Camping: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous

DSC_0255.jpgWe made it. 3.5 weeks, 4,000+ kilometers across Australia, 60 meals cooked on a crummy stove, 24 nights of sleeping in a campervan, 12 mosquito bites per day, 3 blog posts, and 2 times driving on the wrong side of the road later, we made it to Melbourne.
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“So you’ve come to Darwin for therapy,” said one little old lady at the first Australian city we visited. We laughed, but in some ways it’s been true. As an escape from the never-ending city jungle of Singapore, Australia has been amazing. Seeing mountains and fields, breathing fresh country air, watching spectacular sunsets, admiring the stars at night (too much light pollution in Singapore to see any but the very brightest stars), and waking up with the sun have all been instrumental in cleaning away the dust of the city from our hearts. I didn’t know how much I missed the country until we were in it again.DSC_0334.jpg
Did you know the kookaburra’s call sounds a little like a crazy person laughing? It’s one of the strangest birds we heard in Australia. JQ goes around saying “Kookburra, mama! More Kookburra!”DSC_0440.jpg

We may have ruined JQ with all the Australian wildlife: now he’s fond of seeing “Nakes!” in everything–hoses, squiggles, bus seats–everything and anything has the potential to be a snake.
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and pet lizards. And now he’s asking if he can go see a “kangroo eat.”
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The other animal he got to feed was the “croc croc dile,” known to most normal people as a crocodile. Crocodiles now apparently lurk in any small space, such as under the coffee table or in holes in walls. And a beware any pair of tongs, because it will be quickly re-purposed as a croc croc dile.
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It’s kind of shocking how much JQ has grown up over the last month. Not only does he now eat like a horse and chatter non-stop, but he’s assigned himself duties too, and become our personal servant of the restrooms. Any time either one of us says we have to go, we hear an insistent “I day two (JQ) come with!” and an immediate putting on of shoes ensues.  While in the bathroom, he then proceeds to check every trashcan (perhaps for bombs or other hidden threats?), wash his hands multiple times or at least smear them with soap, lock (and unlock multiple times) the stall doors, make sure there’s enough toilet paper for general use, and flush the toilet when we’re all done. He takes great pride in carrying out all these duties faithfully. Though I have to admit, it will be nice to finally get home and have a closable bathroom door that NO TODDLERS can get through.
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Sometimes there was great lighting, so I tried to persuade my models to go for a family picture. They’re too impatient to go for more than one try, so apparently I only have half a picture of me in Australia. I assure you all of me was there, though!

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So it’s been four weeks of seeing sunsets, walking on the beach, taking photos, and spending time together as a family. Oh, as well as spending plenty of time being bitten by mosquitoes, getting annoyed with each other (definitely don’t try camping with people you can’t stand), alternately sweating or freezing at night, and having my ear talked off by a two-year old.

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And after four weeks of close quarters in a campervan, I’m ready to head home.

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Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef: A Play in One Act

The setting is a boat in the Coral Ocean, about 3 hours off the coast of Cairns, Australia.

Characters:

JQ: a two-year-old boy who has blonde hair and a distinct penchant for doing everything himself. “I do” is his favorite phrase.

JARED: a determined PhD student; becomes very concerned about wasting time if he takes more than a half hour doing anything besides reading; friendly, personable, adventurous. Looks at the moment like he’s survived a year in the wilderness with a wild beard and fluffy curls down to his shoulders.

ANNIKA: A harried mother; quiet; hasn’t much of her own to contribute. Very devoted to JQ and JARED

RUBY: an Irish girl out traveling Australia before going back to the confines of university in Ireland

A HIPPIE AMERICAN COUPLE: complete with unshaven legs and armpits, long hair, and an endearing idealism

TWO DANISH GIRLS: who, despite being beach volleyball professionals, promptly become seasick and look like death; they say nothing, only uttering a few groans here and there.

THE BOAT CREW

Random SNORKELERS

SCENE I: The Edge of the Boat

Untitled JQ: I see baby dark, Mommy!

ANNIKA: Yes, let’s go see baby shark!

They make their way out of the boat to where enthusiastic snorkelers are putting on their masks and flinging themselves into the sea to look at the corals and fishes. Paddling around with their red life-jackets and colorful pool noodles, they look like a swarm of enthusiastic puppies let out for the day to see some sights.  

JQ: chatters enthusiastically I see baby dark, Mama! I swim, Mama! I see baby dark, Mama!

ANNIKA: Yes, baby, let’s get ready! Can you put your mask on?

JQ: I dit, Mama! Sitting at the edge of the boat, with their feet dangling off, they prepare to go snorkeling  

ANNIKA: Ok, JQ, let’s put your mask on.

JQ: gets clingy No mask. Pushes it away and howls

ANNIKA: Do you want to see baby shark?

JQ: No baby dark!

ANNIKA: Do you want to swim?

JQ: No swim!

BOAT CREWPERSON: to JQ Can I help you put your mask on?

JQ: No mask! Clings to ANNIKA and wails loudly.  Sighing, ANNIKA gets up and EXITS with JQ

 SCENE II: After Diving

On the boat. Random snorkelers are coming back up, finished with their outing for the day. ANNIKA and JQ are waiting, and then JARED enters. Untitled

JARED: Scuba diving was intense! That was the scariest thing I’ve ever done!

ANNIKA: What, really? But I thought you liked adventurous things

JARED: Yes! If something goes wrong, you can’t just swim back to the surface or you’ll destroy your ears. Plus, they made me go underwater like 15 minutes before everyone else was ready so I was just waiting there wondering if they’d forgotten about me.

ANNIKA: But were you able to see the coral and the fish?

RUBY (the Irish Girl), butting in: I saw, like, some huge clams. They were about the size of a dinner plate. Oh, and there were some really beautiful fish.

JARED: To be honest, I was more focused on not dying than on the fish.

ANNIKA: So, you won’t be going back?

JARED: Snorkeling is so much more fun, and you don’t feel like you’re going to die.

ANNIKA: Well, I do, but I just have to remember to breathe and then it’s not so bad.

JARED: Yes, but you’re at the top of the water already, not stuck underneath it!

SCENE III: The Way Home

Everyone is exhausted from their full day of seasickness and happy-puppy snorkeling. Sitting on the top deck of the boat, people begin to talk.

 JARED: (to EAGER HIPPIE MALE) So, where are you from?

EHM: Oh, we’re from the US.

JARED: Oh really, where?

EAGER HIPPIE FEMALE: Florida, actually. Have you heard of St. Petersburg? It’s kinda cool and artsy. Where are you all from?

ANNIKA: Well, I’m from Colorado and he’s from Oregon.

EHF: Oh, Colorado. We loved Boulder. It’s a great little town.

JARED: So what are you doing in Australia?

EHF: Well, we were getting a little tired of provincial American life and wanted to learn more about the world. So we’re taking a year to travel around and see the world.

ANNIKA: Oh, really? So what have you seen so far?

EHF: (giggles a little) Well, we’ve actually been traveling for six months already. We started in Hawaii…I know it’s still America, but it’s different enough.

EHM: And then we came to Australia. We’ve been living on this farm in Australia free of charge—we just had to do some work on the farm, y’know, and they’d let us stay.

EHF: So, when we finish in Australia, we’re going to go to Bali, and then if we have time, we want to see Cambodia, Vietnam, maybe Thailand….

EAGER HIPPIE MALE: Y’know, I just really want to help people. There’s so many people out there, like, y’know, in pain, or in need of money, or stuff, or advice. I want to help them all.

Gradually, people fall asleep or stop talking: Eager Hippies embrace, having previously snogged to their hearts’ content, and fall asleep with his head on her shoulder. The boat becomes quiet as, exhausted from their day of swimming, people wait to get home.

A Lonely Merry Christmas

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Lonely baby


It turns out Facebook is not a good substitute for face to face interaction. Who knew?

It’s bad enough on the usual days of the year: people post pictures of their cool adventures with friends and family (guilty!), all the fun things their kids do, and maybe occasionally the five dishes in their sink that they need to do (“I’m such a bad housekeeper!). But on Christmas Day, of all times, it’s even more apparent. Everyone posts pictures of their lights, their trees, their snow, their families: everyone has a place to go for Christmas.

Except us. We’re just here, preparing to move out of our house in twelve days. Instead of getting presents, we’re purging. Instead of celebrating with family or friends, we’re all alone. Yes, unlike the Virgin Mary who had no refuge but a stable for the birth of her Son, we have a solid house and cozy beds (and air-conditioning). Also unlike the Virgin Mary, we have no visitors to bring gifts and celebrate with us that Christ is born.

In previous years, Christmas has been a season of finding light in the darkness. This year, for us it has a different focus. Just as Jesus was born in an unfamiliar manger in a strange town, we’re in a strange country surrounded by strangers. There’s much to be said about the comforts of home–but surely there’s a point in wandering, too?

For years after Christ’s birth, Mary and Joseph wandered, seeking refuge from an unstable king who wished to kill their Son. For years, Christmas brought to them not warm fuzzies and cozy feelings about how great humanity is, but running–for the good of the world.

Today, instead of singing saccharine songs about the “most wonderful time of the year” mixed in with odes to winter and expecting everyone to be wonderful and happy because Christmas, we’re singing “Wayfaring Stranger” and living it too. In this way, we are like the holy family: we are recognizing there is more to life–more to Christmas–than thinking about ourselves or all the good things it can bring out in people.

Christmas brings a message of hope, of peace on earth and goodwill to men. It brings assurance that these things exist, that they are possible. But it also reminds us they are, for now, not realized yet. First there’s the waiting, then the running and hiding, then–finally–the heaven that Christmas promises to bring.

Christmas is not heaven. But it will be. All our waitings and wanderings will, one day, bring us home. And then we won’t be wayfaring strangers.

JQ Is TWO!

Well, that went fast.
DSC_1242.jpg Two years ago, we were just getting to know a brand-new baby boy who didn’t do much else besides eat and sleep.

Now, he’s somehow morphed into this huge toddler who runs around, eats like a horse, and is starting to talk non-stop. We’ve been trying to teach him both English and Chinese (hah!) but didn’t really think he spent enough time around Chinese speakers to actually learn Chinese too. Except he’s been running around the house recently pointing at things and saying a word that doesn’t really sound like any English word. It took us a while to figure out what he was saying, but finally we decided he’s saying “zhege” (pronounced jei-ge, but which he says more like “ticka” or something), which means “this.” I guess maybe spending time with a bilingual Singaporean family is paying off? At least he can now say “I zhege” for everything he wants. Yeah, we’re raising a fabulous communicator.

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But, we can now figure out what he wants when he takes us to the food museum (a.k.a. the refrigerator) and points at something and says “I zhege.” Usually he wants one of his favorite foods–something like cheese, cheese fries, feta cheese, cheese sauce, macaroni and cheese, and did I mention cheese? If he doesn’t want one of the above, he’s usually asking for some kalamata olives or a drink. Lest you think he’s developing nutrient deficiencies on his cheese diet, he will eat other foods, like fruits and vegetables, and he always insists on getting bananas when we go to the grocery store. Unfortunately, he never eats said bananas so they always gather a crowd of fruit flies in about a day and then sit on the counter in a puddle of tears because they’re mourning about how hot it is. At least, that’s the only explanation I can come up with for why bananas die in a puddle of their own liquid two days after coming home from the grocery store. But I digress.

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Speaking of food, I have now watched enough food videos on Facebook with him for him to be convinced that all videos on Facebook are of delicious things. Usually, his assumption is correct, like when he watches a video of brownies or chicken fingers. But yesterday, his “Yum yum!” was a bit misplaced when a video of painting pumpkins came up. At least he’s not a picky eater?

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To counteract the bad effects of watching too many Facebook videos, JQ cooks with me too. He’s the key supervisor of making scrambled eggs in the morning, though he still has a bad habit of bursting into tears every time I put the eggs in the pan to cook, saying “I ‘tir, mommy, I ‘tir.”

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On the other side of his regular two-year-old boyness is the neat freak. If he spills something or gets food on his hands, he immediately says “uh-oh, mommy, uh-oh!” and runs to get a towel to clean it up.

Along with his cleaning powers is a built-in sense of empathy: whenever anyone is hurt or sad he’ll give them a big hug and then run to the bathroom to get tissues for their nose.

He has several stuffed animals (Frog, Puppy, Bear, Giraffe), and when he’s feeling extra sentimental about them, he runs into our bedroom and sets them on top of my pillow, where they’re not allowed to be moved.

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Happy birthday JQ! We’re so happy you’re part of our life (and can clean up all our messes).

September: A Month in the Life

I’m not quite sure where September went, actually, but apparently it will be October in a couple of days! In spite of missing all of September though, nothing much has happened, other than:

  1. I was a bit overconfident and am now teaching TWO online English classes to high schoolers in America. This means I have around forty students now. This also means I have to grade around forty assignments every week, while simultaneously trying to talk to the toddler. DSC_1100.jpgI used to think I could multitask, but now I’m not so sure! Of course, some things do get in the way of staring at the computer screen trying to think of some constructive comments that don’t sound EXACTLY like all the other comments I’ve written that day, like….
  2. taking JQ out to the playground every morning so we can get some moving time in (it’s so easy when you’re in the house to sit all.the.time even if you’re an active little two-year-old, and especially easy to just stare at screens while sitting). So we try to go outside most days except when it’s pouring rain, because I just don’t want to deal with the little drowned rat that would result from playing outside in a downpour.
  3. Speaking of rain, when we DO go outside in the rain, JQ is very insistent about taking along the umbrella (which he can’t say but thinks he can, so it comes out something like “brella,” but not exactly that intelligible.)  But he’s very proud of himself for being able to carry it while we walk.
  4. Usually Singaporeans are polite and nice to us (if a bit insistent on staying out of puddles and always wearing shoes), so yesterday at the playground when I noticed a random guy (he looked to be around 30) hanging out by the playground I didn’t think much of it. He was staring at his phone so I figured he was maybe checking his email or whatever–until he came up and starting asking random questions. They started off innocently enough: “How old is he?” “Where are you from?” but when he went from asking questions about JQ’s naptime and whether he eats food to asking how often he breastfeeds during the day, my weirdo alert went off. It didn’t help that he was following me around and kinda getting in my personal space. Anyways, JQ and I made a less-than-graceful exit of the screaming-toddler-who-doesn’t-want-to-leave variety, and now I definitely scan the playground for creepy weirdos before even venturing out of the house!
  5.  Bubbles! JQ has just discovered the magic that is bubbles. He runs around with his little bubble wand shouting “Bubble, bubble! Mama, bubble!” DSC_0925.jpgDSC_0909.jpgBubbles are also an automatic attraction for all the other kids at the playground. I guess the moral of the story is, everyone loves bubbles. Even as I’m writing this, he’s sitting here looking at his pictures, saying “Bubbles!”
  6. Some days (most days), living life with a toddler feels like living on top of a mountain of unfinished projects. I start grading papers, then two minutes later have to get JQ a drink. Sit back down, and he wants me to read him a story. At the end of an hour, I’ll have spent lots of time with JQ, but not much time with my grading!
  7. To counteract this never-ending-job-list effect, I’ve been trying to at least wash the dishes every day and keep the house picked up so SOMETHING is getting done. I’m proud of myself too! And we’re even managing to get laundry done fairly regularly (a MUST because it gets so stinky so fast in this humidity that soon we have nothing to wear). And with that I’ll leave you with an ugly picture of me doing laundry next to a sink full of dishes. Because everyone cares about my housework.

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Last Week in Titles: A Saga of Sickness

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Unrelated flower picture because you don’t want a picture of the actual happenings!

One week ago, I had high hopes. We had just returned from touring Sri Lanka for a week, everyone was glad to be home, and there were All The Things to do (namely, laundry, grocery shopping, and other elements necessary for survival). And did I mention everyone was glad to be home? Surely I could crank out some blog posts as well.

But then disaster struck. On Saturday evening, Jared began to feel unwell, and on Sunday morning we were awakened by him vomiting loudly and forcefully all over the bathroom. This day was titled “Thank Goodness it’s Probably Food Poisoning,” because, like the good wife I am, I’d rather stay healthy and take care of everyone than get sick myself.

On Monday, things were a bit more back to normal, though Jared was still feeling a bit green and not eating much. JQ, however, had decided it was his duty to scatter as many of his toys over the house as he could, resulting in blocks and legos covering approximately 3/5 of the living room floor. Any attempts to pick up said blocks and legos were met with protests and immediate rescattering, leading me to wonder, “Why Are Toddlers People Too???”

On Tuesday, there was a premonition of disaster when I got JQ up from his nap to take him to his babysitter’s and he vomited all over me when I put him on my back. I, of course, wrote it off as just one of those random things babies do as he was happy otherwise and not a grouch, but should have known I was “Living in Denial.”

By Wednesday, things were feeling decidedly blue and may have culminated in a few bouts of crying as I wondered if I would always be “Living in Solitary Confinement with a 1.5 Year Old,” which, in case you’re wondering, really is that much worse than living in solitary confinement by yourself.  But really, Singapore, why do you have to be so far away from everyone (and so hot)? And why does the rest of the world sleep so much during the day?

On Thursday, things were fine as I woke up and ate breakfast, until, at 10:00 a.m., I felt a twinge of “things aren’t quite right”. Jared immediately told me I was not allowed to get sick, then went to the store and got some traditional Chinese medicine as he’d been reading about all the values of traditional cultures and how much they know about everything. The stuff tasted awful, like dirt mixed with Swedish Bitters (which Jared apparently was never forced to take as a child), and had millions of little round balls which would not dissolve in water and had to just be swallowed. Oh, and it tasted terrible coming back up. A word to the wise: “Never Take Chinese Medicine When You’re Coming Down With the Stomach Flu,” or maybe, “Don’t Trust the Old Ladies at the Herb Store.” Once I categorically refused to even SMELL any more of the stuff, the day got a lot better, though it was perhaps marred by throwing up in the middle of a class.

By Friday, I had the energy of a sloth that’s been hit by a train and was just glad I only had to teach 5 classes instead of my usual 8 as I’d had the foresight to close any open slots the day before. You could call this day, “Lounging Is Too Much Work.”

On Saturday and Sunday, I was feeling better enough to pick up all the blocks and legos that had been scattered around the floor for the whole week (while JQ was in the other room, of course!). Then I figured my work was done and mostly rested, other than going to church since no one was actually throwing up anymore at this point.  “What Are Weekends for, Anyway?”

And now it’s Monday morning, the dishes are exploding out of the sink, the floor hasn’t been mopped in who knows how long, and we’re back at Solitary Confinement with a 1.5 Year Old. But at least there aren’t blocks all over the floor (for now)!

JQ: 17 Months

So this little man is already 17 months old, and I can’t believe how fast the time is going.

I’ve been kind of hesitant to write a post about him, since I can’t imagine that very many people (with the exception of his relatives, who do probably make up a good 50% of my readership) are that interested in knowing that yet another baby is doing cute things with the portion of his time that isn’t spent doing annoying things.

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Now forgive me, since I might be biased, but a lot of the things he does are awfully cute. He definitely doesn’t suffer from a lack of self-esteem either–anytime he does anything “remarkable,” like pushing a button and turning something on, he claps for himself with a self-satisfied smile.

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He loves figuring out how things work, and especially loves taking things apart. One of his favorite pastimes is taking eggshells out of the trashcan and crumbling them up on the floor. I figure if we just call it a Montessori activity, we can ignore the fact that the eggshells were in the trashcan and assume that he’s wiring some good things into his brain. Besides, when he’s done crushing them up, he goes and gets the broom and dustpan and sweeps them up again (which is also so cute that you can pardon the fact that when he tries to empty it out the contents go all over the floor again). Yeah, he didn’t get that clean streak from me. Must be some long-dormant gene coming out or something.

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Our daily walk outside to the playgrounds in our complex pretty much makes his day, as he can chase birds and watch them flutter away, find the random cats that haunt the place and are taken care of by the old ladies, and climb all over and hang from the playground equipment. So far the swings are his favorite.

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Unfortunately, he’s turning into a bit of a daredevil. Tap-dancing on the table is almost a daily occurrence, as is climbing onto things and then hanging dangerously over the edge or riding the back of the couch. I think he just likes hearing me gasp when he’s put himself in a particularly dangerous situation because that always evokes lots of giggles.

And oh yes, did I mention he’s a tease? If anything is kept from him for any reason, like phones or the remotes for the AC, he plots ways to get his hands on them and then giggle madly when we realize what he has. He usually even waves it around in the air to make sure we notice.
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One his most maddening tendencies is sitting down on the sidewalk whenever you try to get him to go somewhere he doesn’t want to go. There are few things more annoying than walking along when suddenly your companion decides he has to nearly pull his arm out of his socket and sit down RIGHT THERE because you didn’t let him push the elevator button and he really really WANTS to push the elevator button. These standoffs usually culminate with me asserting my dominance and carrying him the rest of the way kicking and screaming. I’ll leave it up to your imagination who’s doing (most) of the screaming.

In spite of his more annoying traits, he’s also beginning to show a more affectionate side and loves giving kisses and hugs, usually followed by a headbut or three that nearly break your nose. Then he’ll hand you his favorite blanket and make sure it’s bunched up just right before settling down to sleep.

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I’m sure there’s a lot more cute things he does like babbling nonsense “sentences,” bleating “Maamaa?” every time he wants anything I want to get anything done, and getting upset when we don’t stick to his routine, but I’ll spare you so you don’t think he’s Wonderbaby. For that, you can wait for the Christmas letter in three years when I’m sure he’ll have won a prize in an essay competition, created his own line of specialty toys, and developed a new way to rip books apart without his daddy getting mad at him. And of course he’ll have already read Thucydides and the complete works of Charles Dickens. Who do you think we’re raising anyway?

 

 

 

 

Just Love that Baby

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Since we still don’t have wifi, and I still have no friends here, I’ve had some time to have Grand Thoughts. Mostly, it turns out, on the subject of parenting, since that’s what I’ve been doing by myself for about 12 hours a day. Yes, life is exhilarating right now. Why do you ask?

I know it’s not the Done Thing for people who a) are under 30, b) have only one child who isn’t even two yet, and c) have no track record of reliability for their Grand Thoughts to hold forth on the subject of parenting, and yet, since I have a blog and am feeling the compunction to post since who else am I to talk to about anything serious in my 12-hours-a-day conversation of “Please don’t scream!” and “No! You can’t pull your dirty diapers out of the trashcan!” and “Would you like to play with your cars?”, I am writing about the subject of parenting anyway. Besides, Done Things are overrated.

Some days (ok, most days), I want nothing more than a set of prescriptions to follow which will make my kid behave perfectly and ensure that nothing I do will wreck him for life. At this moment, I think being the parent of a one-year-old is an exercise in futility, as it takes the millionth time of saying “no” for it to finally sink in—and for most things, we haven’t reached that millionth time! But while I may not have attained to much wisdom yet in the few years I’ve been on earth, I have learned this much—there are no set rules of how to deal with people. Ever.

In fact, there might be only one rule, and it’s one my parents repeated often: you can only change yourself. Your attitude, your behavior, your reactions.

But even though this lesson was drilled into me so often, I still assumed there was a right way to parent, a way that would at least almost ensure that a kid would turn out and have good behavior. Just do these things, show off your mad ninja skills when your lovey numbkins is having a tantrum at the supermarket, and everyone will be in awe of your wonderful parenting.

Strangely enough, it wasn’t having a kid that shifted my paradigm on parenting (I mean, I half raised 3 or 4 by the time I was 20, so of course I thought I had it all down), but simply growing up and reading different viewpoints in the process. If you’re strongly attached to an idea, the least you can do is read the other side’s arguments to see if you’re missing out on something crucial.

The first was an article somewhere or other (probably posted on Facebook) about how “parent-ing” is a new concept. We don’t talk about “wifeing” or “husbanding” or “daughtering” (which looks kinda like “slaughtering”) or “sonning”—it’s only this one relationship, between parent and child, which is talked of in this way, like something to do instead of a way to live. (We do have kidding, though, for what it’s worth.)

Thinking about the relationship between parent and child as any other job, like “housekeeping” or “dishwashing” not only begins to make children into things, but also puts more stress on parents to be the perfect parents. If it’s a job like any other, surely it can be done right, like any other job can. There must be a right way to soothe your child’s tantrums and definitely a way to prevent those embarrassing things from ever occurring, most especially in public where we need to exhibit the fact that we have it all together.

The second was an article published in The Atlantic, which, despite its rather misleading headline which seems to guarantee that with this new info from a child psychologist no child will ever again misbehave (sardonic laugh), still puts the focus where it ought to be—on parents’ behavior. It’s not a power struggle or a fight to the death for mastery, although some days it certainly feels like it. Instead, let’s treat this relationship the same way we treat all our other relationships: as a way for us to become better people, to be sanctified.

This is not the easy way out. Yelling comes to me much more easily than calming down and taking time to evaluate my own behavior. As parents, we have to die to ourselves nearly every minute. Babies are so needy, and they never. ever. shut. up, and they’re awfully fond of feeding me half-chewed oranges. My natural response is not one of warm fuzzies.

I can change my response to JQ, but I can’t change his response to me. I need to look at myself first and make sure my attitude is a good attitude, since what I’m modeling is even more important than what I say. (I’m still fairly certain, however, that he’s never had pulling diapers out of the trashcan modeled to him. That came out of his own little head.) I think we lose sight of this in the struggle to do everything right with our children and make their behavior what we want. Unfortunately, yelling at a kid for screaming is like eating a whole chocolate cake when you’ve just finished reading about the dangers of sugar. It feels so good, but you know it’s wrong—and won’t even get you the results you want!

These are things I want to remind myself of later, when JQ is more than a baby who toddles around drunkenly and giggles at being naughty, when I’m feeling overwhelmed and want only to control behavior. Parenthood is a relationship, not a job: our children are more than objects whose behavior we can control. They’re people who we need to love and teach.

My goal for myself, in 2017 and beyond, is to treat JQ with the respect he deserves as a child of God, and to make sure my attitude and behavior are right instead of yelling at him.

So go ahead, eat that half-chewed orange, giggle at that ridiculous thing he’s doing, keep telling him “no” for the millionth time. These are relationships we’re building, with people who are growing up to be men and women. Soon he’ll be all grown up—and then, I’ll finally be an expert on parenting. Too bad you’re reading this now.

Confessions of an Older Sister

When you grow up as one of the oldest children in a large family, it changes your outlook on life. People always say, “Your mum must be incredibly organised,” and I always think, well, she is, but she’s mostly a good delegator (a skill which I have inherited but which is, unfortunately, of little use at the moment. For some reason Jared doesn’t like it when I try to delegate things to him! Little Rascal will certainly have to enjoy it, though.)

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My background as an older sister has, I think, made motherhood a different experience for me. When JQ was first born, everyone said, “It’s so much different having your own baby, isn’t it!” But it wasn’t, not really. Everything just felt so familiar, like I’d done it before, which, of course, I mostly had. (Besides breastfeeding. It would just be weird to do that as a big sister.) But diaper changes, clothes changes, holding him, soothing him: I’d been doing that since I was 6!

 

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Taking pictures of him, however, is definitely a learned skill. Most of them are blurry because he wants to grab the camera!

 

Signs you may have been the oldest of many:

  1. Your main worry when you become a mother is that your child will be understimulated and have no one to tend to him.
  2. You wonder how you’ll fill all the hours in the day with only  ONE baby to take care of who can neither walk nor talk and sleeps a lot (answer: you sleep, mostly).
  3. You over exaggerate just how horrible sleepless nights are going to be until you’re just about sure you’re going to be a zombie forever. You will be a zombie, especially when at the hospital (I spent much of my time there thinking of stunning retorts to the plethora of signs forbidding me to sleep with my baby in bed with me when there was nowhere else he would sleep and I had not slept in years and was considering dying). But not forever.
  4. In spite of all the advantages, when you’re actually the parent, there’s a lot more responsibility on your shoulders. When you’re just a big sis, there’s always someone else to hand the baby off to, but when you’re the mum, that’s it. You’re it.
  5. When you go and visit family, however, you find yourself conspiratorially siding with your child (“Grandma doesn’t let children eat chocolate–let’s eat some chocolate!”) like you did with your siblings when they were younger.
  6. On the other hand, it’s so much easier to sooth a  baby when you’re the baby’s mother. He’s not always crying for someone else–he wants me, and I can pretty much figure out what he wants most of the time. Being the “second mommy” just isn’t the same thing, and the baby knows it.

What do you think, other older children? I’m sure I’ve missed several points on the wonders (or otherwise) of being a big sister.

Updates and Anniversaries

I decided it was time for an update on what’s been going on over here while I’ve been doing everything but blogging. So here are the things that have been keeping me busy recently.

  1. The first one, of course, is JQ monstering.

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Don’t be fooled by that cute little face and angelic mop of blonde hair. This little man, who is currently eight-and-a-half months old, rarely sits still and always wants to be getting into something. Vying for the spots of top most fascinating things are computer cords, computers, cellphones, and drawers. So far he’s completely destroyed one drawer in the house and taken the contents out of many more. His motto seems to be, “What can I get into next?”

2. In June, we celebrated our third anniversary. Of course, like the bad blogger that I am, I’ve been trying to write a post about it for a month. This is me giving up and saying no post shall be written. But at least we got (a very bad) picture of us wandering around London on our anniversary.
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It’s been a great three years in three countries, Jared. I’m looking forward to the next year (and the next country!).
3. The third thing that’s been keeping me busy is. . .I got a job! It’s teaching English online to Chinese people, mostly kids. The transition was a little rough on JQ (since he obviously can’t “help” me and has to go in the other room), but I’ve taught a lot of fun students. And I’ll be able to take it with me when we move. . . which is a plus.

4. Which brings me to: we’re moving, again! We leave our current house on July 25 (sniff, sniff), and are going to travel around for a bit before heading off to Singapore in January. Not looking forward to Singapore’s weather, but kind of excited to know where we’re going next and maybe having a bigger flat there too. What I’m not excited about, though, is packing, a.k.a. getting rid of everything we own (again). I always feel like we’ve done a great job of not accumulating stuff until it’s time to pack it all up–and then it takes five times longer than it should to go through everything. But at least we won’t have much to carry when traveling!

5. But before we leave here for good, we’re doing a bit more traveling around the country. We have Scotland and Ireland booked for the end of the month, but for now, we’ve just made a last-minute trip to Gloucester and a day trip to Cardiff from there. Lots more beautiful scenery (and cute baby pictures, of course).

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We’ve been loving the gorgeous English gardens and all the greenery everywhere.

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We had a great time walking around Cardiff as well and seeing the castle and the bay. It was perfect weather too!

6. Besides going places ourselves, we’ve also had other people visit us. After my friend left, my sister came two weeks later. I haven’t persuaded either of them to write a blog post yet, but perhaps I might still. It’s amazing how much more popular living in London has made us!

7. Other than all the busyness described above, we’re just enjoying what has probably been the coolest summer I’ve ever spent. I don’t think it’s ever gotten past 80 degrees (yes, that is Fahrenheit) yet and it’s July. Feel free to be envious, those of you roasting in America. Have I mentioned we’re going to miss England?!

Well, I think that about covers our summer so far. What have you all been up to?

For more, head over to This Ain’t the Lyceum.