Monday, July 23, 2012

Time flies, and I want to catch it!

LittleMiss21Months
I was searching for something in my Inbox the other day and found this precious picture of Little Miss, dated Aug 25, 2010. My Guy, who was always the one to dress and send her to daycare while I was already at work, sent me this (and many others as part of the morning routine) to make me smile. 

When I saw this again this time, I more than smiled. My heart. It did something. My eyes did even more. I couldn’t believe that that girl is the same as the one here:

Easel

How did that happen? More importantly, how did I not notice?

Or maybe I did. Like the nights when I hoisted her gangly appendages that were draping from the bed back under the covers when she was fast asleep. Or when she impressed me with her negotiating prowess – this one is about our trip home from the suburbs, an hour away:

Little Miss: Can I please watch a show on the DVD player?
Me: It’s close to bedtime, and you’ll probably be tired after the party. How about you just rest?
Little Miss: No, I don’t want to… I know! How about I do two things at the same time? I can watch the show and rest while I’m doing that.

Right.

(In case you’re wondering, she did neither. She ended up giggling and singing with her sister in the backseat instead).

And speaking of singing, if you’re ever in the same room with Thumper and you hear “Ba Ba Ba Ba…” to the tune of the ABC song, it’s not a coincidence. My 13-month-old can actually “sing” that song! Both My Guy and I were agog when we heard her do it once a couple of days ago, but we thought it was a fluke. Until she did it again. And again. And again.

Another “how did that happen?” moment.

Raising kids is the very definition of how time flies isn’t it?
 

< > < > < >

We’re going on vacation in two days. We’ll be gone for 10 days, and we’re over the moon! Thanks to the generosity of family and friends, we’re able to make this vacation happen. A time away from our routine. A real break! And I’d like to take this break seriously.

Little Miss goes back to preschool at the end of August, and I want to truly relish these precious few days with her, as well as her sister. I’m so focused on keeping my baby as the baby that sometimes I gloss over this other girl of mine who is growing, growing, growing. She’s my first baby, and she needs me too.

They both do.

And that’s why I think this is a great time for me to take a blogging break for awhile so I can turn my focus completely on them. There will be road trips and meltdowns, mountains and oceans, family and friends – it will be a fantastic vacation. And it will probably also suck a little (or a lot) with two young kids in tow.

But it’s our first vacation since we both quit our corporate jobs. A first where neither My Guy nor I have to check with a boss or put in a request for time away. We just picked the dates, checked with our hosts and we’re off! It’s so liberating. What a great validation for all the blood, sweat and tears we’ve put in to make this life work for us.

And it’s time to savor it.

Especially when there is so much goodness and so little time. I want to make every waking moment count.

Starting…now.

NerdAlert

* * *

Enjoy the rest of your summer. See you in a few weeks!

 

 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hi Bye Eye and other short sounds

MirrorMirror

It’s no secret. I adore little Thumper. My second girl. The baby of the family. Also our last.

And it’s that last part that tugs at my heart every time I see her achieve a new milestone. It’s often bittersweet – her first tooth is also the last first tooth I’ll ever experience with my own baby. Her firsts, my lasts.

The fact that she has been a generally happy, albeit serious, baby makes it even harder for me to let go. Every stage, every milestone is such a gift. But even then, she suffers from Second Baby Syndrome.

You know the one where the second child gets shafted for just about everything? Hand-me-downs, smaller celebrations, not recording key dates…I remember being a little more diligent with Little Misses’ milestones, and now, it’s anyone’s guess when Thumper’s first tooth appeared.

However, her language is exploding now, and seeing as it’s my favorite stage, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least try to capture some of that here. I have to - I want to - remember this because it’s exciting to see how this once-upon-a-blob is slowly turning into a real, little person just from the way she expresses herself.

Granted, she’s only 13 months, so there’s not going to be anything spectacular or entertaining here. But as her mom, sounding the sheep’s “Baa” is exciting. I realize I also need to get out more.

Apart from sheep sounds, she is also familiar with ones made by elephants (complete with a hand motion that mimics its trunk), owls, dogs, monkeys, cats, oh my! She says “Choo choo” when she spies a train, “moa” when she wants more food, and “mah” for milk.

When I say, call daddy, she bellows, “Da-da!” and I absolutely adore it. She points at her own nose, mouth, tongue (with the accompanying sound effect, “ah!”) ears, and eyes, which she also says. But her favorite is her belly button. Mine, too, because it allows me a peek at that pudgy belly of hers.

She’s also that baby who randomly (and very loudly) says hi and bye to strangers, so they’re sometimes compelled to respond. Not everyone knows what to do when accosted by a friendly baby apparently, so there’s often these awkward acknowledgements that make me wonder about people who’re leery of babies. She’s not trying to sell you a vacuum cleaner for heaven’s sake – she’s just saying hi.

The talking is one thing, but her ability to communicate without speaking continues to impress me. My favorite is when she does the “I don’t know” hand gesture when she’s looking for something but can’t find it.

Or when she flipped over to the back of the book we were reading and saw about six thumbnails of different books by the same author and pointed at the thumbnail of the same book in her hands. She then flipped it back to the front and pointed at it again, babbling her baby talk to tell me she recognized the thumbnail. It was pretty cool.

She understands more than she can say, as she points at birds, planes, the fan or different people when prompted.  It’s also delightful every time she does exactly what I ask of her - “Lay down”, “sit", ”bring me your shoes”, '”go look for Little Miss”, “let’s eat some food”, etc. But when she’s not interested, she shakes her head adamantly. And there’s no changing that mind.

Acquisition of language is especially interesting to me because of my love for language arts and the fact that I grew up fluent in four languages myself. I remember being really keen when Little Miss hit the talking phase too. Except now she won’t stop.

I have a feeling that Thumper will probably get there too. I’m just hoping that she will have Little Miss for company then and hopefully, I will only have to field about 75 questions a day, as opposed to the gazillion that Little Miss has for me now.

As for other milestones, they’re pretty much overshadowed by the hi’s, bye’s and eye’s. However, since I’m already here, I might as well complete my task of recording the minutiae (to avoid being on Thumper’s shit list when she’s older).

WhatTheTeethIn lieu of “oink”, which is still too sophisticated for her nascent skills, she can pull off pig face pretty effectively when prompted with “what do pigs do?” As you can see, she has seven front teeth. While we were waiting for Number 8 to appear, something else happened instead.


WhatTheTearsMolars! Two top ones at the same time. How brutal. Hence the face. And the Jekyll and Hyde baby.

 

WhatTheBangsAs for the bangs, she’s half Elvis. Okay, not really. We decided to lay off the scissors with this kid. Her sister had always worn her hair short at that age, and we didn’t want to miss our chance of having a wee one in pigtails around the house so Thumper is it.

That is the burden of the second/last baby - whatever we missed with the first, we’re going to have to make up for it with the second. This also means Thumper gets to have long hair, sleep in our bed, nurse well past her first year, and an outdoor birthday party.

Down the road, she’ll probably get to stay up late, go to sleepovers and rock concerts, and travel on her own much sooner than her sister.

Perhaps being second isn’t so bad after all.

 

* * *

How do you feel as a first, second, third or (insert number here) born child yourself? Were you treated any differently from your siblings by your parents because of your birth rank? If you’re a parent, what role, if any, does birth rank play in how you raise your kids?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ordinary days

LittleMissSandwichGrin

I know it sounds strange, but it’s been a challenge to blog lately because things are swimming along this summer. And I’m not drowning. In fact, I’m on my fourth week at home with my girls, and I can’t remember a more perfect summer.

I read the New York Times article, Redefining Success, Celebrating the Ordinary and something finally clicked for me as to why I was so reluctant to post my blogs these days, even though I have about five idling in the queue. I realized that I was afraid to come out about what I’ve been doing with my days because, well, I haven’t been doing anything out of the ordinary at all.

I haven’t gone back to Paris with my family like I had hoped. Heck, I haven’t even left the state in a year!  I didn’t get a swanky new job or a fancy title. My preschooler didn’t win any prizes. We didn’t buy a house or a horse. And Thumper still isn’t walking yet.

In fact, all we’ve been doing is to move from one body of water to another. One day the beach, another the pool at the aquatic center and the next, an inflatable pool at a neighbor’s, trying to beat the unrelenting heat. And on temperate summer days, there are long walks to the park or the market or to absolutely nowhere at all.

Yet, I’ve been strangely settled. Content. And - dare I say it?- happy.

I feel sheepish and a little tremulous as I find myself admitting to this but now that I’ve said it, it feels like a bud that just erupted into a full bloom or the satisfying end of a sigh.

But I wonder: Do people admit that? Should they? My Chinese half - also the superstitious half - thinks it’s an invitation to some unforeseen disaster around the corner, poised to attack when someone openly, audaciously, admits that they’re happy.

And so I go back to doubting myself - a familiar territory. Because this happiness thing can’t possibly be. After all, nothing special has happened. How is it that I’m now happier than I’ve ever been yet I have nothing extraordinary to report?

But when I read the article, it all made sense to me.

How do we go back to the idea that ordinary can be extraordinary? How do we teach our children — and remind ourselves — that life doesn’t have to be all about public recognition and prizes, but can be more about our relationships and special moments?

And that’s what this summer has been about for me. Relationships and special moments. Finding the extra in the ordinary.

Like laying in the dark with Little Miss as we have a quiet exchange about our day when sleep does not find her so easily.

Like listening to giggling girls making mischief together in some part of the house as I prepare their meals in the kitchen.

Like braiding Little Miss’ hair for the first time, because she had always worn it short.

Like being greeted by My Guy with his homemade waffles and coffee in the morning. On a weekday.

Like hearing Thumper’s tentative first words, an imperceptible garble to some but to me, it’s like watching the world form around her with each word, “baa” (sheep/ball), “ah-ah” (monkey), “maa” (more/milk), “dah” (duck/dog), daa (car), etc.

AnimatedThumper

Like watching Thumper offer the crying Little Miss a kiss and a hug as consolation. And vice versa.

Like not having any plans on the eve of the 4th of July and a couple of emails and texts later, we had four families at our house the next day for a potluck and another trip to the beach.

Like an electric night with my big girl as we walked down to the pier to take in the sight of her first Independence Day fireworks (she was always asleep by this time of the night before this) as her daddy stayed home with her sleeping sister.

Like My Guy who bought my friend and me a pedicure just so I could have a morning off and someone to accompany me while he watched our girls.

Like getting together with a group of neighbor moms for drinks on a random Tuesday night and coming home at midnight feeling more rejuvenated than tired.

Like being able to eat outside on the porch for every meal because the weather has been so incredibly good to us this season.

Datenight

Like going on a date on a gorgeous summer evening and walking the streets of Chicago hand in hand with the one man who helped make all of these moments possible.

Katrina Kenison, author of “The Gift of an Ordinary Day”, says in the article:

“Ordinary has a bad rap, and so does settling — there is the idea that we should always want more. But there’s a beauty in cultivating an appreciation for what we already have.”

When I had a well-paid job before, I had more once. Many things that money can buy. Now I have neither Paris nor prizes. What I do have are relationships and special moments. Every. Single. Day.

But they’re ordinary. Yet, when I think about it, the most vivid memories from my childhood are of ordinary moments.

Like laying on my mom’s lap as we watched TV while she combed my hair with her fingers. I did that until I was well into my teenage years.

Like my father teaching me the breast stroke at the pool by the National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, my hometown.

Like playing Monopoly with my parents on my dad’s rare evenings home with us.

And I want the same for my girls. Remembering a gesture, a kindness, an evening spent under the stars, on a picnic blanket. The sound of laughter echoing in our living room.

Perfectly ordinary things. Nothing to write home about.

Yet, sometimes, as I’ve learned, they could be everything.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Photo Friday: Heat wave

There’s a heat wave sweeping across most of the country. Here at Chez Landed, we’re pulling out all the stops to battle the unbearable temperatures.

 

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Our oasis about 100 feet from our home. Nothing like a cool, sometimes icy, dip in Lake Michigan to shake off the 100-degree blues.

 

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But we also can’t go wrong with chocolate ice cream for the big kid. 

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And daytime treat for grown-ups.

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No clothes, no shoes, no problem! In fact, it’s preferred.

 

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I wonder what the cat’s trying to say to us.

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Forget the hot stove, let someone else cook. At this drive-in, we don’t even need to leave the air-conditioned car for quintessential Chicago hotdogs and chocolate malts. Win-win!

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Night-time treat for grown-ups. Zzz's for kids, margaritas for us.

 

These are pictures from my Instagram collection. I just realized that what spontaneously ends up on Facebook or in other social media platforms doesn’t always appear on the blog. Since this space is dedicated to my girls, it’s probably a good idea for me to compile them here as well for posterity.

Do you inadvertently use Facebook (or other social media outlets) to document family life too?

Monday, July 2, 2012

I want to change my feet

Chinchilla The Nature Center introduces kids to exotic pets, like chinchillas. Also, this picture has nothing to do with the post.

This stay-at-home summer with my girls has taught me, no, reinforced something (in a way that we hammer in a nail 27 more times to make sure it sticks): My older daughter, Little Miss, age 3.5, is rather loquacious.

Sometimes, when she’s around, I can hardly hear myself think, she talks so much. Growing up as an only child, where I was often left to my own devices, reading or playing quietly in some corner, hearing constant chatter (Watch this! Look at me! Hey, you know what?) and trying to field a barrage of questions (What’s elevate? Who’s on the call? Why are you doing that?) at what feels like every minute of the day can be a little overwhelming. Not to mention unnerving.

But she’s learning. She’s curious. She’s exploring. All good things. For her.

It’s an occupational hazard for me.

Yet, there are gems that come out of that mouth that make the rough moments worth it for me. Well, almost.

After watching Disney’s Brave, we were role-playing the movie and naturally, she played the princess (and I, the witch. Of course). At least it’s a story I can get behind. (Brave, warrior-like princess with no love interest that makes her swoon? Hell yes!) But when it came to the part where Merida, the princess, had to ask the witch (ahem, me) for a potion, Little Miss said:

“I want a spell to change my feet.”

Confused, I asked, “Feet? But we’re playing Brave, not The Little Mermaid.”

She became impatient. “Yes, I know.” And then adamant: “That’s what Merida says in the movie! She wants to change her feet!”

And then comprehension dawned on me.

“Oh honey, I think you meant fate. She wants to change her fate!” And I burst out laughing.

She wasn’t happy at my reaction, but I couldn’t help myself, imagining what the movie must have been like for her. She was probably wondering why Merida wants to change her feet when there’s nothing wrong with them.

Last week, during a long-ish drive home, I decided to distract Little Miss from the length of the journey with a game in the car, where we each took turns coming up with words that started with a particular letter. That day, it was F.

She’d been doing really well, coming up with doozies like “Ferris Wheel” (perhaps passing Navy Pier had something to do with it) and “fingers” on top of predictable ones like “fries”, “frog” and “fun”.

Then My Guy offered, “Five”. I chimed in with “Four”, and Little Miss’ eyes looked like they were going to pop when she exploded with “Freeeee!”

Technically, she was right. Except she didn’t mean “free”. She meant “three” because that’s how she usually says it - one, two, free!

She was so pleased with herself that it was tough trying to finally break the news to her that a) she was wrong; and b) she had been mispronouncing three all along. That is, after we got a good amount of chuckling in, but we at least tried to be discreet that time.

There are many moments like these with Little Miss, but it’s sad that the ones I remember more at the end of the day are ones fraught with tears and high-pitched screams. She is always pushing – buttons, boundaries, me - that even though I’m trying to parent better, I don’t always succeed at not allowing her to get the better of me.

LittleMissGrouchy

Maybe she’s super talented. Or maybe I’m not very good at this. But I don’t let this keep me from trying. Because I know she’s trying too.

She’s trying to vie for the attention that was once all hers. She’s trying to be heard. She’s trying to exert her personality. She’s trying to please me. How do I fault her for any of that?

And so we both keep trying. Both coming from different places, and never quite meeting in the middle, which makes it unbelievably hard sometimes. Especially when we spend so much time together these days.

But then she’d say things like:

“My poop is kinda hard. I didn’t have a lot of vegetables today. I think I’m going to have peas and broccoli for breakfixt tomorrow. And carrots. And toast. All of it. Okay?”

And it’s all better again.

 

LittleMissCollageDon’t look at me; she did her own hair.

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