A Trip to a Favorite Temple: Wat Pa Laad

IMG_0583There’s a famous temple on a hilltop here in Chiang Mai called Doi Suthep. It’s where all the tourists go, climbing innumberable steps to the summit to look down on the city below, bypassing peddlers and tourist traps, scammers, and stray dogs all along the way. It’s a temple, and about as commercial as it gets.

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What most people don’t know is that just a few kilometers below Doi Suthep is another temple: Wat Palad. It’s as serene and tranquil as you’d expect of a serious meditation retreat.

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You can hike up to it, and encounter the beautiful waterfall at the summit, or you can drive straight to it (as we like to do because we are lazy).

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Almost no one but monks is ever there, so you’re free to traipse over the ancient grounds and explore the hidden treasures without anyone accosting you and asking for money.

A well for drawing water

A well for drawing water

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Cy traipsing after his grand aunt, Yai Nee

Cy traipsing after his grand aunt, Yai Nee

It’s worth a visit if you’re ever in the area!

Little by Little



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



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



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



Scenes From My Week 08.13.14

Three things to share with you this week!

First off, my little ham:_1070329 _1070336 _1070343 _1070344

Second, some fresh flowers and herbs to brighten up the day:
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And third, I’m publishing a book, and I’m inviting YOU to help me choose a book cover design! Head over to THIS POST HERE to find out the details and enter for a chance to win the giveaway too!
three covers

And don’t forget to join us at Communal Global and Little Things Thursday!

Little by Little



Scenes From My Week 08.06.14

I’d like you all to meet Lian._1070232

His mama is my neighbor, and she so graciously let me take pictures of this precious little angel baby.

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This is his guardian protector. He does a good job.

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I’m so thankful to have a mama friend so close by too! It makes such a difference; so much less lonely. I just can’t wait to get to know little Lian too.

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He’s got some big footsteps to grow into.

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But loving hands to hold him.

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And toes just begging to be nibbled.

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They sure do make a beautiful couple, don’t they?

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A couple of weeks ago I mentioned I had some big (for me) news to share…Well, I just want to say: I will be making my announcement THIS WEEK! Check back here on FRIDAY and I will let you know what bee’s been buzzing around in my bonnet! I can’t wait–hope you’ll be half as excited as me!

In the meantime, join the party at Communal Global & Little Things Thursday!

Little by Little



More Beautiful

newborn

More Beautiful

There’s a scar, an itchy little gray line from where he came
Flab, a touch of saggy loose flesh that won’t shrink
Hair loss
Tired eyes
And breasts that have fallen from grace.

And still I feel more beautiful than I’ve ever been.

When little fingers intertwine in my hair
and examine the contours of my lips, I feel beautiful.

When I hold him close and hum

When I slow dance him down to sleep

When we snuggle to read a story

When he smiles at the sight of my face
I am the star that kisses the crescent moon at dusk
The sparkle of evening sun on the rim of a glass.

When his head nestles against my chest and I kiss the top of his hair,
I’m the cover of Vogue, the Leibovitz, the image on the gallery wall.

When he crawls in my lap
to blow raspberries on my breast
and tries to eat my nose

I am more beautiful than I have ever been.

Beautiful is measured not in body shape or fashionable jewels
but in glittering moments
Gauged not by what looks back at me from the mirror,
but in the totality of who I am because of him.

I carry myself like the world is mine
Because I am his.

It doesn’t matter what I look like
I feel the most beautiful I’ve ever been.

I am more beautiful than I’ve ever been.

I am more beautiful than I have ever been
because I became his mother.

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I wrote this piece several months ago for a project between several collaborators that was supposed to come together in time for Mother’s Day. I haven’t heard anything since, so I think that project probably died on the vine, so I decided to go ahead and post this anyway.

Momma Chat: On Traveling With a Baby

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetIn the span of one month, we have been on nine flights with Cy, if you’re counting layovers at least–and when you’re traveling with a 9-month old baby, you’re definitely counting layovers. That’s nine times we had to get him through take-off, keep him quiet and entertained while other passengers ate, watched movies, read, and slept around us, and then get through landing, security, transfers, and baggage claim. Seven of those nine flights went really well. One was kind of touch-and-go. One involved nearly 5 hours of crying. We got the gamut of reactions from fellow passengers: glares for daring to bring a child aboard, looks of sympathy or hatred when he was crying, and compliments for what a well-behaved child we had. There’s no anonymity when you’re traveling with a baby. Even the flights that go well are stressful because you’re hyper aware of how quickly it can descend into mayhem.

Cy did amazingly well with adjusting to cabin pressure. Truthfully, the only times he gave us trouble was when he was really tired and couldn’t go to sleep (The one really bad flight happened to be his third flight in the same day…can ya’ really blame a fellow for that? I don’t.)

Still, the hardest part of traveling with an infant wasn’t the flying. It was the adjustment period after. Jet lag affected Cy for at least a week after each haul across time zones, and just as soon as he got adjusted it seemed, we would whisk him away again, from Thailand to California, from California to South Carolina, and back. Each time, his little body clock would take forever to adjust, which meant many nights we were up with him until 3, 4, or even 5 a.m. because he’d be wide awake. As exhausted as we were from the travel, regardless of our own needs, our priority was to help him through it.

All the newness was bewildering to him too. We live a quiet life at home. In the States, suddenly there were so many more people! And noises! And laughter, and attention, and sweets everyone wanted to feed him. He was curious and interested and fascinated by it all, but he was also uncertain and nervous, which made him clingy. For much of the time, he held onto me for dear life, refusing to be held by anyone else, playing for only short spurts before he’d need me to pick him up and carry him around. Let me remind you: this boy weighs 20 pounds. I deserve an award or at least a lot of chocolate for all that heavy lifting.

We learned a lot of tricks for traveling with Cy. For instance, book an aisle and middle seat on one of the sides of the plane rather than taking up the offer for the bassinet. We never used the bassinet, and the flight attendants were all too eager to offer the person sharing the row with us a different seat whenever possible so we often ended up with an extra seat for free. Bringing a pillow for added comfort is key. And plenty of food: cereal, puffed rice, baby food pouches, water bottles…all became key distractors. And major points for baby wearing. The Ergo saved us in the airports (no heavy strollers to lug around), and it saved us many a night when Cy couldn’t sleep and could only be calmed by going on a walk. There were a lot of midnight walks through the neighborhood.

It might sound crazy, but for all that hardship, the trip was totally worth it. Of course, it was worth it for us to see our friends and family again, and for them to get a chance to meet Cy. But I think, more than that, traveling for babies is valuable for the same reasons traveling as adults is worthwhile. Being in a new environment teaches so many things, including about yourself–and in this case, it taught me a lot about Cy too.

Cy blossomed in that month. Aside from discovering the awesomeness of Cheerios and fresh berries, he learned so much about being around other people. Normally, he’s home with just me and Toby and our dog Dot. Visitors come once in a while, for an hour or two. He sees his grandparents about twice a week (but they had been gone for the two months prior), and the rest of the people he meets are just random strangers who say hi for a few minutes and then are never seen again. In the U.S., he was surrounded all day by cousins, aunts, and uncles, friends, and his grandmom, and he soaked it up. He watched the interactions with avid curiosity, and you could see the little wheels whirring away in his head as he tried to make sense of it all, watching others play and talk together. As long as I remained close, a safe harbor for him to venture from, he was delighted to play with the various kids, adults, and dogs in his midst.

It was this way that I learned he just doesn’t like to be held by people he doesn’t really know, but otherwise he really is quite social. As long as people don’t insist on pushing themselves on him, he’ll happily play with them. It was so good and so healthy for him to have so many other people around, of so many different ages. I’m sure if we were there for longer, he would have only opened up more.

As hard as travel is, you learn to cope too, and you get stronger as a parent. It’s the middle of the night, you’re exhausted, and your child is keeping up the whole house (and possibly the neighborhood). You proclaim loudly that you cannot and will not carry your child all damn night. And then you do anyway. You learn your limits. And then you learn how to push past them because you don’t have any other choice. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

Either that, or you find yourself doing things like feeding your child a spoonful of cheesecake at 9 in the morning so you can have 5 blessed minutes to drink your coffee so you can survive the day. (That may or may not have actually happened.)

It’s hard, but like most of the best challenges in life, rewarding in ways you never anticipated.

That said, I’m in no hurry to get on a plane again.

Thing I Love About Cy Today: He has started making funny faces, scrunching up his face and, when he’s really excited (like at bath time), squawking. Did you know there’s actually a term for baby pterodactyls? They’re called flaplings. Cy, bless him, is a flapling.

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