Wisdom re. The Wisdoms

I had two of my wisdom teeth out last week. And can I just tell you it was exactly as terrible as I thought it would be. I actually said to myself during the procedure, “I’d rather be in piton induced labour right now!” And considering exactly how fresh those memories are, I think we can all conclude one thing: OMG OUCH EVER AGAIN. 


Anyway, this whole ordeal left me with a few new nuggets of wisdom, which I will impart here. You are welcome:


If you are going to have two of your teeth yanked out of your head and you also happen to have two very small children at home, make sure that your mother is visiting because you will not believe the shortness of your temper when you’re on day three of an all liquid diet and the kids just won’t stop touching you, and the baby bashes you in the face  for the fourteenth time due to his wobbly neck. You’ll really need a nap. Grandmothers can facilitate that. 


It is best advised to not go to a gallery opening the night following wisdom teeth extraction. You will be terrible at small talk (ps tales of wisdom teeth extraction do not make for effervescent anecdotes), your face will be gigantic, and you’ll feel compelled to explain to EVERYONE about your wisdom teeth just so they don’t think you’re naturally fat faced and lopsided.


The one up side of oral surgery is that you can drink milkshakes three times a day with impunity. FAnd when you order a smoothie for breakfast only to discover that it’s actually a vanilla milkshake with strawberries thrown in, just dump in a whole lot of chia seeds and call it a health food. 


Do not get your wisdom teeth out when you are breast-feeding. You will want the good drugs. Tylenol just does not cut it. 


Despite the fact that the dentist and dental assistant converse in a language you don’t speak, you’ll be able to tell that things are going South when the assistant exclaims, “unintelligible unintelligible OH MY GOD!!! unintelligible” and then the dentist follows a short time later with, “ITS A MONSTER!!!” (I am not even joking. This happened. And then I had to have a bone graft. And the dentist said, “Next time you’d better be unconscious.” And I cried actual tears because see above re. tylenol. 

Pregnancy Update: Week 40 {Done. So Very Very Done.}

I’ve been having false labour for almost three weeks now. Sometimes it’s just run of the mill Braxton Hicks contraptions. But sometimes, and especially in the past week, it’s call the doula, pack your hospital bags, stock up on gatorade, clutch your abdomen in pain type of contractions that happen every eight minutes and last for 16 hours. Only to fizzle out and leave you tired and sore in a pool of disappointment and frustration.  



Needless to say, I’m so over this.


It’s one thing to be uncomfortable, crampy, and contractiony when I’m on my own. But it’s a whole other circle of mum-guilt hell when there’s another kid involved. Basically all I want to do is lie in bed, eat cookies and drink ice cold water from a mason jar while watching episode after episode of The Good Wife.  But I have a child to feed, entertain, and enrich, and sadly she’s just not interested in hanging out with the electronic babysitter all day long. She wants to play pretend. Every day. Always.


And yesterday it kind of all came to a head.


It was our Monday Lady Date Day, so I took Stella out for fancy cake. But I was short on patience, and the most I could muster was a half-hearted game of restaurant-restaurant while we ate our cake.


We got stuck in stop-and-stop Jakarta traffic on the way home, and I capped off little outing by snapping at my poor girl, who was intent on playing midwife-midwife in the back of a taxi “OMG I JUST CAN’T RIGHT NOW PLEASE JUST DON’T TOUCH ME MUMMY CAN NOT OKAY JUST STOP!!!” And that may or may not have happened more than once. Because. Aggggghhhh!!!!


Back at home I thought I could make up for my cranky mummy mood by agreeing to feed Stella pancakes and maple syrup for lunch, and sure why not? I’ll let you be independent and pour your own syrup…oh shit, so, there goes half the bottle of imported spendy like gold syrup all over your plate, oh well, there’s no saving it now, I guess I’ll just let you eat your syrup with a little pancake on the side. I mean, oatmeal kamut pancakes, that's like a balanced meal, and, really, what’s the worst that could happen?


And that is how you end up, 39w6d pregnant, besieged by false labour, and the sole adult responsible for a pre-schooler literally bouncing off the walls, beds, floors, all flat surfaces, in fact, on the sugar high of her life. 


And so I called my husband home from work to look after our frenetic sugar addled child, fed her room service for dinner (again!) and then cried so hard at my failings as a parent and my asshole uterus that I literally made myself vom. Oh pregnancy. You're really a peach, aren't you. 


And now, for what had better be my last pregnancy update.


How Far Along:

40 Weeks. Today. OMG. DONE.


How Big is Baby:

Baby Boy is measuring about 3.3 KG. Which, if you ask me, is big enough. SO, YOU CAN COME OUT NOW.



Things are getting pretty cramped in there, but not too restricted to throw some nice pokey knees and elbows at my right ribcage!


Total Weight Gain:

I don’t even care any more. A lot. Probably close to 25 kg. In the past couple of weeks I’ve just been like, okay! finish line in sight! I’ll eat all the things, and also my feelings. Which taste like an entire batch of chocolate chip cookies! And you know what? I haven’t gained any weight since about 37 weeks. Contrast that with my first two trimesters wherein I ate nothing and basically gained a third of my bodyweight. Eff you, pregnancy, you make no sense.



Well, I know many of your pregs really don’t sleep at all in the final weeks, and also I know full well the all night human milk buffet shift that is waiting for me on the other side of this, so I really shouldn’t complain. {but it's what I doooooooooo}I will say, though, I’m developing a superhuman ability to sleep through contractions, and if things continue like this I’ll probably be able to be unconscious during transition. So. 


Maternity Clothing:

Ahhhhahahahahaha! Isn’t that cute? You think I actually put clothing on my body at this stage? Nope. It’s all leggings and sweatpants, all the time. And I feel like I should feel bad about that since I live in a super fancy hotel, and there are appearances to keep up and stuff. But nope. I don't. 



Not being pregnant. Ice cold water. Chocolate chip cookies. Bed. DVDs. Zero responsibility. Not having to play midwife-midwife. Silence. Hibernation. 

Linking up with Erica and Toi. Better late than never, right?

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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?   



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

Toddler Sleep Problems and Other Tales of Woe

One of my biggest regrets as a parent thus far is not having been an uncaring asshole, spitting in the face of attachment disorder, and saying, "Okay, it is no longer acceptable to wake up hourly. Sorry, kid, but you're going to have to cry it out. How do you like them apples?"

Three years in to nighttime parenting, and I still don't know what I'm doing. Good news: we've moved on from baby sleep problems. Bad news: We now have toddler sleep problems.

In the early days of parenthood I was so confidently sure of my approach to parenting (in the way that only a novice and / or idiot can be). With granola running through my veins, I would parent intentionally and with love. I would attend to my child's every need, teach her that the world is a safe place and her needs would be met. Above all, thought I, she'd never be left to cry.


Well, it turns out that this nonsense parenting is exceedingly difficult to sustain when your child wakes twelve times per night. And requires 1 hour and fifteen minutes of bouncing and pacing and rocking to achieve 20 minutes of sleep. Four times per day. 


(And, guys, I know that I lean hyperbolic, but this right here, this is FACT).


As I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline on the weekend, I saw that Aisha had posted an article about baby sleep. So of course I clicked through it, because duh. Then, as is kind of the way of the Internet, I read through the comments and found myself wanting to poke everyone in the eyeballs.


Sleep is a rage-button issue for me. I bristle when people try to tell me how to make it happen (guess what! tired it! it didn't work!!!) and I snarl when others complain about the slog of nighttime parenting a three-month-old who has the insolence to wake up for two mid-slumber feedings, because OMG YOU DO NOT KNOW EXHAUSTION UNTIL YOU'VE PARENTED MY BABY and btw, do we need to talk about the time she stayed awake for 36 hours??? That one still stings.

Anyway, here were are, so many years later with a nice hearty dose of toddler sleep problems: (nap resistance, bedtime refusal {extreme overtiredness be damned! This kid still won't sleep!!!} nightmare, and a total inability to fall asleep or stay asleep alone.)

(I keep writing about the trails of sleep deprivation. Do you think I have post traumatic stress disorder? Hmmm, what do you think, Dr. internet??)


Anyway, I kind of want to write a coherent post about the ways and means of infant sleep, the guilt and stress, and anti-feminist currents that run through parenting literature and the douche captain doctor who's name rhymes with Mears whom I hold accountable for the massive (and I fear permanent) bags under my eyes. (Thanks kid doctor, for equating crying it out with abandoning my child in a Russian orphanage. I really needed that extra guilt because motherhood doesn't come with enough as is.)


But still, even three years out, coherent thoughts about infant sleep is not something of which I'm capable.


All I can tell you, is that we've trying out my newest scheme in my grand project to secure seven hours of uninterrupted sleep and put an end to our ongoing toddler sleep problems. As such, Stella has a new bed.


She's pretty stoked on the idea, and does not fail to mention to everyone that she has a NEW! BIG! BED! My friend at the cafe? "Stel-wa have new bed! I getting big because!" The waiter at dinner? "Stel-wa have new bed!" Teachers at school? "I have big bed now!" I mean, this is maj! They need to know!



I can also tell you that only yesterday I overheard her screaming at the top of her lungs, "ROCKSTAR! ROCKSTAR ROCKSTAR!" while nestled in the glorious and totally ridiculous luxury that is a full-sized bed for a two-year-old.



Looks comfy, no? (And I can tell you from experience that it is! Because guess who's sleeping in it??!! Me!!!! Every night! Except for last night when Mr. Chef was in charge of toddler sleep problems and I slept solidly for eight hours. I don't even think I moved.) 

(Now that I think about it, maybe delegation of nighttime parenting is the answer??)

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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Bedtime, you are the scourge of humanity.

Can I just interrupt my regularly scheduled lush-green-vista-wanderlust-adventure-seaking-rice-fields-train-track-type programming to talk for a moment about bedtime. Because, bedtime, sometimes you're a real asshole.


(Also, let's just employ a little bit of cognitive dissonance here and disregard the great destruction and loss that just occurred here in Jakarta and pretend that my nightly woes are significant, okay?)


I always have these grand ideas about what I'll do with that luxurious time after my kid's in bed and the evening stretches out, unblemished and pure. I'll drink wine! I'll read a book! Maybe take a bath! Or paint my toenails.


And then bedtime comes and all of the light goes right out of me.


For the uninitiated, here's a typical evening in the EpB household:


Brush teeth, read stories, sing a song and into bed. It's 7:30.


My child lays her head on the pillow, for exactly seven seconds. Then this: Sing songs. Request cuddles. Change positions a million times. Hold hands. Cuddle. No cuddle. Blankie. No blankie. Sing more songs. Ramble incoherently. Demand that I pat-pat-pat her bottom. Sit up, start talking about friends, requiring  to know the exact location of every person with whom she's ever made acquaintance. Mama, where's Nannie? Mama, where's Abio? Mama, where's teacher? 


"Stella, it's sleeping time. No talking." 


Thirty seconds silence. Then, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Twinkle, Twinkle, *reaches over and beeps my nose* and then it's "Wheels on the Bus". 


"Stella. GO TO SLEEP!"


One minute silence.


 "Merry Cripmas, Olivia. Merry Cripmas Ian, Merry Cripmas William, Merry Cripmas Julian, etc etc etc).


(Repeat for a hour).


Then, I lose my mind, storm out of the room, and my child produces some serious murder screams.



I come back because I'm a soft, lily-livered human.


I lie down next to my banshee, and eventually I fall asleep. Then she pokes me in the eyes. "WAKE UP, MAMA."


This goes on for all of eternity. 


Exhausted or rested, quiet time or crazy-baby time, early bedtime or late bedtime, it's a two-hour-bedtime. Every time.


All of which is to say, I have no idea what I'm doing. I don't know how to make my kid go to bed within a reasonable time frame. She's always been like this, from the time she was about two weeks old. 


Still, I take solace in two things: One, I no longer have to do this four times a day (three naps plus bedtime =how did I ever survive infancy?) And two, when I text my husband that a particularly terrible bedtime can only be endured with a bottle of whiskey, he takes me seriously. 



Linking up here.
Also, Top Baby Blogs has been reset, so I'd love it if you could vote now! A vote for us will really count now, and your support really matters to me! I have big dreams for this little blog, you know, and whatever, my 2.5 year-old is still my baby.
Click on the image below. And THANKS!


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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. 



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Things About Where I've Been

IMG_3798{Image credit: Mr. Chef}

I took another unintended blogcation. We've been gone, roaming around Southern Japan. And it was beautiful, hilly, lush and the kind of verdant green that makes your nose flair and your lungs fill with the air so fresh and moist and new. As if released directly from the mitochondria of moss and bamboo to be take up directly into your lungs.

But it wasn't really the travel that kept me away. Nor the scenery. The waves at the beaches or the ramen in bowls wide and piping hot. There are things that have been going on. Things that I have written about here. Things that I haven't. Things that I'd like to tell you about, but won't. Things that I don't want to talk about but probably should. These things have have weighed on me, and I've been aching and storming and I've had a headache and I haven't been able to crack a smile in seven days. The things have drove me down, and then conspired to make the past week one of the top five most stressful of the previous decade, a decade that includes the birth of a baby, a marriage, and two instances of leaving a country with 24 horus notice. So. 

But the things are lifting up, clearning; they're setteling down, going back where they belong.

It's sunny today. I slept in. I ate my breakfast on the balcony while my girl folded the laundry. We went to the park where the cherry blossoms are still in bloom, fresh and new and pure. We ran into my midwife, she who delivered my girl, tiny and new, almost two years ago. I think that's a sign. I'll be back, and new things, better things will be beginning soon.


And, since I've been gone, I haven't really kept up on my blogging responsibilities, so horror of horror, I've fallen behind in my Top Baby Blog quest to rule the world. I'd love it if you would you give me a virtual hug in the form of a vote.


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More Pins and More Needles

It was my day to sleep in. But I woke before dawn, convinced that I could smell something damp and growing. I worried about mould, and I couldn't sleep.


I spilled my smoothie all over the counter. Twice. Pureed blueberries and kale juice pooled, stagnant, and then drifted, ominously towards the floor. 


I forgot to buy water. And mushrooms, which are an essential ingredient in tonight's dinner. Fifteen precious morning minutes slipped into history by as I tried to find my phone, and get it into my bag.I forgot where I was going, what I was doing, piles of paper in hand, as I wondered towards the front door. 


I'm trying to keep it together. But I'm preoccupied, anxious and not here.


I thought we would know something by now. Where are we going, what's happening? When are we moving?


Big boys were in town this week, and meetings were scheduled. My husband and I agreed not to get our hopes up. We said the meetings were nothing, just checking in. We said that we wouldn't know, and we'd be fine with not knowing. That if we didn't move till after the summer that would be fine. It would give us a chance to put some extra money aside. We are happy enough here, it would be okay.


But we're not really happy here. And it's not really okay.

My hopes crept up. I couldn't nudge them down. I thought that at least we'd get an indication. Third quarter. We're looking at either x or y country. In my secret heart, I told a story about a look-see trip. Somewhere warm. They'd show us a nice apartment. And then we'd go back to the hotel, and we'd sit in the lounge sip champagne, and dream together, the three of us. And we'd be so happy.


Instead we got nothing, no details. An assurance that a move was in the works. But when and where  is privy to only the big guns in Hong Kong. As a consolation prize, they handed us an empty promise of further details at a later time. 


But when, and where, and who? We have no idea. My life is on hold until some bigshot makes a decision. And we just wait.


I'd like to live my life. I'd like to buy a lamp and know that it will work where we live without a voltage adaptor. I'd like to plan a vacation, and know from which airport I'd leave. I'd like to have an answer for people who ask me what's happening. I'd like to start thinking about when we could maybe have another kid. I'd like to start thinking and dreaming about the time in between now and a million years from now.


Pleas fates, please throw me a bone. Give me a clue. This waiting and wondering is hard work. I'd like to lie down but the pins and needles hurt so.

Linking up for Just Write.

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What Not To Do When Traveling With A Toddler

You'd think, after clocking so many miles of trans-continental travel over the last year and a half, that there wouldn't be much left for me to learn about long-haul flights with a toddler. You'd think that 15 flights across the ocean would be enough for me to have this whole flying-with-my-kid thing down.

Well, yesterday's debacle proved that in fact, there is so much that I have yet to learn. And so, herewith, I share with you my list of What Not To Do When Traveling With Your Toddler:


Photo airplane


First and foremost, do not forget your baby sling, lest you find yourself with a tired, squirming toddler on one hip who is vehemently insisting that she be allowed to get down and RUN! RUN! RUN! as you navigate your way through through four airports, while also dragging a suitcase, a diaper bag, and an unreasonably overloaded handbag. 

Second, do not pack 200 lbs of things to take home with you. And certainly, try to avoid having five suitcases to haul. It will prove incredibly problematic when, in the event that you have forgotten a vital piece of baby carrying equipment, you are required to navigate through Narita airport pushing a luggage cart piled higher than your sight-line one handed, while lugging said squirmy toddler who would much rather be sleeping. Or running.

Third. Do not listen to that little voice in your head that says, "We don't need extra ziplock bags. We always bring them, but never use them, so let's just save a little space, shall we?" For, when you discover that you're child's amoxicillian has exploded, you will have no means by which to contain the pink goo that is rapidly spreading all over everything.

Fourth. Do not, in an attempt to avoid your usual travel uniform which consists of old leggings and a tunic that gives you the distinct appearance of a disheveled vagabond, wear your newly purchased, favorite pair of paints, the last pants in the entire continent in that particular size and colour. For, when you inevitably spill coffee all over yourself, you will not only feel great sadness at the prospect of having ruined your new trousers, but you will also end up looking like a disheveled vagabond anyway.

Fifth. Do not engage your child in rowdy horseplay on the airplane. Fun as it may be, when she whappes you in the face mid-flight causing your nose to bleed, you will curse your parental irresponsibility.

Sixth. Ensure that you do pack extra clothes for yourself. For, when child-induced bloody nose leaks everywhere, you'll want a costume change so that the remaining 20 travel hours will not be spent looking like a disheveled vagabond who was recently in a bar fight.


There you have it, a comprehensive list of the what not to do when traveling with a toddler.

I'm sure that I have saved a million mothers a million stressful moments, because while the above tips may appear self-evident to a layperson, let me assure you that these lessons can only be won through experience. 

Or perhaps a little common sense. Of which, evidentially, I have a shocking dearth. 


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And So, Everything Is Terrible Again.

You guys, the sleep demons are back and things are bonkers bad. I know I promised you deep thoughts on the culture of parenting today, but all I've got is deep swigs on a glass of port. That's about the best I can manage. You'll understand.

My kid has quit sleeping. Again. All I can surmise is that we're in the thick of the 18-month sleep regression. Which is sub-awesome, because we're going back to Japan this week. The sub-awesomeness of this situation is further compounded by the fact that my mother is staying in America. And she is the only person who can get my kid to be unconscious.

It's currently midnight. My kid has been up for an hour and a half. She won't sleep. My mum has just taken the reigns of this runaway sleep pony and is wrestling it into submission. I might also mention here that a similar turn of events took place last night somewhere around the 3:30 AM mark. Oh, and like every naptime and four out of five bedtimes for the past week. Because I am completely incapable of getting my child to sleep, and have proven that I can be outwitted by a 17-month old.

So, let's review where we stand, shall we?

18-month sleep regression + jet lag + no more baby whisperer = A catastrophic trifecta of terrible. 

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

(please someone come over here and punch me in the face.)

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Is Attachment Parenting Even Possible With Number Two?

So, Internet, once again I look to you for validation and the answers to my parenting queries. This time it's about Attachment Parenting. 



After roughly 14 months of attachment parenting and  14 months of not sleeping, I kind of hate Dr. Sears. A few months ago, I kinda quit the whole AP club. It's a work in progress. I'm slowly tapering. But my hope is to be free and clear, librearted from the AP fold very soon. 


Ages ago, when Stella was just a wee pup, I read Erica Jong's piece in the WSJ trumpeting the demerits of the AP way. I thought, this Jong person, what the hell does she know? She only had one kid! She's obviously just a selfish jerk! Well, turns out, surprise surprise, upon rereading her piece 18 months into this whole parenting gig, I'm inclined to agree with many of her arguments.


Jong's overarching thesis is that Attachment Parenting harms women. While don't necessarily buy into the political side of her argument - Jong argues that attachment parenting is anti-feminist and a potential tool of the political right - she does make a few substantive points. Mainly that attachment parenting and the broader issue of materphilia sideline women and elevate their progeny to the status of unknowing little dictators, who reign over every aspect of their mothers' lives, curtailing their freedoms and usurping their identity. 

I don't know WHAT sort of Machiavellian plan the Dr. Sears and his AP army have up their collective sleeve, or why they like to remind new and fragile parents, ever so gently of course, about the dangers of crying and the risk of giving your baby a broken brain. But I do know that I kind of want to punch them in the face. Figuratively of course. 


Let me explain. Stella cried a lot. She had colic, so that was a solid 4 hours of crying right there. And so of course I go from OMG my baby has colic to OMG SHE IS GOING TO HAVE A CARDIAC ARRHYTHMIA AND ITS MY FAULT BECAUSE SO MUCH CRYING via The Baby Book and Attachment Parenting International. So, anyway, my acute crying phobia lead me to pick up my kid the moment she peeped. To respond to her before she even had a second to whimper. To turn off the stove, stop dinner, and cuddle on demand. 


Now that was all fine and dandy, until she expected that kind of response time in the middle of the night. Every hour. Or at all times of the day. Even though she's almost a year and a half. Remember how she won't play by herself? I probably blame Dr. Sears for that as well.


Which brings me back to the very hypothetical second child. If I were to have a second child, and if I were to respond to said second child as quickly as I do (and did) to Stella, I would end up in some kind of crazy space-time-continuum wormhole. Because it would be impossible. Having a second kid necessitates a certain degree of disregarded unattended wah wahs. Or so I assume. If you have simultaneous criers, one of them is going to be ignored. It's pretty much science. 


So, jerks like Dr. Sears et. all who make me feel like a villainous rogue for expecting my kid to get a reasonable amount of sleep or leaving my kid to cry for five minutes while I do the dishes can just shut their front covers because whateverthelll, you have no idea. 


I'm continuing to work through the process of becoming an ex-attachment parent. I'm in Attachment Parenting recovery. And I'm wondering, Internetland, do you attachment parent? Do you have a second child? Are you crushed buy the burdens of AP anti-feminism? Or are you happy and self secure in your hippie fairy dust parenting practices? 


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My Husband Has Baby Ninja Powers and I'm Pissed About That

Hello, world. I’m here to inform you that I think it’s time for me to rescind my position as Chief Parenting Officer. It appears as though we have a new ninja master on the scene, and I am no match for his baby-wrangling brilliance. 

Basically, Mr. Chef is kicking my ass in the tear-free baby-care department, and I’m totally pissed about this fact.

Let’s review, shall we? So, we had this kid, right, who wouldn’t sleep. For fourteen months, I was getting up every one or two hours to feed her and cajole her back to dreamland. And then Mr. Chef steps in, and within two nights she’s sleeping for long, solid stretches. A week later, SLEEPING THROUGH THE NGITH. With no tears. Efffff. 

I’ve also documented how Stella will pitch an ungodly fit if I try to a) put her to bed, b) get her to go in her stroller or c) cook dinner and / or wash dishes. With my dear husband? Nothing but smiles and unicorns and rainbows. 

Since the my last reporting on the subject, we’ve also discovered that Stella will do the following for Mr. Chef, but not for me:

  • Eat all her lunch without throwing it on the floor or smashing it in her hair (I swear, you guys, she holds her bowl over the floor, looks at me, waits for a ‘no’ and then dumps it. And laughs. I am unreasonably angry about this.)
  • Have her diaper changed without a barrage of toddler slaps (Again. she totally knows that this gets my goat.) 
  • Take a three hour nap. Seriously. Three hours. She usually naps for an hour. One hour. Per day. And I was not there. I was out for “alone time” while my husband “babysat”. Therefore that three hour nap was wasted! The vicious injustice of it all.

This little turn of events problematic for many reasons, not least of which is that now he’ll never believe me when I tell him how difficult life is and that therefore I need a new handbag as compensation. And also, SERIOUSLY, CHILD??? I had a pain-med-free pitocin-addled labour that lasted 24 hours, and THIS IS HOW YOU REPAY ME?? And also: HUSBAND, YOU NEVER READ A SINGLE BABY BOOK HOW COULD YOU BE BETTER AT THIS THAN ME???? WHAT THE WHAT???!!!!??!

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is apparently my husband is a really effing good father. And he knows all the baby secrets. And has ninja powers. But, I kind of knew that long long ago.


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On Needles and Pins and Expats

The waiting has started. We've just sailed right past the two-year mark on this contract, leaving behind stability, security, and knowing what the future holds. Now is the season of anticipation and of speculation. Ears pressed firmly to the ground, listening for murmurs of rumors, suggestions of what might come next. Eyes glaze, and wild fancy takes over, painting a thousand and one imaginary tales of boxes and apartments and new cities and new countries and new foods and  new languages and new friends and and and. We're looking forward with vigour, but we don't know to what. Or when. Or how. Or where.

I suppose that as an serial expat, one never really know what the future holds, but cognitive dissonance allows one to overlook the gaping black hole in the imagined future. The expat starts a contract with an image of life progressing on a linear path of two or three years, and then suddenly: nothing. No concept, no daydreams, no mental construct with which to understand what lies ahead. The serial expat can successfully ignore this reality, happily marching along with time, until she is suddenly standing right on the edge of this gaping hole, with no idea what will fill it. 

Thus, grasping for unknowable answers to the question "what next" is consuming about 98 percent of my consciousness. 

Oh, and did I ever tell you about the time when we had to pack up a house and leave a country with 24 hours notice? That scene is currently headlining in my imagination.

The uncertainty is thrilling, but also, quite frankly, unnerving. We know that a move is on the horizon. There are rumblings and unofficial promises. Vague assurances of "soon" and  "gateway city" and "more exposure" offer hope, yet that hope is awfully slippery when we face the present reality of an incredibly stressful work environment, a poor to non-existent support network, and a country which, although it offers many pleasures, is just a poor fit for us.

Also: it appears as though our much anticipated October European Vacation Extravaganza will be canceled. We already have the tickets. Plans had been made. Concert tickets bought. The aforementioned work stress is a symptom of endemic organizational issues: they are deep. And Wide. And require attention. 

 Suffice to say: doom spirals over at Expatria, Baby. Come join the fun. 


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Just A Regular Old Trip To The Grocery Store

Our little island paradise is fairly remote. Like a 20-minute-boat-ride-through-a-maze-of-indistinguishable-islands-and-traitorous-prop-killing-hull-destroying-shoal-infested-waters-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-Northern-Ontario remote.

Should we run out of toilet paper or milk or wine (apparently a more urgent need than either personal hygiene or sustenance, at least to this family), we need to jump in the boat, drive 20 minutes to the landing, find the car, get in the car, and drive down a long, windy, road cut right though the Canadian Shield with cliffs and lakes on either side, and motorhomes up front and tractor-trailers behind. Not the easiest of drives in the best of circumstances.

So yesterday, lacking enough foodstuffs to put together a meal that would feed five hungry adults but being fully stocked in booze, I set off with the baby and my sister to replenish our pantry. About five seconds after we left it started to drizzle. By the time we had driven the half-hour to the tiny Northern paper town which houses the nearest grocery store it was bucketing down. We’re talking monsoon-quality rain. A lake about a food and a half deep developed in the parking lot.

I was complaining to whatever stranger would listen that I had to drive home in a boat. They thought I was making a stupid joke when in actuality I was trying to stave off a looming panic attack.

Lunch time + hungry baby + winding roads + driving rain the likes of which I have only seen in Asia + tractor-trailers + potential for hydroplaning + clifs = valium required. But you can’t drive on valium.

Anyway, we got the groceries, made it back to the landing and decided to get the provisions in the boat, and drive home. This time with no visibility but lots of rain. Unable to see through the windscreen of the boat and find the buoys. Or the shoals. Or the landmarks. Oh, and did I mention that Stella was 40 minutes post due for a nap, hungry, pissed about being in her lifejacket and screaming murderface?

Solution: Sister stands in the back of the boat, above the canopy scouting for shoals. Baby stands beside me in the boat. I hunch over the steering wheel and stick my boob in her mouth. I white knuckle it home hoping against hope that I am going the right way.

We made it back. And Stella fell asleep while nursing standing up. And I had a glass of wine. And five hundred cookies. Now we have no more cookies. And obviously need to make another grocery run.

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Yet Another Post Wherein I Bemoan The Fact that My Child Is A Terrible Sleeper


I'll bet you didn't think that it was possible for a baby to be awake for twenty-four hours straight, did you. 

Well, Internet, I am here to tell you that, yes, indeed, it is, as has been demonstrated by Awakegate 2011.

We traveled 10907 KM, through four airports, three flights and 20 hours of travel time, and Stella slept maybe for an hour. In three little mini naps. So it's not even like I got a solid chunk of time off.  Nor did Stella did not sleep in the car on the way home from the airport. She did not sleep when we arrived back at my parents' house but was riled up and raring to go. And, in what is surely no surprise to anyone, she was up half the night.

So wakeful was Stella that strangers came up to me as we waited for the shuttle train in Chicago and remarked, "that child STILL has not slept?!!?

Unfortunately for the passengers on flight 0012, we did hit a wall of tiredness around three hours before the end of the Pacific crossing. There was much screaming and thrashing and kicking and whining, but, sadly, no sleep. I thank my lucky stars that our neighbour passengers were all Japanese grandmotherly figures who, as a group, have a love for foreign babies that knows no bounds, are more than happy to play inai inai, BA! (Or, what is more likely, are far too polite to shoot me and my dear sweet screamypants angry and accusatory eye-daggers.)

The way Stella sees it, sleep is fur chumps anyway. Who wants to be unconscious when there is a plane-full of people to wave at! And aisles to walk up and down! And up and down and up and down and up and down! And feet to kick! And peekaboo! And waving! HELLO! HELLO! HELLO! HI! LOOK AT ME! I AM CUTE! KAWAIIIIIIIIIIII!" 

IMG_0892Gold Lounge Baby

Still, we are happy to be back in cooler climes, reveling in open windows, green grass, the cool summer breeze and enjoying the sound of early morning birds.*


*Contrary to appearances, this is not a veiled complaint about being awake during the wee hours. I am genuinely happy about hearing joyful morning chirping. 


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Horror Show

You guys, I am realing. Two days ago, I saw THIS in my HOUSE.

 Photo source here

I was folding laundry, having just brought it in off the balcony. Suddenly, had the sense that something unearthly fell down from the pile of clothes and scuttled under couch. I dropped to my hands and knees, and HOLY EFFING GIGANTIC ROACH I AM DYING, EEEK! EEEK!!!!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKK! And there was no husband to come and rescue me, only a baby who was laughing manically at my screams. So I manned up, grabbed a book, threw it with all my might, and heard an ungodly crunch. The end. Lights out.

Unfortunately for me, I have not recovered. At that particular moment there was neither tequila nor any Xanax in my house, and so with no way to self-medicate the pain away, I am still all jumpy and twitchy like. And I kid you not, I jumped three feet out of my bed last night when the cat came in for a cuddle. 

Thank god we're heading back to North America soon, where the roaches are of a more resonable size. 


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Stella Stellina

So, remember that time when I posted about the fact that Stella was sleeping through the night (albeit in a modified form of that concept), well, internet, I'll have you know that YOU WIN. IT NEVER HAPPENED AGAIN. 

After a particularly bad couple of nights, I awoke this morning feeling extra stabby with a generalized sense of wah! and a little GAAAAHH, I really want to blog about the fact that I experience insane jealousy whenever I see a baby sleeping soundly in public and that my child wakes about five hundred times per night, and that is total BS, because when we went to the baby factory, I distinctly remember ordering the Snoozy Dreamcakes model. But, in the spirit of restraint and maturity, I WILL NOT write about this, instead, I will post this video I just made to remind myself that yes, she sometimes does sleep. 

Oh, and she just started giving hugs. So. 



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On Doing It All (Airing My Dirty Laundry)

Internet, I am super-mega-effing stressed out right now, and it's all your fault. YOU! You, with your shiny happy pictures on Facebook of your smiling little kids, your sunsets, your perfect dinners, your soccer games, your evenings with friends, your tidy little houses, and your chirpy LOLtastic updates. You with your blog posts, coyly letting slip that you have a jillion kids all of whom are little prodigies, who you sit with while they practice piano, and behave themselves while you run a business and singlehandedly keep your household ticking along like a Swiss watch, (except for that one lampshade that is just a tad off kilter, and that's like totally shameful for you). Blerg, you Internet.I can't live up to your standards! BLERG YOU!


(Just kidding, Internet. I love you. Don’t be mad.)


You see, I can’t live up to that. For example, this is what my house looks like right now:

(Minus the baby, who, praise the heavens, is peacefully napping. Hopefully for many many many minutes.)


The problem is, my expectations and my ambition are in conflict: I expect myself to keep an immaculately clean house; to have organized closets; to make homemade baby food; to dream up and implement baby betterment projects; to cook meals worthy of a chef; to handwrite thank-you cards in a timely fashion; keep the baby happy and entertained; and a myriad other household tasks, varied and sundry. 


But I also have ambitions: grow my blog; finish that freelance project I'm midway through; learn to sew; start running again; explore my little corner of Japan; keep up with friends and family back home; go out and do awesome fun things with my girl. Bike to the shore. Decorate my house. Finish that resume. 


But there is just not room for all of these things in my life. The expectation / ambition conflict means that something always gets left by the wayside. Unfortunately it is usually my living room. (Incidentally, when taking my daughter out to play the other day, I had to go over her with a lint roller to make her presentable enough for public observation. Oh gawd. I am the best mother ever.) 


Once more, for the kids in the back row, I give you this in lieu of a thousand words: 



Please note the dirty breakfast dishes on the table. And the random blanket strewen across the couch. Along with the cat cage, that was recently extracted from THE CLOSET OF HORRORS,  of which I remain very afraid, and as I have not yet found an alternate home for said cat cage, it just sits there in our livingroom. Like this. 



So anyway, I'm stressing out about not being as good as the other mothers out there in Internetlands real and imagined : not doing as much; not being organized enough; not being fun enough; our outdoorsy enough; or ambitious or industrious or whatever enough. And then, I read this book to my girl for her bedtime story.


This gem of a book! This little treasure with it's jaunty rhymes, it's joyful illustrations, it's depiction of the real life of a family.


Peepo! by Janet & Allen Ahlberg


Look! A messy house! Puddles on the floor! Clothes strewn in random places! A baby who lost his shoe! A mother working hard, trying to stay on top of things! This looks just like my life!




And I started to feel a bit better. I'll bet that more people than are willing to admit have dirty laundry like mine. I'll bet more people have chaos that they are sweeping under the rug. But we keep it hidden, and post shiny happy things on Facebook and on our blogs. 


Now, here is where I would say, in conclusion, that I'm going to go easy on myself, modify my expectations, realize that they are unrealistic, and that no one actually lives that way. 


But what I'm actually thinking is HOLY CRAP I've got to organize the closet, and clean out the fridge, and make baby food, and that massive pile of ironing isn't de-wrinkling itself, and there are masses of emails that are hanging over my head, and the minutes in the day are not nearly enough to find the time to finish that video and write that update, and think smart thoughts, and my kid is whining, and needs me to pick her up and I can't make dinner and ... gah gah gha ... brainaneurysmkaboom. 


So, maybe I'll just conclude with a question or two? Are you swimming along swiftly, or just barely keeping your head above water? If you're managing....please tell me howhowhowhowhow!?!???????




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The Spores Go Marching Million By Million

It's rainy season in Japan, and for the next four? six? eight???? weeks there will be rain, humidity, and general jungle-like conditions. It's impossible to escape the wet; food goes off the second you bring it home; paper becomes clammy and damp; condensation builds up on the windows; and there is a constant looming diaper crisis as I wait days and days and days for laundry to dry. And in the back of my mind there is a sustained disquiet as I fret about harbouring a secret mushroom farm in the closet.

Over the past several days (weeks?) I had been smelling a distinct earthy oder emanating from Stella's bedroom. I dealt with this as I do most problems: if I ignore it long enough it will go away! Unfortunately this failsafe problem solving method did not work this time, as I finally bit into the sour apple (as Mr. Chef says) and emptied the storage closet in her room.

I discovered this:



This was only one of the affected items. There were too many to catalogue and I was beside myself with frustration, not thinking how hilarious it would be to take millions of mouldy pictures. Too bad, internet, too bad. 

An empty closet. An entire package of garbage bags. A full dumpster. A wasted day spent dealing with mould, spores, swears, wet, frustration, waste and bleach. 



When things like this happen, as an expat, it is tempting to blame the country you live in: "Eff you, Japan, you stupid jerk. If I lived in Canada I wouldn't have mushrooms growing in my closet and I wouldn't be poisoning my baby with thousands of little mould paratroopers invading her respiratory system. I hate you. You are a meanie.  I miss my parents. I miss my friends. I miss grocery stores. I miss barbecues. And lakes. And fresh snow. And understanding what strangers say. And understanding what to do and how to exist in society. And it's all your fault, Japan. Wah." Or so goes my normal line of reasoning. 

I did this a lot when we lived in China. I did it when we lived in India. I do it here in Japan. And I'm sure that wherever we are next, I'll do it there, too. 

The thing is, it's not really Japan's fault. Mould is part of the package. Along with distance from loved ones, and strange food, and unexpected closet invaders come benefits - the cultural experience, the adventure, the quality of life, the chance to know distant corners of our world. We've chosen this life, and we are lucky to live it.

It’s just that part of being an expat is knowing how things are elsewhere. Wherever we are that happens to be our home, there are wonders and irritations: beauty and groping in India; great social life and public urination in China; cleanliness and mold in Japan. And thus, wherever I am temporarily putting down roots (?!?), I know that I will whine about certain aspects of life, and appreciate others. We live in our present home with memories of our past homes, and hopes for our future homes. 

So, I'll try to look on the bright side, and remember the privileges that come our way. But I won't promise to abandon self-indulgent pity-fests the next time I have to throw out an entire closet worth of goods, or the next time I get felt up by a strange man in a public market, or get spit upon by a careless passer by, because moaning is part of the package, too. 

(Thanks internet, for listening to me whine. You're a real pal.)



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