Wednesday, January 31, 2007

And Now what?

I hadn't blogged about this because it was all under discussion still. But I GOT IT!

I am pretty proud of myself because I pitched for a freelance piece of work (of a kind that I have never done before) and I did get it (or maybe it is because my rates are so darn low!)...

Anyway I got this piece of work but (as usual!) it is a rush job and they want the first drafts out by 15 Feb. Which kinda messes up my plans to go to Korea to spend time with my parents.

I don't know if I should accept it or not, so I am still thinking about it. The pay is kinda low, and I have to change my travel plans because of this. But on the other hand, it is something I've never done before, so since they are considering me on a "trial" basis I guess I can raise the price for future work if we are all happy with each other.

I can't really talk too much about it because I've signed a non-disclosure agreement, but it has to do with raising capital for a business. So I guess I can introduce myself as a "consultant"!

Hmmmm... Thinking very hard. I miss my husband because usually decision-making is alot easier when you have someone to bounce ideas off.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sand Castles

Given our frequent flying, enforcing routine on our baby is sometimes like a constant sand castle building exercise. You know those carefully constructed turrets and portices being swept away by the incoming tide? Yeah, that's how I feel each time Sophie gets a great napping/eating schedule down, and we have to go somewhere again.

Apart from food, Sophie's other key need is for carefully scheduled sleep. Currently I follow a good sleep routine and she goes down for a nap without a fuss (even without her special Giraffe!). She wakes up with a clean diaper, and I potty her and she will pee and crap in the toilet. It impresses the heck out of alot of people but what they don't realise is that the SCHEDULE and the TIMING is a Very Fine Art Form.

We are going to see some of that this weekend, because I am going to be in Korea with my parents (yay!) and this will mess up some of the routine (boo!). Sophie isn't one of those extremely adaptable babies, partly because she's spent so much of her tiny life so far travelling already, and partly because of the emphasis we've placed on order and routine. A real irony because in truth, I am one of the most whimsical people around.

The part that scares me is going to Singapore for Chinese New Year. Sophie really really needs dark, motionless sleep (no sleeping in the stroller allowed) . so I don't know if we should stay with my parents because their appartment in Singapore is very bright, and has No black-out curtain... It is the stuff of my nightmares, and if you have ever seen an over-tired Sophie you will understand why. Just observe how cuddly and cute she is in our photos and videos. You Never will get to see any of that if she's too tired, she'll morph into this clingy, whiny and fussy monster. So what to do?

I guess the easiest way not to trouble anyone is to pay for an expensive hotel/serviced appartment. But that kinda sucks too. Sigh... I only have the next couple of days to figure out how I want to deal with it - Does anyone have a black-out curtain to lend me?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Our book-chewing monster

The one high thing on my to do list in Singapore is to look for soft cloth books for Sophie. This is after she'd taken quite a few hunks out of her lovely board books. She was "reading" them quietly on her play mat whilst I was surfing the net, and I thought it was a little too quiet (mommy 6th sense), so I went to check on her and she was caught in the act of chewing out board from the spine. She at least had the decency to look slightly sheepish. But I guess she is too young for board books because she still enjoys chewing on things (less so now that she's become more agile with her hands and worked out pushing/tearing/throwing etc). I tried giving her cheerios to perfect her pincer grasp, but she'll do everything else (push/tear/throw - you get the idea!) except eat them.

Anyway Fabien has left for a month to Chang Chun today, so there's just me and the book-eating monster. We miss him alot. Sophie keeps crawling around saying "papa", I wonder how I am going to explain to her that he's not about to read her a story anytime soon? On my end, I am trying not to drown my sorrows in hot chocolate and white castle microwave burgers. It is HARD... but I will presevere!

Ever since I came back to Asia i suddenly feel this incredible pressure to be skinny, and I've never really been all that bothered. It is just all these women who snap back into bikinis after having a baby ... Can I hate them or is that not allowed?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Silly Sounds and Mirror Play

ready for a bath
Originally uploaded by vacheorange.
Ever since she was 2 months old Sophie has been fascinated by mirrors.

We like to play with the mirror and play the "what sound does a cow/chicken/lion [insert animal] make" game. When you are 8 months old, this game is the best one ever invented (right up there with the evergreen favourite - "bonk heads" taught by Auntie Gina)

Now you understand why even watching CSI is considered intellectual activity for me. I gotta get back to work before my brain turns to mush!!

My growing bubba

Have been trying to re-write my CV and (*guilty laugh*) catch up on old CSI episodes. I think Sophie watches FAR too much TV. Mostly this is my fault. She loves CSI - she watches it with me (in between Disney and Nicklodean channels) as well as TV5 and BBC World. I keep promising myself that she will watch less, but I am usually in the middle of something (like this blog!) when she wants to play and it just seems much easier to plonk her in front of the TV than let her crawl around and discover something much more interesting (in her case, this means immediately threatening to her health and safety). Yesterday I came out of the shower and she was not on her play mat (or the surrounding area). She was hiding behind the kitchen door yanking on the big and heavy fire extinguisher. Yikes! (said fire extinguisher has since been relegated to a kitchen cupboard) if our house ever burns down you'll know why!

She's really enjoying her newfound mobility, having worked out the mechanics of standing and climbing. I am torn between being really proud of her (she is pretty ahead those baby developmental charts in terms of fine and gross motor skills) and wishing she would just stay a tiny helpless (read: easier to look after) little infant for just that bit longer. Less curiousity in all things that could kill her would also be nice.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Baby frequent flyer

Sophie is a pretty frequent flyer, having been lugged around both Asia and Europe. Some of my friends are planning on travelling with their babies soon. So yo guys - fasten your seat belts and listen up to Auntie Sharon and her 5 tips for happy travellers.

1) Plan your flight times.
Try to schedule the flight when your baby wakes in the morning. I found night time travel the most disruptive to Sophie's sleeping schedule, because she'd miss out on the longest most restful sleep period of her day.

2) Optimise resting times
This is Sophie in a Turin airport lounge. We are lucky because with Fab's frequent flyer we get access to Air France lounges on our economy class tickets.

3) Wear your baby
I found the baby bjorn the most useful for all the airport security checks, because it exposes more of the baby's body than a sling, so they are less likely to ask you to remove the baby to examine the sling. This is us with Sandra and Laetitia at the train station at Truezy. We are both baby bjorn fans!

4) Breastfeed
I usually keep Sophie awake by letting her play quietly and then nurse her as we take off. This usually prevents any middle ear discomfort and sends her to sleep immediately. This is where the sun hat works wonders as a light-block and discreet cover.

5) Be very very nice to the counter check in staff.
If the plane is not too full, they will then try to leave the seats around you empty. When we flew from Beijing to France for Christmas, I was alone with Sophie, and they left all the seats in my row empty. Sophie slept, played and generally charmed the socks off everyone. When we got off the plane, the stewardess told me that this is the first time in 8 years of flying that she has seen a baby not cry AT ALL during a long flight. If your baby cannot use the bassinet, I would recommend buying a seat for a long flight.

Just remember that your journey doesn't end when you get the other airport. There may be flights/trains and other connections to make so make sure you pack enough diapers and toys to last. In fact you should handcarry enough so that you aren't completely shafted if the airline loses your luggage. If you rent a car from a major company like hertz you can rent a car seat too, that way we didn't bother bringing the stoller/car seat with us for our trip to France because the Baby Bjorn was enough.

Bon voyage!

Has it really been that long?

We are back from our Hong Kong visa run over the weekend. Apparently you cannot apply for a resident's permit from within China, so we had a great excuse to get Fab's company to pay for our weekend away (HK is considered "overseas" for this purpose). We arranged it to coincide with our 2nd wedding anniversary, so we had an excuse to go out and generally have a good time. Check out Fabien and Sophie jumping on the bed (mummy was doing the sound effects). She was laughing so hard you can hear her hiccups!

We've only been married 2 years, but feels much more because we were dating for double that time. Having Sophie around just accelerates time, because she is growing so fast. I remember her as a little bundle squalling every 2 hours just wanting to be fed. Now she sleeps through the night, even when we are travelling. But she's still a nap monster (i.e. becomes a monster if she doesn't have at least 2 silent, motionless naps in the dark each day).

It causes some constraints because we don't let her nap in a stroller, so we were stuck in our hotel (in the dark!) for much of the day. Fab and I ended up calling the toilet our "conference room". If we needed to read something, make phonecalls or just look at each other in the light, we would adjourn to our "conference room"!

It was important for us to have a quiet family time together because Fab is not going to see Sophie for a month. He will be freezing in Chang Chun and Sophie and I will be missing him in Singapore (for Chinese New Year) and Korea (the rest of the time) for the month of Februrary. At least my parents will get to spend that month with her.

She is saying "papa" all the time now and Fabien is really chuffed. I think she says it because it is fun and we make a lot of fuss whenever she says something intelligible.

She only says "mamamama" when she's tired or generally upset. When she's hungry, she says "mamama" and makes the ASL sign for "milk" at the same time.... I am torn between being really proud of her and happy that all my signing efforts are paying off, and feeling slightly taken for granted!!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It has been crazy here

The first China lesson we learned was that contracts are not worth the paper that they are written on.

Our (ex) landlord just merrily informed our relocation agent that he decided to rent to somebody else, and so we can't move in any more, after all our planning and arrangements (even our Economist subscription has been changed!) revolved around his appartment.

I was mad. So mad. then kinda philosophical about it. At least we now know that he is evil before we started living in his house. It just means we are back to appartment hunting again, which totally sucks. So I was feeling abit sorry for myself because I have to be a single parent (Fabien is travelling this week) and look for an appartment as well.

Then I got news from Caroline - one of my oldest friends from Singapore (we were best friends in primary school!).

Her son Joshua was born 3 weeks before Sophie, and we had been in regular contact via email and skype. Then she moved back to LA and there was radio silence, so after a respectable settling in time, I emailed her to ask why she's been so quiet. Then she told me that her son got Kawasaki Disease, and they spent a long time in the hospital with him, and now they are taking care of him at home.

And then I felt like my problems were so trivial and insignificant.

It is for moments like these - with my darling, her daddy and duck, that I feel like the luckiest person in the world.

i am truly blessed and for this I am thankful.

swim in the ice

swim in the ice
Originally uploaded by vacheorange.
I don't know why I can't upload directly using blogger, so I have used flicker instead. But either way, this photo needs to be seen to be believed!

This Sunday we took a walk around Beihai park. Lots of young famillies walking their dog, kid or both. And young couples skating on the lake holding hands.
We then saw this old dude getting into the lake for a swim.

From our holiday in Finland, we are pretty familiar with avantouinti , but this dude did not come from a hot sauna. He kinda just took of his clothes and climbed into the water, and ignored the gawkers near by. I managed to sneak in this quickie photo (you can see the skaters in the top corner who stopped what they were doing to look at him.

All I can say is ...


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Survivor Yul and the New Jew

Never thought that daytime TV could provide perving opportunities. But damn - this is one hot asian dude. Kudos and congratulations to him for wining survivor cook islands.

As a random aside - many moons ago, Yul was the kind of hunky (varsity water polo), smart (Yale law school) Asian dude I could envisage being married to - so of course the fates being what they are, I ended up a blue eyed Frenchman. Such is life.

Anyway, I was reading Yul's bio and wondered if he was the kind of "New Jew" that Daniel Golden was talking about in his book. This is of particular relevance to me because at some point in my life I am thinking of going back to school, and I don't particularly look forward to being discriminated against (by being held to a higher standard) just because I happen to belong to a racial group that seems to comprise of consistently high performers (Yul's success notwithstanding!)...

Problems posting photos

I seem to have some problems posting photos. Kinda sucks because I have some great ones...

We went to Beihai Park today, and saw all the Beijingers (and some foreigners) skating on the frozen lakes. It was real pretty.

There are all manner of phatasmagoric contraptions for rent on the ice - ice bicycles and ice chairs for example!

The snow has stopped but it cleared the pollution through the week, so it this weekend was reasonably warm and sunny. The way a pleasant Beijing winter should be.

Friday, January 12, 2007

More Career Angsting

You know those "what I want to be when I grow up" kind of essays that you have to write when you go to school? It seems they never go out of fashion. Starting from when I was 5 year old (doctor/vet/astronaut) to my college application (aid worker with enough idealism to Make a Difference) and potential MBA or MPA applications (corporate warrior turned micro-financing manager); all these essays revolve around the same theme of trying to steer a course to achieve your personal career goals.

This kind of essay used to be a piece of cake. I usually knew what I wanted to do with my life and I could convey enough enthusiasm and sincerity to at least appear convincing (if not completely personally convinced).

But I can't fake all that now. I am truly at a loose end when it comes to what I want to do with my career right now.

It has been a long break from legal practice for me. My peers in Singapore are either already law firm partners or at least on the way there. I guess it gives me a good idea of what I am giving up by staying at home for now. And how much slippage there has been career wise.

But I don't think I could go back to spending all night poring over 30,000 documents in a war room - that what you call that large conference room filled with boxes of documents and littered with bandaids (for your paper cuts).

I need to truly ponder my next move. I am sure I want to work. The problem is finding a job which will afford a modicum of intellectual satisfaction weighed against the family life which I wish to have. Given that Fabien is going to be working like a lawyer sorry i mean dog, and travelling all over China for the next year or so, I shouldn't really leave our wookie at home to her own devices too much.

But how much really is too much? Nobody said having a kid was going to be easy!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Jet Lag and Address Update

Some of you might have recieved email from me at 3 am local time. There is nothing wrong with my clock on gmail, but the internal body clock seems to have gone awry. Yes I am awake. Together with my small monster. Who seems stuck in a timezone midway between Paris and Beijing. There is nothing I can do about my jet lag untill I fix the Sophie time zone.

We are both stuck in the twilight zone of sheer exhaustion. Sophie (poor thing) has not been able to sleep the full night since she got here. Her night sleep can only be currently described as insomniac. This is from a baby who used to sleep from 8pm to 7am without so much as a whimper.

Basically I send her to bed at 7pm because she cannot keep awake past then but then she gets up an hour late to play for a variable period before dropping back off again. Then she wakes up again at midnight and any attempt to put her back to bed before 3am is met with la resistance, which includes screaming like a banshee and all manner of contortionist acrobatics. It makes me wonder whether I should call a pediatrician or an exorcist.

Anyway at 3am she will drop off (probably from exhaustion) and then she will wake up again at 9am all jolly and happy. But that is only 6 hours of sleep. She used to get at least 10 if not 11 consecutive hours a night. This sudden halving of night sleep just cannot be healthy. She then compensates with super day-time naps from 10am to noon, from 3 to 5pm.

I want to figure out how to re-adjust her body clock. (*Peter - I feel your pain*)

If any body has any bright ideas PLEASE PLEASE tell me. You will gain my undying gratitude and respect. And a permanant place available for you at our new home.

(if you are considering writing to me, consider using the Chinese Address you see on this link ) The rest of you who can't read Chinese can look at the pretty pictures or something...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Tummy Tickles

Another Priceless Moment.

This video was the last one we shot in our old home in Italy, and our last overnight guests (Dan and Amaia) were taking photos of Sophie hamming it up for the camera. You can hear Amaia's voice when she realises she left the flash on.

Monday, January 08, 2007

My daughter the vegetarian

Fabien and I are meat eaters. We've munched on everything from horse, flying fox to shaggy yak. He's a Frenchman with an adventurous palate, and hey - I have Chinese DNA - the only thing with 4 legs that I don't eat is a table.

Of course we've been blessed with our daughter who absolutely LOVES fruits and vegetables and hates meat. Perhaps she is trying to right the karmic balance of her carnivorous parents.

We have been trying out chicken, beef and various other meats with Sophie which she doesn't seem to be hot about at all. She'll accept beef broth as long as you blend lots of yummy spinach in it. But anything with just greens gets gobbled up pronto. Peas, spinach, green beans are great. Carrots and pumpkin are not so yummy but are acceptable. She can't get enough of apple compote, bananas and pears.

Just to clarify I am pretty happy to have a herbivorous daughter, but since she doesn't do dairy products and the milk factory will cease operations once mommy goes back to work, my only doubt is whether a vegan diet is okay for my baby brahmin? A quick online search seems to suggest that plants lack vitamin B12.

So what do you guys think? Is it a problem if she hates meat? If it is then how do you think we should introduce meat to her? It's the stuff of parental late night angst...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year!

We arrived in Beijing at 12 noon on 2 December, and are currently staying at East Lake Villas, Appartment A 1203, phone number (DID): +86 10 646 77970

Trying to get over the jet lag, furnish and move into our new home on Park Avenue. The Park in question here is of course the Chao Yang Park, and is nowhere near Manhatten. Will post new address details as we get them.

But just to leave you with our photo at the stroke of midnight on 1 Jan 2007 in a small town outside Lille, with a gathering of Fabien's mad ICAM friends, and 16 magnums of bubbly for 12 people (i told you they were mad right?), when we left our respective babies with some other far more responsible adult and all got a bit silly together...