Everything and Nothing


I used to steal moments of time, curled up in bed with my laptop while Stella was at school. I used to find pockets of time tucked away between the children’s bedtime and mine. I used to come to my computer in the quiet of the evening or the softness of the late morning, and write. 

 

Now these moments are spent doing everything and nothing. I’m tickling toes, wiping tears, and changing diapers. I’m cleaning out the pantry, in an endless campaign to keep the weevils at bay. I’m running to this embassy or that office, filling out paperwork, determining the correct person to whom I must make the right payment. There’s school drop-off, playgroup, groceries, and in between “Hi we’re here to fix that drain, mend that shelf, and pest control is here too, and oh, you had plans? Well we’re here and we must do it now now now!”

 

And now I’m shouting at my kid, now cuddling on the bed, now praying that nap time will run five more minutes, so I can just finish this one last thing. Then I’m spinning in the kitchen wondering exactly what I’ll make for dinner, and yes, sweetheart, I’ll play ‘estaurant-‘estaurant with you in just a sec, I just need to put these dishes away, and cook the veggies, oh wait, and change that diaper, and answer this text, and just sec just sec just sec, until bedtime. 

 

There are days that are placid, and I uncover a hidden handful of minutes, but then I’m in the living room holding on to the baby with my every and my all, for fear that letting go of him will let everything around me tumble to pieces.

 

I haven’t been finding those moments to write, or put away the laundry, or finally dig my desk out from the piles of paper that gather there before the light has gone too grey, and dinner is on our faces, and bedtime lurks just around the corner.  

 

I want to find my way back here, and tend to these words on my screen, these pictures in my archives. I want to carve out a few moments of ‘estaurant-‘estaurant (yes, I’ll have a cup of tea and an imaginary nasi goreng,). I want to return to giving high fives to my internet friends. I want to practice my craft, and write down my days, and remember what life was like the Spring after Hugo was born, when the light cast golden stains on our walls each day at 4:38 pm and when life was so full of everything and nothing, and amidst the chaos, I’m standing in the living room holding the baby as the day’s last sun spills into our tiny home.

 

Keeping The Peace in the Far East

 

Today we had a little girl over to play. As she was leaving, we suggested that she might like to give Hugo a kiss good bye. Stella, meanwhile, objected. Quite vociferously. “NO HE’S MUY BRUDDER!!” And brothers are not for sharing, and certainly not for kissing by other small children. 

(Okay. So. Dead. Because, ADORABLE.)

And mostly this is how their relationship goes, Stella and Hugo. He is captivated by everything and anything she does because she’s a big kid and he so desperately wants to be a big kid. Plus she’s the sweetest, and quite honestly, I’m captivated too. She loves her brudder, and is quite sure that he is HER baby, and “Mama, wet me howld him, wet me touch him, wet me kiss him, why he sweeping? AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH, *screams* oh, wook! He’s awake! Goodie. Wet me hold him, okay? OKAY?”

So, most of the time things are peachy, if slightly over touchy and under nap-y, in our sibling relationship. 

But, curve ball: Hugo has just learnt how to use his hands. (Believe me, my salad bowl never saw it coming.)

So now, instead of one-sided wrestle-snuggle-fests, Hugo is an active participant, throwing out the odd scratchy hand, or grabbing a little side of face, or a handful of hair.  

And Stella gets UPSET, dismayed that her beloved brother would actually scratch her face or pull her hair, or otherwise inflict bodily harm. She doesn’t get that these are not calculated acts of violence, but rather nearly random movements by a person barely in control of his body. 

So, to keep peace in the far East, I always make a thing of telling Hugo to be gentle, or give him a light scolding for hurting his sister, or ask that he apologise. But other than that, I’m quite clearly out of my depth here.

 

How do I protect my girl’s feelings while getting her to simmer down just a bit about the whole HE PULWED MUY HAIR! stuff, because geeze, he's just a baby!

 

Suggestions? Please?

(Also, please note, these pictures are not staged. I just simply can not keep this child away from her brother, period then end. And okay, one more thing, I kind of love that.) 

 

What's Your Mum Talent?

We went to playgroup at my friend's house this week, Stella, Hugo and I. When we arrived, the children scattered, while the mums sat around the dining room table, admiring the Easter cookies decorated in muted shades and trimmed with the most delicate icing. The room was dressed in its Easter finest; seasonal pillows, an Easter tree; a bowl of hand painted eggs. It was lovely, a cultural beacon offering up remembrances of springs long ago when snow melted, crocuses pushed through the dirt, and families came round. 

I thought, then, of my own house: no freshly baked cookies; seasonal ornaments still packed away in the storage room upstairs; no pastel springtime craft; no bonnets, no baskets, no cotton ball bunnies.

In my imagination, however, I had crafted and baked and educated my children about the cultural and religious significance of the holiday. In my imagination there were hot cross buns, hand dyed eggs, and Easter dresses. 

But in reality, it’s Good Friday, and I have done exactly none of the above. Instead of searching Pinterest for preschooler craft ideas, I’ve been passing my days at once incredibly busy, and unbelievably idle, running around Jakarta and lazing on the beanbag chair with my three-year-old.

And this year, for once, I’m glad of that. 

It’s not my lot in life to be a maker of cotton ball crafts, a baker of seasonal treats, or a festooner of mantels. Nor am I the kind of mum who always has a change of clothes, a pack of wet wipes, and a well-balanced snack at the ready. Instead, you’ll find old receipts and loose change from three countries ago rattling around the bottom of my diaper bag (whether or not I actually have a diaper in there is questionable). I won’t be on time for playgroup, I have no idea when my daughter’s school breaks for Easter Holiday, and don’t ask me which vaccines she’s had, because damned if I know. I’m not crafty, bakerly, or particularly organised. That’s just not where my skills, interests or, frankly, talents lie. 

Instead, I hop on a train in a developing country, dragging along my pre-schooler and my one-month-old baby. I traverse unworkable sidewalks with a kid under each arm. I hail taxis, take public busses, and occasionally, hop on the back of a three-wheeled tuk-tuk. I travel down the coast of China with only my one-year-old as company. I fly across the oceans alone with my girl more times than I can count on two hands. I’ve backpacked with my two-year-old, missed a train and instead caught a bus of questionable road worthiness on the side of the road in the back of beyond Central Java, with minimal fret or upset. I’m a mum who’s not afraid to open the front door and get right out into our wild and wonderful world, with my kids along for the ride. 

I've started to think that every mum has a set of skills and talents that that shape her children’s childhoods. Some mums create magical holidays; some are expert memory keepers; some make artful pictures of their children; some create birthday treasures out of thin air; some are unbelievable crafters; some make beautifully healthful family meals; some create engaging educational activities. And me? My mum talent getting out there, traveling, seeing, and doing together with my kids.

So this Easter, we don’t have decorated eggs or actually any easter eggs to speak of now that I think of it. But I’m not going to feel fault for that. I am not going to wish pastel garlands or spring wreaths. Instead, I’ll organise a haphazard easter egg hunt (random Indonesian candies instead of eggs, okay!)  and hold close those memories of taking Hugo on his first train jouney at eight weeks old. And that’s just the way it is, and, actually, the way I like it. 

 

Now how ‘bout you? What’s your mum talent? And how are you embracing it?

Feathering

I'd like to think of myself as a doer. I want my lists long and my days full. I want out in the thick of it, messy traffic and all, seeing, doing, tasting, hearing, fingers in everything, outside, alive.

And I'd like to think of myself carrying on like this, despite a swollen belly or new babe in arms. I'd like to think of myself that way, especially, in opposition to local traditions that keep women (feeble they are!) confined for their pregnancies and cloistered during the first postpartum weeks. I'd like to think of myself as separate and apart from that. Stronger. More vibrant. 

Except, I'm not. 

These days I have little desire to open the front door. My territory doesn't extend much beyond my bedroom. Days and days of rain keep me at home. False labour has slowed my pace. Little projects, even computer-based ones don't much interest me. 

These days a pot of soup on the stove feels like a coup. A few answered emails are a triumph.

I'd rather be feathering my nest. I'd rather stay in bed wehre I whisper secrets with my girl, and play "sleeping party" under the blankets. A cup of tea on the bedside table, messy sheets, and a dvd playing on my laptop is about all I want.

And I'm trying to be okay with that. 

I think i've forgotten how to blog.

 

I used to come here and write my words down on the screen. But now, if it’s not pictures, and it’s not pregnancy, I just don’t know how to write it. Six months ago it was nauseous exhaustion. 

Now, thoughts are too hurried. Fingers can’t type out stories, they can only google “pre-pre-pre-labour signs” and “second pregnancy shorter?” and “how to tell if labour is near.” I can concentrate only on tabbing through endless images of totally essential minimalist Scandinavian baby accoutrements: leggings with the perfect understated modern esthetic; plush toys of the softest, quirkiest alpaca, and whimsically tasteful objects d'art. The simple monochrome brings order.  

 

And now, tonight, with my husband in Singapore and my girl fast asleep, I have the time to linger here, but all I want to do is go cocoon myself in the white sheets next to my sleeping big girl and prepare for the varied and sundry ways in which our life will be turned, ever so gloriously, upside down. 

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Fresh, New.

New Years is kind of a crock of shit, right? I mean what makes January 1st any more or less significant than November 13th? We all launch headlong into the year full of ambition, vague resolutions, and hope for a new year new me this is the year that I’ll finally loose those ten pounds cross my fingers hope to die. 

 

I don’t buy it. Intellectually.

 

But emotionally? That’s a different story.

 

 As the year draws to a close I invariably catch myself taking stock, ticking off my achievements and mourning those ambitions that fell away.  Buoyant at the prospect of a fresh start, I begin keeping a mental list with all my hopes for everything that will be different, this year, promise, pinky swear.  

 

This year is no different. I’m hopeful that 2014 will offer indulgences, and maybe go a bit easier on me?

 

In the spirit of going easy, I’m not putting much pressure on myself this year. Our family is on the cusp of expansion, and I have no idea how easily we’ll all adapt to that change. 

 

So, I’ve set my sights on some easier objectives. Chief amongst those is a new photo project. 

 

A photo a day in 2014. 

 

My objective is to capture our days, the beautiful ordinary, and keep a record of them for my future self to look back upon, nostalgically, and wonder how it all went so quickly. My aim is to focus on kid life, without necessarily taking portraits daily. Because goodness knows, a certain three year old wouldn’t stand for that. Instead, I’ll draw inspiration from lifestyle photographers like this one who’s a real hero of mine, and this Jakarta based lifestyle photographer who is also doing a photo project this year. I love the way each of these ladies captures the background moments and the tiny things that make our lives so beautiful. 

 

I have so enjoyed the 52 project that I completed last year (last year???!!!), and so I’m going to carry on with that, by incorporating it into this year’s more ambitious project.  

 

I’m not sure yet, how I’ll post this project. Maybe in a weekly wrap-up? Let’s see. 

 

Now, here’s the first image to kick things off. See, I told you I’d get some resistance. 

who wants a piece of grumble cake? I made it in my own inundated kitchen!

I'm really the best at taking unintended / unnecessary blogging vacations, aren't I? 

 

I'd love to say that I've been taking advantage of my time away from my computer to do something really quintessentially summery sweet, like soaking up the sun on a perfectly styled picnic blanket, eating home-made popsicles, and watching a gaggle of beautifully tanned children play in the park. But alas, mostly I've been grumping in my tiny apartment, hiding out from the incessant rain (what happened to dry season, Jakarta? Huh????) and feeling vaguely (or not so vaguely) ragey.

 

I think I need a vacation.

 

Last week kind of blew big chunks. Highlights include: a return to pre-dawn awakenings (FOUR AM IS NOT MORNING TIME, CHILD!!!); a significant increase in visits from unwelcome guests; two holes in my bedroom ceiling; a stream erupting from my kitchen ceiling; incompetence or all sorts (see two holes in my ceiling and a newfound indoor tributairy);  and complicated and unnecessary shenanigans related to our upcoming trip to Canada and our lack of actual tickets, and oh, btw? Anyone know who has our passports, or what stage of visa-nonsense they may be currently engaged in ?

 

And to put a nice little cherry on top of this grumble cake, I've been binging on Breaking Bad and feeling like humanity is kind of totally doomed. So.

 

All of which is to say, things have been super frustrating. Also, I'm kind of being a big baby.

 

So, here's to an attitude adjustment a better week ahead?? 

Mother's Day

The nicest thing anyone has ever done for me was done for me by my mother. 

My mum was en route to Japan from the US as I went into labour, arriving near midnight after a long flight made longer by delays and missed connections. She was there by my side, my touchstone and foundation, as I worked and laboured for 23 hours to bring my girl into the world. She was there, as I traveled across the city twice a day to visit my girl in the NICU. She was there to hold my baby while I slept. To understand and empathize through colic, extreme sleeplessness, and level nine culture shock.

She disrupted her life, spent six weeks in our tiny apartment in Japan, and carried me through the newborn weeks. 

It was the greatest. 



I lost my good heart and found it again at the park.

It's far too easy to let the frustrations of living here run away with your good heart. The languid chaos of daily life, the injustice and inconvenience make it easy to neglect the truth. Traffic snarls at two PM on a Saturday, a  house with three Roles Rocyces in the garage, or that abiding sense that you've been taken advantage of are enough to stir up disheartenment.
It's easy to let your good heart be gone.
 

But all you need, really, is a trip to the park where a group of seven year-olds befriend your toddler, and despite  a language barrier they learn each other's names and ages, and then small arms reach behind your girl's waist and hoist her up onto the swings, and when they see she's had enough, they help her down, and guide her up the play structure, shouting, watch out! The baby wants to pass! and lead her over the bridge, and help her down the slide. And when she falls, a girl bends over and brushes off her legs, and a boy crouches down, looks into her eyes, and pats her tenderly on the cheek.
That's all you need, really, to realign your good heart and be reminded that this is a good place where the people are kind, and notwithstanding the traffic and wealth and poverty, people will always show tenderness to a child. 
 

 

 

 

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I don't know how to talk about money.

About a month ago, Stella received her very first hong bao, a tiny red envelope stuffed with 40 000 rupiah in celebration of the year of the snake. Forty thousand rupiah sounds like a pretty sum. And actually, it is here. 

Forty thousand could be a day's wages. It could feed a family. It could transport a weary traveler halfway across Java. 

 

But in the US, it might only buy a medium sized frappuchccino. 

 

Stella's red envelope sits half forgotten on top of her bookshelf. She doesn't know it's there. She doesn't know she has money waiting for her. I haven't gotten her a piggy bank, I haven't told her about the spend, save, give system, I haven't really mentioned it. And that is mostly because I don't know how to talk to her about money.

 

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On Sunday morning, we took Stella out for a swim. We kicked and twirled and splashed and dove, fresh in the face of the equatorial sun.  As we swam, young men were toiling at transforming the modernist pool-side event hall into a classical European palace. A new facade was installed, complete with a two-story-high picture frame ready for the professional photographer to snap images of happy guests in too-short dresses and false eyelashes. There were spheres made from roses hanging from every tree. Lights ready for glittering. A walk way created. Everything perfectly sparkly pink ready for an evening celebration.

 

As we put our girl to bed Sunday night, the booming base was broken occasionally by the MC who presided over the party getting underway one story below us. A birthday party for a 17 year-old girl. 

 

A birthday part that, no doubt, cost much more than my husband and I could earn in a month.

 

 

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On Saturday afternoon I took Stella to the grocery store. Blue skies turned pea-soup dark and opened to tropical downpour. Traffic was terrible, as it always is when it rains. Stopped as the line of cars snaked around a traffic circle, a group of children approached the car, pressing up against the glass with their hands shielding their eyes for a better view inside. They were gesturing, making the universal sign for money money, food, please, eat, money, food, miss, please, eat, miss, food.

 

I searched for a box of raisins that I usually have stashed at the bottom of my bag, but found nothing. I said, sorry, I don't have anything to give you. My personal rule is to give only food to children, never money. They gestured harder, waved at Stella, smiled, waved, money, money, please, miss, food, money.

 

Stella turned to me and said, "Dese are mine fwiends."  

 

I nodded, and told her "That's right," because I still haven't figured out the right words for this type of moment. I still haven't figured out how to tell her that these kids maybe don't have a mummy and a papi, a home, toys, dinner. These kids are just like you, kind and good and worthy, but they want your money. 

 

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I got a text from my ojek driver today asking for help. On Sunday while we were splashing in the pool, he wrecked his motorcycle. A car made a careless turn and swerved into him, throwing him into the air, before speeding away. His phone and his bike were both broken, both his lifelines to income. His shoulder was injured and he hadn't been to the doctor yet.

 

People like my ojek driver, people who are good and kind humans, well they can be ruined in an instant. You can tell them, you should have saved money, you should have a safety net. But the truth is they don't have access to fat ofshore bonds, QROPS pensions, or international health care, let alone bank accounts or a simple doctor's visit. People like my ojek driver and his family might eat everything they earn in a day. 

 

The driver asked me to borrow some money, just a little over twice the amount my daughter was given as a gift for Chinese New Year. I felt uncomfortable and uncertain about this transaction, because I'm not accustomed to people I don't know very well asking to borrow money, because I feel guilty about how much I have, and how little he does, because I didn't want a loan to stomp on our relationship, because I resented him asking, because I knew I should give. 

 

I felt uncomfortable also because I don't know how to talk about money. I don't know how to explain to my child why a 17 year-old gets a birthday party that could feed an entire village and another and another while the man who drives me to the gym can't afford to pay a doctor to examine his shoulder. I don't know how to tell her what the right thing to do is. I don't know what the right thing to do is. An act like this won't bring someone out of poverty. It won't solve his problems. But maybe it will show him that we're kind?

 

The only thing I could do was take my girl with me when I went to bring him the money. One crisp red bill changed hands. He tickled my girl's cheek, then looked me in the eyes and said thank you. The next few rides will be free. 

 

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Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, but all content, opinions, and allegations are mine, and mine alone. Thank you to the kind people at WhichOffshore.com for sponsoring this post and allowing me to make a small income at home. I'm lucky, and I'm beyond thankful. 

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untitled

I think my girl had a panic attack this morning. 

 

I was making breakfast, I told her she couldn't touch the stove while I was cooking. I picked her up and set her down again at the entrance of our galley kitchen. She screamed, heartbroken and tormented, inconsolable for an hour. My eggs were ruined. She said her heart hurt.

 

I managed to clean the kitchen while she watched Mary Poppins and set her crayons in lines, bestowing names upon her colours: this one is baby C. This one is baby C's mummy. This one is baby C's papi. Then we made a batch of muffins together. 

 

I should be doing things. I should be writing here. Writing elsewhere. I should be responding to Emails, following up, hustling. That stack of folded laundry has been collecting dust for about a week. The vacuum sits in a corner of my bedroom, unused. But I'm not doing things. I can't right now.

 

Instead I lay down with my girl at nap time. She cries and flails for 40 minutes, calling for her papi and telling me, "Go way mama!. Go WAY! No hug Stella!"

 

I won't go away. I rest my head down next to hers because her hands smell like strawberries and her breath calms and everything is just the way it should be. 

 

I wonder if I'll regret not doing things, this time wasted in mid-afternoon brightness, dozing beside my sleeping child. 

 

I pat her tummy and hope her heart feels better. Mine always does, next to her.

 

Linking up here, a day late. 

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Some Days Are Sub-Optimal

Some days your kid acts like a total vom sausage from morning till late afternoon. Some days the eternal struggle to determine the least objectionable type of breakfast food is, frankly, more than your feble mind can manage at 6 am. Some days it takes 47 minutes to get your kid's teeth brushed. Some days naps are preceded by an un-ending snotty screaming fit. Some days your child sit on your lap, twirling her hair, and spontaneously apologize. Some days she'll turn a corner at 4 PM and start using her kind voice and find her patience, so you'll capitalize on that good will and buy her a burger and milkshake for dinner, and a kind stranger will stop to admire your sweet wee one. And then you'll say good bye, round a corner, and then your kid will barf all over the floor. Twice. So. Hi. 

Some days, though, your kid says "ca-dow me". And so you do. 

 

Linking up with Mel. She's telling stories about Motherhood on Mondays. The truth. 

Ouch. My feelings.

We kicked off Monday with two hours of whining, screaming, crying and other associated displays of general discontent. Major complaints included: pants are assholes; so are toothbrushes; the general bullshittery of toast; the absolute necessity of cereal and then subsequent discovery that cereal is, in fact, total and utter bullshit.

 

Because I am the kind of person who lives for imaginary high-fives from parenting experts, I try to keep my cool and act like a gold-star A+ hippie-type child-haver. I validate feelings (I can see you're very angry about the cereal). I suggest appropriate behaviours (if you want to use your angry voice, please go into your room). I remain firm in my expectations. (I love you, and you need to put on pants).

 

Until I am repeatedly barraged with the following phrase: I NO WANNA LUB YOU! I NO WANNA LUB YOU SO MUCH!!!

 

After two hours of tantruming, I came very close to throwing my hands up in the air and heading straight for the jungle where I was quite sure I would discover that malarial mosquitos and komodo dragons would make more pleasant companions than a certain tiny human I know. 

 

I have a lot of things to say about this: cross-cultural analyses of normative toddler behaviour; techniques that I've learned from our Indonesian nanny that actually work; thoughts on the simultaneous enormity and insignificance of these issues; societal expectations of behaviour and how they shape our responses to shrieking children; explorations of parenting hot buttons, and the reasons we may allow ourselves to be triggered by our kids. But I don't want to write about these things right now. 

 

Yes, true, the above mentioned carry much more merit and interest than what I really want to talk about. But the thing is, ummm, my kid hurts my feelings.

 

 

Back to Monday morning. Remember we were mid-two-hour tantrum? Finally the source of my child's misery became plain: she was pissed not about yoghurt or pants, but because her Papi had to go to work. Because Papi currently holds the position as Number One Parent.  And ouch, there goes my feelings again.

 

I spent the first 12 or 18 months of my child's life being Number One Human. I gave this kid sustenance, comfort, entertainment, engagement, and lots and lots of love. I soothed her in the middle of the night through a year of hourly wake-ups. I sat with her through the colic months. I carried her on my back because she would accept neither blanket nor bouncy chair. I did every bedtime, gave each bath, changed nearly every diaper, certainly washed each one. In short, I did all the shit work. 

 

But, and this is a big but, I was her everything and she was mine. I was the one to whom she turned if a strange face or a loud noise upset her equilibrium. I slept next to her, face pressed to face, all night. Every night. She wanted me. I was unequivocally Human Number One. Validation. Reward. Positive feedback for my martyrdom. 

 

 

Now when Stella cries at the injustice of being forced to wear pants, or being denied the privilege of pouring milk on the carpet, she cries hard. And long. (Did I mention two hours?? Because. Yeah.) And she cries for Papi.

 

She screams with delight when she catches a glimpse of him as we pass through the lobby of the hotel. Papi can brush her teeth, successfully put clothes on her body, and get her to use the toilet. Under Papi's care, she'll co-operate in the grocery store, go to sleep without drama, and remain on an even keel.

 

These days Mr. Chef is able to come up and help with bedtime before returning back to work. I can escape the hazards of teeth-brushing and toddler-dressing while tidying away the dinner dishes. I happily scroll through Facebook while my kid elects her father as bath time companion, bed-time-story reader, song-singer etc., etc., etc.

 

But it also kind of stings. Okay, mostly when she's angrily shouting I NO WANNA LUB YOU! PAAAAAAAPPPPIIIIII STELLA MISSS PAPI! But also when she tells me, No! Papi do it! 

 

Sure escaping one more bathroom trip is rad, but I miss the closeness we once had. I miss being her everything. 

 

I also miss being able to put pants on her without major drama.

 

I don't know how to conclude this post, really, because it's kind of a mess. But I guess I'm just asking for tales of parental favouritism,  tips, tricks, and strategies, and maybe some gentle back-patting and there-thereing. Or, perhaps if you have any secrets on how to get past that feeling of wanting to punch all of the things when you're on tantrum hour two and nothing makes sense any more (It's time to go now. I NO WANNA GO!!!! Alright we can stay home. MAMA WETS GOOOOOO! Okay, let's put on shoes! I NO WANNA SHOES!!!! Alright, I'll carry you then. I WANT SHOES!!! etc. to infinity.)

 

Um. Yeah. So. You know. My feelings.

(Although my feelings would be much improved if you gave us a vote. {How's that for manipulative mommy-blogging shenanigans?})

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deluge

Jakarta is flooded. 

Stella and I are safe and dry, up above it all, with a fully stocked pantry, and a closet full of dry clothes.

Together with Stella's nanny, we pressed our faces to the window, looking down upon Bundaran H.I., Jakarta's major traffic circle, and it's under water. People wading through knee-deep, murky brown, pushing stalled motor-bikes, trying to find safe passage from here to there. 

We had just spent the previous week traveling, aboard trains that pass through slums, homes pieced together out of blue tarpaulin and cardboard. We were talking about the gravity of the situation, the thousands of people whose homes are flooded, who have no dry clothes, whose stocks of food have all been ruined. And it is primarily those people, the ones who live beside the train tracks, or in poorly serviced neighbourhoods who suffer.

Stella's nanny remarked, "Its so different you know, for rich people." I nodded my head in agreement. This is a topic we revisit frequently. I like to set myself apart from "The Rich", disdainful of their heavy egos and empty souls, and repulsed by their inclination to abuse humans who are not so rich.

"It's the poor people who suffer. You just press your nose to the glass and look down."

That killed me. She didn't mean to, but knife in heart.

She's right, though. It's not fair. It is so different, and I hate it. It feels really awful. I'm rich. I'm lucky. I'm dry. And that's not fair.

the year that was.

The year in review. Including selfies. Perhaps the most sybaritic piece of blogger trickery imaginable. But. Twelve months ago, at just about this same time, I dove headfirst into the changeover of year. So eager to begin again, I didn't stop to consider what had come before, or what the coming year wanted of me. So. Headfirst with a plan but not much clarity. I didn't achieve many of my professional goals in 2012. A few pieces of writing published, one or two of which I'm particularly proud, but not on the order of what I had expected of myself. And amidst this certain degree of floundering, I don't want to forget to remember what a beautiful year it really was. Now, if you'll excuse me, here comes a picture-laden romp through my memory. Okay. Go.
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Can I Escape Culture Shock? #NaBloPoMo

"I love it here", I told my new friend. We've become close, in the way that only serial expats can. Friendships burn fast in this world, fuelled by the want of a social network, and the knowledge that bonding with someone, quick and fast, can make or break a posting.

 

"It's great! I love it! I really love it!"

 

"Ahhh, but you're still in the honeymoon period," she countered.

 

We continued on, talking about our shared experiences living on multiple contents, cities multifarious and sundry, the expat adjustment u-curve, the honeymoon period followed by a dark mourning as one laments what one has left behind. Again. Anew?

 

I was thrown off balance by this conversation. Because I am so happy here and I was so profoundly unhappy in Japan. Is my experience of Jakarta coloured, still, by my status as a newbie? My addiction to surprise and endorphins? My status as a novelty junky? Are these all hiding what will inevitably become oppressive, annoying, and generally negative?

 

I hope not. From the depths of my everything, I want to stay in love with this place. I'm clinging to my contentment with this new place. I really am. To face three years again of looking everywhere but home, wanting to be anywhere but here, logging miles and miles, going hither and tither, seeking a fleeting, incomplete happiness with my heart in one place and my joy in another. Oh, I just don't want that.

 

I want to be here, really be here. And I want to like it, warts and all. 

 

Yes, the traffic is horrific. Yes, everything moves at a snails pace. The poverty in the face of staggering wealth, the corruption, disorganisation. It's all here, I know. I don't know, yet, about inundation and endless monsoon days. But I'm not blind to the challenges. I just thing that the good outweighs the bad. I believe, and I'm desperate to be right, that the warmth of the climate and of the people, the angle of the sun at 3:45 in the afternoon, the spice, the liveliness, and the endless surprises will continue to rise up, cream to the top. 

 

I know what I need to be happy in a place. And I think it's all  here. Is that enough? Will that sustain me however long we live here?

 

Will I escape the mourning period, the desperate rage that things here are not like they are at home? Will I be free of culture shock?

 

Expats, frequent movers, infrequent movers, tell me, what do you think?

NaBloPoMo November 2012

170/366 {so fine}

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I was feeling pretty foul today; raging at the  uncertainty and tired of the insomnia, and weary from living in a state of readiness unknowing when we'll get the command, leap over borders and go. There are piles of things, detritus from my closet of doom littering the wave lines of my floors. Things need sorting and putting away. Things need selling. Things need purging.

And suitcases need packing. Stella and I have decided to take our vacation, contract or no, move or no, we're going. Now, visas needed transferring from one passport to another. A trip to the airport immigration office slated to eat up our entire afternoon.

 Yet. My girl who doesn't sleep, she put her head down on her Papi's pillow and closed her eyes. I left the piles to be piles, trusting that she'd wake in time for us to make it to the visa office. I laid down next to her, and closed my eyes too. This, her first nap with her face squished into a pillow, was to be savoured.

She stayed that way, soundly sleeping for two hours. And I did too.

We almost missed the immigration office. But we didn't. We got to the airport and everything worked out. Everything will be fine. People always say that in crisis, in the face of tears and stress. You never believe them, do you.

But then it is. And you are. And you do. 

 

-just write

-show off your shot 

 

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On Not Knowing

We're moving. We're really moving. Maybe in as little as six weeks from now.

Maybe.

But we don't really know.

We still don't know if we're going to take a vacation this summer. If our cats will stay in Japan, and break my heart. Or if they will become Canadian mouse hunters, or possibly American living room lords, and empty my bank account.

I don't know.

I'm not sure what awaits me where we're going. I don't know the degree of the heat, or the weight of the humidity, or the vehemence with which the traffic blares, or the brightness of strangers' smiles.

I don't even know when I can tell you where we're going.

I don't know if I'll be retching my guts out, the price paid for unnameable fruit, luscious and ripe. I don't know what lusty spice awaits, what sour piques will awaken the palate. What strange textures, and unknown flavors will capture my heart. I know nothing of the islands we'll visit, of the sandcastles we'll make, the white-knuckle flights on dodgy airplanes, under the burden of broken air conditioning and a mysterious stomach bug.

I don't know if I should get a typhoid vaccination. Or how I'll get a mumps vaccine for my girl before we leave. Or a final shot inoculating her against polio. And do I need to horde children's Tylenol? Sunscreen? Multivitamins? Headache pills? Natural insect repellent? Children's books? WIll I need sweaters? Do pack them away and risk mouldering? I need a new pair of jeans, but is there a point? Will I even wear them there? Are sundresses to shoulder-baring and indecent? 

Don't know.

I do know that I'm excited. In this moment right here, after a noodle dinner with my family and an evening bike ride, I'm happy. I know that some days are hard. And some are wonderful. I know that sometimes I cry, and sometimes I get on with it, and clean out the closet, making piles, this one to keep, this one to sell, this one to toss. And some days, even, deep down in hidden depths I relish the adventure, and feel lucky that I have this story to tell, this story that I don't yet know.

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Small Style, Birthday Style

Small Stylers! I've missed you. I've got some exciting news to share, Miss Stella Bella turned TWO a couple weekends ago. And what a weekend it was. Three days off with the Chef, an anniversary celebration for the two of us (wagu beef yum), a barbecue with friends, and a co-birthday in the park with Stella's friend who is two days older. 

 

Can you believe it? Two years ago, we were just setteling in to live with a baby, a baby who wouldn't sleep, fussed and fussed and fussed, and needed constant hushing and loving and bouncing and rocking and nursing.

 

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A walk on a rainy morning


 

Now, here we are, with a walking, talking, lovely little being who can empty her own potty, put away her own toys, carry an umbrella (sort of) stir the cake batter, wash the dishes (well, she thinks she can), make funny jokes, and cheer up crying babies.

 

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Drinks at the neighbourhood 'Bucks

 

We've also got a two year old, full of tantrums, opinions, and NO I WILL NOT GET ON THAT BIKE THE ONE WHICH I PREVIOUSLY LOVED AND INSTEAD I"LL JUST SCREAM ALL THE WAY TO DAYCARE and then, MY GOD WOMAN, WHY ARE YOU TAKING ME OFF THIS BIKE I MUST NOW GENTLY PLACE MY BODY ON THE GROUND, BUM UP IN INFANT POSE AND SCREAM AND HOLLER AND REVEL IN THE GOREOUS ECHOY PARKADE and oh look, THE LOBBY ECHOS EVEN LOUDER WHEN I SCREAM SO ARRRGGGGGHGHGH.

 

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She and her Papi, up to no good, I'm sure.

 

The week right after her birthday was pretty much that. Every day. All the time. I dropped her off at daycare and told the teachers, Good LUCK! And I may or may not have offered her, free of charge, to an admiring shop attendant who was remarking on her kawaiiatude.

 

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Oh wut? Time to go home? Excuse me as I run away from you.



 

Still.

As much as I mourn her babyness, with all of it's chubby sweetness and toothless innocence, I'm so proud of this wee girl. This little light of mine, she hugs her friends good bye. She offers other kids toys. She pats babies when they cry. She helps hatless friends retrieve their head coverings. She eats her spinach. And tabasco. And pizza pizza pizza. And when her father and I are distant and annoyed at each other after the stress of a long day and uncertainty of the upcoming months, she asks Mr. Chef and me to play Ring Around the Rosie.  

We all hold hands, husha husha, we all are love.

 

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Birthday bubbles



 

Stella Wore:

::: First ::: rain coat - gifted by Nannie // jeans - Old Navy, Gifted by Auntie Carly // umbrella - Vilac

::: Second ::: top - Atsuyo Et Akiko // skirt - Baby Gap // tights - H&M

::: Third ::: Dress - Tang'Rolou

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