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.

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!”

Weekend naps for toddlers: every parent’s challenge

One of the greatest things about daycare/school, at least for our family, is that Kaia is positively peer pressured into a routine, especially the midday nap that happens anywhere between 12-2:45. After the class has their morning activities and lunch, the teachers check and change diapers, then put all the kiddos down for a nap on their little cots. And since day 1, Kaia immediately got into that routine with no fuss at all; the teachers have always said she’s been a good napper and has never resisted napping.

On Saturdays, we usually are out and about, and during that time, Kaia will usually fall asleep and have her nap in the stroller. So during the seven days of the week, Sunday is the worst day for us to get her to actually nap. We’ve tried getting her to sleep on her bed, on our bed, and it rarely works. Napping at home is a nightmare on Sundays. We usually resort to taking her on a stroll to nowhere, on the streets of the Upper West Side, to see if the movement will get her to finally pass out. So this afternoon, when I was pushing her around outside, I noticed all these other parents pushing their babies and toddlers in their strollers, and I thought… are they all trying to get their kids to nap, too?

This afternoon, I was in the elevator at Target trying to go down, and another mom got in with me and her son, who looked to be a similar age to Pookster. She asked me how old Pooks was, and I responded, and found out that her son was just two months older.

“I don’t really need to buy anything; I just need to move to get this kid to nap!” she whispered to me.

“ME, TOO!” I responded, laughing. “I think that’s what every parent of a young child is here in Target for!”

I left Target. I walked up to 77th and Columbus. I took Pooks to the playground. She refused the swing and insisted on running around aimlessly around the play structure. She refused to get on it. I had to fight her to get her back into the stroller. She was clearly exhausted but refusing to sleep. We strolled some more. And more. And more.

…And she finally fell asleep… at 4:15pm.

Pookster’s eating habits when other people are around

When we started eating out with Pookster, I was a little worried how distracted she’d get with other people around and all the other senses that would be stimulated. And rightly so: just after she turned 11 months and we actively had to eat out with her during our first international trip to Germany and Austria, eating with her was… quite frustrating. She’d get distracted by literally everything: other people, passersby, noises, lights — you name it, and it would distract her from eating. Gradually, though, she got more used to eating out, and she would happily try new foods and actually eat the food that was presented to her.

Well, I will say that while eating at home is very different than eating outside for her, she definitely does have a tendency to be more distracted and eat less adventurously when other people are around. Whether that is when a friend comes over or when we’re out at a restaurant with family or friends, she definitely doesn’t eat as well as when it’s just the three of us. I’m not sure why it is, or if she just wants to get the attention of the other people at the table, so she can only concentrate on a select few foods at a time. Regardless, I hope this doesn’t keep up. I don’t want people thinking we’re exaggerating or lying about how well she eats since she doesn’t seem to display this adventurous eating when around others…

My apple eating young toddler

In June while we were in the mango capital of the world, also known as India, I was extremely dismayed and even embarrassed that my mango loving baby refused to even touch an Indian mango. My thought then, was, how did you so readily and happily eat all those Mexican ataulfo mangoes all these months in New York, yet now, you’re on some odd mango strike and just outright refuse to even look at a mango in the country with the best mangoes on earth?! How is this even possible?

Instead, and as though to insult her dad and me, when on a boat on the backwaters of Alleppey, Kerala, one of our servers offered a plate of cut mangoes and apples. And while completely ignoring the mangoes, Pookster turned to the huge slices of apples on the plate, skin and all. At first, I was initially wary of her eating such thick slices, but she seemed to manage them really well and even relish the fact that they were so fat. With each huge bite she took, she chewed and chewed, as though proud of herself and her amazing biting, chewing, and swallowing skills. On the one hand, I felt annoyed she refused the mango in favor of the apple. On the other hand, I was so damn proud of her eating skills. How many kids at her age would be trusted with apple slices that were that thick and fat? If anything, she likely could have handled them that thick earlier, but a) we didn’t really have apples in the house to test this out, and b) I was being a bit risk averse despite having her learn solids through baby-led weaning solely.

Today, she actually prefers fat slices of apple. And she rejects apple slices that are too thin! But alas, her eating habits have proven to be a bit different at home vs. at school. At school pickup today, her teacher let me know that Pookster prefers the slices fat, but cut in half horizontally. Say, what?! The weird toddler selectivity of my silly, cheeky Kaia Pookie.

Cute developments of my Kaia Pookie

Every day, it seems like my Pookster is doing something to surprise us. It’s hard to keep track of all her new words, gestures, and habits given she’s developing so quickly. Some of the things she’s done recently that have made us smile, laugh, or marvel at how much she is learning are briefly noted here:

*When she is very fond of something and wants to keep holding it, but you try to take it away, she immediately starts saying quickly, “Let go! Let go!”

*If you ask her a question, and she doesn’t know the answer, she will immediately say, “Don’t know! Don’t know!” then put her hands up as though “I dunno!”

*When she wants you to finish doing something with her she doesn’t like, like brushing her teeth or putting her hair up in pigtails, she whines, “Come on! Come on!” Other versions of stopping said action also include: “All done! All done!” or “All good! All good!”

*She is singing full lines of her favorite songs, like “Move on back! Move on back!” from “Wheels on the Bus.” She’s actually sung broken parts of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” for a while now, but the lines from “Wheels on the Bus” have been new out of her mouth as of late.

*She is able to look at both photos and pictures of objects and things and name them without any prompting or assistance. She can also identify a handful of people, including her favorite Suma, Chris’s mom.

*She’s figured out how to open our kitchen cabinets — from the top. Yep. The time has finally come. Chris had to set up the magnet children locks on one, but I’d imagine in a short time, we may need to install them on *all* the kitchen cabinets.

*She knows how to twist open regular (not child-locked) pill containers. This totally freaked me out.

My baby is officially 21 months old today – not really a baby anymore, but regardless, she will always be my baby. How time flies. I’m so freaking lucky to have her and all her sweet cheekiness.

Kaia’s stubbornness and cuteness wrapped into one action: holding hands

I am clearly biased, but I think my sweet Kaia Pookie is incredibly cute. She is so cute that sometimes, I just want to squish her little face and eat it. I still have no idea where the idea of “eating” someone or something cute came from, but alas, I use it when it comes to Pookster. I can’t help it; she is just super adorable. She doesn’t have her same fat rolls or chubbiness that I always admired from over a year ago, but sometimes, I still stare at her in wonderment and cannot really believe she is here with us. She is my sweet miracle baby, my bundle of joy that is growing and developing endlessly. She has lots of strong opinions and can be incredibly cheeky. She especially hates holding hands. She gets SO mad when you try to hold her hand while walking outside. It’s like she’s saying, let me be independent! Leave me alone! I will go where I want to go! The exception to this is when there’s a lot of strange, new people around, or when she wants help going up and down the stairs.

Oddly, though, since our Virginia trip last week, she randomly does want to hold hands. She will demand that her hand be held after getting out of her high chair at home post-meal time. She even wants her hand held while she’s in her stroller. She will either demand, “hold my hand!” or “hold me hand!” and then look up at us expectantly. I love these little moments so much because I know that sooner than we think, they will all be gone forever and just a distant memory. So I am still maniacally trying to capture all the moments as often as possible without totally running out of Google Cloud storage space.

Kaia counts in English and Chinese

As much as I can hope and dream about it, it’s very unlikely that Kaia will ever be fully bilingual in English and Mandarin Chinese. I probably speak Mandarin Chinese at barely a 5-6 year old level, if even that, and as I’m teaching her Chinese, I’m learning and re-learning Mandarin Chinese through helpful YouTube videos and even on Udemy. She’s mastered a lot of fruit, like how to say grapes or cherries in Chinese. She knows what I am saying when I tell her to watch, look, or listen. And recently, I’ve been trying to reinforce how to count from 1-10 in Chinese because she’s been learning that in school for English. So far, it looks like during their daily morning circle time, they are sticking to counting from just 1-10 in English now. So I tried to mirror this for her in Chinese.

Kaia easily counts from 1-10 in English. She’s been doing this for the last two months. Sometimes, she randomly will skip one or two numbers in the sequence when distracted, but she knows how to say all of them. I recently started adding in Chinese, and while she’d look at me contemplatively, I knew she was absorbing what I was saying just based on her thoughtful facial expression. This week, she’s counted up to ten, though it’s clear she’s a bit shyer around this: her voice is much softer as she says the numbers in sequence in Chinese, and as she gets to ten, her voice is almost a whisper. But when she finally did it, I couldn’t believe how proud I felt; I could tell she was feeling victorious as well! She had this big smile on her face and started bobbing her head back and forth. She loves to seek our approval, but I hope to instill in her a sense of pride for her own accomplishments and that many times, that can and should be enough.

Kaia’s love for lychees

I first introduced Kaia to lychees sometime in the autumn of last year, but there was a huge gap when she had no exposure to them until this summer. We bought them from a fruit vendor on the street in upper Manhattan, and then she totally got hooked on them. I got them once more in Chinatown, and since then, she randomly asks if we have lychees to eat (most of the time, we don’t, unfortunately).

When we were in Richmond, we went into a Vietnamese supermarket and found some at a reasonable price, so we bought a 2.2lb bag of them to eat back at the hotel. Given we had no high chair and no proper kitchen/dining setup, we’d undress her so she’d only wear her diaper, wash and peel the lychees in the hotel bathroom sink, then give them to her in pieces. She was always in heaven, constantly asking, “More? More?”

We brought some back with us when we returned to New York today, and we finished them off after dinner this evening. I’ve been teaching her how to say different food-related phrases in Chinese. So while she gets excited and wants to reach for the lychee shells and pits, I repeatedly tell her in Chinese “Bu chi! Bu chi! (don’t eat!). Now, after I peel a lychee, she points at the pits and shells and says gleefully, “bu chi! bu chi!”

Happy 44th birthday, Ed

Dear Ed,

Happy birthday. Today, you would have turned 44 years old. Today if you were alive, I would have made fun of you and called you old for being in your mid 40s. Unfortunately, dumb jokes about age and getting old and white-haired cannot happen since you aren’t here anymore. It’s still strange to me to think that you died 10 years ago. Ten years passed slowly, yet quickly all at the same time. Ten years ago, the thought of bearing children seemed quite far away, but today, Kaia is over 20 months old, thriving and growing right in front of my eyes. Sometimes when I look at her, I become very sad, knowing that the two of you will never meet. And I wonder what kind of relationship you would have had with her, how you would have spoiled her with endless clothes, accessories, and toys, how you would have played with her and read books to her and enjoyed each other’s company.

While it is pointless to think about what could never be, I still think about it quite often. I think about what life would be like if you were still here. I think it goes without saying that if you were still here, our parents would still not get along with you; hell, it’s not like our parents get along beautifully with me, nor did they ever. Their lives were stressed when you were here; their lives are still full of stress, but for reasons I am completely unaware of. I don’t really know if they would have more or less stress with you still here. That is unclear to me since everything for them is always miserable.

This year, I also thought about all my AFSP fundraising efforts in memory of you and if it really meant anything. This is the tenth year that I’ve participated in AFSP’s Out of the Darkness walk and fundraising for it in your honor. As the years have passed, the funds I’ve been able to raise have dwindled, and I can’t really blame people. People are always supportive of a cause when it’s brand new and freshly painful to the person fundraising. But after a while, it gets tiring and old. I do have a number of very loyal and generous donors who have tirelessly given money every single year since the beginning, but I am wondering now if I am asking for too much by continuing this. I work remotely and have been for the last 3 years, and so I haven’t had enough face time with colleagues to really hustle donations the way I used to at my previous two companies. I’m wondering what all of this is actually worth? But I’ll continue it anyway. I hope this is helping SOMEONE out there.

Or maybe I’m just speaking this way because I’m tired. I’m trying to find some meaning in all of this, and I’m not sure it’s identifiable. All I know is: I miss you, and I hate that you aren’t here anymore. I hate that you cannot meet Kaia and that Kaia will never know you. I will dread the day when I finally have to explain to her how you died. I will not enjoy explaining to her what suicide is and why people “do” it. I would also love it if no one could relate to losing a loved one to suicide. But that is a big, big request in a difficult world where we live.

I’m not feeling super optimistic right now, more just exhausted, also because I’ve been sick for about four weeks now, and just feeling like I need a break from life in general. I saw a glimpse of you in my dreams the other night, and for a split second, I actually thought it was real, that you were real again. But it was all gone when I woke up coughing.

I hope you will send me positive vibes from wherever you are. I love you and miss you. Hope you are thinking of us fondly.