Scenes From My Week

My boy is 6 months old!

My boy is 6 months old! He makes good friends with the waitstaff and chef.

This week, we discovered a new breakfast joint called The Larder Cafe. It would be an understatement to say we plan to go there again.

My breakfast started with a latte, and muesli topped with yogurt, passion fruit, kiwi, figs, strawberries, dragon fruit, and watermelon.

Then it finished with this:
Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetFigs, ricotta, and a balsamic reduction over crostini, sprinkled with pistachios and walnuts.

Oh. My. God. I wanted to order three.

It was one of those meals that you think about long after it’s over.

How was your weekend? Show us at Communal Global!

 

Momma Chat: On travels, and standing, and being a mother of one

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We went to Chiang Dao this weekend, grabbing a chance to get out of Dodge for a bit, so to speak. We stayed at a place called The Nest, a cozy little bungalow style retreat nestled up mountainside. Having stayed there once for Toby’s birthday last year when I was 7 months pregnant, we knew it would be a relaxed place to bring our (almost) 6 month old Cy. The ladies who run the place recognized us immediately (probably due to Toby’s beard). One matron asked me whether I delivered Cy naturally, and when I told her I had a c-section, she asked, “Didn’t you try?” “For 15 hours, I tried,” I said. “That big head just wouldn’t go down.” “15 hours!” she exclaimed, before proceeding to scold Cy for causing me so much grief. “Mommy jep, na!” she admonished him. “Mommy hurt, hey!” She gave him quite the lecture. He responded by banging on the wooden blocks they had laid out for kids to play with.

When we went to dinner that night, the head waitress was so excited to see us and Cy, she scooped him up and paraded him around the restaurant, introducing him to every one else there, telling them all, “Look at this boy! His mom came when she was pregnant and her stomach was SO BIG!!” It’s a mark of how long I’ve lived in Thailand that this remark didn’t faze me one bit.
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Before we went I wondered how well Cy would travel. Granted, Chiang Dao is only an hour north of Chiang Mai and we only stayed one night, so it’s not like it was a really enormous trip, but he weathered it just fine. He took all the new sights and people in with nothing but curiosity, and even sleeping in a new place didn’t bother him. I wonder if this is a benefit to co-sleeping and attachment parenting: when we’re the center of his world, it may make it easier to adapt to new places, as long as we’re there with him. Maybe if he only ever sleeps in his crib, then it would be unsettling to sleep somewhere new. But if he sleeps with us, then as long as he has us, it matters less where he sleeps. Maybe? I don’t know. That’s just conjecture. Anyway, I hope it bodes well for when we go to the U.S. because there will be a ton of upheaval in his life then!

We’re talking about maybe going down south to the beaches later this month too, and that trip will involve a flight, so that gives us a little more practice too before we make the big jump._1060243

Meanwhile our little boy is all about trying to learn to walk. He knows to put one foot in front of the other and is quickly getting better about not stepping on his own self as he goes. He can stand (assisted) for a long period of time, so I think it’s mostly balance he needs to work on. It’s funny how badly he wants to do it though. He has abandoned most of his toys and even books can’t capture his attention so long anymore (except as objects to eat). All he wants to do is find ways to stand and walk, and he gets so frustrated that he can’t yet. Like sitting before he could really roll, I think he’ll be on two legs before he works out how to move on all fours. That’s our boy, putting the cart before the horse.

I wonder if he’s like his daddy: wanting independence and freedom.

I wonder if he’s like his mama: wanting to grow up before his age.

He’s also all about the grab right now. Grab, grab, grab. Stand and grab. Makes sitting quietly in a restaurant a trial, and mama needs a thick skin to weather all the scrapes from his little fingernails as he tries to climb his way up me to get to a higher vantage point. But it’s fun to see how voracious he is for life, how badly he wants to see and to do.

And suddenly, just this week, his vocalizations have gotten a lot more like language. It used to be he’d discover a new sound and repeat it like a mantra, a new call to arms. But now, he’s starting to string them together, modulating the tone up and down like real sentences. Every time he talks now, I watch the way his mouth moves, the way he sticks out his tongue and mashes it with his lips, and I just want to smother his words in kisses.

He’s capable of quite long monologues. Maybe he’ll be like his grandpas: university professors, the both of them. I can just see him at the lectern now…

With the new language skills developing, we’ve been keen to encourage him to call us mama and papa, and to see which one he comes out with first. I’ll sneak in little moments to point to him and say “Cy,” then point to myself and say, “Mama.” Toby, however, has been pointing to himself, lamps, trees, pillows, me, and calling them all “Papa.” See that rock? Papa. That lady? Papa. The dog? Papa. Cheater, is what I call him.

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On Monday, it will be six months since I gave birth to this boy. Sometimes I feel like I must be the only one who finds being a parent hard. Magical, yes, but damnhard. Sometimes, when people ask us if we’ll have another and the mere thought of going through another large belly, c-section recovery, and raising a newborn again renders me exhausted, I feel inadequate. Like I’m not mother enough, just being mother of one. Like I don’t love kids, if I just have one. Like if it’s hard, I’m doing it wrong.

I don’t think such thoughts of others; why should they think it of me? It’s a weighty thing, bringing a new human being into the world. It’s easy to think of kids as commodities, playthings, nonentities even, when considered in the plural. Faced with a real one, however, you know just how big the ripple is in the universe. You want to do right by them. You want your child to do right by the world too. Being a conscientious mother requires every bit of me I’ve got to give. And I give it, the best shot I can.

Self-judgment lingers though. I don’t know why.

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Thing I Love About Cy Today: We bought him a set of blocks to play with, and whenever he gets ready to knock over a tall tower of them, he squeezes his eyes shut real tight before the crash.

Scenes From My Week

We took a trip to Chiang Dao this weekend. It’s a pretty little mountain side town, where we went last year for Toby’s birthday when I was 7 months pregnant. It was fun to go back with our (almost) 6 month old boy!

The retreat where we stayed

The retreat where we stayed

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Fresh passionfruit juice

Fresh passionfruit juice

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Yummy snacks

Yummy snacks

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A gnarly old tree

A gnarly old tree

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Mountainside stroll

Mountainside stroll

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Did you do anything fun? Give us slices of your week at Communal Global!


Momma Chat: On Smoke and Skeeters

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Unlike in the West, Thailand only has three seasons a year: cold (Nov-Feb), hot (March-June), and rainy (July-October. We’re about to enter my least favorite season: hot season. The heat is so strong you actually have to wear long sleeves to protect your skin because if you pull up to a long red light on a motorbike around midday, you will actually feel your skin begin to fry. Under a light jacket, it’ll be stuffy and hot, but you won’t burn. Or get skin cancer. Probably.

I actually don’t mind the heat too much myself–until the boy came along. I was a furnace when I was pregnant, and now I constantly worry about him being too hot, even though I do have A/C in the house. He still sweats, regardless.

But the other reason I grimace and groan this time of year is, in the north of Thailand, where we live, this is when the farmers start burning the forests and fields to prepare for the next year’s crops and to fertilize the soil for a kind of mushroom they harvest that brings them money they need to live on. What it means for the rest of us, though, is horrifically smoky skies and lungs full of yummy carcinogens. The Thai government has an aggressive campaign of billboards telling farmers to stop the burning because “it makes the world hot.” Those ads are really effective. (Not.)

The burning has started, but it’s not so bad just yet, so we’re taking the opportunity to introduce Cy to the outdoors as much as possible. It gets us out of the house for some fresh(ish) air and exercise, and gives us new things to show him.

Like the lake reservoir, where you can sit in huts and have a leisurely lunch.

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{SIGH} Those red dots on his face aren’t the measles. They’re mosquito bites from the night of mosquito hell when Dot kicked open the screen door (instead of using her doggie door which Toby painstakingly made for her so we don’t have to open the door for her ever 3.5 seconds) and let in a hoard of mosquitos. We tried to kill them all, but there were still a few sneaky bastards. Mosquitos can all rot in hell.

We took him to our neighborhood pool for the first time. He was hesitant at first, clinging to me and whining when his feet touched the cool water, but before he realized it, he was chest deep in the pool and splashing around like a fiend. (A really, really cute fiend.) He gets this really serious look on his face when he’s splashing. Like it’s critical business beating that water into submission.

Trying on daddy's hat

Trying on daddy’s hat before our foray out to the lake

I’m going to miss being able to take him out for strolls and play time in the water because, up until now, those were my foolproof tactics for dealing with him when he’s being fussy. And my, has he been fussy lately.

He has recently discovered object permanence: that things remain, even when you can’t see them. This means he screams like a banshee if you take away the napkin he grabbed so he doesn’t eat it, and that he still remembers that potato chip he wanted to eat because he saw you eating it, even when you hide it away because, well, he doesn’t have teeth. Pretty much, he wants to eat anything he shouldn’t.

(Especially plastic bags. Boy seems to have a plastic deficiency he’s trying to alleviate.)

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And when he’s not grumpy about all that, he wants to stand up. All day long. Even when his little legs are too tired to stand anymore. If you make him sit, he cries. If you help him up to stand, he cries. Cue frustration. (His and ours.)

So I need all the tools I can get to distract him and bring back the smiles.

Basically, it’s a roller coaster right now: full of giggles and cuteness when he’s in a good mood, wailing when he’s not. It’s a fun and interesting time because so much more of his personality is showing through, and his curiosity about life is great to see, but it does make for some long days as you try to schlep him from one activity to the next to prevent the fussy.

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But, oh, the cute!! (Am I allowed to say that about my own child, or is that gauche?)

But I know this phase will pass quickly, just like all the others. I already can’t quite remember what the first month was like. Sometimes, I look at him sprawled out asleep in bed and think I see a toddler there, and I wonder when that happened. I never saw how he got so big, and I thought I was looking this whole time.

Thing I Love About Cy Today: When I stick out my tongue, he tries to grab it, but I suck it back in with a quick “slurp!” He giggles every time.

Momma Chat: On the Space Between

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I watch him playing quietly in his crib, tap-tapping at the stars on his glow turtle. He doesn’t seem to notice the bars between us. But I do.

He’s been napping in his crib now so that I can use that time to get more things done. But I watch him sleeping there, and I want to pull him out to cuddle.

On the second night of sleeping without his swaddle, he slept like a baby: he kicked me in the uterus all night long, until I could escape in the morning for an hour of sleep while his dad played with him before work. Being a mama is sometimes like being on touch overload; it’s a relief to not be touched for a solid 5 minutes.

And yet, I missed his little hands when I woke.

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From the early days on, people ask: “Is he sleeping in his crib yet?” Or, if you’re baby wearing, “Can’t you put him down?” and “Won’t he go in the stroller?” I use his readiness, rather than age, as a guideline to determine when to facilitate his independence. I do that partly for him and his sense of security, and partly for me and my need to soak up every day I have with him, knowing I only get just this one chance.

Just one chance to enjoy this day with him.

There will be many more years where he is too curious about the world to hug mama.
And more years when he is too cool to hug mama.
Then years when he is too far away to hug mama.

But maybe if I hug him up good now…maybe someday after I let him go, he’ll think to come back for another hug every now and then…

…because I’ll have held him until he was the one to pull away.

_1060082It’s a work in progress, learning to trust nature, when so much in our culture tells us “follow these 7 steps and train your baby!” like if you just press a cookie cutter to the dough, you’ll get a perfect cookie every single time. Like kids don’t have agency all their own. (Like that even works in baking. Cookies have agency too, dagnabbit.) I want to trust nature. Theoretically, I believe in it. But I’m scared of making the wrong decisions and finding out too late.

I shouldn’t be.

He sits all by himself now, and still loves to stand and to dance. Then, suddenly, after months of me agonizing to myself about whether he would learn, without any prompting, he’s started to enjoy rolling. He goes from back to front and front to back, like it’s no big thing. If I were to do this over again, I wouldn’t force tummy time on him like all the articles said to do. Before, he hated being on his tummy and he would often puke. Now, he rarely spits up…I should have listened to him, rather than the experts. I suspect it’s more comfortable now on his tummy because his stomach and esophageal muscles are stronger, so he doesn’t throw up. After a while, I did stop forcing tummy time on him and we built up his muscles doing “airplane” and carrying him in the sling, which really helped his neck muscles. He never complained at any of that. When he could sit unassisted, I stopped pushing him altogether, and just followed his cues. He did the rest all on his own.

And suddenly he’s ready to learn to sleep without the swaddle. I fretted for ages about how to wean him, but he showed me on his own, with no challenging weaning period. I still use it here and there when I feel it’ll help him sleep better (like during naps when outside noises might startle him awake), but if I wear him down to sleep in the Ergo, then slowly sneak us into bed, he can sleep the rest of the night unswaddled. No 12-step plan. Just following baby. And Nature. She’s smart, that lady.

Now, I just can’t wait until he turns six months old so I can start feeding him solids. I sneak him tiny dots of juice from my papaya salad lunch, a little squeeze of lime, or a smidgen of pad thai sauce just to see how he reacts. Not even enough for him to swallow, just the tiniest amount to explore the taste. Maybe not the prescribed way to introduce solids, but it’s whetting his appetite for real food. He watches us drink coffee in the morning and tries to grab the cup. We thought we’d discourage it by giving him a tiny dab of the bitter coffee to taste. He contemplated it for half a second and then lunged for the cup. Apparently a coffee fan, just like his mom and dad. I’m betting he’ll be a coffee snob by the age of six.

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Thing I Love About Cy Today: He’s a little bit afraid of the dark. When we drive home from some place at night, and we go through a dark patch, he holds my hand a little tighter.

Scenes From My Week

Ready for takeoff!

Ready for takeoff!

Home baked cinnamon rolls for Valentine's breakfast

Home baked cinnamon rolls for Valentine’s breakfast

What afternoon tea looks like on a Monday. in a life with baby: nursing cover, lavender lemonade, and a pot of lapsong suchong

What afternoon tea looks like on a Monday. in a life with baby: nursing cover, lavender lemonade, and a pot of lapsong suchong

What has your week looked like? Show us at Communal Global!



Momma Chat: On Mirrors and Choosing Better

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I’m pretty sure our son is a velociraptor. Don’t believe me? I present evidence, Exhibit A in this video. His new favorite thing to do is screech all. day. long. It’s the first sound he makes when he wakes at 6 a.m. (and sometimes at 4 a.m.) and he entertains himself with it every chance he gets thereafter. I think it just tickles him pink that he can make such a noise. _1060062

Don’t let that innocent face fool you. This one has been charming the ladies up a storm. Remember how shy he was when we brought him to Chiang Rai? Well, apparently that was an isolated incident as now he’ll go with just about anyone who will hold him. At the bureaucratic offices, at the mall, in shops, and in restaurants, women come up asking to hold him or play with him, and he just flashes them a cheeky grin, and they abscond with him. He still won’t go for very long…but just long enough for them to come back smitten, telling me he’s such an easy baby who doesn’t cry. Ha!
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Meanwhile, the sleep drama of weeks past seems to be abating for now. We survived, and I’ve now got a couple new tricks up my sleeve, like kissing him on the forehead to calm him, and kissing him on the eyelid to make it impossible for him to fight the droop. I learned I need to give him at least half an hour to wind down before sleep. If I do, he’ll go down much more easily.

But I think the starker lessons were the ones about myself.

During the thick of it, there were many nights he would wake up at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., or some other equally ungodly hour, and just not want to sleep. He would chat happily. Then he’d break out of his swaddle. I’d reswaddle him. He’d break back out. I’d reswaddle; he’d pop out the other hand. I’d reswaddle. He’d fuss. It got so bad, Toby took to sleeping in the other room as the only way to be able to function at work the next day. I took to staring at my boy as he lay awake for those hours, cooing and chatting like it was midday.

I’m used to waking up throughout the night. But when he refused to go back to sleep and fought me with the swaddle (without which he cannot sleep, despite his best attempts to break free), I would get so angry. My brain would vibrate, I’d get so mad. I didn’t do anything in my anger (except maybe cuss really quietly), but it certainly wasn’t helping him get back to sleep, nor was it helping me. I couldn’t be calm enough to get him back to sleep, and even when I finally did, I’d be so awake, I couldn’t get back to sleep myself.

A few days ago, I came across this line: “anger is almost always an emotion for people who wish to control others while simultaneously failing to control themselves.” (source) A mirror flashed on myself. I had let myself off the hook for being angry, telling myself it was understandable to get angry when so sleep-deprived. Understandable maybe, but not reasonable. Cy has yet to learn how to put himself to sleep reliably. It’s not my job to make him sleep. It’s my job to help him learn to sleep. I talked this realization over with Toby, and he had come across something similar, an article he’d read that talked about how when we get angry, we’re basically fighting reality. We place expectations upon reality, and when reality doesn’t conform, it bites us in the ass. It was kind of a complicated line of reasoning, which I won’t get into here, but it gave us a shared way to understand–to remember–to let go. As my mother-in-law so astutely pointed out in a comment on my last post, it’s about “figuring out who [Cy] is and directing him toward more socially acceptable behavior without destroying what is unique about him.”

_1060056I want to be the kind of mom who, for every time I tell him he needs to practice his “quiet voice,” I take him somewhere safe and fun for him so he can practice his “loud voice.” I imagine us challenging each other until we collapse in tickles and giggles. I imagine going out for ice cream later, and listening to all his questions and observations, even when it’s the 5,346th time he’s asked me why. His voice won’t always be convenient. I won’t always agree with what he has to say. But I hope I’ll show him every day that I want to hear him. I hope I never shut him down.

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Those are my hopes. But parenthood has a way of forcing us to confront the worst part of ourselves and then pushes us to consistently choose a better response. Because when little eyes are watching you, there is no excuse for your weaknesses. They happen, of course. We’re human. But you have to own up to them and take responsibility.

But hey, there’s so much fun stuff along the way. This week, our boy who hates blankets on him at night, sits on our bed and pulls them all toward him during the day. He loves now to grab my face and hair, sticking his little fingers in my mouth and tugging on my teeth. He investigates my hands and toes. I pretend to gobble up his fingers, and he laughs out loud. And he’s getting to be a pro at upward facing dog. So he’s got his legs figured out, and now his arms….maybe one day he’ll put the two together?

Last night we bought him a set of plastic balls with little doodads inside them that make noise. He thinks they’re hilarious and he’s been working on figuring out how to grab them too. He uses them to knock over the tower of blocks his dad sets up.

Then we lie down together to read a story. His eyes light up when he recognizes the book and he grins real wide.

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Thing I Love About Cy Today: There’s something so endearing about watching him from behind as he plays with his toys. Maybe it’s his little neck supporting that big ol’ noggin’ as his chin tucks into his chest. Maybe it’s the way his toes curl in concentration. Maybe it’s the way his chub folds over, lumpy, like a diapered potato.

Momma Chat: On Being the Parent I Am

_1050989Well today I encountered some weirdness. We went to apply for Cy’s passport and, I don’t know if you’ve heard about the protests and civil unrest going on over here, but it does put a hamper on general government functions. When we showed up at the office at 8 a.m., there were 200 people in line ahead of us, having camped out since the wee hours of the morning. As we were waiting our turn, I needed to nurse Cy, and just as I was about to start, a cameraman for a news station turned his big light and camera on me. So I moved to a different seat and settled down to nurse…and he followed me there! He clearly wanted to capture me nursing on camera, and I was like, dude, WTF. So I held Cy’s back up to him and pretended to play with Cy until the cameraman got the hint and left. Creep.

In other news, Toby pulled up to a red light on his big motorbike and bushy beard, trussed up in full leather…humming nursery songs to himself. He said that was the moment he realized he was officially no longer cool.

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Well the sleep saga has continued, although (dare I say it?) things seem to have settled somewhat. But man, was it a battle to get Cy to sleep. Every single nap and every single night brought drama in new, not-fun ways, for pretty much a solid month. We were trying just about every trick we could think of, fighting to get him on a “schedule”, where before I simply just followed his cues…though to be honest, I never gave anything much of a run. The schedules might have worked if we had kept at it, but I would try a few times and then eventually kept reverting back to old habits. Sometimes I reasoned my way out of changing. Other times, it really just took too much energy to change. And that’s when I came to the realization: I can only be the parent that I am.

Whether I’m just not disciplined enough, or just don’t have the energy to change, I’m just not good at strict schedules. I don’t live my life that way, and I can’t parent that way. Everybody says babies need routines. We have some. But we also have a lot of spontaneity. Maybe this is the thing he will resent about us when he gets older (all kids have something to tell the therapist about their parents, right?), but Toby and I both have and need the flexibility to follow whims. Maybe that will make things difficult for Cy sometimes, but on the other hand, he is our child and he’ll have to be a part of our lifestyle. Not saying we won’t or don’t make sacrifices…it’s just, we can’t totally change who we are.

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Now I see where I could also have given other parents more grace, too. When they’ve complained about their kid in one aspect or another, I wondered why they didn’t just impose more discipline in that area. Now I know. There’s only so much you can do, and each parent has their own priorities._1060008

On the upside, if we time it right, he’s generally really great at restaurants. We eat roast duck noodle soup. He eats Sophie.

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Thing I Love About Cy Today: He’s started wanting to do things on his own. There’s a bell we used to always ring for him. Now he wants to ring it himself, and if you ring it for him, it just will not do. He has to be the one to make the noise. Oh, I can just see how this will go as he gets older…

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