當姐姐 (Becoming Big Sister)

Dear Elizabeth,

Just last night while putting you to bed I was correcting you again, that because you’re our only child that we have to call you 妹妹—not 姐姐 (how you prefer to refer to yourself). And then not more than an hour or two later, your mother pops in and puts in my face a home pregnancy test, showing positive.

So, yeah, you were right all along. You’re no longer just a big girl. You’re also going to be a big sister soon.

While picking you and Selina up at school today, I whispered a secret in your ear—that Mommy has an itsy-bitsy baby in her belly. You looked at me with distrust at first, but after I assured you, you went to see for yourself. Mom confirmed for you that it was true.

For the rest of the evening, that’s all you talked about—the baby in Mommy’s belly. How you want to see it. How you want to hold it.

We are so delighted that you too are excited about this big little news.

Tonight we confirmed via ultrasound. Your little brother/sister is a mere two or three weeks along, about the size of a poppy seed now.

And every time it gets more and more exciting. Next time, in four weeks, we might get to hear its teeny tiny heartbeat. And you’ll be there for the whole thing. You’ll also get to meet Dr. Jimmy, who delivered you.

Love,

Dad

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Laid up

Dear Elizabeth,

So it took getting really sick for me to find the time and energy to write again. I’m down with a case of Norovirus, having confined myself to the study in hopes of not passing it on to you and Mom, and I have little ability to do much of anything except moan and groan. What better time could there be to catch up with you?

Gosh, how time flies. You are growing and growing and growing. And every day that passes is a day that I am even more touched and in love with my life.

So what’s been going on since my last letter? I’ve been at home just like before, but I’ve also been working a lot less. That’s both good and bad. It means more time with you and Selina, of course.

So on to you: I got you a bicycle recently. And it’s really nice. You haven’t quite figured out the pedals, and part of it I believe is due to the design, how you sit, because you’re able to pedal normally on your old tricycle. I’m going to try moving the seat up again to see if that helps any. Your mother and I were just overjoyed, seeing you moving along like the big girl you’re so quickly becoming.

You’ve also made level 5 in your swim class and can now swim independently for several seconds underwater. And you seem to have taken to floating—you got that from me.

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You’ve also shown yourself to be, already at not even three years old, to be very independent and liking very much to help others. For example, you like to dress yourself. You help fold and put away your clothes (although you have a lot of work on folding still). You brush your own teeth, including rinsing and gargling with Listerine. You can now open the refrigerator—but not quite reach into it (thank goodness!). You taught yourself how to use chopsticks. And just recently you’ve started using the big girl’s potty. We’re in the process of moving you 100% from diapers to briefs. Seriously, it’s been almost entirely effortless on our part.

So life is good. Your mother is super busy with work and taking care of you. I’m doing my best to take care of the house and continue building my business/finding more work. This summer has been brutal weather-wise, so it’s been a bit of a stressor in terms of the power bill, but we’re managing. Best of all, we have each other, the family, and lots of time to enjoy the finer moments and finer things together.

Here are a bunch of photos from the past several months.

These first few are from a couple months ago. On the way home from our weekend beach excursion, we stopped at one of your dad’s favorite places on the northeast coast. You sang the entire time until the food came. And the other two, obviously, are you sleeping. I still love watching you sleep.

Here’s you on your new bicycle.

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Not long ago, I took you to the Republic of Chocolate, a nearby chocolate factory. For little tikes, they have a chocolate class. You clearly wanted to devour everything. And while we don’t typically allow you to have sweets, I did cave and let you have a chocolate-covered banana.

Back in early summer, we went camping at Sun Moon Lake with friends from my Toastmasters club.

Since we were at the lake, on the second day we did a boat tour. You were more interested in 姐姐’s chocolate snack than anything else.

You aren’t quite big enough to sit still for more than a few seconds, but I’ve tried taking you along to Toastmasters.

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It’s clear that you take after me and my love for food, especially ice cream. As I regularly eat it, it’s impossible not to allow you some, too. But you also  love snacking on more wholesome things, especially fresh fruit. And you ate all my corn at the hot pot restaurant!

And you love bubble baths!

This next bunch is from the past week. We stopped at Taimall for a couple things and took advantage of the free air conditioning. You took advantage of every possible photo opportunity.

Lastly, here’s one with you at school, and the latest, from the past weekend. We spent all day Sunday out playing, ending up at the beach.

You are the dearest thing to happen to your mom and me. I hope that someday this collection of letters and photos helps to show you a snapshot of our early life together. We’ve made so many great memories together and will continue doing so. But you can grow a little slower. That would be nice.

Love,

Dad

 

Holi Moly!

My dearest Elizabeth,

How the time flies! It’s been almost four months since my last letter, and just typing all of this, adding photos, etc., to finally get it published has taken several days. So much that has unfolded during this time, so I hope I’m able to recall and fit it all in here.

Let’s start by going back to December. You and Mom started a new chapter, with her taking a new job, and you going along with her, starting preschool. That’s going well. You look forward to “going to school,” and have made friends there. Selina’s job keeps her super busy and it’s still a change we’re all adjusting to, with, in addition, my working more and more from home, balancing running and trying to build my business, and still working a couple evenings outside the house, trying to keep the house in order, and taking on more and more responsibility in my new role as a Toastmaster. It’s a juggling act, for sure, but we’re doing well.

I’m not sure who it is that’s been giving all these things to you, but at least one of your “teachers” and some of the parents have somewhat regularly been giving you clothes. This is one of the first ones, a traditional Chinese vest.

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And this one is from a couple days later, after your first trim (Dad did it himself), sucking down your old man’s Oreo milkshake.

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And while you’re growing and taking on a whole bunch of new skills and vocabulary, you still have a silly streak, as proven in this next photo, in which you’ve decided that the styrofoam wrap is better suited as headwear than as a cushion for the pear that it came with.

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And here you are in the bedroom, all pj’ed up and ready for bed, with the your new stuffed dog (and your new favorite gesture).

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On one of those unusually beautiful, sunny days that we had in mid-December, I decided it was a good occasion for us to play hookie, so the two of us heading into Taipei to check out the new Children’s Amusement Park.

That last photo, sitting on the elevated train, is still one of my favorite recent shots of you. You were already pretty tired, having missed your nap, played at the park for a couple hours.

And as luck would have it, we ran into an old friend of mine, Christopher. And it was his first time seeing you in the flesh, so he was pretty excited to finally get to make your acquaintance.

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Fast forward to 2017. You’ve fully adjusted to your new preschool environment, and you’re showing the signs of a budding toddler artist.

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And you really like that gesture—it’s the Taiwanese in you, I guess—but it still takes some practice to get those fingers just right.

As the Chinese New Year approached, and winter finally began rearing its ugly head, more sleep was in order. And you and Mom take this very seriously, often leaving no room for Dad.

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The CNY holiday break was only six days this year, and we spent most of it relaxing at home, spending quality time together as a family. But we did get out a couple times, and on one of the fairer weather days, met up with Dad’s first friends in Taiwan, the Chiu family, and drove up to the coast to have lunch together. The restaurant happened to have kiddie rides outside, so it took some prying to get you back to the car afterward. But you were so happy in the few minutes that you got to play.

And Daddy bought you a new beanie.

Due to all the holidays, we have missed a lot of swimming classes. But your love for being in the water hasn’t faded. In fact, getting you out of the pool is not easy. Here you are, with Mom, after class was over.

One of your favorite things to do most of the time is sing. Sometimes that includes dancing and/or gestures. Oftentimes it involves a lot of making things up as you go, including mixing lyrics from one song to another, or quickly switching to a new tune mid-song. Either way, Mom and I find it endlessly entertaining.

Waiting for dinner seems to be one of the more popular times to burst out in song.

It’s probably in your genes. You certainly have an appetite, and you have a number of favorites—pizza, ice cream, cookies, and cake, to name a few, get you pretty excited. I know I got my love of ice cream from my father, and you’re already following in that regard.

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We still do really well as far as keeping sweet in check. We have a strict no candy rule and have managed to keep with that religiously. But your mom and I also love fine dessert, so it plays a pretty regular role at mealtime.

And as you continue growing and developing more vocabulary and personality, it’s so much fun to watch how this unfolds especially at dessert time. We’re very proud of the work we have done to instill in you the importance of sharing, but we also find it immensely amusing when you stake claims on the last bite, or for whatever reason think it best to exclude Mom from eating this or that.

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This time, while checking out a new nearby pizza place, you called dibs on the last three slices and did everything in your power to make sure we saved them for you. It’s clearly not selfishness, but rather a sign of your love for pizza—you got them from me—and a constant form of entertainment for Selina and me. On that same occasion, you stole all the berries from my creme brule, with amazing speed and skill.

I’m going to try to wrap things up as this is already a bit long and I don’t want to put off publishing it any longer. So here’s a small collection of recent pictures detailing some of our life.

The Kinder bus is at Aimai, our nearest hypermart. The butterfly wings were part of the outfit you wore at one of Selina’s cousin’s wedding. And the last in this set is of you copying Mom doing yoga.

So we did something special just last month, and I think it’s going to be an annual tradition for us. A number of the Indian restaurants in the greater Taipei area come together every year to put on a local version of the Indian Holi festival, and I made sure that we made it this year. For you, it meant mostly playing in the sandbox, but we also had a lot of fun with the watercolors that were distributed to all the participants.

Your old man also got really badly sunburned.

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And after half a day of serious play, and no nap, you were out before we even left the parking lot.

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Yeah, we’ve been busy. But it’s been the good kind. I’ve gotten my schedule worked out so that we have a full weekend together, all three of us, like most families should and do, and we’re all happy and better off. Since starting this letter there have been other marvelous adventures, and I promise it won’t take four months to share them here with you.

Much love,

Dad

Happy Terrible Two!

Dear Elizabeth,

About four hours ago, you officially hit the two-year anniversary of your grand entrance. What a ride it has been. What a joy you are. What elation you have filled my life with.

It’s official—you’re now a toddler. (Although you’ve had all the markings of one for months already.) But you have legally earned the right to claim “I’m in my terrible twos” whenever you’ve done something that ticks me or your mom off. And we will still try our best to keep teaching you, guiding you to becoming more of the bright, kind, entertaining soul that you’ve demonstrated to us that you want to be.

It’s your birthday, and it’s perhaps the happiest day ever for me as I dwell on that and count down the hours until I get home from work to see you, hug you, smother you with kisses, and tell you with all my heart, “Happy birthday, my darling. I love you to pieces.”

Dad

FALLing into Place

My dearest Elizabeth,

We’re nearly halfway through November already, which means you and Mom have been out of the house for just over two weeks. I’m still adjusting to the early mornings; I haven’t been very good at getting to bed early enough, so it’s been bumpy. But except for one day, I’ve been able to get up at least to get you girls to work and preschool, saving you the time and hassle of busing it.

But oh my do I love having all this time. I feel a bit guilty, in fact, with your mother working all day, then still having most of the responsibility taking care of you. But I’ve done more than my share as well and believe I’ve earned this. Most important, it’s for a good cause, allowing me to catch up on all the stuff I’ve wanted and been unable to these past many months, including not only keeping the house in order but also numerous projects around the house, and especially getting my business more firmly off the ground.

As I’m still adjusting and trying to make the most of the time I now have, I haven’t gotten around to getting back to swimming, or getting much exercise at all for that manner, but I have been reading again, playing drums a bit, and taking lots of naps (to make up for the lack of sleep—not out of laziness). I still have a lot of discipline to acquire before I can manage to get everything done in a day that I’d hoped for. Baby steps.

In just a few days you are going to be two years old. How the time has whizzed by. And lucky for me I’ve been here to witness most of your little milestones. I’ll be out of town all weekend for a Toastmasters conference, so we’re going to have to put off the celebration a bit. But we will commemorate the day nonetheless, and a bash it will be.

For now, here a slew of photos taken over the past couple months, including some from out little family trip to Sun Moon Lake, a few of the last few times just the two of us shared before Mom was in between jobs, some more family beach fun, a trip to the Taipei Zoo, and just good ol’ cute little you being you.

Love,

Dad

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Sporting your new Osh Kosh

img_3611 A sweaty day at the park

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img_3632 Sun Moon Lake cruise

img_3637 At the top of Ci En Pagoda

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Sun Moon Lake cable car

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The gesture that accompanies with your favorite question: “Where?”

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img_3795 img_3796 Wearing Daddy’s clothes

img_3798 img_3801 At Qianshuiwan

img_3806 img_3807 Matcha ice cream—yummm!

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img_3836 img_3837 “Baby’s glasses”

 

All Things Must End

Dear Elizabeth,

So we’ve had a really good run with my being a full-time stay-at-home dad, but it’s time to move on to bigger and better things. Actually, I need time for handling all the numerous responsibilities I’ve been trying to juggle these past many weeks. And your mother’s new job is going to make room for that, and then some.

In a few weeks, Selina will start her new job, and you’ll be going with her to work. They have a dedicated room for two-year-olds, so that will be the new arrangement. I’ll continue staying home, taking care of all the housework, shopping, cooking, etc., but I’ll also—finally!—have the time to get out and build my business some more. This has been something I’ve been meaning to do for months and months. Now I’ll have the time to get it done.

An extra 40 or so hours per week is going to be really nice, not to mention my being able to get more sleep. But I’m going to miss—a lot—all the time we have gotten so used to having together. I’m sure, however, that you will also enjoy the new change as you’ll have playmates to run and climb and play with all day, not just boring old Dad. And I hope to take a day off every so often for just you and me to go out and play together, hit the zoo or park—that sort of thing.

This newfound “freedom” is also going to, hopefully in the near future, allow me to put into place other career goals and therefore further changes, letting me be closer to home even more often. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves and spoil things before I’ve made all the necessary preparations and put in the months of hard work required to make these things happen.

In short, this is going to be a big change for me, one that I really, really need, and one in which I’ll be able to focus more on building my business. And your mother, I’m sure, will be especially grateful for not having to lift a finger on housework. All in all, this is what I’ve envisioned and been waiting for for a long time.

Love,

Dad

 

 

Bilingual

My dearest Elizabeth,

We’re already halfway through August, and well into our third week of my being a full-time stay-at-home dad. And things are going really well, I’m happy to report. We’ve worked out a pretty good routine, and nap time is much less of a challenge.

Much of the time, I nap with you. And there are pictures to prove it.

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It’s still really warm most of the time, so our activities are still somewhat limited by the weather and that flesh-eating sun, but we’re getting out a lot and having tons of fun.

Sometimes that’s as simple as browsing IKEA, eating out…

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…and the occasional Starbucks brunch, when cooking is just not in the stars.

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At times, we head out for some serious playing.

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But sometimes we just have to tough it and soak up a few rays.

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And when there is ample time and energy and motivation to cook, you double as my kitchen assistant.

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You’re also very fond of burritos.

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Much of that lazy time at home is spent hiding in the bedroom, catching up on R&R, hiding underneath the air conditioner.

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And sometimes that involves you playing with your stuffed dog. You even try to get it to drink water from a bottle.

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All of the time, no matter where we are or what we’re up to, you are your adorable, silly, curious, energetic self, doing what you do best.

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Yesterday was an especially fun day. We skipped swim class to hang out with Yo-yo and his parents, who we haven’t seen in quite a long time after changing our class time to Mondays. We met in the afternoon and drove together up to Zhuwei to play at the beach. This was your first time to the beach. Needless to say, it was a blast for everyone. And seeing the two of you growing up and playing together is a real delight.

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…with a sunset to see us off!

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So what’s been going on in addition?

You’ve been talking a lot more. This has evolved into making phrases out of lots of words that you already know, combinations such as “Mommy’s clothes,” “Daddy’s nose,” “Maiya, out!” and so on. Yes, a number of these are simply your mimicking us, so I’m working hard on curbing my sailor-like habits.

Living in a bilingual house, your vocabulary is a mix of both Mandarin and English. This means at this stage that most words you can speak, be they noun or verbs, are either, say, a thing in English or an action in Chinese—usually one language or the other. However, just the other day, you surprised me, while pointing at a picture of lavender, by saying 花 (hūa), followed by “flower.” (I’m not sure if this is a major milestone to celebrate, but it shot me over the moon.)

In your swim class, you recently got promoted to level 4. In the past month or so, you’ve made tremendous progress and showed an increased interest in being in the water. We’re going to make a swimmer out of you after all.

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Lastly, I’d like to share what’s going on with Mom and Dad. your mother is super busy at work, and she’s tired a lot as a result. I’m trying to find time to get work done, after taking care/chasing after you 50 odd hours a week.

I have also done something for myself. I joined Toastmasters. It’s gotten me out of the house one evening a week, and I’ve met a lot of really great people as a result. My first speech is coming up soon, and then I’m participating in a contest shortly after that. When you’re a bit bigger, I’m sure you’ll come see my speak.

So that’s about it for this time. It’s nearly bedtime for this guy. And I’m so happy to have found the time to catch up with you here. We’re getting in so much great, quality time together, but I have so little time to write much of it down, to share with you when you’re a bit bigger.

You, along with your mother, of course, are the best thing to have happened to me. I’m  blessed to have you in my life, and I love you to pieces. Your mother can’t get enough of you, either.

Keep on shining, little munchkin.

Dad