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!

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.

 

A Trip to the Aquarium, Siam Ocean World

In Siam Paragon, Bangkok

Part of our trip to Bangkok was all about doing fun kid stuff with Cy, getting out of routine and around to see some new things. I had known there was an aquarium in Siam Paragon, but I hadn’t expected much because…well, hello, it’s the basement of a mall. But it was such a great surprise to see how well done the aquarium was!

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Cy was absolutely riveted by the very first little tank. We kept telling him there was a whole slew of other fish tanks to look at, but he was captivated by the one just inside the door. He stood there for at least 15-20 minutes staring at those fish.

Then when we went through the rest of the tanks, he was like, “Yeah, I’ve seen fish.”
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There were cool tunnels to walk under the fish – and even a glass bottom floor on top of a shark tank. Cy walked out on top of the glass and saw one shark swimming underneath him and decided he did not belong on top of a glass tank full of sharks._1070724

So many fun and funny creatures!_1070726 _1070727

The exhibit is really well curated.

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If you ever get a chance, it’s worth a visit.

Little by Little



An Escape to Bangkok

Sometimes you just need to run away for a little while. Deal with a different milieu so that, even if it takes up all kinds of energy, it’s a different kind of energy than your every day, so you have renewed energy to deal with what’s in front of you.

That’s what we did. We desperately needed a reprieve from our every day here in northern Thailand. What is usually an escape destination to legions of travelers had become oppressive to us. So we escaped to Bangkok instead.

A city that can be intense and overwhelming to the uninitiated has become a haven for us. (Mainly because of the food. Oh, the food!)

But there’s a lot of beauty in Bangkok too, if you can look past the traffic and the power lines, see past the grit and find the orchids.

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Spirit house

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Street food vendor

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We had a trip to the aquarium…I could dedicate a whole post to that. I probably will…

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Ice cream tuk tuk! Best idea ever.

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 08.27.14

_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



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