Carrying a stroller up and down the stairs on the subway

For a while when doing our weekly Saturday outings to explore different neighborhoods and boroughs of New York, Chris and I would take the stroller frame with the car seat, and because he was insistent on ensuring he could do it himself, he’d carry the stroller frame collapsed down in one hand and the baby in the car seat in the other. Then, we decided to start using the stroller seat since it would provide Kaia more comfort. And even though you can technically break it down, breaking the seat down means… well, there’s no seat for the baby to go in. And Kaia isn’t walking yet, so someone would need to carry her. Chris did this a couple weekends and decided it wasn’t efficient enough, and so he decided we would both carry the stroller, NOT collapsed, and keep the baby in it. That meant one of us would need to carry the front while the other would carry the back. This was not very comfortable for me given my wrist pains/mommy thumb, plus it would occasionally be ominous when Chris would inevitably try to move the stroller faster than I would, but this is a part of taking a stroller on the subway. The subway is not wheelchair/handicap/stroller friendly AT ALL. And when you get excited occasionally and see elevators or signs for accessible stations, you will also eventually see an “out of order” sign, or the elevator will take ages and ages to arrive. And by that point, Chris will be steaming in his impatience and decide to screw the elevator option.

Is this fun? No, it’s not. It also tells you why so many city parents just stay in their own neighborhoods once they have babies because the subway system was not built for parents of babies. But it also just makes me frustrated that the subway system is not accessible in general, and they don’t have plans to make every station accessible.. until like 2055. Seriously? We spend so much money in subway fare and the fares keep going up, yet the service doesn’t seem to get any better, and we have to deal with inaccessibility crap like this. It’s so frustrating… until I remember that in pretty much every other city in this country, you need a car to get around, and public transportation is not even an option.

So the moral of the story is: it’s either going to suck, or it’s going to suck worse.

When your favorites get smaller and less packed with ingredients

Going to Chinatown since the pandemic has begun has become a little treat. It’s been a time when I can not only get as many Asian vegetables as I can conceivably carry, but I also stock up on perishables (like noodles to freeze), pantry items (bamboo shoots, coconut milk, water chestnuts). And on top of that, I like to get my favorite ready-to-eat items that feel like a treat, like doufu fa (tofu pudding), grass jelly (not all the time, but occasionally), zongzi (Chinese tamales), and nor mai gai (Chinese steamed sticky rice with chicken, mushrooms, and Chinese sausage wrapped in lotus leaf).

I went to my usual spots to pick up treats and goods, and while I stopped off at Mott 46 to pick up two nor mai gai for what Chris likes to call our “morning dinners” this weekend, I noticed that they were quite smaller than they previously were. The last time I tried to stop by, they had already sold out, so I wasn’t sure if my eyes were deceiving me, or if I just had a fake memory. But after steaming them up and opening them, I realized I wasn’t wrong: the filling inside was much lesser, from the meat to the sticky rice. And there weren’t any minced mushrooms, which I love. The price had remained the same, but the product was far less.

This sucks. It’s like when prices go up, the quantity stays the same. When prices stay the same… the quantity you get goes down. My Chinatown haul this trip, despite filling up two reusable sacks plus my backpack, felt so much sadder this time, and it seemed like I had spent more; in total, I’d spend almost $150. Chris even commented that I didn’t get that much when most of the time, he thinks I go nuts whenever I go down there. Not happy.

Thanksgiving in Europe again – 2022

After seeing how well Kaia did on her flight to and from San Francisco, Chris got excited and started looking into flights to go to Europe for Thanksgiving. We haven’t been to Europe or anywhere for Thanksgiving since 2019. 2020 was obviously a lost year given COVID, and in 2021, I was just weeks away from my due date. He booked a trip for us to spend Thanksgiving week in Munich, so we’d be able to experience the famous German Christmas markets again, but in different cities. In 2013 when we went, we experienced the Christmas markets in Berlin and Hamburg, which were incredible, but Munich is supposed to have even more lavish ones if I can even imagine it. And this time, Kaia will be with us. Even before she was born, Chris kept talking about how much he wanted her first Thanksgiving to be in Germany to experience the Christmas markets there. He wanted us to start traveling again and get used to being out and about with her, and he thought it would be a fun memory to share with her when she got older. Plus, she’d be able to see endless photos of herself in Germany for her first Thanksgiving. It would be very un-American, but why not? It will be her first time out of the country and using her passport.

I thought about this while we were sitting at a bar eating tapas and having drinks with Kaia today at Little Spain near Hudson Yards. We really haven’t been able to travel much between COVID, then being pregnant, and getting through the first year of Kaia’s life, and though it will certainly be a challenge, it will be one we will have to face if we want to continue traveling and living the life we want. I hope our baby will continue to both be a good little eater and little traveler. She already has done so well, and it’s been amazing to watch her grow and evolve. It’s hard to believe her one-year birthday is just around the corner, and by that time, she’ll already have been to more places in New York than most adults; to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and California; to Germany, and finally at the end of the year, to Australia.

A calm weekend – different from last weekend

It’s a long weekend for us here in New York with Labor Day tomorrow. Yesterday, we went to the Bronx. Today, we’re mostly at home and in the neighborhood. I vacuumed and cleaned a lot, cooked a few things, and enjoyed some time on the roof. I was productive, but I also felt very relaxed. I felt a lot more relaxed this weekend than last weekend in San Francisco, even though I did get to see my friends.

I always feel a little bad when I see my friends in San Francisco. I feel like they probably get a more tense version of me because I have to deal with the toxicity of my parents while there, which leads to my not being that at ease while with them. I’m not sure if they’ve ever noticed it, as no one has ever said anything. But I don’t feel like my normal self when there.

It seems like it’s impossible to be calm and at ease in the presence of my parents. Whether it’s my mom getting mad and making a big deal out of something senseless, accusing me of doing yet another “bad” thing I haven’t done, or my dad criticizing me or constantly talking to himself, nothing is ever “calm” there. He can’t help but nitpick and get mad about something when I am home. Despite the fact that he lives in a cluttered mess, he still feels the need to give feedback about things I do while in his home for such short periods of time. This time, he got mad at about how I didn’t tightly wrap up the baby’s pee diapers in the trash bin (that they were already going to take outside anyway), and then he got mad that I didn’t wipe down the bathroom tiles after showering (the long run issue here is that mildew buildup can occur). Is either the end of the world or going to cause massive problems? No. But he has to point them out anyway because when you do things that are “wrong,” then they are WRONG and BAD. If he does even half a thing wrong, it’s totally cool. And if Chris hadn’t been there, he likely would have raised his voice and been a lot more mean about it when addressing me. It’s exhausting, and I am always so relieved to finally leave that place.

The return of the drugstore beetles

About a year ago when we first moved into this apartment, we had an infestation of drugstore beetles, likely coming from the dried Mexican chilies I bought. Well, somehow, the beetles have returned. They came, and when they did, I had the exterminator come and set glue traps for them. That was about a month ago. They were nowhere to be seen for about two weeks after that, and so I thought they had just disappeared. Well, they are back AGAIN, and this time, I have to kill at least 5-6 every day. I find dead, flattened ones on the floor all the time. Even Kaia has managed to kill them by rolling over them and squishing them with her hands, unknowingly on her play mat. Almost every single glue trap the exterminator set up has at least 3-4 dead sesame seed-sized beetles on them. I went through my entire pantry and have no idea what the culprit is. And with these types of pests, they just keep multiplying unless you identify the source.

The exterminator came back today, and he took one of the glue traps with the dead bugs and said he’d examine them under a microscope to properly identify what type of beetle they are. But he’s pretty sure they came in via a bag of grains or rice. I went through all the bags of beans and rice we got in the last month, and I’ve seen no trace of them anywhere. I’m not even sure what to do anymore.

I also found them stuck dead on the honey bottle my nanny brought me back from Jamaica, honey from the hive her nephew keeps. Who knows – maybe these will all just die off in the week we are away in San Francisco if we are lucky. I just hate these bugs so much…

Oh, and my nanny sees them, but she refuses to kill them. “I can’t kill them,” she insisted. “I can’t kill another living being.”

Oh, really? Well, how noble of her! And I can’t hold it against her because nowhere in her nanny contract does it say she has to help me kill household pests!

2nd baby shower this year

Today, I went to a second baby shower of the year for me: my friend and his wife are expecting the arrival of a baby girl in about two weeks. Since they moved apartments for more space, I went out to Forest Hills for their housewarming/baby shower party. I was also reunited with a few of their friends, who had since had babies (or more babies) since the last time we all saw each other. Of course, we exchanged baby pictures, videos, and stories, and a number of the kids were actually there. It was actually the most un-baby shower baby shower I’d ever been to. There were no baby shower games, no opening or unveiling of gifts. It was just a bunch of adult friends with some of their kids, catching up and enjoying food and company.

This is why I tell Chris that baby showers really aren’t always awful events the way he thinks: baby showers are just excuses to host / throw parties and gatherings of friends and family. It’s an excuse to have a social event with food and to get people together and have fun. They don’t always have to have baby shower elements like the annoying games or party favors. They are what you make them. If you want to be social and host a party, why not use a baby’s pending arrival as an excuse? Chris avoids baby showers like the plague.

Chris just doesn’t like hosting parties or events… or really anything that resembles a group that is not family. He rather just go drink at a bar. 😛

Baby goes to Flushing

Although we’d taken the baby to Queens a few times, we hadn’t yet gone to Flushing with her and did that today. Flushing is not necessarily the easiest place to take a stroller with its crowded streets and endless hustle and bustle, not to mention that most of the food spots barely have enough space for adults to sit and eat, but somehow, we made it work. We were able to get seats in places where you usually have to fight for seats. We sat in the New World Food Court to feed her and eat some Uighur kebabs and a samsa. We even managed to get through a torrential downpour where we got separated for about half an hour. I was waiting for fish dumplings that were being cooked to order, but I wanted to pick up my favorite soy milk and pork-cabbage bao at the same time. So I walked a block away to get the milk and bao and ended up getting stuck there due to the flooding. Chris and the baby found shelter inside a random nearby apartment building, where the doorman offered to let them stand inside. When I reunited with them, Kaia couldn’t be phased by anything, and it was like business as usual for her.

We returned home earlier than expected to have our fish dumplings and bao and with a good assortment of Asian greens for me to eventually wash, cut, and cook. I’m looking forward to having our baby be an Asian greens connoisseur.

The magic of Jamaican blue soap

“Have you ever used Jamaican blue soap?” my nanny asked me a few weeks ago while folding Kaia’s laundry.

She wasn’t surprised that my answer was no. “When I first saw Kaia’s burp cloths, I knew you didn’t have the blue soap,” she said, smirking. “The Jamaican blue soap is the secret to how I keep all my whites VERY WHITE!”

She’s not kidding. As soon as summer officially began with Memorial Day here, she’s worn an endless stream of white outfits to our home, and I can say without hesitation that her whites.. are blindingly WHITE. They legitimately all look brand new, as though she just purchased them the previous day. I don’t think anything I own is as white as any of her clothes. And well, I never really took the time to properly clean them outside of throwing them into the washing machine. She takes great pride in keeping her whites extremely white; she sets aside time every laundry day to separate out all her whites and hand scrub them with Jamaican blue soap before adding them to the washing machine.

We got some pretty annoying mango and apricot stains on the high chair straps (thanks, baby led weaning…), and our nanny worked her magic on them with the Jamaican blue soap and an old clean toothbrush. After seeing this, I decided to try this technique out using the blue soap on the mesh bassinet sides that Kaia used to lick constantly. These were heavily stained brownish grey. Well, this freaking soap worked: the brownish grey marks were completely gone.

This Jamaican blue soap really is magic. I suddenly got really excited, wondering what else I could use this magic soap on…

“When will I see you again?”

Chris’s parents left for the airport at midday today, so I asked the nanny to stay with the baby until they left so that they could say goodbyes and get some cuddles in before their flight. I know they’re both sad to be leaving, knowing that Kaia will be growing and developing by leaps and bounds between now and the next time they see her, which will hopefully be at the end of this year. And honestly, it made me sad, too, as the days wound down and we approached today, to know that they were leaving. I really enjoyed having them here and seeing them enjoy cuddles and quality time with their granddaughter.

After the Uber left, the nanny took Kaia to Riverside Park, and I went back upstairs to get my pump set up, and my eyes just welled up. I thought about how happy Kaia was to be with her grandma and grandpa, and how quickly time flies and how all that time will be spent apart. I thought about how outside of Chris and me, Kaia really has no family nearby to love and care for her unconditionally, and that suddenly made me feel so lonely for her. I don’t want my daughter to be alone or feel alone. I want her to be surrounded by people who adore her. And those people who love and adore her and have spent so much happy and loving time with her in the last few weeks are now leaving. How much will she really know them or care for them with the distance between them? How much will she understand them, or they understand her? How much of a relationship will they really share? I’m not sure. I can already imagine her a little older, able to speak, asking them, “When will I see you again?” And I can already imagine myself tearing up at the question.

I’ve never really cried or gotten upset when Chris’s parents have left before. Of course, in past visits, I’ve been a little sad once they’ve left since they bring so much happy, positive energy to our home every time they are here. I mean, seriously… these are people who get excited over a simple, all-natural bar of soap that suds well to the point that they rave about it and then go back to Whole Foods two hours before departing for the airport just to get more! They genuinely appreciate the simple things in life that the rest of us take for granted. But this time, it’s different with Kaia here. I just had that sad, sinking feeling in my stomach when I stood at the kitchen counter, alone with my pump, after they were all gone. It’s different because Kaia’s presence is also a reminder to them and to me that they’re getting older; we’re all getting older. At some point, they may not be able bodied enough to visit us on this long-haul flight. They don’t even have access to health coverage while here, and in an emergency if they needed it, it would cost a fortune (which is supposedly covered by their credit card, but who the hell knows how much would really be covered?!).

On the other hand, I guess I also mourn my own relationship with my own parents, and Kaia’s soon-to-be relationship or lack thereof with them. As my therapist frequently told me before I ended sessions with her before Kaia’s arrival, it’s okay to be sad for what you wish you had but don’t have. As we all know, we cannot control our parents or our relationships with them. They are what they are to a large extent, especially when we’re talking about people who are just flat out unstable. It’s okay to wish you had a relationship with your parents that never existed. It’s okay to feel envious of Chris’s parents, but also be aware that you still get to enjoy them as in-laws.

It is what it is. We cannot control everything. But it also makes me wonder sometimes… what am I really living for? Sometimes, I’m not even sure what my end goal is.

When you go through twice the amount of groceries with double the heads to feed

In the short time that Chris’s parents have been staying with us this trip, given we’ve had the baby and are a lot less mobile, we’ve been eating a lot more at home. What that also means is that given we have four adults as opposed to two, I’ve had to increase the amount of everything I’ve made. With that, it’s made me more aware of how much more quickly we’ve gone through everything, whether it’s toilet paper and tissues, fruit, or even eggs. Chris and I don’t eat eggs that often, and so normally, I might buy a carton of eggs maybe once or twice a month. After just one meal altogether, we went through almost a dozen eggs! So when we went to Costco on Sunday, I got two dozen, which I would usually never do unless I was planning to bake, or if Thanksgiving or Christmas were coming up, which would necessitate more eggs for both cooking and baking. I’m preparing chicken satay for dinner tomorrow, so instead of just marinating two pounds of meat, this time I marinated four pounds. I also doubled the amount of peanut satay sauce, which meant I used my entire bag of peanuts for this. On the one hand, it’s fun to make more food for more people to eat and enjoy. On the other hand, it makes you realize how much more expensive it is to have home cooked meals when your family starts to expand.