“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.

Toddler cuddles

Tonight, after reading some books together, I put Kaia to bed. As per usual, she asked for her blanket, then immediately insisted on “mummy blanket!” She refuses to have her blanket on her unless Mummy also has a blanket on her, too. So we’ve gotten into that rhythm together. Then, out of nowhere, as I was singing and rubbing her back, she declared, “Lie down Mummy! Lie down Mummy!” But I was already lying down. And so what I think she was trying to say is that she “wanted to lie down on mummy” because she immediately rolled over and landed on my chest. But she’s so long and big now that her body goes all the way down to my thigh. And of course, her stomach was resting against my bladder, so while I didn’t really need to pee before she got on top of me, at that point, I suddenly did feel the urge to pee. Kaia rested her chest on my chest and placed her head down against my head, And so we laid with her lying on top of me. She then started sticking her fingers in my mouth, wanting me to bite on her fingers. So we played that game over and over until she was giggling uncontrollably, and finally she rolled over onto her stomach, insisted on singing songs and rolling around… until about 8:45.

Yes, it took about an hour and 45 minutes from story time to the point when she finally fell asleep. Was it tiring and a little frustrating? Of course. But in the moments of her lying on top of me, insisting on “lie down (on) Mummy!”, and playing the biting game, I relished our time together and thought, “And this, too, will pass.” Soon, she will be too big to lie on top of me; she’s already pushing it now at 25+ lbs in weight at nearly 23 months of age. Soon, she won’t want to cuddle or even willingly give me hugs and kisses. Soon, she’ll speak in grammatically correct sentence structure and speak real, full on sentences. She won’t butcher her words or pronunciation the way I love hearing now (honestly, I am still mourning the fact that she says “mango” now and not “monga.” I am also a little sad that she says “noonulle” instead of “noodie” for the word “noodle” because it is more correct than it is not). These are the little moments that never get filmed or photographed, but I genuinely love them. Chris makes fun of me, but one little thing I do every night is: I always smell Pookster’s hair as she’s sleeping. I kiss her head, then I take a deep inhale when I smell her hair. I just love her smell. I have always loved Kaia Pookie’s scent. She doesn’t have that same fresh newborn smell anymore. She also doesn’t have the baby smell. But she has an evolving smell now as a toddler where when I inhale, I know she’s still my sweet baby. And no matter how big she gets, my sweet baby she will always be.

10 years of fundraising for AFSP and remembering Ed

Today was the Manhattan American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness walk for this year. 2023 marks the 10th year that I’ve fundraised in honor of Ed’s memory. It’s been an interesting ten years fundraising. Each year, I share my personal story, which has evolved each year. And each year, I’ve somehow managed to elicit the support of not just my friends and family who have been repeat donors, but even new donors every time. Most of those new donors have been colleagues, new and old. Some have been friends or family members of my own friends and family. Others have even been complete strangers who found out about my brother’s story through an acquaintance or family member and felt compelled to donate. In all of these cases, I’ve always been touched that people would spend their hard-earned money to support this cause… all because I chose to share and be open about my brother’s story and ultimately, my family’s loss. It’s been a humbling experience to share his story and see who has felt something when reading it. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me they’ve personally been affected by suicide or struggled themselves. But this is how people start opening up, and I am proud to be a part of the journey of destigmatizing mental health and suicide ideation and prevention.

2023 is the first year I haven’t met my fundraising goal, though. I raised $4,790 out of a goal of $5,000. I’m still waiting on a match from my company, which would add another $100, as my company matches donations up to $100 each year per employee. I think I am waiting on one corporate match. But I guess it’s hard to expect people to donate year after year, especially when there are so many other charities and crises that need our attention. So I’m grateful for even the smallest contributions.

This is also the first year when Kaia has walked with me. Well, we pushed her in her stroller, but she did attend the walk, and she loved the Top Fundraising Team sign that we had for Ed. We also had Chris’s cousin and his daughter come from London, who also accompanied us at the walk, as well as my friends and their young daughter.

Each year when I am listening to the remarks at the opening ceremony, I cannot help but tear up while listening to all the stories of loss. Someone’s teen daughter died from suicide. Someone else lost their dad to suicide. The stories just keep going on and on, and I can feel the pain. It’s just so gut wrenching to hear these stories and see that this keeps happening over and over. But while it is sad, it makes me feel better knowing that I’m doing a little something for the community by fundraising each and doing this walk.

“Bless you, mummy. Bless you, daddy.”

The “terrific toddler” moments include when your young toddler is learning more and more language and chooses to express sweet sentiments towards you and other loved ones. In the last month or so, Kaia has caught on to the fact that a lot of the people around her say “bless you” after someone sneezes. She seems the most attuned to Chris’s sneezes, likely because he’s an extremely loud sneezer, and less attuned to mine (Chris claims that my sneezes have gotten louder over the years, likely due to his influence, but I am not totally sure that assessment is accurate). Given that, she almost always says “bless you” after Chris sneezes. The other cute thing she sometimes does is at bed time, when it’s just about time for “lights out” after reading together, she will lie down, put her head on her pillow, look at me with big eyes, and say, “Bless you, mummy. Bless you, Daddy. Bless you, Kaia.” And I just become a big puddle of love looking at her, caressing her sweet little smiling face as she’s all snuggled up in her sleep sack and baby blanket. These are the moments I love the most: when she’s being sweet, affectionate, cute, and sentimental, but she’s also expressing more and more of what she learning and absorbing from her surroundings. The toddler years can certainly be stressful and full of angst and helplessness, but these loving moments always keep me grounded. These moments of her being this age will soon pass, and I will still have all these memories, photos, and videos to look back on and remember how amazing she was in this moment of time.