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


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".


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"
"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.