Things I Wish I Could Tell My Readers


My book is now available for pre-order on Amazon! Order your copy of The Yellow Suitcase today, and receive it on your e-reader automatically, when the book becomes available September 10!

It took me just shy of four years to produce this book. The first year was spent writing the first draft. The second was devoted to revisions and many, many more drafts. In the third year, I tested the waters with professionals in the publishing industry. This last year was spent trying to build up the guts to put it out in public.

The good thing about writing a novel is that by the end of the book you end up a better writer than when you started. The bad thing is that by the end of the book, you end up a better writer than when you started, so when you go back to the beginning, you see how badly you wrote, and you revise, and revise, and revise, generally getting better, but never getting done. You never reach a point where you’re 100% satisfied with it, only 100% done with working on it.

Part of what is so scary about putting it out in public is trying to imagine how others will receive it. Will they think it’s stupid? Or (perhaps even worse), will they think it’s boring? Given the premise of the story, it was necessary for me to include some sexual violence (though I hope not a gratuitous amount), and part of my fears lie in what my friends will think as they read those parts. Writing and reading are such intimate acts: for the span in which I have your attention, my voice is in your head, and you are in mine. It’s scary to invite others in so deep.

An early reader once suggested to me that she thought my story would be a hard sell to publishing houses because it needed more “padding” for the reader to safely engage with the story, protected from the crises and trauma of the main character. She wanted more filters, like nostalgia and the sweeping historical drama of Memoirs of A Geisha, to make the hard parts easier to read. She had a very valid point. But I have faith that readers in 2014 are different than the readers of 1997, and I have faith that my readers are capable of more than such publishers might give them credit for. I have faith that my readers don’t need Richard Gere to save Julia Roberts from her own crassness to be able to engage with a story, and they don’t need another male author romanticizing the sale of young girls to make it a tale worth reading. I think, if anything, #YesAllWomen shows that today’s women can handle hard truths and that speaking them aloud may show us we’re not alone. And I have hope that what makes my story worth reading is not because of what happens to Ae Lin so much as who she becomes because of, or in spite of it, and how she seeks to overcome it.

Because ultimately my story was driven by a question I had, and the book was my attempt to answer it. In writing it, I learned that publishing a book isn’t the end or the final step. If I did what I really wanted to do, it’s only the beginning. I hope it is the beginning of a conversation, and I hope after reading it, my readers will want to talk to me about it and continue the conversation.

Scenes From My Week 08.27.14

_1070426This week’s post is short as I’m using all my spare moments to finish up the final details of publishing my book, which I’m aiming to release on September 10. But I want to share this other little detail that’s been going on over here. Lately, I’ve really been wanting to fill my home with more living things–the green kind that is. Plants and flowers. A home feels more homey when vases are full of blossoms and little corners are dotted with potted herbs.

_1070421I’m giving it a go with these adorable little succulents I found. But the problem is I am cursed when it comes to plants. I’m the only person I know capable of killing mint while actively trying to keep it alive. I need a plant that is hardy, sturdy, and determined. One that prefers the dark (since there aren’t many plant-friendly (read: out of reach of child & dog) spots in the house that get good sunlight), doesn’t need too much attention, and still manages to look pretty when left untended. Whatever that plant is…that’s the kind I need.

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In the meantime, I also found these adorable little bud vases. _1070460

There are several empty fields and houses that I walk by every day when I take Cy out for walks, and in rainy season, there are always little blooms popping up every where._1070462

So I steal a few fresh flowers and brighten my little home. And little cute things make my heart happy.

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.

Announcing….My Big News!

Da dadaDA! [Drumroll please]

Da dadaDA! [Drumroll please]

A couple of weeks ago, I decided I was ready to finally share with you all something that has been going on behind the scenes here for…well, years. Are you ready? Here is my big news:

I wrote a book. A whole book! A novel, to be more precise. You’re going to be hearing a lot about it over the next several weeks because I’m publishing it, and it should be out in ebook format sometime in early-mid September. I’ll let you know the exact date soon, and a whole lot more detail over the coming weeks, but I just wanted to let you know:

I wrote a book, y’all. It’s written. It’s been revised {so many, many times}. It’s been professionally edited and reviewed. And next week YOU get to vote on the book cover design!

I promise that very soon I’ll be sharing tons about the story, my process, and lots of other tidbits that hopefully you’ll find fun and intriguing, but in the meantime, just so you know, it’s a story set here in Thailand, and the title is: THE YELLOW SUITCASE.

And I’m really hoping you’ll have as much fun reading it as I had writing it…and I really hope we can talk about it when you’re done!

Momma Chat: The Fun Really Starts at the End of the Fourth Trimester

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Having a 10-month-old (almost 11-month old!) baby is the most fun ever. I mean, obviously, there’s been lots of fun times up until now, but suddenly almost overnight it seems, Cy became just stoked on life.

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This photo is just begging for a caption.

They say “9 months in the womb, and 9 months out of the womb” for a baby to really develop, and in Cy’s case it was totally true. All the battles and worries of the early days just one by one resolved themselves (regardless and possibly in spite of many of my efforts). The sleep drama ended, he weaned himself off pacifiers, the swaddle, almost all sleep aids (only nursing left), and is even now starting to request solid food instead of breast milk for some meals. (If I could talk to my earlier mom self, I would tell her to stop worrying so damn much. But then I know she probably wouldn’t listen anyway.)

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He’s curious, engaged, loving, and fun. I wish I could tell you about all the times he’s made us laugh with his funny faces, perfectly timed declarative noises, and exuberant display of personality.

And he can suddenly do so much more now: standing strong on his own; climbing up AND down the stairs (and furniture); saying a few words like Mama, dog, mam-mam (a Thai word for food), house, and ball; understanding simple directions; helping me brush his teeth; or peeling fruit to help Mama infuse her iced tea.

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He has this game he likes to play, where he’ll grab a few items (like a couple of his toy cars), and he’ll sit by a ledge or shelf or the threshold of a door and, one by one, place the items on the shelf, and take one down, and place another one. Like organizing, but by the guide of principles only he knows. I wonder what he is thinking while he does this, but then, as I describe this now it occurs to me: perhaps he’s just copying Mama, as she goes about the house sorting items by some generally indiscernible whim.

Where he was clingy and fussy before, he’s now growing in independence and sense of self. It’s like he was a baby bird cooped up, often squawking, in the nest, and then suddenly he stood up, peeped over the edge of the nest, and discovered he could unfold his wings. He’s been taking off ever since.

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Before Cy was born, I used to ask Toby or my parents what they looked forward to most about Cy. To answer that question myself, I always imagined reading together, taking trips to the zoo, baking cookies for him and listening to him talk. I couldn’t wait to hear what he would say. Now, I realize what I really was looking forward to was having a relationship with my son. I was looking forward to loving him.

I loved him from the beginning, and every moment since, but it started as a little seed of awe and wonder. And out from that planted seed came one tiny, thin little vine sprouting, pushing through the mud and dirt and rain, finding the sunshine. Somehow, without my knowing or noticing, it’s become this multi-petaled flower, with new dimensions continually unfolding and unfolding, getting deeper, denser, and fuller…and I know it’s only just begun.

Such purple prose, I know. But I don’t know how else to put it. The more I get to know this little guy, the bigger he grows my heart.

Thing I Love About Cy Today: The way he waves goodbye–by reaching out and grasping.

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CHECK BACK HERE ON FRIDAY FOR MY BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!!

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.

samui

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.

Little Things Thursday 05.15.14

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Every night, around 11p.m., I extricate myself from under little hands and plod down the white-tiled hallway to get ready for bed. I brush my teeth and then I prepare to wash my face. I pull out this soft, terry, meadow green hair turban, slip it over my head, and push it back, and thus begin the ritual.

The ritual involves washing my face with a gentle soap (Neutrogena, nothing fancy), then following with a toner and moisturizer. I take my time. I breathe slowly and deep. I massage my face gently._1060799

It’s the turban that’s important. I found it in a Muji store for a little over $6, but I love it because it makes me feel glamorous. Like it’s only movie stars and royalty who wear hair turbans.

And I wear one. It’s such a little thing, but it’s the signifier of the beginning of a ritual I perform nightly, almost religiously. It’s one of the very few times I take entirely for myself, in serenity, to do something nice for myself: taking care of my skin.

_1060746With little circular movements, I rub away cares, stress, anxious energy, and all the more difficult moments of the day, to clear my mind before sleep.

It’s quiet, and it’s mine.

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Do you have any little rituals? Or favorite stolen time?

Here’s some other fun I found on the interwebs this week:

Some very intriguing popsicles

A “Mouthful of Stars”….I just want to eat that (photos shot by my friend Leela)!

On what men REALLY want (when it comes to work)…

Linking up with Little Things Thursday!

Are you on Instagram? Join me, I’m @jadekellerLittle by Little

Momma Chat: Good Idea, Bad Idea

_1060581At all moments in which Cy is moving about (also referred to as “being awake”), you’ll hear a steady refrain:

No, don’t eat the power cord.
No, sticking your fingers in the fan is a BAD idea.
Wandering down the stairs is also probably a bad idea.
Diving headfirst off the bed, that’s a bad idea.
Bothering Dot while she eats, also ill-advised, my son.
Don’t put your mouth on the toilet.
It’s probably not a good idea to stick your fingers in the wheels of dad’s office chair .
Let’s not climb through the dog door.
How about we don’t try to stand on things that move.
Maybe you shouldn’t let go of the things you’re holding on to, eh?

Basically, I save his life all day long. Even when it comes to things he’s supposedly got the hang of, like crawling, he’ll be trucking along and then randomly keel over. There have been more times than I care to admit where I swear I’ve been staring right at him and have no clue what happened, but he’s suddenly somehow maimed himself. It’s like he’s on a path to deliberately self destruct.

One time, I had him on the bed while I was quickly changing clothes. I put him smack dab in the middle, up by the head board, surrounded by pillows. He turned, fell, and landed his eyebrow straight on my hard plastic hair clip, the only other thing on the bed. Somehow he always finds all the things.

Also, he is now tall enough to stand and touch the top of the dining room table (whaaat??). Just putting that out there.

And two teeth have broken through, which works out because it just so happens that silicone kitchen utensils make excellent teething toys.

spoons

I’m in a weird space these days, simultaneously going through my house and getting rid of any and all dead weight, thoroughly organizing what’s left, while also going on shopping binges. I’ve bought several new clothes, invested in fresh new skin & hair care products, and if our house weren’t rented, I would do the same kind of makeover to my furniture and repaint the two red walls (that I’m so sick of) something that isn’t red. Most likely a sage green, or some other nice earth tone.

At first, I thought I might be going a little crazy with the sudden intense compulsion to buy. But actually, I’m not looking to buy just for the sake of acquisition. Now that I think back on it, the clothes and beauty supplies are all selected very consciously to fit a very specific minimalist, yet still youthful aesthetic that is both celebratory of and marks me settling into my new body and my new role as mom. I weigh less than I have most of my adult life, but certain parts sag that never did. I’m stronger, but older, and age and sleepless nights have taken their toll. So I choose only outfits that make me feel well-put together (and are breast-feeding friendly), with minimal time and effort. I invest in the health of my skin so I don’t have to do so much to make it presentable in public. It’s nice to feel like I’m taking care of myself.

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But that’s probably not even the heart of it either. Maybe what’s really going on is that I’m trying to exercise a bit of control, reclaim some part of myself, when all other parts of my life have been ceded to the raising of my son. It makes no sense to want new furniture when he (or the dog) will likely find some way to destroy it, and yet, I’m still driven to maintain the semblance of a nice home, no matter how much of that energy is a total waste.

Good idea, bad idea. Maybe it makes little sense, but it does feel nice to reinvent and reinvest in myself.

At any rate, it gives me something to do while we spend so much time at the mall (where there’s ice cream and A/C), because gawd, it’s HOT in Chiang Mai.

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Thing I Love About Cy Today: He loves to drink cold water from a real cup, and when he manages to get ahold of Dot’s rope (and isn’t trying to stick it in his mouth), he’ll try to throw it for her to chase, even though it’s way too big and unwieldy for him to lob it more than an inch or two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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