308 / 366 {papi}

On Sunday, the Chef took over the majority of the childcare while I took a two-and-a-half hour nap followed by some writing time. Upon return home, I was greeted by this scene: toddler with chocolate face glued to the iPad. I tired to join in on the cuddlefest that was underway but was rebuked with a stern NOOOOOO, MAMA! I want Papi.

And then my heart broke into a million pieces, so I did the only reasonable thing I could think of: I engaged in an epic tickle battle. And then all was forgiven.

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Woe is Bathtime

Stella has always loved the water. When she was a newborn in the NICU, she was given her first bath by the nurses. I wasn’t there, so they took pictures for me. They told me that Stella smiled. When we’ve taken her to the beach, we’ve had to work pretty hard to prevent this little fishie from swimming out to sea.

 

But all of this changed when I decided to be THE FUN MUM who gives bubble baths. You guys, I’ve traumatized my kid for life. With bubbles. 

 

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Last week, Stella needed an exceptional post-nap bath (can you guess why???? Starts with a p and ends with an oop), and I thought, hey, your hair doesn’t need washing, therefore BUBBLES! Big mistake. She was terrified. Of bubbles. I put her in the water and she screamed and screamed and would not sit down, so I took her out and showered her and she also screamed about that. Obviously. 

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Same thing for the next several baths (though, I nixed the soap bubbles pretty quickly, let me tell you), but add to the screaming some fierce pre-bath clinging and terrified baby face and abject refusal to have a hair washing.

Oh dear.

What have I done.

 

Bathtime is now a horror show. It’s awful. Stella hates it, and is obviously scared verging on a panic attack, and I hate it because MAH BAYBEEEE! SHE SCARWED! AND CRWYING! POOWR POOWR BAYBEEEE!

 

I would totally have no problem with going bathless for like, four days to see if this whole thing blows over, BUT the problem is food. It gets in the hair. After one meal, those precious ringlets are trending towards dreadlock, enhanced with baby goo.

 

So, basically, at this stage, I’m seriously considering insisting that Stella wear a shower cap or some other type of protective head covering during meal times. Protective dinner bonnet? Teflon tuque? What to do?

 

(UPDATED TO ADD: Mr. Chef did bath time tonight. And it was no big deal. Stella didn’t even cry for the hair washing. Of course she didn’t. Of course. To whom should I address my letter of resignation?)

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Small Style, Stripey Style

Let’s talk about baby leggings. Specifically stripey baby leggings. And the fact that I’m obsessed with them. Does anything look better on a pair of chubby little legs, capped off with a pair of baby Chucks? Nope? Well, I didn’t think so, either.

 

Now, there’s a story behind these leggings and their procurement. A quite charming story, if you ask me. 

 

A new shopping center just opened up right across from Mr. Chef’s work. And this is news because H&M just moved in. First H&M on this little island in Japan. Which is also news because I’ve been going through some major cheap Swedish knockoff withdrawal. 

 

(Aside: So great is my love of H&M that when they came to my city two winters ago, and opened a temporary shop to test the market, I stood in line for many many many hours, many many months pregnant, just so I could get my fix.)

 

So anyway, on Friday, Mr. Chef calls me and says, “It’s pre-opening today, there are no lines, jump in a taxi and come here and spend some money.” And I was like, “No, no, I’ll be good. I won’t go shopping. I’ll save money. I’ll just stay here and mop the floors.” And then he said, “GET HERE NOW AND BUY SOME THINGS, OKAY!”

 

Well, I’m a dutiful wife. I listen to my husband. So. We bought things. 

 

(Did I ever tell you guys that I won the husband lottery. Because I totally did.)

 

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 See? Stripey leggings! They kill me. 

 

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 (Oh, yeah. I forgot to tell you, we went to the zoo. Hence the ibix or whatever the what that thing is.)

 

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<3

 

Stella Wore

Leggings: H&M

Tee - Atsuyo et Akiko

Shoes - Converse 

 

There are more stylish babies to be admired over at Mama Loves Papa. You should go there now.

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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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Previously On Not Sleeping Through The Night

Alright, people, the story of getting baby S to sleep is a long and painful one. My obsession with sleep troubles started long ago, somewhere around the 10 day mark when it became apparent that Stella was not a sleeper. But we’re not flashing back that far, and I certainly won’t revisit the fact that she used to wake up MORE THAN 12 times per night, and at one point would wake screaming like a banshee every 20 minutes between the hours of 7 PM and midnight.*

(*see how I just threw that little chestnut in there so that you’d be fully cognizant of the fact that I’ve been through the wars, thereby justifying my foray into sleep training, assuaging my hippy guilt while also demonstrating my extreme patience and general saintliness?)

No, no, this little recap will only highlight where we were before we started sleep training. So, let’s revisit where we were about three weeks ago: 

 

Previously, On Sleeping Through The Night: (dramatic music here)

 

  • Stella was a part-time bed-sharer, part-time pack-n-play master-bedroom roommate. 
  • She woke up between 4 and 6 times per night to nurse
  • She was awake for long periods of time, particularly after 3 AM. Which meant so was I. And this was sub-ideal. A lot
  • She cried and cried and cried before falling asleep, no matter what I did

So. Basically, our sleeping situation was sub-idea. And we decided that finally, it was really really really time to get serious on sleep’s ass and make it happen. Although I was ambivalent about sleep training (to say the least), and was sad to put an end to co-sleeping, it was apparent that Stella thought of our bed as a playground and not as a sleeping place. So, bye-bye co sleeping. But before I get ahead of myself, I’ll outline what we did on PEZM (Project Ending Zombie Moms):

 

Stage 1 - Git In YER BED!

 

  • I set up a cot in Stella’s room, and determined that she would sleep in her own bed, so help me Easter Bunny, no matter what. 
  • And she did. And it was no biggie. Turns out, she slept waaaaayyyyy better in her own bed.

 

Stage Two - Night Night Milkies 

 

  • I night weened. In one night. Bandaid --> riiiiiiiiiiiiiiipp
  • Mr. Chef took over nighttime parenting duties, sleeping in Stella’s room all night and I bed-shared with a my earplugs. And slept for eight hours in a row for the first time in about two years. Oh my
  • Stella work up 11 times the first night, but didn’t cry once
  • Night two it was down to 4 times. Still no tears
  • By night four, there were two wakeups. Still tear free
  • Then we did a little experiment wherein I took over nighttime duties, and it was an all out scream-a-thon, so me and my earplugs went back to our own room. 
  • Mr. Chef continued to be the baby whisperer, and Stella continues NOT TO CRY while he’s around.

 

Stage Three - Pending

  1. Stella is now Sleeping from about 7 PM until 3 or 4 AM ALONE! IN HER OWN BED! 
  2. She’s WAKING UP ONLY ONCE!!!!!
  3. Mr. Chef continues to sleep in her room from about 3 or 4 am until she’s up in the morning, somewhere around 6:30, but in the next few days, he’s going to start transitioning to sleeping full-time in our room. 

 

So. Stella is sleeping much better. The transition was not NEARLY as painful as I had thought. I’m routinely getting stretches of 6 hours of sleep. I can stay up till 11 and not feel like I have malaria. I can do things! And play babies for a long time! Basically, it’s a win-win-win situation: I sleep so soundly, I don’t even her Stella wake up (win!) Stella still gets to wake in the night the way she likes to (win!), and Mr. Chef gets to spend extra time with his daughter(WIIIIIIIIINN!) See? Win-win-win! (Right, Mr. Chef???? RIGHT??? You love this arrangement, RIGHT?)

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I Can Not Haz Smartness

Oh, um, hey, internet. What’s up. 

 

So. Confession. I feel like I should be writing some supersmart and informative expat-based posts about life as a new parent in Japan. But mostly, for the past seven or 10 days my every conscious moment has been consumed with a a heavy stream of WAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAHHHHHHA! HAAAATTTEEE! WAHAHAHAHHA! Ergo, I can not haz smartness. 

HOWEVER, if you would happen to be in the mood for some expat-based parenting screenwords, might I direct your attention to Surviving in Japan, where I wrote a guest post on having a baby in Japan.

Now, for any of you still hanging around here (sorry), I have a big present for you: a dramatic recreation of how things have been going ‘round my place*:

 

Example 1, or I Have To Do Basic Things That Are Not Holding a Baby:

 

Me: Stella, can you please play with your toys for ten minutes while I wash the breakfast dishes?

 

Stella: OMGHHHHZZZZ!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I WILL MOST CERTAINLY NOT DO THAT! RATHER I WILL SCREAM AND CRY AND HIT YOU AND HANG OFF YOU AND GGGGHAHAHAHA HATE THE WORLD IS AN AWEFUL PLACE!

 

as compares to....

 

Mr. Chef: Stella, I’m going to wash the dishes now.

Stella: Cool. I’ll just be over here brushing the cat, okay?

 

Example 2, or Every Time We Go Out of the Apartment:

Me: Stella, you need to sit in your stroller now. 

Stella: NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! WAHAHAHAHAHAHA. *we enter elevator* WAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAHAHHAHAHA!!!!!! *flails tiny body around, accidentally kicks old lady* WWWWHWHWHWHWHWHAAAAAATE WAHAHA! *goes limp and slides out of stroller into a crumpled mess of screaming baby on the floor* WWWWHWHWHWHLOUDESTSCREAMEVER!!!! *struggle to exit elevator* WHHWAHAHAHAHAHAHH! *finally buckled into stroller* WHWHWHWHWHWHWAAAAAA! *hits head with tiny ragefull fists*

 

And again, this compares rather unfavourable to the scene below: 

 

Mr. Chef: Stella, you sit in your stroller.

Stella: I don’t really want to, but well, I guess that’s life. You don’t always get what you want. Anyway. Sucks. But I’ll deal.

 

Example 3, or Every Night of My Life:

Me: Stella, good night. I love you very much. Sleep well. *puts 99% asleep baby in crib*

Stella: WWWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH! THIS IS TERRIBLE! YOU ARE THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD *stops screaming momentarily to look at me, directly in the eye, with a glare full of hatred and betrayal* HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME. WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (Continue at maximum scream for 20-90 minutes.)

 

 Finally, I think you're understanding the theme:

 

Mr. Chef: Good night Stella, sleep well.

Stella: Okay. Night. *lies down in bed*. Oh, Pops, I hate going to bed, so would it be okay if you just sit on that chair while I twirl my hair and fall asleep? Okay, thanks. It’ll only take ten minuets. And don’t worry, I won’t cry at all. 

 

So, basically, I’m winning at parenting these days. You can congratulate me on my success in the comments. 

 

*You might need to know that this has been almost entirely lifted from an email that I sent to my internet pen pal / mirror me. But I also feel that it is perfectly within the bounds of acceptability for me to plagiarize from myself. So, whatever.

 

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(More) Not Sleeping Through The Night

Because you're dying to hear more about my travails in sleeplessness (it is a topic of infinite interest, after all, and I do write about being tired with such eloquence and nuance), I thought I'd just stop on over on a Sunday night and let you know what is happening in the Expatria, Baby household. We are still not sleeping through the night. But...there is more sleeping than there used to be:

  • Night 1 Stella woke up 11 times
  • Night 2 Stella woke up 3 times
  • There were no tears (except at bedtime). There are always tears at bedtime
  • I slept for 8 hours straight
  • Mr. Chef did not
  • Mr. Chef slept in the baby room
  • I did not
  • I am really effing lucky
  • I heart earplugs. A lot. 
  • Mr. Chef is the baby whisperer. I will hire him out, but he costs many, many dollars. Well, yen. Since the dollar is currently a piss-poor excuse for currency

You are welcome. You may now return to your regularly scheduled Sunday. 

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Married to a Chef

People often ask me what it’s like being married to a chef. They want to know, who cooks at home? Do you eat foie gras all the time? How do you stay so thin? 

Well, people of teh internets, let me tell you, being married to a chef is EXACTLY* like you’d picture it: a handsome husband, sophisticated yet casual, with perfectly done hair and a TV-ready smile picks veggies straight from the garden and whips up an enormous feast. You and your friends gather round the table as he serves dish after dish of delicious food as he talks about his love for the ingredient, his inspiration, blah blah blah food snobbery blah.  

{*By this I mean exactly the opposite.} 

  Married to a Chef

No, no, friends. Being married to a chef is not like living in the Food Network. Your chef husband likely does not have a back yard herb garden. He does not sit outside on a tomato crate preparing a salad. Nor does he have a half-turn-to-the-camra-pause-and-then-smile like Rocco DiSpirito. A real chef is far too cool for that kind of bullshit. 

A real chef is hardly the tooth-sparkly-smile charmer of TV cooking personalities. He’s too busy making bathroom jokes, listening to punk rock and trying to out-crass the next guy to give a crap about perfect hair, Prada shoes, or social climbing. 

First of all, a real chef works all the time. If you have the good fortune of being married to a chef, you will see him for exactly five minutes per day. Weekends? Working. Evenings? Working. Holidays? Working. Christmas? Working like a son of a gun.

 A real chef will likely not cook you dinner. After a long day in the kitchen, the last thing he wants to see is a chef’s knife and sauté pan. And if he does venture in to the kitchen on his day off, an elaborate four-course meal is not in your future. Think pizza. Lasagna. One pot meals. 

And forget any ideas of going out for fancy dinners. Valentines day in a restaurant  with a chef will never ever ever happen. If you DO manage to get your chef husband to take you out, sparkling dinner conversation will consist of the following topics: the food is shit; he’s a better cook than this clown behind the stove; the menu is crap; the prices are ridiculous; and the service is incompetent; Shit. Crap. Crap. Crap.

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There are certain advantages though: an uncommon piece of cheese might be brought home as a way to say ‘happy Thursday’; a delicious dinner scrapped together from an almost empty fridge; a sandwich, beautifully prepared, the perfect antidote to a particularly difficult nap-time scream-a-thon. 

 

Being married to a chef  is often a party; you’ll stay out late. Together, you’ll meet a dude who’s just back from doing time in a Chinese jail, and the three of you will drink Serbian moonshine until five AM. You’ll laugh all night long. Inappropriate lolz, perhaps, but hearty, chefy lolz none-the-less. 

 

But is not all fun and games. Chefs are amongst the hardest working people you’ll ever meet.  A real chef will come home long after you and the kids are tucked in tight, wash all the dinner dishes, leave the kitchen cleaner than you could ever manage, and never complain about your burnt pasta sauce. He’s just happy he didn’t have to cook. 

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And then there’s this. A chef is a leader. A brigade of young, slightly off kilter cooks look to him for guidance. It is up to the chef to see the potential in people; to know when to push, when to hold back. He can read people. He looks at his team and intuit that what is needed to lift their spirits is an epic night out, or maybe a simple family meal before service. A chef is patient beyond measure, having seen it all in his years behind the pass. The most monumental of tantrums roll right off his back; he’s seen it all, done it all, and the most screaming unreasonable demand from the service staff fail to rankle him. He keeps his cool, gets the food on the plate, solves the smoked salmon crisis, and grows an extra arm to compensate for the cold kitchen guy who didn’t show up for his shift.

 

Yes, the hours suck, you’ll hear way to many off colour jokes, you’ll never really truly enjoy a fancy meal again, but being married to a chef is pretty great. You’ll learn how to properly salt your pasta water. And you’ll find the best father for your kids anyone could ever ask for.

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Ninety-Two Kilograms

I have been living this nomadic life since I was 16 years old. And although I love traveling, I am not much good at it. I can not read a map to save my life, I STILL have not learned the difference between left and right, I never wear 80% of the clothing I pack, and I have gotten lost in my own home-town, only to be re-oriented my Mr. Chef, who had never even visited that part of the country before.

But, there is one thing that I am particularly adept at: packing a suitcase so that it weighs exactly twenty-three kilos. I have an uncanny ability when on vacation to acquire enough stuff so that upon return each suitcase weighs exactly the allowable limit. An important skill. I know you're jealous.

Whatever, this IS totally an important skill in an expat's arsenal; you see, one of the most important facets of the home-leave ritual is shopping for all the lovely things that are unavailable and / or eye-gougingly expensive in one's host country.

So, you might be wondering what exactly it is that I bring back from the Promised Land (Target, I love you.) Here, let me show you:

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New toys for Stella because I like things that are not plastic (ignore that phone; it was a pure nostalgia purchase) and don't go blip-blip-blip-bzzzzz-piew-piew-bommm-bommm etc. And nice toys are ridiculously expensive in Japan.

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Also ridiculously expensive in Japan: children's clothes that are not ugly. So, I hit those sales HARD and buy up all of Stella's next season duds. I scored some amazing deals c/o Tea Collection and Polarn O. Pyret and Baby Gap. Because if there is one thing I will rarely do, it is pay full price for kids clothes. I want my darling to look darling. But I also want to be able to eat as well.

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Stainless steal food containers. Because I have an obsession. Eff you, plastic! EFFFFF YOOOOU! And they are not available here, far as I can tell.

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A medicine cabinet reup. I'm actually not really a big drugs person, though I have been known to throw back an Advil or billion, but it sure is nice to have familiar sickie products on hand just in case. Medications are strictly regulated in Japan (for example, the pill was only legalized in Japan in 1999), so (illegally) hand carrying in meds is totally the way to go. And seriously, who wants to decipher dosage info in Japanese when delirious with fever anyway?

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Tastes of home. Chia seeds. Nutritional yeast. (Home must taste pretty gross.) Also, yummy treats for my personal chef. Because nothing says "I love you" like speciality mustard.

 

Oh, and other things that I forgot to add to this picture essay: SHOES (I am size ginormous in Japan); a hair dryer (after two years, I decided it was time to buy one); and crib mattress (don't ask. Also don't ask how I got it into a suitcase.) 

 What do you bring with you after at trip home?

A special thank you to Megan at SortaCrunchy for the idea for this post. 

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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. 

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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! 

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Five Years.

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Yesterday evening as I was feeding Stella dinner and Mr. Chef was puttering in the kitchen, I had a sudden moment of clarity and I blurted out "Oh, shit! Tomorrow is our anniversary!" Our five year wedding anniversary. He remembered and I did not. He, who hates  bullshit sentimental celebrations, remembered, and I'm sure has something up his sleeve, and I have nothing. 

Except that I have this blog. Which was his idea to start in the first place.

 

So, I'll use this blog as a platform to tell everyone I know that on this day, five years ago, I married my best friend. And I am so happy that I did.

***

Mr. Chef and I like to joke and tell people that we got married for the visa. 

In May 2006 we were about to move to China and a wedding was the best way for me to get a visa and follow Mr. Chef to our new life across the ocean. It was a whirlwind: we had ten days to prepare; my parents and auntie flew over to Switzerland to be at the wedding, not knowing when or even if the wedding would be; there were hoops to jump through; papers to get; impossible bureaucratic situations to climb out of. It wasn't how I'd envisioned my wedding to be, but we made it happen. And we managed. We drank Champagne in a chateau by the lake with our families and it was beautiful. 

Bureaucracy may have dictated the timing of our wedding, but we got married because we saw our future together. Adventures awaited us. New countries lay ahead to be discovered. New jobs, unexpected challenges, friends we hadn't met yet, future babies. And we couldn't see any of that without eachother. 

***

Since I've known Mr. Chef, we've lived on three continents, in four countries, and five different cities. We've made new friends, left old ones behind, changed jobs, moved apartments, had no money, tested our stress thresholds. Together we've drank good wine, eaten some amazing meals, rode bikes through the Italian countryside, roasted sausages by a mountain stream, set off fireworks on Chinese New Year and have had more times of our life than we're entitled to. We've snapped at each other. Argued. Given each other the silent treatment. Cried. And always said I'm sorry. We've learned about life and about growing up. We adopted two Chinese cats, nursed one through a major injury, then had a baby in a country where we don't speak the language. With him, I've grown from carefree and careless kid to into the person I am today.

So much has changed in these past five years, but there is one constant. He has always been my biggest supporter. He believes in me. He holds me up. He challenges me, encourages me, and inspires me to be a better person.

 

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This life of constant flux is not always easy. The skies aren't always blue and the way not always clear. But it is thrilling and wonderful. And this man, this girl, and this life we've made together is really all I've ever wanted.  

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Free Dairy! Dairy Free Ice Cream!

Pregnancy and childbearing take a toll on a woman's body. This we all know. Giving life means getting repaid in extra pounds, stretch marks, and mom boobs. But of the many gifts my girl has given me, a superbad case of lactose intolerance has got to be the worst. I mean I'm married to a chef!  A Swiss Chef! Cheese! Fondue! Raclette! Chocolate! Oh my gawd, the PAIN!!!!

Soon after Stella was born, maybe six or eight weeks in, we clued in to the fact that she had a dairy allergy. So, as a breastfeeding mother, I diligently gave up milk, youghurt, cheese, and much to my dismay, ice cream. (I also gave up soy. And nuts. And a million things. This is apropos of nothing, I'm just telling you so you'll know how devoted I am to my baby, and be all like, wow, she's really an awesome mum.) We soon discovered that Stella was super sensitive to any trace amounts of dairy at all, which meant giving up most processed and / or convenience foods. So, for about eight months, I had no exposure to dairy proteins whatsoever. 

Then a couple of months ago, in a fit of cheesy yearning, I ate a small sliver of cheese, and within forty-five minutes was in the throes of one of THE MOST barfy nights of my life. And thus, I now face the prospect of being forever dairy-free. Oh god. 

Anyway, like I was saying, ice cream was like the most painful dairy product to part with. But, MR. CHEF TO THE RESCUE! He ordered a little ice cream maker from Amazon. Nothing elaborate. Just a little something like this. And now dairy-free ice cream is MIIIIIIIIINNNNNNE!

Here's how we do it:

Improvisational Diary-Free Coconut Ice Cream For Nursing Mothers and And Anyone Who Loves Ice Cream But Can't Eat Fun Stuff. 

Ingredients

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • chopped fruit - about 1.5 cups, maybe more maybe less
  • a few squeezes of honey to taste
  • Some additional flavourings (i.e. cardamom, cinnamon, or perhaps vanilla)

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan, heat until fruit is soft. Blend with a immersion blender until concoction is the consistency of a smoothie.

Pour everything into the ice cream maker that was chillin in the freezer. Then, and this we learned the hard way, start cranking immediately. It's done when it looks done. After 5 or 10 minutes. 

I'm partial to coconut milk + a little rice milk + mangoes + cardamom.

Also delicious is coconut milk + cocoa powder (2 or 3 tablespoons) + shredded coconut.

Some other ideas:

  • Coconut milk + banana + 70 % chocolate pieces.
  • Coconut milk + strawberries.
  • Coconut milk + toasted coconut + rum.
  • Coconut milk + pineapple.
  • Coconut milk + lychee.
  • Coconut milk + vanilla bean + caramelized banana.

 

I think you get the idea: coconut + tropical fruit = delicious.

 

Oh, and I TOTALLY thought of all of these ideas by myself, I did NOT consult a professional chef. Nope. I totally did not. (Um, okay, I did. This whole post was Mr. Chef's idea.)

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Small Style, Mothers Day Style

One of the great things about living in Asia is living IN THE FUTURE. Which means that since it's Thursday, and therefore Small Style day, I can totally put off writing my Small Style post till like my bedtime, and STILL have it ready for post in the North American morning and look like a total keener. Which is great. Because I've also put off everything on my list, and tonight is the one night when Mr. Chef is home early, and I have a zillion emails to send, invitations to design, two packages to put together, a BIRTHDAY PARTY TO PLAN for a certain ALMOST ONE YEAR OLD and comments to leave, and photos to edit, and a video to make and seventeen gazillion organisational projects to finish and OH MAH GAWD I AM SO FAR UP THE CREEK.

 

Anyway. On with more important business. Cuuuuuuuteness, ahoy! 

So, YOU GUYS, this was my first Mother's Day and it was perfect in every way. Mr. Chef outdid himself, the weather was beautiful and we had a lovely outing to the park. And took some pictures. Here. Have a look:

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Ugg. These pictures look muddy and gross. But I have no time to fix the white balance or whateverthehell I should do to make them look better. Still the baby is cute, no

 

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Normally I write a witty and / or sarcastic caption. Here, imagine I've just written one: _______.

 

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Casually unposed pose. Or whatever. 

So anyway. Mother's Day was wonderful. And Stella looked cute. She wore clothes.

 

  • Onsie: Baby Gap
  • Dress: Kate Quinn Organics (scored for 70 % off at last winter in a feat of bargain hunting awesomeness because I am good at bargains and shopping and also at procrastinating.) 
  • Shoes: ELK 

Well, I'm off to attack all those things on my to do list*, but before I do, I'm heading over to Mama Loves Papa. And you should too.  

 

*Where "Doing things on my to-do list" = aimlessly tooling around on the internet stressing about how much I have to do and then maybe watching two episodes of 30 Rock. 

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So, It Was Mother's Day, Like Four Days Ago, Just In Case You Missed It

Mr. Chef and I have polar opposite views when it comes to hallmark moments. I believe in feeling sentimental, romantic, nostalgic, joyous or festive, whenever the hell the greeting card companies tell me to. He, on the other hand, has suffered a thousand too many long hours in over busy and understaffed kitchens at the hands of said greeting card companies, slaving away in the name of some fake, made up holiday, feeding the industrial stationary complex. So, he's a tad bitter, let's say.

But, Mr. Chef brought it this year. And he knocked it out of the park. A sleep in; coffee and iPad in bed; my favorite breakfast; a beautiful gift that came in a little blue box; a lovely card with a heartfelt message and a gift for someone who really needs it. Then a day at the park. A trip downtown. And a delicious dinner. Perfection. 

Mr. Chef doesn't believe in Mother's Day. He doesn't even particularly like it. But he did it all to make me happy. He does everything to make me happy. And that's why I am the luckiest. 

 

IMG_5534 - Version 2

Another reason why I am the luckiest? THIS LITTLE GIRL.

Mother's Day is an outward acknowledgment of all the grunt work, all the energy both physical, mental, and emotional that goes into raising children.  For this baby I stay up all night. For this baby I get covered in shit. Many many times. For this baby, I reach out with my bare hands to catch the vomit that is about to spew forth because I know her so well that I can just tell when she's going to barf. For this baby I constantly think about the millions of things I should be doing to ensure optimal development and growth, hatch plans plans of baby enrichment, and then inevitably feel guilty for not doing enough.

But for this baby I would do anything. Because of that smile. Because of the funny way she scrunches up her nose and makes sniffing sounds. Because those brown eyes are her father's. Because she is so determined. Because she giggles when we ride our bike. Because I'm lucky to be her mum.

Maybe Mr. Chef is right and we don't really need a special day to celebrate being a mother. Despite the barf and the poop and the sleepless nights and the worry and the things that are hard I don't even know about yet, it is a pretty amazing gig.

 

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Mama's got a new ride

So, I wanted to blog about Mother's Day and regale you with tails of sleeping in and breakfast in bed and superawesomeamazingspecialwonderful presents, and make you all jealous of my wonderful husband. And TRUST ME, such a post is coming, because the awesomeness of Mr. Chef knows no bounds. But we have bigger fish to fry today. Because... 

Stella and I got a new set of wheels! Unfortunately, the bad weather prevented us from riding with the top down and the wind in our hair, belting out Bon Jovi at the top of our lungs. But don't you worry, our moment will come. 

I am truly beside myself with excitement. A whole new world of freedom awaits us. No longer will we face a Sophie's Choice when, wracked with conflict, perplexity, and guilt, we are forced to decide between heading North to the shop that sells rosemary and East to the one that sells cheap red wine. Now, we just mount our trusty steed, and we're off. Both errands completly within our reach!

Internet, I give you Red Beauty!

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She's a real beaut

I was literally brimming with exhilarating anticipation all night waiting till I could pick up The Beauty, and I was not about to let this morning's rain dampen my spirits. Seeing a break in the weather, we ditched nap-time and dashed downtown to the bike store where we were to be introduced to our steed. The shop keepers made sure we were all comfortable, then handed over the reins, right before we took a million pictures so that this triumphant day would forever live in our digital memories. Stella and I were just leaving the shop when the heavens started bucketing down. 

Stella and I cycled home, wet shirts slicked to backs, bangs plastered to foreheads, mascara streaming down cheeks, both of us giggling. Wet and coat-less and smiling in the warm rain. We didn't mind one bit. 

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I swear to Our Lady of Ghisallo, she was super excited about the bike. 

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No, really, she was excited. She's just camera shy, OKAY!


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Grateful

Parenting is a two-person job. Regardless of whether that second person is your spouse, your co-parent, your nanny, a dear friend, or your mother, there are occasions when being good parent means bowing out for a little while.

Like, for example, last night. Around 3:30 AM, up again with an eleven-month-old screaming baby who STILL won't sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time, I found myself close to the edge. Seething. Other babies sleep, why won't you. I am exhausted. We are not doing this any more. Get back in your crib. (Hissed to a crying baby, punishment in my heart. Love fast asleep.)

Time to tap out.

On nights like these, I am reminded how grateful I am to have a partner like Mr. Chef. He said, "go sleep in the other room. Get some rest." He comes home from work, tired, and cleans up my disaster of a kitchen. And doesn't complain. He calls me, between meetings, and asks to speak to Stella.  He holds us up when we need him to. 

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What? She learned it on the playground.

Yesterday* was one of those days where my greatest accomplishment was NOT hurtling myself into oncoming traffic. Not in an OMG-I-worry-for-her-mental-health kind of way; more in a Mah-gawd-a-hip-fracture-administered-by-a-speeding-Prius-would-be-less-annoying-than-this-crying-HULKSMASH! kind of way. I mean, no biggie. We all have these kinds of days. 

Determined to conquer these petty annoyances, I awoke today with a renewed sense of optimism, armed with a plan and schedule. And things were going great. Until Stella woke from her nap, and I was all…hmm, what's that smell.

No matter, I thought, this shitastrophy** will only set us 15 minutes behind schedule. I'll take this in stride.

On the way back to the bedroom, newly clean baby perched on hip, I thought to myself, hmmmm…my right side seems to be getting warmer all of a sudden. And damper. Oh…efff. 

Not to be deterred, I set about cleaning up the messes. And in the interest of proper hygiene (the merits of which have been preached endlessly by Mr. Chef)*** I reached for the soap to wash my hands. At which point it shot out of my grasp and landed in the kitty litter, rolled around a bit, just so it could develop a nice crust of urine-soaked crystals and poo-poo flecks.  This was followed immediately by a resounding chorus of "EFFFFF!" 

Now, with the bodily fluids of two mammals on my hands, I quickly threw the soap into the garbage.*** Eff eff eff eff! Got the baby dressed, and set out for the grocery store. In the rain.

The only lesson I can glean from the above episode is that there is a real possibility that Stella's first utterance will sound something like this: "EFFFFF!"  Between now and then, I'll have to come up with a plausible (and appropriate) explanation for the meaning of that sound. 

 

---

 

*Dates have been changed for dramatic effect. Yesterday really means Sunday. You see, I intended to blog yesterday. But I figure that most of you reading this are in North America, and so it's technically still yesterday over there, and I live in the future, so I can totally get away with it.

 

**Again, Kate, the English language thanks you. 

 

***I recounted this hilarious story to Mr. Chef last night (real last night) and it went something like this:

 

Me: Oh, if you're wondering, there's a reason why there is no soap.

Mr. Chef: It fell into the kitty litter?

Me: How did you know?

Mr. Chef: Oh, that's happened like three times. This week. 

Me: EWWWWW.

Mr. Chef: What? Its soap. It's self-cleaning. 

 

The end. 

 

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Thirty-Three

We celebrated this handsome devil's birthday over the weekend:

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Pancakes and bacon for breakfast - cooked by Mr. Chef while I slept in (?!) followed by family wanderings around the city.

Stella was making some major strides (!) in the mobility department. 

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Of course she is wearing a cute dress! One cannot celebrate a birthday without a cute dress!

 

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 Gratuitous cute baby picture 

 

Striploin roast for dinner. I offered to cook. Mr. Chef said, "No, I don't mind."

"Its your birthday. I'll cook."

"No really, I'll do it. You made the cake."

"I can't let you cook dinner on your birthday," I said. 

"I insist. I'll do it. I want to."

Well, I guess someone wanted to ensure that we eat well on his birthday. 

 

The boyz were happy about that decision - more treats for them.

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IMG_4497 Forbidden nomz! 

At least there was cake - my contribution to the birthday celebrations. Chocolate bean cake. Which is delicious. And gluten free. And dairy free. And so heathy you can eat it for breakfast. I should know.

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Healthy nomz. 

 

It was a wonderful day celebrating a wonderful man. 


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I'm a Lucky Lady

Last night Mr. Chef went out for a few (million) beers with The German Contingent. The world has been a pretty stressful place for him lately, and so he needed to blow off some steam. He came home late, the baby and I fast asleep, and stumbled into bed.

The night soon progressed along its usual course with the baby waking up hourly and insisting on marathon feeding sessions. At some point in the early morning, long before the sun could extend its rays into our morning bedroom, Mr. Chef got up, took the fussy baby with him, and went out into the living room. His gift to me: two hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep.  

Did I mention that he'd been out late? With Germans? Drinking beer? Headache-inducing beer? And that he had a 14-hour workday ahead of him?

If that's not love, then I don't know what is.

 

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