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.

Friday, August 20, 2010

There is no need to adjust your screens

... she really is this precious :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

What it means to be a one year old

Hi everyone! It's Sophie here. Since I last posted, I've turned one, which if you didn't know, is kind of a big deal. I'm a T-O-D-D-L-E-R now, and it's awesome- do you know they give you a car when you turn one? Look at me in my own zippy little car which is powered by the lowest emission fuel on earth, i.e. Mama. It's pink with unicorn wheels and plays fairy music when I hit the horn, which Daddy says is ridiculous because no one would make way for him in real life if our Hyundai horned fairy music on the freeway.

[Make way for awesomeness!]

Apparently, after you turn one, you get to do all sorts of exciting things, like eat dim sum. My parents-- Mama, especially-- got very excited at the restaurant so I guess it's special. Mama fed me some chee cheong fun (rice rolls) which was smooth and slippery and pieces of fluffy char siu bao (roasted pork buns). They were OK but didn't quite rock my world. The thing that really knocked my little socks off was the fish porridge! Woah... it was delicious and I ate so much of it (more than I ever do at home) that I think it made Mama kind of sad. She says maybe she should start adding something called MSG to my porridge like they probably do at the restaurant.

[Oooooh... so this is how real food tastes like...]

[I have impeccable table manners.]

Another thing one-year olds get to do is to go swimming! Mama and Dada have been promising to take me swimming since I was 6 months old and why they waited another 6 months before ever doing it is beyond me. Something about it being too cold in Michigan and worrying about my eczema- whatever... parents and their excuses. Wait till I ask them for a pony... They know I totally rock my bathing suit and keeping me away from the water is simply unjust. Look how happy I am to be in the water?


[I can't believe you've been depriving me of this much fun!]

So there- me, Sophie Yew. A one-year-old. Watch out world, I'm one, and I'm fabulous!

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Jude's ex-classmate's daughter was recently diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. It's a highly survivable cancer, though no less distressing, and made even more heart-wrenching by the fact that the little girl is only four. We met her when we were home over Christmas last year and Jude and I had agreed then that we would love for Sophie to grow up to be just like her- lovable, articulate, affectionate, and just a delightful amount of spunk and sass. Apparently, she's lost little of that personality even though she's ill, which is just wonderful to know. Her mom and I don't know each other very well but I like her a lot and am inspired by many of the choices she's made as a mother. And now, through her daughter's treatment and recovery process, that respect has only deepened.

Jude asked me why I've become so concerned about their situation, seeing how we've only met a few times. And I think apart from the genuine sadness and empathy one feels for a fellow human being during difficult times, I feel so much for them also because I can only imagine what I'd do if Sophie became this sick. My heart already aches when she has a cold, what more if she comes down with a more serious illness? It also puts into perspective the kinds of things we want for our children. In a blog that she periodically updates to keep friends and family abreast of her daughter's progress, Jude's friend writes, "I live everyday with my little girl like it's the last day. Who cares whether her Chinese is good? Who cares whether she can count beyond 20? Suddenly everything doesn't seem quite as important anymore." With that line, I turned to Sophie (who was sitting next to me in her high chair munching on an animal cracker) and nuzzled her so tight I think she would have choked on her cracker...

We shouldn't have to wait till our children are sick to love them like it's our last day together; we shouldn't have to wait till a life-threatening illness attacks to remember the things in our lives that are important (or not). We have to love the people around us-- partners, children, parents, siblings, friends-- as if we have everything to lose. In more ways than one, life is too short to do otherwise.

For those of you who are the praying sort (and even those of you who are not), please help us say a short prayer for Jude's friend and her family- they need all the positive energy the universe can muster and every little good vibe helps. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Sunshine, cupcakes, bubbles, and balloons. It was a perfect day to turn one and Sophie lapped it all up. She basked gloriously in all the attention and relished being a little queen for the day (although in our house, she's queen everyday...).

[Hello, my faithful subjects...]

I think she was appropriately excited by the events of the day, although I don't think she knew that it was all for her.

[Woah... balloons. Cupcakes. Presents. I don't know what's going on but is this something we can do everyday?]

The cupcakes were delicious (not to the birthday girl, though... More on that later)

And after a few valiant attempts to light the candle-- which I think amused her more than anything else-- Sophie was all birthday awesomeness by beaming as she cut her cupcake. It was like it finally dawned on her that this was all about her!

[Stab, stab, stab!]

Oh, she was happy...

[I'm really happy, Dada!]

As for her vegan cupcake, let's just say she was more excited by is texture than its taste.

[Ooooh... you mean I get to stick my finger in and Mama's not going to swoop down and try to stop me?]

I think she knew we were holding out on her by giving her a "fake" cupcake. Clever girl, this one...

[Hey, who's trying to pull a fast one? Red Velvet doesn't go with coconut-milk frosting...]

Thanks to everyone who came and to everyone who's been such a huge part of her life this past year, near or far (you know who you are!). Thank you so much for helping us celebrate Sophie, whether in person or in spirit. She's a lucky girl to be growing up with so much affection around her and we know she will thrive and blossom because she will be secure in the knowledge that she is loved :)

There you have it, Sophie turned one and it was fantastic!

[Mama, I'm having a great time...]

For full set of photos and videos, see here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

That's what happens when toddlers try to throw a birthday party

Instead of dancing for the birthday girl, they dance around her. Or try to steal several kisses (Boy in Yellow, a.k.a. Ryan- I've got my eyes on you)

When they finally get their act together and groove to the Chicken Dance, the birthday girl is too busy chomping on animal crackers to appreciate the gesture.

The birthday girl never gets to blow out her own candle.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

One year

Exactly a year ago this very moment, Sophie was born.

This is the part where I guess I'm supposed to start gushing emotionally about how big a deal this is, go on about all the things Sophie has done/learned/developed over these 12 months, and wax lyrical about the joys of motherhood. But the thing is, words fail me right now. How does one capture the profundity of an entire year of stumbling, learning, growing, re-learning, but also wonder, delight, and pure, unadulterated happiness?

Just this one thing- that at this moment, exactly a year after her birth, I love my daughter so fiercely, so deeply, so joyfully, so wholly, and so surely that my heart would burst from feeling so much...

Happy, happy birthday sweet child.

How did you get so big overnight?
How did you get so smart and bright?
Yesterday you were asleep in my arms
Today you're growing off the charts.
I'm so proud of you.
- Frances England, "You and Me"

Friday, August 06, 2010

Got milk?

I guess it's sort of poetic that I choose (though not consciously) World Breastfeeding Week to start thinking about weaning Sophie off breastmilk. With her first birthday approaching, it's something I had to contemplate sooner or later anyway. We've been fortunate (and grateful) that my supply's kept up with Sophie's needs and we're now at a pretty consistent four feeds a day (after she wakes-up, late morning, afternoon, and before bed). I express whenever she's at daycare and pack the milk with her when she goes. Pumping hasn't been that big a deal for me- I've been doing it since Sophie started daycare in January so I've become quite used to it. Besides, the reams of research behind how beneficial breastmilk is make whatever trouble it is worthwhile. On a more selfish note, breastfeeding zaps so many calories that I've actually managed to maintain a pretty healthy post-Sophie weight. Also, after reading this article in the the NYT yesterday, there's probably also an element of mommy martyrdom-

Dr. German sees (breast)milk as “an astonishing product of evolution,” one which has been vigorously shaped by natural selection because it is so critical to the survival of both mother and child. “Everything in milk costs the mother — she is literally dissolving her own tissues to make it,” he said.
- "Breast Milk Sugars Give Infants a Protective Coat", New York Times

And now that it's time to think about weaning, I'm feeling a little sad, I guess. I genuinely enjoy nursing her and it's been a very special and deeply elemental thing that we share. It's going to be a profound transition-- for both Sophie and I-- and I want to do it in a way that respects her need for both sustenance as well as comfort. Her allergy to cow's milk doesn't make the decision any easier. I suppose when we do eventually wean her, we'd move to soy formula first before trying regular whole milk.

Right now, even though many people suggest weaning at a year, I'm probably going to keep it up for as long as Sophie wants to nurse and/or when she outgrows her cow's milk allergy. I'm in no hurry to stop breastfeeding and Sophie seems to be a contended breastfed baby. So at least for now, there's no need to bust out the sippy cups. Yet...

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The 12 months of Sophie

This post was going to be about all the prep we've gotten ready for Sophie's party. I was going to write about the things we've planned, organized, and prepared, reserved, ordered, and bought. But that's not really what the party is about, is it? People aren't going to be there because they want to eat cupcakes or play with balloons; they're going to be at the party because they want to help us celebrate Sophie. It's all about Sophie. And so this post-- like so many, many posts in the past 52 weeks-- is about Sophie herself. Our peanut. Our punkin'. Our precious...

To remember her first year, I put together a bunch of our favorite photos and videos of her over these past 12 months- some capture milestone moments, others are a little more mundane. I had fun creating the slideshow-- a little too much, I have to admit. I also got teary-eyed more than once- remembering seeing her for the first time and falling in love, remembering that profound, overwhelming swell of adoration which I didn't think could possibly deepen but continues to everyday since then; looking at how her features have changed over the year, but in some ways stayed almost exactly the same; smiling at all the memories of where and when each photo/video was captured; and thinking over and over and over how lucky we are to be blessed with the funny, happy, loving child that Sophie has grown into.

And so here, in under 3 minutes, I give you "Sophie in 12 Months":

[Song: "Sophie Roux" by lady danville]

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Step by step

A week before her first birthday, Sophie decides she's ready to explore the world by foot. At least by holding our hands first.

Which is how I hope she'll begin all of her life's adventures...

Monday, August 02, 2010

A family that falls sick together, stays together

It sucks being sick. It sucks even more when you're taking care of a rambunctious, squirmy soon-to-be one-year-old. And it triple sucks when your husband's sick as well. Yes, welcome to the Household That Is Not Feeling Well. It started with Sophie's cough and cold last week. So apparently, I didn't get the memo stating how lethal baby germs are and now both Jude and I are down with the same thing- scratchy throats, dry hacking coughs, sniffly noses, and teary eyes. Worse thing is, I can't take anything for it since I'm still nursing. I took one dose of DayQuil this morning and I think my milk supply dipped in reaction (the decongestant which is supposed to dry your sinuses dries up the milk glands too). So I've just been guzzling plenty of water, tea, and Jude's awesome lemon-honey elixir (juice of half a lemon, the same chunk of lemon, honey, and hot water in a small mug. Potent stuff.) Without taking regular meds and only being able to nap while Sophie napped, it was a long weekend.

Of course, I can't explain all this to Sophie who's just bursting with energy now that she's on the upswing from being sick last week. So to keep her occupied-- there's only so much she can do in the house-- I took her to the library and balloon-shopping for her birthday. Poor Jude has a paper deadline for work on top of fighting this bug so I had to take Sophie on my own. It was not pretty- we had to drive to two different stores to find a place that would do balloon delivery, something about opening a new store next weekend meant that the place I had originally decided on now doesn't do deliveries, I wasn't feeling well, I was tired from not sleeping properly the night before but hadn't taken coffee coz of my throat, and Sophie was whiney from being strapped in her car seat which she decides once in a while that she hates.

And even when we're home, the lethal combination of her increased mobility (i.e. speedy crawling) and a mind of her own (i.e. heading towards the kitchen and pulling on cables after being told she's not supposed to) means we have to *constantly* keep an eye on her. I thought maybe reading in bed with her would be somewhat more relaxing but no, we went through 8 books, 3 of which I had to read twice. And we're talking the kind of reading that involves full-on reading from beginning to end, talking about each and every picture, and acting excited about each peekaboo flap and textured page. Don't get me wrong, I love that Sophie has both the attention span and the desire for us to read to her, but honestly, by the time she decided we were done with the books, I was mentally exhausted. Oh, and did I mention that she chose last night of all nights to scream bloody murder at 2.00am and 6.00am after having slept through the night for almost two weeks straight? I did not wake up a happy camper this morning.

Maybe I can sneak in some quality Serene-needs-to-get-well-in-order-to-finish-Chapter-Five nap time tomorrow when Sophie's at daycare. It's weekends like these that make me almost forget the guilt I sometimes feel for putting her in daycare...

Sunday, August 01, 2010


Smile tho'your heart is aching,
Smile even though it's breaking,
When there are clouds in the sky- You'll get by,
If you smile through your fear and sorrow,
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through- For you.
-"Smile", Charlie Chaplin