The day before the first day at daycare/school – thankless prep

I spent some of yesterday afternoon labeling all of Kaia’s clothes and random items we need to bring to daycare: blanket, crib sheet, water bottle, utensils, bib, poncho, clothes. I compared all the supplies against the list the director of the daycare provided twice. This afternoon, I spent the entire time cooking and cleaning all the pots and dishes. I made channa masala, scallion oil and noodles, roasted carrots and cauliflower, and roasted warm-spiced chicken thighs. I prepped the food I planned to pack for Kaia for snacks and lunch tomorrow. I packed all the supplies into canvas bags and stored it in the under basket of the stroller already. I felt beyond exhausted by the time dinner time came and Kaia had to be bathed. It was no wonder I ended up going to sleep early with a headache.

At some point yesterday afternoon, Chris asked, “Is there anything else we need to prep for daycare tomorrow?”

“No,” I responded, confused. “I already did everything!”

Being a mom, while very rewarding, can also be very exhausting and completely thankless. Some days, it would be nice to take a total break and just not do anything. In fact, one of my friends who also has kids said that during fights with her spouse, she frequently threatens to not do anything for a whole day (not sure how that actually works out, though. I’m pretty certain knowing her that this is a very empty threat). Then, we can see how the dads survive those days.

My friend’s 40th: a private room full of parents of young kids

Tonight, Chris and I rented a Zipcar for a 1.5 hour drive out to Long Island for my friend’s 40th birthday. Luckily for us, a good friend of mine agreed to babysit Kaia for the evening, and she even commuted all the way from Staten Island and agreed to stay the night given how far away home would be for her. I told my friend that there was no way in hell we were going to back out despite the distance and the fact we couldn’t get there via public transit easily; we really needed to get out of the house without the baby, and I needed to socialize with other adults… even if all of those other adults just wanted to talk about their kids.

My friend warned me ahead of time that pretty much all the other parents coming would be there because they are the parents of her kids’ friends. So I kind of braced myself and waited for the kids conversations to come. But I was pleasantly surprised when I had some pretty good one on one conversations with a few of the party attendees, ranging from not just babies and nannies and daycare, but also traveling, relocating, comparing different cities, and of course, my favorite topic — food and restaurants. When we were all seated at the tables for dinner, the conversation ended up becoming more about kids and child-rearing in general, but given how all these friends know each other, I wasn’t really bothered by it since I expected it. Plus, sometimes, it is funny to hear about these random “child terrorist” stories and laugh about them every now and then.

In general, I’m more open to the idea of making friends with parents because their kids get along with my kid. It’s important to be able to trust the parents of the kids that your child is going to spend time with, especially if they end up spending time in their homes when you aren’t around eventually. I’m just not necessarily expecting any of these people to become my best friend forever. I don’t want to be the way my mom was with me and pretty much never trust anyone and constantly assume the absolute worst of all other parents. But the only way to begin trusting anyone is to spend some time with them.

Kaia’s first steps – at last

When Kaia was around 10 months old, she started pulling herself up to stand, whether it was on us or along furniture. She started cruising along furniture around the same time, and she was doing it quite quickly as she approached the one-year mark. Given she had no problems sitting up independently, getting into and out of a seated position, and cruising, the doctor said that she’d likely be walking within a month of her appointment in early January.

Well, that didn’t actually happen. Kaia continued cruising and pulling herself up, but she still showed zero interest in actually walking independently. She started using her pusher/walker more around the end of February and got really good with it in March, but still, every time we tried to encourage her to walk, she’d stand for up to a minute on her own and then immediately get down and crawl. She did the same thing when we would walk alongside her, holding her hands and guiding her. She either seemed scared or like she just had zero desire to walk.

So after the doctor suggested early intervention given she wasn’t yet walking independently by 16 months, I started reading more about how to encourage your baby to walk. I found a video that Emma Hubbard posted on YouTube about how to do this; she’s a pediatric occupational therapist from Australia, and I’d previously watched a number of her videos last year when tracking Kaia’s development. She suggested that we not keep Kaia’s arms up when walking with her, but instead, to either have them at her own arm/shoulder level or lower so that she could balance herself properly. In addition, she also suggested leveling baby at her waist, ensuring she’s square on her feet and her hips are firmly in position, then coaxing baby to come forward without holding your hands.

I spent over an hour doing this exactly activity this afternoon. Initially, Kaia resisted. She yelled and refused. She insisted on getting on her hands and knees and crawling. But after encouraging her in both English and Chinese, motioning her to come forward, and insisting she stand, she finally started standing and walking forward. She kept her arms out ahead of her or at her sides to keep her balance, and she would walk forward. At first, it was just four steps. But then four steps became eight, which became 16, which became too many to count at once. She grew faster and faster, and she started enjoying it and giggling nonstop. She then insisted that she continue walking and would even walk independently while clapping at her own efforts. It was the sweetest, most enjoyable afternoon to finally watch my baby reach this milestone.

Kaia still needs practice, of course, and needs to straighten one of her feet, but we can happily thank Emma Hubbard for her tips on how to encourage little bub to walk on her own. I am a very proud mama today. And it’s the last weekday before her first day at daycare/school!

“Hot? Hot?”

I was reading about early childhood development and how by the age of 18 months, children should be able to differentiate “hot” vs. “cold.” But I suppose that’s really only going to be the case if your child is actually exposed to something hot or cold and can compare and contrast the two. Usually, we serve Kaia’s food lukewarm in case it may be too hot for her to handle. But a couple months ago, I thought I would warm it a few extra seconds longer just to have her exposed to warmer foods. It went a little something like this:

I put the slightly warmer food in front of her, and I said, “Kaia, this is hot. Be careful. Wait a bit.”

She touched it and then flinched, realizing it was a higher temperature than she’s used to touching. I said, “Hot! Hot!” a couple more times, and then she realized she had to wait to allow the food to cool before touching and trying to eat it again.

Ever since then, she knows that when we warn her that food is hot, she has to wait to let it cool. Sometimes, she will hesitate to even touch the food when we put it in front of her, first having a quizzical look on her face and asking us, “Hot? Hot?” before she proceeds to dig in. My baby is learning by leaps and bounds.

Daycare/school preparation for little ones: labels, labels, and odd silicone items

A couple years ago, I realized how onerous daycare could be when a few mom friends of mine were posting on their social media about… how literally every single item you bring into the daycare center needs to be labeled, just short of your child. That means every single clothing item (even down to the last sock or shoe) has to be labeled.

So I ordered a bunch of labels with Kaia’s name on them and had them delivered this week. And when putting them on items like her lunch box, water bottle, and clothing, I realized… wait, how do I get these labels to stick on things like her silicone bib or Stasher bags (for her snacks) when the labels explicitly say they are not meant to be put on silicone items?

I tried using a Sharpie and writing Kaia’s name on the back of one of her silicone bibs. After using it twice and washing it by hand both times, the Sharpie ink was already coming off. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do? I immediately texted my friend, who gave me the label company she used to buy her kids’ labels, and she suggested that she could use her label maker and make a few for Kaia to test on the silicone items.

Friends with kids… what would I do without them??

An ode to Ammachy

This past Sunday, we learned that Ammachy, Chris’s maternal grandma, passed away. She was widowed quite early on in her marriage and had three daughters she ended up raising on her own. She worked hard and made sure they had a good childhood, and they all went on to do relatively well in their respective careers and lives. Because she lived in India and never actually moved to Australia, Chris spent less time with her than he did with his paternal grandma. I had seen her on a number of occasions when she’d be in Australia during Christmas time, and Chris and I also went to visit her in the summer of 2018 during our India trip. She was always soft-spoken and thoughtful, and there was never a time when she was not reading a book (always in extra big print because of her vision problem). We were really looking forward to going to India this summer to visit her and finally have her meet Kaia. I really was excited for her to see Kaia, her second great grandchild, and have them interact with each other, but unfortunately, it was not meant to be. Our India trip this summer will now be a bit different than how we had hoped and envisioned.

Although Ammachy has passed, I still think it’s amazing that Chris got to see both his grandmothers live well into his late 30s/early 40s. While it’s sad that she is now gone, it’s comforting to know that she lived a good, full, long life and had many people who loved her and will always remember her.

The puzzling “roles and responsibilities” of doormen in New York City

The building where we live now is the only building where I’ve had doormen. In fact, when I first moved to New York, I never thought I’d ever live in a building with doormen, but alas, here we are. Having doormen seemed like a weird urban luxury, one that is almost like a false security because even with doormen manning your front door, strangers and crazies somehow manage to make their way into all types of buildings. Doormen take breaks, and when those transitions happen, that’s when things slip through the cracks.

But when I did think of doormen when I first moved here, I thought that they handled people coming into and out of units (guests), as well as packages. That’s not actually the case in a lot of buildings, including ours. The security desk and porters in our building handle packages and deliveries. The doormen only handle people coming in the front door – residents and guests. Anyone with a delivery comes through the security entrance and not the front entrance. It’s the way we’re set up. So the “scope” of doormen in our building is less than in other buildings where they also manage packages and deliveries.

It’s also confusing when you move from one doorman building to the next, and the doormen don’t do the same things, so you need to reset your own expectations. For example, I was coordinating a Buy Nothing group pickup on Sunday, and the person I was picking up from told me that although she lived in a doorman building, the doorman “doesn’t like” holding stuff for pickup, so he gives her attitude when she asks. So to prevent this from happening, she just leaves the item with the person’s name on it in a conspicuous place in the lobby, and the person can just pick it up. It’s not necessarily the safest option, as literally anyone could swipe it, but she said she’d never encountered problems with this before.

Another person said she left an item for me in a bag with my name on it with the doorman. When I went to pick it up, the doorman didn’t check anything anywhere and simply stared me in the face and said, “I don’t have anything being held for anyone, no.” I stared back at him, also dead in the eye, and said, “I know there is something here with my name on it in a brown bag. Can you please check?” And I refused to move. He stared me down for a few more seconds, then went to the back room, immediately saw a bag with (gasp) my name on it, and said, “Well, what do you know – here’s a bag with your name on it right here!” And he handed it to me.

Sometimes, I wonder what kind of fake authority people like to assert when in situations like this. Is it so much more fun and fulfilling for them during the day to just sit there and play on their phones instead of actually doing their jobs?

The glory of Buy Nothing groups, and finding the group that “fits”

I was a bit late to the game on social media, as I did not join a “Buy Nothing” group until about two years ago, when we had moved from our old unit into our new unit in the same building, and I was about halfway through my pregnancy. My friends suggested my local Buy Nothing group could be helpful for getting lightly used baby items and clothes, which would not only be good for the environment, but also my bank account given how short of a time most of these items are used for. Given that I live on the border of the Upper West Side and Hell’s Kitchen, it oddly wasn’t that straightforward which Buy Nothing group I belonged to given my street address. Every time I did a search for “Upper West Side” and looked up my street number, I couldn’t find any group. The Hell’s Kitchen group boundaries didn’t include my street. So somehow, I got accepted into the Midtown West group, which actually has a street cut-off slightly south of where I live. So in the end, I did get into a group, just not the one I really belonged to.

I didn’t really like this group very much because I realized that the types of things people were giving away didn’t really fit our needs. Plus, when I did see something that fit, I never, not even once, got lucky with the item. I gave away so, so much stuff through this group, and sometimes, I discovered via strange direct messages on Facebook that these people didn’t even NEED the items; they were just hoarding for a potential need in the future… which may never even come up. And that really bothered me. I am not an advocate of hoarding. So earlier this year, I finally decided to do a more thorough search for my actual group based on my address, and I found out why I couldn’t find it: my specific Upper West Side group does not go by “Upper West Side,” but abbreviates to “UWS.” And apparently, it’s the ONLY Upper West Side BN group that does this, so it really threw me off! But when I finally got accepted and switched groups, I never looked back. Just based on the types of things people were posting, I knew I belonged here.

In just over a month of being in this group, I’ve already gotten lucky and scored a number of useful things: board and puppet books, learning and developmental toys for Kaia, like hot wheels, trucks, a doctor kit, cones/rings, and a fun building gears play set. And though Chris thinks I’ve gone crazy, I even picked up 5 bottles of Bundaberg ginger beer that he likes through the group. And when I posted that my daughter would be starting daycare soon and we’d need an extra silicone bib for school, several generous moms replied and gave me three, two of them brand new (in retrospect, I regret giving away the four extras we were gifted that were brand new, naively thinking we didn’t have need for them, as we already had two in active rotation. I definitely won’t be that quick to give anything else away in the future that is similar!). I’ve also given away similar items in this group: a baby “aquarium” for tummy time, a duplicate baby doctor’s play set, clothes, a baby log book, and herbal tea. It’s nice to feel a semblance of community and belonging via this group.

Music class experience with Pookster

Because of the ex-nanny’s departure, I’ve also been able to take Kaia to the music classes I signed her up for. On Thursday morning, I brought her to Riverside Park for one of the music sessions. Kaia clearly loves music; she clapped and bobbed her head and body along to the music and used her little “instruments” throughout. She also loved attempting to crawl away from the class, and I had to frequently carry her back to the picnic blanket.

The other funny thing to see was what caregivers came to the class. On Thursday, there were seven of us total: three nannies, two mothers, and two grandmas (at least, this is what it looked like to me). And of the strollers, it was a sea of Uppababy Vistas, plus our own Nuna Triv. It’s always comical to me how amongst groups like this, the stroller type is usually quite homogenous and predictable, even down to the accessories on the strollers. The Uppababy Vista is the most popular stroller on the Upper West Side, if not all of New York. It’s ginormous, which is why it’s so popular, but that also makes it nearly impossible to carry up and down stairs or on the subway without at least 2-3 people carrying it. It’s the stroller for you if you are happy with the size, and you never plan to take it outside of your neighborhood without throwing it into a car. It was never the stroller for us, and it always annoyed me to no end when people would give a blanket recommendation for this stroller, even when I explicitly said that I needed something that could travel well and relatively easily on the subway/trains. I occasionally get questions on how we chose our stroller, and I know the question not being asked is, “Why didn’t you get an Uppababy?”

Flutter at Clark Theater, Lincoln Center

This afternoon, I took Kaia to her very first theater performance: Flutter, a performance designed especially for kids ages 6 to 18 months of age, which follows the narrative of the changing seasons through experiential storytelling, innovative puppetry, innovative dance, and original music (that’s from the official description). I had been keeping my eye out for age-appropriate, low cost activities in the area that Kaia could do, and this definitely stood out as being one of the most interesting ones, so I signed her up over a month ago. And in the end, it was a great experience. Not only did she do exactly what the director had hoped, which was interact inside the circle they created and play with the props, dancers, and other kids, but Kaia really hammed it up in general: before the performance even started, she went around the inside of the circle, crawling to each family and saying hi and waving. She traded and fought over toys with certain kids. At least half a dozen parents came up to me after to express how cute and social my baby was.

If our ex-nanny hadn’t quit, I wouldn’t have taken Kaia to her first theater experience. So in more ways than one, the nanny’s sudden departure has actually benefited our family. I got to see Kaia be extremely social and interact in a fun theater environment, and it made me realize even more how much my baby is blossoming into a precocious, outgoing, intelligent tiny human.