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Buyer’s Remorse

1 Jun

Several years ago, when I bought my beloved Audi TT Convertible (brokenhearted sniff), I did so while saying, “This is the last car I will buy before children, so it needs to be worth it.” I loved that car. When I found out we were expecting a mere 18 months later, I investigated and discovered that I could, in fact, disable the passenger airbag. Living in a mountain town of 20,000 residents and virtually no traffic accidents, I found myself justifying keeping the car. I was so clever!

Until my eight week check up, Continue reading

UFO Sightings in China

26 May

In recent months, there have been a number of UFO sightings in and around China, even shutting down the main airport in Shanghai. Now, I believe, there is hard evidence of alien visitation right here in Hong Kong. It happened in the middle of the night some time last week. Continue reading

Hong Kong’s newest gang: The East Side Plinkas

4 May

My kids are bullies.

OK. They are not yet two years old so malice is not exactly built into their psycho-social development and patterning, but they are still bullies, if only by (virtue of) their numbers. Most kids are singletons, meaning (I assume) that they spend most of their time playing alone or with a yielding parent/older sibling. They may attend a daycare situation where they play with other children of similar age, but they maintain a sense of me vs. (or with) them. When I watch singletons play, I observe two main types: the “Yay! A buddy!” type and the awful, bratty type (you know the one… selfish, whiney, generally with a snotty nose, and never quite as cute as the mother is convinced they are). Then there are mine. They need theme music. And their own gang symbol. Everyone knows when the East Side Plinkas arrive. No, you will not enter the play cottage, play with the tiny kitchen, or with any of the dishes, because WE are. Want to play “car” with the steering wheel next to the slide? You can play when WE decide you may and/or only if WE don’t want to. And by we, I mean if TwinXX is playing kitchen and some other kid wants to come over and play too, one squeal and TwinXY is running over to defend her honor, strategically placing his full body mass between said other child and whatever toy TwinXX wants. It is actually really funny to watch because he refuses to make eye contact and acts like the other child simply doesn’t exist. She will gladly reciprocate. Oh, you were riding on the toy car? How can you not give it up to that cute little girl following you around (and staring you down). Cool, thanks. She hops on, drives straight over to TwinXY and gives him the car. You see, with this type of tag-team effort, they can monopolize the majority of the playhouse. Or the playroom. Or the playground.  Or anything they decide to.

Oh sorry. You want to play with the stove in the club house? Think again.

 

Another pair of b/g twins… maybe we could use some 4-year-old muscle?

Their solidarity is sweet and funny to watch… and somewhat embarrassing. You can only say, “No, no, no. Share.”, “Let him play with the sink, too”, “Let her play with the one you aren’t playing with” so many times before you sound like a complete lunatic. For now, I am patient, hoping this is ‘just a stage’ and that they grow out of it by three. Or high school. Otherwise – I hope Hong Kong, and the World are ready…

Others need not apply…

28 Mar

I have Mother of the Year locked down.

In the last month I have:

  1. Lost a child in an elevator
  2. Allowed a child to fall down the stairs
  3. Was present when a friend lost a child in downtown Hong Kong
  4. Fed my children Mc Donald’s 4 times
  5. And now…

I have a strange compulsion to buy those miniature bottles of booze that they keep at the checkout of the liquor store. It all started when I had this insane a-hole of a boss who was so tight with expenses that anything pricier than the dollar menu at Taco Bell was coming out of my own pocket. So, I started buying the mini bottles for my luggage because truly – he drove me to drink. Anyway, I haven’t worked for him for years, but I still compulsively buy them and keep them around. They are a fun way to try the weird stuff (like coco-watermelon vodka) without committing to an entire bottle, and they come in handy when you run out of everything else.

…And now I have discovered invented the best boo boo treatment ever! Noooooo – I didn’t booze my kid up, though I know that is what many of you are thinking… I keep some of these little bottles in the freezer, for obvious reasons. Tonight, we had a typical ‘run away from Mommy and run my head into the wing of the toy airplane’ moment, complete with big swollen goose-eggie eyebrow. Now typically, I would rush for ice, except that the kids hate it and always squirm away because it is either too cold or too wet or too whatever. (Also, my Macallan calls for a cube, and there were only three left in the tray.) Then I thought, I might try the Chinese egg trick from my previous post, but the injury wasn’t severe enough to justify waiting 8 minutes to hard boil one. I needed something now. I needed something cold. I needed… Aquavit! I pulled out a little frozen bottle, wrapped it in a paper towel and pressed it to his boo boo. Amazing. It was cold enough to be effective, the little concave bottom fit right over the lump, the smooth rounded surface was excellent for applying pressure and smoothing away the swelling, AND no dripping. No squirming. He loved it and just laid there and let me play nurse. If the injury were worse, I could drink it as soon as the trauma drama was over. Perfect in every way. So, I am coining my new remedy: Boo Booze, invented by Mother of the Year.

 

The Diminishing Power of NO

10 Mar

We have been busy. Stupid busy… Doing nothing, it seems, but going to parks, eating, changing diapers, and saying NO. NO – get off the table. NO – don’t stand on the back of the couch. NO hitting. NO pushing. NO – don’t whack your sister with that toy. NO – screaming in the restaurant. NO – licking the bottom of your shoe (this occurs horrifyingly often). NO – grabbing the butt of the lady standing next to us on the subway (luckily not as often). NO – playing with the cell phone/house phone/remote control. You get the idea.

I remember a time in the not so distant past when a firm NO would stop my children in their tracks. Not so anymore. TwinXY’s face takes on a blank, yet inquisitive expression that says, “What is this word NO? Whatever could it mean??? I am sure it is not that important, so I will continue doing (whatever it is) I am doing.” TwinXX’s look says, “Is that a dare?”

I have had three remarkably ineffective NO’s this week:
NO – do not get on the elevator without Mommy. Me, TwinXX, TwinXY, the stroller, the diaper bag, and a large bag of clothing on its way to the laundry get off the elevator at the second floor lobby, from which we have to take a staircase to get to the first floor lobby. I have the kids next to me, but my hands are full with bags and stroller. As I am putting everything down so I can get the kids safely down the staircase, TwinXY takes off – through the closing doors of the elevator – and is whisked away to the 13th floor. I can hear him screaming in terror through the elevator shaft. (Which, knowing now that everything turned out fine, is actually pretty funny. Snicker.) The elevator tops out at 13, stops again at 7, but I can still hear his wailing so I am confident he is still on the lift. I decide to run up the fire stairs so I can meet him on 3, because the management office is on that floor, and it always stops there… I dump everything in the lobby, scoop up TwinXX, and run up the stairs, praying he makes no more stops between 7 and 3. I arrive on 3, the doors open, and I am greeted by 7 adult passengers completely bewildered by the hysterical child who is hiding at the back of the lift. I get every look you would expect in such a situation. Lovely.
NO – do not go near the stairs without Mommy. It is the very next day. We need to go pick up the laundry and grab a bite to eat. After the elevator incident from the day before, I make the grand decision to take only the diaper bag so I don’t have to mess with the stroller and I can keep a closer eye on my precious punkins. After all, we are only going around the block, right? (mildly relevant background: Dare-devil TwinXX had a recent-ish appointment with a coffee table that required 17 stitches in her forehead; a short month previous, she had an encounter with a window sill that earned her 7 stitches in the eyebrow. So we stop as we usually do, to apply SPF 50 to her scars before we go out because sun exposure could cause them to turn permanently dark.) I make sure TwinXY is SITTING next to me. I am in the midst of squirting the sunscreen when TwinXX bolts. No warning, and she is fast. Off to the stairs! Stair 1, clear, stair 2, clear, I am running after her… Stair 3 must have a hidden launch pad in it because she flys – forehead straight to stair 4 and rolls down the next 3 steps to the landing below. It was like a terrible slow motion clip in a movie and all I could do was watch in horror and disbelief. Thankfully she stood up with a bloody nose and a goose-egg, and started climbing the steps to get back up to me. She is battered and bruised, but alright. I, on the other hand, am a wreck. The entire property management team is freaking out and they spend the next hour in our flat taking care of her with an old Chinese egg remedy (which worked like a charm). Do I need to mention that we never made it to the laundry? I need wine.
NO – do not play with/get in/dismantle the diaper bag. I know this mysterious bag is full of wonderful things like snacks and cups and things that look like they are for baby – and they are – but that doesn’t mean that everything in there is safe (or wise) to play with.You know that moment when things are just too quiet? It was far too quiet for 8:30 am – in fact I couldn’t believe I was still asleep! Ahhhh – so peaceful, so quie… wait, something must be wrong. I jump up from the bed (in a slight panic) to the site of two seemingly happy and occupied toddlers. Everything looks cool until I realize that the contents of the diaper bag are all over the floor. I run a quick safety check, scooping up the “danger” items as I see them – Purell, check. Nail clippers, check. Neosporin, check. Tylenol, check. Tweezers, check. Sunscreen, diaper cream, hand lotion, all here. Whew, close call! Twin XY is busy playing with the velcro tab on a diaper – no biggie – and TwinXX is busy with… my hot pink lipgloss. She was adept enough to get it on both her face and her doll’s face before painting the beige microfiber couch in our furnished rental apartment. I unwittingly utter the day’s first sigh of defeat at 8:33 am, turn to my trusty friend Google for a magic cleaner solution, and opt for the Breakfast of Champions -Mommy Division – coffee with a Tylenol chaser and a handful of animal crackers.

From now on, we get to the park by 2…

4 Mar

Do you remember that girl from high school? Not THAT Girl, but the other one… always a little left of center. Most people didn’t bother to speak but they all knew who she was, and as she walked down the hallway they just stared. Their looks were a combination of confusion and mild disgust, top lip snarled a bit like Elvis impersonators. I remember her well. I was that girl. To quote my cousin, “You weren’t mainstream. There wasn’t even any water in your stream.” (For anyone reading, who doesn’t personally know me, you might be feeling a bit sad for me right now. Don’t. Frankly, I didn’t care. I thought they were all equally odd. Wink!)

It has been years since I felt like that girl. Not that I succumbed to conformity, just that I am no longer forced to exist in the bizarre social microcosm that is high school. Until today.

As I walked the twins to Kowloon Park, it actually struck me as odd that I am perfectly comfortable in my new surroundings. I am not having the, “OMG – I moved to Hong Kong!” feeling. Rather, I feel that I am exactly where I should be. Which is great. We arrive at the park following the usual points, smiles, questions, and paparazzi. I pay HK$135 (US$17.33) for a pack of Chinese diapers that I picked because it was the only pack I could tell were the right size. In fact, the only things on the package I could read were the kilogram weight range, the product name, and the manufacturer name. They are Goo.N diapers, yes, goon diapers made by… wait for it… BabyGoo. “When your kid goes poo, choose BabyGoo!” OK, I made that up. But I do wonder if the humor is lost on the marketing manager so desperately trying to Westernize the product. They suck, by the way. The twins literally peed right through them. Sitting them atop a roll of paper towels would have been far more effective, and possibly made for a great You Tube upload. The search for Pampers starts tomorrow.

So, I have my diapers, we wheel over to the park and the kids start to play. I mostly focus on preventing broken bones, (more) stitches, and stopping TwinXY from pushing other kids off the slide. As I interact with other adults on the playground, I start to realize that I am the ONLY mother there. Every other adult is an “amah” – a Filipino nanny. (They are live-in nanny/maid/cooks, make ~US$450/mo plus room and board working 6 days/wk, living in what almost every apartment is outfitted with – “servant’s quarters” – which sound luxurious until you see that it is actually a broom closet with a sink and toilet.) The amahs are friendly but distant and everything is cool. Around 5 PM, the real Moms start arriving, amahs and kids in tow. Here I am alone, chasing my two who absolutely refuse to play on the same piece of equipment or run in the same direction, when the looks begin. THAT look. Confusion and disgust, with a tad of pity and maternal judgement thrown in for good measure. As one twin falls off a stair and the other twirls on the slide speeding down head first on her back (of course it was her!) one Mom grew particulary tired of watching my chaos. The conversation went something like this:

Her: You don’t have “help”?
Me: No. My husband is out on business. We usually try to do the park together, but the kids really needed the outing today.
Her: No, no… you mean you don’t have an amah, a nanny?
Me: Nooo, I don’t. But we’ve only been here a week.
Her: But you have started interviewing?
Me: Not really. We don’t even have an apartment yet.
Her: And???
Me: …and I haven’t decided if we are going to have one or not.
Her: (head tilt, looks at me like I am from Mars, and, without another word, walks off to chat with her amah.)

By the time I rustled the kids (who remarkably survived the park with only a single caregiver) up to get into the stroller, an amah came up to me to give me a phone number because she has a friend. I don’t know. Sure, it would be a tremendous help and a fabulous luxury. And, we are considering having someone come in to help a few days per week because school is only 3 hours long and a girl’s gotta work. But, it never struck me that I was incapable of functioning without a nanny. I left the park feeling like I showed up at prom in Bjork’s swan dress. Whatever. The thought of outsourcing my parental duties, cramming a fifth person permanently in our 1300sf apartment, and forcing them to sleep in a closet makes me feel equally confused and disgusted. Thanks, but I’ll take my BabyGoo and be on my way.

Terror and relief… at 36,000 feet.

26 Feb

Relief: Well, we made it. I survived 23 hours of international travel alone with two toddlers. I will admit, my kids are rock stars. Though not without tearful moments, they played quietly, they ate (even when the airline lost their pre-ordered kid meal), and they SLEPT. Ahhhh. In separate intervals, but they slept, nonetheless. And now it is all behind me, sweet relief, and we are… home? I had an amazing flight attendant – thank you L. Tam with UNTED AIRLINES for your most incredible service! He cheked in with me double time, had stickers on hand at the most critical moments, saved milk for the kids when the supply began to run low, and even helped me get my four carry-on bags off the airplane.  

A word of advice to any parents traveling alone with kid(s), particularly internationally : suck it up, tip generously, and order a wheelchair at your destination. After schlepping 4 carry-on bags, two kids, and a stroller through IAH and SFO, I, in my infinite wisdom, ordered a wheelchair for my arrival at Hong Kong. Not for me… for the bags. The lady was more than happy to roll the bags, we got to use the super-speedy handicap/handi-able entrance at Passport Control (instead of standing in the long, winding line for 45 minutes with two squirmy monkeys), she arranged the porter for my additional 6 large checked bags, and followed me through customs all the way to load the taxi. Easy-peasy.

Terror: The worst part of the entire experience… fellow travelers. I felt like a 14th century leper as I walked through the airport. It is the only place I have ever been that people actually run away rather than offer any type of assistance. The terror on the faces of my fellow travelers spoke volumes, “Please G*d, not on my flight.” Airline staffers looked at me with such disdain that I almost felt shameful for having the nerve to board a plane. And THEN… the lady in line behind me at the breakfast place at SFO says, “Why must people travel with kids? I don’t get it.” Ohhh geez, I am so sorry, lady; perhaps next time I should make them swim it? I was actually just bored this weekend and I thought a 23 hour travel day would be fun for the whole family. If you don’t like it… charter. And if my kid accidentally drops a ketchup-laden french fry on your Jimmy Choo… well, I might just high-five him for it.

My mother always says, “If your head weren’t attached to your neck…”

19 Feb

Post #1 for anyone or no-one to follow.

Let me start by explaining the name… Generally, when I chat with my friends for a well over-due catch-up, I try and do a lot of listening. When I start talking – the chaos that is my reality sets in! What’s up, Elizabeth? Oh, I started this new business, the house got destroyed by a hurricane (giant insurance lawsut to follow), I had twins (awesome, right?), we just moved into this amazing new place, I got a new job with tons of travel, and, oh yeah, we are moving to Hong Kong next month… that is a brief summary of my last 24 months. The 24 before that were no more stable, nor the 24 before that, and the 24 before that.

I see people. People with these beautifully calm, predictable lives. They have these things called schedules. They can hit the local yoga class 3x/wk, know their local barrista, what time the FedEx guy generally comes,  and some of them even know where their keys are! I have quit trying to predict anything, catch everything “when I can”, and my keys, well, Lord only knows.

It is 11:46 PM. We are in a hotel close to IAH, departing for Hong Kong in 8 hours. Sleep? Are you kidding me? I am trying to consolidate and balance my overweight luggage one last time. This blog is about our newest adventure, and the glorious chaos that is sure to ensue!

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