Sunday, June 24, 2012

Wild Child

It's been a slow week on picture taking - I guess I've been busy just living. Since getting my new camera and starting this blog, I've found myself sometimes so absorbed in trying to document a moment  I'm not actually participating in it.

It's something that has been on my mind quite a bit. Somewhat serendipitously, I was recently reading a post by a fellow blogger (who's reflections on life and writing style I enjoy very much - and the food! This woman understand beautiful food!) and she shared a link to a TED talk given by one of my favorite food photographers, Penny De Los Santos. In the talk, Penny raises this exact point when she talks about setting down her camera to be with her dying mother at her bedside and make her one last bowl of homemade chicken soup before she dies. The talk is only about 12 minutes long, and worth checking out when you have the time. Penny's photography is stunning - she's the only photo contributor to Saveur magazine who's name I actually know - but more lovely yet is her view on life. She understands how to "savour life intensely" and that is something that I have deep admiration for.

Although I write about the dichotomy between capturing life and engaging in it this isnt' always my experience with my camera. Sometimes I see the world differently BECAUSE I have my camera there - I see the small details in things I might never have noticed otherwise. And without my camera today I would have missed this moment

or this one as he swallowed the felt sticker on the watering can that I had just told him not to eat.

Man that determination! And boy is he getting better every day at telling us exactly what he does and DOES NOT want. This past week in particular he has been such a wild child. Suddenly it's like his brain is firing on overdrive. Every night it has been taking him over an hour to fall asleep and he's been popping up at 5 am. Why? Why?! Especially on my first week of teaching when I've been up every night until midnight writing my lectures. 

There is much sweetness in the mania - lots of full-on-mouth kisses and nuzzles, spontaneous bursts of joyful laughter and welcome hugs. But also, such defiance, such barnacle-ing. The best is when he does something he KNOWS is naughty, like throwing all his food off the tray and then afterwards shaking his head and scolding himself before I've even had a chance to open my mouth "No throwing, no throwing". That's right buddy, so why are you doing it?!

Yesterday was another 5 a.m. day and by 6 a.m. he was already whipping himself into a frenzy, running in circles, laughing like a crazed man one minute and then bursting into tears the next when I wouldn't let him play with a bottle of methialate. I know I've said this before, but he's really not a cryer. So when he has a total melt-down over something so tiny and random, I'm partly annoyed but on a much bigger level, greatly sympathetic because clearly something has got him feeling totally "wonky" as he likes to say. 

After trying numerous distractions to no avail (every thing I suggested was met with a disdainful "All done" and a swat) I finally lay back on the kitchen floor and said "Mama's all done"). Joe, who had been washing dishes and not heard much of this interaction came over to see what all the fuss was about. He too, tried various strategies to cheer up the little man. Offering a walk - "All done outside!", singing the Elmo song - "All done, Elmo". The finale was when he hopped off Joe's lap, walked by an Ecology textbook on the coffee table, gave it a resounding slap and shouted out "All done, Book!". I know we shouldn't have burst out laughing at this point, but the whole scene was verging on comical. I guess this could be considered his first temper tantrum. And from a psychological perspective, well done, Taran. You are hitting all the developmental milestones nicely - asserting your independence, expressing your feelings. From a dead-tired parenting perspective....slightly less fantastic.

Jessikah found a great book at the library the other day that is so fitting for the mood around our house these days. The pictures are bright and beautiful, Taran loves it, and we love it too because it gives us a much needed smile during some of the more trying times.

In the moments where he is calm and snuggly, another family favorite lately has been this fantastic book that we stumbled upon at the Children's book store down the street.

In those moments at the end of the day, when he's finally allowing his body to melt into stillness, to melt into my own, I sit him on my lap, I breathe in the scent of his freshly washed hair and I remind him and myself how Full, Full, Full, of Love I am.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Random Reflections

Taran's second birthday is coming up in just a few weeks (?!) and Joe and I have been discussing what special things we want to get him. But observing him this week really cracks me up because our concept of a special toy and his concept of a special toy are vastly different, and honestly I have more respect for his point of view.

The bucket of rocks I picked up were a big hit and he's found all kinds of interesting things to do with them like dropping them in the sound hole of his guitar, attempting to lodge them in his ear canals and wear them as hats, learning about the basic principles of balance and physics...

The cheese cracker is an essential component in this balancing act - without it all would be lost.

For the most part, I really love seeing what enjoyment he gets out of everyday household objects. Of course, I'd be a little happier (or at least less mortified) if he weren't so fascinated with things like my dirty underwear.... or my box of tampons. Sorry, I know, TMI.

On the less gnarly and embarrassing side, he can make a violin out of anything. This morning he was supremely pleased to be holding "two violins!!" at once. Just in case you have trouble distinguishing what are violins and bows in the following picture, the violins are the wooden frying pan and the blue shovel, the bows are the french press handle and the drumstick.

There is nothing quite so lovely as the imagination of a two year old....

But dinners with Joe come pretty close. The thing about being an academic is that the job never ends. This means that Joe works every night of the week except Saturday, our date night. But honestly I look more forward to our evening ritual of dinner together, after Taran is down and before Joe starts work again, than I do of our date night. Date nights can be pretty lame affairs - we are usually wiped out come Saturday so we aren't game for doing much exciting. Last week I think we did half a NY Times crossword and then I passed out on the couch while Joe practiced guitar.

But I cherish the chance to connect over dinner and share all the little details of our day. I'm really touched by how sacred Joe holds this ritual, no matter how busy he is. Most of the time, the conversation runs towards the mundane but every once in a while, a question gets raised that leads to some surprising revelations. Tonight, randomly, I asked Joe if he would have gotten a tattoo, what would it have been -  About 9 years ago I got a tattoo in a parlor in Grenwich Village in NYC. I'd been thinking about it for three years prior, but the decision to do it at that moment was impulsive, like many other things I do. The tattoo is of a phoenix, for all the obvious symbolism. - Anyway, his response: A line from the Maya Angelou poem "Still I Rise". I was a bit floored because it's the verbal equivalent of my tattoo and I never even knew he'd had that thought. 

It was interesting to hear what drew him to the poem, how it struck a chord in him on what it meant to have a sense of pride in oneself. In Chinese culture, and definitely in his family, being prideful is not  encouraged. But as a teenager, he realized the value and the importance of pride, not as a boastful thing, but as a healthy love for oneself. So we listened to the Maya Angelou poem together and then we went off to our respective corners in the house, he to work, and me to write this post. It was just a short, sweet moment, but I love that after half a decade, I'm constantly learning new things about this man. 

Father's Day is just two days away and the other thing I've been thinking about this week is how lucky Taran and I are to have this pride-ful, huge-hearted, fiercely loyal lion of a man in our lives. Thanks babe. I love you so much.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Landing back down

We arrived back home this afternoon after a week of travel - up to Cleveland, further north to Ontario, back to Cleveland, back home. There are many stories and great pictures from the trip, but right now we are all utterly exhausted (T was asleep by 6:15 pm!!), so a post on the trip will have to wait.

At the moment, I'm just trying to figure out something special to do tomorrow with Taran. He kept running around the house this afternoon asking for various Cleveland family members and I think tomorrow is going to be a hard day when Joe and I go back to work and he doesn't have a gaggle of family around to shower him with affection.

I just snuck down to the park with his blue bucket and pilfered some rocks by the river's edge. There is endless scope for imagination in a pile of rocks: Biggest? Littlest? Blue rock? Pink Rock? How Many? What shape? What does it remind you of?

 I threw together a couple of rock animals for Jessikah for the morning to get her creative juices flowing. Now I think I'm going to have a hard time leaving tomorrow because it would be so much more fun to stick around here with the peanut and play with rocks. I used to have a whole rock collection when I was a kid and to this day, rock hunting/collecting is one of my favorite things to do on vacation. I guess I'll just have to be satisfied with pictures and second-hand retelling of the day.

There are a couple of great sites that I love to go to when I'm looking for fun new crafty, sensory, nature play type activities to do with Taran.

The Imagination Tree has great projects for toddlers and Nurture Store (where I got the idea for rock art) also has really fun ideas although some are geared more for older kids. Check them out when you get a chance!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Desolate Silence

Desolate Silence
'Neath the soft fur of bear pal
woeful eyes peer out

Man I wish I had placed my camera in the front seat so I could have captured Taran's expression as we passed the fifteen minute mark on the clock and he realized  he was in it for the long haul all the way to Cleveland.  Sometimes he's very vocal in his upset, but this time he was deeply quiet and resigned about the whole thing.  Every time I looked back at him he stared at me with this look like "Mama, I've been betrayed". Or maybe he was just so exhausted he couldn't muster up a happy expression. He was so excited that we were coming to see his Ye Ye and Nai Nai when we put him down last night that it took him an hour to fall asleep and then he woke up by 5:45 am. So he was cooooked.

Anyway, I think he forgave us when he got here and his cousins, Jessie and Neko were waiting for him for an all day play date.

Jessie's only two weeks older than Taran and when they were smaller, they barely acknowledged each other's existence, but in the past 6 months, they have begun to relate more and more. As for Taran's 4 year old cousin Neko....he's in love. It was so nice to get so much time with the girls and we all had so much fun. Taran loves to "hold the hand" and Jessie was pretty into it too....

until he started to careen wildly through the yard...

and down a hill...

and accidentally spun them face first into the grass at the bottom with his exuberance. He thought this was hilarious, great fun until Jessie burst into tears at which point I think he felt quite bad.

But a little goose-watching,

a couple of rounds of duck-duck-goose, and some shared enjoyment of pretend chocolate....

and everyone was happy again, if not a bit pooped out.

Nothing special, just a walk in the backyard, but it did wonders for blowing off any residual cobwebs from leg 1 of our road trip.

Tomorrow the girls are busy and we are going to just take a quiet day to spend with the grandparents and then Thursday morning it's back in the car again for the five hours up to Brantford, Ontario with the whole family for Joe's cousin's wedding. Wish us luck for the trip!

Friday, June 1, 2012

One small, beautiful thing

It's been a bit of a strange time lately. Taran has never had much separation anxiety, nor been that weepy, but in the last couple of weeks he's been my little barnacle with endless exclamations of "Up by Mama" with the occasional shove in Papa's direction and the equally emphatically stated "All done with Papa". Well then.

The above picture was taken on a particularly tearful morning in which I was un-washed, un-dressed, un-fed, un-done and I had to leave the house "right NOW!" for an important meeting. Actually, every day this week I had something or other important to do for work that required me to peel him off my body, hand him over to our Nanny and watch his face crumple as I headed out the door. This morning I did not have to be anywhere urgent - this is why I love my job, it has a lot of flexibility (usually) so we only have to have someone come to our home part-time, giving me a chance to play and hang out and work more after Taran goes to sleep.

So, not being able to face one more heartbreaking "Mama, hold the hand, up by Mama, Up By Mamaaaaaa" morning, I stayed home. It was raining hard (finally!!) so Jessikah and Taran and I took a drive down to the North Market to run around. Taran was sooo thrilled to have us both loving him up and it was really nice to see him so happy and excited. As we walked by a produce stall he cried out "Mama, Apple! Eat it!" How could I resist that!

Despite his thorough enjoyment of the apple, he was still willing to share it with the Market's lovely painted porcelain pig.

Nothing wildly eventful or exciting happened this morning. But the fact that I could take the time to hold my son and love him up in the way that he really seems to need right now felt like one small, beautiful thing at the end of a hard week.