Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Calumet Fisheries

1. Smoked trout, 2. Winter car picnic, 3. Smoked Chubs, 4. Dad & Sherri with our lunch bounty

Christmas has come and gone, my family has been here 10 days, much love has been shared all round, meals have been cooked and eaten, our waistlines expanded as a result, and all eight of us successfully made our way to Chicago in two cars and in the middle of a snow shower. In other words, there has been much to blog about. But between enjoying the family's company, soaking in all that we love about Chicago, and trying to keep up with a rambunctious hellion of a 17-month old, time to ourselves has been too precious to squander on the Internet.

BUT- for what I am about to share with you, I will make an exception. Because something so awesome cannot be kept to oneself, something so mind-blowingly delicious cannot be contained. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Calumet Fisheries. In the city of Hot Doug's foie-gras hotdog, droolsome La Pasadita tacos, and robust dry-aged streaks, the smoked fish from Calumet has shot to the top of our must-eats in Chicago. Yes, humble smoked fish. Old school style. Smoked and sold in a literal shack on the Calumet Bridge on Chicago's South Side. And yet, recognized not only by food experts like Anthony Bourdain but also the James Beard Foundation Awards in the America’s Classics category.

And now we know why. Because the smoked seafood is just downright delicious, *freaking* delicious. Delicious, I tell you. Succulent, toothsome shrimp; flavorful trout; and the chubs, oh, don't even get me started on the chubs- fatty, silken, melt-in-your-mouth awesome. I was having a smoked fish epiphany and I didn't think one could have a smoked fish epiphany. And all this at the back of our rental car in the middle of a parking lot along Lake Shore Drive, with half my mind on whether or not Sophie was taking a good nap. So imagine how much more my mind (and gut) would have been blown had I had all my wits about me and was enjoying my meal sitting down properly somewhere. We might just take a detour and pack ourselves some more smoked fish on our drive back to Ann Arbor. Oh heck, we shall...

People, I kid you not. Calumet Fisheries. On the South Side of Chicago. It will be worth your while. Go. Please.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Second sledding- much better, but I don't think we're quite enthused yet

In the end, even though Sophie gamely sat through her first sledding experience with her Yiyis and Mama with no cries or complains, she was probably most happy just sitting on the ground, playing with the snow and watching the fun her Yiyis and Uncle Piao were having from afar.

With a little more snow coming our way over the weekend, we're thinking of trudging out to the Huron Hills Golf Course and taking advantage of the steeper slopes there. It's a public course and open to everyone to sled in the winter for free. My dad is particularly thrilled at the prospect of sledding in a place at which he once golfed. Maybe with Gong-Gong in tow, Sophie might be able to muster a little more enthusiasm for this whole sledding business...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sisters pretty much rock

And so do aunts!...

Friday, December 17, 2010

And the grandparents are here!

You should have seen Sophie at the train platform- first all shy, nuzzling into my shoulder coyly smiling. But less than a minute later, she opened her arms wide and moved towards my mom, wanting to be carried :)

It's only been 3 hours, but I think Sophie's already loving having her grandparents here, showering her with all this attention. She's been in the best of moods, all smiles and giggles, running everywhere and knowing that she now has four people's arms into which she can collapse :) And she even managed to coax Grandpa into playing with stickers with her after dinner.

My sisters and brother-in-law arrive in four days. If Sophie's excited now, I don't think she has a clue just what a treat she's in for in when everyone's piled into the house on Monday!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas presents 2010

With the exception of last year-- when taking care of a 4-month old and getting ready for a 22-hour flight home were our main priorities-- we've given out handmade Christmas gifts to our friends here in Ann Arbor every year since 2005 (2005- cranberry hootycreeks; 2006- peppermint hot chocolate; 2007- chocolate truffles; and 2008- kaya).

So it was time to revive the tradition this year with homemade chocolate bark. I adapted the recipe from here- instead of saltine crackers, I used graham crackers, and I also made a white chocolate-cranberry version on top of the bittersweet chocolate-nut recipe.

I'm pretty happy with the final product- it's not the prettiest of Christmas presents I've made, but I think the rustic feel of the pieces has its own charm :) Oddly, even though I'm a huge dark chocolate fan, I've been quite taken with the white chocolate-cranberry combination. I think there's something about the sweet creaminess of the white chocolate (which is precisely the thing that usually turns me off) and the tartness of the dried cranberries that comes together really well with the the buttery graham cracker base. I liked it so much-- so does Jude-- that I made sure to set some aside for ourselves, and also for my family, who btw, ARRIVES IN TWO DAYS!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

First sledding- FAIL!

No, there was nothing wrong with our camera lens. The photo is not blurry from any equipment malfunction. This is just what happens when you try taking a photo of your husband and daughter in 9F plus windshield (-15C). The snow was not only coming down hard, the blustery winds basically blew them every which way *and* made them feel like stinging needles against your face.

Which is why we had no luck taking Sophie on what was supposed to be her first sledding adventure. We knew we were going to get at least 7 inches of snow and had the sled all ready for her. But it was not meant to be. First of all, Sophie hated being bundled in all those layers- turtleneck tee, fleece pants, sweater, snow overalls, boots, winter jacket, hat, and gloves (it was like being in Froggy Gets Dressed). Then, after bringing her outside, she couldn't walk because of all that bulk and also because she was probably too bewildered by all that wind and snow. The combination of the billowing wind and stinging snow really made Sophie quite upset-- poor baby-- and we barely walked round our building before we decided to go back in, barely 10 minutes after we had come out.

You should have seen the look of happiness on Sophie's face when we relieved her of all the winter clothing- she visibly brightened up :) In the end, it was more fun to cart snow into the house (in the sled) and have her play with it while keeping warm and dry (and bulk-free). And for all that distress we put her through, she earned herself her first hot chocolate (made with soy milk) which she slurped up with such gusto, it looked like she was going to dive into the little mug.

We'll definitely try the whole sledding thing again-- maybe when my family arrives next week!-- and this time, let's hope it'll be a clear-ish day out and our daughter won't feel like she's being attacked by maniacal flying snow needles...

1. Not a happy camper, 2. Stinging snow, 3. Indoor snow, 4. First ever hot chocolate

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Use your words

So it was like any other evening, driving home after picking Sophie up from daycare. I was singing "Wheels on the Bus" (which she's been making us sing over and over again these past few days) when I pulled into our parking lot. And then it happened.

Sophie said "home".

And when I stopped the car and opened the door to take her out, she said "light" and pointed to the light in the car as it came on. I thought they were both flukes but as we were walked towards the house, Sophie pointed to our door and said "Mama, home" and "light", now pointing to the light at our doorway. OK, so not flukes.

I started keeping a list of words that Sophie knows (and can say) and at 16-months exactly today, it's like I'm adding new words everyday. It's a conservative list-- or at least I'm trying to make sure it is so I don't inflate her vocabulary-- i.e. these are words we know for a fact she can say and have heard her repeat enough times and in the right context to show that she knows the meaning of.

dog + oo oo!
to distinguish it from...
night night
(抱抱 ("bao bao", which is "carry" or "embrace" in Chinese)
see you
(thank you)
yiyi (what she calls my sisters)
I woo oo (I love you)
pea (please)
bock (block)
pee-a-boo (peek-a-boo)
hah-lo (hello)
ah-den (all done)
pah (puff)

And these are just examples of her expressive vocabulary- I'm assuming her receptive vocabulary (words she understands but can't produce) is also growing day by day. It's such a delight hearing her talk-- both the real words and the rest of her jabbering that's just as wonderful. It's almost like communicating with a real person now- she can tell us what she wants, what she doesn't, when she wants more of something, when she's done with what she's doing, and most importantly, she's also using words (and gestures) to show emotion, like joy, love, anger.

Of course, we don't understand everything that Sophie says but we try our hardest to take the time to watch, listen, and respond to her regardless. I think it makes her feel like she's a good communicator and reinforces her self esteem by letting her know that she's worth listening and paying attention to.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Sophie phones Jude

OK, so not really. She was actually playing with the toy phone that's attached to her play-yard. We had just dropped Jude off in school after a fun morning at the farmers' market together. I guess she was missing her Daddy and so she picked up the phone and said, "Hi Dada. I woo oo. Home."


I had a great day full of friends and play
But my favorite part is always coming home to you, Daddy-O
Did so many things, where do I start
Gonna tell you everything and not leave out a single part

D-A-D-D-D-Y, oh how I love ya
Oh, how I love ya
D-A-D-D-D-Y, oh how I love ya
Oh, how I love ya

Riding our bikes through the park
Camping in the summertime
Walking to the waterfalls, Daddy-O
You teach me things without saying a word
The time we spend together is worth more than all the silver and gold

D-A-D-D-D-Y, oh how I love ya
Oh, how I love ya
D-A-D-D-D-Y, oh how I love ya
Oh, how I love ya

-"Daddy-O", Frances England

Thursday, December 02, 2010

First snow, again...

February 2010

December 2010

Sophie couldn't have possibly remembered anything from earlier this year so as far as she was concerned, today was the first time she's encountered snow. We stood her by the window when she woke up and showed her the light blanket of snow outside the house- she was intrigued and kept wanting to press her face against the window. Our little parrot then tried saying "snow" but it came out more like "no" :)

When we walked outside on the way to daycare, a couple of snowflakes landed on her cheeks which sort of perplexed her a little, like what *is* this cold, stinging, pretty, fluffy thing? She also tried grabbing the snow as it floated down around her, wanting to catch it in her hand, and that was pretty funny (which may also explain why in school, she refused to keep her gloves on and just wanted to touch the snow with her bare hands- see evidence here and here).

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

I woo ooo.

That's how Sophie says "I love you." :) I think she might have started saying it back to us a couple of weeks back but we didn't quite figure out that that was what she was saying till sometime this week. She says it at the most unexpected moments, like in the car on the way home from daycare or when she's in the grocery cart at the store. Or today during bath-time. There I was soaping her and rinsing the shampoo out of her hair, and the next moment, she clings on to me, snuggles into the crook of my neck and says "I woo ooo" over and over again while patting my back softly with those chubby little palms of hers. At that moment, nothing else mattered- we could be destitute, living in squalor, jobless, homeless, and inflicted with some morbid permanently debilitating disease and it wouldn't matter a whit. My daughter was telling me she loves me.
1. Our sweet Sophie, 2. Bunny ears, 3. Channeling Pebbles Flintstones, 4. Lunch laughter

I woo ooo too, our little one.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Random Daycare Daily Report #5

Sophie was in a really happy mood and had a great day with her buddies! Sophie was saying "Thank You!" a lot- so polite :) Sophie also asked to read the book Oops! over and over again. She just loves those David books! Have a good night!

And an adorable thing that happened today during both drop-off and pick-up: goodbye and hello hugs. It's not like we've had a hard time dropping Sophie off but in the past, she would sometimes need to be distracted in one way or another (breakfast, toys, being carried by her teacher, etc.) when we said our goodbyes. But today, when it was time for bye-bye, Sophie just walked to me, hugged my legs, walked to Jude and hugged his legs, and then went off happily to the toy corner to play with her friends. It was amazing- both the individual goodbye hugs and the breezy, easy manner of it all. It was like her way of saying, "I know the routine now, Mama and Dada. Don't worry about me- I'll have fun. You take care too. Bye!"

And when we went by to pick her up, it was the same thing- she saw me walk in and broke out into that heart-melting smile of hers, waddled to me, and gave me a tight hug and a snuggle. Then she caught a glimpse of Jude, beamed even more widely, stumbled into his arms, and laid her head on his shoulders plus a few loving pats :) And then she just sat down and waited patiently as we put on her jacket while yabbering on about something (I assume she was telling us about her day and the pizza she had for lunch...) I was about ready to tear up! I'm not quite sure how to begin explaining why these hugs mean so much- I think it's more what they represent than the actual hugs themselves. It's her growing up and having developed the trust and faith that her parents love her and will always come back to get her at the end of the day, her joy when they do, the confidence and contentment with her surroundings, and a level of independence that we're beginning to see in her in other ways as well. She's made a transition and I'm so proud of her. And while there's an element of wistfulness once in a while for a time when she never wanted to leave our side, I know this is all part of her journey to toddlerhood. We just have to allow her to grow up...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sophie meets Christmas Elmo

Sophie loves Elmo. With a fervor we don't comprehend. We've never deliberately introduced Elmo to her, or bought her Elmo toys, or showed her Elmo videos. It just happened that we have that ONE Elmo book (well, now two) and her toothpaste happens to have Elmo on the tube. And she loves him. With a deep and abiding love. So much so that she has gone from calling him Mo-mo to calling him by his proper name, "Elmo!" (yes, always with an exclamation- Sophie is not one to do things in small measures...)

And so imagine her glee when we encountered a singing Elmo at Borders this evening. And not just a singing Elmo, a singing Christmas Elmo which jives. And so what is an almost 16-month old to do in the face of a jiving, singing, Christmas Elmo? Well, jive along of course! (note that her dance moves are right now an eclectic combination of drunken sailor, hip-grabbing burlesque performer, and that nervous teenager who only knows how to bop up and down in the middle of the dance-floor. It's interpretive dance- we're working on it...)

And then she gets distracted by Ni Hao, Kai-Lan from the corner of her eye...

Friday, November 26, 2010

We are thankful for...

Rest of Thanksgiving photos here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What are you thankful for this year?

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thanksgiving nosh

It's 11.30am and I just got home. After dropping Jude off at school almost two hours ago. And why, you may ask, did it take me 120 minutes to get home? Is it because someone once again decided to do Thanksgiving grocery shopping the day before Thanksgiving? Or could it be because someone naively believed that a store up on North Campus and the Asian supermarket would somehow be less crowded than anywhere else? Perhaps, it might be because someone decided to throw in a couple of errands to run at the same time? Yes. To all three. Me. Why? Why do I do this to myself every year? Whatever the case is, I'm survived the insanity, am home, warm and toasty, and ready to do some Thanksgiving dinner prep.

For the first time in 5 years, we won't be having our traditional deep-fried turkey at Thanksgiving. Rick and Emilee will be at Emilee's parents' in Wisconsin for the holiday and while they wonderfully invited us to join them, we don't think Sophie's going to do very well on a 7-hour car ride there and back. And so we'll be here in Ann Arbor celebrating with our friends, Nathan and Anna. It's potluck and our contribution this year is sweet potato casserole (Emilee's grandma's recipe and too awesome for words) and for something different, Chinese sausage, sticky rice, and roasted chestnut stuffing. It's something we're really familiar with back home (it's usually wrapped in lotus leaf for dim-sum) and we thought it'll be fun to bring something non-conventional together with the traditional sweet potato dish. Besides, it's probably going to be quite an international crowd and we're expecting the stuffing to be well-received.

Then on Friday, we have another dinner planned and this time, I'm going to try something I've been meaning to tackle for the longest time- Momofuku's famed pork-belly buns. I made their renowned Crack Pie a couple of months back to some success and decided it was time to foray into an entree. We've never had the original pork buns but have been loving the ones at Tomukun Noodle Bar here in Ann Arbor that are fashioned after them. If the recipes online can be trusted (and they all say they're based on Momofuku owner, David Chang's cookbook), I will be rewarded for my efforts with delectable, golden brown, pillowy-soft, melt-in-my-mouth-amazing pork belly. Just thinking about it makes my knees weak...

Watch this space- you know I'll post an update :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Time to put away childish things...

For the past 5 years, we've always been lucky enough to get tickets for the opening midnight showing of the Harry Potter movies, complete with long lines to get drinks, even longer lines to get into the theatre, and people dressing up as their favorite characters (my favorite was two guys, one dressed as Harry in his Quidditch uniform and the other, in a gold outfit with wings, like a snitch!). And the cinema was of course, always packed, to the point that last year (2 weeks before Sophie was born), Jude, Libby, and I all had to sit separately throughout the whole movie (see here for a photo of the line that snaked around the parking lot after the midnight screening of Half-Blood Prince.)

This year, we couldn't possibly attend the midnight screening but didn't want to miss seeing the movie on opening day. And so thanks to Sophie being in daycare, Jude and I made a lunch/movie date out of it and caught a matinee screening. Things were much saner, no lines for concessions, and there were plenty of choice seats in the theatre. How refreshing...

As for the movie, I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't watched the movie or read the books, but suffice to say that we both felt a real sense of despair at the end of it. Not that there is much death in this installment (there was more of it in Half-Blood Prince I think), but the note of sombreness and sadness was so palpable throughout the whole film that it was hard to shake off even as we walked out. It's tough to say if we "loved" the movie- 1) we've technically only seen half the movie, with Part 2 opening only in July 2011; and 2) thinking about it as the beginning of the end of a wondrous series that we've been following for more than 10 years adds another layer of melancholy to the whole experience.

There is still plenty of magic in Deathly Hallows but not of the same kind of magic that delighted and enchanted us in the earlier movies- the magic now is darker, of deeper import, no longer about levitating a feather, but about being shielded from evil. And the helplessness, loneliness, and stark desolation that was slowly building since Goblet of Fire has reached a fevered pitch (or abyss, depending on how you want to look at it).

So yes, in the words of A.O. Scott, in his NYT review of the movie, it is time for young wizards to put away childish things... :(

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thursdays with Mama

Thursdays are my days with Sophie and we've gotten a nice routine down every week. In the mornings, after a leisurely breakfast, we go to the library for story time at 10.30. It's only a 30 minute session but there's music, singing, and props that go with the story and Sophie really enjoys it (which she shows by sitting really still in my lap the whole time-- a remarkable feat for her, hands on her own lap, transfixed by Story Time Lady). They then take out toys for the children to play with and we hang around for another 45 minutes or so, and then borrow a couple of books before we head home for lunch. Sophie takes her one nap at around 12.30 and usually sleeps till 2.00 or a little after.

And then, it's mommy group time. Since she was 5 months old, Thursday afternoons have been spent with our mommy group, which started in January as a Lamaze-organized thing. The group met through Lamaze till May and then we took a break over summer. I missed them when we were in California- even though we only met once a week, we saw our babies through some of their most important developmental milestones-- sitting up, solids, teething, crawling, standing up, etc.-- and we had all become good friends (I'd like to think so did our babies). And so when I came back in September, we all made it a point to continue meeting during our usual time. During those warmer weeks in September and October, we met at different parks around Ann Arbor, and now that it's getting cooler, our default meeting place has become the Hands-on Museum, a wonderful, wonderful space for children of all ages. Today though, we broke from our routine and met at My Urban Toddler instead, an indoor play-area for infants and toddlers in Saline, a 20-minute drive away. It's not as big as the Hands-on Museum but it was still very nice- with different rooms (like a Library, the Market, the Fire Station, Fine Arts corner, and a Kitchen) all stocked with props and playthings for the best kind of imaginative play possible. Sophie had fun pretending to cut up fruits and vegetables, pushing dolls around in baby umbrella strollers, and also discovered her musical side:

I love my Thursdays with Sophie- even through that last insane leg of my dissertation-writing, Thursdays were sacrosanct days where I did no work as long as Sophie was awake. On Thursdays, I'm all hers.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Random Daycare Daily Report #5

Sophie has been so chatty and friendly today. All through lunch she kept looking up and smiling and saying "hi!" :) Sophie really enjoyed taking a stroller walk around Olsen Park. She kept pointing to the geese on the water ("duck!") and the trucks on the highway. We also read Oh David! (again) and on the dirty diaper page, Sophie put her hand over her nose and said "P.U.!"

Yes, Sophie loves the Oh David! series of books by David Shannon. We're a little disturbed since it's all about a rambunctious, mischievous child called David who gets himself into all sorts of trouble. But she loves it when we exaggerate all the different naughty things he does- like run around without his pants on, spilling milk on the floor, dragging muddy shoes all across the living room, etc... Right now, we're reading No, David! and It's Christmas, David!, both of which Sophie can read (or make us read to her) over and over again, sometimes, back to back. She remembers where certain pictures are on the page, will point to them and label ("dog!"), and knows to wait till we're done reading before she turns each page, which makes me think she's really listening to and retaining the way the story develops.

In the last two weeks or so, Sophie has started to show more interest in books with longer narratives and a more sustained storyline. She still enjoys her board books like Hug and Let's Play, but she's also developed a little more concentration to sit and listen to longer stories. These days, our bedside table has become a mini-library, with a stack of her favorite books that we throw on the bed to read every morning when she wakes up and before she goes to bed. She'll pick whichever books she wants, says either "read" or "book", and then crawls into one of our laps and tucks herself in there, ready to be read to. It's adorable, really :) Some of our favorites right now:
- Old Bear: a beautifully illustrated story about hibernation and the changing seasons. The colors are truly stunning in this one and Sophie likes pointing out to things like "flowers" and "trees".
- Llama, Llama, Red Pajamas: I can read this story back to back four times over and Sophie would still ask for "more!" I think she identifies with the impatient baby llama who yells for his Mama after she has put him to bed.
- Knuffle Bunny: We've always loved Mo Wilems' Pigeon books and Knuffle Bunny is just as gleeful and delightful. Sepia-tone photographs of a Brooklyn neighborhood provide the backdrops for his hand-drawn artwork and the story, the perfect capture of toddler distress :)
- Froggy Gets Dressed: I get so thirsty reading this because it has to do with a little frog who tries several times to dress appropriately for playing in the snow. It involves putting on all manner of winter clothing which starts to become a mouthful after about six pages...
- If You Give a Mouse a Cookie: Jude often sings this story (he makes the tune up) which is wonderfully hilarious in and of itself :) It does get a little long towards the end but Sophie will sit through it and sometimes laugh at the parts where we laugh out loud too.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How to be a good dinner guest

Last night, we celebrated our friend's Rick's birthday with dinner at the Common Grill in Chelsea. Because of Sophie's bedtime and the fact that Chelsea's about a 25 minute-drive away, we had early reservations, at 5pm. And as we sat through dinner-- drinks, appetizers, salad, entrees, small-talk and all-- it occurred to both of us how we took for granted that Sophie would be OK through it all. And she was. She sat in her high-chair dutifully, played with the crayons and coloring paper she was given; started eating her pasta, carrots and fish-sticks while we looked at our menus; occupied herself by starring around the restaurant, smiling and flirting with the waiting staff while we put in our orders and had appetizers; fed herself fistfuls of strawberries when the salads arrived; and happily jabbed and swooshed away on the iPad when we ate our entrees. Give her some oyster crackers (thanks one of the many waitresses who fell in love with her) at the end while we chatted and settled the bill, and Sophie was the absolute paragon of perfect toddlerhood. She didn't whine, never fussed, patted Jude or I on the arm when she wanted some attention and kisses, but then always went back to whatever she was doing. And at the end of dinner when I carried her out of her highchair and let her walk around the restaurant a little, an elderly couple who was sitting at the table next to ours sweetly said, "She's a doll!" I beamed with such pride... :)

Maybe it's because she's so used to sitting at the table with us as we all have dinner together, or because we literally take her everywhere we go that she's accustomed to sometimes having meals outside, but we've never had to worry that Sophie won't do well in restaurants. From simple diners and cafes to white tablecloth places like the Common Grill or Cafe Zola, as long as Sophie has her own food that she can feed herself with, the iPad or her favorite books to flip through, and her Mama and Dada within arm's reach, she's a happy camper. We've learned to quit while we're ahead though and having appetizers and entrees is just about as much as Sophie can take. No desserts for us. We attempted to do that while we celebrated my defense at Cafe Zola and that probably stretched her attention span a little more than she was capable of tolerating. We only narrowly managed to avert a mini public meltdown by distracting her with taking a walk outside.

But now we know better- secrets to a successful meal out with a 15-month old: a good afternoon nap, a variety of finger foods, good media for distraction, some good old fashioned love and attention from Dada and Mama, and splitting the joint after the main course. Priceless :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Did you have this much fun at lunch today?

Don't ask me what was so funny about lunch but Sophie clearly finds sweet potato and spinach porridge utterly hilarious :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I'm calling it

sen·tence, noun \ˈsen-tənz\
a word, clause, or phrase or a group of clauses or phrases forming a syntactic unit which expresses an assertion, a question, a command, a wish, an exclamation, or the performance of an action.

"Hi Dada!"

"More, Mama..."

"More milk."

I don't care if it's just two words, Sophie's speaking in sentences, and that's that.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Conversations with a 15-month old

[during lunch]

Me: Sophie, would you like more porridge?
Sophie: No.
Me: What about apple?
Sophie: Ah-ple.
Me: You want apple?
Sophie: No. Fjeutn bgydndodle gsf [jibberish]
Me: All done?
Sophie: Mama... ah-ple.
Me: You want apple?
Sophie: [signing more] More, more.
Me: OK, Mama get you some apple. [cuts up some apple] Here Sophie, apple.
Sophie: [takes one piece and bites on it. Chews.]. No, no. Nytbdtqp woetdbfs [jibberish]. No, no.
Me: No apple?
Sophie: No, no.
Me: What do you want, Sophie?
Sophie. Mama... No, no [Shakes head and flays arms]. Waaaaaaaaah!! Besd qm lskn bggcvxds [jibberish]
Me: Sophie, no no crying. Tell Mama what you want.
Sophie: Mama. Water, water.
Me: You want water?
Sophie: Water.
Me: [brings her her water bottle]
Sophie: [grabs bottle, sips excitedly, and empties it. Smacks her lips. Smiles.] Mama...

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Random Daycare Daily Report #4

Sophie has had SO much to say today. She's been saying water, telling her friends, No, and I even saw her "talking" on the phone saying Hi Dada! So cute :) Sophie and Lucy are also such best buds- this morning in the gym, the two of them had lots of fun taking turns looking through the little door then giggling!

Speaking of Sophie talking, we've been jotting down all the words Sophie's been adding to her vocabulary and so far, at 14 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days, we have:
(for her teddy bear- don't ask... we don't know why either)

duk (for dog, duck, squirrel, pretty much any animal she sees...)
night night
sit down
(抱抱 ("bao bao", which is "carry" or "embrace" in Chinese)
ah-pool (apple)
cheese (which is weird since she's never eaten cheese before and can't)

We're really encouraged by Sophie's verbal development. In the literacy project I worked on, we learned that toddlers start making common consonant sounds like t, d, w, and n by around 16 months. Learning to make these sounds is a pretty profound event, one that evolves into the rapid vocabulary spurt at around 18 months. At this stage, they're supposed to mostly still be just sounds, so the fact that Sophie's using them in meaningful words at close to 15 months is really exciting. It's been so wonderful watching her and listening to all these new words she's picking up (even listening to her talking jibberish makes us so happy). Everyday, she's a little more able to verbally communicate with us and I think it exhilarates her as much as it does us. Each new word is a tiny epiphany for her as she realizes that the sound she's making means something to us, and that she can use it to articulate her wants and needs (which is both a good and bad thing, of course...)

It's just too awesome :)

Monday, November 01, 2010

Our Daughter Totoro

I am the world's least crafty Mom- I can't sew, I don't scrapbook, and I have no clue how to put together a Halloween costume. And so, I retrofit.

This is Sophie's first proper Halloween- she was way too little last year to join the annual neighborhood Halloween parade and so I was excited to put her in something both fun and adorable. We've known we wanted to dress her up as Totoro since, oh, I don't know... forever? It's our favorite Miyazaki film (and character) but it is almost impossible to find a ready-made Totoro outfit here in the U.S. Then I serendipitously stumbled across the etsy site, Ami Amigos, and discovered that the designer, Kyoko, is as huge a Totoro fan as we are, and that she was selling a hand-crocheted Totoro hat. I decided to buy the hat (I justified it by telling myself it'll double as Sophie's Fall hat too), raided her wardrobe for everything gray (sweater and leggings), and sewed on the white plush tummy on my own (cutting an oval piece of fabric and simple tacking, I can do...) And voila! Our Daughter Totoro!

[more photos here]

Sophie had fun, I think, walking around with all the big kids. Literally. She's been walking by herself for a couple of weeks now, albeit a little unsteadily and only for a few steps at a time; but today, she resolutely refused to let us hold her hand and insisted on walking all by herself, even at the risk of being trampled by the mob of candy-crazy children. She did good though, walking for long stretches, sometimes even running, and all the time, clutching on to her precious toadstool bucket for dear life (even when it was empty). In the end, we busted out her push cart just so she would have more stability and could also use it as an offensive weapon in case any older kid tried to get in between her and those Milk Duds (not that she can eat any of the candy she collected because of her allergies).

Most importantly, Sophie was happy, smiling and laughing, waving and saying "hi" to anyone and everyone. She has no clue what candy is and that it's even edible, but I think she enjoyed the attention she got with her costume, hanging out with other children, and just being part of the festivities.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

See who loves her Dada? :)

[Words Sophie picked up this week: ah-poo (apple), up, sit, read, pour, no!]

When there's a will...

There I was, sitting across from the lawyer at student legal services and literally fighting off the tears that were threatening to well. The past thirty minutes were spent talking about trustees, guardianships, executors, estate, medical emergencies, etc. And between my grandma's recent passing, watching too many past episodes of Grey's Anatomy, and just thinking about all the "just in cases" and "in the event ofs", I was starting to get emotional.

Jude and I are making a will.

It's something we've been meaning to do for a long time now and although it may seem a little morbid, it's also the single most important thing we can do to make sure Sophie is cared for by the people we want if anything should happen to us. It's even more important what with us being so far from home and family. We have little assets to speak of-- not here in the U.S. anyway-- and it's more about Sophie and her future more than anything else. Right now, it's unfathomably painful for me to think about not being with her forever and ever and ever, but as a parent, it's also irresponsible to not think about what would happen if we can't be.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Random Daycare Daily Report #3

Sophie had a really good day today. She's been so chatty lately. I'm not really sure what she's telling me, but she sure has a lot to say :) This morning, we scooped out a pumpkin and explored the insides. Sophie was really interested in that especially trying to sample the "guts" and the seeds :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More please

Jude and I were lying in bed just chatting about Sophie when he made a comment about how she no longer cries when she's hungry. I thought about it a little and realized why- she's almost never hungry. These days, whenever she wants food, she just signs for it. It's something we've really come to appreciate even though according to ASL (American Sign Language), she's technically signing "again". But honestly, as long as it helps her communicate to us what she wants, I could care less. It helps too that she can articulate "more" although she never says it without also signing at the same time.

You should see her asking for more crackers when she's in her carseat and I'm driving; since there's no way for me to give her any (and she doesn't understand that), she ends up signing so insistently and jabbing her palm so hard I'm sure she's going to hurt her finger one day.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

And now, we celebrate

Thanks to a wonderfully generous graduation/birthday present from my parents, we threw a little post-defense/birthday party at the Corner Brewery yesterday for some of my closest friends. I felt much love, with almost everyone we invited turning up, many bearing flowers, gifts, and cards. Our life here in Ann Arbor has been so enriched and sustained by the amazing friendships we've developed and it was really nice to be able to celebrate finishing grad school with the people most important to us here. The combination of yummy food from Zingerman's (their catering team really rocks), always reliably good Corner Brewery beer, their amazing space, a play corner we set up for the kids, and just all-round great company, I think a good time was had by all :)

To all of you who came, thank you so much for being a part of the celebration! And to our family and friends near or far, who for one reason or another couldn't be with us, we missed you and wished you had been with us!

1. @ the Corner Brewery, 2. Sophie holds court, 3. Good friends, 4. Food from Zingerman's, 5. The baby corner, 6. The baby table, 7. Sophie loves pushing her cart, 8. With the Cooneys, 9. I felt so loved :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Now what?

It's been 10 days since I defended the dissertation and I think it has finally sunk in that I'm done. For some reason, I haven't been that less busy- getting final paperwork done, running errands that were long overdue, and replying to non-urgent, non-dissertation related emails managed to occupy all my time these last week or so. And now with at least two months ahead of doing not much (I have a fellowship that runs through to the end of the calendar year so I'll still be getting a monthly stipend), I find myself having to think of (productive) ways to occupy myself. Some things I've already done, want to do, or should do:

1) Watch TV guiltlessly.
Check. Thanks to online streaming video and the good people at Hulu, I've caught up on all the past episodes of my now favorite comedy, Modern Family. Wednesday nights are Top Chef nights again, and I no longer feel remorse or shame saying that I watch Say Yes to the Dress on TLC at 11am almost everyday... :)

2) Start working out again.
I haven't been to the gym in 19 months. Since I was 4 months pregnant with Sophie. Now that's a long time for the body to turn into mush. The half-marathon seems like a lifetime away and the thought of returning to the gym terrifies me. I go back on Monday. It's going to be painful.

3) Yoga
The gym I haven't missed as much, but yoga, oh old friend, I've missed so much. I've been telling myself to go back to it for the longest time. But between Sophie, the research project I was on, and the dissertation, I really had no time. Thankfully, I still have 4 sessions left to my pass at A2 Yoga and I'm going to redeem them starting next week. I don't think my body can remember how to do a downward dog anymore but if I managed to train it into submission after never having done yoga for 31 years, I can re-teach it after a 15 month hiatus.

4) Cook
Since we came back from California and the dissertation-writing kicked into high-gear, I stopped cooking as much and we ate out quite a bit. It got expensive but we really didn't have a choice in terms of time. But I'm back in the kitchen again and it's been fun. I finally got round to making Momofuku's famed Crack Pie just for the fun of it, and while it was painstaking (15 hours in total, folks!), I really enjoyed just taking my time in the kitchen and not have to worry about whether it's eating into my writing time. The weather's also turning cooler and I'm looking forward to re-visiting the stews and soups I love to make this time of year. More importantly, now that we're slowly trying to expand Sophie's diet, I really want to take the time to explore recipes for her that are tasty, age-appropriate, but that also take into account her dairy, egg, and nut allergies.

5) Get Sophie's photo album in order
Over the past 14.5 months, we have taken more photos than we ever had in our entire lifetimes until the day Sophie was born. We're talking into the thousands, people, and only a fraction make it onto Flickr. And of those, we've made a couple hundred prints that I haven't had time to properly organize and label. I know, in this day and age of digital photography, why still keep physical photo albums? For the same reason I will always love proper books even though we've started to buy e-books. One day soon, we'll sit Sophie on our laps and go through the photo albums like storybooks, telling her about the different stories of her life and what happened when. As much as I love Flickr, I think some of that storytelling gets lost between the clicking and the scrolling...

6) Find a job
Oh, right.

Having said all that though, maybe I should just give myself a couple of weeks to be magnificently unproductive as a reward- to just veg out on the couch, watch copious amounts of mind-mushingly bad-for-you TV, read things that have no intellectual merit whatsoever, and indulge in guilt-free middle-of-the-day naps.

[Crawls off to do just that...]

Friday, October 22, 2010

Random Daycare Daily Report #2

Sophie has been all waves and smiles again today. She's our little welcome wagon for the rest of the school! She also loves to give high fives. This morning I was asking Lucy to give me high five and Sophie heard me from across the room and she came crawling over with her arm out to high five us :) What a little social butterfly!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The lady's got much to say

Sophie got bitten by a friend in school today. It was nothing serious-- there's a bruise on her arm in the shape of teeth marks but apparently, Sophie was less annoyed by that than by the ice-pack her teachers then put on it. Our little girl's a tough cookie :) She's also become quite the chatterbox. Like how she had much to say about her little incident while "reading" her accident report from school:

[Words that Sophie picked up this last week: hi, walk, baby]

Saturday, October 16, 2010

To remember

It is my grandmother's funeral today. She is probably being buried as I type this and my heart is aching desperately that I'm not there with the family. It's been about four days and it's taken me about that long to sort out the bundle of emotions I've been feeling.

I defended my dissertation on Tuesday, the same day (Singapore time) that my grandma passed away. She's been really ill for a long time now, which is why I dedicated my dissertation to her. And now it's almost poetic that I did... She had actually passed the day before but my parents kept it from me knowing that if they told me, that I wouldn't have been able to go through with the defense as I did. And they were right. Till now, I don't think I've quite come to terms with the fact that I'm done with grad school. The initial relief and euphoria of having defended has been mixed up with all these other feelings of sadness and guilt. The last leg of the dissertation writing was also when my grandma's condition took a turn for the worse and writing up that last chapter will forever be associated with me thinking of my grandmother virtually all the time. I jumped at every unexpected phone call, prepared to hear from my parents that my grandma was gone. I even dreamed of her a few times, one of which involved her taking me to a hair salon in Hong Kong (don't ask...) to get my hair permed. She did love to perm her hair...

I want to write some more eloquent about my grandma, something nice to remember her by but I can't seem to. Either I'm all worded-out from writing that 241-page tome of a dissertation or all this jumble of emotions is just getting in the way. So I'm re-posting something I had written last year when we were home for Christmas.

I love you, Ah Ma. I miss you...


[from 26 December 2009]

Some of my fondest memories of childhood are spending Saturdays at my grandma's in Bukit Ho Swee. My aunts and cousins all gathered for the lunch my grandma would make and while the adults caught up with each other on their week, my cousins and I indulged in the kind of carefree whimsy and mischief I can only hope Sophie will be able to enjoy with her cousins one day. The image of my grandma looms large in these memories- she of that kind face and doting disposition. I remember her constant laughter, perfectly coiffed hair, and gentle affection for all her grandchildren. These days, as she ages into her eighties, she doesn't always remember us all anymore. Over the past six years, seeing her only once or twice a year constantly reminds me how old she now is- her body becoming thinner and more frail, her posture and gait weakening. But the light and laughter are not gone from her eyes. Nor is the desire to painstakingly maintain her beautiful perm every week. I visited her with Sophie yesterday and while she probably doesn't remember me very well, and I had to tell her several times that Sophie's a girl and not a boy, she responded to Sophie the same way I remember her looking at me when I was a child- always with a smile. She could even say that Sophie looks just like Jude, no mean feat for someone who sometimes can't recognize her children's faces...

I'm glad Sophie got to meet her great-grandmother. It was a beautiful visit, seeing the youngest member of the family meet the oldest. It was also a little sad, looking at how much my grandma has aged while Sophie's little life has only just begun. I know how trite and hackneyed it is to evoke the whole circle of life thing but it was hard not to think that as I watched my 20-week old daughter and 87 year old grandmother in the same room.

When Sophie's older, I'll remind her of her great-grandma. And how much she loved me. I will tell her how special a grandmother's love is and impart to her one of life's greatest wisdoms I learned from her- a woman should always take care of her hair...

Saturday, October 09, 2010

What our 14-month old needs to learn

Sophie is 14-months old today. Amazing. And what difference a month makes. Sophie at 13-months is nowhere near Sophie at 14-months. It's like she went through some kind of cognitive spurt and has grown into such a walking, talking, thinking little person with a mind of her own in the past four weeks. Everyday, we discover something new that she's learned how to do-- like this morning when she neatly tucked her socks into her shoes after she removed them (the socks) herself-- and it is just so wonderful. In particular, we've just been floored by her language skills. Right now, she can say mama, dada, po-po (for my mom) ball, flower, sit, mo-mo (Elmo), night night, no-no, dog, ba-na (banana), bye, water, and hah-oh (hello). She can also sign (and say) book, milk and more.

But there are some things our little Sophie still needs to learn:

A grapefruit is not a ball.

Bath water is not for drinking. Neither is rainwater that has accumulated in her wagon.

Weekends are for sleeping in.

Applesauce is not hair product.

Shoes go on the feet, not in the mouth.

It will not hurt to eat other foods apart from cantaloupe and crackers.

Diaper change is not a form of torture.

Not everything that has four legs is a duck.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Watch out...

We're letting Sophie loose into the world!

Today, the neighborhood... tomorrow, the world!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Sophie's new wheels

Since she started walking with our help, we've been looking around for a walker wagon for Sophie to push around the house. There are of course plenty of these activity wagons around but the ones we've seen are either really poorly made or have too many bells and whistles that distract more than they engage. And with the Fisher-Price recall of close to 10 million toys recently, we're glad we didn't get any of the FP ones that the folks online recommended. Our first choice was actually this Haba walker that we first saw in a toy store a couple of months back. We love Haba toys-- like Chicky and her first rattle-- but we just couldn't bring ourselves to pay $150 for something she'll probably outgrow in less than a year.

Then today, we found the perfect one- the Original Toy Company Baby Walker. It's just the right height for Sophie- sturdy, simple, thoughtfully designed in all the right places, and it has great reviews on Amazon. And at a price that we could live with. It's strong enough that it won't topple when she tries to pull herself up on it, and she can not only put her toys in the wagon, we can even put her in it and push her around. Needless to say, the afternoon was spent traversing the length of our second floor, back and forth, back and forth. She's so enamored with it that we wondered why we didn't her one sooner. When the weather gets a little nicer tomorrow, we'll bring her outside and see how far she can go with it by herself :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Random Daycare Daily Report #1

It seems like Sophie has really gotten happy and comfortable back at school. Lately, she's had a smile on her face almost all day long, with smiles and waves and kisses for everyone :) At lunch, she almost couldn't finish eating because we put on some music and Sophie started bouncing and dancing in her seat! The past few days she's just wanted to walk everywhere! She'll push anything she can around the room just to stay on her feet. Before we know it, she'll be walking on her own!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hello there, world!

It's me, Sophie :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

We are ladies who do lunch... with an attitude.

The defense is 4 weeks away. Thinking about it makes me want to throw up. But Thursdays are Sophie days and I don't think about the dissertation. We just hang out and do things like take goofy photos with the iPhone during lunch.

Just because we can :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

For our 宝贝


[thanks to Jude for a serendipitous find-- the best kind...]

This song goes out to Sophie, whose parents' combined knowledge of Chinese was tapped for the first time in eons to read the lyrics (in traditional Chinese no less- my friend, Yvonne would be so proud...) so that they can sing this sweet, sweet, lovely song to her. From now on, depending on whether she's being good or bad, we're going to start calling her 小鬼 (loosely translated: little rascal) or 宝贝 (precious). And to make this song even more poignant, the singer-songwriter, Zhang Xuan, wrote this when she was only 13, after a particularly rough falling out with her mother.
我的寶貝 寶貝 給你一點甜甜,
我的小鬼 小鬼 逗逗你的眉眼,
我的寶貝 寶貝 給你一點甜甜,
我的小鬼 小鬼 捏捏你的小臉,
嘩啦啦啦啦啦 我的寶貝
唉呀呀呀呀呀 我的寶貝
要你知道你最美 嘩啦啦啦啦啦 我的寶貝
唉呀呀呀呀呀 我的寶貝

My baby, baby, giving you a bit of sweetness
Allowing you to sleep well tonight
My little rascal, little rascal, teasingly playing with your eyebrows
Making you love this world
(Vocals) My baby
When you're tired, there's someone to accompany you
(Vocals) My baby
Wanting you to know you are the most beautiful
My baby, baby, giving you a bit of sweetness
Allowing you to sleep well tonight
My little rascal, little rascal, teasingly playing with your face
Allowing you to love every coming tomorrow
(Vocals) My baby
When you're lonely, there's someone to think of you
(Vocals) My baby
Wanting you to know you are the most beautiful

- 張萱, "寶貝"

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

It's like we never left...

More photos here.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Wake me up when September ends

The next month and a half are going to be pretty crazy around here. I have to write like a superhuman being in order to make my dissertation defense deadline and Jude's teaching, on top of writing his dissertation as well. And so until things become a little more sane, blogging will have to take a hiatus. Oh, I might post a photo or two here and there, or a quick update about what Miss Sophie's up to, but long meandering blogposts are going to have to take a back seat until this tome of a dissertation comes together.

Until then, here's a random photo of Sophie enjoying the new orientation of her car seat. Methinks she's enjoying it better now that she's finally sharing our view of things- you may call her Queen of the Back Seat, perched on Her throne, holding Her orb of stately puffs :)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Last Day in the Bay Area To-Do List

1) Send 60lbs of books back to Ann Arbor via Media Mail
2) Sell some of Sophie's books and larger toys at children's resale shop.
3) Pack. Majorly pack.
4) Last lunch at Cooking Papa.
5) Return exersaucer and food processor to Jen and also drop off some of our pantry stuff that we didn't get round to eating like dried pasta, canned tuna, beans, and soup.
6) Pack. Did I already mention pack?
7) Return library books.
8) Return rental car
9) Last pho dinner
10) Do laundry
11) Clear fridge and breakfast nook of half-eaten snacks, over-ripe fruit, and remnant desserts
12) Try not to feel too sad that we're leaving tomorrow... :(

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mind your language

The biggest sign that your one-year old has bounced right back from a stomach flu? She's back to jabbering and gesticulating non-stop again- to herself, to no one in particular, or to everyone around her, depending on where she is and who's she's around. Apart from Mama, Dada, and Poh Poh (what she calls my mom), Sophie's got a small precious vocabulary of both words and signs that's been most amusing to watch grow:

dok: "dog", which she repeated no less than 10 times this afternoon when we were walking through the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts where everyone and their grandmother was out walking their dogs. If she's in a good mood, she'll even wave hello/goodbye, followed by a sloppy attempt at a flying kiss (which ends up looking more like she's trying to stuff her fingers into her mouth)

bow-wer: "flower", which is accompanied by her reaching her hand above her head like she's trying to pluck a flower from the tree. That basically recreates her first encounter with a flower which I guess just stuck.

ball: "balloon". This was actually one of her first words and I think it started when we went to Yahoo!'s family day which marked the beginning of Sophie's love affair with balloons.

wow!: general expression for wonder and amazement. This is one of our favorites to hear her say because you can see the genuine awe in her face when she says it. Like today at REI when she saw their bright and colorful range of outdoor pool accessories. She was loud too which made the cashiers start to laugh :)

uh-oh: yup, she's learned this too, although from whom I have no idea. And she even uses it correctly, like when she's eating her animal crackers and they accidentally fall onto the floor, or when I pretend to take one of her blocks and hide it from her view.

no no: this could mean one of two things- either she's echoing us and letting us know that she understands our disapproval when we say No to her, or she's asking for No David!, one of her favorite books at the moment. In fact, she loves the entire Diaper David series so much, she uses no no (and a lot of hysterical gesturing) to call for any of the books. You'll understand why once you've read the books...

the sign for milk (clenching and unclenching your fist)- "gimme whatever that is". I haven't been as conscientious in the whole I-must-teach-Sophie-ASL business as I probably should but for some reason, this sign really stuck with her. But not quite for the right thing. Instead of using it for milk exclusively, she now uses it to ask for whatever interesting thing happens to come into her line of vision, whether it's the car keys, a bottle of Gatorade, or my nose.

She also understands a whole bunch of words that she can't say yet (receptive vocabulary vs. expressive which are words she can actually say)- fan, door, come here, clap, dance, wave, nose, where?, kiss, shoe, pat. The project I used to work on researched early literacy development in general, and vocabulary acquisition in particular, and so watching Sophie slowly pick these words up has been like watching all the literature I've read crystallize in reality.

Development is just awesome. Babies are just awesome :)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

For Dad and Mom

I now have the title track of Ni Hao Kai Lan, a Nick Jr. cartoon ringing ceaselessly in my ears. Apparently, 45 minutes worth of Kai Lan is what it takes to soothe the savage beast that is a one-year old with a stomach flu. Sitting Sophie in front of the computer with the cartoon playing on and on was the only way she would even let me close to feeding her the Pedialyte she needed. And even then I had to deal with her struggling and fighting me with each sip. All she wanted was the thinned-out sweet potato rice porridge I had made which I would have been happy to give her but I was afraid it didn't have as much nutrients as the Pedialyte. Plus I didn't want to overtax her sensitive tummy. Poor baby, she was so hungry and thirsty and couldn't understand why I didn't give her as much as she wanted all at a go...

Having said that, Sophie's on the mend now I think. She hasn't thrown out since the morning and was in higher and brighter spirits this evening.We took a long walk to the library which I think did her some good, what with the fresh air, seeing people walking their dogs (which she loves right now), and just being out of her PJs and the house after being cooped inside all day. She jabbered to herself on the way back which is always a good sign that she's slowly back to her usual chatty self. She even managed to muster the energy to be about as charming as she possibly could-- considering the circumstances-- to my sisters and Mom over Skype during dinner. There was smiling, laughing, and a little dancing even :)

Being sick is hard for a baby, and getting well, just as hard. She was out like a light by 7pm and looks set to sleep through the night like she did yesterday. I actually stood by her crib to watch her sleep a little after I put her down. She's lost some weight over the past two days- imperceptible probably, but not to her Mama. I wondered if I'll always ache this way when she falls ill and thought about all the times my parents must have been beside themselves with worry when I wasn't feeling well. Funny, nothing like having your own child to put your relationship with your parents in perspective.

Thanks Daddy & Mommy, for worrying when I was sick.

I want you back

It's like she's a tiny baby all over again- awake for only a couple of hours at a time, a liquids-only diet, frequent clothing and diaper changes, inactive, and wanting to be held all the time. Sophie's down with a vicious stomach bug and my heart aches just looking at her all listless and despondent. She's been vomiting for more than 24-hours now and not keeping down much of the breast-milk I've been pumping and giving her through the sippy cup. I can't nurse her because her tummy's too sensitive to be taking too much liquid at any one time. We've also been giving her Pedialyte which she doesn't like as much but seems to be doing a better job of keeping down.

A stomach flu is a high-maintenance illness- since Wednesday night, we've done laundry five times (and that's a feat considering we don't have our own washer and dryer right now- that's a lot of quarters...), and cleaned and disinfected the kitchen floor, bathroom floor, kitchen sink, counter- and tabletops, and various parts of the carpet around the house so many times I've lost count. It would seem that our daughter applies the same gusto to puking as she does to all other matters of life. I'm not feeling quite myself either (feverish with a sore throat) and add my unforgiving dissertation deadline to the mix, you can imagine what a nerve-wrecking couple of days we've been having. But that's nothing compared to the emotional stress of looking at how sick Sophie is. There's no trace of the lovable, rambunctious hellion that she really is. She's in energy conservation mode right now so she's just sort of lethargic and limp all the time. She also doesn't want to be put down, hasn't been crawling, hasn't smiled, chattered, or laughed in 12 hours. And she actually laid still for a diaper change this morning- something she hasn't done in more than 4 months. And this all breaks our hearts. I get teary just watching her loll around the bed and then plonk herself face down because she has no energy to finish turning over. I hate getting a stomach flu myself and can only imagine how uncomfortable it must be for a one-year old. But most of all, it's the helplessness I can't stand. Apart from keeping her hydrated and holding her close whenever she she wants to, there's nothing else I can do to make her feel better. And that just sucks.

I miss my baby's spunk, her sass, even her screaming... Yes, even her screaming. That's how badly I want her to get better.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The scariest flowchart you've ever seen

[click for full horror]

That's all the stuff I have to do from now till October 26. Yes, my 34th birthday, also coincidentally the deadline for me to complete all my doctoral requirements in order to graduate in December. Just as well, if I had to celebrate another birthday as a graduate student, shoot me. It's not the world's most forgiving schedule but if I gird my loins, suck it in, bite the bullet, haul ass, and write like a maniac for the next 5 weeks, I might just make this dastardly deadline.

September is going to be interesting...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Remember the last time you learned to do something new all by yourself?

And remember how proud you were when you did? You probably looked a little like this :)

[Sophie uses a fork by herself for the first time.]

Monday, August 23, 2010

Family rolls into town and the Ferry Building rocks!

It was the first time Sophie had seen night since we were home in Singapore in December (which I don't think she remembers). And so when we stepped out into the street last night at 8.30pm, our daughter was literally in awe, make "Woah" sounds and squealing in delight at the twinkling city lights and strange interesting shadows bouncing off everywhere. On any other day, she would have been asleep by now but last night was special and she got a rare glimpse of life past sunset.

My aunt Veronica and Uncle Han were on a 13-hour transit in SFO enroute home to Singapore from Vegas and I was beside myself with excitement to see them! We've always been really close and it was so wonderful that she had planned her trip such that we would be able to meet up, even for a few hours. They're real foodies-- my uncle owns a seafood restaurant in Singapore-- and we could think of no better place to take them than our favorite place for good noshing in San Francisco, the Ferry Building. We figured it would be a better choice than say a sit-down restaurant since the Ferry Building has a wide variety of merchants and vendors from which to sample food as well do some foodie shopping. Being by the water helps too, and on a gorgeous, gorgeous Saturday afternoon no less. And it did not disappoint.

It was truly something special, sitting on the patio of the Ferry Building with family, basking in the sun and breeze of a typical San Franciscan day. And to make it even more special, try having some of the freshest seafood the country has to offer while you're at it. We're talking sweet, briny, succulent Sweetwater oysters from the Hog Island Oyster Co. and clam chowder like you've never seen before.

None of that gloppy, starchy stuff you get elsewhere, this is the clam chowder dreams are made of- delicate, light, but still oh so rich and delicious. And to add to that, a stunningly simple but peerless grilled cheese sandwich made with cave-aged gruyère, creamy fromage blanc, and a sweetly spicy mezzo secco from a local cheesemaker. Although the Hog Island Oyster Co. is famous for its oysters, its sleeper hit is its grilled-cheese sandwich.

But the whole point of going to the Ferry Building isn't to eat at just one place, is it? And my aunt had already declared that she wanted to sample food from at least four restaurants if possible! We weren't quite that accomplished but we did manage to get an outside table (again, yay!) at The Slanted Door, serving Vietnamese-fusion cuisine. It's crab and cellophane noodles is on the list of 100 Things to Eat in San Francisco Before You Die (a list which, by the way, we're taking quite seriously...) and so we thought it was as good an opportunity as any to check another thing off our list. The food was pretty impressive all round but the one dish that really stood out and made all our tastebuds sing was the grilled pork sausage stuffed Monterey squid with cilantro, basil, chili and lime.

Don't let how it looks fool you- it's not the prettiest dish you'll see (I personally think the colours are crazy awesome), but man it tasted phenomenal. Scorched-grilled and tender on the outside, succulent and flavorful on the inside; and that amazing sauce! It was so good Uncle Han's already making plans to recreate this in his restaurant (that and a raw bar inspired by Hog Island)

Sophie did pretty well throughout dinner. She was antsy, of course, because she wasn't allowed to roam and crawl every- and anywhere she wanted; but with enough puffs, blueberries, and pain epi from the Acme Bread Company, she could be persuaded (ok, bribed...) to sit still. Jude and I also took turns to carry her around, where she promptly did one (or more) of the following: 1) squawked "Dok!" to every moving creature (bird, dog, fish) she saw; 2) yelled "Mama!" so loudly I'm sure everyone along the Embarcadero could hear her, and 3) waved, smiled, and gestured at anyone who would give her the time of day.

At the end of the day though, delectable food aside, it was just plain wonderful to spend the day with my aunt and uncle (even if it meant a cranky, grumpy baby who only got to bed 2 hours past her bedtime). We're a tight-knit family and being away from them is one of the suckiest things about being here. But being with my aunt and uncle yesterday and watching them dote and fawn over Sophie (who really couldn't have been more charming if she wanted to) made the suckiness go away a little. Just a little.