Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Suddenly Decided that I Don't like Water on my Face

It is really strange but ALL my friends tell me that round about 24 months is a funny time for kids. They need to establish that they are an entirely separate entity from their parents and impose their mighty little wills on the world around. And Suddenly what seemed easy before seems pretty hard!

Like having a shampoo. Sophie never used to protest having water on her face and could duck her head under a running tap and giggle.


This is the last photo (taken in Singapore) where I could wash her hair without howls of protest. It's a bit fuzzy because I stupidly left my camera (charging!) in Beijing so it's taken with my dad's phone. Anyway, you can see that all is well until that point and some water on her face does not cause the neighbours to wonder if we engage regularly in child-abuse.

We have since worked out that it isn't water that she suddenly became afraid of because she still loves to go swimming. It's just a growing awareness perhaps that she can (and does) express an opinion and exercise control over her own body and surroundings.

There's a cheesy line from this Will Smith movie, which anyone who is not a parent is likely to gag at, but contains a sentiment that anyone who has a child will probably understand -- "Don't let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do. Not even me."

We have do that whole "explaining" thing and suggesting alternatives or bargains (e.g. Mummy wash Sophie - Sophie wash Mummy?). I have to laugh at the bargains she sometimes comes up with, and I would not want to face her as an opponent across the negotiating table - but generally Sophie is pretty reasonable.

Which is probably why I am fine with the idea that she sometimes needs to be persuaded to wash her hair.

Monday, April 28, 2008


We went to Xi'an this weekend with Celine and had a great stay at the Shangri-la hotel. Checked out the Hua Qing hot springs, where the Xi'an incident took place.

The highlight of the trip was of course the terracotta warriors and they are mighty impressive indeed. We found a driver there who could take us around the sights. Xi'an is a really dusty city and when you have as many allergies as I do, having a car with sealed windows makes the difference between an 'okay' holiday and a brilliant one.

Apart from exploring parts of Northern China (albeit in 5 star hotels), Sophie is becoming a regular "surfer chick". All around the 3 pits in Xi'an she learnt that if she places both feet flat and has mom and dad hold her hands, she can drag herself all over the floor on any smooth surface. I haven't figured out how to upload the video I have of her doing it, but it is hiliarious.

The other thing she learned over the weekend is to do her own translations! Since her dad and Celine speak to her only in French and her mom in English she has started to hyphenate her requests to ensure maximum audience comprehension. Thus, she has started saying "encore-more cookies?" when she wants more cookies (which is the same word in english and french)and "pas dodo - no sleeping!" when she wants to keep playing. Just to make sure we REALLY understand what she wants.

Unfortunately, as with her early experiences in baby-signing, she has learnt (and will continue to!) that just because she can tell us what she wants doesn't mean she will always get it. Still, it is really cute to see how she tries every trick in the book in matters of persuasion. Another favourite heart-melting thing she does is to cuddle up to me and sing the extended version of "世上只有妈妈好". At times like that I have to tell myself must R.E.S.I.S.T incredibly cute kid!!

Well Merci- Thank you for being my kiddo. You give me such a kick.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I think Fabien gets a real kick (pun intended) from feeling the movement of our kid when he places his hand on my belly. I have been feeling fetal movements for the past couple of weeks but my husband couldn't untill recently.

The 2 year age gap is great, because on the one hand, it is recent enough for me to remember clearly being pregnant with Sophie and I still (roughly) remember how to baby-sign, and I have my birth ball and all the other paraphernalia. On the other hand, Sophie is growing up from a tiny baby into an independent little girl. She eats regular foods, and is sleep/toilet trained etc so at least when our second I will only need to diaper/sleep-train one infant. At least that is the theory, because so many books tell me to expect some kind of "regression" when the new baby gets here.

Celine and Sophie are getting along so well, I really wish we had more younger relatives hanging around us in Beiing. Sophie adores her "tata Cece", and it is a shame my own brother lives so far away. I guess this blog fulfils a useful function in letting my family know what's been going on in our end of the world.

I sometimes wonder if I want to make this my private soapbox for other issues which I am passionate about. But I think it is more important to keep this blog quite focused on the minutiae of my family life. Blogging about work can get you dooc-ed, and getting making political statements just invites trolls. But given my friends and family so spread out across the world, it just makes more sense to put up photos and keep the tone light and chatty - hein?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The bitter sweet bargain of raising a kid

Note to Sophie as you approach your second birthday one month away.

What have your father and I done for you this past 2 years?

1) Obviously we fed you and kept you alive and happy ... You are our little "Torinese" as you love love pasta, and when presented with a bread basket, always pick the gristini. You even use gristini to eat pasta sauce.

2) Not limited to feeding your body, we also try to feed your brain by giving you the chance to use your imagination, and you've shown us that you sure have one. Here is the imaginarium toy your Uncle Shaun brought for you from LA at Chinese New Year. You are really good at building all kinds of things with blocks and sticks and all kinds of construction toys - are you going to be a Quant?

3) Part of feeding your brain is to try to expose you to different outdoor experiences, and letting you pursue the things you really like. You really like animals - especially horses.

4) And we try let you acquire social skills by finding you friends that share your love for all things aerial - like balloons, balls, and planes. Here you are with Esteban at Easter figuring out that the balloon is actually tied to you. You seem to only like older children, but we've been trying to expose you to more babies to let you get used to the idea!

But enough about how we have been your willing slaves these last 2 years - what have you done for us lately?

It would seem like nothing, but you've done lots.

Really, LOTS

Just by being your delightful self, you have made the last 2 years truly magical. And we thank you every day for it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Buzzing thoughts

I cannot sleep. Celine (my sister in law) is coming tomorrow morning - she is on the plane right now! I am making sure everything is ready. From the mundane details like guest room linen and toiletries, to the more exotic like our flight tickets to Xi'an next weekend, and organising the horse riding trip we have planned tommorrow, and booking her on a trip to the Great Wall and so on...

At the same time I am struggling over a really interesting contract with a whole bunch of (what I have finally decided are) contingent condition precedents and the effect of non-fulfillment or part fulfillment of some of the conditions? My good friends Chitty, Treitel and Lewison are having chats at the back of my head and the noise is keeping me awake.

How do I want to structure my maternity package? What should I negotiate for? Is it at all important? Hey, if I wanted to work for money I am definitely in the wrong place. I should be doing some snazzy finance related work and have a whopping big expat contract. But luckily I am convinced that the work/life balance I am afforded here, and the truly awesome environment more than makes up for the extra money I could be making in elsewhere. But will it always be like this? How can I make sure that it stays this way? Will I still get the interesting work when I have handed over all my best work and clients for half a year of maternity leave? Should I ask for such a long break from fee-earning work?

Like a horde of angry busy bees I have these thoughts in my head keeping me awake awake awake. T

I know that there is no "correct" textbook answer. And I know many times the path reveals itself as you tread upon it, but it doesn't silence the bees.

Monday, April 14, 2008

On Beauty

What a narrow definition of Beauty I happen to find a caring and altruistic personality most beautiful. But I must be a minority. C'est la vie.

It mildly irritates me when people look at Sophie and say "Ohhh what a pretty girl she is going to be!". This is insulting on 2 counts. First, the implication that she is not pretty now but will be in future, and Second that being good looking was necessarily her best feature, and I truly want to add "yes, and she can count/sing/read/play the violin etc... so well too!!"

I am being a grouch today. I had a stressful week last week, and then I managed to fall off a horse over the weekend, and Fab and I decided that I should stop horse-riding untill after Sprog #2 arrives. Painful to admit, but there is quite a lot of sense in admitting the physical limitations and additional risks involved with riding under the influence (of pregnancy hormones that is).

I also have hay-fever of some sort - Spring brings out at least 2 of my inner dwarves - Sneezy and Grumpy. I definitely do not look better than Fab right now...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Curvy Photos from Easter

Well Ash - the photos you requested. These are from our Easter Sunday. You can see from the angle that balloon was tilting, that the weather was a little windy but lovely and sunny.

In this photo I am about 14 or 15 weeks pregnant and proudly showing.

I actually not that much larger now, but am loving my bump. I find myself unconsciously stroking it and feeling the little flip and gurgle of the squirmy one inside. Our 20 week appointment is coming up soon, and we will not find out the sex of our child, but we will be happy and reassured to know that s/he is growing healthily and happily.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Polemics of Parenting - Part II

There are other highly controversial areas like attachment parenting (also known as proximal care) and whether moms should work at home, stay at home, or work outside of the home, and how long and in what manner should children sleep.

I have to say that I am generally pretty happy with Sophie's sleep hygiene habits. She goes to bed by herself and generally sleeps for 12 hours a night. But lately she's been howling to get out of bed at 5 am. This has happened once or twice last week, so I am putting it down to the change from being one week in Singapore and the adjustment back to Beijing. Still, I normally let her cry for a while and go back to sleep, but she hasn't managed to settle these last couple of days. I did some checking with alot of friends with older children, and it seems that 24 months is some kind of watershed where a lot of activity is going on in their brains and kids can get night-terrors and other sort of scary stuff.

I am an advocate of "cry it out" in that if Sophie wakes at night, I actually let her self-soothe for 10 minutes and go back to sleep herself. But any parent will tell you that children cries sound different depending on what they are feeling, and no parent should (or even find it possible) to ignore the screech that comes from a genuinely frightened child. I cannot tell you how it sounds different from a normal "My crib is quiet and boring - come and get me" cry to a "There's a wolf in my closet" kind of cry. It simply is desperately different, and whilst I can ignore the first, I find myself sprinting down the corridor to attend to the second.

Of course, I am trying to figure out how to magic away the wolf, but why do so many of Sophie's favourite stories feature the malignant version of this elegant animal? Same for bears - why does Goldilocks run away without apologising for all the damage she's done to their house?

Anyway these are some of Sophie's favourites:
- Peter and the Wolf
- Three little Pigs
- Red Riding Hood

I love Peter and the wolf and Sophie has this story in so many versions. But I am going to have to give it up like a bad nicotine addiction if she keeps screaming "Wolf Wolf!" (after we read the story at 9 am!!). I don't think the huffing and puffing wolf does anymore than amuse Sophie, but what's this obsession about "eating you up" which repeats itself in Red Riding Hood?


Polemics of Parenting - Part I

Parenting is almost a religion. I say this because so many parents I meet have their views on what works best for them in terms of parenting style of course they are convinced that their offspring is one of the brightest and best there is (I try not to do this - but it's so easy to fall into this narcissistic trap).

I am a big believer in certain things like Breastfeeding and the link to healthy weight for toddlers, but I think I am still feeling my way around other stuff like vaccination schedules. I don't think vaccines cause autism, but I think that there is something to be said for not overstimulating a young child's immune response. Immunology is a relatively young science, and we're actually not that sure about what we are doing to ourselves and our kids.

Taking into account the fact that Sophie may have some of my highly allergic genes (not quite in the anaphalytic shock from certain allergens but severe enough to be have shortness of breath sometimes) I put it all down to the risk-return decision matrix. This means that Sophie gets shots for the really nasty ones where there is a reasonable risk of exposure or else fairly grim consequences (like Japanese encephalitis or Pneumnocal) and not the ones where the risk is minimal (like rabies - when is she ever going to be in a situation where she could get bitten by rabid rats or dogs?) or where the possibility of serious consequences are remote (like chicken pox).

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Feeling curvy and groovy

Our second baby is coming in September 2008, and I am feeling very large, but that's not stopping me from work, life and general fun.

This last work-trip in Singapore was really pleasant, and we will be back in Singapore for one last hurrah in June, en-route to Bali for my friend Sohni's wedding. It will be near the last week I am allowed to fly.

I had to make some tough choices this year because I got 8 (yep- count them!) wedding invitations, and there is absolutely no way I can go to all of them. So I went to Joelle's in Singapore in March and I will go to Sohni's in Bali in June (assuming the doc gives me the all-clear) and then maybe I will try to go to E Way's in November in Hong Kong (depending on how I feel post-partum). The decisions were based partly on how well I know these friends as well as just plain ol'timing. I think I have healthy sense of adventure, and I try to keep myself reasonably fit, but there is just a dose of realism needed to think on the extent of social engagement that I can handle now. As Dr Seuss said Just Be Yourself - those who matter don't mind, and those who do mind, don't matter.

I did some maternity shopping in Singapore and now I have nice clothes to wear that flaunt my belly - yay! It is the one time that looking 75 kgs (that's what I was with Sophie at the end) actually is pretty sexy.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

These are a few of my favourite things

My friend and I were just talking about how expensive it is to raise a kid, but then I realised also that so many things that entertain Sophie cost very little or nothing.

These are the things that Sophie loves to do around our home and with her playgroup friends:

1. Visiting the French library every weekend with Papa and choosing my books
2. Playing Nintendo with Mummy on Singapore Airlines
(Sophie's flights still costs nothing because she's under 2 years old)
3. Finger painting and playing with washable paint (and playing with the colorful soap bubbles afterwards when you wash it all away)
4. Home-made play dough (flour, salt and water)
5. Petting all our neighbours dogs (Mummy is allergic to their cats)
6. The sandbox at the playground outside
7. The big trampoline with all the older children
8. Jumping in the ball-pit at the indoor playground

And now that we've just spent a week in Singapore, I can add a couple more things
9. Playing at the beach
10. Being in the swimming pool at my parent's home

We are lucky because the condo that we live in has many child-friendly facilities - the indoor and outdoor playgrounds are great fun. My one gripe is the swimming pool. After one week in Singapore with a daily swim in the tropical sunshine, I cannot face the highly chlorinated indoor pools of Beijing without feeling very sorry for myself and Sophie.

On the other hand, Spring is here, and the flowers are starting to sprout on trees. Sophie's birthday party is in May, and I hope the weather will be nice. I think we will invite her playgroup friends on a Saturday morning for an hour, and then at night have dinner with some friends. After going through an all-natural labour, I have decided that children's birthdays should also be about celebrating their mother!!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Do you speak Baby-talk?

Sophie's Chinese is clearly her first language. Thanks to both nannies having been educated in the Montessori at home tradition, she has a precise vocabulary. For example, she will say (in Mandarin) "look Mummy - I have paint on my forefinger and thumb, can we please clean it in the bathroom?"

My parents have been taking pains to speak to her only in English so that her English can catch up. Still she surprises them by pointing at CNN and saying "Barack Obama" and "Hilary". I got fed up of Good Night Moon on the plane here, and started reading her Time magazine and playing Super Mario Bros. Singapore Airlines has definitely a great in-flight entertainment system as it can keep my active toddler from squirming for a 6 hour flight.

Still, she is getting quite heavy, and I am almost happy that she will be 2 soon and we have to buy her a seat on the plane. I am fed up of having a lap-child that weighs like a small mammoth.

Serious baby shortage in Singapore

I was made an enquiry at the Social Services today, and discovered that Singapore does not have any more State run orphanages. The lovely lady from social services launched into this most depressing explanation guaranteed to depress the most enthusiastic adoptive parent.

There was just no more use for such services any longer. Only several foster homes. I am beginning to wonder if being a foster parent is more feasible than adoptive parent. Apparently the severe shortage in babies means that there are no unwanted babies any longer. The other point is that the stigma traditionally attached to children born out of wedlock has gradually ebbed away. With more women brave enough to embark on single parenthood, by choice or by circumstances, the orphanages have gradually emptied of healthy children.

What you do have left are kids with severe mental or physical disabilities who live their lives in institutional care. It takes a truly special family to adopt and love them in spite (or perhaps because of) the multitude of problems they bring. I have seen autistic children in the children's hospital where I used to volunteer. Their parents are true heroes, and I really do not think I have it in me to adopt such a child, knowing that I might have to spend time wiping their excrement of the staircase when they get decide to smear it in odd places, or scream like a banshee and hurl themselves into walls in an unworldly kind of tantrum, or never hug nor even acknowledge me.