Wednesday, December 19, 2007


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.