Friday, May 30, 2014

The swing

We've passed this swing a zillion times on our walk along the greenbelt. It's usually monopolized by a couple of nainai's with babies on their laps, so in all of our two years we've never been on it. 

We happened to pass by last week and lo an behold, it was vacant. 

It took a little convincing, but he came around. It was the most fun the kids and I have had in a while. 

I'm really enjoying getting to relive childhood memories with my kids. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Straw beads

It's not even June yet and it's already muggy and hot in Wuxi. I'm so not looking forward to another summer of swamp like conditions, but on the bright side, Sal is a lot easier to entertain at this age then he was during winter. 

Last weekend while at IKEA I ran across some thick drink straws and snapped them up for under two dollars. I brought them home and cut one of each color in 1/2 inch pieces. I figured they could be strung onto shoelaces for an easy beading and sequencing activity. 

At 28 months, Sal was able to string the straw beads quite easily, naming colors as he put each one on. I encouraged him to tell me what color he was going to put on next and plan to help him with simple color sequences soon. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Teaching babies to sleep

When Sal was a new baby, I spent more time lamenting over his lack of naps than he actually spent asleep. I remember loading up a screaming baby in the back of my car and driving the beautiful swerving roads of Hidden valley in a desperate attempt to get him to sleep. The more he screamed, the faster I accelerated. That could've been a recipe for disaster, so it was my first and last attempt to drive him to sleep.

At his 3 month check up, I spoke to my pediatrician about his sleep habits, and in turn, she handed me a tattered edged book. She told me that she had used it for her sons, and that many of the families she treated had found success with it.

Check it out here:

I took the book home, and read it in one afternoon while bobbing a fussy baby on my knee. 

It proposed paying attention to when your baby wakes, and paying attention to sleepy cues around 80 minutes after waking. By nature, we are all primed for rest in 90 minute intervals. Adults can go from cycle to cycle without needing rest, while babies may skip one or two cycles, but could be ready at say,  the 180 or 270 mark. 

The next morning, I was a slave to the clock. I noted when Sal woke, and sure enough, 75 minutes later he was yawning, stretching and fiending for milk. I swaddled him, popped a bottle in and off he went to sleep right at the 90 minute mark. His first week of doing this, his naps only lasted twenty minutes or so, but they eventually became longer to the point that he took an hour nap around 8:00a and then an afternoon nap around 1:30p. 

With Carla, I've been lazy. She is now almost 5 months old and I have yet to schedule anything for her. She goes to bed after Sal, usually around 7:30-8:00 and sleeps til 7:15a. Sleeping through the night has been good enough for me.

But now, I'm starting to feel guilty. Sal isn't getting the one on one time he deserves (and needs). Carla isn't sleeping much at all during the day, unless we are out and about and she naps in the ergo or in the stroller. I know babies need sleep, and in discussing it with NZ, I've decided to try the 90 minute method again. It would be nice to get her on a regular napping schedule even if it means I may miss out on coffee morning or play dates for a month while we sleep train. Eventually, I think she will take her first nap around 9:00, and hopefully again in the afternoon while Sal rests. 

I started training her this past Monday. Day one was a success. Three naps and a decent bedtime.

Tuesday was equally as successful. 

Wednesday, however, was a shitstorm. I didn't pay attention to when she first woke, and then was trying to read signs of readiness all morning. There was a lot of screaming on Tuesday. A lot.  Carla, Sal...and almost myself. She never did nap on Tuesday morning, so when I laid Sal down in my room to rest after lunch, I gave it a go with her. I fed her, then "sacked" her (the art of putting a halo sleepsack on) and put her down. Again, screaming. Sweating. She was a hot mess. After twenty minutes of listening to her, as well as Sal who was yelling from my room, " She crying. Cah crying. You hurt her!" instead of laying peacefully reading his books. I admit it. I gave up. I gave in. I grabbed Carla and we went in my room to get Sal. This was all of 1:30 pm. Waaaaay to early for a drink, and a long way off til NZ would be getting home.

About to lose my head, I put her in my ergo, Sal in the stroller and just started doing laps around our compound. It was over 80 degrees and humid. Not exactly walking weather. Within minutes, both were out. I rolled Sal back into the house, and spent the next hour glued by sweat to Carla until she woke up.

Today is Thursday.

You can bet I watched the clock this morning. 

Carla woke at 6:40a. I sacked her and started feeding at 8:00a. By ten after, she was out cold. Two hours and twenty glorious minutes of sleep. We were out and about during the next 90 minute cycle so she skipped that one. It's now nearing 1:30 and she's almost asleep again. 

I know there will be hiccups along the way, but I feel like progress is being made towards a better organized day. When my kids nap, they have happier afternoons, and that makes me happy.

*i received no compensation for this post. It's simply a book that helped our family that I thought may be of use to my readers. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Mexican-ish food in China

We had a van this weekend so we spent Saturday doing errands we have been putting off since returning from holiday. 

The morning started off at IKEA looking for office chairs and rugs. Exciting, right?

Halfway through IKEA we looked at each other and agreed that we needed food, quick. We've switched back to eating  non-processed foods again, which is great for our health, but leaves our stomachs growling for more every couple of hours. Our choices at IKEA were hot dogs, meatballs (horse meat anyone? Sal looooves them) or ice cream.

 No. No. And no. 

We made a dash for the checkout register and headed downtown in search of food. We had decided to try out a new (and the only) Mexican restaurant in Nanchansi, which is a nice little area along the canal. It was called Casa Zoe. 

It wasn't California Mexican ( where are my corn tortillas, yo?!), but it was surprisingly decent and the service was excellent. 

Chips, salsa, cheesy fries (did I say we are eating only non processed foods? Pretend I didn't just say cheesy fries then. Mmmmmm, Kay?), and fajitas. 

We will definitely go back--and were excited to see that they even had a breakfast menu! We have NEVER been out to breakfast in China (mcMuffins totally don't count), so I'm chomping at the bit to go back next Saturday to try it out!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Walking weather

The weather and AQI have been good so the kids and I have been walking everywhere. It's a little challenging with two in tow, but we've muddled our way to the supermarket twice (3 miles round trip) and to the produce market every other day. 

We even stopped to play at the pirate ship playground last week where Sal mastered climbing the arced ladder. 

In addition to errands, we've been spending about an hour and a half walking with our friends Neil and Mimi each afternoon. I'm loving the exercise and company. I've always found that walking is enoughcardio for me -- even more so pushing 70lb of kids/stroller weight. 

It's only a matter of weeks until the weather is swamp like, so we have to get out while we can. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

She would be 5 today


Dear Denise,

Although the years fly by, it still feels like yesterday since I last saw your little face. You've got a little sister now, as I'm sure you know. In fact, her middle name is Denise and she is everything I dreamed you'd be like if you were here with us. I can't help but look at her and your brother and wonder.....what would life be like with the three of you? 

I'll never know, but I am certain of one thing. I still miss you all the time. 

Happy 5th birthday, sweet girl.


Mama & co.

P.s. We couldn't find helium balloons here in China, so auntie Stephanie let one go for you today. She's the best!

Big boy things

My little boy has been doing big boy things these days.

He decided that Cah (Carla) needed his highchair (even though she won't fit in it for a few months), and he could use his booster seat at the table when we eat. He likes to climb up and click himself in and requests a fowk (fork) like mine instead of his plastic one. 

But that's not all.....

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you've read about the saga of my non-napping toddler. Last month, I switched things up in an attempt to get him excited about naptime again. The hour long wailfests in his crib followed by a walk in the stroller was not on my top 10 list of "ways to spend an afternoon". I spurred his interest in it by offering him the chance to read and rest in my room on the "big bed". 

There were two rules. 

No jumping.

No getting off the bed. 

He doesn't have to sleep, but he can't get off the bed. I set a mental timer for an hour. I figured that would be enough downtime for both of us to recharge. 

The first few days he chattered the hour away. BUT..and this is a big BUT....he did NOT get out of bed. By the end of the week I had a sleeping son again. 


It's been a month now, and although he doesn't fall asleep every time, we've managed to avoid the meltdowns and I think we are all happier for it. When he sleeps--it's usually 2+ hours. 

When we went to Australia, I used a hire company to rent a pack and play and stroller. I figured we would try the bed at night time for him, and if it failed, I'd stuff him in the portable crib and have Carla sleep on the floor (on the floor?!, I know...but have I mentioned how easy going she is?). I didn't really want to rent two portable cribs. Anyways...absolutely no problem. He went to bed and stayed in bed every single night. 

But, would it continue once we got home? Should we take the rails off his crib? Is he ready?

On Monday night, the Eve of his 28th month, NZ took the rails off Sal's crib.

With baited breath, we put him to bed.

Would he get up? Would we hear his Buzz Lightyear "to infinity and beyoooond!" going off at all hours? Would we need to install a baby gate in his door to keep him in? 

He slept. 

Like a baby.

A baby who's doing big boy things.

I'm pretty sure if we blink he will be driving a car next.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Carla is FOUR months


Carla turned four months old on Tuesday. April was a big month for this lil bit...

Weight: 5.5kg (12lb, 2 oz)

Height: 62 cm (24.4 inches)

Size: growing out of her 3 month clothes, but not quite big enough to fill out any of her 6m stuff. I bought a size 6m tankini for her to take to Australia and the bottoms fell off even with a big diaper butt underneath. Instead she rocked a onesie to the beach better than Macklemore. 

Motor skills: She's on a roll! Literally. She has learned how to roll from her back to her belly. She rolls quite easily, but hasn't figured out how to get her arms out from under, so she gets quite frustrated. Since she has started rolling, I had to stop swaddling her for bedtimes and I can't lay her on my bed while I get things done in my bedroom anymore. 


She loves her play mat with the two arches over it. She can grab toys and make music. However, she has also found that rolling onto her belly and scooting forward with her stink bug pose can get her places. I put her down today and not five minutes later she was on the hardwood floors about three feet away. I have a feeling an army crawler is on her way.


Temperment: Generally very easy going. She is quite smiley most of the time. She usually only cries when hungry, and is easily appeased once fed. I've noticed some frustration from her lately as she is learning how to roll, but has not yet mastered it completely. Carla finds her brother hilarious. She tends to watch him around the house and smiles at him anytime he gives her the time of day.

Sleep: Naps are my nemesis but I'm trying not to stress. She still takes a nap in my ergo, but has no schedule. I'm guessing her morning nap is about an hour long around 9:30 or 10:00. I attempt to have her take an afternoon nap in her crib, but that is usually short lived. She will sleep for twenty minutes if I'm lucky. I know with consistency, it will get better, and she will eventually sleep longer during nap time. Her bedtime routine is basically bath time, a feeding and bed. I've kept it simpler with her than I did with Sal. So far it's working smoothly. Bedtime is 8:00ish and she sleeps until 7:00a. 


Feeding: I haven't started solids with her yet, but she is starting to show some interest in food when I eat. I'm not in a hurry to introduce solids with her like I was with Sal because she usually sleeps well at night, whereas with Sal, even being bottle and breast fed, was still waking once a night at this age. I wanted him to sleep through, so I jumped into solids as early as acceptable. I'm thinking I will start her with veggies at the end of month five if she seems to be interested. One surprise to me, is that she will only breastfeed. She despises the bottle and will act like we are torturing her if we even get one near her mouth. I've got a stockpile of formula we brought over just gathering dust. I'm not complaining, but exclusive breast feeding was never my intention. It's just worked out that way. I do sometimes wish she would take a bottle so I could hit the bottle (I'm joking. Sort of. Okay, not) for a drink or two without worrying she might wake and need to be fed. 


Cool fact: Carla earned her first passport stamp and logged some miles in the sky on our trip to Brisbane. She beat Sal to her first stamp! She was well fed during the flight so she was a model passenger. I look forward many more travels with her. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

An "OZ-some" holiday

Six years ago, I tagged along with NZ on a business trip to Australia. Turned out, the mine he was scheduled to visit exploded while we were en route. In turn, he had a few unexpected days to spend in Queensland with me between meetings. We found the small beachside town of Noosa Heads, on the Sunshine Coast and fell in love with it. 

We returned to our favorite little town for a holiday this year. It met our criteria of A) a surf worthy location, and B) an English speaking country. The latter requirement pretty much meant we would either be heading home to California or down under. As much as we love our family and friends, we chose Australia. Contrary to popular belief, Shanghai is NOT a whole lot closer to Brisbane than Los Angeles is. In fact, this trip (with two kids, their car seats and NZ's boards in tow, plus a layover in Singapore) took 23 hours from our door in Wuxi to wheels down in Brisbane. Thirteen hours total in the air. In comparison, it was a direct fifteen hour flight from LAX to a Brisbane when we last flew. Anyways, it was worth the long travel day..... even with kids.

I used VRBO to find a house for the week. This way, we had bedrooms for the kids, a washer and dryer, a kitchen, BBQ and a yard to play in, and it was near the Beach. Australian food isn't anything spectacular (or, maybe we have eaten at the wrong places?) so we were more than happy to cook for ourselves. 

Most of our time was spent at the beach (surprise, surprise). Carla got her feet wet, and Sal enjoyed digging in the sand and splashing in the waves. 

We also wandered aisles of the local supermarkets in awe of the variety. For lunches on the go, we hit up the meat pie shops. NZ is a big fan of pies--I like some, but not all. Sal got his own mini pies, but I think he was more interested in the dip (ketchup) than the pie. 

It wouldn't be a trip away without some sort of illness/injury. Last year I left Bali with two swollen fingers as a parting gift. This time, Sal contracted a staph infection on his leg which was easily treated by a nice Doc and some antibiotics on an early Sunday morning. Thank goodness for 7 day clinics. Add to that my dropping his car seat with him in it as we returned our rental car. Luck was not on his side this trip. 

My favorite day of our trip had to be the day we spent at the Australia zoo. NZ and I had gone when we visited in 2008, and it had been on my must-do-again list ever since. The Australia zoo is huge. The habitats are enormous and open and just beautiful. The zookeepers are knowledgable and helpful and really seem to love what they do. It's unlike any other zoo I have ever been to. Sal had the chance to pet a baby crocodile, koalas, many kangaroos, a (mean) turkey and a wombat. The kangaroos are in an open field in which visitors can walk up to them and pet or feed them. We bought a couple bags of kangaroo food and fed the Roos with Sal. He saw a turkey (they're everywhere here) and held his hand out with the 'roo food and got a rude awakening when the turkey pecked his hand. Safe to say, turkeys are not his favorite animal, and he is probably scarred for life. 

The last few days we had some rain,  but it was intermittent so we still fit beach time in when the sun was out, and the swell picked up so NZ was able to enjoy a few good morning seshs before packing his boards up for another six months. 

We've just returned home and I'm already looking forward to our next trip. With the successful long haul of two kids and their gear to Oz, I'm thinking NZ's proposal of a trip to Samoa is totally doable next year. What's another five hours tacked on?