sea monkeys

Preschooler No More

11:36 a.m.

Dear E,

Today is your first full day of kindergarten – JK. I am sitting here fervently wishing I were a fly on the wall of your classroom. Are you having fun? Are you nervous about anything? Did (do) you like your first recess? Are the other kids nice? Have you eaten any of your lunch? Are you remembering to ask for help when you need it? I know that by the time you get home, you will remember approximately three things – if that – and they probably won’t be the things I would ask you about.

I was so proud of how ready you were today.

You have gone from saying “I don’t want to go to school” earlier in the summer to “When do I get to go to school??” just recently. (I think the turning point was when we bought your backpack and lunch bag and indoor shoes.)

You have visited your classroom twice, and met your teachers. Your first time there, at the JK visit in August, you found your name tag, went right in and had only a moment or two of hesitation, holding my hand, before you began exploring the different (lovely!) activities on the tables… You had your friend C with you, a bit older and experienced with school, so I just sat aside and watched you and the other JKs discovering your classroom. I could perfectly imagine you as part of your big class, doin’ the kindergarten thing, just like the JKs I taught two years ago.

Then Friday was an hour-long visit – with no parents. You had been a bit worried about it; the night before you’d said to me, “What if I get lost?” We have talked a lot about school in recent weeks, so you wouldn’t stew with your worries – and so you’d have an idea of what to expect. Daddy says that he dropped you off with no fuss at all, and when he picked you up, you wanted to go to school the very next day (Saturday). You learned (and remembered!) the word bibilothèque. You told anyone who wanted to know, “I went to school! I had my first day, and next time I’m going to ride the bus!”

So, on this cool, sunny morning, Daddy and Auntie Em and Baby AB and I accompanied you to the bus stop. You had a few moments where you weren’t sure you wanted to take the bus after all, but when it arrived, Daddy helped you up (those ENORMOUS steps with your GIGANTIC-looking backpack) and you sat in the first seat. You didn’t cry. You waved to us calmly – we were smiling like mad so you wouldn’t forget how great it is to ride the bus – and then you were gone.

photo

Your posse waded home through a wave of emotion and nostalgia. Daddy fretted about the things you might not be ready for, and whether you would be okay. Now that I’ve spent plenty of time in kindergarten classrooms, I could confidently tell him that you would be fine – you’d probably already had circle time, been to the bathroom with a group or a buddy, played at recess… but of course I was fretting inside too, because that’s part of what moms do.

Good thing I know some things about kindergarten teachers, especially 1) that they’ve pretty much seen everything, and 2) that they are amazing and full of love.

I remember witnessing, two years ago, the parents dropping their kids off for the first full day of JK. Some children were crying and clinging, and some marched right in, eager to get going. Then, once the kids were finally all inside, there were a lot of parents peering in the classroom windows, emotional themselves, trying to see their progeny in the new habitat, inadvertently causing some children to recommence dramatics.

At the time, I didn’t truly understand. Shouldn’t you be thrilled when your child embarks on a new phase, especially if s/he is excited to go to school? (And shouldn’t you hightail it out of there as soon as s/he has successfully made it into the classroom?)

Now I get it: it’s actually harder for parents than it is for kids. I know that yes, we ARE thrilled, and shattered too.

How amazing that you, an incredible creature we’ve so carefully grown and sculpted (or tried to), are now a semi-independent being. How painful that you are now going to go have a whole life apart from ours.

Especially now. When I went to kindergarten, I went for half-days. Even the kids I taught came every other day. You, like most kids in the province do by now, will be going all day, every day. That’s most of your waking time. And I’ve just spent the fourth year of your life on maternity leave, so I’m used to having lots of time with you and witnessing lots of E-awesomeness. (And some other stuff too.) It’s tough thinking about all the cool things you will do… that I will miss. But that’s how it’s supposed to be.

***

9:26 p.m.

The first big day is done… You did great! (And so did we, resisting the urge to get in the car and follow the bus.) Mr. A, our friend who now works at your school instead of mine, was kind enough to let me know that you’d had a good recess and send me a bit of footage of you with a big smile.

What a relief – and only partially surprising. You are so sensitive sometimes, so melodramatic… and then sometimes you are just strong and take everything in stride. You came home with your new communication bag, and your lunch part-eaten (I’ll bet you dawdled), and you were happy, and even kinda nonchalant about your day. (And I was right – there wasn’t much you felt like telling us. Why should you? You live in the moment – that’s what childhood is for.)

You were pretty worn out, though. Dinner was a series of medium-sized meltdowns – which we were expecting. Right now, you’re probably in the deepest sleep of your life thus far.

Sweetie boy, we are SO PROUD OF YOU. You’re a wonderful person.

Love forever.

baby E
Weren’t you JUST this a minute ago??
e and baby ab
Now you’re the SO big brother.

***


 

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Things to be grateful for when travelling with small children

Travelling with little kids is tough and stressful. As such, it would be easy to kvetch about the monkey wrench in our travels to my cousin’s wedding in New Mexico last weekend – the storm that delayed our flight from Buffalo, meaning the folks at Washington Dulles didn’t have our gate ready, meaning we missed our connecting flight to Albuquerque, meaning we had to stay overnight outside DC and had to take an itinerary “through” L.A. to get to NM the next morning, meaning we missed almost a whole day we could have spent relaxing with family members we see far too rarely. I can’t deny it was a shame that we missed that time.

But just prior to our departure, I had finished reading Little Bee, by Chris Cleave. It’s about a young girl who escapes to the U.K. from war-torn Nigeria and then spends two years in a refugee detention centre and then escapes from there illegally (don’t worry, I’m not telling you anything you don’t find out straightaway). Great read, and it really puts things in perspective. It reminded me how easy things like travelling are for me, being legal, Canadian, white, financially stable, etc.

And overall, even with the glitch, things went well.

First, a few Things I Was Grateful to Have Along:

  • Travelling companions. On the way to New Mexico, our kids had two aunts, two uncles, and two grandparents around in addition to their parents. This made unexpected waiting times in airports MUCH more manageable.
  • The Ergo (baby carrier). Honestly, I don’t know what we would have done without it. Baby AB napped in it many times in five days, and even when she was awake, it would calm her down to be in it. LOVE our Ergo.
  • Baby Mum-Mums. I can’t deny they work in a (hungry/fussy/wiggly) pinch: distracting and edible. And she’s neater with them these days.
  • Other airplane snacks. The penguin crackers, trail mix, etc. ended up being even more important than we’d predicted, since we had that much extra airplane and airport time. And a very picky four-year-old.
  • The iPad. E spent a rather excessive amount of time playing Angry Birds, but it sure smooths things out when you have an immediate activity that requires no other equipment (doesn’t even need a tray table) and completely engages the little guy.
  • The regular pad. I am very much torn when it comes to screen time for kids (but that’s another blog post). Suffice it to say, I was happy E spent some time with his notepad and coloured pencils too.

Other Stuff I Was Grateful For During Travel:

  • My parents – and grandparents – who made it affordable for us all to come.
  • My dad, who organized and booked almost everything, figuring out best options for hotel and car rental, and braving the cruel arbitrarity of flight prices.
  • Nice border guards – in both directions – who wished us well as we crossed with zero hassle.
  • E’s enthusiasm, which really kept us all going when things went wrong. He was a total trouper, despite a couple of short nights in a row. It’s hard to be too upset when your preschooler is hopping with joy at the moving walkways, escalators, shuttle trains, and – oh yeah – airplane rides. All the airports’ decorative elements (art, rainbow walkways, light-up floors) are worth double with a little kid. Even at 11 p.m. on the bus to the hotel in DC, when Baby AB had finally had enough and indulged in a good howl, E was comforting her: “Isn’t this amazing??” When we finally arrived in NM, having spent most of two days doing the plane thing, he said, “I wanna go on some more planes!!” He is now an expert. He can talk with ease about departure gates, and refers to planes as “aircraft”.
  • The charismatic rationality and politesse of Uncle D, who, when we missed our flight, decided not to bother with the giant grumpy Customer Service line, and instead charmed vouchers for food and hotel from some staff at the United gate. (They were going to say it was on us, because it was a weather-related delay, but he diplomatically pointed out that if our gate had been ready, we could have made our connection.)
  • A voucher-funded cheese quesadilla at Fuddrucker’s, served by a sympathetic staffperson even though it was closing time.
  • A voucher-funded stay at the Westin Washington Dulles, a seriously swanky hotel with pillow-top mattresses, leaf-shaped soap, and lovely-smelling lotion that lasted me for the rest of the trip. Even if we only had about seven hours to enjoy the place.
  • My endearing baby. She was a trouper too, beyond all expectations. On every flight, people commented on how well she did. You know how air travel can be a tricky-yet-boring exercise in pretending other people aren’t in your personal space? Impossible with a baby. She stared directly into the eyes of my seat-mates, sometimes even reaching out to caress or whack their arms, and they all succumbed. Don’t know how I got so lucky.
  • The Magic Boobs. They helped immeasurably with avoiding screaming-baby syndrome. TOTALLY worth any awkwardness at whipping out the nipple in very close proximity to strangers.
  • The Sky Mall guy. I think Baby AB got a crush on him. She told him “Hi!” a bunch of times, and then there was some pretty heavy licking. She learned to look for him in the seat pocket on every flight.

IMG_4293

  • The kindness of strangers. The lady who let Baby AB play with her bracelets, the young woman who held her when I needed to find something in my bag, the different men who brought out their inner dads to flirt with her, the guy who changed seats so our family could sit together, the flight attendant who chatted with E and gave him a set of gold pin-on wings to match the blue ones Grammie gave him. People were really, really nice. It made everything easier. (MOTL.)
  • The vigilance of Donna, sole flight attendant on the little plane between L.A. and Albuquerque. Thanks to her, we now know ALL the rules: no carry-on straps in the vicinity of feet for takeoff/landing (lest they become entangled during taxiing); baby cannot be in “harness” during takeoff/landing; if you’re at the front of the plane with no seat in front of you for stowing things, overhead bins are the only option; baby must be in (the lap of the person in) a certain seat because of something about oxygen masks, and if you forget and start to pass the wiggly thing across the aisle to Daddy to give your arms a break, DONNA WILL REMIND YOU. NO BABY-PASSING. We were SO SAFE on that flight.
  • Arriving at our destination! Especially after the slick L.A. airport, it was a relief to get to Albuquerque where everything’s all granoladobe. (That’s my new term for the appealing mix of New Mexican and hippie culture.)
  • On the way home, getting to see Kevin McDonald (of Kids in the Hall fame) was a thrill for us – no question, it was DEFINITELY him – even though we couldn’t get up the gumption to talk to him. Shoulda put Baby AB on the job.

Other Stuff I Was Grateful For:

  • Wonderful extended family – both genetically related and assimilated – who make it worth the trip. You are fantastic and I love you all.
  • Staying at the America’s Best Value Inn (four stars) on Alameda, not the one on Paisano that Sean and I found first (three stars and quite sketchy).
  • Not being actually sick. I felt really ill on the Saturday morning and had visions of trying to sit through a wedding with a stomach bug, but then I had a nap with my daughter and felt all better. It must have been exhaustion/stress.
  • Hot tub and swimming pool at the hotel, where we all got to witness Baby AB going French.
20130615_124624
Stylin’ baby suit.
  • Bugs Bunny, for giving cachet to the concept of making a wrong turn in Albuquerque. Because by Jove, every time we went anywhere, that’s what we did. (Well, almost every time.)
bugs bunny albuquerque
Yep, you shoulda.
  • Albuquerque’s charm. It’s not like I know the city well, but I was immediately captivated by the colourfulness. From parking meters to license plates to whole buildings, stuff is painted fun colours. (Or colors. Or colores, I suppose.) Then there’s all the adobe and an obvious effort to make things harmonize with the New Mexican style. Also, having lots of Spanish names to say is fun.
albuquerque rainbow fence
Rainbow fence (photo from flickerhivemind.net) that made me think of popsicles, obviously.
IMG_4290
You think it’s someone’s living room… but it’s our gate at Albuquerque Sunport.
  • New Mexican food! And Old Mexican food. I love real corn tortillas and pinto beans and red chili sauce and cheese. We got a ton of delicious, authentic food from El Modelo and now I really wish we had such a place where I live.

    IMG_4261
    What to look at while waiting for Mexican food.

 

IMG_4259
Chilies and ivy at El Pinto – a very pretty restaurant with apparently so-so food that we passed up in favour of El Modelo.
  • A lovely wedding. Even though it’s harder to relax and enjoy an evening celebration with (jet-lagged) kids in tow, it was a moving ceremony, with a personal blessing from each of the parents, followed by original, individual vows from bride and groom – each of whom has a wonderful way with words. They are clearly an amazing team. Plus, thumbs up for the delicious dinner, beautiful private space, decorations, dancing… And the rain even held off.
  • The seemingly effortless friendship between E and his birthday-buddy cousin (their birthdays are one day apart, and this year she happened to be exactly twice his age): tag, hide-and-seek, exploring, pillow fights, and a trip to the zoo = best buds.
  • A bit of quality time with some of the best people I know, whom I am proud to call family. Especially great getting to know (a little) the bride, the groom-to-be in the upcoming September wedding, and the mama of the next baby cousin-to-be. Extraordinary people.
  • My amazing husband. This trip was a LOT of stress and hassle to deal with for such a brief weekend. Wonderful as my family is, he is not as dearly attached to them as I am. He never complained about the delays, the heat, the things that didn’t go right… On Father’s Day, he stayed behind with the napping baby so I could hang out with my relatives at the post-wedding brunch, and then he took his son to the zoo (which was apparently fascinating but also sweltering and very crowded). He’s a fantastic dad.
What a guy.
What a guy.

BTW. Baby AB cut her sixth tooth on the trip, AND invented a new smile. She is now favouring what I call “the squinchy smile”. She practiced it on a young guy eating a hot pretzel in the Houston Airport, and as he grinned back he commented, “That’ll make your day.” Then she used it on a twentysomething couple at our gate in Chicago, and she and the guy ended up making all kinds of cool tongue-faces at each other. (She has good taste. He looked remarkably like Ryan Gosling.) ALSO, the clan taught her to say “Bye-bye.” It’s winsome.

***


 

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Creamy Spring Cauliflower-Cheddar-Sorrel Soup

Our family is lucky enough to be able to buy super-fresh, uber-local veggies from gardener friends of ours. Our first batch included pea shoots, green onions, rhubarb, and sorrel.

sorrel
Image from urbancultivator.net – but it looks just like our sorrel.

To my knowledge, I had never cooked with or even eaten sorrel. It sounded like something from Outlander. But I figured, sorrel is a green leafy thing, must be good.

And it is! But rather strange, too. I was warned that it’s “tart”, and it is. Sour, actually, in a yummy way, but strong enough that I don’t think I could eat a whole salad of sorrel. We sprinkled bits of it in our salad the other day, but would take a long time to use up all the sorrel we have at that rate.

So yesterday, I looked up sorrel recipes, and read that cooking the sorrel tones it down a bit. I found some recipes that sounded all right, especially soups, but ultimately decided to wing it.

This is how I tend to cook: winging it. Like my mom and siblings, I rarely use a recipe except to bake. And I’m not good at recording what I do when cooking, at least not with any meticulosity. But when this particular soup turned out really well, some friends asked if there was a recipe. So here is something approximating a recipe.

  • I coarsely chopped up a medium-large onion and two large cloves of garlic and sautéed them in melted “better butter“* on medium-high heat until they were getting brownish.
  • Meanwhile, I chopped up two smallish potatoes (skins on) and then threw them in and crumbled half a head of cauliflower on top.
  • I had some frozen vegetable stock (2-3 cups) so I put that in to melt into everything with the lid on.
  • I took two big handfuls of sorrel, barely chopped them, and added them a few minutes later. The stock had melted and was a nice brown colour from the onions.
  • Once the cauliflower was tender, I took out a couple pieces with one piece of onion and mashed it with a fork to feed to the baby. (This step is optional. I did notice that, with cauliflower for dinner, her night diaper a lot stinkier than usual, despite being just pee. Just in case you do have a baby and follow this step. Hmm. Was that an overshare?)
  • By this time, all the veggies were tender and the sorrel had turned brown (the Internet warned me about this – it’s because of the oxalic acid). I added some whole milk (maybe a cup?) and then took The Wand (immersion blender) to the whole thing.
  • It was a bit thick so I added a bit more milk and some water (probably another cup’s worth at least) until I liked the look of it, you know, sort of a restauranty consistency.
  • The last thing to add was about a cup-and-a-half of grated old cheddar, which I stirred in until blended.
  • Then I tasted it, and I was like, “Where’s the sorrel? I don’t even taste it!” So I took another modest handful of the sorrel and chopped it more finely and put it in and did not blend it. It quickly wilted right in and made itself at home.
  • I added salt to taste. (Our salt is actually ground butcher salt, which contains soupçons of rosemary, sage, thyme, and marjoram, which were very pleasant but not necessary.)
  • We also added fresh black pepper at the table.
Creamy Spring Cauliflower-Cheddar-Sorrel Soup
I didn’t serve it like this originally. These are the leftovers we had today, shamelessly studiously dressed up for y’all.

Done!

Everyone at the table over the age of 4 called it delicious. I was frankly surprised that my experiment worked so well. We agreed it was very nice with the extra bits of sorrel, which still have an acidic kick but somehow work anyway. I like to think that the blended sorrel provided the context for them to shine.

Creamy Spring Cauliflower-Cheddar-Sorrel Soup
Looks pretty good?

Try it y’self! Tirrah!

***

*My mom introduced our family to “better butter” ages ago: you soften some salted butter in a container and add vegetable oil in equal proportion, then (carefully) Wand them together. It cuts the saturated fat and salt of the butter while retaining good flavour; it’s cheaper than pure butter all the time; and most importantly, it’s much more spreadable.

***


 

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Happy New Year!

It’s January Seventh, Twenty-Thirteen! Happy new year (more or less), Di-hards. It’s the first day back to school, the 13th day after Christmas. As good a day as any for a new year post in which I lighten up a little bit… with a silly celebratory questionnaire meme. Woo hoo!

{Disclaimer: Dilovely wrote these responses, with minimal actual consultation… but Sean gave the go-ahead.}

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?

Me: Taught kindergarten; took up the ukulele; tried Aztec soup; and, um… oh, gave birth to a daughter.

Sean: Quit retail; learned machining; measured lots of stuff to within a tolerance of like two thousandths of an inch.

E: Turned three; began learning to read; ate (and liked) cornbread, macaroni, zucchini; swam with only pool noodles; started drawing people, cars, horses, etc. with gusto.

A: Existed, had cells, moved limbs, got born – yahoo!

 

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Me: Ummm… Did practice my uke, but not as much as I meant to. Didn’t become paragon of fitness – became pregnant instead.

Sean: Yes! Kept them perfectly preserved for this year.

E: I can totally say the word “resolution.”

A: Yes, I was born alive and healthy. Wait – that was Mommy’s resolution, but I pulled it off.

 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Me: Me. I’m pretty close to me. Oh, AND at least six other friends with awesome babies. Yay! Love you and your babies!

Sean: See above.

E: Mommy. And Skye. I even drew a picture.

A: Mommy. I was right there. It was intense, dude.

 

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Me: Gramma Sue.

Sean: Nana and Grandad.

E: Grammie and Papa’s cats.

A: My placenta.

 

5. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

Me: My waistline would be nice.

Sean: Freedom from acquisitiveness. In fact, I have made my wife a deal to this effect. There will be no talk of or wheedling for or purchase of gadgetry of any kind in 2013. Now it’s public.

E: Rollerblades! And of course, MY OWN iPAD. (Not gonna happen.)

A: How ’bout teeth? And perhaps independent mobility.

 

6. What countries did you visit?

Me: None.

Sean: None.

E: Remember that time we went to England? And I know we went to North Carolina, too. Mommy, yes we did!

A: Is Uterus a country?

 

7. What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why:

Me, Sean: A’s birthday, September 30th. Also, I’m pretty sure December 14th is etched upon the collective memory of all of us. Fortunately for us, there’s a happy reason to remember that date too – the Birth Day of Skye’s son!

E: My birthday! And Christmas! Because obviously.

A: September 30th was exhausting, but October 1st was pretty cool.

 

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Please see #1.

 

9. What was your biggest failure?

Me: Failure to get dressed properly – or get my children dressed properly – more days than I care to count.

Sean: That time I got only 92% on my shop project… brutal.

E: That 2 I drew doesn’t look like a 2!!! No, it’s NOT GOOD!!! (Inherited Daddy’s perfectionism.)

A: Are you kidding? I’m a baby. I’m always awesome.

 

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Me: Two stitches to my girl parts, if you really want to know.

Sean: I was constantly afflicted by tiny, razor-sharp, burning-hot pieces of metal hitting my skin during my machining course… But it’s okay. It just increases my manliness.

E: Innumerable runny noses.

A: I’m pretty sure my brother gave me that nose problem… but I eventually kicked it.

 

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Me: A deal with the dev– with my husband. (See #5 – bought with a certain Apple gadget.)

Sean: Ha ha hahaha! Let’s not go there.

E: With these coins, I can get some rollerblades! Right?

A: Lots of adults doing goofy things. Bought with pure cuteness.

 

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Me: Baby A’s, when she slept 7 hours in a row that one time.

Sean: Mine, whenever I clean the kitchen. Because when I clean the kitchen, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.

E: My parents celebrate whenever I have a whine-free day.

A: Those adults doing goofy things, especially dancing. I like to celebrate them with enormous grins.

 

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Me: Harper Harper Harper. And McGuinty and Broten.

Sean: Cyber bullies and gun nuts.

E: Mommy and Daddy, when they won’t give me back the Os I drop on the floor.

A: Mommy and Daddy, when they strap me into that car seat. It’s an outrage.

 

14. Where did most of your money go?

Me: What money?

Sean: To Apple… and back.

E: I have a piggy bank now!

A: What’s money?

 

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Me, Sean: Baby!

E: Sister!

A: Glahkkhhaa!

 

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?

Me:

Sean:

E: Auntie Em discovered this song at the Jazz Festival and I became obsessed with it. (She is mostly responsible for my musical education.) I even have special moves I do with it.

A: That thumping sound from the womb. It was rad.

 

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder?

Me: happier

Sean: happier

E: happier, then sadder, then happier, then sadder

A: N/A

ii. thinner or fatter? Is this really relevant? Yes, we’re avoiding the question.

iii. richer or poorer? Eight months of unpaid pre-apprenticeship + four months of mat leave… ‘Nuff said.

 

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Me: Exercising and eating vegetables.

Sean: Eating vegetables and exercising.

E: Playing on the iPad!

A: Nudity. I love being naked… if only it weren’t winter.

 

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Me: Waiting in waiting rooms… but it was worth it.

Sean: Reading the news – but then, I do love knowing everything.

E: Sleeping. Sleeping is so boring.

A: THE CAR SEAT. Still trying to convince my parents.

 

20. How will you be spending did you spend Christmas?

All: With all three sets of grandparents (separately), and all the aunts and uncles and cousins we could muster!

 

21. There was no #21. I don’t know why there was no 21. Please feel free to submit one! I promise to answer.

 

22. Did you fall in love in 2012?

Me, Sean, E: Yes, with the baby!

A: Yes, with my own two hands! I wanna eat them up!

 

23. How many one-night stands?

What kind of a question is this? Do most people have that many to count up per year?

 

24. What was your favorite TV program?

Me: How I Met Your Mother, Community, BBC’s Sherlock miniseries.

Sean: Same… AND, they finally have Star Trek TNG on Netflix!

E: It’s between Backyardigans and Busytown Mysteries.

A: I think it’s called Adults Doing Goofy Things – and for some reason it’s on most of the time I’m awake.

 

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

What is this, junior high? “Hate” seems like such an immature word.

 

26. What was the best book you read?

Me: Belong to Me, by Marisa de los Santos, was compulsively readable.

Sean: Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck (a re-read, of course).

E: Berenstain Bears – lots of ones, like “Get Into a Fight“?

A: I like the story called Shhhhhh.

 

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Me: The excellent user experience of GarageBand for Mac.

Sean: The Lumineers.

E: Peter Gabriel has cool music videos. (Auntie Em showed me.)

A: There’s music!

 

28. What did you want and get?

Me: A baby.

Sean: An iPad Mini. Oh, and a baby.

E: A ramp for my cars that goes like this: {insert frenetic multi-loop-the-loop gesture}

A: My hands! To my mouth!

 

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

Me: The Hunger Games.

Sean: The Avengers.

E: I love Tangled.

A: The movie of life.

 

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Me: 34, and who remembers that far back? I’m sure it was awesome.

Sean: 35, and my first day of machinist training.

E: I turned 3, had about four birthdays, and I got presents! And cake!!

A: Full-body massage in the birth canal. Aw yeah.

 

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Immeasurably? More satisfying? How unsatisfied are we supposed to be at this point?

 

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

Me: Pajamas au lait.

Sean: Safety boots and coolant. (As if I could be any cooler.)

E: I’d be a dragon all the time if I could.

A: How should I know? I’m swaddled at least 16 hours out of 24.

 

34. What kept you sane?

Me: Same thing that drives me crazy: my kids. Plus: you guys.

Sean: Same thing that drives me crazy: doing everything as perfectly as possible.

E (direct quote): I’m not sane.

A: Khlaaaya!

 

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Me: It’s always James. Even though he did ZERO films in 2012. I’m not bitter. Until the next one, I’ll say Rick Mercer as well.

Sean: Scarlett Johanssen was awesome before… and now she’s Black Widow. Zowie.

E: Lightning McQueen.

A: Ceiling fan.

 

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

Me: Probably that teacher thing.

Sean: Harper’s Omnibullsh*t bill.

E: Equal access to my parents’ gadgets.

A: Freedom from bondage (a.k.a. swaddling) and the right to smack myself in the face if I so choose.

 

37. Who did you miss?

Sebastian. Also, please see #4. Also, sorry to say goodbye to Maurice Sendak, Ray Bradbury, Nora Ephron, Sally Ride, Neil Armstrong, Ravi Shankar, Maeve Binchy, and Dave Brubeck, among others.

 

38. Who was the best new person you met?

Me: Some amazing new readers and bloggers!

Sean: My carpooling partner, Rob. We have Guy Love.

E: Daniel, at Camp. I want to live in Ottawa now.

A: Who can pick? I met EVERYBODY this year.

 

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012:

Me: Time and patience will get you there eventually.

Sean: Don’t put your hand in the lathe chuck. Also, avoid letting your technology control your life.

E: Screeching and whining will not get me what I want. (Actually, we don’t know if this is fully learned yet.)

A: Crying will get me: milk, cuddles, diaper changes, and any number of cool sounds and funny faces.

 

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

“Baby, baby, baby, gonna love you so.”

kids ages three years, three months
Love you so.

***


 

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Best and Worst Parenting Moments (in one day)

Yesterday there were some radically contrasting highs and lows in the tapestry of our family life.

Some high points with Baby A:

  • Starting to get waking smiles this past week – the ones when she’s looking right at us, so they seem like she means them.
  • She peed on her potty for the first time! Only her second try! And she has done so three more times since then. OMG, her little face is so cute while she’s “sitting” on there. (Please click here if you think I’m a freak for putting my five-week-old on the potty.)
  • Baby burps. Is there anything more satisfying? Particularly when you have a girl – I really get a kick out of her unladylike noises (for now, at least). One of the many things that’s cute on a baby – but not so much on big people.

And some low points:

  • Always waking up with the congestion. Poor sweetie does well for the first few hours each night, but by the wee hours of the morning is feeding more and more frequently to clear her nasal passages. This is in spite of the humidifier and inclined mattress and nasal spray and a whole lotta breast milk nutrients. And I can’t keep a hat on her at night for love nor money. (Not that anyone’s offering me money.)
  • Nicking her tiny thumb while cutting her nails. BAD MOMMY MOMENT. So awful: she bled and cried really hard, and of course tears started rolling down my cheeks too. She’s fine now – you can practically watch newborns healing – but still. Traumatic.

Then there’s E, who is still so engaging and fun and silly and smart and great… and also being a frequent pain in the keister.

Yesterday he had too many episodes of whining and crying and even screaming “NO!!” at the top of his lungs. (Mostly related to screen time… sigh. But that’s another blog post.) Also several instances of doing the exact thing we’d just asked him not to do.

We got very sick of his whining and crying over nothing by the end of the day. Daddy raised his voice in frustration – which I totally understand – and E kept crying – which I also understand. At a certain point, escalation seems to be inevitable. Patience is one of the very hardest things at times like that. Plus, Sean has borne the brunt of all the whining – he’s been home for the last two weeks, between the end of school and the start of work (great timing to have days off, actually), and has been having lots of Daddy/son time while I’m with A. Much as he has enjoyed it, he has also used (up) a lot of patience.

I ended up handing the baby to Daddy and scooping up E and taking him to his room. I cuddled him and reminded him how much we love him and how we know it’s hard for things to be so different now that the baby’s here. It took him a while, but he calmed down. Then he was all confused, because wouldn’t you know it – Mama was all teary-eyed too (AGAIN). I really have been missing spending quality time with my boy, so it was a lot easier for me to distance myself from the effects of the whining.

So yeah. If you were wondering, E is definitely still adjusting to the big-brother status. Even as he fervently loves his little sister.

Big brother and little sister
The dynamic duo

Oy. Parenting is hard, eh?

***


 

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Baby Lessons, and How Daddy Saved the Day (or Night)

baby A three weeks old
Baby A, 3 weeks old

There is a lot I’m re-learning about having a very young baby. Lots of things I only half-remembered, especially the counter-intuitive parts. For instance:

  • The more sleep she gets, the sleepier she will be.
  • The more tired – or overtired – she gets, the more awake she seems.
  • She may hate the swaddle (and she DOES) but it can still calm her down.
  • She will wake up, just like E did, at that damn 40-minute mark of her nap, whether she needs more sleep or not.

I am also realizing that E was one of the easiest babies possible, especially in the early days, though I’m not sure I realized HOW easy at the time. I knew I was fortunate that he almost never cried unless there was a good reason, but I always figured our successes in certain areas – like establishing good napping habits – came from following Tracy Hogg’s advice diligently in those contexts.

Now I realize that the fact that he took a pacifier after only a few tries, or that he was mostly amenable to the swaddle, meant that he was just going easy on us. It wasn’t our exemplary technique or anything.

Baby A is a feistier, fussier baby, hands down. Not that she’s a hellion or anything – she is often very sweet and mellow. (When I worried, before she was born, that we were going to pay this time for having such a good-natured baby the first time around, I was imagining colic. So far, there’s no sign of that, and I’m very grateful.) But she fusses considerably more often than her older brother did, and when she’s upset, her mad cry is WAY madder. I was pretty startled the first time I heard it.

My daughter is a pretty good sleeper. I really can’t complain. But again, I realize how good I had it with E – he was a quiet sleeper. And he didn’t even arrive with his days and nights mixed up. Baby A, however, was a night owl for a little while. She also has had minor nasal congestion since her second week of life, which means she’s a bit more snore-ish, and she periodically does a half-awake sustained grunting thing, reminiscent of a rhino or a bulldozer or some other creature much larger than she is. It makes me worry that she’s not getting good-quality sleep – but I don’t know how to tell for sure.

Last night was the first time I had a glimpse of what it might feel like… to have the urge to shake a baby. (I can barely even type those words. What a horrifying thought.) Obviously I could never even come close to doing such a thing, but I could imagine where such a feeling would come from, if you were sleep-deprived enough, with a crying enough baby.

So basically, we were in a cycle that wasn’t getting better. I had used all my techniques to encourage her to sleep (swaddling, nursing, un-swaddling, bouncing, patting, shushing, singing, burping, etc. etc.); she would often drift off, but just wake up again and be more upset. Sean had switched places with me for a bit – I had gotten to go sit with E for a bit, which was really nice since it’s rare these days. (He asked me, because there was a sleeping bag in his room, “Can Mamas go in sleeping bags, or just Daddies?” Then he held my arm and said, “I love you.” Because he loves my arm so much.)

Daddy had gotten A to sleep, but then she awoke again. He suggested he should put her in the Moby wrap, where she sleeps very well, but I objected because I didn’t want that to be the only way she can fall asleep. (Not my best moment. I should have said yes.)

There commenced well over an hour more of trying the same things over and over and having them fail. I was already not in a very positive frame of mind, since the night before hadn’t been the best sleep either… I didn’t know what to do, and I was falling-down tired (not literally, since I was in bed with her, but you know what I mean). It was past midnight, and all I could imagine was this awful cycle continuing all night long.

Sean finally came back in and insisted on his original idea of wearing her so she and I could both get some sleep. I felt bad – because he wouldn’t be sleeping – but couldn’t say no.

And it worked. She went right to sleep in the wrap, snuggled against his chest, and he sat with her for three hours. (Glad we have internet and Netflix.) And I fell fast asleep too, and it was awesome.

baby A smiling in her sleep
Hurray for sleeping!

By the time he brought the baby back to me, she was in sleep mode: she had some milk and went straight back to sleep. Daddy finally went to bed himself, well past 3 a.m., seeming totally sanguine about the fact that he would be getting up with E in the morning at whatever hour our son’s three-year-old system decided.

Lesson learned. If it’s that time of night and overtiredness is on the horizon (or already there), use whichever technique is the most fool-proof. It’s worth it.

I love you, Hubbibi. THANK YOU. You’re the best.

***


 

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The new life of the two-child family

And now, how we’re doing back on the home front, after 2.5 weeks: Mommy, Daddy, big brother, little sister… just like the Berenstain Bears.

The New Family

What’s the same:

  • The new baby looks like Daddy! Although now, people are more likely to say she looks like her brother (who is Daddy’s Mini-Me). She does, quite a lot… but I personally think her eyes are very much her own. I spend as much time as possible staring into them, so I know.
  • It’s been easy to fall in love with her, as with her brother. I’m sure they make babies so snuggly and adorable like that on purpose.
  • Breastfeeding is hard at first. I’ve had a relatively hassle-free time of it – no serious latch or milk supply problems – but it was like starting from scratch with this baby. Re-learning how to help her open wide, and cringing through the pain of the first few days of feeding. By this point, we have reached the stage where I only wince when she first latches, and then we’re good.
  • Of course, we’ve also reached the stage where the milk is ALL IN and it’s a bit too much for her sometimes. She’ll get the flow going and then let go – and get sprayed in the face. (This helps her keep her youthful complexion.) Now I remember why we went through so many receiving blankets in a week with E.
  • She often does the “fresh-air pee” when the diaper comes off, just like E. I thought it was a boy thing, but no, girls have the skills too. Just not the aim. (Which is in fact a good thing, since E was known to aim at his own face sometimes.)
  • Baby A didn’t like her first bath either… although she resigned herself to it more quickly than E did as a newborn. (She was positively mellow for the second bath.)
baby's first bath
Angry Birds shows her angry side.
baby bath
Learning to live with it.

What’s different:

  • Girl parts. It is a very different thing, and rather intimidating, changing the diaper of a baby girl. So many more crevices! I guess it’s handy that Mother Nature sees fit to enlarge babies’ genitals when they are first born – like a magnified version to practice on until you have your bearings.
  • Pink stuff. We have been very grateful for the gifts and hand-me-downs that are clothing our daughter so far… but wow! You’d think it was the law for baby girls to wear pink and only pink. We throw in some “unisex” clothing just for fun sometimes.
baby girl wearing green
Yep, she’s a little cross-eyed sometimes. That’s normal, right?
  • Baby A is actually kinda chunky. E was always long and lean, even though he was a big eater, but A has the beginnings of baby thunder-thighs. Yay!
Baby A a few days old
Only a few days old but already squeezable.
  • “Cute little” baby noises. I remember that E used to make noise while eating – contented sighs and so on – and that was pretty sweet. Baby A does too, but I swear it’s five times louder. In the quiet of the night, when she needs feeding, she sounds like a ravenous wolf-pup who’s never eaten before. If she accidentally pops off her latch, it’s even more loud and angry and frantic. And those times when she’s working on filling her diaper, she grunts and growls like a dump truck going full-tilt on rough terrain. (HA – dump truck! Get it??… Yeah. Sorry about that.) It’s not ladylike… but it does make us giggle.
  • Sleep deprivation. Good thing the embodiment of my exhaustion has such a cute, kissable face. (There’s no way that’s a biological coincidence.) It is a whole other world when there’s a new baby and a busy, ebullient, non-napping three-year-old in the house. So far, I’ve been very lucky: my brother is in town and has helped us quite a bit, taking E out for bike rides/park visits/swimming lessons while I nap with the baby, holding A while I do other things (like brushing my teeth, sorting laundry, etc.). He even has some cool techniques for burping her. My elder sister, though busy, also steps in when she can (she’s done a heck of a lot of dishes, among other things), and Sean always makes sure I get to sleep in with the baby when he’s home on weekends. But on those mornings when E is all raring to go and it’s just the three of us… I’ve tasted what it is (and what it will be) to suck it up and just function – albeit in a blurry, half-numb kind of way. Still totally worth it. And E is (mostly) such a good boy… He learned while I was pregnant that Mommy needs a few minutes of “warmup” before getting out of bed – and now he even understands that sometimes his sister has to eat breakfast before he does. He’s very patient with us. Again: I am one fortunate mama.
  • We are gradually figuring out some nighttime sleeping. It’s been… pretty okay. Looking back, I realize that E slept quite well at night right from the beginning – 3-4-hour chunks were his standard – but A has shown more nocturnal tendencies. There were a few nights right at the beginning that were very wakeful and tough – one in particular where, for three-and-a-half hours, I would feed her, she’d fall asleep, I’d put her down, and within two minutes she’d be rousing herself, making desperate rooting noises and wildly trying to suck her fingers. By 2:30 a.m., I was starting to wonder if she was actually a possessed demon-baby. (Then she fell asleep.)
  • Brother/sister dynamic. E is so excited to have a little sister; it’s beyond awesome to see his face light up around her. The tricky part is making sure he doesn’t literally smother her with love. If he had his way, he’d be right on the nursing pillow with her, with both hands on her delicious cheeks, and he’d never stop kissing her. We are constantly quelling him – but of course trying really hard to encourage him, too. And reassure him that he is just as loved as ever… and that Mommy is still capable of being fun – at least a little. Sigh.
big brother and little sister
Big brother, baby sister, and Auntie Em.
  • There are times when we can tell E is still working on this adjustment – getting inordinately upset over things that wouldn’t normally upset him. He is also demonstrating very selective hearing at the moment. And occasional bursts of outright defiance. We just try our best to help him through those… without overindulging him. (It’s not simple – anyone have tips on this?)
  • The hormone-coaster. I was definitely hormonal after E was born – I remember crying at all kinds of little things – but it was all happy crying. This time, it is similar, but more bittersweet. For most of the first week of A’s life, Sean and E both slept in E’s room, away from our family bed – until I had a meltdown. I was no longer brushing E’s teeth or reading him stories or taking him for bike rides or doing most of the other fun things I’ve been known to do, and it suddenly hit me that things would never be the same for us. I could never give him as much as I had been giving; it was the end of an era. I found myself grieving the loss of our relationship, the way it used to be… and the hormones just made me sadder. Now, it does help to have him back in our room at night, where I can hear him breathing and put my hand out to touch him. (Of course, when he decides he’s ready to be by himself in his own bed, I’m determined to be fine with it.)
  • Speaking of postnatal emotions, I’m sure you’ve guessed that Sebastian is still in my mind all the time. It’s part of what makes me grateful for every single aspect, good and bad, of this experience. It’s also what makes me tend toward hypochondria where A is concerned; all of her noises have made me fret about whether her nasal passages are wide enough, even though I’m pretty sure she’s perfect… I worried about SIDS with E, but actually worry more about it now, instead of being more laid-back with my second time parenting a newborn. But I’m trying not to dwell on it.

What I’d forgotten:

  • The milk jugs. I was reminded last summer of how giant one’s boobs can get when the milk comes in; what I’d forgotten was the sensation of looking down and realizing that they’re actually considerably larger than my baby’s head. Bizarre. I’m glad that stage is waning – especially since it’s because I get to feed that milk to someone this time. That part is inexpressibly wonderful.
  • Baby softness. You know in your mind that babies have soft skin, but it’s impossible to believe how soft it really is except when you’re touching it. It’s almost liquid.
  • Milk face. There’s this expression Baby A gets right when she finishes eating and “pops off” – she gets the pouty lips and looks full to almost bursting. E made that exact same face, but I didn’t remember it until I saw it in his sister.
  • So many adorable newborn things – the bobble-head effect, the startle reflex, the big luxurious stretches, the sleepy arms that are so limp it’s like they have no bones, the way she tucks up her legs and sticks out her bum when you pick her up… Such great stuff, and so fleeting.

What I remembered:

  • Healing your lady bits is not as fun as it sounds. Ha ha. I’m very stoked to have only two stitches this time, but it’s still hard to find time take care of them properly. (Very much worth the trouble, though. Let’s hear it for the sitz bath!)
  • Newborn ears are so tiny and exquisite. One of the perks of breastfeeding is getting to gaze at them a lot.
newborn baby ears
Perfect baby ear. (The other one’s just as cute.)
  • Sleeping baby… ahhhhh. Nothin’ like it.

sleeping baby

sleeping baby 2

sleeping baby 3

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