Happy Day, Auntie Em!

Today is the birthday of my elder sister Emily, a.k.a. Auntie Em. It is also the day she officially completed and bade adieu to her Major Research Project, finishing her Masters in Language, Culture, and Teaching.

Emi is a special gal. She is full of love and complicated thoughts and stress and nostalgia and joy and sorrow. She is beautiful and smart. She is generously thoughtful, the kind of person who makes a homemade card to say thank you for something… and then the card is so lovely you want to thank her back. She is an ardent knitter, reader, walker, cycler, and conversationer. She also loves her nephews and niece with a fervour and investment that rival those of a parent.

Happy birthday, sweet sister! And congratulations!!

I know this course was a tough row to hoe, especially the big-ass paper. And that, despite your passion for the topic of ESL teaching and cultural differences in classrooms, the research was not as fulfilling as you’d imagined. Still, I hope you will look back and remember the good parts – your better profs, the interesting conversations with fellow students, and time spent reading the literature you found most fascinating.

Also. I have something else to say. I just want you to know that, although I know it’s temporary, and although sometimes sharing a kitchen can get dicey (ha! get it?), and although you may be, on some level, “waiting for your real life to begin”, it has been many kinds of awesome sharing a household with you.

I’m glad you were there for when we brought our babies home, and for the time when we didn’t.

I’m glad we’ve been able to have so many fun family meals and games, in between all the social gallivanting you do. 🙂

I hope E will be able to remember being ensconced in pillows in your room, having dance parties and leafy nests and eyeshadow, playing with flashlights and balls of yarn and annoying Japanese alarm clocks. Thank you for taking jillions of photos and footage of him being his little self, and for taking an active role in his education, literary and musical and innumerable otherwise.

I know I will look back on this time as a golden era, a cozy time when my babies were babies, when we learned all about parenting them together, when we watched in wonder as they did the amazing things they do. I wish every mom were lucky enough to have a sister on the premises – not just for company or for another set of eyes and hands, but also for a fresh wellspring of patience when a mama is at her wits’ end. I’m so grateful for the times you’ve appeared magically when things aren’t going well, swooped in and kept your cool in the face of a maddening toddler/preschooler.

I hope you know we love you a lot. I hope you have loved this golden era too. And I hope your dreams come true – preferably this year. Well, as soon as is convenient, anyway.

three sisters in a bed
Mini-Di, Mini-Beth, and Mini-Em (long before they were Aunties).

***


 

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The Love for Four Fan Blades

My daughter has a fascination – bordering on a love affair – with the ceiling fan in the bedroom. Whether falling asleep or waking up, she gazes at it and her limbs get all excited (if they’re not swaddled). She grins and babbles to it in delight… and it’s not even on. E loved ceiling fans at this age, too, but it was summer and they were usually spinning, so obviously.

I’m trying to capture the passion (but usually she gets distracted by my being there with my camera phone). Here are a few examples so far.

baby smiling
Yay fan!
excited baby
I just wanna hug you!
baby
Oh, hey, Fan.
You’re looking mighty charming today, Fan…
Know what? I love you!
Fan, YOU’RE SO AWESOME!!

I was starting to feel a little jealous, but then yesterday I came into the bedroom to get her after her nap – she was awake but calm, lookin’ at the fan. I said, “Hi, baby! It’s time to get up!” and she looked right at me and gave me the biggest, happiest smiles I’ve ever seen. I almost died of cuteness. And I felt better.

***

{P.S.: For the Prokofiev and Italian folklore fans out there, the title of this post came to mind, and then I happened to look in the fruit bowl, and this is what I found, so I had to take a picture. Actually, this looks a lot like the faces E draws right now: they have big wide smiles, two eyes, a nose, and two independent nostrils.}

love for three oranges

***


 

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The Ladies of Election Day

Here we go, Americans: the Day of Reckoning. I hope you’re on your way to vote – or have already done so.

According to the Chicago Tribune, lots of voters wait until Election Day to decide whom their ballot will support. That seems so strange to me, in a country with what is essentially a two-party system, with wildly differing candidates.

As I see it, if you support the Republicans under Romney, there’s no way you can support the Democrats under Obama – and vice versa. Either you blame Obama for stuff that’s occurred during the last four years that you consider bad, or you credit him for stuff you consider good.

It’s not really my place to weigh in on the American election (even though I know who I’d vote for – and can’t imagine doing otherwise). Frankly, I’m fairly disillusioned up here in Canada, where we’re currently living under the sneakiest, most underhanded Prime Minister in history. I don’t want to talk about that guy either.

What I’m wondering today is what those two women are feeling – the ones who are poised as potential First Ladies for the next four years.

Over on BlogHer, shortly after the big presidential debate, I read posts by each of them, talking about their husbands and the campaign trail. It’s pretty interesting reading. Naturally, each woman speaks of her man with esteem and love, vouching for his character and her faith that he can fix things. I hope that all of this is sincere, but I can’t help wondering if these women would like to say things they don’t say.

Ann Romney has battled multiple sclerosis and cancer. She writes that Mitt is her hero, and that he has always stood by her during the tough times. She also writes: “I have to admit, though, five years ago at the end of the last campaign, I told Mitt I would never do this again. Mitt laughed and said, ‘Honey, you say that after every pregnancy.'” (The Romneys have five children.)

Mitt and Ann Romney campaign
Mitt and Ann Romney

This has been a vitriolic, exhausting lead-up to the election. Is there part of Ann that wishes her family weren’t having to go through all this? Has the presidential race turned out to be more than she meant to sign up for? Does she ever worry about how things will be if her husband actually becomes the President?

Michelle Obama writes very proudly of her husband’s election priorities, as well as his accomplishments thus far. She also mentions that the night of the debate was her and Barack’s 20th wedding anniversary – a big milestone.

michelle obama campaign debate
Michelle Obama

When you’re the First Lady of the United States, do you ever get to show frustration at the inconveniences that must be part of that role? Does Michelle ever wish she could just go back to being normal? Does she feel that the man she married has changed in ways she doesn’t love? Does she secretly kinda hope Barack will lose, so that she can, in some measure, have her husband back?

I’m sure that each of these women feel just as passionately about the outcome of this election as other engaged voters do: they want their candidate to win, because they feel strongly that he will help her country the most.

But, to be blunt, I think I’d hate being a First Lady. I mean, I get exasperated when Sean works extra hours unexpectedly and it infringes on our plans; I also treasure my freedom to disagree with him. And for that to be our business only. I have no desire to be nationally – much less internationally – recognizable and famous. I could probably adjust to the adoring masses’ adulation of my husband (eventually), but I’d be severely uncomfortable with the vilification that would be just as inescapable. As a borderline introvert, I’d be drained meeting and chatting graciously with so many strangers all the time. And I really don’t think my fashion sense would pass muster with the critical public.

It must be really tough. I don’t envy Michelle or Ann at all. But I hope, for each of their sakes, that they love their roles – and their husbands – as much as they seem to.

It’s gonna be a crazy, difficult day for both of them, no matter what happens. I’m wishing them strength… and some relaxing, quality family time some day soon.

***


 

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Dear Rainbow Baby, now that you’ve arrived

Dear, sweet Rainbow Baby A,

You are finally here. Today you turned four days old.

You arrived on Sunday morning, September 30th, at 10:21, after about thirteen hours of labour. It was a beautiful autumn day, and we could see spectacular orange and red trees from the hospital room.

Precious girl, it was so amazing to meet you, finally. I know that in some ways, I’ve been waiting for you for much longer than nine months. I really enjoyed feeling you move around in my belly, getting to know a bit of your personality that way… But that was nothing compared to the joy of holding you in my arms and seeing your perfect self at last.

Mama and baby A
Newly born.

You look like your big brother E, and your Daddy; there’s no denying it. (I guess Mama’s genes just can’t compete.) Actually, your Daddy and I both noticed right away that you look like your other brother, Sebastian, maybe even more. Your hair is brown, like his, just as I imagined it. Your cheeks are adorably round, your ears are perfect, and you have actual chubbiness in your legs and tummy (you weighed 8 lb, 8 oz – even more than E!). You have long monkey-toes, and slender, ladylike fingers (unlike either of your parents – I think maybe your Gramma Sue sent them).

baby toes
Baby toes.

Unlike E, you did the classic newborn thing and cried angrily when you found your breath. It was so good to hear your voice.

newborn baby A
Expressing yourself.

Then you calmed down when you were put on my chest and heard my familiar heartbeat. The elation we felt, seeing and hearing you in sturdy good health, was indescribable. I shed a lot of happy tears.

In the past four-and-a-half days, we’ve learned a few things about you.

  • You have, as your Uncle Ben puts it, two modes: sleeping and hungry. You eat a LOT. Even on that first night in the hospital, when many newborns don’t eat much, you spent a good few hours learning to eat and asking for more. (Good thing your food is essentially free!)
  • You are a bit nocturnal. Your longest awake periods have been at night. I should have guessed, considering how often I would lie down in bed at night and you would be dancing up a storm inside me.
  • Although we didn’t see much of them the first day or two, you have beautiful eyes. I am mesmerized by them, during those moments (becoming more frequent) when you are calm and awake. You remind me of some kind of woodland creature, a chipmunk maybe.
  • You are full of expressions, awake and asleep. We all just watch you in fascination. You have one face you make in particular that makes me think of a confused monkey and never fails to make me laugh.
  • Your expressions extend to your hands, too. They are very eloquent and do lovely dances to match your face.
  • You are very, very cuddly. I know babies are meant to be cuddly… it’s just so wonderful having the chance to enjoy this stage where you just curl up on somebody’s chest and sleep – your great-Auntie CL calls it the “tree frog stage”. You are so soft and snuggly and delicious, you’re irresistible.
  • Everyone who meets you is delighted by you – especially your big brother. He was a little unsure for a few minutes when he first came to visit you in the hospital – I think he could see that his parents were going to have to spend a lot of time on you – but now he’s your biggest fan. He sings to you about how sweet and beautiful you are. He wants to give you hugs and kisses and touch your silky cheeks all the time; the only challenge is helping him remember how fragile you are, that he must contain his excitement enough to be safe around you. He is all ready to protect you (once he learns how).

We are so excited to be your parents, lovely girl. Thank you for being in our family. We love you more than words can express.

***

A very special thank you to LouLou West Photography for capturing these moments so beautifully and sensitively.

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To my big boy, before his little sister arrives

Dearest E,

We have been talking about your baby sister a lot this week, because we know she will be here very soon. In fact, as it’s now Thursday evening, chances are very good you’ll meet her within 48 hours!

This morning you remembered, very soon after waking up, that your sister is almost here. It was so awesome to see you grin with pure, delighted anticipation… your joy just makes everything more special and wonderful.

Also, it makes me ache to think of the joy we wish you could have had with your brother.

I really, really hope you’re going to be just as happy once she’s actually here. Right now, you know she’s going to be small, and we’re pretty sure she’ll be cute (you were a darn cute baby yourself, after all).

grammie and ev
Newborn E with Grammie.

We’ve been trying to let you know that she won’t do much at first – she won’t be ready to play with you or learn the things you want to teach her. She might not be as exciting as you’re expecting. But I hope she fills you with love, and that this will make you happy.

I want you to know that I have treasured this summer with you. Even though I have often been tired, and have had to go to lots of appointments without you, it has meant a lot to me getting to spend time with you – just Mama and E. We’ve done a lot of fun things, although some of my favourite memories will be of just talking with you, getting insights into your fascinating young brain, without anyone else to distract us. I know those moments will not be as easy to come by when the baby is here.

Here is a little verbal snapshot of what life is like, the week before your big-brotherhood becomes active:

We’ve played a lot. Mostly with cars and ramps, but also with the new Play-Doh that Marcia gave you as a big-brother present, among other things. We’ve spent time at the park and in the sandbox. You’ve come with me to two appointments – one last ultrasound here in town, where you charmed the sonographer by being so, so well-behaved and telling her all about your Lego car (and during which it was estimated that your sister has already reached your birth weight – 8 lb 5 oz!), and one midwife appointment, where you asked if you could help and you held the Doppler speaker while we listened to the baby’s heart beating.

You are eating lots and growing lots. You have finally learned about dipping: you suddenly love to dip apple slices and carrots into peanut butter, having heretofore resisted ever dipping anything.

You have been loving “lawn mower rides”, i.e. taking walks with your pushable safari truck that talks and sings, getting its energy from the movement of its wheels. (You are so cute pushing that thing, in your earflap hat and running shoes, I almost can’t stand it.) It is still warm enough to enjoy bike riding, too, although yesterday you did have a fall that kisses didn’t fix right away.

You are enjoying the bright changing colours of the trees, but also looking forward already to the “pretty lights” of Christmas time – these have obviously stayed in your mind all year long.

You love counting right now, and want to count anything you see lined up. Thirty is your favourite number (which is about how high you can readily count – these days you even get all the teens in there most of the time). You are always speculating about thirty; for example, what things would you hold if you had 30 hands? Last night you apparently wondered aloud to Daddy what it would be like to have 30 noses. You figured, “I could smell everything… and there would be a lot of snot. And it would be hard to walk, because the bottoms of my feet would be made of noses.”     !!!

You also ask a lot about adding, and writing numbers – what number is a 1 and a 9 next to each other, or how much is it if you have 2 and 3 of something. You have a whole bag of little foam numbers and letters, and you even like trying to sound out basic words and spell them – with help, of course. We know you’ll be more than ready for kindergarten next year.

You are so eager to learn, and so quick to pick things up – and freakishly observant. Daddy and I are constantly shaking our heads in amazement at the things you notice and figure out and verbalize. To be honest, it scares me a little bit. I’m not sure what I’ll do when your brain starts to do things mine isn’t capable of… but for now, I am just hoping we can challenge you enough to make sure you keep on learning, and enjoying it. That we can manage not to get in the way of you doing your thing.

Tonight, I read you your bedtime stories, and I sang you your lullaby, at your request. (We call it yours, even though it’s for you and your brother and sister.) I was glad you asked for it; I realized it would be the last time I would sing it to all of you in your three different places, separate but close together, as you were when I wrote it.

Your lovely great-Auntie CL wrote you a message this week, which I read to you, about how much we love you and will continue to love you, even when your sister is here, getting her own love from us.

I just wanted to add to that. A few days from now, it might seem like the love isn’t the same, or isn’t as much, because we will have to be spending a lot of time and attention on the baby.

But here’s the thing: we will always love you more than we even have words to express. You will always, always be our precious boy, our cherished firstborn. You are so special, so sweet and funny and smart. You are a wonderful little guy (or not-so-little – you insist on “little” or “big”, depending on your purposes – and have sometimes decided that you are actually “medium”). No matter how much we love your sister, no matter how different or similar she is to you, we love you with a love that is just yours, created just for you – and by you.

We know things are going to be very different, very soon. To tell you the truth, Daddy and I are a little nervous. We learned so much from you after you were born, but we are worried that we’ve forgotten a lot of things… and we know that parenting both of you together will be a whole new challenge. At this moment, it is totally surreal to think that we will have another entire, separate person in our family by the end of the weekend. But we know we will figure it out, and I’m sure you’re going to help us. You are a great helper.

We are incredibly glad to be going on this adventure with you, sweetie pie. I can’t wait for you to meet your sister.

(And I hope you’ll forgive us for not actually taking your suggestion to make her middle name “Angry Birds”.)

***

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Evidence that after seven years of marriage, my Hubbibi and I are OLD

Hi everyone,

Thanks for all your good wishes! Sean and I had our li’l getaway, and it was really, really nice.

AND, it was perfect for retirees.                Huh?

We went to check in at our B&B, which is a beautiful house in the country run by a very nice guy named Shane. It has a nuttily eclectic mix of decor, and is “canine-friendly” to the point of having a dog bath that magically folds out of the wall – for guest use. (Not sure whether you + dog counts as double occupancy.)

That evening, we went for Indian food in town, and then saw a movie. You know, like a date. And my date, even though he has been wanting to take me to see Batman (I mean, The Dark Knight Rises) ever since he saw it the first time with the guys, looked at the movie listings and suggested we might want to see something more anniversarial. (Well, he didn’t actually use that, um, word.) Very sweet of him, n’est-ce pas? So we saw Hope Springs.

hope_springs_meryl-streep-tommy-lee-jones

That’s Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones trying to reignite the spark of their 31-year marriage. Steve Carell plays the marriage counselor who works on it with them.

We both liked it a lot: Streep and Jones are both just wonderfully talented; there were lots of really chuckly moments; there were also quite a few poignant ones; Steve Carell is uncharacteristically subdued but sincere in his role – and we felt it worked for him. And it was interesting, and probably a good exercise, to look at our young little marriage and imagine it in 24 years. To say, “We’ll always have real conversations together, right? We would notice if we somehow stopped touching each other, right?” And to feel confident that, thanks to the Robot-Face, we will always share a bed. Continue reading “Evidence that after seven years of marriage, my Hubbibi and I are OLD”

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Sebastian’s Birthday: A Lullaby for my Children

Monday morning – July 9th, 2012

Dear Sebastian,

It’s 9:04 a.m. as I begin this post. It was important to me to write this morning, because I know that at this same hour, one year ago, you were still in my arms. It is exactly the same kind of morning it was on the day of your birth: sunny, breezy, blue skies. A perfect summer day.

I thought about staying up last night, holding my own little vigil until 2:45 a.m. – the hour you were born – but I didn’t want to be in a fog of exhaustion today, on the first anniversary of your birth. As it turns out, your Auntie Em couldn’t sleep, and without realizing the significance, she was reading about you at that same hour.

I remember so clearly being in that hospital room with you. I didn’t want to let go of you – I wanted to suspend time so that we could stay together, and I could keep looking at you. I tried so hard to memorize exactly what your face looked like… it makes me sad that it’s hard for me to remember it fully. The photos we took never looked quite as I saw you.

sebastian's hand

Those moments with you were some of the most precious of my life. Now they’re some of my dearest memories.

After writing all about you yesterday morning, I spent a marathon afternoon/evening at the park, where your Daddy and aunties and friend and I watched and picnicked (and even participated a little) as your big brother played and dug and waded in the pool, and even became a Handsome Prince in a game of Princess with a little girl he’d just met. It was an absolutely beautiful day – except for the sadness. I wished you could be with us… but I know you weren’t meant to be, except maybe as the salmon-spirit of yourself.

It wasn’t until I got into bed last night that I suddenly couldn’t stop crying. Your Daddy held onto me, and I listened to your brother breathing, and felt your sister moving, and eventually I was okay.

It makes sense that our emotions are very close to the surface today. I have already felt tears many times, but I’m ready for them. I think even your brother is feeling it in his own way – he has been crying about little things, without knowing why. That’s just how it has to be sometimes. Continue reading “Sebastian’s Birthday: A Lullaby for my Children”

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Expect Miracles

expect miracles latasia bracelet

This is a picture of the bracelet I have been wearing every day in 2012, in the hopes that its auspicious message would sink in, beyond my skin, to my soul.

This January, when I found out that I was indeed pregnant with our third child, I experienced a split-second of pure, undiluted joy.

The next moment, both my hands found themselves clutching my abdomen – and I’m pretty sure the words came out aloud: “Please be okay in there, please be okay in there, please be okay in there.”

For the first several weeks of pregnancy, it was hard to recapture that initial exhilaration. That is to say, I couldn’t. My heart would make a move to get excited, and my brain (or something) would step up and say “STOP.” I wasn’t suffering from stomach-knotting anxiety, as I’d feared, but I was finding myself in a strangely numb state – deepened, of course, by that first-trimester exhaustion that makes you feel like a marionette with its strings cut.

It’s pathetic, but true: having a stillborn baby feels like betrayal. You go along, assuming everything is fine – even if there are warning signs – and then there comes the moment when you realize your trust was misplaced. And, as horrible as it sounds, you feel like a sucker. You can’t believe you were so foolish and complacent.

I know, I know. It’s an awful comparison. And silly, too. An unborn baby cannot be subject to trust – nor suspicion. It is innocent, no matter what happens. Continue reading “Expect Miracles”

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Happy Birthday and Happy 10 Years to my Hubbibi

Yesterday, my beloved Hubbibi turned 35. (He doesn’t look it, though. They only recently stopped carding him at the liquor store, so I think I can safely say he’s 35 years young. Right, honey?)

That means we’ve been together for 10 whole years.

On his 25th birthday, we were a very new couple, living in separate cities, counting the hours between visits. We had shifted from friendship to coupledom with nary a glitch, and we both knew we were in it for the long haul.

On his 15th birthday, by contrast, we were part of the same group of high school friends, overlapping in enhanced math and English classes, playing Speed (cards, not drugs) at lunch period, each dating other people, NEVER EVEN REMOTELY DREAMING we would someday get married and make babies together.

Wedding photo for blog Continue reading “Happy Birthday and Happy 10 Years to my Hubbibi”

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BANG Movie Review: The Muppets

After seeing it, I would say the Muppets movie is less of a movie, and more of a feeling. Not that it doesn’t have a plot – it has a solid (albeit predictable) plot, with suspense and buildup and characters and a climax and everything. It’s just that when you combine the bright colours, the music, the smiles, the nostalgia, and all those familiar puppet faces… it blends into a kind of haze of felicity that bubbles around in your head afterwards with no need for linear structure.

the muppets movie poster jason segel amy adams

As of today, The Muppets is at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. You don’t see that very often. I don’t think I was as blown away by it as those whose input makes up that 97%, but I did find it pretty delightful.

  • I enjoy that they never explain how Gary has a Muppet for a brother. You just have to go along with it.
  • I enjoy that Mary is some kind of mechanical/electrical whiz.
  • Kermit’s new voice is admirably close to the old [real] one (though not quite the same).
  • Walter’s talent (no spoiling) = darn COOL.
  • When I heard the “Man or Muppet” song, I accurately called (not yet knowing) that it was Bret McKenzie’s composition. It’s got that Flight of the Conchords sound.
  • “Life’s a Happy Song” totally holds up as a movie-carrying theme. (That’s Bret himself, below. You can even see a little bit of smiling near the end there, which is very rare. What a cutie.)

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