Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A lesson in perspective from my daughter’s three-year-old classmate

HolidayPhoto

I admit, I’m ill-prepared. It seems like no matter what, I can’t ever catch up with my to-do list. This is our first celebration in our own home, but the house is messy. I haven’t thought of our Christmas dinner, let alone shop for it. We’re still at the “turkey or duck? turkey or duck?” stage of the planning. Oh, who am I kidding? What plan?

Then there are the gifts of course. Is it enough? Too much? Did I miss something? Would she like this? Would he balk at that? Constant fret and worry. Until I went to Little Miss’ preschool Christmas party.

HolidayPartyAtSchool

There were mostly kids and teachers, with only a couple of parents in attendance as it was held in the middle of the day, so I was an object of curiosity. I sat by the kids’ table and they were all over me, thrilled to converse with an adult. I was bombarded with:

“Why are you here? Look at my dress! Where’s Little Miss’ daddy? I’m Emily. What’s your name? My mommy is at work. My daddy is at home…”

Then I turned to another little girl who was also vying for my attention, and I asked her, “What about your daddy?”

She simply said, “My daddy died.”

All canned response evaporated in my mouth. Nothing I had in mind to say seemed to fit. I couldn’t process past the fact that she was only three. Like my daughter, whom I have so far shielded from words like death, dead, and dying. And here’s this little girl who had no choice but to live with it before she even knew what it really meant.

But she continued matter-of-factly, “My daddy is in heaven, and that’s my mommy over there.”

She pointed at the preschool teacher who taught four-year-olds.  She seemed to be my age, possibly younger, and my heart went out to her. Then it all came back to me - the story of a man who went missing last year when Little Miss first came to this school. He was found dead several days later, and the school prayed for the family during our first general assembly. But we were new then so we never knew who they were except that their family was closely connected to the school. I remembered the somber gathering. Even the tears.

Looking at the teacher who was smiling and laughing at the kids now, it seemed rather disconnected to the reality that just hit me. This would be her second Christmas without her husband, the girls without their dad, who was cruelly taken away from them. And here I am, fretting about gifts and dinner. Suddenly, none of that matters anymore.

We will have gifts. We will have dinner. But more importantly, we have each other. Because of that, regardless of the presents that we open or the food that we eat, it’s going to be a wonderful Christmas.

HolidayLove

May you have love and joy this Christmas, and every day of the new year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

“Will you take a leap with me?”

I admit, I like to play it safe. I don’t gamble, I don’t skydive, I don’t buy a product with no reviews, I don’t even drink more than a cup of coffee a day on week days even though it’s one of my favorite things in the world. I have always had a predictable, stable income that came with medical benefits, or at least made sure someone in the household did. And I always pay my taxes. On time.

I think you get the picture. So imagine when My Guy quit his job last week with nothing more than a dream to be an entrepreneur, some savings and a lot of hope that he will succeed.

I knew that day would come, as he’s been preparing for it since I met him, but with two little girls now, I almost went into a panic attack when he first informed me of his plans. What about health insurance? The car? Cable? His penchant for expensive hobbies and gadgets? Weekend brunches? Daily coffee breaks at giant chain stores? Did I mention health insurance?

My Spidey senses tingled. But he was prepared for my questions. Because this had been his plan all along, he had done his due diligence. For every question fired his way, he had a logical answer.

Still. They were mostly theories and hypotheticals. Of course I unraveled again when we spoke about the unspeakable: What if you fail? What if we can’t afford this life? What if someone gets really sick? What if, what if, what if... A reaction that was typical of me, the safe-better. Or worse, the naysayer.

This conversation didn’t just take one night. It took the course of several hours in several days, imagining every possible scenario. We spoke ad nauseam. He knew I was worried, so he talked and I listened. And sometimes, it was the other way around. It was a big risk. With a family, a monumental risk. He knew that, but he wasn’t doing this just for himself.

He was doing it for us so that he could be there when we needed him. So that he wouldn’t miss his kids’ events because of some work-imposed deadlines. So that he could be more than just a breadwinner. He wanted to be here. With us. This new endeavor would allow that. Or at least he would make sure it did.

Then one day, out of the blue, he took my hand in his, looked me in the eye and asked, “Will you take a leap with me?”

Staring back into those eyes that drew me in all those years ago, it reminded me of why we were here today. His passion, his intelligence, his ingenuity, his ambition - they were why I fell for him in the first place. So why would I even think to stifle those parts of him that made him who he was – ones that endeared him to me? And somehow, at that very moment, I knew that we would be fine.

It wasn’t the guarantee of success that calmed my nerves, for there was none, but it was the faith that no matter what happens, we will make this work. As a family. I could tell our support was extremely important to him, because essentially, he wasn’t doing this just for himself. He was doing it for us too.

And I thought to myself - how cool would it be for our girls to witness and be inspired by their dad who dared to break out of the mold to pursue the goals that were important to him?

Then I realized I wanted this for the girls. I wanted this for him. And I wanted this for us.

And so I climbed out of my comfort zone, and I said yes.

 

MyGuyAtTheAdventServiceMy Guy, who missed Little Miss’ stage debut last year because of work deadlines, made it this year with us.
I will take that as a good sign.


Since then, he made the arduous but necessary preparations to get his business going full steam ahead and when the stars aligned, he quit his day job.

We are at week one of this new chapter in our lives. Our routine is in a tizzy, but I suspect that we will find our groove eventually. It’s still too early to tell what this will do for our family in the long run, but unlike a few weeks ago, my panic attacks have dissipated.

Instead, they’ve been replaced by the strength of my pride and faith in this man who dared to follow his dreams. And took me and the girls with him.

I know this doesn’t seem like much. It may even be a no-brainer for some, but for a girl whose own dad left his family behind as his business ventures took off, whose anxieties stem from an absentee parent in childhood, this means everything to me.

* * *


This post is dedicated to My Guy who could. And did.

I am in awe of you.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Child star redux–no soup stains this time!

We did it! We remembered Little Miss’ evening performance during the Advent service and dressed her accordingly in the morning for preschool, unlike last year’s soup-stained-SASSY-printed-tee-shirt-and-pant-leg-in-boot disaster. Her 100% cotton dress wasn’t anywhere as fancy as her friends’ outfits as it lacked the intricate lace and luxurious velvet of a holiday dress but what the heck, she wasn’t wearing a t-shirt. That’s a huge improvement for us.

Together with My Guy, my mom and Thumper, we occupied half the pew in church as we watched our preschooler make faces, prance, climb on her seat, giggle with her friends and, oh right, sing Christmas songs. As the kids began to squirm and breakdance in their seats at minute nine, I knew I wasn’t wrong in questioning the school’s decision to serve these kids ice cream for dessert before the service. I mean, really? Here, get your sugar rush but make sure you sit still on stage!

Remarkably, apart from kids ready to spring from their seats at the end of the service, the evening went without a hitch. Thumper, who missed one of her naps, seemed to enjoy her first time in a church. She watched her big sister shine as she sat quietly (and extraordinarily) content on my lap so her sister could have her moment all to herself. Despite the lack of sleep, it was a fuss-free evening for us. And when we reached home, both kids happily went to sleep. And stayed asleep.

I know. I could hardly believe it myself. An evening with no incident. Suddenly I found myself here, at the computer. It’s been awhile, and I’m dying to write. To breathe life into these words that have been swirling in my head for over a week. So I do. Except I really shouldn’t.

There are unfinished handmade thank you cards stacked dolefully in a corner, begging to be sent/set free (because - and I should be embarrassed to admit this - Little Miss’ birthday party was almost a month ago!). A holiday party menu to plan. Christmas gifts to purchase. Misfits to return. Pants to hem. My baby’s issue with solids to research. A book club book to read. Holiday decorations to complete. Cookies to bake. Next tweet to make on Twitter. The constant cycle of laundry - to wash, to dry, to fold, and to ignore.

So really, I have no business being here. Except I need to be. Because breathing life into these words doesn’t just sustain my blog. It sustains me.

And because I wanted to capture this evening, for my Little Miss’ sake (and, in a small way, to selfishly redeem ourselves for screwing up my daughter’s stage debut last year). I think we did all right this time, but next year, she’s going with velvet.

And lace.

 

TheNationalConcertErrr…no, this isn’t my daughter’s performance. This is The National; her dad and I were at their (kickass) show the night before. Why am I showing you this? Because, come on, a concert is a concert all right?

And, uhm, because we botched the pictures from her performance this year - they were all blurry and distant.

Like this:

AdventService2011

See? So much for redemption.

Guess you’ll just have to take my word for it. She wore a dress. No stains. Cute girl.

The end.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Crazy in love

FaceToFace


We are crazy in love. With our baby that is (well, with each other too but this isn’t that post).

Thumper turned six months today, and already we’re dreading how the days just seem to collide into each other when all we want is for them to slow down so we can savor her cherubic face, her dimpled hands (and feet and butt and cheeks) and those thigh rolls that I can’t stop talking about. At last count, there were six rolls total.

We steal every moment we can to playfully gnaw on her deliciously chewable cheeks. It thrills me to snuggle up next to her when I go to bed at night and occasionally wake up to her sucking on my nose (babies aren’t great with aim, apparently). We are so enamored with this girl.

ParkTimeWithDaddy 

She is a good baby. A chubby baby. A quiet baby. A pleasant baby. The kind of baby who makes me wish for another (except it’s not in our plan), and so it is with this sad longing that I inhale every inch of her every time I look at her.

Even when she’s not sleeping when she should. Or when she’s fussing when a crowd gathers because she’s only used to the familiar faces of our family and anxious with others. As “festively plump” as she is, she also refuses to eat solids.

BabyBear

I thought, as a second-time mom, I would avoid the pitfalls of a noob, like nursing or rocking her to sleep, except I didn’t, which means Thumper depends on one or the other at nap and bedtimes.  And when she stirs at night, she cries out for us so we’d have to drop whatever it is we’re doing (like this blog post, which I had to abandon mid-sentence) and tend to her nocturnal demands.

But none of these matter. As nerve-wracking, exhausting or trying as her quirks can sometimes be, they pale in comparison to how easy she is otherwise. Besides, if I wished these moments away, even if they’re less than stellar, I could never get them back again.

This is my last shot as a parent to an infant so I choose to be blind to the inconveniences. Instead, I focus on the joys like her infectious smile, her newly bathed lavender-scented skin that puts me in a trance as I sing her to sleep, and her easygoing nature that makes her a prime target for her older sister’s amusement.

ThumperAsBathToy

I suppose everything we do with Thumper now doesn’t seem much different from the pattern we had inadvertently established with Little Miss when she was an infant even though we vowed we’d do it differently. But we all have these grandiose ideas for ourselves before our babies are born don’t we?

Then they show up and armed with only dimples, some downy hair and a surprisingly strong personality that seems disproportionate to their size, they dictate our lives. Thumper had us wrapped around her stubby pinky from the moment we heard her wail. So tiny yet so much bigger than us in so many ways.

Her cries scramble our frequencies, and her needs engulf our own. If there’s anything that Little Miss taught us, it’s that from the moment a new baby enters our lives, we lose control over the trajectory of our course. Someday, her ambition will drive ours. 

As second-time parents, we know better than to fight the inevitable. We have learned that the best thing to do is to brace ourselves. And enjoy the ride.


CheekToCheek

Happy half birthday sweet baby!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saying 30 thanks and saving 1 life

Blessings

There was a little meme going around the Internet (or was that only Facebook? I’m not sure) where, instead of celebrating and honoring all the things for which we’re grateful on just one Thanksgiving Day in November, people are expressing their gratitude each of the 30 days of that month. When I found out about it, I was already a week too late. But are we ever late in showing gratitude?

So here are 30 of mine in one post, compiled for your convenience (I’m considerate like that) but if you really don’t have the time for all of them, please, please skip to the very last one:

1. My Guy, without whom there wouldn’t be Our Family

2. Little Miss for all the free stand-up, sit-down, laying-around comedy around the house

3. Thumper for always waking me up with the most beautiful, infectious smile, which is the only way to make those occasional 5am mornings bearable

4. My mom, who fills the gaps and helps in more ways than I can count

5. Coffee, which gets me going even when I don’t want to

6. Alcohol for when the going gets tough

7. Kind and friendly neighbors who make my new community feel more small-town than big-city

9. Our small town big city that never ceases to shrink or grow in size, depending on what we need

10. Friends who, in spite of having a full house, still invite us to spend Thanksgiving with them in their home

11. Not having to prepare and cook the entire Thanksgiving meal by myself (Phew!)

12. Clothing stores that carry clothes in sizes that are smaller than I really am

13. Denial because I want to believe those stores

14. The sound machine that drowns out a certain preschooler while the infant sleeps

15. Louise Erdrich’s memoir, “The Blue Jay’s Dance”, for some of the most breathtakingly and achingly beautiful words and imagery associated with motherhood

16. My grey cat, Macavity, who is more dog than my dog

17. Chocolate because I can use it to bribe my daughter

18. Bribery because it’s better than time-outs

19. Time-outs, when all else fails

20. Plastic, Wood and Paper for all the entertainment and storage that seem pivotal in raising kids

21. Recycling, see number 20

22. Saturday and Sunday mornings for obvious reasons

23. A movie like Drive that reminds me that I can still have a schoolgirl crush (on Ryan Gosling) even though I’m way, waaaay past that age

24. Ryan Gosling (like you didn’t see that coming)

25. Family restaurants that don’t require kids to use their inside voices (because really, what’s that?)

26. Breastfeeding because I burn 500 calories without having to lift a finger

27. The Internet for the incredible community that embraces me with their love and generosity - the space may be virtual, but the friends are for real

28. Sleeping babies because how else will I finish writing this post?

29. Readers like you who make me feel a little less crazy for staying up instead of sleeping just to complete this post

(And last but certainly not least)
30. My health*

*I know many of us are thankful for our health. Yet we’re not all equally blessed. While we’re grateful for the life  that we have, let’s remember those who are fighting to keep theirs.

One such person is Ashley Quinones, a.k.a. Kidney Cutie, who needs a kidney transplant. She is the sister of Kelly Quinones, a fellow blogger at The Miller Mix, who is part of my community here in this space. And what do people in a community do? They help each other out.

I know you don’t know them, but in reality, neither do I. Yet, just think, if this was your mother, sister, daughter, aunt or best friend, wouldn’t you want to have your community, real or virtual, rally behind them? And so we do.

In the season of giving, please donate. Spread the word. Save a life.

Ashley’s life.

* * *

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.

Tell me, what are you thankful for this season?


image source:
http://www.abundance-and-happiness.com/gratitude.html

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

“I don’t eat real fish, I eat food fish!”

ThreeCollage


Little Miss turned three this past weekend. Three! Did you know that three-year-olds jump up in classification? They’re no longer toddlers. They’re preschoolers. Apparently, I’m one of the last people to know this. And I’m also a little sad and sentimental. Where did my newborn turned infant turned toddler go?

The girl who stands before me is lean, long and wiry. Her baby fat melted away with the toddling feet that wouldn’t stay still. When I hold her these days, I feel awkward parts that jut out to poke me in odd places, quite unlike her chubby baby sister who is all rolls and curves with her snowball-round frame.

Little Miss, once a petite newborn at 5 lbs 12oz, is now all lanky limbs and mouth, tailing our every statement with her perpetual whys. Yes, she’s definitely curious.

And she’s funny (although I don’t think she means to be):

FamilyPicAtBirthdayParty

On the morning of her birthday, Little Miss spent some special time with her dad (while I frantically pulled the last-minute party details together) at the Shedd Aquarium where she bee-lined for the sharks, her obsession du jour. My Guy reported to me that she had asked about their dietary preference (not her words) and upon his explanation while pointing at the fish in the tank that sharks eat fish, just like she does, she responded in earnest, “I don’t eat real fish. I eat food fish!”

Right. Hmm…let’s see, how do we gently break the news to her?

* * *

As with most preschoolers, she’s very literal:

Upon passing the neighborhood laundromat, my daughter pointed, “Look mommy! What’s that place called?”

“It’s a laundromat. That’s where people do their laundry. You know how we have a washer and dryer in our house so we can do laundry? It’s the same thing. That’s why it’s called a laun-dro-mat.”

“Laun-dro-mat. But we don’t have a mat…”


* * *

CakePopFace
Mmm…cake pops…

She’s also defiant. And smart. But when you put those two together…

Me: “Get in your bed Little Miss. You shouldn’t be playing at bedtime, you know that.”
Little Miss: “I’m counting money to put in my piggy bank. I’m not playing cuz you said money is not for playing.”

Touche.


* * *

And she’s definitely goofy.

SugarHighOne too many cake pops later…The poster child of sugar high


My favorite Little Miss moment happened earlier this summer, when she was two and half.  To get this story, you have to know the words to the nursery rhyme, “Goosey Goosey Gander”, and in case you don’t, here it is:

Goosey goosey gander whither shall I wander,
Upstairs, downstairs and in my lady's chamber
There I met an old man who would not say his prayers,
I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs.

Little Miss liked the rhyme and easily learned the song by heart. One day, My Guy was telling us that he had to move his office from the 8th floor to the 3rd floor because of a change in his position at work. As part of his simplified explanation to her, he mentioned, “My boss moved my office downstairs.”

Without skipping a beat, my daughter looked at him, a little worried, “Why daddy? Is it because you didn’t say your prayers?”

It took us a second to put the two together, but when we did, we cracked up. Ah, the innocent, captivating mind of a three-year-old!

* * *

I suppose it’s a trade-off like everything in life. We have exchanged the baby fat and cuddliness for these sometimes funny, sometimes ludicrous moments that only a preschooler could conjure.

I don’t think it’s a bad deal. At least I get some chuckles out of it. Or goosebumps like when she first declared,”Daddy is my best friend.”

Awww… My Guy (or Any Guy for that matter) is not the melting kind so I melted for him. It didn’t surprise me either. As tough and no-nonsense as he is with her at times, he also makes her laugh the most so he would be the natural choice.
 
But that doesn’t bother me. As long as she still lights up when she sees me, I’m a happy mama. And a fiercely proud one at that.

Happy birthday Little Miss Full of Wonder. Three becomes you.

Presents

Monday, November 7, 2011

I’m Published!

HWIHL_bookcover

Well, kinda. Not really.

You see, my blog turned two about a week ago and unfortunately, due to an out-of-town trip, Halloween and prep for Little Miss’ birthday party, the celebration had to take a back seat. Actually, it was more like being stuffed in the trunk. Under the spare.

I just didn’t have the time to write.

But the occasion didn’t go unnoticed. My Guy remembered the anniversary and surprised me with a gift that took my breath away—He gave me a book. Not just any book. It’s my book. This gem of a man compiled all these words that I’d written in the last two years and printed them into a book for me. Or rather, for us, as a family.

HWIHLpages

“In case the Internet breaks,” he joked as I flipped through the pages, seeing the story our lives in print through tears that threatened to spill on its pristine surface.


HWIHLinscription_blur

On the outside, I was mostly speechless with gratitude. He did it again -- he gave me something I didn’t even know I wanted until it was in my hands. On the inside, I was thinking, He gets me. He really gets me.

That and Shit, how am I going to top this for his birthday?

* * *

A year ago, when I celebrated my first anniversary, I wrote about what this space meant to me. Those words ring true today too except now there is another baby, Thumper, who gives me yet another reason to write. Ironically, her presence also greatly diminishes my time spent on the computer.

But it’s the good kind of absence. The kind that involves chubby baby rolls, dimpled cheeks, and belly laughs, reminding me of how very full my life is. The kind that whispers, so this is what happiness really feels like.

Whisper, because I’m afraid that if it’s uttered out loud, it just might vanish with its echo. Because a year ago, as we were unraveling from unbelievable pressure, I didn’t dare to dream that we could ever get here. And so I tremulously hold on to these sweet, delicious days, sleep deprivation and toddler tantrums notwithstanding, because I know, having come out of the unbearable darkness, just how fragile and precious this light is.  

These past two years have been momentous in many ways. As Dickens says, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” and this space has been my sounding board, my refuge, and my sanctuary.  While it’s cathartic to write, it’s the conversations that happen here that fuel my need to continue on this path. The friendships, the solidarity, and the community of the blogosphere are so rich that my real life is envious of my virtual life.

I guess now would be the perfect time for me to say thank you to those of you who supported me, inspired me, encouraged me, helped me, guided me, understood me, loved me at my best, and loved me at my worst. To my girls for always giving me new material.

And especially to My Guy, who has done, and continues to do, all of the above and more.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Here in America

Today is Deepavali (or Diwali to most). And if this was Malaysia, there would be a frenzy of preparations. We  would clean our home and make a gazillion varieties of cookies, snacks, and dishes made from memory, not recipes, that we serve our guests during the open house, where friends of all races and family gather to celebrate the Hindu Festival of Lights. Except this isn’t Malaysia.

Here in America, we don’t see any signs of the celebration unless we travel into the heart of Little India, on the little strip of Devon Avenue in Chicago. Granted, it’s only a ten-minute drive from our place but we’re still out of its festive range. My girls will be oblivious to the event while my family half a world away feasts on dishes I’ve not had in years. It will be a raucous affair. And we will miss all of it. 

Instead, here in America, we will choose to perhaps make a small meal after work or just go to one of the restaurants on Devon Avenue and eat together as a family of five, not – jeez, I lost count - twenty? Thirty? Forty?! My mom will quietly have her modest feast with us as she usually does, although I know where her thoughts will travel because mine will be there too.

Here in America, it will be Halloween soon, and we’re surrounded by its reminders as we spot synthetic cobwebs and plastic gravesites on neighborhood yards. Headless bodies hang garishly from porches and obscene amounts of candy flood the aisles in grocery stores – all PSA on childhood obesity in moratorium. There’s money to be made!

Here in America, our older daughter learned to carve a pumpkin; her first Jack O’Lantern. And she is eager to parade around in her Halloween costume. One that matches her baby sister’s. (I couldn’t help it. I just had to before they can make their own decisions and defy mine.) She will go trick-or-treating, and she will boast about her massive candy haul. She will then give me a million reasons why she should finish her candy in one sitting. And I will come back with a million and one as to why she shouldn’t. There will be a hyper kid on a sugar rush, but eventually, she will succumb to the crash.

Here in America, I’ve not experienced any of this myself, but I imagine that’s what it will be. American TV has taught me that much. My daughters will not know the Deepavali celebrations I grew up with but they will have their own traditions, however alien they are to me.

Here in America, “Happy Diwali” is uttered in tiny little pockets throughout the country and “Happy Halloween” will resonate in almost every household. I chose to plant my roots and raise a family here, and so Halloween will now be part of our annual celebration. I will learn the tricks, and I will find the treats, if it means giving my girls the sense of belonging that I felt when I was growing up. Even if it’s not familiar to me. Even if it means leaving behind the celebration of my childhood. Assimilation has its price. But you know what they say, “when in Rome…”

Except we’re here, in America.

 

HalloweenGreetings


Have a safe and wonderful weekend, tricking or treating.

And for what it’s worth, Happy Deepavali to those of you who celebrate.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Weekending: Punkins! (Part One)

As parents, we learn that we don’t have all the answers. In fact, we realize that the longer we’re at this gig, the more questions we have. Here is our latest:

Why do we go to a pumpkin patch / carnival just to procure a pumpkin that we could get for much, much cheaper (because it doesn’t involve carnival rides and overpriced doughnuts) at the neighborhood grocer?

Oh right. It’s for the pictures (and a pretty fantastic time). Hey, at least we know the answer to this question.


InTheAir
Bounce baby bounce

 

BikeCarousel
My very own hell’s angel, although I use the term, angel, loosely

CornFieldRide
Horse-drawn cart in corn field. Yes, we’re in the Midwest. How can you tell?

TakingFlight
Little Miss loves rides with her daddy (the braver parent)



Slides
Her favorite part – she did this twice!

GrandmaAndBaby
No rides for this girl, but she’s still happy in her grandma’s arms

 

BabyFace
Not a whimper, not a fuss. This baby is cool like that

 

FacePainting
She picked the shape (kitty) and the color (pink, of course)

PumpkinPatch
The requisite pumpkin shot

 

GoodbyePumpkinPatch
Time to head home for the carving (part two, coming soon-ish)

How was your weekend?

 

Linking up with Amanda at the habit of being.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Reach

This is where we all begin…

Reach1

 

Reach2

 

Reach3

 

ReachMouth

 

ReachSmiles

But this isn’t where we all end up.

If you’ve observed infants who are just discovering their world, you know that it takes them awhile to master their hand-eye coordination. At four months, Thumper is beginning to reach for the object you place in front of her, but she often overshoots it. With jerky hand movements from her nascent motor skills, results of her attempts are never consistent. Sometimes she gets it. Sometimes she doesn’t. But the thing is, when there is something in front of her, she always tries to reach for it. It doesn’t even occur to her that it might be too difficult or too far.

Her modus operandi: Object in vision. Raise hand to reach. Almost by instinct.

Watching her, I realize it’s really an admirable quality in infants. Their attempts are never deterred by self-doubt. It makes me wonder when that starts to seep in to influence their actions. When they acquire language? When they begin to not just decipher the meaning behind words, but feel the weight of them as well? Like…

You’re too small. Too big. Too short. Too tall. It’s only for boys. It’s just for girls. It’s not for kids. You won’t understand. You won’t get it. It’s too hard. Too complicated. Too cumbersome. Too much work.

How much do these words influence our behavior? Make us second guess ourselves? Hold us back from trying something new, achieving a goal, realizing our dreams?

More importantly, why do we let them?

This is my 200th blog post. My blog is not much different today than what it was when I published my first entry. I had intended to keep it small, to record the growth of my first daughter and my journey in motherhood. But secretly, when I found a larger community of like-minded bloggers who had popular blogs, I began to have bigger dreams. Maybe I could grow my readership. Maybe it would be wildly successful. Maybe I could even make a living out of it. Maybe I’d become a writer!

But in reality, I was afraid. The seeds of doubt peppered my vision. What if I can’t? What if I’m not good enough? What if I fail?

And so I convince myself that this is it. This is all I want it to be – a little blog to capture memories of and for my family. I figured if I don’t have a lofty goal, I won’t fall. Right? But here’s the thing: I’m also not much further now than where I was when I first started. And I’m not sure this is where I want to be either.

I guess we could learn a thing or two from babies. Object in vision. Raise hand to reach.

Because if we don’t, how will we ever know how far we can really go?

* * *

This is my 200th blog post, dedicated to Thumper, who may not be the reason why I started this blog, but she’s certainly why I’m still at it, and to My Guy, whose own attempts to reach are a constant inspiration to me.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Who says you can’t be spontaneous with kids?

Columbus Day was a holiday for both Little Miss and me this year. After realizing how much I’ve missed just spending time alone with her since the arrival of her baby sister, I thought it was time for some one-on-one with my firstborn. On this particularly gorgeous Fall day, it felt like the perfect time to take a walk to collect leaves of different colors around our neighborhood while her little sister stayed home with my mom for her nap.

Leaves


Armed with a toddler-sized basket, Little Miss got busy gathering mementoes from the season. Just as we reached the elevated train tracks, she asked if we could take ride on it. I looked for a reason why we couldn’t except all I could think of was, why not? So we padded our tummies with some chocolate milk and blueberry pie from a nearby cafĂ© to avoid any potential meltdowns before we embarked on our journey to who-knows-where.

 

Platform


We jumped onto the first train that came by with no thought for destination – neither of us cared for a plan. Little Miss was especially happy just to be there. Even though she has been on a train on several occasions before, it has been about a year, which, as far as this toddler’s concerned, might as well have been the first time. When we finally decided to hop off, we picked up some Vietnamese pho for lunch at our destination and went back on the train to head home. 

TrainRide


As we reached our stop, I spotted a bus and made another impromptu decision to make a transfer instead of walking the few blocks home. It was barely a five-minute ride, but Little Miss was thrilled all the same. Part two of her adventure!



BusRide


When we reached home, she excitedly relayed the story of her spontaneous adventure to her paati (grandma) and then again over the phone to her daddy, who was stuck at work. At naptime, we talked about our morning together as she twirled her hair, a sure sign of her fatigue.

I’ve never been on a train before.
Yes you have. You just don’t remember it.

I’ve never been on a bus before.
Sure you have. We did it once when we were at the old house.

I’ve never been on a plane before.
Err...yes you have. Many times. Again, you just don’t remember it.

Exasperated, she thought for a little bit before once again, exclaiming:

I’ve never been on a school bus before!
{Laughing} Yes. You are right.

She grinned, obviously pleased she finally remembered something right. I tucked her in, kissed her and promised her another adventure someday. Just the two of us; just like old times.

I know I won’t forget this day. Too bad I can’t say the same for her.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Unrecorded, not unnoticed

Here’s what I noticed about having two kids. One day you’re hyper aware of growth milestones and the next, once another baby comes along, you’re just happy Number One is not feeding rocks to Number Two. At least that’s how I’ve been. There’s something to be said about lowering your standards I suppose.

I used to read baby books religiously to make sure Little Miss was developing as she should, and now that we have baby Thumper, the book sits untouched. No, I don’t think we’ve graduated from the baby experience. I just think that because we didn’t, as far as we can tell anyway, break our first daughter, we have become a little more confident as parents.

I am less apt to consult a book in anticipation of the next developmental milestone and more at ease with just letting it happen according to my baby’s own pace. I think I know just enough to know when to be worried. Other than that, a baby turning over at three months, drooling profusely and reaching for objects at month four seems par for the course. Oh and of course there’s that inaugural first bite of solids that always make a food freak like me even freakier than usual.

 

ThumperFirstSolids1) Hmmm…  2) What the %#%$**?   3) No thank you mama.   4) “Take pictures of me!”


It’s nice to feel a little more comfortable in my parenting, like hiking a treacherous mile with well-worn and well-made shoes, but sometimes, I think I’ve become too lax, especially with Little Miss, whose growth has been the feature of this blog since her 11th month. Now that she’s a regular person – as in the kind that can articulate her angst (and increase mine) - I tend to forget that she still has plenty of growing to do.

BigBootsThese boots are made for walkin’. Just not quite her size. Yet.

A few weeks ago, when I picked her up from preschool the first week back after her summer break, she stopped for water at the cooler, and I was shocked that she didn’t need the stool to reach the spout. The fact that she’s been turning on the lights at home by herself should have clued me in that this girl was growing, growing, growing, but I didn’t realize just how many inches she has (surreptitiously, right in front of my eyes) added to her petite frame until she could now independently do something she needed help with before. Note to self: Procure growth chart.

Just the other day, I revisited the post about Little Miss’ first word, and it’s hard to imagine that same girl today, who can now spell her own and her sister’s name and even recognize or spell certain words. Without my help or rather, thanks to the iPad, she has learned to write some easy alphabets on her own. She even employs her ten fingers for some simple math. Her favorite tune has moved on from “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to “Goosey Goosey Gander” and “Sing a Song of Sixpence” although she still doesn’t know what a sixpence is. All of this over the course of one summer, and it makes me wonder, where was I?!

These, individually, are pretty remarkable progressions, but because there’s a baby at home needing to be fed, changed, bathed and rocked to sleep, they have largely gone unrecorded. In my defense, if I spend my time taking notes for the future, what if I miss the moments that are right here, right now? Ones that don’t appear in pictures or blog posts but that are nestled in the deep crevices of my brain, waiting for a warm and surprising discovery someday like finding more hot fudge at the bottom of my ice cream sundae.

The day will come where my girls will no longer need me to mark each moment, steady their balance, clap in encouragement. They will do what they set out to do, with or without me.

I just want them to know that even if I don’t make a note of them, I always notice them.

 

ChineseShirtSmile

Friday, September 30, 2011

Six Word Fridays: How to…


How to keep my kids entertained.

 

iPadMonkey

Apps galore for some iPad fun
She learns to count, spell, write
And she’s out of my hair.

 

EntertainmentWith2

Having Number One entertain Number Two
Good reason to have two kids
Until they both scream for attention.

 

 

sixwordfridays

Join us for Melissa's Six Word Fridays. Today’s topic: " How To ".

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Deja vu

DejaVu1Both in the four-month range. Let’s play who’s this baby?

Parenting is hard work. Sometimes we just got to have a little fun. Even Especially if it’s at our kids’ expense.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Poop - a humbling experience



We had a really good weekend. Little Miss pooped in the potty! Finally.
Yes, that’s what parenthood does to you. One day you’re writing a thesis paper on Zora Neale Hurston and the next, you’re making unapologetic announcements on the blog about your daughter’s bowel movement. But that’s how it is folks.

We’re celebrating on our end (haha, get it? get it?) because we didn’t think this day would ever come. We were spoiled by our Little Miss, who had hit all of her other milestones with relative ease that we thought nothing of potty training. In fact, we didn’t think about it at all. We figured she’d just wake up one day and decide against diapers and that would be the end of it. So we didn’t do our due diligence. We didn’t read up on training. Nor did we think we needed to.

After all, she pretty much led her own changes. One day she’s in a crib. The next, she’s in a big girl bed - her choice. She was fearless. She slept through the night. She loves veggies. Our toddler was an easy kid. Naturally we took credit and congratulated ourselves for that. Surely we were doing something right. And surely when it came to potty training, it would be a breeze too.  

WRONG!

When we introduced the potty, she would use it only when she felt like it, and she refused to be anywhere near a bathroom for bowel movements.  I thought staying home with me while I was on maternity leave would help with the training, except I was never consistent, and without a plan, she never made much progress. 

I recently found out that her preschool’s three-year-old class would not accept her in the classroom unless she’s fully potty-trained; that’s when I panicked. I only had three months to get her trained! I thought I tried everything - stickers, M&M’s, even punishment for going in her diaper. Nothing worked. 

I had to accept that I could no longer just wing it; I needed help. That's when I carefully selected a book on potty training, read it cover to cover and realized that I was going about it all wrong! I followed the advice, changed my tactics and soon, she started to come around. 

When I decided one day that she would forego diapers and pull-ups and just use underwear that she picked out herself, she made it through the entire day without a single accident. Not only that, on that same day, she also announced unexpectedly that she was going to “read some books and poopoo in the potty.” That was the part I thought I’d have to struggle with for the next few months but to my amazement, that was exactly what she did! I guess when she’s ready, she’s ready.

We celebrated by introducing Star Wars, the movie, to her. This entire time, she has only seen them as characters from her ABC book, but what a treat it was for her to see them as live action heroes (and villains)! I loved seeing her face light up as she named each character and spaceship as they zoomed across the screen. It was better than M&M’s. 

She has gone several times since then and had not had an accident. But this is still new to us, so it may be too soon to tell if she’s fully trained. However, we’re just thrilled we’ve made more progress in the last two weeks than we have in months. All because we sucked it up, stopped thinking miracles would occur just because they had before and sought help.

It’s a humbling experience. I suppose that could be said of both potty training and parenting. We’ve learned that just because we’re ready doesn’t mean our kids are. We’ve been lucky with Little Miss' easy transitions because she was ready for a change long before we were, and so we were never met with a challenge. Now that we have, we had to put aside our ego and assumptions and work hard for the results we wanted.

I think the most important lesson we’ve learned from this is that just when we think it’s safe to feel confident, even smug, about our role as parents, there will always be something that will smack us on the head and bring us back down to earth. 

* * *
What was your most difficult parenting challenge? What were your kids' hardest transition(s)? Have you ever felt like you could rest on your laurels as a parent?






Monday, September 12, 2011

Timing is everything - My 9/11 story

September 10, 2001, 8:15 am
The immigration officer didn’t even ask for the stack of photo albums we brought to prove that we’re legitimately and happily married. Just a couple of cursory questions and voila! I was approved for my green card. Newly minted almost-American, just one step away from my citizenship.

I was surprised (and relieved) that it was that easy.

September 11, 2001, 7:46 am. Approximately 24 hours later.
The first plane crashed into the World Trade Center.

I was at home that morning, barely awake for my 10 am shift at the restaurant when I received a phonecall from my then husband. He asked me to watch the news. And the horror unfolded before my eyes as I hugged myself on the couch in disbelief.

Later, my dad called from Malaysia, half a world away, asking if I was watching the news. I nodded, as if he could see. That was when the towers collapsed. I felt a cry lodged in my throat. And then I bawled. My dad understood; he hung up and left me to my grief.

The day after my green card interview. I couldn’t imagine what it would’ve been like for me had it been the day after the attack, rather than before. But that was the furthest thing from my mind then. Like millions around the world, I was shaken to the depths of my core.

I am lucky - I didn’t lose anyone that day. But I gained a new home country just 24 hours before. And maybe that’s why the event felt like it hit so close to home. Because I was home.

Yet I couldn’t fathom the smoldering images that burned my eyes. This wasn’t the America I signed up for. What was happening? The fire, the chaos, the ashes, the utter helplessness - that wasn’t supposed to be happening here. Not here. Not America.  

Suddenly tragedy was no longer just what happened to others in faraway places, in cities with hard-to-pronounce names. It could happen right here, on the soil that I, just 24 hours before, had newly and deliberately planted my roots.

September 10, 2011, 12:30 pm. Ten years later.
We drove two hours across state line to purchase a very specific vehicle that would meet our very particular needs. It has to be roomy but not too large for our urban streets; techie for my geek but not too complicated for me; family-friendly but still sporty enough for performance junkies like us; gorgeous but not flashy.

Not only would this be a departure from our manual, turbo-enhanced hatchback, but it would also be our first American car.

My Guy, the car enthusiast, who watched the sad demise of several classic American brands, has been really excited about the phoenix-like rise of the American motor industry that went from near or total bankruptcy to become worthy competitors of their Japanese, Korean and German counterparts.

I have to admit I was a little prejudiced at first; I didn’t trust his recommendations for us when he listed the American brands. But when I read the reviews and the specs for myself, I was sold. There’s never been a more exciting time to buy American.

So ten years to the day after my green card approval and on the eve of the 9/11 ten-year anniversary, it seemed poetic for us to go home with an American car. Just like New York who rose above the ashes, so did these American icons: Ford, Dodge, Chrysler, Cadillac.

When we pulled out of the lot with our new vehicle, we did so with our girls tucked safely in the back and our pride displayed boldly on the front, right next to the Dodge emblem.

As we rumbled confidently down the street, I couldn’t help but wonder, here we are with our American car and our American girls, but had my green card interview been scheduled the day after 9/11 and not the day before, would I still be here?

Dodge Journey



* * *

What’s your 9/11 story?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

It’s not just me

3525805055_e7ca366f66

The air is crisp; fall is just around the corner. It would seem that we’re not the only ones enjoying the temperate weather. Most windows in our courtyard building are open this evening, including ours.

For the first time, I hear a wailing baby. And not too far away, a defiant toddler punctures the crickets’ chorus with his dissent. These distressing sounds, once part of the urban symphony to which I’ve grown accustomed and which I’ve scarcely paid attention, snap me back into focus.

This time my ears are perked – they hone in on the anguished cries of children like preschoolers to bubbles. I don’t enjoy their misery, but I feel a sense of solidarity. Like we’re all in this together. Mothers. Fathers. Big kids. Little kids. Our homes may not be the same, but our dance is. Sometimes we glide effortlessly. Sometimes we flail and stumble.

As the curtains gently sway and lift to allow the outside air into my living room, swirling the piercing sounds of nearby children who aren’t mine around that of those who are mine, I breathe deeply and deliberately. Then I exhale, relieved. Assured.

It’s not just me.

 

* * *

Have you ever felt this way before?

 

image source: 107-0773_IMG by mtnbikrrrr.

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