Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sandcastles with Ella

I am a dingbat - I managed to forget to bring my camera, so this comes from Darcie's camera which she kindly emailed to me.

Anyway, I have been attending a conference in Singapore and have been pretty busy. But Sophie has a busier schedule than me. Maybe I should get her a blackberry so that she can email me :)

Here she is on a playdate with our meeting-once-a-year friends Ella and Darcie at East Coast sandcastle areas [** note to mini and e~ Those are built by other people in some kind of corporate team building exercise]. She's adjusted to the heat quite well considering she is a polar bear.

My daughter does not need Earth hour, she doesn't use heating at all in winter, and has barely used disposable diapers. Although maybe _we_ do because (sigh) we use air-conditioning in summer because it is unbearably hot in Beijing without it. Desertification has come to the city. My friends previously asked me whether I am going to boycott the olympics in Beijing I guess with our second child due at that time, this is a moot question.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A night at the opera

We had another date night last night. Watching Turandot, and left with Nessun Dorma on replay mode in our brains. Didn't make it for our gym date tonight though. Both of us snowed under with work.

It is one of these rare days where I made a choice between work and family, and chose in favour of one hour of reading Alice in Wonderland and painting eggs with Sophie and her friends. I wonder what the career consequences of this would be, but whilst I felt pain at giving up what looked like another chance of getting more billable hours, there's another part of me that doesn't actually care.

There is no way I am even thinking about being a partner yet, I am about to take another 6 months off work to have our second child. Yet I feel the pain sometimes of balancing on a razor edge between being merely professional and being actually passionate about my job.

Without going into too many technical and indeed confidential details, I am help business become energy efficient and/or switch to cleaner forms of energy. Of course, I do bread and butter kind of arbitration work as well (it pays the rent) but at least I spend a lot of time doing stuff which I derive real satisfaction from doing.

Monday, March 24, 2008

What's inside the Easter Egg?

I feel like a kinder surprise!!

As per our family custom we have decided not to find out the sex of our baby because we'd love to have a surprise!!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Reading, (w)Riting and (a)Rithmithic

I am actually not keen for Sophie to start reading that soon. My mom likes to tell me that I could read by 18 months old, and so Sophie's already "behind" me in that way. There are good and bad things about reading very early. For my parents, it meant that I was essentially self-entertaining most days. I could be left in a corner with a book from very young and just fed and watered at regular intervals. On the down-side it actually made me exceedingly bored at school.

What I cannot stop is that the ayi is teaching Sophie how to read. Generally, she puts a word in front of Sophie on a magna doodle board and then saying it aloud to her (see photo above). I guess that since Sophie doesn't watch TV they have to find some way of entertaining themselves (and her!) and teaching her to count and read seems to have kept them all pretty occupied thus far.

This photo was taken near the end of last summer, and Sophie could read about 15 words. What I recall was happening in the photo was that she was pushing herself around the house on her ride-on toy and then she would be stopped at the "junction" and asked to read a word before being allowed continued access. I am lucky that we have great ayis looking after Sophie to interact with her in a really creative way.

Since then, I've stopped counting what she can read, but I think it's pretty cool that she can read the advertising on the back of a bus. I don't worry that she'll be bored in school. She's going to an English-speaking one because I don't want her to be monolingual! So she'll learn to read together with all the other children.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

We are not ideal adoptive parents

I just had a conversation with someone who worked in an adoption agency in China. She told me out right (off the record of course) that she probably wouldn't have put Fab and me on the top of the list for adoptive parents.

Apparently - We're just not ideal. We have no biological impediment to having kids and also our frequent travel lifestyle just makes all the background checks and social worker visits a pain to organise. Fab and I don't want to adopt a special needs child because we don't think we can cope, which means that the healthy infant we would like to adopt is also the target of very many other infertile couples as well. Finally, we would take this child out of its birth environment (albeit in an orphanage) and bring her into a world that is not actually hers.

I wanted to protest, but then I decided not to. I feel my adoption resolve gradually eroding over time, perhaps it is the slow death of my idealism. That Fab and I can provide a loving home to someone who might otherwise not have had one. But perhaps these people may have had been equally happy elsewhere and with someone else?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Crass Materialists are Us.

Big Dilemma.

Sophie is out-growing her cot, so we actually do need to change her bed.

I am hesitating between a Stokke "Sleepi" cot which I think is lovely, and a Flexa one.

Fabien innocently asks "What is wrong with a normal large cot from Ikea?"

I had all the arguments about why it is more ergonomic, better for your child's back, and general health and well being.

But the honest answer is because it just looks so... pretty....

I cannot answer him.

I feel slightly ashamed for being blatantly consumerist. We have just bought tickets to Turandot, and they cost an insane amount of money. I didn't notice it until my office secretary (who booked the tickets for me) politely informed me that we have just spent her one month's salary. I felt incredibly bad, and promised myself that I will take her somewhere nice to lunch next week.

Clearly not bad enough -

Don't get me started on how much I want an Xplory. I think that with the pollution in Beijing, it is better for kids to be lifted away from the exhaust fumes at level when they are in a stroller. Pollution is also my excuse for why I've just bought another 2 huge air purifiers for our house. I work hard for my money - who do I feel so bad spending it? I guess because there is a part of me that thinks this is wasteful. It's the value systems that both Fabien and me grew up with I think. That you should only spend money on truly essential items.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Unexpected blessings

I made somebody happy a few days ago.

There is absolutely nothing in it for me, unless you count that warm glow that comes from knowing that you made somebody's day and they were completely not expecting it!

Fortune smiles at those who appreciate her gifts.


I think Sophie, Fab and I are just so lucky to have the life that we do. I'd love to believe that we somehow planned all this. But that would be completely false. Anything we have now - good health, careers, happy idyllic family life is there because we have are today the recipients of Fortune's sunny smiles. It's the kind of illusion that can shatter at any time, and it can all be removed in one cruel swoop.

If I fear anything, it is the loss of all that I hold close to my heart. But by recognizing that this can happen any time, you tame the fear.

You don't need to read a lot of Greek Tragedy to be deeply aware that we control so very little in our lives. So we seize the day, freely distribute our bounty, because we do not know when the wheel can turn again.

If you can give today, of your time, affection, attention or indeed paltry monetary resources, then you are twice blessed.


One of the books that I want to get for Sophie is "The Giving Tree" and I cannot wait for Mom to come to read it to her!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Weekends are for...

I just created a new Facebook album, which is an amalgamation of the various happy weekends that we've had in Beijing. We are blessed on so many accounts and I try hard not to forget it, hence this blog.

Today we were in the Chaoyang park and whilst walking around enjoying the arrival of spring, we saw a couple of university art students taking photos for their coursework. One of them approached us and asked if they could take photos of Sophie. I was under the impression they like her "exotic" looks.

But what they liked was that she is so easily entertained. Chasing bubbles around kept her endless enchanted for the "action" shots that the students needed.

I hope they get a good grade.

But anyway, Sophie really enjoyed it.

Check out our other weekend photos here.

(if you cannot see the link, cut and paste this: )

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Some more Work/Life Balance thoughts

Of late, a couple of my stay-at-home-mommmy friends have been having conversations with me about returning to work and conversations of that ilk. I figure I'd put a synopsis of those discussions down because it is now 12 am and I am sometimes insomniac like that. After my brown-bear phase, I am in a completely awake period now, so the discipline of actually organizing thoughts on blog is probably good for winding down and going to bed.

The recurrent theme for me that it's a holistic family approach, because it has to harmonize with my husband's work/life balance as well. If Fab was an investment banker working all hours, I probably couldn't take a job which requires travel (occasionally) and long hours (quite regularly). You might argue that if he was indeed an investment banker, I probably wouldn't need to work. That is irrelevant because I even if I wasn't paid anything, I would still work. I don't want just a job because I quite like having a career (the motivations for this is a clearly a topic for another blog post).

Some days it is a real struggle.

Like last week, when I had 2 concurrent deadlines and a stomach bug hit our house. One nanny was ill, and I didn't want to use the other one because I didn't want to expose her to any more germs than necessary. So I spent Sunday caring for my husband and Sophie (who were exactly alike in the nausea/stomach cramps/diarrhea/incredible irritability symptoms) with the sole exception that I only needed to change one person's diapers. *** To all the mothers in the world that manage this kind of crises on a regular basis without any hired help - I SALUTE YOU. I personally cannot accept domestic martyrdom and will escape to my office.

My office actually is a very welcoming place.

Because I have a truly fantastic boss. Who is happy with the idea that, whilst I am willing to make temporary sacrifices to my sleep (lots!); personal time (lots!); and my family life (a little) for my career, I would draw the line at anything which I felt could cause permanent damage to my family life.

That kind of sacrifice just is not worth it, but the key is that you have to be vigilant of just how this damage occurs. Sometimes permanent damage can be caused by an accumulation of small infringements. For instance going back to work before breast-feeding is properly established and sacrificing immune function for another 2 months of billing time. On a less physical example, but far more likely, is the quiet resentment that builds in a series of minor escalations in time-allocation disputes.

To avoid this, Fab and I have an internal ranking system. We tell each other how much something means to us, so that we have markers to make decisions by. For example, if my important business meeting (RED - work) clashes with Sophie's best friend's birthday party (AMBER - personal) and Fab's squash game with colleagues (GREEN - work/personal), then Fab will give up his squash game (lose one green work, gain one amber personal) to take Sophie to said birthday party while I work (lose one amber personal, gain one red work).

However the key thing to note is that it's not always the same person which is giving up the same "work" or "personal" marker. This is what I mean when I say that the work/life balance must be for the entire family. Just as it is unfair for me to give up the majority of my career for my personal life, it is equally unfair for Fab to lose all his family time for work.

It never is that clear cut, and of course we sometimes have terrible arguments about this, but I think it's great that we have big disputes. At least we are in complete agreement on the principle that the work/life balance is equally important to both spouses, even if we don't agree on the exact mechanics of how it works.

One of the neat ways we put things in perspective is to put it into a time warp (i.e ask "will any of this matter next week/month/year/decade"?") and then it immediately sorts out for you what color marker to put on it. If you intend to spend a lifetime together, then so many things become quite trivial when viewed through a 20 year lens.

My little Bear

I've been tardy uploading photos of the Bear lately.

But she's been getting so unbearably (geddit?) cute. I really need to figure out how to upload this video of her singing the ABC song - she can sing till "WXY..." and then she goes straight to "Now I know my ABC" and starts applauding herself... She's my positive reinforcement junkie.

Anyway, maybe it's better that she doesn't have any photos online because she's got the bruised line on the side of her face right now. I have no idea how it happened either, but I certainly don't blame the ayi because I know that it could have happened when Sophie was with me too.

Anyway, apparently there was another kid climbing up the slide when Sophie was going down, and in the ensuing crash she banged her head along the side of the slide. It must have been quite hard because she has a bruise across her cheek to under her eye. I think it looks quite cute - like a pirate!

Anyway, according to eyewitnesses she was crying for a bit, but then went again on the slide straight afterwards. Anyway, at this age they are all made of rubber right? hit them and they bounce right up again..