Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Trust Your Gut

I had a horrible job last fall and I so regretted taking it. All I kept thinking was that I had a bad feeling from the start, but everyone said, "take it! It sounds perfect for you!" so I took it. I walked away thinking that I should have trusted my gut. That has been my advice to lots of people since then. The pay can be great, the job sounds perfect, but if something doesn't seem right to you, it's probably not.

Then I started interviewing "helpers." This would be the person who would live with us, take care of the house and most importantly, take care of our baby (we still thought it was a boy when we interviewed, so I can't really say Samara!) when I returned to work. We wanted someone to come live with us before I gave birth so we could all get used to the idea (it's really messed up for me and Matt, so we needed practice) and sort out the kinks. We wanted someone to be around for the baby's birth so she would be attached. We also knew that we didn't want to interview people when we had a newborn at home.

We/I interviewed lots of people, and I got some good feelings and some bad. Mostly, people couldn't really answer my questions or gave me the wrong answers (i.e. "Do you have any questions?" "How much will I get paid" or "Can I use my mobile phone during the day" etc.) Very few people had the experience that we were looking for. I wanted to hire someone who had worked with an ex-pat baby (which I now know is irrelevant). Finally, I interviewed a woman that I felt great about. She communicated well. She gave all of the right answers (i.e. "What is most important to you in your next job?" "Clear communication"). I liked her her. Okay - she was a little too hot and a little too young, but she had two kids back in the Philippines and she had the perfect experience. I really felt good, and I trusted her. Matt met her and we talked to other people. Many people said no - she's too cute, or she's too young. You want someone older. My gut said that she was great - what did they know? I learned to trust my gut! We hired her.

She came to live with us in September, and from the beginning it was mixed. I felt that she was fine at home, but my expectations are low (I don't really see when things are dirty - it's a constant problem between me and Matt. He does.). Matt wasn't so satisfied. She cooked like a trained chef. She was competent and sometimes (most of the time?) seemed to respond when we gave feedback. However...she was constantly late coming home. She seemed to lie about little things, she did not seem like a hard worker and we had a hard time reaching her during the day, even though we gave her a mobile phone. Our feeling got worse. Then we caught her in a bunch of lies and we told her we don't trust her and she needs to earn our trust back. Then she lied again (a stupid lie!). When I thought about it, I decided I didn't want to leave my baby with her. While she was so good with Samara, I knew that if something happened, I would never get the real story, and poor Samara can't talk (though I think SHE thinks she can, but that's another story). We had to let her go. So, after all of the effort to have someone in our home before the baby was born and take the stress off when I go back to work (in a month and a week), we're back to the beginning. Interviewing people. Stressful.

The hard thing for me is that I don't trust the women (she lied a lot in her interview) and I don't trust my gut! It makes it difficult to make a decision. This time I will get lots of input from other people.

In other news, I think that Kitty must know something is different in the house, or something weird is going on with her. She has been eating the beautiful flowers that our friends brought on Friday, so we had to put them high up. She has jumped on the dining table and coffee table at least three times each in the last few days. She was even interested in the orchids. We always have orchids and she NEVER does this. It's super weird. Sam must also know something is up, since last night, starting at 2:30 she woke up every hour and then wasn't really interested in napping today (or going to sleep tonight...). Hopefully our home will return to normal quickly. I'm not a fan.

And, while I'm busy not being a fan, I get to get the REAL experience of having a baby and being at home. Now I get to clean my house, shop, cook, do laundry and all of the other fun stuff that I haven't touched in the last four months. We'll see how it goes. So far so good. It's been one day (and we're eating leftovers for dinner). Hey - I have to be able to do it, or we may never move back to the US!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Chinese Food and a Movie

In America the Jews have Chinese food and a movie on Christmas. Nothing else is open - it's sort of a religious (and porky, sometimes!) experience. Everyone does it.

I blogged about this last year, but in Singapore, everything is open. It feels like a regular Saturday or Sunday. Most people here are Chinese anyway, but definitely the Chinese food is open...and so is the Indian food and all of the rest of the food. The movies are open too and so is all other forms of entertainment. (Unfortunately the one thing that wasn't open is my amazing coffee guy, Ben, and he's not even Christian! But his kids were in town and he wanted to spend time with them...fine...I get it, but I missed the coffee!)

The mall is open too. In fact, here, they have extended Christmas shopping hours on Christmas.

I only find this all surprising (each year apparently...) because Christmas appears to be a big deal in the lead up to it. There are Christmas decorations and music EVERYWHERE, and it seems like people will really care when it finally comes. Then it comes...and goes...and you don't really feel anything. Again - I wrote this last year, but the one time we do feel a difference is on Chinese New Year. Then everything is closed and it really feels like something is different.

We celebrated Christmas eve this year with a few Jews, a Christian and a Hindu...and a nice Shabbat dinner (with good food but a fabulous Julia cake). We spent the day itself getting things done around the house. We put up some fish and coral on the walls in Samara's room (she was getting bored), we packed up the pack and play, we did other random things...life is so different when you have a kid. We even enjoyed doing nothing! (I NEVER used to enjoy doing nothing! Now I could just look at Samara pretty much all day, and it's totally exciting - so lame, I know).

Yesterday was also my first day running since last JANUARY (it got painful to run right when I got pregnant...I switched to yoga only, mostly). I had this not-so-secret fear that my body would never go back to normal after the yuck that it went through with Samara's birth. I was scared that I wouldn't be able to run or hike or expend lots of energy again. Between Australia and yesterday, though, I'm pretty confident that I'm almost there, and I'm not worried at all anymore. Now I just have to find the time to run once I go back to work...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Her Own Room

Samara slept in five different beds between our trip to Australia, our home and our trip to Jakarta. She had no problem in any of them. We just swaddled her up, she shook her head back and forth and got excited and then (ultimately...) fell asleep.

At home, she has been sleeping in a pack and play next to our bed. It's been fantastic for me, because I don't even have to wake up to feed her in the middle of the night. I sort of pull her out (while still swaddled, so I just have to be sure I have her head and a leg and the rest comes along), unwrap her, feed her, swaddle her again and plop her back in. I don't even know what time it is, and I certainly don't stay awake while feeding her. I felt like a new woman every morning (never mind that we sleep in until 9 everyday...).

After sleeping in so many beds and sleeping a bit longer (at least the first stretch of sleep per night), I realised that we probably make it harder for her by keeping her in our room. She sort of wakes up when we shower and go to bed, and anytime we move, or the kitty meows, she sort of stirs. I thought she would sleep better if she were in her own room. Silly me, I thought I would sleep better too, because I wouldn't hear all of her little squeaky cute noises.

We moved her into her own bed in her own room on Tuesday night (that makes it six beds...). She is sleeping okay - her first stretch has gone from five or six hours to more like four, but that could be because she has been waking up from her last nap of the day around 5:30 pm...But I, on the other hand, cannot sleep! I hate that she's so far away, and I'm sort of just waiting for her to wake up. I think it just takes time to get used to, but, pathetically, this is the farthest we have ever been since her creation! She definitely naps better in her bed.

It is super interesting that she knows that after her bath and last feeding, she should sleep for a long while. The whole day she takes an hour or two nap here and there, but once she's in for the night she sleeps for longer. It's the same bed, the same swaddle blanket, and the first time she goes to sleep it's even light out. How does she know that THIS time she's REALLY going to bed and it's not just a nap? Pretty cool.

In other news, she is grabbing at things and is super social - talking so much that she sometimes can't find air in between her thoughts. She ends up coughing. Pretty cute. She's definitely her parents' child!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Oh, How I Miss Thee, Indonesia

Until July, we have travelled just about every month that we have lived in Singapore (three and a half years!). I think the longest I had ever been here was six weeks. And that was painful. I was terrified that I would have to spend from mid-July until December in Singapore, but as it turned out, I had just about no interest to go anywhere. I had other things on my mind. When December finally came around, it was slightly terrifying to actually leave! Perth/Margaret River was really easy. Sam did great, and I didn't worry too much (though I did have a stiff neck for almost the entire trip, and I don't think it's unrelated!).

My guess is that at least half of our trips from the last three and a half years have been in Indonesia. We have been diving all over, to Bali six times, to Lombok, Medan, Malang, Yogya, Manado, etc. I think that Indonesia is one of the most underrated places in the world - it's fabulously beautiful and has SO much to offer. We love it there. Going with a baby, however, was a whole different ballgame.

We took a local airline. They gave us an infant seat belt which attaches to mine. We strapped her in, though I was pretty sure it wouldn't do us any good. Then, RIGHT when we landed, we were still taxiing and nowhere near a gate, and they came and asked for it back. Um - if we're in the air, and we crash, that seat belt will do us no good. Just about the ONLY time that it MIGHT be useful is on the runway and driving to the gate. Really? I glanced up at the "fasten seat belts" sign that was illuminated above my head, I unstrapped my baby, and I gave it back.

We then got in a taxi. We took only the most reputable taxi company - Blue Bird. As (slightly) responsible parents we brought a car seat with us. We strapped in Samara to the car seat, and oops, there are no seat belts! Hmmm...

We arrived at the hotel, and there was a whole security system. Hotels in Jakarta have been bombed multiple times, so it's not a joke. I have seen this with cars (in Bali), but I haven't before seen a hotel where they put all of your luggage through a scanner before you go in. I had a backpack on my back, and I was carrying Samara in her car seat. I did not understand that my backpack needed to be scanned. They directed me in one direction and grabbed by baby and took her inside. They tried to get me to walk around the corner while she just sat inside the hotel door. REALLY? Just take my baby away from me? Since I didn't understand what was going on, I was trying to follow Samara (or the person who had taken her from me and was walking away), but because of my backpack, they were all freaking out. Finally, Matt explained that I could go with Samara, but I had to leave the backpack to be scanned. No problem - just tell me and do NOT take my baby away! Scary!

Our hotel is the number one hotel on trip advisor in Jakarta - the Mulia Senayan. It's hilarious in general (like everything is gold and very fancy looking), but it's actually a really nice hotel. We took the elevator to the 20somethingth floor, and we got off and saw the "thank you for not smoking on this floor" sign. It really smelled of smoke. Okay - we'll see what our room smells like. We got into the room that had another non-smoking sign, and we saw the ashtray and matches. Huh? We got a new room. Luckily it smelled a lot less of smoke (though it was definitely there...).

We were in Jakarta for Vinny and Jason's wedding celebration. They got married this summer in DC and we weren't able to make it, so we were happy to be able to go to the mass and dinner in their honour in Jakarta. Vinny is from Jakarta. After arriving at the mass 15 minutes late (I was SURE it would start late - it's Indonesia!), the baby started SCREAMING when we walked in. Oops. A highlight of the service was when they sang "Heveinu Shalom Aleichem." It wasn't in Hebrew, but it was definitely those words and that tune - probably a mix of Bahasa and Arabic. It was so cool! They played that when you greeted everyone sitting around you. "Peace Be Upon You." The photo is a bad one - we have shadows on our heads - but it's one of our only family shots!

Another highlight was the Indonesia versus Philippines football match at the stadium opposite our hotel. We saw in the paper on Sunday that there had been a "scuffle" when tickets went on sale, right at the stadium, on Saturday. We then got caught in tons of traffic heading to the wedding dinner. Finally, on the way back, Indonesia had won at least one of the matches (they were playing two, but we didn't get if they had already played both...), and the streets were CRAZY with happy Indonesians flying their flag and playing drums and horns. It was really exciting and fun (until we could hear it until 11pm on the 32nd floor of our hotel). See the video.

video video

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Moving back to normal clothes

I'm happy to say that I can fit into my normal clothes again. I am not happy to say goodbye to elastic and hello to buttons.

Maternity clothes were incredibly comfortable but looked horrible on me. I had very few options - a bunch of terribly ugly work outfits and a couple of tank tops and two ugly pair of shorts and a few dresses that made me look like a house. I never felt pretty or felt like I looked nice when I was pregnant. The good thing was that after about 20 weeks, I totally didn't care. As long as it covered me, it was fine with me. I never looked in the mirror, and I just tried to get through it without spending more money on clothes. Moving back to normal life, though, I need to try to care again about what I look like and what I'm wearing.

Let's be clear, I have never REALLY cared too much about how I look - not enough to actually buy nice clothes, jewelry, learn how to put on make-up or accessorise. But now I find that I'm happy wearing elastic shorts or skirts and any t-shirt that is easy enough to nurse in. My priorities are comfort (no pressure on the c-section wound/that whole area which is surprisingly STILL sore) and nurse-ability. Luckily I still have almost two months before I have to REALLY look nice when I go back to work...but I'll start trying before then.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Margaret River and Perth Area

Samara just got back from her first trip. It was her first (and second) plane ride, her first (and second and third) hotels, and her first passport stamp. Her second continent. She's a world traveller. She slept, ate and pooed her way through the Margaret River area as well as Perth and Fremantle. She seemed to love it. Okay - she didn't seem to really notice anything, but she seemed happy enough, and Matt and I had a fabulous time.

The trip started a bit rough when we got to the airport and the guy checking us in asked where our visas to Australia were. Who knew you needed a visa to go to Australia? Oops. Luckily you can buy them at the airport (but it was EXPENSIVE!). Then, we got to Perth at about 1:30am, and the company that we had reserved a car through had no one at the counter and no one answering any of their lines. After a half hour of trying, we went to our hotel and went back in the morning (taxi rides in Perth are no joke - this country is EXPENSIVE too!). So...we were down a few hundred bucks, but after that all was smooth (other than an hour and a half or so of being lost in the woods on day seven or so).

We spent seven days exploring the area around Margaret River, which is about four hours south of Perth, and it's all up and down the coast line. The town itself reminded me of Moab, Utah - people look really healthy and happy, it's really slow, there's healthy food, and people are just busy doing things they enjoy all day. There is BEAUTIFUL hiking and exploring to be done along the coast, and a few kilometers inland there are amazing wineries and breweries. There are also great TALL Karri and Marri forests to walk through, inland. All in all, we tasted beers at four breweries and visited five wineries, including three fabulous meals (two in particular - Cullen Wines and Leeuwin Estates). I wouldn't mind going back when I'm not breastfeeding...We visited a place where they make great chocolate another where they make good ice cream, and a few other random places. We got moving pretty late each day, drove around (on the left - Matt was a champ) and hiked and ate and drank, and then everything closed by about 4pm, so we were home by 5 or 6 each day. We ate dinner in most nights, watched movies and relaxed. It was our first time alone as a family in a super long time, and it was so nice to just be and have very little to do.

We did FREEZE, though. It was in the upper 60s (which is not cold for those of you who haven't lived in Singapore for four years...) and low 70s during the day and colder at night. Poor Sam slept with her long pajamas, her swaddling blanket, a Stephanie and Brad swaddle blanket, a quilt and a knitted blanket by Janice the hygienist. She was still cold, but we cuddled with her as much as we could without suffocating her.

Some highlights included a bunch of hikes along the coast (we can't decide which was best), the lunch at Cullen Wines, and a day trip to Donnelly. We drove the car for an hour and a half (fast - we covered LOTS of kms!), passing about three towns and NOTHING else in between and we ended up in this old timbre mill village. It was opened in 1951 and closed in 1978, so it's super bizarre. The mill workers' home videos are now "holiday cabins" so they're not totally run-down, but there is basically just the old mill, the houses and a store in the village. They have been feeding the kangaroos, emus and chickens there for the last 30 years, so they're ally really tame. They come up to the car and people - and it's REALLY crazy.

We also stayed in Perth for two days. We spent one day in Fremantle where we ate fish and chips and walked around in the cute streets (though Sam was a bit tired and not the most fun she's ever been that day...). We found Fremantle great, and we found Perth to be okay. Didn't seem like too much in Perth, but it seemed nice and cute enough. The park on top of the city, King's Park, was fabulous.

We really recommend traveling in the area - the wine and beer was really good and fun to try (though only sips - poor Melanie), the food is REALLY good, and the area is GORGEOUS in general. There is just so much to do there. You just need to be prepared to spend a lot of money. Mind you, this is compared to our usual trips in SE Asia, so probably it's not actually that expensive.

Click here for our photos and a few videos.
video

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Coffee in a Bag

In SE Asia (and possibly other parts of the world - I just don't know about it), you get your drinks in a bag. If you say "take away" (never "to go"), then they start pouring your drink into a plastic bag with lanyard/boondoggle handles. You can get your soda in a bag with ice, you can get hot coffee in a bag, with a straw, obviously, as well as any other drinks. You may recall this photo from a posting when we first moved here (though the photo is in Bangkok) and I have also posted another photo below. The photo below is of, ice milk tea, ice coffee not-so-sweet, and hot coffee, from left to right. Let's discuss...

Yes - they hang, so in this hot weather, your cold drinks don't get warmer by the touch of your hand. The drink sweat can just drip away and you don't have to bother with the mess. You don't get a cup, so this is definitely cheaper for the vendor. You can conveniently hang your drink on the hook you have on your wall at work or at home.

Wait a minute...I don't have a hook on the wall at home or at work. Where the hell am I supposed to put this down? I have devised a system to hang it from the kitchen faucet (luckily the boondoggle provides grip and it usually doesn't slide), but this has caused an accident or two. Otherwise, I have NO idea where I can put my coffee if I'm not drinking it.

This leads me to think that we are meant to pour these drinks into cups when we get home. Hmmm - the holes on the top of the bag to allow for the boondoggle ties mean that liquid leaks all over and you waste at least 1/5 of your drink. I thought about cutting off the bottom, but then you don't transfer the ice. In addition, the packet holds more than any of our cups, so once we cut it, we would have overflow and no way to stop it (that gravity thing...).

So...my solution (which I have not practiced) is to get a bigger cup at home so I can cut the bottom and pour it in (there is definitely no way to pour it from the top without spilling - I have even watched my local friends do it, and they spill everywhere). Better yet, I can just bring my bigger cup to Ben the coffee man and have him (or Rong, his lovely assistant) put the coffee directly in the cup. Until I get the bigger cup, though, I don't want to sacrifice those gorgeous sips of coffee that make my day so wonderful by 1) bringing a smaller cup and only getting the coffee that fits in there or 2) spilling the coffee during the transfer. So...I get the coffee and walk around until I finish it. (The drink sweat drips on Samara's head in the baby bjorn, but she doesn't seem to care. It's probably refreshing.)

There just has to be a better way. I estimate that 1/10 of all of Singapore's coffee and tea is wasted in bag-to-cup transfers over sinks willing to suck up the excess. We could change the economy here if we could just retain that liquid!

In other news, Matt was in Vietnam and Sri Lanka for work this week. We missed him a lot (and he missed Sam a lot), but it was nice to not have to be quiet in the middle of the night! We had a bunch of great conversations in the middle of the night. He had good trips, good meetings, and now he's not traveling for work for a while, which makes me and Sam happy.

I have been stressed about Samara taking a bottle. She must take a bottle when I go back to work, and the lactation consultants say that you really need to start around 6 weeks and consistently give it to her until I go back to work. Otherwise she "forgets" how to take it. We give her a bit of milk from a bottle everyday - and whenever she doesn't take it, I have a mini-freak-out in my head. "Oh no! She won't take a bottle! I will have to quit my job, and she'll cry all day, and everything will be horrible!!!" I need to learn, though, that each time she doesn't take it, it's because she's tired and not hungry. Today I learned that again as she got hungry and she was sitting in her bouncy chair, and I tried to give her the bottle that she wouldn't take earlier. Babies who are fussy about this stuff DEFINITELY won't take a bottle from their mom. She had no problem at all. She sucked it down in no time. She's an eating champion. I need to relax.

I have also received the "all clear" (literally) from the doctor, so I am completely healed/healing and should have no more problems. That is fabulous news, since it's only been nine weeks since the birth...oy.

Off to Western Australia for Samara's first trip!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Ex-Pat Circuit

We bought the following things before Samara was born:
a car seat (which is NOT required to leave the hospital here in Singapore, by the way)
a stroller
a few newborn outfits
a pack of diapers
a pack of wipes (which we haven't used yet)
3 bath towels
10 wash cloths (or flannels, as they're called here)
a few swaddling blankets
a rocking chair
a tub
a thermometer
a bunch of cloth diapers (for burp/spit-up purposes, not diaper purposes)

The stroller, car seat and rocking chair all became gifts from family back home.

Before she was even born, we got one ex-pat dump which included a baby bjorn, a pump, two play mats (including one with the animals that hang down), a tonne of toys and clothes, a tub, and a bunch of maternity/nursing clothes and probably other stuff that I don't remember. This was from a friend I met through a friend who moved here last year and is done having kids (Francesca).

We got a dump of stuff to borrow which included a floating tube for the pool, a bassinet, a bouncy chair...This is from the friend who introduced me to Francesca above (Susie).

And then after she was born we got two more dumps - one from a family in the Jewish community (the Greens) who has three girls and are also done. This one included a bouncy seat, a steriliser, a bottle warmer, a TONNE of amazingly cute clothes and a bunch of toys.

Finally, Matt and I went to a used stuff sale here in Singapore (where we scored a mobile and some other random toys), and a woman behind me in line (Cindy) heard me say that I was looking for sleeping sacs (for when we stop swaddling her). She said, "I have a few of those, plus a monitor and some other stuff. If you want to come to my house, I'll give it all to you." FABU! I went out there, and scored lots more clothes and toys, a totally working baby monitor and other stuff.

We became a repository of baby stuff. Once we took what we thought we would use, I then had friends over to go through it and take what they thought they would use, and finally Belle is taking the rest to be donated to her community back in the Philippines.

Between all of the stuff that people gave us and the amazingly generous gifts we have received, we have only bought more wash cloths and a few storage things for all of her toys since Sam has been born.

Let's be clear - I am cheap. I love a good deal. But this isn't even about that - this stuff is all in fantastic condition and it SHOULD be used again. Every baby does not need new toys and play mats - and I love that these toys and things have been previously loved by so many babies.

And when we're done...on they'll go on the ex-pat circuit...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Aunt Belle

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. This is the holiday and Aunt Belle does at Judy's. Aunt Belle really had a part of every holiday - at least four desserts - but this was the biggie. Rather than Aunt Belle doing Thanksgiving at Judy's, the whole family went to Judy's machetunum's house. That's because this is the first Thanksgiving without Aunt Belle. After 94 (almost 95!) years, Aunt Belle passed away last week.

Aunt Belle was like my second Bubby. She took us to do things as if we were our Bubby, even when my Bubby was still alive. It was when she died (11 years ago!), though that Aunt Belle really became my second Bubby. She was always up on my life. She knew everything that was going on, because she asked and because she cared.

Most of my interaction with Aunt Belle in the last ten years was at holidays and family gatherings. She always arrived with at least four desserts, and she took her seat. For dinner it was at the end of a big table, and after dinner, she sat on the couch. Everyone took their turn to go say hello and talk to Aunt Belle. She couldn't really hear what we were saying, so we mostly could just look at her, smile and answer her questions as loud as we could. She would always have a hand on us - on the arm or the leg - and she would smile and say "love you."

Every time I said goodbye to Aunt Belle in the past four years, I thought that it could be the last. Once she reached 90, I had no idea what to expect. Not only did she show up the next time I was home, but her four desserts came with her. Finally, when we left this year in May, it actually was the last time I got to see her.

I called her for her birthday, and the conversation went like this:
"AUNT BELLE, IT'S MEL."
"Judy?"
"NO, MEL"
"Nancy?"
"NO, IT'S MEL"
"Sue?"
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"
"Judy?"
"IT'S MEL!!"
"Call back and leave a message."

I don't really understand what holidays will be like without Aunt Belle. Now that whole generation of my mom's side of our family is gone. There is no more matriarch. It will just be totally different.

And...on the other hand, it will be totally different for me, because I will now bring my own child to holidays (if we ever make it home again!). I suppose it's the circle of life...and it's really happening.

In other news, I still feel very weak and sore, so I have slowed down mine and Samara's activity. We have tried to do one thing per day, but other than that, we wake up late, go get coffee and run an errand if we have one and mostly just play at home. She's really interactive with people - she will try to get your attention if you start talking to someone else, and she smiles and coos a lot. She also smiles at stuffed animals and other things that have faces. She is really happy sitting in this Fisher Price bouncy chair that someone donated to us. She can sit in it all day, sleep, put herself back to sleep, play, bounce...Last night we were at someone's house who had the same chair, but it had an arch of animals that lit up and moved, and Samara sat in the chair for at least a half hour laughing, smiling and cooing at the animals (we are now looking for a used version of that chair!). She's so fun to be around...that every time I think about going back to work I want to cry.

We are headed to our second of four Thanksgiving meals this weekend! We are especially thankful for our friends who are feeding us fantastic food! Happy thanksgiving!

Monday, November 15, 2010

1-2-3-4-3-2-1

One - 10pm
Mel: in bed
Matt: in the living room
Samara: in her bed
Kitty: on her pillow on the window sill (her bed)

Two - 12am
Mel: in bed
Matt: in bed

Samara: in her bed
Kitty: on her pillow on the window sill

Three - 1am
Mel: in bed
Matt: in bed

Samara: in her bed
Kitty: in bed

Four - 6am
Mel: in bed
Matt: in bed

Samara: in bed
Kitty: in bed


Three - 7am
Mel: in bed
Matt: at work
Samara: in bed
Kitty: in bed


Two - 8:30am
Mel: eating breakfast
Matt: at work
Samara: in bed
Kitty: in bed


One - 9am
Mel: checking email
Matt: at work
Samara: in bed
Kitty: exploring what has changed over night

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Communicating

Communicating with a baby that doesn't communicate back is bizarre. It's not bizarre when you do it for an hour or so with someone else's baby, but doing it for about 12 hours a day with your own baby is funny. I tell her everything we're doing - "We're throwing away your diaper where dirty diapers live. Playing on your tummy is really important for your neck muscles." We talk about what we have done - "This morning we cuddled in bed, and then we went for a walk. Then we played with Susie and said hi to daddy." This part is usually fine - but it is sort of weird to be talking all day when the person you're talking to doesn't really respond. Luckily she has started to smile and at least look into our eyes, which is nice...

The funniest is when I'm trying to get her to go to sleep. It seems right to sing to her - that's what you do to get babies to sleep, right? Well, when you're 32, you don't know a tonne of songs that are kid friendly. What songs do I know? Some Bob Dylan, Dar Williams, Indigo Girls, Kingston Trio...and TONNES of Jewish songs. Every night, we sing eshet chayil, shalom aleichem, the entire birkat hamazon, the shema and we get through parts of kabbalat shabbat. I actually have a siddur next to my bed - and you might think that I'm religious, but it's really just that it has all of the words, and we don't have anything else to sing! Seriously - I wonder what people sing to their kids/babies if they don't know all of these Jewish songs and prayers!
video
In other developmental news, Samara has started to speak to us a bit. We got a few babbles and goos. They're awesome. She has also opened her fists. They have been closed since she was born (for the most part), and now they're open and exploring the world. She can even see her hands. It looks like she expects them to do something exciting. I have spent the last two days picking the crud out from between her fingers. I swear we wash them every night in the bath, but it's sort of like her neck folds - stuff just gets stuck in here.

If you're reading this far, then you're probably genuinely interested in us/me, so I'll give more details. Yesterday I had to have a yucky procedure (D&C) to fix me up a bit. Apparently I had a "satellite placenta" that was attached to the normal placenta, and it was stuck "in the corner" of my uterus. Gross, right? TMI? Then stop reading. Apparently the placenta is supposed to attach itself loosely to the lining of the uterus, and mine did that, and they took that out with the c-section, but there was a piece that REALLY attached itself in there, so it was apparently difficult to scrape out (gross) and wouldn't have come out on its own. Basically, I had reason to be concerned (though it turns out I had reason to be concerned three weeks ago...), so I went to see the doctor, and he said they had to do this immediately. I got to go under general anesthetic for the first time. I also got to go back to the fabulous operating theatre where I had my wonderfully traumatic birth. It was mostly horrible, but I got out of there in seven hours and was in my bed afterward - and this time I could keep reminding myself that I have a beautiful and healthy baby, and it is all worth it. I should be totally better in a week. This is the birth that will never end, but it seems like it will finally end. Just about seven weeks late.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Routine With a One-Month-Old

You know when your life is filled with nursing, burping, changing a diaper and trying to develop your baby's brain (in loads of different ways)? You just don't have much to share...

This is my life. The Hildebrandt family is in town now, so we have been getting out with them, daily, and we have been taking additional adventures as well. Yesterday went to the library and the mall, today went to Tekka Market, met daddy for lunch and had four new moms and babies over, tomorrow heading to town for lunch with a friend - and then we'll walk back...but that's it!

Click here for more photos of Samara, and enjoy the photos of Samara's Bubby and Zaydie with her.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Smiling and Sleeping

Matt will sleep on the weekends until I wake him up. He can go till 2pm. And that's if he went to bed at 11pm the night before. He's a sleep champion. I, on the other hand, stink at sleeping. I can never fall asleep, and I'm always up early.

Samara takes after Matt. She slept for her first two days of life. We were convinced she was just getting over the rough labour and delivery. Then she continued to sleep. I asked the nurses in the hospital if I should wake her up to feed her every three (or four!) hours. She just slept. For her first two or three weeks, I set my alarm at night to wake us up every four hours, just to make sure she ate. Then my friends came over and said that they let their babies sleep until they wake up (they're the same age as Samara), so I succumbed to peer pressure happily, and stopped setting the alarm. Two nights ago she slept from 9:30pm until 3:30am and then from 4 until 7.

Yesterday was a whole different ballgame, though. She basically slept from 2pm until 6pm as we got her passport (it's cute!) and went for a walk in the botanic gardens. She woke up for about a half hour to eat around 4:30 and then went back to sleep. There is something about her carseat/stroller (and also the baby bjorn) that just make her SLEEP. We got home and had a few awake hours, but then she fell asleep hard at 8:30. She was sleeping SO hard that when we put her down to take off her diaper for her bath, she didn't wake up. She was sleeping SO HARD that when we put her in the BATH she didn't wake up! I thought something was wrong with her...but we just swaddled her and put her to bed. She woke up normally to eat, so we think she was just REALLY REALLY tired (from sleeping all day?).

In other exciting news, I'm pretty sure she was smiling this morning with Belle. She responded to her multiple times - making eye contact and smiling! It was super cool to see, but when Belle gave her back to me, there were no smiles to be had! I'll work on it...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Smiles

When I was pregnant, I think I made a lot of people smile - mostly older women. People just seemed to look at my belly and get happy. This was NOTHING compared to how people react to a baby. Especially a super blond baby. Yesterday morning I strapped on Samara and we went off to get coffee (yeah - I figure since I never really stopped drinking coffee when I was pregnant (don't tell the pregnancy police), I should probably keep drinking a cup a day - for her. You know, not me. She may be addicted...). The coffee guy that my mom found in our neighborhood is named Ben, and his coffee shop is about a five minute walk from our place, if you walk slowly. (More on Ben later). On the way there and back, we probably made 20 people smile, and at least four asked how old she (or he?) is. It's kind of nice to have that effect on people! Though locals seem to be appalled that we're taking her out at such a young age - she'll be four weeks tomorrow - they're giving me incentive to keep doing it!

So, I had found an okay coffee shop near our place when we were looking for apartments. When we went back there, I realised it's farther than it needs to be, and the coffee wasn't strong enough (Samara likes a good, dark blend). We then tried this other one, right across the street from our condo, and while the coffee was good, she charged S$1.50, which is a serious rip off for coffee. Ben charges S$0.80. I think there are lots of tourists where we live, and she took us for fools. I told her that was the most expensive coffee in Singapore (other than the western kind, obviously), and we did not go back. Then my mom found Ben. He's Singapore born, and he moved to central Java (where Mt. Merapi, the volcano that erupted last week in Indonesia, is). He lived there for a while, and then he moved to Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand. He met his wife there, and then once his kids were old enough to need good education, they moved back to Singapore. He says that the pace of life doesn't suit him in Singapore, but he did it for his children. Now they're all studying all over the place (Australia, and I think in N. America, but I can't remember the details), and he and his wife opened this coffee shop that has a coffee stall plus a Norther Thai food stall. I can't wait to try out the food. He let me know that westerners really like this Thai dish called pad thai. I agreed and let him know that I also can't wait to try their fish cakes and tom yam. The place is always packed, and it's some of the only non-Indian or non-Chinese food in our area. If only Belle didn't cook so well so we could have some incentive to eat out of the house sometimes...

In other news Safta and Papa headed back to the States after a two week stint in Singapore that felt more like five days. Safta was very sad to leave the baby, but we assured her that we would take good care of her. G-chat will be her lifeline, I think.

In yet other news, we found that we can walk downtown with a stroller/pram, which is fantastic. There is a sidewalk all the way from our place to the National Library, and I used it yesterday to walk back from Raffles City mall. It's only about 30 minutes, and it's a great walk. I'm relieved to know this, since our experience with the stroller in this neighborhood has not been in our favour. The shophouses and uneven sidewalks have been challenging.

I also found a website that has all of the nursing places in Singapore, which is super cool. I tried out the room in Raffles City yesterday, and it's a whole world that I have never experienced. I met a ton of moms and babies, and it's so nice that I can feed her nearly anywhere. The police's statement says that as long as you're only exposing what's absolutely necessary from your boob, then you can actually nurse anywhere. Isn't that nice of them? There was only one SUPER CREEPY guy who kept looking in the windows and trying to catch a glimpse.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Getting Back into the World

Now that Samara is three weeks old, and I'm feeling more like a person, we have been getting back into the world. In the last few weeks we were going out once a day - just to get some fresh air, but then the air became not fresh (the haze from fires in Sumatra was horrible for a few days!), and we ventured a bit farther. We made it to a couple of malls (what else is there in Singapore?). Now that the air has cleared, today we roamed in the botanic gardens for a couple of hours. Samara unfortunately missed the whole thing - she was sleeping - but we really enjoyed it.

We have also gone to three restaurants. We had a nice Indian lunch at a place around the corner with our friend Alex who is here on business from NYC, and we also explored South Indian food with Dheeraj. He gave us a tour of idli, uttapams, and a whole bunch of chutneys at another place around the corner. Today we finally got the hamburger I have been craving for weeks. This was the first meat I have eaten since I left the hospital. I think my body was begging for it. I thought about hamburgers everyday for the last two weeks. At least once. I almost ate two, but I'm too cheap...

Other than our adventures - nothing is really happening that's blogworthy. Matt has returned to work, my parents are loving the baby, and she's been fantastic. She sleeps, eats, and she's generally really happy. Well, we don't know that she's happy, since she doesn't smile, laugh, or tell us that she's happy, but she's not telling us that she's UNhappy. The doctor has recommended that the baby gain 20-30 grams per day. Samara is averaging 53 grams per day. The doctor said, "what are you going to do? Put her on a diet? As long as it's breast milk, keep feeding her." She's FAT! Look at the cute little dimples in her hands. Her elbows are also dimply, and she has four chins, six creases in her thighs and at least seven wrists (on each arm).

I'm finally starting to feel better, though I have to say that I STILL don't feel very strong, and my body still hurts. I have many friends who said that they were fine after 3 days or 10 days or whatever after their c section, but not me. I'm not sure if I'm just a baby, but my body seems to be taking much much longer than that. I'm just hoping that I get back to where I was at SOME point. My weight is only 0.5 kg off from where I was before I was pregnant, but I can't even imagine doing a yoga class or running (even to catch a bus!). I have to be patient (not my strength...).

For pictures of my parents' visit, click here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Blogging with Baby

My life has been quite boring in the last two weeks, so I don't have much to blog about, but I feel as though I should document something. I have no crazy ex-pat experiences, or really any other experiences, because all I have done is sit in my little corner on the couch and feed the baby, read and relax. Our life goes like this:

Wake up around 8 - feed the baby until about 9 (who knew that it takes AN HOUR to feed the baby...like 8-10 times PER DAY!?).
Give the baby to someone (Matt, Belle, Mom...) and take a shower (or partial shower, since I still have stitches in - yuck).
Eat breakfast fast.
Feed.
Burp.
Put Samara to sleep.
I have no idea what I do - read? Look at Facebook? Look out the window? I have no idea where that time goes...
Feed.
Burp.
Put Samara to sleep.
Walk (sometimes the walk happens in the afternoon or evening instead)
Eat lunch fast.
Feed.
Burp.
Put Samara to sleep.
Feed.
Burp.
Feed.
Burp.
Feed.
Burp. (she eats and eats and eats starting around 4...)
Put Samara to sleep.
Eat dinner really fast.
Bath (she hated the first, but now she's pretty cool - we just have to sing a lot).
Feed.
Burp.
Sleep.
Feed.
Burp.
Sleep.
Then it all starts over again...

(I spared you the changing of the diaper, which is actually probably the most exciting part of our days!)

Otherwise, we're doing great. Samara has been a dream baby so far - she is always consolable - meaning that she only cries when she has something to say (i.e. hungry, needs a little help falling asleep, cold). She sleeps from 10 or 11 pm until 8 am with only one wake up around 3 for a nice meal (I eat one too...). We understand that colic can start anytime from now for the next two weeks, but we're hoping this continues. We haven't had that newborn daze at all - a little tired, but not falling over. We also feel so so so lucky to have Belle. Belle has taken care of all of the shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. She has set up the infrastructure, and all we have to do is enjoy the baby. It's been amazing.

Meanwhile, Samara's Savta and Papa (my parents) have come for their first visit. Savta is in love with the baby - she can't get enough. Papa is in love with bridge - he can't get enough. (Okay - he also loves the baby...but I think he loves bridge more). They have been fabulous mates for sitting on the couch. Quite easygoing, happy to eat whatever is made, only complaining about the heat when we leave the apartment (which is limited...), and generally helpful with the baby and refilling my water glass. This picture is from Samara's first trip out in the baby bjorn. We tried the stroller around Little India yesterday, and that was a disaster - shophouses and strollers don't mix.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Welcome Samara!

So, I haven't blogged in a while, but I have the best excuse yet. I'm sure that most people who read my blog already know this, but it should be documented here as well. We had our baby!

Most shocking is that she is a girl, and not so shocking is that she's absolutely beautiful and sweet.
The details:
Samara K Hildebrandt (soft "a" in the "mara")
3.7 kg (about 8 lbs 3 oz)
52 cm long (20.5 inches)


The short-story series of events went like this: Saturday morning we had a bit of colourful excitement, we went to Jake's baseball game, out for lunch, over to visit Christian and Lee Fong, and then I rested for 20 minutes and my water broke (in bed - yuck). We then went to a burr-WI-to party at Ari and Julia's and then went into contractiony labour at about 10:30pm. We went to the hospital at 2:30 or 3am on Sunday when the contractions were three minutes apart and quite painful. Samara was born at 11:37 pm on Sunday night by emergency c section. I'm happy to share the events that happened in between going to the hospital and the birth, but you have to promise that you're done having children before I reveal. Just email me.

All in all it was a very rough experience, especially for me and Samara, but Matt, and Catherine, our doula were fantastic and so supportive. In the end we have a beautiful, healthy baby.

So far we're all doing okay - I'm taking a bit of a long time to recover (I have never had surgery before, and maybe I'm a baby, but I haven't felt too well!), but we're just relaxing at home, focusing on only the baby. She's eating well - she has even developed an extra wrist or two - and she sleeps like a champion at night, so we're getting good spurts for a few hours here and there. She has only pooped through our sheets and mattress pad once so far, so I think we're on the right track.

Matt has taken last week and this week off work (JPM gives him a whopping two days of paternity leave, but he's taking annual leave), and he's getting lots of stuff done and really enjoying the baby. He has definitely bonded with her, and it's quite cute how obsessed he is. He even admitted that he loves the baby WAY more than the Kitty (we weren't totally confident this would happen...).

We are now anxiously awaiting the arrival of Samara's Safta (Sue) and Papa (Sandy) on Friday night/Saturday morning.

Click here for more photos of her first week(ish).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

F1

If you care about car races in the US (at least in Michigan), you're most likely a hick. I realise this might be offensive, and it's by no means true, but it's what I thought. If you care about car races in Singapore you're most likely a rich European.

Singapore has hosted the Formula 1 race for the last three years. I couldn't care less (I'm not a rich European). The first year was really annoying, because it was at the same time as Rosh Hashana, and that was just inconvenient. The second was also annoying, because 1) we were meant to get somewhere for a shabbat dinner, and it took us FOREVER and a half, and 2) our friends canceled plans with us, since getting into town was just too annoying. Last year we could hear the race from our apartment. That was annoying too.

This year, we got invited to an F1 party, and we thought, eh, why not see what this is all about (plus it was in a place with a fantastic view and with people we like). On the way up the elevator (it was a long ride to the 68th floor!) I asked Matt, "is this race like ten minutes or like two hours?" I had no idea. We got up there, and we could see the track. Is this it? They just go around and around? That looks boring. Then I learned that they have 61 laps to do. That's REALLY boring!

Luckily the sound of the cars was cool, and the company was nice, so we stuck around for about 20 laps, but that's enough. I'm just not into cars. I am more interested in:
  1. How do all the cars get to Singapore? Boat? Plane? Must be plane, but I didn't know you could FLY a car!?
  2. Does all that driving, so fast, cutting corners, damage the roads?
  3. Does Singapore actually make money from any of this stuff (we just had the Youth Olympic Games, which was equally annoying)?
To make it more annoying, yesterday after work, I walked to the bus stop, which should be a two or three minute walk, but since my hips feel like they're going to fall apart when I walk, it took me almost ten minutes to get there. I thought the bus would be better than MRT, since it's less walking, even though it takes longer and makes me nauseous. Well, by the time I got there, I saw that actually no buses were running because of the F1. Made me hate it even more. Then I had to walk back and then take the MRT. Just the commute was enough to exhaust me.

I also have to say that yes, I'm due in about four days, and yes, I'm really huge and pregnant - like really huge. My hips feel so much pressure, I really think they might split. Each step hurts and puts pressure in places I have never felt before. STILL I walk faster than about half the people in the MRT station. That means there's a problem with THEM, NOT me. I always just thought I was just impatient (which I am).

In other news, we went to the doctor today, and the baby is still growing (though now I'm LOSING weight, which I don't understand), and its head is engaged (hence all the pressure). All is good to go. We made an appointment for next Tuesday, but I'm really hoping we don't have to use it!

In yet other news - I have had multiple unsolicited tummy pats in the last week. We went to volunteer last Friday, and a lady in the Red Cross Home for the Disabled was all over this belly. Then we went for lunch at a hawker stall, and the lady who cleans the table (with really dirty hands) was rubbing with two hands saying, "boy. boy. boy." Then at the F1 party someone was trying to find the bottom of the bump (I was wearing a dress) and really went quite uncomfortably low. I think it was a cultural thing, but it was awkward and I started walking backwards without even thinking about it.

In the best news yet - Dena and Jill have both given birth to beautiful babies! Dena gave birth to Alma Mia about two weeks ago, and Jill gave birth to Joseph Brady on Saturday, early. I'm so proud of them, and I can't wait to meet those babies!! While everyone at work, at Jewish holiday services and everywhere else tells me that there's no way to do it without pain meds (I try to just tune them out, but it's really all the time), Jill and Dena proved them all wrong. MAZAL TOV!! Even cooler than the fact that we're all giving birth at the same time is that our kids will always be the same age. That's just such a cool thing to share with your best friends.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bris in Singapore

I thought I should write about this now, since I might not have time later (or we might find out that it's not relevant - as we're having a girl!?).

Having a bris in Singapore is no easy task. Let me share our experience in setting up the infrastructure in case we find it necessary when the baby comes...

First, we met with the rabbi from our progressive community. He said that we can use a pediatric urologist that other people use, or we can just get it done by anyone. We can do it in the hospital and have a ceremony later - lots of options. I felt confident, until I emailed a Conservative Rabbi friend and an Orthodox Rabbi friend, and both said that you kind of really need the person who does the cutting to be Jewish, at least for it to be a halachic bris (a circumcision according to Jewish law).

That led to discussions between me and Matt that debated whether or not we thought this was important. Seemed like the baby would be Jewish regardless, since I'm Jewish, and that's REALLY all that's necessary...but I have a weird feeling about this stuff and want to make sure we do things halachikly (like our wedding) in case it ever comes up later, even if we don't care that much right now.

So, back to Jewish options...so I started asking around. Excuse me, who circumcised your son? Do you know anyone who has had a bris here in Singapore? Please tell me about your experience with this tradition (that I find DEEPLY troubling on a lot of levels!!!) and how I can do this to my potential child!?

I found that a few people that seemed normal had used this rabbi from Melbourne. Apparently he comes in on a specific flight, he is friends with the local rabbi, so he stays with him, and then he flies right back. He does it all the time...Okay. Sounds good. Matt got in touch with him, he sent us the link to his website, we found out he was chabad, but we decided it was all fine, and we would go with him. We just had to make it through the high holidays so he could for sure come.

Mission accomplished. We made it through. Then we found out there was a bris on Monday, after Yom Kippur, and I suggested that Matt go so he can meet the rabbi and see what happens at a bris (it had been a while). He went, he came back, he told me it was all fine.

Then, that night we were video chatting with my mom, and he said, "yeah, it was fine. Though he did touch his mouth to the wound, which was weird." He WHAT!? I flipped. My mom hung up. What? That's a horribly outdated tradition that I want nothing to do with (and to be honest makes me embarrassed to admit that my people do it at all!). I called our other friend who was there too and asked if this happened. He thought it did indeed happen.

Shit. 1.5 weeks till due date, and the rabbi we think can circumcise our maybe son isn't going to work out, and we don't know what other options we have...After doing some internet research, Matt emailed the rabbi and asked nicely if "metziza" is part of his tradition. The rabbi wrote back and explained that yes, that just means sucking out blood from the wound, which is required. But, it can apparently happen by mouth, by a sterile tube or by a sterile gauze pad. He said it's up to the parents.

Gauze pad please.

So - it got a bit stressful over here, but now it looks like we're good to go again. Phew.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Missing Lap

I seem to have lost my lap. It has come up for me on three specific occasions.

1) In general, people jump up to give me a seat on the MRT. I can get a whole row to get off at the next stop if I walk on the train. That's all nice and good, but when you're carrying a big purse (with lots of snacks, a book, a water bottle, a computer...) plus a bag with yoga clothes, it might be easier to stand up so you can hold the bags. When I sit down, I want to ask the person who stood for me to hold my bags also. I just can't seem to find my lap to rest them on!

2) At the doctor today, he was running a bit behind, which actually only resulted in a half hour wait, which is not bad at all and is totally out of the ordinary (he's usually very on time). I had left work early to get to the doctor, and I hated that I couldn't do work. So, I whipped out my laptop, booted up, and I tried to find my lap. The computer kept sliding off. The only solution was folding my leg - like left ankle on top of right knee - and putting the computer on my calf. There was no lap to be found!

3) When I look at super pregnant women who have 1-2 year olds (my friend Margaret and lots of women at the doctor), I don't understand how they put their kid on their lap. It has baffled me for the last few weeks. They have no laps!

So - now we're at 38.5 weeks, and all is going fine. The head is still down, starting to engage, and somehow the baby is still growing, though I haven't gained weight in about a month (I REALLY don't get that one - if the baby is gaining weight, where is it COMING FROM?! I mean I am eating a tonne, but come on!). I've got good (lowish) blood pressure and strong and good speed of a baby heart beat.

I have thought throughout the entire pregnancy that we're having a boy (I don't know if I'm allowed to say that out loud, but I don't think it will mess our kid up too much...), and so does EVERYONE else (other than two people), but today I had a sign that we're having a girl. When you order a taxi in Singapore, your name shows up with your phone number for the taxi driver. I have always been Melaine or something like that, but today, when I got in a taxi, it was a TOTALLY different name, and it had all of the letters of the name that we have chosen if we have a girl - actually it was exactly the name, but two letters were switched. Hmmmm....I guess we'll find out soon!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pregnant Around the World

It just happens to be that some of my bestest friends in the world are pregnant at the same time as me. In fact - three of my four "bridesladies" from our wedding are pregnant, and we're in four different countries.

I tried to get them to participate in an "unsolicited tummy-pats" experiment with me. I wanted to see if it's cultural - i.e. maybe more people touch your belly in Israel? Maybe in Singapore? I seemed to be the only person who counted (22 as of today).

It has been interesting, though, to compare experiences - particularly with regard to what each country does for doctor visits. In each country the tests are at different times (or we don't have them), we have different number of scans, and generally it's just different. Apparently in the US they test everyone for gestational diabetes. Not so in Singapore - only if the baby seems really big, if you have gained a lot of weight, or if your pee on some stick turns it a funny colour. In Singapore we get scans every time we go to the doctor, if we want. In the US you get one at 14 weeks and one at 20 - for tests. It's all been quite interesting.

Now - we just get to wait. Freya gave birth about three weeks ago. Jill and Dena are due on Yom Kippur, then I'm due two weeks later. Canada (not sure how out she is on facebook...) brings up the rear in December.

In other news - after a lot of effort, the baby has flipped and is now head down, and the head is apparently starting to engage. The doctor said that s/he's not likely to flip back. That's really good news and has made me extremely happy. We're very proud of this little baby, because apparently flipping at this point, with all of my body and muscles' limitations, is not easy. Way to go little one! (It has been nice, though, going for acupuncture, massage, and making sure I relax everyday...Chiropractor not as much fun, but still nice).

In yet other news, we are mostly settled into our new place, getting our last furniture delivered on Wednesday. Then we'll be for real.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Flipping Out

For the last week, I have done nearly everything I can to flip this baby to a head down position for a natural birth. I suppose I could have stood on my head for a while longer, but I worried that the blood flow might be disrupted, and we don't want our baby to be too stupid.

So, in between calls (I had about 10 calls in between 9 pm and 11pm and then again at 6 am this week...but I won't have any more until I'm back from mat leave) and work, I packed in many things over the past week.

I propped my hips up on pillows and laid on the couch nearly everyday. We made sure my hips were at least nine inches above my head. This uses gravity to push the baby into a different position - i.e. go into my rib cage or something - at least it felt like that. It is really hard to breathe, and if I have eaten within two hours, I feel like I'm going to puke, but it does move the baby. We even turned off all the lights and shined a flashlight where we want the baby to move to. Matt also made farting noises on my belly with his mouth. Again - I'm not sure what this does, but he seems to think it's funny, and the baby does move a lot for some reason.

In addition, on Wednesday, Thursday and today, I went to the chiropractor for the first time (and second and third...). I tried one twice, and then I went to a different one today (the first went on holiday, and I actually feel a lot more comfortable with the second...). They're using the Webster Technique, which tries to align your hips and therefore your uterus and open it all up to allow the baby to shift better. I learned that because of the way my spine is shaped (I always knew I had some sort of scoliosis, but I had NO idea this affects the way you carry a baby, though it definitely makes sense...) my right hip is more forward, which creates more space on the right side for the baby. Because the baby is constantly on that side only, the muscles on the left side compensate and get very tight, and the muscles on the right also get tight and hold the baby in place. Between aligning my hips and loosening the left ligament that comes down from my uterus, they're hoping to open it all up.

I also tried acupuncture for the first time. I laid on my left side, and the guy found a few spots that apparently need more energy - weak spots - and he put in needles. I have no idea what else he did, since I couldn't see anything, but he must have attached something to the needles, because they were definitely pulsing, sometimes at different speeds. Then he did something with suction, where he grabbed the skin around the spine and went up and down with suction. Apparently those spots will help my uterus/all other relevant muscles relax as well. I definitely felt better after that - more energised, less uncomfortable and definitely more relaxed in my brain. I don't know what it does or how it works, but something happened. Also, about halfway through the treatment, the baby started moving around like crazy - I think it was possibly doing an entire yoga class in my tummy. Hopefully it felt the tension release and realised that it could have a party in the other half of my tummy.

The good news is that the baby is definitely in a different position - even Matt said the outside of my tummy looks different. The bad news is that I have no idea what the position is. It was in a breech position for at least a month, and I know what the head feels like at the top, and I know what the kicks feel like down at the bottom (and on my bladder, obviously), but what I'm feeling now is completely new, so I can't quite place all of the appendages. There's still something big at the top (which I really hope is a bum, but I'm not that optimistic), but it is different, so I'm hoping this is all doing SOMETHING.

I am going for acupuncture on Monday, to the chiropractor on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then I will pray on Thursday and Friday (it's Rosh Hashana, so I might as well count that as part of the treatment, right?). We have until next Saturday before the ECV, which is apparently not too comfortable, but if that works, I'm happy to have that as well...Hopefully after all of this, though, it won't be necessary.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kitchen

Our kitchen in the US was really special. We could look at bowls, and know that each came from a special person in our lives. We knew our everyday dishes came from special ladies who threw our wedding shower. Each piece came from someone else who means something. And all the rest was Bubby's.

Since we were only moving to Singapore for a year or two, we decided not to take our kitchen with us (other than a pot, a pan and the obligatory knives, obviously - who can live without amazing knives?). I thought it best to leave them to stay kosher at home and away from this traif country...and we knew we were "getting moved" there, but we didn't know if we would get moved back, and that stuff is important (and heavy=expensive!).

So, here we are, three years later, and we definitely have no plans to come home for the next two years (at least). But, as a good, nesting, entertaining (not the fun part - but the "I like to have people over" part) woman, I/we have had to build up a new kitchen. I didn't realise the uniqueness of it until Thursday night when we unpacked all of our kitchen, washed each item, and put them all away in our new home. This is why it sort of blew my mind:
  • Plates and bowls are from our "babymoon" in Lombok
  • Some mugs from Chiang Mai - when I went with Jer in Dec, 07
  • Some mugs from a cool bar in Bangkok - they're shaped like tubas
  • Wine glasses from the weekend market in Bangkok
  • Serving bowl from a random street in Seoul
  • Three other serving bowls from the weekend market in Bangkok
  • Mugs from: a co-worker at AWARE that hated me and probably got it for me as a "good riddance" gift, Marc and Arthur who left a really long time ago, Google (I just love Google), SAIS, GW, the Fed...
  • Ceramic kitchen spoon holder from Nachalat Binyamin in Tel Aviv
  • Mortar and pestle, and masala set from Little India (don't worry - we still live in Little India)
  • Measuring cup from my tripping days at Camp Ramah (not that kind of tripping...)
  • Measuring spoons, grater, measuring cup from Bubby
  • 9X9 from Langkawi, an island off the NW of the Malaysian peninsula (it's not especially cool - but they just had one for a good price, so why not!?)
  • Two plates from the Dominican Republic - one of our first big trips that we took together
The moral of the story is - nearly everything in there makes me happy and reminds me of something neat that we have done (mostly together).

In other news, we moved on Wednesday, and all went smoothly, though it took much longer than expected. We are now settling in our new home, which is nearly three times the size of our old place, and we are slowly (or quickly, really) acquiring our first furniture. Most major things have been taken care of, but we are headed today to find a bed and dresser for our helper, a desk and chair, and possibly some rugs. Yesterday we acquired a neat Indonesian day bed (trundle!), a tv console, a neat piece with drawers for the front door area and a bookshelf/buffet piece. We also had our couch delivered yesterday (which I'm sitting on, and it's fantastically comfortable).

In yet other news, our stubborn little baby (takes after both of us?) has yet to turn into a nice birthing position, so we are currently doing what we can. I have:
  • sat in a "all-fours" position with my arms down (polar bear position) for hours over the past few weeks
  • swam, belly-down
  • put frozen peas (and a frozen loaf of bread) on the baby's head. The doctor said that only makes its head cold (oops)
  • visualised it flipping (a lot)
  • asked it nicely
  • tapped in the lower regions
  • Matt has talked to the baby from the lower region, to try to get it to move closer to his voice
And now the doctor has said to sleep with the foot of our bed elevated, so we have raised it about four inches, and hopefully this will "dislodge" the baby's bum from my pelvis, and then apparently walking around all day will then encourage it to be head down, since the head is heavier.

If the baby doesn't flip by two weeks from now, the doctor will try to flip it himself, which apparently could be quite uncomfortable for me and the baby, and the trauma actually makes many women go into labour. Hopefully it will flip itself. I have always wanted to naturally birth a child (or two, three or four), and though I know it's not the end of the world, as long as everyone's healthy...I would really like to avoid a c section. On the flip side, Matt's worried about all of the money we have spent on hypnobirthing classes and our doula (birth coach).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Big Changes

Tomorrow morning the movers are going to pick up the furniture that we bought from this random British couple who are returning to the UK. Then they're coming to our apartment to pick up our 20 boxes, three bookshelves, two fans, ironing board, Kitty and Matt, and then they'll drop it all off at our new apartment.

I have "shifted house" as they call it here, many times in my life. In fact, I lived for almost two years in three different apartments (Ann Arbor, New York, and Bedok), but other than that, I have moved every year since 1996. Moving to New York, together with Matt was a biggie. Moving to Singapore was also a biggie, and now we have our next real biggie - maybe the biggest of all. This will be our first "family home" (no offense to the Kitty - it's not that she doesn't count, it's just that she's such an easy roommate...).

It feels very significant, like we're leaving our simple, couple life, and everything is going to be different. We will be moving from our one-bedroom, super simple, but fantastic apartment to a three bedroom place in a practical condo with lots of families and kids, right near a grocery store and other things that are important when you have kids. We will be filling our house with our new helper that we found this past weekend along with our baby, of course, in the next few weeks. We have a lot of really big changes coming up.

In the meantime, we're saying goodbye to what has been a wonderful year. Save about six weeks where I had the worst job ever, there was very little bad that happened here. I came back from Dena's wedding in Israel to this apartment, found my current job, which I love, conceived, and have had a pretty great pregnancy (if only this baby would flip, it would be even better!); we have hosted a bunch of fun meals, played a lot of Settlers, had fun visitors, and generally been super happy in this apartment.

So, tonight is our last night here. Today was my last swim in this fantastic pool. Tomorrow is my last commute from this apartment. Though I'm excited for what is coming, it's much much scarier than this simple life that we have now. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Apartment

We have lived in two apartments in Singapore. The first Matt found in about two weeks - before I got here. The second we found in about two days. Easy. No problem.

This time, we actually started thinking about moving in March or April. We thought about buying a place, so we spent a few weekends looking at apartments to buy until I totally freaked out at how much they cost, and we abandoned that idea and decided to rent. I think I wrote about this, but I just couldn't go from the most expensive thing I own being an engagement ring or computer to it being an apartment that's more than 1m in a city that I don't even feel very attached to. It was emotional (I am with Ariely that most money/general decisions are), and maybe not smart, but there was no option for me.

We decided to start looking to rent in mid-July in order to get an idea of which condo/s we would be happy in. We found two condos in a great location that are cheaper than similar condos, and we decided to limit our search to them. Our criteria were:
  • Short and easy commute
  • Oven (DIFFICULT to find in Singapore!)
  • Bathtub
  • 3 bedroom with a helper's room that is not a bomb shelter and is humane
  • Near a grocery store and ideally a wet market
  • Reasonable price
Most apartments in Singapore are available immediately, so it wasn't useful to look until the beginning of August. Both condos are big, so we figured there would be no problem. We figured we would find one our first weekend. So we did - Philip's apartment that allowed no Indians and no mainland Chinese...and apparently no cats. Under any circumstances.

We saw a ton, but some were nasty dirty disgusting, and others had weird furniture or other things that were not negotiable. We tried to find a solution with one apartment (with a fantastic view!) in us paying for monthly storage of some of the horrible (and mouldy) furniture. It just didn't make sense. We expanded our search to include weekdays. Finally, the second (or third?) weekend, we went back to one dirty one, and we looked beyond the dirtiness (which after seeing others didn't seem so dirty afterall), and we realised that it was totally fine. We went back for a second look, and we decided it would be great.

Next steps in Singapore - we sign a Letter of Intent and put down a month's rent and tell them what we want them to do before we move in (i.e. CLEAN the entire thing, check appliances and air con, mend curtains, etc.). We went back to draw up the letter of intent, and we ended up meeting the landlord (we had previously met only the agent), and it turns out he's from Medan, where Matt's family lived in the 80s in Indonesia. Perfect - everyone was happy. I was especially relieved.

Then, we woke up the next morning and our agents had sent us the final version of the letter of intent. Matt had signed it before the details were filled in - it's our third apartment with these agents, and they had taken us around for months, literally, so we trusted that they had our best interests in mind. When we read through it, it was perfect - save one thing. It said that we would pay our agents S$2500. Um, what? Divide that by 12 months, and we just added $200 to the monthly rent/cost of living there! Granted they had negotiated the price down S$500 per month, but still - we had no idea. We called the agents, and we said how happy we are with the apartment, but that we had no idea that we were paying them. They had previously explained that if the monthly rent is above a certain amount that the landlord pays the agents and the tenants pay nothing. They had known that paying an additional agents fee had actually helped us decide not to take another apartment, as it adds on quite a bit. Where did this come from? Well - they knew all along that this landlord wouldn't pay them - he was straightforward about it. But...they just wanted us to have an apartment, since I was getting a bit antsy, and I'm pregnant, and whatever, so they didn't want to bother us with the details - they just wanted us to get in. "Don't worry - you don't have to pay us. We're friends, and we know you'll give us other business, and we're happy to help you out. Just think of it as a gift." So...if we don't pay you, you won't get paid for all of the time that you took us to look at places? "Yes - but we're really happy to do it." We KNOW there is something cultural going on here, but we don't know what it is. We didn't want to be American and push and push it, and yet we were being American by understanding that we were now legally bound to pay them this amount of money...we decided to deal with that later and get the apartment in order.

The Letter of Intent says that we will sign a lease within seven days. After seven days, we had not, and apparently the landlord was travelling...anyways - though I was nervous until it happened, FINALLY, earlier this week, he signed the document and emailed it over. So today, at noon, we will go sign a lease and get possession of this apartment.

I am NOT the most laid back person, and I don't claim to be, but this saga was particularly rough for me, and I do think that I can blame some of it on hormones. I want to be able to picture where we will be in labour and where we will bring the baby back to, and I want to be able to try to understand (though I know I won't really understand) what life will look like when the baby's born, and not having a picture of an apartment (or any furniture or anything) was really difficult for me. Plus, as I get bigger I realise that 1 - it's REALLY hard for me to pack and help do anything and 2 - this baby can come at any point, and I want to be really ready at 36 weeks, which is in two weeks...

All in all, it seems to be working out - we bought a beautiful dining room table and chairs, king size bed and coffee table from this couple who is moving back to the UK, and we bought a couch two weekends ago...so we have all of the essentials, and we're moving on Wednesday. I'm hoping for no major glitches. If something does fall through, I'm taking a flight to Bali (or Lombok) - assuming they let me on the plane - and staying there for a week until Matt can sort it out. I can guarantee that I wouldn't even be useful at this point.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Full Time Job

Finding/signing on an apartment can be a full time job.

Seeing up moving arrangements/packing can be a full time job.

Finding a helper can be a full time job.

Furnishing an apartment can be a full time job.

Preparing for a baby can be a full time job.

Having guests can be a full time job.

Gestating can even be a full time job.

So when am I supposed to do my real full time job (and exercise, sleep, relax and see friends)?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Yoga

A few weeks ago, when I finally started feeling pregnant, I decided to check out the prenatal yoga class at my yoga studio. The woman who teaches it usually doesn't teach the most challenging classes (she taught me for a while on Monday mornings), so I was a bit reluctant, since I thought it wouldn't push me enough...but then I realised that I didn't really want to push myself anymore - and I'm not sure I'm even capable of it! In the regular classes, when we go from sitting to standing, or bowing to downward dog that's position enough when you weigh an extra 18 pounds and you're just unbalanced, awkward and big. One of the women from my hypno-birthing class goes, and she told me it was nice, so I thought I would check it out.

It's M-W-F at lunch, so I do have to leave work for an hour and a half (to go to yoga and then get lunch), which I'm super not comfortable with, but I just don't want to stop doing yoga. I think it's been really good for my body as well as my brain during the whole pregnancy so far.

So, it is a LOT more low key. There's upper body stretching - opening the shoulders, some squatting, to open the hips, and then there's usually quite a bit along the wall - doing some half moon, triangles, and a few warriors. It's slower, it's much easier (I don't think I have broken a sweat yet - except for this once, which I'll get to below), and I love it. I absolutely love being in a room with 10 or so other pregnant ladies. About half or more are due right around when I'm due, so we all have big bellies, and we're all sort of going through the same thing. It's a really powerful experience. The teacher seems to love the class, and she has a three year old, so she clearly remembers what it's like. It's not only about us and our bodies, but it's also about our babies, which is just so cool. It gives me time, three times a week, to really think about the baby and our connection. The most moving part is the end. After shivasana, we all sit up, put our hands on our bellies, and we sing this song (click on the link and listen - it's beautiful). To be in a room with so many other pregnant women, all bonding with their unborn babies and sort of saying a prayer for them is really moving. The first time I cried, and I even cried when I told Matt about it later (okay - I'm also really hormonal, so maybe that was part of it...). He made fun of me, but seriously, it's cool. I now love the class. I'm still doing what I can in the regular Hatha 1 classes twice a week, but it is definitely much harder. Today I realised I can't do child's pose anymore. There is no space for my belly. I have switched to polar bear, which doesn't do the same thing, but at least it makes my back relax.

We had a funny experience this week, when the regular prenatal teacher couldn't make it, and the kick-your-ass-Wednesday-morning teacher showed up. I walked in, and I said, "uh oh." He is REALLY hard. When I went to his class on Wednesday mornings, I would need at least two breakfasts. I also worried, because he's a serious flirt. He knows everyone's name and walks around and talks to them - asks random questions and what not. Flirting in a prenatal class won't get you too far...Anyways, when Anna teaches, she says, "don't push it. Stop at any time. Be careful." Plus there's the whole spiritual connection part. Vikram, on the other hand, kicked our asses! The whole atmosphere was all about the individual - no community, no baby - and we all pushed and pushed. When we all walked out, we were all sort of in shock. That day I broke a sweat. It was pretty funny.

In other news, we have put down a letter of intent for an apartment, but it seems like they probably won't take us (the whole cat thing...). We'll see. I will sleep much better when we have an apartment.