Scenes From My Week

We decided to get out of the city for a bit, and headed to a restaurant tucked away in the mountains. Great food–even better scenery!photo(51) photo(52)

Then I got a hankering to make almond chocolate pear muffins. Best muffins ever–I think because they’re made with almond flour instead of regular flour. They were so moist, crumbly, and delicious, I think I’ll use this recipe in future as a base for any muffins I make.

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Meanwhile Cy discovered the joys of pumpkin….Just all kinds of YUM! this week._1060569

Did you find some yumminess this week? Join in at Communal Global!



Momma Chat: On the First Three Pages of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

_1060539There’s a particularly vicious dog in our neighborhood, one who had gotten in a fight with Dot and left a hole in our dog, and who had come tearing after me and Cy one day, ready to attack, until I turned around and “Hssst!” loudly at it so it backed off. Yesterday, Toby was out walking with Cy and Dot, when this dog came around the bend. Dot, having learned her lesson, hightailed it for home to hide in her bed. Toby saw the dog take off–and then heard what sounded like a dog fight and then shrieking. Hurrying to make sure the commotion didn’t involve Dot, he found the dog…and the source of the shrieking. A neighborhood cat was clamped in the dog’s jaws, dead.

For this, I’m particularly thankful I know enough about dogs that I had an intuition about how to react when it charged at me and Cy–though honestly I feel lucky it worked. Many Thais respond to Dot by putting their hand out in a way that looks like they’ll strike her, so she responds by barking and growling at them. I shudder to think what would have happened with this dog if it encounters a person who responds that way.

That story doesn’t actually have anything to do with the rest of this post. I just had to get that off my chest.

_1060545I’ve been reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance lately. It’s one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, but every time I tried picking it up before, I just couldn’t get into it. My head wasn’t in the right place. Sometimes books require not just the right reader, but the right time.

It’s one of Toby’s favorites, and at his urging, I picked it up and this time it clicked. “I’m happy to be riding back into this country,” Pirsig writes. “It is a kind of nowhere, famous for nothing at all and has an appeal because of just that. Tensions disappear along old roads like this.” I’m ready for that road, one where absence makes the most sense. And the first three pages coin phrases that pinpoint various thoughts I’ve been thinking with uncanny precision.

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You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

When Toby and I first moved to Thailand, we didn’t have a car, we had a motorcycle and a scooter. I’d ridden on the back of his motorcycle at home in the States, but never driven one myself. But it’s the best way to get around here, and seeing two people on a motorcycle puttering cheerfully through the countryside with rice paddies and mountains in the background is a quintessential scene in Thailand and the one that has always meant “home” to me, even though I never grew up around anything like it.

At first, I was a little afraid about learning to ride the scooter. Within a month, I began to love it. There’s a freedom you feel, moving through space with nothing but the air around you and the ground below you. There’s no filter: you feel the heat and the cold, you smell the grease and the grass, you can slip in small spaces unhindered and park on the sidewalk and at doorsteps. You are in the scene, not passing it by.

Except for tiny jaunts in our own neighborhood, I haven’t driven the scooter since I first got pregnant. I miss it.

Sometimes, when Cy falls asleep in the car, Toby and I go for long drives as it’s easier to just let him sleep than to get home, wake him up, and then get him back down for a nap. On one of these drives, Toby decided to take some back roads–ones where there’s nothing happening. Except it’s not nothing at all. We slipped into the countryside, where there’s wooden houses and makeshift bamboo structures, rice paddies, buffaloes, and a stream, and Toby remarked, “Oh yeah, we live in Thailand.” It catches us by surprise sometimes because Chiang Mai is an urban center, with fancy cappuccinos, plush-seated theaters, sushi, and H&M. We could be anywhere.

Normally, I’m in agreement with him when one of us makes this observation. But this time, I didn’t. My life since baby is one lived primarily in the house, the car, and the mall (where there’s both A/C and things to distract Cy). I don’t live in Thailand, I’m passing it by.

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“…where kids wave to you when you ride by, where people look from their porches to see who it is, where when you stop to ask directions or information the answer tends to be longer than you want rather than short, where people ask where you’re from and how long you’ve been riding.”

Early every morning, while it’s still relatively cool, we take Cy for a walk around the neighborhood. Our neighborhood is so quiet, I often make this trip in a T-shirt and fisherman pants, which is sort of okay for public viewing, but is really actually my pajamas. Towards the end of the walk, we always come across a group of lady gardeners, each one wearing heavy makeup barely visible under the wide-brim hat and scarves they wear to shield from the sun. “Maa laew, maa laew!” they call to each other when they see us coming, and they crowd around to get a good look at Cy, squeeze his calves, and try to elicit from him a hello. Generally, I like this kind of attention because it makes me feel like we’re a part of the community, but I always find these particular stops longer than I like primarily because I’m still in my PJs, sans makeup, and haven’t yet had my coffee. Did I mention no coffee? But it’s sweet, and yes, okay, maybe I do live in Thailand after all.

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For me this is all mixed with memories that he doesn’t have.

I’m feeling just a little homesick these days and am looking forward to our trip to the States in June, but I realize this time we won’t have a chance to get back to Santa Barbara, which for me is home home. It’s a special place for me and Toby; it’s where everything happened, where everything comes back to. Where we found ourselves, where we met each other, where we loved, where we fell apart and put everything back together, where we married and became us. And I think, Cy won’t know Santa Barbara the way we know it. We can visit it as much as we like, and it will never be imbued with the same meaning for him as it has for us. And I wonder, can he really know me without knowing Santa Barbara? Because I can’t see myself separate from my history which is so deeply intertwined in that place, and I’m a little sad at the thought that he might not really get me.

Then I think: do children ever really know their parents? In some ways, they know them more deeply than any other person on the planet, I think, in ways that aren’t always conscious. But no number of stories or facts about personal history tells a child who their parent really was before children, apart from the parent-child relationship. Parenthood changes us too. So what they see of us is not the same as what was.

Cy has started to enjoy head and back massages. I tried them a couple times when he was younger but he didn’t like them before. Suddenly now, he relaxes beneath my hand and it’s one way I can help him unwind before bed at night. We lie in the dark together, with just the soft glow of a night light, and I rub gentle circles over his back and run my fingers through his hair. His breath slows and his eyes begin to close, and I love doing this because it feels like such an intimate and loving thing to do.

And I think maybe Cy will know everything about me that actually matters.

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Thing I Love About Cy Today: I love the way he has figured out about how to climb up the step between his play area in the living room and the hallway leading to the staircase. He gets right up to the step, very deliberately he puts each hand one after the other on the step, then he gets his bum way up in the air, waddles his bum up to the step where his feet can feel the edge, and then finally pulls his legs over the threshold. It’s smart, systematic, and utterly adorable to watch.

 

Scenes From My Week

We went shopping the other day and stumbled across a display of dishes that immediately begged to be taken home with me. I’m pretty sure they were actually calling my name. Of course, I obliged because how can one say no to such inducement?_1060528

So I baked little kale and goat cheese tarts for the sole purpose of wanting to photograph the dishes._1060532

Well, that and I needed breakfast. But mostly for the plates._1060535

Did you find any treasures this week? Join in and share with us at Communal Global!



Momma Chat: On Grub and Hugs

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Last night we decided to escape to the mall in a desperate attempt to get out of the house but still not be subject to quite so much of the smoke from smoky season. In our haste to leave after Toby finished work, I neglected to change my son’s clothes, which were an abysmally dismal shade of brown-gray instead of the white they were mere hours before he started crawling over tile through ash tracked in and the tufts of fur Dot has been shedding. I looked at him: grubby, red-kneed, canted sideways in the dinky stroller we use because we’re too lazy to haul the fancy one around, and busy chewing away at a set of measuring spoons. We totally win at this parenting thing.

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This week has been full of snippets of life I would scrapbook if I could. After a particularly late night in which Cy had trouble getting down to sleep, I let him play with his dad a little while I went down to get a drink of water (a.k.a. get a moment of quiet to myself to regain my sanity). When I came up face the No Sleep Dragon once more, Cy brightened as I walked into the room. I sat on the bed, and he crawled from his dad’s lap into mine and clambered up to give me a first real hug.

Heart explode.

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He’s also learned how to blow raspberries. When he wakes up from naps, he crawls onto my belly and blows raspberries on whatever he can reach. The first time he did this, he blew a raspberry on my breast, lifted his head, burped, and laughed out loud. (Like father, like son.) I laughed, and he laughed even harder.

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He has officially learned how to crawl and he now divides his time fairly evenly between trying to climb up the furniture and trying to chase after Dot. She has discovered that he can tug quite hard, so whenever she sees him coming, she gets this look on her face like, “Oh shit, here he comes again” and takes off to climb in my lap or hide behind me, while he clambers after her, giggling at her waggly tail. But, though fully capable, she never actually chooses to leave. She follows along where he goes, and always sneaks in a lick on his face even though we yell at her for doing so. I think she’s secretly in love with him too. One just must keep one’s dignity (and fur) intact.

Man I wish this was in focus, but I just love the "I'm coming to get you!" look

Man I wish this was in focus, but I just love the “I’m coming to get you!” look

Cy doesn’t mind. He keeps chasing her like it’s the best game he made up. She pretends to tolerate him. He adores her.

I look at him, grubby, red-kneed, tufts of fur on his face, and chewing on spoons, and I wonder how it is possible that he could be so sweet.

And grubby. Maybe we should shave the dog…

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Thing I Love About Cy Today: Aside from all of the above? He gets a big kick out of drinking water from a real cup. He thinks he’s all grown up.

Scenes From My Week

This weekend, friends of ours introduced us to a fantastic French bakery hidden away in the woods, amidst pond and palm fronds. It’s only open on Saturdays and the key to this place is to show up at 9 a.m. prompt because by 9:20 everything is gone._1060462

There were almond croissants, and chocolate croissants, and plain ones, if that’s your cup of tea. Danishes and tarts, and artisan breads of all kinds.

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I would share a picture of the almond chocolate danish I ate devoured, but I gobbled it up far too quickly to snap a shot. I may or may not have had chocolate smeared on my cheek in my haste._1060467 _1060468_1060471

Needless to say, we’ll be going back for more!

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What treasures did you find this week? Share them with us at Communal Global!



Momma Chat: On escapes and hitting reset

_1060420It took us a long time to decide to fly down to Samui, mostly due to inertia. More days than I care to admit, I feel like we’re just flinging ourselves into the routine of work, house work, and baby care, survival mode somehow still the default, even though we’re well past six months in. It’s easy to get lost in it.

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When we finally made it down, settled into the hotel and pool, and switched to vacation mode, that’s when I realized: there is no vacation from being a parent. Of course, I knew that before, but it never dawned on me exactly what vacations as a parent would really mean. As we had always traveled before, we could just jump right in the pool, do a few laps, swim up to the bar, read a book, go our separate ways for a little while, re-convene over a romantic dinner.

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Not so with a baby. Your pool time is no longer for you: it’s for your baby. It’s a learning experience where they get to try out what it feels like to swim, with you holding them every inch of the way. When they’re having a blast, it’s awesome to watch. When they’re done, you’re done and back to the hotel room you go before they start to cry and disturb everybody else on vacation.

Want to try that fantastic looking $200 5-course dinner? Not remotely worth it when you have a baby and can’t sit and actually take your time through all 5 courses. It’s a shift, another reminder that things are no longer about what you want or need anymore. It’s about the little one.

_1060397And that’s okay. It’s just a shift.

_1060426And then you find the nice little restaurant right on the beach, and sit down to a candlelit dinner, and maybe you eat alone as your partner entertains the little one before you switch off so they can eat too and you realize that this is still effing awesome and the challenge of traveling with a child is not a reason to skip on traveling altogether.

If we had let inertia win, there’s so much we would have missed out on too. Breaking out into new environments is a great way to learn more about Cy, like how much he just can’t wait to explore the world, how long walks by the ocean soothes him to sleep, or how much better he sleeps when we can get our room properly cool.

_1060432He came back home 5 days later with a little tan, and able to sleep entirely without his swaddle. We didn’t use it once the whole trip. He’s about 95% of the way to being able to properly crawl, and is way better at being able to stand and toddle around (assisted, of course). And he’s started giving me very clear, specific cues to let me know when he’s hungry or tired. “Put me to sleep, mama,” he tells me, as he crawls into my lap.

Okay, baby. Let’s go take a nap.

It’s funny; sometimes he gets in this fussy mode where I sense that he’s still fussing long after he’s forgotten what started him off to begin with and I need to just do something different with him for a minute or two before getting back to the task at hand. I think of it as sort of like pushing a reset button; a quick change of pace and suddenly we can easily accomplish what wasn’t working at all, just 10 minutes before. I think this little escape was like hitting the reset button for all of us.

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Thing I Love About Cy Today: When he’s happy, he makes this huge open mouthed smile, like smiling with his eyes, except it’s more like smiling with his whole face.

Scenes From My Week

 

It’s been a nasty smoky season up here in Chiang Mai…so we escaped!! To a tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand, where we walked on the beach

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played in the pool

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and ate lots of good food.

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Best way to escape the smoke ever!_1060426

How was your week? Join in at Communal Global!



Momma Chat – From Koh Samui

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We interrupt our regularly scheduled Momma Chat to escape to a ridiculously scenic tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand. Even flying into the airport was landing right in the middle of a resort.

We had hemmed and hawed about making this trip until last week when the smoke from smoky season got so bad our neighborhood was engulfed in haze and all of us were parched and coughing. So we hopped on a short hour and a half flight (Cy’s first–which was a bit touch and go for the first half hour, but then went quite smoothly after), and pretty much went straight from plane to pool.

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Yeah. This is WAY better than smoky season.

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At first, Cy wasn’t entirely impressed by the sparkling ocean and warm, soft beach. But he sure does love the pool, which was cool enough to be refreshing, yet warm enough I didn’t have to worry about Cy catching cold. He swam for near an hour, was the chillest I’ve seen him in a long while, and slept the best he’d slept in months.

And this morning, he and I went for a long stroll down the beach and he was mesmerized watching the waves lap the shore.

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Which leaves us with one question: WHY, in the three plus years we’ve lived in Thailand, have we not done this sooner? Toby & I have both visited the beaches in the south of Thailand, but this is our first trip to Samui, so that makes it a first for all of us.

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Don’t worry though; we’ve promised Cy we’ll bring him back some day when he’ll be able to remember it.

Thing I Love About Cy Today: He seems to be a total island boy. I think we’ve found his element.

Scenes From My Week

My favorite tea shop

My favorite tea shop

Cy the Gnome

Cy the Gnome

Yep. Definitely a gnome.

Yep. Definitely a gnome.

Selfie in a beanie - it was probably too hot to wear a beanie, but I really wanted to anyway.

Selfie in a beanie – it was probably too hot to wear a beanie, but I really wanted to anyway.

Breakfast with the fam

Breakfast with the fam

And a Tigger too!

And a Tigger too!

Momma Chat: The Two Questions I’m Asked Most Often

_1060292There are a couple questions I’m frequently asked about mamahood and my lifestyle. The first one is about Cy’s bedtime routine, and given how I approach it, the question is: how do I have time for my husband and for own self?

So let me back up and explain how bedtime goes down in this house. Since Cy was about 3 months old, he started being able to nurse to sleep. At first this was great. It would start around 7 or 7:30 and take about half an hour for him to fall asleep and then he’d be out until about 11 p.m., when he’d need to nurse again (then again around 2 a.m, and then what happened between 4-7 a.m. was anybody’s guess). I could probably have just left him by himself in bed at that age, and gone downstairs to enjoy dinner and a movie with Toby every night, but he was still so little, I didn’t want him to wake up alone in the dark and be frightened. So I lay down with him. Plus, in the early days, I was pretty exhausted by his bedtime too, so I didn’t really want to do anything else.

Then, around four months of age, I probably would have felt comfortable enough with our routine that I would have let him be alone…except that’s when the 4-month sleep regression hell horror show started and it took anywhere between an hour to four hours of crying, carrying, rocking, singing, nursing madness to get him down to sleep at night. By the time that was over, it was often 11 p.m. and I didn’t want to do anything but crash myself.

We’re now getting back closer to what it was like when he was 3 months old (it takes more than nursing now, I have a routine: change his diaper & put on fresh clothes, nurse him, read On the Night You Were Bornthen alternate nursing & carrying him until he falls asleep), and still I lie down in bed with him when I put him down. People wonder: aren’t you bored/annoyed having to go to bed when he does? Actually, no. That’s my down time too. I don’t go to sleep, but I do need to unwind before bed. So Toby and I get dinner, switching off taking turns to eat and stay with Cy. While Toby eats, I get caught up on emails, blogs, and Facebook. Then we pull the laptop onto the bed, snuggle in together, plug in the headphones, and watch movies and TV shows.

“But you can’t talk to each other with him sleeping right there,” people wonder. “When do you and Toby get time to talk?”

This is one of the big perks of Toby working from home. We talk all day long. Cy and I pop into Toby’s office once every couple of hours or so just to say hi for a few minutes. We trade off Cy duty while we eat lunch together and chat. Then in the evenings we’ll often go for walks together in the neighborhood or at the mall, and while Cy chills out in the stroller we catch up with each other. Actually, some of our best conversations come in the car when we go out to the mall or dinner because we can talk uninterrupted and not have to be busy entertaining Cy.

Did Cy always need us to be there? Probably not. Some days he would need a little extra reassurance, other days not. It’s hard to say which would be which, but I did prioritize his sense of security and so I’m glad I was there when he needed me to be.

This definitely wouldn’t work for every lifestyle, but it works well enough with ours.

_1060308The other question I’m frequently asked is: how does becoming a mother affect your perspective on what you do at The SOLD Project? (For those who don’t know, I oversee the education programs at an organization that aims to help prevent children from being trafficked as sex slaves, by providing education and raising awareness.)

This question is hard for me to answer. I mulled over it for ages, and honestly, I don’t think being a mother changes how I feel about my work at SOLD. I still believe selling children for sex is inescapably wrong. And I couldn’t possibly believe it is more wrong than I already did.

However, I think my work at SOLD affects me as a mother. I know all too well the horrific conditions (the squalor, the emotional and physical torture…) children, even babies are subjected to. (How young do you think it starts? 14? 10? 5? I’ve heard tales of the sexual abuse of 6-month olds.) I know how nauseatingly atrocious, and how very real this gross injustice is. How close it is to our front doors–even in the U.S. It’s not abstract to me. It’s not the millions of children worldwide, and it’s not the 500,000 in the U.S. each year. It’s children I know by name. Children with whom I have hugged and laughed. If anything like that were to happen to Cy…oh, let’s just not go there.

And here, I bump into a real cultural problem. Here, Thai people LOVE babies, and they adore Cy. Complete strangers come up to coo over him and touch him all the time. From several yards away, they’ll point at him and nudge their friends to look at how cute he is. Random people on the street ask to hold him. Waitstaff in restaurants are often conscientious about wanting to hold him and entertain him so Toby and I can eat in peace. If you say no, people will actually get offended.

There’s about 50% of me that relishes living in a country where the sense of community around babies is so strong. It’s lovely to be so feel so welcomed with a baby, and to know that people are so generous and loving with children.

About 40% of me is happy he gets a chance to be with so many people so he can develop his sense of confidence among others and his social skills.

About 10% of me is terrified every time he is in the arms of someone who just might try to whisk him away. Someone who might see his value in dollars.

We have a neighbor lady who just thrills every time she sees Cy. But instead of enjoying her excitement over him, I get nervous. This lady never spoke one single word to us in the three years we lived here before Cy came along–not even when I was pregnant. Her husband was actually rude to us when we had car trouble. Then, when I started taking Cy out on walks, suddenly she comes out like we’re best friends. At first, it was nice that we were somehow legitimate or something…but as Cy gets bigger and more sociable, she keeps asking, “Is he easy to take care of?” and “Is he afraid of people?” At first, the questions seemed innocuous. I didn’t blink twice at them. But she asks me this every time she sees him. Maybe they are benign questions, but I find it strange that that’s what (and all) she wants to know about him all the time.

Then, a couple of days ago, I was out walking with Cy and she spotted us, drove out of her way to pull up next to us because her friend (whom I’ve never met) really wanted to take a bunch of photos of Cy. Prickles on my mama bear neck began to rise. Why would a complete stranger want photos of Cy? As foreigners, we’re subject to our fair bit of exotification (is that a word?), which doesn’t bother me,…but I didn’t like the smell of this.

Maybe my work over-sensitizes me. Maybe I’m just weirded out because effusive praise always puts me on edge, as it often comes across as being not genuine. But I also know the vast majority of child abusers and abductors are not strangers. They’re people the child knows and trusts, people who know them by name.

Because of my work, I can’t really relax and enjoy when waitstaff take him off our hands for a minute. Because of my work, I have no idea how to find balance between teaching Cy to be confident among people, but to also take care. Because of my work, I will never ask Cy to kiss, hug, or be held by anyone he feels uncomfortable with–even family–because I want him to know he always has the right to say no and he always has ownership over his own body.

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I wish I could end this on a lighter note.

Tell me: how would you handle the balance of cultural niceties versus protecting your child?

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Thing I Love About Cy Today: When he stands up now, he loves to stick out his tongue and go, “Pbbbbt!

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