We’ve had some festive times lately, and I do tend to milk those, fashion-wise, when it comes to Baby AB.
The wedding in Cape Cod was obviously an important opportunity to wear this pink gingham with satin roses. The dress being sleeveless – and Cape Cod being quite windy – we added the sweater (beautifully hand-knitted, but it’s a hand-me-down so I have no idea who made it), and the striped BabyLegs. And the sandals fit better than the first time they were featured. I think she pulls it off.
Then there was the first birthday! Which of course was celebrated multiple times. This navy sailor dress was for the combination birthday-Auntie-Em’s-housewarming.
Then, of course, there was Thanksgiving! Little schoolgirl dress (the pleats at the back are adorable but the photo doesn’t do them justice), more BabyLegs, and that cutie hat with crocheted flower. (Also a hand-me-down.)
E was also quite stylin’ that day. Can’t get enough of sweater vests on boys.
Odd how my last post was about climbing ladders out of dark places… and then this week I’ve felt barely able to climb a very short ladder.
I’ve just gone back and re-read a post from almost four years ago, in which I discussed how widely varied is my outlook on life, depending on several (mostly physical) factors. It was both comforting and kinda sad to read my own words and realize that my present self seems to be in the exact same mental place as my past self. Except I rather think that my fluctuations are a bit more intense these days… but maybe it’s just that I don’t remember clearly. I know I tend to look back on E’s babyhood with rose-coloured glasses, so maybe it was actually just as hard.
Here are some things contributing to my ladder-slipping:
Realizing that, for the past five years (plus a month or two), I have been either pregnant or breastfeeding (at night), except for a six-month window when I was intensely grieving. So basically, I don’t remember what it’s like to have proper energy levels.
We are passing around a cold – it’s been well over a month now – and I’m not sure how we’re ever supposed to kick it without KIBOSHING ALL BABY KISSES, which is simply not gonna happen.
It gets me down when my house is a mess… but I have this little person in my house who believes it’s her sworn duty to un-tidy everything I tidy up – usually simultaneously. She is a champion meddler/messer-upper. And her brother willingly collaborates, when he’s home.
Work has been tough this week. I came home one day and confessed to Sean that it was one of those days where I ask myself Why did I pick this job again? I said, “It was like pulling teeth the whole time,” to which he mischievously responded, “Imagine if you COULD pull their teeth?” That did provide a good chuckle. (“Come here, kid. You’ve just lost another molar.”)
Baby AB has sharp teeth that can put serious dents in your finger, if you let ’em. Now imagine that on your nipple. NOT. COOL. E had a short stint of nipple-biting, but always let go when I yelled. This one just hangs on.
As you may have surmised above, Baby AB and I are still not sleeping through the night. This is undoubtedly the main cause of my lack of optimism. We are working on it, and I’m sure eventually all will be well. But in the meantime… sigh.
E is still in his dramatic phase (or what we desperately pray is a phase). It seems he’s pretty sweet at school most of the time, but at home he has a tendency to use his nasty voice and/or whiny voice and/or horrible screeches often enough that Sean and I are both losing patience way more often than we’d like. With two kids at the screamy stage together, it’s a bit much.
It seems I don’t get anything done. (Case in point: how long since my last blog post?) I have no idea how other people have consistently clean kitchens or vacuumed floors or calm inboxes or pre-planned meals or reliable workout schedules. (If I owe you a phone call or email or letter or playdate or a visit… I’m sorry!)
When I get to feeling clobbered by life, my knee-jerk reaction is to think of people who have it worse, by all kinds of degrees. My colleagues who have much tougher student situations than mine. My friends with really upsetting family crises. Parents of very sick children, and children of very sick parents. Moms who live in war zones and have to protect their children from bombs. It does put things in perspective – I mean seriously, what do I have to cry about? – but also makes me feel like a wuss. Shouldn’t I be better at my own (simple, easy) life by now?
What does help is to remind myself that I’ll probably feel better very soon, because all kinds of things can turn the day (or at least the hour) around. For example:
My Hubbibi has a new job that, although it’s not his dream job yet, is far less stressful than his last one.
Two new babies among my friends in the last two weeks! Yay!
Last Sunday I participated in my first-ever blogger brunch, and got to hang out (sans children!) with five smart, creative, inspiring ladies-who-blog, only one of whom I already knew, but all of whom it was a true pleasure to meet. (They have the kind of gorgeous blogs that I will forever pin, knowing I shall never achieve that level of pinnability in my own blog. I’ve already mentioned bear & lion; please also meet Heart, Heather, Heather in Heels, Lovely & Chic, and Rustic Retrievals.)
Yesterday I gave my Grade 5/6 class a (Hunger-Games-themed) activity booklet I’d made, and they were actually MORE excited than I’d expected. It felt like a coup, seeing them rush to finish their French questions so that they could do… more French!
That nipple-biting, mess-making baby is also darn cute and funny. She makes us laugh a LOT.
I’d still rather E be sweet at school and a turkey at home, rather than the opposite.
I know that if I say I’m having a rough time, there are many people in my life who immediately offer moral support. (For example, both my sisters detected the sub-text of stress in my texts this week and expressed their concern. I appreciate it even when I don’t feel I have time to talk about it.)
Even with the exhaustion, sometimes it’s stunningly clear in my heart that everything is okay, and that I’m incredibly fortunate. For example, when my kids play together. Too cute for pessimism.
I’m fine, y’all. Thanks for letting me vent. <3 <3 <3
It’s hard to believe it’s already, and only, been a year since you came on the scene in person.
The night I laboured with you, so many people could hardly wait to for you to arrive. There were people scattered across the city, the province, the continent, who were thrilled to hear about you, but none more than your family. Your big brother E was so excited, but the waiting was hard for him – we’d been trying to get things going all weekend. Auntie Em stayed with him that night, reassuring him and answering all his questions, while Daddy and I were helping you out into the world.
At twelve months of age, your personality is a force to be reckoned with, one that has changed and elevated all our lives. You’re like a shining rainbow balloon – apt to awe the world with your round, tranquil beauty one moment, and explode noisily the next.
People often comment on what a good-natured baby you are. You love people and engage with others readily, using your incredibly expressive (and deliciously kissable) face and hands to draw them in. No one could be hard-hearted upon hearing you laugh or seeing you play peekaboo.
Most people don’t witness you asserting your INALIENABLE RIGHT to have things EXACTLY AS YOU WANT THEM. That’s when you use your earsplitting shrieks, your most tragic expressions, your gymnastic writhing and arm-flailing. It’s quite a sight to witness. When you decide you’re being wronged, there is very little that will soothe you. And yet, your joy is palpable and contagious when things go your way.
So, at the first birthday mark, what matters to you? What takes you from agony to ecstasy and back?
Things you love:
Your family: You love to nap in the crook of Daddy’s arm; seeing your brother in the mornings makes you wiggly and excited; you and I have wonderful snuggles; and you have so many doting grandparents and aunts and uncles you love to be with, too.
Mama’s milk: there are still some situations that only nursing can soothe, and you’re very possessive of it. You clearly believe that my “milk jugs” are your territory.
Kisses: you have recently learned to give kisses. We who receive them are so charmed by your “mmmah” that we always exclaim, “Thank you!” It was pretty much the cutest thing ever in the universe when you started giving kisses and then saying “Thank you!” yourself.
Food: we’ve been encouraging you to try lots of things so you will have an easier time with food than your brother, and it seems to be working. You are happy eating practically everything we’ve given you so far, including curried lentils, quiche, lasagna, perogies, chili, tahini-mustard sauce, and most recently and voraciously, seaweed snacks. It’s awesome. (The other day at the park, along with your apple slices, you inadvertently also ate a wasp. That was NOT so awesome. Well, you didn’t actually eat it, but you certainly munched on it, in spite of my [apparently inadequate] vigilance – it was well dead when I scooped it from your mouth. Gah, heart attack for Mommy.)
Music and dancing: we put on the tunes and you hold onto the table edge or someone’s knee and bop up and down. IT. IS. ADORABLE. We try to do lots of dancing with you.
Cats: one of your first words was “GATTT!” They always make you smile. When you were still tiny and nursing all the time, and poor Nico would try to share my lap with you, you would just grab his ear and hold on. You are still learning to be gentle.
Bonobo: there’s a picture in our kitchen of a bonobo with its simian mouth wide open – a picture that used to fascinate your brother, too. You love to point to it during meals and say, “Bobo!” with your big eyes and your ooo-mouth.
Babies: whenever you see a baby’s face on anything, you get all grinny and pointy and say beebee a bunch of times. You immediately latched onto your brother’s baby doll the first time you saw it, and you lick her face whenever you get the chance.
The bath: you seem to love being in the water, especially now that you get to share the bathtub with your brother and his toys. There’s drama when we remove you.
Exploring: you are going to be a climber, I think. You would dive headfirst down the stairs if we let you. Although you haven’t started walking yet, you have experimented with no-hands standing and seem to find it exhilarating. Watch out, world.
Tickles: you get lots of these because hearing you laugh is fantastic. And now you’ve learned to say “Tico tico tico!”
Being a ham: it’s one of the funnest things about you. You love making silly faces, and putting your arms way up, or on your cheeks, for emphasis. Irresistible.
Stuff you’re not supposed to play with: cat food, toilet paper, pencils, markers, small/sharp things, squishy balls you can take chunks out of with your teeth. You’re all over that stuff.
Talking: you babble very expressively, especially when we read to you. And you’re learning new words so fast our minds are boggled (34 at last count). Yesterday you said something that sounded exactly like “It’s a ball!” (A sentence? Can that be real?? It’s a little freaky.) Also, I’m pretty sure you were speaking Parseltongue last evening when you were lulling yourself to sleep. I kind of expected snakes to emerge from the plumbing.
Things that elicit bloodcurdling screams:
When I take your (my) milk away before you’re precisely, exactly ready.
Too many kisses: you love them, but you do have a limit and DON’T CROSS IT, people.
Sitting in your eating chair when you’re not precisely, exactly in the mood.
Too much car time. We had a few dicey moments going to and from Cape Cod, but overall you were a trouper – especially considering that you used to scream through ANY car ride, particularly at stoplights.
Getting out of the bath, as mentioned above.
Having your face wiped. How dare we?
Not enough snuggling, or too much snuggling, or putting you down, or picking you up, before you’re precisely, exactly ready.
So… you’re not the easiest baby in the world. But you are wonderful.
And actually, I’m glad for your toughness. For one thing, it has kept us from romanticizing (too much) your status as our Rainbow baby, so wished-for and worried-over… You being so forthright and determined and loud means that we live firmly in reality. No danger of over-idealizing or coddling this kid – which wouldn’t do you any favours anyway.
I hope you keep this, too – this knowing what you want and don’t want, and making no bones about it. I’m glad you object when someone crosses your personal boundaries in a way you don’t like. (Though I hope you will learn a bit of diplomacy someday.) You go right ahead and be a tough kid, and a flinty kind of woman. We are all proud of you.
I love the time we spend together. I love watching you and your brother being silly and making each other laugh. I love watching you get absorbed by a book or toy (or some other random item) on your own: the way your dimply little fingers handle things, the studious way you examine them. I love the kisses and snuggles, and I even love (on some level) the screams and thrashing, because that’s you being YOU.
And you are sensational, little girl. We love you beyond all description. Go get ’em.
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!)