Grandad has been back from Vietnam for several weeks now. And it's been so good to have him around. We love that he can pop down for quick visits in the evening, along with Nining. I've been seeing him everyday as he has been subbing for our assistant in the Learning Center. Now I can say I've had the incredible fortune to work with both my parents - who were both key reasons I became a teacher.
Last week, while Nining was visiting NYC, Grandad ate with us, came down to tell stories, tickle tummies and give lots of cuddles.
My sister is called these names by my children. And she's been a huge part of their lives from the very beginning. She came to stay with me for a whole month, when I returned to work after having Michael. She took care of him. And me.
She was there again when Ella was born. Staying with me so that Joey and I could adjust to having two. To be there for Michael as he watched his little baby sister turn his life upside down for a bit.
And here she is holding Cally, shortly after meeting her for the first time.
And for the last few days, since Sunday, I've been thinking of her. In a daze really, it hasn't really sunk in that the next time I see her, she'll be holding a baby of her own.
Yes, that's right. I'm going to be an aunt!
I've always known that Naem would be a good mother. She is the glue in our family. She keeps us together and takes care of us. She's the worrier. The one who can sense something is the matter, when even I don't quite know. She loves with every part of her being. Ella reminds me of her in many ways, which is why I knew I wanted to have another baby. So that Ella could be the big sister she was made to be. A sister like Naem.
But for a long time, I wondered if Naem and Jared would have kids. They have been married eight years now. And then I listened, hopefully, as they began to speak about it more and more. In fact, after this summer, I had a good feeling that parenthood might not be far off for them.
And I'm so glad that it's here. That it's really happening. My little sister is going to be a mother. I've been feeling a range of emotions - mostly sheer joy at hearing this news, but I'll be honest there are other emotions. Like this strange sadness because I am not with her. I mean, I always miss my sisters. There isn't a moment when I don't. But this makes it worse. It makes my heart ache. I want to see her baby bump. I want to put my hand on her belly and feel my niece or nephew kick. I so desperately want to be a part of this experience for her. Like she has been for me. Then I think about how stupid it is for me to wallow in self-pity, because in the grand scheme of things, it's the big picture that counts. I'm going to be an aunt! I finally get to share this experience of motherhood - and the special bond that mothers have - with my own sister.
I keep looking at this picture of Naem and Jared's baby with total wonder. I love this baby already, in a way that I love my own children. This is what I feel. And I'm humbled by this - here I am looking at an ultrasound picture of a baby who isn't my own - and I'm as excited as I was to meet my own child.
I can't wait for May. I can't wait to have a chance to be an aunt to this child. These last few nights, I've thought about how important Naem and Jared are to my three. And I've hoped, nervously, that I will be as good an aunt to this new baby as Naem has been for mine. And I hope to be the sister Naem was for me, when I became a mother, for her as she becomes one.
It's Movember. Somewhere, in a pub in Fitzroy, Melbourne, someone hatched up this idea to raise awareness for men's health. Not sure Joey would have given it a second thought except that our good friends the Gammons live in Fitzroy, and Joey has spent at least a few nights at some pubs there.
What is Movember, you ask? Well, what you do - if you are a man - is grow your facial hair and shave it into a moustache of your chosing. Then you keep it this way for the month of November. You can raise money on the official Movember website, or you can just track your mo-gress in pictures.
Joey's joined this movement. He's going with the Zorro moustache. After my initial reaction of laughter, I've grown quite fond of his mo.
Now that all of you have had a look and a chuckle at my boobs and Cally, it's time to move on. And, really, I'm glad you enjoyed it. She's a riot. There's no nursing that girl discreetly in public.
So, how about some cute Halloween pictures?
This year's costumes: Buddy - a scary vampire, complete with blood, teeth and bats. Ella - a mermaid with sparkly jewels. She's been really into The Little Mermaid. And Cally - a sweet little garden fairy.
Didi and Lolly paired up with Buddy and Ella as usual. The "bigs" and the "smalls."
Cally enjoyed her first Halloween - for the most part spent safe in Mummy's arms.
Grown ups dressed up too. Gilbert has a great knife through the head bit. And Nining bought a funny witch nose. It kept dipping into her wine, her cake, and other things. Much to the kids' amusement. And hers.
Joey wore his 'fro.
We spent Halloween trick-or-treating in our old neighbourhood. Stanley Mound Road is where it's at for action. Our new neighbourhood got none. Not even one knock. We strolled up and down our old street with our dear friends the Halcrows. It's become a tradition. We added to it this year by carving pumpkins on our rooftop the weekend before.
I have taken this picture of the four kids - standing here - for the last three years.
Trick or treating at Stanley Court (at the top of the street) cannot be beat. All the doors are decorated and there are kids in costume everywhere. It sometimes feels a bit like mardi gras or a carnival of sorts.
After trick or treating, we returned to the Halcrow home to look at the spoils of our night.
And then we stayed for some spaghetti bolognaise. It was great food. Great wine. Great company.
I'm not shy. I used to be. Incredibly so. In high school, my cheeks flushed at the mere thought of having to speak in class.
Somehow, as an adult, I've outgrown this. I think it has to do with the fact that, as a mother, nothing is sacred. There is no such thing as privacy. I learned this quickly when I was in hospital after having Michael and there were probably three people at any one time touching me in places like my boobs, or looking at my vagina and pushing on my abdomen. Hard.
So, beware readers. I'm about to write a post about my boobs.
You see - the thing is, lately, Cally seems to think she's an acrobat. If she's laying with her tummy up while I cradle and nurse her, she stretches her leg straight out while holding onto her foot. Then, she'll bend it backwards like she's stretching her hamstring. It's hilarious. I've tried to capture this with my camera, but she's too quick.
But there's more. These days, feeding Cally (and changing her nappies) is similar to what I would imagine it would be like to wrestle a baby pig.
She turns right over on her tummy so that she's facing me. Often, she'll look right at me.
Then she starts standing. She likes to stand. Everywhere. At her activity table. At the coffee table. Holding a chair. Usually bouncing follows. Her little legs look like a frog hopping.
And, I really do find all this quite humorous. Except. She insists on doing this with my boob still in her mouth. So, I guess we're both acrobats.
***I do realize the pictures don't hide much, and I even half debated not adding them. But, as I said, I'm not shy. Total strangers in Hong Kong have seen my boobs (at the coffee shop or in buses or taxis). Most of you readers know me. And really, you just have to see this for yourself.