Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Pal Scout

I just need to send love and a shout out to my current favorite people in the entire world--Frenchie and B! My Pal Scout by LeapFrog is amazing! It's for Tybalt, but I spent an hour playing with it myself. Thank you, you wonderful, amazing gift givers. Merry Christmas! And a recommendation for parents of children any age from infant through pre-school or maybe even slightly older--run, don't walk, to buy your little one a My Pal Scout (or My Pal Violet for the girls) by Leapfrog. It teaches children colors, letters, numbers, rhyme, song, even empathy for emotions. And it does it all by talking to your child by name, plus alot of music. The amount he will learn and the fun he will have make me excited. What makes me GIDDY is the following--we as parents know music is important, but what happens when the songs have played over, and over, and over, and over, and we just can't take it anymore? Well, with Scout and Violet, you use a USB cord, connect the stuffed animal to your computer, and YOU CHOOSE which songs will play! Sick of one? Take it out of the rotation. Parent's sanity resolved. Now back to putting the baby's needs first: Think baby is bored, click "random selection" and Scout will have a whole new playlist. Think baby needs to work on the motor skills a certain song will provide, choose that song and no others for a while so it repeats more frequently. Bottom line--it's a musical toy everyone can be happy with.

*Just to be clear, it should be stated that neither Frenchie nor I are receiving any gain of any sort for naming these products in this post. And the LeapFrog company is not afilliated with this blog. My views are my own.

Monday, December 19, 2011

How long did you believe in Santa?

Around the Thanksgiving table this year, my family shared one of my favorite family memories with B. I was surprised that I had never told him about it before, but after being together for nearly five years, I guess it's a good thing we haven't run out of stories yet. My mom asked us whether we were going to have a photo of Mia with Santa this year. I told her that yes, otherwise, we wouldn't have anything to show her later on (you know, when she's actually concious of Christmas) when we get to do the whole Santa thing with her.

Different families have different traditions when it comes to Santa Claus. My family did the whole putting a letter in the mail, and then setting out milk and cookies. We didn't have any fireplaces (it's not often that apartments in the tropics come with a fireplace...), so my parents told us that he came in through the window. B's parents told him that Santa had magic keys (which apparently led to a few moments of being locked out and B exclaiming that it would be pretty useful to have some of Santa's magic keys, adorbs).

I believed in Santa Claus until the uncommonly advanced age of 12. Yup, double digits, people. And, I had a perfectly good reason to continue believing until I was that age. And of course, I've got my parents to blame (or thank) for the embarassment and teasing I had to endure in 4th, 5th and up to 6th grade, when I finally gave up. People would try to reason with me: "How do you explain it? It just can't work", and I'd simply reply: "Whatever. If you don't believe, that's fine, but I saw him. He exists".

When I was in 3rd grade, apparently, my parents observed that I was starting to have my doubts. 7 is the age of reason, after all. So, I was starting to reason this whole Santa thing out. I think most parents may admit it to their children, and then ask nicely that they not spoil the fun for their younger siblings. But no, not my parents. Instead, they got together with one of my Dad's co-workers (who is Dominican and dark skinned, by the way) and each dress up as Santa very early on Christmas morning, and each make an appearance at the other person's house. Of course!

On Christmas morning, very early, I was awoken by my mother saying: "Frenchie, wake up! Look who is here!". My very nearsighted eyes laid upon a blurry vision of a big man in a red suit standing next to my father. I couldn't see his facial features, couldn't see the beard in any kind of detail. He said something about running late, but he was glad he made it in time, and that he hoped we enjoyed the presents. I, stunned and in a daze, thanked him and he was on his way. My parents told me many years later, that this man also had a strong accent, and that they had made sure that my Dad was also in the room, so that I couldn't jump to the conclusion that it was my father in the Santa suit.

So, for the next few years, I was perfectly contented with this image of a blurry Dominican Santa Claus in my head. I firmly believed that this was the real Santa Claus, and I held on despite all evidence to the contrary, and all contrary arguments from my friends, who had much less imaginative and scheming parents. I made all sorts of rationalizations in my mind. No, those weren't all Santa in the malls, those were just people who worked for him. No, he didn't personally make all the deliveries on Christmas Eve, he couldn't move that fast. He had multiple sleighs, and his helpers could do deliveries too. Plus, with all the time differences, there was plenty of time for him and his helpers to get to everyone. My brother, being all of 3 or 4 years old, has no memory of this happening, so he suffered much less humiliation.

We're totally doing this to Mia. Can't wait! Until then, Santa is coming to our apartment complex on Thursday, so pictures will be taken.

This post inspired by the question at A cup of Jo.

The Countdown Begins!

It's crazy to think that by this time next week, we'll have been in France for 3 days. And Xmas will be over. Three more days of work for me (my boss will be on vacation starting wednesday, so I'll most likely have a casual pseudo vacation day then, too). My brain seems to be starting to fry coordinating our trip, so I'm afraid this is going to be a bullet post:

-I got into work this morning and realized that the one work thing that I did last week, I managed to screw up. I sent some immigration papers to the wrong office, so now I have to wait for them to return it and send it to the right place. Am admonising myself for not paying attention! You had ONE THING TO DO.

-We had a very bad night with Mia. She woke up at 2am screaming bloody murder. I rocked her, gave her a bottle and finally, some baby tylenol and she calmed down. Repeat 4 hours later. We've been pretty spoiled not to have any teething yet, so maybe this is it.

-Although we are still not sleeping through the night (see above), we've at least managed to start training her to fall asleep on her own. We go through the bedtime routine (PJs, lotion, bottle, song, sleep), and now, instead of rocking her to sleep, we'll just put her in her crib while she's still awake and let her fall asleep on her own. So far, she's still pretty pissed about it, but after we go back in 2-3 times to put the pacifier back in place, she'll actually just roll onto her side and fall asleep. It's been a very welcome change, freeing up some baby-free evenings.

-Last night, before she actually fell asleep, I went back into the room to get some knitting needles, I found her on all fours, almost on her knees, trying to reach her nightlight. It looks like we're going to have a crawler soon, people.

-My Xmas shopping is done, almost all the presents are wrapped. Yesterday, I locked B in our bedroom (that sounded dirty, but it's not...) and forced him to look through the clothes that he wants to [me] to pack for France. With my insistance, he will both be warm and look nicer than he usuall does in his usual uniform of t-shirts and jeans. I've at least got him convinced to put a nice sweater over those t-shirts.

-We spoke with my grandmother this weekend, and they've gone all out and set up a borrowed crib in the bedroom set up for us. It's a relief not to have to travel internationally with our pack n' play. Thinking about bringing the pack n' play, a stroller and a carseat was giving me panic attacks.

-Finally, this morning I learned that one of my co-worker's wives is pregnant. In other pregnancy news, let's congratulate our blog friend BeeBeeZfa, who has been waiting a long time for this great news. I'm so happy for you!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Stopping By To Say Hi

Just wanted to take to the time to assure everyone that I have not actually fallen off the face of the Earth. I've just been having a rough go of it with my depression. I was having difficulty to begin with, but the holidays, money, schedule, missing home--it all adds up to a crazy mind and sad time.

But I am alive and kicking (granted it may be underwater). And in case I don't get on again in the next week, I just wanted to say "Merry Christmas." As for all the other holidays you may celebrate, feel free to comment and wish us all a Happy or Merry one! :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Holiday Lull

So, my job. I'm not busy. It's nearly Christmas (and Hanukah and everything else that people celebrate). I've got a couple of things going on, a few applications pending at CIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services) which I am waiting for. And one that I have yet to send but have to wait for my person to send some documents. I would like to get started on some other people's green card application, but, you guessed it, there's still some stuff that has to come in before I start that. So, I'm waiting. And waiting.

And then, I came back to my office after lunch to find a couple of pieces of mail sitting on my desk. Yay! Stuff to do! I opened it, and there was a notice that I had some licenses to renew. Ok, this will take about an hour! Yay! Then, I was all prepared to send it out, and I went into the accountant's office to ask for a check, and lo... it's not due until February! The end of February, mind you. Sorry Frenchie, can you hang on to that until the end of January? I'll just wait some more.

Meanwhile, my husband, my mother and my baby are all sitting in my apartment probably having an awesome time while I sit at my desk.

The thing about Holiday Lull is that I've actually got stuff to do, just not here. I've got about 12 loads of laundry to do in the next 10 days for all three people in my family (B can only manage to launder his work clothes - one load, once a week). I've got Xmas cards to make order (waiting on our family portraits which are available on the 14th!) on Shutterfly. I've got Christmas gifts to buy that I cannot order online because I have to bring them with me to France and suitcases will be zipped up by time we go to sleep on the 22nd. What do you buy a 12 year old [french] girl whose clothing size you do not know? What do you buy your uncle's boyfriend? And your brother's girlfriend who you are meeting for the first time in a foreign country?

Now, to end on a more positive note, here's my new favorite picture of Mia:


Thursday, December 8, 2011

The doggie loves of your life.

I started this post forever ago and just had the time to finish it up this afternoon:

Juliet posted on facebook that the Capulet/Montague family is considering getting a dog. I wrote an inordinately long response for facebook standards, and was inspired to write more on the topic. I shared the story of Chloe the Beagle a while ago, but I can't shut up about how much a dog can add to your life.

Chloe and Mitsy, the two family dogs.
When my parents had left for China in January of 2009, they left Mitsy, our 15 year old family dog with us for her last few months. A few weeks into her stay with us, I brought her to my Vet that I loved, and she did some x-rays and figured out that Mitsy had been misdiagnosed by my parents' Vet and was getting progressively worse. They thought she had arthritis in her hips, but it turned out that she had a degenerative spinal condition. She had arthritis all right, but it was in her spine, which was damaging the nerves and basically making her slowly lose control of her back half. B and I had spent the past few months carting Mitsy to her doggie physical therapy appointments, buying all sorts of rehab equipment, etc. We were happy to do it, so long as it seemed to be making her better. She was still a happy dog, despite having trouble moving her back legs. In the apartment, it wasn't a problem. She could walk short distances on her own, and she was content spending most of the day on her bed, keeping watch over her beloved tennis ball.

Mitsy seriously was the love of my family's life. My parents "bribed" my brother and I into being excited to leave Bangkok by promising that we would get a dog. I was 12, and he was 9. We adopted her no less than a week after we touched down in Quebec. We had initially planned on buying a Beagle puppy, but my Dad suggested we stop by the shelter to check out whether there were any dogs there we'd like. Mitsy was already a year old, and unlike the rest of the dogs, was just hanging out in the SPCA office. My brother and I were reluctant, we wanted a puppy! But, the administrator there told us to just take her home for a few days, that she was a great dog for a family with active children, and if we still wanted that puppy, that we could bring her back after a week. RIGHT. Mitsy instantly became part of the family. She got us all of us out into the mounds of snow for hours a day, which was no easy feat for a couple of kids from the tropics. I wish I had some pictures of us in the snow to share with you guys, but alas, this was in pre-digital camera days. Mitsy moved from Quebec with us to Chicago, and then went back again when my parents moved to Montreal, while Chloe stayed with me.

B's family was also very much a dog family. They had two golden retrievers who passed away within months of each other, the first just before we started dating, and the second just after. Mitsy's last few months were really hard on us. On me because this was my beloved family dog, who amazingly was 15 years old. On B because this was the 3rd dog in a row he had to watch in its last days. Once the therapies stopped working, our Vet told us it was time to make a decision. I looked into one last option, a doggie wheelchair, but we lived on the second floor, in a 900 square foot condo with narrow walkways, so it just wasn't feasible. It was a hard decision to make, knowing that I was the only person in Mitsy's family of four to know that it was the right time.

The few days after were hard. I never knew that losing a pet could be so hard. Plus, B was working but I hadn't found anything yet, so the apartment seemed so empty. My days had previously been filled with caring for Mitsy, carrying her down the stairs, walking patiently next to her as we went up and down the block. On B's next day off, I insisted we "visit" a shelter. I wanted to look at the puppies, watch them wrestle with each other with so much energy and unbridled joy. There was a dedicated puppy room, where a bunch of 6-week old black lab mixes were biting each other's ears and generally having a great time. They were adorable, but none of them spoke to us. We went around to visit the rest of the dogs, and saw a scruffy looking brown dog, labelled "Sleepy" and described as a German Shepherd/Lab mix. I immediately hesitated, we didn't have room for a big dog. The volunteer who had been taking us around told us his story. He was one of seven puppies, all named after the seven dwarves. He and his siblings all came in with Parvo (which is a super contagious disease in dogs), and four out of the seven had died. Sleepy had taken longer than his two surviving siblings to recover, so he hadn't been available for adoption during the prime puppy age. Sleepy was already four months old. Once we learned his story, B and I decided to at least go into his room and check him out. We sat on the floor next to him, he climbed (sleepily) into B's lap and snuggled up. Plus, he had a beard!

At that point, there was another dog - a 10 month old female basenji mix - still in the running. We went home to pick Chloe up, because the shelther required that she meet any dog that we were going to take home that day. Chloe hates other dogs, so we were pretty nervous about this part. She met the basenji mix and was not a fan. She growled, the basenji mix growled. It was not a good fit, and the volunteer took that poor dog away. They brought Sleepy in, and Chloe neither growled nor tried to attack him. We have a winner!

So, Sleepy came home with us. We changed his name to Swarley, and he brought so much joy into our house. I realized that we needed the puppy energy back in our home to brighten it up again after the darkness of Mitsy's last few months. I never saw Swarley as a replacement, but Mitsy's passing opened up a spot in our house and in our hearts to rescue another dog in need. Swarley is a bundle of joy, happiness and energy. I spent my unemployed days taking him to puppy classes, house training him, and putting him down for naps.

Well, their German Shepherd/Lab mix turned out to be a Cairn Terrier/Lab Mix, topping out at an ideal 35 pounds.

Mia is lucky to have a built in best friend. At six months, she already appreciates him. She tries to reach out for him everytime he walks by, and her first giggles came when she was on B's lap and I was playing with Swarley on the floor. Although Swarley didn't understand her at the beginning, now that she's interactive, he loves her. He sits right next to her playmat when she's on the floor (not on the mat, of course! He knows) and watches her as she plays with her stuffed animals (longing to run off with them, but restraining himself). Sometimes, we think about how Swarley's passing will happen when Mia is between 10-13, and how difficult that is going to be for her. But, we'll explain the same thing to her as I learned with Mitsy's passing, and let her know that now, we'll have room to rescue and love another dog in need.


Usually, with the exception of acknowleding someone's sneeze, I do not use words like "blessed", or "blessings". It's hard to avoid in the context of your child's baptism, though.

So, Miss Mia was baptized this past weekend. My familiy's been in town for a while, but B's family (only the good ones) arrived on Friday, so the weekend and a few days following have been quite a whirlwind. B's two girl cousins came (one is the Godmother), and they wanted to go out Vegas-style. B was feeling protective since they're only 21 and 23, so we had ourselves a pseudo Vegas-style night. Pseudo because we waited at a casual bar in the Wynn while they went to a club at the Wynn called Tryst. It was another classic babysitter-high, and I indulged in quite a few beverages. We still managed to stay out until 4, which was late enough for the girls to come out of Tryst and meet us for a couple more drinks.

My Mom and I spent the last few days of last week putting our finishing touches on the decorations. In France, it's traditional to give out candy-covered almonds as a favor, so we made boxes for those. I also decided to make cupcake toppers and a big banner to liven the room up. My boss (and old family friend) graciously let us have the luncheon at his house after the Mass.

Boxes full of goodies.

Cupcakes - from a box. No time to make delicious cupcakes when I spent all my time making the toppers!

Sorry for the bad lighting, I didn't end up taking ANY pictures during the party, so these are all stolen from someone else's camera.
We didn't have a Church before we decided to get Mia Baptized, and we specifically chose this one because it is "liberal" (or as liberal as a Catholic church can get) with its practices. The first time we attended Mass there, it was a Baptismal Mass. They completely submerged the baby in the Baptismal font buck-naked, and it's a really moving ceremony. For those unfamiliar with Christian/Catholic Baptism, generally, they just drip a bit of water over the baby's head. As soon as I saw that happen, I told B that this was our Church and we could stop shopping around. We had figured out all sorts of logistics on what Mia would be wrapped in before the submerging, so that she'd stay warm and diapered while waiting, etc. When we got to the Church the required 30 minutes early, we stuck our hands in the font and the water was totally freezing. They were all "Oops! We forgot to turn the heater on. I guess we'll have to do it the regular way." I was really disappointed. But, I sucked it up and we did it the "regular way" and it was still nice, I guess.

At least Mia got to wear her pretty dress the whole time!
We had a very traditionally Filipino meal at the luncheon. Despite my nerves about B's grandparents disliking the food, it turned out just fine. Everyone likes fried things! We had over forty people attend, and I got to see my baby for approximately thirty minutes of the luncheon, which lasted at least four hours. Mia loved all the attention, and went happily from person to person. She got tons of gifts, and now we're officially set with her winter and France wardrobe.

Of course, Mia had an "after" dress.
So, on the long list of things happening in these few weeks, we've got a second thing checked off the list. Lastly: France in 2 weeks and 1 day!