Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Our Christmas Stories.

I was looking forward to spending a whole week at home with Little Miss, enjoying my staycation and prepping for the festive season together. I planned to make cookies (check), shop for gifts (check), create holiday cards (check), listen to Christmas carols (check) and burn some festive candles (check) to get into the holiday spirit with her. Sounded so...1950s housewifeish. All I needed was an apron. Besides, wouldn't it be exciting for a one-year-old to experience the sight, sound, and taste of the holidays? I found out, not so much. This is the same kid who only sings Baa Baa while I complete the rest of the Black Sheep song, why did I think she’d chime in on "Jingle Bells" and partake in cookie-decorating merriment with me?

On Christmas morning, she did open her gifts with just enough fervor to make me think she enjoyed unwrapping them. Most of the time, that's all she cared to do before moving on to the next shiny object, not really affected by what lies beneath the pretty packaging. This is probably the only time that's ever going to happen because after this, she will not only anticipate what comes in the box, she will come to expect or, even worse, demand it. I know I paint the worst picture of my someday daughter, but I’m just trying to prepare myself for it.  I was no angel myself, and as we all know, payback’s a bitch. 

Unsurprisingly, the whole Santa thing was lost on Little Miss too. When we went looking for him and relieved to have found him at Navy Pier (he’s a busy guy after all), much to my chagrin, she refused to sit on his lap. But then it hit me: good for her! I’d rather her leery of strangers than flock to them willingly. Especially strangers whose most famous quote, ho ho ho, borders on harassment. Hiding presents until Christmas Eve night (“when Santa comes to town”) didn’t make a difference to her either. And Rudolph? Let’s not even go there. At this point, the reindeer is either a cat or a dog (“dah”) to her, thanks to her limited lexicon.

In the end, all the holiday prep that I was excited to get into just for her went by unnoticed. She was too busy exploring unlocked cabinets and the magical wonders of the universal remote. But I guess I expected that. Next year, though, the Santa myth will come alive in her imagination as we regurgitate age-old tales of this ruddy old fellow with a pristine white beard on a sleigh with jingling bells (which seems rather counter productive to his need for secrecy, if you ask me). Maybe we’ll even spice things up a little, just to give it new life. Maybe Santa is friends with Captain Jean-Luc Picard. How else can we explain that he can send presents to all the children in one night? Forget the treacherous chimneys, “beam me up, Scottie!” Maybe instead of elves, Santa has Ewoks help him in the toy factory – they seem a little better equipped for the Arctic chill with all that hair anyway. Oh, oh and Buffy (the Vampire Slayer, you lame-o) will accidentally get a Prime Rib for Christmas, instead of her usual request for a brand new “stake” (get it? get it?). By the time we’re done improvising, it’ll be a brand new myth. Perhaps even a better one.

Undoubtedly, she will also stumble upon the nativity scene someday, and when she asks about baby Jesus, her agnostic mama will make her ask her atheistic daddy. I have a feeling Xena, Wolverine and Frodo Baggins will all make an appearance in this one. 

Now that is going to be some story.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mommy Guilt.

I'm off all week for Christmas, and I was looking forward to spending some quality time with Little Miss at home but being the procrastinator that I am, I also had a bunch of Christmas shopping and general errands to get to this same week. I was ambitious enough to think that I could drag her along with me on my adventures except things quickly went south after I hatched my plans. Little Miss started with Pink Eye last Thursday and just when she got better, she came down with a cold and another tooth was erupting. Quite the jackpot of a weekend. She learned the word up to signal she'd like to be picked up, which is normally the cutest thing but when she's sick, she's extra needy (aren't we all?), and so she's been following me around the house, demanding "Uh!" "Uh!".

When the week was here for us to spend time together, all I wanted to do was find a hole in which to hibernate. Sans baby. And of course I felt guilty about that. Her daddy made me promise that I would take her to daycare on Monday just so I could have the time to run my errands without her and to take some time just for myself. What an alien concept. I had never done this before - left her at daycare when I wasn't working - and it was undoubtedly difficult for me. Like riding a bike for the first time. However, she was still that same needy kid this morning, and I really just wanted to enjoy her and our time together, and when her daddy came home, I wanted him to come home to a happy, unfrazzled me.  So I did it. With a heavy heart, I dropped her off at daycare, but I also managed to get everything done and even went home to take a shower before going back for Little Miss.

When I walked in the house without Little Miss, my cleaning lady, who was there all morning, was alarmed, "Where's baby?" When I told her I dropped her off at daycare, she nodded, feebly hiding her disapproval. I wanted to defend myself -- her dad made me! -- but really, why did I even need to bother? Don't judge me. Wait till I sic her on you as you're trying to get your shit done and she's following you around, demanding "Uh!" "Uh!" "Uh!". Of course, that thought of "unleashing my baby on someone" made me feel guilty too -- geez, I might as well be Catholic!

So here I am, freshly showered, with all my errands for the day accomplished. I smell good, the house is clean, and I am ready for Little Miss. She may still be a bear, and she may still want to attach herself to my hips, knees or whatever body parts she comes in contact with, but I will have all the time in the world for that and I wouldn't have it any other way. Sure, I failed at being super mom, so I feel a small pang of guilt but honestly, I'd rather be a little less superhero and a little more human just so Little Miss can see and savor the best of me.

I'm glad I did this. I realize now that not only did I save my own sanity with a few hours of me time, in the end, I also saved my family.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Joneses Schmoneses.

I say one…two… and Little Miss chimes in with “thayyyy” (her adorable way of saying three). Genius! This girl knows her numbers. Well, number. She started this a couple of months ago, and she has since steadily been adding to her repertoire with other cheek-pinching-bear-hugging-worthy “tricks”. At last count, she has topped the family dog with what she knows, although she’s still a little fuzzy on the roll over part.

And then I met someone who knows someone with a little girl who, at Little Miss’s age, could point to various flash cards when asked (Where’s a triangle? Where’s a circle? Where’s red? Where’s blue?). I also found out someone else's kid can make various animal noises (what sound does a cow make?), which puts me in a panic—Little Miss, we have work to do! So I get the flash cards out and start with triangle, circle and square. As I approach her with them, she takes them from me, one at a time, and proceeds to put them in her mouth like she would know the answers better if she tasted them first. Circle is sweet…triangle is tart. Got it. No, no, no, Little Miss, this isn’t mum-mum (our word for food; one I used when I was little). Who am I kidding? Everything’s edible to her. Some are just harder to chew than others, like the grocery cart. And obviously much, much more revolting too.

I give up at the sight of the mangled, soggy flash cards, disappointed I didn’t help her reach her Einstein potential sooner. So I resign myself on the couch in the living room and call to her to come to me from her play area. She walks over gingerly, each step a calculated move with her hands up in the air like an aerial acrobat. When she reaches me she demands, “Uh!” with an inflection that unmistakably means “Up!”, her arms outstretched and poised to be lifted, and so I do. She signs water with her hand, and I comply by offering her the sippy cup. After a few sips she makes an exaggerated, audible “ahhh”, grinning coyly at me because she knows it makes me laugh as she sounds like me after I down a huge glass of water. I ask, “do you want more?” and she shakes her head and uses her hands to sign “all done.” She then points to the door and says “dada”, probably missing her daddy who usually comes in through that door to throw her up in the air like a volleyball and make her giggle deliciously in the way only a one-year-old can.

It suddenly dawns on me, circle, square, oink and moo be damned. I can actually communicate with Little Miss! It was a challenge for the longest time, and I kick myself for not appreciating the fact that it’s no longer a constant struggle to decipher her tears. Hungry? Poopy? Gassy? Sleepy? Now she is better equipped to tell us just what she needs, which has curbed the frustrations for both parties quite a bit. Every day we make new discoveries together as we abandon the structured play so she could learn something for more mommy and baby laugh, cuddle and sing time where she still learns something.

So screw the Joneses and what their kids can do. My daughter knows telekinesis! No lie – all she has to do is look at me and smile, and I will move all the way across the room towards her to give her tiny frame a squeeze. And when I ask, “Kiss mama?” she responds enthusiastically with her mouth wide open, planting a big wet one on my lips and my heart melts instantly.

Who needs Einstein when I have my Little Miss?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cheese and peas.

This isn't my Little Miss. She may talk like her, walk like her and even giggle like her, but this is not her. I know that because she doesn’t eat like her.

The real Little Miss would eat and even enjoy the bananas, avocado, black beans and eggs we put in front of her at breakfast and not spit them out immediately after tasting them. For lunch, out of desperation, I decided to give her pizza. I mean, who doesn’t like pizza right? Apparently, this kid, whoever she is. Instead, she fed it to our very eager dog, aptly named Kirby (after the brand of vacuum cleaner, in case you're wondering).

Desperate act part two: I baked a butterscotch bundt cake and thought, surely she wouldn’t resist this. Wrong again. Now, that’s just crazy! No one in our house has ever resisted the power of the bundt cake. That just confirms my suspicion that she’s a fake. Also, for dinner, I figured I’d feed her butternut squash and ricotta ravioli – veggie, protein and carb in one – to trick a burgeoning, dare I say, picky eater. No dice. She was smarter than that; I was secretly proud but nonetheless exasperated. She finally settled on cubes of cheese and peas for dinner. Cheese and peas? Was it because they rhymed that she ate them together? Should I try potatoes and tomatoes next? Couscous and mousse? (Not my fault not many foods rhyme!)

I demand to know what happened to my daughter. Where’s the girl who ate everything those little carts brought at Dim Sum? And scarfed down Ethiopian food like she was from Ethiopia? Or slurped noodles so loudly that even the Chinese, who view that as a compliment to the cook, looked at her with pride? It didn’t help that my mom confirmed my worst fear. I was just like that at Little Miss’s age. Moi? The one who eats pretty much everything in sight? Who ate and loved raw oysters at age seven? Whose favorite taqueria food is the lengua (cow tongue) taco? Who enjoys pig brains and duck intestines? Head cheese? I could hardly believe it when my mom said she had to sit me down in front of cartoons and waited for me to laugh to shove food in my mouth, which I apparently chewed absentmindedly in awe of 2D animation.

Is this now our fate? Bugs Bunny and chapatti? I am so not prepared for this. She aced the mobility thing—rolling over to sitting up, to crawling, and now walking. These transitions made sense and helped prepare me for the next phase. But waking up one day and turning her nose up at all the foods she once loved is like learning numbers one day and mastering calculus the next! Only less admirable.

Lately, we’ve been playing the “where’s Little Miss” game where she’d gleefully point at herself in response but now…I’m not so sure I believe her. I have faith that my own little girl, the real Little Miss, will someday return to me. Until then, escargot will have to wait.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Gilmore Girls

Fridays are the new Mondays for me, when a new cycle of frenzy begins. Little Miss is only one but she already has quite a social calendar, especially on the weekends, where she has some kind of class (e.g. aqua babies, wiggle worms, etc.), playdates, and a trip to someplace My Guy and I normally wouldn’t go by ourselves, like the museum or a conservatory. We also try to meet up with other folks (with or without kids) for dinner or brunch just to prove to ourselves that our lives don’t only revolve around baby, which is rather futile (and ironic) as we have to do all of this around her sleep schedule (morning and afternoon naps and a 7pm-bedtime. Oy!). Perpetual clock-watching on weekends also means that when Mondays roll around, we are completely exhausted. One Monday is bad enough, but two??!

I’ve also been warned by seasoned parents that it doesn’t get better. With older children come even more classes (ballet, ukelele, cross-stitching, karate, how to win friends and influence people...), birthday parties, sports events, etc. I feel worn out just thinking about it. I have so much respect for people who have it together and while a few of us aspire to be a Martha Stewart of sorts, creating homemade candles and marshmallows—it’s not a delicacy; I meant it as two separate items, although to each his/her own—and hand-sewn Christmas ornaments with the kids, I also have to realize that I don’t think even Martha friggin look-at-how-perfect-my-easter-eggs-are Stewart, has the ideal mother-daughter relationship. But then again, who does? Oh wait – the Gilmore Girls!

While it was never my favorite TV program, I have to admit I enjoyed it. Centered around a mother and daughter and their witty repartees and clever banter fused with heartfelt, hallmark moments, I secretly harbor a desire for Little Miss to grow into a Rory Gilmore, a precocious little teen who reads Proust and eventually graduates from Yale and ends up with a rich man (the lattermost being optional, though it certainly doesn't hurt). But since I’m no Lorelai Gilmore myself—hip, cool, laidback, trusting mom and best friend to Rory—what are the chances that Little Miss and I will arrive at this relationship someday? Probably slim to none, but I suppose it's better that way as (Our last name that does not begin with G) Girls, without the alliterative effect, just doesn't have the same ring to it.

But as I recall, Rory was a cool kid despite the fact that Lorelai never schlepped her around in a minivan to countless after-school activities or even made dinner together, let alone candles. So perhaps even if Little Miss doesn’t have a full social calendar, or if we skip out on a trip to the organic farm to see how pigs are humanely raised, she may still grow into a poised, well-read and successful young lady, just like Rory. And maybe, just maybe, I can ease up on the weekends and not feel guilty about possibly ruining my daughter's future.

I’m so glad I’m grounded in reality.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Body Image

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me. 
      From Phenomenal Woman, by Maya Angelou.

When I first read this poem, I was in college, struggling with the "freshman 20", if you will. Except I was a junior and the poem didn't inspire me to lose weight. It made me quite content with who I was (you know, phenomenal woman and all) until I went home to Malaysia for the summer and all the Maya Angelou confidence got squashed by the first thing my family said when they saw me—"wow, you’ve put on weight!" Fairly straightforward. Fairly innocuous. But definitely depressing--especially when everyone I saw that summer greeted me with this cringe-worthy opener. Cruel world.

So, as most formulaic college-girl-meets-fat story goes, my trip back to the States marked the beginning of two dark and painful years brought on by my very unhealthy relationship with food and my body. Yes, how trite. The details would make a good Life Time Network movie so seeing as I detest that channel, I’m just going to skip that altogether and fast forward 12 years. (Holy shit! Have I really been out of college for that long?!)

When I learned of my pregnancy, it was a little difficult for me to accept that all the work I’ve put into maintaining my post-junior-20 days would be nullified by this growing being inside me. However, after seven hours of labor, a miracle happened (other than the obvious of course)—I no longer cared. I was in so much awe of what my body could do and I was so proud of it that the weight issues became completely inconsequential.

It was only after I was at peace with my own body that the baby weight came off easily and stayed off (at least while I’m nursing), and I’ve never felt so happy. I don’t count calories, and I never stop myself from eating what I want, although I always try to do so in moderation. I don’t stress about how many calories I’m burning and even though I think I should work out more than I have been, I don’t beat myself up over it. It’s pretty funny considering I work for a wellness company. I am constantly surrounded by marathoners and people who weigh themselves and eat salad daily, but even then I refuse to feel bad about myself – “What?! You eat chocolate cake???!” Yes, yes I do. And I love it. Especially with vanilla ice cream...and whipped cream.

However, the reality is, I’m quite certain nursing has helped me stave off the unwanted pounds (your body burns calories as it produces milk), which means Little Miss has inadvertently been whipping me to shape. Now that it’s time to wean her, I am dreading the déjà vu of my daily diatribe with my body, mostly centered on how it wants to do one thing (get fat and lazy) and I want it to do something else (be like Heidi Klum. OK, maybe more like Kate Winslet in Titanic. More attainable and less bulimia-inducing).

But something has changed in my life. Priorities have shifted. While I don’t intend to “let myself go” just because I had a baby, I also realize that the last five pounds that I’ve been eternally agonizing over is just not worth the stress. I can learn to live with it and appreciate it for what it is – fat stores that will keep me alive longer should the canned food run out in the bomb shelter. I’m just sayin’.

Besides, with Little Miss, I have to be cognizant of the influence I will have on her. The last thing I want to pass down to her is body image issues. She has to be confident that we can be women, phenomenally, without society’s unrealistic expectations of us. I hope to teach her that it’s not about how thin, but how strong we are. Well, unless she becomes a poster child for childhood obesity. I may then have to rethink my strategy.

And come up with another poem.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks.

A colleague of mine inspired me to list the things I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving. Apparently, ‘tis the season. So here goes.

I am thankful for My Guy, who is my rock and my fountain of youth, and for Little Miss, who makes me realize that happiness is about the little things, like having daddy make blueberry pancakes as mommy and baby cuddle in bed on a Sunday morning.

I am thankful for my mom who made all kinds of sacrifices so I can have a life she never had, and for My Guy’s family, who continually showers us with their kindness and generosity. 

I am thankful for my pets, even though sometimes they wake the baby by barking at the neighbor or chasing each other around the house, toppling water glasses.

I am thankful for my friends, a few of whom I've known for 27 years, several I've known only a few months. But all essential in their own way.

I am thankful I have a job, even if it isn’t my dream job—although I’m not sure if there is one out there that will pay me just to wine and dine, shop for shoes and blog. Oh, wait. I think I’ve just inadvertently confessed my Paris Hilton aspirations. (Dammit!)

I am thankful for the shortcut that takes me to Little Miss’ daycare in eight minutes instead of 12, so I can be with her for those precious extra four minutes every day.

I am thankful for the Dunkin Donuts that’s strategically located next to the train station, where I get my coffee so I’m at least half awake by the time I get to work after a night of baby duty.

I am thankful for Google and, which have this knack for predicting what I need before I even know I need it.

I am thankful for words that enrich and immortalize, that can at once capture time and set free our imaginations.

I am thankful for--no, indebted to-- these extraordinary women: Jane Austen, George Elliot, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Adrienne Rich, Ama Ata Aidoo and Jeannette Winterson, whose amazing works and inspiring life experiences compelled me to find and nurture the power of my own voice.

I am thankful for Joss Whedon’s short-lived TV series, Firefly, who had a hand in bringing My Guy and I together, which begot Little Miss, which begot this life I am truly grateful for, which begot this thanksgiving blog entry.

And last, but certainly not least, I am thankful to you, for taking the time to read this. Happy Thanksgiving.


Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.

Now women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.
      from THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD, by Zora Neale Hurston

Recently, when Little Miss was plagued by an ear infection, she had a high fever for days, and it reminded me of the time when I was down for the count, where my mom never left my side. Now, I may sound like I’m stereotyping but I know I’m not that far off the mark when I say that most Asian parents, at least ones from my mom’s generation, aren’t very big on PDA (no, not the mobile device, although they’re not into that either). Their idea of affection is to make sure we’re fed to the gills at every meal and to work 15-hour days just so they can afford us a life better than the one they had.

So imagine my surprise when my mom sat beside me in bed when I was eight or nine, suffering from a 104-degree fever, tenderly stroking and kissing my face, my hair, my arms, my hands, and singing me nursery rhymes she knew by heart from her schoolgirl days. Alas, the woman couldn’t carry a tune, but on that night, her voice flooded me with so much love that even in my feverish delirium, I didn’t want it to end. These moments of tenderness were so few and far between that an overt display of her affections for me that one time left an indelible mark on me that I would carry with me the rest of my life.

However, this is in stark contrast to the other not-so-warm-and-fuzzy memory of my mother, when I clearly recall a vision of her swiftly walking towards 10-year-old me when I was playing with my friends outside my school when I was supposed to be home, brandishing a rattan cane. Oh the horror! Nothing commands the obedience of a young child better than public humiliation, especially when it involves her friends. So when I saw my mom approaching me with the cane, I saw my 10 years flash before my eyes as well as the next 10 of my friends unmercifully taunting me, telling everyone about my day of shame. Now, before you go all DCFS on my mom, note that she is a product of a different time and culture, as am I, where corporal punishment was acceptable. While not my favorite memory, it was definitely one of the most memorable, for obvious reasons. Needless to say, I always got home from school on time after that.

Now that I’m at the wheels of the mamamobile, I realize that it is my turn to shape someone else’s memories.  As Little Miss’ blurry world comes into focus, and forms become words, and words into thoughts, it makes me wonder—how she will remember me? Perhaps the more important question, which will define my role in her life, is how do I want to be remembered?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Let Go.

So let go, jump in
oh well, whatcha waiting for
it's alright
'cause there's beauty in the breakdown;
so let go, just get in
oh, it's so amazing here
it's alright
'cause there's beauty in the breakdown.

                                   from Let Go by Frou Frou

When I was in my twenties (which wasn’t that long ago…really), procreating was not a priority. In fact, at one time, for three years to be exact, I was adamant against having kids. My stint as a restaurant manager pretty much took care of any ticking biological clocks where, day after day, I witnessed countless little monsters who paid no heed to the conviction-light, half-assed reprimands of their parents or nanny as they bobbed and weaved between busy servers carrying hot soup and stopped revolving doors on potential diners. For them, hilarity ensued; for me, it was a tiny slice of hell because, of course, should they slip and fall or be scalded by Tom Yum, it would be our fault.

When coughcough30cough came along, the baby alarm rang, and the turmoil began. I knew I wanted kids but at the same time, I was also confronted with all of the worst fears – I’d love this little being with my life but what if something happens to my baby? How will I, can I, go on? I’ll only want “what’s best for them” (gee, haven’t heard that before) but I have very set ideas on how to achieve that, including how they should behave, develop, etc. so of course there’s a big chance they will hate me—how do I wage a daily good vs evil battle and still nurture, teach, and raise them to become decent human beings?

Well, now that I have Little Miss, not only did it not answer my questions or quell my fears, it actually created a whole new brand of crazy for me. For example, just before our trip to Toronto (our first trip sans baby when she was six months old) I obsessed about what would happen to Little Miss should we board the one plane that took a nosedive into Lake Ontario from technical malfunction. Who would care for her? I couldn’t get on the plane until I had a living will created, as well as a “Dear Little Miss, if you’re reading this letter…” written. Dramatic. I know. I’m not usually easily given to hysterics but it helped me enjoy our weekend a little better, knowing there was a contingency plan for her. But how did I arrive here?

Oh right. I had a baby. But please, don’t think this is stereotypical of all moms. In my defense, it’s important to have a living will, but freaking out about it on the eve of my trip was not my best move. I continue to stress about the little things every day, naturally, but I realize now that it’s par for the course. While there’s no chance that my fears will dissipate, I’m just glad that they did not stop me from having her.

I have to remember that life is unpredictable and things will not always go my way, but it’s OK. Little Miss will fall, she will bleed, she will eat cat hair (and she has), and she will break my heart.

Sometimes, I just have to let go. It will be alright. Even amazing. ‘Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Memory Foam.

Little Miss has been CIO’d, and she is finally sleeping like the proverbial baby (unlike the real ones out there). She still cries herself to sleep but only for five minutes and then she’s out – not a peep for the next 12 hours. It’s a Praise-the-Lord miracle.

Now that we’ve more or less conquered sleep, we’re on to bigger, better things, like weaning. Yes, the fun never stops. Some moms are of the “she’ll self-wean when she’s ready” camp, and that’s great and all, but with the way Little Miss has been tugging at my shirt and reaching in for the goodies in public, it doesn’t look like she’ll move on anytime soon. Unless I plan to wear a turtleneck 24/7, this is not going to work, seeing as I only have four turtlenecks, and there are seven days in a week.

Besides, I miss my boobs. No, they haven’t left town, but for now, they serve a purely utilitarian function. I miss them as, you know…play things. Plus, I can’t wait to retire the nursing (read: cumbersome, unattractive, granny-panty-equivalent) bras and go back to the ones that got me Little Miss in the first place.

On the flip side, the pros are far outweighed by this one con: I will lose our special mom-and-baby bonding time. An act so powerful in its tenderness, I cherish the moments spent with her laying in my arms, her eyes half-dazed, her hands still, and she’s completely content as she suckles both for nourishment and for comfort. I use this time to touch her face, caress her hair, sing her the six lullabies I know before moving on to the late 80s soft pop music because, somehow, my brains have only managed to retain those. Hey, at least it’s not 70’s disco.

I have to admit, I’m selfishly stalling the weaning process because I don’t want to lose the high I get from her nestling up to me. It’s just so rare, so precious. Like the Hope diamond. Only better, since I bet the diamond doesn’t wear the intoxicating scent of Johnson and Johnson’s baby lotion.

I know it’s asking for the impossible, but I hope she will remember these moments. Maybe not the minutiae but that somewhere in the deep recesses of her mind, there’s an indelible imprint, not unlike that of a memory foam mattress, that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Even if she only feels the warmth that this memory conjures, it’s more than I could ask for.

As she turns one next week, I will prepare for her birthday party as well as for the last time I nurse her in the pale night light of her room. I will sing her the requisite six songs plus an 80s ballad, kiss her goodnight and bid this chapter of our lives farewell.

That night, I have a feeling, will be my turn to cry myself to sleep.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Three letters.

C.I.O. How do three seemingly innocuous letters generate so much contention and polarization? If you’re a parent with a child who has sleep issues, you’ve undoubtedly been introduced to the dreaded CIO (Cry It Out) method.

I have, back in my holier-than-thou, my-baby-sleeps-just-fine, blissful days, eschewed this idea and was rather vocal in my contempt for it. But now, I have to admit that I have succumbed to what I swore I’d never do as a parent—let my baby cry herself to sleep. That’s my confession number two of a guilty mom (see first post for number one).

Little Miss used to sleep like a champ (well, maybe a runner-up) but after a couple of teething episodes and a vacation that threw her routine out of whack, we’ve been going through a nightly performance of Cirque du Dormir (pardon my googled French, but you know what I mean) where she falls asleep while being nursed, then wakes up for no apparent reason an hour later and starts crying; we then go in to soothe her and she’ll fall back asleep but sometimes it takes 30 minutes and sometimes, two hours (!!) of this bedtime shuffle before she finally settles down the rest of the night.

It’s exhausting. And time-consuming. And frustrating. And tedious. And nerve-wracking. And hence the CIO.

When we started this, she threw a fit and screamed bloody murder for 1.5 hours. Oh. My. God. Not to mention Oh. My. Heart. I’m not sure who had it worse—Little Miss or me. But miraculously, I survived the first night (yes, yes, so did she, but let’s not lose focus here). And now, five days later, she’s down to 8.563 minutes of crying. Progress!

Meanwhile, my frayed nerves take comfort in chocolate (thank goodness for the Halloween haul - yes, we are eating Little Miss' candy but I don't feel that bad; she owes us this much). I also find solace in the fact that she may not remember this to complain to her someday therapist about me. By then, I’m pretty sure I would've provided plenty of other material she can work with.

(My dearest Little Miss, if you read this one day and your rock star therapist somehow manages to unearth your infant pangs and insecurities of being abandoned in your crib in the dark, please know this - it's your daddy's idea.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Origin story.

I came here from Malaysia in 1994 to pursue a college education, with the intention of going back eventually. 15 years later, I’m still here.

I have grappled with my decision to live here in the States for years. Fiercely proud of my nationality and my ethnicity, I felt like I knew who I was as I struggled to make my place in this world. But the more I tried to hold on to the last shreds of what set me apart from everyone else, the further removed I felt from the life I left behind. My own Malaysianness lost somewhere inside as I slowly assimilated to a culture I grew up to revere through rose-colored TV screens. Involved, understanding parents. Independent, fashionable women. Architectural Digest furniture. Expansive lawns. What’s not to love?

In the process of pursuing The American Dream, I’ve also inadvertently traded in my own family in Malaysia. So now, not only do I have to deal with my own (now fading) homesickness, I have to live with the fact that my own daughter will never be able to identify with many of the things that shaped who I am today. My Little Miss will not know what it’s like to have a loud, raucous Deepavali or Chinese New Year celebration, playing Black Jack with cousins and uncles into the wee hours of the night, eating delicious meals prepared by women of various generations who woke up before the crack of dawn to toil over a hot stove, but laughing and chatting at the same time.

She will never know what it feels like to get together with a family so huge that when everyone stayed over at the grandparents’, they slept on straw mats anywhere there’s space on the concrete floor, but completely contented and exhausted from the day’s play. She will never know what it’s like to speak four languages by the time she’s five just so she can converse fluently with her parents, her dad’s family, her mom’s family, the fish guy at the market and the neighbors across the street. She will never know what it means to eagerly anticipate the arrival of the “roti man” to peddle bread to her family as well as 50-cent treats, such as stale coconut buns and spicy, licorice-flavored hard candy called Hacks, to salivating kids.

I ache for my daughter and all that she will never know from my past. And for her, I yearn for a childhood that isn’t rife with materialism and competition, but in a Hannah-Montana-American-Girl-Doll world, I doubt that’s even possible.

Immigration stories usually involve people escaping persecution, poverty, or intolerance to start afresh. So I ask myself, why am I here? What was I running from? I had a great life back home, where overeating scrumptious meals at hawker stalls was my biggest vice. But perhaps I’m asking the wrong question. Perhaps it would make better sense to ask, what was I running to?

As I look at my daughter, and also the life I’ve built with my partner, the answer is akin to Whitman’s “barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world”. I am here because this is where I belong.

Sure, Little Miss may not have her extended family with her, and I probably robbed her of a life rich with cultural heritage. But she’ll at least have me. I know it won't always be enough. However, as she reaches for me, longing for the familiarity of my voice, my skin, my scent, it will do for now.


For someone who loves writing, it sure took me a long time to decide to do this. I wish I could say an epiphany finally led me here, but sadly, it's just sheer boredom. Daunted by my lack of direction in life, I figured I wouldn't know what to write about, and I still don't. But now I'm just tired of waiting "for the right moment". Little Miss, my almost one-year-old daughter, was not a right-moment baby, but now I cannot, will not, imagine my life without her.

Surely I could blog about the trials and tribulations of bringing up baby, and maybe I will, but it's bad enough that my life has lately been relegated to the daily stress of my child’s sleeping, pooping, eating, and playing habits (in that order), I don’t think I’d want that encroaching into what could possibly be my only creative outlet. But then again, who am I kidding? She is not just a part of my routine; she is my life now. The occasional awestruck first-time-parenting moment will undoubtedly and inevitably make its appearance here, and perhaps this could double as a record-keeper as I’ve been surprisingly unsentimental about the whole thing.

Confession number one of a guilty mom: No, I didn’t mark the baby calendar to acknowledge her first real food (pureed green beans), first mangled word (cat, pronounced “tat”), her first attempt at crawling (some time in her 7th month), etc. In fact, I stopped at “first laugh” and that was about six weeks into it, and the calendar now sits under an assortment of baby record-keeping paraphernalia – memory box, treasure box, and scrapbook. All gifts. All untouched. Her milestones were text book. She was thriving, she seemed happy and that was all I cared about. Would she be mad at 16 when she realizes she does not know the precise date of her first steps? I suppose I could take comfort in the fact that at 16, she’ll be mad about everything anyway, so what’s one more?

I can’t believe I’m already ruminating about her teenage years. But what parent doesn’t, although our thoughts about our someday teenager are usually accompanied by feelings of abject terror. However, I’d like to look past the rebellion and the talking back and the sneaking around for now (if you’re not Jesus Christ, surely you can relate?) and just relish this Little Girl Who Could in front of me. If she continues on her current path, I know she will also be independent, intelligent, witty, goofy, and headstrong. She will embrace life. She will dance her heart out. She will throw her head back and laugh with her belly and her eyes. And she will love passionately and unequivocally. And (god forbid) she will even be a Trekkie. (Stupid daddy genes!). But 16 can wait.

Now, at 11 months and 17 days, she is on the cusp of her first step…perhaps after that, she will venture into the unknown, as I watch in awe, not knowing, but knowing at the same time: The world is her oyster.

I just hope she eats it raw. Like her mom.


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