Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Pain is love, love is pain. Whatever.

On the day following a hard session of interval training, engage in these activities to aggravate muscle soreness and runner's knee:

1. Be 158cm tall and weigh 47kg. For steps 2 to 10, wear crappy rubber slippers with zero support and cushioning.

2. Make a trip to the mall with your 11kg child strapped to your body. Return home.

3. Within the next hour, take your 18kg child to the same mall.

4. Carry said child who claims to be tired after five minutes of alighting from the bus.

5. Stoop down to check out your newly developed photos with said child sitting on the thigh of your bent left leg.

6.Carry child who desires to rest his head on mommy dearest's shoulder.

7. Hang around toy department, squatting down a dozen times to "appreciate" and "marvel at" wheels of toy vehicles.

8. On return leg home (pun so very much intended), piggyback so-called tired child who informs you that cutting off your air supply clasping his hands around your neck is not easy. Cruelly force him to walk a hundred metres, then carry him the rest of the way home.

9. Pre-dinner, take your children to the park and engage in games of catching, racing and ball-kicking.

10. Post-dinner, go for a stroll and carry still-tired and mommy's-shoulder-loving child during the last hundred metres.

11. Plan for the next day's run with your expensive cushioned running shoes.

Friday, October 23, 2009

October 2009

It's been some time since I wrote about James and Claire. They have grown and changed so much in the last four months that I don't think I'll ever be able to remember everything they've done and experienced.

Claire can really talk now. She says complete sentences like "I want to go there", "I want to do that" and "Open it. PLEASE!!!" She can address everyone in the family clearly and frequently lists them out when she's rolling around in bed trying to sleep. She's charming, sociable, sweet, adventurous, brave, affectionate, funny, and always enthusiastic. She knows exactly where everything is and how to get things to work. She also knows how to get people to do the things she wants by first kissing them, then weeping big fat tears when desperate.

She's so fast, so energetic, that we're almost constantly in a state of vigil and ready to catch her in case she hurls herself off the sofa or bed. She watches James closely when she touches his favourite toys, then quickly makes like she was going to give them to him anyway when he starts to grab it back. She has tricked him more than a few times when she wants something of his. Just last week, when she saw that James had a bowl of potato chips, she took his Thomas train. As he placed the bowl on the floor to reclaim his possession, she quickly swooped in on his snacks, leaving James in a state of fluster. This was of course met with peals of laughter from everyone who saw all this happen, followed by whispered praises for Claire's deviousness.

She's fiercely independent and can feed herself an entire meal. She uses a spoon expertly and insists on brushing her teeth by herself. When we're out, she snatches her hand away so that she can walk freely but quickly buries it in ours when she is wary of new places. She helps, occasionally on her own initiative, to turn off the fan and keeps her toys before leaving a room.

She loves playing with trucks and cars, just like James. She lies on the floor next to James and yells "Lie down! Lie down!" to anyone who will join her. She also likes to pretend-cook and will feed "soup" to everyone with the same spoon.

She's in constant motion and loves dancing and singing to herself. I frequently plonk her in a little tub of water with her toys where she will spend a long time playing by herself while I potter about the room. She loves playing shadow monsters with James in our bedroom. She is crazy about her brother and will laugh for him when everyone else fails to elicit even a smile from her. She especially loves it when he falls on purpose or dives off the bed onto his mattress. She frequently stretches out her arms and asks for "Korkor, bau bau." She pleads "Korkor... korkor" when she knows he's in trouble for defying our instructions. She asks for him when he's in school and gravitates towards him whenever they're in the same room.

James loves his little sister and asks "Where is my little sister?" when he can't find her. He calls her "my girlgirl" and "my teddy bear". That's not to say they don't fight. They take turns provoking each other and complaining to the authorities, hoping to get each other in trouble. But they reconcile quickly and resume playing nicely.

James has outgrown many of his obsessions and compulsions. He likes school, has a new best friend every month, asks for "bubbly chocolate milk" all the time, loves dancing to Hi-5 (still), takes his Thomas train with him everywhere and is a lot less shy now with strangers.

He no longer wears a diaper at night, thanks to his father who has gotten up countless times to check for wetness and at least once each night now to get James to pee. He will still not put his face in the pool and is learning to overcome his fear of having water in his eyes. We're thinking of starting him on swimming lessons next year.

When we're out, James ensures that no one has lagged behind and will always insist on waiting for everybody to catch up. He hisses sympathetically when we're hurt and will lightly stroke our wounds. He asks for us to "do ticklish" on his limbs, back and feet, which means light ticklish strokes which soothe him into wordless bliss.

He is still very much attached to us but a lot more willing to part with us when we go out. His best friend, aside from Boo, Claire and myself, is his Ah Ma who dotes on him and knows exactly how to make him feel as special as he has always been. She plays at his level and will not hesitate to behave silly to make him laugh.

James loves Chinese lessons in school so much that he's always reading his Chinese worksheets out loud. He rips open his folder as soon as he gets home so that he can show us what he has learned. He asks to practise writing his Chinese characters and tries to remember the sequence of each stroke. He has also mastered his phonics and can now read many words, though he says that "English is difficult, Chinese is easy".

He wants to be babied and, while perfectly capable of feeding himself and doing a lot of other stuff independently, would prefer to have someone do all these for him. He declares that he's full after only five mouthfuls of food. He asks me to assure him that I will help him put on his clothes if it's too difficult, though he dresses himself perfectly most of the time. He gets painfully shy when we ooh and aah at a new toy or outfit. Sometimes he gets so awkward he starts being nasty by hitting and yelling.

My in-laws drop occasional hints at our making a third child. As much as Boo and I love James and Claire, we silently think "Please, NO!" Because they are all we need and all we can handle, even with help. I heaved a huge sigh today after dinner because the kids were over at their grandparents' house and man, the house was so quiet and peaceful. Boo the ever smart-alecky one, said, "Who asked you to have two?" To which I replied, "They give me double the pain but double the joy."

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A run to remember

I woke up at 4.30am today to give Claire her milk. My alarm clock was supposed to sound at 5am so that I could drag my tired ass out the door before 6am for an 18k run. So all went as planned, and I headed out the door at 5.45am to plod along in the dark, still quiet. Despite how tired I am sometimes, these early morning runs have been vital to my sanity because they give me the solitude and peace that I crave so much. Since I stopped working (and I know daily how lucky I am to be able to have that choice), I've spent entire days with my kids most of the time, save for precious minutes here and there to read, take a shower, surf the internet, bake and all that stuff that I can't do with them hanging onto my legs. There are times when I want to cry Uncle! and hide in my room. Even taking a crap in the toilet with a magazine WITH THE DOOR LOCKED can be really uplifting in the midst of a particularly crazy and difficult day when I wish the clock would fast forward to bedtime.

This morning I forgot to thank the powers that be for the privilege of being able to step out the door for my run. I forgot all my privileges and blessings until I came upon a little old woman shuffling along in front of me. She had matted hair under a dusty black cap and was dressed in a cleaner's uniform. Her thin shoulders sloped asymmetrically as her clothes hung loosely on her tiny frame. I wore a Reebok running top, a pair of Adidas Clima365 running shorts, a newly acquired pair of New Balance 769 Stability shoes, WrightSocks, a Casio watch, a Nike running bra, a Cho-Pat knee band, a Puma cap. And contact lenses. And pearl earring studs.

In her hands were three plastic bags. I imagined that in her plastic bags were her meager belongings from her makeshift home. Maybe they were all she had because she could not afford a proper tote bag. Perhaps they held her food and drink. I had a New Balance fuel belt around my waist which held small bottles of Gatorade and two packets of Gu, my mobile phone, $4 and a house key. And I am entertaining thoughts of buying a Nathan fuel belt that doesn't bounce as much.

I wondered if she was heading for work or had finished her first shift of clearing the rubbish chutes in the nearby blocks of flats. If she didn't wake up this early to leave her home for work, she might not be able to feed herself or her family. Did she even have a home to call her own. If I didn't wake up this early to leave my home for a run, I might be grumpy for the rest of the day. Do I even appreciate my lovely home and all that have been provided for me.

Her body could be wracked with hunger and aches. I chose to subject my body to the physical stress of a long run. Her thoughts could revolve around sustenance, survival. My thoughts were about my running speed, when to eat my Gu, whether I had tied my shoelaces too tight. She could have resigned herself to poverty, toiling until she could toil no more. I yearn to fly to Seattle and Bellevue Square and Pike Place and Snoqualmie Falls, drink steaming mocha latte and run in the damp cool weather.

I have been thinking about this all day. Much as I'm filled with guilt and shame for the countless times I forget my privileges and blessings, I want to remember her. I never saw her face, but what I saw - her shuffle, her hunched gait, the things she wore and carried - was enough to give me a figuratively wake-up slap in the face. I remembered her when I saw the price tag of $2,588 on my sister's Swiss ironing board set. I remembered her when I washed my running clothes. I remembered her when I got annoyed at James for spilling a few drops of milk.

I want to remember that while she has to, I get to.

Running gives me peace, quiet and renewal. Today, running took me on an entirely new plane.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Ouchie ouchie waaa waaa waaa!

I fell two Sundays ago. I was on my early morning long run where the light was too dim and I was not wide awake enough to remember that a particular manhole cover that I had run past many times before was sticking out an inch above the ground. It happened so quickly that I only realized what had happened after I picked myself up from all fours and barked a very audible F-word!, then felt the pain in both knees and my left hand. My right hand was saved by my packet of Gu. (I have absolutely no recollection of how I carried my bottle of drink because I don’t recall dropping it.) I knew I had an audience of one because I had run past her a few seconds ago so the embarrassment quotient (EmQ) didn’t soar too high.

I was only about a third through my run and the pain was starting to intensify but since I only had surface injuries that weren’t quite dripping with blood, I knew I could make it all the way. So after about an hour of running with wounds stinging and smarting, and blood staining my top, I jumped into the shower and howled silently with pain (didn’t want to wake the kids up) while a thousand red hot angry ants tried to burrow under my skin.

After three days of dealing with oozy, pussy, pussy, pus-sy wounds that were subjected to numerous accidental bumps from the kids, the wounds have crusted over and are healing well. It's hard to resist peeling off the scabs and admiring the new pink skin. Claire loves to finger the scabs and go, "Eeeee! Dirty!" James pats them and assures me, "Don't worry Mommy. They will be better tomorrow."

Then during my run during the evening rush hour today, had I not very skillfully and expertly swerved at the last nanosecond, I would have re-enacted the whole falling scene again, except this time the EmQ would have soared sky high and my F-word! would have reverberated thunderously through the still evening air and caused a thousand birds to flee their nests in terror.

Here. Pictures of the damage of August 30. The abrasions don't look too gory but they hurt like a MF. (I know - I have knobbly knees like the Gruffalo.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I didn't do it, nobody saw me do it.

Imagine a grown woman sneaking furtive glances around an art supplies store, positioning and adjusting certain parts of the merchandise, whipping out her PDA to document her work of art, then leaving the crime scene with perverse pride and wonder at her own ingenuity and inanity.

Evidence that in this 35-year-old body of mine lies a dirty-minded 15-year-old who thinks the middle finger is OH SO GLEEFULLY WICKED:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

June 2009

We’re done with the first half of the year 2009. So we have another six months before Christmas, followed by, hopefully, two whole months of cool and windy weather and sweat-free, no deodorant required days where we flit from cloud to cloud and say nice things to each other the whole day and drink eat breathe Happiness and Kind Thoughts. The weather has recently taken a turn for the better – and by better, I mean rainy and cool – even if it’s only for a day or two. (Then we all go back to hell.)

This June, after weeks of hoping for cooler weather and getting smacked silly everyday by scorching sunlight as early as 7.30am, we bit the bullet and took the kids to the zoo. We aren’t big fans of the zoo mainly because of the weather and the long drive but the abundant foliage provided us much needed shelter. Claire’s favourite exhibits were the butt-ugly warthogs. James’ favourite part was the series of slopes (slopes, can you believe it) leading to some dark enclosure of otters or something. We did not see any elephants, lions, snakes, bears, crocodiles, none of the big glamorous animals you normally associate with a zoo because, like we said, we aren’t big fans of warm weather and the kids were getting tired. Well, maybe next year we’ll take them there again.

James tends to get hung up on things. I don’t know whether it’s some sort of condition on the lower end of the obsessive-compulsive disorder spectrum, or whether it’s a phase he’s going through because of some deep-seated insecurity and need for reassurance that we all love him despite Claire’s existence. One day (or sometimes for an entire week), he would ask us repeatedly whether we will let him watch Hi-5 on our portable DVD player again when we go to the zoo the next time. Another day he may insist that we put the tray back on his high chair when it’s clean and dry. He would say, “Say yes. Say OK.” And after maybe five, ten times, we have to stop him by either distracting him or telling him firmly that we’ve already answered him. It reminds me of those times in the past where he used to pee repeatedly, stutter or smell his hands every other minute. He grew out of those strange habits and we’re hoping he’ll get out of this endless loop soon.

He says the funniest things that are really quite logical when you think about it. For example, my neighbour leaves her retriever, Shadow, for long hours at a time when she’s out so we like to say hi to him. One evening, I cooed, “Shadow, you have nobody to play with, huh?” James promptly strode over and said in a friendly sing-song voice, “I’m a body. I can play with you.” We are still tittering about it after two weeks. Taken in the plural sense where body becomes bodies, James would say, “There are so many bodies in the swimming pool.” On the other hand, I sometimes wonder if it’s a case of I SEE DEAD PEOPLE.

James has come a long way since he first started school. Long gone are the days when he would cling to my neck tightly and weep, or stare into space while eating his breakfast. He has many friends in school, changes best friends every week and plays with them while waiting for me to pick him up. He’s picked up quite a lot of phrases from them too, like, “Are you my friend? You are NOT my friend!” He uses his toys as make-believe guns and asks that we fill his snack box with potato chips because his friend has them too. He adores his Wang Lao Shi, Teacher Audrey and Teacher Sharon because they make him laugh.

The best part of his going to school (besides the time I can devote to Claire) is seeing his beaming face when I pick him up from school. On days when he sees that I’m dressed up and carrying a bag, he asks hopefully if we’re going out because it means he’ll have me all to himself. It’s on days like this when my doubts about staying at home full-time diminish, and I’m so very thankful to be able to do this for him and Claire.

He loves the colour “dark black”, his watch, his long bendy bus, his storybooks, his drumsticks that his daddy fashioned out of oversized lo hei chopsticks, his psychedelic ball and his bubble wands. He loves chocolate milk, Chocolate Drizzles, Coco Pops, dark chocolate, Milo powder in cold milk, Yan Yan, chocolate wafers. He takes reluctant bites of plain flavoured biscuits and hardly takes any fruit except for apples and papaya. He will eat yoghurt under duress. He loves going out so much that sometimes the only way he can express his excitement is to cry and writhe uncontrollably until we’re out the door.

He loves us deeply and is fiercely protective of his family. He reminds us to be careful, kisses us and says I love you countless times before going to sleep, warns us of potholes and oncoming traffic, soothes and blows gently on our bruises. He desperately wants to be loved all the time even though he’s showered with love every single day. He loves being loved and held, to have his hair ruffled, his cheek stroked, his hand wrapped in ours. He loves his little sister to bits and tries to make her laugh. He gets angry with her for touching his things but is learning to share because he’s seen how it makes her happy and that she will not destroy them.

Claire is a real fireball. She’s stolen the heart of her Ah Gong who goes weak in his knees when he sees her, as if he’s in love. He asks about her when he doesn’t see her and hints not so subtly at us to bring her over. She loves hanging out in her grandparents’ room and messing with their things.

She’s a feisty one, this girl. She can wriggle her way up the sofa and stairs by herself (under our watchful wary eyes of course). She doesn’t really mind water running down her face and will simply wipe or blink it away with a little whine, then proceed with her water play. She will try almost any food you offer her and has probably tried more types of food than James did before he turned two years old. She likes potato chips, tortilla chips, kiwi fruit, apple, water melon, juice, but draws the line at cheese. She prefers rice over all other forms of starch like pasta and porridge which are gooey and soft. If she’s hungry enough, she’ll use her fingers to feed herself individual grains of rice and morsels of meat.

When James annoys her, she scolds him by clapping her hands together once, glaring at him and uttering some fierce gibberish. Otherwise, she squeezes her eyes shut and whines until we tell James to stop. She pretends to be hurt and sad so that we can comfort her. She sticks her fingers and feet into the tiniest holes and biggest gaps then goes “Uh! Uh! Uh!” so that we can “rescue” and fuss over her. Then she’ll do it all over again.

She can vaguely say bird, airplane, ball, thunder, bear, and nose. She says daddy very clearly, pleasing her father no end. She likes to sign and say where before “finding” something. Since she’s picking up new words rather quickly, I’ve been rather lazy relaxed about teaching her sign language, though she does know how to sign dog, book and water.

She doles out kisses generously and likes to hold hands in that girly way that girls hold hands while walking together. She loves Shadow and closely studies pictures of dogs.

We joke about James and Claire being in a sort of role reversal – he being the sensitive, emotional type (I call him Emo Boy), and she being the adventurous, resilient type. It’s probably too early to tell what they will be like when they grow up, but they’re absolutely special the way they are and we wouldn’t want to change a single thing about them. James, though stubborn and proud, can be exceptionally vulnerable and timid. He needs lots of patience and encouragement. Claire’s personality is still emerging so we’ll see if she’s as positive and forthcoming as she seems to be. I tell myself everyday that I don’t want to screw this up, this parenting thing. I CAN’T screw it up. My children will not be perfect, and I am so terribly far from perfect, so imperfect that sometimes I feel I’m not good enough for them. But I want to try to be the best parent for them so that when they grow up and become parents, they won’t say that they learnt from me how NOT to bring up their kids.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

May 2009

This marks the end of my monthly letters to Claire and the first of my combined monthly updates on both her and James. I figure this would make more sense since my kids’ lives are so closely intertwined that to write about them individually would be an inaccurate depiction of how weird and perfect they are together and their daily attempts to maim each other.

Claire can now walk quite steadily but rarely do we leave her alone for fear of her inflicting serious damage on herself, or getting mowed down by James when he dashes about. She loves her newly found independence and spends most of her time walking around the living room. She especially loves playing with our entertainment devices. Both she and James are addicted to Hi-5. While she sits on her heels and bounces up and down to the music, James imitates their dance moves and actions. He has even turned our coffee table permanently into Nathan’s café and refuses to let us remove the seat covers and tablecloth. But that’s where we get our punitive power when James gets naughty because all we have to say is “Jaaames, TABLECLOTHHH.”

Claire loves greeting people. For some strange reason, she seems to think that Ah Ma! stands for Hey! So she’s been calling everyone Ah Ma! except for her Daddy and James whom she calls dada and keh keh. She can also say okay, up, out, I want! and apah (open).

James talks a heck of a lot. He says the funniest things. He’s long-winded and repetitive. He’s funny that way but it’s also tiring because we feel we have to acknowledge everything he says. If we don’t, he’ll say Mommymommymommymommymommy listen to me I said listen to me, which makes me want to tell him to mind his manners but which begs the question of why I didn’t acknowledge him in the first place, chicken or egg, et cetera.

He is perfectly adept at dressing himself, feeding himself and going potty but gets too lazy at times. He likes to be babied when he’s tired or grumpy. He says he’s too tired or old and that it’s too diffitote! He whines. He whines very well indeed and annoyingly too. He still needs his milk and Ribena in a baby bottle. He changes his identity as and when he sees fit – when he wants to do something himself he says he’s a big boy, otherwise he’s a baby by default.

Claire, on the other hand, wants to do what older people do – eat their food, walk independently, stay up late. She loves fried rice, French fries, chocolate, papaya, cold water, Goldfish crackers, saltine crackers, yoghurt and water. She yells for things impatiently. “I want, I want, I WANT!!!” Or demands that we open containers. “Apah, apah, APAH!!!” I’m thinking she got her cool communicative ways from me – “James, James, JAAAMES!!!” Way to go, mommy.

James has come a long way since he first started school. He’s a lot more sociable now and has made many friends in school. He has trouble sharing his favourite things with other children. I have trouble sharing my kids with other people. So, sharing schmaring, my things are my things.

My initial concern about his picking up Mandarin has abated, thankfully. James is blessed with having an enthusiastic and lively Mandarin teacher in school and absolutely loves the language, so much so that he belts out children’s Mandarin poetry and songs whenever he has the chance. He imitates his teacher and can recognize a long list of Mandarin characters. The next challenge would for him (and I) to use Mandarin conversationally at home.

Claire learns really quickly. She watches, she tries new stuff and she figures things out fast. She has her brother to thank for much of what she has learned. She carries the remote control everywhere and thinks it works on everything, including opening doors. She tries placing a Hi-5 DVD into the player then using the remote control to turn it on. She scours the skies for the moon in the evenings and squeals delightfully when she finds it. She greets strangers happily then buries her face in my shoulder shyly when they actually respond to her. She has a couple of friends – Isabella and Tasha – whom she loves hanging out and babbling with. She loves bubbles, balls, toy vehicles, animals, getting dressed to go out, drinking water, long sticks and pretending to feed us. She has a favourite pair of shoes and crawls over to the cabinet to get them when she wants to go for a walk. She loves being carried in the Ergo and gets so comfortable that she becomes drowsy after spending some time in it. She chooses her pink hair clips over all other hair accessories and stays still when we do up her hair into four little buns.

Claire’s generally an easygoing girl who’s happy most of the time. She watches in curious wonder when James whines and throws a tantrum but starts yelling when his mad episodes are prolonged. We think she gets quite disturbed and upset and simply wants him to stop.

James is fussy and particular. He has an eclectic collection of things du jour that he lugs around with him everywhere. Right now his security sack includes Patrick, a soft blue flannel blanket, my blue striped T-shirt and a small face towel. They go upstairs and downstairs with him and he can't sleep without them. Other days he gets obsessed with two pink stackable pots containing a ring, a black cord and metal ring binders. He insists that his and Claire’s high chair trays remain in place even when they’re not being used. He asks over and over again if I’ll help him with his café tablecloth the next day. “Mommymommymommy, tomorrow morning when I wake up and go downstairs will you help me put the tablecloth on the coffee table and I will do the rest?” He won’t stand to have his tablecloth and seat covers in disarray and gets all hot and bothered when they’re not in place, like it’s the end of the world oh no we’re all going to DIE and BURN IN HELL hot and bothered.

He can’t stand having his water bottle wet. He feels he must remove all mucous from his nostrils and is forever asking for tissue paper. He prefers snot because it’s fun and he can dig it out. He digs his nose a lot. He won’t eat biscuits or cookies that don’t contain chocolate. He will drink only his Milo, milk, Ribena, rosehips and water. He has an obsessive-compulsive tendency, thanks to his parents so I don’t blame him, but I try to help him see that it’s not the end of the world if his café linen or water bottle isn’t perfect.

James has been diagnosed with asthma and now uses a preventive inhaler and nasal spray every morning. While he’s inhaling from his spacer for 20 seconds, Claire never fails to scoot over to get a piece of the action. She and James fight over who gets to depress the canister of the inhaler, so there goes the first disagreement of the day. Good morning kids, but would you mind shutting up until the caffeine kicks in? Claire’s always getting in his hair, and he’s always getting in her hair for getting in his hair. Sometimes he provokes her by snatching stuff from her that he wouldn’t otherwise be interested in. The crybaby of the house is currently James but I tend to think that’s because he gets jealous and wants attention from me so I try to give him as much individual attention as I can when I sense that the floodgates are about to burst open.

These two kids, such monsters, such angels. They make me want to tear out my hair and ask, Why me? But they also make me smile and ask that very same question.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Claire - Month Twelve

Dear Claire

(I'm sorry this entry is so late. I have no lame excuses to make this time, except for maybe, shoulder pain??)

You turned a year old on April 15. We celebrated it twice – first, a Sunday lunch at a Chinese restaurant with our relatives, then on your actual birthday a trip to the Botanic Gardens and Fidgets, an indoor playground which I wish wasn’t so far away but which is still fantastic. It was a special day for James as well because he got to stay out of school. As you may guess many many years from now, the lunch celebration was hosted by your grandparents because when they asked us how we wanted to commemorate your first birthday and we said nothing really, we meant we just really want to take both kids out for a fun-filled day without having to bother about the niceties of actually talking to people because we’re anti-social and lazy like that. We went along with the lunch idea because of the path of least resistance and all that. Your parents may be fussy like that with your kids so please learn to be as accommodating as us AHEM.

You are an absolute joy, such an animated little girl who loves to tease and be teased. You chatter so much it’s as if you were trying to hold a serious conversation with us. You love playing with trucks and tractors, spinning tops, bubbles, stuffed toys, keys, my bunch of metallic measuring spoons and anything with buttons and lights. You also like to flip through the pages of a book while you wait for me to wake up and take you out of bed. You crawl over to your shoes when you want to go out for a walk. You say “waw waw” when you’re thirsty, love diluted fruit juice, and want a taste of whatever we’re eating. When you want something but can’t get it (either because we refuse to give in or don’t quite understand your gibberish), you try to cry by squeezing your eyes shut and making whiny sounds. You look especially comical with your three little teeth poking out of your gums, like a really angry hamster.

We take you out all the time now. You wriggle with excitement while being buckled into your car seat, then beam throughout the car ride, chatting with your brother, gazing out the window, dancing to music and distracting the designated driver with your very loud “DEH DEHHH!!!” It doesn’t matter where we go; all you care about is that we get out of the house which is how I feel sometimes as well. We go out for our after-dinner walk around the neighbourhood nearly every evening with your brother standing on the rear footboard of the stroller. It’s become such a ritual for us that I feel lost without it sometimes. Otherwise I'd have to think about what to do with with you guys for the next 30 minutes before your nightly dose of Hi-5 and milk, during which I can plonk myself down on the sofa and not move for three whole minutes.

There’re only so many tops I can spin, so many Mega-Blok towers I can build, so much bending and stooping my old body can take to stop you from scaling the stairs and bashing your nose on the entertainment console. So no matter how tired I am or how busy your father is, we try to take you guys out for a stroll each evening. (Then come back grumbling about mosquitoes and the heat.) Speaking of mosquitoes, you’re especially prone and sensitive to mosquito bites. They leave angry red bumps on your body that you scratch furiously until they bleed so we douse you with mosquito repellant everyday and dress you in thin long pants. If there’s one type of organism I hate, it’s the mosquito. I. HATE. MOSQUITOES. After everybody has gone to bed at night, I prowl the house with a can of insecticide in my hand with intent to murder, hunt, annihilate, KILL KILL KILL…

We’re now teaching you to walk by holding just one of your hands. You’re awfully adept at cruising along to get from one place to another and will stand up wherever there’s any support at all. You can even stand up in your high chair and stroller so that I will die of fright.

We have a few months to go before deciding whether to take a holiday in Japan. Let’s hope the swine flu situation peters out so that our dream of going on a trip finally materializes. Next year we’ll talk about going to Seattle, Orlando or California. Riiiighttt.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Quiet time

She laid her head on my chest, then straightened up, resisting sleep. “Time to sleepsleep, Baby Claire,” I whispered, kissing her silky black hair. She gazed at the curtain fluttering gently in the breeze, perhaps hoping to catch a glimpse of the outside world which might amuse her and delay her nap. Curious cat.

Her fingers, coated with a thick film of saliva, finally found the soft familiar fabric of her security T-shirt. Sucking on it, she slowly settled into the steady rhythm of my nap dance and the quiet hum of my voice. “Sleepsleep, baby girl. Mommy loves you,” I coaxed. The weight of sleep finally drew her eyes closed, her innate lust for play making them flit open momentarily.

I continued holding her, humming, rocking. I admired her long eyelashes, beheld the chubby contours of her rosy cheeks. Those contours will change. That youthful colour may fade. Give us time. Yes, give us time. Leave us be for a while.

I bent my head closer to brush my lips against her cheeks, to sniff at the sweet, sweet breath that she exhaled. I inhaled her scent, wanting to take it all in – the very air that had been drawn into her baby lungs and out again, the atmospheric molecules that gave her life and sustenance, that had just been into the core of her wondrousness. I breathed it into my own lungs, my body, my core. She gave me breath, gave me life. A gift from the heavens. I need her.

I placed her deeply slumbering form in the cot, her darling head cradled in a soft pillow so unlike the unforgiving floor that had, just over an hour ago, met her skull in a painful hurry. Please be well, my little one. I’ll see you soon. Today. And we will have lots of time to play.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Claire - Month Eleven

Claire dearest

You turned 11 months old a few days ago and are hurtling towards toddlerhood. My shopping list for your first birthday present includes a pink tricycle, a foldaway tunnel, a pretty dress, girly cutlery, books and a duplicate set of the blue and yellow taxis and long bus that you’re always fighting with your korkor over.

You love taking James to school with me. Whenever you see me put your Ergo carrier on my aging body you’d writhe and whine until you’re seated in it, then you’d rock your 10kg self in it like you were telling me to giddyup what are you waiting for let’s get going. James loves for you to come with us too. You enjoy our walks in the Ergo and would rest your head on my chest while gnawing on one of the many security T-shirts that you sleep with every night. I’m not sure how much longer I can carry you in the Ergo because you sure are growing up fast and I’m not getting any bigger or younger. So I try to savour and remember the sensation of your little body snuggled against mine before we retire the Ergo which is supposed to be able to bear up to 40 pounds, which also means it should be able to accommodate your brother who’s only 35 pounds, but HAHAHA! AHAHAHA! AHAHAH! My back, my achy creaky back! You know those popping sounds that you hear in the middle of the night? Yes, those come from my 35-year-old spine. Also from my shoulder and knee joints. Ankles too. Growing old sucks.

We can no longer sneak out of the house without your making a fuss because you want to go everywhere with us now. You’re a lot easier to handle now at this age so we’ve been taking you out frequently. I especially like our girls-only Friday morning outings, even if the shops at Parkway Parade are mostly still closed. You love going out and discovering the world around you. You don’t mind sitting in the stroller for a long time as long as there are lots of sights and sounds to entertain you.

You’re somewhat lazy about walking and need to be motivated by toys, your brother or the sight of your friend, Isabella, walking. The funny thing, though, is that you sometimes try to shake us off so that you can stand and walk independently. You spend most of your time crawling around the house, playing with and chasing your brother while screeching at the top of your lungs. When the two of you get into the throes of delirious happiness, you send waves of joy rippling through our house until one of you gets hurt and/or starts hurting the other. You have learned to protest loudly and dramatically when James takes something away from you or tells you not to touch his things. You’d throw your head back and arch your back, let out the biggest scream ever and cry big fat tears that used to earn him a stern warning but I know only too well now that that is your ploy to get him in trouble. I’m onto you, baby girl. You can’t fool me.

This is only the beginning of a very long journey of spiteful squabbles and loving lulls that are the hallmark of growing up with a sibling. I hope you two your father and I will make it through without losing our minds.

You like to greet everyone around you, especially your father to whom you yell out “Ah Dad!” or “Dada!” happily. When we walk past our study when your dad’s not in there, you’d go, “Ah Dad??” and crane your neck to check again. You can say mama, ah dah (for korkor), ah ma, bah (bus), bear and mek (milk). Most of the time you chatter away in baby gibberish. You’re always pointing at things and saying “Breeghee!” as if to ask “What’s that?”

You like papaya, grapes, chocolate-orange yogurt and sponge cake. You try to get a taste of whatever we’re eating and like to grab your brother’s snacks from him. You still have only two teeth so that limits the types of food that you can eat.

You love music. You love dancing to it and moving your hands to rhythm. You like your maracas, tambourine and xylophone. You ask me to take you to the piano so that you can bang on it.

You now take two naps a day. You fall asleep with your head tucked under my chin, nibbling a soft T-shirt and holding your Minnie Mouse. Sometimes you doze off only to wake up briefly to bop to the Kenny Barron Quintet CD that I play to soothe you.

Sometimes I look at you with disbelief that you’re already 11 months old. Sometimes, with awe, that we made it so far without imploding. I knew that having to take care of two children wasn’t going to be easy but I didn’t know it would be so hard. AND WE HAVE HELP. But you make it all worthwhile because of the you that you are – animated, curious, adventurous, funny, loud, friendly, and most of all, so ever loving towards us all.

Your baby days are almost over. There are moments of relief when I look at how far we’ve come and how much easier and fun it is now. I look forward to the time when we can all finally travel as a family ON AN AIRPLANE without too much fuss. Then there are times when I try to hold on to the memories, emotions and sensations of the Baby Claire days that are so fleeting, so ephemeral. I am so very thankful that I have the honour of being your mother, of being with you, and I hope to be worthy of this privilege.

Love always,