Wednesday, December 19, 2007

ONE DAY MORE!!

I am rapidly clearing my desk, kissing my parents goodbye and getting on a plane tommorrow to see Sophie and Fab and all my French family in 24 hours!

This weekend I will see many Francophone friends whom I met over last weekend in Beijing! We had a fantastic weekend together drinking, clubbing and partying till dawn (ahh... the joys of single life) and we will do it all over again in this weekend on the other side of the world because they are all attending the same wedding in Belgium!

I had a wonderful single life hanging out with my parents, going to a great art exhibition (where I almost parted with my life savings for a painting), enjoyed a Kunqu Opera, and now I am ready to fly over to France - loaded with presents.

It's a season of Veblen curve consumption, but hey let's not be too cynical about it all. Peace and Goodwill and love to all men and women and children and small fluffy animals - especially the one on our plate....

Big big kisses to you all and I hope you have a loved one in one hand and some hot chocolate in the other.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

unexpectedly free

I came home at 4am yesterday/today.

I don't think I've partied like that for a long time. It's strangely liberating.

Now on to tackle the Christmas shopping.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Travels with a toddler



There's no real secret to the easy travelling.

The standard advice is (1) be prepared with enough favourite toys and foods, (2) try to adjust to the new time-zone immediately on the plane, and (3) give the kid her own seat. But that is really no guarantee because I have seen kids scream their heads off during the take off and landing, from the safety of their own seats.

For the whole week before they left, I spent many mornings showing Sophie on our World Map where France and Beijing were, and explaining to her that Papa was going to take her to France, Mama would join her the next week and so on.... I had no idea whether this helps or not.

Maybe it does because I am proud to record that Sophie was a dream traveller. I think I had been more nervous about this flight than Fab. 12 to 24 month toddlers are notoriously bad travellers. But Sophie repeated her previous miracle - she ate, slept, read her books, played with her dad and her toys, and didn't cry AT ALL for the entire Beijing - France flight, and then slept for the whole train journey to Lille. Some adults can't even do that without getting cranky!!

On arriving at the house, she saw Fab's father and identified him correctly as "Papy!" (all that skyping does work!!) and settled into the routine reasonably well by falling asleep immediately when they arrived at home at 10pm but then she woke up at 4am, and after a bottle of milk went back to sleep till 6am.

Thus ends the First Report from our skype video conference this morning.

I couldn't be more proud of both Fab and Sophie.

I miss them lots but I am doing all the things which I don't normally do in Beijing when they are both around such as watch a Chinese play with my parents, party with my friends, and going to learn to snowboard.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Toy policy

Last weekend we went through some of her old clothes together. We gave away some to our friends, and some other are going to the orphanage. We are doing the same to her toys too.

I try to make sure we involve her in the process so that at some level, she understands that blessed are those who give and those who recieve. We will have to go through that exercise when she comes back home from Christmas because I am sure she will come back loaded with bounty.

My personal preference tends to be favour lovely natural wood or cloth toys (even matches the furniture!)and although we do have some plastic toys which are creative and gender-neutral such as building toys or water play toys.

I cannot wait for her to play with this hydrogen powered beauty (Christmas 2012?).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

This one is for you Serene!!

You know it is another insomniac night I am having when I start making Sippy Cups a leitmotif in a blog post.

In the begining...

The Sippy cup functions also as a teething toy. But we figured when Sophie was thirsty enough she'd put it into her mouth and drink!


Around the same time she could feed herself with a spoon, she could also drink through a straw. We had an "ambidextrous" policy because I didn't want her to favour any hand before 10 months old, so we encouraged her to use both hands equally. NOTE: this photo rather deceptively shows a very clean table because this is the very first mouthful of a bowl of food. You need a high mess tolerance (and household help) for this phase.


When Sophie started lifting relatively smooth and heavy toys with both hands to her mouth (to chew on) I knew we could give her cups.



We let her play with child-sized cutlery and cups which she could use if she felt like it, or just drink from her straw if she didn't feel like it. Keeping it fun is important.


When she was confidently drinking, we bought her "big girl" glasses and reminded her to "use both hands". We broke both glasses whilst doing the washing up. Oh the irony!



The fact that Sophie drinks reliably (i.e. without needing a shirt change!) from a cup makes packing on outings much easier because then we don't have to pack too much stuff, and can just stop at a supermarket and buy mineral water bottles when we are out.


We're also really proud that she can drink by herself in restaurants, so that we can focus on the food!!

Hope that helped, if not, just enjoy the photos.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Astro Nonsense

Just for fun....
These are the star sign descriptions for Sophie, Fab and me (mixed up). Can you guess which one is which?

Star Sign 1
This child is a boisterous scatterer of energy. He goes straight to the point but doesn't always stick around to reap the benefits. He's cheerful and optimistic, perhaps expecting too much from the world. Generous with friends, he will share without counting the cost. He is courageous and loves to explore in every sense of the word. A tendency to over-eat can be counter-balanced by a love of sport.
Personality key: Optimistic, full of expectation, friendly, generous, indulgent, fair, free, philosophical, playful and energetic.

Star Sign 2
This is a fastidious child -- her eye for detail is beneficial but she needs to learn what's important. She loves cleanliness and tidiness. Her powers of discrimination may make her a choosy eater. She loves to please -- rejection will be very deeply felt. She is curious and interested in many things, always prepared to apply herself fully to the learning process.
Personality key: Analytical, clever, efficient, critical, fastidious, precise, methodical, careful and modest.

Star Sign 3
This is a materialistic, sensual child who appreciates what can be owned, tasted, touched and experienced. This is why she is so good with her hands -- she likes to produce what can be seen and appreciated. She is often content to let things remain just as they are, as she loves the security of routine. She'll be loving and generous.
Personality key: Passive, co-operative, creative, harmonious, beautiful, affectionate, moderate, indulgent, resistant, sociable and loves routine.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Meet the Family!!



Sophie will be meeting all the cousins at Christmas!! (this photo happens to be just Solenn, Clarisse, Louise, Sixtine in the French Alps over summer). I guess I am so excited for her because she hasn't seen all the family for ages, and now she's going to stay with these 4 and also.. Salome, Alix, Raphaelle, Roxanne, and Joseph) .. As you can see I am panicking slightly over the christmas present shopping...

This leaves me with the philosphical musing about where Sophie's little heart will be most at home when she grows older. Will she consider herself French? Chinese? Singaporean? (since most Singaporean struggle to define themselves, I hope she'll do a better job in this last category).

Probably none and all of the above.

My personal idea of love is an infinite, limitless resource. It was something I used to argue about violently with someone I used to date. His idea was that love was finite, and that loving one extra person or new friend was that the amount of affection for everyone else would decrease. I think the amount of time you have for everyone decreases when you have alot of commitments (and knowing and caring for alot of people does mean a lot of commitment) but that is not equal to caring less for all of them. We ended over this (amongst other key differences). It was a good idea because Fab and I are in general agreement over most practical things (where to invest our money, what time is a reasonable baby bedtime) as well as most values (generousity, integrity etc...).

Our current thinking is that having more than one mother tongue, "home" country and so on, will probably ultimately enrich and not divide Sophie in the long run.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Maternal Hormones Timeline

Last Friday I took some snaps of Sophie and Nathaniel making banana muffins in my home. Today I was going to email those photos to Jac.

But I brought the wrong USB stick to work. This one contains photos from the "Sophie's World" 2008 calendar in my house which I had professionally printed (tell me if you want one on recycled paper).

Have resolved to be better organised tommorrow and email Jac those play-date photos. But since I'm a "glass is always half full" kind of person, I decided that I couldn't pass up on an opportunity to blog these together with thoughts on a book I am reading now.






Stephen Pinker's book "How the Mind Works" contains an interesting little side note on the "myths" of maternal love. Pinker (extrapolating from other research) shows that the only thing highly dependent human babies have going for them is their sheer cuteness. Which prevents early parents from either killing them or abandoning them, in situations where the short-term biological investments outwieghed the long term benefit of propogating genetic material. Although the infant makes various demands on its mammal mother and sometimes the mother's consort, the emotional attachment grows together with the child as the kid gets increasingly cute and interactive, and the less cute babies had a lower chance of survival. Primitive parents were less likely to murder small children (with whom an emotional bond had already been forged, but are still physically vulnerable) than their infant siblings. There are a whole bunch of reasons for this, and it is actually a whole lot more complex than I'm hashing here, so if you are interested, please go read the book and we can discuss it by email.

My personal experience of the theory is that I didn't have any great hopes of instant maternal bonding with my daughter when she first showed up. I had read enough beforehand to know that expecting yourself to meet societal expectations as regards motherhood is one sure road to post-natal depression.

Instead I just let myself fall slowly in love with this little person, who is so much like me and yet exists completely independent of me.

The first photo is her at 7 months in the bath, trying to stuff Mr Bubble into her mouth. If you don't find that just plain adorable you probably have a heart of cement.

The second photo is just before her first birthday in Korea at my parent's home making her grandparents fall in love with her. She had been standing unaided but not quite walking. The slight hindarance to her great progress was that she used to stop every 2 steps to sit and applaud herself. It always cracked me up.

The third photo was just last month. She's on her way to a play-date, but stops to pick up some leaves to give to another little boy in the park. This is the first time she has taken independent initiative to give something to another random child (you could hear the excited cries of "GOOD SHARING SOPHIE!!" from here to Singapore)

Way to go Mr Pinker (et al) - I confirm that theory Maternal Affection in correlation to time theory....

Monday, December 03, 2007

On the General Transcience of things



Ignore that uber cute little girl with the milk moustache (a real "Got Milk?" ad if there ever was one) and focus your attention to that little glass mug on the coffee table on the right hand side of this photo. That's the one that Sophie managed to break last week. We seem to have had a recent run of bad luck on drinking containers around here.

We've broken the pair of Sophie's milk glasses. These are cute glasses designed in a size easy for little hands to grasp - she likes drinking from "real glass" with one hand, just like maman and pappa. In other news, one ayi attempted to sterilize Sophie's thermos - a lovely red one which was a gift from Sophie's godmother - and the heat warped the vacuum seal. This irreplaceable in Beijing as there is no Villeroy and Boch here.

It is all really sad, and I will most definitely buy a replacement thermos (and some baby glasses) when we go to Turin. Hopefully there will be winter sales on !!

At least friendships are reasonably enduring. Thanks to Facebook, I have found a few of my friends whom I thought I had lost contact with.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Too many thoughts in my head



I am looking forward to my Bikram Yoga session tonight. I think I'll take it reasonably easy because I haven't been for a really long time.

It's time to review the year, plan for the next. A time to sow and harvest, and rest and recharge. I get contemplative (and a little stressed) about this all.

Question marks float through my brain like those little black dots that appear in front of your eyes when you are tired. Transient things like: Where am I going with my life? Should we both plan to get another degree? Where do we see our careers going in conjunction with our family life? and of course the really important questions like: What's for dinner?

*POSTSCRIPT: this lovely picture above is taken from a book cover, the title and contents of which are self-explantory. I do not own this book, so if you are thinking of any suitable christmas presents....

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hugs!

I spoke to Gina today.

We met in Italy some time ago, and I was really sad when we parted (thank God for the internet) and inasmuch as one of my activities to alleviate boredom is to nit-pick on American foreign policy and the Bush administration, I actually quite like many American individiauls.

Gina has the generousity of spirit that both overwhelms and charms, and I have had so many happy memories of Turin in part because she was there.

Anyway, she's back in Seattle with her new baby son and I wish the little family all the best of luck and many happy thoughts!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Weaning is such sweet sorrow

Sophie has been fed only breastmilk for the first 5 months of her life. Our general approach to introducing solids and weaning has been a soft and gentle tread.

This perhaps has something to do with our current child care where we (deliberately) arrange for Sophie to have just her mum and dad around every weekend. [Note to Self: A world without any form of paid childcare is a very scary place, and I try never to take my excellent ayis for granted!!]

At 6:30am on weekend mornings when you have an (extremely) active toddler who wants to play the time honoured game of "Let's jump and down on my parent's bed till they get out of it", the best way to get her to lie quietly and snuggle is to offer her "nai-nai".The other thing we have started doing is to set some rules (e.g no nai-nai when we are out of the house) but quite often this rule is more observed in its breach.

La Leche advocates breastfeeding for at least 6 months, but afterwards to continue for as long as both baby and mommy feel comfortable.

I think that this Christmas in France should be one of the last times where she has reasonably easy access to my boob and the 2008 resolution is that I have to be more firm about saying "nai-nai finished - no more!!".

But it will be just so damn hard in those weekend mornings, and a part of me will always miss having her little face pressed against me with that look of pure and utter contentment and security.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

18 months already

"what a lucky girl she is!" my friend exclaimed when hearing about Sophie's adventures.

"You are wrong" I told my friend. "It is not that Sophie is lucky to have this life, but we (her parents) are lucky to be able to share it with her."



My dear daughter,

I am sure the blinkers of parental bias would have engendered the same passionate love; even if you were not the delight that you truly are.

Inasmuch as we would like to believe that it is down to our superb parenting skills and carefully planned organic menu, I am afraid we only had a relatively small part to play in your development.

Whether divine providence, karmic lottery, or genetic jackpot, I am absolutely convinced that your keen intelligence and extremely intense nature were entirely inborn. So far you've demonstrated that you have an excellent memory and you appear to have a precocious musicality which has sparked a great deal of excitement. Your proud parents tend to waver between finding a way to let you develop your gifts, and protecting you from unnecessary stress.

We are likely to make mistakes, we probably will cause you much emotional pain (although this will probably be nothing like what you are likely to inflict on us). Parenting must be the only job in the world where one undertakes the maximum level of risk and responsibility, coupled with no actual control. You are your own little person. A fact which fills me with wonder each time you remind me of it.

If the last 18 months were anything to go by, the next 18 years of your life will probably be alternately exhausting and exhilarating. We are just so glad to be a part of it, and never wish to forget the unique gifts you've graced our lives with - simply by being in it.

Love always - mama and papa

Monday, November 05, 2007

Eternal Life

This morning I realised that a friend had died.

It wasn't someone I knew really well, but whom I considered fondly as one who brought joy to other people that I knew and cared about. And sometimes that is all you need as a basis - call it friendship by contact if you will, but the sadness that comes afterwards is still a personal one.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

She actually really does it!!

Some months ago, the nanny quite proudly announced to me that Sophie could now read Chinese. I sort of dismissed it as the prattling of a dear lady who loves and adores my kid to bits, and was probably mistaken.

We went to Long Qing Gorge today with my Mom and Aunt and the windows in the car were misting up, so I idly scratched some characters onto the condensation with my finger. Sophie took a look and went "papa"...

AUGGGHHH.... It is true. She really reads. I tested various words before running out of window space (and attention span). So far, apart from "baba" she can read the Chinese characters for "mama", "horse", "car" and "soup".

I am stunned and also bursting with pride. She reads more Chinese than her dad. I am so glad that I have a good nanny, because I really do not think that I could have taught her all that myself, even if I didn't work. It just wouldn't have occured to me to do it, partly because I believe children should just be left to play and develop by themselves. But that she enjoys reading (and probably all the attention she gets from doing it!) and has so much fun that I begin to reconsider this stand, and I am extremely grateful to her ayi for it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Curling up with a book

I've been reading "half of a yellow sun", and it really makes me think I should start writing again.

This blog is a way to force me to string words together in a roughly intelligible stream of conciousness, but it is a mostly a medium for my own records. To remember each sparkly magic moment that I enjoyed with much love and laughter.

Writing a book or even a long essay requires a lot more discipline, a kind of rigour which I miss. I don't know if there is any point to doing it apart from the satisfaction of having done so. It's the same motivations for running a marathon or climbing a mountain. Just the feeling of having been able to have done so.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

To see the world in a grain of sand



I never intended to take my shoes off and wade into the sea, but clearly underestimated the power of "Mommy Please?".

The need to discover by touching, tasting and throwing stuff at, is something I thank her for teaching me each day.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Notes on the plane

The beauty of having both of us travel regularly for work is that we are less likely of falling into the "marriage trap" of taking the other person's presence for granted.

Our holiday in Japan was so wonderful, it was a real family holiday together and I fall in love with you again as the father of our child. You obviously love being a dad, and our daughter adores all the swinging, Eskimo-kissing, and being tickled to death by you. I was reading that girls are less likely to be in abusive relationships if they grew up with a strong father figure. I have no worries for Sophie on that front, and it is a real blessing.

I used to wonder how people could stay married for 50 years without getting bored. I have an inkling of that answer now. The natural progression of our relationship has not been without its fair share of fights and spats. But it's never reached a point where I ever doubted our love.

It something I am so happy about finding that I wish it for my "still looking" friends *(this kind of love that is, not the husband).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Am going to Singapore tommorrow

I have a conference to meet and greet clients and hopefully learn a great deal about this carbon trading business.

But it will be so fun to see everyone again, I haven't been back since New Year, and I am really excited about seeing everyone again.

It will be comforting since I am still upset about England beating France at Football.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Japan Holidays



We had an awesome holiday in Japan. It certainly did live up to the stereotypes about being extremely clean, well organised and polite. It was also surprisingly baby-friendly.

Some useful nuggets which parents travelling with toddlers might want to take note of:

1) Many parks have diaper changing areas and you can borrow a free stroller in most museums, nursing and rooms for your kid to have a nap can be found in most large department stores
2) Serviced Appartments are half the cost of a hotel, and you can choose a layout which favours an early bedtime schedule because parents can shut the bedroom door and sit in the kitchen to read guide books and enjoy a child-free dinner together
3) We tried a cheap ryokan and found out that co-sleeping does NOT work for us because our kid is so used to associating sleeptime with being alone and playtime with being with parents that when she is on a tatami mat together with her parents, she just can't sleep. Depending on your kid's sleeping pattern you might love or hate this communal sleeping thing

It was really wonderful having a long family vacation together, Sophie has benefited from all that extra time with her parents and learned silly stuff like how to:
1) meditate in a Zen Garden
2) say words like "Cool!" and "Mario! (just like the Nintendo PS2 game) - no prizes for guessing which parent taught her that one
3) also courtesy of her dad, she can say 3 syllable words like "asahi" !! I am trying to get her to forget that one before we go to Singapore, I think she'll freak out my parents if she can name the different Japanese beers before being able to say "elephant"
4) She has learnt that saying "coookie" and signing "please" works wonders, okay so the cookies are organic but I always wonder if I am setting her up for a lifetime of obesity and tooth decay if I start letting her eat cookies at 16 months (my husband thinks I should stop being paranoid and just enjoy both the holiday and our lovely daughter who shares her cookies with random strange dogs)

I think I like my job a lot. There was sufficient cover for my files, and whilst I did check email to ensure that it was still under control, I never had to interupt my vacation to actually do work.

You can see the rest of the photos here on my facebook account.

Although I love using Flickr, the free, unlimited storage space on Facebook draws me like a magnet.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Travel Travel

It is the Golden Week National Day holidays in China, and we leave this saturday for Japan!

We are going to stay for a week in Osaka, and then do day trips to Nara and Kyoto. We'll head down south to Kobe for the scrumptious slices of cow and the onsen in the mountains...

It's going to be great.

I'll come back and work for a week, and then romp off to Singapore. I love this job!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

When did you know?

I was talking to my brother about his first job. I wanted to tell him - it does get easier with the passage of time. Yet I know that if someone had told me such platitudes when I started working, I don't think I would have believed them either. So I shut up, but this blog post is written with him in mind.

I have been a couple of jobs in my life, and I think I am really happy with this one. It's been coming close to 5 months now, and I am still going to work and coming home with a whole range of emotions including challenged, exhausted, stressed but never feeling that it was time to quit. Sure it is not perfect, I am sometimes swamped and feeling way out of my depth, but there is a basic amount of respect and openess in the office which I find quite frankly refreshing. Might have something to do with being in a start-up. Right now I am experience this kind of bliss. I'm happy to take it one step at the time and see whether this keeps up.

Flashback to myself in another life, I knew it was not a good fit quite early in the day when one collegue in my team sent an email circular about protocol for sending mobile phone text messages (I am not kidding!). It was the most ridiculous thing I had ever seen, but when nobody was rolling on the floor laughing, then I knew this was not going to ultimately work out. My only regret was not to have to guts to pack up and leave earlier, but I guess I needed to go through the CV stamping exercise. Man, I must have been a miserable old cow when I was working there, and I laugh at myself now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fitness objectives

I am horrified - I can still wear my second trimester pregnancy clothes!! My "think thin" clothes are horribly tight (the kind you need to breathe in to fasten).

Must. Lose. Weight.

Especially before going to Singapore (so that I can have my laksa fix, my chilli crab and oatmeal prawns, my carrot cake and char kway teow, roti prata and milo peng...)

Oh yeah - Rhys! aren't we (Pins and Elaine) supposed to have dinner at that awesome restaurant where the chef is your army buddy? I cannot remember the name in Chinese now, but I remember that it was YUMS.... Also there is Christmas in France and all its orgy of calorie laden goodness to look forward to.

Running? Star jumps? Any suggestions from all you fit friends out there?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

If your life was a movie now - would you believe it?

Sometimes I think I am living a dream. I read a couple of Facebook poll questions of the "where would you like to be" or "what would you like to do" variety, and I must be an exceedingly boring pollster. Or at least that is my excuse for not bothering!

I wouldn't want to change a thing. Honestly. My life is pretty far from perfect, but I can live with all its flawed and human glory.

Of course, that doesn't mean I don't want to ever stop trying to: (1) shed some ancient post-natal pounds (2) effect some meaningful change in this world (3) increase the number of personal vegan days per week. My complete to-do list is reams and reams of A4, but that was just a random sampling.

When I say I wouldn't want to change, I mean that I have stopped beating myself up for not achieving all these things. Somehow having a kid has made me a kinder person, begining with myself and my own (previously) sky-high personal expectations.

Fabien and I were talking about this last night, whilst reviewing our latest fantastic weekend.

If our life was a movie would you find our characters believable?

If our life was a movie now, I would spend all the time waiting for something terrible to happen. Somebody has to die, or at least have an affair, otherwise it would be a very boring movie.

Do you want to have an affair?

No, I got two really demanding women already, so I don't have any time.

Yeah - let's adopt another girl then you can have 3...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Kaapstad via London

Joan is part of our extended family - she's Sophie's godmother. So when she and her brother did the whistle-stop tour of China we enjoyed a Beijing weekend of great dining and an early morning trip (for them!) to the Great Wall.

I think it's wonderful that Sophie will have the chance to enjoy godparents from totally different cultures and environments to her parents. Fabien and I deliberately chose godparents for her that were younger (slightly) and with very different personalities from ourselves so that hopefully she will enjoy the diversity and it's a reminder to us that "our" way isn't always the "right" way.

Over a waterpipe and drinks, we discussed how Singapore and (White) South Africa are really alike because it's a small population with a constant siege mentality. And everyone is worried about "what the neighbours would say". Also we agreed to come back to whampoa club on a corporate expense account at some other time!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cannot comment on other pple's blogs

I think censorship is stupid and internet censorship even more so.

But what completely hacks me off is when this theorethical debate translates into practical problems, like now, when I cannot comment on other people's blogs.

I always need to put in my 2 RMB worth of opinion. And now I can see the blogs courtesy of bloglines (*thanks to Mini), but I cannot post my comments.

soooo... 2 comments that have been on the tip of my tongue/keyboard...

@ Dos Centavos - I hope your dog is feeling better now. You didn't miss much of a game anyway.
@ Peter - your vacation photos are awesome! Makes me want to run around in leiderhosen (and yodel).

Monday, September 10, 2007

Photos are up!




If you are on facebook you probably already knew that, but I just signed up (finally) to this application because I was seduced by their unlimited free photo space, and figured I better sign up for it now before they start charging for this like flckr!

So some of my favourites (for those of you who cannot access facebook) are:

Sunday, September 09, 2007

It was GREAT!!

It is the last weekend with my mom in Beijing (she leaves back to Singapore this week) - so we treated ourselves and spent it here and I don't think we wanted to come back! The weekend was super because:

1) upgrade to a private villa (for the little monkey to get into mischief all over)
2) 20% off spa treatment
3) sunset views of the Great Wall

I will stop sounding like an advert (in a minute) but the last plug is this:- I found it better than banyan tree, because they cater both to kids as well as honeymooners.

Pictures to follow once I get my camera downloaded (no more battery) from very photogenic moments with daughter, husband, mom and wall.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The weekend is here again!

We are off for another great weekend away at the Great Wall.

I am soooo looking forward to it! This weeek was a non-billing week because I just cannot get my concentration to the level I want, and it is really useless to review stuff when you are just not thinking clearly.

Some exercise up in the mountains, yoga at sunrise and and lovely spa treatments, and I should be all set for monday!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Random Rant

Sophie likes car-rides. Sophie likes nursing. Can somebody PLEASE invent a carseat which allows for nursing your child in a moving car without compromising their safety?

My beautiful and independent toddler can entertain herself (and her rapt audience) for about an hour or so in the car-seat. She can look out of the window and sign the genus of all the animals she sees, and make all the related bovine/ovine/canine/porcine/feline noises (who needs a tour guide?!). She can entertain us with narrations (complete with the kissing sound-effects!) of the on-going (but ultimately doomed) love affair between the Very Hungry Caterpillar and Mao-Mao. (see below)



BUT when she wants sleep, then somehow those bottles of formula don't work the same soporific magic as warm mommy milk.

Then I have a real mommy-dilemma: Should I take her out of her car-seat and nurse her or not?

Damn it's sometimes so hard to be a parent. When you have to make such finely balanced judement calls in your personal life, those pain-staking cost-benefit analysis and decision trees I do up at work seem so simple by comparison. A multi-million dollar bid price for a project becomes a doddle !

Hit the road jack..

We love summer weekends hiking in the mountains!





Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Capturing the moments



There will be a time when our daughter's conception of fun doesn't involve being swung in circles by her papa.

Thank god that time is not now.

map reading



I am glad she doesn't have her mother's sense of direction!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Happy Birthday Fab!

Happy Birthday to you! You're 30 years old, have a great career, friends and the company of a female that loves you dearly (not the cat). But I guess the greatest achievement, pride and joy in your life right now is that this little monster gets cuter by the moment...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Reading to Mom



As promised in a previous post, I finally got around to getting the video downloaded. This is Sophie reading to Mom from her Chinese rhymes book.

I melt each time I see her do this.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Car Seat?

Compared to the previous poetic epiphany this is going to be a truly pedastrian post appealing to a tiny minority of the reading population of this blog...

The question is:
What Car Seat do you use for your kid?

You see, I am going on a road trip to Cheng De this weekend, and we need to pop Sophie in a car seat.

And I feel overwhelmed by the selection. Methinks she is not going to be pleased whichever one we select. You don't need a carseat in a cab here, so normally what I do in the cab is that I wear Sophie in the Ergo baby carrier, and then strap myself into the seatbelt. At least she won't go flying out of the windshield in the event of an accident, and she can snuggle up to Mom. She might get whiplash though!

Our standards are probably more lax in a short taxi ride down the road, but for a long road trip, then there is no question about the car-seat - she will get one.

Monday, August 27, 2007

3 Weekend Snapshots

We are at Fauchon for Sunday brunch, and Sophie toddles around in search of waitresses to charm (by going up to their knee, tugging on their trouser leg and saying "hi"). A neighbouring diner says "she is so well behaved" because despite being all smiles and curiousity, she leaves well alone the cutlery and all the other things we tell her not to touch. And my husband and mother smile because we all feel like we are bursting with pride (and chocolate eclairs).
---------------------------
We are having a drink, enjoying the first autumn breeze, and speaking of many things, some purely administrative, some entirely speculative. All of a sudden, in mid-conversation, you say completely matter-of-factly "I think that you are a really good mommy", and I feel suddenly awed. Loving you makes me want to be a better person because you believe that I am a much better person (than I sometimes think I am).
------------------------
Haiku
Finding on your wrist,
the smell of our daughter's bath,
bring bubbles of joy

Saturday, August 25, 2007

In the Summertime




I was in your presence for an hour or so
Or was it a day? I truly don't know.
Where the sun never set, where the trees hung low
By that soft and shining sea.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Is that your final answer?

I get asked quite often when Fabien and I are planning on having another kid. Which is quite funny because I don't think we really planned to have Sophie in the first place. She was a "controlled accident" in the sense that I am far too disorganised to use ovulation sticks and charting cycles to either plan for or against conception, so that we carried our general laissez faire approach to this as with other areas of our life. (is that too much information yet?!!)

At this point however, I don't know when or whether we want another biological child or adopt one. The environmental impact of having another biological kid gets to me, but the amount of legal hoops to jump through and death by paperwork almost makes me prefer labour!

In either the adoption/biological baby scenario, there is still the question of timing. Now just isn't a good one, because I am really getting into the swing of being at work now, and I do enjoy it, so I don't really want to take time out to look after another baby.

Right now, my work/life balance is so good, I nurse, read books, and play with Sophie every single morning, then I go to work. I don't feel pressured to rush home because she has an early bedtime and would be asleep anyway. My office hours are not as bad as when I was in Singapore, but I do have the ocassional late night. No all-nighters... Yet

And at least once a week, I have lunch at home with her, and at least once a month, I will spend a couple of days working from home, to make up for the time that I spend travelling for work.

With Fabien doing exactly the same thing, I guess Sophie has quite a lot of parent time overall, but both her parents can still have full time jobs. Sophie may not realise her parents are married since she often only sees one of us at a time but hopefully we have enough family holidays and weekend breaks en famille to balance it all.

This was a really long way of getting to the point that my general feeling is that we're in such a good rythym right now it seems perilous to introduce another baby into the mix! The response to the "when" question seems to be "whenever"~

Monday, August 20, 2007

Talking Heads

Sophie's first sign at 6 months was for "milk", a sign she still uses on a daily basis! She regularly uses all the regular baby signs for miscellaneous animals and daily life ("more" + eat/drink/play, up, down, all gone/ finished) but this weekend we started on some more abstract signs like "love" and "share".

Mum is here right now with Sophie and coinciding with Sophie's language acquisition spurt. So far, Sophie's sign language vocabulary far outstrips her (intelligble!) spoken words, so now that my Mum is here, she has started making sure that the princess speaks as well as she signs. My mother "reliably" informs me that I spoke in short but complete sentences when I was about 13 months old. So at least she has 50% genetic potential for early speech!!

So here we are in the middle of the first week that Mum has been here and the latest favourite activity is "reading" - she holds a book in front of her and "reads" the story herself. Interestingly enough, she actually follows the correct page order, holds the book the right way up, and "repeats" the story the way I usually tell it. I know this for a fact because when she reaches the parts of the story requiring animal noise input, she actually makes the "moo" and "meow" and "ah--choo" at the correct pages in the book!!

I've been reading aloud to Sophie since birth. Just whatever I was reading myself at that time, usually an article from the Economist or the Commercial Law review. BUT as she began to make her tastes known, she'd ask to change this boring crap to more interesting fare. Like Sandra Boyton "But not the hippopatamus" and ALL the Dr Seuss's Flip the Flap books, and "Mr Brown can Moo".

Confession - I prefer it too!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More Visitors !!


Mum arrived today, and it's quite exciting because she is spending her birthday with us. This is extra special because Fabien's birthday is on the same day (spooky right?)

Anyway, I am hoping Mum will be able to help me look for a hat for Sophie from one of the many clothing stores in China. See the hat in this photo? It was soft denim and very comfortable and it was the only one Sophie agree to have on her head for any length of time without ripping it off (like all other head gear).

Of course we managed to misplace it. Probably in Qing Dao.

Anyway, we have our iteniary with Mum all planned. We will go to the great wall and stay overnight at one of the funky places they have there. And we will go to Chengde (summer retreat of the emperors) and just have a blast. Even more fun because Alessandro and Gianni (our friends from Italy) are coming on Friday, so we will have loads to do together.

And then, just after Mum leaves, Joan (Sophie's godmother) will come.

We will be extremely busy and happy.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Busy but lovin' it

I think I am going to be crushed by the tsunami of paper that is coming at me. I am getting stuck in a major FIDIC arbitration involving long nights in the office and handbanging and hand-wringing. But deep down inside I love it! Having signed up to write this article for an industry journal, I spent last Sunday in the office.

In the meantime I am juggling work, family, social life. I think if I stopped running around like a mad cow I would sleep for a week. But the thing to avoid (I guess) is burn out. I felt close to that last week, but this week is much better.

It's fantastic that my mother is coming for a vacation next Wednesday.

Then friends from Turin - Alessandro and Gianni are going to come to see us, and I am trying to arrange for us to all go to Chengde for a weekend trip.

Although that is the weekend that I (sigh) submissions due on Monday for an arbitration with my boss in Hong Kong.

So it is all madness.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Please get into HEC!!



My cousin Eugene has come to visit us in Beijing, it is nice to have family around. He's applying to go on exchange in a few different universities, and the one I am REALLY hoping he will get into is HEC, which is a great French business school. And from my point of view, conveniently located in one of my favourite cities in the world!

This is Sophie in Paris with her pal Laetitia.

It is such a "mummy" thing to do, but I like to take out old photos to look at because I am always blown away by how quickly the metamorphosis take place. Lae and Sophie were barely crawling when this photo was taken, and now they are both running all over the place.

Anyways, good luck Eugene, I hope you get into HEC, and then Sophie and I will have great excuses to visit you and your (as yet non-existent) French girlfriend!!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Qing Dao



We went to Qing Dao this weekend.

Where I found out that Sophie is really really into imitating her parents. She copied us regularly before, but this felt like life in a goldfish bowl. To see my every action mirrored by this tiny being fills me with an alternating sense of wonder (how did we produce something so exquisitely beautiful?) and fear (what if we mess it up?!).

Fabien's reaction was somewhat more prosaic.

He managed to use her great learning curve to teach her all kinds of nonsense.

Like how to pretend to open a can of beer and go "gluguguggu" and then say "aaaaahhh", or else make really stupid noises (my daughter can now make fart-noises from C major to A minor), or else bonk her head with an empty mineral water bottle (I swear - I am not making this up!).

I saw him and Sophie taking turns to take a bottle and clonk themselves on the head - it cracked me up, but I told Fab that maybe she could have found a cure for AIDS, and now she will always be a couple of brain cells short, it would be all because her dad taught her to hit herself over the head with an empty plastic bottle..

Anyways, here she is with her mini bottles of Qing Dao. Looking very satisfied with herself, in the middle of saying "aaahhhh"

We had some problems getting her to sleep on Friday night. We thought it was perhaps the new hotel room. The next morning when she opened her mouth, we saw IT. If you look closely at her lower left jaw, you will see a new pre-molar poking through the gum.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What the heck are you drinking?


How do you know she doesn't like lemon juice?

CORIGENDUM Since this photo was taken, I realise she Loooves lemon juice. Every morning, I drink a glass of freshly squeezed lemon juice and every morning she steals some from me. She just doesn't like the kind from a bottle. How do you know she has expensive tastes??

Beach Weekend - sans phone

I think that there is no coincidence. The 2 years I didn't work in Private Practice I did not lose my mobile phone.

Three months into the job as busy lawyer, and I have lost my first phone. It was in a taxi at 8am this morning, whilst rushing to work with files in hand, took a call which required me to jot something down in the file, bleary eyed from lack of sleep, munching a fruit in the cab, giving directions on the fastest route to get there.... and somewhere in that chaos, I guess I left the phone in the cab.

It's tragic.

Especially because I REALLY need it this weekend. Fab and I are taking Sophie to Qing Dao (yeah, where they make the beer). It's a pretty coastal city and Fab had a meeting there yesterday (finally - somewhere decent!) and so I decided to be the accompanying spouse with Sophie, and took half a day off tommorrow to fly there with Sophie so that we can have the weekend there before coming back to Beijing together. So there in lies the problem, the logistics of arranging to meet and so on without a phone.... We will cut it extremely fine because I will dash from work at 12 noon to the airport to catch our flight at 1:45, but stopping at home at 12:20 to scoop up Sophie. She's running a mild fever, so I am wondering if she is teething again. Great....

Hey - at least we got a camera!

More photos when we come back - I promise. I saw Julius's photos on the Italian beach and I feel quite inspired.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Blessings



meme from DC = Sophie is blessed with.. natural football ability and a voice - when you ignore her...

Finally some photos of the weekend!



We got fed up of not having a camera and eventually settled on a nifty little panasonic lumix.

Got round to using it in when we went to the Chang Ping Nature District on Sunday, and hiked around in beautiful peace and quiet. There was basically nobody around us for miles around, and we could go on for at least 30 minutes at a time without encountering anything more civilised than a babbling brook and some rocks.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Did you hear the sound of my heart breaking?

This image is taken from here



Ever since she was a wee little mite, Sophie has always been clear that she knows her own mind. It's manifested quite clearly in her toddlerhood and days are filled with that strange tango between "I need mummy" and "I'm a big girl now". This gives me a strange premonition about her adolescence!

Anyway, I love our morning feeding sessions. As a working parent, having fixed regular times that we both look forward to is something I treasure, and my feeling was that I would let Sophie decide when she'd wanted to cut this last vestige of her baby-hood. Since we both enjoyed it so much, I didn't think she was ready to do this anytime soon.

Imagine my surprise a few days ago when I asked her "Sophie do you want some milk?" and I made the sign for milk. She signed "milk" back and shook her head. Puzzled, I still took my boob out, and offered it to her. Once again, she shook her head and clamped her mouth shut and signed "cheers" (clinking and imaginary cup). I took her cup out, poured some cow milk into it, and she drank all of it. Just like a big girl! She went without nursing for a couple more days and we almost made it to the end of the week. I didn't pressure her or say anything, but I did feel just a teensy weensy bit rejected...

Then this morning when I went to her room to get her, she signed "milk" again, and pointed at the sofa in her room where we normally nurse. Just in case I didn't understand she toddled over to the sofa and start patting it insistently, whilst signing "milk" repeatedly. Okay, so we're not about to kick the mummy's milk habit just yet. Great, because I don't want to!

ALERT: Overwhelming Parental Pride detected in the following sections. Proceed with caution...

She can associate "milk" with her toy cows, or her picture books. How this happened I have no idea. I generally don't bother with flashcards or baby einstein or whatever brainboosting ideas that clever marketing people come up with. I think I am just afraid of what might happen if I really started getting into it. Given my personality, I might feel a great deal of pressure to be the "perfect" Suzuki parent or something like that, and Sophie would consequently feel alot of stressful sub-current. So I generally give wide wide berth to anything claiming they can make a genius out of your kid. (think: Barge Pole and 100 foot) That is not to say that I don't try to keep updated on child-rearing trends, philosophys and general parenting information (usually fact-checked, researched and filed in alphabetical order), but I just want Sophie to have a happy child-hood.

Since I really enjoy reading, I've read to her regularly from birth. I also think I would go nuts not knowing how to communicate well with her, so we've signed to her regularly too.

A recent development has brought home the fact that these were great decisions, and Sophie is no less clever (and the proud parent in me whispers - probably even smarter) than her peers.

Apart from using sign language to communicate her physical needs (the usual suspects are: milk, hungry, more, hug, play, thank you, bye bye - not necessarily in that order!) Sophie has recently made the quantum leap from physical to abstact and now can associate ideas into images. Example of this - show her a picture of a cow and she will sign "milk". Substitute this for a picture of a dog and she will say "wow wow". I know it is not merely repetition/reward (like in flashcards), but genuine understanding because she does this even if she has never seen this particular photo before.

She never ceases to amaze me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Weekend and Shots

Tju Liang - an old law school friend came by this weekend. We went to a disapointing art exhibition, but made up for it with mussels at Morels and fantastic Persian food at Rumi. Saturday night was spent playing pool and drank not-very-chilled champagne. Tju Liang and Fabien had to try VERY hard to let me win at 9-ball. They almost succeeded, but I guess there are just some people with negative ball-sense. Who says chivalry is dead?

It was important to have a chill-weekend because this week is a mad juggle of work and domestic life.

Sophie went for a 14 month checkup yesterday with both her parents. She (and all the other kids at the clinic) are there with the full entourage - 2 parents, one ayi. She had 2 shots - MMR and varicella in the thigh. I think that is one of the sucky bits of being a parent is having to hold down your increasingly strong toddler while she screams. I think I got the hard bit because Fabien held her whilst she had her first shot, and I held her when she had her second shot, and she already KNEW what was coming and was struggling and shaking her head and saying noononononoo... I really wonder if all these vaccinations are necessary? Except for the fact that many schools require it before you register, and there is of course no way I can give her all these shots in one go before she goes to school, I guess it is best to spread it all out, so that Sophie's parents can be traumatised on a regular basis! In a wierd way, it's very bonding for Fab and me. Common suffering and all.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Client reverted

They want us! They were impressed with our report (blood sweat and tears in evidence), and they would like to give us the job.

There's only one, itsy bitsy problem. I am sure you can guess.

They think we are expensive. Expensive?!! We are BLOODY GOOD value for money I'd like to say. But obviously now that the hard part has been done, and we have given them the answer, they can get some lousy 2 bit law firm to execute the whole thing for them.

Boss told me it's basically my call. I can quote them a price, but just make sure the firm is not losing money on this. I feel like a real grown up now. Now... What kind of discount should I give on what is essentially my first client within the firm? Given that there will be other lawyers who will be assisting on this from time to time, I am not too keen to slash their rates either, but if I chop my own rate too much, that is an unhealthy precedent...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Great help

What truly made my day today was this email from Sophie's kindermusik teacher. This email extract is part of a longer update to a working mom as to how Sophie's classes are going:

Sophie was full of smiles today, interested in the instruments we explored today (resonator bar, drum, shakers and bells) and was very comfortable with the other children. She responded to her name, and helped clean up instruments after the activities were done. Sophie responds to both English and Chinese, and has never been upset in the 3 weeks she has come to class. On a more basic care level, she is always clean and well dress, and seems very content when she arrives! She is happy to see me, and very pleased to be with your ayi. She does not wander about the room or act out in anyway. Is she always so content? ;)

I honestly think that Sophie is thriving during her Kindermusik class, and your ayi is one of the kindest and understanding of children and their needs that I have met. She was the first to arrive today and the only person to arrive before 4pm. She allowed and encouraged Sophie to explore and play freely, participated in all of the dances and activites fully, and they both seemed to be having a great time. Too often I see the ayi try and make the child do activities the so-called right way or the same way that I am, but she doesn't! What a refreshing approach!


It really made my day. I'm pleased with my Morning Ayi. My afternoon one is not as good, but we are working on changing that. Still I am so pleased about this. It really makes me relieved even when I am not around at home. Just as a continuation to my Work/Life/Balance post, I think that apart from my husband who is incredibly supportive of me working (and at times egging me on when I have second thoughts about leaving Sophie at home), I think you also really need to be happy with whoever you leave your kid with. I cannot say that about Afternoon Ayi, but Morning Ayi has to count as one of my better hiring decisions. Nobody can really tell I think how the nanny will turn out, but over time, and through 3rd party observations, you will get a reasonably balanced view.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Work/Life/Baby balance

These days the buzzword (at least amongst headhunters) is "work/ life balance" and how their candidates can achieve that in various places.

The whole point of the "life" part of this balance (at least for most parents) is usually the quality of life of their offspring. It's a huge debate and my cop-out answer whenever asked for my opinion is that everyone will have to make their choices where they can and then adjust accordingly depending on the consequences (whether real or imagined).

To the mummys of Cat and Lae - I do really feel for you guys as you contemplate your next moves. Even though I've already taken the plunge into seeking out this balance, I can assure you that this is a decision that you will regularly review and make anew each day.

You need to have faith in yourself and the abilities of your child to be resilient and adaptable. From experience, I know that Sophie most definitely has proven to be tough, (me much less so!) and Fabien had to motivate me to hang on, each time I thought I'd just quit and stay home to spend my time with her. We are of course still in the adapting phase of my paper chasing career, but I think Sophie has done really well so far, and her parents are of course incredibly proud of her. I guess the support of the Father cannot be under-estimated, and even in the thick of his craziest working schedules, I was always confident of 2 things: First, I knew that if it really was a crises, Fabien would just drop everything to be there. Second, we spoke on the phone almost everyday, and he did try to see us (with one exception) every week, even if just for a few hours. There were times when I was so frustrated that I used to tell him (at the goodbye part) that I wished he would just not bother coming home because it just was much harder each time he went off again, I am (in retrospect) glad that he did make all the effort, because I think it counts for something at some unidentified emotional level.

Luckily that bit is all water under the bridge. It's not perfect, but we've managed to coordinate both our work travel time-tables thus far so that Sophie would always have one parent with her, but we joke that she might not know that we are married!

I am completely in awe of these women.

Shakespeare and Salmon

Fabien and me are thinking of a long weekend in Singapore. I really really really wanted to watch Ian Mckellan's King Lear, but I just checked the website, and ALL the ticketes for next Saturday night are sold out (why am I not surprised?)

It's summer here and everyone is going to be on long long vacations. Except me because I am going to be on a long vacation this winter, and since I just started work, I cannot in good conscience take both summer and winter breaks, especially in such a small office.

Sophie had a lunch date at Morel's with her parents yesterday. Sophie's salmon steak was obtained through the usual wrestles with the Chinese service staff mentality because the menu listed pan fried salmon in some kind of creamy sauce, and the exchange with the waiter went something like this:

"can you make this salmon steamed not fried, and put the sauce on the side?"
"no sorry, everything on the menu is fixed, if you want something for your kid, you can have the kid's menu"
"why can't you steam the salmon? I thought your advertising is that you cook food from scratch? Is it pre-fabricated food that you just microwave?"
"yes, but the chef will not be able to do it"

At this point the chef comes out, the waiter explains to him what this crazy lady wants, and the chef says "hey - not a problem! more than happy to".

Sheesh...

Monday, July 09, 2007

I really REALLY need a camera

Some updates on Sophie just so that the grand-parents are kept informed, with the promise of photos and videos to follow.

She's a real toddler now, and she's walking pretty well, though she loves wallking in between her parents holding on to their hands.

She loves her Kindermusik class, and her teacher tells me that she shows a remarkable sense of rhythm and music-sense. I know that during her first class (when I was there with her) the teacher (without any other instruction or indication) first showed them a xylophone and the sticks, and though all the other kids were curious, they looked at it, touched it or tried to bite it, but Sophie was the only kid who stared very hard at the instrument and then picked up the stick and started hitting it and grinning when it made the right sounds. I think that the fact that she did it all without any prompting is remarkable enough to give me some kind of bragging rights!

She signs well (when she wants to!) and will sign "thank you" and "water", "bye bye" "milk", and "down" (when she wants to come out of her feeding chair. Oh yes, my Tripp Trapp finally arrived, and we are really happy with it.

Apart from Mama and Papa and Wowwow (dog), she can say "bye bye" (together with the hand wave), "baby" (pointing at other children) and "allo?" (into the telephone). And the rest of the babbling we have not really figured out yet, but we are working on it.

So I am recording all this stuff so that I am remembering it all in a few years time when we cannot shut her up!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Art weekend

This week I was in Shanghai for work, preparing a proposal round the clock. You know it's busy when all your meals are either room service (because you just want to eat and go to sleep), or take-out delivered to our office.

I actually enjoy travelling for work. Of course I miss my husband and baby, but it only makes our reunions sweeter, and some how increases the intensity of the times we spend together because you don't take anything for granted.

Yesterday we took Sophie to Da Shan Zi - the art gallery district in Beijing, and it is gorgeous! It is a whole series of different galleries located in an old industrial area of Beijing. All the factory and ware-house spaces are converted to hold paintings, sculptures, ceramics, calligraphy, photos, cool books and quaint cafes. You could get lost in the district for hours and hours.

We explored a couple of modern art galleries, and then stumbled on a great photo exhibition for the Asia Photo Awards, and spent the better part of the afternoon there before coming home to put Sophie to sleep before Fab and I went for our date-night (where Fab made a new rule - we are not allowed to discuss Sophie OR work).

I have a confession to make. I don't "get" modern art.

So for me to really get my Art fix, today we are going to the Titan to Goya exhibition at the Beijing Fine Arts museum. They have a huge loan of about 35 paintings from the Prado, so we figure it is cheaper than flying to Spain. I need all the relaxation I can get because I am (deep down inside) stressing alot about this proposal. It is the first substantive pitch I have run since I joined and I really really want to win this client.

It feels like another baby. I think we will find out by the end of this month if we got this. I think I can never ever be a good Buddhist. The results will leave me either crushed or elated. I am just too much attached to Samsara.

Monday, July 02, 2007

princess skin and sweet blood

We went to the Fragrant Hills (香山) yesterday. It's a pretty park and the best description seems to be by my husband the poet:
"This is like the Côte d'Azur"
"really?"
"Yes, but you have to have more of these tough looking trees, more rocks, more sand and be able to smell the salt from the sea everywhere. But other than that, it's exactly the Cote D' Azur"
It was a really pleasant hike and we took Sophie with us in the baby carrier. She can walk, but we figured that dirt trails may be a bit ambitious.

After spraying her with bio-friendly citronella mozzie spray and covering her with sunblock, giving her a hat, long sleeve cotton shirts and long pants, she still managed to get both bitten and burnt ... on her FINGERS. Since she still sticks them into her nose/eyes/mouth quite regularly, of course we ommitted putting chemicals on her hands. But this is amazing.

She really has pale snow-princess skin. Forget even getting a tan. If I can put her somewhere close to some form of UV without her burning I'd be quite happy.

Maybe she's actually a goth.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Need a camera

Last weekend Fab and I played tag-team parenting. Basically we both took turns having 2 hour naps and playing with Sophie. We both have been busy at work and desperately needed some shut-eye.

Maybe Daddies are good for something after all.

Even though he lets our daugter play with water on the balcony with no hat, no sunscreen and no clothes, but wearing the biggest ever mega-watt grin.

We really need to get a camera. I need to record these precious moments if not they go by simply far too quickly. My tiny little raisin has turned into a 10 kg toddler. How the hell did that happen?

Friday, June 22, 2007

I see a green sea turtle


Mum look at the turtle!
Originally uploaded by vacheorange
Being a diver and a hippie chick mama, I bought Panda Bear Panda Bear What do you see for Sophie.

It's never to early...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Resistance is Futile

I had a breakfast seminar this morning not far from Fabien's office, so I dropped in to have coffee with him. We passed by Rouge Baiser and I could...not...resist... delicate hand sewn linen trousers for Sophie. The website does not do justice to their stuff. They use pure gazillion-thread-count cotton with delicate chic little motif embriodery. But for my husband's restraining gaze I would have bought the shop.

Parenthood has awakened the hitherto dormant shopping beast.

In other news.

Does anyone want to help post Sophie a pair of shoes? I cannot find her good shoes here. Which is ironic because they seem to be all made in China. But those available for the local market seem to be very heavy and not ideal for first-walkers. We'd love a pair of pediped and I will trade you some Rouge Baiser clothes for them!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Not all bad

Yesterday I was depressed with sick kid and sick husband. But there are always little silver linings as long as you look for them.

I love my job I love my boss. I worked from home for part of today, and by 4pm, Sophie seemed well and active enough for me to take her to a Kindermusik trial class.

I cannot stop raving about Karen's music class. Small class size, short class, and (most importantly) a wonderfully enthusiastic teacher who does does ASL signing together with the class as well...

Sophie (and mummy!) loved it so much that we signed up for all the once a week classes in the summer. The only problem is to figure out who to take her to class. The whole class is conducted in English, and I think the aiyi is going to have a problem.

Does that mean I have to hire someone else to take her to class?!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Augh

Disease and Pestilence have made their way into our household.

Fabien brought back some sniffles, headache and the runs. In the incubation time that he has been happily spending time with her, GUESS how long it took for him to infect our lovely daughter?

Of course, this has to happen in a week when I am busy at work and have to work from home to care for my sick husband and sick kid.

Faster than an electronic affidavit, Stronger than a stupid ol' virus, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's Super Mummy !!!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Who are you anyway?

Most of my Singaporean friends will have experience some variation of this kind of conversation . My American friends Gina and Shilpa probably get some permutation of it.

The views of the lovely Taiwanese transplant in Melbourne strike a chord with me somehow, even though she's talking of entirely different places. It's more the feeling that gets me.

What I really wonder is what the HECK Sophie will say when people ask about the identity of our Franco-Singaporean daughter, born in Moncalieri and raised (thus far!) in Turin and Beijing. Her little friend Julius will be able to give her a bunch of pointers. Actually Sophie will also be able to have this discussion with Cat and her mum Fioleta .

She's in good company though. I hired a lovely Canadian Chinese girl (here for Summer) to come play with her twice a week, sing song in English (albeit Canadian English - but who's cares?), sign and do a bit of baby gym. And tommorrow morning I will interview a Tahitian girl who will come to speak to Sophie in French with a New Caledonian accent. We'll see how that one goes, but so far so good.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The 3 strings story

I was a little hurt some time ago when one of my friends told me (quite honestly!) that she doesn't want to read this blog because she's gets jealous of my "perfect" life with husband, job and baby. I was hurt because it seemed a little like rejection, and then I reflected a little, and in her honour I dedicate this post.

I blog for a variety of reasons - getting to know people, allowing them to see into our lives, keeping up with old friends, and as a kind of record for myself for all of life's beautiful gifts. Which doesn't mean that crap doesn't happen. Of course it does. But I just see no point in blogging about it. Sure, that's one dimensional, and there is a great deal of things that bug me which fretting about won't help. Like the times when Fab and I miss each other so much that when he phones we get into a fight because of his crazy job. Ilike the thoughts I have of my grandfather dying of cancer in Singapore. And of course the general stress I feel about leaving my only child at home to the care of people who are (in effect) total strangers.

There is a this urban legend about Itzhak Perlman playing a concerto after snapping a string in his violin. Even if the story isn't true, it still appeals to the sentimental streak in all of us. Which is what I want to remember in the midst of any negativity which we have in our lives. Speak to me inner earth goddess!!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Help Wanted

People have been responding to the job ad I placed online.

I am running interviews this weekend, but some of the candidates look very promising, so I am looking forward to it, and I hope Sophie is too.

I cannot believe I have descended to the level where I am going to pay people to play with my daughter, but I console myself that it is a temporary situation untill she goes to school.

Monday, June 04, 2007

and sometimes it is the little things

I begin to realise that it is not always the grand gestures and the big presents that touch me. Sometimes it really is the little things that I love. And also that learning to let go and forgive can sometimes be alot easier in theory. That sometimes forever is not really a measurement of time but a state of mind.

breeze outside church

On this day 2 years ago, at a quiet little church in northern france, we got married (again!). And time has just slipped away like bubbles on a gentle breeze - can you spot those bubbles in the photo? Why did you get married? What are you looking for in your (potential) lifetime partner?

For me, marriage is a public acknowledgement of a private emotion. And each time we celebrate our wedding anniversary, we celebrate the fact that we still love each other, even when we (occasionally!) want to wring the neck of our spouse.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

How fast time flies

One thing I like about living at a temperate lattitude is that the seasons remind you that time marches steadily forward. The other thing is that photos don't lie even if your memory fades.

This photo above is the view from the window outside Sophie's room when there was a freak snow-storm in March. Just when you think it is safe to start wearing spring clothes...

And this great view (one of my favourite non-Sophie pictures taken in this house) is from our balcony in May.


And in case you thought this would be a Sophie-free post this is the infanta one year ago on this day...


I really should take more photos but our digital camera has given up the ghost. So I am just doing some reasearch into which replacement camera I should get.

Does anyone have some recommendations?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Going to be a good weekend

Fabien comes back home tonight! I am actually quite excited about it. I sometimes think that with him being away for so long, it gives us both a chance to miss each other. And yet carry on with our own lives.

Missing somebody doesn't really mean that you stay at home and mope. I think there is an element of that, but an incredibly private one. My guilty pleasure is reading Joan Didion "The Year of Magical Thinking".

For the most part, we live life without each other, and I think for us, that is a groovy kind of love. Because you are not dependant on somebody, you know you both don't NEED each other, but you have freely chosen to be together. For me that's an important element to say you are in love.

I'll leave you with a phone exerpt from one of our more private conversations:

"how can you be sure of anything for the rest of your life?"

"I am sure of what I promised, and I promised to love you for the rest of my life. Even on some days when I want to kill you."

"that is so sweeet"

"shut up"

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

This one is great!

I found CRAYOLA!!

I found crayola washable markers. They just delivered to my office. Sophie can add "coloring" to her daytime activity schedule now!

Mom at Work

I like my office so far. It's early days yet, but I am really enjoying what I do and I like my boss.

Sophie really has adjusted very well to me leaving her at home. As Lisa says, after a while you come back and feel almost disappointed .. like "what? you don't miss me?!" Sophie has quite a fixed routine, and I am reasonably happy that the aiyis are keeping to it. Friends dropping in on my home unexpectedly (thank you Julia and Lisa) are a kind of "nanny police", and random phone calls and spot-checks by the Control Freak Mom at Work is all very useful in keeping me reasurred about the princess's wellbeing.

Overall, it is busy but since I know Sophie sleeps so early every night, I am in no real hurry to leave the office (the afternon shift aiyi stays till 9pm) and I can squeeze in my once-a-week bikram class. It does mean that I fully spend only the weekends in her delightful company, and the hour or so in the morning nursing and getting ready for the day. But I think that's a happy enough balance for me.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Next week is going to be fun

Work has kicked up a notch, and I am getting quite excited.

Sophie seems to be quite happy still. We're having a nice weekend together. I invited random Park Avenue Neighbours to come around to try out our new barbeque. It should be fun.

It's all quiet now whilst Sophie sleeps. Her sleeping schedule (for those who are interested!) is...
morning nap 8 - 10am
afternoon nap 2 -3 pm
night sleep - 6:30pm till the next morning at 6:30am

It's more or less clockwork, give or take 30 minutes. I like her 6:30am waking up time because it gives me enough time to breast-feed her, play for a while, shower, have breakfast together, and leave for work at 7:45am. It's a nice morning routine that we have going, and I intend to keep nursing her for as long as she wants to.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Friday night out on the town

T'was a normal Friday night, a girlfriend, a bottle of bubbly and a suitably pretty location .

As I grow older (and perhaps just slightly wiser) I have found certain things. For example, drinking champagne consistently through the night tends to avoid a hangover the next morning. It really is worth the extra money, when you have a toddler who insists on listening to Abba and playing with finger puppets at 6:30am in the morning. Also for the same reason, you should start and end your night as early as is feasible.

Secondly, I have been trying to learn tact. Really, it is a lot harder than you think for people who just aren't naturally born with it. But in my year of motherhood, I think I have discovered an hitherto unknown talent for it. It's the practice in non-linear thinking which happens when you have a strong willed child and you have to balance many competing concerns (independence vs interaction, exploration vs safety etc...)

Anyways, we finished the night at 8:30pm, my friend left first whilst I finished the rest of the bottle, and when I tried to pay, I realised she had settled the bill on the way out cos she felt so bad leaving that early. It was a nice surprise. And I make a mental note to buy the next bottle of bubbly when we are next together....

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Some Korea Photos


and grining for the camera
Originally uploaded by vacheorange.
Only because I know that next week will be busy at work, I thought I would sit down tonight and (finally) upload our Korea vacation photos.

Due to the exigencies of the current work/life/single parenthood juggle, I have had to be quite ruthless in selecting which shots I had time to load. So this is a real quick run through (not in any particularly logical order even!) of our Korean soujourn.

Which feels like so long ago, that I deserve another !!

~OM~

Fabien called to say that he would be working this weekend in Chang Chun. Actually I already knew he would do that.

I'd been for my hot yoga class with an unquiet mind. Then watched the angry bits trickle out with the sweat. Went deeper into each stretch and filled my lungs to capacity. And the tired disapointed parts of our conversation puffed away with a slow and deliberate exhalation.

It felt good.

I as tender as my muscles. And I couldn't feel pissed off anymore even if I tried.

Short Little Trip

I went to Hong Kong from Sunday night to Tuesday night for (mostly!) work, managed to do a spot of very effecient shopping at Marks for essential items like ricotta and spinach sauces, knickers and socks.

Charlotte was really interested in the "tag team" parenting system that I have with Fabien. It is pretty sumple - we both try our level best to arrange our travelling schedules such that Sophie will at least have 1 parent at home with her. Fabien had a beautiful bonding weekend with her whilst I was away. They went to the park and went shopping together. He thinks I should go away more often so he can have his daughter all to himself. Except the toilet training part (that one he's quite happy to share!)

Some Beijing Airport notes (in case you decide to come to visit)

1) Opening Hours at the money changer at the airport is 9:30am to 4pm so try to fly within these times if you need to change mulah

2) They are VERY strict on the "no liquids" policy I had to throw out my face-wash and buy a new one in HK

3) The breast pump in the hand luggage sometimes needs to be identified (I'd like Sophie to decide for herself when she'd like to stop, though at the end of this year I would start persuading her gently if she's still addicted to my boob)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Belated Photos from last weekend

One of Sophie's birthday presents - from Emmy and Vincent was a swimming suit, which we tried out this weekend. Here is her Papa getting her into it.


We even have a small life jacket.


She's quite reluctant to get out of the water. Even when she's all dry and in her little pink bathrobe, she keeps looking to go back in the pool.


Mummy enjoys the last weekend as a Stay at Home mommy...


And we finish the day looking at the sunset from our balcony

Monday, May 14, 2007

New Beginings

I am so tired. Today was my first day of work.

I think I forgot how tough it was to concentrate on reading an entire complicated transaction with multiple parties and issues. But I am glad to back on track with my job. Deep down inside, I actually do like this stuff... call me a sucker for punishment. This office is start-up, and we are the first batch of Beijing Office hires, so there should be no issues. We will have to go door-to-door to sell our snake oil though!

The one thing I hate is that my feet hurt. I have multiple blisters. Damn these shoes are not broken in, and I haven't worn heels for over a year.

I haven't decided on the future of this blog yet. Stay tuned. I will figure out one way or another.