Tragic Follow-Up to a Five-Year-Old’s Birthday

You know how everything old is new again? How marketers realized that all the kids of the 80s are having their own kids and will pay good money for things that make them go Aw man, I used to have one of those!!

Well, I didn’t, as it happens, have any of these particular items, although I wished I did. (And I think they’re from much earlier than the 80s, given the age of some of the Archie comics we had at home that contained this very ad.)

Image via

AB was given a Sea Monkey aquarium, along with a little sachet of eggs, some water purifier, and some powdery sea monkey food, for her birthday. It was just like this one, except blue. (Notice that the sea monkey family portrait has not changed.)


Both kids were pretty excited. We followed all the instructions to the letter, and sure enough, a few days after we’d put the eggs in, there were super-tiny creatures propelling themselves around the aquarium! So cute! They did not have head-crown-thingies that we could discern, and they were nowhere near as nonchalant as the ones in the ad, but still… Cool stuff!!

The big problem was that the instructions don’t go past the first feeding. You’re supposed to wait five days after you put the eggs in there before you feed them, and the instructions make it clear that if you overfeed them THEY WILL SUFFOCATE. But does that mean you feed them every five days subsequently? Or does the schedule change? I turned to the internet for advice, and determined that we should wait at least a few days between feedings. We did our best.

I don’t know what went wrong. Within a week or so, there were only a couple of moving sea monkeys we could find… and then, only one. And then… a still, still tank. There were pathetic moments like when the kids stirred them (like you’re supposed to) and said, “Look, they’re moving around!” or when there was absolutely no movement and she figured, “Let’s just feed them anyway in case they’re only sleeping.”

We were sad that they were dead. Eventually, AB reached the Acceptance stage. This is what she wrote, in tribute.

[That’s pronounced “Sea Monkey-zuh” like when you REALLY want someone to know that it’s plural.]

It was right around Halloween, hence the gravestone savvy. (Actually, there was a rough draft of this picture that had “RCR” on the gravestone – she couldn’t remember what it was supposed to say, and that was her best guess.)

This reads (in the intended order): “To Sea Monkeys. I love you. You died and I did a surprise.”

This picture itself is the “spris”. Surely the sea monkeys are somewhere in the heavenly ether, smiling at their happy likeness.

On a lighter note, you can see that AB has finally reached that stage where she wants to write stuff and isn’t afraid to spell words any which way. Which is AWESOME; I adore this stage. It’s like seeing them learn to talk all over again.


P.S.: I meant to add this to the birthday post, but it segues nicely from sea monkeys. Ever since last spring, AB has been obsessed with the monkey bars. We are lucky at the school because they have lots of bars to climb on at different heights – the kind of structures that have been removed from most playgrounds for some reason. AB does all kinds of tricks on a set of parallel bars and I can just see her little muscles working hard.

And when she crosses the ladder-style monkey bars, which she finally learned to do near the end of JK, her determination is palpable. Her eyes get all steely with focus. And her hands, which are still sweet li’l five-year-old hands with dimply knuckles, have gotten all callused on the palms, as if she were moonlighting as a construction worker. It’s pretty awesome altogether.



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Undulating Perspective III: The Importance of Sleep

Hey, y’all.

As you know, I love May. It’s the best month.

I’ve been feeling nostalgic about this tree we had in our front yard at the old house, as well as the apple and plum trees in the backyard. They smelled SO GOOD.
But we do now have this lovely magnolia! It was blooming on my birthday.

This year, May has been tougher for our family than it usually is. I’m gonna tell you why for venting purposes, but you can skip this paragraph if you want. Blah blah: all four of us got a stomach bug at different times – brief but exhausting, especially because it was basically all night-time interruptions. AB and I also got a shared head cold that wiped out another few days (at least in terms of productivity). Before and in between those, we had quite a number of nights in which my same beloved daughter kept calling out in the night – either because she wanted help to go pee, or because she needed to pee but woke up with irrational iron-willed determination not to admit it, or because she dreamed about some insect or other in her bed, or because she needed her covers fixed. (We have discussed how she needs to fix her own covers, but when she forgets, I don’t know that until I’m already vertical.)

The result is that on Mother’s Day, I was in post-bug sleep almost the whole day, and was stupid-tired all over again on my birthday a few days later.

(Here is the table set for my birthday! My parents and ALL my siblings showed up; dinner was made, dessert was perfect, there were flowers and artwork and so much cool stuff. I did love it… but I was definitely droopy.)

And then there were those couple days when it snowed. In my May. We won’t even discuss that.

This year, it’s also the month I needed to get record amounts of work done, due to two different absences from work (that I will be telling you about). However, I was so often in a state of exhaustion that I would think about all the work I had to do and feel simply incapable. Like parenting and teaching are too hard and I CAN’T HACK ‘EM. Like it’s all overwhelming and LIFE IS IMPOSSIBLE.

And then, I got some proper sleep, finally – a couple of good sleeps in a row. And literally, the sun came out, the birds sang, the flowers bloomed before my eyes. ‘Twas amazing. Suddenly I realized I could do life after all.

I read Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive this past year, and she wrote a lot about how good sleep is crucial to human well-being. I was like, “Duh, of course it is,” because I’ve never been a rat-race participant, or possessed anything resembling a killer ambition that would motivate me to work 100-hour weeks at the expense of eating and sleeping.

But in actual fact, I’m less smart about sleep than I should be. I mean, it’s not my fault that the hundreds of interrupted nights of my early motherhood are still (intermittently) in progress. But I also have a habit that a lot of parents have: once the kids are finally in bed, I want to have that awake-time to myself, and I will stay up for it even if I’m tired. And then I miss my sleep window, just like a baby. I get a second wind of night-owlish energy that makes me lie awake once I do go to bed. I ignore, far more often than is advisable, my own tiredness – and I always regret it in the morning. It’s just dumb.

I know full well that I’m much better at everything when I’ve slept enough. What’s been particularly obvious to me recently is how much more patience I have after a decent sleep – and since both my jobs (the teaching and the parenting) require quite a bit of it, it’s no laughing matter if I’m running on fumes alone from my Tank o’ Patience. I’m bound to snap at my kids when they inevitably test me. My sense of humour leaves me. I’m just not that nice.

So now here I am on the Monday of Victoria Day long weekend, and the weather has been spectacular. Our whole neighbourhood smells like flowers. Sean had all three days off. Sean and I got to have a movie-date; there was river-side ice cream and park-playing; barbecue twice, and hanging out with sets of friends we don’t see enough. Basically perfect. And I’ve been able to see it all clearly, and really appreciate it, because of the sleep.

I’m really going to try harder to go to bed properly, like a good girl. It’s worth it.




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Happy Birthday, Three-Year-Old!

Dear Baby AB,

It has already been two weeks since your birthday! I know you’re not a baby. You are THREE. That is BIG. But of course, you’ll always be my baby, so I reserve the right to call you that.


I just want you to know, belated or not, that we’re all besotted by you, despite your status as one of the most sporadically aggravating humans on the planet.

Right now, as you turn three, you are the driver of an emotional rollercoaster your whole family rides on. You feel entitled to fly into a fury if someone helps you with something you’ve decided you must do yourself. (And your fury often includes kicking and hitting along with the screaming, even though those things never get you what you want.) You will randomly make up rules on the spot and vehemently scold the person unwittingly breaking them. You utterly refuse to be hurried when it comes to choosing your wardrobe for the day. You seem to get a kick out of insisting that you DON’T NEED TO PEE until the last possible second (or sometimes, unfortunately, later). You will cut right into someone else’s conversation and then get all mad that they’re interrupting you, shouting, “SHUSHH!!!


During the first few weeks of school, you decided you no longer liked our daycare provider, who has been taking care of you and your brother since the beginning. You said she was mean to you, and you even tried to convince us that she punched you. (Someday you’ll understand how funny that sounded.) [Lovely di-hards, in case you’re worried, we would consider the possible veracity of these allegations if we had any doubt at all that they’re false. But we don’t.] You told poor M that you didn’t like her and didn’t want to be there, right to her face. There was clinging and sobbing at drop-off time. Poor M was wondering if you might actually need a new daycare provider. (We are gradually getting past this, though, with a bribe-y sticker chart and lots of reminders that we love you SO MUCH, even when we are apart, and that M loves you too.)


On the morning you turned three, I asked you if you felt different, and you said yes – you felt three. Then, when Auntie Beth came up to wish you a happy birthday, you told her that “three is cooperating.” There was, according to you, going to be a whole new level of cooperation going on in your three-year-old world.


This has not really panned out. That very evening, you were violently uncooperative about bedtime, and it was actually rather awful. We are still trying to figure out the best ways to deal with these moments.

But then. You’re also the most adorable sweetness-pie in the world. When you’re not angry, you’re wonderful.


You dance like a princess and a rocker and a belly dancer – all with equal fervency. You love to do gymnastic poses, inspired by the aerialists you saw last summer. You read new improved versions of our storybooks to yourself for long periods of time (even the names are changed – you are great at making up names. Your current favourite is Golla). You sing often, in your own language, whether or not you have an audience. You are full of ideas, brimming with imagination and leadership, and you’d be boss of the whole world, if the world would let you.


You and your brother have lots of arguments that involve the above-mentioned fury… but then again, your relationship is also full of sweetness. You make up games no adult could possibly invent, and play them happily. E is often content to acquiesce to your imperious commands, with an affectionate chuckle at how cute you can be when you’re ordering people around. When you’re peaceful together, it’s a blessing to watch and listen.


And you’re full of love. You give amazing big squeezy hugs, and tell your people that you love them on a regular basis. There is nothing in life as awesome as feeling your little arms around my neck and hearing, “I love you, Mama.” And then there was that time the other week, when I was about to leave for dance class, and you grabbed my hand in both your little ones, and held it to your soft baby cheek, looked at me with your big oceanic eyes, and said, “I love you the whole time you’re gone, okay?” My heart almost burst.


Sometimes, you’re so beautiful in your you-ness, I can hardly stand it.

Here’s a little video I started making many days ago, to celebrate your third year. I love you always, the whole time, and I hope I always remember exactly how saucy, smart, tender, fiery, and special you are at this moment.



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I am a square. (And such a fortunate one.)

This past Sunday, as you know, was Mother’s Day, and also my thirty-sixth birthday. It was pretty much as lovely as I could have wished for.

You also could say it started on Saturday, when I got to (1) take an impromptu nap on the reclining couch upon arrival at my parents’ house, while members of my family took my children outside to play, and (2) travel to Toronto, footloose and fancy(/kid)-free, get treated to dinner with my brother and sisters and Uncle D, and get treated to see Auntie Beth perform in a choir concert with Singing OUT.

Baby AB gave me my first Mother’s Day gift on Sunday by sleeping in until EIGHT a.m. before asking for mama-snacks. First time! WOOT!!

My children also gave me a new snazzy purple lunch bag as a gift (not at all orchestrated by my Hubbibi, who was offended by my old lunch bag which was slightly on the dingy side).

The rest of my birthday included:

  • both of my immediate families, in full, plus one of my cousins and two of my aunts;
  • the best weather we’ve had so far this year;
  • lots of Facebook-friend love, and a call from my mom-in-law;
  • brunch – is there anything better than brunch?? – and on the DECK, no less;
Finally!! Outdoor eating!
Cranberry-lemon coffee cake by Emi, fruit and yogurt, chips (instead of home fries) and Reese’s Pieces (since I don’t eat bacon, of course). CUZ IT’S MY BIRTHDAY. And I’m pretty sure the food groups are covered.
  • a nap in the hammock;
  • treats all day long;
Smartfood and homemade strawberry spritzer by Beth. Brought to me like I was a princess or something. 🙂
  • getting to fix one of my costumes with hardly any interruption;
  • stories and playing and hugs and kisses with my living kids;


  • quiet time to reflect on and remember the one I can’t hug;
  • a family walk along the trail to the boardwalk (during which we thrillingly saw dogs, birds, frogs, bugs, snakes, AND a surprise geocache!)
A mama, two uncles, a wee hiker, and an auntie (photo by Luc).
We like peering into the fascinating world of the marsh (photo by Luc).
  • attractive gifts with which to adorn myself;
  • a free massage from D (who is studying to be a naturopathic doctor and managed to give me more neck mobility than I’ve had in weeks);
  • barbecued Portobello-Swiss burgers with tomato and avocado, followed by peanut butter cup ice cream;
  • coming home to a very clean house, thanks to my Hubbibi.

It did not include:

  • dishwashing (by me);
  • meal preparation (by me);
  • housework of any kind (by me);
  • or a single diaper change (by me).

IT WAS AWESOME. I couldn’t ask for any more. Thank you, sweet family.



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Celebrating One Year of Baby AB

Dear Baby AB,

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.

Your first day of life: at the hospital with E, Auntie Em, Grammie and Papa.

Your healthy birth and your spirited presence were such a relief and such a joy – and a huge adjustment, too.

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.
Two peas in a pod.

  • 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.
  • Diaper changes: wrestling! Flipping over! Unholy screeching! It’s impressive. And tiring.
  • 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.

Photo by Daddy, with love.



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Celebrating the Beth Day Ever!

I’d like to tell you about my baby sister. It was her birthday last Friday, but for some reasons (namely, busy Labour Day weekend and then going back to work, ack) this birthday post is very, very late.

Mini-Di shared a room with Mini-Beth (3 years her/my junior) for about 8 years. I have lots of memories of filling our room with My Little Pony villages, drawing and colouring at our wall-length desk, making forts with our corner bunk beds, “talking” to each other using our own made-up sign language, and listening to our audio tapes of The Rescuers and Sleeping Beauty while grooming our stuffed animals.

I also have plenty of memories of bickering, coming to standoffs while cleaning our room, vowing NEVER TO SPEAK TO HER AGAIN, EVER until 37 minutes later when I had to succumb because you really can’t go that long without talking to someone you live with who also if you’re honest is actually one of your very best friends.

beth n di
She’s the cute one, with the dress and the curly hair. I’m the one with the giant feet and delusions of fashionableness.

It’s been a long time since we’ve lived together (and there’s very little bickering these days). My annoying, precocious, fun little sister has grown into an extraordinary, brilliant (and still fun) woman, and is still one of my best friends.

She is the kind of person who makes and brings people soup when they’re sick – and it’s the best damn soup you’ve ever tasted. She is principled, passionate, disciplined, smart, creative, with an unparalleled ability to work hard. Her laugh is contagious. She has a penchant for jokes that are dumb, but funny. She is well-known for falling asleep during movies, even really exciting ones. Also for being gorgeous. She’s one of those girls that basically all the guys she knows (and undoubtedly some girls too) have been in love with at one time or another. Even at that age where you’re supposed to awkward and pimply, she was a knockout. {Sigh.}

She is also brimming with love, herself. Lucky are those of us who receive it. For those she loves, she has been known to:

  • write amazing rhyming poems full of exuberant imagery, silliness, and profundity,
  • make checkered birthday cake from scratch,
  • hand-cut impossibly cool paper doll chains,
  • give excellent massages and/or pedicures,
  • cook and bring delicious picnics,
  • create personalized works of art, and/or
  • make desserts that can be legitimately lit on fire.

Those are just a few of the things. She’s one seriously creative chica, to the point that she solves problems with sheer artistic innovation. For example, one day I’d brought a two-year-old E to her house for the day, and for some unknown reason we had NOT BROUGHT ANY CARS for my car-obsessed son to play with. How many people do you know who could have whipped up something as wicked-awesome (or SICK, as the kids would say) as this?? Auntie Beth can do it.

tiny bicycle
I know. COME ON, right??

And then there was that time – wait, it was just last week! – when we were having a fiesta for the birthday in question, so of course Beth and her main man (sometimes referred to as Uncle D) created a piñata that looked like THIS:

IMG_4770 IMG_4772

So, you see what I mean. This gal is SOMETHING ELSE – that is to say, something else AWESOME.

Dear Berty, I’m sorry this “birthday” post is almost a week late. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you ferociously; I do. And I know my kids love you too. You’re amazing. I hope this year is full of fulfilled potential and stimulating challenges and uncontrollable laughter and dreams coming true… and lots of visits with us. xoxox



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Baby AB’s Fashion Blog – Issue #11: Festivities

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.

Ben stayed over quite a bit to help out during Baby AB’s first month of life. Nothing better than a tree-frog newborn on your chest. (Incidentally, she is wearing a onesie that was bought for E, one of my favourites… but she’s so little that it’s barely visible. Sigh… can’t believe she was so small.)
Helping Uncle Ben play cards at Christmastime, in grey-and-lavender leopard print with ruffles.
The Easter ensemble, including purple BabyLegs, embroidered denim dress, and white shrug to tie it all together. All hand-me-downs except the socks and hair bow.
Let’s get a closeup of that dress. WAY TOO CUTE.
And the hair bow, an Easter gift from Auntie T. So sweet.
Plié of happiness!

Hope you’ve had a really happy birthday, Ben. I’m so glad we all get to hang out with you. We love you!



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Buying a Baby for the Birthday Boy

As you know, my son E turned four this month. As usual, he had at least four different celebrations, and so many amazing presents, it’s mind-boggling.

SO MUCH LEGO. He was totally stoked, and he’s getting much better at working with it – not long ago, his motor skills were not ready for the little pieces. Here’s something cute he decided to make, all on his own (some of these torsos are from Daddy’s voluminous Star Wars Lego collection). He called them “ponies”, but then Daddy taught him the word “centaur”, which is pretty cool.

My Li’l Lego Centaurs. The next big thing.

He’s also been thrilled at other gifts, from cars to books to puzzles to stickers to a handmade huggable parrot to a set of three Angry Birds toothbrushes that he’s now obsessed with.

This year, I was really excited about our present for him. Prior to the big day, Sean told me that E had mentioned he would like a “baby” with clothes he could change. I was ALL OVER THAT. I’ll be honest: I like the vehicles and other so-called “boy stuff” more than I expected, but this was a present I could really relate to. I remember my heartfelt attachment to my doll Jules, and my deep yearning for a Cabbage Patch Kid (which I got for Christmas – Gilbertina Jill, born October 1st), and a similar passion for a newborn-style baby doll a few years later. My dolls were very important to me.

So I happily went shopping for a doll for my son. I wanted it to be a good one, and one generic enough that he could decide whether it was a boy or girl baby.

I went to the local Toys R Us Express and was severely disappointed. I got a doll stroller, because I knew he’d want that. But the doll itself was another matter.

First of all, there was ONE kind of doll in the boys’ section, a Vanellope doll (from Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph). That hardly counts. This was already a shame, in my mind. In the 80s, it was okay for boys to have Cabbage Patch Kids. Some of us had listened carefully (a jillion times) to “William Wants a Doll.” Have we actually regressed since then, in terms of sex role stereotypes?

And in the girls’ section, there was not a lot of choice of babyish babies either. (Probably because little girls are known for playing with their dolls’ hair, so the dolls must be “old” enough to have luscious locks.) And there was nothing unisex about these dolls: they were all girls, categorically. And for girls.

From the Toys R Us website: “Young girls will love taking care of their precious bundles while pretending to be a mommy or a caring friend.” Sooo… boys will not love that. I guess.

On a package for a You&Me doll that makes happy sounds when you’re nice to it, I read something like, “Made to encourage young girls to express love and affection.” Maybe I was just grumpy, but does that not seem effed-up to you?

  1. Most young girls are already oozing with love and affection, thank you very much. Like, they just wanna hug you, allthetime.
  2. If they’re having trouble in the love-and-affection department, is a doll with recorded baby sounds really going to help? I’m thinking they’ll need some actual hugs. From actual people.
  3. What about the boys??? Well folks, it turns out love and affection are for girls only. Get your boy a soccer ball to encourage kicking and running.

(Don’t get me wrong. I think soccer and kicking and running are awesome. But you know.)

And I swear, every baby in there DOES SOMETHING. Giggles when you touch it. Burps when you pat it. Drinks from a bottle and wets its diaper. Magically gets a messy face that magically comes clean when you wipe it. (No actual mess involved.) I mean, is it so much to ask for a simple baby doll??

Yes, apparently. Yes.

So I went to our local non-chain toy store, having visited their website and read this: “With their personality and charm, dolls captivate little girls’ and boys’ attentions and hearts. Superior quality and design provide a lifetime of love.”


And it was still really tough shopping, because there were so many, and it was still hard to find one that wasn’t obviously supposed to be a boy or a girl. But I ended up (falling in love) with this one.

My mom says it looks like one of my babies, so no wonder.
Look at its teeny hands!

On the birthday morning, after our requested birthday breakfast of croissants, I brought it out in the stroller, with a blanket over the whole thing.

As we unveiled it, all excited, he smiled tentatively. I think we were making such a big deal that he expected it to be something a little crazier. (“Like a car with tracks or something,” he said.) Maybe he was a little confused, at first. After all, he doesn’t fully get the wider context of gender roles and how great we think it is that he wants to love a baby doll.

But evidence since then indicates that this baby is special to him. Some presents he loves fanatically for a bit and then forgets about, but I have hopes that this baby-love will endure.

And interestingly, he automatically made his baby a girl. He named her after his real baby sister.

At the mall with baby. And a little bear and Carrot Head purple guy.

People smile when they see him strolling along with his baby. I wish this could be true forever. I wish the world and all the little boys in it could see my boy and his baby as the most natural thing in the world – the precursor to loving and affectionate fatherhood – for as long as he wants to bring his baby with him. But I fear it will be more complicated than that, and soon.

E also mentioned, just prior to his birthday, that his favourite colour was purple. Of course, his favourite colour changes often, but I was excited about the purple because there have been times when he told me in no uncertain terms that it was a “girl colour”. I told my parents about it, and they got him a purple shirt that was clearly not a girl shirt. He loves it, although he does insist it’s blue (he eventually conceded to indigo).

Then there’s the gymnastics ribbon. He adored the one he played with at Auntie A and Uncle R’s house at Easter, and miraculously, my mom knew where my old ribbon was, so now it’s his. He calls it his dagger: “Mommy, can I go outside so I can swing my dagger?”

IMG_4213 IMG_4215 IMG_4221 IMG_4217 IMG_4225 IMG_4223

Ah, my love, my sweet birthday boy. I don’t know how long all these things will be socially acceptable to you and your peers. Lately, you have started saying that certain things are “too pretty” for you. Things I know you are attracted to, things you might want to wear or use but somehow, in your developing social mind, you think they’re not appropriate. For instance, you love the fairy window craft Auntie Em gave you, but you think it might be too pretty.

The other day, you visited the dentist in your Spiderman shirt, Spiderman sunglasses, and Spiderman hat – and your golden beads. After your appointment, you started to choose a flamey mini-skateboard from the prize basket, but shyly changed your mind to select a set of red beads that matched your gold beads AND brought out the ruby tones in Spiderman’s outfit. (The administrative assistant got a kick out of that.)

E, in our home, you will always be safe to enjoy whatever YOU love. You can be as pretty or not-pretty as you want. I’m happy that for now, you get to delight in whatever toys and colours and themes you like, but when you get older and it gets complicated, just know this: I LOVE ALL YOUR AFFINITIES. I love that you dig cars and beads and dinosaurs and babies and and shovels and teasets and red and green and pink and brown and orange and purple all at once. And Daddy feels the same – he’s with you all the way. All of us are.

Stay you, wonderful boy. We love you forever and ever. Happy Being Four.



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Baby AB’s Fashion Blog – Issue #8: Ultra Lounge + BONUS Brother-Style

Wow, it’s a good thing there’s no shortage of baby fashion cuteness, because finding more than eight consecutive minutes to rub together (?) for a REAL blog post is, like, not happening these days. And blogging is like exercising for me – if I don’t do it for extended periods, guilt eats away at me. (Not because you, dear Di-hards, have ever been accusatory, but just because I can’t leave alone anything I start, and blogland is always waiting for more.) So these little posts are like doing a few squats or crunches every once in a while: they help to stave off the guilt.

Yes. I may have a few issues. But whatever. FASHION!

I picked a couple of comfy loungewear favourites for today (not loungewear as a euphemism for lingerie, by the by).

I call this one “Plouf!” (It means “Splash” in French.)

Looks good with a splash of broccoli.
See? I didn’t make this up, it actually says “plouf” for an unexplained reason.
I paired the onesie with some comfy velour pants avec volant. (With a ruffle. Because, in case you didn’t know, girls have to have ruffles.) This pic is just an excuse to showcase baby toes.
Care to catch up on your reading (of stuff pilfered from the recycling crate) whilst jolly jumping? “Plouf” is the perfect ensemble!

And I call this one “Adorable Distraction.” Because I’m hoping your eye will be irresistibly drawn to the ruffles, this time delineating the bum and arm contours (and forget to notice my messy living room).

Totally comfy. Wish it came in my size.
Ideal for a casual date with friends (chattin’ with Baby G at book club).
Or just loungin’ with a snack.

And now I’m going to reveal the secret subtext. I’ve immensely amused myself by entitling this post “Ultra Lounge”, because:

I was once given as a gift a CD called “Ultra Lounge”. It’s authentic martini-lounge music and it’s kind of fabulous. You know it’s gonna be, because the case is actually covered in fuzzy leopard print. Naturally, E has always been attracted to this sumptuous CD case.

Then, once upon a time, Daddy asked E, “What kind of music would you like to listen to, buddy?” Of course, E picked the leopard-print music. Daddy, who was not precisely in the mood for Ultra Lounge, performed a sleight of hand with an album he felt like listening to, and said, “Oh! David Francey! Good choice.” (If you’re familiar with the brilliant folk singer David Francey, you know that it would be hard to find something LESS leopard-printy.)

E is also a big fan of Francey, especially the CD Daddy played that day (“Late Edition”). For months afterward, he would find that fuzzy, gaudy case and say earnestly, “Let’s listen to David Francey!” Even after we explained the truth, the connection between a Scots-Canadian folkster and animal-pattern velour had apparently been seared on his little synapses. It’s only recently he’s finally learned what the real “Late Edition” looks like, so now he will override whatever’s playing, whenever he wants, and replace it with good ol’ D.F.

Speaking of my lovely firstborn son… Here is a special photo of Baby AB’s Big Brother, sporting Toy Story and Chocolate Goatee Fashion.

e eating ice cream
Chocolate ice cream, with NO FOOD in it.

He will be four years old tomorrow. I’m amazed and thrilled and heartbroken. I mean, three sounds so little still… but FOUR. It’s big. Soon, he won’t even count as a preschooler anymore, because he will be in school. OH. I can’t even.

I love that crazy, aggravating, wonderful boy with all my mama-bear ferocity. It feels weird (and yet very common, I think) to be so happy that he gets to grow up, while also clinging to the babyhood that only fleetingly surfaces in a pure grin, a snuggle, a vulnerable tear, a soft sleeping cheek.

The other day, I was going through his clothes to see what he’d outgrown, and I totally wept onto his wee cargo pants and grippy socks, because there’s another layer of innocence, shed faster than I can grasp.

And, there’s another collection of sweet things his brother will never wear. I’d be in denial if I didn’t acknowledge that this is really about both of them.

Anyway. Lots more to say about that, another time. Right now, it’s time to make the final preparations for a BIG DAY TOMORROW!

Sigh. <3



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