Culture Shock came to Jakarta. Finally.

Several months back I was thinking about transitions and culture shock, wondering if I was really a robot because I had not yet experienced that all too familiar feeling of "OMG THIS COUNTRY! HULKSMASH EVERYTHING!!!"

Huh. Turns out I AM human.

(Hi, I'm Erica and I have culture shock.)

It wasn't the infernal traffic that got me. Or the poverty. Or even the sickening wealth. Not the pervasive stench of decay that lines Jakarta streets, nor the threat of falling through a broken sidewalk into the open sewer below.

It was the eyes, the looks, and the wolf-whistles that did me in. 

After several months of early morning ojek rides to CorssFit, Mr. Chef mentioned in passing that a few people had commented on my motorcycle taxi attire. I should be wearing shorts. It's indecent, apparently. Dudes would get the wrong impression. Too much leg. Inappropriate.

Mr. Chef was to educate me on the correct way of covering my body.

Naturally I was annoyed. I mean, I'm an independent actor. Certainly it's up to me to determine what is and isn't appropriate for my body. And further, we live in central Jakarta in the midst of luxury malls and fancy restaurant where I regularly see girls walk around in six inch heels with shorts so short that one false move and all is revealed. So, why then, is there one standard of dress for rich Jakartians and one for me?

Then, a few weeks later I was riding in the back of a taxi, absentmindedly trying to ignore the overly chatty driver. We went through the usual pleasantries, country of origin, length of time in Jakarta, the general awesomeness of Indonesians, the terrible traffic, my marital status (wait, what??) I buried myself deeper in my phone, earbuds on, and tried  to ward off any more unnecessarily personal questions. 

The car slowed, I looked up. There was the driver, arm extended over the back of his seat, taking pictures of me with his phone. 

I reacted in an instant. I grabbed his phone, and threw it.  Shrieking obscenities, I jumped of of the still-moving car, middle finger raised. 

Since then I've been on edge. I've noticed dudes giving me the long and lengthy stare. I'm quick with the eff-you eyes. And the occasional eff-you finger. And okay, I may or may not have thrown one or two sweary tantrums over inappropriate gestures in my direction.

My patience is thinner, my temper quicker. I'm irritated by the traffic, the stench, the garbage, the plodding pace of life in a way that I wasn't before. I'm burning mad, I'm taking it personally, and I'm assuming that it is because I'm a white-skinned bule that this attention comes to me (oaky, I may be right about that last bit, but that's a post for another day.)

It's classic culture shock.   

 

I'm unsure, exactly, of how far to bend. Do I cover up, sweltering in the morning sun? Do I acquiesce to this outdated notion of modesty thereby feeding the belief that a woman "deserves it" because how she chooses to dress? That Caucasian women are "easy" and therefore fair targets for sexual advances?

Certainly I can't "educate" local men on the "right" way of treating women. That's not my place. But I don't think in this case I can say that I'm okay with giving up on my shorts.

As respectful as I am of cultural difference and religious diversity, Indonesia is not Saudi Arabia. It is not a monocultural desert nation. These islands have a fantastic degree of diversity, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious. On Java alone, there are countless native ethnic groups, not to mention the substantial populations of  Indo-Indians and Indo-Chinese, for whom, PS, super-short-shorts are NBD.  I don't feel a strong obligation to conform to notions of modesty because this country is built upon coexistence, and dammit! I'm going to coexist in shorts, so STOP LOOKING AT ME!

I dunno. What's your take?   

 

 

Vote For Us @ TopBaby Blogs! The Best Baby Blog Directory

 

I'll probably feel better about culture shock if you send a vote my way. 

Another Parenting Expert Who Can Shut The Front Door

A parenting article crossed my path this weekend that turned me 14 shades of stabby. Another hack job, poorly researched with a clear agenda.  Another treatise  based not in science, but in fear.  Another article that equates correlation with causality. Another piece written by expert with an agenda: to justify her own parenting choices while cutting down those whose child rearing philosophies are divergent. Oh, and hey, while she's at it, why not install fear in the hearts of new mothers and fathers, threatening suicidal children if her prescribed method of childrearing is not followed.

 

The article in question asserts that "Modern parenting is making our children miserable" and advocates allowing children plenty of unstructured time to explore the outdoors, fend for themselves, and learn independence. A noble position, to be sure, one with which I take absolutely no issue. The problem comes from the alarmist tone, the chiding remarks, and obvious lack of scientific rigour. Or, even a quick google search for that matter.

 

Jay Girffiths calls for high contact parenting in the early years, followed by plenty of independance from toddlerhood onwards. She starts off her piece with the tired old argument that leaving babies to sleep on their own, crying it out, abandoned in their dark rooms is tantamount to torture. Sure. Obviously. Right. Loving parents teaching their children to get adequate sleep is certainly right up there with water boarding, profound neglect, and abuse. 

 

Griffiths then goes on to explain how other cultures raise their babies in tactile closeness, carrying them next to their bodies, mollifying infants with milk and toys, lest they wail for even a moment, and allowing co-sleeping to continue for many years. Indigenous cultures such as Inuit and the Sami are cited as excellent examples of this early dependence / later independence model. They keep babies close, then send older kids out to play by themselves, learning to hunt and cook their own food, their time unstructured, belonging fully to the children. 

 

 

This closeness is in opposition to Western practices of abandoning their babies in cribs, allowing them to cry themselves to sleep, and then, when the children are older, parents hover and over-schedule, stifling children's independence and freedom.

 

Griffiths suggests physical proximity to caregivers in the early years is necessary for the healthy development of infants. And certainly, babies do need love and attention, security and nourishment from their primary caregivers. But controlled crying is not torture. And the research does not bare out the claim that it actually harms children. 

 

The most manipulative (and frankly dishonest) aspect of Griffiths' argument is her threat that children who are parented according to the Western model of distance then freedom (as opposed to the "indigenous model" of closeness then freedom) leads to higher rates of suicide. 

And, here's where Griffiths equates correlation with causality: she claims that the lower rates of suicide reported in Norway where the closeness then independence model is followed, as compared with other Nordic counties where the independence then closeness model is the norm is proof that babies should cosleep while children should be sent outside to hunt and gather, build their own fires and cook their own food. 

Oh great. Just what every parent needs to hear. Raise your kid my way or, he'll off himself when he's older. It kind of reminds me of other parenting experts who suggest that if you let your child cry, they'll end up with attachment disorder. You know, like children who are abandoned in institutional orphanages and are never shown love, or even held, for that matter. Children who are profoundly neglected get attachment disorder. Not kids who are loved, and cared for, and maybe, perhaps left to sleep on their own if that's what works for them and their parents. 

 

BUT, let's look at this for a moment. Griffiths praises the parenting practices of several indigenous cultures, including Inuit and the Sami, holding them up as bastions of righteousness against our modern, broken system of childrearing. Parent the way these communities do, she suggests, and we'd do away with suicide. Our children would be free from the torture of CIO; they'd be free to to run through the woods; they'd no loger be miserable.  

A cursory google search reveals that Inuit communities in Canada have suicide rates up to 30 times that of the general population. Suicide rates amongst the Sami, similarly, are significantly higher then those of the general population in Norway. Huh. Weren't these the exact populations Griffiths argued followed the preferred model of child rearing? The model that would ensure lower suicide rates?

 

Huh. 

This is all sorts of wrong. I mean, let's set aside the fact that such epidemic levels of self harm amongst indigenous populations is a terrible, tragic, and unfair thing. And ignoring the very real social problems faced by these populations does a tremendous disservice to us all. AND then there's the whole noble savage thing going on which, frankly, denies the the humanity of these people, and is just, frankly, kind of colonialist. Let's just put all that away for another day, and focus on how Griffiths and other parenting experts are hurting parents. 

The guilt trips, the dogmatism, the dubious science, it does no one any good. It's way too simplistic. It's disingenuousand frankly, it's kind of mean. So, cut it out, parenting experts. 

Sure! Making an infant feel loved and secure is a good idea. So is unstructured outdoor play. But maybe, just maybe, your infant (like mine) needs to cry to fall asleep, and no amount of holding or rocking or breastfeeding can change that. Maybe your infant needs to cry it out because hourly night waking are not sustainable for you or for the child. Maybe your baby sleeps best in your bed. Or maybe in a crib. Maybe you live in a massive urban centre where parks are few and far between, and freedom to roam is not an option. Maybe your kid goes bonkers if he doesn't have enough structure in his days. Maybe your kid needs the to roam the woods, catching fish and cooking them over a self-made campfire. And that's totally fine.

 

You know your kid. An expert does not know your kid. You know what your kid needs, and this particular parenting expert can shut the front door. Let's be, as Georgia calls for, experts on raising our own children, and forget about so-called experts in generic child rearing. 

 

What's really happening here is clear: an author bent on selling a book; an author who knows too well that fear is a primary motivator (and what fear is greater than the thought of loosing one's child to suicide?); an author who may be insecure about her own choices so she moulds the evidence to prop up her position; an author who would rather undermine parents' confidence than building it up. 

 

And that, my friends, is a total dick move. And one that's rife within the parenting cannon. You see this same kind of thing everywhere. Do it this way or your kid won't sleep. Breastfeed or your kid will die of SIDS. Ban screen time or your kid will get autism. Do it this way. Buy this book. Use this product. These flash cards. this method. Be on edge. Fear. Fear. Fear.

 

No thanks.

 

Most research actually does not support the idea that parents can actually affect that much influence on their child's personality, development, intelligence, or future. If you want to help your children to grow up to be a happy, well adjusted humans, here's your best bet: Love them. Feed them. Make them feel secure. Be kind to them. Don't abuse or neglect them. Don't worry about the rest. 

 

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.

I have legs and can walk places and also take the bus. #NABLOPOMO

I get a fair few scandalized glances wherever I leave the hotel on foot. Like, WHAT?? A Caucasian who walks places! That will not do!!

But I do. I walk places, because I have two legs that work, and a body that needs excercise, and eyes that like to see things, and impatience for sitting in gridlocked traffic when walking is actually less nauseating and much faster.

So I walk. Or take taxis. Or the bus. Because it's faster. Because it's more interesting. Because I like it.

Occasionally people ask me why I don't have a car, not in a curious, 'hey, what's up with not having a car' kind of way, but more in a 'GASP! You don't have a car and driver, you poor pauper! However on Earth do you survive.'

Anyway, today I sunk to a new low: I drove home from the wet market (OMG YOU WENT TO THE WET MARKET AND DIDN'T DIE OF TYPHOID say all of the expat princesses, but that's another story for another post, one that involves decapitated {defootitated?} cow hoofs piled up like logs ready to be scraped of their fur and put into a pot for lunch. Real life, people. Real life.)

I really wanted to drive up to the hotel lobby like this. But alas, I have my husband's professional reputation to protect.

So I'm a closet non-princess. 

Next up: Motercycle taxis. 

 

 

Bedtime: hands down the worst part of my day since 2010. #NaBloPoMo

Mr. Chef went out to a wedding this evening. Our girl knew that it was his night for bedtime, and as such, demonstrated her great displeasure at the injustice of being put to bed by her mother on a Sunday night. She gave it her everything, and because staying awake is her superpower, she managed to still be awake by the time her father got home. So, he did bedtime after all. Oy.

 

Looks like you win, kid. 

 

I would also like to point out that we tired no naps for two days, and then suffered greatly for that folly.

 

It's NaBloPoMo and I just had a hella long evening waging a loosing battle against wakefulness and so this is all you get. You're welcome. My pleasure. Come again.

 

If you've embarked on a NaBloPoMo quest, let me know in the comments ! I'd love to stop by for a visit. 

Re. The Move That May Or May Not Be Happening At Some Point And How I Have A Case Of Murder Face

So, about that move. You know, that one that is supposed to be happening in about six weeks? The one about which we have no details. Still. 

Mhhhhhmmmmmm. That one. The one that makes me want to punch people in the kisser. Hard. 

 

I still don't know anything. And that sucks. It's like, hey, here's this really crazy, disruptive event that is going to happen in your life, and guess what? We're going to leave it a surprise until the very last second, because we know how you like to keep things exciting and stuff. 

 

You know, you don't need to know what's going to happen in your life anyway! You can just not take your holiday! You can just cancel your dream-of-a-lifetime trip to NYC! And Blogher 2012, you didn't want to go anyway. I know you bought the tickets and stuff already, but meh. You're totally over it. And important things like, you know, your cats, and future potential baby number two, current real life baby number one, furniture and possessions, moving companies and containers traveling across the pacific and where we're going to live and the all important question of whether or not to pack away mid-weight sweaters? Whatever! You don't need to know! Only we need to know. Because we are the Powers That Be. And we have all the power.

 

I know that there are worse things in life. And I do feel like a pack of whinging jackanapes complaining. But still. COME ONE. Six weeks and no idea what's happening in my life? I think that deserves a swift kick to the blackberry.

And, anyway, I'm not sure if my waistline can withstand many more glasses of anti-anxiety wine / stress chocolate in my face hole, nor do I have faith that my husband will tolerate much more of my rage shopping. 

 

 

Read More

Reasons Why Being Illiterate and Mute are Sub-Optimal When Raising A Child

Heyyyyyyy, let's lighten the mood up in here. I'm tired of feeling sorry for myself, and I thought that I could regail you with further tails about how parenting in a language in which you are unable to communicate is really sub-optimal. Are you down with that? Mkay. Good. 

And we're off.

So, you know when you get to that stage in toddler-hood when clothes breathe fire and pants in particular are the scourge of (mini)humankind? Yeah. We're there. Which is fine, I'm down with nakkie time at home, this dispite the fact that my child has yet to make the distinction between diaper and diaper-free, or between the floor and the potty. THough she can throw a mean potty sign with her baby fist. Oh, yes she can.

And also, apropos of something, I'm afriad of cutting my child's nails and they're abnormally long. And scratchy.

Anyway, nakkie baby, free bumming it, enjoying the fresh air, and springtime breezes, and weeeeeeeee, let's touch our bums (in a totally appropriate and non-weird way) with our exceptionally long fingernails, never mind the long red welts all over our backside.

I certainly didn't.

And then I dropped off my kid (diaper clad) at daycare without a thought in the world.

(...time passing...)

And later she came home. I undressed her for her bath. And the welts and scratches were still there. On her bum. It looked like she had met the business end of a cat-o-nine.

SHIZNATTT! Wasn't I just telling the daycare ladies in sing language how tired I was because my GD kid had been getting up at 4:45 am and not napping and I already look a sub-capable parent because I dress in cutoff jean shorts and I don't wear socks and my toe nails are chipped and do not own a designer bag or a floppy hat or potato sack dress like all the competent Japanese mothers omg they probably think I'm a bum spanker and baby miss-treater and I do not have the linguistic ability nor the charades skills to explain that actually, my kid just likes to be naked and her nails are too long.

So, the moral of this story is learn the GD language of the country in which you parent. I singed up for language lessons today. Truth.

 

 

 

Read More

Small Style, Mini High Fashion Edition

We're working on posing.

 

When I ask Miss S, "Go stand over there so I can take your picture," she does this:

 

IMG_1341

 

Cute, yes. But we need to work on our listening comprehension. While she is "over there" she is neither standing, or is she in a particularly photogenic position. We're working on the concept of high fashion posing. You know. It's an important life skill. I want to set this kid up for success. I want her to know her flattering angles, and how to take a million selfies so that she can post them on her blaaaaawwwwggg, and then pin those pictures on pinterest so that she can show the world what impeccable taste she has. Critical, important life changing things like that. Forget the violin, I'm teaching my kid how to look cute in front of a camera.

(Do I sound like an a-hole? Because I'm totally making fun of all you fashion bloggers out there who take pictures of yourselves and post them on your blog.)*

(Oh shit. I do that too. *cough*I'madouchebag*cough*)

Anyway...moving on. Here, we're making progress.

 

IMG_1446

I dunno. We're working it out.

 

Stella Wore

Jacket: (Gigantic, for next year, but well, if there's something new in the closet, it needs to be worn now.) Baby Gap

Pants: Tea Collection

Leg Warmers: Baby Legs

Boots: See Kai Run

 

 

 

Oh hey? how bout a vote on Top Baby Blogs? I kind of hate myself for caring about stuff like this, but, well I gain an enormous amount of validation as I watch our numbers climb** and so obviously a vote for me is a vote for meantal health. 

 

*Totally kidding. I love blogs like that. But I also love making fun of myself. 

**We're currently number one billion.

 

Click To Vote For Us @ Top Baby Blogs Directory!

Read More

Hating the Expat Hierarchy

NorthSouthEastWest: Expat Dispatches

 

It's fast approaching the end of the year which means we have time for just one more Expat Dispatches for 2011. As always, your faithful expat dispatchers from the four corners of the globe are:

 

North: Linda in The Netherlands at Adventures in Expatland

South: Russell in Australia at In Search Of A Life Less Ordinary

East: Me, Expatria, Baby, in Japan

West: Maria in Canada at I Was An Expat Wife

 

The December edition of NorthSouthEastWest is something very dear to our hearts. It’s the thing or things that drive us crazy as expats. This month’s theme is therefore an open invitation to have a good ole fashioned rant and is called It’s driving me round the bend! 

Over at In Search of a Life Less Ordinary, I share my (absolute lack of) love for packaging in Japan.

At Adventures in ExpatLand,  Russell is wondering why it’s always so flamin’ hard to get any sleep in Australia;

At I Was an Expat Wife, Linda examines the discomfort of discomfort; 

And here at Expatria, Baby, Maria is breathing a sigh of relief to be free of the expat hierarchy.

 

So sit back, enjoy these four no-holds-barred posts, and look forward to a wonderful festive season wherever in the world you and yours may be!


Hating The Expat Hierarchy 

by Maria Foley

***

 

 

I have many memories of our family’s years in Singapore, and most are suffused with a warm, rosy glow. It was a great place to live: fabulous weather, good food, wonderful friends. My kids were deliriously happy, and that fact alone would have made it Paradise. The only thing marring the perfection of living in Singapore (aside from the crazy drivers, the chewing gum ban, and the SARS outbreak of 2003) was the existence of the Expat Hierarchy.

 

Singapore has such a massive expatriate population that it was inevitable an expatriate taxonomy would emerge. Lumping all foreigners together under a single expat umbrella seemed crude and clumsy, considering such a wide range of nationalities, demographics, and socioeconomic levels meant that our outsider status was often the only thing we had in common.

 

It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others, but I’d never considered it a competitive sport until I lived in a so-called expat community. I wasn’t used to being so nakedly judged by the car I drove or the bag I carried. I guess I was naïve, but this was a type of culture shock I hadn’t anticipated, and never really got used to. 

Judgment


Placement in the hierarchy was determined by two different scales:

 

The Rags/Riches Scale

 

Also known as the “I’m Richer Than You” scale, this involved a complex logarithm based on such criteria as residential neighbourhood, domestic arrangements (maid? gardener? driver?), expatriation package (club membership? travel allowance? First Class, Business, or the dreaded Economy?), and legitimacy of status symbols (real Louis Vuitton, or Johor Bahru knockoff?)

 

 

The Newbie/Veteran Scale

 

Sometimes referred to as the “Been There, Done That” scale, based on number and length of previous expat assignments plus the desirability and/or exoticism of assignment locations. (Extra points awarded for enduring sudden evacuations (due to natural disasters or social unrest), hobnobbing with celebrities, or living in a locale that was “so pure and unspoilt before the tourists discovered it.”) 

 

I couldn’t stand the subtle and not-so-subtle fishing expeditions for information that would make my place in the social pecking order clear. (For the record: I scored points for living in a nice neighbourhood and flying business class, lost points for not having a maid, and evoked pity for carrying a logo-less bag and buying my clothes at the Gap.)

 

Not everyone played the game, of course. I met a lot of people who couldn’t give a toss about who washed my dishes or made my sunglasses. They were far more interested in determining shared values and interests than they were in scrutinizing class markers. I liked to call these folks “my friends.”

 

Surrounding myself with genuine people turned Singapore from a nice place to live into a real home. And while I miss that home — and those people — very much, I’m happy to report that I don’t miss the expat hierarchy in the slightest. 

 

 

Read More

That U2 Song Was Totally About Japan

  IMG_0859This street has no name. But the intersection might. Who really knows.

Japan, you’re awesome and great and everything, but let’s be real. Your address system is probably the most ridiculous thing ever invented. It makes no sense, is understood by no one, and the only purpose it serves is to keep the location of important buildings super secret so as to prevent foreign barbarians from invading and capturing all your treasure. I know that is the only motivation behind this ludicrous way of making maps.

 

Let’s start with problem number 1: There are no street names. Okay, there are A FEW street names, but not that many. And whatever, let’s not get hung up on details. Pretty much only main roads have street names. And also intersections have street names. Which would be helpful, if you house was located in the middle of one. Otherwise: useless.

 

Problem 2. House numbers are totally random. Houses are numbered in the order in which they were constructed. Meaning that number 10 Nameless Street might be sandwiched between number 17 and number 52. NOT HELPFUL, Japan, not helpful at all.

 

Problem Number 3 - There are no grids. Streets go in any which way. I am absolutely not kidding when I say that I’ve been massively and hopelessly lost five minutes from my front door for this very reason.  

 

Japan, you’re not just messing with dummy foreigners like me.Your own people often don’t even know where the hell they are. Give an address to a taxi driver, and there’s a 100 percent chance he’ll have to consult a map, and 75 percent chance he’ll not be able to find the place on the map, and a 150 percent chance that the whole exercise will make you want to slap yourself in the face with a rotten fish and then recall with much nostalgia Shanghainese taxi drivers and wish that you could go back in time where the only taxi related drama was terror and car accidents. And that’s saying something. 

 

Once, I was so terribly lost that I got into a taxi, gave him the address and then we drove around for 10 minutes looking for the place only to end up EXACTLY where I had flagged down the taxi. Neither of us could tell where in the ever loving hell we were.

 

I then went into the building that I thought *might* be the one I was looking for, and asked some workers inside if they knew the address of that particular building. They did not. They had no idea. WHAT THE HELL???? 

 

So, basically, Japan, if you could please think about reforming the mess that is this craptacular address system my life would be infinitely easier. Thankyouverymuch. 

 

Read More

Just When You Think I'm Some Sort Of Enlightened Parental Being...

Yesterday was one of those days.

Stella and I were heading downtown, walking along the sidewalk when up ahead of us, an elderly woman came off her bike. Five or six people walked by, eyes everted, heads down, as she struggled to free herself from the pile of bike and shopping, get dusted off, and lift her bike.

(Smouldering. Why won’t anyone ever offer assistance. Polite. Yeah right. Only when when you want something.)

I held her bike while she found her shoe. Then we went on our way.

I had a recipe in mind. A curry. And I was on the hunt for cauliflower. I should have known, when I didn’t see it in any of the fruit and veg stands, that it wouldn’t come to me easily. But my heart was set on mixed veg curry. With leftovers for samosas. I wanted teh cauliflower.  When I found it, was monumentally expensive. Cheap, plentiful boring ‘ol cauliflower. Eight dollars for a tiny head.

(Seething. Why is everything in this country so effing expensive. Cauliflower. They practically give it away. Ridiculous. Who pays eight dollars for one serving of vegetables. Highway robbery, this is.) 

After errands, I thought we’d cool down in the park. The weather was gorgeous, it was right after kindergarten let out, and the park was practically brimming with children. Stella and I found our usual spot: a shady patch in the sandbox, next to a slide.

Two ladies approached. One asked if I spoke Japanese. Then she said, “maybe the sandbox is too dirty for your baby.” 

“Kids are dirty,” I said. “I think it’s fine. Thanks anyway.” 

“You should play over there. Your baby will get sick.” 

I asked why that sandbox was better than this one.

“This sandbox is closer to the path. The dogs and cats pee and poop in here. It’s too dirty for your baby.”

(Absolutely fuming. We always play in this sandbox. I always see other mothers playing with their kids in this sandbox all the time. What’s the big deal. And, I hate to brake it to you, lady, but if the stray cats are pooping in this sand, they’re pooping in that sand too. And who the hell are you, anyway, to tell me how to raise my kid. Holy effing hell. If she eats a bit of sand, it’s not the end of the world. And enough with your judgment. And, no, I don’t need a reminder to wash my kids hands after playing, thankyouverymuch. The degree of cleanliness of my child’s hands has no bearing on my parenting skills. And you know what, I DON’T GIVE HER A BATH EVERYDAY! SHOCKER! So THERE! fume. fume. fume fume. stew. fume.)   

 

So. It was one of those expat days. 

 

Now, internet, I need you to please talk me down from the ledge. Tell me that these things happen in North America as well. Tell me that it was an unhappy coincidence; a random constellation of annoyances. Tell me tales of kindness and neighbourly love. Because I’m pretty annoyed at Japan. And I need to be reminded. 

 

Read More

Crafts for Expat Children

An expat childhood has many wonderful advantages: diverse cultural experiences; an ingrown understanding of this wide and wonderful planet; the possibilities of multilingualism; opportunities to learn about flexibility and emotional resilience, for example. But one major drawback is distance, physical and emotional, from one’s extended family. 

How then, can we as parents of expat children cultivate a sense of familial closeness when we are oceans apart from grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts and all manner of wonderful people?

By crafting, obviously. Therefore: crafts for expat children. (Or any kind of children, really. This is an equal oppertuntity blog, not limited only to expat children.)*

Okay. So. First, a confession. I am terrible at art. I kind of hate craft projects. But I have a little girl. And the internet insists that I become some sort of crafting superhero, because without a degree paper maché, you can’t qualify for a parenting blog. Just so we're all aware of the facts, people.

But, I saw this idea on Paul et Paula (itself a wonderful international kids’ blog), and I thought to myself. TOTALLY DOABLE! Henceforth, I give you BABY’S BOOK OF SIGNIFICANT RELATIONSHIPS...da..da.daaaaaa! {I could not come up with a better title. Please deal.}

 

What I did:

I gathered up a bunch of supplies: washi tape, stickers, markers, a photo book, and had some pictures developed.

  IMG_7759

I made a pretty title page with Stella’s name on it. (You do not understand the level of anxiety I had when making this. Like...”omg, this looks stupid. I’m trying to make a starburst of stickers. It looks more like a sick dog. GAH I THINK I SPELLED MY DAUGHTER’s NAME WRONG. Oh okay. It’s fine. Carry on.” Now you understand why I hate crafts.)

  IMG_7764

Then I stuck in pictures of people and places which are important to us. Grandparents, aunts, uncles-in-common-law (we have 2); godparents; beloved granties; cousins; honorary aunties, cats, dogs, Swiss mountains, Canadian lakes, Japanese cherry blossoms etc. etc. etc.) I threw around some washi tape, because. Well. I donno. It looks pretty. And then handed it over to the baby and we were all very happy. 

IMG_7766

Stella can look at the pictures and be reminded of those who are closest in our hearts (if not in geography). We sit together and name people and things we see. We talk about who the people are, and I narrate memories in hopes that it helps her recall all of the fun visits we've had with our lovelies. 

IMG_7768

She loves this book. She brings it to me to look at and then corrects my pointing when it is not vigorous enough. It also keeps her busy for many minutes. And I am happy about that, too. 

----

*Oh, pooper scoopers. You caught me. I'm trying to SEO the hell out of the phrase, "Expat Children". *cough, cough...douch bag...cough.*

Read More

On Not Sleeping Through The Night

This afternoon I started to write a post about the fact that now, at almost 15 months old, Stella is STILL not sleeping thorough the night. It went a little something like this: “wah wah wah, my baby doesn't sleep.Wah. She wakes up four times per night. Wha wha it used to be way worse wah I can't believe I survived. But then it got a bit better than someone-please-punch-me-in-the-throat-bad but is still pretty terrible wah. Feel sorry for me please also validate me wha.” 

This verbal onslaught was meant to be interpreted by you, dear reader, as "Oh my LANDS, you are such a good and patient parent, the picture of Attachment Parenting maternal magnificence and I certainly couldn't have managed without throwing myself of the balcony or becoming a gin and Cheerios kinda mum."

From there I went on to describe my plans for what is, essentially, cry it out YOU WILL SLEEP NOW HOLY MOTHER OF ROCKS my child, but is not REALLY cry it out because I am an attachment parent and I love my child too much to do bad dirty evil CIO, and even though she is crying until it is over (out). Yes, I do love my daughter more than those CIO bad, evil, neglectful Ferberzian cigarette smoking spanker parents. And anyway, here are a million ways in which I will justify my sleep training plans to the entire internet because oh please  AP granola eating tie-died hippies I want to be in your club and also can you tell me that I am a good parent (please don't hate me - owwwww my feelings.)

And then I tried to tie this little ball of blathering bullshit up with a string of SEO keywords and top it with a snap happy bow of a search-engine-friendly title in hopes of reeling in unsuspecting bleary-eyed googlingparents, vulnerable in their sleep deprivation, clickety click click, a million hits per day. 

Needless to say, the original post was a pile of shit. Not that this is much better. But whatever. It's 9:30 PM and I'm drinking a bottle of fancy Japanese hipster beer and so I'm hitting publish. Enjoy. 

Not sleeping through the night

Gha. I'm such a douche.

 

Read More

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About My Child's Eating Habits

Brace yourselves for the most boring "Moooooooommyyyyyyy Blog" post of all time. But with life so idyllic up here in Northern Ontario, I don't have much to complain about and therefore the creative juices are not flowing very fast. I could brag about the sun, and the lake, and the loons, and the wakeboarding, and the baby swimming, and the saunas, and the familyfuntimes, but I'm doing that enough as it is on Twitter. So, I'll spare you the tedium. 

IMG_6715
Sharing a kiwi on the deck with her new BFF / human jungle gym.

Until Stella was about 11 months old, she had no interest in food. I, crunchy granola type-A perfectionist mother that I am, had grand ambitions for baby-led weaning, but she was / is a real gag n' barf champion, so it wasn't right for us. She needed purees.

So I was spooning gourmet home-made purees into her very unreceptive firmly clamped shut mouth (shut, that is, unless she was gagging and barfing up my glorious concoctions). I was certain that in addition to failing at baby sleep, I was also failing brilliantly at baby feeding. I was happy if Stella would eat one teaspoon of food. A miracle would be a tablespoon. Throughout the course of a whole day. Even at 11 months old.

IMG_6692 - Version 2
Requsit naked baby spagetti face shot. I iz creative. 

And then one day my mum, against my omg-I-must-do-everything-exactly-by-the-baby-book rules, gave Stella some very garlicky and lightly salted guacamole. And Stella ate that shit up.

Since then, Stella eats for the following things with reckless abandon: 

  • Home-made (super garilcky) hummus 
  • Chickpea soup (with mad amounts of garlic) 
  • Curried lentils (and a spicy curry at that)
  • Green curry chicken
  • Baingan Bharta (curried eggplant)
  • Goats Cheese
  • Braised lamb shank and swiss chard
  • Dark chocolate (Wut. She's Swiss. Of course I feed her chocolate*)

It is totally weird. I do not understand her eating habits. Except that perhaps, maybe, she should have been born in India. But I am totally sure that her eating adventurousness is directly related to my mumsicle awesomeness. My parenting is absolutely responsible for her taste buds.

IMG_6713
Stella's two new BFFs. There's the geriatric fat white rocket on the left. And ol' deaf n' arthritic on the right. Although deaf n' arthritic is still swift enough to snatch up a slice of toast out of a hand that drooped just a bit too low. And yes, that is a Saveur magazine on the floor, because I want you all to know just how casually awesome and gourmet we are. 

And, one final point: a baby with garlic breath is just so unnatural. 

*Okay, okay, whatever, judgy moms. I gave her a piece smaller than a pea. Twice. But now she has chocolate radar, and screams eeeEEEEEEEEhhhhhhh! the moment she sees me eating some. 

Read More

What Was I Thinking

This is what we are doing today:

  • Leaving the house at 6 AM.
  • Getting in the car and driving 500 miles with a screamy baby
  • Attempting to cross the border with the following complications:
    • One baby sans father which can sometimes be complicated (see international kidnapping)
    • One car that does not belong to me and sports US plates while I hold a Canadian passport and Japanese drivers licence 
    • One sister who forgot her passport in Canada
    • A car full o' beer (because my parental units believe that buying Canadian beer in the states and then bringing it across the border is totally the way to go, but they maxed out their quota, so we are now their official alcohol sherpas.)

 

I predict a date with a customs officer in my future.

Wish us luck! Or punch me in the teeth! It might be less terrible!

Read More

Jinx

I wasn't going to blog today, but I keep seeing the horror show of a post that is currently at the top of my blog and I'm suffering mini panic attacks. So. 

Yesterday poor Stella Bella was sick. Vomming, pooping, fever sick. Poor bunny. Normally I complain bitterly about the annoyances of parenthood (read I whine about sleep problems all the time), but my little sickie is a real trooper. She takes viruses like a woman. And she cuddles! And she goes to sleep without a fight! And did I mention the cuddles?

Still, sick baby + airplane flight tomorow = ???????

Yesterday I thought to myself, hmmm, Stella has been sick a few times and so far I've not caught anything. I have inherited my mother's iron constitution! It is because I am a healthy eater and all around super star! Therefore, I am awesome and far superiour to all the other mothers who get their babies' diseases!

(I am fully aware of my douchbaggery)

And thus, by thinking these thoughts I have pretty much guaranteed that the universe will hook me up with a vom-a-thon that will correspond exactly with the twenty hour flight. I truly AM awesome. 

(Here's hoping that this post will unjinx my jinx. Cross fingers. Knock on wood. And other superstitious things.)

Read More

It's The Tuesday After Father's Day and Therefore Time for a Father's Day Post

Last year was Mr. Chef's first Father's Day. During the build up to the big day, I was wracking my brains, searching for ideas to celebrate this newly minted father who has a notorious hate-on for the Industrial Stationary Complex. I finally settled on a Ferragamo tie with a darling cat print that was the perfect combination of luxury,  fatherly-ness, and a celebration of Mr. Chef's adoration of all things feline. 

This thoughtful and lovely gift was met with the following reaction, "a tie? You got me A TIE?" 

"Wut? It's the traditional Father's day gift" I said. "And anyway, I expect to be lavished with similar vapid name-brand splendor on Mother's Day, GOT IT?" (I did not actually say the second part. But thought it real hard. And everyone knows that the greatest husbandly duty is to learn how to mind read.)

Fast forward to this Father's day. An unequivocal request that I not spend money on gifts lead me to direct the most splendid film you've ever seen celebrating Mr. Chef's fatherly powers*. Trust me, it's a super masterpiece of tender sentimentality and I would totally show it to you, except that Mr. Chef's position in the world of International Espionage requires that I not reveal his identity. But it is great. You would shed a tear of beauty.

Anyway, I presented Mr. Chef with the video, and he was all, "awwww, it's so nice. You're the best wife ever. Thank you." And then I went off to call my Father to wish him a Happy Father's day. My mother answered the phone. "Father's day? It's not Father's day. That's next week." 

And there you have it, folks. Expat life has left me so disconnected from reality that I am no longer aware of major cultural celebrations in my home country.

---

*Okay, all kidding aside, Mr. Chef is truly amoungst the greats when it comes to fathering. Laid back, fun, and loving as all get out. He regularly gets up early to look after Stella while I sleep in. And comes home after work late at night and cleans the kitchen. And take Stella on Father-Daughter dates so that I can drink coffee by my self. And works so hard to make us happy. Hearts. 

IMG_0811
Stella watches intently as her  Papi gets ready for work. She mimics him putting gel in his hair, and it is, like, THE CUTEST THING IN THE WORLD! 

Read More