It was a sweet HAPPY birthday!

Happy birthday bliss by Tessa and Luka

Happy birthday bliss by Tessa and Luka, collage by Tessa

Mother’s Day this year found our house in tatters emotionally, psychologically and physically—my surgery was coming up, I was very anxious, I was sleeping far too much and ignoring everything I could.

Several weeks later, one week after my partial mastectomy, my birthday dawned to a breakfast in bed of French toast, trimmed slices of oranges, warmed maple syrup and a wide mug of café mocha on a tray decorated with ribbons of sparkly gauze and gem flowers and a ball bouquet of gardenias. Wow. And there was a Birthday Girl pin for me to put on.

Then Tessa and Luka led me outside my bedroom to show me the decoration they’d put on my door (top right photo). I have always encouraged artistic expression on our bedroom doors, and the collage of Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Chopard, Bulgari and Piaget jewellery that Tessa made for me in Grade 7 was getting pretty faded (!!!, and for devotees of The Secret, I called these items to me every day for the last 10 years or so, and no luck), so these birds who are clearly outside their cage and the pretty flowers will now inform my thoughts.

Then they led me down the stairs to find the hall and kitchen literally festooned with Happy Birthday banners, Happy Birthday streamers, all kinds of birthday balloons taped up, the door to the basement covered with pink birthday princess wrapping paper. In the hall was a HUGE map of the world (I’d been taping up little ones for all of us to sharpen our geography skills and fantasize about where we would like to go one day, but this one is a serious whole-world map).

Tessa had baked extremely health-conscious cupcakes—applesauce replacing oil, whole wheat flour replacing white flour, honey replacing white sugar, and a cinnamon cream cheese icing—and put them on her tiered tea-service plate, with candies and gem flowers and totally sweet little toppers that said “Love you Mom.”

There were gifts, all of them sentimental and revealing deep thought. The one that touched me most was sort of an affirmation of how much the kids know that I have loved them all their lives. Long story warning:

For Tessa and Graydon’s first birthdays I made sweet First Birthday cakes—foreshadowing Tessa’s healthy cupcakes some 22 years later!—carrot cakes with crushed pineapple, applesauce and no nuts. I hadn’t starting baking and decorating my fancy cookies by then, so the cakes were quite elaborately decorated. Luka’s first birthday cake would be no different. I went to McCall’s—the best by far cake baking art supply store, classroom and online presence—and got the blue gel dyes, blue and green and silver dusting sugars, silver drags (known as these teeny silver balls that go on cakes and cookies) (that I researched to see if a one-year-old should eat, and found no research, so decided to stay on the safe side and keep the blue icing and silver balls on the adult part of the cake, not where my little Lukey would be eating) (which brings again my desire to see if those silver things are actually OK to eat—see this link to http://www.snopes.com’s message board on the subject if you, too, are curious…).Back to the store: I also picked out plastic decorations—a pale blue old-fashioned tricycle, hot air balloon, a stork, baby booties, an intricate cutwork banner that said “Our baby’s first.” SO CUTE!

Luka’s first birthday , December 21, fell on a Friday, the party was set for Saturday. Graydon hadn’t been feeling well the week before. I took him to the doctor the morning of the 12, and was called back that afternoon to take him to Sick Kids for stat bloodwork, then back to his paediatrician on the 14 for a full exam and workup in anticipation of an upcoming appointment at Sick Kids. That appointment was 8:30 a.m. Monday morning, Dec 17. That’s the day Graydon was dxed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, and we didn’t leave the hospital for two weeks. I stayed at Graydon’s side 24 hours a day, slept on the window seat at night (fitfully), and Al brought Tessa and Luka to visit. But the cake, and the first birthday party as it was planned, never happened. I still have the decorations packed away.

Tessa and Luka bought me a new box of baby cake decorations for my birthday, and I think it echoed the Mother’s Day that didn’t really happen, to show me how much they know that I love them. I love my kids. They are everything to me—Tessa, Graydon and Luka—and the reasons I get up every day.

Sorry for such a long post, but I’m having a surge of energy, and I gotta grab it and take advantage while I can.

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Lullabies on the way out?!?

In a study released by British website www.thebabywebsite, today’s new moms are choosing pop and rock songs for putting their infants to sleep these days. Granted, there are some beautiful ballads out there, and some sweet, soufful pieces on the radio, that sung quietly by Mom or Dad would be lovely. But the top songs?

In the survey, 10 per cent of women couldn’t remember the words to even one lullaby. That makes me sad. I sang “Hush Little Baby” to Tessa, some of the versions lasting 20 minutes and covering every rhyming word in my head. For Graydon it was “Rock a Bye Baby” with the words changed so he wouldn’t grow up with a fear of falling out of trees, and “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.” By the time I was signing to Luka, it was “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat” and “Baby Mine.”

The Brit mommies aren’t just singing these tunes, they’re playing them. Call me old-fashioned, but I cannot imagine a wee one nodding off to Guns ‘N Roses.

Here’s the list of the top 20 for your consideration:

1. Patience, Take That
2. Angels, Robbie Williams
3. I Kissed a Girl, Kate Perry
4. You’re Beautiful, James Blunt
5. Love Me Tender, Elvis Presley
6. Beautiful, Christina Aguillera
7. Warwick Avenue, Duffy
8. Sweet Child O’ Mine, Guns n Roses
9. Wonderwall, Oasis
10. Girls, Sugababes
11. Back for Good, Take That
12. I Will Always Love You, Whitney Houston
13. Everything I Do, I Do it for You, Bryan Adams
14. Chasing Pavements, Adele
15. I’ll Stand By You, Girls Aloud
16. Dance Wiv Me, Dizzy Rascal
17. Nothing Compares to You, Sinead O’Connor
18. You’re Flying Without Wings, Westlife
19. Put Your Records On, Corinne Bailey Rae
20. Mama, Spice Girls

Just one question for you: whatcha think??

The beautiful photo above is from Desmond Morris’s new book Amazing Baby (Firefly Books, $40, hardcover). I’m giving away two of them—click here to enter. Contest closes Dec. 7, so don’t delay!

Our Mom-to-be blogger is!

Here’s a big hello to the super-cute newborn of Helen, my web editor and Mom-to-be-Tuesday guest blogger!

From my computer to your screen:

Hi Jacquelyn!

I had a baby boy on October 20th at 9:15pm (note the date, that’s the next working day after I took my mat leave. I didn’t even get a whole day off cause I had contractions before 4pm!)

His name is Cillian Christian McGee, 9 pounds 3 ounces (!).

Sorry I’ve taken so long to write, I had a difficult but thankfully short delivery and subsequently it’s taken me a while to recover. Feeling much better now. Now I’ve got my very own labour horror story – replete with extreme screaming and forceps – to terrorize expectant moms with!

Here’s a picture of the little squeaker. He’s a really good baby, I’m very lucky.

Hope all is well with you!

—Helen

OH MY GOD!!!!!

What a beautiful baby!!

Can I please put him in the blog, please, please, please? Of course you could introduce him to the readers in your Tuesday slot… If not, I could just intro him with his first name and weight, which is exactly the same as Luka was. If you were able to blog about it though, you could include some of the gory details (screaming and forceps sound great). I think you and I are made of the same cloth–

Tessa was born the day I went on leave–induced–and Graydon and Luka were both born on work days! Then my leaves started!

I’m so happy for you! He is too precious,

——xoxo Jacquelyn


Well, I’m not quite up to blogging just yet, what with the 7 hours I log in ye ole nursing chair these days, which, btw, I have taken to calling “the electric chair.”

(I suspect your sense of humour must be as dark as mine, too, I hope…that, or you’ll think I’m a lunatic).
But feel free to blog about baby, and use any of my comments in these past emails online, I don’t consider them too personal!
——Helen

So here’s Cillian, and what a perfect little boy he is. Makes me wish I had a newborn too. You know, for an afternoon or so. Maybe I should offer to babysit. That way, Helen could get a little blogging time in after all…

ONLY KIDDING!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU: Did you have photos of your baby taken in the hospital? Did they turn out? How many times did you have to tell your birthing story before you got it out of your system? I told (and still am) it about a thousand times—I never get tired of it—do I hear moans out there?? What is it about the top of a baby’s head that is so addictive?

Guest blogger: Mom-to-be Helen pictorial

I wish there were a way to back date this posting to yesterday, but, no such luck here with the IT-nevergonnabe me. In keeping with Helen’s Tuesday guest blogging on the state of her mom-to-be-ness, I had asked her to take us a photo or two over the Thanksgiving weekend (for my American readers, we Canadians love our Thanksgiving so well in advance of the Christmas/Hanukkah season). I told her how much my three kids love their “just before I was born” photos, back when they were “on the inside of Mummy.” Granted, it takes a deep breath or two when you’re posing—39 or so weeks of pregnancy is one thing, but who wants to look fat in a photo? There was a small advantage pre-digital cameras, because I didn’t see the last prego photo until after I’d delivered my babes (Luka, who was born in digi-camera times, came 17 days early, it was just luck I’d posed profile for a Christmas party, and the file was sitting on someone’s camera).

So here, with no further ado, are photos of our Helen:

Note the chic, casually knotted pashmina, exotic tunic top (not just for maternity wear, mind) and the boyfriend jeans. Heavy with child, laden with style.

Calm, serene, the picture of an expectant mum. Except, look at this girl’s upper arms! OMG. Does she work out? Will she be one of those “in my skinny jeans in two and a half weeks” girls? I hope so.

I also hope we get a photo of baby as soon as Helen and husband are up to it, and I will post it here. And I won’t even wait for GuestBlogger Tuesday.

QUESTIONS FOR YOU: come on moms, can’t you just remember those last few weeks? When sitting down felt so good, and getting back up was almost a miracle? Walking around wondering if your water could really break on a subway? or in the grocery store? Did you do anything that worked to bring on the labour? Care to share with Helen here, should she need the wisdom?!?


Mom-To-Be Tuesday: Helen is in the house!

I thought I’d forgotten to lock my web editor, Helen, into posting today, so I’ve gone and blathered on about baby stuff. Actually, Helen is working on her guest blog right now, and I am guest-blogging on guest-blog day on my own blog. That is four “blog” words in one sentence, punishable by flogging. Helen will be posting this morning, so consider this a bridge blog. Continue reading