Thursday, May 29, 2008

Vaccination Trauma (for the parents)

Yesterday was Sophie's last vaccine for a long time (6 months). With Mama getting pretty pregnant and Sophie getting so big and strong, it takes 2 people to hold her still when she gets a shot, so Papa met us at the hospital.

I think the part that is most traumatising (for the parents at least!) is that Sophie understands whats going to happen, so she makes her views known from the start. She tries to bargain (no - just one shot!) and plead (I promise I am not going to get sick - don't need a shot!) but when we are through with the whole "explaining and reasoning" type of exercise, she is still insisting that she doesn't need to be vaccinated.

So I have to put her on my lap (facing outwards) and grab her arms and cross them over her body, and then Fabien grabs her legs and holds them still (whilst she trying to stiffen her body and arch her back), and the nurses give her shots on each thigh. All the time she is yelling "no no no no" furiously and looking at us (her parents) with this look of complete outrage and betrayal.

And then it's all over, and we give her a cookie (we have a no sweets rule at home, but this is one clear exception!) and she's all sweet and sunny smiles again.

But my husband and I still need to have a support group gelato to recover from all that drama...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

2 years of Sophie

Dear Sophie Bear,

What a rock and roll ride these 2 years have been with you. Your Papa and I reflect back on these last 24 months in wonder. It's absolutely true that when you have a child, you have the longest days and the shortest years.

We are proud of the fact that you are a well mannered and gentle kid, so we can take you to lots of interesting places with us. Since coming here, we've been to so many museums and art galleries around Beijing, the aquarium, science center and even the library, where you've been quietly absorbed your surroundings like a sponge and then copied everything that people do. Case in point at the Lama temple:

Most of our child-less friends tell us that you are very pleasant to be around because you generally can be relied upon to follow instructions to amuse yourself without doing anything dangerous. Only our friends with frequent exposure to small children realize how special this behavior actually is!

Since we schedule our leisure travel (where possible) around your nap time, you are usually quite happy to travel through airports and train stations. In this photo you are waiting to board the plane to Huhhot, inner mongolia where you stopped flying for free (on account of turning 24 months). You spent your entire 1 hour plane ride chatting to your "new friends" (the young Chinese couple seated behind us).

Most Chinese people are completely impressed by your Mandarin which is in full and clear sentences. It inspires my friends who want their kids to speak Chinese ask whether I want to do a summer exchange with them! You have still not got the hang of English and French pronouns though, because you drop the articles and still refer to yourself regularly as "Sophie" e.g. "Sophie veux RAISIN - Sophie want raisin". We don't bother correcting this kind of grammar because we are too busy reminding you to "say please" and "thank you". I am sure that this will all come later, and whilst there aren't that many trilingual kids around to gauge from, I am sure that you're doing pretty well linguistically for your age. The more immediate problem is that you are absolutely addicted to organic cranberry raisins. The good news is that I can basically get you to do anything by offering little bribes!

You grow so fast, and I feel like many times I must get a camera and record the gorgeous Kodak moments before they slip away. Like when I see you laughing out loud, for absolutely no reason other than just the sheer joy of being in the summer sunshine with your parents. You are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Thinking happy thoughts

CamemBear and friends

I've decided to stop feeling guilty that I cannot do more for people in Burma or Si Chuan. I am continuing with the donations/fund-raising on a regular basis, but I will stop beating myself up about the "just one thing more" that I ought to have done because it is quite simply not helping anyone. As the efforts move from relief towards re-building, there is a call for donations of children's books for one of the charities to start a children's school and creche within one of the large temporary camp. The idea behind that is that it is important to give the children some kind of steady, regular activity, which helps them to recover from the trauma easier, and give their parents a break to look for other missing relatives, or else moving forward to their next step.

Sophie and ayi spent a day today sorting through all her Chinese children's books to see which ones she wanted to give away. She was really hesitant at first, because we told her that once the books were gone, she had to say bye-bye, and they were not ever going to come back. I guess she understood the concept because she picked a few that she really liked best, and agreed to give the rest away after considering for a REALLY long time. I am so proud of her!

And on a happier note, speaking of books ...

Just in case he ever becomes a character in a children's novel, this is CamemBear - just so you know how the protagonist looks like

Monday, May 19, 2008

The delicate balance

Sophie likes older kids, and she likes hanging around them, observing them, and (if they let her!) playing with them.

Mom is not so impressed by the results of some of the interactions. Like when I saw this other kid telling her that if her "Camembear" (*for fuller explanation see note below*) did not behave, that she should spank him. They were actually halfway through administering corporal punishment when I saw them both. I quickly told Sophie (and other kid) that maybe she should tell the bear that he should sit up and if he couldn't, then maybe they could help him to do it. Fortunately the kids both thought it was a great idea, and they did just that. Maybe it's only a bear, but still!!

I know Sophie's not a baby any longer, and she's a pretty strong willed and independent little girl. But on the other hand, I have this desire to protect her and her gentle nature. And really, we have a very non-violent home. Obviously interaction with other kids is neecessary for her social development, and she's going to go to school in September. I guess I cannot shield her forever, but hopefully I am giving her a headstart in all the right choices?

(**explanation for Name of the Bear)
We're actually pretty proud as it is Sophie's first billingual "joke". In Xi'an was doing French -English translations (e.g. By saying Merci-Thank you, and Please- Si tu plait etcc. all in the same sentence. This was a first time because previous translation were Chinese-English or Chinese-French, so we were wondering if she had not yet made the interactive link between all 3 languages, but in seemed to all come togther in Xi'an, and together with the language explosion was the perpetual "Pour Quoi- Why?" kind of questions.

Anyway, in Huhhot (one week later), I asked her "what is the name of your bear?" and she thought for some time and said "Camembert". This is a name of a French cheese, and you pronounce it with a silent "t" at the end, hence, when you say the word, it sounds like Camem-BEAR -- geddit?

By the by in case you are not on Facebook - these are some of the Xi'an photos.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Walking the Walk

I live out loud. In the sense that I have a very full life, and many friends ask "how do you do it"? I probably don't sleep as much as I should, but I do try to take frequent breaks and have a lot of "personal time" because I need it to recharge my batteries.

Right now I am roping up my office to organise a donation for the Red Cross to deliver tents, drinking water and medical supplies to the earthquake disaster areas. I give my own money. I bake cookies and make people eat them and put money in a box. And I involve my daughter in doing this, so that she knows that she is not just "princess Sophie" but also a part of a greater world out there.

Why do I do this?
I guess so that I can justify my own existence on this planet. So that I can return the many many blessings that I have been given in this life. And simply because my parents (especially my mother) taught me to try to be as good a person as I can.

So to this end, I give 10 percent of my net income away every year. To various causes, to individual people whom I know need it. I talk the talk, but hey - at least I try to walk the walk.

It is the only way I can reconcile the extremely comfortable lifestyle that I currently have, against the restless humanity that I cannot turn a blind eye to. I should give more, and that is one of my goals, to increase the amounts I give regularly.

Anyway, if you are interested - look at the local Red Cross society in your community and see if they are sending relief supplies to South West China?

Si Chuan earthquake

There was an earthquake yesterday in Sichuan and thankfully none of our family nor friends were affected.

However many others have been!

Some of the stories have been funny though. My friend's husband was in a province close by and he had been entertaining chinese clients the night before (this involves a lot of drinking and toasting) and he didn't dare say anything when the floor started moving because he thought he was still drunk!

But on a more sombre note, there are relief efforts and appeals for donations which we will probably respond to.

Thank you for all your kind thoughts and wishes - we are fine!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy Mother's Day to Mums everywhere!

Thanks Joan - you rock!

This is a photo of one of the best presents Sophie got. I think I want to buy 100 of them (if I could) and give them to all my friends with kids (of all ages). I have actually no idea where my friend Joan bought it from, but every single time Sophie and I play with it, I mentally thank my friend for this incredibly thoughtful gift.

It's an English-French map of the world in large foam jig-saw pieces. A present from Godmother Joan. We have used it again and again for a variety of uses. After Sophie got bored of identifying countries and capitals, we started putting the wooden animals from her Noah's Ark onto the map, roughly from wherever we think these animals come from.

What cracks me up is that she always puts the duck on Beijing !

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

where is the baby?

A long time ago, Fabien started this silly game with Sophie where he dropped a ball down her pajamas and let her look for it. Since then, we have progressed to stuffing other balls and stuffed animals into her clothes. So Sophie is very used to the idea that many things can be kept inside your t-shirt.

So Why not a baby?

As we were all just lazing around on the sofa one day, Fabien told Sophie that there was a baby "ici" and he patted my belly. Sophie then started trying to look down my collar and lift my clothes to see if she could try to find the baby. It was just too funny!!

Anyway, yesterday was quite special because we took Sophie with us for an ultrasound appointment to let her see the baby on the screen. Usually we leave her at home because I don't really want to disrupt the nap and normal schedule (my doctor only does late afternoon appointments). But yesterday was the 20 week appointment, so quite a lot of scanning takes place. We told the sonographer that we didn't want to know the sex of the baby, so please don't show or tell us, so he turned the screen away from us during the "sensitive" parts.

Sophie seemed very concerned when Mummy had to lie down for the scan and wanted to hold my hand when I went to draw some blood too. But when she saw that it didn't hurt, I think she got more relaxed and curious, and kept asking Fabien "c'est quoi ca?" I think the part that Sophie is really trying to understand is that there is another "bebe" inside her maman. When Fabien says "bebe" she pats her own chest and proudly says "c'est Sophie".

The sonographer was really amused by our little (and growing!) family, and asked us how come she speaks so many languages (she spoke to him in Chinese and to me in English), and whether it was difficult to teach her. I told him that think it is just all about creating an environment. Once you've done that, I don't think anything was difficult. It just kind of happens naturally. Like getting a ball into your pajamas.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

with great power comes great responsibility

All parents think that their offspring are smart. I think that it's natural, you are so proud of your kid's achievements. But if your kid does exhibit some kinds of natural talent, then comes the stress - entirely self inflicted of course. If Sophie and I were the one of the 1 billion people who didn't have access to clean water I would be more anxious to make sure she was not one of the children who died every 15 seconds because of it, and I wouldn't be having this kind of angst.

Anyway, in relation to passing on to Sophie what my dad teasingly calls my "bourgeois angst" appears at 2 main levels. The first and probably most important one is to figure out that it is not all about her. We involve her in a lot of charitable giving and it's probably all to assuage my guilt at bearing a biological child. If I have just increased the population on our resource-scarce world, then at least I hope to have increased it by one altruistic individual that would give back to it.

The second level is a much more personal issue, which is my own responsibility in relation to raising Sophie. I don't believe in nor do I want to raise a Judit Polgar, so I have no desire to emphasize a particular skill. Just having a well-round and happy kid is a lofty enough goal.

The problem for me is that she's actually alot smarter than I would sometimes wish. In the sense that she has a great capacity to teach herself, and if I don't get a handle on directing this great thirst to learn, then I realise she's fairly indiscriminate about new things, and I don't want her to learn any wrong values or something.

I realised only today that she can add and subtract integers between zero and 5. Not just recite the formula, but actually tell me that if I have 5 blocks and take away 1 I will have 4 left (without actually having to count them). She kind of just did it in her head. I was wondering if that was a lucky guess so I tested it with a few numbers before she got bored of the game, but it was no guess. She actually counts - and she's not even two yet.

This would have been less spooky if I had been teaching her all this, but the reason why I am filled with this sense of eeriness is because I just haven't. On questioning the nannies, I realise that nobody else has taught Sophie math - she kind of just figured this out all by herself. So the thought that really does scare me - what else as she been learning without any of us realising? She must have just learned this simply by observation. Which makes being her parents somewhat akin to living in a goldfish bowl as we are the subject of constant scrutiny.