Shared stories on the playground: when your child helps with another child’s daycare transition

A few weekends ago, Chris’s parents and I were at the nearby playground while Kaia was playing. One of Kaia’s old classmates, who was doing temporary backup care a few days a week in her class, showed up with her mom, who I used to have some small talk with during pickups. Her daughter ended up going to another full-time daycare a few blocks away, so we hadn’t seen them since late last year. We chatted while our kids were getting reacquainted with each other and she shared a story that I had no idea about.

Her daughter was transitioning from being at home full-time with their nanny into being at daycare full-time, so her parents wanted to ease her into daycare at three days a week. Her adjustment was really rough: she said that for the first several months, drop-off was constantly torturous, and she and her husband seriously reconsidered whether daycare was a fit for their daughter at this stage in her development. But she did notice that when she’d pick her up and take her home, her daughter kept mentioning Kaia’s name, always while happy and smiling. She didn’t know who Kaia was, but she figured from the live video footage that Kaia must be the classmate that her daughter was always playing with. She shared that Kaia was always leading the way for her daughter, helping and guiding her, and she was the biggest reason that her daughter would be willing to go to school every morning. Every time she’d say Kaia’s name, her daughter’s face would light up and she’d get excited. She’d coax her with, “Remember? Kaia will be at school with you. If you don’t go to school, then you won’t see Kaia.” And this would motivate her to stop crying, get ready, and willingly go out the door each morning to school.

I was so happy to run into them and hear this story. If we hadn’t bumped into each other in the playground, I would never have known this to be true. But it warmed my heart to know that my own sweet baby was making life easier for others to adjust to new environments. I hope my child can be a little leader, one who sets good examples… and hopefully is not the bully.

In-laws and their quirks: on steaming vs. ironing clothes

Every time Chris’s parents come visit, I can inevitably expect the same usual exchanges and things to happen: Chris’s dad will do a full recount of their entire journey to get to us, including details about the lounges (and alcohol) they enjoyed, the food in flight and overall inflight service, movies he had watched, and how comfortable his seat/bed were. He will talk about the ride to our apartment from the airport and whether he had any chit chat with the Uber or taxi driver.

Chris’s mom will marvel over any food I had prepared for them and eagerly ask if she can help with the food or cleanup. She will then try her best to wash and clean up as many things as possible. And eventually, she will ask me if I have an iron… to which my answer is always… “No, but we have a steamer!”

Then, she will say her usual comments about how a steamer is okay, but it’s not enough. While a steamer is able to get out wrinkles, it isn’t able to iron on those nice lines/pleats that she likes on her pants (to which my Gen Y brain would immediately think, “Who cares or even sees your dumb lines on your pants? DO YOU EVEN SEE THEM WHEN YOU WALK?”

When we moved into this building, somehow, I could not locate where my iron went. So I discovered the magic of a small travel-sized steamer and have never gone back. It is quick to heat up, it de-wrinkles in seconds, and it’s light and easy to clean up and put away. I realized that none of my clothes ever required an iron or any “lines,” and all my summer clothes that required heat would be cured by a steamer. So I’m fully in Camp Steamer over Camp Iron.

So, every year, I chuckle to myself whenever Chris’s mom asks me about an iron. Because I always know the face she will make when I offer my steamer…

Mother’s Day flowers in a dusted off butterfly vase

Since today was Thursday, Chris did his usual Whole Foods grocery run after dropping off Pookster at school. He came back with groceries and bouquet of 16 red-orange roses for me and his mum, who will be back along with his dad this Saturday evening from a side U.S. trip to San Antonio, Texas. The flowers are in honor of Mother’s Day, which is coming up this Sunday. It will be the first and only Mother’s Day we’ve celebrated with his parents since Pookster has been around.

I unwrapped the flowers, trimmed them, removed excess leaves, and added them to a round vase. They dropped to one side clumsily, so I wrapped them with a rubber band so that they’d all stay together. Because the flowers do not “fill” the vase, they still all stayed on one side and looked a little depressed. So I went back to my closet and unearthed a slim rectangular butterfly vase that my friend had gotten me over 12 years ago when I was still living in Elmhurst, Queens. She said she was at a gift shop at a science museum back home, and when she saw this vase, she immediately thought of me and bought it. I realize that I hadn’t used this vase since I lived in Queens, so I decided to try these flowers out in the butterfly vase. And it was a perfect fit: the flowers fully filled the vase and all stood beautifully upright. You could enjoy both the flowers as well as the beautiful butterfly prints on the clear glass vase altogether. I added some ice cubes into the vase to keep the flowers fresh for longer.

I thought about all the shopping mailing lists I’m on for one of my email accounts and how this year, there seems to be more awareness about how triggering of a holiday Mother’s Day can be for some people. I’ve gotten at least four different emails asking if I’d like to opt out of Mother’s Day related emails and promotions; I don’t recall ever getting these before this year. Whether it’s because people have lost their mothers, have a difficult relationship with their mothers, or are actively trying to become a mother but have not yet succeeded, there’s a lot of reasons that Mother’s Day and the period around it can be a painful time. I’m fully aware of that since I was once in the shoes of someone who wanted to be a mom but hadn’t yet gotten there. And for my whole life, I’ve had a difficult relationship with my own mother… and still do. I see those who are struggling and their pain, even if they choose not to be open about it. I can fully relate.

“Ooh, this is good!”

Kaia’s toddler selectivity continues. Some days, she will accept new food as though it’s the most delicious thing she’s ever seen or touched. Other days, she will simply turn her face away and say “no!” and refuse to give a new food a second look. Yesterday, we picked up some donuts and danish from a new spot we checked out in Morningside Heights. One of the items was a very well made, flaky cheese danish. We rarely give Kaia sweets, but we do give her the occasional bite or two of a croissant or pastry when we’re out. So we decided to let her try this danish.

She was wandering around the apartment and I asked her if she wanted some pastry. Her face perked up, and she followed me into the kitchen so that she could take a look. When I presented the plate to her, she took one look, then gave it some side-eye, and said, “no!” and walked away. Yet as she walked away, I made exaggerated motions and took a big bite, making “mmmmm” and “yummy” sounds. She stopped walking away, then inched closer to me, and finally she took off a pea sized piece of the danish and gingerly put it in her mouth.

“Ooooh, this is good!” she exclaimed, with a huge grin creeping over her face. “Tasty!” She then proceeded to rip off big hunks of the danish until she’d had about 80 percent of the entire damn pastry. I barely got three bites in and had to save two bites for myself at the end, insisting “Kaia ate it all” and there was “no more! all done!” And since I insisted she sit down on the kitchen floor and eat it, when she got up to leave and I wiped her face and hands clean, there was a humongous pile of flaky danish crumbs all over where she sat. Yep – that’s my life now – constantly cleaning, dust-busting, and wiping up after my toddler.

My love has not subsided around watching her try and eat new things. Whether it was when she was a wee baby at six months old just starting solids for the first time, until now, when she’s probably had at least 500+ types of food to date, I still love watching her facial expressions and hearing her verbal assessments, whether it’s through her “mmmms” or her “this is yummy!’ statements. She doesn’t always like everything, but when she does, it’s really priceless. Sometimes, I wish I could just bottle up each of her new food experiences and stick them on the wall to revisit and watch… over and over again.

Two-year-old toddler tantrums and whims: a continuing dialogue

Almost like clock work, once Kaia turned two, it was as though she got the memo that the “terrible 2s” period had begun, and she started having all these tantrums over things she never really got upset about before. Before she turned 2, while she did have tantrums here and there, they weren’t that regular and were usually easily contained. Since then, not so much. If she doesn’t get what she wants when she wants it, she lays her entire body down, sprawled all over the floor, and just cries and screams. There’s no way to reason with her, so we just kind of let her lie there. I occasionally pat or rub her back and remind her that her mama is there, but there’s nothing else that can really be done until she calms down.

One thing that has been really frustrating is that her meals have been really unpredictable. Some days, she will eat pretty much everything she is offered. Other days, she might just eat a portion of pork, some blueberries, and then call it a day; that will be her dinner, and then she will go to bed. Vegetables at breakfast time have continued to be a no-go. Her lunch is also unpredictable. This past week, she had oddly even gone off noodles/pasta. I had made an aged gouda carbonara, and at best, she would pick at it and didn’t really care for it. My baby – not into noodles…?! She screamed and cried one night when I asked her just to have one bite of the carbonara… I just didn’t get it. So I stopped insisting and let her eat what she was willing to touch.

I try my best not to show any emotion when she has these signs of “toddler selectivity” and let it go. But it’s very challenging. Being a parent and trying to feign indifference at things like this is a huge test of one’s patience. You don’t really get it until you’re in this position. And yet even then, for many people who have gone past the toddler rearing years, they forget so easily! At least I will always have these memories documented so I can refer back to these when my memory fails me.

My baby is TWO <3

To my dearest Kaia Pookie,

Happy 2nd birthday, my little love, my little miracle baby who has filled my life with so much joy for over two years now (including while you were in my uterus). Every time I look at you, my sweet Kaia Pookie, I think to myself… how lucky am I that I get to be your mummy. Even when you are throwing tantrums, breaking things, and making total messes in our home, I always remember that there was once a dark time when I wondered if you were truly a real possibility in my life, and I remember how sad and terrifying that was to me. I am beyond grateful to be your mummy, and I give my thanks every night that I get the privilege of being your mother.

Daddy and I are so, so proud of you, sweet Pookster. When I look back at all the photos and videos of you in the last year, your growth has been so tremendous and stunning in our eyes. A year ago, you were babbling and saying just a handful of words. You were still just crawling. You didn’t have the dexterity yet to do things like open cabinet doors or open pill boxes. Now, your vocabulary is so vast in English and Chinese that you’re speaking full sentences, can express what you want, and sing lots of verses of songs. You are walking (and running!) now! You’re doing well with going up and down the stairs with our help. You’re getting your hands into everything you possibly can and have required Daddy to install cabinet locks. And we have to keep all our pill bottles far, far away from you! You’re also a true little leader at school, telling all the kids what to do and when, and following your teachers’ instructions to the point where you’ve even been nicknamed “Ms. Kaia,” aka little teacher, and are all the teachers’ favorites.

And you are so affectionate, my sweet Kaia Pookie. You love to give hugs and kisses. I just want to eat you up, as I always tell you during bath time that I’m going to eat your sweet toesies! You even show affection for your stuffed animal friends and sleep with your favorite books. You have no idea how it makes me feel all gushy inside to see you be so sweet with your animal friends and even insist on sleeping with your books. We have so my great hopes and wishes for you, our sweet little one. I hope I can always do what I can to make you proud of me. I want you to look at me and Daddy and think, wow, they’re doing a great job! We love you more than we could ever possibly express properly in words. We hope you always know how much we love you and will always love you. To many more happy birthdays and moments together, sweet Kaia Pookie.


your Mummy Yvonne

“My Mom is Great” book for Pookster

The other day in our building library, I found a children’s book called My Mom is Great, so I thought Pookster might like it. I brought it to her and showed her the title. When I said the title, she responded, “Mummy book? Mummy book?” And I said, yup! And I asked if she wanted to read it, and she agreed. We read through it once. She asked me to read it “again?” So, I read it a second time. Then, after the second reading, she grabbed it from me and started turning the pages, mumbling things to herself, and then insisted she go to bed with it. I tucked her in, and she made sure the book was lying right next to her, with Peter Rabbit on the other side. She was especially needy that night, insisting I lie down with her, and that I had to be there until she fell asleep. Even when I turned a bit on the bed next to her, she’d panic and think I was leaving, and insist, “Mummy! Lie down! Lie down!”

The next morning, she was fussy when Chris tried to take the book away at breakfast, so he positioned the book so that it was facing her as she ate breakfast. It was too adorable to watch. It made my heart mushy to think about her getting excited over “mummy book.” I hope she always knows I am trying do the best job I possibly can and be the best example to her. It’s one of my greatest goals.

Lack of hospitality and lots of rudeness at Modra Hviezda in Bratislava, and why I love my husband

When I did a search for restaurants specializing in duck before our trip started, Modra Hviezda came up as a potential option that got rave reviews in Bratislava. To get to the restaurant, you have to climb up endless stairs (how fun with a stroller!), as it’s within the Bratislava castle complex. When we arrived without a reservation on Saturday afternoon, an older man (I assume he was the manager) popped his head out to look at all three of us, and I could immediately see his disdain when he saw the stroller. He asked curtly if we had a reservation, and when Chris said no, he replied by saying they don’t have any availability without a reservation for the next two hours. We were weirded out by this, though: when you looked through the windows, you could see a nearly empty restaurant, all tables open except for two two-tops in the back. I figured that the manager didn’t want babies in the restaurant and gave that as a fake excuse and that Chris was on his phone looking for a Plan B restaurant. But no, I was wrong: he was actually on the restaurant’s website making a reservation for 30 minutes from that point! He waited for the restaurant to confirm the booking, then insisted we go back and try to get in. I was not feeling great about this, as I had a feeling a confrontation was coming. We went inside when they originally said we could after Chris told the women there that we had a reservation, but when a female server saw the stroller, her face also fell and she said no in Slovak, then muttered some words to another worker, who went to get the manager.

What I envisioned would happen did: the manager came back and was extremely rude to us: “What did I tell you? There is no space for you here! You have no reservation!” When Chris said he did, the manager replied that he did not (always fun to contradict a customer), and Chris confirmed his name on their booking screen, to which the manager finally said, “OK, we cannot have children in this restaurant. It’s our policy.”

Chris asked why he didn’t just originally say that, and the manager replied that he didn’t want a fight. Chris replied that this was discrimination and that he’d report the restaurant. The manager said Chris couldn’t report the restaurant because their policy is fully in their right and on their website for all to know. Chris then snapped a photo of the manager’s face and said he’d write them up. As we were leaving, the manager said in a surly tone, “One day, in 20 years when your child is grown, you will realize how nice it is to eat a meal in a quiet restaurant without any children around.” Ummmmm, Kaia is just under two years old, so actually, for the vast majority of both our lives, we have known what it is like to dine in restaurants without young kids! That guy was not only rude, narrow-minded, and stuck up, but a total moron.

As soon as we had the first interaction with the manager, I didn’t want to give our money to an establishment like this even if they did relent on their stance. But Chris insisted on the confrontation out of principle because he hates being lied to. I understand why restaurants may not want children of a certain age dining with them, but frankly, this was not some fancy, expensive, white-table-cloth restaurant. It was just an average restaurant with a regular Slovak menu. It saddens me that rude people like this exist, but they are everywhere, and not everyone likes or appreciates children.

It was a frustrating experience. But the real moral of the story here for me is that this experience sums up exactly why I love Chris, and why at the same time, he can completely infuriate me. My love is true to himself, he sticks to his guns, and he refuses to allow his loved ones to be mistreated or wronged in any way. I love my (big) baby so much.

Kaia loves her Peter Rabbit

For the longest time, Kaia did not take to any of her stuffed animals. Over her 23 months of existence, she’s been gifted endless stuffed animals, including a life-sized teddy bear, which is still vacuum-sealed and in its original wrapping in the closet. We’ve exposed her to a number of them, but she’s never really seemed to care about them. She kind of looks at them and then plays with something else, whether it’s a book, a jar, a lid, or another toy she has. The couple exceptions are the stuffed animals that are battery operated and sing or play peekaboo, or Babar, which is her stuffed elephant that has a few parts that either make sounds/noise or squeak depending on where you touch or squeeze it. Randomly the other night when I was putting her to bed, she grabbed Peter Rabbit off the book shelf and took it to bed with her. I laid her baby blanket over her, and she snuggled under the blanket with Peter Rabbit and said, “okay, bye bye! Wan an!” I guess that was a cue that she wanted me to leave, so I told her good night, wan an, and I left the room and closed the door. I wasn’t sure if she’d really fall asleep on her own given that she usually needs one of us to stay there with her until she falls asleep. But somehow, it worked. And it’s now worked three nights in a row. The last two nights, she asked for four other stuffed animals to accompany her to bed, as well. And she didn’t need me to stay with her until she fell asleep. It was incredible.

I love seeing her interact with her Peter Rabbit and her stuffed animals. She tells them to do things like “sit up” and “lie down,” and she even wants Peter Rabbit there at breakfast with her. Chris wouldn’t let her have Peter Rabbit on her food tray given it would be a mess, so he told her that Peter Rabbit would “watch” her eat. And she happily agreed. It’s too adorable. I just love these moments and how she is developing. This age is truly precious… but I suppose I’ve said that about every other stage to date. I just love being Pookster’s mummy.

Kaia usually hates holding hands… until she doesn’t

My Kaia is most definitely like her dad. She is stubborn and always wants what she wants. This especially goes for having her hand held. She absolutely HATES it, especially while walking. Randomly, though, she will ask to hold our hand while she’s in her stroller, and it’s really cute. Other times, she will insist on walking and holding just Daddy’s hand. She is Daddy’s girl – no doubt about that.

The last couple of nights, she’s been unusually needy at bedtime. After reading, she will refuse to fall asleep unless she is on top of me or very close to one of us. It’s been very endearing, but also extremely inconvenient given I have things in the kitchen I needed to get done, plus some work emails I had to finish. But then tonight, she did the cutest thing: while I was singing her to sleep, suddenly out of nowhere, she said, “Hold my hand?” And then she grabbed my hand and held it as she drifted off to sleep.

The days can be long, but the weeks are always so short. I really do cherish these moments with my sweet Kaia Pookie. I still cannot believe she is almost 23 months old and turning 2 years old next month. Her mere existence has filled my heart with so much love and joy that I had never even previously fathomed. I do hope that I can continue to be good to her and treat her how I always wished I could have been treated as a growing child.