Thanksgiving recap

You'd be surprised what you can do with a toaster oven and one (one!) stove burner. I am, anyway. I approach these things not knowing how they will work out, but pretty sure that they will. I think I've had enough experiences like this--whether making a birthday cake here in Hong Kong, where I am oven-, refrigerator- and counter-space-challenged, or cooking meals for 50 people for a retreat or baking bread in my own hand-built wood oven--that I'm learning to trust myself. (Or frantically reading Joy of Cooking the night before cooking and serving pot roast as part of my culinary internship, never having cooked it in my life or in culinary school.)  This is, come to think of it, how we felt before the births of both of our kids--not at all sure how we would manage what would be required of us, but sure that we would, one way or the other.

Anyway, our little non-Western-equipped kitchen put out homemade rolls, homemade pie, roast chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, broccoli, cranberry sauce, and what was supposed to be roasted sweet potatoes but turned out to be roasted taro--which looks way more interesting (deep purple) than it tastes. Finn was excited to have guests and excited to have pie and Willa slept through the whole thing and it was a successful evening all around.

Except for the picture-taking. I think Willa feels the same way Finn did the first time I put him in his pumpkin hat last year ... ah well, he's grown to love it and how could I not knit a pumpkin hat for this October baby?

The weekend ended with the barest beginnings of decorations, St. Olaf Christmas Fest music, and lighting one candle on the advent wreath. I don't know how much he understands about Christmas and Advent, but Finn gets decorations. He certainly feels it when preparations are underway. And he knows there is something special when babies are born. So we're excited to share this season with him, letting it unfold, telling him stories about St. Nicholas and Jesus' birth.

And this--this is random but I'm so proud and happy to show you another of Willa's first mama-made items, worn a little more peacefully. I didn't know how the wool soaker would go but we're loving it. Easy to wear, not too hard to clean, and completely adorable.


One week down ...

Well, we made it. The first week without my parents, taking care of both kids on my own during the day. Doesn't sound so hard, does it? I think I feel especially wimpy about this because I don't really have any examples around me of how it's done.  Every family I know with two kids has a helper, and sometimes two.

Anyway, we were all fed, cleaned, dressed, and even mostly cheerful. Oh, there were tears--on everyone's part except Matt's--but no major meltdowns. It took organization, simple meals, and Hong Kong's service economy--in which almost anything you need can be delivered for a very reasonable price. And laundry. Serious laundry. Thanks to a wicked diaper rash that won't go away, Willa gets lots of diaper-free time, which results in lots of laundry.

Finn is doing great. He loves Willa, loves to play with her (for as long as she'll tolerate, since his playing means moving her arms to the motions of "Wheels on the bus" or "I'm a little teapot") and tries to teach her everything he knows. I frequently overhear conversations like "See Willa, this is how you play tennis. Hit the ball like this, then this, then this," (all the while swinging the racket wildly.) He is needy, though, and comes into our room at night, literally climbing on top of us to sleep.  We've also brought back out the sticker charts and star charts--I never thought I would use so many "techniques" and "tricks." But hey, the stickers work.

The truth is, I'm tired and sometimes feel like I'm drowning in details--keeping in my head what time Willa last ate or had her diaper changed and what needs to be prepped for dinner and what we need at the store and what fun song or story I can use to distract Finn. But it is sweet. It truly is--and I think I'm doing a good job of holding on to the sweetness in all these details.

Some dear friends are walking through a tragedy right now, watching their baby die from a brain tumor. This has been their reality since the summer, which means it has been on our minds throughout the end of this pregnancy and beginning of Willa's life. And if there is ever anything good that comes out of such devastation it is the reminder to all of us onlookers at how fragile life and health can be. We know, with tears on our face and prayers in our hearts, how fleeting this newborn time is, and we have held Willa differently than we held Finn, studying her face more intently, memorizing the feel of her head nestled into our necks.

Of course we all know these things happen, have all heard stories about friends of friends. But the closer one is to a tragedy, the more one hears the details both extraordinary and mundane. And hearing those details--of hospital visits and surgeries and learning to put in a feeding tube--makes me relish our details. For simple meals and mountains of laundry, for diaper rash and a baby that can be soothed, for stickers and stars and even more laundry, we give you thanks, oh God.


The jolly existentialist

"The wheels on the bus" has been Finn's favorite song for quite some time now, but only recently has it become such a part of our daily soundtrack.

Me: Shall we have oatmeal for breakfast?
Finn: The wheels on the bus go round and round,
Me: Let's get your bowl.
Finn: round and round, round and round.
Me: After we eat, we can go to the park.
Finn: all day long.

He loves the verses too, though it disturbs him none to mix up the lyrics.
     The driver on the bus goes swish swish swish.
     The wipers on the bus go beep beep beep.
     The horn on the bus goes open and shut, open and shut.

And of course, the pancakes, the books, the bike--everything he encounters in life--all make their appearances as well.

Matt and I think it's becoming a philosophy, so often is it given us as his response to whatever arises, happy or sad. But rather than a dreary acceptance of the unchanging qualities of life, just going round and round, on and on, it's actually quite cheerful. Jolly, even. After all, as long as sometimes it's the mamas who go beep beep beep and the horn that goes shhh shhh shhh, then life seems bearable. It's Ecclesiastes meeting Jesus' upside down kingdom, and somehow, everything turns out alright.  All day long.


21 days

Three weeks ago, we went from this

to this

in about 12 hours. She looks like she's about to fall out of that shirt up top, doesn't she? After a long, comfortable early labor at home, we went from 2 cm to pushing in less than two hours. She came out perfectly healthy and totally alert, ready to hang out with us.

Since then, we have been:

  • marveling at how tiny 3.06 kg really is, and how big 2 1/2 years old is. 
  • laughing at--and loving--the big-bum-cloth-diaper look.
  • soothing lots of tears, from both Willa and her brother.
  • amazed by babies' inborn altimeters. Why is everything better standing up?
  • joyfully watching Finn's sweetness and pride towards his sister, happily introducing her, stroking her head, bringing her toys, playing peekaboo. 
  • eagerly figuring out who this little person is, already so different from her brother.
  • discovering the nighttime (and early morning) sounds of this neighborhood. 
  • so thankful for my parents' presence and help these past weeks. (not sure how the dishes will get washed next week)
The next 21 days will be spent figuring out our new normal, as we return to old routines and meet this wee little one's needs too. And in just over a month, Matt will be home for Christmas break. We can make it a month, right? Here's hoping you'll hear from me before then!