This is the second year in a row that it's been frustrating and website error-laden to pay my Typepad invoice, so this will work better for any future need that I have to rant or blather on: Ten Minutes to Myself on Wordpress!
This is the second year in a row that it's been frustrating and website error-laden to pay my Typepad invoice, so this will work better for any future need that I have to rant or blather on: Ten Minutes to Myself on Wordpress!
I've come down with a case of list-itis again, undoubtedly brought on by having our passports out for visa approval. It's the final contingency to clear before our one-way flights are booked and our pack-out is scheduled. We won't get much warning; maybe six weeks after our visas are granted if we're lucky, though I feel like we need to prepare for only three or four.
Hence, the to-do list (in progress):
The to-buy list:
The packing lists (details to follow)
There's a lot of stuff that we won't know for sure until we're in the company housing. Our new home may be wired for 110V electricity but it might be 220V. We'll take our 110V stuff and our heavy transformers, and I won't dwell on the fact that I gave away an awesome 220V food processor/blender only eighteen short months ago. We might be in a place with temporary furniture, or we may have permanent stuff and then most of our shipment will go into storage until we are able to move into different company housing.
I'm supporting this overseas move because the big picture is that we'll have a better quality of life than we do here in Calgary, but the short term is looking pretty crazy.
One of the new nightly traditions around here for my six year-old is the "let me tell you what I did at kindergarten today". Sadie snuggles down into her bed with a stuffed animal (usually a bunny, more recently a pony) and Boo, and usually leads off with, "You know what we do all the time so I don't need to tell you!" to cover the part of her morning that includes hanging up her coat and backpack, changing into her inside sneakers, and finding a spot on the rug in her classroom. And then I hear about what her class might have played in the gym, what letter of the alphabet they're working on, who logged some minutes in the "time-out chair" and whether or not it was a day that they met with the fabulous music teacher.
And sometimes Sadie asks me what I did when I was in kindergarten.
I think that my kindergarten teacher was pretty fresh out of university, and that sometimes her boyfriend would join our class to play guitar while we sang.
I don't remember much about what I learned about numeracy in kindergarten, but I do recall going through worksheets to practice uppercase and lowercase letters. Neat penmanship earned a sticker, and one of my goals was to end the year with more of these stickers than my friend Eric (I don't think that I did).
There was a sticker chart on the wall, and I know that I had a gold star stuck on it when I learned how to tie my own sneakers (velcro wasn't yet an option!). I'm pretty sure that only reason why I was mastering shoelace tying was to get that gold start and keep up with my classmates.
My classroom had a sand table, a water table, a nicely-sized "house" with the usual kitchen stuff, table, and doll cradle inside it. There was book nook with a carpet, and the tiny little tables and chairs, of course.
I wanted to wear dresses everyday (obviously, I hadn't yet had the experience about walking across the massive school field in -25C weather!), but I think that I only had two dresses (one yellow with tiny white dots, the other a rose-coloured floral with ruffles), so my mom made me alternate those with pairs of polyester pants in red, blue, and possibly green. When it was cold outside, I wore tights with a small diamond pattern underneath them. I'm not sure how much of my kindergarten waredrobe was bought at a store beyond those polyester pants - I do know that my mom made my dresses and a lot of blouses. My school shoes were brown t-straps like these, which I didn't even consider fashionable in 1980.
I wore a homemade princess costume for Halloween. I think that my crown was cardboard covered with aluminum foil, and my cape was a lovely organza printed with flowers! We also sang a song about yellow pumpkins, and my teacher had hid little tissue ghosts all around the classroom. I was especially good at finding them!
I don't recall how many field trips my class went on, but I know that there was one that was to see a performance, possibly a play or opera version of Cinderella, and we got to go backstage at the theatre and see a dressing room. And there was one that was to a warehouse or factory full of stuffed animals, which kind of blows my mind now, because what were all of those stuffed animals doing in Edmonton? Was it possible that all toys weren't made in China in the 1980's???
On paper, this week looks pretty good in terms of free time for me, because both of my kids are in day camps. In practice, it's kind of crazy, because one kid gets dropped off at nine, one kid gets dropped off at ten, and then I do pick-ups at noon and three. Working in travel time, the net result is that I'm home for a period no longer than two hours. This isn't exactly the best week for me to undertake a big project like un-wallpapering the tv room in the basement or deep clean the closets.
The camps, however, are being thoroughly enjoyed by the kids.
I do have enough time between chauffeur stints to contemplate our big decision for the month - whether to move again later this year or stay here in Calgary for another 12-24 months. I have reasons for not wanting to move again right now - we just moved into our current home about six months ago. I'm very fond of it - we renovated much of this place and the gorgeous and functional lockers and cupboards in the mudroom? They weren't there before; we put them in for us. The double sinks and separate shower in the main floor bath? Again, we put that in especially for our family. I might even cry a little when I think of abandoning the kitchen because I love the tile and the dishwasher and the big apron front sink.
It doesn't make much sense to be that attached to material objects, and in the big scheme of things, this house doesn't rank that highly, anyways. I think that it's just affecting me so because we just moved in a few months ago and our personal investment still feels high.
There are some compelling arguments for moving overseas again. The school that me kids would attend does not have the sort of budgetary issues that the schools in Calgary have, so more specials, full-day kindergarten, smaller class sizes. International schools take cool field trips to places like China, instead of less-cool field trips to the Spyhill Landfill (as Madeline did with her fourth grade class). The location is rather ideal for future family vacations in Europe, Africa, and Asia, which is probably the most exciting element for me. And based on our previous time overseas, our lives were a little less rushed, and it would be lovely to have more downtime together again.
It's weird, but this decision feels like has more variables to consider than it did when we voted affirmative for Thailand back in 2007.
Whatever we decide, that ugly wallpaper in the basement still needs to be taken down, so we'll be rather busy no matter what we decide to do :)
Case in Point: Watch batteries.
Sometime last fall, I was bragging that inexpensive watch batteries were another of the nice perks about living in SE Asia, and my dad totally laughed at me and explained that I'd probably been putting totally crappy batteries in my wristwatch, no matter that they have "Energizer" or whatever etched onto the top.
And then last weekend, my watch abruptly stopped at 7:35 on Saturday morning. There wasn't the sad ticking sound that foretells a low battery, either. It just stopped. And I'd just had it changed in Bangkok this past June when I was there for a check-up.
So, yeah, my dad was probably correct that my cheap watch batteries are probably truly cheap watch batteries.
I am pleased to say that the first thing that springs into my mind when I remember 1984 is an incredible dystopian tome by George Orwell that I read in twelfth grade, but some people may remember that year as the one when our parents battled in the toy section of Sears to score one of these:
These are Alphonsine Clarissa and Glen Reuben, the two survivors of the 2010 Cabbage Patch Kid purge at my parents' house (four of their "siblings", as it were, didn't make the cut). Each of my kids brought one of my old dolls back to Saigon with us after our summer holiday.
Over the last quarter-century, this pair has undergone a couple of changes. Alphonsine has been nicknamed "Nell" after the daughter of a friend of mine, and Glen, as it turns out, is gender-fluid. He's wearing cute hand-sewn coveralls in this pic, but I often find him lounging about in a frilly dress. This is probably because the majority of our extra outfits are traditional girl clothes. Still, the kids and I support his lifestyle choices whole-heartedly, and I've been advised that "fashion has no gender."
It's actually really fun for me to see Madeline and Sadie playing with my old dolls. The Cabbage Patch Kids and my collection of My Little Ponies are the toys that I remember playing with the most when I was little. My birthday and Christmas wish lists must have been crammed with CPK items because I know that I had a good collection of accesories: the knock-off Snuggli, a highchair that attached to a table, a playpen, a CPK diaper bag ...
Nearly three decades later, my fondest memories of my Cabbage Patch Kid obsession are about these:
Somehow, somewhere in the mid-80s, my mom found to time to sew tons of tiny little outfits for the dolls that my sister and I had. Our dolls had fuzzy winter parkas. There was even a tiny pair of turquoise stirrup pants that matched a pair that I owned! Anyway, I think that I have to record "sewing little outfits for my Cabbage Patch dolls" as one of the awesome things that my mom has done. And they still look good on Alphonsine/Nell and Glen.
When I was a child in the 1980's, one of the things making the world a scary place was the television series Little House on the Prairie. For all of it's touted wholesomeness, I don't remember much about plotlines featuring the Ingalls sisters frolicking in the countryside or down by creek. I don't even remember a single reason why Laura Ingalls and Nellie Oleson went at each other's throats over and over again. No, I remember the scary tragic things, like Mary and Adam's baby perishing in a fire at the School for the Blind and the really bizarre episode arc about rapist in a mime costume lurking in the woods. And the one that creeps me out the most: the episode where Caroline very nearly almost amputates her own leg when her husband is out of town and there is no one around to take care of her.
Whenever Chris is traveling for business (which he does often), I think of tv-series Caroline Ingalls and her infected leg wound, pondering her shiny knife. Because I so do not want to have to deal with any sort of medical emergency while I've been abandoned in a geographical location that does not currently have much more to offer by way of emergency medical services than Walnut Grove did in the 1800's.
So, as I was sprawled on the floor of the bottom level of my house on Wednesday night last week (the very same day that Chris flew out to Hanoi for meeting), having missed the last step on the stairs on my way down to see who on earth had rang our doorbell at 6 pm at night, I thought of poor, home-alone Caroline Ingalls. And I hoped that the only price I'd have to pay for my carelessness was a sprained ankle. I could deal with sprained ankles, right?
I came home from the medical clinic the next day with an x-ray to forever comemmorate my small ankle fracture and a cast that stops just shy of my left knee. The nurse-practitioner called it a "walking cast" but I am not really sure how it would differ from a non-walking cast because there is nothing special about it as far as I can see. It's slippery on the polished stone floors in this house. It's really inconvenient here, too, because my kids' schools have stairs instead of elevators (or ramps, to be honest), and there is no such thing as handicapped parking near the entrance. I haven't been leaving my home much; I'm walking like Frankenstein's monster, and frankly this city is just too dirty to walk around in without a shoe on both of my feet and the ability to thoroughly wash both my feet. (And now I am very aware of how everyone stares at me as I lurch around).
I'm not used to being forced to slow down, but this first full week with the cast has gone by faster than I expected. It turns out that orders from a doctor to keep my foot elevated is a good incentive to crack open my new book on Adobe Lightroom and start editing all of our photos from last year. There's just a few more months to process, and I have another week in the cast. I think it will be enough time, on both counts.
Back in December while we were on our Christmas holiday, one of my friends on Facebook linked to "One Teacher's Approach to Preventing Gender Bullying in the Classroom", and I quickly scanned it, liked it, and bookmarked it to get back to later, when I was back home. It took me about six weeks to get back to it. I shouldn't have ignored it for so long, though - it's really thoughtful and the best thing I've read about children and the gender spectrum. I'm not sure that anyone was paying much attention to this stuff when I was the same age as the kids in the article.
I was thinking out the article again, the next day as I was drying our dinner dished, and all of a sudden, I remembered Anita.
Anita's grandfather lived next door to my grandparents (who always called him "The Dutchman", which I never understood and always felt a little uncomfortable about; they were all friendly and had a shared interest in vegetable gardening). Sometimes, when I'd be spending a Saturday afternoon at my grandparents' house, Anita would be doing the same thing, and we'd play together.
Anita and I made mudpies and played on the aluminum swingset in my grandparents' backyard. We raced up the sidewalk in front of the houses, me on an ancient green tricycle and Anita on a Big Wheel (which I secretly coveted). And Anita would always say to me, "I'm actually a boy, you know. Even if I have a girl's name."
Anita wasn't like the girls that I played with at school, at all. I remember Anita showing off some impressive climbing skills by reaching the top of the posts supporting the awning over the concrete patio.
I was six years old and didn't think that girls were supposed to climb that high (or pedal a Big Wheel that fast), but I would still argue with Anita, babbling things like, "Of course you're a girl, Anita. Why do you say that you're not?" I was six years old and confused, so I echoed what the adults in my life told me about my friend. And I remember the calmness about Anita, repeating "I'm actually a boy, you know" with certainty like it was something that had been practiced a lot.
It's thirty years later, and after reading that article, I remembered my old friend, and I wonder if Anita is still saying "I"m actually a boy, you know."
Yesterday, I had the following conversation with my three year-old:
Childish, yes, but I still won.
And Madeline fell down the stairs. I think that she fell, once, about six stairs in our rental house in Newfoundland. But she was two years old then, and now she's half-way to eight. There were screams, shaking hysterics, ice pack applications to a cut on the back of her head. If she had been sleeping beforehand, I would be inclined to blame her spill on grogginess, but this was before she'd gone to bed for the night. Heads bleed a lot more than skinned knees, Chris and I realized.
And a book recommendation: How to Be a Baby ... by Me (The Big Sister). Perhaps part of my infatuation with this book is the hilarious and on-the-nose performance Madeline gave while reading it to, but gosh, I was totally laughing. The little girl in the book comes up with lists of things that her infant brother can't yet do, and they are humorously inappropriate, like "can't slam dunk a basketball" and "can't use a stapler".
Tonight, I originally had a date with Photoshop Elements (to prepare for a date later this week with my in-progress 2011 photobook) , but it's plainly evident that I decided to cancel those plans in favour of a rendezvous with Typepad. One of the side-effects of being in a photography class is realizing just how cluttered, underexposed, and simply bad all of my previously-taken photos are, and I can't bear to look at flat photos of Hong Kong or wherever right now.
Now, to finally get on topic, I've re-discovered what a huge crush that I have on my iPod. It's silly, but I've been playing more music around the house, and my three year-old has been singing and dancing more (to Dan Zanes and TMBG, and also to Adele and Bruno Mars), and it's twelve kinds of awesome.
On a whim a few weeks ago, I downloaded a few tracks from iTunes that were from what I call, in all seriousness, my parents' era. With my new playlist humming away in the background as I washed yet another sink full of dishes by hand (always, always lamenting my lack of a dishwasher), I realized that I was listening to the first song that I can ever remember hearing.
Second Hand News was part of the soundtrack on a road-trip I took with my parents sometime in the late nineteen seventies, and even though I honestly did not know the name of the song until three weeks ago, I'd never forgotten the melody.
I was either two or three years old, and we were making our way to Northern Alberta to visit my uncle. I can remember a wide bench seat, so I guess that we were riding in the red Chevy truck that my parents owned at the time (though I can't really imagine how they ever were the truck-owning sort of people). They'd thoughtfully tucked my little yellow potty seat into the space on the floor of the truck where my legs were too short to reach; the trip between Edmonton and where my uncle lived was a haul of at least eight hours, and there still probably aren't many rest-stops on the way. I spent the journey sitting the middle, tucked in-between my mom and my dad, and we were listening to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours.
Probably on eight-track.
This explains why I am so darn smitten with that song again, right?
That's what raced into my mind last night around half past ten as I stood halfway between our tv cabinet and the door of our den, momentarily paralysed as our electricity tripped on and off five or six times in quick succession. The lights in the kitchen flashed, and I could hear the motor in the a/c unit clicking and the generator outside reseting. It all happened in less than ten seconds, and I felt like I was caught in the middle of a suspense film!
Then I remembered, of course, that I live in a place with unreliably electricity and that we'd lost power at least a half-dozen times earlier in the day. Nothing like spastic like the display a minute ago, but probably nothing worthy of an X-File. Freaky, though.
The kids slept through all of the excitement, and Chris and I managed to get the a/c working again about thirty minutes later.
On Friday morning, I'll probably be dashing about between our bedroom and the kids' bedrooms, trying to supervise the getting-ready-for-school process, and Chris will interrupt my chaos to remind me that it's our nineth wedding anniversary. My kids might tease me, thinking that I had forgotten - but I haven't! I'll have to tell them that I consider the story of me and their dad as starting much, much earlier.
I absolutely remember the first time that I met him, in the Tory lecture theatres at the U of A in 1995. We were both enrolled in Legal Relations 301, which was a required class for their business degree program. He usually sat a few rows ahead of me (I'm a people-watcher, which is how I noticed this in a lecture theatre that held a few hundred students) with a couple of his friends, but this one day in September or October, the spot to the left of me was one of the few vacant ones left. He sat down, his right hand setting his bookbag down at his feet and the left occupied with not tipping his take-away cup of coffee. The first thing he ever said to me was a friendly comment about how he was blown away by how other people could manage to balance so many things in their arms at once: mobile phones, coffee cups, briefcases, small children, etc. If I recall correctly, the lecture that day was on tort law. Our professor told a few hilarious stories about nonsensical lawsuits, like how some guy wanted to sue his next-door neighbour for stealing his psychic energies, and I remember the guy with the coffee beside me commenting that I was laughing way too much. Maybe I was, but his eyes were laughing when he said that to me.
If we ended up sitting next to each other in Legal Relations 301 again that semester, it wasn't more than one other time. But that didn't matter - once I started looking for him, I realized that we actually had a couple other classes in common and we'd run into each other at the campus train station a lot. Because my people skills are rather awkward, it took a couple of weeks for me to manage to introduce myself, but I did, on the LRT on an afternoon when we ended up sitting across from each other. And then I learned his name, too (strangely enough, I had suspected the entire time that his name would be Chris).
I'm not certain how many other lectures or weeks passed before I had to admit to myself that I was becoming rather smitten with this guy. He had soft-looking curly hair, eyes that reminded me of the colour of iced tea, and we'd have the best conversations; I'd never met a guy before who loved Broadway musicals as much as I did. Those five-or-ten minute casual chats were usually the highlight of my day.
I also noticed that he was very friendly with a lot of other girls in the Faculty of Business. If anything, it was nice to have confirmation that he was actually into girls. I assumed that he was socially very busy.
We met up a couple of times over the summer break, after he had returned from a holiday in NYC (which he spun as a solo trip by himself when speaking about it to me, but the truth came out later). First we saw the musical The Who's Tommy together (and went out for a very nice dessert afterwards), and later in August we saw some show that I don't remember at the Edmonton Fringe. Chris was actually reminiscing about this outing last weekend - according to his memory, we walked all the way from Old Strathcona to where I caught the bus home at Edmonton Centre and I didn't say a single word the entire time. I can't see that being true, but I honestly don't remember. Maybe I was consumed with wondering why he was following me halfway home? Regardless, it was actually very thoughtful of him to go on this forty-minute hike to the bus stop with me at eleven o'clock at night.
I think that the last class that we had together was Decision Analysis in the fall semester of 1996 (this was also the only class we had together in which he received a higher grade than I did). What I remember the most about our interactions that year would be running into Chris on Mondays, listening to him recount the perceived awesomeness of whatever he and his friends had done on Saturday nights, and then say to me, "Laura, you should have come along!" Well, he should have asked me to, then. It got very annoying.
The academic year ended, I went to work at a government job over the break, continued to write hopefully amusing and regular emails to Chris so that he wouldn't forget me over the summer, and had a brief workplace flirtation with the third boy that I'd ever had a crush on (Ritchie, a geek who left poems that he'd written on my desk). In the fall, I was off on another workterm, so I didn't see Chris again until his last semester of classes before he graduated. Even then, I didn't see him much. We had no classes together, and the only thing that he seemed to be capable of talking about when I'd run into him on campus was the huge drinking party that he was in the process of planning (which he'd probably call a "conference" if he was writing this). I think that we did manage to see a couple of plays at the Citadel Theatre together. Anyways, I thought that we had a good friendship and I missed his company.
Chris finished his degree in June of 1998, and went to work in one of those professional offices in downtown Edmonton. We met up once that summer, to see Saving Private Ryan together. If memory serves me correctly, he scooted off after the film was over, sheepishly saying that he was expected home by an un-named someone (I think that he denies this now).
I went back to class in September and starting tailoring my courseload to head to graduate school in a year's time. At some point, I stopped receiving emails from Chris and I stopped sending them as frequently. The crush that I'd been secretly carrying around for three years was relegated to a less-used drawer in the filing cabinet in my brain. I was too busy to actively pine away when I had the GMAT to prepare for, a challenging courseload, and I even had a bit of a social life to nuture.
In May of 1999, I accepted a spot in a Master's degree program at the University of British Columbia, and started harrassing my old friend Chris via email again (oh, the things we did before text messaging was invented). I wanted to get together one more time before moving to Vancouver. The timing was rather opportune - he told me that he was moving to a small town in rural Alberta. We met for lunch at the Hardware Grill after the last final exam I was proctoring for one of my professors. My memory has forgotten what I ordered, but I do remember that Chris told me a story involving vomit and his allergy to pecans.
The really awesome thing about his move to the small town is that there must not have been too much to do there, because I heard from him all the time! I kind of felt like I finally might have had his undivided attention, after nearly five years. Our friendship was a lifeline for me - I was struggling and unhappy in Vancouver for many reasons. In the spring of 2000, we started planning to meet up for a holiday in London and Paris (this would have the third trip to London that I'd planned, but the first one to be succesful), and things finally came together for us as a twosome when we were abroad that June.
I returned to UBC and hurried to finish up my Master's thesis so that I could move back to Alberta at the end of the year, and Chris turned down a job transfer to the happening metropolis that is Cornach, Saskatchewan and moved to Calgary to work for the company he's still working for today. We became engaged in the bar at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan in October 2001, and we dressed up and signed the legal paperwork in Oban, Scotland in 2002. And that's why we're here together today, and I am regularly thankful that there was that empty seat beside me in Legal Relations 301 on that autumn day sixteen years ago.
Freaky Coincidence of the Day: This afternoon, I was thinking of watching something a movie with the kids, so I turned on our television before going over to the cabinet where our DVDs are. I changed my plans when I realized that the tv was tuned to one of the English-language movie channels, and Julie & Julia was playing. The reason that I didn't change the channel was because the book I'm currently reading is Julia Child's My Life in France!
I'd watched this movie before, and I've read and re-read Julie and Julie: My Year of Cooking Dangerously over the years, but this time when I watched, I was much more interested in the parts about Julia Child than Julie Powell (no offense, intended).
I had never realized how closely "My Life in France" influenced the portrayal of Julia Child in the film. It was fantastic to see how true to life her start at the Cordon Bleu was shown in the film (first with new-to-the-kitchen housewives, finally surrounded completely by male GIs, for example), and fun to see what her favourite shop for cooking equipment at Les Halles might have actually looked like. This was honestly a highlight of my Sunday!
1. Next week, both of my children will be in school! I will have a little bit of quiet in my life, at least until noon!
2. I've had much too much fun discovering all of the episode reviews of Star Trek: TNG at the AV Club. When I was sixteen, I swore up and down that I was the least likely person on earth to watch anything Star Trek, but my rapid tranformation into a devoted fangirl was totally accidental. I was flipping channels one day and stopped on the channel that showed a sweet elderly couple dancing around their living room. I kept watching, only to become aghast when Patrick Stewart and some of his Starfleet-uniformed colleagues beamed onto the old couple's dance floor. But I still kept watching. And now I can tell you, from memory, that this was the episode called "The Survivors" from Season 3. My favourite season.
3. The corporate dinner I accompanied Chris to this week was more interesting that I was anticipating. The Temple Club here in Saigon is a fabulous restaurant, but the really cool thing was realizing that some of the other attendees were flying back to the US on the company's private jet. How cool does that sound?
4. That little "Your order has shipped" email from Mpix.com, less than twelve hours after I ordered the prints to begin with. It will be nice to see some of the photos from our family photo session back in February actually printed out instead of on my computer screen.
5. The defunct tv-series "Party Down". I asked Chris to download it on whim, having read a bit about it in some article in the Edmonton Journal this summer. I wasn't sold on it at first, but we're now about six episodes into the first season and I'm laughing a lot. Can't wait to sit down together tonight and watch a little bit more after the kids are in bed.
6. News that my sister bought the same pair of basic black Fluevog heels that I've had for over a year now. I usually assume that my sense of style (or lack thereof) bores her, so it's kind of fun that we can be shoe-twins.
6. It's totally worth repeating - all of my children will be in school as of next week. I cannot properly explain how awesome it will be to not have a small person talking at me all day long.
1. I decided that I really ought to have my 2010 photobook ready to go before the end of the school year, just in case MyPublisher happens to float another 60% off coupon code, like the one that I missed at the beginning of the month. So, I've been spending my evenings futzing with PSE 9 to prep the digital images and so forth. I'm finished with the photos from our move from Bangkok to Saigon, so the book is halfway finished, and I'm feeling good about it!
2. I've been rolling out a new bedtime routine for Sadie - one where she falls asleep on her own in her bed, instead of with me beside her. She used to fall asleep alone in her crib before we moved last summer, but she spent about two months combined sleeping in beds while we were in the service apartment here in Saigon and staying with my parents last summer. I was quite worried that she'd never stay *in* a bed or fall asleep in one unless I was there to see it with my own two eyes. While it worked well, I realized that it was not really a great sleep habit to have been perpetuating over the last eleven months. In case anyone is wondering, Sadie is sort of pissed off when I kiss her goodnight, but she does roll over, cuddle her SPOKA, and fall asleep on her own (okay, she might get out of bed once or twice).
3. Inventorying my stash of over-the-counter meds and vitamins to see what needs to be re-stocked the next time I'm in the developed world. I over-bought children's vitamins last year, but didn't pick up enough Tylenol Melt-Aways. And we're nearly out of sunscreen! Conveniently, the EWG has released their 2011 safer sunscreen report - and my fave Neutrogena Baby Pure & Free still doesn't rank very well ... sigh.
4. Tucking my nearly-seven year-old in bed an average of three times a night.
5. Procrastinating over the knitting project that I started and abandoned in January.
6. Being sucked into reality tv. But Curtis Stone is a great host for Top Chef Masters!
And after that, I have no excuses left :)
Last week was largely a write-off - Sadie was sick and then I was sick, and we pretty much just stayed home, coughed, and drank lemon tea with honey together. Today was her first day back at preschool, and we were greeted by this short note from the director,
"Good Morning! Miss Priya has resigned from her position as a substitute teacher here at Sunnyside. This isn't the right place for her!"
and now I am wondering if we missed some exciting drama while Sadie was out sick ? I am irrationally intrigued; the school is such a quiet, peaceful, and gentle place that I have to admit wondering what would happen if a big personality was in one of the classrooms?
I had to sign up for a time-slot for a parent-teacher conference for Sadie as well, and I am somewhat amused that I will be chatting about my barely-verbal little one for a full fifteen minute, while at Madeline's conference the next day, I had ten minutes to hear about how she is doing in about eight different subject areas!
Our family will be reunited again on Saturday when Chris's business trip in California ends. I passed along a shopping list of things that we could use here in Saigon but cannot find (some essential, like OTC meds for the kids, others kind of frivolous), and I am so touched with the amount of effort he's made to find as many items as he can! The car rental company gave him a Mini Cooper to drive around and I cannot express how envious I am! The most exciting car I've ever driven has been my moms's Mazda 3 ... Anyway, I hope that he has a pleasant flight back in that company-paid business class cabin on Singapore Airlines.
1. I sort of stole the post title from one of the items on my list of things making me happy this week: the NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. I've been missing a public radio pop culture element to my life since leaving Canada and free-flowing CBC Radio, and this fills the void nicely. I wish that I was sitting at the table when the geeky and witty hosts are recording the show, but I would probably be a nuisance with all of my laughing.
2. I saw a presentation today by Ruth Van Reken who co-authored the book Third Culture Kids, and it was fabulous and I feel so understood! Usually I feel like we're parenting our kids in a sort of cultureal no-man's land, as we're far removed from Canadian culture and barriers of infiltrating Vietnamese culture, and it was awesome to be in a room with other people in the same situation as my family and listen to someone who grew up overseas talk about it. That book is going to be my next download on my Kindle, whenever I see it again.
3. Preschool is coming to suit Sadie nicely - I wrote about it in my last post.
4. I chatted with my parents a couple of times. I love Vonage. How did we live for three years in Thailand without a Vonage box? We should have traded our long distance bills for a local Edmonton number before we even went abroad.
5. Tucked into Madeline's Take-Home folder the other day were a pair of her school picture proofs, and continuing the tradition started a few years ago, she once again is NOT smiling. I'm not one iota upset about this and in fact am bizarrely pleased that she is so consistent. I'm going to order one copy of the photo with her entire class (where she is also not smiling) for her to keep for memories.
If the website for Vietnam Airlines is to be believed, les tout Ho Chi Minh City will be at a beach or in Dalat this weekend. Flights out of here are well-picked over, much to our frustration. We were hoping to spend the weekend somewhere a little more relaxing and blessed with fresh air, but maybe we'll have to settle for another breakfast of birthday ricotta-pancakes-with-honeycomb-butter at the Hyatt here in town instead.
I might be too tired for travel, anyways. Sometime in this family has been waking up between 9:30-10:00 pm for most of the week, and not conking out again until around midnight, despite my best efforts to soothe her back to sleep. I might be a tad less tolerant of the sleeping-habits of a six month-old when the child in question was six months old nearly two years ago.
Sadie is soldiering on, tired or otherwise. We were late getting Madeline to school this morning, so we just dropped her off at the gate. Sadie immediately became upset; we usually go in with her sister, and today I think that she was upset about missing the chance to give Madeline a goodbye hug when the first graders are lined up after the bell. Then, she wandered into the Caterpillar Room at preschool this morning and promptly shut the door behind her, no matter that Chris and I hadn't really given her a goodbye hug or even a wave. But if she's happy, I'm happy.
PS - even if you, like me, aren't a fan of Dooce.com, this article from the NY Times is a good read (though I would argue that Heather Armstrong is more a satirist than a mommyblogger); it's interesting to find out about what goes on behind the scenes.
Is is that just us? On Friday, Chris and I came home from dinner at one of those fabulous restaurants that Saigon has so many of, and delightedly found our children both dressed for bedtime and smelling of freshly-brushed teeth. All looked good, until we heard about how about twenty tiny insects had been pulled out of the curly fluff on Sadie's head. Now, if you have a child, or perhaps have been a child at some point, you understand where my bug-related thoughts immediately went and how much I probably shuddered and inwardly sighed at the imagined hours I had ahead of me, combing and nit-picking and laundering sheets and pillows and all that.
Over in a small Rubbermaid container sitting on our sideboard, one of the accused bugs was trapped, awaiting our inspection. I don't think that either of us really wanted to look, but we did. The tiny critter had wings. Wings!
Hurrah! I have no idea exactly how a family of small winged bugs ended up in Sadie's hair, but they sure were better than the alternative.
That hasn't happened for seven or eight years, I am sure, and probably never as far as the kids are concerned. What happened to create the circumstance of all of use being up and about at midnight was that we'd arrived home from our Xmas holiday only about an hour earlier! A bonus, I guess, of our flight being 5-6 hours late departing from JFK.
On the other hand, the jet lag is never a bonus! I had hopes of taking Madeline to see a couple of shows on Broadway, but the best we could manage was a matinee on Sunday. Both of us were usually dead asleep by seven pm every night!
I'm half-way unpacked, but I still can't find where I put my house-keys or my iPod Touch. So frustrating!
It also looks like my brand-new Kindle had a life-span of five days - it's screen is 90% white and streaky, and it wouldn't even turn on today (48 hrs after a full battery charge). I seriously loved that thing, though. Brilliant. I managed to get through two-and-a-half books in those five days!
My kids were good little passengers for the eighteen-hour flights. Both of them slept and watched movies nearly the entire time (Cathay Pacific has a really large assortment of children's programming). I spent several hours holding the headphones over Sadie's ears because they were too large for her little head!
Anyway, it's time to call this a night! Happy 2011 (or MMXI)!
Last year, we took three pieces of checked luggage with us on our Christmas vacation. My goal was to take two, because when we're packing shorts and thin tees for travel around SE Asia, it's a piece of cake for travel light. The difference in volume when packing winter things, like long pants and sweaters and hats and mittens, is amazing. So it was three bags that we hauled to the UK, and I am not sure how we are going to get our belongings into less than that for our departure on Sunday, but I am trying! Maybe next year, the two-bag goal will be achievable, when I am envisioning traveling without packages of disposable diapers. Yay freedom!
The photobooks from My Publisher arrived in Saigon yesterday, and I was so excited. Some of the photos could have been a little crisper, but I am not going to complain much because it was still a miracle that I got the book finished in the first place! The books (one copy for Madeline when she grows up and leaves home, and one for Sadie) arrived at Chris's office in time for him to share them over lunch with his staff, and apparently the photo of a very chubby and hairy cow in the UK was the topic of much incredulous discussion. The cows here look nothing like that.
Last day of school for the term, and I am personally thrilled to be done with the drop-off on the chaotic playground of peril and the pick-up in the scorching heat, at least for three weeks. Maybe Santa will put a proper playground under the tree for the school ...
Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but since my last post, all of my spare time has been consumed by prepping photos and assembling the photobook that I was eleven months behind on. Though my procrastination over this project was well-established, MyPublisher rallied me into action with the temptation of a 40% off coupon code. It expires tomorrow, so I was on a deadline. But it's done; looking at all of the photos from 2009 made me very homesick for Thailand (weird, huh?) and wistful for the tiny baby who is now a two year-old hooligan, but I think that I am going to love the book when it's here.
Oh, and yes, I did post last month about wanting to give up on MyPublisher and it's silly dimension/resolution nit-picking, but I just couldn't get into the page templates at the other reputable photobook sites, so I downloaded a trial of PSE 9 and made my peace with the painstaking process of scaling down my photos. It was hours of work, still, but on the upside, this album is going to have a lovely photowrap cover. Anyway, that's enough with the free compliments ...
While I was ignoring everything but digital photos and my kids, I did manage to check out one of my fave blogs - Dinner with Julie. Yes, I've been a little obsessed with her blog lately. I blame it on the post about homemade cocoa mix (which I can totally do here in Vietnam), and now she's posted about peanutbutter cocoa and making marshmallows shaped like Peeps. Resistence is futile.
And before I go, can I just say that my December schedule has been slammed by special programming at Madeline's school? A Christmas concert, Christmas party, charity book sale, charity bazaar, field day, and I swear that there is something else that I'm forgetting, all within the next three weeks. Unreal.
This post before you is of the lazy-weekend variety. I've been following blogs for longer than I've been publishing one (for the curious, not martha was the first), so I read a lot over the course of the day or the week. In case you happened to have missed them, here are some posts from others that I heartily recommend. They either really resonated with me, made me chuckle, or gave me something to think about.
This past weekend, the kids and I were privy to a sight that we'd not laid eyes on in over three years: my husband manning a barbeque. He started assembling the thing mid-morning on Saturday, and by mid-afternoon, he had it all put together and even had someone from the gas delivery company over to deliver the butane and do whatever needed to be done to the hoses to fit it to run on butane instead of propane. I was impressed with how quick it all came over; I guess that Chris is mightily motivated by the promise of grilled meat. Our toddler was impressed with the very large barbeque tools, especially the pointier ones.
These good things were part of the same shipment from Canada as Sadie's pink glitter ball. I think that I have everything sorted, unpacked, and organized now; my pace was somewhat dictated by how well I could keep the toddler out of the boxes (and away from the aforementioned sharp grilling tools). It was mostly gifts for the kids (I shopped ahead after a frustrating time trying to find Madeline's birthday gifts here in Saigon this past June), craft supplies, IKEA goodies (like Sadie's twin mattress), and multiple pairs of shoes for Madeline to wear to her picky-about-footwear school.
As far as I can tell (and I can't tell with 100% accuracy, as I don't know what else my family stuck in the shipment), the only thing mysteriously missing is a pair of sandals for myself. This confirms that it probably was prudent for me to pack my new Fluevogs in my suitcase instead putting them in temptation's reach for the multiple international customs inspections (as they are much nicer shoes than those vanished sandals were). Also probably good that I didn't ship any nice handbags either :)
The item in the shipment that Madeline is the most excited about is an electric toothbrush with a handle shaped like an ice cream cone. I find this kind of humorous because her teeth are currently threatening to fall out left and right so she will have fewer of them to use the funky toothbrush on!
Yesterday morning, as I sat beside my handsome husband in the school gym watching Madeline and her class perform a theatrical version of Little Red Hen, I had no idea that in a little more than twenty-four hours later, this story would become a parable for my life!
"Who will help me tidy up the floor before bedtime?"
My crew might as well have oinked, mooed, barked, and meowed in a chorus of "Not I! I'm too busy using up all of the Scotch Tape in the house/going to bed early/jumping off of the sofa/surfing the 'net/whining about random things that are sooo important to my life as a six year old that you are too old to possibly understand/etc" ...
"Who will help me with bedtime?"
"Who will help me clean up the kitchen? We all ate the dinner, you know."
"Who will help me with Sadie's birthday baking?"
Not I. Unless the "I" in question is me. My fifteen-hour day on the job has nearly come to and end; I'm just waiting for the last batch of sugar cookies to cool enough to be put into the fridge. Hopefully I didn't cough on the dough because I really don't want to share the plague that I'm battling with my favourite family of hibernators (whom I do love very much, even if they are all sleeping while I'm still hard at work!).
And, oh yeah! The play? Madeline and her classmates did a fantastic job! I don't think that I will ever get tired of watching my first little baby do amazing things! I feel kind of silly, though, as I'm nearly positive that I was the only parent there tearing up at the performance. It's not like Little Red Hen was a tragedy, you know.
I'm sort of wondering what the heck I was doing, adulterating a perfectly good batch of sugar cookie dough with a combination of Wilton gel dye in red and a couple of bizarre miniature unlabeled bottles of Vietnamese food dye in yellow. I was hoping to achieve a perfect shade of Clownfish Orange to make a certain toddler's birthday treats a little more special.
I'm a bit laid up with a sinus infection, so I stayed back with Chris and the kids went out to run a few errands later this morning, and I spent that time doing prep work for my very-neglected photobook projects. I'm working on photos from April 2010 at the moment, having skipped Sept-Dec 2009 outright. I love making these books, but the amount of adjustments that MyPublisher requires (adjusting the image size and resolution) just sucks too much time for me. I'm tempted to migrate my business to Blurb or Shutterfly (ugh, the backgrounds!) or another photobook publisher that can deal with high-res images.
Next, we had our neighbour and her family over for turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving (except for the getting Monday off - that's only if we were all still living in Canada). After we'd all cleaned up the kitchen after diner and dessert, my neighbour asked me if Madeline had her Mountie suit ready for International Week at her school. Mountie suit? "No way," I replied, "I'm just going to slap a patriotic t-shirt from Roots on her!" ... and then I was let in on the tradtional at the school for the Canadian kids to dress in formal RCMP attire for the parade. Oh my. Will the crazy stuff ever stop?
On Sunday afternoon, I (with Sadie in my arms) zipped along behind Chris and Madeline, across the buzzing streets on Saigon, reveling in the cool autumn breeze that was blowing my hair in my face. We'd just come from the "Welcome Back" picnic at Madeline's school, where we sipped hot chocolate in our hoodies and watched the kids run around on the lawn with all of the fallen yellow red leaves, and were on our way to check out an art gallery and find a place to get something nice to drink.
Oops! That was just my fantasy! I am so in the wrong climate zone.
I get a little wistful for autumn at this time of the year; it's my favourite season of the four that I grew up with. This is the fourth autumn that we've missed out on, and I never fail to grumble a bit about how I'm still wearing my summer tees and shorts and sandals; a one-season wardrobe is economical, but a little dull.
Around this time of year, in our compound in Thailand, at least, I'd look out the window of our apartment and wish that the leaves on the coconut trees would turn shades of golden, but instead they were the same lush green that they were every other day of the year. I'm pretty certain that it's the same deal here in Saigon. In a few weeks, my friends will doubtlessly start uploading photos to Facebook of their kids in pumpkin patches or piles of fallen leaves, probably wearing sweaters, and I might feel a little sad that I don't have a similar photo of Sadie propped on top of an overgrown jack o' lantern, and won't have one for the forseeable future. I miss the changing of the seasons, and the fall most of all.
On Sunday, the picnic was seriously sweltering, even though the school provided a good amount of shade. I was my typical sweaty self, with my hair soaked through, wrestling my sticky toddler into my arms to cross the chaotic streets of downtown Saigon. I wonder if I appear to the people on the street as the hot mess that I feel that I usually am here?
Dear Mom of the Cute Little Korean Boy in the Monkey Shirt at the Toddler Group Yesterday,
Wish I knew what my toddler did to get herself on your black list. I am still confused by the exchange that you had with her at the pom-pom station (those pom-poms are Sadie's fave thing to play with in the learning center, btw), pulling the box close to your chest and remarking to my twenty-three month old that "my son is still working with them". There are several thousand pom-poms, you know. Sadie doesn't understand the concept of work (and seriously - working? Did you think that you were at a Montessori group, maybe?), but she is starting to understand that everything at the toddler group is for SHARING. Also, the second time that Sadie approached you two, was it necessary to protectively put your arms out to ward her off. She just wanted to point to the adorable screen print on your equally-adorable son's tee and try to say "Monkey!" Then again, maybe you just think that your little boy just needs a lot of sheltering; I did see you spoon-feeding him watermelon at snacktime, afterall ...
~ new mom at the toddler group
Dear Lovely Countryside Hotel Where We Spent Christmas Last Year
We do have such fond memories of our stay with you last Christmas; everything was very festive, cozy, and welcoming for families. We had visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads as we made plans to return again this coming December, until we were informed that you no longer accomate families of more than three members in a single room. Thank you, though, for the lovely suggestion of upgrading to an "executive suite" (which curiously, as the same number of beds as the regular rooms do). I bet they are fabulous rooms. However, mathematics tells me that my family is over the capacity of a regular room by about 25%, which doesn't really match extra 100% that we'd have to pay to stay in one of your "executive suites", so I think that we'll be passing on your offer, and researching some family-friendlier options.
~ not-so-rich party of four
Wow, when your first tooth fell out, it did it with some fanfare, no? When I heard you screaming upstairs, I was certain that you'd dislocated a knee or broken an ankle so I was a little relieved to merely see your very tiny little tooth on the carpet and that you were otherwise okay. I was a little surprised by how much bleeding there was, though, and I suspect that was the shocking thing for you, too! Glad that the Tooth Fairy found you all the way here in Saigon!
This holiday in Edmonton is still a pleasure. The kids are having a great time with their grandparents and auntie, the big backyard, trips to the most-excellently stocked children's section at Chapters, and I am enjoying my parents' front-loading washing a lot. I'm very much shopped out, and I hope that today's jaunt out to pick up sneakers for Madeline in the next-size-up and a mattress cover for Sadie's future twin bed is nearly the last of it.
I am not sure what Sadie is going to do when we fly home to Saigon and leave my sister's cat behind here, though. At first she was literally shaking with fear when the cat would make an appearance, but now she tries to communicate with Timmy with enthusiastic "meows" and when he's hiding somewhere, she crawls around on all fours, meowing, and lays down in the back porch like she's seen him doing. This would be cuter if the porch wasn't covered by a cat-hair-and-grass-laden mat, but I still chuckle. At least a little.
... the kids and I are in yet another country.
I'd mentally been referring to last week at the Week of Doom for awhile. The 288 boxes of our sea shipment were delivered to our rental house in Saigon last Monday. Three days after that, we (well, the kids, Chris's mom, and myself) got on a plane to start our forty-hour door-to-door trek from Saigon to Edmonton. In retrospect, the "Week of Doom" was a misnomer. Before the week started, I was mightily worried about the travel - our itinerary was unbearably and unnecessarily long - but after one full day of unpacking and organizing at the new house, I could not wait to get on that first connecting flight to BKK and get as far away from that filthy/disorganized joint in the sketchy neighbourhood. There were only three days of doom, to be fair!
The flights were a non-event, which came as a pleasant surprise. Madeline has flown so much that at six years old, she isn't any trouble. She totes her own carry-on bag, can scoot off to lavatory on her own, and is happy to plug in her headphones and watch in-flight movies. Sadie requires a lot more of my time on airplanes, but for our very long BKK-LAX flight, she (and her sister) slept for a respectable 8-9 hours. And she also slept the entire flight from LAX to Edmonton, so I can't complain an iota about last Thursday and Friday.
So, we're all here now. Sadie's first visit to the country that she is a citizen off but had never set a foot in before. I've once again fallen into the ex-pat parent trap of shopping-shopping-shopping for shoes, chewable vitamins, craft supplies, decent sunscreen, and the like. It's lovely to watch my kids play in a real backyard. Wish we could do this more often.
And today, my twenty-one month-old decided that it was okay to call me "Mommy".
The Good: Our air shipment arrived yesterday! I cracked open those four boxes and pouring out came a small selection of toys, a Pack n Play, the regular carseats, and many packages of diapers. We all spent the afternoon smiling and the floor was a minefield of toys. Today, all the girls wanted to play with were the empty cardboard boxes. And even though there are two big (and identical) ones, they wanted to play with the EXACT same cardboard box. As an aside, if I understood what Chris was explaining from the shipment tracking website, the darned boxes didn't even leave BKK until July 2. They were packed and at the shipping company's warehouse on June 17, so why they had a two week holiday in BKK, I do not know.
The Bad: I woke up yesterday morning feeling like the Walking Dead. At the SOS Clinic, I explained my symptoms to the first doctor thusly: very painful breast, pain extending to my armpit, and achy back and neck. He had me do a handful of stretches for him and decided that I either had lifted something too heavy for me or else I was getting a cold! Seriously? And then he recommended that I get a second opinion. I repeated my symptoms nearly verbatim to Doc No. 2, and she immediately focused on the site of my angry red inflammation and gave me the verdict: mastitis. Feeling much better today, thankfully. Yesterday would have sucked so much more than it did if Chris's mom hadn't been here to hang out with my girls and make them delicious macaroni and cheese for lunch.
The Unexpected: Our sea shipment (otherwise known as "all our worldly possessions" arrived in port in Saigon today. Chris thinks that there is a distinct possibility that we'll receive the shipment before the end of the week and we'll be spending the weekend getting ready to move into the house. As I put Sadie down for her nap today, I was really excited about getting back to our normal routine with the comfy POANG chair, crib aquarium, and patting her down in her crib.
Ah. Today was good, and I really mean it. While the kids were doing one of their favourite things (pooltime with their grandmother), I went to two grocery stores and came home with fruit and vegetables and a few of the other usual items on my grocery list, so I will be able to do a better job this week getting meals out of the sparsely-equipped kitchen in our serviced apartment. Having broccoli in the fridge to prepare for my kids just feels good. Chris took me to a small hole-in-the-wall-type grocery store in District 1 here in Saigon - I think it was called Phuong Hai - and they had a bigger selection of baby and toddler food than I'd ever seen in BKK! I carefully scanned the labels and looked for expiration dates, and everything looked current and legit. Brought home actual authentic Gerber puffs for my favourite toddler and a package of Betagen yogurt drinks for my favourite sixer. They're quite happy with their bounty ...
Madeline is off to see a water puppet show right now, but before that we stepped in to an eatery called Jaspa's for an early dinner, and we all enjoyed the crayons on the table and the paper tablecloth. Our server brought dessert for Madeline and Sadie perfectly timed to allow the three of us grown-ups to finish our entrees without having to take breaks to retrieve Sadie from whatever part of the dining room she'd escaped to. It was a nice way to end the day, really.
Word on the street is that our air shipment of stuff for the kids (otherwise known as "Christmas in July") is going to be dropped off sometime next week, and I'm really thankful that we'll have toys and diapers again! At the same time, I feel really foolish about getting so depressed and whiny about the lateness of the delivery. I'd forgotten that one of my friends had to wait 5-6 months before her shipment made it to her family's new assignment location. Compared to that, I have nothing to fret about.
Oh! Booked our tickets home this week. It's only right that Sadie's passport get stamped by Canadian Immigration before she needs a new passport, right?
Might as well admit to my whininess. There are some things here than I am happy about, like the really good pastries and ice cream and how it's about five degrees cooler here than in Bangkok. I managed to successfully figure out But I'm not a fan of this upheaval to our lives.
I miss my toddler's bedtime routine that worked well for us. I miss rocking in the POANG chair and easing Sadie's sleepy self into her crib. I have no idea why our Pack n Play hasn't arrived here for Sadie to sleep in, but it's more difficult to put her down to sleep in a bed. She fidgets and flops for a long time, and I silently curse our current living situation, though I know that I am silly because it's all temporary. But I do worry that the current trend of poor sleep isn't temporary. These thirty-minute naps are not good for her, long-term.
I also inwardly blame myself for the rather sad situation that my children are in here. It's been twelve days without toys. Correction: Madeline has a couple of toys, because she celebrated her birthday yesterday, but I digress. I packed a small assortment of toys for my kids in our air shipment, which was supposed to arrive, oh, FIVE days ago. I packed none in our suitcases that we brought here - those were full of clothes for the next month or so. Twelve days without crayons and blocks and books just sucks. The little people are channeling their excess energy and creativity into being louder and more physical (and often more obnoxious - why is Madeline suddenly acting like an eleven year old with attitude???) instead. Ugh.
Anyway, I am hoping that the rest of this week brings more positive things to balance out my level of frustration. Thankfully, a bowl of ice cream goes a long way to making our situation feel a little better.
Last night before her bedtime, Madeline sprinkled fish food into Pearlie's tank for the last time, and told him not to be scared about the next day's journey. She assured him that he'd like having two other goldfish as room-mates, and that in August, he'd make friend with "a bunch of new kids". Pearlie had been a good pet, and she was sad that he missed his departed buddy, Curly.
This morning, we delivered Pearlie to the aquarium in Madeline's kindergarten classroom.
Yesterday, Madeline and Sadie were playing on the carpet with three or four of our Little People playsets. I was busy in our storage closet, purging it of empty boxes and trying to organize holiday decorations and so forth. All of a sudden, the background noise of happy sibling interaction was replaced with hysterical tears.
I sprinted out to the living room and gathered Sadie into my arms to comfort her, and noticed Madeline sitting on the sofa, looking a little guilty. "I sort of hit her on the head," she confesssed, looking extremely uncomfortable and guilty. A short convo about what and why and how followed, and Madeline was let off with a stern warning for this seemingly accidental infraction.
A few hours later, we were hanging out in Sadie's bedroom. I was feeding Sadie, and Madeline was looking at books. I looked down and noticed a new mark on Sadie's arm - actually, a whole serious of little marks, arranged in two semi-circles. I immediately knew what had really happened when Sadie was upset earlier! Unfortunately for Madeline, she failed to anticipate the tell-tale bruising left by her teeth on her sister's arm when she tried get away with the perfect crime and confess to lesser charges. Sigh.
I usually am a pretty happy soul after both of my girls are tucked into their respective beds for the night, but I'm finding it hard to rally tonight. I'm too tired. Yesterday, after Sadie woke up around eleven, I stuck her in bed beside me - with Chris gone for his new job, there's plenty of room. Except she pretty much fidgeted for the next four hours. I think that she might have actually dozed off in twenty-minute spurts, but I can't say that I did. I finally realized how much time had actually passed during her restless fugue around 3 am, and I promptly returned her to her crib and we both slept for a couple of hours. I re-settled her again around five, and while I had to be up with my alarm at 6:15 to get Madeline ready for school, Sadie slept until nearly eight o'clock.
I am clearly not at my best today. We were supposed to be doing school tours in Saigon this Friday, and I've our visa application forms and photos ready to go for over two weeks now, but it's taken so long to get this trip organized that it's probably too late now to get our visas processed. I am very cranky about that - I purposely had everything assembled in advance because I know that it scrambling at the last minute would be frustrating. I've been quite worried for the last six weeks that the International School of Good Reputation won't have a space available for Madeline because we're applying so late in the year, and that she'll end up going to the International School of Last Resort and we'll have to home-school her in order for her not to be held back a grade in the future. Not that I really know anything about any schools there, anyways, but I tend to get anxious about things like this. But waiting another week doesn't seem so horrible at this point. Maybe that's a good thing.
That brings us to bedtime this evening. Why doth my baby protest so? Screams at getting changed into her pajamas and a fresh diaper, screams at the sight of her sleepsack, the sight of her lights being dimmed ... and yes, screams at being put into her crib in less than a state of complete slumber. Darned eighteen-month sleep regression. It's like the period when I could go through our bedtime rountine and plop her in the crib and she's lay down and fall asleep on her own was just a figment of my imagination. Blah. Anyway, I've done as much as I can on the 3-4 hours of sleep I got last night, so it's time to get off the computer ...
So, I'm two days into my six-week run of solo-parenting; Chris packed his bags and left to start his new job in Vietnam on Wednesday. So far, so good, with the exception being an unexpected clean-up of puke in Sadie's room shortly after tucking her in last night. Amazingly, she miss her crib sheet completely, so I just needed to change her pajamas and sleepsack, wipe her face, and quickly wipe the floor. It was an isolated event, and the rest of the night passed without incident. I slept so well that I have no recollection of how two little girls ended up tucked in with me, but there were two extra bodies in the bed when I woke up around a quarter to six.
It's also Mother's Day weekend - at least in countries other than Thailand, where Mother's Day is celebrated on the Queen's birthday. I remembered to send my mom a little something, and I'm planning to celebrate a day early myself. I made a massage appointment for Saturday, which means two whole hours of quiet for me.
Mothers are the theme for this week's installment of Feed Me Books Friday, and I'm going to write about My Mom Loves Me More than Sushi, penned by Filomena Gomes. Our copy is autographed - if I recall correctly, the author lives in Calgary. The mom in this book is also solo (at least, there is no partner anywhere in the book), and this story is about how food brings her and her daughter closer together. The daughter is the narrator, and as she remembers making jamabalya or Portugese chicken soup or any of the other international gourmet dishes, she remembers a comforting memory, an adventurous time, or feeling important as the sous-chef. It's a sweet story, really, and I never fail to feel a little hungry after reading it with Madeline.
Now, I'm off to see what books others are blogging about for Feed Me Books Friday @ The Adventure of Motherhood.
Seeing as I still don't have my MacBook back from the repair place, I've found myself with some extra time on my hands over these last FOUR weeks (I am soooo ready for the stand-off b/w the military and the anti-gov't protesters to be over here, but I digress ... ). My sister is visiting for the week, so hanging out with her has been awesome. Madeline has total crazy-love for her auntie and they've bonded over pedicures, popsicles, and baking batches of oatmeal cookies. The toddler is warming up to
Auntie Uncle Dwight. Sadie cheerfully shared her board books and they played with Little People together yesterday, but the funniest shared adventure between Dwight and Sadie happened last night.
Sadie woke up around 9:15 when I was grabbing a quick shower before bed. As soon as I heard her wails, I turned the water off, speed-towelled, threw my pajamas on, and went in to settle her. She was worked up a lot more than usual. After she was sleeping in the dim light of the Ocean Wonders Aquarium again, I knocked on Dwight's door to confirm plans for today. At the end of our chat, she sheepishly admitted that she went in to see Sadie when she first woke up. She figured that if she kept the lights off, Sadie wouldn't notice who was patting her. Regardless, I guess that Sadie wasn't happy with that and started to cry harder. So, Dwight picked her up and tried to calm her, but Sadie still cried harder. So, my sister then decided that the situation just wasn't going to improve; she popped Sadie back in her crib and slunk out the door, leaving the scene of the crime as if nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened. And I honestly had no idea, but now realize why Sadie was more worked up than usual.
Other things from this MacBook-less week? My friend Kari introduced me to the TG/Thai Airways market in the Lard Prao area of Bangkok. For reasons that I cannot explain, there is a lot North American children's clothing there. The tees from The Children's Place that I bought there actually were tagged for sale in Canada. There was also lots of Gap Kids/Baby Gap and Old Navy. I bought a few things for the girls to grow into and be packed up with the rest of our personal effects in June for the move. I can always find something else to fill up my suitcase with this summer.
I've also been spending some of those extra hours at the house of a friend of mine here, cuddling and feeding one of the FOUR babies that she brought home from the hospital last weekend. You would not believe how much my arm had to be twisted to volunteer ... kidding, of course :) I love staring at those squishy little faces, but I am sort of surprised that I let myself out of their home without any of those oh-I-want-another-baby feelings. Sadie is still a baby, anyways, right?
Later today, unless Chris and I get cold feet, we'll be telling Madeline that we're moving again. Again is a funny word to use - she's lived here longer than she has anywhere else. What that means is that Thailand is probably where the bulk of her early memories will always lead her, and I am not sure if she really considered Calgary or St. John's serious contenders for "home" or remembers her previous moves at all.
Over the last almost-three years, she's watched far too many of her friends move on, so I think that she understands, on some level, the nomadic element of our life away from Canada. She's sad and often ambivalent at the same time. Despite that, I am not really sure that she has internalized the permanent part of moving away. Her friend N moved away thirteen months ago, but every time she sees the green Magic Years school bus Madeline will chirp, "Oh, there's the bus that N takes to school!" and if you listen to her chatter as we drive around the neighbourhood, she points out empty houses and apartments and offers, "That's where so-and-so lives!", though we haven't seen little so-and-so for eight months, except in photographs taken outside his or her new home in another country. Maybe it harder, in the community where we live, as moving-away looks a lot like going on a summer vacation. Some of her friends come back at the beginning of August, and some of them don't. And now it's her turn.
Maybe I am being naive, but I am not much worried about Madeline's reaction to the news. Right away, at least. I feel, at least, that from now until the end of the school year, there is a lot to keep her busy - kindergarten, a trip to the beach at Songkran, swimming, ballet, a visit from her auntie, and her birthday party (if I ever manage to plan something). But seeing our belongings - her animals and books and craft supplies - being packed into boxes will probably be hard.
This post by Catherine Newman: The Mostly Giving Tree. It was written even before my second child was even born, but it's still relevant, beautiful, and true for me. I read a lot of blogs, articles, etc., but I can't say that I've some across something that resonates so much with what it's like to walk in my shoes. I seriously want to hug this lady and forward this post onto everyone I know, especially when I've finished a day feeling rather battered by this parenting business.
An acquaintance of mine has an essay at Literary Mama: Cry, Baby. I have to admit that I nearly always forget to read Literary Mama, but I am impressed with the courage that it must have taken to write this essay.
Bad Moms Love Canadian Mom Bloggers - this has been a fun list to lurk on.
Also thinking of Google Analytics. I've had GA installed for years, but I haven't really paid much attention to it, but one of my new reads, PhD in Parenting, had this compelling post about stats. I actually logged into GA today and am quite amused that a lot of you arrive here, probably briefly, looking for things to do with kids in St. John's, Newfoundland. Hopefully Aliant Winterlude is/was a fun time :)
It was not willingly that I got out of bed this morning at 5:30. It was preceeded by the electricity in our apartment building going off about five minutes earlier, which left all of us without our air-conditioning - I'll admit that makes me grumpy. Of course, when the electricity goes out, it plunges Madeline's bedroom into total darkness, which is a problem as she has insisted on sleeping with the overhead light on for the last three hundred and sixty-five days or so. Of course, my five year old, despite being sound asleep, senses that she's in the hot and dark and immediately starts to wail, "Mommy! Daddy! Mommy! Daddy! Mommy! Daddy! ..."
You'd think that these events would wake up the baby, but no, not really. Sadie had been tossing and turning for the last couple of hours. And since she was tucked into bed with us (where you'd think that she'd be content and busy sleeping, right?), tossing and turning really means that she was climbing from one side of me to the other at fifteen minute intervals, stilled only by topping off her milky tummy.
These goings-on collided when the power went out. Madeline summoned her courage to sprint across the den and fumble her way to the far side of our bed, where there was a small patch of real estate available beside Chris. Despite the darkness and maybe because we were without the hum of the A/C, the pat-pat-pat of her feet attracted the notice of my little tosser-turner, who popped her not-so-sleepy little head up to greet her sister with cheery good-morning-ish babble. That's when I knew that I was done, that we were done, and there was no going back. I checked the time on my iPod, sitting on my nightstand. 5:30 am. I rolled to my right and fumbled for my slippers.
Maybe I am overly sentimental about the small preschool that Madeline spent two years at here, but the afterschool pick-up in the kindergarten quad leaves much to be desired. I was feeling quite down at the beginning of the school year because her new school does not have the same "cozy community" feel - a great number of the kindergarten students are picked up by mae baans or ride the Montri buses into Bangkok, so I don't get to meet, let alone befriend, their parents. And the people who I would sit beside on a bench and chat with, waiting for our three year-olds or four year-old to come flying out of the door at the preschool? Well, they are at the new school as well, but more often as not, they are hanging out, mostly silently, outside their child's classroom door. As am I, outside the door of Madeline's. No one ever hangs out in the middle of the quad, having a conversation. Can I blame the architecture that puts the classrooms along the outside of the square, or is this just the culture of the international school?
Onto my second gripe about the kindergarten pick-up, and the one that I referenced in the title of the post! Madeline has taken to flying out of her classroom door and the words, "Mom, can I have a playdate today? Please! Please? Please! Please? Please! Please? Please! Please????????" escape her body even before the straps of her backpack are squarely on her shoulders. Now, I am not against socializing outside of school hours, but I get really frustrated at being bombarded by the LOUD and the BEGGING and even the on-the-spot-ness of this frequent request. I outright loathe the Playdate Beg. I've even created a new rule, whereby a Playdate Beg will be met with an automatic "No, not today". I just can't think, amid the chaotic dismissal of sevety-five kindergarten students and the throng of people fetching them, if it's a good day to have someone over, if I have enough fruit for a snack at home, if Sadie has something going on that needs less-divided attention. I feel bad telling Madeline, "how about we plan something for tomorrow?" but I can't allow the Playdate Beg to get the desired results without setting myself up for bigger trouble in the future!
Not that BKK is the child passenger safety capital of the world by any stretch, but someone passed this link onto me about when a child is big enough to sit in a car with a regular seatbelt only: The 5-Step Test. I really liked it because it uses a lot of photos to show how the vehicle lap and shoulder belts are supposed to sit on a child with and without a booster seat.
Madeline is only five-and-a-half and a smidge under forty pounds, so the fit of the vehicle belts in our Toyota Fortuner on her small self is abysmal.
Maybe it's because I've recently been reading Superfreakonomics, but I also wonder why vehicle manufacturers don't make belts suitable and adjustable for occupants the size of children?
Today, when I went to pick Madeline up from kindergarten, the gates to the school were shut and the road that runs alongside was lined with vehicles. I figured that they were having an end-of-day fire drill, and was a little cranky about it because the timing created a logistic issue that mid-day drills do not, because all of those vehicles were going to want to enter the school property all at the same time, instead of the staggered arrivals of a normal day. I decided to park at the grocery store five minutes down the road and walk to the school instead. After waiting outside in the blazing sun for at least ten minutes with the other parents, the gates were opened and an announcement came over the PA system, letting all of us on the school grounds know that the Bomb Drill was over. Wha? Bomb Drill? I didn't have those when I was in school, ever!
Sometimes I forget where I live now.
I would have posted more this week had my attention not been spend perusing Mom-101's list of top mommybloggers whom were not on the radar screen of Babble magazine (which I haven't really read since they ursurped a photo from Sweet Juniper awhile back). It's time to update my blog roll, and this post is a good place to begin.
Madeline's dental procedure yesterday was quicker than I'd imagined, largely because her dentist had prepared me to expect a root canal but it turned out that a pair of fillings did the job. My kid was very apprehensive enroute to the dental office, but co-operated perfectly during her appointment. She happily told me that her tooth doesn't hurt when she chews any longer, and the procedure didn't hurt as much as her friends told her that it would.
We've been home from our winter holiday for ten days and nine nights, and Sadie is slowly getting over her jet lag and back onto her regular nap and night-time sleep routine. I should have added a third item to my post a couple of weeks ago about the things I've learned about traveling with a toddler:
3. Your toddler might not recover from jet-lag as swiftly as adults or even preschool-aged children. Traveling across more than two time zones might be on the hold for me for the next couple of years as I really don't want to stay up at night here in Bangkok, waiting for it to be Sadie's bedtime wherever we happened to be traveling.
Wednesday night Sadie went to bed at a near-normal time and had a near-normal wake-up time, but yesterday she woke up sometime after midnight and was pretty certain that she needed to be awake still. Which really sucks for me.
is the number of times since Madeline came home from school two hours ago that I have heard her utter, "Mama, can you ... ?"
My head just spins ...
It's obvious to everyone out there that "mommapalooza" is my attempt at a cute rip-off of "Lollapalooza", right? M-O-M-M-A instead of the L-O-L-L-A? I thought that was either witty or hip back in 2004 when I named this blog ... now, it's just kind of cheesy, but I can be sentimental about things ...
Anyway, there must be plenty of other people withs kids, or in the business of providing things to people with kids who are inspired by a touring rock festival because I am definitely not alone. There's this Mommapalooza if you want to buy a bag, this Mommapalooza if you are interested in reading a multi-author group blog, a Twitter user with the handle Mommapalooza over here (sadly, this means I cannot tweet as Mommapalooza if I ever sign up for Twitter), someone on MySpace here using Mommapalooza, it's the title of an album by Spilled Milk, another mommy blog titled Mommapalooza over here, a Yahoo! Group called Mommapalooza here, and, well, I could go on, but I ought to wrap this post up before one of the kiddos wakes up. Even though this blog is just peanuts, really, it's cool to share something with such a diverse and varied group.
The Good: I discovered today that I can subscribe to one of my fave blogs, Momversastion, via iTunes. It's much better to watch the video posts as podcasts on my Macbook than it is to wait for my often-painfully slow internet to stream ...
The Bad: I have put off hunting down Sadie's birthday gift from her dad and I, because the little voice in my head was always saying, "It's only September! You have lots of time to run that errand into the Bangkok!" but now it's the end of September, and I need to get on the birthday tasks ASAP. So, I went into the city today, which meant braving a lot drive in thick traffic, to the best-stocked department store I know of, and they did not have THE GIFT. I bought Chris a birthday gift, a dutch oven for me, but nothing for the girl who has a birthday in sixteen days.
Umm ... did I just write that my baby will only be a baby for sixteen more days? What's up with that?