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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These slow and steady days

Posted December 5th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

Just two weeks ago, this outfit was ridiculously huge for Arjun, but now it fits. Here he is as Mini Vitruvian Man. The best part is when he gets flipped over, his butt is a turkey. Ordinarily, I don’t go for cheesy themed holiday outfits, but this one is exceptional. He has feathers crowning out of his rump like a headdress. Which as far as I’m concerned, warrants that this get-up gets worn as often as possible even though it’s well beyond Thanksgiving.

For the month of November, I got used to grandmothers doing dishes like clockwork after every meal. Now I do dishes, a few at a time, throughout the day. Arjun has me well-trained not to set him down too long. Luckily, if he’s having a screaming spell, the sound of running water is very soothing to a frazzled mind. I’m trying not to set lofty goals. If the kitchen is clean by the time I get to sleep, I consider that a victory.

We’ve begun the celebration of Advent. The girls each have a house-shaped box with 24 windows under the tree. Every evening, they patiently listen to a Bible story to get access to some chocolate. But we also have another Advent calendar on the fridge. Every day, we discover a local address in the Mile End neighborhood around Leena’s daycare. We were at the launch on December 1st to enjoy free hot chocolate outside in the falling snow with friends, neighbors, familiar faces, and strangers. Now we’re trying to visit each location on our walks home in the afternoon. Such a lovely concept by local artist Patsy Van Roost. In its well-orchestrated simplicity, it embodies the idyllic spirit of the season.

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style
In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas
Children laughing, people passing…

— my favorite Christmas carol “Silver Bells”
by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans

The days are so short. It gets dark around four thirty. By the time we get home, we eat dinner, do a few more dishes, and start the bedtime routine. Last night, I was stretched out on the couch nursing Arjun, completely wiped out. Drex and the girls sat across from me in the new living room chair and I just saw so clearly, this one particular moment, this one beautiful, perfect, fleeting moment. I need to bottle up this quiet joy for February when I’m exhausted with winter. And also for even later, when all the kids are grown up and and don’t need storybooks read out loud anymore.

Finally, not a creature was stirring, not even baby Arjun, who was asleep in my arms. It’s incredible to hold a sleeping baby, to sit still, to feel the rise and fall of his little chest, the in and out of his tiny breath. Completely sweet, peaceful, and QUIET.

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The most wonderful time of the year

Posted December 1st, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

We’re already ramping up for the holiday season, which seems less absurd now that we live somewhere that feels like the Christmases sung about in carols. Snow and pine and hearts all aglow. We have THREE children to celebrate Christmas with us this year. We saw Santa Claus and went sledding. We made gingerbread houses and trimmed the tree. We sang carols and drank wassail. And to think that December JUST arrived!

It’s true, Christmas can feel like a lot of work, particularly for mothers. But when you look back on all the Christmases in your life, you’ll find you’ve created family traditions and lasting memories. Those memories, good and bad, are really what help to keep a family together over the long haul.

— Caroline Kennedy

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Posted November 25th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

Pastel on construction paper: Leena’s drawing of her and Sonya, Sonya’s drawing of her and Leena.

Sibling relationships are fluid, changing, constantly in process. At different periods of their lives, brothers and sisters draw apart or come together. There is no way that we as parents can mandate a fixed, close, loving relationship between our children. However, what we can do, with skills and goodwill, is remove the usual obstacles to sibling harmony, so that when our children are ready to reach out to one another, the road is clear…

The family is where we learn our relationship skills. And the way we relate to our children and teach them to relate to each other, even in the heat of battle, can be our permanent gift to them.

— Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish, Siblings Without Rivalry

At dinner last night, the girls were whispering secrets to their brother so he’d be in on planning a surprise. I’m not sure if I believe in astrology, but I can’t help but wonder if we should thank our lucky stars we’ve collected three water signs: Cancer, Pisces, and Scorpio. They get along so well. At least for now. I can probably look forward to tiffs and even major blow-outs in their tween and teen years. Even now, it isn’t always giggles and whispers, but Sonya and Leena are best buds, and they’ve welcomed baby as a sort of joint project. The girls have already started showing him the ropes. And then I’m sure the three of them will set sail on some crazy adventures.

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Dida came to town

Posted November 24th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

Since my mom is visiting, we’ve been enjoying some tasty wholesome Indian food. Her kitchen helpers are wearing their “Coco glasses” to protect their eyes from onion vapors.

Meanwhile, Jujubear has managed to get himself to the one-month mark without too much fuss. He’s just part of our family now. It’s crazy. Already, I can’t imagine what we were like before his arrival. And now he’s popping the buttons on the side of his vest.

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Hat for Miss Leena Bean-Bean

Posted November 22nd, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

Sonya wanted a hat to match this winter’s new one-piece snowsuit. She chose an exquisite hand-dyed Madeline Tosh yarn. Since we only needed one skein, I decided to splurge! I followed the same pattern with the cabled X’s that I used for my yak wool cowl and the cowl of leftovers. I really like this design!

As a finishing touch, Molly Ann showed me the trick to making a freeform pompom out of leftover wool from Derek’s Ark Reaktor sweater. And then the hat didn’t quite fit on Sonya’s head comfortably, but it fit on Leena’s head perfectly and Leena was thrilled about that. She wanted this to be an indoor hat so she could sleep in it.

Meanwhile, Sonya told me I’d better finish this cardigan I’ve been knitting her for the past two years so she can wear it over the holidays before it gets passed onto Leena. I’ve got to get on it! So many projects to finish before the new year. Most importantly, this writing project I’m working on, but I just don’t seem to have the creative mojo for that. Jujubear is definitely a major distraction.

Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it.

— Mahatma Gandhi

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A fortress deep and mighty

Posted November 18th, 2014 in Uncategorized by Mitsy

The soundtrack to my morning:

A winter’s day in a deep and dark [November], I am alone, gazing from my window to the streets below on a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow. I am a rock, I am an island.

— Simon & Garfunkel, “I am a Rock”

Over the weekend we had our first real snowfall and it looks like Narnia outside. Mr. Tumnus might appear under one of the street lamps any moment. It looks magical and austere, inviting and daunting, beautiful and cold. Like a little comma, Jujubear is curled up on my lap on the U-pillow wedged around me in my office chair so I can make a pretense of writing at my computer instead of staring off into space, making imaginary lists, daydreaming, letting my mind be as smooth and silent as the snow outside.

Winter has typically been a very creative time, because there are few distractions. Luckily, the kids pull me outside or I might truly begin hibernating in my flannel pajamas, curled up like Jujubear, no desire to do anything but eat and sleep in our warm cozy house. But I think it’s important for me, especially in the winter, to have firm commitments, to set goals, and to go out and do things for my health and sanity.

Or I might get lonely. Or I might get sad. Like I did my first winter in Montreal. But now I have friends. Now I have activities. I will embrace and enjoy this winter.

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