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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.