. airport, it was a relief to get to Albuquerque where everything’s all granoladobe. (That’s my new term for the appealing mix of New Mexican and hippie culture.)
On the way home, getting to see Kevin McDonald (of Kids in the Hall fame) was a thrill for us – no question, it was DEFINITELY him – even though we couldn’t get up the gumption to talk to him. Shoulda put Baby AB on the job.
Other Stuff I Was Grateful For:
Wonderful extended family – both genetically related and assimilated – who make it worth the trip. You are fantastic and I love you all.
Staying at the America’s Best Value Inn (four stars) on Alameda, not the one on Paisano that Sean and I found first (three stars and quite sketchy).
Not being actually sick. I felt really ill on the Saturday morning and had visions of trying to sit through a wedding with a stomach bug, but then I had a nap with my daughter and felt all better. It must have been exhaustion/stress.
Hot tub and swimming pool at the hotel, where we all got to witness Baby AB going French.
Bugs Bunny, for giving cachet to the concept of making a wrong turn in Albuquerque. Because by Jove, every time we went anywhere, that’s what we did. (Well, almost every time.)
Albuquerque’s charm. It’s not like I know the city well, but I was immediately captivated by the colourfulness. From parking meters to license plates to whole buildings, stuff is painted fun colours. (Or colors. Or colores, I suppose.) Then there’s all the adobe and an obvious effort to make things harmonize with the New Mexican style. Also, having lots of Spanish names to say is fun.
New Mexican food! And Old Mexican food. I love real corn tortillas and pinto beans and red chili sauce and cheese. We got a ton of delicious, authentic food from El Modelo and now I really wish we had such a place where I live.
A lovely wedding. Even though it’s harder to relax and enjoy an evening celebration with (jet-lagged) kids in tow, it was a moving ceremony, with a personal blessing from each of the parents, followed by original, individual vows from bride and groom – each of whom has a wonderful way with words. They are clearly an amazing team. Plus, thumbs up for the delicious dinner, beautiful private space, decorations, dancing… And the rain even held off.
The seemingly effortless friendship between E and his birthday-buddy cousin (their birthdays are one day apart, and this year she happened to be exactly twice his age): tag, hide-and-seek, exploring, pillow fights, and a trip to the zoo = best buds.
A bit of quality time with some of the best people I know, whom I am proud to call family. Especially great getting to know (a little) the bride, the groom-to-be in the upcoming September wedding, and the mama of the next baby cousin-to-be. Extraordinary people.
My amazing husband. This trip was a LOT of stress and hassle to deal with for such a brief weekend. Wonderful as my family is, he is not as dearly attached to them as I am. He never complained about the delays, the heat, the things that didn’t go right… On Father’s Day, he stayed behind with the napping baby so I could hang out with my relatives at the post-wedding brunch, and then he took his son to the zoo (which was apparently fascinating but also sweltering and very crowded). He’s a fantastic dad.
BTW. Baby AB cut her sixth tooth on the trip, AND invented a new smile. She is now favouring what I call “the squinchy smile”. She practiced it on a young guy eating a hot pretzel in the Houston Airport, and as he grinned back he commented, “That’ll make your day.” Then she used it on a twentysomething couple at our gate in Chicago, and she and the guy ended up making all kinds of cool tongue-faces at each other. (She has good taste. He looked remarkably like Ryan Gosling.) ALSO, the clan taught her to say “Bye-bye.” It’s winsome.