Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wild Thing - you make my heart sing

Sophie's favourite game right now is "Wild Thing" a game inspired by Maurice Sendak's classic book.

The rules are pretty simple. Sophie gets chased around the house by her father who "roars his terrible roar, gnashes his terrible teeth, and waves his terrible claws". Until she turns around, looks him in the eye and says "BE STILL" and then as an after-thought usually adds "Si tu plait" ("Please" in French). Then Fabien freezes, usually in mid-roar, until she has gained enough distance and she says "okay wild thing, you can continue", then the roaring, screaming and chasing starts again.

The book is more than 40 years old, and is beautifully illustrated, though the "wild things" actually do look quite scary. When we play this game, Sophie runs around screaming in a paroxysm of delight with that under-tone of fear inherent in any chasing game.

If we wished to include any subliminal message, I suppose it would be this - that when the big scary monster with horns and claws is chasing you, the hard thing to do is to turn around and look at it in the eye. However, once you do that, perhaps you can master it.

Leaving aside any values transmission nonsense which I am probably subjecting to over-analysis - we play this game all the time because it's such great fun.

And when I spend a Saturday morning looking at my husband chasing our daughter behind the sofa and listen to her authoratiative "BE STILL!" I feel a strange sense of contentment (and hear the Troggs/Jimi Hendrix playing in the background).

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mama says "school". Papa dit "ecole". What does Wai Gong and Wai Po say?

Sophie's Orientation day at school was yesterday. We met the parents of Sophie's classmates and her teachers, and let Sophie see her classroom and the other little children who are going to become her friends. Fabien was really surprised to see the number of other Dads who were in the classroom too. In the recollection of our own childhood, only Mums dealt with these events, but 21st century Dads are very much more hands-on it seems, and in one case, only Dad brought the kids, and mum was working.

Sophie seemed to settle in really well and played contentedly with the little cars and the play-dough moulds and put them away in their right places when she was done. Of course, she knew that her parents were just there, and it might be a different scenario on Monday when she realises that we are LEAVING her there.

I am not sure whether I will have worse seperation anxiety than Sophie. However I'll have to be careful not to transmit my own fears to her. I know she will be fine. It's just that I feel like crying - it's so fast and my little baby is all grown up!

We've had the luxury of keeping at home for so long in a cotton-wool padded innocence where she was the centre of the universe, but I know that we have to kick her out of the nest soon. I saw a shy 3 year old clinging on to mummy's leg and crying in the classroom, so I know that I don't want to keep Sophie at home until she is 3 because all that happens is that it just becomes harder to cut those apron strings!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


"Good morning darling, did you have a good sleep? Would you like some milk?"
"Yes please maman, Sophie catch a wolf."
"Okay, Mummy is going to get you your cup, and then we can catch the wolf after breakfast"
"No. No cup. Want bottle"
"You want to drink milk from a Bottle? but why honey?"
"Sophie want to drink milk in bottle like baby. Mama carry Sophie. Mama big and Sophie still small little baby. See? Waaah waah waah"

We have been trying to prepare Sophie for the impending arrival of Number 2, so we've been reading her lots of books being a big sister and what baby will do and so on. Some books show mummy breast feeding Baby, and others show Papa bottle feeding baby - which appears to be where she gets the idea from.

Currently she swings between being the proud big sister, and reverting to baby-language and baby behaviour. This is probably her way of processing the information and being reassured that we will still love her.

The other funny things she does now is that all the characters in books come to life and exist in Sophie's own life. When she sees flowers, she wants to pick them "like Katie" and paint them "like Claude Monet" (from Katie and the Impressionist). Sophie wants to call the Baby Max, so she can sail with him/her to "where the wild things are". Oh yes, and the constant wolf-catching exercise is never ending.

At least Baby enjoys listening to Peter and the wolf as much as Sophie, although I am not sure how many more repetitions of the song I can handle. If anyone knows of any more children's stories with accompanying ochestra music PLEASE let me know. I am getting fed up of hearing it for what feels like the millionth time.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The day the computer made me cry

"Hello IT guy? Sorry to call you on a Sunday. There's a small problem. I'm looking at document reference number 12345 version 4 and it seems wrong. I saved it into the server, but the amendments are only until yesterday morning."

"Were you working on email? Have you looked in your TEMP files?"

"No, I saved it back to the server. It's not an email. I just did a search in "My Computer" for all ".DOC" files and it's not there"

"what was the last thing you did?"

"I had just shut down my computer to go home, but then I thought maybe I should also print a hard copy of my work to proof-read, so I restarted my PC and printed the document. When I looked at the print I realised it was the wrong version. I went back to all the files, and it seems that the correct version is gone. The last edit on the history column shows that it is yesterday's document, but I can't find anything which reflects the work I did today".

"Okay, let me look on the server for you, if you saved it on the server, it should be there, give me the document reference number again?"

What probably happened was this - we use a shared document management system in our office that allows you to check-in and check-out documents. Each document has a unique document reference number. When you check-out a document nobody else can work on that specific document, and then you check it back inside and it will over-write whatever the last version was with that number (or else you create a new version). As I hate working with too many versions, I usually just select "save over" when I check it back in.

What happened was probably this, earlier, I had checked out a version of this document, and when I logged back in today, I didn't check it back in, but opened the "old version" in the computer, and worked on it (without even printing anything!) and then when I shut down my computer, I must have checked in the "wrong version" which had over-written all my work of today.


I just gave up and went home, and the good news is that I made it back in time to tell Sophie a story or two. I will just go to the office early tommorrow morning and deal with this.

If I was superstitious I might have thought it was divine punishment for not observing the sabbath. Indirectly that is probably correct, because working in an office with no airconditioning (and hence no air circulation) is probably terrible for a 8 month pregnant woman, and I made an incredibly stupid error in NOT printing out the correct document before shutting down. At the very least if I had done that, then some poor secretary would copy type the damn thing for me tomorrow, but at least I wouldn't have felt so close to suicide!

I am in the office on a bloody sunday

It's Sunday afternoon, it was Alex's birthday - happy birthday Alex ! no, not our kid-in-utero, but the Alex that's married to one of my friends. We tried to get a good photo to give them, but they kind of were running around and entertaining all their guests (and kids) that it was almost no way in hell that we could get a family photo of them without telling them to pose, so we just gave up and talked to other guests and enjoyed our lunch (sorry Jac, if it was going to happen today it would have).

I am trying to finish writing one paper, start on another, prepare a bill, arrange lunch with a client, and prepare a hand-over file all by Monday. I think that's not going to be possible. I will have to re-schedule and stagger everything over the week. It's my last week of work and I think I have just too many things on my plate right now. Over-commitment R us indeed. But the good news is that this is the ONLY time in the one year that I have worked in my law firm that I have had to work on more than 2 consecutive weekends. Yet, not so long ago in Singapore, I think I could count on my fingers (okay and toes) how many weekends I DIDN'T work at all.

At lunch, I was talking to another family who were previously living in Hong Kong (let's call them Mr and Mrs Sachs). They seemed pretty nice, BUT when they asked me "what are you guys doing after lunch?" I said "unfortunately, I have to go the office in a while"; they are the only family who were not utterly and completely shocked. Every other person within earshot expressed abject horror at the idea, and I also got this chorus of "why are you STILL working?!"

I think my life values have evolved over the past few years.

Amongst the people I have loved and left, there are a couple of bankers lurking on the list. Okay okay, in my defence - I was young and impressionable and they looked nice in suits. And at that time I spent all my weekends working anyway, so the only way we could have a relationship was by email, and the only way to demonstrate affection was by spending lots of money on each other. It was very silly, and whilst I do not regret that phase, I am glad it's over!

Fast Forward to 10 years later, and currently, I am dead against Fabien ever becoming a banker/consultant. For myself - I am in no danger as I have absolutely no numerical skills whatsoever. However, I also know deep in my gut that Fab would make an awesome i-banker or consultant if he ever wanted to. I just don't want to lose him to the evil corporate machinery that are large banks and commercial consultancies. Let other people willing to sell their soul go and work for the Mckinseys and Bains. This man comes home filthy from spending 12 hours digging around the insides of a train and he rocks my casbah just the way he is (possibly better after a shower though).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Final Stretch

Some Random thoughts on a second pregnancy...

1) Braxton Hicks contractions are stronger than the first - maybe all that Raspberry Leaf Tea is working!
2) Fabien and I are far too relaxed for our own good. Sophie's birth was so eagerly anticipated we even had a baby bag packed for hospital with all our lists and excel spreadsheets prepared by Week 32. We are currently in Week 36 and we haven't even worked out where our Kid 2 will sleep yet!!
3) It's definitely very exciting not to find out the sex of our kid in advance - people are making guesses!

I have so many issues to settle before leaving the office and I agonise about my career alot. I am starting leave on 1 September, and although I will definitely take about 4 months off full time, I leave open the question of whether I will return to work part time or full time and for how long.

Either way, I think there is no way I could be a full-time Stay At Home Mommy in the long term. I find myself hallucinating slightly after spending a full morning with Sophie and her entire imaginary world, and I cannot wait to go back to the the reassuringly solid office after that.

We read Peter and the Wolf (again!) and played "Tea Party" this morning, where she baked an (imaginary) cake and invited all her little bears for tea. We have a great minature ceramic play-set for her which Fabien complains looks better than our (adult) one.

After all the (exhausting!) drama of the tea (tea was too hot, needed lots of milk, there was not enough cake to go around, then it started raining) the whales and fish wanted to have a swim in the sea which had formed because it had rained so much (you can see the noah's ark story has deep impact) and I gratefully left for work, to the sound of Sophie "splashing" around the living room in her imaginary ocean looking for Nemo and his friends.

It's fun doing this for about 2 hours, but I really admire (and have no idea) how Sophie's 2 nannys live in this imaginary world for the Entire Day. By the end of that, I think I would be seeing talking bears and leprechauns popping out of the sofa and would need a double whiskey on the rocks to be rid of them.

My friend Lucy commented that at the going rate, we'll need a sheepdog to look after all our children. I think she doesn't have to worry - I doubt my sanity can handle more than 2.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Reading Bug

Fabien went to the Bird's nest after lunch today to watch the athletics. Sophie and Mummy spent the afternoon resting and listening to Peter and the Wolf read by Dame Edna and performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (yet another great present from Sophie's magic godmother Joan if I remember correctly - we're grateful always for your excellent gift-buying taste).

The way Sophie and I enjoy reading has evolved over the last 2 years.

Shortly after birth, I used to read the Economist to her (it was my solution for catching up on my own personal reading without feeling that I was ignoring her).

About 4 months I put her in a bumbo seat facing me and held the book open on my lap so she could watch me signing with the words. Equally often, we'd sit and read together with her on my lap.

This is an early photo of her happily flipping pages of a magazine - Right side up!

This evolved later on to reading as a social activity with her other little playgroup pals. Here are Sophie and Esteban reading board books from Auntie Jacqueline. It's actually quite funny because this photo was taken a couple of months ago, and Sophie had already been told that I was pregnant with Baby 2 (she is reading "Waiting for Baby"), and Esteban just had a new baby brother - he is reading "our new baby". Self-Help Books have a toddler niche market!

Currently, she owns about 70 to 80 children's books in a variety of languages, but we take out about 25 to 30, placed on 2 shelves around her height, so that she can take out and put away by herself. The rest of the books are kept away in a cupboard (out of sight and reach) and rotated regularly to keep them all interesting.

Peter and the Wolf
is currently (again) Sophie's book of the week and we have to read it everyday. Sometimes Sophie substitutes her own name for Peter, and triumphantly declares that Sophie caught the wolf and took it with the hunters to the zoo.

Did I ever tell you that I adore children's musical tales? Especially Peter and the Wolf - we have it in quite a few different versions, so I guess Sophie has inherited that part of my musical tastes. Our recent fun activity involves a narration of the story (with a remote control so that we can skip of the 'boring bits'!) and we listen to various orchestral compositions together. We have slowly made our way through Romeo and Juliet and Pictures at an Exhibition (Картинки с выставки – Воспоминание о Викторе) . On Mussorgsky's gorgeous romantic piece - if anyone knows where to find Viktor Hartman's paintings illustrated in a children's book to accompany the music, do tell me please. I'd love to be able to use this "window" when she is interested in listening to me tell her stories with music, before she goes to school and listens to the Wiggles.

Lots of our favourite books are gifts: Where the Wild Things Are (Auntie Elaine) and Goodnight Moon (Auntie Liyi). Anyone with a toddler will also recognise the names of Sandra Boynton, Beatrix Potter, Dr Seuss and Eric Carlyle.... However, amongst all these classics, there is one book that has been special: My mum goes to work by Kes Gray The opening lines (yes - I've memorised them!) are "My mummy goes to work, but I know she still loves me. My mummy goes to work, but she thinks about me all the time. " It was all extremely reassuring to Sophie to be read all this when I went back to work.

We read that book before I went to work Every Single Morning, till the entire book and illustrations are imprinted forever in my memory. I think I'll know all the words even if I get Alzheimer's -- Together with this indelible image:

Bling Bling (not)

Fab's grandfather gave his grandmother a necklace with 6 diamonds after the birth of their 6th child (Fabien's mother). Fab asked: if our second child is a girl, would I like anything pretty for us?

Well sir - funny you should mention...

I was just looking at the VCA Alhambra collection, because I love their gorgeous mother-daughter matching sets. I just think it would be so cute if Sophie, her sister and mummy all got the same motif necklace/bracelets.

Alarm bells start to ring when you go to their website and realize that there are no price tags. I happen to know what it costs, and after a short struggle with the conscience I find that I just cannot justify a set of 3 pretty baubles. Fabien is relieved with this resolve, otherwise he will suddenly find himself hoping we have a boy!

I console myself that the good karma that comes from keeping our level of consumption (relatively) low such that we are able to give more loans to change lives, is worth far far more than looking effortlessly chic. But dammit, why are these things just so damn pretty?

** acknowledgment: The image above is taken from the Van Cleef & Arpels website

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hello Alex are you there?

I realise I haven't been writing alot about our new Baby 2. This may be because we are such blase parents that we have not really been thinking about Baby 2. But we have been interacting to some extent.

The fun part about not knowing the gender of our in-utero kid is about delayed gratification, and letting the tension build. Not everyone agrees with this, and it's not for anyone who wants advance notice to paint their nurseries pink or blue. But it works well for us, since we like the gender neutral greens, calming greens, cheerful yellows and the natural wood colorings that was both Sophie's color theme and that of our second child.

Anyway, we play this game about the name of our kid. We need to have at least one name of each sex. So sometimes, we will ask the kid (aloud) Are you Matthew? If you like the name Matthew - please make some movement! We were really hoping that the kid would move because Fab's favourite cousin Matthieu was the witness in our wedding, and we both liked that name.

Of course we get nothing. No reaction either for Timothy, Loic, or Amaury either.

Then we tried the girl's names - "do you like the name Elodie?" Nope, nothing either.

When I asked - Do you want to be called ALEX? I get a kick and another kick!

We like the name Alexandra for a girl, and Matthew for a boy, although since this kid seems to WANT to be called Alex, so maybe we might just end up with a boy called Alexandre.

Freedom of choice starts so young !

Overheard .... or Lost in Traduction

Fabien speaks to Sophie in French, although sometimes he can't resist practicing his Chinese with her and she corrects him - though the funniest is when she corrects his French too !!
- Regard Sophie - c'est quoi ca? c'est un ver de terre
(translation: look Sophie - what's that? It's an earthworm)
- Non Papa, pas un ver de terre.... il s'appelle "Earthworm".
(translation: No Papa, it's called "earthworm")

She looks at him very seriously, and says "Earthworm" very slowly as if to make sure he understood. At this point Fabien and I are rolling around the ground laughing. When we come up for air, I try to tell her:
- Darling, Papa calls this un ver de terre, and Mama calls this an earthworm. But it means the same thing, and Sophie can call this both an earthworm and un ver de terre.
- No Mama. This is Earthworm.
- But why Sophie?
(switching to snappy and frustrated chinese to better express herself) He is called "Earthworm" (the last word reverts back to English).
You mean his name is Earthworm?
Yes. (with a "my parents are so dumb my eyeballs roll" expression)

I don't know exactly what she will be like as an adolescent, but if this is anything like a preview, then we are most definitely in for a mad ride! Currently, all her furry animals in the house have fixed names (and distinct personalities). For example, we have tried to get her out of the habit of whining, but sometimes she waves her stuffed animal so that it is _the whiny Bear_ (and not Sophie) which is crying for attention... And so sometimes it is Mr Cat which has stuck playdough on the sofa (even when Sophie knows that is verboten) and it is the Baby Monkey which made crayon marks on the table - thank goodness for washable crayons.

In an adult, this would be possibly the basis of interesting psychiatric observation, but I am assured that in a 2 year old this is apparently normal behaviour - Sophie spends time talking very sincerely to various imaginary pals (not limited to her entire toybox full of plush animals but more esoteric interactions include the ongoing soap opera with the complex love affairs between the chair, table, cutlery etc...). Sometimes the line between imagination and reality is so fine that I wonder whether she believes in the fiction herself ! Calvin and Hobbes anyone?

I think/hope this will fade away when she spends even more time with "real" little children to be friends with.

So it's just as well that we got our 'welcome letter' from ivy academy regarding Sophie's first day of school on 1 September (by no small coincidence also my first day of maternity leave). We were given a list of things to leave in the school locker (a waterbottle, indoor shoes, family photos to put in front of her locker) , a list of phrases to familiarise our child with the concepts (e.g. "what is circle time?"), and an appointment for "orientation" with our child on 28 August, where we could meet the parents of Sophie's future classmates, and introduce Sophie to her teacher and so on. Oh yes, we also need photocopies of identity documents of the nanny and drivers, car-plate numbers, recent photos of all the people authorised to collect Sophie from school, and a signed stack of parental authorisation/disclaimer forms, a medical form stating any allergies, and an updated vaccination record.

Fabien is very amused - all this formality for 4 hours, 3 times per week "schooling" for a 26 month old child !

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Peer Pressure

I really would like all the parents of Sophie's friends to read this interview:

The reason is simple - If our children are playing together, then they probably have much more influence on each other, than whatever you or I do.

Our influence on our kids is mostly already in their DNA - for instance, if you are left-handed, have perfect eyesight, enjoy reading Hegel, have violent tendencies or are allergic to peanuts, your biological children probably have inherited these traits from you. Studies of families who have adopted children from different biological parents seem to demonstrate that the adopted siblings, despite sharing the same home environment, are more no more likely to resemble each other than two complete strangers. And twins who were seperated at birth and raised by different families, still end up with very similar personality traits and IQ.

Of course, environment still has a role - an obvious example (I think Steven Pinker refers to it, but I cannot remember) is that if you plant cloned wheat plants in 2 different fields, and water and fertilize one field and leave the other neglected, then of course you get a completely harvests at the end of the season. However, this "environment" is only partly what your child does at home, and a good part of it is what happens when your kid plays with other children.

So, according to Ms Harris, once you discount any genetic predisposition to do so, if you want your kid to enjoy eating organic peaches and reading Hegel, then you have to make sure that your child's peer group enjoys these same activites. Otherwise, no matter how much organic tofu you pack in your kid's lunchbox, your kid will want to eat hamburgers and watch Disney if that is what this is what his/her friends do. This is probably still why people are going to try to send their kids to private schools or live in expensive neighbourhoods, as the biggest influence you can have on your children is to choose their friends !

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Murphy's law revisited

We ALMOST made it through this week where I could say that Sophie has adjusted to her new bed.

Everything was going smoothly, and Sophie seemed to have a routine going where she would wake up in the morning, eat the food we'd set out for her the night before, and go and play by herself for about 45 minutes before ayi arrived. We finally managed to sleep in the morning (or so we thought!).

But 2 year olds do not let you rest on your laurels...

I hadn't realised that she was just picking the best moment - which probably was yesterday (friday night) when Fabien and I came back after midnight (having watched the olympic opening at a Greek party), Sophie suddenly woke up at 2:30am and decided she didn't want to sleep in her bed.

Fabien tried to persuade her but she just stubbornly insisted on coming with us. After more than 2 hours, we gave up and I let her sleep with me whilst my husband retreated to the guest bedroom. I don't blame him at all.

For the record, Sophie is the WORST bed-companion. Ever. It seems to defy all the laws of physics that something so small can take up so much bed-space, and steal all the bed covers (which all mysteriously end up on the floor by morning).

Despite all the nocturnal drama, Sophie didn't seem any worse for wear when she woke up later. She was in a great mood, singing and smiling like nothing was wrong. We went to the Singapore National Day brunch, where she played with lots of other little Singaporean kids.

I hope that yesterday night can be dismissed as an anomaly, and she regains her good sleeping habits!!

Tomorrow we are watching the Women's Beach Volleyball preliminaries, although Fabien is probably watching the cheer-leaders (*grins).

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

nice family photos

For the longest time, I was thinking to go to a studio and take some photos with Fabien and Sophie. This is because either Fabien or I are always behind the camera, and in alot of the photos, Sophie looks like she only has one parent! My grandma had asked us previously for some family photos of us, and I also thought it would be nice to have some photos for Sophie's room too.

Finally, we decided to hire a photographer for Sophie's second birthday at the pony club. Of course, it poured with rain that day (hahahah)! Luckily, there is an indoor riding area (yes, a wet-weather plan - clever mummy huh?) and also an indoor dining area, unfortunately, the lighting isn't great in both areas. The photographer felt so bad with the results of the photo-shoot that she has said that she will shoot us again for free at the next event (maybe at our Kid 2's 100 days party?!)

When the rain stopped, we went outside to play, and the photographer just shot us playing outside, and from there we selected these 2 photos, which I think captures the moment beautifully.

Of course, the birthday girl couldn't resist jumping into all the puddles with a look of absolute glee on her face. Who needs presents? Just a pool of water will do.

Overheard ....

When I can't come back home in time to put Sophie to bed, I try to phone her on the phone and say good night. It only takes 5 minutes, and she goes to bed reassured that her parents still love her. It probably in part caused her addiction to phones.

Anyway, some nights ago, she told me her first "story".
"Sophie tell Maman story. okay?"
"Okay Sophie, what story do you want to tell me?"
"Watermelon and Bear."
"Really? I don't know that one!" (It's true - I don't!!)
(**At this point, she switches to Chinese) "One day, Little Bear rolled a water melon up a hill. Little Bear pushed and pushed. Then at the top, gu-tong, gu-tong, gu-tong. Run Run Run! So fast!! SPLAT! CRASH! Boo hoo hoo, Little Bear cried."
(translation - I guess the watermelon rolled down the hill and broke and Little Bear found out about the consequences of gravity)

Okay, it's not much, but it's her first full story (with a begining, middle and end) even if it had a sad end. I possibly have a Tragedian on my hands.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Christmas in October

Since our Kid #2 is expected between 15 to 20 September, Fabien's parents are coming to visit in October. Thus, we are not planning to going back to France this Christmas, so we will have Christmas in October ! YES - We will exchange our Christmas gifts and make our yearly charity donations, in OCTOBER this year - in utter disregard of the normal calendar rules! You might be wondering if my kids are ever going to be sane in this kind of environment - you might be right!

At the same time, we will also celebrate Fab's end of August birthday, and I have decided to buy him a digital SLR. If any of you "serious" photographers have some recommendations about what to get, I am all ears - please do tell me.. (especially you girls Gina and Fioleta - I think your shots are great).

Buying Christmas presents for Sophie is pretty easy too. My dearest daughter has very simple tastes - all kinds of moving things! I originally wanted to get this cool Kawasaki tricycle, but couldn't find it anywhere in Beijing (oh well)...

On the subject of gifts, I have no idea whether it is unusual in 2 year old girls, but Sophie absolutely despises Barbie, and so we had a slight diplomatic incident recently where one of my husband's chinese collegueas generously offered Sophie a bright pink barbie doll-set with (I am not kidding) a matching wardrobe of sparkly dresses. It looked terribly expensive, and my daughter took one look at it, ignored all my promptings to "say thank you"; shook her head and then ran away to play with the toy motorcycle which another kid had. She's a normally very polite kid, but I wasn't really sure what the parental teaching is supposed to be in situations such as this - what would you have done if you were me?!!

Eventually, I smiled weakly at the collegue in question and said "thank you, what a lovely gift! I am sure Sophie will love it when she is a little older, right now she just likes moving things ..." Anyway, I've got the giant box set in a cupboard at home now, and I just need to find an orphanage to give it to. Though if anyone wants a set of very 80s looking barbie clothes, please let me know !!

Actually, I lie when I say she just likes moving things - Sophie seems to be in a Playmobil phase now. But I have a natural aversion to plastic toys for a whole bunch of reasons (see this link if you just want the health reasons, but note that there are also lots of environmental reasons as well). Also on a practical level, Playmobil has lots of tiny little parts and that's a really bad idea when you have a second baby in the house that will very soon be crawling around and trying to eat everything. I do not relish the idea of performing a Heimlich Manuever on any infant much less my own!

We have managed to keep her entertained in the mornings (yes, at 5:30am !!) by setting out the smurfs playground, or the wooden dollhouse family (except they don't live in a house but a lego appartment) for her to play with in the morning. When I can get a photo of her playing (at a more sane hour!) I will, but they keep her entertained for some 45 minutes without bothering Fabien and me, so it's working thus far - sort of... more on that later!

Also, I've been looking to get some fun pretend play toys in wood for her. I really like the stuff from Plan Toys (yes, it's a hitherto unknown brand, and when you become a parent, you become fluent in a second language called brands of children toys and gear as your kid reaches each stage).

I am considering this Pirate Ship (lovely aint' it? As an alternative Playmobil one)

The other thing that she loves is construction equipment - her favourite being the Crane.

They are all made in Thailand, and I wonder whether any of our Thai friends can find out where to buy them from within Thailand, or are they made for export purposes only... I am quite happy to pay for them, but I need someone to find out for me - (Xavier? Pins? Judy?)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

my first beijing car accident

Last Thursday my colleague P and I went out for lunch, and on the way back, our taxi got hit from behind, and also whacked the car in front of us. We were in the middle of a daisy-chain of 5 or 6 cars. It's not the first (minor) car accident I've been in, but it's the first for me in Beijing. It wasn't a serious accident, we both managed to get out of the car and catch another cab back to the office. I think it was worse for the other cars behind us, where the passenger couldn't come out of the door.

There's absolutely nothing to be alarmed about, the baby and me are absolutely fine. I saw a doctor on Friday morning, and he said that I might be a little sore, but some paracetamol and rest and heat on the slightly strained muscles on my back should be fine.

The slight shock to my back muscles which are already stretched out didn't do it any favours, so I took Friday off work, and am taking it really easy at home now.

Fabien has been an angel this week.

Recently, Sophie has been getting out of her bed at 5:30am and looking for us, and my dear husband has been the one getting out of bed, giving her some water and explaining to her that she can only come to look for us after 7:00am. How will she know that it is 7am? When the ayi comes to work, that's when it is 7am.

By the way in case you are wondering - Sophie's bedroom does have heavy-duty blackout curtains, even they are no match for the light and heat from the morning sun (which rises very very early in summer).

Our hypothesis is when she was sleeping in her crib, she probably did wake briefly in the early mornings, but managed to soothe herself back to sleep or sing and play quietly in her crib without any problems until the ayi did come to work (usually arriving 10 minutes before 7am), whereupon she'd hear the front door opening and say in chinese "ayi! come get me please! I am awake!".

Now that she can come out of bed and open the door by herself, the lure of the great outdoors is just irresistible!!

We're still figuring this one out. The current plan involves putting a glass of water and small box of raisins (her favorite snack) on a designated table, and pointing it out to her every morning, together with some of her toys. Then telling her that when she wakes up in the morning, she can have some water and a snack, but she has to play quietly by herself until ayi arrives and prepares her breakfast (egg, toast etc.. stuff that no way are we going to let her do by herself) and NOT wake Papa and Mama up until then. You have to repeat this every morning until she gets the idea, or until you simply give up and dump her back in a crib.

Fabien says putting her back in a crib is a last resort, because since she can't stay in the crib forever, you may as well start getting her used to the idea of freedom, and since this freedom naturally comes with boundaries, so you must start setting these rules early. This is especially because we will have a second kid to deal with soon, so it's just better to get this stage out of the way early.

All very sound reasoning, and I tend to agree - as long as HE is the one getting up in the morning to do this ground rule setting!