Designated Braider

Posted September 25th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

Drex already has a reputation as the master of French toast (and breakfast-making in general) but now he’s also the household master of French braiding. Sonya’s school requires all children with long hair to have it tied back to prevent lice (which, if the lengthy paranoid e-mails from the administration are to be believed, is an enormous hassle through the fall and winter). So I watched a number of YouTube videos and practiced my sloppy, pathetic technique, but then Drex and his nimble wizard classical guitar-playing fingers quickly figured out how to make a gorgeous French braid after just a weekend of practice. He’s a natural. So Daddy will be the one to show his girls how to drive a stick shift and braid their hair, because I’m hopeless in both those departments. (But at least I, too, can make decent French toast when called upon).

Meanwhile, Drex’s next goal is to become a French master (like of the French language) with intensive courses next semester. Knowing him, he’ll probably be more fluent than me in a month or two. At least in the language department, I plan to up my game as well. So many idioms, expressions, and nuances to master! So many verb tenses, clause constructions, and other grammatical tidbits to review! Mais nous pouvons le faire!

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Jedi Cat

Posted September 24th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

“Do you want to get her declawed?” the vet asked me over a year ago.

“I heard it was like cutting off a person’s fingers at the first knuckle,” I said, surprised that I was even being offered this option at the vet’s office.

“If you’re ever going to do it, it’s best to get it done within the first year,” the vet said. “You’d be surprised how often people say no and then change their minds.”

Drex and I were sure that our kids would get mauled by trying to overlove this cat. When Skywalker stretched out in a patch of sun on the back of the couch, the girls would cover her with baby blankets and pat her back. A savvy cat probably would have run and hidden somewhere, but Skywalker remarkably just yawned and  played along. Because of her cooperative personality, she became the girls’ plaything. When she was a kitten, Leena would pick her up by the middle, sling her over her shoulder and jump up and down.

“That is some cat,” I thought. She has claws. She has teeth. She could scratch, bite, and escape if she wanted. But she didn’t.

I think it was all part of an elaborate Jedi mind trick to win a place of tremendous power and influence within our household. She shreds the leaves off my houseplants, kicks kitty litter three feet out from the litter box, and chews through power cords (totalling hundreds of dollars in damage).

But one day, Leena had Skywalker in a bear hug on her lap, face buried in fluffy striped fur, breathing her in. Then suddenly Leena decided to stand up. Kitty slipped so that Leena was basically throttling Skywalker in a choke hold. For a sickening split second, which passed in slow motion, I watched both of Skywalker’s front paws land on Leena’s eyes, one mitten paw in each socket. Then those paws dragged down the length of her sweet round face.

When Skywalker finally landed on her feet, Leena giggled. No gashes. No blood. Not a scratch. Because even while falling to the hardwood floor, our cat didn’t pull out her claws. Instead of raking Leena’s face, Skywalker just softly brushed her with velvety paws on her way down.

I honestly couldn’t believe it.

Later that evening, I got proof of the damage Skywalker might have done as she clawed a corner of her favorite wicker basket in the living room, shredding the corners into sawdust with her front paws.

Some Force, I’m convinced, brought this particular cat to our family. She is wisdom, like a well-trained fighter of a martial art who knows when to hold back her deadly strength. She is unconditional love curled up every night at the foot of the girls’ bed like a mystic guardian. She is happiness prowling our house on quiet feet, our Jedi cat. As much as she annoys us sometimes, having recently chewed through yet another MacBook Air power cord, she’s a part of the house, if not quite a part of the family.

And I will say, our upstairs and downstairs neighbors have brown mice scurrying in their kitchens. We have no roaches, no rats, no mice since Skywalker came to live with us. If for no other reason, I love Sky-kitty for that. Also, she belongs to our girls. They are loyal and protective of each other. Sonya and Leena look out for their “Moochies” whenever Drex or I threaten to toss her out on the curb for being a nuisance. But that cat knows she’s spoiled, loved, and here to stay, controlling us all with her Jedi mind tricks.

New sophisticated Diwali clothes sent by Dida. I can almost picture the girls as tweens. Goodness.

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Posted September 11th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

No day shall erase you from the memory of time.
— Virgil

Thirteen years ago, I was a sophomore in college… I pause and reflect today, as I do every year, but I don’t dwell. What today reminds me is that life is precious. Moments are fleeting. You really never know what’s going to happen. So I try to live a grateful life while not being too paranoid.

We’re cherishing the fall days outside, before we have to dress in our moon suits to go out in the winter.

Sonya and Leena like assembling their own outfits. Leena even invents new ways to wear her clothes, like insisting the t-shirt design goes on the back, or layering shorts over leggings.

In the future, Sonya and Leena live in a house with stairs inside (a dream of Sonya’s) with a snowman like Olaf from Frozen and a cat like Skywalker. Upstairs, they have a dog, and in the attic they have a hamster. They’re both Adventure Princesses who take care of animals. Drex and I live nearby and we visit each night for Candle Time, but we always have to knock before we come inside.

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The Wonders of Living in Montreal

Posted September 10th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

This morning Sonya scootered to her school downtown, blitzing down the hills. The sun was shining, the air was crisp, and we weren’t particularly rushed. I strolled along, catching up with Sonya at the corners, one arm swinging her backpack, one hand on my belly feeling baby kick, and thinking about my discussion last night with Drex. Around this time last year, when we were thinking about schools and Quebec’s French education system, we felt worried, anxious, uncertain, and hell-bent on moving back to the States so the girls could get an English education.

But we really love our home, our jobs, our friends here— and some part of me seriously wonders if we’d ever find a place that fosters my creativity the way Montreal does. This city is my muse, filled with artists, musicians, and free spirits. The only hitch in the giddyup, really, is the language issue.

Fast forward one year and there’s an enchantment over our lives. Sonya comes home everyday from maternelle, ready to tell us a new thing she’s learned (like Halloween vocabulary— ghost is fantôme, and pumpkin is citrouille, and bat is chauve-souris, which literally means “bald mouse”). Leena has updates of the latest adventures she has in the Champs des Possibles (the name of the wild urban park where their daycare spends a lot of time running in the long grasses, hunting snails, and digging in the dirt— the “Field of Possibilities.”)

When I went to pick her up early from school last Thursday, Sonya was walking around the concrete playground in short stilts, being followed by a couple of impressed kids. She wasn’t ready to leave (“I just figured this out!” she said triumphantly), so I pulled out my knitting and sat on a bench, amused that nobody made me sign a waiver to let my five-year-old run around concrete on some stilts with no helmet or padding or anything. Isn’t that great? And I mean that whole-heartedly, with no sarcasm. I really think that’s great.

Maybe the current enchantment will wear off, but for now, I’m under the magic spell of the best city EVER (especially as I look forward to my year-long PAID maternity leave coming up in a few weeks!)

Maybe this positive outlook stems from the fact that 1. The girls seem to be thriving and giving us all that they learn, discover, and experience to enrich our family. 2. Drex recently submitted his tenure dossier at McGill, his undergraduate class has over 50 students enrolled, his research group is doing well, and he’s working on some great collaborations and 3. I’ve been working on a project I’m passionate about at work to improve communication between cancer care teams and primary care physicians, I’ve been finding more time and inspiration in the evenings to write, and I just began an eight-week ceramics class at Atelier Make.

It’s eight Tuesday evening classes in handbuilding, each 2.5 hours to work on a new project/technique. Our first class, we learned how to wedge, roll, cut, and texture our clay into little ceramic ornaments/pendants/earrings/objects. It was a lot of fun! Next week, we’ll learn how to make a cup without a handle, then the following week, we’ll learn how to make a cup with a handle. Then a plate. Then a platter. Then we’ll have a few classes for glazing and finishing our pieces. I hope mine don’t explode in the kiln. (I’m scarred by memories from high school art class. A coil pot I’d worked on for weeks didn’t survive its firing).

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School Daze!

Posted September 5th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

[Me and the girls with their froggie umbrellas in the rain at school drop-off]

Sonya and Leena swapped necklaces on Monday: Leena has Sonya’s pink ballerina and Sonya has Leena’s purple elephant. Whenever they feel alone, they can hold onto each other’s necklaces. Still, the separation has been tough on them. They’re used to having each other throughout the day.

I should mention: there’s no air conditioning at the school! My goodness, it was stifling when I went to pick Sonya up— as hot as a Vietnamese prison (which I know firsthand from recent memory). So now Sonya goes to school in shorts and t-shirts with a hoodie for recess outside.

[Leena this morning in front of the school after dropping off big sister]

This week has been about figuring out logistics — how to get ourselves to four different places each morning. We’ve kicked our household organization into high gear to make sure mornings run smoothly—  lunches packed, backpacks ready, game plans established the night before.

We’re doing it! But there isn’t 1. a newborn 2. snow 3. a sick (or traveling) adult— oh wait, Drex just got a sinus infection! So I had to hustle with the girls to school this morning! Arrived breathless just as the bell rang! Well, we’ll just take it a day/week/month at a time and remember the family motto: WE CAN DO!

With a little special help from handy dandy Time Timer! I have fond memories of Time Timer from my childhood. I was ridiculously excited when the Amazon package arrived. (Drex also downloaded the app for our iPhones). Twenty minutes for breakfast? Set Time Timer! We can all watch the shrinking red wedge and chew accordingly. Need to brush our teeth and have our shoes on, ready at the door? Set Time Timer! It makes Getting Ready a game we’re all playing together.

One of the sweetest moments this week was sitting down to lunch and finding two beautiful notes the girls had packed for me, just like the notes I pack for them. I felt really special and lucky. (BTW— another app we recently downloaded is Habit List for new habits Drex and I are trying to cultivate, and I’ve been on a streak for Packed Lunches— it’s too easy to grab something downtown; there are so many tempting food options near my office).

[#LikeAGirlI was very emotional through this video; third trimester hormones]

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30 weeks

Posted September 2nd, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

One of my favorite family rituals, Candle Time, is a chance every evening before the girls’ bedtime to dwell on the day’s good things and to anticipate tomorrow’s fun adventures as we sit around our kitchen table in the transitional light of two beeswax candles (one for each girl to blow out) in a very special wooden holder made by a Quebec artisan.

This same artisan searched for the perfect piece of wood with THREE branches to make us a new truly beautiful, functional, and meaningful Candle Time centerpiece. Marguerite, owner of La Grande Ourse, a Waldorf toy shop near us, generously gifted us three new beeswax candles, too. I feel so lucky to be a part of a vibrant Montreal community! This candle holder represents, on so many levels for me, a sense of belonging and interconnectedness.

As Sonya starts school this week and Leena continues at daycare on her own, I hope that they carry the sense of love, acceptance, safety, and comfort we’ve nurtured at home as they’re off having their separate adventures in the world. Now, more than ever, I look forward to the time we take each evening to pause, reflect, share, and simply be together.

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Clip n Climb Laval

Posted August 26th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

The instructors at Clip n Climb and we were impressed, given the girls’ ages and the fact that it was their first time. They were fearless, trying out the different climbing walls and challenges. My job was to make sure Leena was properly clipped into the auto belay system and coached through the footholds. I couldn’t believe how high she went! I have dauntless girls. Sonya even tried the Vertical Drop Slide, for which she got to wear a jumpsuit and helmet. She was pulled way way up until she let go halfway between the red arrows for “malade” (sick) and ”super fou” (really crazy), about a body length from the top. We’re definitely coming back! This place is AWEsome.

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Back Home

Posted August 22nd, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

At the Singapore airport, Leena somersaulted face-first down an up-escalator. Terrifying. Watching helplessly, my baby and her fragile neck rolling down those toothy metal steps that cut her on the left cheek. Otherwise, luckily she was okay and handled the incident like a champ.

The girls were just as awesome on the way back as they’d been on the way there, mostly watching their iPads and sleeping. Late at night when we finally opened the front door to our home, it felt so cathartically wonderful. Skywalker was waiting for us by the shoes.

Jet lag hit us hard on our return, but luckily, we’re getting back on track, except for early bedtimes and early mornings, which might not be a bad schedule to keep! We get to have a slow family start to our day. Enjoying the return to an autumny Montreal before Sonya starts school next week.

This sweater weather is absolutely my favorite. We took the air conditioning units out of the windows and keep the windows open so the house has a lovely cross-breeze. We’re also spending as many daylight hours outdoors as possible.

Enjoying my final days of biking to work— getting too pregnant to pedal comfortably uphill anymore, so I think it’s a regular bus commute from now on.

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Singapore — Week Two Highlights

Posted August 17th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy


One of the largest Ferris wheels in the world, taller than the London Eye, with air conditioned glass capsules to take in the skyline.

When we arrived, the girls immediately spotted the Flyer from our Singapore House bedroom window and fell in love. Every night before going to sleep, they’d say, “Good Night, Ferris Wheel!” Now we’ve taken a ride on it just like we promised them we would! Arrived early in the morning and had an entire capsule to ourselves. Such a great experience!


While Drex, Justin, and Melissa went to work, the girls and I hung out together. We spent an entire morning and afternoon with the birds— watching a High Flyers show, having lunch with parrots, and admiring flamingos. I pulled Sonya and Leena along in a rental wagon. They were so joyful and well-behaved, I mindfully ignored the heat and discomfort of being so pregnant— 28 weeks now.

Jurong Bird Park might use Sonya’s picture with the birds for promotional materials, so we got a photo CD and food vouchers for the park!


Late afternoons the girls and I waited for people to come back. Mostly the girls kept themselves busy playing together.


Sonya and Leena were both enrolled as drop-ins at a day camp Tuesday through Thursday, so I got to spend a couple hours three mornings at the American Club with my latest book club pick, hot chocolate, and dessert. Afterwards, I lounged poolside and knit a baby vest while the girls swam in their floaties. We’d snack on edamame and then have a late bento box lunch.


Had a great Friday night out at the Marina Bay Sands. Dined at Osteria Mozza. One of the best meals we’ve ever eaten!

Now packed and ready for our trip back to Montreal!

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Singapore — Week One Highlights

Posted August 12th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

I didn’t take many pictures this trip.  Nearly all these photos are thanks to Justin or Troy, who helped document wonderful moments from our Ruths reunion halfway around the world. We got to stay at the luxurious Centennia Suites, Justin and Melissa’s beautiful home, which the girls immediately started calling “Singapore House.” We mostly traveled by taxis, which we learned to hail from the curb.

Here is Sonya in Melissa’s Emerson office. She looks like a future Fortune 500 company CEO in the making. And then here we are walking down Orchard Road with our flimsy but functional secondhand umbrella strollers while the girls sticker and take notes in their observation journals.

It was heartwarming to see the three little cousins playing together. They are such wonderful girls— and excellent bowlers! All three of them outscored me with their “ball slides” on our fun bowling night at the American Club. (Although pregnant bowling is tricky— an added handicap to my weak bowling skills).

After an action-packed week of visiting landmarks, Sonya and Leena frosted cupcakes for the dual birthday celebration for Daddy (who turned 35) and Singapore (which turned 49). Then Sonya and Auntie Melissa organized a Super Surprise Birthday Party and Baby Shower. Very special!

Then we watched helicopters fly by the Singapore House balcony with the flag before going to see National Day fireworks near the Marina Bay Sands, which looks like a starship docked on three skyscrapers, all futuristic and otherworldly, like Singapore itself. Such fun! So glad we could all make this trip!

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.

— Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

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