Sales and success kickoff – flying on Jetblue

And just two days after a company layoff, 400 of my US based colleagues and I all few to Denver for our annual sales and success kickoff — the very first one happening in person since pre-pandemic. It’s the first one I’ve been in person for: the first one was virtual, where I actually was an MC; the second one was last year, when I was out on maternity leave; and this is the third one. This September will mark three years with my company. It’s strange how time flies… and during all that time, this is the very first time I’m meeting so many colleagues in person for the first time.

A travel agent helped make all of our travel arrangements to and from Denver, from flights, hotels, to airport transfers. Although I got put in an “American Airlines” flight, it was actually a Jetblue flight due to their partnership. And since someone else did the booking for me, I didn’t even have a seat assignment until I called AA after the flight was booked to request one. All the window and aisle seats were booked in the front of the plane, so to be as far forward as possible, I opted for seat 8B…. yes, that’s a middle seat. I cannot even remember the last time I sat in the middle. But this was a class-less plane, and I knew having a seat in row 8 would pay off because I’d get off the plane faster. It actually wasn’t that bad, either, and Jetblue was a decent flying experience overall: they honored my AA elite status by allowing me to board first with Jetblue Mosaic status fliers. They gave me free snacks (plantain chips!), a screen per seat with a really good selection of movies and TV shows, plus charging outlets. The charging outlets were especially helpful because my phone battery is especially sad right now, so I pretty much had it charging the entire 4 hour-20 minute flight. Did I think it was weird that they offered earbuds and blankets for a fee? Yes, but I guess that’s how they make money, so why not? I happened to have earbuds to plug in from a long-ago AA flight when they used to pass them out for free in business class. It’s a good thing I saved them in my travel bag because they finally came handy!

Sleep regression at 13 months old

Whether we have been aware of it or not this whole time, Kaia has been an amazing sleeper. She was pretty much sleeping through the night, in her bassinet or crib, at around 3 months of age. She’d been a great eater. She is generally always jovial, curious, and in a good mood. We’ve had a relatively smooth experience as parents to date, and we’ve been extremely lucky and grateful for it. However, during the few nights we were in Orange County at a hotel, she refused to sleep in her pack and play, and instead, we let her sleep on top of our bed between us. We needed her to sleep. We needed to sleep. So we just let it happen and hoped it would be temporary.

Well, we are back now, and she refuses to sleep in the crib. It’s likely separation anxiety related, but it doesn’t matter how tired she is or how late it is. She will NOT sleep in the crib. She either needs to be on the bed with us or in our lap/on our chests. And the nanny is not pleased with us, as she just came back today to help us adjust back.

“This is not the Kaia I let you go to Australia with,” the nanny said sternly to us. “What happened to my Kaia who always sleeps and naps well…?!”

Well, I guess this is a rude awakening to what a baby sleep regression can look like!

Little Arabia in Anaheim, California

In previous trips to Southern California, we’d always flown in and out of LAX since it seemed like it was the most direct way to get there. But Chris found out that there actually was a direct flight from Orange County (via Santa Ana) to JFK once a day, and so he booked our return flights to New York via Orange County. This gave us more time to explore in further depth the Orange County area and places we had not yet seen much of. You could truly spend years exploring Orange County and never get through it, but this segment of our trip gave us more time to do so.

I already knew that Orange County had a big Central/South American and Vietnamese/Filipino population, but I was unaware before doing a quick search on Google that Anaheim is actually known for having an area called Little Arabia. Most people who are aware of Anaheim know that it is home to Disneyland California. Little Arabia would be news to most people, though, even those who are local to Southern California.

Earlier this week, we ate at an Iraqi restaurant that had delicious kebabs, tender, fall-off-the-bone lamb shank, and even an interesting grape soda we’d never tried before. We stopped by a Syrian bakery that had plenty of Western and Middle Eastern sweets, but a hidden item on the menu was bouza ice cream, similar to Turkish dondurma ice cream in its chewy/stretchy texture, which it gets from mastik and orchid flour. When you order it, it’s churned to order and rolled with ground pistachios. It was super stretchy and fragrant of rose water. Our last stop in this area was a Palestinian bakery, where we had cream kanefe (the first cream version we’d ever had, and not too sweet!) along with Turkish coffee, and a delicious spiced and sweetened milk tea, fragrant from caradmom and cloves. The coffee and tea were made to order and with a lot of care from the owner of the bakery, who was extremely warm and hospitable. All were in strip malls, so very much a classic SoCal experience.

We could spend ages exploring SoCal for all its delicious ethnic food and never get through it all. But at least we had a good taste of it, though brief, this segment of our trip.

Rude travelers and their rude assumptions

Most people who have interacted with us while traveling with Kaia have been extremely kind, friendly, and praised Kaia for how well-behaved she’s been on flights. She’s been told how sweet and cute she is, how well she has slept, how good she’s been. It’s been glowing reviews all around, and I don’t say that just because I am her mother; I say that because I have also been shocked at her behavior and how she’s handled so many changes, as well as how nice people have been to us, cheering us on and encouraging us. So many kind strangers have expressed empathy to us and insisted we’ve been doing a great job managing. It’s been quite heartening to experience.

Well, the first rude couple encountered us on our flight from MEL > LAX. They wanted to sit together and away from the baby (yeah, maybe 5 feet more away…), and they asked if Chris could swap seats with the wife sitting next to me (my seat is where the bassinet is set up). When we declined their offer (TWICE), the wife kept making passive aggressive remarks to me, saying, “it’s going to be disruptive for me, yeah? The baby will be making noises and disturbing me, and that’s not quite right, yeah?”

Actually, not “yeah.” My husband and I paid for these fucking seats in business class, so stay the fuck away from me and my baby, you entitled, overprivileged twat.

Then, the husband tried to complain to a flight attendant, which then prompted her to go to Chris to ask him to move. And of course, Chris responded with something along the lines of, “I don’t care what other people want!”

They lost, and we won. And well, Kaia was actually quite quiet throughout the whole flight, with a few small outbursts, and that was it. Part of me wishes she was a bit more disruptive just to piss off the woman and her husband, but then that would have been disruptive for us, too.

New Year’s Eve spent packing too many things

I looked at all the stuff scattered on the bed, floor, and across multiple bags with a high level of anxiety today. I couldn’t believe how much stuff we were bringing back. Granted, everyone who gave Kaia a gift was very thoughtful and made sure to get her small things, ranging from clothes to smaller toys and books. But despite that, the volume really added up quite quickly. Her clothing and toys were spread across two checked bags, and along with all the snacks and alcohol Chris insisted on bringing back, it ended up being three checked bags, one backpack for each of us, one diaper bag, one pumping bag, one stroller to fold up, and one car seat. I had no idea how we would manage this, especially with a five-day stopover in Southern California (what visibility would he have, even with an SUV, with that many bags?). But looking at it all made my head hurt. It’s not like we have an entourage to help us cart all this stuff everywhere. I just had to hope and pray that nothing would get broken or lost, especially the bottles of liquor and wine we were taking back with us.

Lost items while traveling with baby

I have rarely lost anything while traveling. Okay, let me rephrase that: before I had a baby, I never lost anything while traveling. I prided myself on being organized and having everything together. And I knew once we had a child, we’d probably take a while to get into a groove of how we travel and get from point A to point B. And in the end, that’s resulted in a few lost things along the way.

Just on our way from Melbourne Airport to the car park to meet Chris’s dad on arrival in early December, Chris was pushing our trolley of luggage, in which my sweater/ open jacket was in the front pocket. Somehow, some way, that piece of clothing fell out, and was never to be seen again. We didn’t realize we lost it until the day after when I was looking for it. Chris tried to contact the airport lost and found, but to no avail. The most vexing thing about that was that I rarely care much about any of my clothes, but that specific piece I really loved because it was versatile, could be casual or dressy, and could transition easily from warm to cool weather. Plus, it was lightweight, not bulky at all, and had pockets. Ugh. I hope I can find a replacement for it at some point soon. I already checked the J. Crew website and they are out of stock. At least I got just over two years of use out of it.

While at Main Beach in Byron Bay, I got caught in a wave while holding Kaia, and we both went under water for about three seconds, during which my prescription sunglasses, which were on top of my head, got washed away. Well, I thought to myself, I may have lost my glasses, but most importantly, I didn’t let the ocean take my baby away!!!! It took Kaia a few minutes to calm down, and then as though nothing had happened, she babbled and played in the sand.

In a grocery store while pushing the baby in the stroller, Kaia threw her pacifier in some aisle when I wasn’t looking, and I never found it again. That was really annoying, mostly because Chris is the paci police and made me go down every single aisle and check the floor everywhere to try to retrieve it. That was a futile exercise that yielded nada.

We were eating at a restaurant with Chris’s parents and brother when the wait staff cleared the table… along with Kaia’s reusable silicone straw. I didn’t realize this happened, as I had to get Kaia to the bathroom to change a huge poop nappy, so I didn’t see this happen, and Chris and his family were just trying to get out of the table booth. At least we have about 6 or 7 of them back at home.

You can try to control everything… but at the end of the day, you just have to let some things go. Oherwise you will just go crazy.

Ozzie Mozzies’ aggression: you will not escape

A few nights ago, we were at Chris’s friend’s house and spent time in his backyard because they were setting up a surprise basketball ring for his son’s Christmas gift. His friend warned me about how aggressive the mosquitoes or “mozzies” get out there, so he insisted that I put on mosquito repellent. I did this, but regardless, the mosquitoes always get you in the few spots you miss. So I left with four very itchy and uncomfortable bites, including on my left little toe and right by my left elbow. The bite on my left elbow swelled up so big overnight that it was nearly the size of a golf ball when I woke up the next morning.

The next day, we went to Chris’s aunt/uncle’s home, where I barely spent 10 minutes in their garden in the early evening. His aunt was giving me a garden tour of all the trees, shrubs, and flowers they had spent the last three years growing. I was wearing pants, yet somehow… a mosquito was so aggressive that it bit me right in the center of my left butt cheek! How the heck did it get through my PANTS and bite my butt??

The weird thing is that pretty much everywhere we travel, I have always been a mosquito magnet, but in Australia, I’ve never once before gotten bitten by a mozzie before this trip. The Ozzie mozzies, according to Chris’s parents and relatives, have gotten quite aggressive this season, and everyone seems to try to stay away from them in areas where they wait and feast. This year, they lurk outside the doors of homes, and as soon as you open them, they immediately fly in! They don’t even buzz the way they do back in the U.S., so you cannot hear them. And when they’re in, they’re IN. As of today, I’ve probably already killed about 17 mozzies just in our bathroom!

Observations of food naming in Aus vs. US

Some interesting things I’ve picked up over the years shopping for produce and food in Australia vs. the U.S. in terms of what different food items are called:

Australia: capsicum; U.S.: bell peppers

Australia: rocket; U.S. arugula

Australia: coriander (well, most of the world); U.S.: cilantro

Australia: wombok; U.S.: Napa cabbage ** (I just learned this one during this trip!!)

Australia: (meat) mince; U.S.: ground (meat)

Australia: biscuits; U.S.: cookies

Australia: soft drink; U.S.: soda (apparently, the term “soda” is never used in Australia)

Australia: tomato sauce; U.S.: ketchup (what is ketchup in Australia…? :D)

Australia: silverbeet; U.S.: Swiss chard (new finding!)

Home alone in a big house that isn’t my own

When I was little, like most of us probably imagined, I thought I would eventually “grow up” and own my own home. I fantasized about how each room would have a different theme: one would be Chinese themed with Chinese calligraphy and landscape paintings; another would be Vietnamese with Vietnamese imagery; another would be beachy; one room would have a Moroccan theme (I just liked the Moroccan decor in restaurants). My dream house had large windows overlooking a beach, was two stories high with a staircase, and had at least one balcony on the second floor. And even back then, I imagined I’d have a massive kitchen. In my dreams then, it was a very white kitchen with large granite counters. I’d have a huge king size bed with a canopy over it. It would be dreamy and relaxing.

Well, I’m almost 37 now, and I don’t own a house. I don’t live in a house and live in an apartment. The idea of owning a house seems very daunting to me, not just from a cost standpoint but from a daily maintenance standpoint — cleaning, dusting, making sure everything’s working and not broken, updates and renovations, repairs — it sounds completely exhausting. But the other thing I think about is: how much space does a family of three (us) REALLY need? In the U.S. over the last several decades, homes (in suburbia) have gotten larger and larger, but the actual footprint of where family members go in their homes is actually quite small. What that results in is a lot of wasted space (and way too much clutter that gets accumulated since the more space you have, the more you think you need to fill it).

I thought about this as I walked around Chris’s parents’ large house this evening, all by myself. Ben was out with friends. I don’t think I’d ever been at their house alone at night before. Chris’s parents went out for dinner with their friends. Chris and Kaia went to a relatives’ house for a catch up, and I decided to stay behind because I just felt exhausted and wanted some quiet, alone time. In some rooms, I heard an echo as I walked through. It felt a little spooky to be in this huge house with so many rooms and things all by myself. Is this house old enough to have ghosts? What bugs are lurking around trying to get me? Oh, I did kill a huge fly that was buzzing around and driving me nuts that evening, plus 2 mozzies. It would be really overwhelming to have to manage and maintain a house of this size for myself and my own family. The space and the comfort of the space certainly come at a cost.

Mexican food in Melbourne

In all previous trips to Australia, we had actively avoided eating any Mexican food. The logic was: why would we eat Mexican food here when we can have great Mexican food (for obvious reasons, like proximity to Mexico) back in the U.S.? But in recent years, there’s been a huge surge in Mexican restaurants in Australia. Each time we’d come back, I’d notice more and more. I never seriously looked at the menus, but it was clear that the interest and trend were growing here.

Chris’s cousins organized a cousins dinner nearby for us, as they were being considerate and thoughtful that we had a baby, so they wanted to pick a restaurant that would be a quick drive back in case Kaia got too fussy with Chris’s parents on their own with her. I knew it was Mexican and didn’t really think much of it until we got to the restaurant. It was certainly outfitted the way you’d stereotypically imagine, with sombreros, brightly colored paintings, and cactus everywhere. When I opened the menu, I thought… oh great. There’s lots of things I’d expect on the menu, so I stuck with what seemed safe — two tacos, shrimp and fish, plus a nonalcoholic coconut/lime/pineapple drink.

Chris got jackfruit tacos, so we sort of shared our food. The tacos were absolutely horrendous – at least, the jackfruit ones were. They were mushy, the sauce was disgusting, and they were clearly canned jackfruit pieces. The shrimp and fish ones were decent, but considering how much they cost, I feel l like I could have made better Mexican food as a child than this. And the service was even worse than the food: they took our orders but warned us that the kitchen AND the bar were closing in the next 15 minutes (at 8pm?! We had just arrived at around 7:15!), so we had to make up our mind on regular food, drink, AND desserts then and there. The food took ages to arrive, and they arrived with our drinks and jugs of water. We had nothing to drink, not even basic water, until all the food arrived. I couldn’t even remember experiencing service so awful at a restaurant until that evening.

I normally never say anything about restaurants when it comes to Chris’s family’s gatherings because the main focus is not really the food — it’s about all of us getting together and catching up. Plus, I’m not technically a cousin, so why should my opinion overrule anyone? But after that experience… the next time someone tries to suggest Mexican here, I’m definitely going to have to chime in and veto it.