Succulent terrarium

When I was young, I used to dream about having a garden where there would be multiple sections: one section would have all my roses, another section would have all my bulbed perennials (lilies, tulips, and the like), and a last small section would have little herbs and vegetables. Sprinkled throughout the garden would be fruit trees. I had no idea where this imaginary garden would be in the world, but that was my little gardening fantasy.

Well, fast forward several decades later, and here I am in New York City, with no front or backyard. The two living plants that are in our apartment are on the window sill in the kitchen. One is a spider plant that had been propagated from a friend’s fruitful spider plant. The second plant is an aloe vera that was gifted to us as part of a gift package when Kaia was born. And now, we have two more plants: two tiny succulents that came as part of a do-it-yourself terrarium set that my manager designated a virtual team building event today!

I will admit: I was a little happy to do this activity even though we were all virtual. It’s fun to do things that require a certain level of creativity, even if we are not all together in the same physical space. and the end product does look quite attractive. I have it displayed now on the window sill in the second bedroom by Kaia’s bed. The plants I actually do have today are a far cry from the vision I had as a child, but they do still make me happy and bring extra life and brightness into the apartment.

Daycare administration drama

The age-old debate in Facebook and Reddit mother and parenting groups continues: which is better: daycare or nanny? In general, I’m happy we had a nanny until Kaia was at least 12 months. if I had to do it all over again, I probably would have stopped our nanny relationship once we went to Australia in December and started Kaia in daycare in January when we came back. That was the point when not only did our nanny start taking us for granted and let go of a lot of her known responsibilities, but also when I felt like she just wasn’t keeping up with ensuring Kaia was doing age-appropriate, developmental activities. If there is one thing I absolutely do not miss, it’s having to manage a household employee and her constant insolence; it’s a far bigger burden than I ever previously had imagined.

While daycare certainly has its own set of challenges, it’s been nice that whenever I’ve had feedback, I can deliver it to the teachers directly and to the administration, and therefore there is always accountability (this certainly was NOT the case with our nanny). We’ve seen a lot of change since we’ve given feedback at our chosen daycare. But daycare isn’t necessarily always stable, either: our center director quit due to mental health challenges about two weeks ago. It was completely sudden and out of the blue. We really liked her and found her to be really responsive and empathetic. There have been rumors of witchcraft (if you can believe it or not…) amongst the teachers at the school. And just today, the main teacher (there’s a head teacher and an assistant teacher in each classroom) of Kaia’s classroom got fired. She sent a message in the daycare app to all the parents of her students, stating that she had just gotten fired for using her phone yesterday, and she loved us all and was sorry she did not have a chance to say goodbye.

I spoke to the center owner when I went to pick up Kaia late this afternoon. He said that this teacher did not pass her performance review. She had regular behavioral issues, was not fully focused while in the classroom, and had been gossiping about administration staff to the parents and giving one-sided stories that were unfair. Granted, I never really noticed any of this even with camera access to the classrooms, but daycare politics are like any other workplace: he said/she said stories and a bunch of workplace bs. I said I’d take his word for it, but for the most part, since the center director had quit suddenly, we have seen a lot of inconsistency and poor communication from the administration and would prefer more transparency.

Is this a little nuts? Yes. But… Regardless, I still prefer this to having a nanny.

How diaper changing has evolved in public New York City bathrooms in Kaia’s 21 months of diapering

Once upon a time when Kaia was around four months old, we started going out around the city regularly with her. What we quickly found out, or rather, were reminded of, was the fact that most businesses in the city are not at all friendly to mothers and babies in that a changing table in the restroom is nearly unheard of. What this ends up meaning is that I end up having to take out Kaia’s changing pad, lay it out on a gross New York City bathroom floor, and change her on it (once we got home, I’d throw the changing pad into the washing machine). Then, since she wasn’t yet crawling, I just had to hope, hope, hope that she wouldn’t roll over or try to touch the dirty floor. I’d swat her fingers away when she’d try to get her hands on the floor. At around six months, she started rolling. This is when I had to prevent her from rolling OFF the mat while changing. It just kept evolving: at around 8.5 months, she started crawling, and I’d have to sing to her and get her to do anything to stay on the mat. Occasionally, I’d fail, but that would just mean that I’d not only need to wash my hands after a diaper change, but also hers.

Diaper changing has gotten easier, though, since she has started walking. Now, she seems a lot more cooperative during outdoor changes. She’s always keenly observing whatever dark, miserable bathroom we are in. And as soon as I tell her we’re all done, she immediately gets on her feet and starts wandering around while I wash up (Pookster now walking means I never have to worry about her rubbing her hands all over a gross floor again!). The cutest thing that always happens is when I sit down to pee, and she is so weirded out by the tight quarters we are in that she immediately walks back to me, places both her hands on my knees or the tops of my thighs, and starts moaning as though she’s scared. In other words, she has to remain close to me to feel safe and protected. I find it absolutely adorable and endearing, and I always coax her and tell her that she’s safe; we’re just in the bathroom so we can both pee and clean up, and we’ll be outside soon where there’s more light and space. It’s a strange thing to enjoy, but I do enjoy these short, sweet moments when we’re together and close, and she’s feeling vulnerable. I love my sweet baby.

TooGoodToGo – finally trying it out

Last year, a friend of mine gave me a referral to sign up for an app called TooGoodToGo. The idea behind the app is that many restaurants and grocery stores have fresh food that is left to go to waste at the end of the day, so instead of throwing it out, they can instead charge customers a small fee to take a “grab bag” of food home. I thought that most grocery stores would donate to shelters and people in need, but I suppose that not every food-related business has the resources to facilitate this type of assistance. Either way, when I reviewed which businesses interested me within a short walking distance of us this time last year, I was dismayed at the small list of options. I did not want to do a grocery store (too big of a grab bag, and I could easily get a bunch of stuff I’d never want to eat, or things filled with artificial colors and flavors), and the restaurants nearby that participated were so generic. So I passed and never used my referral offer, which would have given me one free grab bag.

Well, Chris learned about this app this year, so he downloaded it and got us two “test” grab bags: one was from Morton Williams, a grocery store nearby, and the second was near Breads Bakery, which finally was participating at the location close to us. This is what we got:

Morton Williams: Florida Natural orange juice – 52 oz. container, bag of hard-boiled eggs (6), one container of vanilla yogurt, one 8 oz bag of shredded mozzarella cheese

Breads Bakery (Lincoln Center location): Lemon loaf cake, two sesame bread sticks, one mixed vegetable and sunflower seed salad

The orange juice and the lemon loaf cake made both grab bags “worth it,” but I would never get vanilla yogurt with fake sugar in it (ugh), nor would I ever buy pre-shredded cheese (to keep the shape, the shredded cheese is usually coated with some weird, artificial stabilizer that I do not want to get into here). Chris likes to drink juice, but he doesn’t care for plain orange juice. So while it may occasionally be worth it and you can get lucky, I’d stick with businesses that have a much smaller selection of things you’d like, and NOT do a grab bag from a grocery store again.

Kaia’s growing vocabulary and awareness

In the beginning, I was keeping a running list of Kaia’s words, but now, I can’t even keep up anymore. She says new words (and seemingly understands them) almost every single day, and more and more, she is putting words together. She watches me in the kitchen fiddling with things, and she says, “Mummy cooking.” She knows possessives now, so she likes to say “Mummy’s shoes!” or “daddy’s hat!” and “Kaia’s (insert literally everything of hers).” Today, she grabbed Chris’s hat and said “This is Daddy’s hat.” She identifies when I’m brushing or flossing my teeth. She declares when Chris is showering. She also preemptively identifies that we’re going to tell her she can’t do something: “No Rachel!” “No phone!” “No, Kaia!”

What I really love (well, this sentiment has not changed, but it’s just gotten more fun) is when we read together, and I stop before the end of the sentence to let her finish and say the last word or two. It’s really cute. She’s not only remembering but she seems to know the meaning of many of these words, which is really gratifying to watch. She does this with books we haven’t read it months, too. She even surprised me the other day when I was changing her diaper and singing the chorus of “Mouse Loves Big Rice,” a Chinese song, and she started singing along with me. She’s heard this song over and over since she was a newborn, but this was the first time she’d ever shown any affinity or understanding of what I sang. I find it so sweet. Every time something like this happens, I wish I could just have a camera recording the entire moment so I could capture it forever. But alas, it doesn’t always work out. I always try to replicate it subsequently, and of course, my little cheeky baby runs off to her next thing to discover or plow through. And of course, she loves to give me her little cheeky smile, laugh, and then yell out, “Cheeky! Cheeky! Cheeky baby!”

Rainy weekend days in New York

The weather forecast looked quite bleak for the weekend. It looks like based on a tropical storm coming in, most of the northeast of the U.S. would be covered in rain. This is never fun for us, as we like to be out and about, going from one place to another in a chosen neighborhood that Chris randomly picks. When we saw the rain, Chris got dragged down and didn’t originally want to go out. I insisted we go out, even if it wasn’t that far: why the hell are we going to let a little drizzle prevent us from going outside? It reminded me of many pathetic people I’ve met who have bailed on social plans simply because of a little rain. So what – your whole life has to stop because of some water coming down from the sky? It’s not like it was hailing or as though sheets of rain were coming down nonstop throughout the day.

So we went out — down to Brooklyn to the DeKalb Market Hall. It looks like a lot of other people had a similar idea to us: the place had lots of people roaming around and sitting to eat. The streets actually had a bit of foot traffic. And before we headed back home, we stopped and sat at Debutea, the same bubble tea spot we visited just last month that makes all their own boba and does everything from scratch. Given the rain, the place had very few people in it, which was nice for us, since it meant that Kaia could more freely roam around and not bother anyone. One cute thing she did was she knocked into someone who was seated and scrolling on her phone, and as soon as she bumped into the chair, she immediately said, “Sorry!” The woman was so engrossed on her phone, though, and barely noticed the bump or the fact that a tiny human apologized. I had never witnessed Kaia proactively apologize for anything she’s done, so it was cute and fun to watch.

Day 2 of waking up at 6am to ensure 1 full hour of exercise

I had another 9am meeting this morning, so for the second day in a row, I woke up at 6am to get down to the gym by 6:20 for another intense workout. Right now, my gauge for whether my workout was good is if my heart rate is in the “heart rate calorie burn zone” (I measured it the first few days this week, but now I have a good way of gauging based on how I feel), and if throughout and at the end, if I still have sweat coming down my eyes (a really annoying feeling, but one that is strangely gratifying because I know I’m pushing myself).

Was it hard to wake up an hour early? Yes. But I know I can keep doing if if I keep my mind at it. I was able to do it over ten years ago, so I know I can do it now. While waking up early is not a fun or painless thing for me to do, what I’ve felt the last two days is far less rushed than I normally feel. I actually feel like I have more time to shower, get ready, and go through emails. I have more time to prepare tea when I want to do a double boil of chai. I don’t feel anywhere as time pressed. It’s nice to get on with my morning in a more leisurely manner rather than bulldozing through actions.

We’ll see how I can keep this up.

A “surprise” Zoom call that is met with dismay

This afternoon, my aunt texted me to ask if I had time at 7 tonight for a quick Zoom call. She said that she was able to get temporary unlimited call access on Zoom, so she wanted to surprise my mom with Kaia and me on video during their scheduled Bible study. She said it wouldn’t be more than ten minutes. 7pm is usually when we start getting Kaia ready for bed, so I agreed as long as it would be quick.

Honestly, I wasn’t even sure why my aunt thought this would be a good idea. A couple of times over the years, my aunt has brought the phone over to my parents when she’s FaceTimed me, and my mom has never responded positively to it. She always says video is unnecessary. She shies away from the phone and tries to hide her face. She waves her hand and says “No! No!” to get the phone away. She doesn’t seem to understand the value of video calls. I’ve suggested doing Zoom multiple times since Kaia has been born so she could at least see her live, but every single time, my mom has refused.

So predictably tonight, when we got on the Zoom, my mom was immediately unhappy. I sat Pookster in my lap, and as soon as my mom saw us, she didn’t even smile or say hi. Instead, she frowned and said, “No, this is unnecessary,” as though we couldn’t even hear her. It was so rude and awkward. Does she realize that we can hear everything she’s saying? Who acts like that when they see someone? She cannot handle surprises, and she never behaves well when people try to do these nice things to make her happy. Everything has to be some dramatic negative event for her, something that people “push” her into that she doesn’t like.

It was just so stupid in every way possible. I constantly get asked by friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances if my parents have any plans to visit, or if we do video calls. And I always say no because it’s the truth. You’d think that my parents would want some direct contact with their only grandchild, but no. They rather see pre-recorded videos of her rather than seeing the actual person in the flesh.

Weaning from breastfeeding can cause you to gain weight. Who would have thought?

After the semi-annoying elevator exchange with my neighbor yesterday, this morning after my workout, I decided to hop on the scale (my first time since the beginning of the year). Last year, I’d had my weight checked a number of times: at my two OB-GYN visits, at my endocrinologist’s office, and a handful of times at home. I was proud to say that last year, I’d actually lost pretty much all my pregnancy/baby weight as of September and was back at my pre-pregnancy weight of 117 pounds. I wasn’t even sure how that happened so quickly, but I figured it was due to 1) genes, 2) lifestyle and diet, including exercising regularly, and 3) breastfeeding/pumping.

I’ve never been a scale checker; I never even owned a scale before I lived with Chris. So I always gauged my “weight” by how I felt and how I fit into my clothes. Around June of this year, I went to purchase new pants. Since the summer was quite hot, I actually hadn’t worn those pants (or any pants, for that matter) until this month… when I realized that the pants felt very snug around my waist and stomach. I already knew I had developed more belly fat at the beginning of the summer when I put on my swimsuit and looked at myself in the mirror; I wasn’t totally pleased with what I saw, but I tried to do more core strengthening work to address it. Then, because husbands always do what they do, Chris commented a couple times that he was surprised I had developed a little belly. “It must be because you aren’t pumping anymore! Maybe you need to start pumping again!” he teased, while poking at my belly.

That was not nice, but that was just a reminder to me of what I already knew: I was developing more fat around my mid-section.

So I hopped on the scale this morning, and BAM: there was a scary number staring back up at me: 129 pounds. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? I knew I had gained weight, but TWELVE EXTRA POUNDS?

I did some quick Google searches, and alas, it’s really because of weaning: it’s very common for mothers who breastfeed to gain weight once they wean. The reason for this is a sudden change of hormone levels that no longer push prolactin (the breastfeeding hormone) and instead push estrogen (they are at odds with each other hormonally). Your body is also adapting to no longer using up a large amount of energy (calories) to create and pump out breast milk for your baby. Your body is essentially adapting to a new normal, a new, postpartum, post-breastfeeding state. Who knew that at 21 months postpartum, I’d still be thinking and talking about my “postpartum state”?!

Late last week, I was already starting to incorporate different low impact workouts to vary things up for myself. But now, I’m also thinking about re-jiggering my workouts so that I always have an hour dedicated on weekday mornings. So many times, I’ve had to cut it short due to morning work calls. If it means I need to wake up earlier to do it, then so be it. Ten years ago to lose weight and get in shape, I used to wake up at 5:45am several mornings a week to go to bikram yoga! And when I wasn’t doing that, I woke up at 6am to get to a 7am hour-long workout class, and then worked out another half hour since I didn’t want to go to the office that early! If I could do it then, then I can definitely do it now, especially with a gym right in my building. I have no excuses, even with a toddler to help get ready every morning. I am definitely doing this: Operation Lose 12 Pounds in the next several months.

Neighbor thought I was fat when I was actually pregnant.

Since we moved into this building in 2017, there is a small handful of faces I recognize who are still here, and we oftentimes will say hi and exchange pleasantries. One of these guys used to be in the gym with me pre-pandemic, but since then, he’s always sitting in our building lounge with a direct view of the elevators. So when I get off on that floor, which is the same level as our gym, he generally will always see me get on and off, and we’ll wave to acknowledge each other just to be friendly.

We happened to run into each other in the elevator today when I went to pick up Pookster from school. He asked me how my workouts have been going, and I told him that I might have overworked my legs yesterday because they are extremely sore today. Out of nowhere, he says, “Can I be honest, and I hope you aren’t offended… you have lost, so, SO much weight since last year and look great!”

I was so confused. What is he referring to? I haven’t lost weight since last year…? And then it suddenly hit me, AFTER I got out of the elevator: he likely confused this for when I was actually pregnant — you know, he probably thought I was fat when in reality, I was actually growing and carrying a BABY? Most people’s perceptions of time have been muddied from 2020 through now, so everything seems to blend.

Freakin’ men. Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them.