Book Report: North & South

Posted January 20th, 2015 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

Late nights while I’m up nursing, I treat myself to a little Netflix. I decided to watch the four-part BBC miniseries North & South, but first I needed to read the book by Elizabeth Gaskell. In a nutshell, it’s like a crappier version of Pride & Prejudice set against the backdrop of the 19th century Industrial Revolution.

The rich Mr. Darcy figure John Thornton (played by Richard Armitage a.k.a. Thorin Oakenshield) is a misunderstood cotton mill owner who inexplicably falls in love with a certain insufferable Miss Margaret Hale who is definitely no Miss Elizabeth Bennett.

Sometimes I used to hear a farmer speaking sharp and loud to his servants; but it was so far away that it only reminded me pleasantly that other people were hard at work in some distant place, while I just sat on the heather and did nothing.

“I am a man. I claim the right of expressing my feelings.”

“I do not care to understand,” she replied.

“Why, mamma, I could astonish you with a great many words you never heard in your life. I don’t believe you know what a knobstick is.”

“Not I, child. I only know it has a very vulgar sound and I don’t want to hear you using it.”

She might be idle, and silent, and forgetful— and what seemed worth more than all the other privileges— she might be unhappy if she liked.

This is one of the very rare instances in which I think the TV/movie adaptation is way better than the book itself. Hats off to the screenwriters. The ending was handled superbly, and I highly recommend watching it.

There were, however, passages in the book that seemed relevant to American life in the 21st century with its long and demanding workweeks and its frenetic obsession with social media:

Senseless and purposeless were wood and iron and steam in their endless labours; but the persistence of their monotonous work was rivalled in tireless endurance by the strong crowds, who, with sense and with purpose, were busy and restless in seeking after— What?

He was but like many others— men, women, and children— alive to distant, and dead to near things. He sought to possess the influence of a name in foreign countries and far-away seas— to become the head of a firm that should be known for generations.

My favorite quote from the book, though:

“Oh dear! a drunken infidel weaver!” said Mr. Hale to himself, in dismay.

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First Recital

Posted January 19th, 2015 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

In the audience last night, I was struck by the beauty of her self-expression. She didn’t seem nervous. I was proud, happy, relieved, impressed. Knowing Sonya, my active, energetic, all-over-the-place kid, I find her progress remarkable, especially since that progress requires sitting and focusing. Which probably means she genuinely likes the cello.

Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.

— Victor Hugo

I’m glad her first recital went well. Her teacher really knows what she’s doing. At the end, there were cookies, chocolates, and juice for positive reinforcement. Sonya and Leena are both pumped for another concert in June.

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He smiles with his whole sweet face

Posted January 16th, 2015 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life.

—Lord Byron

The days pass quickly. Juju has a wonderful disposition— which is great, because we’re usually stuck to each other. He’s also very considerately adjusted to Sonya and Leena’s schedule. Overall these winter days are happily settling into a steady rhythm. The girls are pretty much on autopilot in the mornings and evenings. They’re independent, responsible, helpful people. It really streamlines the flow of daily activities. I feel so lucky. Life is good. I’ve even managed to go to the gym three times on my own! Little by little, I’m building the habits I need to keep me fit— body, mind, and soul.

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Posted January 11th, 2015 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

This is the year to which Marty McFly travels back to the future.

2015 seems like it’s going to be momentous.

Over the course of the year after each child was born, I underwent a transformation. So I’ve no doubt that Arjun will continue to teach me even more about myself. Three is a magic number. Yes it is. It’s a magic number.

One interesting science fact that is very surprising and fascinating to me is that caterpillars, in the process of turning into butterflies, don’t just sprout wings. They dissolve in the cocoon and then re-form. [Seriously read this.]

I feel like I’m in that state of dissolving right now. I’m nothing but “imaginal discs” in an amorphous ooze of my newly forming life. This month has been about (re)implementing routines and (re)establishing good habits. Luckily, I share my life with some awesome people, which makes the drudgery less arduous, the fun even funner, and the mysterious journey all that much more worthwhile.

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Warm wishes from us to you

Posted December 24th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

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Before the Solstice

Posted December 21st, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy




Inspired by “Fight Test” and “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” by The Flaming Lips. First, Sonya trains with a nice robot. “Let’s Start — Go — Next Fight!” Then she battles the evil robots — and defeats them.

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Juju’s Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat

Posted December 17th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

God gave us our memories so that we might have roses in December.

— J.M. Barrie

Baby brother gets a cozy hand-me-down from Leena. Originally, I’d intended it to be a present for my niece, but when it was done, I had to admit it looked ridiculous. No way did I want to become that crazy aunt who gives people awful sweaters they never wear. I VERY briefly thought about pulling it out and winding the yarn back into a ball, but the sweater just barely happened to fit fourteen-month-old Leena like a half-sleeve cardigan. O Destiny!

She actually loved this sweater so much, she continued to wear it as an unbuttoned bolero up until she was two and a half and could no longer get her second arm into a sleeve. Believe me, she had many other sweaters to choose from in the meantime. When she outgrew it, she gave it to “Captain Camellius” the astronaut gorilla.

It is with great pride and love that I watched Leena regift this cherished sweater to her baby brother this morning so he could be warm on today’s errands. “You know, baby brudder, you-you-you are wrapped in Mommy’s love,” she said, buttoning him into it. Yup — I cried.

There he was, looking up at me with his bright eyes, zipped snugly into my jacket just like his two sisters had been, out walking in the winter of Montreal.

Yes, I know it’s a silly sweater, but I made it with my own hands. And it’s by far NOT the silliest thing I’ve knit so far. Leena got to wear this scallop-edge cardigan for her first month of life. Lucky for him, Arjun didn’t suffer that hand-me-down. Although babies make anything look cute.

But you know what? I think Arjun actually looks handsome in his technicolor dreamcoat. Especially with a bowtie Grandmama got for him.

Just look at that head control! Somehow my boy is already two months old! Before too long, Captain Camellius will get to wear this sweater on another space voyage. In the meantime, it warms my heart to see Arjun in it for this brief while.

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Repurposed Daddy shirts

Posted December 11th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

— Voltaire

Git ‘er done.

— Larry the Cable Guy

The Imke shirt has got to be one of my favorite sewing patterns of all time. Very satisfying & quick to sew, provided there’s a working serger. Shout out to Molly Ann for making this happen over a series of two afternoons. Jujubear was also part of the pop-up sweatshop in the living room. I’m so lucky.

A couple “Daddy shirts” were ready to try on for size this morning… and a few more were finished up for surprises under the Christmas tree. They all lack topstitching around the collar and finished hems on the sleeves and bottom edges… Which is a design choice. Wink.

Sonya and Leena have long outgrown the Daddy shirts I made before. They’ve been asking and asking for others. Finally. I have time. Or rather, I’ve made time. Because it all goes so fast… [That photo was taken April 2012...]

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Posted December 10th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.

— William James

This third time around, I feel like I’ve finally got the newborn phase figured out. Overlook everything except what’s essential for daily survival and basic hygiene.

Now that I’ve reset my expectations, I actually find pockets of time to work on various projects, especially on Mondays and Fridays when I have Leena at home with me. Since Arjun is not accustomed to being set down for more than fifteen minutes at a time to entertain himself, it’s handy to have a big sister around who is completely devoted to his every need. Leena doesn’t get phased by his crying. She carries him, bounces him, sings to him.

Meanwhile I’m quickly trying to sew up some Christmas surprises for Sonya and Leena. Since I’m woefully behind on my knitting, I’m taking a stack of Daddy’s old T-shirts and repurposing them. It’ll be quick… as soon as I figure out how to thread Molly Ann’s serger properly…

Late afternoon, when he gets fussy, Arjun also spends a lot of time snuggled next to me in the carrier.

So the bond, the closeness between mother and child is not by law, not by religious teaching, but by nature.

— His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

The girls have been willing to have some extra iPad time so I can do something uninterrupted for thirty minutes…

Fresh out of medical school, when I was an intern and pregnant with Sonya, I got some sage advice from a senior resident before my first overnight call in the Progressive Care Unit: “You don’t have to solve anything. Just bridge till morning. And if stuff gets really bad, call a fellow.” He meant, basically, don’t get too overwhelmed or ambitious. Keep the patients alive until a more experienced doctor shows up at 7 a.m. Try not to screw up. That’s all anyone expected. I needed time, experience, and growth before I could offer anyone anything else.

Lately, I’ve been thinking to myself, “Just bridge till evening.” Then Drex gets home! Meanwhile, stick to basics, but take no shortcuts. Do what I have to do to keep everyone alive, fed, and happy— including myself. And if at any point I feel like I need back-up, there are people I call.

When Big D walks in the front door, try not to look demented. Act like I have the whole unit under control. Eventually, it actually will be.

My favorite evenings, we have music. Drex accompanies on piano while Sonya practices cello and Leena holds down the beat on her djembe. Arjun, of course, is the master conductor. While I keep trying to rethread and rethread the serger…

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Posted December 8th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

Drex has been teaching an undergraduate class on Computers and Society for a few semesters now. He’s a phenomenal teacher. And that’s not just me saying that. He’s passionate about what he teaches and he sincerely cares about his students, even beyond the class. Every year, we feel like we’re a part of it, too. As an end-of-year gift, one of his students got presents for the kids this semester, which is so incredibly thoughtful. So I wanted to take pictures of the girls with their “pengweenos” and Arjun in his new outfit as a kind of thank you. Getting three kids in focus looking at the camera is crazy difficult. They were all good sports, although by the time I managed to figure out the aperture, Sonya’s patience had worn thin. “You haven’t tooken pictures in a long time, I think you forgot,” she said. “I need to practice,” I told her. “Thank you for being patient.” Through the gritted teeth of her fake smile, Sonya said, “You could practice on somebody else. Maybe the Christmas tree? I need to go play Legos now.”

Arjun continued to cooperate. For a seven-week-old guy, he has amazing head and neck control. He looks adorable in navy blue, which matches his eyes. Like Leena, they’re transitioning from blue to brown and are in a kind of gray-navy color at the moment.

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