Posts Tagged ‘birthday

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.



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.



*Alison Gopnik

party shy

Posted on: 11 April 2013

Confession: I used to judge people who threw fancy birthday parties for their one-year-old, because dude, it’s not like they’ll appreciate or remember it. Eventually I clued in and realized that the party is for the parents, a celebration of surviving the first year, perhaps. Plus a photo op. And if it brings someone joy to organize and host a party, to decorate, to prepare food, then why not?

I am not one of those mothers.

Just the thought of it all stresses me out. If it were up to me I’d let the day pass without fanfare, but as it turns out, Ashelyn is too darn popular incredibly well-loved. As it turns out, she had a whole weekend of “parties.”

The good news is I didn’t have to plan anything; some of them just sort of happened.

Our westside church plant has its youth service on Saturday morning, and our young adults surprised us with a gorgeous cake and card. In the evening, Kevin had a business thing turned massive Filipino dinner. Ashelyn had nothing to do with this, but nonetheless got to stuff herself with strawberries, and received plenty of well wishes when people heard it was her birthday. Also, how have I not had Filipino food before? It is awesome.

My family came over for dinner on Sunday. They supplied the ingredients; we Kevin took charge of the cooking.

And on Monday, we headed out to the ‘burbs for dinner with Kevin’s family.


And there was more cake. That we ate in her stead.

Mad props to the themed party planners. Me? I think I prefer it this way.

Dear Ashelyn,

One year ago today, you were born in our bathroom, while your father freaked out because he didn’t know how to deliver a baby. (Well, now he does.)

IMG_3586You’re always bucking the script. Remember how you were crawling and pulling up and cruising and climbing at six months? At the rate you were hitting those milestones, you should have been walking months ago … but you’re not! (You do, however, “walk” on your knees.) This month you’ve been willing to walk while holding my hand or holding onto our fingers, but before, whenever we tried, you’d just become dead weight. Totally uninterested.

Do you realize this is infringing on my bragging rights?

I thank you for that.

You’ve started saying “hi.” It comes out more like “aye,” but people get the idea, especially since you say it repeatedly: “Hi. Hi. Hi!” I carry you in the Ergo, and you greet anyone who happens to come alongside us.

You also say “oh wow” and “uh oh” (originally “woh woh”). I know when you drop something on purpose because you’ll say “uh oh” before you let go.

Last month you were nodding and shaking your head in response to hearing the words “yes” and “no” … now you nod to mean yes and shake your head to mean no. Let’s go outside! Yes. Want another strawberry? Yes. Shall I take you for a minute and give mama a break? No.

IMG_3569You clap in response to “yay” and “good job” and “好棒啊!” When we say it’s time to brush your teeth – four now – you run your finger across your mouth like a toothbrush. When you see a stray tissue, you’ll use it to “wipe” the nearest surface. Then you’ll pinch it into little confetti bits. You know both the Mandarin and English words for “kiss,” and you give them freely, generously, maybe a touch too indiscriminately.

In the evenings, you flop backwards in bed and kick your legs crazily in all directions, a throwback to when you were mere weeks old. Part of me is still taken aback whenever I see babies younger than you are; wasn’t it just yesterday you were the newest of them all? And now, now you say “mama” and smush your nose into my face.

IMG_3561Some mothers say they no longer remember life before their little ones, but I do. I remember late nights and lengthy internet browsing and leisurely meals. I miss those things sometimes, but I’ve found parenthood to be remarkably good at exposing the selfish parts of me, prying them away without anaesthetic.

You’re worth it.


* My mom finds an excuse to drop by every few days. David tells me that before Ashelyn was born, mom was all, “Oh, it’s not a big deal,” and now she’s all, “Let’s go see the baby!”

* Ashelyn tends to cluster feed in the evenings until around midnight, give or take an hour. Feedings on a good night look something like this: 11:00, 2:30, 6:00, 9:30 (Apr/23-24). On a bad night: 11:00, 12:40, 2:00, 5:00, 6:30, 9:30 (Apr/24-25). I remember being mortified when new fathers said of their wives, “She hasn’t slept for more than two hours at a time for two months!” But actually, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Not as bad as I thought. (I don’t think I’ve had more than four hours at a stretch, but I’ve definitely slept more than two.)

* Ashelyn is weird in that she resists burping. I see her trying to swallow them back down, and when she does burp, she gets this stricken look on her face, like, Was that me? It’s okay to burp, girl! Saves us dealing with gas-related fussiness later!

* Next Monday we’re going to Harrison with my side of the family, spending a night at the hotsprings. This was my mom’s idea. Monday is the day Ashelyn turns one month, and the Sunday before that is my birthday. I must be getting old, because I’m as nervous as I am excited, worrying about how Ashelyn will handle a two-hour drive, and how do I pack for a one-month-old? And will she annoy the people in neighbouring hotel rooms at night? I don’t want them giving me dark looks in the morning.

Based on the results of my first trimester ultrasound, munchkin’s due date has been pushed back a week – from March 30 to April 7.

Which isn’t totally unexpected. Our original dating was based on my LMP, but my cycle is significantly longer than average. (At 45 days I couldn’t be sure that I was pregnant.)

Kevin hopes this means we’re less likely to have an April Fool’s baby.