The Hunt for a Nanny Part 3: Pii On

couchCyBack in November, I contacted an agency that helps place maebaans (a term used for housekeepers and nannies), requesting someone who could help out with Cy for a few hours a day. After two months without any luck finding anyone (it turns out maebaans only want full-time work and they don’t want to drive more than 10 minutes to get there), I agreed to having someone come full time, with the idea being that she would also take care of the house.

Enter Pii On. She sounded great on paper (speaks English, has her own transportation, 7 years experience working with a foundation for kids), and she seemed bright and happy during the interview.

The agency provides a 2-day training session for the maebaans, after which there would be a 30-day trial period. Since we needed help immediately, we agreed to have her come help us finish unpacking, clean, and shadow me with Cy for 2 weeks until the next available training session, after which the trial period would officially begin.

We’ve just had the first 2 weeks with her and the first week went amazing. She did to this house in just a few days what would have taken me months to accomplish. She didn’t wait for direction; she just saw what needed to be done and did it. She goes above and beyond duty: she shows up early and leaves late, and though we provide her lunch every day, she never eats it until we’ve eaten first, even when sometimes I don’t get a chance to eat until closer to 2 or 3 pm. I couldn’t thank her enough for the load she lifted off my shoulders. I was really able to focus on being with Cy, without being torn in a million directions with other responsibilities.

The second week went okay…but a few odd things started to crop up. I noticed that though she said she speaks English I actually haven’t heard this happen, which is okay, but will complicate Cy being able to understand her. Her listening skills aren’t that great, which I think is because she sometimes has an idea in her head about what she thinks you’re saying instead of hearing what you’re actually saying. Occasionally she makes some comments that are vaguely offensive, but given my non-perfect Thai, I can’t really tell if she means to insult or if she’s kind of just tactless. And though she’s generally super conscientious, there are times like when I needed to stop by the grocery store after taking her and Cy to play at a playground, and she decided, without asking, to make a stop at the bank, which was okay except that her errand didn’t go well and ended up taking a really long time and involved going to a different bank–at which point, if I personally was in that situation, on my boss’s time, I would have either asked permission first or given up and gone on my own time–and ended up leaving me standing in the hot sun with a tired and cranky Cy, wondering what the heck was going on.

And I’ve been trying to give her time to play with Cy so they can get used to each other so that she can take him for a couple of hours a day, but things just haven’t been going smoothly. I kind of feel like she isn’t super interested in hanging out with Cy. She does play with him a bit, but she seems more interested in doling out unsolicited parenting advice to me than in finding out who Cy is as a person. And this past week, it has felt to me like she kind of hides upstairs, taking care of the most minute details, down to ironing our underwear, instead of hanging out with Cy and me.

BUT it could be that I’m not as inviting as I should be and that my reservedness is subtly sabotaging her ability to connect with him and me. It’s just, she’s got a bit of a salty personality that I find it not so easy to get along with. I think the little oddities have gotten my guard up, and I’m a bit turned off by the way she talks sometimes. The thing is, in Thai, when you speak in a low class way, it comes across as offensive–much more so than in English–but is that her fault, if that’s maybe the way she was raised or the only way she knows how to speak?

This wouldn’t be such an issue if she was just an employee because in many ways she’s a great worker. But as a maebaan, she is going to be more than that. She is being invited into many of the most private parts of our lives. Our whole house & home are open to her, as is Cy, and if I bring her with me when I go on trips to Chiang Rai for SOLD, then I’m going to be spending a LOT of time with her. More than an employee, she would be part of the family. And I wonder, if I don’t fully like her, will I ever fully trust her? It’s a question separate from how trustworthy she actually is; it’s about my capacities and limitations as a person too.

I’m trying to be self-aware about this, and in this 30-day trial period, I’m going to try my hardest to lower my guard and invite her in as much as possible and see what she does with it. Maybe this is just one more of those opportunities for me to grow and learn. We’ll see how it goes.

**If you missed them, you can read The Hunt for a Nanny Part I here and Part 2 here.



Our New House

_1080008Welcome to our new home! It’s been a project for sure. Our old home was fully furnished and this one wasn’t, so part of what has taken so long has been us trying to buy all our furniture. I was going to wait until we had more details sorted before putting up pictures, but I realize it might take a long long while before that really happens. So I’ll show you what we’ve got so far, and we can maybe just imagine the parts that are missing. Here’s our living room. We’ll pretend we have a rug and some curtains. I’m thinking some lacy sheers and maybe some green curtains (olive? hunter/forest?).

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Also pretend the chalkboard is a darker shade. We’re working on that.

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The other part that has taken a while is working on the kitchen and dining room. I’m pretty sure this house was built without a kitchen, and then they just tacked a kitchen in an L-shape around the back of the house by adding a roof between the house and the perimeter wall. At first we saw what a cave the kitchen was and thought, “Well, all it needs is more windows.” But then we realized the reason there are no windows is because we would then be peeping directly into the neighbor’s property. “Hi! We’re just your friendly American neighbors invading your land and privacy! Don’t mind us! We have no history of this AT ALL.”

kitchen

BEFORE

Also it had almost no storage. So Toby built some shelves along the front entry way to create a pantry and a mudroom to hang our helmets and hats, jackets and boots.

We changed the paint, put a little mirror in the entry and hung some plants.

We also want to put in a shelf along the top edge over the counter to hang some more plants and a few other decorative items to help make the place a little more cozy. And maybe some rugs to hide that floor? But here’s what we’ve got so far.

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And a little herb garden:

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Wrapping the kitchen around the back of the house also had the effect of making the dining room a dark, dark pit.

diningroom

BEFORE

After first we thought about ways to try to brighten the room up as much as possible. But then we realized that a bright dining room is just never going to happen. So we decided to work with the space rather than fight it.

Instead of bright, we painted the walls dark blue (a color I’ve always wanted in my house since I saw it on the friend’s kitchen walls in the movie Sliding Doors). We found an antique cabinet to house my wedding dishes, and hung a mirror on one of walls. I’m thinking of adding a nice rug under the table, maybe throw a sheepskin on one of the chairs, and turn the walls into a gallery for pictures, and hang a chandelier to create a kind of funky, cozy art gallery kind of feel? We’re working on it.

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And, if I haven’t bored you all to tears just yet, I’ll share bits of our yard I’m working on adding plants to. One day we’ll do something to add a patio.

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_1080049Anyway, that’s what we’ve got! Don’t even ask about the upstairs…we’ve only just now put our clothes away…aside from the things that we don’t yet have a place to put them away in.

Little by Little



The Hunt for a Nanny Part 2: Daycare

So I was going to do a post about the details of our new house to satisfy the people who have been clamoring for more pictures…but our house just isn’t ready yet. Almost. A few more details to settle, and then I won’t be as embarrassed to show you what we’ve cobbled together in the past month.

Imagine we've hung the wood mandalas and that the chalkboard is painted a darker shade...

Imagine we’ve hung the wood mandalas and that the chalkboard is painted a darker shade…

So I’ll continue with the story about trying to find some help around this place so I can finish moving in, so I can not have to get up in the middle of the dang night to write these blog posts, so I can have just a little bit more breathing room to relieve the pressure. Maybe you’re wondering what’s so hard with just one child? Maybe I’m just not that talented at juggling life, home, and childcare and being present through it all.

Anyway, so I’ve been trying to find help so I could get 1-3 hours a day to take care of things. When we moved to our new neighborhood, I was excited to see there was a daycare right in the moobaan. I thought: hey, that’s perfect! I can drop Cy off for a few hours, he gets to hang out and play with other kids, it would be great for him to have friends and playmates, and I can still spend the rest of the day with him.

(And I don’t have to worry about a nanny stealing my baby. Just kidding, I’m not that paranoid. Mostly.)

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I went to visit the daycare on a Saturday, and it looked really sweet, with tons of things to play with, nice, clean activity areas, and the lady running it was quite friendly. She invited us to try it out for a week, so I agreed to bring Cy on Monday morning at the time it worked best for our schedule.

We were there for an hour and a half, and in that time, the kids had a meal, two bath times, nap time, and one activity that consisted of lining all the kids up to stand still for 20 minutes (these were 2-4 year olds, mind you) while the teacher played a tape recording of songs, including the national anthem and the King’s song.

::ahem:: The kids were fidgety to say the least. One poor child was so desperate he walked around banging his head on things to relieve the boredom. The teacher never yelled at him, but it was clear he couldn’t keep in line with the rest of the toddlers.

Not once in that entire hour and a half I was there did the kids touch a toy, engage in an activity that required movement, or involve any kind of enrichment. I’m sure those activities exist there…they just didn’t happen in the window I planned for Cy.

I was prepared for some drawbacks to daycare: some crying, some lack of one-on-one attention, etc. I was hoping daycare would be like what I remembered of mine: hazy sensory memories of toys, colorful posters, and drawing with crayons. Maybe I’m too American, but this one seemed a little too…institutional…for me.

Back to the drawing board.



Moments I’ll Miss

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They say the time goes by so fast and that you’ll miss these baby years. Since I like to learn from the experience of others I’ve been very intentional about soaking up every milestone and every phase, even the ones that are hard and that I wish would pass by faster because I know I only get one chance to be his mom and I don’t want to have regrets. So for the most part I’ve found the joys of each stage of his growth thus far and welcomed each new one without much wistfulness or nostalgia for the ones that have passed.

But there’s one thing I know I will miss when it goes. One thing that imparts that beautiful ache more than any other. One thing I already miss even as I enjoy it.

It’s the moment when we see each other and I smile real big and open my arms real wide….and he lights up. He blisses out and he comes running, delighted to see me, over the moon that I am happy to see him. It fills me up and breaks my heart that the simple fact that I love him means so much.

He won’t always come running.  One day my love will embarrass him even if he secretly appreciates it. To be a mother is to celebrate fullness with full awareness of impending loss. This is one of the moments I’ll miss.

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My kitchen is on The Kitchn! Check out Part 1: a tour and Part 2: on why I shipped plates of the kitchen tour!

Little by Little

The New ‘Hood

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Welcome to the neighborhood! With ladies like these to greet you at the entrance, would you ever guess I live in Thailand?

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Our new home is situated in a moobaan, or neighborhood, that is such a funny, eclectic mix of things. You know you’re in for something different when directions to your house include “take a left at the angel, a right at the Pegasus, and go past the Madonna.”

statueIt also includes instructions to watch out for the stray dogs.

(null)_3The wide open streets are home to at least four or five separate packs of strays and some of them can seem quite vicious. I once tried to call the local gas company to deliver a gas tank for our kitchen stove – the carrier came on a motorbike with a sidecart and he was so freaked out by the dogs, he got almost to our house, then with the dogs tearing after him, he wheeled right around and sped off. I ran out after him trying to call him back. I did not get a gas tank that day.

And oh look, there will be more.

Nursing in public

Nursing in public

There are at least two or three litters of new puppies rambling about.

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When we checked out the place, I noticed lots of empty lots interspersed between the houses. What I didn’t really notice was the actual houses. There are some wide, sprawling properties adorned with impressive McMansions. And there’s slums and shanty houses I didn’t even see until I saw their lights on at night. There’s a bend in the road where someone graffitied “Line End”, but if you look closely, there’s a tiny gate and a hidden path to a house tucked behind the wall and trees.

The neighbors are friendly.

And there’s a discarded toilet by the communal trash that no one seems in a hurry to be responsible for.

It’s funky all right.

Oh, and across the street is a popular wat.

Temple

Temple

But despite the oddities – okay, who am I kidding…because of the oddities – I’m really coming to love our new place. We moved here because the location is just mere minutes from pretty much everything fun in town, it’s super close to lots of great food, and for the same number of bedrooms we’re paying at least $200/mo less. What’s not to love, right?

EDITI forgot to mention our neighborhood also houses a tailor shop, daycare center, ballet academy and the Peruvian consulate….which is in the ballet academy.

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In other news, my (previous) kitchen is on The Kitchn! Leela graciously did a kitchen tour with me just before we moved. Stay tuned next week to see what fun we got up to in our new kitchen!

Little by Little



An Impromptu Diversion

I invited my parents for coffee. We ended up in Lampang.

Lampang is a small historic town about an hour’s drive away from Chiang Mai. It’s a funky little river town, with old colonial style buildings, horse-drawn carriages, and rooster-adorned lampposts.

Sukothai style noodle soup

Sukothai style noodle soup

Me & the curry pots

Me & the curry pots

Wall decor

Wall decor

Apothecary, complete with abacus!

Apothecary, complete with abacus!

Old floors

Old floors

Cafe & curios

Cafe & curios

Colonial style architecture

Colonial style architecture

Sometimes a little get-together just isn’t enough. One thing turns into another and suddenly you find yourself riding a cow in a different city. Sometimes the best laid plans are the ones you never made.

moo cow::

So I kind of went of the grid there for a little while. What with moving to a new house, the holidays, taking care of bureaucratic chores, and what not, there just weren’t enough hours in the day. But I have lots to tell you and I can’t wait to show you our new neighborhood and home! Stay tuned for more…

In the meantime, check out some fun glimpses from around the world and other fun little things!

 

Little by Little



My 2014 In Review

Maybe I’m a few days late doing a year in review, but I really liked reading Kim at Little by Little’s review and thought it might be nice to do my own. Hope you’ll enjoy a few flashbacks with me!

January 

In January, we read together and learned to grab our toes.

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February

We gathered with friends and explored new sights.

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March

We traveled a lot in March, to mountains of Chiang Dao and to the island Koh Samui. We found beautiful sights – and a tigger too!

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April

April saw a lot of growth at home.

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May

Self care and bubbles!

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June

A visit home … and Grandma!

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July

Recuperating after a month of intensive international travel.

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August

Music played and messes made.

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September

Enjoying cooler weather and a special someone’s birthday

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Oh yeah…and I released my book.

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October

A runaway escape trip to Bangkok.

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November

A trip to the mountains and a festive Thanksgiving

doimonjam ginger pumpkin pie

December

We found a frog bathing in our tub…and we said good-bye to our old neighborhood. Our new home will be ready soon(ish)!

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So much change a year brings! Sometimes I feel like my life is consumed with a little man at home, but a quick look back shows me we didn’t sit still at all. Thanks for joining us on this ride. Hope your 2014 was all you wanted it to be and that 2015 brings even more love, joy, fun, inspiration, and triumphs!

Super Secret Sale!

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Happy mid-winter celebrations! Hope your festivities have been cheerful and warm and that you got the best gifts ever!

In case you’re looking for a great read to cozy up to in the quiet and lull before New Year’s, I’m letting you in on a little secret: for my blog & photo fans only, I’m putting my book The Yellow Suitcase: A Novel on sale for .99 cents! That’s right. Less than a dollar. Because I love you. (Honestly, I would have given it away for free, as a holiday gift to my readers, but Amazon won’t let me.)

The Yellow Suitcase by Jade Keller

A Novel by Jade Keller

Because you’re amazing and I am totally grateful for all your support and encouragement, I’m keeping the book up at this low, low price from now until New Year’s. So grab your copy now, give it to friends who are into social justice or travel and exotic locales, or pass it on to anyone who loves Thai food.

Get the book here, by clicking on this link: The Yellow Suitcase: A Novel

Happy Holidays and I’ll see you in twenty-fifteen!

Kisses,
Jade

In a Pickle: How Not to Pick a Fight With a Toddler

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And then he hit me.

In the midst of moving and bureaucracy and holiday madness, I had been carrying Cy around until my arms were about to drop off. I sat down for half a second and he started crying, wanting to be picked up and carried some more.

“No Cy, Mama wants to sit for a minute. Can you go play? How about those rocks? Want to play with those rocks.”

More crying.

“No Cy.” The crying only made me want to dig in my heels. He’s not wrong for wanting more connection when I’ve been so busy and distracted, even if it means I’m also more tired and less patient. And he’s not wrong for being frustrated that I’m not connecting with him as much as usual. However, I didn’t want him to learn that crying would get him what he wanted when I’d already said no.

He got so angry he hit me. Twice. In the face.

“NO, Cy. You do NOT hit Mama. I don’t care how angry you get, you do not hit Mama.” I turned my back on him and walked a few feet away. He cried harder and followed me. I told him to stop it; crying wasn’t going to help.

And then I realized he needed an out. He was in a pickle. He knew he had done wrong but I had not shown him what to do instead. He didn’t know how to do right and he didn’t know how to say sorry.

I was in a pickle too. I didn’t know how to teach him to say “I’m sorry.” So I said to him, “If you stop crying, I will pick you up.” He cried fiercely, but I repeated myself and, bit by bit, he stopped the tide of tears. When he was close enough to having stopped crying, I picked him up, all the while realizing how ridiculous the whole thing was as I was now doing what he wanted in the first place. We could have just skipped the whole drama.

But then again, if we had skipped the whole drama, I might not have learned that if you’re going to tell a child no, you need to have a back up plan. You need to give him an alternative. And if he does wrong, you have to find a way to show him how to make it right.

Thing I Love About Cy Today: He has been remarkably patient and well-mannered considering the crazy upheaval going on his life tonight. I love him AND I really appreciate him right now.

Through Another’s Eyes I See

_1050417We’ve lived in this house for four years, and for four years, I’ve waged battles in this kitchen, trying to make it a space I love to look at and be in. This kitchen, with its red walls and odd nooks and tendency to attract mold, has at times convinced me it’s a livable space and other times driven me mad with desire to tear it down and build anew.

_1050412I’ve added plants, installed pretty fabrics to hide the sordid details, and tried my best to make things look like they belong where they are, rather than sticking out like so many odd thumbs.

The motorcycle helmets are still there though.

But after four years my battle is done. We’re moving to a new home, in a much better location in the city, where I will have a new battle with a new rental kitchen! (more on that one later – that deserves its own story).

And then a friend comes to visit. Just as I’m giving up on this kitchen, she mentions she would like to do a tour of my kitchen for a major home & garden website (more on that in a few months) because it has such pretty morning light. She takes a photo from an angle I’ve never considered before, and suddenly I see my kitchen differently.

I'm totally ripping off the photo she took and copying the angle. Sorry L!

I’m totally ripping off the photo she took and copying the angle. Sorry L!

I see it through her eyes and, finally, suddenly, just before I’m about to move away, I learn to appreciate my kitchen.

Little by Little
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