Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Purging Begins

I found myself with a quiet house at 8:30: all three sons in bed, as well as Greg who had a minor flu today.  All the things on my to do list were either long projects or not enticing.  I had already rolled out the three extra pie crusts for the freezer and putzed around on the computer long enough for my liking.  I wasn't in the mood for reading.  What to do?!

Then I realized: I should start purging papers.  The biannual ritual when one moves so frequently.  I decided to tackle the "art drawer," picking and choosing what to preserve of the boys' masterpieces and what to toss in the trash.  Honestly, most of Patch's preschool work from last year was in the trash pile, until I thought that he might - twenty years later - wonder why I was such a cruel and heartless mother not to save things.  So, I kept two folders worth.  Except, now as I type this, I think I should probably just keep one or two pieces.  After all, I don't think I want to look at (or carry around) boxes of my childhood artwork.  Why would Patch or Wm?

Really, the only piece of artwork I remember creating is a yellow blob of clay that sits (or used to sit - not sure if it does right now) on my mom's dresser.  I remember making it because, in kindergarten or first grade, I got in a huge fight with my art teacher.  I forget what we were supposed to be making, but I wasn't in the mood to make that and instead made a bowl.  But then the teacher became upset with me (or at least I perceived she was inordinately angry with me) for not following instructions.  With a minute left in art class, I mushed the piece of clay into a ball and put it with the rest of the class' works to be fired.  The next week, everyone else had some creation to paint.  I painted my blob plain yellow, not even choosing the shiny paint.  Very rarely did I not follow a teacher's instructions, so the origins of this yellow mass stick with me.  The rest of the stuff I could probably do without, if it was even saved.

New reason to be sad on Sunday night

Because I have to pack up my pump parts.  I love the weekend of just feeding Ian whenever he's hungry, with no stress about if I'm pumping enough and at the right time.

I didn't have to pump that much for Wm, since he was seven months when I went back to work.  I did pump a lot for Patch, but since it provided a nice structured break during my visa interviews, I welcomed it -- even though my "lactation room" was the visa filing cabinet and I balanced my trusty pump amongst boxes of the old DS-156 forms.

I do love having an actual lactation room here.  Briefly chatting (commiserating?) with the other pumping moms (currently five of us) boosts my spirits and keeps me going.  All the same, though, getting together the gear on Sunday night is a sad reminder of what is to come on Monday.  If only my office were at Seafront and I could just take the breaks during the day to nurse instead of pump.  Now that would be awesome.

Right now neither Ian nor I are in enough of a "schedule" to try and have him make the trip up Roxas to the Chancery for his meal.  Maybe once he's six months or so and has started solids... 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Back to work tomorrow

I feel like I should feel sad or apprehensive or something like that.  But, I don't.  Guess when it's the third one, going back is old hat.  Either that or I am a cruel and heartless mother (ha ha ha).  Really, though, my thought about working and having kids is that I'm a bit to cerebral to be home with babies all the time.  I need more brain stimulation of an academic sort, which a baby just doesn't give me.  I'll spend my days researching human rights issues in the Phlippines, my evenings hugging up all three boys, my nights nursing, and I should be quite content.

In church today, (yes! we went with all three boys!  it wasn't a total disaster, but wasn't so easy either... we did not get any snarky comments or sideways looks, so I think it must have been a success) the priest gave a sermon about joy (I think he said the word in New Testament Greek was "chara").  He asked all the parents to remember when their child too his first steps and how that filled their heart with joy.  Greg and I looked at each other and realized that was not an event for either Wm or Patch that was imprinted in our memories at all.  Which proves my point: we love our kids and they do bring joy, but we're just not gaga over the baby phase.

So, back to work I go with Ian only at nine weeks.  Not really sure if I'll be as ambivalent about this when I'm at the office tomorrow, but there it is.

I told my work friend that if I ever were to consider staying home, it would be in the teenage years, when the kids can think more, face a lot more choices, and need a bit more guidance.  She has three kids in college, and she responded that I would be surprised how much trouble can happen between school dismissal at 2:30 and mom returning home at 6:30 ... so perhaps I should keep that in mind for the future.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hello, Patch!

The last two weeks at home were supposed to be about bonding with Ian and supervising our nanny as she took care of him, to make sure everything was kosher.  Except really, I learned that the yayas (nannies) were so excited about the baby that they took every opportunity to feed, burp, change, and bathe Ian - to the point that I twice took Ian in my room and shut the door just to get some alone time with him.  I'm not complaining, since this means that Ian will get lots of hugs and attention when I go back to work on Monday, which is exactly what a baby needs.

The attention given to the new baby meant that I have been able to spend oodles of time with Patch the last two weeks, a situation certainly not anticipated, but very much appreciated.  Wm's mood swings + Patch's easy going nature = most parenting efforts of the last three years focused on Wm.  Add a new baby to the mix and, well, the stars seemed aligned for Patch to suffer from middle child syndrome even more than usual (since Wm is high maintenance).  Luckily for Patch, though, Wm is at school full day and the yayas claimed Ian - so he pretty much got two full weeks of mom attention.

The last time I spent a prolonged daily time with Patch was over home leave, ie January 2011, when he wasn't talking due to language confusion.  He talks a storm now, though with some funny pronunciations, and articulates complex abstract thoughts.  I could have real conversations with him, not just talk about the concrete things around us.  It's much easier to get to know a kid when he talks to you.

Some of our topics:

  • How he, Lea and Elizabeth would take good care of Ian when I went back to work (this topic, by the way, was brought up by Patch.  I hadn't even mentioned going back yet)
  • That he is different from his two brothers because he was born in India and not America like them
  • How he knows that fruits and vegetables are healthy, but he doesn't care to eat them or even try them, because yogurt and peanut butter are enough for him
  • That his older brother is naughty sometimes, but Patch still loves him (again, a topic broached at Patch's instigation.  I try very very hard not to get exasperated with Wm in front of Patch.)
So, what I'll miss the most when I go back to work next week is not Ian's fledgling smiles (though those are cute and I will miss them!), but the 3PM snack time with Patch when I had 30 minutes of one-on-one time.  Carving out solo time with each kid is pretty hard with only two hours each day between me arriving home from work and their bed time.

(For those of you who are worried, the yayas know they have to spend time and attention with all kids - we've had this discussion.  I consider the attention of the last two weeks their "bonding time" with Ian so they get to know his cues before I go back.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Salon visit, the Manila way

After five months, my hair was in pretty poor repair.  The ends were scraggly.  The color was fading.  Roots were showing.  I'm going back to work next week, and obviously don't want to look like a slug, so a trip to the salon was past due.

I decided to just "run" over to Rockwell after Patch's birthday party and get it done.  After all, who knows what else might come up this last week of relatively free schedule?  I say "run" because it can be anywhere from 20 - 60 minute drive to my salon, depending on traffic.  Thankfully today was average: 30 minutes each way.

Then comes the next dilemma: how to get my hair done and also make sure my nursing infant is adequately fed?  Ian already drank his pumped bottle today when I was dropping Wm at school.  The obvious solution?  Bring the nanny to the salon, Filipino style.  So, off we went: Joel (driver), Lea (nanny), Ian and me.  What an extravagent lifestyle ... but might as well live it up for the next six months before I return to reality (aka, America).  Turns out the capes for getting your hair colored also make good nursing covers.

Other multi-tasking accomplished during the salon visit: neck/shoulder massage (my shoulders are so tight from constantly cradle holding a nursing baby), pedicure, and a cup of tea.  Lest you think I'm totally crazy, the lady next to me was also having a manicure, full foot/leg massage (in addition to pedicure), AND had a tailor visit her at the salon.  I can't understand Tagalog, but they were having debates about his sketches and the fabric samples he brought - while the manicure, pedicure, neck massage, and deep conditioning treatment were all going on.  Talk about using her "girl time" efficiently!

PS - my favorite Lebanese hairstylist has sadly left Manila for good.  We'll see in two days (after I wash the straight blow out) how this new guy compares.  Getting curly hair cut in Asian countries is always an adventure.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cross Culture Baby Issues, point 2

Yesterday, I had my second cross-culture baby experience.  I'm finding this surprising, because I really didn't have any cross-culture pregnancy encounters in the Philippines (though India was rife with such experiences).

I met a new friend for lunch yesterday - we had corresponded over email and Facebook, but had yet to meet in person.  She arrived in Manila just as I was leaving on prego-vac.  With three boys, each just over a year older than mine, and having spent significant time in Texas in her pre-FS life, we obviously have a good amount to talk about.

Ian came along for the lunch date, of course, since I'm still feeding him.  He gets one pumped bottle a day now, so that he knows how to drink a bottle when I go back to work. (Note: we were lax giving Wm bottles, and pretty much gave up after month three since breastfeeding was so much easier - but then when I went back to work when he was seven months, the first two days he refused to drink, causing much stress for both of us.  So, with Patch and Ian, I've kept up the bottle a day regimen, even though pumping while home is super annoying.)  Ian had already had his bottle that morning, so of course he had to come.

Except the nanny expected to come, too!

In the Philippines, the nannies (often dressed in cheery print scrubs, like pediatric nurses in the US) accompany the families everywhere.  Kids playing happily with nannies just outside restaurants, while parents enjoy a meal with uninterrupted conversation, is common place.  Except, while I certainly enjoy having a nanny to watch my kids during the day and be available almost every time we need a last minute evening babysitter, I just can't quite bring myself to tote her along to carry my baby while I eat.

Somehow, had Ian been napping and I went out for an hour, that would be OK.  But having him awake and being carried by someone else while I pretended to be a "lady who lunched" seemed too dismissive of my child.

I thus had to carefully explain to our nanny that my not wanting her to come was in no way a reflection that I thought she was doing a bad job caring for Ian. Or that I was embarrassed by her (well, I guess I am a bit embarrassed - but not by her appearance or how she would hold Ian - but for my own sense of propriety).

We made up later, when I asked her to come along to the grocery store.  Let's face it, it's much easier to push around a grocery cart and pick out fresh veggies when you don't have to juggle a squirmy baby in an Ergo carrier.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

I read a WaPo article this morning about election day vs. election month, talking about how early voting is now very wide spread.  What struck me most, though, was the description of the old voting machines: going into a booth, drawing the curtain, making selections, then pulling down a big crank when finished.

Personally, I have only voted with computerized or scantron ballots.  I do remember, though, going to my elementary school with my mom and being inside the curtain, wondering who all the people were, and helping pull down the big crank. My next thought, of course, is that I'm not sure I'll ever vote with Wm, Patch or Ian.  Having them watch me tick boxes on an absentee ballot is not quite the same.  Hopefully this will not negatively impact their sense of responsibility when it comes to voting!

Moving on to election day thought #2.  The embassy is sponsoring "election watches" at three locations throughout the Philippines: in large malls in Manila and Cebu, and a more private event in Cagayan d'Oro.  Greg is spending his work day manning the event.  He's not exactly sure what he'll be assigned to do, but with a big screen showing CNN results, a photo booth, election trivia games and the like, sounds like a fun day.

I'm wondering if this concept would fly in other countries, or if it's just because of the Philippines status as a former colony.  

About 6 Months Left

We know we're headed back to DC sometime this summer, but don't exactly know when.  Our tour in Manila is supposed to end in April, so that means we have about six months left.  Hard to believe.

This also means I need to start thinking about two very important things:
1. Where do we absolutely want to travel in the Philippines before we leave and
2. What do I have in my pantry that I need to start eating so we don't end up donating/tossing lots of food when we leave.

When we left HYD, I didn't start item 2 until about two months pre-departure - and I felt like I gave away half the grocery store!  I didn't feel bad about our nanny taking pantry staples (rice, lentils, etc) - she certainly could use the food.  But, much of what we had left on the shelves was import stuff of no use to needy people ... just the product of my impulse purchases at Q-Mart or Ruci, when I was simply excited to see a product on a shelf.

On travel, we still are upset we never made it to Kerala while we were in India.  Coming to Manila, Greg's must see trip was to Angkor Wat - and, thankfully, his sister obliged to travel with him.  I think our only "must do" left is to swim with the whale sharks in Donsol, which will be in March right before we leave.

Some "nice to do" trips would be:
(1) one or two more scuba diving trips - my last scuba trip was in December 2011 just after Christmas before I knew I was pregnant.  Figure I should go scuba diving while it's still affordable!
(2) Vigan - an old Spanish town in northern Luzon, registered UNESCO World Heritage site
(3) A weekend in Baguio, especially since Greg has yet to see the residence up there
(4) The rice terraces, perhaps as a day trip from Baguio

I know we won't get to all of these because I've just burned up all my leave for the time I'm spending home with the new baby.  Hopefully, though, we'll at least squeeze in a dive trip.  I even ordered Ian an infant life vest in anticipation of an upcoming banca boat ride!

PS -- I started thinking about this because the boys had their dentist appointment today.  No cavities, so next appointment not for six months.  Then the receptionist was looking at dates in May and I realized we wouldn't actually be here for a dentist appointment in May.  WEIRD.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Vitamin D!

I had my first infant cultural foray this morning -- I'm sure many more are to come.

In the U.S., pediatricians of breast-fed infants stress the importance of vitamin D supplements.  I've had conversations with multiple friends about this, and the general "mom" consensus is that it's a must for fall/winter babies, but less required for spring/summer babies. Thought process is obvious: when the weather is nice, you take the baby outside, so he gets vitamin D naturally.  (unless, of course, he's slathered in sunscreen -- or in Texas where it's too hot!)

Today is Day One of starting transition to nanny care.  I'm not sure when I'll go back to work, but it will be sometime between Nov 19 and 30.  So, though it's weird to be in my house and let someone else hold Ian, I'm trying to let go so that Ian isn't too shocked when I do go back.

Just now (7AM), Lea (nanny) told Wm and Patch it was time to go outside so Ian could get his vitamin D before the sun was too strong for his skin.  I was surprised, to say the least - but obviously public health awareness in the Philippines is higher than I thought.  My wonderfully internationally-aware pediatrician in DC did say I could probably discontinue the vitamin drops once in Manila, given how sunny it is here.  Guess I should send him an email confirming his supposition.

Now all three boys are at the playground. Guess this means I better get in the shower!