When I wasn’t looking…

Baobao has been fairly patient with me, who had been mostly dazed from around the clock nursing and getting over digestive problems that lasted three eternal weeks. The poor kid had to figure out ways to keep herself entertained and occupied during my recovery, because mommy barely managed to fix meals and snacks and not much else.

Guilt was an understatement while my body healed, but I refused to let rules slide or make promises to placate the toddler. So there were tense moments of power struggle, and maybe it was unfair to put a three-year-old in that situation. I don’t know, my secret hope was that children’s innate resilience would somehow carry Baobao through and she would, at the end, forgive my many shortcomings.

I could hear the anxiety in Baobao’s voice when she watched me groan in pain and close my eyes from exhaustion, “Mommy, are you going to sleep?” I knew the toddler was anxious about the prospect of being left alone to play, about losing THE person to talk to or to interact with, but gosh I was not functioning at all.

So Baobao sought amusement around the house and created. She made up new games with existing toys, practiced towel folding because she wanted to, and jumped on as many things as she could get away with.

When I wasn’t able to keep tab on the amazing three-year-old, she somehow balanced the chaise cushion between the coffee table and the edge of the chaise, essentially furnishing a hammock of sorts. Then she must have carefully laid the three layers of blankets on the suspended coushion judging by the aligned corners of the blankets. All this exquisite effort so she could take a nap in new comfort, and to experience the unanticipated fall when she woke up from her nap.

When I wasn’t looking, my child grew up without me.

Local outings

Back in the days when I just had Baobao in tow, the two of us managed some exploration of local offerings in between my interpreting gigs and errands. Since I’ve started logging Baobao’s “homeschool” activities after the birth of Erbao, I decided to list the “field trips” we have gone for reference. What I want to remind myself with this list is that any place can be a learning experience, as long as one’s senses and heart are receptive.

My rule of thumb with any outings with Baobao is to follow directions and have fun. The directions I might give are mostly related to safety and getting along with others. Since I speak Mandarin exclusively to Baobao even when we are out and about, we do attract some curious glances. The beauty of raising a bilingual child, especially when we are out in public, is that the child quickly adjusts to use the correct language with whichever audience she interacts with. Another reason that causes me to interfere Baobao’s play is to explain to other children that Baobao is a lot younger than many of them even though Baobao is as tall as a four or five-year-old. I expect that in time Baobao will possess enough language to advocate for herself more effectively.

We’ve only gone to the aquarium once and I was unimpressed by the crowded and limited display; however, Baobao enjoyed herself just fine. Note for future visit: Preview books about aquatic life and discuss issues surrounding so-called conservation efforts.

絲婚紀念

維繫婚姻真的不簡單。四年的磨合,感覺好像還沒到位。每天像修行一樣,敲鐘唸經,光保持整潔就夠忙了(畢竟兩個孩子的東西有夠可觀)。我那拘謹的老公,也許是擔心家計,似乎忘了婚後才更需要戀愛。

看著他當初求婚時依據我的喜好而精心選的古董鑽戒,很想念那時的我們。

Postpartum gratitudes

Erbao arrived in a rush two weeks ago, and I was beyond surprise to have birthed him in three consecutive contractions instead of the by-the-book labor with Baobao. The midwives missed the delivery by minutes, so J had the unique claim of delivering his son. I think J should add that to the list of skills on his resume, no?

Being cooped up for postpartum remaining/confinement poses some specific challenges with my high strung mother and the unpredictable three-year-old. So I’m extra grateful during this time for any patience any of us can muster for the sake of my recovery and sanity.

I am grateful for the relatives and friends who’ve extended their excitement and practical help from dropping off food to diapers. I am thankful for those interested in the birth story, because through recalling the event I am better equipped to cope with the physical trauma associated with this particular birth.

A couple of months prior to Erbao’s birth, I moved Baobao to her own room with a second twin bed in anticipation of the disrupted sleep with a newborn. The second twin bed, or “Baby’s Bed” as Baobao called it, allowed me and my big belly to keep Baobao company in her new digs so her occasional night terror or bathroom trips would be tended to. The extra bed in Baobao’s room also provided a dark and quiet place for J to sleep while I take care of myself and Erbao during postpartum confinement (and possibly beyond until Erbao is sleep trained). I’m grateful for the existence of this modest twin bed and the options it provides so the maximum number of the household can have a proper night of sleep and normal functioning during the day.

Welcome to your life, Erbao.

Baby weight, still?!

~ March 2016 ~

Well…yes! Baobao is almost two-and-half-years-old (wow), and the simple explanation for the 15lbs baby weight is that I live a mostly sedentary lifestyle with no set schedule for workout or sleep. I suppose chasing after the toddler and standing around in the kitchen for hours cooking/cleaning amount to some caloric loss, but at the end of the day I really just want to curl up with a book and a fuzzy blanket.

Now that we’ve made it through the holidays (including lunar new year), I feel ready to pay more attention to enjoying delicious food in reasonable portion at a reasonable hour. I couldn’t bear the thought of “portion control”, as unpleasant an idea as postpartum girdle, but I can draw daily inspiration from the little one, who:

  • Quits eating when satisfied, never mind the leftover
  • Knows and asks for what she wants to eat/drink
  • Tests her motor skills and physical strength in a variety of ways, all the time

There may be lack of motivation on my part to be more consistent on paying attention to how my pants fit, instead I made the closet purge acknowledging the permanent changes my body will carry. This may not be the body I will have for the remainder of life, but it’s the body I have now to be the wife, the mother (As Baobao would ask J, “Where is THE mommy?”), and the working professional.

~ September 2016 ~

On Baobao’s 2.5 birthday, we discovered that we were pregnant with Erbao using the trusty pregnancy test kit from dollar store (a bit of inside joke from J). We celebrated the news (or calmed our nerves depending on whom you ask) with some Mexican food at a local mom-and-pop restaurant.

So technically, I should carry on with carrying that baby weight for a while longer ^_^

The first half of this pregnancy was rather unpleasant compared to the first pregnancy, though one might argue that I really had it easy with Baobao with minimal discomfort except for fatigue. With Erbao (or Monkey as his Chinese zodiac sign), I lost some weight from nausea, headaches and poor appetite. My car was (and still is) stocked with Milton’s crackers for those unpredictable queasiness, and the only fluid I tolerated was lemon water.

Now I’m well into third trimester, Erbao finally dropped a bit so his bum is not pressing on my diaphragm as it did throughout the pregnancy. I don’t think I ever paid this much attention to my breathing in my life!

 

The sky, come sleep

Baobao is turning 3 in a month, and sometimes I can’t seem to wrap my head around the impending milestone. Nor could J, for that matter, as he directs his “accusation” at Baobao, “Where is my baby?!”

There are plenty of days when wrecking my brain to entertain and engage a toddler seem to inspire the best (and worst) in me. With Erbao on his way (now at 26 weeks), I basically run out of battery by late afternoon and have zero tolerance for toddler shenanigans. I pray for a smooth transition to bedtime with no drama or odd requests (i.e. arrangement of blanket), so there may be just a chance for J and I to have an adult conversation or for me to make some progress on reading (currently: Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal, a book club selection of Nampa Library).

I have intentionally avoided making reading part of the bedtime routine because we’ve most likely done that some time during the day. On the days when I have several interpreting gigs, my voice is pretty shut by the evening. Realistically, all I can mentally handle as a bedtime routine is milk, flossing, tooth brushing, potty, and tucking in. Ideally, the entire sequence is executed without protest, threat, cajoling, or raised voice. When I lose my cool at any point of implementing the routine, I do try to remind myself that mastering bedtime routine is a learning process and can be challenging for a toddler of Baobao’s age.

Tonight we only had a slight detour from the bedtime routine, that all three of us actually hung out in the big bed for about 10 minutes. I was too tired to order Baobao to get back to her own bed, plus Baobao somehow managed to persuade J to join us instead of a quick kiss good night and getting back to whatever he was doing. I sneaked in some tickling while Baobao chatted up her father, and at one point Baobao declared in her own words the poetic, English equivalent of 太陽下山了 (literal translation: the sun has come down the mountain/the sun has set).

And she wrapped up the bedtime routine by asking me to accompany her to her last visit to the loo and to tuck her in her own bed.

Where has my baby gone?!

May love prevail

I consider myself to be old-fashioned in many ways; I appreciate good grammar and good manners, I love the dizzy twirl of Viennese waltz, and I believe in human capacity for unconditional love. Unconditional love between parents and children, and the kind of unconditional love that carries two people to their last days on this earth. Seeing old couples shuffle gingerly through the grocery aisles or just sit side-by-side holding hands at the doctor’s office used to make me yearn, almost achingly, for a love to grow old with.

There has been a lot of noise surrounding the supreme court decision on same-sex marriage, and I see some “loud” reactions from my own Facebook contacts whom I consider to be real-life friends with beautiful talents of their own. People passionately express their opinions through words, rainbow overlay on their profile photos, and quotes of others. I am no expert in world religions and their interpretation of same-sex relationships, but I naively wish religions are about love/peace/enlightenment for all. My take of the debate is more practical, something in the vein that same-sex couples should be able to be at each other’s deathbed in the hospital and advocate for each other like any other committed heterosexual couples.

How much self-reflection are we doing when we voice an opinion? Is that thought even authentically our own or does it come from hearsay? Is the opinion built on real life experience or someone else’s experience? I had the good fortune of spending some time with same-sex couples who work incredibly hard to raise their adoptive children from China, and their commitment to each other and the family put many heterosexual relationships I knew to shame. I don’t see how any of us can claim the moral high ground that the love in heterosexual relationships is somehow superior or more real than the love in same-sex relationships.

Recently read: Bringing up bébé by Pamela Druckerman

Since Baobao came into my life, my reading changed from something in the vein of Sue Grafton’s alphabet series to board books containing animals dancing in the field or talking to one another. Like many parents, J and I suffered through chronic sleep deprivation (aggravated by my night shift working as a telephone interpreter) as our baby girl eventually settled for a proper night of sleep around one-year-old (my memory is fussy on this and I’m too lazy to look back at my calendar scribbles). Needless to say, I could not spare the bandwidth to read anything that resembled leisure reading. In retrospect, especially after reading Druckerman’s book on her observations of French parenting, I could have:

  1. Given Baobao a chance to work through whatever was bothering her at night instead of jumping at every whimper.
  2. Made more effort on maintaining our Thursday date nights.
  3. Dedicated time for self-care. Now that Baobao is 1Y9M we typically spend part of Sundays doing nails, and I’d treat myself to some TLC like a rejuvenating mask. Thinking back on those early days of motherhood, I wonder why I did not realize what a wreck my appearance was.
  4. Asked J to bring ready meals home. I don’t know if it was due to fatigue, stress of being a new parent, or nursing, I felt hungry all the time. I probably did more emotional eating than my body needed to function, and I’m a little afraid to find out my current weight.
  5. Got a professional bra fitting. This is something I still need to do now that Baobao has weaned herself for over 6 months. I am just getting reaquainted with this body and trying to dress it in a way that I can handle the messy toddler and professional appointments.

The isolation of early motherhood was perhaps necessary so I could learn about Baoabo to the best of my ability and vice versa. Nursing was a lot harder than I imagined even though my supply was decent. Druckerman’s book provided interesting perspectives that were not only entertaining but had the potential to help preserve some shut eye for me. This is a book perfect for would-be parents, for I wish I had come across it before hitting the ground running madly as I thought I ought to.

“Something got lost in translation…I don’t know”

As an interpreter in a relatively small Chinese community, it’s no surprise that I cross paths with the same clients at multiple doctor’s appointments or throughout a court proceeding. Interpreting is by nature a lonely business, and the worst part of the work is not the technical difficulty, or the complexity or length of content. In my experience, the worst part has to be the disrespect from either the English speaker or the Chinese speaker out of lack of understanding of what a professional interpreter provides in a session.

I recently heard a dismissive remark from a renowned specialist who was offended and probably felt exasperated by the choice the patient had made regarding the treatment over the past few years. The patient had conveyed that there was transportation issue to keep up with follow up appointments, and that the result of initial treatment was not well understood. Now the patient’s condition has worsened, the doctor made another attempt to convince the patient to consider another round of treatment.

Here lies the challenge. The doctor made an impassioned plea, and I interpreted the content faithfully to the patient. The patient expressed appreciation to the doctor but wished to take some time to think it over. The doctor seemed amazed and (dare I say) hurt, then threw “something got lost in translation…I don’t know” my way.

I calmed myself with some breathing (a luxury, really) because the doctor had already interrupted/cut short my rendition several times throughout the brief session. Bottom line this entire session had been he said/she said instead of communication, because the doctor chose to (1) not listen to what the patient had to say, (2) insist and repeat his frustration over the patient’s “disappearance”, (3) transfer his anger to the interpreter because the interpreter did not successfully convince the patient therefore did not do her job?!?!?!

Never mind my feeling about this experience. Where is the respect for the patient in all this?

Fashion indulgence

Every so often, I am taken by the attention to detail and functionality of a handbag that I must welcome it to my everyday life.

For the past two years or so, I have been carrying a Nine West Ava Tote in turquoise with punch-out weave-like pattern. There is no visible logo on the exterior, just the perfect splash of color to a typically subdued interpreter work outfit or a bland mommy running-errands look. The tote stands well on its own, and there is minimal maintenance. Did I mention there is enough compartments to accommodate items for me and for Baobao (my baby going on a sassy toddler) on a morning outing? Truly, one couldn’t ask for a better style partner…

…until the straps start to fray with years of loyal service.

I dreaded the thought of hitting the store, Baobao in tow, sorting through purses and satchels, passing the incomprehensible lot of signature handbags smothered in logos.

Just my luck that I found another Ava Tote in my VERY limited browsing time as Baobao grew restless for a bottle, this pale rose version reminds me of my wedding gown with its subtle florals. When I tried the tote on, it felt like I was carrying a spring bouquet.

There is something ceremonial about transferring one’s worldly possessions to a new handbag, a new beginning of sorts. I am so ready for it, whatever it may be.