5-Day Artist Challenge, Day 2: Drama

Today on 5-Day Artist Challenge, I bring you DRAMA.

If art is bread for the soul, I’m gonna say that drama is… French toast. You take some words/bread that someone else made a while ago, and make it your own. You give it new life with your own egg/milk mixture of interpretation. It might, in the end, look completely different from how it looked before you renewed it, but in essence, it is the same.

Dramatic French toast.
Dramatic French Toast via generationyfoodie.com.

(Yes. Not all forms of drama fit this French-toast paradigm. I know I’m stretching it. It’s late.)

I love drama in many ways. Not in my life, particularly, but to witness, as a discipline. I have a lot of respect for good acting, both cinematic and theatrical. And I am thrilled by high-quality improvisation.

I’m not particularly talented at it, myself. (My sister Emily and my mom are both really good actors, so I know what that looks like.) Of course, I was in many a Christmas play as a child in Quaker Meeting. I once starred as the Robin in a play I believe was called “Robin Saves Christmas.” All I recall was that I played the piano at the end of the presentation (to represent church bells) and then accidentally put my wings on upside-down to deliver my last line.

At age thirteen or fourteen, I also played half of Della in The Gift of the Magi – that is, Della before her hair is cut short.

5 day artist challenge drama gift of the magi
I’m on the left, all verklempt because I have no money for my beloved’s Christmas present.

The kids in our family all participated in the Kiwanis Festival, and I did many poetry recitations and Shakespearean scenes. I can remember being told on more than one occasion that my voice was too soft, I needed to project more.

Also as a young teen, I came to understand the power of a dramatic performance to move an audience to tears and/or goosebumps when the drama club at Intermediate Camp put on a self-created series of sketches about gender stereotypes. I fervently wished I’d been part of it – I’d always been in the drama club before, when all we did was play games, but this… It was drama to make an impression, make a difference.

I was briefly part of the drama club in high school, but I was not in any of the musicals. I was kinda sad about that, but I was also already an overcommitted teenager (by choice).

In my second year of university, I went on a 5-week immersion bursary trip to Québec, and became part of the improv team. It was super-fun and scary. I have a distinctly proud memory of being part of a sketch that cracked up the crowd. (I was crouched down, holding my nose for a nasal vocal quality, for my role as the tape-player in beginner French class.)

In my third year of university, I played “Charlotte” in Du poil aux pattes comme les CWACs for a Québecois lit course. I think I was pretty bad. I know I could never manage to convince even myself that my crying was real when I got the news that my boyfriend had been Killed in Action. But I did drop to my knees with such commitment that one of them bled, so that must count for something.

Nowadays, my dramatic skills are mostly used for dancing (MOTL), teaching the AIM program in Core French, and reading stories to my kids. As a narrator, I’m no Morgan Freeman, but I can say that the more I like the story, the better my acting. And as a teacher – you can bet I’ve learned to project.

My kids, on the other hand, are great at bringing lots of drama into our everyday lives. I never have to worry that life will be too humdrum.



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Here we are. Two years.


It’s here. This day has been homing in on me for weeks.

As I begin to write this, at 2:21 p.m., it was exactly two years ago that my husband and I wandered around the mall with my induction prescription in hand, wondering how we’d manage family phone calls to tell everyone that the baby had died.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been realizing that hot weather is now a trigger for me. It gets warm and sticky and suddenly I think of cabbage leaves and ice packs and bitter sage tea (it wasn’t any better iced). Sorrowing days. Plans and purposes unhooked, dangling. And so much crying. Writing and crying.

And, as I am grateful to remember, enormous love.

We have been using the air conditioning more than usual, because my coping skills diminish in proportion to the rising humidity. I regularly get tears in my eyes over some inconsequential thing; at first I kept thinking, What is wrong with me?? But once I made the connection, it all made perfect sense.

Feeling grouchy, frustrated, and short-fused is not cleansing grief. When I’m just grumpy, and not feeling close to my Sebastian, it just makes me depressed. And anyway, how do I put into words what it means to “feel close” to a son I only held in my arms once he was already gone?

I have a friend whose beloved stillborn son should have turned four just as my firstborn did. She is an amazing source of wisdom and words that fit perfectly. She says Crying is love. This is exactly true. Crying is the best way I know to access what I have of my son – which is mostly just love.

As I was telling another caring friend who wrote me a much-needed note this morning, a day like this shows me how seldom I let myself think deeply about Sebastian. I can’t afford to get weepy every hour (especially because E already does that). Reality needs me to function reasonably well.

Even at times when I am thinking of him, I’m not necessarily feeling him. Yesterday, our little family took a trip to the local pottery shop to make a clay memorial marker for Sebastian. I was glad we did, but mostly I thought about Are those letters straight and Is E getting bored and It’s almost Baby AB’s nap time and Please don’t let anyone impale him/herself on an etching tool.

I guess that’s for the best. I mean, I know it is. I wouldn’t have wanted to weep all over our clay masterpiece. But it’s a good thing there are days like today, when I can sink into the sadness for a little while (the length of a baby nap). Strangely, it’s sort of a good sad. Good in a heartbreaking way, because that’s how I get to feel close to my baby.

Last night, waiting for sleep, all I could think of was his face. I still remember it – I deliberately tried to imprint it on my mind – but it’s getting harder. I thought about the feel of his cheek, so incredibly soft, but cool and pale and lean, never having had the chance to fill in. I lay there and listened to his sister breathing beside me, she of the warm, rosy, very chubby cheeks. My heart was so full, it was hard to breathe.

I know there are countless ways to lose a child. When I hear the awful stories of other bereaved parents, I usually feel grateful that our loss was as simple and peaceful and unpreventable as it was. At the same time, when I think of how it felt to let my little boy leave my arms forever… the pain comes back, sharp and raw. The simple version of loss still hurts a lot.

Also when I think of E, and how he would have played with his brother, how they’d probably share a bunk bed already, and chase each other, and squabble over dinky cars… and how I’m not sure we are succeeding in keeping him reminded that he once had a baby brother he never met – how one of these days, it will suddenly become real for him, and I don’t know what we’ll do then… Those thoughts hurt a lot too.

I ferociously wish I could protect my E from this loss, and I’m incredibly thankful for him and for my vivacious little rainbow girl, and I miss my tiny unknowable boy so much, and I love all three of them to death-defying heights.

As I finish writing this (having done some reality in the interim), it’s 10:36 p.m. Two years ago, I was feeling the first twinges of contractions, and I was just over four hours away from giving birth.

So tomorrow is Sebastian’s birthday.

A lot has happened in those two years. I know I am different. Still his same mom, though.

Thank you so much for reading today.


Image from Wikimedia Commons.



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The Blooming Season

This weekend is a big one for me.

On Saturday, I’ll be thirty-five years old. (Holy smokes.) And of course, Sunday is Mother’s Day.

Over the past week or so, something has been making me feel slightly odd and touched in the head. There’s been a phantom baby inside me. Not that I have actual pregnancy symptoms (other than exhaustion and fluctuations in appetite, which can be chalked up to the baby outside me). I am definitely not pregnant.

But it’s weird – I feel movements. Convincing ones that make me involuntarily put a hand on my abdomen.

If at this point you want to take me gently aside and explain about my digestive system and gas bubbles, don’t worry. I know most of what I’m feeling is the normal business of the human body. I’ve been thinking to myself, Dilovely, you’re being ridiculous, you haven’t been pregnant for seven months.

And then it occurred to me: I have spent a large fraction of the last five years pregnant. More specifically, I have been pregnant for 4 of the last 5 birthdays and Mother’s Days.

In 2008, one of the years my birthday coincided with Mother’s Day, a cluster of cells the size of a poppyseed was growing in my womb, only to release itself 17 days later.

In 2009, I was rotund, less than a month away from the hardest and most amazing experience of my life to that date: delivering my firstborn son.

In 2011, I was expecting his brother, who would, as you know, arrive five weeks early, and leave us even before we held him.

Last year on Mother’s Day, I was halfway through my pregnancy with Baby AB, having monthly ultrasounds and periodic ECGs, hyper-aware of every signal she provided telling me she was okay. Now, she’s just over seven months old, and as healthy as rosy little piglet. She weighs over four times what Sebastian weighed at birth.

Once I put all this together, I stopped fretting about my phantom baby. No wonder when I sing lullabies to my daughter, I find myself reflexively imagining the sound travelling through my body to envelop a tiny person inside. It kind of makes sense that as my body takes in the thrilling fragrances of the blooming season, it should also remember its own blooming. It’s not a flight of fancy; it’s just a memory.

Baby Sleeping in a Rose by Catt Kyriacou

And why should I be the only one to feel this presence?

This morning, E asked me, seemingly apropos of nothing, “Mama, when is the new baby coming?”

There was an upside-down moment where I was right in step with his question, then a jolt as I reminded myself that it was a strange thing for him to say.

I had to ask him to repeat it, just to be sure I’d heard him right. I know he still wishes for a baby brother (one he can keep). Lovingly, I told him I’m not pregnant; he responded matter-of-factly, “Yes, you are.”

And it’s rational enough. Why shouldn’t I be pregnant every spring, like a mama duck? His memories of my pregnancies may be vague, but they might still inform his inner concept of spring.


My first uninhabited Mother’s Day since Sebastian. There’s something really hard about this.


In truth, I’m glad not to be pregnant. I definitely have my arms full as it is. If I feel emptiness as well… I can manage it. It hurts, but then – there’s so much joy in living with my scrumptious little progeny. This full-empty Mother’s Day is unique to this moment in my life, this golden babyhaving time that’s as tough as it is glorious – and brief.

I’m thankful for all of it.



Visit Yeah Write for some high quality weekend reading…


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For my sweet grandmother

I have one living grandparent, my dad’s mother. She is a treasure of a person.

I remember a particular conversation we had when I was seven or eight, while she was visiting from Texas. We were out in my backyard together, talking about boys as I swung on the swingset. I asked her earnestly, “Wina, who would you want to marry?”

She said thoughtfully, in her gentle drawl, “Well, if I could have Bob back, I would.”

Oh yeah. Just because I didn’t remember my grandpa Shep, who died when I was two, didn’t mean she’d forgotten him. She was so independent, so fulfilling as a grandma, I forgot she’d once been part of a team. It had never occurred to me how much she must miss him.

Edwina (pronounced Ed-WINna) was born in Claude, Texas in 1918. In her family, she had a big sister, a younger brother, an even younger brother who died of the flu as a toddler, and a very much younger sister. From what I can understand, she was a smart cookie and a cutie.

young wina
Total cutie, n’est-ce pas?

There’s a “Wina’s childhood” story involving a roof the kids used to slide down, and a protruding nail, and a lot of screaming. ‘Tis an immortal tale within our clan, one that sticks out most in my mind, but it’s not very celebratory.

I’m sure they got up to lots of hijinks that were way more fun.

Hi-jinks, indeed. That’s li’l Edwina in the middle.

But most of the stories Wina tells are about her kids – a son and two daughters – and grandkids. Many quotable moments are legendary in our clan.

My grandma is a tough, brave lady. She met Bob just after World War II broke out. (He called her “Dwina”.) They got married the day he finished jump school. It was hot as blazes and they only had a six-hour honeymoon in a hotel room with a ceiling fan, then went out for an old South-style breakfast with biscuits. Then Wina’s new husband had to leave for training with the 101st Airborne.

She gave birth to little Bobii, my dad, in an army base hospital in Fort Bragg in 1943. Bob didn’t quite make it there for the birth, but eventually got to count his son’s toes, and was almost right on the money with his birthweight bet.

He was on leave for perhaps three weeks, and then he was off to war and Wina had to figure the rest out on her own. She and her sister shared a home and the parenting of their children – the firstborns only a few weeks apart in age – while their husbands were far away. It was what lots of mamas did back then, managed on their own while (I would think) trying not to imagine their husbands parachuting into Normandy and suchlike.

She talks about those times matter-of-factly, as if her bravery is nothing special. The courage of the young wartime mamas might have been widespread, but there’s nothing ordinary about it. I think about the stress of a becoming a mother for the first time combined with the stress of wondering if your husband will be home alive and how many months or years it might be till then… and I simply don’t know how anyone made it through those times.

My parents moved to Canada before we were born, so we were the only cousins who never lived in Houston with Wina. Visiting Wina was always a major undertaking, and a wildly exciting venture.

In our minds, Wina’s house was inextricable from her beloved self. Wina and Shep had moved there with their kids in the 50s, and everything about it was imbued with the specialness of her.

At Wina’s house, the pillows were puffy and bouncy, and her sheets were pretty colours like lavender. (My favourite set had a design of the moon over a beach.) Her bathroom tile was pink and the walls in “our” room were turquoise. There was a poster of Mucha’s Seasons above the bed, which we adored (I now have the same image decorating my laptop).

Alphonse Mucha – Les saisons

In the kitchen, there was a collection of tiny decorative spoons in their own special rack on the wall, and in her bedroom was a ceramic Jemima Puddleduck music box. I still remember the tune and how it made me sad but happy at the same time, made me want to stay at Wina’s forever.

Some things were special just because they were different from home: venetian blinds, and single-portioned yogurts and puddings, and cartoons on TV – Woody Woodpecker is linked in my mind with granola in Wina’s living room.

Then there was The Garage, that fabled land which, to my knowledge, never contained a car. It was full of everything else in the world: jigsaw puzzles and photos and thousands of tiny drawers filled with interesting things, especially art supplies. Oil pastels and coloured pencils and confusing non-pencils (that I now understand to be blending stumps) – all part of Shep’s legacy. Just being in that garage felt like an adventure.

Picturing all these things, I can almost smell Wina’s house. Eucalyptus, hand cream, and peach potpourri, melded with Houston’s moist tropical heat. Once, after a particularly wonderful visit when I was twelve (so good I cried the entire trip home), I refused to launder the pajamas I’d worn at Wina’s until that scent had completely dissipated.

She’s a very humble lady. Though I haven’t heard it recently, she had a beautiful, warbling singing voice I thought all grandmas came with. I also didn’t know until adulthood that she was a proficient seamstress who made all kinds of clothes for her family. When we’d look at old photos and say how beautiful she was, she would say dismissively, “Oh, I was never beautiful.” But she was, and is.

 Wina with Bobii and Suzan.

She is also gentle, generous, giving, forgiving.

She’s the kind of grandma who gives up her own bed and sleeps on the couch when her family comes to stay.

I can’t recall her ever raising her voice at us, even though we must have been aggravating plenty of times.

As kids, we cherished the outfits Wina took us shopping for, and the paper dolls she would have waiting for us each time we visited. (We had epic paper doll dramas in the city of the Garage.)

movie star paper dolls
These were an inspired choice.

When I visited alone the summer I was seventeen, she loyally said she enjoyed listening to me learn to play the alto sax from Lesson 1 (so I could be in the jazz band in September) – even though I know for sure I sounded pretty terrible at first.

She also understood and forgave much more serious transgressions by people she loved; I remember talking about some of those things that summer, and realizing that Wina’s love, while not at all naive, was endlessly compassionate.

She always sent the most gorgeous birthday cards, with loving messages in her quirky handwriting. Those cards have been replaced with even quirkier birthday email messages composed of equal parts unique humour, poetry, and love. (Yes, my 94-year-old grandma does email. She has also been known to Skype, frequent Facebook, and read blogs – at least those her children and grandchildren produce.)

The last time I visited Wina’s house, shortly before getting pregnant with E, we spent a lot of time looking at old photos – ones from Wina’s childhood and earlier, those that never really interested me when I was little, but are suddenly fascinating.

There was one that I couldn’t stop staring at, a portrait of Wina at about age 10. It held my gaze because she just looked so gentle and sweet, a little shy-and-spunky at once, just the way she is now. It’s written in her high school yearbook too – such a nice, sweet, kind person – over and over. She isn’t just kind and lovely because she’s my grandma – she’s kind and lovely because that’s who she is. Her lovingness arches over our whole family and makes us the unit we are.

It’s hard getting old. Wina has always been spry, used to take walks every day with some ladies from her neighbourhood. But bodies will stubbornly age, no matter how well we take care of them. Hers has given her trouble over the last few years. Between aging pains and medications to ease them, it’s hard to feel normal. It’s been very difficult and rough on her, as well as on her children.

In 2012, when my aunt and uncle retired and moved from Houston to North Carolina, it was time for her to move too. I think that’s really, really hard. When you’ve been in the same house for more than fifty years – the house where you lived with your husband – you might know it’s not the place to be anymore, but that doesn’t make it easier to leave.

Like I said, my grandma is tough and brave. She now lives in a retirement home in NC. When I last talked to her, she never complained about the loss of her independence or living in a place that’s not home. She admitted that it’s “disconcerting” when people she chatted with yesterday in the dining room are suddenly gone, because they’ve died.

She mentioned that she has a hard time keeping track of things sometimes, and a hard time feeling like herself. I asked, “Do you miss your house in Houston?” After a pause, she said, in her mild and unassuming way, “I guess that’s it.”

I miss your home too, Wina. I always will. But far more than that, I miss you. I wish I could share these two great-grandchildren with you in person, that they could know you properly. I wish I could hug your sweet self and tell you I love you, right in your ear, every day.

We have some weddings coming up in our family, so for now, I’ll just look forward to celebrating with you. I can’t wait to see you, Wina. I love you more than words can say.




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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?



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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Advent Awesomeness

Hey everybody,


homemade advent calendar

It’s basically the coolest advent calendar EVER. Auntie Beth has some serious crafty skillz! That polar bear is very soft and fuzzy, as is the snowman’s hat. I would love to say that I made it myself for my beloved firstborn, but no… I think he’d be about sixteen by the time I pulled off something of this magnificence.

{My first instinct, when I saw it, was to blog it that very moment. But I took the weekend off! And it felt weird, but nice.}

She gave it to E on December 1st, as is appropriate, and each morning since then, he has needed to see it and check the new numbered pocket immediately after waking up. He is obsessed with it (especially the number 13 pocket, which is mysteriously bumpy… as more of them will be, as soon as Mama manages to get time to fill things properly). So far, he has a collection of three little temporary tattoos.

I love advent calendars. When we were kids, we each had our own advent calendar. None of your temporary chocolate-based calendars, but beautiful artisanesque ones where finding the numbers was tricky, and inside each window was a beautiful festive picture. My calendar – the best one – was the snowy elves’ village, where the windows to be opened were mostly actual windows and doors in the scene, so when you opened them they revealed what was happening in the elves’ homes.

It was the same every year, but I LOVED IT. It was so, so exciting.

We were fortunate, where we live, to have a light, pretty snowfall on November 30th, so that December first looked fitting as advent-calendar day.

I have a blogger-mama-friend whose holiday-inspired posts last year thrilled me to no end. Here’s one with a beautiful pic of the advent calendar she made for her boys… So great. (Keep browsing for reindeer cookie photos!)

Happy December, Di-hards!



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Why I Love the Banjo

You may be thinking, Wait, Dilovely, aren’t you that crazy smitten ukulele fan? Yes, I am indeed. But I also love the banjo.

Sometime when I was in university, I remember being at home with the family and we were listening to an old vinyl record of Steve Martin’s standup comedy. He was doing a bit about how it’s impossible to play sad music on the banjo, and proceeded to play this insanely happy little number on his own banjo.

Steve Martin and his banjo – photo courtesy of basementrug.com

At that moment, I realized: it’s true! Or basically true, anyway – I’d never heard a sad banjo song, and there was something incredibly sweet about the sound of it. I loved it.

Since then, I have made a point of enjoying lots of banjo music, including Steve Martin’s recent banjo album – a gift from my Hubbibi – called The Crow. (E likes it too.) The song “Tin Roof”, from this album, is one of my favourite songs ever.

I also enjoy another banjo player named Alison Brown. Here’s a li’l video of her song, “(I’m Naked and I’m) Going to Glasgow”. Once the banjo kicks in, you hear the happy sound I’m talking about – and so do these random dancing people at the folk festival. You can’t not smile, watching them. (Dancing : good for the soul… Way to relish your humanity, people!)


What I have come to realize is that my attraction to the sound of this particular instrument was inevitable. Two of my deepest, most beloved musical memories of childhood involve the banjo (yep, we’re going back to the 80s again! Lucky readers!).

Firstly, there’s Free to Be… You and Me, by Marlo Thomas and Friends. We only had the soundtrack (on a cassette tape with a purple label), never actually saw the TV special that spawned the songs, but we listened to those songs (and stories, and spoken pieces) A LOT. And we loved them fervently. You’d better believe they’re still in the files. From Free to Be (I thought of it as one word, “freedabee”) we learned that it’s all right to cry, that boys can play with dolls, that girls can sometimes run faster than boys and don’t have to get married to be happy, that you don’t have to fit expectations to be a good person, and that you can connect with people in all kinds of unexpected situations. GREAT STUFF.


Then there’s Cabbage Patch Dreams. Oh. Love.

I was one of those kids who wished for a Cabbage Patch Kid at that moment in the 80s when people were poking each other in the eyes with umbrellas fighting over them. I was warned that Santa might not be able to come through for me. The story goes that my grandpa was actually the one who went shopping, blissfully unaware of the significance of his errand. He inquired of a staff person at the store, and was immediately and stealthily ushered to a back storage room where they had exactly one left. Gilbertina Jill.

My sisters also got Cabbies (as we called them) eventually, as did every other kid on the continent. My best friend was one of those people who had, like, four of them, including a Preemie and one with cornsilk hair. (But she didn’t love hers with the same devotion that I loved mine.) We also had three different CPK storybooks with tapes that read to you.

But the very best thing was a tape called “Cabbage Patch Dreams”. It’s a story about the Kids of the Cabbage Patch and their escapades, specifically the time that Lavender McDade recruited Cabbage Jack and Beau Weasel to kidnap two of the Kids (Sybil Sadie and Rachel Marie) to work in her gold mine. Good ol’ Otis Lee, who could sometimes be a scamp, played a crucial role in their rescue. They flew home on the back of the Stork (who was also the Narrator), Colonel Casey.

This story is told mostly through songs – some of the best damn songs a human kid could hope for. (I’m actually serious – musically, they still hold up when I listen to them now. Great instrumentation and solid harmonies.)

Listening to this tape was actually an event. We would gather in the living room, and our Cabbies would sing along, even enact certain songs. And we would all sit quietly, reverently, practically weeping, when “Get Back Home” would come on, a heartrending ballad sung by the kidnapped Kids.

Words cannot properly express how moving this whole adventure was. Whether we pictured ourselves or our beloved Kids as victims of kidnapping, it was a pretty poignant scenario. And the tape was long enough that when it was over, we truly felt like we’d been part of a whole adventure. This song was at the beginning and end of the story, creating a perfect sense of closure for the emotional arc.

Note: awesome banjo.


You see, Di-hards? I have been nerdy for a very long time.

AND, there’s a reason the banjo is a deep-seated part of my sense of self and well-being.


I’m putting an extra bonus video in here for you. This is another beloved Freedabee song (no banjo, but the flutes are lovely); on our soundtrack there was just one female singer, singing about “you” and “me”. I’d never seen the TV version, but this kinda broke my heart.

Look at li’l skinny 14-year-old Michael Jackson, so happy and – well, probably not innocent, since he was already a huge star, but… young and fresh, anyway. Participating in such an optimistic, wholesome project for kids. I hope he actually felt the joy he portrays – and held on to at least some of it through adulthood.



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Thanks for the mammaries, and the 80s junk food ads

As I was just telling my mother, I am not myself today. I think it’s because I made one of my boobs angry.

I guess it’s easier to do than I realized, while breastfeeding full-time. I was just trying to be consistent and make sure I keep the supply even on both sides… I realized I’d done the right side twice, so I wanted to make sure I did the same with the left (they do have names, BTW, but I’m not sure I’m ready to share them on the Interwebs). Of course, this happened to be during the night, when I tend to lie on my front/side. So my right breast got all offended and rock-hard and started hurting like the dickens.

I think that must have been the reason that at the 3 a.m. feed, I realized I was freezing cold, and couldn’t get warm or stop shivering even when I finally made myself get up to put on warmer clothes and another blanket (#4, plus flannel sheets). Apparently all the heat in my body was focused into the seething ache of Mammary the Right. I don’t remember ever getting feverish from breast engorgement before – not even when both of them were filled with milk and there was no Sebastian to feed it to.

Basically, I did not sleep well, or much. By morning, I was dizzy and sore all over. If I seem kinda punchy, that’s why.

Thank God my Hubbibi was here today – he changed Baby A’s poopy bum, and ensured that I could sleep uninterrupted for a couple hours. It made a huge difference. He’ll be starting a new job very soon; I just got lucky that he’s still home right now.

In spite of all this, I’m still very grateful for my magic milk jugs. Even if one is getting grumpy in her, uh, middle age. They are still amazing assets.

On a totally different topic, Sean and I were talking last night at dinner about 80s commercials, and which ones stick in our minds. It’s weird how those things learned in childhood don’t go away. I remember this Pringles ad so well that sometimes, the jingle gets stuck in my head, apparently out of nowhere.

OMG, classic. The hair, the colours, the over-exuberance, the incredibly cheesy script. It’s all there. (One of the girls in this commercial is from our hometown – we went to high school with her. One of my many claims to fame.)

Then there’s the Caramilk Secret.

This particular “Hacker” ad was running at a time in my life when I couldn’t imagine being ever HALF as cool as this girlfriend. She teases her boyfriend and rolls her eyes with utmost confidence; she’s got great hair and wicked hoop earrings and an awesome jean jacket; it’s like she knows how this is all gonna go down, but she’s too cool to worry about it. (Plus, her teeth are perfect. In 1988, when I was ten years old with a very overcrowded smile that I tried never to have captured on film, having pretty teeth was one of my most cherished goals.)

Finally, I have to include Smarties. American readers, you may or may not have an idea of what real Smarties are, but I can tell you, these are the ones. They are not just little round candy-coated chocolate buttons; no. They are FORMATIVE CANDY. For years, Canadian kids have used them for many cool activities – not just eating them, but creating artful rainbow mosaics on the table, licking the outside and painting their faces with the colours, and carefully sucking the colour off so you can see that they’re all actually white underneath… and brown underneath that – profound stuff, people! (And did you know? In recent years, the colours look different because they’ve been replaced with natural dyes.)

This jingle is no less influential. If you knew the words as a kid, you still know them now. They entrench themselves like scripture, creating the perfect blend of peer pressure, rebelliousness, and cachet. Although I didn’t actually remember these images, watching them was like recalling a recurring dream: every shot was viscerally familiar.

When I was really little, we only watched TVOntario, which was commercial-free. Even after that, commercials were basically always put on mute in our house, so I really don’t know how these ones got so ingrained. I barely remember any TV ads from the 90s or after. I guess my files were already full – and, it seems, un-deletable. Maybe that’s why I’m not good at remembering important historical dates and national capitals – too much inane 80s fun taking up space in my brain.

And honestly, who’s to say which information is more important?

(Heh heh.)



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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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For my sparkly grandmother

I have a necklace my maternal grandmother bequeathed to me. She bought it in Greece, on a long-ago voyage. Whenever I wear it, I get compliments on it. I say, “It used to be my grandmother’s,” and people are taken aback, because it’s so funky and contemporary-looking. I’ve always simply said, “She’s a really stylish lady.”

About eight years ago, Gramma Sue, as she’s known to us, endeavoured to write down the story of her life, and then recorded herself reading it.

Last Saturday, she shed her mortality. With it, she shed her blindness, her immobility, her increasing forgetfulness, and the frail, uncomfortable husk of her body.

Over the past few days, listening to her voice reading her story, it was wonderful to hear her as I will always remember her: articulate, philosophical, funny, and vital – not to mention grammatically impeccable.

When we, her grandchildren, picture her life as she told it, it’s like something out of a movie. In high school in Indiana, she was popular, a go-getter, participating in (and usually leading) honor societies, student council, social club, dramatic club. When she was eighteen, she read the book Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and developed a passionate ambition to fly a plane. She was turned down at age 19 for a flight-training course offered by the government, but enjoyed working for an airline for several years. (She worked in reservations, which had always been done exclusively by men; she told United Airlines that they would need women in these jobs as the war drew away the men, and they might as well start with her, so they did!)

She was also intelligent, full of humour, and beautiful, with a vivacious, twinkly smile – drawing comparisons to pin-up girls – and was understandably sought-after. But she didn’t date – or kiss – just anyone. In her love life, she wouldn’t be satisfied with anything but the real thing.


Sue - 1940

She met Frank on a blind date set up by her sister; he was rooming with a friend’s family. She didn’t particularly want to go on the date, and did not have very high expectations. On seeing his picture, she dismissed him as “too handsome – probably spoiled”. Continue reading “For my sparkly grandmother”

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