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.







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?




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.






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.




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.