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

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!

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.

Sticky Pants

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Cy has started trying to feed himself. He’s slow and careful about it, meticulously getting food on his spoon and bringing it up to his mouth.

There it is...

There it is…

But his new favorite thing is to try to feed me too. I’m usually sitting with him in my lap, so inevitably, the yogurt, the milk, the rice…whatever it is, ends up in my lap and on the floor while my OCD neat-freak side cringes and shudders.

I know it’s super sweet that he wants to feed me, and really it’s no big deal to toss pants in the laundry, and that I have a choice to encourage him in his sweetness and to meet him on his level and engage with him where he is.

...someone inserting himself in the shot.

…someone inserting himself in the shot.

I know I should conclude this by saying something about how the sweetness matters more than sticky pants, because pants can always be washed, but sweetness can be lost.

And it does matter. It does.

And there it goes.

And there it goes.

But I still can’t help bemoaning the sticky pants.

I tell him what a wonderful boy he is, and I mean it. And secretly I sigh as I take a tissue and blot ineffectively at my pants.



Flying Solo

I’ve been parenting solo this week as T is on a business trip back in the U.S.
The first day T was gone, I told Cy, “Papa went on an airplane.” I don’t think he believed me.
Then when we were doing our bedtime routine, Cy turned to where T normally sits on the bed, wanting to give the goodnight moon book to his papa, who normally reads the story, but he got confused when T wasn’t there, and he didn’t know where to go.
I said, “Papa went on an airplane. A big bye-bye. But mama can read your story. Can mama read your story?”
He chucked the book back in the crib (where it’s kept) and lay down to sleep.
No papa, no goodnight story, I guess.
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December 4 is the last day to get my book on sale, for $1.99!!
Make it a gift to yourself, or a loved one this holiday season!
Get The Yellow Suitcase: A Novel on Amazon today!
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Little by Little

The Hunt for a Nanny – Part I

_1070702I didn’t know where to begin interviewing a nanny, having never hired help to take care of Cy before, but here one was sitting on my porch. She had come recommended, but was slow to move, slow to insert herself – she seemed shy and had little to say for herself unprompted and few questions beyond when she was to show up for work and how much we would pay. I understand shy. I can give a little grace around shy. So I just started talking about us: what we’re hoping for, what Cy is like, what we could be flexible about, and hoped more useful clues would reveal themselves with time.

The conversation wasn’t much to go on, so I told her she could shadow me with Cy for a day and do a trial week, and we’d see from there.

So the next day she showed up, and over the course of our time together, we began to break the ice. Cy can be a handful, so, knowing she has a 6-year-old son, I asked if he was easy to take care of. She said he just watches TV and when anyone tries to talk to him, he doesn’t respond.

Hmmm, I thought. I too can plunk Cy in front of a TV and I don’t have to pay 300 baht a day to do it. But I resolved to keep an open mind. And though she was slow to really get in there with Cy and try to interact with him, she was supremely helpful and took initiative with other needs around the house, so I really did want to give her a chance.

Then she asked me if I planned to have more kids. I said we hadn’t decided yet.

“Do you plan to have more children?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “They’re too much work!”

Well that’s an honest answer.

After the trial week, I called to let her know we were still interviewing other people. She hung up on me. So the hunt continues…

Little by Little



Momma Chat: There and Back Again

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I might be doing a number on the trust I’ve built up between me and Cy because now as he enters toddlerhood, I’m having a hard time not laughing at his frustrations. When he cannot get his toy car to balance just so on top of the stack of four toy cars beneath it, when he cannot get a large plastic box to fit inside a small cup, or when he cannot lift the object that happens to be three times his size, I struggle to keep a straight face as I calmly acknowledge, “Yes baby, I know, that can be so annoying.”

Yesterday he got so mad that he had to bend down to pick up his toy car that he yelled and bent down to swipe it away.

….

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We’ve been having a great time on mama & Cy adventures traveling around lately. Bangkok was such a refreshing change of scenery for both of us (though parts of it–like riding the BTS (sky train)–might have been a bit overstimulating for Cy, so it’s good it was a short trip), that we came back with renewed energy and enjoyment in our every day.

I was always so surprised to find how helpful everyone was, upon seeing a mama alone with a baby. Everywhere we went, people gave us their seats, plied Cy with treats and goodies and friendly faces, and offered their help.

We went to this cafe, with this amazing window:
_1070712I had heard it was open from 6 am to midnight and served breakfast all day, so I went to get us some breakfast to bring back to share with Toby at the hotel. It was a 10 minute BTS ride, plus a 20-minute walk in the Thai heat, so by the time we arrived, I was sweating and Cy was grumpy. I hoped to pick up pastries, but it turns out the breakfast they serve is continental and all the good stuff on their menu is for lunch and dinner. After a bit of confusing back and forth, I settled on some Thai larb burgers, but the staff, knowing I had been looking for pastries, found a few for us and tossed them in for free.

Amazing generous things like that, all the time.

Then we went to Doi Mon Jam, a scenic mountain area in northern Thailand, with views like this:

doimonjamand it was full of sight-seers and tourists…and everybody was coming up and trying to take pictures of Cy.

Now, normally, when people want to take a picture of Cy or hold him, they do this polite thing called “asking permission.” Not so here. People would sneak up on Cy while he was busy climbing rocks or poking at flowers, and without even asking me, they would swoop in and grab him and hold him up to their face while they yelled at their friends to “quick, quick, take a picture!” with Cy squirming and squawking to be let go or given to me.

WHO DOES THAT?

And not just a handful of weird tourists. I’m talking almost everybody there. It’s like children aren’t actual human beings but rather novel public commodities that anyone can just help themselves to. Not to mention it’s a bit nerve wracking for a mom to just stand there as random strangers literally snatch your child from right in front of you.

It’s so funny; the world of cultural differences from right within a single country.

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Anyway, one other benefit of living here is how cheap it is to get hired help, and Toby and I have hit a wall where we really need to carve out a few hours a week to ourselves (some time for us as individuals, and some time for us a couple) because we really haven’t been doing that. And we’re running ourselves ragged. We really need help.

So we’ve caved and started looking for a part-time nanny to help out for a few hours a few days a week. I interviewed one today and discovered I have no idea how to interview nannies. (What do you even ask? Um…are all the kids in your care still alive? Check, ok good to go!)

We’ve made Cy the priority up until this point, and we’ve tried to keep up with the other things that are important to us, but bit by bit they’ve slipped away and we need to remedy that. There are priorities besides Cy (and a basic functioning household), and though I’m sure it will always be a balancing act, we need to make sure we make our priorities our priorities too._1070776

Thing I Love About Cy: When we go outside to play, he has developed a habit of reaching down to touch the pavement and say, “Haw?” to check to see if the ground is hot and therefore he needs shoes. And when he really gets his groove on, he shakes his head back and forth to the beat of his inner drum.

 

Momma Chat: Just a Little Rosy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little by Little



Momma Chat & Other Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little by Little



Momma Chat: On Doing What It Takes to Get Done

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thing I Love About Cy Today:

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

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

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

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