Vacillating between being a baby and toddler

Depending on what guide you read, at Kaia’s age, she is either considered a baby or a toddler – a young toddler, at that. She’s obviously still wearing diapers. She needs us to survive and thrive and exist, but she wants to assert her authority and wants as much as possible the way any growing toddler hopes to. She isn’t quite communicating fully, though her vocabulary and sense of self expression is growing by leaps and bounds every single day. And so every now and then, she throws a little fit when she doesn’t get what she wants.

Yesterday while at the DeKalb Food Hall in Brooklyn, Chris bought a passion fruit slushie, and as he sipped it, Kaia gestured that she wanted it. I’m not allowing her to drink anything other than milk, water, or soup; she has her entire life to develop diabetes, so I’m not in a rush to get her closer to there. So sugary drinks do little to nothing for her now and should be avoided. So Chris moved the drink away, and I told her “no.” She got the message right away and started throwing a tantrum, crying, screaming, fat tears streaming down her face. She maneuvered all over the place to try to get out of the high chair, and she even had Chris almost twist and hurt his arm while trying to get a handle of her. She did it again when she saw the drink and we wouldn’t let her have it. And the same thing happened once again. Granted, it’s hard to get too mad at her given she’s been pretty good during our outings to date, but it was just annoying because we aren’t used to this behavior. These are her moments when she’s trying to convey that she’s no longer a baby, but a wannabe tiny human / toddler.

Then, you have the moments when she just wants to be held and cuddled. This is when she wants you to sing songs and read books to her, usually the same one over and over, and when you tell her that the doggie in the book says “woof woof,” she repeats after you and says “woof woof” while smiling, realizing what she just said. And you get googly eyed and think, she’s so damn adorable that I just cannot stand it. I just want to squeeze and hug her and cover her entire face with my smooches. And these moments tend to cancel out the toddler tantrum moments.

At least, they do for now. We shall see how she evolves.

Good friends who do anything for each other

During the course of my now 15-year career, I’ve met a lot of interesting people. I’ve met really inspiring, ambitious people, the types of people who’ve made me look in the mirror and think, “wow, I’m the definition of mediocre.” I’ve met dull, baloney-and-cheese sandwich boring people, the type who brings the same lunch to work every single day and never do anything new because, well, nothing compels them to do so, and they don’t see value in it. I’ve met people who volunteer regularly to help those less fortunate, who donate thousands of dollars each year to charity because they acknowledge that while they’ve had good luck and opportunities in their lives, there are plenty more people who are nowhere as lucky as they were. I’ve also met people who are so selfish that they have said, out loud in front of many others, that they see no reason to help those they do not know personally because they will never see how their help “really paid off.” You meet a lot of people over the course of 15 years, especially when you’re on the road traveling to different places, and especially when you work externally with customers from all walks of life.

Yesterday afternoon, I was on the phone with one of these interesting customers. He’s the kind of person who is very reserved when he’s being recorded on our Zoom calls, but once you get him on the phone, he totally opens up and tells you everything and anything; he loves talking and sharing, and he is truly an open book. Although he is based in Virginia, he had been working from the Bay Area since the beginning of February. One of his very best friends from high school was doing a clinical trial to help with the recurring liver problems she’d been facing, and the side effect of these trials is that they can really wipe you out completely to the point where you could be bedridden for days. She’s a single working mom raising two sons on her own with no family nearby. So my customer, being this selfless friend, decided to drive his car all the way from Virginia to the Bay Area, rent an AirBnB, to help out this friend, plus her two teenagers. He said he drove because he wanted to be able and ready to help with anything from getting her to appointments to doing grocery runs, and he didn’t need the added expense of a rental car for that long period. He got an AirBnB for the first 1.5 months so he didn’t encroach on their personal space since they live in a condo with limited room. He was planning to spend the last two weeks of this month at their home.

“It’s really not a big deal,” my customer insisted. “Three plus years ago, I could never do this because we all had to be at the office, but now we’re remote first. So as long as I have a computer and Wi-Fi access, I’m all set to work. So when she told me she had to do this, I knew I had to help. It was a no brainer to me. I’d do anything for her. We’ve known each other for 40+ years. And all my kids are out of the house! So I’ve got no responsibilities!”

Even if you remove the ability to “work from everywhere,” I still don’t know many people, if anyone, who would temporarily relocate for two months across the country they live to help out a friend in this way. I was really awestruck and thought… wow, I must also be an inadequate friend next to this customer…

Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year

Shortly after Kaia was born, a sweet friend of mine sent a care package for Kaia and me. It included the book by Anne Lamott entitled Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year. I looked at the title and laughed. I decided I would read it after Kaia turned one. So I started reading it a few weeks ago, and while it is definitely over the top, neurotic, and hyperbolic, it is extremely relatable on everything from the concept of “they just send you home with a baby?” to “I hate my fucking breast pump.” It’s an easy book to read, laugh, and cry at. Anne, though a single mom by choice and a well paid writer at the time, faced a lot of her own demons before having a baby, including drug and alcohol addiction, as well as… an addition to bad men. Despite that, she had an amazing “village” she had built herself — her mom, siblings, and friends who genuinely treated her and her baby like family. It was really endearing to see how they truly gathered around her and acted as family can (and should) when a new baby arrives.

One thing that I was caught off guard by, and I guess I shouldn’t be, but I was, given the time it was written (1989) was exactly how much of a white gaze this book had. Granted, I knew going into this that this was written by a white female American writer, but it was a turnoff to me whenever she called out how her church members were black or another friend was Latino. She was eager to give them race descriptors, yet she never mentioned that other people were white; you just assumed if their race was not stated that they were white. Therefore, she basically “othered” anyone who was not white. People probably weren’t that cognizant of things like that in the 1980s, but people are hyper cognizant of them now.

“All done!”

Kaia absolutely adores her books. It makes me so happy to watch her sort through her books, turn the pages, and demand that we read her a selected book by pulling one off the shelf and handing it over to us with expectant puppy dog eyes. It does not always make me happy to watch her attempt to destroy her books with regular paper pages or try to disassemble the pull-out features of her more interactive books, but I suppose that’s just part of her learning process.

Last night, Kaia did her usual routine. She knew it was bedtime, so as soon as she finished her milk, we got into her room and she selected a book for me to read. She handed it over to me to read. We went through the book, funny voices and all, and when we finished, she wasn’t quite done; she closed the book, then pushed it into my lap. She was trying to indicate that she wanted to go through the book again. So I told her we’d go through the book again one more time. When we got halfway through the book, she immediately grabbed it, closed it shut, and then declared, “all done!”

My little baby is growing by leaps and bounds. I just can’t believe it sometimes. Sometimes, I still just stare at her face in wonderment and think about how thankful I am that she is here. My sweet miracle baby is life’s most precious gift to me.

Snot sucking: a true highlight of early parenthood

When a baby body care box that included a snot sucker (Nose Frida) was gifted to us from our registry, I figured that this manual snot sucking contraption would come in most handy if and when Kaia would fall ill. What I didn’t realize is that snot sucking would need to be a nearly daily task that I’d have to do for Kaia. And it would be especially hideous when Kaia would actually be congested.

Since Saturday, Kaia has had a little cold. She’s been stuffy, runny, and having endless snot stuck in her system. On the bright side, she’s still maintained good spirits and has still eaten well, so we haven’t been too worried. But I have had to increase snot sucker usage from once a day before bed to 3-4 times a day. On the worst night, I had to wake up three times in the middle of the night to clear her system out.

Today, I cleared her out before breakfast and again before lunch. Both times, it took longer than I would have preferred, which means Kaia was angry and trying to break free of our nanny holding her down in place, and I was getting out of breath and tired. And when you looked at the results of the snot sucker post suck, you’d really have to wonder… how can this much snot and nasal yuckiness come out of such a tiny human?

Kaia learns more and more and expresses herself

One thing I’ve been doing lately when I feed Kaia is putting food that is a little too hot slightly out of reach on her tray. Of course, being the hungry “Hoji” that she is, she still tries to reach for the food and sometimes is successful at getting it. However, this means that usually, she touches the food when it’s too hot and recoils, looking at me with a confused expression, and then I tell her that it’s “too hot” and that she needs to wait. She eventually comes back for the food when it’s a good temperature for her to grab.

Granted, I’m not a “mean mommy” like our nanny teasingly accuses me of, and the food is no where in the realm of being able to burn or boil Kaia. It’s just too hot for her. And so she’s realized what “hot” means. In the last day, Kaia has hesitantly not touched any of the food our nanny has placed on the tray for her to eat until our nanny sits down in front of her. Then, with this anticipatory look on her face, Kaia asks her, “Hot? Hot?” to which our nanny laughs and responds, “No, Kaia. Not hot.” Then Kaia gets excited and digs right into the food voraciously.

The other cute thing Kaia has done with our nanny in the last several days is that she’s done things to indicate she understands their daily routine together. After lunch, and after our nanny has finished cleaning up after her, Kaia will charge over with determination towards the stroller, stand up to reach and grab her jacket in the stroller seat, then crawl back to our nanny with the jacket in hand to help her put it on. She knows that after lunch and cleanup, it’s time to go out, and going out means 1) putting on her jacket, and 2) getting into her stroller.

My baby is growing up so fast, too fast. Now I get it when other mothers and parents express this bittersweet sentiment of wishing their babies didn’t grow up, that they want to keep them little forever to cherish these sweet moments. But I suppose if they did not grow up, we’d never be able to embrace and watch these new skills and habits that our tiny humans learn.

Vocabulary explosion at 15-months

In the last week, Kaia’s new words have just exploded. I was already having a hard time keeping track of all the words, but just in the last week, it’s gotten a bit out of control in a good way.

I keep a cup of water for myself by my bedside table each night, and I’ve also kept Kaia’s water cup on the same stand. Yesterday, she started charging toward the table to grab my phone, and I called out, “Pooks, watch out!” She looked at me and giggled, responding, “Watch out!”

She’s said, “oh no,” and “no, no, no!” more times than I can count. She points at her pacifier and yells out “paci!” She goes into her sock drawer, pulling all the socks out, yelling “socks!” over and over again. She pointed at my bowl of dinner and repeated “rice” many times. She knows what beets are and how to say them. She even said “mian,” Chinese for “noodles” multiple times, and said “xi shou,” Chinese for washing hands, when I brought her to the sink to wash up. When she occasionally tries to throw food off her tray and our nanny wags her finger at her to admonish her, Kaia giggles and yells back, “oh, no, no, no, no!” She says “e i e i o” after the “Old McDonald Had a Farm” song, almost at the right pitch. And she also sings the first part of the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” song — “Up above (the world so high).” When we practice walking together, and I say “up, up, up!” she repeats after me. She also loves to yell, “go!” And of course, she is never shy about asking for “more?” when it comes to her very favorite foods.

My chatty baby is learning so much and is a human sponge. I can’t even properly express in words how proud and happy it makes me. Sometimes, I look at her face, and I can’t believe how freaking lucky I got.

A trail of snot and boogers… in my mouth

Despite being very irritable and unhappy last night at her congestion, Kaia woke up this morning seeming as chipper and happy as she could have been. Just listening to her babble, giggle, and whine, I could tell she was still congested, but it didn’t sound as bad as last night luckily. I had to regularly rub Vicks vapor rub on her chest and under her nose to try to keep clear, as well as suck her nose with the Frida Nose sucker every 4-5 hours. Elsewhere, anytime she crawls around and/or sneezes, she seems to be leaving snot and runny nose liquid everywhere. I guess we have a lot of laundry to do in the next laundry cycle.

And well, something happened that I think a lot of new parents who use a snot sucker fear would happen. I was being lazy and wasn’t always replacing the Frida snot sucker filters that prevent the snot from getting sucked… well, into my mouth. I figured that Kaia had not been anywhere as snotty as she was as a newborn, so there wasn’t a need to use a filter each time. The annoying thing about the filters is that there’s only so many of them that come with the snot sucker, and so once you use them up, you inevitably need to buy more (win for the Friday baby product company, but a loss for every parent who buys Frida anything). And because I’m cheap, I don’t want to buy more. So it finally happened today: she had so much snot and yuck in her nose that I sucked it hard enough to get some of it IN MY MOUTH. I immediately realized what happened and went to the bathroom to spit it out. Chris was holding Kaia as this happened, so he sat there holding her, laughing at me getting our daughter’s boogers in my mouth.

Well, I’m amazed this didn’t happen to me sooner than the 15-month mark, so I am sort of pleased with myself that it took this long. I guess this is a rite of passage in some way?

Pookie catches her first cold

After her mid-morning nap today, I noticed that Kaia didn’t sound completely clear. She sounded as though she had some congestion, and when I looked up her nostrils, she definitely had a lot of snot up there that needed to be removed. It wasn’t that clear that she had some sort of cold, though, until bedtime, when I sucked her snot with the Nose Frida and saw exactly how MUCH she had stuck up there. We decided that tonight, I’d sleep on the air mattress on the floor next to her to remove any separation anxiety and to finally get her acclimated into a full night of sleeping in her crib again — or so we hoped. But after 3.5 hours, this attempt was cut short because of her stuffiness. When I first went to lie down next to her, I noticed her snoring, which usually isn’t normal for babies her age unless they are congested. Eventually, she woke up at around 11pm and was clearly distressed. She had this look on her face that was half confusion, half panic: she started coughing, wheezing, and crawled over to me and buried her face in my chest. When she cried, it was like a feeble cry: super crackly, congested, and weak sounding. I knew she had some blockage and brought her back to our bed so that Chris could hold her while I sucked her nose with the Nose Frida again. We rubbed her chest and under her nose with baby Vicks rub, and then Chris had her lying slightly upright to keep her nasal passages a bit clearer.

It was sad and initially a little scary to hear her this way; in the last fifteen months of her existence, she’d never really gotten any real congestion or respiratory problem, and so this was all new to us. No parent of a baby wants to see/hear that their baby is having difficulties breathing; if anything, all of us try to reassure ourselves that our babies are breathing while sleeping all the time — by watching to see if their chest or back (if stomach lying) is rising and falling. Babies are so tiny, which means that their nasal passages are so tiny, which then means even the tiniest blockage can cause things like wheezing. Thankfully, Kaia is an older baby at 15+ months, and so she can learn through trial and error to breathe through her mouth; younger babies (less than four months old) simply don’t know how to do this, so when they get colds, it’s just that much scarier.

I also had thoughts of — how has she gotten sick yet again after hand foot mouth relatively recently? Is it all just because she’s getting exposed to more things? Is it because of the time of year with winter and cold weather? Or is it because now that I’ve weaned, she doesn’t have the protection of my antibodies anymore through consuming my breast milk? The mommy guilt slightly sat on top of me when thinking about this. It seemed futile, but I thought about it anyway and wondered.

We just wanted her to be comfortable and to monitor her more closely, so she slept between us on our bed once again. I hope it’s just a little cold that she gets over quickly. I hate to see my baby confused and not sound like herself.

Eating in New York: when it never gets old

A colleague of mine, who has always lived in small towns across Texas and North Carolina, recently asked me what I like the most about living in New York City. The answer was pretty easy for me: the diversity of the people and cultures, which then translates into a great diversity of food spots and restaurants that are here. It doesn’t seem to matter where you are in New York or what borough you are in, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to see a massive variety of foods from across the globe, right here all the time. Today, I went downtown to get my hair cut, and to make the trip worthwhile, I also decided to eat lunch down there and stop by a couple bakeries that have been on my radar. I ate Taiwanese spicy beef noodle soup for lunch; I popped into a Middle Eastern-inspired bakery and purchased a multigrain seeded sourdough loaf, a pistachio-rose croissant, mini babka, and a za’atar labne bun; then, I walked a few blocks northeast and salivated over the display of Malaysian desserts at a Malaysian bakery and bought a piece of ube kuih, pandan nian gao, ube nian gao, and a mango mousse curd dessert. And on my way to the train, I stopped into a Juice Press to get my nanny a bottle of her favorite beet, apple, lemon, and ginger cold pressed juice. That’s a lot of variety in just about 1.5 hours of walking around the same neighborhood.

Did I spend a ton of money today too easily? Yep. But do I have any regrets about it? Not really. That pistachio rose croissant is likely the best thing I’ve eaten so far in 2023, and the end piece of that seeded sourdough loaf was incredibly fragrant with the most satisfying crunch. This is why I am here.