Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mid-December 2011

It's finally cold as Winter should be. On the rare sunny day, we head outdoors to the swing set. On the slide, I recognize that there's this brief moment teetering at the top where there is anticipation, and then he kicks off and lets himself go, hurtling down to where I'm waiting at the bottom. It's a slide with an extra curve to it, and he's still small for it, so the momentum of it throws his head back. If I didn't catch him the force of it would propel him upright and over at the bottom. Of course, he loves it. 

We meander around the backyard. He picks up large branches nearly twice his height and carries them to another part of the yard, assembling them as if for a fort. He is momentarily distracted by a squirrel, and then by a barking neighbour dog. He trips and reaches up for help with a hand out, face covered over by his falling-over hood. He stops, shakes off one mitten, and then pulls the other off, tossing them aside. 

18 months is a sweet age, when despite rushing headlong down a hallway he knows to divert course and stop to receive a kiss. He lunges at and hugs the leg of a known adult with both arms. He can say bye, wave, and touch foreheads with a departing family member without fussing, as long as he's being held or sees that someone else will be staying with him.

He's becoming more and more verbal, and I recall, as if I've been through this before, that children are quick to pick up and imitate those around them. He repeats the last syllable of a phrase, mimics the intonation of various exclamations, or interjects his input into silences in conversations. He nods knowingly sometimes when he catches you looking at him. He stares stupefied at the beautifully animated and emotionally rich (!) Tinkerbell & the Lost Treasure movie. When watching TV, he alternately sits in his favourite corner spot on the couch and plays with his feet distractedly, and then moves over to lean on or into me. He stands before closed doors and calls for them to be opened. He greets the fish, attempts to discern the essence of their fishy-ness, and then walks away, tossing out a perfunctory farewell as he leaves. From the bay window, he stands with both hands on the glass, and greets passerby. 

Looking at pictures, was he really that different as a newborn, and is he really growing up already?

Friday, November 18, 2011


A colleague of mine, with three school-age children, surprised me this week by saying she was considering  being a foster parent. She's motivated by the positive impact she could make in children's lives, a real difference to their childhood and beyond. I think of foster parenting as a half-way point to adoption, and wondered if that was really what she wanted to do. I'm open to adopting, but I think I'm not open to fostering. As I think about it, it's because I think of being a parent as all-or-nothing, and I would find it hard to invest time and cultivate love, and then have it be impermanent, to be taken away on a timeline and according to circumstances outside of my control. I'm not a selfless enough person to "fill in the gap," or be the interim measure of hope and stability but not be quite family. Foster parenting is a special calling - to do the best you can for the children that come to you, to be a safe haven for a time, a soft landing, until they move on.

Then and now

I remember there was a time when I would say to him, "what do you want to do now?" and then I would do whatever I thought best to fill the next 15-increment period of time, such as "reading" a book together, or putting him in the stroller for a walk, or setting up the mobile to move over his swing chair. That was infancy.

Toddlerhood is a grand adventure, in which I follow the lead of a purposeful, busy being, who is prioritizing playing with toys, checking in on various people in the house and what they are doing, accessing snacks, making clothing decisions (shoes and/or socks on/off?), and exploring the source of sounds or changes in the environment.

I am observing how he manages new environments and interacts with others. He and I had a play date today with five women, two older toddler boys, and a 2 month old baby girl. He's used to one-on-one time during the day with a family member, either my mother-in-law or myself, so usually takes a bit of time to warm up in a group. He remembered this house and what he liked to play with (the guitar on a stand, the computer mouse, the tall plant in the corner). As more people arrived, he stayed close to me. I carved out some space for us to be both with the group and apart - we ate near the table, but sitting on the stairs in the same room. I noticed as I would go to and fro that he was comfortable staying around the area, and as he was finishing eating he retrieved a heavy wooden toy, a videocassette he had been looking at, and even half-dragged/half-carried over a footstool to the area. It was becoming like a little fortress with his spoils - the occupied land in the corner that he was laying claim to.

He was both interested in and jostling for position at times with one of the other toddlers, both of them running for the door when someone arrived, like puppies, and each of them brushing past the other to get to someone or some thing or other. They both resolutely refused to share the wooden hammer toy, though each in turn forgot or were distracted from their interest in it, and by discarding it "let" the other have their time with it. Meanwhile, with the toddler he was more familiar with, he "visited" him a few times while he was perched on a chair, putting his face in close to his to see what he was up to.

I am thinking we should have him spend more time with a small baby, so he understands what they are like and how to behave. When the 2 month old was put in a swing chair, he moved the chair back and forth gently, fingered her hair, and at one point set his feet and reached for her with both arms as if to lift her out, the better to play with her. When her mom was nursing her, he and one of the other toddlers came to attend the occasion, and he made grabs at her kicking sock-clad feet poking out from the nursing cover.

We disperse in the early afternoon for older-child school pick-ups or to avoid traffic, but not before a little nap-needy crying. It's noted that he is playing it up a little for his audience, so I take him away to the adjoining room to allow him to regroup and reset.

He's still an "easy baby," is affectionate, and still enjoys cuddle time, but I see the spirit of toddlerhood in him, which will only grow stronger as he becomes more and more independent. I am cherishing all the one-on-one time, this toddling/babbling/verbalizing/climbing phase, the time between outgrowing those 12 month baby outfits and the time before he's really walking alongside, talking all the while.

Another mom and I are expecting within a week of each other - we can compare notes up to and after the births - this will be her third, so I can definitely benefit from having perspective - recognizing things could be even more hectic! I note that the three moms with toddlers don't need the "baby fix" that the two older women do, taking it in turn to rock and hold the 2 month old close. It's still fresh to us, or the time will come around again soon enough. I am looking forward to meeting this new one, whose gender we are waiting again for birth to find out, but I remember the sleep deprivation and long sometimes-lonely days...I am motivated to bring up my toddler to be good company during my maternity leave, during his year of going from 2 to 3 years old. I expect at least I will have someone who will talk to me all the time!

It's good to be part of a community of women & children - we by design this time met without the menfolk on a sunny weekday.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

18 month old & 18 weeks along

My sweet toddler's emotional life is becoming more complex by the day. He's woken up the last couple of mornings ready to go...usually he is content to cuddle up and sleep in. He's up for playing outdoors with the neighbor kids in leaf piles, and then to go down the slide by himself. But then, if you don't let him wave his spoon around trying to get his food out of his bowl on his own, he might just become inconsolable and refuse to eat at all.

He is very definitive in which sesame street YouTube clips he likes or doesn't like. He makes snap judgements on new videos we play. His attention span for these is under four minutes each but up to an hour total for quiet time in lieu of napping.

He took well to the ten year old girl (family of friends) today and let himself lead and be lead to play with new toys, and in separate rooms from where we were. If he doesn't have time to warm up, he's started wrapping his arms around a parent's or grandma's leg for security when in an uncertain situation.

I had made a rough guess that he had 30 spoken words at the 18 month check-up but then I hear others, like 'bubbles.'

I think that the very fact of hearing two languages keeps his mind busier and is stimulating in itself. He is adapting well to understand that two languages are spoken: that the routines and objects don't change, but different words and expressions are used. What could be confusing and frustrating is accepted as just how it is. Every object has at least two names.

Meanwhile, daddy felt kicking tonight for the first time of this new one due in April. We've begun the negotiation of the boy names again. (Our girl name was decided before we were married, and the boy name we decided on was the first one we both liked).

Talking to my friend who is having her first due a week after me in April, I have this odd sense of both being experienced but knowing I'll be sucked in again to that newborn 24/7 immersion, that haze of frequent feedings & restless sleep, that joint honeymoon/nightmare, postpartum recovery/postpartum euphoric state, to last up to six months.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Notes from Hallowe'en

-4+ possible costumes: Donald Duck, bear, monkey, bumblebee, doctor...
-dressing up toddler as duck: he overcompensates by waddling, and has to adjust his too-big headpiece
-his first house is the next door neighbor, and the kids are just setting out (turtle and princess), so we all go year we will plan to go together
-he's happy to be walking along in a crowd of kids and adults, holding my hand
-some encounters seem to be too short for him: he receives candy and is made much of, is directed away, but then once or twice he backtracks as if to go back to the lighted doorway
-he gets handfuls when they see him...
-older kids think he's cute
-he lets four of us take turns to carry him once it gets dark out
-when he is offered choice from a basket, he picks the biggest thing: a two-pack of butter tarts
-he can follow the lead of his older neighbourhood buddies
-when walking,he knows to cut across lawns to go from doorway to doorway...a straight path across makes more sense than going up and down long driveways
-later, at home, he stands at the bay window watching the kids in costumes come and go
-we put on one of his back-up costumes (monkey) for pictures
-Hallowe'en is fun again...truly a kids' night out, and will only get better from here

Friday, October 28, 2011

Evolution of ambulation

One step at a time, an exercise in balance and counterbalance, both arms above his head, fingers outstretched.

Moving from point A to point B, arms aloft mid-level.

One arm out for balance, the other free to hold an object.

Delivery service: lifting up and hugging to himself awkwardly shaped objects while walking, balancing accordingly. Examples include badminton racket, diaper box, exercise ball, DVDs.

Loitering (standing and looking around, stepping to get out of the way or take a closer look at activities or objects of interest) while swinging arms casually, like a caution-tape gawker or a sprinter warming up.

Places to go: zooming along leaning slightly forwards, with arms tucked to his sides and trailing behind, aerodynamic as an airplane. Stepping backwards without looking, aware of obstacles. Climbing under tables, walking while crouching so as not to bump his head.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


One thing we have learned is that a well-rested toddler is a happy toddler. I've heard every age has its own challenges. At the moment, 17 months old, while he isn't talking all the time, it does seem like his needs are easily met. He will still be lulled to sleep in a moving car, and will gradually settle and sleep on a long walk in the stroller. Tonight he cuddled up and dozed off on daddy's arm as they watched music clips on the iPad. When he was moved to his crib, he woke and fussed briefly, and then gathered and drew in his 'loveys' and flopped down to sleep. It's a little more complicated now than the newborn stage, when you'd look down and see that they'd drifted off, noiselessly. I imagine it's easier now than when we move him to a toddler bed and he actively protests being put to bed.

So we anticipate when he'll suddenly be talking all the time, just as at some point he transitioned to walking all the time. I want to remember every toddler moment but then I celebrate with him each time he makes progress...somehow he went from 4 teeth to over 16, from taking first steps to running backwards and shuffling sideways, from drinking milk to spooning his own yoghurt & holding and eating an apple.

He's learned to point at my abdomen when asked where the baby is, and to say 'baby' but I'm not convinced he really understands...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

From yes to no...

I wonder if before he nodded yes to every question because he assumed our intentions and his wishes were aligned, as indeed they may have been (offers of food or comforts). Even now, if he doesn't quite understand a question, he will nod, taking a chance that something good will come of it. Of course, if it doesn't, he is very clear that he DID NOT AGREE to have his diaper changed/leave the playground/go to bed.

As he becomes more and more independent, I can see how a default no is preferable for toddlers. It allows time to understand the situation, to stall, to see if other options will be presented, and most of all, to leave breathing room to continue to do whatever they were already doing.

I may need to learn to make suggestions and seek consensus rather than ask questions. Rather than ask "ready to leave the park?" say "how many more times down the slide? After that, we can walk home and have lunch!" Then be prepared to negotiate down from the impossibly high number, recalling the four-year old we know, who when asked how many fried chicken pieces she wanted, said "ten!"

Bedtime negotiation

The little guy is becoming more and more sophisticated. Tonight I tried to cajole him a few times to head to bed, at his regular bedtime, but he resisted. When I asked if he was tired he scurried away around the couch, where he knew I wasn't likely to follow. He came back out cautiously when I reached for a book and sat down. He thwarts my intent to pick him up knowing he's better off if he keeps his distance, and can then spend more time awake with me! He knew to sit quietly flipping through books and sticking/unsticking magnet blocks. I think he was conserving his energy, knowing that he was getting away with staying up later than usual. I started a new game with him: hid a bath toy frog under two halves of a barrel, moved them around, and watched to see if he could track the frog.

I had to wait until he decded he was ready for bed, at which point he pulled me by the hand upstairs, and flopped down to sleep for the night. I've seen him do this before, to of his own accord let me know he was tired and ready for bed, even leading me to his crib so I couldn't mistake the message. When he was younger (!), he might become overtired yet resist sleep.

Before he went to bed, watching him, I wondered if he was staking out some one-on-one time with me that he missed earlier in the evening, or if he just felt he needed to play a little
while longer to settle himself for sleep. Perhaps he will be a child to reason with, who can regulate his own bedtime, and who can be aware of what he needs as a bedtime routine to unwind.

(I say this yet my husband and I are both night owls who didn't have set bedtimes growing up.
He still stays up for gaming, and I still stay up too late reading.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mr Potato Head, acquisitions, empathy

Tyler absolutely loves Mr. Potato Head. He is aware of body parts and laughs when I protest, in role as Mr. PH, at the snatching & chewing of my nose. I buy him a set with one oversized Mr PH which contains a Ms, two smaller, dog, and cat. Body parts are strewn on the bedroom floor. The ears are gathered up one at a time, and then all the eyes...

I put a face together with the sticking-out tongue, and he mirrors the expression, blowing raspberries.

It's a slippery slope, to buy toys that you know will help your child learn, and make him laugh. A teacher friend and I had a play date with our kids at a toy & book sale, and we supported each other's book purchases. She has the provincial curriculum standards from kindergarten to grade 12 on the top shelf of a bookcase in her 6 month old's room. I had been planning on buying only storybooks or picture books with artistic value but seeing him flip pages and name objects I've started buying picture/word books. I still resolve not to do flash cards with him...

I've chosen my 'last day of work' before the next period off. It will be the Friday before March Break, enough time ahead of the due date for nesting, daily walks, Tyler time, eating healthy, and family & friend time before things change again.

I'm recognizing that Tyler is an adaptable, accommodating individual. I'd noticed it from te beginning, when he rarely cried and could be easily soothed. A few months ago he walked slowly behind his great-grandmother while she used a walker, smiling up at her. I see too how he adapts his expectations for different people, and accepts limitations. I get up more slowly now, and he waits, holding my hand, before proceeding to lead me somewhere. He doesn't protest as I've held him for less and less periods of time. When daddy is playing with him and I'm lying down, drifting off to sleep, he checks in periodically, leaning down to make eye contact and touch foreheads. He pats my leg as he walks by, just as I might rub his back as he backs into me to sit on my lap, letting me know he's there.

When I weaned him (while pregnant), I thought, if I only have one child, he's enough, all the sweetness of him.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Second trimester & a 17-month old!

I'm getting out of that foggy first-weeks of pregnancy state into rhe period when your body is incrementally changing yet not feeling consistent movement of the growing baby. I feel well enough to forget at times that I'm pregnant, until I misjudge how to sleep and find myself awake six hours after turning in early.

Am I already going to need to adjust again to being sleep-deprived?

Meanwhile, my toddler takes me by the hand and leads me from room to room. Holding my hand, he'll walk up a few stairs before reverting to the more efficient means: climbing.

We were offered a play set, and I'd like to see it set up this year, so he can play outdoors closer to home in good, but changeable weather.

One of the new senior managers has a ten-month old son, and he visited during a lunch break this week. Seeing her interact with him for just a couple of minutes humanized her, and gave an instant shorthand glimpse into her values, and capacity for warmth. I realized afterwards that she didn't take a year away, and I think it helped her career not to, as she has taken on new responsibilities from her former role. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to another year away while trying hard not to be in 'exit' mode.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I've just started the second this blog will now need to accommodate two. As word spreads, I'm recognizing that rise of the community of support again, and it's reassuring. Our work week family of mom/dad/toddler/mother in law has become a cozy unit, with still some individual time and space for each of us.

Even though the baby hasn't made its appearance, it has made its presence felt. I breastfed Tyler until he was 16 months old. I weaned him when my supply went down, about nine weeks along. He was still interested and would have continued. I am more mindful of not tiring myself out, and am asking for more help when I need it.

I've heard some moms express concern that they won't have enough or as much love for the second baby. I'm already somewhat nostalgic for the undivided attention I can give to the firstborn. He doesn't know what's coming, but he will soon be displaced by a needy, physically dependent newborn. I hope I can cherish the alone time we have and that he's not pushed to grow up too quickly.

I think that just as the new baby will recognize his parents' voices that s/he will also recognize the voice of their big brother...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

First hugs

Friday & Saturday I went to an overnight retreat for moms. It was just north of the city, and staying overnight did make it feel like a separation. I roomed with my friend who has a ten month old. I have just weaned my 16 month old this week. It's liberating yet I will miss that close communion.

The retreat sessions were very much what I needed to hear, both for my own enrichment and for the life of my child. Community health nurses run sessions on how to treat the flu, but not how to recognize and nurture your child's gifts, be aware of undesirable behaviour you may be passing down, and how to affirm their unique identity and destiny.

When I returned home, T toddled over, with his face lit up in delight, and with open arms enclosed me in an embrace, tightened, and then let go. A hug, and it felt like the first one in history, a spontaneous drawing in to yourself of the one you missed, and the one you love.

I am reminded that you sometimes need distance to become close again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Departures & arrivals

This is what happens every day. My 15 month old, after sleeping through the night, wakes up and starts calling for me. I carry him from his crib to the bedroom, feed him, and he falls asleep again, usually waking again for the day sometime after I've left for work.

After I've fed him, I sleep again until I get up for work. The most poignant part of my day is waking up with him snuggled up against me, curled towards me, or with his head touching me while the rest of his body may be angled away. I've seen him in his sleep adjust and shuffle to be closer to me. He craves contact. I let him sleep on, leaving the darkened room to face the day.

When I return, I start to think of him on the short commute home. He in turn reportedly becomes restless half an hour before as he starts to anticipate me. The best part of my day is being reunited. Every working day we are separated, and then restored. The arrivals nearly make up for the departures.

Individual brilliance

At a baby shower on the weekend, we meet up with my friend and her daughter. Baby O is two months older than my son, and seems precocious in her language skills by comparison. She has charming manners and plays her part in routine niceties (please, thank you), can point to a dozen body parts, and is aware of others. She readily imitates words, can nearly count to three, and switches back and forth from Cantonese and English. She's a doll in her party dress among the doting ladies.

Meanwhile, my son is doing what he does best, exploring the environment and problem solving with objects. He is continually active: tearing a plastic cup into three jagged pieces, trying to open every door in the house, picking up all dropped pens and clutching them in his mouth, looking under the rug, attempting to swipe the other toddlers' snacks, ripping paper to shreds...AND eating with great gusto considerably more food than some of the portion-conscious guests.

Though his counterpart's verbal skills are impressive, I am reminded that my child's attentions have a different focus, and the only thing to do is promote his strengths, ensure he at least keeps up in other areas, and give him all the opportunities to be, as they say, all that he can be.

And yes, gender may be a factor in these observed differences.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sometimes a stranger

I am so familiar with your emotional ebb and flow. I know when you are content by how you lay your head on me. I recognize your rising frustration and how to defuse it. I can make you laugh over and over again. Still, sometimes, since you change moment to moment, on weekends we become reacquainted as I 'catch up.' On the school preschool play set, I am an arm's length away as you lie on your belly and go down the slide backwards.

I listen as you babble, pre-sleep, practicing blowing raspberries and laughing as I touch the tip of your tongue. As you sling both arms around me and hold on intently, willing me not to go, the purity of your desire brings tears to my eyes.

And when I think you've forgotten something, you wait until we have a quiet moment and show me you haven't. I kiss you on the cheek, and you blow me kisses back.

Fifteen months old and you astonish me every day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Random thought

The second best thing about having a child is having someone to play with! (The best thing, of course, is having someone to love.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I thought there was nothing sweeter than a sleeping baby...but then my (now) toddler walks into my open arms, falling into me for a hug.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Called by name

Tyler's first words, very early on, were for his father, with evolution from 'dada' to 'dad' to the current form: 'dad dad.' When my husband came home from work, the key turning in the lock, Tyler would perk up and start calling for him from wherever we were, even his second floor bedroom.

He only started saying 'mama' consistently once I returned to work after a year. I suppose I had to leave too in order for him to need to refer to me.

Now that he calls for me, I feel 'called out,' and known. Where once we had an unspoken attachment, there is some validation conferred by language.

Tonight he protested when placed in his crib to sleep, calling for me by name repeatedly...In the few moments before he settled and fell asleep, I realized it will be more difficult for me from now on to deny him. (You can't spoil a baby with love and attention and responsive need-fulfillment, but as a baby becomes a toddler, you can't fulfill their every demand. Juice! Candy! The moon!)

I will raise him to use words well, to show him how words can have beauty of expression, and power to influence.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

October - December 2010

TY = Thank You. 

Do infants miss the womb? He snuggles right up to sleep alongside. Sometimes he rams his head and chest into us while still asleep, seeking a closer connection. 

The baby is finding his emotional range, living life more intensely. He is happy and shows it, and now also gets angry and shows it. Having a baby expands my own emotional range: more joy, love, pride, empathy, anxiety, fear. 

Random thought: It's nice to have a baby in the house. 

My start to a children's picture book: Chickens chickens cluck cluck / Ducks ducks quack quack. Here's a third line: Fire trucks fire trucks fire trucks trains. 

The baby is rolling around a lot. New game: I lie next to the baby and lift my head with great effort and flop it down. It makes him laugh every time...does he remember when lifting his head was like lifting the weight of the world? 

October 25: His first solid food is steamed broccoli. 

October 26: Baby models a Hallowe'en costume (jack-o-lantern) on a daytime community television program, which will air on October 29. On the 31st we dress the baby in personalized green doctor's scrubs. My brother dresses up as 'wolfman' and comes over to give out candy to the neighbourhood kids. 

It's autumn, my favourite season. I rake leaves while holding the baby in a carrier. His sweet pea knit hat, from maggiepiecreations, is almost mowed over, but rescued in time. We do outdoor renovations. We eat pumpkin pie. We celebrate Thanksgiving with food (and thanks) a few times over.  

November 1: Simultaneous night-weaning and putting baby to sleep in his crib in his room. He starts sleeping through the night with minimal fuss immediately. Getting enough rest makes all the difference for me...I am more lucid during the day, and dream at night again. 

I start reading doctor blogs and articles. I download well-baby doctor appointment checklists and kindergarden curriculum resources. I read about emotional regulation in infants. I learn about Montessori methodology. 

We do the stay-at-home mom outings: play dates, play groups, park, library, mall (children's clothing stores), grocery store (treats & baby food), work visits, portrait studio, baby-friendly restaurants, mom-tot programs. At six months we are looking outward again and at return to work after this second half of maternity leave. 

I shop for baby's first Christmas, such as a customizable Boynton book: "Are you a cow?" and sit him for a mall Santa picture & ornament. We book a family cruise for early 2011. 

Our friends relate to him in their own ways. I catch a doctor friend observing with professional detachment, a prospective mom noting how 'good' he is, and his godmother holds him and accepts him like a gift every time. Our friends with three kids organize play around him safely, more attentive than we are of the risks their older kids pose in offering choking hazards.  

November 29: Parents rely on and train their kids to be adaptable and be socialized and to accommodate their parents. We have a weekend where we push him by exposing him to lots of people and places, and have him in the carseat and stroller a long time. He finally protests vigorously Sunday night, when he is again in a carseat in the dark, late, and hungry. He has his first tantrum, which I break through by playing him his favourite song, "You lift me up," performed by Connie Talbot. He stops, breathes deeply, makes eye contact, and wraps his fingers around mine. 

December 10: I obtain my provincial driver's license! 

December 11: We go to my husband's company seasonal children's party: we ride carnival rides, receive an Eric Carle soft book which doubles as a crib bumper, reject Santa (again). It's too much for him - he falls asleep in the carrier, and our friends' kids look wistful watching him, especially the youngest, who was sleepy, and at 33 pounds can still be held but not too long.  

December 13: Seven months old! We register in guardian-accompanied swimming and baby sign language.

Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods - and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident EaterSuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life InsuranceThe Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fifth month thoughts

The baby is congested, and chokes a bit after feeding. His eyes widen in shock when he momentarily can't breathe through his nose. I think that I don't want to have a brave baby, one who is wise beyond his years due to suffering. Those who are healthy are surprised each time they experience pain. 

I'm learning that parenting doesn't mean both of us doing the same thing and interacting with our son in the same way. For us, it means each of us doing different things so in total the baby has everything he needs. One of us might be called on more to hold and soothe the baby, based on how the baby responds to us at a given time. One of us is more attentive when bottle feeding. Later on, we will introduce our interests and see what holds and drives our child's attention. 

September 15, 2010: rolling back to front! We call to him to roll over and he calls out like a pup sometimes - he's a young urban puppy (yuppy). He's learned to hold onto the side rails on the change table so he isn't moved around as much when being changed. In his car seat he holds onto one side and twists his body to grab a toy with his other hand. 

Laying in a supply of children's reading...including 37 years/194 issues of Stone Soup for $100 USD (shipping extra).

We start to think about options after my one-year maternity leave...grandparents are an option. I have the thought that if more people love him he may not need as much from any one person. Right now it's easy, but his emotional needs will be more complex later. 

Those 'second baby' thoughts began as soon as we brought him home and placed him, sleeping, in the bassinet at home. 'Having children' is an abstract proposition until that first one comes along, silky-haired & slow-blinking to sleep, after which there is enough positive reinforcement that we feel equipped for time. 

Three things that work for us: co-sleeping, using a baby carrier (Ergo Baby), breastfeeding (planning to continue for 1 year+).

We host a visit with my high-school friends, who have now become a health promotion manager, a pastor-to-be, and an aspiring actor / aspiring project manager. It makes me consider whether motherhood was what I expected. I didn't realize I'd love him so much, though I must say he is loveable. He hugs my hand and forearm to his chest with both hands. It's also more work than I expected but at other times it's easy. Since I work in human resources, I think about how people find their life's work, how work shapes them, and how work environment & work relationships enrich or diminish people. 

My official job title: Human Resources (Supervisor)
My unofficial job description in one sentence (what I really do): Keep management out of trouble & employees happy. 
How I got here: National online post-secondary recruitment campaign (
Why I'm still here/why I stayed: Good fit of skills/needs/interests to job/environment. 
Best part of the job: My actions often have direct, visible, positive impact.
What I would change: A little less process-focus / greater flexibility.  
Advice for someone considering this job: Gain experience first, and then fill in the gaps with training. 

We visit my grandmother & uncle & family, and it makes me wonder how my generation will grow up, and whether the cousins' kids will play together often enough to be friends.

September 26: Word on the Street festival! 

What I love: When I walk him into a dark room, he doesn't make a sound while waiting for more light, trusting in where I am taking him. He wriggles when he's happy, with his whole body. His throaty laugh. His quiet examination of his surroundings from the safety of my arms. The wild kicking of his legs. The slow dawning of his smile when my husband and I are laughing, from curiosity to amusement to sharing in the laughter. The silent wide-open smile. The spark in his eyes looking at a toy or novel object. The quiet cooing as he seeks to tame the big overhead fan above. The practice of sounds over and over, playing at babbling. How, sitting quietly in my lap, he'll carefully tilt his head all the way back to look at me. How pleased he looks sitting on a visitor's lap. The furrowing of his eyebrows. His sneezes, sighs, and yawns. How his fingers curl around mine, and then tighten into a fist. His grippy toes. The way his hair grows on the top of his head. The way he smiles at his own reflection. 

Gourmet RhapsodyBruno Munari: Drawing A Tree (About the Workshop Series)InstructionsWaiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a FamilyA Week at the Airport (Vintage International Original)Heart to Heart (Lurlene McDaniel)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

One-year birthday party!

The best thing about having a birthday party for a child is making loot bags!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fourth month...

Our friends stop by after midnight with a dozen farm fresh corn and their three beautiful kids, all fast asleep. It's their first time seeing the baby, who is still wide awake as we stand around their car catching up. My husband and I peek in at their kids, who are so big now, and all long and lean. Their youngest has curly hair and sleeps with her heels together like a frog. She must feel absolutely secure in the car between her siblings, and her parents in front. Later that day we have lunch with friends who are adopting a Vietnamese baby boy, currently four months old. They have two pictures, and he has soulful, wise eyes. I am moved, and tear up, perhaps because this boy and mine are a month apart. I tell the mom-to-be that he's beautiful, but of course she knows. After lunch, we say a goodbye to a family we know...we're not sure when we will see them and their child again. These kids, they grow quickly...

We 'project' on the baby, but in a good way, thinking about activities we enjoy that we would like to pass on, like borrowing stacks of library books, boating & fishing, bike-riding, playing in the park, 'camping' in a tent in the backyard (outdoors experience with indoor amenities). It's still early enough that we are still receiving gifts (clothes via Fed-Ex from Singapore!) and 'first-visits' from friends. 

When I bump the back of the baby's head on the change table, he is startled and initially whines, about to cry, but I see that he is also looking closely at me for my reaction, and whether it was intentional. I apologize profusely, and touch him where he hit, and he is reassured. He smiles and starts swatting at a toy. I'm taken by how intelligent he is to assess the situation. I think this is the perfect age, when he is still portable, and alert and affectionate. His cognitive skills are contributing to his physical skills - between repeats of rolling side to side, he pauses to think about the coordination of it. 

I host a play date with my colleague and her daughter. She is unlike any other mom I've seen so far, very matter-of-fact, and rational. She uses cloth diapers, has resumed running competitively, took her four-month old on a long flight, will use a daycare centre after a year, and is doing baby-led weaning. She is  very attuned to her daughter's needs but not so seemingly sentimental...she is a scientist. I have an artist's sensibilities and a child's eye perspective. 

I notice I am already deferring things to do, like Shakespeare in the Park, which isn't (crying) baby-friendly. I have to think we will catch up later on outings when the baby is a child. 

I become fascinated by the trapped Chilean miners, who seem to be doing well. I am a civilian and would not thrive - I would sit in the corner and chew on my hand. 

I create a twitter account @relytwu and my first follower is @polkaroo. 

We head out of town overnight for a wedding - we sit with other parents of young children: our new demographic. I have a conversation with a six-year old, asking her questions for her to think about and respond to, such as her preferences for various activities. She has three younger siblings, so is able to advise me on the developmental stages to look for at each age. 

We dress the baby in scrubs and take him to the doctor September 13 (6.56 kg, 65 cm). 

The Book of TeaWhere the Wild Things Are

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter weekend!

All the firsts are special the first year: Father's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and now Easter. Holidays are imbued with extra meaning with a baby in tow.

What will ever be as fresh in experience as this first year of parenthood?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Moments and movements and milestones (third month)..

Two-month weight: 4.95 kg. 

I read my novel as the baby sleeps on my arm...When he's not quite awake but hungry he's like a baby bird, opening his mouth and turning his head from side to side, eating air.

The baby is not self conscious. He doesn't check or censor any of his actions. He's new and fresh and natural. He stretches with his whole body upon waking in the morning, arms and legs straight out. He yawns unreservedly. He's figured out he can roll while on his back by kicking up both feet at once to create energy, and then directing that motion by swivelling his hips and swinging an arm or two in the direction he wants to go. He's opening and closing his hands when reaching for things. 

He still seems to do some things more by instinct than by intention, especially feeding-related movement and reflex things to protect himself like the startle reflex or turning his face away from objects approaching his face. He doesn't fight sleep to stay awake like adults do, who might work shifts and use caffeine. He interacts but there isn't any guile. At some point he will start to impose his will and adapt his behaviour to ours. Right now he might protest things or communicate by crying, but he doesn't try to manipulate or charm, to influence or adjust an outcome. I wonder when we will have to start parentingSome of his movements are to develop strength in his arms, legs, neck, and back so he can crawl and walk later. Where I do see more of his intentional behaviour is in social behavior of cooing and smiling, though the language acquisition process is hard-wired to some extent. When I talk to him in three languages he is very intent. 

He has a very long attention span, longer than mine. He can play on his mat if I'm sitting near him for 45 minutes at a time! When he is barefoot and wearing pastel-coloured cotton pants he looks like a retired guy who is going to go play shuffleboard, especially when he sleeps like he's lounging, both arms up at the sides of his head. He favours the starfish or snow angel position, all splayed out.

I remember playing with various small children and how they outlasted me with their energy and capacity for hours of imaginative play. The way to earn the trust of preschoolers is to listen to them well, maintain eye contact, and talk to them properly, waiting for a response. Our family doctor can monitor health, which for kids is about growth and development. Whether the baby grows up to be healthy and self-actualized might be somewhat beyond medicine...

July 31: We ask our close friends, a couple planning to have children, to be his godparents. Neither of us have had godparents, but the idea started to grow on us as our friends became the baby's most consistent visitors outside of family. She especially seemed to have a special bond with him, missing him between visits, and holding him for long periods of time. He looks up at her and falls asleep, secure and untroubled. It will be nice for him, and they, to have each other. 

August 7: We receive our first out-of-country visitors: my aunt and her two daughters and son-in-law! We spend a few hours together....I wish they lived closer. 

August 13: Three months old and he celebrates by sleeping through the night for the first time! 1245-0615. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The second month...

At home with the baby, I'm gaining confidence in taking care of him. I develop small refinements: draping a thin absorbent towel over the nursing pillow; keeping one reassuring hand on him all the time while diapering (as massage therapists do for their clients); wrapping his lower half in a receiving blanket to carry him. There are probably other things I'm not aware of, in how I talk to him, carry him, and also take care of myself. This is mother's intuition asserting itself. Parenting is intuitive and experiential and hands-on, so it's working a different part of my brain and body. At work, I'm used to the theoretical and abstract and thought-based. 

July 1 - I lie with the baby on a hammock strung between two backyard trees, with the leafy canopy above us. When we have company, I see again how he is the training baby for those planning or those trying: he reassures them that they can do it too. 

It is early days yet but I am conscious of how my philosophy of parenting will develop and evolve. A friend mentioned that it was possible to 'mold' your child, but I would like him to be curious...

He's started to look at me more and 'pick me out of a crowd.' He will still allow others to hold him but may look at me with furrowed brow if I'm nearby, or will look carefully at the person holding him. 

July 4 - We have the traditional (Chinese) one-month (+) party! We invite our families, extended families, and one table of our closest friends from church. There is an outpouring of support and an excess of good food! 

July 7 - I'm reading up on teaching American Sign Language to babies. I am most excited about language and cognitive development...I will teach him how to be empathetic and how to spell, play rhyming games and encourage his imagination. My husband will teach life skills like maintaining a car, watering the lawn, feeding and taking care of fish, washing his hair, throwing a football, hooking a worm....Suddenly wondering: do boys colour? I will break out the crayons with him when he's older! 

This baby doesn't have many options now, and therefore no preferences. Later, with greater awareness, he will be able to exercise choice based on experience and knowledge of the world. These are easy times, but later the nuances will reveal his personality, and who he is. 

We are already reminiscing about the day he was born, recalling the details of how we felt: pride; tenderness; protectiveness. This is the balance with a newborn: wanting to show him off and shield him at the same time. 

I order to read:  

The Elegance of the HedgehogAngels and Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern LifeHow Proust Can Change Your LifeBruno Munari: A Flower with Love (Workshop (Corraini Editore))Bruno Munari: Roses In The Salad (About the Workshop Series) 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Five weeks is a turning point...

In retrospect (five months after the birth), the first two weeks were the most difficult, with recovery from delivery, establishing breastfeeding, doctor's appointments, daily visits and drop-ins from well-wishing family & friends, and the overwhelming emotional bond with the baby. The third week things settle a bit from crisis mode. The fourth week there is greater mutual trust, with the baby meeting you more than halfway, and an interactive process of getting to know each other. At week five, the novelty is still there but we start to regain perspective. 

The nurturing instinct for me was reinforced by seeing how a well-fed baby = a content baby who sleeps well. In my husband's family, food is love...I've only recently understood this. Whenever his mom prepares a meal, or his dad insists on paying the restaurant bill for family gatherings, these acts of provision are to them an ongoing fulfillment of parenting. In my family, books were love...and I gained a deep and abiding love of books. But then, even to this day, I haven't a single 'family recipe' - passed from one generation to the next. My son being born to us will be be both well-fed and well-read! 

When at five weeks we go for a stroll at Ikea I notice we are in a new demographic, the invisible tribe of those with baggage (kids). It's utterly mundane yet incredible to hold a baby or hold the hand of a trusting child. 

I see also that a baby is an object on which hopes and dreams can be projected. I receive a visit from a friend who miscarried - in such a time, it is a comfort to rock a cooing baby to sleep. We have another visit from adoptive parents - I catch a glimpse of the newborn time the mother missed in adopting a 12-month old. We visit my maternal grandmother who is still independently living downtown. There's nearly a century age gap and three generations between great-grandmother and first great-grandchild -  they share a silent moment sizing each other up. 

For my part, at a family gathering, I consider my husband's siblings (and spouses) from the baby's perspective. Dad's oldest brother is most up to talking about history or politics, but is fun and will do tricks and use puns. Dad's second oldest brother remembers the early days and is hands-on, confident in handling the baby. Dad's third oldest brother is the bachelor uncle who chooses infant-size designer clothes and will buy sporting equipment before the child is ready for it. 

At five weeks, the baby shows some understanding of processes (diapering, dressing/undressing, bathing, feeding), and therefore some patience and tolerance. He doesn't exactly smile but he looks with eager anticipation or with bright shining eyes (smiles with his eyes) or frowns or fusses or cries. He has moods but doesn't hold onto grudges. Every emotion is pure and immoderate: he can mellow right out or be set off and be inconsolable (for a few moments). 

The watchful worry of being a parent has taken hold. Every once in a while, as if at a well-baby check-up, I catch myself running through his history in my mind, noting his feeding and sleeping patterns, behaviour, and developmental milestones. I'm thinking about the "10,000 hours" it takes to become expert in something. It didn't take long for the baby to become attached to me, to become a mama's boy  - does time in the womb count? 

We celebrate the first day of summer (June 21) by taking a walk outdoors. We experience a small earthquake (June 23). We use the Wii Fit Plus feature (weigh your pet) and set the baby up as a tail-wagging puppy to try it out. 

The first month...

Oh, but those early days were challenging....The lack of restful sleep meant that the daytime hours cycled between either first-light-of-day hyperawareness or mid-afternoon sluggishness, and the continuous 3 a.m. feedings were a quiet desperation.

But then the baby was staggeringly beautiful, taking my breath away...every movement cat-like in its elegance. At times before he cried he seemed to invoke sadness, scrunching up his face and clenching his fists to embody the emotion.

From birth, the tension begins between the baby's and the mother's needs. Sometimes they are mutual needs: bonding, napping, mother's need to feed / baby's need to be fed. The mantra of 'baby first' is most compelling at the beginning. Mother and baby also become one entity at times, interdependent and emotionally linked. We become a they to others: 'they're feeding,' 'they're sleeping.'

The early days are also the beginning of the near-inseparable bodily contact during the waking hours of the first months. The newborn manages to snuggle back into me while we nap together, even though each time I wake I carefully re-establish some breathing room. He craves contact, lulling movement, warmth. 

I'm already aware that these early days, living moment by moment, will not last.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It's a boy!

Although we had all the regular medical appointments, we chose to wait until the baby was born to find out the gender. In May 2010, the delivery staff did us the courtesy of holding up the baby and letting my (suddenly-new-father) husband discover and announce that it was a boy!

I wouldn't remember anything except that I've been keeping notes...

Although I had just seen him for the first time, he seemed familiar to me. He looked like our child, with dark hair and a light complexion. His startle reflex recalled to me how he moved in the womb. He lay on me, skin-to-skin, and when I held out a finger, he grasped it with his own. Later, he latched on to me, still and intent. Ten months on, his early morning feeding is the same: wide-eyed and purposeful.

Each day of that first week felt like the expansion of the world, of our own world: 'And there was evening, and there was morning-the second day.'

Instant attachment...telling my husband on day 3, in post-partum tears, if anything ever happened to the baby, he should lie to me as long as possible...

Nursing a child means an 'objects-closer-than-they-appear' zoomed-in perspective. The cry of his newborn hunger was so compelling that it may have also added to his presence in the room. It's only in pictures and as others were holding him that I realized how small he was.

The father next door with two kids visits with a baby basket and tells us he's taking down the lattice privacy screen he had put up over the fence between us. It seems a metaphor for our arrival as parents of a young child. We've entered into a society where the sharing of our children's ages signals a potential play date, and ensuing child-led adult interactions.

I wanted the following on the birth announcement, for this baby born in the Chinese year of the Tiger: When the stars threw down their spears, And watered heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb, make thee? W.Blake

Not enough room, so we quoted the reference: Psalm 139: 13-16 
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.