Abundance

Goodbye 2018, hello 2019

First, let me pinch myself. Have I been a married woman for six years already? Do I really have a sassy 5Y3M girl plus a climbing 2Y1M boy on my hand to deal with everyday?

Ouch. It’s quite real!

As I contemplate where we are with Baobao’s homeschooling, I’m reminded of the positive energy teaching gave me in a former life. Even though parenting is much, much harder, I’m grateful that I can transfer some of the most effective techniques to my interaction with Baobao in our homeschool. The bilingual (or multilingual) homeschooling community is small locally, but social media offers plenty of channels to learn from parents around the globe. On the flip side, we now live in an area with robust homeschool resources and 2018 was a fairly active year in bonding with the local homeschool families for friendship and support.

I also got back to on-site interpreting after a year of trying to get Erbao to self-sooth and to sleep through the night as I couldn’t think/interpret due to chronic sleep-deprivation and lack of quality rest. Erbao is a great kid in many ways (for example he is completely potty trained during the day), but sleep is something that we still have work to do. Getting back to interpreting/translating is in a way to recharge my spirit so I can get back to mothering with fresh eyes. The nature of legal/medical/business and industry interpreting is never routine, but I suspect that my brain gets a lovely break by being able to communicate with reasonable adults.

As a family, we managed one camping trip and I more or less survived the experience (it was not fun having to nurse in sub-freezing temperature at night). We played in pristine lake waters, got plenty dusty from the camp grounds, and I think we can do better in 2019 (time to invest in a family tent).

For 2019, I want to get back to taking care of myself in terms of making time to write, to sketch, and to do yoga. I want to learn some new recipes instead of just survival cooking. I want to take the kids to explore new places and try new experiences, while getting more consistent in our rhythm at home now the kids are capable of doing quite a bit.

Keeping the goals and objectives modest and real, and we will sure have room for surprises and maybe even more fun 🙂 2019, here we go!

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Three months of K

Baobao turned five back in September and we celebrated the occasion with a park play date with family and friends. Tea was served in the cool autumn air, along with homemade cookies, lemon yogurt cake decorated with whipped cream and peaches from our orchard. We also served Concord and Riesling grapes from our vines, though the kids were more preoccupied with play and painting ceramic creatures or making foam picture frames.

It was also the official start of Baobao’s homeschooling in Grade K, time for me to get serious with documenting her progress in this grande experiment.

I have had to remind myself that Baobao’s love for learning is of the utmost priority in this journey, but there were certainly days that I felt like I wasn’t getting through anyone. The luxury of homeschooling Baobao (plus tag along Erbao) is another reminder that is worth repeating as J endures the grind of daily commute and work responsibilities.

It really takes a village to raise a child.

Three months in, and hopefully many more years out, here is what we have done so far:

  • Established a general expectation that after waking up in the morning/dressing oneself/finishing breakfast, we homeschool
  • At the minimum, we complete practices in languages (English letters/sounds and Chinese character recognition) and math (counting to 100 in both English and Mandarin) on a daily basis
  • We listen/watch/discuss two issues of children’s science magazines 新小小牛頓幼兒版 every week and plenty of free play with encouragement of closer observation of the immediate environment
  • We are also learning about the continents and incorporating discussions of biology, geology, and climate

In general, I am more concerned about Baobao learning to be considerate of others and understanding that her choice(s) lead to consequence(s). She is becoming more aware of her own power of influence but the challenge is to channel that energy in a positive way instead of being handicapped by her other traits such as carelessness.

Meanwhile, Erbao is steadily gaining on his older sister with his own explosion of vocabulary and logical reasoning.

Shoot, I feel like I’m already behind with Baobao and now Erbao is wanting to fly with his sister?!

Baby, it’s time to sleep

Erbao is officially over one-year-old, and we’ve yet to figure out a good sleep arrangement. I’m desperately tired, being woken up several times during the night by wails. I don’t know what to think, really, since Erbao’s crib is literally two steps away from my bed and I already give him tons of attention during the day.

Even though I know Erbao is a different kid from Baobao, my parenting reference point still takes me back to Baobao’s journey to sleep independently. Baobao spent her first days in an heirloom cradle that was so wobbly I moved her out of it as soon as I found an excuse. Then Baobao was in a spacious wooden crib where she hit her face bloody from holding the railing while hopping on the mattress.

I can’t stress how absolutely horrified I was about the cradle and the crib, but I used them out of respect because they were gifts from the mother-in-law.

What ended up working for both Baobao and me was a sleep tent on the floor, providing freedom of movement for Baobao to get in and out of her sleep area and peace of mind for me knowing my baby girl will not fall or hit her body on a hard piece of furniture.

Fast forward to Erbao, who was put in the crib and seemed OK initially except that his feet would get caught in the railing. He also developed the habit of pulling himself up to a standing position when he woke up in the middle of the night. Unlike Baobao, Erbao never quite learned to self sooth with his blanket. Instead, Erbao and I fell back on crying and nursing.

The circumstances of sleep arrangement for the children were quite different considering J was in the same room with Baobao and me because he worked from home and then J moved to another room when he changed job that required significant time for commute. I was alone with Erbao from day one, responding to every whimper and wail, feeling lousy most days from sleep deprivation.

At his 12 month check up, I speculated the many reasons of Erbao’s night wakings (teething, early walker, hunger/thirst, no one else to turn to except for mommy at night) and the doctor kindly suggested moving Erbao to his own room. And that’s what we are doing, letting Erbao sleep alone in Baobao’s room while Baobao sleeps in the master with me. It’s the third night of the new sleep arrangement and I miss being in the same room as Erbao listening to his breathing.

Separation anxiety is a bitch.

給四歲的妳

我的心肝寶貝:

四歲了,最近的妳真是個謎。雖然妳和過去一樣愛漂亮、一樣伶牙俐齒,可是怎麼突然變成一個超級害羞的人呢?

害羞的妳不敢去醫生叔叔那裡做健康檢查,生日當天也不願意和親人合照,讓媽媽有點不知所措。心裡難免有些許的失望,因為我好想和我的心肝寶貝一起好好照張相片。

可是妳現在很會收拾玩具了,這是為自己負責的表現,媽媽為妳拍手!除此之外,妳早上起床後都會和大家道聲早,實在是很窩心的舉動呢,希望妳能維持下去。

妳近期迷上 Anne Marie Pace/LeUyen Pham 創作的 Vampirina 系列故事,媽媽也好愛 Vampirina 學芭蕾的毅力及交朋友的態度。妳是不是也想學舞呢?妳是不是真的會用心持續練習呢?

我知道身為姊姊的妳很想和弟弟一起熱熱鬧鬧地玩,但是媽媽為了安全起見有時得制止妳不知輕重的舉動。這是我們必須一起進步的地方,好嗎?

最愛妳的媽咪

Mothers

Now that I’ve become a mother, it’s even more apparent how little any of us (parents) knows about raising a person. I charge into the day with good intentions and I never know how each intention would turn out. I may have an inkling of what to expect, but the growing brain and body of littles are often at odds with one another (i.e. the brain wants another round of play but the drowsy body just wants to crash) that I find my good intentions sitting on the sideline just observing the open conflict.

This phase, I can only hope, shall pass, too.

My own mother was a superwoman in my eyes for many years being a professional and a duty-bound eldest daughter as well as daughter-in-law. Her strong personality never allowed challenges from me, her only child, and I never dared. These days I sometimes catch myself in the authoritative image of my mom, especially when I feel impatient with Baobao. When mom “advises” me to speak more kindly and warmly to Baobao when I vent over the phone, I think wistfully of the time when mom threatened to disown me if I were to marry my first boyfriend.

How much a mother can get away with once she becomes a grandmother?

My maternal grandmother A-Po grew up in the Japanese-occupied Taiwan and never had the opportunity to attend school. She worked on the farm and raised many of her grandchildren. I have fond memories of being her first grandchild and learning my way around the kitchen and caring for baby cousins by shadowing A-Po. In contrast, my paternal grandmother Nai grew up in a privileged family in Nanjing, China. Nai was well-educated, confident and proud, even though she lost everything during the conflict between communists and nationalists.

Sometimes, being in the moment seems overrated. As I try to get through another day in the trenches of early motherhood, that is, wiping dirty bottoms and calming a tantrum, my sight is set on the phase when reasoning becomes the normal mode of operation.

Monday before 9:30

Change (also replace mattress protector and crib sheet due to accident) and nurse Erbao, check. Feed self (a cup of hot goat milk), check. Sweep, vacuum and steam mop part of the house, check. Force Baobao through the “torture” of mani/pedi plus a poorly done trim over the sink, check.

It’s 9:30 a.m., Monday, and I’m already beat.

I don’t know how other mothers with regular day job and multiple children carry out their weekday morning routines, seriously it has to be the most challenging example of multitasking. On most days, I congratulate myself when the kids and I get through a hot breakfast by 9 a.m. Today J was kind enough to feed Baobao some yogurt since she got up way too early considering when she went to bed the night before. My days, at this point, still revolve around breastfeeding Erbao, so that means getting up two to three times during the night and trying to function on a cloudy mind at the start of the morning.

From time to time, I come across online articles about morning habits of highly effective people; some examples include meditation, good breakfast, some exercise, planning, and reading. All of these habits sound great, really, but I do wonder whether these habits are able to withstand the ever changing infancy and toddler years. I’m not even talking about when a child is ill and how that disrupts the basic routine of the entire household, because just getting everyone properly fed and appropriately dressed is already a feat.

How does your morning look like as a mother?

Baobao’s language development 3Y6M

Baobao is half way through her third year as a creative, spirited child. And boy, has she had a dramatic transition during the last six months:

  • Moved into her own bedroom and slept through the night without company or drama
  • Became a big sister to a baby boy
  • Coped with (and probably still adjusting to) brand new routine due to Daddy’s new work schedule and Mommy’s preoccupation with baby brother
  • Appeared to begin character recognition (for Chinese) as well as blending (for English)

She’s talking back in both Mandarin and English, sometimes even using reasoning in her defense. The other day when I caught her putting something that wasn’t food in her mouth, I reminded her that she was ingesting germs into her belly; Baobao replied nonchalantly that her white blood cells would eat up the germs (Thank you 漢聲小百科). Just tonight J asked Baobao why she “sanded” the branches, and she said because she likes it.

She demands to be read to by both Daddy and Mommy as well as going through some of her audio books repeatedly (i.e. 三字兒歌 – 生活、大自然、好習慣). Lately I have overheard Baobao, with more frequency, “read” out of memory to herself.

After reading The Bernstein Bears and the Bad Dream, Baobao has initiated several discussions about nightmares and our minds, each time tackling the same theme in a different way. Similarly, Baobao is learning that when we go out during the week, we take baby brother along. We talked about legally I would be considered a bad guy if I were to leave baby brother behind by himself, and that the police would take me away. Heavy duty stuff, I know, but it’s important for children even as young as Baobao to become aware that the world is, unfortunately, quite complicated.

I tell J that I don’t dumb it down for our children, and the reason is that I sincerely believe in the intellectual and emotional potential in children. Baobao’s poignant questions in both languages challenge J and I on a daily basis, in an amazing sort of way.

胎盤樹

約三年半前,寶寶在家裡順產出生。接生的助產師細心的把養育寶寶的胎盤收在我們預備的盒子裡面,這些年盒子也就靜靜地待在大冰庫的角落,有時我和老公聊起來也維持初衷打算把胎盤拿來後院種樹。四個多月前,幸運的再度在家順產迎接二寶,助產師聞知我們的意願是種樹,她俐落地把胎盤裝入冷凍袋直接塞廚房冰箱的上層冰櫃,順便提醒我們別誤把胎盤當食材(不過此地有人專門把新鮮胎盤製成膠囊幫媽媽補身體)。

真的,生了孩子以後好像沒什麼不能聊的,連孕期負責養胎兒的胎盤也洋洋灑灑寫了一堆。有時候開冰櫃瞄到那包二寶的胎盤,心裡還是感到一定的震撼,母體實在是太神奇了,就這樣靠一坨組織養育一個新生命。

今天在二寶四個多月大的下午,我終於把退冰的兩個胎盤倒入老公事先挖好的洞,一邊回答寶寶的許多問題:「媽媽這是什麼?」「這麼多血是媽媽的嗎?」「哎呀這麼多血!」老公在旁邊等不及的趕快把紅橡樹苗蓋住胎盤,把洞填滿,不像我還回想著生產的點滴,心裡還感動著。

兩個寶貝,你們可真是媽媽的血肉生出來的,希望這棵紅橡樹能和你們一起健康的成長、茁壯。

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.