Friday, December 11, 2009

Remind me never to fly China Airlines Air China!

We are going to go to San Francisco to spend Christmas with my brother Shaun.

Due to work commitments, I wasn't sure if I could go or whether it would just be Fabien and the kids to see my brother, but now that I had the dates, we could all go together, so we had left this booking quite late. This didn't give us a lot of options, and in any case there are only 2 direct flights from BJ to SF on either United or China Airlines Air China. We looked at the flight times and availability, and decided that Air China was both cheaper, and were available on the days I wanted to fly.

To cut a really long story short - Remind me NEVER to fly Air China unless we absolutely have no choice about this.

They have the worst customer service in the world, and the whole experience of (1) buying the tickets and (2) booking our seat is really making me quite nervous about flying for 10 hours on their carrier.

I'll come back and post about it when I am in San Francisco, and I almost regret having to buy carbon offsets spent on this most silly flight on this worthless airline.

At least the idea of spending Christmas with my brother, his girlfriend's family and the whole gang is perking me up !!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I should be more thankful - really !

I am such a blessed person that there are times (human nature being what it is) that I take it for granted.

Alex scared us 2 weeks ago by suddenly getting a 40 degree fever. I was in a meeting on the other side of the city when I recieved the anxious phone call from ayi, so one of our neighbours (who works from home) went to our house to check it out for us. He got there at the same time as Fabien who rushed there from work. The fever subsided after some paracetemol. I think she had been dehydrated from the stomach flu.

She wasn't sneezing or coughing, so we aren't all that worried about H1N1 virus. Sophie's kindergarten class so far has not been affected so we're keeping our fingers crossed that this winter goes smoothly. Luckily Alex recovered quite quickly - at least in time for our weekend at the Great Wall, although she did manage to pass it to Mommy, who developed a throat infection!

Which brings me to the next bit about being thankful for what you have. Why is it you need to get sick before you appreciate being healthy?

I usually take my health for granted, not getting enough rest, skipping meals and generally abusing my body. I also take for granted the fact that the children are almost always perfectly healthy. So only when they get sick (or I do) will I appreciate the fact that the rest of the year, everything is absolutely fine.

Speaking of thankfulness, this year, Sophie and I will not be allowed to visit the orphanage where we normally donate our stuff to. There is a kind of paranoia regarding H1N1 and visitors are basically not welcome. Which is a little sad but of course, we will respect the health restrictions.

Monday, November 23, 2009

minus two children and 20 kilos and it feels ...

like yesterday once more....

I cannot believe Fabien is still wearing that same t-shirt. But he is !!

Friday, November 20, 2009

I really do like this








Looking forward to being able to get a new computer soon....

Whatever Obama says, I don't think internet freedom is anytime soon here !

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A short hiatus

I have decided to kill this blog. Or at least pause it until something about the current situation changes.

One of the key reasos is that in Beijing, connection times are so slow it sucks the joy out of blogging. You now need a VPN to blog at home, and so I access it sometimes through my work computer, which goes through a UK proxy. But then I don't like blogging through my lunch breaks because I try to keep some distance between my personal and professional life, and also because uploading photos are not allowed on my office computer.

So my choices are (1) wait for internet policy in China to change (haha!); (2) upgrade to a faster home computer and VPN at home; (3) move out of China to somewhere slightly less restrictive. As sad as it sounds option (3) is more likely than (1) !!

However, I don't think that I want to make this disconnect permananent. This blog has put me in touch with some very special people, whom I may not have otherwise met. I am grateful for that.

It also helps me to stay in touch with my friends, record my contemporaneous thoughts on parenting, work/life balance and all the other struggles and minor triumphs in my daily life, and I suppose so that I hope my kids can get to know during the part of their lives quite likely before clear memories are formed. This record is for them as much as for myself.

So until the situation changes, I think we'll call a short time-out for now. It's been wonderful thus far, and I hope the people who enjoy reading this blog will come back once in a while to see which one of the options I'd gone for. Fabien is likely to ask me what I want for my birthday this December, and it's quite likely a new computer !!

Monday, October 05, 2009

we are in taipei!

the typhoon didn't get us, and our kids loved the art museum. it's rainy though and i am back to typing with one hand. marvellous seeing scott for the weekend. it's been 15 years since we last had coffee together (he still had hair!!)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth

There are no perfect places in the world to live in. Human wants are virtually limitless, and we will always find a reason to bitch about something, wherever we are. That being said, the one thing that seriously annoys me about where I currently live is the censored internet. We have no Face book. No You tube and No blogger access, without using VPNs or some other route. Possibly upgrading my computer this Christmas will help matters somewhat!

Will post photos/ blog more from Taiwan (land of the free !) where we are going for the vacation. In the meantime, I only have precious few mins on the (free) internet each time, so excuse the blog silence please.

Thanks Jen (and all the other friendly formosans) for all the tips, but of course I couldn't get on to any website with "tw" in the address ... Anyway, we will go there for the vacation so that I can come back recharged to deal with the craziness of living here.

Friday, August 07, 2009

One of my favourite Photos

This is not a studio potrait. We were sitting in a cafe in Phuket. 2 parents looking at their lovely offspring.

Sophie Loves her little sister so much. It's a magic kind of beauty. Of course she needs reassurance from her parents that they love her and she tests limits. But moments like this are sacred and beautiful. And Fab managed to capture that moment in this shot I think.

Sophie and Alex (Phuket Jan '09)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Sophie and Alex (Phuket Jan '09)

Dear Alex,

You are the classic neglected second child of two working parents. Your sister Sophie had Mommy looking after her until she learned to walk, and was nursed exclusively for 6 months. You on the other hand have had to make do with a mixture of formula and boob since you were 4 months old.

On the other hand, you really have something that Sophie never had - a big sister to look up to. Ayi says whenever you cry, and she says "don't cry, Sophie is coming", you always stop crying. Sophie was never this demonstrative with other children, but spends all day hugging and kissing you !

And so you do learn so fast how to do things - all by yourself ! You've been standing up for ages now, and today you stood alone for a short couple of seconds - you looked so proud ! You also love interacting with other people, much more than Sophie did at this age. You're really sad whenever Sophie goes off to summer camp (4 hours a day a the montessori school) and although you wave "bye bye" at us, ayi says you start crying pretty much after the door is closed . You are 9 months old and you know that you charm your parents by saying "mamamama" and "papapapapa".

We are so proud of both of you.

Your Mama and Papa...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fab- in Hardelot - which one is he?

One of the places I love is Hardelot.

There is an apartment there where my husband went for his holidays at the beach. And now our children can spend time there eating sand and riding ponys. It is a place frozen in time - just like this photo.

One thing I am trying to do is to figure out how to fix the white chairs in the apartment. As you can see from this photo, they were quite new about 30 years ago ... But it's not going to be cheap to fix them. It's supposed to be more economical to buy a new one.

But who can place a price on happy childhood memories?

Sophie and Alex - Hardelot

Monday, July 27, 2009


Originally uploaded by vacheorange
Some members of the Cousin Clan.... missing quite a good chunk though... the last really big family reunion I think was the last Christmas in the Grandparent's home in 2006. I consider myself tremendously lucky to have been a part of that. It was something special, and once the house was sold, never to be repeated.

I think these traditions will be increasingly important for our children in the future. Especially with the travel that happens with these global nomads. Somehow the need is stronger (with email and skype) to know that your family loves you, no matter where in the world you can be.

I do not know whether they will consider themselves French or Singaporean. With a little luck, I hope they will feel a bit of both !

Stolen moments

Sophie stealing grapes
Originally uploaded by vacheorange
It's wonderful for Sophie to enjoy being in Europe at least 3 weeks a year.

She got to run around the garden in her underwear (after playing with water and getting all her clothes wet).

And steal grapes from the cheese plate while her father saw all his extended family (the photo shows the end of a very long table).

If you want to talk about the fabled "Asian values" of close family kinship and tradition. Hang out with a Northern French family. Forget insular nuclear family - you have 30 cousins at the table (20 couldn't make it) and everybody talks at the same time. Over large amounts of alcohol and food ... it's almost Asian !

Friday, July 24, 2009

25 random things meme

This is an incredibly old meme circulating the internet. For those of you who have forgotten it by now, you're supposed to write 25 random things about yourself. So here are mine:

1.Filling in these kind of memes usually mean that I am bored, or stressed, or both.
Fortunately neither happens very often.

2.Subject to #1, then I am a generally happy, usually ethical lawyer. You can put me in a zoo because I am clearly an endangered species.

3.Restraint and Humility are lessons I am still learning. When I can't do it, I just fake it.

4.I have worked in a variety of summer jobs – I have been a waitress, a swimming pool cleaner, antique furniture seller, and theatre actor, essay mill writer.

5.Writing letters and postcards to my friends makes me happy. Although sometimes I forget to mail them.

6.I like buying presents for people "just because", the biggest "just because" gift that I had given was throwing a surprise party for Fabien in Singapore – just for the heck of it.

7.I dislike people feeling obliged to give gifts or be nice without really meaning it.

8.A certain amount of hypocrisy is necessary to function in social/professional settings, and I'm still learning to accept this.

9.I think I want 4 children and a great big dog called Maximus.

10.I could read my own bed time story by the time I was 2 years old.

11.I was a committed environmentalist for some years, and thought I would neither have babies nor a driving licence.

12.Then I met my husband and changed my mind.

13.I have an Italian driving licence which I got at first try.

14.That licence has not had much use because some people are just destined to be driven. Especially those with absolutely no sense of direction.

15.It took some time for me to work out who I am. I think I have most of that figured out now. Especially the having no sense of direction part.

16.I have looked for and seen falling stars in various interesting places, including – the roof of Cairnhill Arts Centre, the Frankfurt train station, the lawn in front of Trent Building, and the second floor of the (then) Singapore Ambassador's house in Paris.

17.Having children has given me a fear of dying, which I never used to have. I now fear leaving my children mother-less at a young age.

18.I used to dive a lot, and really enjoyed it, but I haven't done it for so long now I probably have forgotten what I am missing.

19.I am a chatty traveller and will happily yap to who-ever is willing to talk to me on a plane or train.

20.I will learn to play polo in Argentina some day. Want to join me?

21.I don't have anything I am particularly fantastic at, but I have lots of things I am pretty good at.

22.The fact that I wasn't brilliant at anything used to bother me, but I think I have mellowed since.

23.I look up to my dad and aunt tremendously as a people who have done a lot in their career without compromising what they felt to be right. But I wonder whether this has affected their personal life more than they will admit.

24.I never will have that problem. If it was ever an absolute choice between my work or my family, I know what I would choose in a split second.

25.Fabien and I kiss whenever we walk across a bridge.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Other online random musings

I am still waiting for my brainwave regarding our "China Strategy".... Then I saw this online:
Top lawyers know that, while most of their colleagues look forward to relaxing at home at the end of the day, the highest-achieving ones do not focus on when one day ends and another begins. They look forward to the firm reception or foundation meeting at night because they are acutely aware that a little extra involvement is what moves the ordinarily competent attorney into the extraordinary, top attorney column. Even when not working, the top attorneys remain available and on call, considering the interests of their employers and communities at all times.

If it sounds like too much work, think again. Top attorneys don't view their involvement as work as much as they do a service for the people and causes they find most compelling. They recognize involvement as an indispensable component to staying on top in their careers.

What hogwash.

It is this kind of thinking that forces us to go and grin and bear it at all these annoying social events where everyone checks their blackberry under the table and their watches to see when it is polite to get the heck out of there. I seriously doubt that gets you noticed as a "top lawyer".

The other parts of the article were not too bad. Like saying that you need a consistent delivery of competent advice. But that doesn't really distinguish you from the hordes of other lawyers out there.

I found this other article much better.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Must. Resist....the default position - Omnivore

Blogging silence whilst the internet was down for a while at home.

So here is a thought that has been occupying me for a while.

Over the last 5 years, I have moved slowly away from my original carnivore status and now lean towards omnivore/herbivore. I do source food from as ethical and sustainable a choice as available in Beijing.

Still... we are going for our summer vacation in France, and I have an inkling that the great food we will be tempted with will multiply our carbon footprint to more than we can afford to buy credits for.

Speaking of credits - I have a fairly Catholic approach to our family's greenhouse emissions. Since my work largely revolves around "sustainable/ greentech investments" in China, I am a big believer in emission reduction projects and therefore carbon credits. Sure it may be a system of "buying penances" and you may not be able to ever fully off-set environmental damage. However my view is a pretty prosaic one - what other workable commercial alternative do you have? I really believe that this one of the cases where Good must not be sacrificed in pursuit of Excellent.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The family resemblance

It is in the laugh...I am trying to get a photo of Alex laughing, but actually at certain angles, Alex looks a lot like Fabien when he was really small.

Especially when she is laughing, and this little girl does like laughing alot.

Not so hard to do when your older sister is a bit of a comedian.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Looking Older huh?

I am glad that Sophie's school puts up weekly photos for us to look at, and see what the kids are doing. This way I know that Sophie loves the dog that her friend Louise brought for Show and Tell and that they made a cardboard airplane for the class project !

The photos are a great progression to see how she is growing !

Saturday, April 25, 2009

First Holiday away from Alex - in Tokyo !!

Alex is 7 months old next week, and already Fab and I are planning their get-away weekend away from both kids. We've already spent time together away from Sophie, so I think Sophie isn't too fussed about it. But I wonder how Alex will react?

It's great because my mom will come to baby sit just before we dash off. Definitely one of the benefits of being close by to the grandparents !

I am actually really glad that I work. It sometimes is stressful because of course Murphy's law says that the urgent deadlines always come up when the kids have a stomach bug and one parent is traveling. That's also part of the fun I think.

And I actually think that being a parent has helped me a lot in dealing with difficult people at work, because when somebody is throwing a tantrum, I find that many methods which work with toddlers also work with adults !

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The day I traded my dad for a yogurt

We don't eat refined sugar at home. Ever. That's how paranoid we are as parents. It's not so much the sugar and coloring that I am worried about as the fact that I see what happens whenever she goes to children's birthday parties and all the children run amok, loaded up with artificial sugars and chocolate.

Sophie does get desert on weekends at home with her parents, but even then it's limited to yogurt with some raisins stirred in.

The story that has to go down into our family books is this one (translated from French)

"Sophie, it's bedtime for you and Alex. We only have time for one thing so you have to choose. Either you have another yogurt with Mama or else, Papa can tell you a story."

Sophie thinks about it for all of 30 seconds and then says "Yogurt. Please."

"So no story with Papa?"

"No, it's okay Papa, just yogurt, no story"

"okay - Good night Sophie"

Clearly the way to this girl's heart is via the stomach. She really meant it when she said she wanted the yogurt instead of Papa. There she is with the fruit loop necklace made in school.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Note to Alex on the eve of your 6 month "demi" birthday

Dear Alex,

What a whirlwind ride! It feels like just yesterday that I was running around trying to close projects before your (planned) arrival, so you obligingly delayed your arrival for a couple of days and came to cheer us up after the dire news of the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

It seemed like a trend. From your rocket-speed birth to your remarkable ability to take care of yourself, you have been such a cheerful and delightful bundle. We went for 2 months of yoga classes together, and the teacher commented that she had never heard you cry. You really are the most blissed out baby I know of.

This of course, does not ever stop you from being a cheeky little monkey. Your favorite trick for a really long time was peeing on us every chance you got. I promise that I could hear you laughing after that.

We're probably much more relaxed parents with you, and you reward us with your beautiful smile so often. We probably don't deserve it but only very little children and very large dogs have so much to teach us about such intense and unguarded love that make your parents go weak at the knees at the responsibility of not screwing this all up in the habit of human nature to do so.

You are sitting happily now, and rolling enthusiastically around on your carpet. We are trying to figure out how to balance your need to explore by grabbing random things and shoving them into your mouth, against your sister's desire to play with very small and dangerous little toys.

I had a terrible nightmare last night that you asphyxiated on a small button that had come off my shirt whilst I was nursing you and I had to give you CPR. I woke up completely in tears, and rushed to your room and spent the rest of the night checking that you were still breathing. The next morning when the sun came up, you gave me another one of your huge smiles and I knew that even if I was just being insanely paranoid the thought that I might lose you (even in a hypothetical dream) makes the back-ache that comes sitting next to your bed on the floor all night worth it.

Your mama


Monday, March 09, 2009

So when are we having the test? Duh!!

Some people have been asking me exactly what goes on in a toddler IQ test. Like I repeat it is very inaccurate. But basically I understand that they are testing for a couple of things like how your kid puts sentences and logical thought process together when solving the puzzles, and the length of attention span. Sophie scored higher than her physical age for a few of these things.

As for the details, well, to be honest, I thought those puzzles were there to distract Sophie because she was playing so quietly with them the whole time. I actually asked the doctor "so when are we doing the IQ test?" and was quite surprised when he said "we've already done it - congratulations, your daughter is very bright!"

I didn't pay attention to those puzzles because the doctor was talking to me (he was asking background questions like when Sophie was born, what was her due date, when she passed various developmental milestones etc..) So because I was busy talking to him, I honestly have no idea what Sophie was actually doing, but whatever she was doing was clearly making sense to the doctor, who was also observing and making notes of what she was doing.

I don't think that's earthshaking except that it puts more pressure on me as a parent, trying to strike a balance between creating an interesting and intellectually stimulating environment, and not wanting to put any pressure on Sophie, who is pretty sensitive to these things.

Little things like wondering when I should start teaching her how to read. She shows a great deal of interest in books and words, so I guess I should stop putting it off before she really freaks me out by learning how to read by herself or something equally astounding.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Our visit to the shrink !

Sophie has been kind of acting up at home, like refusing to go to the toilet, and sleeping issues, I phoned our pediatrician because I wanted to rule out any illness or allergy.

The pediatrician agreed that we could see a child psychiatrist for an assessment. So today we had a rudimentary sort of IQ test and personality test for Sophie at a child psychiatrist's office. This was really pretty relaxed. The psychiatrist and I sat on a sofa and had a chat, and he let Sophie loose on the floor with a whole bunch of puzzles and games and he observed as she played, ran back to mommy for confirmation or help, and watched when I spoke to her.

The verdict was partly what I suspected, but needed confirmation of.

First the good news - Sophie is definitely a pretty bright kid. Just how bright is a bit hard to tell because toddler IQ tests are extremely inaccurate, but what they could tell me is that whilst Sophie is unlikely to be profoundly gifted, she is definitely ahead of the bell curve on certain activities like logical reasoning and language.

I learned that it's not so much early talking which gets these doctors excited however, it is what your child actually says. What you need to look out for is your child verbalising complex logical reasoning or early mathematical thinking - as a trait of the gifted or highly intelligent child, these skills are usually self taught.

Actually anyone who knows me will know that any math that Sophie has is DEFINITELY self taught simply because I am one of those math-illiterate people who need a calculator to leave a tip in restaurants because I cannot calculate 20% of a bill. Creative playing with words and language (e.g. calling her bear "camembert") is actually one of the signs of linguistic giftedness.

Now for the bad news - Children who are intellectually advanced or bright can be deeply affected by a new sibling. Strong emotions such as jealousy are probably closer to their physical than mental age. Parents who are used to an otherwise smart child with whom they are used to reasoning regularly with, are at a loss to deal with what is essentially a toddler-level emotional reaction. If the reaction is not managed appropriately, then you get behavioural problems and a great deal of emotional angst.

The psychiatrist also thinks that Sophie appears introverted but unlikely to be shy. This means that there is nothing we can or should do to make her speak more to strangers or interact with people that she does not want to.

Apparently shyness is when the kid WANTS to play and interact but is scared to do so. This is a behavioural problem which will leave the kid unhappy if this is not corrected. Introversion is when the kid is perfectly happy in his own company and not feel desire to interact more with other people. Play therapy helps a shy kid overcome his/her fears, and be happy playing with other kids. But trying to change an introverted kid into an extrovert will cause them a lot of unnecessary stress.

What is difficult for Sophie is that by nature her mommy is an extrovert, and enjoys going out to different people and different situations. Also, Alexandra has a more sunny and outgoing personality than Sophie, and Sophie is stressed that her mother seems to "prefer" Baby Alex. If I were to be completely honest with myself, I would say that Alex is a better personality fit for me than Sophie. And Sophie unfortunately is astute enough to see that.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

To see the world in a grain of sand

Sophie missed some of school last week because she had croup. For the first time since school begun she has actually missed anything due to illness. It's pretty cool actually, because all my friends were warning me to be careful of pestilence and disease when kids start school that I was prepared for quite a lot of sick days, but one week of absence *(touch wood) out of a full school year is pretty good.

Anyways, this is her back in school at the weekly show and tell. She is showing her friends her birthday present from last year. A kaleidescope from our friend and neighbor- Claire. We've known Claire and Katie (and their parents) since we moved to Beijing, and I cannot believe that our kiddies are growing up so fast!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Of Course

Sophie's favourite game is "Happy Birthday" where she makes a playdough cake, puts imaginary candles, sings the song and blows them out. Then she gives out slices of playdough cake to everyone. (Papa, Mama, Alex, Grandma etc..)

She always remembers to give cake to her nanny (whom we call "ayi"). I am actually really glad that we've found at least 2 people whom I am happy to leave our kids with all day. I want to have some photos of these very important people in Sophie's and Alex's lives.

This is a photo of Xiao Lu ayi. She went with us to Singapore and Phuket. Our other ayi is Xiao Dou ayi and she went with us to ChangChun, and will come skiing with us this month.

One of my German friends thinks that it is crazy that our ayi goes with us on holiday.

I think it's wonderful that our 2 ayi has over the 2 years that we have been here become so close to us that they have become our friends.

Friday, February 27, 2009

How many of these do I want?

Sophie's last comment (see below) about looking for parents sort of made me so teary-eyed that I wondered if my hormones were going through some sort of major change. Which made me run out to buy a pregnancy test kit because I was paranoid thinking I might be pregnant again? (*gasp*) I thought the best form of contraception was actually HAVING a baby....

It's not that I am against having more children around this house, but I was quite seriously thinking to adopt/foster them partly because I think we could provide these kids a good home and partly for environmental reasons. So whilst I do want more kids around, I am not actually planning on being pregnant again too soon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Seek and ye shall find

We are currently packing clothes, books and toys away, some are for our friends who have babies younger than Alex, and some is for the local orphanage. I now go through this process together with Sophie, and explain that these are for the children who live in the orphanage. We usually make these donations on her birthday and other celebrations, but sometimes we do this as a regular activity.

Sophie used to accept that the orphanage was where these kids live in very much the same way that our house is where Sophie and Alex live.

Now that she is getting more curious, she asks "why do I have to give my toys to them?"
"they don't have a lot of stuff, and you and Alex have a lot"
"But if you give my books and toys away, I won't have any left, and then will somebody else give me things?"
"Yes, Papa and Mama give you things all the time"
"Do Papa and Mama give things to the children too?"
"Yes, probably not as much as we would like to, but we do give things to the children too"
"Do their Papa and Mama give them things too? Do their Papa and Mama give me things too?"
"No, the children in the orphanage don't have papas and mamas. They have lost their parents"

At this point Sophie does a double-take, and is silent and frowning for a really long time.

Then she says "We have to go look for their Papa and Mama! Come on Mama ! Let's go find them "

Bless you my daughter and your kind and generous nature. It is a little hard to describe how I am feeling. A mix of being proud and sad. Proud that she is such a caring and lovely kid, and a little sad that she will (at some point in time) find out that you can't fix all the world's problems so easily.

I don't like going to the orphanage. I always wish I could adopt them ALL.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Snow days

It's so rare to see Beijing looking all snow covered and beautiful. Fresh powder white snow (with a little help from the cloud seeding plane unfortunately). This means I worry a little bit when Sophie tries to catch a snowflake on her tongue (as you can see from the photo).

Alex is being carried around by the nanny. When you have 2 kids (and a nanny) it is your second kid that is carried around all the time by the nanny becuase your first kid will want to spend all that time with you.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mom is here !

I think I love living in Asia because my mom can help out with the kids. The big plus about having kids relatively younger is that they get to meet their grandparents. Sophie is very lucky to have met not only her 4 grandparents but also 3 great-grand parents too.

My mom came to help out when I went to Hong Kong for a meeting last week. Which was a real relief because it was the first overnight trip I was making without Alex. Of course to add insult to injury, Fabien was away for the first half of the week, and I was away on the second part of the week (we crossed each other at the airport because we have the rule that our kids shouldn't spend a night with both parents working overseas).

When I came back I asked mom and my ayis how the kids adjusted to my absence, whereupon ayi said "do you want the truth or the sanitised version?"

As I feared - both kids missed me terribly. Alex found it difficult to sleep and they ran out of Mommy milk (I had seriously underestimated her consumption) so they supplemented with formula, which didn't agree with her. Sophie standing at the window looking downstairs. She said she wanted to try to see Mommy coming home.

Not surprisingly Fab and I had a whole bunch of sleep issues to deal with when I returned. Alex had a really disrupted schedule and Sophie insisted on having somebody in the room with her all the time. To explain why this is terrible, Sophie used to go to bed at 7pm every night by herself (i.e. tell a story, close the door and walk away). Now we have to stay in the room till she falls asleep, but WORSE - when she wakes up at night and finds nobody there, she screams for us until Fab or I show up in the room.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Parenting Dilemma Number 376

We are in the lift lobby, and a friendly neighbor tries to engage Sophie in conversation. My daughter turns away and ignores him and I am embarrassed. Afterwards I ask "Sophie, why didn't you want to talk to Uncle XYZ? He's nice" And Sophie says "Don't like him"

Now, natural parenting philosophy say you are supposed to respect your children's choices, and allow them to develop their intuition. In this age of child molesters and so on, we are advised that we should allow our children to trust their instincts to refuse to talk to strangers or people that they don't know very well, without trying to justify their refusal. This is supposed to protect your children against being preyed upon by perverts.

But I dig a bit deeper and ask "Sophie why don't you like Uncle XYZ?" and Sophie clearly says (in Chinese) "Because when Mama talks to him, then I can't play with Mama any more. Mama ignores me." Which sort of sucks because she's right. I am really not sure how to argue with that logic?

I wonder if it is a working parent sort of thing, or whether my kid would be just as possessive of my attention and time even if I was a full time parent.

What do I do? Force her into a polite response that she clearly doesn't feel? Make excuses for her (ALL parenting books tell you not to do that)? Ignore this kind of anti-social behaviour?

Nobody said being a parent was easy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Family Photo Shoot

The principal of Sophie's school was asked to suggest a cute toddler for the March cover of a Beijing Parents/Kids magazine, so she suggested Sophie. I'd agreed to do it because we could get a free family photoshoot at home, and I am a sucker for freebies...

So on Saturday morning, the photographer and the magazine editor show up at our house with big light reflectors that Sophie was real interested in playing with. They had wanted to put the "Spring" theme on the cover and so had brought fresh flowers and a spade for Sophie to pretend to re-pot. Sophie fiddled with it for a while, got bored, and then wanted to play with her other toys, and had to be persuaded back to the flowers for a few more photos. A gardener this kid is NOT... There are only so many times you can tell a 2 going on 3 year old "Look at these pretty flowers! Let's count the petals!"

Anyway 2 hours later, we got some shots which were deemed "cover- worthy" and then we could get on with our breakfast. You can see them here if you are interested.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

My girls

Alex is both extremely lucky and unlucky. It's great that Sophie loves Alex so much, but it is hard when she wants to cuddle Alex all the time, and squish her. Even when she was just days old (like in this photo)

Tough Love indeed.

I guess I am lucky that I don't have (as yet!) any sibling rivalry issues to deal with. Sophie seems content to be "Big Sister" and is mostly pretty gentle (though she needs regular reminding) to Alex.

I am going back to work tomorrow 3 days a week. I kinda excited and a little worried. I hope Alex accepts the bottle and the pumping goes well.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


...and they got married and lived happily ever after

Mummy, what is married?

When you love someone very much you want to have a big party with them, so you get married to them.

Sophie want to get married. I'm a Princess too.

Really? Who do you want to marry?

(*thinks for a really long time) Papa - I really really love him

And anybody else?

Uhhhhh ... Wai Gong (i.e. grandfather)

So who do you want to marry?

Uhhh.. Wai Gong AND Papa

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reunion Dinner thoughts

We just all came back from Grandma's house. Stuffed with curry chicken and ngoh hiang.

For me, one of the cultural activities which really reminds me of my Chinese heritage is the Chinese New Year. When I was a really little kid we did the whole nine yards with gambling in the night and lots of food and friends in our home. As my brother is a gazillion miles off in SF right now, Chinese New Year is kind of when I miss him.

I wonder how much Alex and Sophie will understand about their Chinese ancestry. I wonder how much they will appreciate Chinese New Year. It is a part of their DNA. Like prizing academic achievement, or respecting your elders, or this crazy urge to run to be first in line for everything.

This year will be a bit somber because it is within the 100 days of my grandfather's passing. But it is the first time in a really long while that Fabien is back in Singapore for the New Year. He was working over the last 2 new years, and I came to Singapore myself. I think Singapore will still be the first place I think of when I think about home. The interesting question is where will Alex and Sophie think of as home?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another Tequila sunrise

I didn't bring a computer so I am in a hotel lobby updating this blog. My kids are asleep. It is too early for me to go to bed, so I am downstairs ordering a drink and reading my book.

I have been so dumb as to forget my camera.

Anyway, you can picture me sitting with a steak and lobster tail in front of me. Sophie stuffing her face with grilled tuna and her toes are sandy. I am sipping my sangria and watching the sun set. My older daughter's cheeky profile is in the background all orange and dark. My younger daughter is safely in the appartment with ayi. I miss my husband, and I cannot wait for him to come next week. He completes the picture.

A bunch of singers with guitars approach our table and ask if we have any requests. Sophie is entranced at the thought that people can sing for you (it is better than a CD!). She requests "Old Macdonald had a farm" and the singers sportingly oblige. Sophie sings along too and applauds enthusiaticly at the end. The singers are charmed and sing another of her requests. Sophie follows them as they go to another table. I think she must be their youngest ever groupie.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

We are in Phuket

We will be in Phuket, unfortunately I will be offline for the first week even though the appartment has free wifi, because I didn't bring my computer with me. Fabien will bring it when he joins us next week.

It is all very exciting and I am scrambling around packing and making sure we are under the weight limit.

You can phone us in the appartment at : +66 (0) 76 317 932

See you in 2 weeks time. Fabien and I will be back in Singapore with our kids on 25 Jan.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Our Great Escape

Have you ever seen a baby with eyebags? Alexandra has the biggest eye-bags for a 3 month old infant I have ever seen. She doesn't get enough nap-time, partly because Sophie loves singing at 80 decibels around the house, and partly because there is a lot of drilling and welding going on in the condo constructed right next to my parent's house. Last night was particularly bad because they were welding and the flashes of light seeped through the cracks in our black out curtains and made our room look like a disco.

I spoke to my husband around midnight (he could hear the noise !) and we decided that we should bring forward and extend our holiday out of Singapore. We had to choose some place on the correct side of the January monsoon, and in a toss up between Malaysia and Thailand, we decided to go to Phuket because it is easier for my nanny to get a Thai visa (on arrival) rather than go through the Malaysian visa application process. I was joking to my husband that if protestors close the Phuket airport, we would have great excuses to phone our respective offices with.

So we are now planning our Great Escape. I have been looking at various holiday condos and villas in Phuket, and my dad made a suggestion - which I dutifully followed (not expecting anything to come of it). I wrote to the various general managers and holiday home owners by email saying I liked their villa, but I found the price a bit high, could they give me a discount considering these hard times?

And to my great surprise, I got many great offers. Perhaps it is the global recession, or perhaps it was the fact that I was asking to stay for 2 weeks, but I got up to a 30% reduction off their low season rates (despite this not being low season).

My brilliant Papa ! We will have a great holiday I think ...

Sunday, January 04, 2009

A tourist in my own country

I just did something so dumb - I left Alex and Sophie's birth certificates and our mariage certificates at home in Beijing, but of course I need all those documents to do the admin things (like get the kids singapore passports and apply for citizenship for Alex). Oh well, I will just have to wait for Fab to bring them over then. Which is just as well because we need his signature and passport.

In the meanwhile....

There are so many cool things to discover with Sophie and Alex in Singapore. Like the Jacob Ballas Garden, the Singapore Art Museum, Sungei Buloh, the Zoo, the Science Centre! My kids are so easy to please though - even hanging around the swimming pool in my parent's condo is exciting for them.

I am looking for temporary stay at home moms to hang out with (hopefully with kids the same age) in Singapore. If you know anyone - pass them my way !

Saturday, January 03, 2009

We are in Singapore!!

We are here in Singapore, and it is Hot (29 degrees) and GREAT. Had a spicy yong tau foo prepared by my mommy dearest, who also cooked grilled grass fed lamb chops for Sophie. My normally vegetarian daughter ate them ALL.

The trip to Singapore was surprisingly good with the 2 kids. I got my nanny to fly one day ahead of us and bring all our luggage and set up our room in my parent's home. So I just took the 2 kids with me without any check-in luggage so we could whisk in and out of the airports. This system worked surprisingly well.

Fabien will join us later in the month, and we are for the moment just enjoying the warm weather, swimming pool and so on. My ayi is extremely impressed with Singapore. She flew in on the (supposedly cheaper) China airlines but - unbelievably got upgraded to business class - Now my office manager (who helped me book the tickets is asking whether she can work as my ayi too...)

Anyway, I got a temporary SIM card so my phone number is 81696073

CALL ME or SMS to meet up !! I am keen on seeing as many people as is humanely possible in keeping with an infant and a toddler nap schedule.