It's been three months since I last wrote a baby blogpost. It's not because there's been nothing to write about, but more because I have shifted my priority....as in, if there's a block of time to write something (it takes me about 30 min - 1 hour to write a single blogpost), I'd rather be doing any of the following: napping, taking a bath, watch TV (aka AmazonPrime), shopping on Zulily (because one can never buy enough toddler shoes), or do a quick yoga session through YogaGlo.
So just some quick updates on Josie's life.
Yup...that "Screen Time"
Before Josie started using YouTube Kids, I had no idea just how many version of "Wheels on the Bus" there is on the Internet. I mean, it's insane how many versions there are. And there are even German versions, Hindu versions, Russian versions, that she sometimes accidentally invoke. If you are curious, you can type "Wheels on the bus" or "LBB nursery playlist" on YouTube. That's one way to completely saturate your YouTube feed with things like Johny Johny Yes Papa.
Interestingly, I have used iPad with Josie since she was around a year old. I cleaned up the iPad, removing it of all apps, and loaded it with kids apps (Dr. Seuss books, etc), thinking I could use it to distract her while we flew on planes. But she didn't care for it at all in the beginning. I would try to show her the apps and she would immediately want to put the iPad away after 10 sec.
Then, suddently, when we went to San Diego in Jan, she started holding the iPad by herself (I have it in a iGuy that completely protects it from the destructive powers of a toddler) and got really interested in those Wheels on the Bus videos. So interested, that she can re-watch the same Wheels on the Bus (a 4-5 min video) for like 10 times straight up.
I went through a month (or two, maybe) where she gradually got more adept at using YouTube. Since she can't type in search phrases, I added in color learning and fruits and vegetable names to broaden the playlist. While I do like that I now have the option of prepping dinner in solitude (instead of having her holding on to my leg screaming and crying for me to pick her up and as soon as I pick her up demand boobies), for a while I couldn't quite figure out how to keep it in moderation, resulting in a few weeks where Josie was on the iPad more than I would like. Eventually we came up with a rule: iPad time is only in the evening, at home only, either before or after dinner and never after bath (when she's about to sleep). For the most part we do OK.
Then at some point, as Josie started grabbing words from both talking with Ian and watching YouTube, I really wanted her to start watching YouTube videos in Chinese. But I quickly discovered there's just much fewer high-quality good Mandarin YouTube videos. There's the equivalent of Daniel Tiger in Chinese, but it's almost too advanced for Josie and she's not interested. What I really want is the same kind of simple videos like the color learning and fruits and vegetable names, where they show the item and repeat it in Mandarin. I tried finding a few, but most of them are from mainland China with slightly strange accents. Recently, I found Peggy Pig in Mandarin and have had moderate success in getting Josie to at least watch them for like, a minute, a day.
Oh Say Can You Say?
In just the last few weeks, Josie also get extremely interested in reading books. While she has always had enjoyed us reading to her, now she will literally chase us with books and be extremely upset if we don't read Go Dog Go or Are You My Mother for 5 times straight.
Last Christmas, when my mom visited, I asked her to bring some Mandarin books from Taiwan. At that time I thought I was been too eager to get her books since she had showed little interest in reading. Now I'm so happy at least I have some Chinese books to choose from.
Most of these books are actually translated from Japanese. Taiwan itself sadly doesn't produce a lot Children's books. Instead it relies on translating popular Japanese and American books. I don't see that as an issue, though, except I find it amusing when many of the illustrations are actually in Japanese (for example, the book where the little chicks go to supermarket, all the produce are written in Japanese).
I have also firmed up my resolution to speak to her in Mandarin. I slip up sometimes, but now I can consistently read "Go Dog Go" in Mandarin, using my own translations. It helps that I worked for years as an amateur translator. Translating Berstain's "A book" on the fly? No problem! I am still stuck on what to do with Oh Say Can You Say. Is it better to try to actually rhyme in Mandarin too, or should I just describe what is going on? Seriously, Dr. Seuss, you make translation a bitch. No wonder I had no idea who you were since no one could translate your work to understandable Chinese.
I remember watching Nursery University at some point (I may have been already pregnant, but not sure) and thinking how ridiculous New York was. Until I came to realize, after Josie was born, that San Francisco is not much better.
Let me just show you how extreme it can get. So, in case you don't know, preschools start usually just a little before 3 years old, around 2.5 years. Some preschools can cater to as young as 2 year olds.
Now, one of the most popular preschool in SF says this on their website:
Excuse my French, but you have got to be shitting me.
Now let me see, what does this wonderful preschool program consists of?
Uhhhhhh....OK????? this sounded more intense than my college freshman curriculum, dude.
What the hell is "pre-reading" and "pre-math"? And apprently Tree Frog Treks is "pre-science". Is this "pre-" thing added to justify that "well, your kid still won't be able to add 1+1, but he/she will be ready to count 1+1 when he/she goes to kindergarten". In that sense, aren't all kids "pre-adult", "pre-emotionally-stable", and "pre-tty cute"?
And if this isn't already making your unfertilzed ovaries hurt (if it does, it's called "pre-aching"), let me just throw more phrases at you. Just like the words "Big Data", "Machine Learning", "Cloud Computing" get thrown around a lot, so do the following philosophies: Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, High Scope.
I confess I have heard of Montessori because I remember in Taiwan, lots of schools liked to put "Montessori" on their school sign, like it's supposed to be better than a regular school. Frankly, after researching preschools and having visited a few myself, I still only have a vague impression of what they are. Montessori is like the way you think of regular schools, teacher comes up with stuff and kids do it. Reggio Emilia is like, the teacher follows the kids and let them do what they want, within reason. Importantly, according to Wikipedia:
Wait, does this imply there is a philosophy in which children aren't viewed as social beings?
After reading about two webpages of philosophies, I stopped. There's no point in reading all these fancy theories if you can't get into any of them, right?
So I started looking. No, not quite at birth. Around when Josie was 1.5 years old. I made note to only look for two kinds of schools: either Mandarin-immersion, or plain English but very close by. As ignorant as I was, I already knew that Presidio Knolls(http://www.cais.org/) and [CAIS] are the two most popular Mandarin-immersion schools in the area, but Josie won't be eligible to apply until this fall (to get in next year). I searched for a few other schools in the area using KidAdmit and old fashioned googling. I even had to write an essay for one of the schools.
The first preschool I toured at, which is about 30 seconds away from my house, the teacher described their curriculum as "HighScope". She used many fancy words to describe the philosphy, but after touring the classroom, looking at their daily schedules, I boiled the concept down to "Every week we come up with a theme, like this week it's sea and next week it's jungal, and the kids get to decide the theme. Then we glue stuff and draw and sing about that theme that week." In short, they play.
Curiously, we got into the preschool a month after we toured. We got a notice that said they considered us as "a fit" (I think we had to fit, we were living 30 seconds away in Noe white Valley). But we had 3 days to respond whether to accept or not. And the admission date was strict (as opposed to "rolling admission") --- either Josie starts this year in September, or she gets on the waitlist for next Sept.
It was a difficult few days. Eventually what got me to think straight was picking up the book "A Parent's Guide to Mandarin Immersion" my co-worker had lent me a few weeks ago. I carpooled with this co-worker for a few times and he happened to have a 2.5 year old and have found themselves on the "too-late" side of preschool application. His neighbor is a white female college professor who leanred Mandarin as an adult and had sent her kids to Mandarin-immersion schools in the bay area. At first I scoofed at the book, like, dude, I know Mandarin, it's not like I don't know what it meant to study it.
But after reading the book, I realized while I do know how to learn Mandarin in Taiwan, I had not given a truly deep thought about what it meant to learn Mandarin in the US. I had did the other way around --- I grew up learning Mandarin, came to US when I was 7 and 8 and learned English, went back to Taiwan and kept up my English until I finished college and came here for graduate school. My English is reasonably good and often people don't know I'm not a native speaker. So I thought: how hard could it be to do the other way around?
It is actually hard, and part of the reason is me. My life is very Americanized. When I was in Taiwan, I watched HBO, listened to English pop songs, and browsed webpages in English. The American culture and the English language permeates every corner of the Asian pop culture. But the reverse is not true. I have no immediate family members to speak Mandarin to and I don't watch Chinese television or listen to Chinese songs. I have Taiwanese mom friends but being a working mom means I don't get to hang out with them and their kids often enough.
Language is as much about the culture that uses it as it is a set of alien grammar and vocabs. That's why I want Josie to learn Mandarin. I want her to understand what it means to be Taiwanese. I don't want her to be able to listen, I want her to be able to speak, to read, to write...at a relatively high level. And as I think back to how much learning I had to throughout my school years, I realize that is a lot of hours dedicated to learning the Chinese language.
Once I determined what I wanted for Josie in terms of her Mandarin education, the decision to decline the preschool that accepted her was easy. And now I'm in the process of searching for the right Mandarin preschool for her. I have toured 3 more preschools and have one more in May, then all will be settled...or so I hope.
Unil next time, then.
Josephine is officially a toddler!
And she is quickly learning. In many, many ways.
I had written the first draft of this post in October, when she was 14 months. Just even looking at what I had written as the draft, I can see how fast she has grown.
My draft at 14 months showed that she was walking but falling over very often. Now she doesn't unless she trips. She was just beginning to imitate doing things I do, like mopping the floor (with the wrong end of the broom), putting things in and out of shopping bags, wiping the floor and throwing things into the trash can. I wrote down, at 14 months, that she was just beginning to be able to make basic communications, but were limited to waving her hands for "no", "agua", and a very confused usage of "mama" and "dah?".
Just in the last week, she has accumulated a much larger vocabulary. She now completely understands the meaning of "mama" and "papa/baba". In my absence, she will say "mama" when she expects me. She can correctly identify "agua" to be more than just water in cups, but extends to any body of water, including ponds and fountains. She learned that cows "moo" and kids "giggle" and the wheels on the "bus" goes around, from suddenly taking a very strong and focused interest in YouTube videos of "wheels on the bus". Before, I had iPad apps for babies that teach them about animals and objects and she never cared about them, but now she suddenly will focus on particular ones and attempt to imitate the sounds.
All this is especially exciting not just as a parent but as someone who is devoted to helping scientific research. As it happens, we are at the end of our 6-day trip in San Diego for the Plant and Animal Genomes Conference. This is my third year here and Josie's second year here. On one of the plenary lectures, Erich Jarvis gave an amazing speech on his research on vocal learning (he has a lot of YouTube videos, this is part 1 on his bit about vocal learning through studying song birds). I never knew much about vocal learning, much less the science behind it. Not only did I learn so much cool science from his talk, I also was again happily confirming that I chose the right job to work at a company that helps make this kind of scientific study possible and better. As I sat there and listen to his talk, I couldn't help think: "Wow, I guess this gene must be highly expressed in Josie right now!" And I'm not gonna lie --- I became an instant fan girl (of the science kind) --- and then this happened:
Praise be to social media! What's even more exicting was later I personally met him at my company's dinner party and was able to chat with him a bit!
OK....fan girl moment aside, I had an excellent time at the conference. And during these 6 days, Ian was the sole baby sitter during the day. I think he now thinks our nanny is superhuman for being able to watch Josie so consistently since she was 5 weeks.
I joke that there are many similarly-aged babies at work, but Josie is the only one who keeps showing up at company events. She's been to our user group meeting, our company halloween party, BBQ lunch, Christmas potluck, appreciation event....yeah, she's like the baby that just won't go away! Luckily, my company is generally pretty relaxed about this (I'm sure if all the babies showed up everytime they'd go crazy, but I'm the only one with thick skin, hahaha).
ON sleep and breastfeeding
Over time, I have found that there seems to be two camps of baby bed time. What appears to be the dominant camp is sending your baby to bed some time between 6 - 8PM. Parents usually have their own dinner and relax time after the baby is asleep and go to bed around midnight. Then the kids usually wake up between 6 - 7AM and the day begins. With this first camp, the benefit is that the adults get their own precious alone time at night. The drawback is if the adults want to go out, a babysitter must be called in.
We belong to the second --- and I think the minority --- camp. I typically nurse Josehpine to sleep around 9 - 10PM. Most of the time I fall asleep at the same time; every now and then I will stay up for another hour doing some light stretching. Then I wake up whenever Josehpine wakes me, which is anytime between 7 - 9AM. With our approach, we have the benefit that Josehpine can go out at night with us for dinner, walks, and visiting friends. The drawback is we don't have a lot of "alone" adult time. Though frankly, whenever I have alone adult time, I either workout, read, or work, so it's not like it's any different. Since I don't drink or dance, I never had a nightlife to begin with anyways.
I still breastfeed and at 16 months, Josehpine does not show any signs of weaning. She loves nursing! I realized not all babies are that attached the boobs, but she is. It remains the single cure to any malady: hunger, teething pain, sickness, crankiness, sleepiness, sadness, ...I have yet to encounter a situation in which giving her boobs did not calm her down. Though I claim Josehpine to be a difficult baby and indeed she is quite a handful, I must credit where credit is due. For instance, she gets very mad if she wants boobs and is denied access. But if you give her boobs, she is willing to even nap in the most awkward places possible, like my lap.
In fact, I typed the 14-mo draft for an hour at home with her wedged between me and the dining table:
I don't know how it was possible that she felt comfortable sleeping like this. But she was.
ON cooking and eating
Cooking and preparing meals remains challenging. If possible, I would really like to eat home-cooked meals as often as possible. Though I eat everything, I can get pretty picky about my meals. Cooking means I have full control over the quality of the ingredients and the level of spices used. Alas, I haven't quite got it all down. I cook once or twice a week and that covers 3 - 5 meals. The rest are covered by using services like Munchery, Postmates, and eating out. It's not ideal, but it will do for now. Like everything else, I think it can only get better as Josie gets older.
Though my nanny always said it, I didn't think Josie was a good eater --- until we got a partial nanny share. We have a boy who is two months younger than Josie who comes to our house for nanny share once or twice a week. It's not many days, but I think just the right amount of interaction for Josie. The boy is a lot quieter, has a mild temper, and boy does Josie bully him even though he is taller! Seeing how the boy is much pickier at mealtime made me realize with all the trouble Josie makes, not eating is not one of them. Heck, she even ate natto when I offered it to her last week!
ON health and illness
So far, Josie has not had big health problems. She did have roseola which caused very high fever (101-103F!) for several days, but eventually recovered. Last November she had a bad month where she had very itchy rashes around her neck and body. Only until the pediatrician prescribed very strong steroid cream did they start to get better. Her rashes still come back every now and then, but if it gets worse I just quickly nip it in the bud with the cream. She does appear to have a propensity for mild skin allergies. Hopefully as she ages it will get better.
That's about it for 16 months!
IN case you ever wondered what it's like to go on a solo brunch with the infamous Josie....
It’s 10AM on a Sunday. I push my mountain buggy nano with Josephine strapped inside and the booster seat on top into Park Chow on Irving & 9th in Inner Sunset. It was promising not to see any people standing outside --- often this place gets so crowded on a sunny weekend that despite having two floors and plenty of tables, the wait can still be long. I’ve made many pilgrimages to Park Chow to immediately know that not only would there be no wait today, the service would be blazing fast.
The hostess greets me and I say “Just the two of us. I don’t need a highchair.” I have done my solo dining out experience with Josephine enough to condense information down to just this. No need to say one adult and one baby since we would both be needing regular chairs. I bring my own booster seat because Josephine climbs out of high chairs.
I park the stroller by the entrance waiting area where there is just one folded up umbrella stroller right now. Holding Josephine in one arm and my purse and booster seat in another, I follow the hostess upstairs. Despite having been here many times this is the first time I am being seated upstairs. The hostess leads us to a little cove with a well-shielded fireplace (which I immediately mentally check as properly child-proofed) where we are the only seated party. Excellent! I sit down, set Josephine in my lap and study the menu. Josephine wriggles and grabs a pouch of sugar from the table. I ignore her and offer her a pair of chopsticks to play with.
Josephine pulls my shirt and says “nana” which is her current rendition of mandarin for boobies (it really should be “nene” not “nana”). I give her the boobies to have more time to examine the menu. Another party is led into our little cove. It’s a mom with her daughter and a female friend. Hearing the party approach, Josephine looks up. The mom and I have some polite exchanges and I learn that her daughter is 2 years old. The two year old is sitting in her mom’s lap quietly and giggling at her own reflection in the mirror. Our side of the little cove is a complete wall of mirror.
The waitress comes. I order coffee, veggie scramble, and baked apples. Once ordered, I put Josephine down since she does not want to be still. She immediately starts walking around the premise, causing a little slow down here and there, though I mostly keep her out of the way of staff and other customers. The waitress comes back and lets me know that baked apple is out; I order a side of fruit instead. Josephine continues to walk around the second floor, but she is at least holding my hand and does not protest when I steer her out of peoples’ ways. Surveying the second floor, I notice there is a large family with two kids who are about to leave; a table with two couples and a baby in a high chair; a table with four adults and no baby; another table with a couple who smiles at Josephine as she walks by. Park Chow is known to be kid-friendly, boasting two bathrooms, changing tables and plenty of high chairs, so neither the staff nor the patrons are strangers to roaming toddlers.
The waitress brings coffee for the table with the 2-yr old. I look at the cup of coffee longingly. Then, a waiter leads a young couple to be seated next to me. Their table is only inches away from us. I ask the young lady if it’s OK that Josephine’s booster seat-strapped chair is literally right next to her. She says it’s OK. I’m a little anxious: she might be too young to know how obnoxious a messy screaming toddler can be. I can only hope for the best. A waiter leads another party of 4 adults and no children to sit at the only table left in the little cove. It is getting crowded and I am bracing myself for the worst. Josephine is generally not too bad dining out, but I’m going solo and if she gets too cranky, I am prepared to use my ultimate strategy: nurse her while I eat. This trick has worked like a charm since day one. I would prefer if she eat actual breakfast so this is always a last resort. Also, though I am at this point very skilled at eating with one hand, I still prefer to use both.
The food arrives for the 2-yr old table. The mom got pancakes for herself and her daughter. My food arrived right afterwards. I put Josephine in the booster seat and put her bib on. She immediately tears off the bib and hands it back to me; I don’t try bibbing her again. I knew this might happen and have dressed her in a shirt that was already tainted with strawberries and have a second clean shirt in the bag. I start putting cut pieces of eggs on her plate. I know she would eat because it’s been over two hours since she woke up. Indeed she immediately starts eating, dropping small bits of melted goat cheese on her shirt. I bite into the toast and casually observe the 2-yr-old chewing on a piece of pancake and think to myself: sigh, why can’t Josephine be as calm and nice as this kid? She doesn’t even need a high chair. I turn back to Josephine and break off a piece of toast to her. She chews it down while playing with chopsticks and a fork. Her new thing is to be fed with a fork. If you offer her food on a fork, the chance she eats it goes up by 50%.
I’m sitting facing the mirror wall, and through the reflection I see the other table with a baby in the high chair. The baby is holding a crayon and appears to be content. Sigh, I think to myself, Josie would never sit still in a high chair like that.
I turn back and notice the two-year-old is now smearing pancakes on the mirror. I laugh inside: guess she’s not so still after all! The mom notices and scrambles to get her to stop. In the process, the two-year-old starts screaming. The mom leaves the seat with the toddler and starts walking up and down the same route Josephine was doing earlier. The mom’s friend is now sitting alone at the table eating.
Josephine proclaims herself done on eggs and toast and begins to throw it on the ground. She stabs the young guy at the table next to us in the back with the egg-soaked fork. The guy turns back and I quickly apologize. He smiles indifferently and turns back, too focused on his equally kid-oblivious companion. Their order arrives and I can tell they are really freshly in love, as they feed each other bites of strawberry pancake. Feed on, young lovers, I think to myself, one day you will be feeding the same stuff to your kiddos and it won’t look this pretty.
I move on to the fruit plate and offer Josie a piece of banana. She opens her mouth wide and swallows it whole. I’m amazed. Through the reflection in the mirror, I see the baby in the high chair is now crying and kicking. The mom stands up and puts the baby in a carrier and starts doing the “baby swing” --- standing next to the table and swinging back and forth --- while her husband continues to engage in conversation with their couple (and likely child-free) friend. I guess that baby can’t stand the high chair forever, either.
I feed Josephine one piece of banana after another. She eats it all. Off in the distance, I hear some baby scream, though it sounds more like a newborn crying. I stop Josephine from waving the dirty fork which is only inches away from the young guy next to us. The young couple continues to ignore the rest of the world and is smiling and talking at each other. I offer Josephine the chopsticks she dropped on the ground in exchange for the fork; she refuses and now has both a fork and a single chopsticks in hand.
The mom with the two-year-old comes back. Her friend gets up and takes the toddler off to walk up and down again while the mom sits down to finish the pancakes in solitude.
I pick up a raspberry with my fork and offer to Josephine. I tease her: “It’s gonna be sour, baby!” She’s never had it before. She swallows it whole and stops, a stunned look appears on her face as she pushes the raspberry half way out of her mouth. I laugh victoriously at my little misdeed. But no, she takes the raspberry back and eats it. I give her another whole raspberry. This time she eats it without hesitation. I am all amazement and a little sad my prank didn’t work.
I look in the mirror. The husband is still talking energetically with his friends, but the mom has now put the baby down to stand next to the three-step stairs. The baby can stand but can’t quite walk yet, so that’s the extent of his active zone.
The waitress comes and I ask for a box for the remaining fruit and the check. I take out baby wipes and start cleaning the tray. Josephine takes one of the wipes and fervently wipes the tray along with me. The check comes. I pay, and put Josephine on the ground to roam around on her own while I finish the cleaning. Except for a small bit of egg on the ground and the tray itself, there actually isn’t much mess. Out of the corner of my eye, I see that Josephine has reached the three-step stairs and is going down on it butt first, with the standing baby and his mom watching.
“She did very well!” The two-year-old’s mom, who is sitting alone at the table, smiles at me and says.
“It’s a good day today.” I smile back.
Josephine went down the stairs and immediately came back up, babbling and laughing as she walked towards me. I leave a handsome tip, pack up my purse and booster seat, pick her up in the other hand and goes down the stairs. There are now three strollers parked next to mine. I extract my stroller, take Josephine outside, and change her into a clean new shirt. Then we stroll away.
One must cherish every little victory in life, and in this case, it is defined by a clean shirt and wipes left to spare after a decent warm breakfast.
This post is limited to traveling in the first year with a single baby (not twins, no older kids) since that is the only experience I have.
We ended up traveling quite a bit in the first year. But except for two visits to Seattle and Boston for weddings when the baby was close to 1 yr old, the rest were all voluntary.
Here were the trips we did. From San Francisco, we did:
- (3 mo) Drive to LA for vacation
- (5 mo) Fly to San Diego for a conference
- (8 mo) Fly to Taiwan for two weeks for vacation and visit family
- (11 mo) Fly to Seattle then drive to Bellingham for wedding
- (12 mo) Fly to Boston for wedding
We also did numerous "staycation" trips to Monterey and stayed with the grandparents. The longest we stayed there was 5 days.
Except for the Boston trip where I got sick from some disgusting Japanese food on the first night and suffered stomach issues for the whole duration (through no fault of the wedding itself), all the other trips were highly enjoyable and successful. At no point did I regret doing any of those trips and I think what worked well for us was careful planning and setting proper expectations. I think if you got these two big points down, nothing can go that wrong unless you are really unlucky (ex: stranded at airport, food poisoning...).
Before I get to the planning, here are some thoughts I had from these travels:
You don't have to travel.
I did actually give up quite a few travels. And for the ones I gave up, it felt right afterwards. I didn't go to Ian's brother's wedding which was an hour away when the baby was about a month old: instead, Ian went there, stayed one night, and came back the next day. I gave up flying to New York for a wedding. I banned Ian from going to a bachelor party. I gave up going to a conference in Ireland. And there were probably many times when I said "no" to proposed travels.
The way I think about it is that disasters are more likely to happen --- and you feel extremely stressed about it --- if you were forced to go somewhere. Wedding is the ultimate form of forced traveling. You feel bad if you don't go but if you do go, you are very restricted to where and when you go.
I happen to detest social persuasion of this kind. I go if it makes me happy. A wedding is supposed to be merry and happy. If you aren't the one getting married, most likely you not showing up is not going to make a difference. The couple-to-be is going to be surrounded by hundreds of their best friends from all stages of their lives and they will be so stressed out about the wedding that they will hardly notice you not being there --- or being there but having a terrible time. We went to the Seattle/Bellingham wedding because it was our best friends from grad school and Seattle was our stomping grounds so we knew our way around and wanted to see some old friends as well. We went to the Boston wedding because it was Ian's other brother's wedding and I was a little interested in visiting Boston. And at both weddings, I knew there would be plenty of people who knew us and would be thrilled to play with the baby so I don't have to.
But if you do travel, it's because you want to and you know what you are in for
If you do travel, it's because you want to. I wanted to go to LA because I love visiting LA. It has amazing food, amazing views (I love the Griffith observatory), and it's just a fun place to be. I wanted to go to Taiwan because I am from Taiwan, my family and friends are there, and it has great food and views. I convinced Ian to fly with me to San Diego for the conference because he also thinks SD has good food and views....
I think you see the pattern here. I go to places because I like to eat and walk around in nice places. And that is what I am in for. As long as I get to eat good food and walk around, I consider it successful traveling. I don't have to see all the tourist spots, take pictures at all the famous sights, or shop at all the fancy stores, to make a it successful trip.
Specifically, all the places I took the baby to in the first year are places I have been to already. So I know what to expect in terms of traffic, logistics, lodging, restaurants, and the general layout of the city and its various neighborhoods. Then I planned and planned and planned --- and it all worked out in the end.
Traveling #1: Flying
If you go somewhere near, like within 6 hours driving distance, drive. You can pack a lot more stuff in the car and most importantly --- you can stop anytime and the screams the baby emits are heard by only your traveling cohort.
If you end up flying, you MUST READ THIS BLOG called FlyingWithChildren. It is written by a former flight attendant who has flown with her own children for decades. She knows what she is talking about. The post is long but so is your flight, so read it.
Nevertheless let me just quickly highlight the parts of flying for you and give you my two cents.
Every airline is different. Check their website for flying with infant policy. You want to check about (i) lap infant age limit (ii) carry on & gate checking policy regarding car seat, strollers, diaper bags (iii) bassinet and meals for infants on long flights.
In this year we have flown (2015), babies under 2 yr can be lap infants not requiring a seat. We DID NOT buy a ticket for her in any of the flights. We requested a bassinet & baby meal for the Taiwan trip (11-hr flight) by calling the airline.
FlyingWithChildren has a really important tip of seat booking that I really like. Try to book a not-too-full flight. If you are lucky and ask the gate desk, chances are they can reassign you to an aisle with just your group! You get the extra seat for free and some other passenger is saved from hearing your baby babble the whole time.
To and From airport
We took a car seat and a compatible stroller (meaning the car seat locks into the stroller). We did Britax B-safe + B-agile for Taiwan trip and Britax B-safe + Mountain Buggy Nano for Boston trip. I love the Mountain Buggy Nano because it is the only stroller that can go with any car seat and it folds up small enough to fit in overhead bin! (I still gate checked it though)
Here's the logistics: Call a Uber/Lyft from home, install car seat in the back (video tutorial here), fold up the stroller and put it in the trunk with rest of luggage. Arrive at airport. Put baby + car seat in stroller and go through security. You will have to take baby out, unpack car seat / stroller to go through X-ray, and reload after you go through. Stroll to gate. At the gate, ask for gate checking tags for the car seat and stroller. At boarding, you leave the car seat and stroller right before you go into the plane. When you land, the crew will bring out your car seat and stroller out by the plane exit. Load baby + car seat in stroller, and stroll to baggage claim. Easy!
Nice thing about bringing the stroller is you pretty much stack everything in the stroller and don't have to carry any luggage.
If you rent a car, still bring your own car seat and stroller. This way you have max compatibility and ease.
What to bring on the flight
Diapers. Diapers. Diapers.
A friend flew back to Taiwan a day before we did. As soon as she landed she messaged me and said: "BRING 10+ DIAPERS. I ran out of diapers on the flight."
You may think: "There's no way my baby can poop 10 times on a 11-hr flight!" Well, the one time you think that is the one time your baby is going to prove you wrong. Here's one good thing about diapers. They are very light. 10 diapers weigh nothing. They are also relatively cheap. They have been known to be absorbant so if something else bad happens --- like your first post-partum period or someone has a nosebleed --- they can double as...you know.
On our flight back from Boston, the baby pooped 3 times on a 5-hr flight. I had enough diapers but I was starting to worry about my wipe supply. But wipes are easier. You can always use toilet paper.
Also bring extra clothing. For you, actually. I mean, bring it for the baby too since their clothes are the size of your underwear. But bring an extra tank top and a T-shirt for your husband. Why? Because babies have been known to poop/vomit onto their parents. Up to you if you want to sit on a 11-hr flight with yellow stains on your shirt. Have you seen baby upset because he/she is immersed in their own poop? Have you seen how upset you get when you are immersed in your baby's poop? Bring yourself clothes. Baby can wear your shirt as a toga.
You should also bring some entertainment for the baby, but you probably already are used to carrying that in your diaper bag anyway.
Once baby can eat solids, bring them some food. Don't rely on flights to give you baby meals because that just means Gerber can food (and probably the flavor your baby hates). Buy those baby pouches (ex: Plum Organics), bring 2 - 3 on the flight and pack another 10 in your checked baggage.
Summary for flight items
- Car seat
- Baby carrier (optional, can also put in checked baggage)
- Diaper bag: diapers, diapers, diapers, wipes, extra clothing (baby & you)
- Baby snacks
- Baby scissors (if you do bring scissors, must put in checked baggage)
Traveling #2: Sleeping / Lodging
Josephine and I co-sleep. This makes our experience only applicable to co-sleepers. Nevertheless, we did bring a Greco Pack n' Play to double as a traveling crib for the San Diego trip (back when I still had dim hopes of getting her to sleep by herself). But for the hardcore crib sleepers, I'm sorry I don't have much more advice....besides that most hotels will provide cribs that are about as shiny and as comfortable-looking as a laundry basket. Bring your own crib/sleep device if you need it.
Co-sleeping meant we needed a bed. A big, comfortable, safe bed. This meant I only looked for hotels or AirBnbs that had either a giant king size bed or two queen size beds. I got very, very good at looking at hotel or AirBnb pages to judge whether the beds fit our needs. If you are a co-sleeper, you will have already developed an eye for that.
Once we got to the lodging, the first thing we do is either take the mattress down to the ground or push the bed against the wall. I have yet to encounter a case where the hotel was not OK with that. The baby either slept sandwiched between us or slept on the wall side. I ask the hotel/AirBnB for extra blankets so I don't have to fight with Ian for a blanket. Baby wears a sleepsack.
For bathing, I just make do. At home I wash the baby with a detachable shower head. You can sometimes ask for a baby bath tub but most places won't have them. I don't see a strong need for bringing your own bath tub, however. Most foldable baby bath tubs I have seen suck at best. I either hose the baby down with a shower head or put on a bath (with very low water level) or just wipe baby down with wet towels. Babies under 1 yr do not stink because they are not very mobile. And if they do stink, chances are you stink even more so people will only notice your stink anyway.
When I went to Taiwan which gets a lot of influence from Japan (Japan, aka the land of great daily inventions that make westerners look stupid and 100 years behind), I found these Japanese enzymatic baby shower powder that do not require rinsing. Seriously. And it smells good. And it's powder form. I ended up packing these for baths for both baby and myself. But you can also just bring a small bottle of baby shampoo or just use plain water. I repeat: Your baby will not stink. If they stink, everyone else there stinks too and the baby is stil the cutest.
Traveling #3: Eating
When baby is only on milk, eating while traveling is no different from eating at home.
Once they are on solids and have moved beyond baby pouches, you will have to be a little more diligent about eating. Traveling in a foreign place means you don't necessarily have access to all your usual foods. There is only one advice that will get you through: feed your baby everything (that is sanitary).
Taiwan didn't have baby food pouches. I found this to be a cultural thing. My Taiwanese relatives were super intrigued by my Plum Organics baby pouches (reserved only for emergencies). Most people in Taiwan cooked their own baby foods. Cooking was out of the question for me, so I got very creative.
At that time (8 months), Josephine was eating: yogurt, veggie purees, and rice congee. So I went to the supermarket and got her yogurt. I gave her soft bread from bakeries. I bought baby food scissors and cut up spaghetti. I gave her rice (availble everywhere in Taiwan). I stopped thinking about the salt/oil/seasoning content of what I was giving her. If it truly looked too salty/oily, I rinse it with hot water.
Then I got even more adventurous. Since Josephine had no food allergy issues, I started giving her foods she hadn't had before. I gave her cooked pork blood mixed with rice. I gave her milk for the first time. I gave her sips of pure lemon juice. I gave her custard and pudding and cake and ice cream. I didn't measure how much she was eating. And she lived.
Traveling #4: Sightseeing
Don't maximize your sightseeing. Plan for a few destinations that you would like to visit for the whole trip. Pick one destination for that day and get there at a casual pace, have backup plans for possible delays, wear really comfortable shoes, and you will be fine.
Make frequent stops to change diapers / go to the bathroom, take pictures, have a snack, or do nothing. Reserve some "baby time" in your trip. There are usually playgrounds, indoor and outdoor, at every humanly inhabited city. Find them and go there.
Taiwan, proving itself again to be ahead of western civilization, had a lot of indoor kid playgrounds. Even more amazing was it had kid restaurants --- places where you can order actual meals for both yourself and the baby and there is a play area next to it. The food there is not stellar, but it usually pretty healthy and 100% baby friendly. We went to a lot of those restaurants.
When we visited Seattle, Josephine was cruising and loved pushing her stroller around. So we did a lot of that. I took her to Target and made her push the stroller around for an hour before dinner. In Boston I found nearby playgrounds through Yelp and she had a blast there.
Traveling #5: The adult-to-baby ratio
The more adults you have, the easier the trip is. By adults, I mean adults who are willing to hold a wriggling and possibly screaming infant for more than 10 minutes. Bonus point if that adult can change a diaper while singing Baa Baa Black Sheep. Adults who won't insist going to a fancy restaurant because they want to even though you know the baby will suffer.
For the LA trip, we invited a friend to come along with us. The adult ratio was 3:1.
For the Taiwan trip, we were traveling with my mom most of the time. And sometimes my brother. The adult ratio was > 3:1.
For the Seattle trip, there was always at least me and Ian. And then friends who loved Josephine.
For the Boston trip, Josephine was surrounded by her relatives.
But why should you travel?
By this point, maybe you are thinking: Why travel when it is so much hassle?
Because in many cases, traveling is fun. If you already travel a lot before baby, chances are the same things that move you in your travels will happen with a baby too.
Is there any good in traveling with a baby in the first year? I think so.
I think it makes you stronger. Traveling with an infant is a great challenge, mentally and physically. Jetlag is brutal, but you survive it. Dealing with foreign foods and foreign culture makes both you and your baby more adaptable. Traveling with a baby trains you to be very tolerant, patient, and positive. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
And you will feel the love of the people you meet on your travels. If you have a baby you already know this: people are much more friendly towards you when you have a baby.
Josephine is a mixed baby. This meant when she was in Taiwan (where 99.999999% of the population looks the same, yellow skin w/ black eyes and hair), she stood out (even though she was tiny in stature).
People would stop on the road to look at her. Comment on her. Touch her (deal with it). Play with her.
When she screamed on the changing table in Taroko Gorge in Hualien, Taiwan, passerby stopped to soothe her. When we ate at restaurants, staff would literally line up and stare at her (in one case, the whole kitchen staff stuck their head out to admire her).
Of course, back in the USA she is just another baby. But people are still more friendly towards you and more willing to strike up a chat --- especially they have a baby of their own as well.
Traveling is about experience. It is about the intangibles. Traveling with your baby is just one variation of that experience.
The Internet is filled with articles that encourage you to travel with kids. Travelblogs has a collection of quick reasons to travel. Lucky Peach has an article about a couple who are seasoned travelers (they travel around the world to write books on foods).
There is danger in buying too much into what they say, however. Some people are very seasoned travelers. They can go to India and Nepal and the arctic circle on a whim and traveling with a baby to those places is only a little harder for them. That doesn't mean you can or you will enjoy it. I think it's important to know yourself as a traveler. For me, I preferred to stick with places I knew well. I was not interested in finding out how we would fare in Guatemala or the Congo.
It's also important to know how flexible your baby is. In our case, Josephine is a demanding baby, but her demands mostly consist of two items: hold her and nurse her. Once one or both of them are satisfied, she's all good. She has no food allergies. She is healthy. She can sleep in noisy environments.
We also have always kept a relatively flexible baby-led schedule, which meant that she does not need to be put down for naps at specific times. All these I think gives us some advantage in traveling with her.
That's all I have to say for traveling in the first year. I guess that was a lot...!
Just something I decided to amuse myself with.
Waking Up in the Morning
You open your eyes and find yourself in the embrace of your sexy men. As your head is resting on his strong, well-defined chest, you can feel the soothing rhythm of his heartbeat. You let out a content sigh and drift back to sleep.
You wake up and find that your partner has stolen the blanket during the night. You're cold. And the cat is sitting on your face.
Co-sleeping Mom with a < 1 yr old
You are suddenly awakened by the scream of your baby. The creature has awaken! You keep your eyes closed hoping to catch just a few more precious minutes of that sweet sweet sleep. Desperate, the baby climbs on top of you, puts her drooling mouth OVER YOUR NOSE and licks it. You scream in terror and wake up. Another hell day begins.
You exchange looks as you both stand in line for coffee. He smiles. You smile. Finally you strike up a conversation while the line moves along. 5 minutes later, you have both a tall soy double shot latte in hand and his facebook.
You tried OK Cupid, then Tinder, then Coffee Meets Bagel. The world is full of miserable, single, lonely, and non-attractive single men. All the good ones are gay or married but child-free.
Post-Baby as a Mom with a < 1 yr old
You exchange looks. You exchange smiles. Damn he has such a charming smile! You just can't get enough of those gorgeous eyes, beautiful lips, and smooth skin. And he is definitely in to you. You look up and ask the man pushing the stroller in which he's sitting in and asks: "He is sooooooo cute! How old is he?"
After a satisfying, romantic, and very expensive dinner, you walk hand-in-hand to the movie theater, sit down and enjoy the show.
Post-Baby as a Mom with a < 1 yr old
What are you talking about?
It starts with some slow, romantic french kisses, then gradually both of you lose all your clothing as you move into the bedroom. As the shot moves to behind the curtains (because this blog is PG-13), the lights dim, and we are left to our imaginations.
This is a PG-13 blog. You know the reality.
What are you talking about?
Oh...right. That thing you did that resulted in this screaming creature that is clinging on to your boobs. That thing you get to do if and only if (a) the baby is asleep (b) you are not asleep (c) your partner is not asleep (d) there is no more laundry to do.
I'm going to start sharing / recording my ultra lazy recipes for dinner. I made all 4 dishes simultaneously in about an hour. All of these are baby-friendly or can be modified to be baby friendly. Josephine eats these with us and she has no teeth yet.
Steamed Broccolini / Broccoli
Boil water in a pot. Put your bamboo steamers on. Wash and trim broccolini / broccoli. Steam for 10 min. Done.
No salt or no spices. You can put in a few cloves of garlic and a drop of olive oil for added flavor.
Sacha Sauce sautee Lamb or Beef
I buy frozen lamb or beef rib slices from Ranch 99. They should be pretty thin (like shabu shabu / hot pot grade thin) so you can easily cut them into smaller pieces and stir fry.
I get the Sacha sauce also from Ranch 99. Specifically I buy this brand of Sacha sauce but all brands should work. Alternatively you can use XO sauce which are also available from Chinese supermarkets.
Heat up oil in pot. Put a few crushed garlic in for added taste. Put in the cut up meat (lamb or beef) pieces, sautee for about 1 min then add the Sacha or XO sauce. When the meat is cooked through, about 5 min, you're done.
The next two dishes are vegetarian.
Sauteed potatoes and mushrooms
Slice the mushrooms. Cut potatoes into 1 in cubes (the smaller they are the faster they cook through). Heat up oil in pot, put the potatoes in and cook at medium heat for about 5-8 min, constantly stirring so it doesn't get burned. Add in sliced mushrooms and continue cooking and stirring. When the mushrooms are cooked through, turn heat down to low and cover it to let the steam cook the potatoes a bit more. Sprinkle basil and a dash of smoked salt. You may have repeat the cover & simmer / uncover & stir process to make sure the potatoes are cooked through. You should be able to poke through the potatoes easily with a fork at the end. The whole process may take 20 min depending on how small you cut the potatoes.
NOTE: the original recipe added pine nuts to the stir fry and I really liked it that way, but I dont' feel like giving baby pine nuts yet, so it is omitted.
Sauteed Tomato and Egg
Cut tomatoe into 2 - 3 in cubes or wedges. Beat the eggs as you would for making a scramble (you can add a dash of milk / cream / almond milk for better consistency). Heat up oil in pan, add the eggs as if you are making a scramble. Wait for the eggs to cook about half way through then stir in tomatoes. When tomatoes & eggs are well mixed and cooked through to your liking, you can add a sprinkle of white sugar (this is a Taiwanese dish, and Taiwanese dishes commonly add sugar to sweeten things a bit, in this case the sugar will blend well with the aciditiy of the tomatos).
Josephine is 10 months! Time flies. It really does.
As with all babies in the first year, many things have changed. Now she is very proficient at commando crawling, but can also crawl on all fours a bit slower. She cruises along furniture. She recently learned to get off the bed (which is now just a mattress on the floor) butt first and climb back up. She claps her hands and raises them over her head. She says "ooooo" and "mmmmm~~
" and "ma~" (which is "horse" in Chinese) and pretends she can talk. She will dance whenever music is on.
She is less anxious when I leave her for a brief moment to get something from the kitchen or go to the bathroom. She will complain --- make crying sounds but no tears --- to specific people about specific events. She thinks Saga sneezing is the funniest thing in the world.
She is --- you know, just growing up!
And I've changed, too. I guess I've stopped growing a long time ago, but I still have the ability to change.
A subtle change in mind
Going back to Taiwan in late April, when Josephine was turning 8 months, was a turning point. It was there that I broke my cautious way of giving her food. The lack of access to Whole Foods, kitchen, and being constantly on the road, demanded that I become creative with feeding her. The end result is she got decently good at eating table foods that I cut up with baby food scissors. I don't know why in the US parents don't seem to know about the scissors. It makes eating almost everything possible for a baby with no teeth!
But what was really transforming was my mentality. I got very little sleep in Taiwan. Jetlag + baby + Ian who doesn't speak Chinese but has a lot of opinions + eating out every meal = me getting almost no sleep, being severely jetlagged, but still really really hyper from being back in my hometown. I was exhausted but happy, which was unlike when I first had Josephine, I was exahusted and depressed.
I realized, from the trip, that I can live on even less sleep if I am happy and eat good food. Of course it's not sustainable, but I learned that mental happiness makes everything easier. Once I got back to San Francisco, after the initial first few days of time zone adjusting, I started to sleep better. It's not how many times she did or did not wake up that dictates how well I sleep --- it is simply how relaxed I am that determines how well I fall asleep, stay asleep, and fall asleep again if I wake up to nurse or pee.
Yes, it is a little ironic that I am writing this at 6AM in the morning and I have been awake since 3AM. But I actually woke up to pee and decided to work a little. And I have been decently productive for the last 3 hours and only now decided to write the blog as a treat for myself.
My work productivity saw a huge spike after I dropped all pumping at work. Pumping really sucks. All the things they tell you that hinders productivity for normal adults cannot compare to how much pumping disrupts your work. A good 30+ min is wasted on ducking into a private room, turning on the pump, start pumping, clean bottle afterwards, and remembering to bring the milk home at the end of the day. Try to do this once a day, and you more likely wasted one hour already because no one can context switch that fast. Try doing this twice a day (or more, if your work/commute hours are longer), and you're damned if you get anything done. Nursing at home is a little easier, but it is just as distracting. Oh and did I mention you should also eat your lunch and remember to drink lots of liquids? Because if you only eat a salad at your desk and down one cup of coffee at work, chances are you won't be producing much milk.
I know some people can squeeze in a meeting or do some work while pumping, but frankly, when you're low on sleep and anxious about milk productivity and your tiny bitsy baby, all you want to do when you pump is read crap on your cellphone. I usually read a Kindle ebook or trolled the parenthood forums.
After the Taiwan trip, the nanny noticed that Josephine was drinking less and less of her lunch milk. We decided to drop it, and she didn't care one bit. Now her BF sessions are down to breakfast, snack (5-6PM), bedtime, and any night wakings she decides to do. I can't tell you the relief and big AWWWWW sigh that came out of me when I returned the rental breastpump to ToysRUs.
For a long time, my mind was often occupied by worrying thoughts about raising a baby. I worry that I'm not doing things right. Now after 10 months, I feel like I'm gradually getting the hang of it. The trick is to let go.....and not care. Forget the books, the consultants, how other moms and kids are doing, or the "right way" to raise your child. Whatever makes you and your kid happiest is the way to go.
Josephine's 10 month schedule
A quick perousal of the sample 10-mo schedules from BabyCenter shows just how different every baby's life is by 10 months. Josephine's schedule is just right in there. It's neither typical nor atypical.
This is Josephine's typical day:
8AM - 9AM: Josephine wakes up around this time. She usually wakes up before I do. I'll nurse her and she'll play by herself in bed until I get up. If Ian hasn't left for work yet, they will read a book together or play the piano while I go tidy up in the bathroom.
9AM: Nanny comes. Sometimes Josephine is very happy to see her, sometimes she gets very upset because I am leaving. Nanny will give her breakfast around 9:30AM which is almost always yogurt and oatmeal.
9AM - noon: Josephine plays at home. Nanny dances with her, play instruments, read books. Whenver Josephine gets sleepy, nanny will put her to bed. Some days she falls asleep as early as 1030AM, but most days she naps around noon.
130PM - 2PM: Josephine wakes up from her nap. Nanny always gives her lunch after her morning nap. I prepare her lunch every 2 - 3 days. It is kept in individual glass jars that the nanny heats up. Right now she eats pasta, cut up meat slices, veggies, and rice. We essentially eat the same food. I already take the salt and most seasoning out of our own cooking, and when we go out, I ask food to be cooked without salt, less spices, or sauce on the side. I also keep a stash of baby food pouches for additional snacking and easy fruit access.
2 - 5PM: Nanny takes Josephine out for a walk in the stroller. I think they go to the nearby park. Then they come home and do more dancing and playing.
5 - 6PM: I come home and take over. Josephine gets to nurse.
6 - 8PM: If I am going to circus center for class, then I take Josephine in the car and meet Ian at circus center. While I take the class, Ian walks around with Josephine. She usually takes a 1-hr nap at this time. If Ian is the one taking class, then I just stay home and play with Josephine. Sometimes she will nap in my arms while I watch TV (been watching HBO "Rome" recently); sometimes I will take her grocery shopping; sometimes I will nap together with her in bed.
Dinner happens some time between 6 - 9PM. It really varies because on the days I do circus, I can't eat dinner until after the class. I'll give Josephine a small snack to keep her alive until dinner.
Josephine is remarkably adapting to this fluctuating schedule. She is usually very patient with waiting for food and have only been upset due to hunger only a handful of times.
9 - 10PM: Josephine takes a bath or shower. Usually I go into the shower first while Ian waits with Josephine in the bathroom. Then, I take her and shower/bath her. Ian takes her out to dry, put on diapers and pajamas. I put on skin care and lotion while Josephine rolls around in bed. When it's time to sleep, we put her in the sleep sack, turn on the twilight turtle, lights off, and I nurse her to sleep. Or, if I nurse her and she still doesn't sleep, she stays up in bed for a while until she eventually falls asleep by herself. More on this later.
Our general guideline for scheduling Josephine is...no schedule, but plan ahead. We don't aim to have her always nap in bed. On the weekends she is almost out for the entire day, so she naps in the carrier, the stroller, the car seat, or sometimes just in our arms. She is usually very excited when we are both with her, so she tends to nap less on the weekends and make up for it when nanny comes in Monday. In fact, I notice she tends to NOT want to sleep when I'm around. Sometimes the nanny brings her back at 5PM and she's sleepy, but after giving her a 15-20 min nursing session she is completely reinvigorated and crawls around with the vigor of an Energizer bunny, only to crash gloriously and precipitously afterwards.
Sleep, sweet sleep
When Josephine wasn't born yet, I didn't understand all the hype about baby sleep. All those sleep classes, consultants, methods, theories, ....
If you want to know how ridiculous it gets, just read this Reddit thread. There's an entire universe centered around baby sleep. There are acronyms (CIO for Cry It Out), eponyms (to let your kid CIO is to 'Ferberize' the kid), achievements (STTN for Sleep Through The Night), speciality garments (swaddles & sleepsacks), gadgets (sleep sheep, fisher sea horse), mystical non-medical medical-sounding terms (sleep regression).
Surely, this is a joke, right? Just get a crib, put baby in, end of story.
Every mommy friend I know has a different sleep story by now. And it never is "I put the baby down in the crib and he/she slept and did not wake until the next day."
But by now, their story most certainly ends with "This is where we are and that's the way it is."
In the great sleep divide, I am on the co-sleeping side. I didn't start out this way --- I tried to go the other way --- but this is where I ended up, and it works for us. And I don't want to fix something that isn't broken.
The "Us" in parenting
The schedule does not fully convey the amount of caregiving "dance" that happens between all the caretakers. Some days Ian actually takes Josephine for a whole day. Some days the nanny is unavailable and I have to hire a temporary sitter (I love Wondersitter for making this possible) which means I need to stay home or close to home to help the new-ish nanny with access to food, stroller in the garage, and general routine. On the days I work from home, I try to squeeze in laundry and cooking. Now Josephine can sit at the highchair by herself, she eats with us, but it wasn't always so. It used to be that only one of us could eat, so Ian will hold or play with Josehpine will I eat and then we switch. Even now that we all eat together, after we eat, Ian has to entertain Josephine more while I put the dishes away.
Going "solo" is always possible. The nanny, Ian, and I have all had our share of taking Josephine alone, which meant being very efficient about eating our own foods while keeping an eye on her. But it most certainly is less stressful to have an extra pair of eyes.
Gone are the days where each one of us goes about whatever we want, whenever we want. Our schedules before 9AM and after 5PM are discussed in detail at the beginning of each week. Who has to home by what time all have to be planned out in advance.
I think this is probably the greatest difference I've noticed from my pre-baby life --- the fact that I can't do as much carefree roaming as I used to. It took some time to adjust, but now I have a better handle on it.
And I wouldn't call it loss of freedom. It's called responsibility.
I guess I'm an adult now, huh?
Baby J is 7 months! And she's alive and crawling.
That's right. She's crawling. She's doing the "commando crawl" (tummy on the floor) now, but is starting to get on all fours and standing with support.
We've recently childproofed the house and now Josephine is happily commando crawling around the house. Being able to crawl around has dramatically improved her mood. She is much happier in the carseat as well and only fusses if she's been in there too long. The nanny now takes her out to the park in the stroller every day.
She went through her first serious cold at the end of 6 mo. She developed productive coughs that lasted a week, a fever over 100F in two of the days, and snotting that lasted almost two weeks. She got me infected with the cough and snot as well. To me this signifies that she is starting to build her immunity --- and that at the same time, the breast milk is losing its protective properties.
So overall, Josephine is slowly becoming more of a person. And we are slowly becoming more like parents.
Solids, solids, solids
With all the fanfare that went into breastfeeding, Josephine started her solids very unceremoniously.
One day after she turned 5 months, I made a batch of rice porridge, blended it to a paste, and fed it to her. I did a terrible job feeding, she did a terrible job eating. We made a giant mess. And that was the beginning :)
I did do my homework, though. I attended my pediatric clinic's solids food class. The class was not that much more than what I already knew from reading online articles and the PTT BabyMother forum. The few high-level messages I got were:
- You can start solids as early as 4 months and as late as 6 months
- Until 9 months, solids is more for practice; no pressure to make them eat a lot
- No raw honey in the first year due to risk of infant botulism
- There's a fad called Baby Led Weaning that I have decided to completely ignore
- We know zip about allergies but here's a list of foods from low to high allergies for you over-worrying first-time white WholeFoods-buying parents anyway
Well, not in those exact words, but that's the impression I got.
There was a nice print out from the class that listed introductory foods at each month, from month 4 to 12. Unfortunately I lost the print out after a recent housecleaning, but I know it's more or less similar to this chart from wholesomebabyfood.com.
I later joined a Taiwanese Facebook group that had an amazing PDF compiled with a detailed list of foods you can introduce from 4 month onwards. Importantly, it lists many Chinese/Taiwanese fruits and veggies that are off the radar for Western folks. Since all Chinese vegetables are consumed cooked, they can be introduced very early on. That is....if you think mashing veggies are tasty (they're not, haha).
Unlike breastfeeding, which at the beginning was a major source of stress, introducing solids to Josephine is a great source of fun for me.
I think it's because I love cooking, eating, and making others eat. I'm Taiwanese, and Taiwanese people are foodies!
I just don't worry about her not eating. After all, there are so many foods in this world. If she doesn't like one thing, there's always another!
Starting it the Chinese way
Ian wanted to start her at 4 months. Our pediatrician wanted to start her at 6 months. So I took the middle and we started at 5 months.
Her first three foods were simple: bananas, avocados, and diluted rice porridge.
Bananas and avocados are so simple to feed. We don't even mash them up. Just scrap them off the fruit with a feeding spoon and pop it in the baby's mouth.
I hate avocados --- I know I'm probably the only person in the world who hates it --- but Josephine seems to like it like the rest of the world population. She also took to bananas easily.
Now rice porridge is a very Chinese thing. Taiwanese moms start with what they call the "10X porridge" --- a 10:1 ratio of water to rice. At that point, it's more water than rice. The point is to make it easy for them to swallow and not so much about nutrition. Then they recommend slowly making it more concentrated, to 7X, 3X and probably stay around 2X (which is the adult porridge water ratio) until babies show an interest in normal rice (1:1, not porridge).
During the solids class, the pediatric nurse suggested making intro foods "as thin as possible". I think her idea was also to make it easy to swallow. But I quickly disagreed with it. 10X porridge is just water and a baby feeding spoon is TINY. Most of that thin liquid just drools down the baby's chin and she also gets no nutrients. Nope. I quickly abandoned 10X and switched to around 3X-5X rice porridge. I can taste the rice's fragrance so much better and it doesn't drip off the spoon easily.
The nice thing about the rice porridge is it's a good vehicle for adding in other foods. I ad pureed carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, asparagus (this was a FAIL, it tasted disgusting!!!)
Veggies & Fruits
It's winter, so there's really not much variety in the fruits I can give her. I've mostly stuck to bananas, apples, pears, and prunes. When summer comes around, there should be a lot more for her to eat. I love adding prunes. I steam them in a steamer until they become plump with moisture, then blend it with the other fruits (see below for tools). It also guarantees a nice poop!
On the starchy vegetables side, you can't really go wrong with sweet potatoes. Specifically I like the garnet yam variety (though called yam, it is actually sweet potatoes).
Meats & Dairy
I started giving Josephine a bit of meat since she passed 7 months. Mashed egg yolks, chicken, fish, tofu...a little bit of food scraps here and there. She doesn't have teeth yet, so her meat intake is minimal. For dairy, I give her whole fat baby yogurt which is a huge hit --- she opens her mouth super wide for each bite!
Misc & Prepackaged Foods
I also buy prepackaged baby foods. I like them for their convenience, and they taste decent, but sometimes they really come up with some straaaange flavors. Like:
- apple raisin quinoa --- sorry but this was gross. Both baby and I hated it.
- zucchini banana amaranth --- I don't even know what amaranth is, but this was surprisingly tasty. Josephine ate almost an entire packet!
- raspberry spinach greek yogurt --- another odd one. I could taste the spinach in the yogurt...yuck. But Josephine liked it more than I did. Oh well.
- spinach peas and prunes --- Josephine managed to eat more of this than I could. I'm impressed. It looks and tastes very unappetizing.
I also buy her yogurt snacks that are super yummy and great for teaching her to chew a little. She's also starting to grab rice cereal puffs and rice cakes. I consider these snacks as more as vehicle for learning how to grab, chew, and swallow, and less about nutrition.
Tools! Steam, puree, serve, store
There was surprisingly little extra cost to making and storing baby food. This is my list:
- Hand blender --- I cannot live without this blender! I purchased it for Josephine's solids but now I regret not having known about it sooner. Damn this thing is super convenient. Blend 5-10 sec and I have super fine mashes. So easy to wash and clean too.
- Pressure Cooker --- I already had this cooker which can cook, steam, and stew. It makes my life 100X easier. If I'm making pureed veggies or rice porridge, I use the cooker cuz the pressure makes the veggies super soft.
- Bamboo Steamer --- I use this on the stove for fruit steaming since I don't like to steam fruits for too long. Mostly I use it to plump up the dried prunes or soften the apples & pears.
I got these 4 oz freezer cubes. The size is perfect for a single meal. When I make a puree batch, I split them into these cubes and stack them in the fridge.
If I make too much puree, I store them in freezer trays. The ice cube sizes make it easy to estimate how much to thaw.
I also got these glass containers for storing bigger batches. This is useful if I want to do porridge mixes. I have one container of porridge, one container of carrots, one container of broccoli. Come meal time, I use the 4 oz cube to make a carrot+broccoli+rice mix and heat up the mix.
For serving: Just some baby spoons and a waterproof bib. Simple!
The conclusion is: feeding a baby is not as hard as I had thought. And the fact that she is eating well takes load off breastfeeding too. I have to give credit to the nanny --- while she couldn't help with breastfeeding or a bottle-rejecting baby, she is a true expert at feeding. She helped establish Josephine's good eating habits and now her post-morning-nap meal is almost entirely consisting of solids and not breastmilk. Everytime I feed Josephine the chair is mess afterwards, and somehow the nanny does not....guess that's where the difference between having fed many kids comes in, eh?
So that's it for the solids!
I was at a coworker's baby shower (she's due next month) the other day. Most of the attendees have children, but I'm the one who has most recently had one. Even as a 5-mo parent, there are already jokes that you can share with senior parents. You share about your birth experience, but only for the sake of a joke or if there's something unusual about it. I remember when, leading up to the day of birth, I thought of nothing but the birth. Now it's just a distant memory. I joke about how the first month I would not leave the baby for a second --- even taking her into the bathroom with me (which, by the way, my nanny does as well).
"But now?" I remember saying, "If I hear her screaming in the nursery, I'll be like 'Oh yeah she's still good. Let me do another load of laundry then.'"
Some changes are gradual. Both Ian and I are now adepts at diaper changing and eating with a baby sleeping in the carrier. Although occassionally we'll still need help.
And breastfeeding is actually now the easiest of all the things I have to do with her. I have nursed her everywhere: in coffee shops, at restaurants (sometimes while I eat too), in the park, in the car, on a plane, and once even while taking a Flying Trapeze class at Circus Center.
And while we're on this topic...
Nursing in Public
California is a really breastfeeding-friendly state. The state law actually states that you can pretty much breastfeed anywhere EXCEPT someone else's home, where you would need the homeowner's permission. This means coffee shops and restaurants can't bar you from just popping our your boobs and stuffing it in the baby's mouth.
Nursing in public, thus, becomes a matter of the mother's choice. I happen to be towards the "I don't give a damn if you see my nipples" end of things. I don't have a nursing cover. Most of the time I just pick a corner that is somewhat secluded and get the baby to latch on fast. At most I just wrap her swaddling blanket (this thing is seriously the best thing to own for an infant) around my neck to provide some coverage. I have never been looked at or commented on when I nursed in public.
Being able to breastfeed makes traveling a lot easier. When we drove down to Los Angeles when Josephine was 3 months, I only had to bring her change of clothes. I didn't bring my pump or her bottles. In her most recent trip, where we flew to San Diego, I did bring the pump and bottle, but that still didn't take up a lot of space in the luggage. I nursed her through the take off both times and she was sound asleep by the time we're in the air.
Speaking of the bottle...
The Long Road to getting her on the bottle
Josephine's relationship with the bottle can only be described as tumultous. To avoid nipple confusion, we didn't start her on the bottle (of breastmilk) until 5 weeks. We used the Avent Polypropylene bottles. She took it fine with the nanny and had no trouble. Then, around week 7 we went to Half Moon Bay on the weekend and she was exclusively breastfed. Come Monday the nanny couldn't get her to drink a sip and she would SCREAAAAAMMMM for hours without taking it.
She was rejecting the bottle. Full on.
We tried every trick the internet suggested. Changing the bottle to the famous Dr.Brown's; dream feed; holding her in a different position; walking around during feeding; put her on the breast then switch to bottle; feed when she's only a little hungry; feed when she's very hungry; warming up the milk to only lukewarm temperature; serving only fresh pumped breastmilk....
I cannot describe the frustration and anxiety that came with hearing her cry in the other room when the nanny was trying to get her on the bottle. I would hear screams for 10-15 minutes and then a frustrated nanny with a sobbing baby shows up, "Can you feed her please?" And this was my WFH (work from home) days. On days I go to work, I come home and ask the nanny how she was and she sighs "You know --- she fights with me --- she was screaming and screaming and screaming..."
You hear stories about babies rejecting the bottle. In the most dramatic cases, they tell you, the baby cries for 8 hours for the first day, drinking nothing; then the second day they cry for 8 hours and drink a little; third day, they take it all. That never was the case with Josephine, because on the second day, I worked from home and we never let her cry the full 8 hours.
At 3 months, we took her to Monterey, then LA. She had a full week of no bottle, just the boobs. When we came back on Monday, a thought came to me. While most bottle refusal tips tell you to start with a slow-flowing nipple, I thought Josephine might be actually wanting a faster flow because my let down is fast. I used the same Avent wide-neck bottle but switched to a size 2 nipple. It worked...for about 1-2 weeks. Then the screaming started again.
But then --- well, it was the holidays! For the last two weeks of December plus the first week of January, I had her all to myself. The nanny was on vacation; Ian was there but he was actually sick for a few days so I was truly a single parent for a while. And this is when I felt I truly started understanding her as a growing child...and myself as a parent.
What's in a routine?
In those last days of 2014, Josephine was turning 4 months. She was good on the growth chart, at about 50-75% on weight and probably less than that on height (well...I'm short). But everything else was chaos: she rejected the bottle; she wouldn't take the stroller; she hated car rides; she couldn't be put down to nap during the day. In other words, her ideal day would be to nurse on the breast and be carried at all times unless she's is playing.....right.
With no need to work and no other caretaker, I started looking into her daily routine. It was about time that I figure out what to provide her on a daily basis. I had been perusing some sample baby routines and understood that there is a lot of variation between them. Some parents set a very strict schedule on feeding and sleep (parent-led routine). Some are very loose and feed on demand (baby-led routine). Given the nature of her care (some days me, some days nanny, some days Ian), I knew that a strict routine was not going to work. I decided that I would only focus on two things: stretching her feeding to every 4 hours during the day, and getting her to nap 2-3 times a day.
Unlike me, Josephine gets cabin fever pretty easily (she got that from Ian; I can stay home for 3+ days without leaving). So I took her out on at least one walk every day. First with a front-facing carrier:
Then I started mix-n-matching with the stroller. I would first take her out in the front-facing carrier, walk a few blocks, then put her in the stroller --- FRONT-FACING. If she even started to fuss a little, I would pause and give her a toy to play with. I brought at least 4-5 toys to continously harass her.
I distinctly remember the first successful "stroller walk" we did during those weeks. I walked 2 blocks in the carrier. Then I put her in the stroller front-facing and started strolling towards the Mission. I gave her toys every time she fussed. We reached Natural Resources, where I took her out and changed her. Then I put her back in the stroller, this time back-facing, as she was looking a little drowsy.
This was her on that ride:
Then we walked up Valencia St for a few blocks to Aldea Ninos where I bought a toy for her. Again I took her out and let her play in their play area for a little bit. Then I put her back in the stroller back-facing again and started heading home. I think she slept a little on the way back. But the whole time, she only complained a little.
For that whole week, I did the stroller ride every afternoon. I remember one time Ian accompanied me on the stroller ride to the Mission. We went to Rosamunde for lunch. Ian held her as we waited for the order. Then at some point she started fussing. I suggested we put her in the stroller back-facing and I would stroll her around the block while Ian eats. As I strapped the crying baby into the stroller, Ian questioned the move. I picked up the stroller seat with her still crying in it, and turned it to face backwards. She fell asleep before I settled it back down. And remained asleep for the whole hour we were there eating.
I got her on the stroller.
It doesn't always work this beautifully, but at least now I have the option. I no longer need to put her backward facing or use the carrier first anymore. She goes in the stroller front facing from the get-go. Some days it goes so well I almost want to thank the heavens, like the day I strolled her to Starbucks, ordered a latte and used the bathroom, while she peacefully slept.
Not to mention she later woke up just in time for her first music class.
Concurrent with her stroller success, after we came back from San Diego, she started taking the bottle. Just like that --- well, with some effort on our end again. On one of my strolls to Natural Resources, I asked for bottle recommendations. They recommended two brands and three nipples, and I got ALL OF THEM (that's how desperate you get when you have a bottle-refusing baby). The first one I tried miraculously worked. It is the BornFree wide-neck glass bottle with a size-2 nipple. Ian started her on the bottle in San Diego and was mildly successful. Then when we came back and had to use two temporary nannies for a few days, both of them got her to drink without issue. In fact, according to Ian, she now wants the bottle.
Like most things with the baby, no idea if it was the bottle, the nipple, or she just opened up herself. But she will take the bottle now. I cannot express how much a relief that is. No more do I have to see thawed breastmilk being dumped into the sink because she wouldn't take it. And I can go to work without worrying that I will come home to a starving hangry baby.
Now the last thing would be daytime naps. It is still an ongoing process. So far, I have the highest success rate with getting her to nap in the crib. And even when I fail, I can nurse her to sleep in the bed. Ideally, you would just want to put her down and she sleeps...right? But if only that were my baby...
My baby is not your baby
I have come to realize just that. I have friends whose baby loved the swing and would sleep up to 5 hours in it. Not Josephine. I know babies who immediately zZZZZ when the car starts moving. Not Josephine. I've seen my friends' babies suck on the pacifier and quietly drift in and out of sleep while I chat with their moms in the mall. Not Josephine. The internet is full of moms with babies who slept through the night at 2 months. Not Josephine --- though she is close.
And the world is eager to give you advice, but they're not medicine, just advice. Like the Reddit mom who brilliantly summed up the ridiculous contradicting expert advice on getting your baby to sleep, I have learned to develop a thick skin and just say to myself: My baby is not your baby. Too bad Josephine does not take the pacifier or the swaddle or the car ride.
But is she happy?
The baby side of things
I like the ZeroToThree newletters that show a baby's development from both the parent and the baby's perspective. Like this 3-6 mo email.
I don't always remember to do so, but during the weeks I was building up her routine, I try to think what she feels. Is the stroller ride fun? She must like it now because front-facing gives her the ability to see things, yet she also feels safe enough to nap in it.
And play --- oh she loves to play! The nanny took this picture of her when she got on the swing the first time:
This baby loves to move. She learned to roll over from back to tummy on one side on the last day of 2014. Now, she can roll over on both side from back to tummy and tummy to back. And she started to "inch forward", by raising her hips high and kicking really hard.
Every day she gains a little new skill. And she needs less and less hand-holding. I can leave her on the play gym while I run around the house to do various housework and come back in 2-3 minutes to find her flipping around chewing on toys. In fact, I leave her in various locations to get stuff done.
Our morning routine
Our morning routine is quite consistent: she wakes up, I change her diaper, then put her in the play pen to give her a quick massage. Then I leave her in the play pen and go to the kitchen, where I let the cats out, start boiling water for tea and breakfast. I pick up the dirty clothes in the bathroom and put them in the laundry room and start a load of laundry. I go back to the play pen to retrieve her, strap her in the high chair while I make breakfast, feed the cats, clean the cat litter, and open the windows for ventilation. If she's not already fed, I feed her around this time, otherwise I take her back to the nursery and put her on the play mat to play, while I sip on some breakfast liquids, which is either sesame drink, mother's tea, or homemade soy milk. After that, either Ian is awake or the nanny is here, and I can go sit down at the kitchen table for some real breakfast foods and start working (or prepare to go to work).
The days are busy. But I found a way to make it work. And it was all mental.
Fake it, then it becomes real
San Diego wasn't an easy trip. I went there for work, to meet customers. The hotel was only 5 min walk away from the conference -- thank goodness -- but I was still running between meetings, feeding Josephine, and feeding ourselves. It wasn't great that she also woke up twice a night (as opposed to once) during those days.
When I came home from SD, I thought how miserable this crazy schedule was if I wanted to do it all: work, parenting, and circus.
Something's got to give.
And then it dawned on me. I can just pretend I'm doing really well. Yes, I got this from reading Lean In, but it took a full 5 months to truly digest the advice "stop wanting everything to be perfect".
I have never had to do this to myself. All my life I have strived to be better. It was strange to now say: that's good enough.
But I started to say to myself every night: congratulations, you made it through another day! You got some work done, you went to the circus, and the baby is still alive!
And strangely it works. Nothing changed physically. I still work fewer hours than I'd like to; I still wish I could exercise more; I still need to figure out why Josephine doesn't like to nap easily...
But I'm much, much less depressed than I used to be. It was all in my head.
As someone who is easily prone to depression (I now can see I had some pretty serious post-partum depression in month 2 and 3...), it's a constant battle. But well.....at least I've made it so far! That's good enough.
適用起始年齡： 0 mo+
為時： 5 min
我是參考這個 Youtube 影片，
適用起始年齡： 0 mo+
為時： 看寶寶心情跟脖子強度 （第一個月大概 1-2 min; 之後可以變 3-4 min 現在是5+ min）
版本一：最簡單的就是放遊戲墊 or 瑜珈墊上
適用起始年齡： 0 mo+
適用起始年齡： 3 mo+
為時：重複 2 - 3 次之後，寶寶就會想坐著玩別的東西
有時候寶寶在我拉他的時候用力蹬腳，就從拉起坐變成拉起站了。他站起來的話，就可以進階到下一個步驟：踩踩踩！有時候就媽媽躺下來，撐著寶寶的腋下，讓他踩踩踩媽媽。寶寶每次踩人的表情都超高興的（未來的抖 S 女王嗎...Orz）
適用起始年齡： 3 mo+
適用起始年齡： 最近滿 4 mo 才開始的
為時：5 - 10 min
適用起始年齡： 1 mo+ 或視力夠好之後
為時： 5 - 10 min
真的很累但寶寶又還想玩的時候，兩個人躺在床上，一隻手用 iPhone 手電筒照天花板，一隻手比影子...可惜媽媽我小時候沒有學會太多手勢，現在還只會小狗跟蜘蛛而已，哈哈！哪天要上 Youtube 好好惡補一下。
適用起始年齡： 2 mo （會笑之前他才不理我咧）