Momma Chat: Just a Little Rosy

photo-5Things got a little crazy last week. I was laying in bed with Cy when I noticed he seemed to be running a fever. I texted Toby about it and he responded with something like, “He always sleeps hot.” But I was quite sure it was a fever. It happened to be just a couple of hours after I had started a course of meds for myself that weren’t really supposed to be taken while breastfeeding but my doctor had recommended because I’m allergic to penicillin. I was worried that Cy might be allergic to this new medicine, and Google told me I should get Cy to the doctor at signs of fever. So the next day we went to see his pediatrician, who wasn’t available until the afternoon, and I stopped taking my meds in the meantime just in case. The doctor said it was not the meds, but it might be dengue.

– Let me just interject here because this is the part where my stomach bottoms out and my face turns white because dengue is known as “break bone fever” because it makes you feel like your bones are breaking. And it can be comparatively mild in children, but if you get it again later, any subsequent infections can lead to a hemorrhagic fever. It’s passed by mosquitos. There are lots and lots of mosquitos in Thailand. –

The doctor gave us meds to treat the fever and said it was a little too early to tell. Come back in two days and we’ll test for dengue.

Those were among the more anxiety-ridden two days I have experienced in recent memory. Was it dengue? Was it wrong and still related to something I was doing (my meds, which I had resumed taking)? And what would I do if it were dengue? (Moving to another country had indeed crossed my mind.) Cy needs to run outside and play, live his life in fresh air. How can I protect Cy from every mosquito to cross his path?

We went back to do blood tests. We had to swaddle the poor boy and he watched and cried–not thrashing, or angry-complaining…just totally submitting himself to this new torture–as they inserted the needle, drew blood, switched it out for an IV, and then bandaged it on. The whole thing probably took 5 minutes, but all I could do was sit there and talk to him, stroke his hair, and wish to God there was any other way. I hate needles. I once,as a full adult in college, had a nurse give me a Daffy Duck bandaid after getting blood drawn because I hate needles so much. I hate them even more when they’re any where near my boy.

After two hours of waiting, the results for dengue came back negative. Talk about relief! But we still didn’t know what the problem was. The doctor still insisted it wasn’t my meds, and predicted we would soon see a rash.

The rash came, and thus we learned it was roseola. A common childhood disease, relatively mild, and the rash only lasted a couple of days and then it was all done.

photo-4And I still called pest control to come rid our yard of mosquitos. Because dengue.

All in all, it was probably a relatively minor episode and it’s just my mama-bear brain that blew fears out of proportion, but part of what made this experience so hard was feeling so trapped. I have already been feeling tired and run-down, and a little homesick (mostly just because I’m tired of it being so hot here all the time and tired of worrying about mosquitos when Cy wants to play outside all the time). I wanted to move home. I wanted to go back to Santa Barbara where the weather is always perfect, there’s tons of fabulous play groups Cy could join, there’s mountains he could roam, and gorgeous parks and beaches to explore.

I told Toby that if we lived in Santa Barbara, I’d take Cy to the beach all the time.

“No you wouldn’t,” he said. “You’d be at work and Cy would be in daycare and we’d spend the weekends scrambling around trying to get stuff done.”

He’s right. In Thailand, we can afford for me to take a career hiatus and focus on raising Cy with both of us at home. In the U.S., I would have to work. And while I’m battling heat and mosquitos, I can also get fantastic healthcare for Cy at $15 a visit (without insurance), have a maid come once a week, and be there for all the important and unimportant things in Cy’s life. I feel trapped. And it’s easy to view a different situation with rose-colored glasses, but the truth is, there’s lots of ways to feel trapped.

photo-8And I realize now too, that while I love being able to be home for Cy, it’s a challenge because I’ve never been a routine kind of person and children live in routine. I’ve never lived in any place longer than 4 years since I was 13 (And we’re bumping up on the 4-year mark now–we HAD said we’d come for a year, maybe two, and then we’d see. Well we’re still here.) Except for when I worked at a magazine publishing company, I’d never lived the same daily routine longer than a 10-week quarter since I graduated high school. I live by whims and caprice. I’m disciplined about getting stuff done, but on my own clock, not the one ticking on the wall.

So. This is my opportunity to grow. To realize this about myself and see how I can approach it mindfully. I can’t escape the trappings of this life, but I take advantage of its advantages and I think maybe a change of scenery will help. So we’re going to Bangkok for a week. There will be a big aquarium, and parks, a children’s playground, good food, shopping, and maybe even a boat ride or two on the Chao Praya.

Who can complain? Not I, said the spider to the fly.

Thing I Love About Cy: He loves tipping himself over backwards. When he’s on the bed, or on grass, he’ll slowly lean back with this look of great anticipation on his face, until gravity wins and he falls over and giggles like a fiend.

Little by Little



Momma Chat & Other Things

_1070603I took an impromptu hiatus from…well, just about everything. Sometimes, you have room on your plate for a sampling of all of the buffet. Sometimes, you just stick to your mac n’ cheese. I tried to do too much of everything (cooking, cleaning, childcare, publishing a book, going back to work at SOLD…) and ended up nothing but sullen and exhausted, so I decided it was time to turn in and just focus on the family’s basic needs, and my own need for rest. I really need a vacation, but mamas don’t get vacations, so I’m just going to make do with whatever hour or two I scrape up here and there until I get myself back to center.

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There has been much and more I’ve wanted to tell you about Cy since he marked his first birthday by taking his first steps. It surprised me how much turning one changed him. He suddenly understood more things. He suddenly toddled. He even suddenly looked older. He is still just a baby in so many ways. In so many more, he’s a little boy. I often feel desperate for a little space to myself, but every once in a while, I am already saddened at the thought of his impermanence, how baby will melt into boy, boy will melt into man, and man will melt away into some future of his own making. It’s right; it’s what I’m preparing him for. It will be years down the line, but I can already feel how the years will come just on the heels of tomorrow.

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And then he screams because the little train car won’t sit just so on its track and I’m ready to jump ahead to the part where he’s old enough to reason with.

Then he grabs a tissue and wipes the floor to “help Mama” and I applaud. He leans his head back, grinning, and topples over. I laugh and scoop him up to kiss away his boo boo, and am grateful that, for now at least, his boo boos are the kind that can be kissed away.

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I’ve also been aware that I need to give more of my self to my husband. In the early months, I told myself not to worry; we just needed to focus on surviving. But as the months passed, I began to remind myself that there is a marriage to tend, and it is the foundation under which the parenting could not survive. There is a husband inside the father, a wife inside the mother, and they need attention too. We talk to each other a lot about what we need as individuals and as a couple and do our best to make each other’s needs a priority. Sometimes there aren’t easy answers. Sometimes we try things out and decide they don’t work. It’s a process, but we’re working on it.

I have stories to tell, and I will try to get back to this space to tell them, by and by.

P.S. Sorry this post contains old photos. For some reason, wordpress is giving me grief about uploading new ones, and I figure better a post with old photos than no post at all. Hopefully the next one will have something fresh for you to see!

Little by Little



Scenes From My Week 09.17.14

Conversations over tea and pastries…

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A little boy and his train set…

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Coffee…

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…and pomegranates.

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This week has been SUPER busy, I can’t even begin to say. But there were so many good moments, so many beautiful snippets of light and yumminess amidst the crazy, so who am I to complain?

Hope you all have a fabulous week! See you at Communal Global and Little Things Thursday!

Little by Little



If You Guessed San Francisco…

….you’re correct!!

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I stumbled across this yellow suitcase in a thrift store in San Francisco, while visiting friends for a weekend. It called to me. Even from day one it was begging to have its story told.

_TMK0328And the winners of a copy of my book, as determined by random number generator, are:

Catherine, from La Memoire Vive

Hyacynth, from Undercover Mother

And the winner of a copy of my book AND a special surprise from Thailand is:

{drumroll please}

Jennifer Kirkby Tatro!

I’ll be messaging the winners shortly. But for the others who participated, hang tight, as there will be more opportunities in future {hint, hint: Christmastime…}. If you can’t wait that long, my book can be found here on Amazon, through this link for The Yellow Suitcase

Thanks to everyone who participated!!

A Giveaway!

_1070583Because it’s Friday, and because I love you, and because his cheeks are chubby….I’m giving away THREE copies of my book, The Yellow Suitcase - one to each of three lucky winners, one of whom will ALSO win a special surprise from Thailand!

That was a convoluted sentence. Anyway, all you have to do to enter to win is comment here on my blog, on Facebook, or on Instagram with the answer to this little trivia question:

In what major U.S. city was I when I stumbled across the yellow suitcase that inspired my novel?

The winners and answer will be announced on Monday! You have all weekend to participate.

Note: Your answer need not be correct to be entered in or to win the giveaway. Only one answer per person though, please.

A Momentous Week! 09.10.14

cover-a My book, The Yellow Suitcase, is now on sale on Amazon, starting Sept 10! Here is the back cover copy:

In a sleepy riverside town in the heart of Thailand, Ae Lin, a former Bangkok bar girl determined to put a painful history behind her, pours her passions into her new coffee shop and her resolve to create a life of her own making. But the past comes to find her in the form of an estranged and angry sister who insists she fulfill one remaining family obligation: to visit and pay respect to their dying father – which is the last thing she wants to do. As Ae Lin grapples with the desire to flee and the pressures to return, she meets Sai Kyin, a refugee from Burma, who had no choice but to leave home and all he loved behind. Prompted by the guidance of Luang Paw, a rather unconventional Buddhist monk, the stories of Ae Lin’s and Sai Kyin’s traumas converge as their memories unfold, in a tale about what happens to the fallen and what it takes to heal.

The Yellow Suitcase is an exploration of the devastating effects of dark family secrets where the lines between victim and perpetrator, and innocence and guilt, become increasingly blurred. The novel offers a poignant and heartbreaking portrait of the deepest kinds of betrayal, and a thoughtful rumination on forgiveness, healing, and the power of truth.

Click on the link above (the book’s title), or the button in the sidebar at right to order your copy today!

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In other big news, Cy became a one-year-old today! We of course celebrate a person’s birthday, but now I kind of feel like parents need to be celebrated on birthdays too–for managing to keep their kid alive that long! Haha, I’m kidding of course, but it sure does feel like a personal milestone.

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Speaking of milestones, Cy just took his first real unassisted steps yesterday, the day before he turned one! He had taken a couple at my mom’s house a few days before, but he was really for real walking yesterday. I’m excited and also trepidatious as I’m sure now I’ll really have to start running after him, with all the new kinds of trouble he’ll find to get into. He’s also started clapping his hands, putting them together in a wai (the Thai way of greeting) when we say, “Sawatdee krap,” and dancing when he hears music or any kind of beat. His dancing is so cute, especially when he adds a little extra butt wiggle.

To celebrate his birthday, we took him for his first trip to the zoo. His eyes were saucer-wide. I think his favorite part was feeding the animals.

We fed sheep:

sheepAnd a giraffe:

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An elephant:

elephunkAnd….a jaguar, ’cause why not.

jaguarHis eyes were so big and serious when he was feeding the elephant in particular. I’m not sure he even processed seeing the whole elephant; I think he might have only been aware of this long hairy trunk coming at him. But he was undaunted.

I can’t wait to take him again!

Thanks for stopping by this week and sharing in our celebrations! Join in for more fun around the world at Communal Global and Little Things Thursday!

Little by Little



Scenes From My Week 09.03.14

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My book is available for pre-order on Amazon now! Order your copy of The Yellow Suitcase today, and receive it on your e-reader automatically, when the book becomes available September 10!

 

 

 

 

 

Some sights from walking around our neighborhood…

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I love these trees with their huge, huge leaves. Each one must be at least a foot and a half to two feet long!

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And, of course, Cy Batman.

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Little by Little



Things I Wish I Could Tell My Readers


My book is now available for pre-order on Amazon! Order your copy of The Yellow Suitcase today, and receive it on your e-reader automatically, when the book becomes available September 10!

It took me just shy of four years to produce this book. The first year was spent writing the first draft. The second was devoted to revisions and many, many more drafts. In the third year, I tested the waters with professionals in the publishing industry. This last year was spent trying to build up the guts to put it out in public.

The good thing about writing a novel is that by the end of the book you end up a better writer than when you started. The bad thing is that by the end of the book, you end up a better writer than when you started, so when you go back to the beginning, you see how badly you wrote, and you revise, and revise, and revise, generally getting better, but never getting done. You never reach a point where you’re 100% satisfied with it, only 100% done with working on it.

Part of what is so scary about putting it out in public is trying to imagine how others will receive it. Will they think it’s stupid? Or (perhaps even worse), will they think it’s boring? Given the premise of the story, it was necessary for me to include some sexual violence (though I hope not a gratuitous amount), and part of my fears lie in what my friends will think as they read those parts. Writing and reading are such intimate acts: for the span in which I have your attention, my voice is in your head, and you are in mine. It’s scary to invite others in so deep.

An early reader once suggested to me that she thought my story would be a hard sell to publishing houses because it needed more “padding” for the reader to safely engage with the story, protected from the crises and trauma of the main character. She wanted more filters, like nostalgia and the sweeping historical drama of Memoirs of A Geisha, to make the hard parts easier to read. She had a very valid point. But I have faith that readers in 2014 are different than the readers of 1997, and I have faith that my readers are capable of more than such publishers might give them credit for. I have faith that my readers don’t need Richard Gere to save Julia Roberts from her own crassness to be able to engage with a story, and they don’t need another male author romanticizing the sale of young girls to make it a tale worth reading. I think, if anything, #YesAllWomen shows that today’s women can handle hard truths and that speaking them aloud may show us we’re not alone. And I have hope that what makes my story worth reading is not because of what happens to Ae Lin so much as who she becomes because of, or in spite of it, and how she seeks to overcome it.

Because ultimately my story was driven by a question I had, and the book was my attempt to answer it. In writing it, I learned that publishing a book isn’t the end or the final step. If I did what I really wanted to do, it’s only the beginning. I hope it is the beginning of a conversation, and I hope after reading it, my readers will want to talk to me about it and continue the conversation.

Scenes From My Week 08.27.14

_1070426This week’s post is short as I’m using all my spare moments to finish up the final details of publishing my book, which I’m aiming to release on September 10. But I want to share this other little detail that’s been going on over here. Lately, I’ve really been wanting to fill my home with more living things–the green kind that is. Plants and flowers. A home feels more homey when vases are full of blossoms and little corners are dotted with potted herbs.

_1070421I’m giving it a go with these adorable little succulents I found. But the problem is I am cursed when it comes to plants. I’m the only person I know capable of killing mint while actively trying to keep it alive. I need a plant that is hardy, sturdy, and determined. One that prefers the dark (since there aren’t many plant-friendly (read: out of reach of child & dog) spots in the house that get good sunlight), doesn’t need too much attention, and still manages to look pretty when left untended. Whatever that plant is…that’s the kind I need.

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In the meantime, I also found these adorable little bud vases. _1070460

There are several empty fields and houses that I walk by every day when I take Cy out for walks, and in rainy season, there are always little blooms popping up every where._1070462

So I steal a few fresh flowers and brighten my little home. And little cute things make my heart happy.

Little by Little



Momma Chat: On Doing What It Takes to Get Done

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The other day, I had Cy perched on the edge of the kitchen sink to “help Mama” do the dishes. By help, I mean I let him run his fingers in the water, splash around, and dip his fingers in suds while I tried to get the dishes done. I stood behind him so he wouldn’t fall off the sink, and interspersed my rendition of “Itsy, Bitsy Spider” with refrains of “No, don’t put your fingers in the dirty dishwater; that’s yucky” and “No, don’t pull on Mama’s plants,” meanwhile taking pauses between dish sudsing to discourage his hand from inserting suds in mouth or reaching for the glassware._1070442

Might be someone would call CPS on me. But knives were well out of reach, no glasses were harmed, boy was entertained, and dishes got done._1070444

It’s actually a little frightening amazing how many borderline bad idea things I do to keep him entertained and keep my household from disintegrating into crisis (and keep my sanity intact)._1070445

I sit him up on counters (with my body as a guard), I let him make veritable messes (of my choosing), and I let him explore things that aren’t exactly toys (under supervision, of course), if it’ll keep him occupied and happy while I make coffee and a bowl of cereal, put away laundry, respond to any urgent phone calls or emails that can’t be done while he’s sleeping, or do any of the other million little tasks that pop up in a day.

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I was reading a blog post yesterday that called bunk on the piece of parenting wisdom that says “it gets easier.” The author argued that it doesn’t get easier; it just gets different. You just trade in one kind of hard for a different kind of hard. At first, I disagreed. When Cy was less than six months old, taking care of the house (or my work) and him at the same time was impossible. He was what you might call a “high needs” baby. He needed my undivided attention almost constantly, so almost everything I did aside from child care was done when Toby finished work and could help with Cy. I scaled back everything in my life to the bare minimum.

Now, I can do so much more with him. I can run short errands with him if he’s in a decent mood, I can include him while I take care of small easy tasks, and I don’t need to be his entertainer nearly so much as when he was younger. I mostly supervise while he manages his own play.

But it’s all relative: I can do so much more than I once did, but still not nearly so much as I need to or would like. I still have to wait for evenings and weekends for many things; living my own personal life on the fringes of a day or week. And sometimes it drives me insane with impatience and frustration.

A couple days ago was one such time. I was itching to continue working on the final details of getting my book published (i.e. copyright registration and getting the ISBN), I was bored because Cy had been unusually clingy all day wanting me to read him the same books 7 or 8 times apiece, Toby had an unusually busy day, and I thought I would save us time by going to pick up dinner. Long story short, I got stuck in the worst traffic this side of Shanghai, Cy cried in the car almost the whole way (nearly 30 minutes each way) and I couldn’t do a single thing about it, I ran into several problems with the food, and I didn’t end up getting home until after 8, so we were still trying to eat dinner when I should have been getting Cy a bath and into bed. Turns out, my idea to “save time” took more than twice as long, and I still didn’t get anything done. Sometimes my impatience leads to really poor choices
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But with the hard comes this other thing: resilience. Once Cy calmed down after the trauma of the car ride, he was all smiles and giggles again. I couldn’t help him while we were stuck in traffic, but I did help him get over it afterward. With each new hard you encounter as a parent, you (try to) learn and devise new and creative ways to be who your child needs you to be. Might be that things are easier now than they once were. Might be that being a mama makes me a stronger person than I once was.

Thing I Love About Cy Today:

from "The Further Adventures of A Little Mouse Trapped in a Book" by Monique Felix

from “The Further Adventures of the Little Mouse Trapped in a Book” by Monique Felix

Cy’s new favorite book is one that used to be his dad’s – all images, and no words. It’s about a little mouse who gets trapped in a book, but as he tries to nibble his way out, he discovers a whole ocean just outside the book. The book begins to fill with water, so the little mouse builds a boat and sails away. I narrate the story for Cy and every time we get to the end, I say “bye-bye mouse!” and Cy opens and closes his hand, waving goodbye to the little mouse.

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