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Archive for the ‘parenthood’ Category

four years

Posted on: 30 May 2016

Dear Ashelyn,

Two months ago you turned four. But you talk with the ten-year-olds, and you have the potty humor of a six-year-old boy. You know words like kaleidoscope and exterminator and Galapagos, although you still insist on calling wordsearches “search-wurch.” New and notable: you can write your name!

imageLately text has seized your interest. “What does this say?” you’ll ask, pointing to a speech bubble from the (French) Akissi comic you very randomly latched onto at the library. You have notebooks in which you ask me to write words and phrases like “I had a good dream” or “poop” for you to copy. Legibility is slowly improving … but you’ve also found a way to bypass that quibble by discovering touchscreen typing. So the third thing you ask of me is to spell words while you hunt for the right letters on a QWERTY. Despite the screen nazi I tend to be, I haven’t tried to discourage this activity because it will inevitably be part of your world, right?

imageI don’t know how we landed here, all fancy and pre-literate, but all of a sudden you’re like, “Balloon starts with b. Buh buh b. Fairy starts with f. Fuh fuh f.” Then again, I’ve also caught you saying, “Duh duh w,” so there’s that.

Three was a roller coaster, the wildest one by far. You were like the girl from that limerick: When she was good she was very, very good, and when she was bad she was horrid. You’ve sparked magnitudes of rage I never even knew I was capable of. Two weeks last summer were particularly rough; there was one day you spent maybe half your waking hours screaming in your room. And then, just as I began thinking I might have royally screwed up somewhere … the ride levelled out.

With you, I feel like much of the grunt labour of parenting is now behind us. You dress yourself, feed yourself, use the toilet. You can play independently, make friends, buckle yourself into the carseat. And it took, oh, 3.5 years, but you’re finally sleeping like a normal human being!

imageInteracting with you has never been more interesting, more complex, more delightful. Your witticisms are whipsmart, old-soul. “Mama, I had FOUR CANDIES! At first daddy said not to tell you, but now I’m telling you. Daddy is not here, so he can’t say anything.” “Let’s play Go-Go-Stop. When you say go I will go, and when you say stop I will go.” “I have two hearts. One is broken, and one is smiling.” You were an early talker – over a hundred words by eighteen months – and you haven’t slowed down since. To be honest, it’s the constant dialogue that I find most exhausting. Broken sleep has nothing on lack of silence. But our conversations are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and how does one explain honour, or optics, or sarcasm to a preschooler, anyway?

My Neighbor Totoro was your first movie, which you watched recently, in three installments because you’re only supposed to have twenty minutes of screentime a day. Besides, you seem to have inherited my pathetically low tolerance of intense movie scenes. So, even though you know all the songs from Frozen, you’ve never actually watched the movie. You probably wouldn’t like it, yet. There were two ice monster stickers in your Frozen-themed stickerbook, and you promptly disappeared both by affixing them to daddy’s side of the bedside table, to “help him sleep.” Anyway, I mention Totoro because there’s a little girl your age in that story and, well, you’re way more mature than she is. At least, you’d never run off in a fit of passion and get yourself lost.

imageYou’re an enthusiastic helper. You actually clamour to rinse the dishes, mix batter, stir the pot, vacuum, fold laundry, help wash the car and mow the grass. There’s nothing more exciting, apparently, except maybe watching daddy gut seafood. And you’re astonishingly tidy; we’ve had to work on not cleaning up toys that someone else is in the middle of playing with, I’m not even kidding. One evening I was angry with you, and you apologized by tidying up the living room! I’ve watched in disbelief as you organized your books by size and your toy kitchen accessories by colour gradients.

I’m so pleased with your quickness to compliment others, your involvement at StrongStart, your wholehearted affection for your brother. The two of you playing together is all kinds of sweet. When Jariel was a newborn you hated for others to hold him; you worried that they’d bring him home. Around this time last year, when he was three months old, you casually rested your foot on his chest and quipped, “If I put my foot here and jump, then Jariel will break. But then I will be sad, because I like him! So I won’t do that.” Thank goodness you haven’t changed your mind.

imageParenthood is everything I’ve never learned. I see the joyful, intuitive, confident, driven person you could be, and I see qualities (like kindness) I’ll need to actively foster because they come to you less naturally. It’s the biggest job I’ve ever undertaken, but I’d rather be the one to do it full-time than anybody else.

Love,
Mama

Dear Jariel,

One year ago you were born into the oversized mesh underwear I had just changed into ten minutes prior. We’d made it to the hospital this time, barely made it into the room nearest the assessment area, didn’t make it onto the bed. They gave you a perfect Apgar, and they gave me the best peanut butter on toast I’ve ever had. You woke up every hour that first night and, uh, to date there’s been only marginal improvement. It’s okay, though. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

imageLately you’re a velcro baby. There are times I suspect you’re trying to literally meld into one entity with me, as if I could absorb you like an amoeba if you smushed hard enough. It’s cute, but incapacitating. I function with one hand, one eye, and half my attention. I feel like I need to apologize to everybody for my inability to carry on an undistracted conversation.

You took your first step (singular) at eight months, but it took three months before your desire to walk surpassed your love of the Mowgli crawl. I think you finally realized that walking frees up your hands to hold things, or push over furniture. There was that one afternoon you chased your sister around the house as she handed you pieces of nori – basically paper you can eat! Which is all you’ve ever wanted, at least until I started giving you free rein at the playground. Then you were all, What are these crumbly little grains hmmm must taste test …

imageYour first word was mama, but I’m beginning to suspect that, all this time, you might actually have been saying mum mum, as in FOOD. Considering the overlap between the two, I suppose I can’t fault you too much. You eat very well, despite being on the leaner side, and you’re willing to try anything (see above re: sand). Your appetite is robust and your pincer grasp is masterful, but the mess is new territory for me, and I’m not even new at baby-led weaning. Your sister never gleefully squished her food into her hair.

Since unfamiliar people get immediate poker face treatment, most don’t know what a cheeseball you are. You like to climb onto the sofa and throw yourself around bodily, shrieking. (Yes, once you threw yourself clean off. Ouch.) The other day you were doing this, happy as a clam, when suddenly your mouth started bleeding. But you just kept going, leaving mouth-shaped blood stamps in your wake. It wasn’t until the day after that I figured out what happened: you severed your upper lip tie. And you didn’t even react.

imageYou may be wary of new people, but you adore new environments. Who was it who said that being a baby is like being in love, in Paris for the first time after having three double espressos?* Well, I believe it. I can see it in your face. Every time you point to a seagull, every time you scrabble at the sand under your tiny shoes, every time you spot a water fountain at the mall. And when you interrupt your antics to sidle over and lay your head under my chin, it’s how I feel about you, too.

Love,
Mama

 

*Alison Gopnik

Dear Jariel,

photo 5Two weeks ago you turned six months old. You’re a wide-eyed little tumbleweed with self-inflicted nutty professor hair. You’re remarkably chill when out and about, but when it’s a chill day at home you’re a fussbutt because you get bored.

We thought your sister was overachieving, but you flipped over for the first time at three weeks. By four months you were rolling across the floor. At five months you began pulling up. You’re crawling now, a true hands-and-knees crawl, because the caterpillar shuffle was so two months ago. You’re cruising and walking assisted. Very recently you’ve started trying to stand unassisted, and to stand up by yourself. Clearly you don’t care about those old-timers who say it’s bad for your spine or leg musculature or linguistic development, I’m never sure which.

photo 2Speaking of linguistics, I’m officially counting “mama” as your first word. You say it clearly and often enough, although only when you’re just so fed up with it all omg PICK ME UP NOW! You’ve just come off a phase of your favourite sound being “rhza rhza rhza.” You also do “baba” and “yeh.”

My babies hit their milestones early, but when it comes to sleep, they are broken. BROKEN!

Unlike your sister, you nap in the crib, and you’re transferable. However, you only nap for half an hour at a time. You don’t self-soothe. Instead, you spring up like a freaking jack-in-the-box and wail.

At least night stretches are longer than half an hour, I think. I’m not counting. I don’t want to know.

photo 3Sometimes I still can’t believe I’ve got two little punks. Yet, as much as I could really use a good sleep and an extra set of arms, there are pockets of time when two are easier than one, because you’re entertaining each other. I imagine these moments will only increase. Seeing you light up for your sister is worth the (thankfully rare) occasions both of you are screaming at once.

馒头, I can’t get enough of your gummy chuckle, full-body stretches, and marshmallow thighs. The way you arch your brows and wrinkle your nose. The curl of your eyelashes.

I think you’re miraculous.

Love,
Mama

(For Ashelyn’s birth story, go here.)

Thursday morning, sometime after 9AM. Kevin is preparing to leave for an appointment when I tell him I’ve had a few contractions. I can’t say for sure that it’s labour, but given the circumstances of my first birth – an emergency unattended homebirth – we alert the midwife.

She suggests a warm bath, which slows the contractions but doesn’t stop them. I feel them the same way I did with my first: a low frontal burn, not particularly acute. We call my parents, who come to pick up Ashelyn for the day, and arrange to meet our midwife at the hospital.

photo-1

It’s a little past noon when we arrive. Kerry checks me: 4cm dilated and, she says, “quite thinned out.” Contractions are roughly 5 minutes apart and 30 seconds long, but don’t bother me too much, so Kevin and I are instructed to go for a walk.

We wander around the hospital for an hour or so and return reporting some progress, but nothing remarkable. I’m still at 4cm. We get a curtained-off unit in the assessment area. It was quiet earlier, but now more labouring mothers are arriving, many of them making much more of a racket than I am. The wait for a room is long.

At 3:30PM, I feel a sudden pop, like a water balloon or a giant baby hiccup. Then a gush. “Oh,” I tell Kevin (who was dozing off on the assessment bed), “my water broke.”

Up until now, contractions had been well within the realm of manageable. My midwife kept asking if I felt any pressure, and I hadn’t. Neither had I felt like making odd noises. But the first contraction after my water breaking doubles me over, and there it is all at once: pressure and the urge to push. Plus the involuntary growly noises I remember making at Ashelyn’s birth.

photo-2

They usher us to the nearest labour & delivery room, thankfully just around the corner. I don’t, however, make it onto the bed before the next contraction hits. I feel a burning “ring of fire” but higher up, in the area of the cervix. I feel baby’s head moving down … and out.

The body slides out with the third contraction, and then the nurses are heaping warm towels – heavenly! – over the two of us. “I feel better now,” I say unnecessarily.

“I’ll bet you do,” one nurse grins.

photo

Jariel Jayden, born February 12 at 3:43PM. 7lbs 4oz at 38w4d, he’s almost a full pound heavier than his sister was – although both burst forth in the same kind of hurry.

She is on the brink of turning two, actually, so posting this up before then has clawed its way up my list of priorities.
***

Might as well channel your desire to “help” into doing chores, right? You like to scoop rice into the cooker, and you help me with laundry by handing me items as I hang them up to dry. (Still waiting on a dryer, landlords!) By mid-January you were able to identify which clothes belong to mama, which to daddy, and which to “Ashen!” Because that’s how you pronounce your name now.

Three more teeth popped out last month, bringing your total to … eleven. (You have fewer teeth than babies a year your junior!) I read an article several weeks ago about how teething probably doesn’t hurt, and while I understand teething to be a sacred scapegoat for infant fussiness, based solely on my experience with you I can’t disagree.

You’ve started stringing words together in earnest. “No more fig.” “Watch funnybear please, French one.” And the dreaded request demand, “[Want to] hold the iPod! Hold it!”

Then there are the more classic toddlerspeak ones, my recurring favourites being “No this!” and “That one this!” (Translation: this one.)

The concept of opposites – up and down, happy and sad – came easily to you. Often, when you request some tidbit, you specify the desired size as well. You may reject it altogether if we get this part wrong.

Now you want me to point at the text while reading.

You still like playing with decks of cards. And now, not only do you stack them in alignment, you’re particular about facing them all right-side-up.

Once I gave you a piece of pancake (leftovers from breakfast) to snack on as you played. Later, I discovered bits of that pancake in the change drawer of your toy cash register … torn oh so neatly into a dozen niblet-sized morsels. Were you storing it for an impending famine?

Of our library hauls, favourites have included Dear Zoo (Rod Campbell) and most of Taro Gomi’s work. You enjoy lift-the-flap books, like Where’s Spot? You cry, “Oh no!” in response to an illustrated sad face (you lamented theatrically through all of Madeline).

Yeah, she reads 400-page novels too ...

Yeah, she reads 400-page novels too, strange child.

In fact you partially read along with me; you remember and anticipate the words. This “co-reading” works especially well for rhyming text – you’ll gleefully fill in the last rhyming syllables of each line.

Co-singing is even better! It works the same way: I start off each line and you supply the last word. This came about after I watched Frozen with a friend and came home singing “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”

S: We used to be best –
A: BUDDIES!
S: But now we’re –
A: Not!
S: I wish you would tell me –
A: WHYYY?
S: Do you wanna build a –
A: Snowman!

In early December we all went to see a hip hop dance studio production. It was a spur-of-the-moment deal; a colleague had tickets for his son’s show. I was afraid you’d be overtired, but you loved it, and watched as intently as daddy and I did. More, perhaps, because unlike us you were dancing in your seat.

Cozy Christmas morning.

Cozy Christmas morning.

I kind of dread cooking with you underfoot, because you are perpetually underfoot. Wanting up, wanting to see, wanting neh neh, wanting all three of the above at the same time. And wanting to help. If I haven’t yet been worn threadbare, I’ll let you spoon in seasoning and stir. One day you will cook for me, or so I persuade myself.

The way you pronounce mushroom … sounds very much like “man boob.”

You’re an enthusiastic sharer, to our delight and chagrin. Delight, because you offer so nicely! “Want one?” Chagrin, because you refuse to take no for an answer, and will continue to insist: “Want one?? WANT ONE?!”

Requisite "I dressed up so you'd better take a dang picture" shot.

Requisite “I dressed up so you’d better take a dang picture” shot.

Suddenly, after a single evening with grandma, you’re able to count to ten in Mandarin. Although you tend to miss si (four). You like to recite them while lying supine on the floor, doing leg raises.

This Christmas you decided that you aren’t a fan of Santa, at least up close. (You’re oddly fascinated from a distance.) “Scared [of] Santas!” you tell me, gesticulating wildly, often in the middle of something completely unrelated. “Weird!” HAHA.

no poo

Posted on: 27 December 2013

So, Ashelyn is constipated … I think?

I mean, no poop for as long as a week and a half is a pretty clear indicator of constipation, right?

She’s always had a slow gut; one poop every few days was our normal. Her previous record was ten days, but she was five months old then and exclusively breastfed. I was more mystified than anxious because I knew I couldn’t have done anything wrong.

Those were simpler days, when the fibre content of her diet wasn’t on my radar. Ashelyn eats well enough, but I can never be bothered to push her to consume food she rejects by serving it in different ways or sneaking it into known favourites.

Even now, the only sign of constipation is the actual lack of poop. There’s an odd absence of associated symptoms – no bloating or apparent discomfort, normal appetite, normal pees. When I prod her belly she giggles. She’s her regular cheerful self, running and jumping and dancing all over the place, all the live long day.

Except that diaper changes seem to terrify her. It’s like she expects them to hurt. (And she says as much, sometimes. She can indicate her diaper area and say, “Hurt!” Unfortunately not specific enough to be very useful. Does it hurt now? Or do you remember it hurt once before? Or are you afraid that it will hurt?) Diaper rash has never been a problem. And we mostly just wipe her with water and cloth.

Her “poop signal” hasn’t changed – it’s a specific facial expression and crouch – it just isn’t followed by poop anymore. There’s some straining and complaining going on when she does this. I can’t tell for certain whether she’s trying to go, without success, or fighting to hold it in.

I wish I knew which it was.

As for how this came to be, my best guess is that some time ago Ashelyn had a painful poop, or a brief series of painful poops. That plus her ever-increasing agency equals – unfortunately – poop resistance. And the rest is a vicious cycle.