Friday, October 29, 2010

Wow! Has it really been a year?

2311733808_3b6f395f31

I blinked and here I am. A year later…

October 30 marks the first anniversary of this blog. It almost escaped me, as I scramble around trying to prepare for a small road trip for the Halloween weekend, my daughter’s birthday and her new school. We’re also giving her bedroom a minor update (as in dumping all the toys around the house back into her room). With all that’s on my plate, I’ve not had the time to think about this post, but I know there are some things that I have to say, so here goes.

When I first started writing, it was around the time that Little Miss was finally sleeping well. My evenings became mine again, and with all that free time and the lack of ambition to scrapbook, I decided to chronicle her growth here in this space. But little did I know, I was also capturing my own growth here, as a mother, a woman and a person.

Secretly (and now not so secretly) I had this irrational fear that I may not be around for her someday, and I was worried that she wouldn’t know me. For some reason, I desperately wanted her to, beyond the superficialities of skin color and hobbies. This was also the space for me to capture stories about her so that she will always have them. Each remembered with clarity, not in a haze thirty years down the road with an exaggeration here, an untruth there. Every honest word, every crystal clear memory is my gift to her.

But what I also didn’t realize was what a gift this space has been to me. Writing is my creative outlet, but it’s also therapeutic. The power of the truth, when uttered, can rock your core. And it did mine as I found myself uncovering emotions that were once internalized. The more open and honest I became with myself, the more I realized I wasn’t alone. And it’s a wonderful feeling, not just from the shared experience but the camaraderie – my favorite gift of all.

The friendships I’ve made and the ones I’ve rekindled this past year through this blog have made this experience more incredible than I could ever have imagined. I am both humbled and inspired by the myriad authentic voices that are out there, and I’m often reminded of just how vast and, at once, small this world is. As well as fascinating. And painful. And joyous. And sometimes, just breathtaking. Thank you for opening your world to me, so that I can truly see our world.

And most of all, thank you for your support in my journey, whether you’ve been with me this year, this month or this day - I will always be grateful and honored that you are with me here, where I have landed.

 

p.s. Happy Halloween my friends!

 

Birthday Cake image by Theresa Thompson.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Be careful what you wish for…

I get Little Miss from her daycare every day and in the ten minutes we’re in the car during our journey home, this is usually what takes place:
CarChatter
Bye yia-yia. (Everyone’s already out of sight)

Bye yia-yia’s house.

Bye papou.

Bye Amaya.

Bye Yuyia (Julia).

Bye Ben.

We’re going home!

Mommy wat dat? (what’s that)

Man on a bike!

Man on a bike with helmet.

Man on a bike with yewwow helmet.

Geen light.

Weeeeee!!!! (when the car accelerates).

Mommy wat dat up there?

Mommy! Airpane in the sky!

Schoo-bus!

We’re going under the choo-choo train

Mommy, new carf? (scarf, which she puts around her head – see picture)

Tow truck! Car with owie. They fix the car.

Wat dat sound?

Mommy, Lady Gaga? (I mumble that it’s at home)

Mommy, Hot Chip? (I’m delighted; I love that band, BUT it’s not in the car. Dammit!)

Mommy, White Stipes? (Can you tell by now there’s no “kids’ music” in the car? But I’m not in
the mood for White Stripes)

Turn on the music? (I resort to the radio, which I dislike, and settle on some overplayed tune)

Change the music? (Aaargh!!!)

Yewwow light.

Wed light!

Mommy, man is wunning (running)

Man with black pants!

Mommy wat dat?

(She makes a weird repetitive guttural noise in her throat and I ask her what that is)

Like a the Wookie  (Oh, are you Chewbacca? – as in Star Wars)

Yes! (more Chewbacca noises)

Oh, Mommy! Moon! (It’s broad daylight so I ask where)

There! (she points at the faint, distant moon – she’s right of course. Eyes of a hawk)

It’s nighttime! (No, the sun is still up, it’s still bright. It’s not night time yet)

Moon mommy. Night time! (Errr…ok. She wins)

(We near our neighborhood)

Mommy we’re home! (THANK GOD!)

As some of you may know, I’ve been yearning for my daughter to start talking – I’ve always thought that it would be my favorite milestone. Now that she has, she hasn’t stopped. Not once. Perhaps in her sleep, but that’s it. We get pelted by her incessant questions, comments and observations every minute. Her 23-month-old curiosity is boundless. If this is what I have to deal with in the ten-minute car ride home, I can only imagine what’s going to happen this weekend, when we’re driving 2.5 hours to celebrate Halloween with a friend and her kids. And then (gasp!) an eight-hour trip to see my best friend over Thanksgiving.

Can we say horse tranquilizer*? Please?

* For me that is.

* * *

What’s your favorite milestone (not your own, but your baby’s)? How do you survive a road trip with your kid(s)? Any tips? Please? Will this neverending chatter ever stop?

Monday, October 25, 2010

The American Dream

We’ve made plans for our future as a family, and recent events have brought us to a realization that our plans will have to change. Not drastically. Just delayed. But it left a little fissure in my heart, wondering when will things just fall into place magically for us.

You see, we are not yet living the American Dream. This house we live in isn’t ours. We’re still trying to save up for the life we want. We are not married, but we live together with our daughter, who’s of course the love and light of our lives. But sometimes even her illumination does not reach these dark, hidden crevices of my mind.

When I see those who seem to have it all - the perfect house, the perfect car, the perfect marriage, the perfect kid and the perfect career - I am just baffled at how easily things seem to come together for others. But not us. Not me. And it leaves me feeling insecure. Where did I go wrong?

I look back and here’s what I see: a move across the world, a life riddled with homesickness, a change in career paths, a marriage (where we bought a home) and ultimately a divorce (where we sold the house), a new relationship with someone who on paper seems so wrong for me but in life seems so right, and finally a baby. My journey here took many turns, sometimes uphill, sometimes inadvertently into dead ends that meant starting over. And most didn’t happen by accident – I had a hand in the detours. 

So here I am, still chasing the elusive American Dream. It was once almost within my grasp. The house. The car. The marriage. The 2.5 kids. The dog. But it would have been with the wrong person. It would have been the wrong life.

Now, the Dream continues to hover on the horizon, mocking me with its manicured lawn and three-car garage. Again it seems beyond my reach.

But still I smile.

I may not live the American Dream - at least not yet - but I have the man of my dreams and together we have an amazing little girl. Really, I have the family of my dreams.

Sometimes in myopic moments, I lose sight of perspective. But today, the clouds have parted and I know with unequivocal certainty that the foundation of the Dream isn’t the house, the car, the career. It’s the family. In that respect, I think I have a pretty good start. My foundation is strong.

As for the rest, it’s only a matter of time.    

Dad&Baby_Skyline

* * *

Are you living your dream? If so, what’s your secret? And if not, does it matter if you do? Are you happy exactly where you are or are you striving for more? What is your idea of the American Dream anyway?

Friday, October 22, 2010

My words in pink


As many of you may know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the founders of Bigger Picture Blogs have embarked on a worthy cause in raising awareness through their Write Pink project. Today, you will find my contribution on Melissa’s blog, who hosts the topic, support.

I urge you to click on over, and come support us today.

Thank you, and have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lovely Gratitude


Big Little Wolf has kindly bestowed me with this award, and I can’t tell you how honored and happy I am. She’s one of the bloggers that really make you think, and when I discovered her blog earlier in the year, I thought to myself, Man, I hope I can write like her someday! She is an inspiration. Truly. Thank you, BLW!

I’m supposed to choose 15 other bloggers to whom I can pass this gift, but alas, I think I’ve exhausted many of my favorite bloggers through various memes, so I will stick to the number 6, because I’m weird like that. And here they are – all fabulous, all must-reads:

  1. 6512 and Growing
  2. Drama for Mama
  3. Fluffy Bunnies
  4. Go Pop Go!
  5. Trains, Tutus & Tea Time
  6. The Yellow Door Paperie

Speaking of The Yellow Door Paperie, I was invited to share my thoughts on gratitude on Mary’s space, and I’m honored and delighted to be featured. If you are so inclined, please click on over to read my interview for her Gratitude series and while you’re there, be sure to check out her lovely blog.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Things that make you go hmm…

Carousel

I had the kind of weekend that made me wish I had another day just to recover from the whirlwind that took my breath away. We did so much. Perhaps too much. But it’s the kind of much that reminded me of just how full our life is. It’s a good thing. A wonderful thing.

We babysat twice for friends, both with a daughter who’s the same age as ours. While the first occurred while Little Miss was asleep so she didn’t even know her little friend was there (shhhh…don’t tell her; she’d be disappointed), the other involved an action-packed day that involved the zoo, playtime (and nap) at our house and then an ice cream jaunt. Running around after two kids this weekend left me a little battered tonight. As much fun as we had, it made me wonder... just how do people with two, three, four kids do it?

But it also made me wonder, how would we do it if our family of three became a family of four? Now that’s certainly something to think about isn’t it?

Hmm…

IceCream

* * *

How did you decide to “add on” to the family? Did you go with the flow or have you always known the number of kids you want in your life? How do you know when what you have is enough?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Shhhh…just between you and me…

Somebody woke up with a pounding headache and skipped work. And somebody decided to have a headache too. Together with another little miss somebody, they rested in the morning, felt better and did what most people in Chicago do on a weekday afternoon.

They went to Hot Doug’s after prime lunch hour.

With a line of people that goes around the block on weekends, this was the best time for these somebodies to go because having a toddler in their midst means they could no longer afford the long wait for food. But today, the line hadn’t reached out the door – no way! -  and they enjoyed their shortest queue ever. Just enough time to decide from a wall of choices.

HotDougsMenu

And if you’re wondering, little miss somebody had the mini bagel dogs and tater tots, somebody had the Spicy Skyline Dog: Jalapeno and Cheddar Hot Dog with Yellow Mustard, Cincinnati Skyline Chili and Cheddar-Jack Cheese, and somebody had the Tequila, Black Bean and Lime Chicken Sausage with Tomatillo Mole and Habanero-Jack Cheese. Mmm…

 

Chowtime


Hot Doug’s is an institution around these parts, and one of the reasons I'm glad I live in Chicago. Or as my daughter would say Hee-Kah-Go.

You know what they say – a family that plays hooky together…eats gourmet sausages together.

 

 ReadingMenu
already wondering what to get next time

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Have you ever played hooky? Do you have a must-do activity reserved for those days? What?! You’ve never done it? Come on! I won’t tell…if you won’t.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Goodness! Is this what I sound like?

Mickey

Little Miss, who’s turning two in exactly a month, wakes up from her nap, and hearing her sing-songy voice, I walk into her room just in time to witness the following scene:

“Oh! Mickey diaper wet. Change Mickey’s diaper!”

Mickey Mouse is one of her many bedfellows - I can see how she thinks his red breeches are diapers. She begins to “change” him, either oblivious to my presence or simply ignoring me.

“Goodness! Lotta peepee in the diaper!”

I don’t know where she gets that from, really (*whistling innocently*). She lifts Mickey’s legs and exposes his behind.

“Put the medicine cream…”

And she applies the “affected area” with “diaper rash cream” before announcing:

“All done!”

I am highly amused – she just reenacted a scene she remembers well, except with the roles reversed, where she’s playing mommy.

Isn’t it funny how you see yourself in your kids’ pretend play? When they’re at the prime age to parrot the adults, do you often wonder to yourself, do I really do that?

I know, this is only the beginning, and it’s only going to get more embarrassing interesting in the future. For now at least, watching her role play is my new favorite thing. Until she begins to unearth my bad habits that is. Then perhaps I’ll steer her towards Legos.

 

* * *

What is your favorite memory of a parroting or role-playing child? Least favorite? What’s the next stage should I be looking forward to? Or afraid of?

 

Monday, October 11, 2010

How could I forget parenting lesson number 1? Expect the unexpected

We experienced an Indian summer this weekend, with Fall temperatures that reached the mid eighties. There aren’t that many days like this left in the year, and we wanted to make the most of it. We walked around our neighborhood in search of a restaurant with outdoor seating for dinner. We walked by the new restaurant that we’ve been eager to try and hesitated. It wasn’t exactly a family restaurant. It’s the type of place that had one token high chair and booster seat, just in case, not because they really wanted your kids there. We figured it was not even six o’clock and the tables outside were still empty - we could probably manage a quick and painless dinner.

Oh, how wrong we were.

Well, at least in the beginning, it was apparent that Little Miss was not going to be that exemplary quiet kid in the corner. This place, not surprisingly, didn’t have a children’s menu, but it didn’t faze us as she often shared our plate with us. When the bread arrived, she wanted none of it. Gnawing on ice from her water glass was the only thing that amused her. When the soup, a Dutch version of split pea, arrived, I spotted the carrots and enticed her with a biteful of split pea and carrot. No dice. That came out as soon as it went into her mouth. We also had a chicken liver mousse appetizer, which she ate off a piece of bread like ice cream but after the third or fourth bite, she was done.

Not only would she not eat, she decided she wanted out of her high chair and became a little belligerent, much to our chagrin (and embarrassment). While this wasn’t normal behavior, it was also not the first. With her, or perhaps any toddler, there is no predicting how she’d behave that day. Despite a two-hour nap and a jaunt to the park to expend her energy, she was still a little restless. We had two more courses ahead of us, and I hated the thought of having to leave in the midst of of it.

When I glanced at the table next to us with their quiet kid enjoying the bits of food placed before him and I looked over at mine, I cringed a little. Who was this kid sitting at our table? Surely she can’t be my baby?

However, a small miracle happened. Our entrees arrived, and when she saw my bowl of mussels, she dove in. I showed her how I ate mine and she mimicked me, pulling the shell apart and digging the flesh out with relative ease. When it went into her mouth, I was poised and ready with a napkin, so sure she’d spit it out. But she never did, much to our utter amazement. 

In fact, she asked for another. And then another. And another. My almost-two-year-old probably ate half my bowl of mussels! They came with pomme frites (the skinnier version of fries accompanied by aoili rather than ketchup) and she of course dug into that too. The absence of ketchup didn’t bother her; the garlic mayonnaise worked just as well. My Guy and I couldn’t believe how quickly our evening turned around for us. The mussels and fries kept her busy, and we continued our meal in peace. Who woulda thunk? An evening saved by mussels?

Many parents make announcements or a note in the baby book when their kids learn their numbers, colors and alphabets, but those have gone with little fanfare in our house. Don’t get me wrong - we’re definitely proud, but for someone as passionate about food as I am, I’ve never been prouder than the moment I saw my little girl tear into her mussels with such fervor, like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

Well, I suppose it is natural; she is my baby after all.


MusselMania



* * *

What have you been most surprised by with your child(ren)? What are the other parenting lessons of which your kids constantly remind you? Do your kids eat mussels too?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Apples apples everywhere

Couple of weekends ago, right after the Autumnal Equinox, we went apple picking to herald the arrival of Fall. We drove an hour outside the city and found ourselves in an apple orchard that had everything we were looking for – a large orchard with a variety of apples, tractor rides, corn mazes, a petting zoo replete with fuzzy, furry, feathery farm animals, fresh made cinnamon and pumpkin donuts (those were my favorite part of the day, in case you were wondering) and a colossal barn filled with homemade goodness from the country.

I was excited for Little Miss; it was her first apple-picking experience. We met another couple and their daughter there and the girls roamed free and ran wild for the most part, getting lost in mazes and eating apples as they picked them at the orchard. As this was a first for our daughter, we took a gazillion pictures of course (I spared you by selecting just a choice few – you’re welcome).

 

Apple1Her first.

 

Apple2She didn’t waste any time. Finders eaters!

 

Cornmaze Little people in a gigantic (seven acres!) corn maze.

 

MiniMaze 
That’s more like it. My kid’s in there somewhere. Really.

 

tractor Yeah baby. Come check out my ride.


 
Bunny Little Miss loves bunnies. But her little friend REALLY loves bunnies.

 

Apple3 The moo-choo train (you’ll see why it’s so named below).

 

Apple4See? And here’s our Little Miss Independent.

 

I was so busy capturing Little Miss and her firsts that it almost escaped me that I’ve never been to an apple orchard myself, and obviously, I’ve never picked an apple in my life. So really, this was my first too! 16 years in the Midwest, and it took having a baby to finally get me out here. Of course there’s no picture of my momentous occasion, but that’s fine; everyone had a blast and that’s what counts.

I never had these activities with my own parents when I was growing up. Granted there weren’t any apple orchards in tropical Malaysia, but I really meant immersing ourselves in weekend activities and out-of-town jaunts for a day’s fun. We had occasional vacations but with two busy parents who worked six days a week, they took Sunday as the day of rest very seriously. And who can blame them really?

While I understand my parents’ situation, I still hope for it to be different for my little girl. I don’t want her to have to strain to remember fun memories of us as a family. I want them to be as abundant as the apples we saw that day, tumbling into her head, full of juicy sweetness. It’s too late for me to change my past, but through Little Miss, I just realized that not only do I get to help shape her childhood, I get a second chance at mine.

 

* * *

What is your favorite Fall activity? Do you find yourself trying to recreate your childhood for your little one(s)? Or do you find yourself scaling new heights with them? What do you do with all these apples???!!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Abby’s school

Preschool1

That’s my Little Miss, looking into the preschool play lot every day after I pick her up from daycare. Three of the kids there, all older, used to be at her daycare, and she is fascinated by their new school. Ever since she realized over the summer that this was where they went, across the street from her daycare, she has asked me everyday, “walk to Abby’s ‘cool?” Abby is the four-year-old alum who is akin to the senior in high school with whom my freshman daughter is enamored. So tall, capable and allowed to watch TV - what two-year-old wouldn’t look up to that?

Preschool3  The famous Abby, on the left, with Keera, another alum, saying hi to Little Miss


Over the past few months, I’ve seen my daughter’s playmates leave and I’ve noticed that Little Miss has fewer friends her age with whom she can interact and play. Those who’re still there are either younger or aren’t as challenging, so she’s left with very little stimulation, other than that which comes from yiayia, the Greek lady who runs the place. She’s a grandmotherly type who showers the kids with plenty of affection. There are kisses and hugs in abundance, just like grandmas do, and she also scolds them the way grandmas do. I often feel that my daughter is part of an extended family when she’s there, rather than in the home of a stranger, and that’s comforting to a mom like me who works all day.

Yiayia and her husband, papou, (grandma and grandpa in Greek) have been taking care of my little girl since she was nine months old and while I think they were wonderful with her as an infant, lately it’s been nagging at me that she needs more. From the way she longingly looks at the preschool and how little actual interaction there is between Little Miss and her current playmates, she may be ready for something above and beyond what this little home daycare is able to provide her.

One day I decided to take her to the preschool orientation across the street, where she ran over in the school hall to see her old friend, a boy just a little older than her, and they played and laughed like it’s been forever even though it’s only been a couple of weeks since they last saw one another. Well, in toddler years, I suppose it could feel like years. And there she met several other kids in her age group; she even started having “conversations” with them, although I don’t think anyone, including myself, knew what she was saying. Or maybe the kids did, who knows?

When I saw her there, I really could see her there. Her dad and I watched her gleefully explore the place and realized that she was really into the older kids, and it’s nice for her to have a few people to look up to, rather than being “lonely at the top” like she is in her current situation. So we bit the bullet and registered her for the two-year-old early childhood education program.

The fees are paid. The paperwork signed. There is already a locker with her name on it. The only thing we’re waiting for is for her to turn two in November. While it’s a done deal, I still wonder if we did the right thing. I weigh the pros and cons of each place almost every day and constantly second guess our decision.

She has blossomed beautifully in yiayia’s care, why are we ruining a good thing?

But she has no one there to challenge her, and she so clearly needs that now.  Yiayia and papou are not the educating type and while play is important, she also loves exploring and learning new things.

But she does learn through play. She knows her numbers. Her colors. Even her alphabets (at least several anyway).  She’s not missing out just because she isn’t in preschool.

But we taught her those! In the two hours per day we have with her and on weekends, we try to cram everything we can - play/learn/explore. It’s exhausting.

She is a talking, walking sponge and she loves it. Wouldn’t it be a disservice to her to not harness that energy and enthusiasm to learn? What if she’s ready for more and we’re the ones hindering her?

I vacillate, I contemplate, I wonder, I doubt and doubt and doubt. When I see the hugging and kissing that happens before we leave yiayia’s every day, my heart hurts. Little Miss will be deprived of this kind of affection from her teacher at the new school. It’s just not that kind of place. Will that hurt her? What if she is as capable as she is now because of the nurturing, affectionate environment that she has both at home and at daycare? If we take away that last part of the equation, what will happen to her?

Are we doing the right thing?

But that’s just it, isn’t it? As parents, we will never be 100% certain of the future that we’re providing our children. The answer isn’t in the stars or the psych books or research. Every child is different - what works well for some may not for others. We can’t just go by others’ experience and advice; sometimes, we just have to go with our instincts. And what we know of our little girl.

We know she’s eager to learn. She’s smart. She’s capable. She’s also resilient. No matter where she is, she will thrive. But we also know she desperately longs to be in “Abby’s school”. So I guess we have our answer. At least for now.

Some time mid-November, Abby’s school will be known as Little Miss’ school in our house. And we’ll get to find out if this decision was the right one for her. In the meantime, we have to break the news to yiayia, but we just don’t know how. One is hoping that the other would. I think we’ve finally agreed to do it together tomorrow. (Wish us luck?) 

Once that’s done, perhaps the doubts will end as we begin to settle into our decision. Although somehow, I doubt they will.


Preschool2

 

What kind of a decision-maker are you? Do you find yourself waffling more or less when it comes to decisions for your children, or for anyone other than yourself? Have you ever been absolutely certain about your decisions? What’s your secret?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Real

You know how there are some days where you just don’t feel like doing anything? You are either bone tired from work or you’ve just been breathless from a busy social calendar or sometimes both, and you have drained the very last drop of your energy and motivation. Well, I had a week like that.

Today, I had the morning and afternoon to myself and I thought, great! time to recharge. It started off productive enough with a trip to a yoga class. However, when I came home, I decided to turn on the TV because it’s usually a luxury I couldn’t afford with the toddler around. Unfortunately, I was sucked into a Buffy the Vampire Slayer rerun marathon black hole while I did loads and loads of laundry. Yes, I squandered all of my precious me time on reruns and folding socks and underwear.

But you know what? I needed it. Hours of a mindless chore and a Buffy fix were apparently just what I needed. I don’t feel refreshed or energized now, or even remotely inspired (hence this fluffy, pointless post) but I’m feeling pretty mellow despite the fact that I don’t have a substantive post prepared and I still have a toddler to pick up after around the house.

Normally, I wouldn’t be this laidback. I would stress about the mess and the unwritten post, and worry about what you (my dear reader) would think of me. But tonight I’m not that girl. I am in rare form, just going with the flow. Rarest form, in fact. It’s good to just let go – something I find extremely difficult to do.

Some days, I just don’t have it in me, and I need to tell myself that it’s OK.  I don’t always have to be on. Put together. Aligned with the universe. This me is still me. Perfectly imperfect. Tired. Unmotivated. Real.

For once, I think I’m OK with it.

 

SelfCamera

 

Have you ever had days like that? What is your biggest time suck when you’re unproductive? Have you ever accidentally slipped into a rerun marathon? If so, which show is usually the culprit?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Veghead

We are okra fans in our house. It’s actually one of my favorite veggies. Between My Guy and I, we can polish off an entire pound in one sitting. No lie. Little Miss was introduced to it for the first time last week. And here’s her reaction, in 2D:

(The following is the conversation we would have had if she could actually, you know, converse. At least I’m pretty sure of it anyway. Although at the rate she’s going, she probably will by next week).

Okra1What’s this funny looking thing?


Okra2 LM: Do I use this to clean my ears? 
Me: No, sweetie, it’s a veggie. Fuzzy on the outside and slightly slimy on the inside. Would you like to try it?

Okra3 Eeeeeeeeew. No thanks.

An okra fan she is not, which is only slightly disappointing because when I really think about it, even though we don’t share a favorite, she does love zucchini, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, carrots, avocado and peas, in addition to her penchant for fruits and beans of ALL kinds. For a girl who’s not even two, I probably shouldn’t be complaining, especially since she has a more adventurous palate than some of the adults I know. In fact, I should be celebrating.

At least while the going is good. Because, as we all know, the volatile nature of toddlers means it could all change very quickly, and it’s back to just cheese and peas by tomorrow.

 

Okra4

 

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