I was raised with White Christmas playing on repeat on the television from November through, oh, I'd say... February.
I learned to tune out Bing Crosby and that funny looking guy who was supposed to be funny, but who I didn't think was funny--Danny Kaye. It just became holiday background noise.
And it's not as if Lola sat glued to the screen; it served as background noise for her too as she prepared (or recovered) from Advent and Christmas. For the first half of my life she was a Partier for the second half a Partier Pastor, so when I say preparing and recovering, we're talking about a seriously emotionally and physically draining time of the year.
But, she always had to have that darned White Christmas on!
"Mom, you're not even watching it!" we'd complain, wanting to watch our own shows.
But, she would not relent. It was one of Grandpa Reyes' favorites, she'd note. And we'd proceed to make fun of her. As per usual.
So, in rebellion to the ambient noise, I never actually sat down to watch White Christmas until a few years ago when I bought a copy of the movie for my own home.
And guys! It's a good movie! Singing! Dancing! Handsomeness! And funniness!
This is something I want to share with my children, I thought to myself. However passively, it was a formative film in my life. It should be in theirs too. If only because it was a favorite of their great-grandfather's and subsequently, their crazy Lola's and mine.
So, I popped the DVD in last night.
"It's a Christmas movie!" I said brightly, encouraging Bel to make it past the credits to, at least, the first rendition of "White Christmas."
"Look!" I said, hopefully, pointing to Davis and Wallace on the makeshift wartime stage, as they began to sing and dance.
"I don't like these Christmas people," you said, as you buried yourself in pillows.
"Who are those small ladies? And what are they wearing?"
And when you saw the "Sisters" routine, that sent you running to the dress up clothes.
"They are Cinderella!"
And you were a lost cause. So, we turned our attention to dress up instead.
White Christmas playing in the background, of course.
So, I killed a mouse a couple of weeks ago.
And I hit a small animal somewhere on a highway in New York State in June of 2006.
Also, I made Auntie Katherine kill those stinky bugs that invaded our dorm room sophomore year of college.
And, given your dad's fear of spiders (we're talking seriously legit phobia here, people), I've killed more spiders than I'm willing to admit.
Death is no laughing matter. But, it's also a fact of life.
And in some respects, so is killing.
But, I'm talking about poultry and cattle and Shark Week and nature. Not war, not murder, not executions.
When I was little, Lola and Lolopop didn't allow us to have guns of any sort. It wasn't until we begged and pleaded for "Super Soakers" that any semblance of a weapon entered our home. And when I wanted to be a witch for Halloween, Lola made me a white "Peace Witch" costume. Meanwhile, Kevin was a weapon-less superhero or another.
We weren't allowed to watch movies with violence, but we were allowed to watch movies with sex (not violent sex like rape, obviously)(and not pornography, you perverts, just movies that happened to have love/sex scenes).
Ironically the first "violent" movie we were "allowed" to watch was Braveheart, because it was the historical violence of our People. Right. No gratuitous violence there or anything. I would have prefered to read a book about the First War for Scottish Indpendence. Then again, Mel Gibson?
Anywayz, I guess you could say we're pacificts. But, not vegetarians. And, though we try to be concious consumers, I'm sure blood has been spilled in other countries because of our choices, actions or inactions.
I'll stop harshing your mellow.
All this is to say, we don't do weapons.
So, stop hitting your sister with musical instruments, your rolling backpack, utensils and/or play tea kettle.
You are blessed to have so many cousins.
I am blessed that you're finally at an age where I can throw you in a room with said cousins and forget about you. Between your older cousins and your same-aged cousins, you had plenty of supervision and entertainment during our Thanksgiving visits.
In fact, when your cousins are around it's less a matter of encouraging you to play with them and more a matter of you running away to the play room, not seeing you for five hours while you avoid all adult interaction.
Once in awhile you make a boo-boo inspired appearance or surface for a drink. And once in awhile, I catch snippets of your cousin adventures.
Yesterday, you were coloring.
Cousin A: Look at my drawing of my family!
Bel: Awww, that's so awesome! How clever you are!
Cousin A: Thank you. How clever you are too.
Who wouldn't want to spend time with such civilized little human beings?
Until they start playing "mean bouncer" and kick you out of the club. Which was a little sad for your Dad, the cool-kid-extrovert, to witness when all your cousins young and old were busy playing and you were the only one NOT ALLOWED!!! VIP access to the play room.
It's a good lesson. Because even bad experiences help you to grasp the concepts of Kindness and Caring. Our Lessons of the Year at Chez Gibbeadle.
There was a time period when you ignored your sister. A blubbering ball of spit-up and vomit, she was of little significance to you. Then, she started to mess with your shit. And you'd retaliate, and I'd respond, letting you know it was "NOT OKAY. Period." to hit, shove, push or bury her in pillows. But, you were both a little on the young side to really understand The Why part.
Now that she's a walker and understands basic English, you have begun to play together. It warms my heart to see your joy as you run in circles around each other or throw Duplos at each other.
And let's be honest. The more you two can entertain yourselves together or apart, the more time I have to waste on the Internet.
But, you are both still toddlers. Depending on my mood or where I am in preparing dinner, I let you two duke it out. But, occasionally I'm driven to intervene and actually "parent."
When it comes to names, Filipinos are not lacking in creativity.
One Filipino naming tradition is to give children a name derived from their parents' names. Maryvic. Joseann. Laurichal (I just made that one up). And after all that, they usually just use a self-explanitory nickname like "Boy Boy" or "Girlie." That's on the reals.
I'm a "meaning" person. Things in my life need to have "meaning" or else what's the point? I'm intense like that.
So, when we named you both, we basically followed the above principles: combine names and make sure the names have some significance.
Maribel: Mari- comes from my maternal grandmother, crazy Grandma Reyes/Acoba whose name was, you guessed it, Maria. The -bel part is from your daddy's paternal grandmother whose middle name was Bell. And she hated it. I hope neither of your great grandmothers are turning in their graves.
Danielle Jolee: was simple enough. We wanted to keep pulling names from our families and honor two amazing men, especially since we had bought and moved into our new house and received so much support from them in the year preceding your birth. So, we choose a name from each of your grandfathers, Grampa Beadle and Lolopop.
It is more of a Spanish-speaking world tradition to pass down both the maternal and paternal last names, but it's not unheard of in Filipino families. All of my siblings have or had (before marriage) some combination of Lola's (we all have the same mom) last name, Reyes, and our respective fathers' (there are three of them between the four of us) last name. Your Uncle Bruce's name is hyphenated. Your Auntie D used her last names interchangeably depending on context. And your Unkinan and I were given the middle name Reyes and the last name Gibbs. No hyphen. And the option to use either or both as we saw fit.
Anyway, all that is to say, that we gave you both the middle name Reyes. It is a Spanish name, given to my grandfather's family during colonial occupation of the Philippines, originally de los Reyes, shortened by immigration officials when he came to the United States.
And your last name, by traditional naming standards is Beadle. Which is totally confusing because your dad goes by his last name.
Actually, it's not confusing.
Sometimes we go days on end staring at our belly buttons.
Every once in awhile, lightning strikes.
Like last night. I was being addicted to Pinterest. Danjo was wreaking general havoc. And Babybel was sitting on the kitchen floor drinking a cup of milk, a mini Buzz Lightyear figurine in her hands.
"Mommy, I want Buzz Wings," she epiphanized.
"Okay. Put it on your Christmas list," which is my reply to most of your requests these days.
"No. You can make them."
And she was right.
So in two shakes of a lamb's tail we procured a take-and-bake pizza box (that's an important detail, because I don't want you to think I let you play with gross greasy cardboard) and we cut, stapled and colored our way "to infinity and beyond!"
Then, you spent an hour working on drawing Star Command buttons on the cardboard scraps.
How awesome are we?!
Awesome enough to defeat Emperor Zurg. I know THAT much.
I have to apologize.
I often write about Bel, characterizing you as injury-prone. I shouldn't label you or stick you in a box. You're only two. (But, knowing and accepting this about you means that you will most certainly be enrolled in dance, gymnastics or martial arts classes. You might never be a professional dancer and you might continue to run into invisible objects like I do. But, you can gain the physical confidence that I still lack from never doing anything remotely physical.)
So, yes you are injury-prone. And I shouldn't be caught emphasizing that, because turns out: so is your sister.
Yes, the child that I thought would gracefully somersault, back flip and quarterback through life. Yes, that one. She is also injury-prone.
Her injuries, though, are another animal altogether.
Here's what your injuries say about each of you:
Babies are my Achilles' heel. Newborn babies? My kryptonite.
The smell of their fuzz ball heads. That instinctive grasp that my Labor and Delivery course instructor explained is strong enough for a baby to pull itself up to its mother's chest after birth. Which made me feel better, you know, in case I gave birth alone on a jungle floor and had malaria. I could die knowing my newborn could feed itself.
Mostly, newborns get to me, because of their symbolism.
They're scientifically nothing more than a blob of big-headed, undeveloped DNA, unfit for solitary survival.
But, don't tell a parent that. Or me.
Babies--desired, unplanned, unwanted, struggled to conceive or otherwise acquired--are new life, another chance, a blank slate, an imagination to fill and hopes to realize. A gamble, a bet, an investment.
In those first days, eyes adjusting, mouth searching, we feel they need us.
But, it's them we need.
Shopping and finances are not things I talk about too much here, probably because they are "sore spots" that make me feel vulnerable. But, I want you to have a healthy approach to things and money in this world. So, as usual, I've been thinking.
A few weeks ago after a conversation with Auntie Dee and some general introspection, I decided to stop "shopping."
I didn't make any huge ultimatums or start a blog to chronicle my 365 Days of Not Shopping Ever Again, I just thought I'd attempt to shift my consumerist behaviors in a gradual and measured way.
"Right before Christmas!?" your dad declared. "Maybe you want to wait until the new year?"
No, because this isn't about resolutions. It's about three epiphanies I had:
1. I realized that I was in a state of "shopping" all the time and was starting to feel manipulated. Looking at magazines, watching television, walking down the street, how often do I think to myself: "Oh! Where can I get that?" How many shopping trips to Target for toothpaste turned into leisurely strolls through aisles of I Don't Need This, I Can't Afford This, Why Am I Even in the Automotive Aisle? How many minutes did I spend looking at daily deal emails for things I would never buy, but Oh My Gosh It's Such a Good Deal on a Trip to a Dangerous, Politically Unstable Country!? Not to mention the hours I spent online filling and emptying my virtual shopping cart, mostly egged on by "deals" on things I didn't truly need.
2. I realized that there isn't much I need and I'm tired of feeling like there is. Sure there are things that make life more convenient. Like five pairs of leggings for Maribel for the five times a day she wets her pants. But, we have a washing machine; you could wear the same outfit every day if needed. Maybe that basket in the Target clearance aisle would help me be more organized? But, probably not. I felt that what I need is to spend more of my time focusing on our blessings, rather than making myself feel or letting advertisers make me feel like I am somehow "lacking."
3. I alluded to this above, but it's also a financial priorities thing. Now is a time in our family life to pay off debt, save money, focus on making it financially possible for me to stay at home. And to prioritize what we do spend our money on. I realized that every pair of shoes, yoga pants or even tub of Trader Joe's pumpkin cream cheese that I bought, was a choice that put us further from our goals. Eating steak tonight or buying Danjo a cute shirt even if it is ON SALE means less money towards bills, savings and bigger ticket purchases like finishing our kitchen pantry cabinetry or getting a bigger car or having another baby. We're not living on beans and rice, but I'm learning to prioritize.
So, I stopped "shopping." I've had my lapses, some permissible, some not. I, of course, continue to grocery shop and buy gifts. I had to buy mouse poison last week. And I got a little sucked into Amazon today looking for Danjo's Christmas present.
There are four things I've discovered so far:
The anniversary of your fourteenth month of life was overshadowed, and aptly so, by not only Auntie Ninang Tammie's birthday and TWO cousins' birthdays, but also by the BIRTH of a NEW baby cousin!
You're mince meat.
And not the "baby" of the family any more.
This is a fact that you would not accept easily yesterday, as all the A-Dolts took turns holding and directing attention at the unidentified object in their laps.
"Why am I not in their laps?" you wondered.
"What is this thing that seems to be taking up a lot of my Person's attention?"
"I think I will throw a temper tantrum. And I believe this tile floor would be an appropriate place to do so as it would lend a dramatic effect to my Oscar worthy performance."
You were most jealous when Lola was holding your cousin, of course. I mean, I was jealous! I don't blame you. I still want to curl up in Lola's lap and let her pick at my cradle cap.
You were semi-jealous when I held the newborn. And you didn't give a hoot if Lolopop was holding her.
This surprised me, since you two are best buddies and all. On second thought, being best buddies, you might see Lolopop as more of your pack mate than as one of your People.
So, apparently even your monthly letter is being overshadowed by another baby...
The story of your life, Second Child.
Sincerest apologies: I'll bring it back to you.
Here's what I know about you today:
- You have begun to grasp the English language. Not that you're reciting poetry or anything, but you understand simple commands, directions and questions, i.e. Where's your nose? Where's your tummy? Pick it up. Bring it to me. Put in the garbage. Come this way. Go that way. Sit down. Stand up. Make a mojito.
- This is in addition to your baby tricks, an assortment of highly refined command performances, including, but not limited to: blowing raspberries, making quail sounds and burping the alphabet.
- Of course, just because you CAN understand and do things does not mean that you actually do them.
- You do everything on your own terms.
- You've discovered the joy of not only removing things from their places, but also returning them to their respective basket, bag, shelf or cage.
- You've "calmed down" a bit since you started walking. You get into, on top of and underneath things less often. Mostly, you pace around the house like a worried old man, carrying things from one room to another, forgetting where you left your dentures and Hometown Buffet coupons. I'm sure this lull in your thrill-seeking adventures will end once you've mastered walking. Then, you'll return to your regularly scheduled sky-diving attempts.
- You are really thriving on that "human interaction" stuff. You love playing with and pushing your sister's buttons. You've discovered feeding people. And high fives. You pull up people's shirts to look for their belly buttons. You have begun to parrot words, so now your lengthy diatribes are peppered with random words. Today, you stopped rearranging canned goods, turned to me, pointed and said: "gooshee ba ga mam ba ga ba chicken chicken ma woo do."
Love you no matter what!