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Less than two months away from his first birthday this little cubbie is crawling everywhere and trying so hard to stand on his own two feet by himself. He’s also now able to take a couple steps when we hold his hands.

I’m so excited for these new developments but also trying hard to enjoy an savor every single moment we have with him now as it’s going by too quickly!

If you think traveling with another person is tricky, imagine traveling with 3 other adults and 3 children age 4.5 months, 18 months, and 5.5 years all packed in a mini-van.

That was us yesterday. Sure, we did not go very far: Grouse Mountain, one of the closest and biggest ski resorts in Vancouver only 25 minutes’ drive away. We had not been there before and needed to since the snow season is nearly over and our time here is almost up. And it is Grouse, THE peak of Vancouver, gotta go up there at least once! Another family we know here who are rather new in Vancouver and also from my hometown, Singapore, wanted to visit the mount, so it seemed logical to do a trip together. Because it was our first trip with another family, I was slightly anxious about how the day was going to eventuate. For starters, we didn’t have any real agenda. I would like to snowboard since I haven’t done it already here in Canada (what?!!!) (we snowshoed a couple months back at Mt Seymour but that was about it in terms of winter sports) but who will look after Benji if both Bry and I snowboarded? We couldn’t possibly place Benji in their care when they already have two kids to keep them occupied. Our friends don’t snowboard but would like to snowshoe: would I be able to do it with them and maybe sling Benji the entire snowshoe activity? What if I fall? What if Benji starts fussing throughout the day and screams the entire car ride? Will Bry get to snowboard? What are the other two kids going to do if they don’t snowshoe? Aagh.

But as the title already revealed: the day went better than fine; it was a success. Here are some of my observations from this successful trip and recommendations/things to remember for future travels with other families:

1) Have a loose agenda and be flexible: So I did not get to snowboard because I decided that, between Bry and me, Bry, a more seasoned snowboarder would have gotten way more out of snowboarding in one of Vancouver’s most popular ski resorts. Of course he did. Two hours of full-on snowboarding on slopes overlooking the Vancouver city on a Tuesday in spring was great for him, as far as I could tell. It also started snowing in the middle of his rides, sprinkling fresh powdery snow and maximizing his already enjoyable experience. Originally, my back up plan was to snowshoe, but because it was quite a slippery walk for me to get to the rental office with a baby carrier on, I did not feel safe and balanced enough to make it there without slipping and hurting myself so I bailed. But experiencing the snow fall on the mountains while gazing at the city from the peak with little Benji strapped on me was a beautiful enough experience. I had no complaints. I also got to hang out and watch my friends and their kids play in the snow which was incredibly enjoyable (they, too, did not rent snowshoes because they did not have appropriate waterproof footwear to begin with).

2) Be prepared to wait and give yourself lots of buffer time: God bless our friends who went with us who were soo patient to wait for Benji and me during nursing times. In return, we also hung out when they had to run around with their restless kids who insisted on looking at something different than what we adults agreed upon. At one point during the car ride, we had to pull over to stop for my friend’s daughter, who gets motion sickness easily, nearly threw up. Traveling with kids aint easy and we all need to remember that.

3) Pack snacks and remember to take them wherever you go: This will be more relevant to parents of older kids who are already on solids. My friend was armed with a variety of snacks for her kids during the car ride and when we were up in the mountains. I did a version of that, but forgot to take the snacks with us up, and resulted to purchasing some snacks for Bry and me (plus stealing some of theirs). Having said that, it is also important for nursing moms to be well fed and hydrated. Thankfully there was a cafe serving healthy snack options but it would have been so much easier had I remembered my bag of food! Adults will be fine if snacks are forgotten but little kids with their frontal lobes still developing have little control over inhibition and theory of mind, and will probably lose it and not be as forgiving gif they are not fed food the instant they want it.

4) Pack extra plastic bags and diapers: You really never know for how long you will be out and whether your kids are going to suddenly fall ill or be extra fussy with the slightest wet diaper. Plastic bags take up little space in your bag so carry them all if you can! LIke I mentioned earlier, my friend’s daughter nearly threw up in the car and while she had a bag prepared, she thought it had some holes and therefore needed another bag for buffer. As for me, Benji did some explosive poops up in the mountains (thinner air? Shrugs) and soiled his clothes, and therefore needed more bags than usual.

5) Bring along toys/entertainment for the car ride: The iPhone is a lifesaver for many parents of kids all ages. When the kids were getting restless in the car, my friends whipped out their iPhones – one for each child – and put on songs and cartoons for them. I did not have to use mine on Benji this trip, but when we drove around Seattle, I had my iPhone out as well to entertain him. With Benji en route home from Grouse, we discovered his new fascination with the noise made from shaking a bag of chips. It was a lifesaver because he was sufficiently entertained throughout the ride despite his exhaustion from the day (it was also slightly past his bedtime by then).

At the end of the day, Bry got to snowboard for a full 2 hours, I got to play a bit in the snow with Benji, my friends’ kids got to make little snowmen, snow angels, and hang out in the snow. My friends also got to enjoy their kids’ excitement from playing in the snow, which was fun enough for cityfolk like us who grew up in tropical climates.

Have you taken road trips with other families? DO you have any other suggestions for dealing with these travels?



These last two weeks have seen me returning to some of the things I used to do pre-Benji.

1) Exercise/Fitness: I joined this fitness program for new moms, Fit42 that has classes all over BC and in some other provinces in Canada and started with the least strenuous level as I had not been exercising since Benji’s birth. Overall, the classes have been really enjoyable and went at a good pace: some slightly more strenuous circuits than others. It is a good class to ease my way in to more challenging activities in a couple months, for example, jogging.

20120413-144455.jpgI also started swimming again. It’s an exercise I have always enjoyed and still did when I was heavily pregnant at 36 weeks with Benji. So when I found out that the Vancouver Aquatic Center has child minding services Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays from 9am – 1pm, I went out almost immediately, bought swim gear (did not take it with me from Australia!! How silly!), and hit the pool. Did 15 laps which left me feeling invigorated for the next few hours…hoping to be able to do at least 25 by the end of the month or early next month. Good to have some goals.

2) Sleep: Exhaustion from the swim and taking care of this little guy drove me to stop messing around on the internet or watching unnecessary television and hit the sack early at 9pm. Which was great, because Benji only woke up at 530am and that, if I did the math right, meant I got 8.5 hours of sleep. Uninterrupted. My longest stretch since probably the last few weeks of pregnancy (I had lots of trouble sleeping from about 34 weeks on). Needless to say, the sleep was AMAAAAAZZING. I am so thankful to have gotten good rest.

3) Read: Benji has started occupying himself a bit more these days. In fact, sometimes he just wants to be left alone. Good for him AND me! I started reading again in the day and am actually able to get through about 5 to 6 pages at a go while he’s awake and preoccupied with his toy or his feet (he’s now addicted to uhm, trying to put his toes in his mouth. I am VERY concerned and will express that in my next post to come soon)

4) Dine out: Between the 3rd and 4th month, Benji was extremely fussy during the “witching” hour from 5pm-7pm. Taking him out to restaurants for our dinners was impossible because he would cry and scream and demand our undivided attention. However, since his eczema got better and he started sleeping through the night, his temperament also got better and reverted to how he was in the first couple months: relatively mellow. Seeing this improvement, we decided to take a gamble and try a family dinner out at a restaurant in our neighborhood that serves food with gluten and dairy free options!! The food was great,  and I was able to get a gluten and dairy free pecan pie with coconut ice cream dessert (YUM, first dessert in foreverrr!!) AND Benji was totally chilled out. Win!

I’m know this easy ride is not gonna last long but I’m enjoying it while I can…

I’m still amazed at my ability to have gone through days upon days without incident on such little sleep, and even more surprised that I still had the brain energy to blog since Benji was born.

Let’s just start by saying for someone with a graduate degree who has done pretty well in school and has an A+ work ethic, I am actually not very smart. I bet if I took an IQ test, my scores will be in the low average range. And my slowness usually surfaces in social situations when I take FOREVER to get a joke and am probably the least witty person I know.

I have also always hated my writing; I am still quite embarrassed to share my blog with friends and get flustered knowing that my husband reads it (hi!). You see, I’m a Speech-Language Pathologist married to a guy with a PhD who I’m sure I’ve said it somewhere else before, is one of the best writers who really should be writing for the NYTimes or The New Yorker. I should be a better writer. But if you read my posts with just a thick-toothed comb – let’s say a hair brush – you’ll fine grammatical errors, clumsily worded sentences, and probably even spelling mistakes.  Yet, if I spent time cleaning up my posts, I’ll probably be writing one post a month because I am that slow.

Now add on the fact that I haven’t been sleeping properly for months. You can understand now why I am amazed that I can still write somewhat coherently and function daily…somewhat. Still haven’t accidentally set the kitchen on fire (we have an electric stove at this rented house thank goodness!) or over salted our food yet. The only part of my brain that has increased in capacity is the one that organizes. Trying to plan meals n chores n outings n playtimes n quiet times with Bry with a newborn is challenging…and I’m super at that these days.

But here are some examples of how I sound with my brain on no sleep:

Me to Bry: “Hunny can you please…uhm…uhm…put the uhm…dishwashing detergent in the uhm…washing machine and push start?”

—–

Bry: “Maybe we should use a safety pin to fasten the cloth on the strap (in the stroller)” 

Me: “Nah I don’t like using the safety pin what if the pin comes out?”

Bry: “Do you understand how a safety pin works and why it’s called a safety pin?”

—–

Me: “Oh did you buy more pears? Wait they look like potatoes.”

Bry: “They’re potato pears! They’re pears that look like potatoes.”

Me: “Oh I’ve never heard of that. So do they taste like potatoes, too?”

—-

Me: “Benji’s coos are sounding so cute. Somedays he sounds like he’s almost talking…and somedays he sounds like an amateur Ventroquolist.”

Most of the time, Bry is graciously amused by my slip ups and confusions but I would so like to go back to being just. SLOW.

Well, since we got back from Seattle, Benji has been sleeping a good chunk of the night. For instance, he slept from 8pm – 5am last night, and then again from 6am – 8am, allowing me to get decent sleep for 10 days in a row now. I’m feeling more and more revitalized from these good sleeps.

I have been playing word scrabble while nursing and starting to read articles on the NYTimes or WSJ again (and not just getting updates from gossip sites which at times were also too wordy for me. Or relying on status updates from FB friends or Bry to get my news.). In a way, blogging has also been helping to keep my brain in check. I’m gonna start my Brain Training exercises on my DS when we return to Australia and maybe later download a Sudoku app to complement word scrabble games while nursing.

Question is, with more rest now, will my brain go back to the way it was pre-Benji? Most people say it will never be the same again, but I am hopeful.

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Today’s weather in Vancouver was AMAZING. It really felt like spring (or just another ordinary day in SoCal…oh yeah, I miss that place quite a bit!).

With Benji’s eczema being so unpredictable and the sides of his face starting to act up again (much to my distress) I had to cancel plans to go on an Arts Stroller walk around town with a mother’s group. Instead, I took a short walk with him around the neighborhood with him in the stroller…but that really exacerbated his eczema on the face. The sides that took so long to heal are now weeping again. Today Benji’s skin on his body flared up as well. Is the sleeping bag another cause of his flare-ups? Was it because I had zucchini – a supposedly safe vegetable but one that I rarely eat – for lunch and dinner yesterday? Is he allergic to the fish oil or probiotics? I don’t know. I don’t understand. And I know I’m not alone on this but I hate not knowing. Sigh.  Regression, just after a small celebratory post just a couple days ago. Argh.

This is life with a child who needs extra attention. I have to learn to accept that…before all this, I had plans to take him to baby swim classes after he passes his 4 month mark, attend post-natal pilates classes that I can take Benji to as well, and go for coffees and walks with moms I had met here. But all of that is now put on hold. Indefinitely. Adjustments.

Anyway, after daddy got home from work, we took a walk with Benji in the Bjorn. The Bjorn has worked for us really well in terms of transporting Benji around in such a way that he does not have any opportunity to scratch his face or head since his arms are strapped to the sides.

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Just a few more days till our Ped Dermatologist’s appointment. Fingers crossed his skin won’t get even worse anymore.

Till then, I need to really REALLY learn to take a deep breath, trust God, and relax.

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After a week (more like 7 weeks of steady decline of his skin) of watching Benji go through breakouts of rashes everywhere and getting increasingly fussy because of itch, I decided to do it: TOTAL ELIMINATION DIET.

Not just dairy and eggs and shellfish n red meat as in my previous post, but any food that has been known to cause allergies to rule out as quickly as possible if he is allergic to foods I’ve been eating. That on top of using new all natural laundry detergent, wearing and coming into contact with ONLY cotton, and getting our place spring cleaned tomorrow with all natural products.

It was a very tough decision for me (again I LOVE my food too much! And one of the ways Bry n I bond over so much is through food) but watching my poor baby so uncomfortable with rashes and having bound hands to prevent him from scratching is an even more difficult feeling to stomach. We need to get down to business faster.

Popularized by Dr SearsDr Sears the diet is made up of: millet, rice, rice pasta, organic lamb chicken turkey, squashes, and pears. I m going to modify it a little to include quinoa, apples and spinach lettuce and Chinese leafy veggies. Calcium n omega 3 supplements should also be consumed to keep up the nutrients.

I hope to follow through for at least two weeks and pray to see some noticeable results so we know there is a trigger and can work it out from there rather than simply relying on steroids medication n worse of all continuously having to bind his hands and watch him like a hawk.

Let’s hope it’s just food allergies. Goodbye junk food, cakes n cookies, cereal, cheese….etc for awhile!!

Meanwhile mommy needs to try to chill out.

Part I: Welcome to the club. My new (additional) identity – Mom.

Motherhood is definitely a completely different world to the regular one. It’s highly exclusive and can really suck you in and wrap you up so tightly, you could very easily lose track of what’s going on in the normal people’s reality. This club also seems to get a lot of approval from other people: strangers who offer their congratulatory messages and compliments about our babies, or the people who chat to us about simply how awesome our babies are, and other women – mostly older ones – who give us nice, genial smiles as they pass us by, as if we moms were some local heroine.  Of course, we are somewhat of a champ when you think about what we had to go through to have our babies, but it’s funny that all of a sudden, the world becomes much friendlier to you when you have a little one in tow. Other moms who pass you by look at your little one in the stroller, and give you the smile and nod of approval, as if to say, “well done, sister, you’re one of us now.”

AND, I love it! I love being part of this club and getting those approval looks, and chatting with random people about motherhood.

However, I remember being out a couple times sans little Benji, and suddenly the affable people were nowhere to be found. Nobody smiled at me on the bus; even the driver did not seem particularly interested in me. It felt weird, for I have been treated first class ever since we moved here to Canada. I felt somewhat uneasy, and almost insecure that Benji – my pride and joy – wasn’t there to “boost” my ego. Before becoming a mom, I would hear stories of the overbearing mom who constantly fussed over their kids, or the overly anxious mom who had trouble leaving their children for a day, and think: that would never be me. These moms need to learn to get their own lives. And here I am, only 2.5 months into this business, feeling quite lost just a few hours without my little guy!

Mommyhood can wrap you up so tightly, you forget your other identities, and have trouble simply being YOU. I have certainly gotten lost in this wave a few times. I hope God will always remind me that I am first and foremost His child, and that being a mom is just one of the many ways God wants me to serve Him. Apart from being a mom, I’m also a wife, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, work colleague, neighbor, etc. I need to still be the best of the other “people” I can be. And instead of being overwhelmed with pride about our baby (which I am and should be), I need to convert that all to humility and gratefulness that we have an adorable son. Instead of simply thinking “yes, he is the cutest!” I should add that “and yes, I am so blessed. God has been amazing to us.”

Having said that, though, it really is hard to detach yourself from the giddiness of being a mom where everyone is constantly paying you/your baby compliments and when you look at your newborn and think the world of him/her. Maybe it gets easier as the years go by, especially when they turn into unbearable adolescent monsters and nobody (me included) will be telling you how awesome your child is anymore.