Undulating Perspective II: Blurry?

Odd how my last post was about climbing ladders out of dark places… and then this week I’ve felt barely able to climb a very short ladder.

I’ve just gone back and re-read a post from almost four years ago, in which I discussed how widely varied is my outlook on life, depending on several (mostly physical) factors. It was both comforting and kinda sad to read my own words and realize that my present self seems to be in the exact same mental place as my past self. Except I rather think that my fluctuations are a bit more intense these days… but maybe it’s just that I don’t remember clearly. I know I tend to look back on E’s babyhood with rose-coloured glasses, so maybe it was actually just as hard.

Here are some things contributing to my ladder-slipping:

  • Realizing that, for the past five years (plus a month or two), I have been either pregnant or breastfeeding (at night), except for a six-month window when I was intensely grieving. So basically, I don’t remember what it’s like to have proper energy levels.
  • We are passing around a cold – it’s been well over a month now – and I’m not sure how we’re ever supposed to kick it without KIBOSHING ALL BABY KISSES, which is simply not gonna happen.
  • It gets me down when my house is a mess… but I have this little person in my house who believes it’s her sworn duty to un-tidy everything I tidy up – usually simultaneously. She is a champion meddler/messer-upper. And her brother willingly collaborates, when he’s home.
  • Work has been tough this week. I came home one day and confessed to Sean that it was one of those days where I ask myself Why did I pick this job again? I said, “It was like pulling teeth the whole time,” to which he mischievously responded, “Imagine if you COULD pull their teeth?” That did provide a good chuckle. (“Come here, kid. You’ve just lost another molar.”)
  • Baby AB has sharp teeth that can put serious dents in your finger, if you let ’em. Now imagine that on your nipple. NOT. COOL. E had a short stint of nipple-biting, but always let go when I yelled. This one just hangs on.
  • As you may have surmised above, Baby AB and I are still not sleeping through the night. This is undoubtedly the main cause of my lack of optimism. We are working on it, and I’m sure eventually all will be well. But in the meantime… sigh.
  • E is still in his dramatic phase (or what we desperately pray is a phase). It seems he’s pretty sweet at school most of the time, but at home he has a tendency to use his nasty voice and/or whiny voice and/or horrible screeches often enough that Sean and I are both losing patience way more often than we’d like. With two kids at the screamy stage together, it’s a bit much.
  • It seems I don’t get anything done. (Case in point: how long since my last blog post?) I have no idea how other people have consistently clean kitchens or vacuumed floors or calm inboxes or pre-planned meals or reliable workout schedules. (If I owe you a phone call or email or letter or playdate or a visit… I’m sorry!)

When I get to feeling clobbered by life, my knee-jerk reaction is to think of people who have it worse, by all kinds of degrees. My colleagues who have much tougher student situations than mine. My friends with really upsetting family crises. Parents of very sick children, and children of very sick parents. Moms who live in war zones and have to protect their children from bombs. It does put things in perspective – I mean seriously, what do I have to cry about? – but also makes me feel like a wuss. Shouldn’t I be better at my own (simple, easy) life by now?

What does help is to remind myself that I’ll probably feel better very soon, because all kinds of things can turn the day (or at least the hour) around. For example:

  • My Hubbibi has a new job that, although it’s not his dream job yet, is far less stressful than his last one.
  • Two new babies among my friends in the last two weeks! Yay!
  • Last Sunday I participated in my first-ever blogger brunch, and got to hang out (sans children!) with five smart, creative, inspiring ladies-who-blog, only one of whom I already knew, but all of whom it was a true pleasure to meet. (They have the kind of gorgeous blogs that I will forever pin, knowing I shall never achieve that level of pinnability in my own blog. I’ve already mentioned bear & lion; please also meet Heart, Heather, Heather in Heels, Lovely & Chic, and Rustic Retrievals.)
  • Yesterday I gave my Grade 5/6 class a (Hunger-Games-themed) activity booklet I’d made, and they were actually MORE excited than I’d expected. It felt like a coup, seeing them rush to finish their French questions so that they could do… more French!
  • That nipple-biting, mess-making baby is also darn cute and funny. She makes us laugh a LOT.
  • I’d still rather E be sweet at school and a turkey at home, rather than the opposite.
  • I know that if I say I’m having a rough time, there are many people in my life who immediately offer moral support. (For example, both my sisters detected the sub-text of stress in my texts this week and expressed their concern. I appreciate it even when I don’t feel I have time to talk about it.)
  • Even with the exhaustion, sometimes it’s stunningly clear in my heart that everything is okay, and that I’m incredibly fortunate. For example, when my kids play together. Too cute for pessimism.

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LOVE.

I’m fine, y’all. Thanks for letting me vent. <3 <3 <3

***


 

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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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Nothing like a trip to the emergency room to put things in perspective.

Dear Baby AB,

Sometimes you frustrate me. Sometimes you scream way louder than is called for, and sometimes your melodrama gets tiresome. Your reluctance to let me do simple, important things (like change your diaper or wipe your face) is aggravating.

But know this: I love you more than waterfalls and music and fresh peaches and the big blue sky, all put together. I am so glad you are a feisty, strong-willed girl who will let the world know what she wants and needs without mincing words. In fact, there’s nothing mincey about you.

On Friday, we had a scary moment. We had just barely begun dinner when you started gagging. You’re a baby with a very active gag reflex, and you love to feed yourself finger foods, so we are used to the sound… but then it kept going. You couldn’t swallow a bite. We couldn’t see anything in your mouth. You couldn’t even successfully drink breast milk. You just gagged and cried as your eyes watered.

It was one of those times when all the worst possibilities come into parents’ minds. Thank heaven your airway was never blocked – we were grateful for the crying to tell us that – but still, how could we help you? How could we even figure out what was wrong?

We called Telehealth after a few minutes, having seen blood in your saliva, starting to feel panicked. Were we overreacting? Were we underreacting? They agreed with our instinct to go straight to the hospital.

We put you in the car and I said I would go; Daddy would stay with E. Daddy said, “Can you handle this? Are you okay?” And I knew I could. I went into get-this-business-done mode. Get this baby some help.

Your crying waxed and waned during the trip – sometimes it was just sad groaning… until suddenly you gagged up a bunch of something, and became completely calm. So calm, in fact, that I frantically checked my mirrors to make sure you hadn’t lost consciousness or something. But no, you were just totally, abruptly normal.

When we arrived, I cleaned you up (with glove compartment napkins) and found the culprit: a piece of clear flexible plastic about two centimetres long and half as wide. Something discarded and practically invisible. No wonder we couldn’t see it.

I know you’re mobile and quick (just shifting from commando crawl to knee crawl) and curious about everything. I know I can’t be expected to vacuum every day (like most parents). I know it’s impossible to avoid all hazards, especially since your brother, despite constant coaching, is still wont to leave chokable things around the house. (It has become routine to say “Blah” and stick out my tongue so that you will imitate me and we can check if you’re actually chewing on something you shouldn’t be. Yep, five-star parenting.)

I still felt like a bad mama that you swallowed something so inedible.

We were grateful that it wasn’t a tiny chip of metal of the kind Daddy inadvertently brings home from work on his boots sometimes. Who knows what that would have done to your little esophagus.

We sat in Triage and you smiled at the young woman next to us. Then we went to see the Triage nurse and you were perfectly mellow as she took your temperature and blood pressure. She gave you her pen to look at, and when she took it back, said, “Thank you!” Then of course you went into showoff mode and said “Thank you!” a bunch of times right back. (Well, okay, if I’m honest, it’s more like Gack you. But still.)

We were recommended to see a doctor, just to be on the safe side, so the next step was more waiting. You made the guy in the wheelchair grin, and you had the couple across from us doing all kinds of silly things with their heads and their fingers. Everyone around you was smiling. At the ER, of all places.

You are such an incredible gift.

Soon we had a thirty-second visit with the doc and were on our way home, where Daddy could hardly wait to hug us.

It felt kind of like when I gave birth to you, ten-and-a-half months ago. Coming home from the hospital on the downward slope of an adrenaline rush. Recognizing anew what an amazing, magical creature you are. Overwhelmed with relief and joy that we get to keep you, that you’re ours. But it was even better than bringing home our newborn Baby AB, because now we know you: an outrageously entertaining, spirited, cutie-faced, kissable daughter. We love you infinitely more than we did that day, even though we loved you indescribably then. Every day we are re-thrilled and re-smitten – never more so than on Friday.

Sweet baby, thank you.

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Silly sideways head. Always a big hit with the fans.
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Squishy baby.
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Can this yummy-pie be blamed for the messy surroundings? Yes. Yes she can. 

***


 

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I can hardly wait to be perfect.

laundry 2
Perfect Me

Someday, I’m going to be SO organized that I will be perfect. In fact, my entire family will be perfect, because of my contagious perfection. (And my husband’s constant, inspirational quest for self-improvement.)

This Perfect Me will get good exercise every day, outdoors when weather permits. She will remember without fail to take her vitamins. Every Saturday she will go to the market for fresh local food, which she will have lots of energy to cook into delicious, nutritious meals (because of the exercise, fresh air, and vitamins). Her family will therefore also be bursting with energy and happiness.

She has perfected the art of scheduling, such that her schedule doesn’t feel like a restrictive duty list, but rather a natural rhythm that makes impeccable sense.

Her rhythm includes enough housework each day so that clutter and dishes never get mountainous or impassable*; she also has developed a knack for making tidy-up time FUN so that the kids joyfully join in. In fact, the whole family cleans up together, singing happy working songs for motivation. At Perfect Me’s house, there are never piles of laundry large enough to suffocate a preschooler. The diapers are always out on time for pickup. The fridge never smells funky or contains ancient unrecognizable leftovers. The recycling cart never overflows, and the cats never poop on the floor two feet from the kitty box, because this family is totally on top of these things.

Even better, Perfect Me is so organized that she is more environmentally responsible: she always hangs out the laundry (weather permitting), and cycles to the grocery store.

Organization enables Perfect Me to find time each week for refreshing bouts of creativity (dancing, music, writing) and quality playtime with her children. She and her now-perfect husband remember to do fun things like take their kids skating and have picnics, and also have time for each other. (They even go on dates. Regularly.)

perfect picnic
The picnics will look almost like this – perhaps more endearingly mismatched. (Photo credit.)

Perfect Me has no trouble keeping her patience and treating the world with kindness because she’s terrifically healthy and balanced. Also, she’s so organized that she’s always able to make sure that her kids’ meals and bedtimes are consistent, so everyone gets lots of sleep and her kids whine way less than regular kids (which is what they are at the moment). Even when her children have cranky times, her mind is so clear that she is able to glean instantaneously what is needed (snuggles, tough love, body break, what-have-you) and deliver it with equanimity. She doesn’t find herself saying bitchy things and then immediately fretting about the example she’s set and the damage she might have done.

Perfect Me always has wet-wipes and great snacks on hand. And she always knows where her phone and keys are.

All this synergy gives Perfect Me the confidence and clarity to be more socially graceful. Her Christmas cards arrive before Christmas. Although her house isn’t magazine-neat, it’s tidy enough that people can drop by and she’s not embarrassed to invite them in. She always remembers to introduce people to each other and offer beverages. She makes a remarkably great cup of coffee. She converses and never worries that she might’ve just said something doofus-y.

When Perfect Me goes back to work after maternity leave, she will have such good practice at creating seamless schedules that she will be able to get the kids to the babysitter on time with nary a meltdown (not even on her part). She will magically find time to fit all the above-mentioned awesomeness into her days with lighthearted serenity, and even take on volunteer opportunities to give back to her community.

In case it sounds like Perfect Me will be smug and obnoxious, don’t worry. She’ll still be able to kick back and eat chips and watch movies sometimes. She will still be able to laugh at the mistakes she’ll make (charming things like forgetting to put the teabag in – not upsetting things like forgetting to send a thank-you card or swearing at her baby). Her meals will taste great but won’t necessarily be Pinterest-worthy. Her garden will probably never be breathtaking, although she will be able to keep invasive maples from cracking the foundation of her house. She will never be en vogue with the latest fashion trends, but she will have good hair. (You know, because of all the sleep and vitamins.)

If the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, I guess it makes sense to start by getting the laundry out of the dryer. It might even get folded today or tomorrow.

I feel more Perfect already.

we can do it
It’s gonna happen. Perfect Me is coming, y’all.

***

*Let’s be realistic: Perfect Me probably has a dishwasher. And a garage.

***


 

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The Anatomy of a Mum-Mum

hot kid baby mum-mum
Simple teething cracker? Not exactly.

Baby Mum-Mums. For parents of teething babies, they are saviour and anathema at once.

How do they work? No one knows exactly. I am baffled, myself.

They are delicate enough to be crushed to smithereens in your purse (preferably inside the package).

They yield appropriately to the gentle crocodile-fierce pressure of a teething baby’s jaws.

Mixed with infant saliva, they turn to bite-sized pieces of magical cement. If your baby hasn’t yet mastered grasping, no matter. Baby Mum-Mums will affix themselves conveniently to your baby’s palm, where she can lick away at them over the coming days. They will handily store themselves on her bib as well, not to mention in her lap, armpits, neck-creases, and any other nooks she might possess.

Their revolutionary consistency means that a simple shower of Mum-Mum crumbs, landing, for example, in a light patina of drool on your baby’s tray, transforms into a rugged surface you can use to sand down your deck or car.

Give your baby a Mum-Mum today! You’ll see: once glued, these seemingly simple “rusks” WILL NOT YIELD. Amazingly, even left to soak, you will still need a chisel to remove them! You’ve never seen such staying power.

Added bonus: they may just keep your child happy for several minutes when you most need her to be quiet. Put a few individually-wrapped 2-packs in your purse for emergencies. Whether your baby is fussing or the heel just came off your shoe, Baby Mum-Mums have got you covered!

baby A with mum-mum
Mmmmmm.

***


 

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Eight Random Things with Brilliant Segues

{Actually, I make no guarantees that the segues will be brilliant. But whatever.}

My last post was a downer, I know. But now! I am able to lighten up for the following reasons:

1. I have awesome friends/family/Di-hards. THANK YOU for your sympathy and support, and offers of help. I hope I haven’t worried you that I would become a baby-shaker or something. The other day, as I was out for a friend’s birthday dinner (sans children!) a small group of my friends informed me that they will be taking both my kids away for a large chunk of next Saturday, in order for me to have an epic nap. How blissful. (I love you girls. Thank you. I wish every frustrated mom had friends like you.)

Speaking of support…

2.  My wonderful Hubbibi, who has been sharing E’s room so they could both get relatively uninterrupted sleep, offered to switch children with me for a while and do the tough part of getting Baby A back to sleep snackless. On the one hand, I thought gleefully about sleeping. On the other hand, I started immediately (prematurely) pining for my snuggly baby girl. I decided to get tough with her, and it seems to be helping (knock firmly on real wood even though I’m not superstitious). For the last four nights, I have been not feeding her until I determine it’s time. She complains loudly but doesn’t usually cry for real, and she mostly goes back to sleep without much intervention.

By the second night, she’d remembered how to do 4.5 hours in a row. It makes me think everything’s going to be fine if I can just stay the course. I AM MOTIVATED.

Speaking of my girlie munchkin…

3. She has had her first solids! About three weeks ago, we tried the first rice cereal. It was earlier than we expected to start (4.75 months), but all the look-fors were there, especially her watching us eat like a hawk. (Not that we eat like hawks. Boy, that’d be weird.) She has gotten better at swallowing the cereal, and gets pretty excited about it. Also, in the spirit of Baby-Led Weaning (thanks, MHM!) we sometimes give her a piece of a veggie that’s long and firm enough for her to explore and practice on without danger of choking.

Baby + practice veggies = CUTE. Turns out she’s a cucumber monster, like her brother.

Baby with cucumber
Yum.

Speaking of her brother…

4. E had his first visit to kindergarten! Not at the same school he’ll attend in September, but still. We went with Baby A to my school for a visit during the lunch break, and E’s pal Mr. A invited him back to his classroom while the baby was schmoozing with my other colleagues. When the bell rang to end recess, it took a few minutes for me to get back to the classroom, and when I arrived, there was E, playing on the carpet with the other kids and looking like he belonged there. As Mr. A himself commented, he’s totally ready for school.

comedy and tragedy masks
How you feel when you think about your firstborn baby starting school.

Speaking of happy-sad things…

5. I’ve just finished watching the whole series of Being Erica on Netflix, and now I’m all sad it’s over. Like, I totally cried during the series finale. It was a damn good show (about a girl who gets a therapist who can send her back in time to fix her regrets). Thumbs up on the acting, the concept, the blossoming storylines, the character development, the era-appropriate soundtrack and wardrobe choices, the gay wedding, the ultra-Canadianness, and a whole series of very cute guys. The best one is Irish.

Being-Erica-Adam
Erica and Adam

Speaking of cute guys…

6. I discovered something cool! Remember this guy?

Jean Dujardin_the artist
That’s one slick dude.

It’s Jean Dujardin, who won the Best Actor Oscar in 2012, for his speechless performance in The Artist. After this year’s Oscar party, whilst leafing through my Oscar magazine, I saw a photo of him, much like this one, from last year’s red carpet:

Jean-Dujardin-and-Alexandra-Lamy
Jean et Alex

And the light bulb went on! Because of the woman he’s with, I realized that that guy is this guy:

un gars une fille france dujardin lamy
Youppi!

No wonder he looked familiar. The woman is his wife, Alexandra Lamy. She looks exactly the same as she did twelve years ago, when I lived in France and watched Un gars, une fille whenever I was home in the evenings. Episodes were less than ten minutes long, just little sketches of life as a young couple, and they were super-cute and funny. (The concept actually originated in Quebec, and now there are versions in many countries.) France loved “Chouchou” and “Loulou”, but at the time the two actors were each committed to other people. So this is how I found out that after I left France, they actually fell in love with each other and ended up married! HOW ADORABLE IS THAT. (Or home-wrecky, depending on how you look at it.)

Speaking of stuff that’s cool (I know, my segues are becoming seriously mediocre)…

7. I think it’s possible that I AM COOL.

Hahaha. No, just kidding, but I did carry on an uber-hip conversation with two male baristas (whose combined age was probably about five years more than mine) at Second Cup today. They were talking about a certain silly viral video (below) and singing the riff from the song, but didn’t know its name. Since I was a kid in the 80s, I knew it to be “Careless Whisper”; I fully remember a time when it was new music, sharing the airwaves with “I Just Called to Say I Love You”, “Hip to Be Square”, and “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car”. I mentioned that George Michael’s video is legendary-level 80s drama, so they told me about the sexy sax man.

And then, we totally commiserated over the dangers of watching YouTube late at night. Boo-yah. I can converse relevantly (?) with 20-year-olds.

Speaking of me thinking I’m cool enough to talk to people…

8. I have been accepted to speak at a local Ignite event in April.

From the website: “Ignite is a geek event in over 100 cities worldwide. At the events Ignite presenters share their personal and professional passions, using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds for a total of just five minutes.”

A good friend of mine is on the organizing committee and suggested I submit an idea (thanks, L!) and… I did. (I will tell you about my idea later.) And they said I can come! And now I’m rather freaked out! Because if you watch Ignite talks on the web, you find that these people talk without notes. Yep. Talking without notes to a classful of students is not the same as talking without notes to a whole audience of adults plus whoever’s watching the live stream.

But I figure it’s good to do scary stuff, right? They say you should “do something that scares you every day”, but I figure about twice a year is good enough.

So there’s my wee list. Life is not so bad.

Life’s an easy road, with people beside you to share the load.

-Bret McKenzie

***


 

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Four Months Old

Dear Baby A,

On January 30th, it was four months since the day of your birth. I know it’s the worst cliché ever, but I can’t help it: the days have flown by. I cannot believe we are already here.

Life with you and your brother has its exasperating moments. There have been lots of runny noses between the two of you, and some rough nights as a result. I’ve been frustrated many times. I’ve asked myself What is going on with this baby?? on more than a few occasions. When you cry, I feel my nerves fraying rapidly.

But I’m never actually frustrated with you. You are still pure innocence. You do what your circumstances dictate. And honestly, most of the time you are a sweet, happy, laid-back baby.

We love it when you talk. You get on a roll, making all kinds of sounds, both lilting and screechy. I can’t get enough of it. (It’s even cute – though slightly less so – when you decide that the middle of the night is a good babbling time.)

You’re also very physically motivated. At your two-month appointment, you impressed our doctor with your posture on your tummy: he looked at you pushing up and said in surprised tones, “She’s way past forty-five degrees.” (Whatever that means – it’s definitely good.)

When we put you on your back on your mat to play with toys suspended above you, you grab them right away with very deliberate hands, and fully engage with them. You’re great at getting your own hands into your mouth (so good that you regularly gag on them). And once we tried you in the jolly jumper, you got the hang of it almost instantly.

At four months, your brother was also grabbing things and making cute sounds, but you’re even more determined. We’re pretty sure you’ll be crawling and walking earlier than he did.

Speaking of your brother… it’s amazing to see how much joy you get out of each other’s presence.

Also, you’re just delicious. Your cheeks are delectable and your eyes are lustrous and your soft little hands are irresistible. Your chortles are still rare enough that it feels like a gift when they happen. When you grin at us, it’s so captivating that we ask ourselves, What could I possibly have done to deserve this awesomeness? Could I be as wonderful as she thinks?

Basically, when I look at your sweet little face, it makes me so happy that I feel like bursting. In a good way. I love you more than my heart can even hold.

Here’s a silly little video I made to celebrate.

***


 

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Happy Day, Auntie Em!

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

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

Happy birthday, sweet sister! And congratulations!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***


 

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Is “a bit of fresh air” really worth it?

Let’s take a walk!

What could be more invigorating, more wholesome, more beneficial for body and soul? I can take the kids, we can all get some fresh air, and the baby can have a nice lung-cleansing nap.

On Wednesday I took my children for a walk around the neighbourhood. We have been graciously handed down a “sit-and-stand” stroller from a friend, so I could put A on the front in her car seat, and E could choose to sit or stand at the back, or walk.

We’ve done this a few times, and it works fairly well. E is happy and keeps his eyes open for tire swings and other interesting facets of people’s houses and yards. For instance, when we passed the house with the gaudy hot-pink garage door, he exclaimed, “That’s a SO beautiful pink garage!” and then proceeded to repeat pink garage, pink garage to himself for the next block or two.

on a walk with a preschooler
Wide-eyed at the environs.

Plus, A is ridonculously cute in her fuzzy snowsuit thingy.

baby in the stroller
Getting sleepy on the ride.

The stroller is rather large and unwieldy, but it’s worth a bit of straining around corners to have both children contentedly bundled and riding.

By Friday, it had turned snowy. That tipped the balance: given the number of households likely to have cleared their sidewalks (not many), I was not willing to try manoeuvring the behemoth on snow.

That is how Friday afternoon found me lugging the singleton jogging stroller up from the basement. That thing corners like it’s on rails… relatively speaking, of course. I should ask my son to just walk, so we don’t need a stroller – he actually has pretty good endurance – but it’s harder in the snow. When he poops out, I won’t be able to carry him on my back. The whining that would therefore ensue is not an option today. (I know you feel me, mamas.)

Strap on the 3.5-month-old in the baby Trekker. Find a hat that fits her fast-growing head. Don my sister’s voluminous blue second-hand Coat of the Nineties, because it is big enough to zip up around the baby. Situate folded receiving blanket where it will (I hope) absorb the most drool.

Help three-year-old with coat, hat, boots, mittens. Equip him with a snack. Let him clamber into the stroller. Opt not to do up the safety straps because frankly, this kid has gotten huge.

Navigate out the door. Lock door with one hand while preventing stroller from tumbling down stairs of front stoop with other hand.

Whew – it’s chilly. That’s a windchill. (It’s -13C with wind – that’s 9F for the Yanks.)

After we’ve passed about six houses, I stop and awkwardly put the plastic weather shield on the stroller so that E doesn’t freeze. It’s wrinkly, ripping at the seams, and generally disreputable from being bunched up in the storage basket. Between that and the highly fashionable coat I’m wearing, I allow myself a giggle at what an awesome mom-picture I must make.

A is gazing as far up into the trees as the head support for the carrier will allow. She has, of course, positioned herself such that she’s drooling onto the coat. Actually, she’s sort of licking it dreamily.

Well. Getting ourselves going was a production, but now it’s pretty! Lovely and white! Not to mention invigorating!

Until we turn westerly. I realize too late that any road we take heading vaguely west enables the wind to blow the cavernous hood off my head, so that there is no barrier for A’s face. She gasps as the wind steals her breath, and pieces of my ears begin to crumble away in icy chunks. I shield her with a mittened hand, steering with my other hand, as she complains. Good thing the stroller is so light and lithesome. Kind of. With a 35-pound kid in it.

The whole nap idea is not working out as I’d hoped. Instead of sleeping, baby fusses periodically as we change direction, taking the shortest possible route home.

She finally falls asleep about a block from our house, on our own street where the trees shelter us. I ask E, “Hey buddy, you doing okay?”

There’s no answer. I peek over the shade. My son, who has not had a regular afternoon nap in well over a year, has also fallen asleep. Or frozen in place, I suppose.

I do an extra lap of my street, trying to make the most of the situation. The longer E naps, the more it will screw up his bedtime. The shorter A naps, the grumpier she will be at dinner hour. I’m sure I could figure out the optimal length of time using calculus – if I remembered any.

In my wish that E will awaken cheerful and enlivened when we arrive home, I am sorely disappointed. His circuitry has somehow gotten stuck on whine mode in his sleep.

So that settles it. We’re going to make popcorn for dinner and then commence hibernation. It’s way more fun to hang out all day in our pajamas anyway.

baby girl and big brother
Yay pajama party!

All you mamas and daddies with three or more children who EVER get out of the house as a group… I bow down to you. You have my eternal admiration.

***

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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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