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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Celebrity sighting #3

We'd migrated to the North Shore for the last few days of our trip. The water tends to be rough on the windward side, especially in the winter, so we opted to head to a beach we read about on the internet called Turtle Bay. It turned out to be a little beach nestled in a golf resort development--not our typical scene, but the water was low and perfect for the baby, and snorkeling possible just a few feet out from the beach.

Likely a bit more exclusive than the cheap vacation packages in Waikiki, but the atmosphere still felt like a canned version of Hawaii for visitors. But our experience was enhanced by Chris's celebrity spotting because by then we'd come up with the format for the ridiculous Zenas photos.

Behind Zenas in the water, and beyond Zenas on the beach, the gray-haired man is none other than actor Tim Robbins, whom we saw up close and personal:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lost Item #2

Collapsible bouncy seat
Handed down to us by a dear friend. Handy for traveling, especially outdoors, when he could not sit up yet.
Last seen: Alamo Car Rental lobby, Honolulu, HI
*We left it behind accidentally while changing cars before our second leg in North Shore - didn't realize it until a few days later

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Celebrity sighting #2

One of the many indulgent vices I've taken to during my leave is the watching of television. Of shameless, not-so-deep television that I had lived without for the last fifteen years or more. At first it was all that my poor sleep-deprived brain could handle in those lonely sessions of constant feedings that required some diversion. Reading was impossible and audiobooks were too difficult--so TV won, and I became once again an addict.
This would not have been possible without Netflix streaming. An endless supply of non-commercial television at my fingertips. Zenas took about thirty minutes to feed, which was just about as long as Chris could keep his eyes open. 30 Rock was great--quality writing, but there were only a couple dozen shows. I burned through the entire five seasons of the next must at feedings, Weeds, which also served as the soothing background to my blurry days at home. Eventually I turned to the new territory of formulaic reality TV on the food/travel channels. With morbid fascination, I watched an entire season and a half of Man v. Food before I burned out. Chris and I both noticed that as the show kept going, the host/challenger of food eating contests looked bigger and bigger...

Which brings us to the story of our second day in Hawaii. We were staying in Waikiki, and for convenience headed to the crowded beach to introduce Zenas to the water. It is likely one of the most stupidly crowded tourist spots in the world. We set up our little beach camp, and did what one does on the beach: enjoy the sun, eat a little, read a little, and people watch. Waikiki is not a beach scene like Baywatch. It is filled with families who have traveled from cold climates to be in the sun. There is not a toned body in sight.

One of the stranger things about being in a couple is that you often discover you are noticing the same thing, or having the same thought, at the same time. Chris and I were remarking on the sadness of it all when we noticed a man exiting the water in our direct line of sight--and out of nowhere I said, "he looks unhealthy just like that Man v. Food guy, except maybe a little better because he's much taller."

To which Chris said, "he's not taller. That's actually him. It's definitely him."

So we hotly argued if it was him or not for most of the day, trying not to stare, and though I had to admit the resemblance is amazing, I got hung on logic: why would a television star (okay, this is a loose term here) be alone, sunbathing for hours, at the Waikiki Beach? Chris did eventual convince me that a film crew would be in in Honolulu, staying at a hotel nearby, and that a NY guy would definitely head to the beach in his downtime. Chalk a rare victory up for Chris. :)

Here is the proof photo - though Zenas is cut off, he's definitely in the picture with Adam Richman (holding the beach mat).

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Z continues to grow larger. We love him for his sturdiness, are reassured by his hale girth, but are forgetful sometimes to treat him as one of the newly existent. At three months, he's eighteen pounds, now almost double his birth weight--the unanimous reaction by strangers and friends alike is that he is "big." We constantly need to remind ourselves that he is still fragile and needs to be treated gently; even more so as his senses continue to sharpen to pick up more cues. He's acting less like a slug and more like a cat these days, startling at sudden sounds and tuning in to people's energies.

Having a child is having a personal laboratory for observing developmental stages. During pregnancy, I had the time and headspace to read ahead of what was happening in utero. Now that he's out and here, it's all I can do to try to track the changes and then to look them up post-haste to learn what the heck is going on.

For example: we left California for Thanksgiving without a single toy packed. We were trying to be minimal, reasoning we could buy anything we really needed. And because when we left, he seemed to have no interest in objects which were quickly let go even if we managed to trick him into gripping one by teasing an open hand into a fist--like a venus flytrap (and as I write this, I came up with: Zenas Toytrap). But halfway into the 10 day trip, we blinked and he was a different baby. All of a sudden he could seemed to look at the pages as we read to him at night, and clutched whatever object (a hand, spoon) that we put in front of him. And serendipitously the next day he received a toy that let him put to use his new found skills. Watching him reach, clutch and turn his toy we wonder how long he had been bored and unable to complain...

And once he starts something, the scary and marvelous thing is that it's forever. I'll never forget his first smile at 4 weeks, but every morning first thing he melts me with another one. I found him in his crib the other days rotated about 180 degrees--I guess he pushed himself around like a spinny top--and immediately reconsidered our decision that a tucked in blanket seems safe enough.* My current obsession is to reproduce the belly laugh he just started to make as often and to as many people as possible. Chris encourages "tummy time" to watch him build up his arm strength and muses that he'll be crawling and talking soon.

We don't mean to rush him. We also hear over and over that babies are more trouble as they get older and especially after they become mobile. It's just hard to resist the curiosity of witnessing the changes in our child, an extension of our flesh and blood who is demonstrating what we do not remember of ourselves. I thought I knew a thing or two about babies--I'm generally good at guessing ages and feel comfortable around them; but it is different to be raising one 24/7, and to try to decipher the signs or multiple simultaneous symptoms as they occur. As an example: at the height of his cold Zenas also began to teethe--but it was hard to know it for what it was because the bad mood could be attributed to being sick, and the same for the the worst diaper explosions yet; the gnawing might have been telltale had it not been just as he started to use his "third hand" -- we thought it was too early. But indeed a week later he is healthy but still drooling and chomping on fingers, toys and shoulders. It could be months before a tooth actually surfaces but it's certain to happen sooner than later and just like that there will not be a time when he's toothless again as long as he learns to floss...

It's part science/biology/voodoo/miracle/magic, how we come to be. Having "made," gestated, birthed him and now watching his progress, I shake my head that evolution has only brought us so far. We are still animal creatures no matter how well we can understand, explain and deal with growth.

*Every parent's nightmare is SIDS though the precautions seem too austere.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I am trying to hold up Japanese traditional celebrations for my son.
I'm flying a bit solo and blind, having only a vague recollection of the milestones to be observed, and a very diluted knowledge of holidays and festivals. I realize I have to do a bit of homework in advance here, lest some important days slip by unnoticed. The correct observance of the hundredth day, I just found out, is about food. It's the third ritual in infancy (the others: 7th night naming and first trip to the temple for a blessing.) Food to mark a long life of happy eating is prepared and presented to the baby--who likely has just begun teething, so it's really just a performance of mock feeding. Images here for what might be a traditional feast.

I only knew that the 100th day was one of significance. My mother during her stay had criticized us for taking Z out during her visit, explaining that in olden times babies were kept indoors for 100 days for safekeeping. I interpreted it to be a birthday of sorts after the most vulnerable time had passed: with triple digit days under his/her belt, the child was more of a person? The current trend in our demographic today is to refer to the first few months as "the fourth trimester" -- an out-of-womb larval state before they truly come into their own.

While back East, I thought I wanted to throw a party for Zenas. But my original ambition did not manifest with our next travel adventure looms too closely ahead, and our time between grandparents feels more like a pitstop in our house to recover from our colds, see a few friends, and brace ourselves against the next set of holidays. Instead I took the easy way out--we had been invited over for dinner that night by Bill and Camille, so I brought along a cake and asked them to join the commemoration. I had read about a small bakery in a Japantown grocery store that made yummy cakes. A business that looks as old as 40+ years is being run by an elderly bilingual japanese woman who 1) whispered "no, she's nisei (second-generation)" in response to my inquiry if the pastry chef could write a japanese message on the cake, and 2) tsked at me for not being able to remember one letter from the japanese phonetic alphabet when we agreed hiragana would be possible.

In the end, the cake was a little bruised in transport, but Zenas was surrounded by love and congratulated by a toast.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Celebrity sighting #1

This is the first of new series --

In his short life, Zenas has been in the presence of a few celebrities. While Chris and I are not the autograph-seeking type, we do think that our child might be interested to have a list.
Caveat: this excludes all Pixar folks, though some are considered celebrities, they don't count because it was not so random a sighting. They also don't make as good an opportunity for the most ridiculous of photos, where Zenas is in close-up and the celebrity faaaar away in the background.

Here is Zenas, with Salman Rushdie, at a reading of Luka and the Fire of Life (special thanks to Megan Kurashige for hooking us up with tickets).

First Quarter

Happy 3-month birthday Zenas! You are a quarter of the way in your first year of life.

Having just returned from our first trip back East, we are safe but all sick.
Zenas has his third virus in a row; this time, his little cough is so wet and his breathing so labored that we had to take him to see the doctor, who diagnosed it as croup. At one point his voice was so hoarse that we thought we were going to die from cute and heartbreak overload. Even at his worst, our little boy manages to reward us with smiles between his crying and coughing.

There is no remedy for a virus, just an attempt to ease the symptoms until it passes. For his breathing we were recommended to tent his crib with a sheet, and to point the humidifier into the cavity to give him moist air. "Now don't worry if he feels wet to the touch," said the Doctor. We followed his instructions but still questioned his methods when we touched the baby's cheek and found it covered with a fine, cold mist while he slept.

It's been three nonstop weeks of having him sick. Until now it hadn't been much of an issue, a runny nose at worst, but after this heartbreaking round I want a clean bill of health for the baby. As for myself, I am finally sick for the first time in over a year - the virus that caused the croup was too strong not to pass to me--and I remember what a drag it is to be at all under the weather. Just crushing to think that Z has been sick without understanding why, in what way and for how long he would be -- and not even the means to tell us how he's feeling. Having a sick kid is harder than I thought for this reason.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Love letter from Lady X

Last week Christian received a gift for Zenas from one of his former-students-turned-friends. As part of the present she enclosed a letter for Zenas, handwritten with tiny letters on both sides of a 8.5x11, footnoted, that she asked to be read aloud to Zenas if we thought it was "cool."

It was more than cool. We have been spoiled with gifts and have appreciated every single one, but this was the one we got misty over. We are so caught up in the moment sometimes that we forget the obvious: as our son grows up he'll be discovering everything for the first time. There is so much magic in this and an infinite potential for play. We have been so serious and busy at home that the letter was like a mini vacation offered by a fortuneteller. It also made us realize how lucky Zenas is to have so many people in his life (which inspired the previous blog entry), so many cool Aunties and Uncles who will be helping us teach him what we don't know. So far we have volunteers for lessons on how to ride a motorcycle, how to sing, how to dance, how to pick up dates, etc. But he's learning how to be loved first and foremost, thanks to everyone.

We wanted to share the letter with you - here is it below (with permission from the author):


Dear ZS,

You don't know me yet, but that'll change soon. I will hopefully become a (cool) aunt type person that pops in and out of your life to take you to bookshops, the cinema, rock concerts, and aquariums. I say "pop in and out" as I suffer from geographical neurosis, which means I can never stay in one place for very long (your dad has some personal experience with this). I'm stealing "geographical neurosis" from this Italian dude, Italo Calvino. He's written some classics with unusual slants. He's cool, but there's some more important people to read first. When the time comes, we'll go to the shop and pick out a Calvino that will be just right.

Even though we haven't met yet, I think it's important to tell you a few things right off the bat:

You're off to an amazing start. Your parents, pardon me for saying so, are hot. They also happen to be extremely loving and bright. With their two brains and two hearts, life is going to be really fun and beautiful. San Francisco is also one of the most fabulous cities in the world: fog, sour dough, Golden Gate, the Pacific Ocean, and truly exquisite mixology. If you like girls, there will be many beautiful ones with which to associate. If you like boys, the selection will be even larger. One way or another, SF is a man's town. This has something to do with its history: SF exploded during the Gold Rush - in 1848. Basically, a large quantity of a rare and valuable substance (gold) was discovered near the city and people - primarily men - came from all over to harvest it. Mining was considered a predominately male occupation as at the time it was believed that women were fragile creatures who could not withstand the stresses of the job, or even the journey to gold country. As a result, a female presence in SF was so rare that if one happened to stroll down the street all surrounding activity would cease in order to watch her pass (1). The main point: SF was, and always will be - in my eye's at least, a boy's town. However, the girls I know who live there now are seriously fierce - like the Kurashige sisters who will undoubtedly become your first cool aunt non-aunt people.

Another thing I want to share:
The world is a pretty awesome place, and if you can learn to see some value in everything, life is gonna pretty much rock. It already pretty much does. A few days ago, I was reading about something called the "yeti crab". A yeti is a cryptid (or a creature who may or may not exist), and looks like a human only much, much bigger - with tons of hair. The hair is to protect it from the cold as it is said to exist in the snowy hills of the Himalayas. A crab has eight legs and lives in the ocean (2). It also has an exo-skeleton. An exo-skeleton is kind of a weird thing. Exo means outside, and some animals, like crabs, have their skeletons (the really hard part of the body) on the outside of their flesh - unlike people. The yeti crab is a crab that has hair, or more specifically, hair-like structures on its two main limbs (the ones with the pinchers). This is pretty strange because creatures with exoskeletons don't typically have anything resembling hair... all I'm saying is that being curious about things like yeti crabs, marine life, genre fiction, and really, just about anything, will bring amazing things to your life. Curiosity is something worth developing.

Before this letter stretches too long, I want to tell you about what's included in this package. I'm not sure if you'll like this record; Belle and Sebastian isn't for everyone. Some consider their work annoying and others find it too light and sweet. The phrases "sad bastard music" and "twee as fuck" (3) have been used to describe it. I guess I shouldn't have said fuck right there. It's probably too harsh for your tiny ears, but really: fuck is just a word. Some words are supposed to be "bad" or "hurtful", but that's just bullshit. Words in themselves are not good or bad. They aren't anything on their own really. What matters is how they are meant and where they're coming from i.e. the heart. Fuck or fucker can actually be meant endearingly, especially when it's passed between emotionally underdeveloped men such as in television crime dramas (like "The Wire"(4)). Anyway, back to Belle and Sebastian:

This record is about love, and life is about love. This is hard for some people to understand, and some people will even try to convince you that love is stupid and doesn't matter. Life can be very difficult if you chose to live that way, but this music is made for people like me and your folks, it's for people who want to live by heart and who chose love. Every song on Write About Love contains an image or a lesson that will nourish you if you absorb it and let it. I can guarantee the older you get, the more these lyrics will mean - even if you don't like the sounds. If you don't dig the lyrics, that's cool too, but it's important to recognize the intention of them.

Also I want you to know that I am a person who will always listen to you. You can talk to me about anything at any time. Seriously. That being said, I may not have any answers for you, but I'll be around. Perhaps it should also be mentioned that I'm not very good with kids, so if I feel in over my head, I'll tell you, then search out a more appropriate brain for what you need. Once we get whatever needs to be settled, settled, I'll take you to the movies.
I'm so excited you're here.

until soon.
much love,

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Redefining Family

Perhaps better than redefining would be to say recognizing family.

As Chris and I shift from no longer being two who became one but suddenly three, there are yet again some remarkable changes. Changes that bring delight, changes that make us fight, changes that kick our asses in the most unpredictable ways.

I'm old enough to know better. Does not mean that I know exactly what I'm doing, but there is a more settled feeling of "rightness," not as in being right but as in knowing right from wrong, or simply living the life I want to be having. What started out as a survival skill to make up for gaps became a network of extended family: more than ever I feel surrounded by friends who are there for me, us two, and now us three. I wonder sometimes how I came to deserve such a rich life. We were children together and your kind parents kept inviting me over for dinner; or we were teenagers experimenting in an unfilmed version of every coming of age story that existed; or we were twenty-something newly anointed adults who recognized a kinsman wounded soldier when we met one; or in our thirties, we celebrated our graduation into the normal together by starting our traditions of make-believe family; or simply, even recently, we met and are and have potential. No Dickensian moment ever feels complete without a faery family member present.

And it is you adopted family members who bring the magic. Not to say we do not appreciate our real family, but their love and kindness is expected and celebrated in a bond that is no less but different from what I speak of here. Even if we never hear from them mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins and such always have that everlasting claim. My parents are of the sort who always insist that blood is thicker than water, but in my case water goes down easier and I'm held and moved and supported by the people who have more randomly entered my life. Friends are often more present and more consistent so we let everyone know that these special friends are Uncles and Aunties. I don't think of blessings as something religious but I count them in the numbers of once strangers who are now people I'll know forever--as one put it, "I have to warn you, I collect people, you know, and once you're a friend I expect you in my life forever." And through pregnancy, birth and parenthood you've taken not only an interest but offered so much. I may never end my existential questioning but you ground me with your simple kindnesses.

Chris told me that having a child separated the friends amongst his acquaintances. He and I are as usual different in exactly how we define or maintain friends but I know where we meet is our appreciation of people. So while I'm not sure exactly what he meant, I think he was referring to the same experience of newly/re/forever connecting with beloved people, a byproduct (or perhaps another facet) of becoming The Parent of Zenas Satoshi Burns.

Chris is still in a state of wonderment. Just tonight he said, "We made him. He didn't exist and now he's here forever." I don't know anything about having a child yet. I suspect it's one of those things you discover only in hindsight as you move forward, just like the unfolding of my own self. But by his very existence Zenas serves as a lens to re-experience and re-evaluate. We can't wait to rediscover our own childhood books and games. We will do our best to guide and support him as he takes his turn at all the awkward phases in life. And we are not only happy and proud, but rewarded, to share him with you.

Friday, November 12, 2010

parent tip #2

Zenas and I dropped by to visit Marit and Fio.
It was just past five o'clock when we arrived.
They didn't turn the lights on as the sky turned dark. Instead they enjoyed the light brought on by the change of day to night, until it was really hard to see.
They showed me their artwork. Marit had drawn a tiger and giraffe which Fio had painted--they were part of Fio's story that she made up.
We ate cookies made from farro (Fio kept reminding me of how many I had left because she had finished hers) and spontaneously Marit declared, "Dance Party!" and turned up the music. They danced with each other, they danced like bears, they danced in a circle around the blanket on the floor.
We all wore funny hats.
"We have a Dance Party every night," she said. "You are welcome back anytime."

Z and I hope to have as much fun at home as they do.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Of course Christian is a ridiculously proud father.

I should've seen it coming, but I hadn't put together his tendency to exaggerate, his supportive nature, and his blindness when it comes to love... Not that the signs weren't there; when we adopted one of our foster kittens last summer, and she became his, Christian would routinely brag to his dance students that "Snowflake is the smartest, best cat in the world." No self-consciousness whatsoever in having a cat named Snowflake, or that he was beaming with pride over the agility of a kitten.

I, on the other hand, grew up with a mother repressed of uttering praise, and a father who gave it but stringently and always with a comparison to something he did that was better, which made us feel bad as a result. We are not lovey-dovey: we are Japanese from Osaka. At best our family will show pride of one another only when speaking to other. In a way some might consider too direct, we like to keep it real. A good-natured jab must accompany every compliment because it would be too embarrassing to have said or received such adoration so openly.

I wonder how I will treat my own son. Only Chris has as much authority to dictate our behavior as parents; only Chris has as much influence over our child. But our roles as mother and father are distinct and simultaneouly uniquely important. So far, with no one to stop me, I kiss Zenas dozens, dozens of times a day. I trace my fingers over the silken fat folds of his face. I push back against his barely-there muscles, and when I cocoon his entire body within my arms I am so content I almost cease breathing, as if to stop time.

But it's Chris that tells Zenas that he's perfect and special on a daily basis. I'm more likely to point out the little oddities: that his nose looks a little pug, that his default look seems to be of one ready for a fight (think DeNiro "you talkin' to me?"), and that he's shaping up to be a bruiser.

Chris knows Zenas is special, and loves that other parents confirm this. Zenas has always seemed beyond his weeks. He had a focused gaze since birth, was early to smile, has always been a good sleeper- now up to 5 hour stretches, falls asleep in his crib after a simple bedtime routine, doesn't seem to cry much, is often called "mellow," and has now started to suck his own thumb (which apparently is a good thing since it means he can self-soothe, which I've witnessed when he's put himself to sleep that way). Friends of ours will support our claims of showing signs of being extraordinatory. Chris beams with pride and tells me everyday how much he loves his son.

I have no less pride nor love. I just find other ways to brag than to say it myself.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

First Grip

We didn't let the rain that kept Rachel from being able to visit stop us from dropping by her mother's art opening party at Heaven's Dog. We were headed downtown to pick up your father anyway and the restaurant was on the way. You fell asleep--you still had a habit of falling asleep back then in your first car seat. I found parking right across the street and though it had stopped raining I felt a little nervous illegally crossing Mission in the middle of the block but did it anyway: your weight was enough to make me take shortcuts. You didn't wake up right away and when you did in the middle of that cocktail party you didn't cry; you just opened your eyes. You always loved parties and were never intimidated by a crowd. People always noticed and commented on you being big, cute, alert, or good not necessarily in that order or all in the same day, but nonetheless all the time. There were almost no other kids, only their immediate family, the place was full of people standing around in clusters eating drinking chatting and occasionally looking up at the walls. I got you out of the seat so you could meet Rachel, then Frankie, but it was her nephew Nemo and niece Ella who were smitten with you the most. They took turns holding you, and while you were in those not yet fully grown arms they gave put the stuffed carrot toy Rachel had given you in your hand, and for the first time you didn't let it drop.

You held on to something for the first time on your own, with your little hand, and though the victory was yours I was the one to feel both the pride and the instant sadness that follows such a moment. I immediately understood that it would always be that way, because I was and always would be your mother.

(photo taken a few weeks later with the same toy)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Headed off the charts

At 9 weeks, Zenas weighs 15 pounds.

All the more to love.
According to growth charts he's in the 100th percentile.
"Thriving," is what we say when asked how he's doing.
Right now he's the perfect size to hold: sturdy, squishy, and snuggly.
If you haven't held him recently, you are missing out!

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints Day

Zenas turned two months old today!

Zenas celebrated his birthday recovering from a wild night out.
At first we said we would not dress him up for Halloween--but that mohawk made it too easy. It all came together as if meant to be: Krista had loaned us the Converse shoes; a Freecycler had given us the orange Halloween tights; Matt had just saved the black Tshirt from the Pixar free pile, not knowing that I had worked at Yoshi's long ago and would likely not be advertising them on my son--but perfect for ripping and defacing; and Auntie Aly was over to help me make the necklace from the safety pins and padlock I already had.

We dressed him up, loaded him in the stroller to Belvedere Street, a scene also referred to as "Kiddie Castro." There are blockades to keep out cars for the few block stretch, and it seems about every single house participates in over-the top fashion, often converting their garages into themed tfamous for it's kid-oriented Halloween decorations (three blocks of live bands, discos, and wildly themed garages; hundreds if not thousands of people showed up, mostly in costume). He slept through most of it and could not yet collect candy for his parents but we're banking on next year.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

To Teach Others Gently

My father, now 74 and again living in Japan since his return in 1994, gave Zenas his middle name: Satoshi.

In order to fully explain the significance of the name, a much simplified and likely inadequate language lesson is necessary. One of the difficulties of the Japanese language is the complexity of learning kanji. One character may have several meanings. Each character has several formal pronunciations, depending on context and use. Every stroke has a correct order and placement that must be followed. The pronunciation and or meaning can shift depending on its placement within a compound word. And Japanese names, though phonetically the same, may be constructed by completely different kanji; and in these cases, the pronunciation and exact meaning of the kanji does not always follow the grammatical rules, but rather fall under poetic license.

The kanji for our Satoshi is a single character that translates directly as "instruction." It is a compound derivative of two discrete but simple kanji which fall into the category of pictograms, which were the earliest written words drawn as illustrations to impart the meaning of the words themselves. The several lines above a square on the left side 言 illustrates sounds exiting a mouth, to mean "words" or "to say." The right side image 川 suggests three flowing lines in a steam to mean "river." Together, they suggest the flow of words. My father's unusual choice in the usage of this kanji for the name Satoshi is his poetic touch. He wanted Zenas to have a middle name that meant "to teach others gently."

I asked my father send us an image of the kanji, so I could learn the "spelling" of the name as such is the case in Japanese. Instead of a piece of calligraphy as I'd expected, he sent us a letter handwritten on floral stationary. Though his diction was somewhat rusty, his penmanship remained elegant. He wrote the following (pretty much) regarding the name:

Your baby is named after my youngest brother who died at the age of 28, unmarried and working as an engineer. Quiet, he was the smartest among our five brothers.

After the news of his death, I used to keep a small picture of him in my wallet. I couldn't stop my tears while driving because the car was where I could cry. I hated to show tears in my eyes to anyone.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Punk Baby

I swear it's natural and unavoidable, though I do admit it's eye-catching.
What I'm talking about, of course, is the hair.
When Zenas was born, our immediate reaction: "Oh, he has his Poppa's hairline!"
But so quickly he rebelled (and I wonder if it's indication of what the future will hold?)
As if to assert that he's his own man, his babyfine hairs down the middle of his head started to stand up.
"How cute, a baby mohawk," said the admirers.
Proud (someone else thinks he's cute!), but a little afraid of suffering vanity by proxy, I carefully brush his hair down, back and in all directions after every bath.
But Zenas still wakes up everyday with that hairdo on his own.
And now that it's getting longer, there's a wild wave to it on some days... the other day, Christian said he looked like Zippy!

Then last night in the bath, I pushed his wet hair down to see what he would look like with a comb-over. Hilarious.
Like his complexion, I can't claim that hair comes from me. In the light it's the color of sweet caramel, the kind that I remember as a Japanese paper-box package of tightly wrapped squares.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Baby Vortex

After the epic visit with Hanne, I set out to catch up on some sleep and (almost) alone time -- but I swung so far in the other direction that I fell and got caught in The Baby Vortex.

The Baby Vortex is not so much about the baby, as the name might imply, but more about myself. An isolating force that quickly sucked me in to suddenly feel that I lacked an existence outside of the baby world. It started with sleeping almost an entire day, a marvelous idea that should have yielded positive results, but instead it invited a potential migraine that I fought off all day. I chalked it up to exhaustion and slept in again, always intending to "catch up" when I did finally start my next day. But there's the elusive balance of energy-time-focus-completion I am finally beginning to appreciate, and surrender to, after losing many a battle. It's ridiculous but true that hours fly by, and yet nothing gets done. For an impatient multi-tasker like me, this is a bitter pill to swallow. My idea of relaxation is to make a list of things to do, and my sense of control is to execute the tasks from these lists. It's an ongoing process that brings if not happiness, a deep sense of calm. So I can't really explain how a whole day goes by, or a whole week, and I still didn't make that call to the doctor's office. Or the piles of intended organizational joy, instead of being merrily put away, grow like ugly ulcers in the house. The reality is if the house, occasional laundry, baby and I are clean, presentable and there's dinner ready before 8pm, that's all I've managed.

I should mention that the vortex is fiercely grounded at home. I did not leave the house for 72 hours. I did not step outside the house for three whole days. Now that would have sounded dreamy back in my 50+hour workweeks, but instead of the lounging, reading and carefree state of playing hooky I'd imagined, I am a slave to a repetitive tyrant. Zenas is a good baby. But even a good baby wakes up every 3 hours to feed, has no control over what should be private acts over a toilet, and prefers to be held, especially when tired, at the end of every waking cycle. Then repeat. It's not very hard work, nor is it unpleasant work. But it must be delivered without fail, and by me, mostly alone. The responsibility is an insidiously growing weight, at first perceived as the privilege of parenthood, but shifting around week six to an inescapable contract.

What's crazy is that there is constant change in this lack of activity. Zenas is growing fast (okay well big) before our very eyes, and we're gaining the confidence and expertise we didn't know we lacked. But all the change is subtle, while also constant, so the reality doesn't quite hit you at first but suddenly like an overplayed song.

So many questions suddenly are about my identity, my desires, my meaning, my friends, my personality, my needs, my wardrobe, my days left, my work, my hobbies, my intentions, my family (original), my family (new), my money, my future, my abilities, my needs, my time, all my my my that is not my baby. The vortex is a spinny thing.

A telling sign: I did not take a single photo of Zenas in three days. I can't let this happen, so I began to claw my way back to the world of the living. I finally answered a few emails, made some calls, and tended to my social calendar. Made a vow to take a walk once a day, and also to try to meet some other moms who are around. The days are flying by, and I refuse to be left behind.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Social Babyfly

Zeke's 10 days with Farmor:
- first museum visit to SF Cameraworks (Torsten's video installation)
- visit to SF Moma
- a visit from Auntie Heather
- shopping at the Alameda Antique Faire
- first visit to Pixar
- attended baby group (new parents at Day One)
- a couple of trips to Japantown
- dinner with Auntie Aly
- visit from Uncle Matt to make new art cards
- ferry ride to Sausalito
- meeting a French tv crew at Caroline's studio during the Art Explosion show
- first overnight trip to Calistoga with the Mason/Charman family
- floating in a heated Olympic size pool
- a stroll in Yountville peeking in at Thomas Keller's restaurants
- a dinner party with Uncle Torsten (Chris's brother)

Zenas rolled with the entire program. Chris says he's a ladykiller (particularly with the over 70 set) wherever he goes. Z remains pretty easygoing: can handle meeting a lot of people, doesn't mind tagging along to crowded/noisy places, doesn't fuss as long as his needs are met, eats heartily, sleeps pretty much anywhere. A perfect angel according to his grandmother though we think she might be a bit biased.

He's fattening up nicely - we looked up growth charts, and he's in the 95th percentile for weight, but not height, meaning he's a bit portly. :) The "rubber bands" on his limbs are multiplying, and he's starting to sport clothes for 3month-olds. Hanne did ask me several times during her trip how exactly sumo wrestlers got so big, and looking back, maybe she was having a Freudian moment...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lost Item #1

Max and Gus Blanket, aqua/cream color
A treasured gift
Last seen: in car en route to Pixar for lunch on 10/5/10
We called Pixar, BabiesRUs, Berkeley Bowl and retraced our steps but nothing turned up!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Some Firsts of the Many to Come

The whirlwind continues...

Farmor (grandmother in Danish: specifically, far (father)-mor (mother) to signify father's mother) is halfway through her 10-day visit. She seems to love her first grandchild; if he's not asleep or at my breast then likely he's in her arms. Together with Chris we've taken Zenas on his first trips to Japantown, art galleries (SFMOMA and SFCamerawork: the latter featured a screening of Uncle Torsten's work) and flea market (Alameda Antique Fair).

Zenas gave his first social smile to me on the 28th, just at his 4 week mark.
Here he is flirting with Farmor:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Horrors that have new meaning

One of the changes I did not expect is to suddenly fear the horrible:
- the idea of Chris dying in some horrible tragic accident before the baby was born
- the idea of me suffering some debilitating trauma after the baby was born
- imagining, while gazing at the innocence of my sleeping child, what it must be like in real life for babies to be neglected: the scene in Trainspotting comes to mind
- the starving mothers who look into the eyes of their hungry babies whom they can't feed

These thoughts are heavy and sad.
But they make me aware of how fortunate I am, and I squeeze Zenas a little tighter.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Waking up in Africa

Every so often Chris or I look at the other and say, "we have a son." Incredulous, hysterical, frightened, giddy--all at once.

I've had to ask some of our already-experienced parent friends why they didn't adequately warn us about what it's really like. I mean, we did hear a lot about the lack of sleep, our lives changing forever, etc.. But no one really sat us down, in a formal way as I would now find appropriate, to detail the vast range and depth of emotions and experiences we'd go through in such a short amount of time. We've had more intimate and unforgettable moments in the last month than we have in the previous year.

As Aaron said, "well it's like waking up one day in Africa, and trying to describe it to someone who's never been." Well put.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

First Bath

We were instructed to wait until your umbilical cord detached.
You were eighteen days old when we ropped up your blue whale bathtub in the kitchen sink at our apartment on Masonic Avenue; you'd only had sponge baths until then.

You gave a tiny cry from the shock of the water, then quickly calmed down though your tiny firsts stayed clenched. We were careful to keep your face dry as we washed your hair, then each arm, your front, your legs, your back, and finally your tush--all the while trying you keep you covered so that you didn't get cold. Papa wrapped you in your hooded towel like a porcelain doll, and clutched you against his chest all the way to your room where we dried you, clothed you, and brushed your hair.

Conquer and Defeat

- for the first time since his birth I managed to jump in the shower while at home alone with Zenas (previously too terrified to leave him unattended, even in a state of deep sleep in the baby jail also known as a crib)

- immediately after stepping out of the shower I gazed down while toweling off only to be confronted by not only the evidence but the realization of not having even thought about shaving my legs for over a month

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mothers and Daughters

A hastily shortened visit from my mother makes me feel really grateful I have a son.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hello after 10 days

I had to resort to a non-individual email after discovering it's true what they say about this whole baby thing... I'm in a deep haze of combat sleep and constant activity, though at the end of the day it feels like I did nothing--I have literally piles of good intentions in the form of phone calls to make, emails/cards to send, bills, projects, more sleep, but they all remain untouched. Chris has to remind me that we are successful in one important thing: we have managed to take care of our baby who, thankfully, continues to be breathing every time we nervously check. In fact he seems to be growing and changing already. Nothing or no one has ever been cuter in our eyes.

We have loved all the well wishes. It's been such a treat to have a big happy ongoing celebration. If you've mentioned visiting, yes we'd love to have you meet the little guy; if you've offered food, thank you so much and we promise to gladly take you up on it, as soon as we figure out our schedule of visiting family; thank you again for the gifts, kind words, support, and thoughts. Please forgive the lack of response--and keep trying if you don't reach us, since our schedule and attention span is erratic. :-)

A brief summary for now: We love, love, love our little guy. He's healthy and sturdy (peasant stock, I tell you)--at birth he outweighed everyone else in the nursery by at least a pound. He's started gaining weight a week earlier than the average kid, and we're already doing that new-parent thing of believing that our child is indeed very special. Chris and I have an ongoing rivalry of which of us he resembles the most. At birth Zenas looked very Asian in features, but with a white complexion. Now at 10 days he looks very different already; Chris thinks that the Burns side is coming out more and more each day. I remind him daily that my genes are dominant and will crush his hopes for an eye color other than brown. Our first 10 days have been dramatic starting with the unexpected surgery/recovery, followed by a comical but truly painful situation of my body producing such an overabundance of milk that the hospital staff and subsequently hired lactation consultant (yes that's really a job title in this new world we've suddenly entered) disbelieved my claims until shown otherwise, but then said, "wow good job mommy!" I hadn't thought before of how mammary is very close to momma, mommy, mama, etc..

What we have managed to accomplish, again painfully aware that we are becoming the kind of new parents so in love with their child that they are annoying--is to take photos. If you'd like to indulge us, please check out our pride and joy here:

And though we are weary from sleep deprivation, we are for the most part deliriously happy. We've decided to keep him. :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

First Blood

Your fingernails were too long and you would scratch yourself so I used the nail clippers but went a little too deep. It was only a drop but enough to make your parents cry. I switched to using scissors after that.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

First Cat

Tubby and Snowflake were waiting for you at home.
We were afraid they would rob you of breath but they left you alone. You did kick Tubby out of his sleeping place next to Mama, and we think you were the inspiration for Snowflake's sudden friendliness towards strangers and her amazing new jumping trick.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Introducing our...

Son (it's a boy)!

Zenas Satoshi Burns
- Zenas (pronounced like Venus except with a Z) is a family name on Christian's paternal side: both his grandfather and great-grandfather were named Zenas. We also plan to call him Zeke.
- Satoshi (have a japanese person say this for you) is a name given by my father, in memory of his favorite brother who died young (before I got the chance to meet him) -- the kanji chosen means "to teach others gently"

1 September 2010
9:09 am
8 lbs, 12 oz.
21 inches

The birth story: I started having contractions very early Monday morning... but only erratic, mild and spaced apart. They subsided in the afternoon but came back at night, which meant I was up every twenty minutes or so. On Tuesday I saw my doctor who called it "early labor" with no dilation and said it could be 1-4 days away. That afternoon my contractions were spaced closer together and pain severe enough that we went to the hospital. We were convinced it was the real deal, but at the examination, we were still only at 2cm; we were sent home with a morphine injection to help me sleep, but then my water broke and we went back to the hospital at midnight. Midway through the night we decided to get an epidural so that I could rest. My contractions were normal but I showed no progression, and the baby started to experience some drops in heart rate so that they could not proceed with augmented induction. We staved the surgery for a while, but by morning when I still had not progressed and the baby showed distress again, the doctors strongly advised a c-section. Exhausted after 48 hours of contractions and no sleep, we had to admit that at best, we'd still have to make it through another 10-12 hours of labor without guarantees--so we agreed to the c-section. We have no regrets: an hour later we met our son.

It's been a surreal first day of recovery and adjusting to our new identities as parents. We will be in the hospital until Sunday, taking advantage of the hotel-like services. Thank you all for your continued support and well wishes. We cannot wait for you (and our cats) to meet him.

Mari and Christian