Sunday, February 18, 2018

My Little Munchkin/Sweetie Pie/Dearest Little One/[Insert endearment here]

Ah, sometimes this little one drives me crazy.  Other times, I am just flooded with overwhelming love for her!  She is so cute and so perfect to me, down to each of her tiny little fingers and peanut toes.

Lest you think it's all smooth sailing here, last night she had a pretty terrible case of FOMO and would not go to sleep even though she very clearly needed to sleep - I thought our eardrums would bleed out as she sobbed her little heart out.  It was so heart-wrenching and none of our increasingly desperate strategies worked - not the stroller, not the bouncer, not a pacifier, not being held, not being put down... at one point I was sure our neighbors would come knocking on our door. 

But like Michael and I are finding, these moments quickly become survival stories that are bandied about, but ultimately forgotten (or at least forgiven) when contrasted with the moments of pure, piercing joy that she brings us. 

Here she is, enjoying "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" being read to her by Jovie.  She really likes story time!  Her attention span is impressive for a 2.5 month old.  The outfit was a gift from her Nonna and Pops.

This weekend we also went to a friend's baby shower, which was conveniently held in our building (yes!) and we got to introduce Lola to a few friends there.  (In fact, the pink and blue balloons from the picture above are actually the balloons for the party.)  We put her in a little blue dress with a white cardigan, and little pink socks with butterflies on them.  Tres cute!
 She was a little fussy for a bit, but overall she really likes crowds and parties.  She also had no qualms about being held by my friend for a good five minutes or more - no fear of strangers here (yet)!
I had a few moments where I played the knowledgeable mother, passing on my newfound knowledge.  Ha ha, I wish!  We are all just doing the best we can, right mamas?
 All the noise did make Lola sleepy...but of course once we got back upstairs she was wide eyed and playful and refused to sleep.  Of course.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Happy Chinese New Year! Happy Year of the Dog

Happy Chinese New Year!  Everything is shuttered here for four days starting Thursday night (New Years' Eve) through Monday, and work and normal life will resume on Tuesday.  The upcoming year is the year of the dog.  Last year was the year of the chicken.
For the second year in a row we find ourselves staying put in Hong Kong and celebrating the holiday here.  The weather today was phenomenal - sunny and a high of 70 degrees.  Guess our cold spell here is over?  "Winter" has been getting shorter and shorter here every year.

We took advantage of it and wandered out for a mid afternoon stroll, heading to our favorite outdoor spot, Sun Yat Sen park, where we saw a ton of other families with small children, all camped out on picnic blankets with the same stroller (we have the babyzen yoyo+) parked alongside.  Guess this is the demographic that skips the airport and travel madness!

The park is one of the few areas near us with a huge swath of grass that you can step on and lie down on (GASP), and it has a phenomenal view of the harbor, to boot.  Most parks here are concrete with benches and chairs built in, no grass, but a lot of potted trees and plants, so SYS park is definitely special.

We headed out with the sunglasses on Lola.
She also had on her super cute teddy bear hoodie (why are baby clothes made 100x cuter when ears are attached?) and managed to stay awake in her stroller the entire walk to the park, where as soon as I wrestled her into the Ergobaby she zonked out.

On our walk back, we managed to get a few pictures outside, to memorialize Lola's first lunar new year!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Japan and Vietnam Bound!

So, do you guys remember how we were considering where to bring the baby on a trip during my maternity leave?  At the time, we were really thinking about one long trip, and New Zealand was at the top of our list.  We have finally decided where we're going, and it's going to be two trips instead of one.

We are headed to Niseko, northern Japan, for a week in the village of Hirafu in mid-March, followed by a four day trip to the beachside resort town of Da Nang, central Vietnam, in the first week of April.  Michael's parents will be in Hong Kong and join us on the trip to Da Nang.  This will give us the best of both worlds, cold and hot!  Also, while traveling is stressful, and doing it twice in such short order with an infant may be a bit daunting, I couldn't help but feel more stressed when contemplating what to do in one place for three weeks.  Packing for a longer trip somehow felt more stressful to me.  In addition, neither of these flights are too long, which also helped me breathe easier.

We nixed Europe pretty quickly because the flights were long and we didn't feel ready to deal with baby jetlag (let's save that for the U.S., shall we?  Joy!).  Plus, the weather didn't seem that promising in late March/early April - just cold enough to be uncomfortable and just warm enough to mean no snow.  Finally, it's really hard to take our helper with us because the visa process for Europe is a bit of a nightmare.

After a lot of deliberation, we nixed New Zealand as well, because the flights were long and we didn't feel like we would actually get to enjoy as much of the outdoor activities as we would have liked at this point.  While a visa for our helper would have been easier than Europe, it was not as straightforward as Japan (and we don't need a visa for our helper for Vietnam).  Hopefully a trip to En Zed will be in our near future.

We have been to Niseko before, and love it.  Sure, it'll be really cold, and we'll have to get our tropical baby a whole set of snow gear, but we will be enjoying a beautiful apartment with fireplace and soaking tub, and expansive views of Mt. Yotei and the surrounding birch forest covered in a dense blanket of snow. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, I really don't expect to be outside that much.  Ideally, Michael gets to fit in a few runs on the slopes, while I get to eat (I'm already dreaming of the sushi, ramen, and crab hotpot) and soak in an onsen.  One can hope!  Fingers crossed.

And while we haven't been to Da Nang before, it's a place I've wanted to check out for a while now. It's barely 2 hours from Hong Kong by direct flight.  We found a beautiful villa in the Hyatt Regency complex with its own swimming pool.  The resort is an easy 15 minutes away from the airport.  The weather will be sunny and hot, with lows in the 60s and 70s and highs in the 80s and 90s.  I would also like to take a day to visit the neighboring city of Hoi An, a charming, well preserved UNESCO site with lots of good shopping and eating.

In both places we plan to have a car rental, so that we can travel on our own time and not be at the mercy of the hotel shuttles.  After Da Nang, my maternity leave will have come to an end.  I hope these travels help ease the sting of the return, although I suspect it will just leave me moony eyed for more fun times with Lola!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Sun's Out, Shades Out -- and a Brunch Fail

This past weekend, we got some sunglasses for Lola, and to our delight they fit her now.  Here she is modeling them while snacking. I can only imagine what she thought when her world suddenly went dark.  I'm guessing she really didn't care, as she continued to suck down her milk with steely single-minded focus!
What a cool cat
 On Sunday, we tried to take advantage of the beautiful sunshine  and ventured out to brunch at The Winery, a restaurant near our apartment.   We opted to go there mainly because we wouldn't have to wrangle the stroller uphill (ah, the considerations of new parents)! 
But it was such a disappointment - we arrived at 1:40pm to find that they had no seats on their main floor or second floor - so we had to carry Lola up three flights of stairs to squeeze ourselves into the last remaining open table under their booming speakers.  Then, over an hour later, we were still sitting there, starving, with an increasingly fussy infant, with no food in sight.  The entire restaurant was being staffed by a handful of beleaguered employees who clearly could not keep up with the Sunday demand.
Don't be fooled by the airy decor

Finally, we left cash enough to cover Michael's coffee and a generous tip to our beleaguered waitress, and left!  It was such a fail.  It was really no fault of the waitstaff, who seemed stressed, but we also couldn't continue to wait.  Michael and I ruefully admitted on our walk home that gone are the leisurely four hour brunches where we sit down and spend a long time perusing the menu and deciding what we want to eat.  We need kitchens that churn out food, pronto!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Passports Process

Here is Lola's hilarious passport picture - just too good not to share!  Michael and I think she looks like a member of the mafia here.  Something about the double chin, the white ribbed tank top underneath... all she needs is a gold chain!
It turns out getting a passport picture that meets U.S. immigration requirements is nigh impossible for a newborn (white, smooth background, open eyes, both ears, forward facing, bright light and no shadows) and we finally settled for this picture after the photographer took at least 60 or 70 shots.

It was a rather tiring ordeal because we took her to get her picture taken right after she had fed and decided that that afternoon (of course) would be the day she would sleep like the dead.  No matter what I did (tickling, blowing raspberries, kissing, stroking her feet, changing her diaper, calling her name, rubbing a cold towel on her neck), I could not wake her up.  So we grimly sat in a cafe and waited for the little one to wake up.  Two hours later, she finally decided to emerge from her slumber (but of course she woke up because was hungry... and cranky)!

The trick here is that I held her in my lap with my hand behind her head, and the photographer whitewashed my hand out of the photo.  I blame this photo for the onset (or acceleration) of my currently excruciating "Mommy's thumb" in my left hand.  For some odd inexplicable reason, the photographer had me unzip her cute, colorful onesie, to reveal her tank top underneath.  So much for the cute outfit I had planned!

We opted to get her U.S. passport first.  It was annoying in that we had to make an appointment and get to the embassy, then wait as the paperwork got reviewed and submitted, but Lola was on her best (sleepiest) behavior.  They insist that Lola be there in person for the consular officer to see her.  Even though they quoted us 4-5 weeks for the passport process, we ended up getting a notification and getting all of the paperwork in 2 weeks!

Then the H.K. passport process was pretty smooth also.  We also had to make an appointment and go to the immigration department, then wait as the paperwork got reviewed and submitted.  I ran into a little trouble with one of the immigration officers because they insisted I signed the form incorrectly (but I had to insist that they told me to sign it that way)!  Thankfully it was all smoothed out in quick order and now we are waiting to pick up her passport on March 1.  Lola was also on great behavior, only waking up briefly to give the immigration officer a few inquisitive stares.

We dressed her up nicely for her interview with immigration in her little navy peacoat:

The government offices of Hong Kong are located pretty close to our apartment, so I could walk over with her stroller.  On the way home, we took the scenic route by the water.  It was brisk and cold, but very sunny.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Some More Pictures!

Here are some more pictures of Lola over the last two weeks.  She keeps growing every day!  She's recently become interested in her own reflection, but nothing can surpass her fascination with the TV.  She will turn her head at all kinds of crazy angles in order to maintain an unfixed lock on the big screen - it's a bit scary, actually, to see how transfixed she is on the thing.  We have started to turn the TV off whenever she's in front of it.

She was enamored with pacifiers for a little while, but that interest was quickly outpaced by her fascination with her fist and thumb.  Here she is, back before she outgrew this phase, enjoying her elephant Wubbanubba for a quick self-soothe before bed.
 I managed to catch the sweetest expression on her face after a particularly satisfying feed, when she was completely milk drunk and then clearly having some sweet dreams - maybe about having more milk!

Sometimes, she can be playing by herself, and fall asleep...ah, the sleep of babes. 

Dad and daughter making eye contact
 Lola continues to baffle and awe us with her Houdini-like skills as she breaks out of her swaddle on nearly every occasion.  This is how I find her sometimes - both hands out! 
Don't let her look of innocence fool you.  She is a wily one!
What are you talking about?
Who, me?

Monday, January 29, 2018

An Overdue Update as We Come Upon Two Months

I didn't mean to go so long between posts, but time has had a funny way of sneaking up on me and completely blowing by while I've been otherwise preoccupied.

Things are going well here - we are slowly, to the extent possible with a newborn, learning Lola's cues and signals and habits and getting into a routine.  Our guesses aren't always right, and Lord knows Lola cannot be cajoled into doing anything she doesn't want to do, so our attempts at routine or schedules don't always work, but then she has been so cute and adorable each and every day that it's hard to be too frustrated or upset even when we're battling exhaustion.  And as scary as it is to say, I'm kind of getting inured to the whole not sleeping for more than 2.5 hours at a time.

As we come up on 2 months, Lola has been cooing and gurgling and steadily making a lot of noises, as if she wants to communicate with us.  She has discovered her hands and loves (LOVES) to shove her fingers (preferably her whole fist) into her mouth and can happily entertain herself this way for quite some time.  She continues to love her bouncer and her playmat and adamantly detests being worn, although we recently made some inroads with the Ergobaby.  Her eyesight has noticeably improved because she is for the first time fixated on the toys on her mobile, and she really enjoys flashing lights, particularly on her baby Einstein music maker.  She is generally a really smiley, happy baby, and will react to our smiles by smiling back.  Her gummy smiles totally warm our hearts!

She has gotten five vaccines to date and has been to the doctor a few times for routine check ups.  She is progressing steadily in all categories and is on the standard growth chart curves.

I've been to the park with her and we've gone on a few walks with her, but we haven't started to bring her out to social events or meals yet.  So far it's just been the occasional fun, short excursion, and then the doctor's office.

We have also been busy amassing her various documents.  For being such a little person, Lola sure has had a lot of applications already!  She has her Hong Kong birth certificate, which we applied for and received in December.  Her U.S. passport is currently being processed and once we receive that, we can apply for her social security card.  Because she was born abroad, we also needed to get a "consular report of birth abroad."

In addition, Lola is eligible for a Hong Kong passport and is a permanent resident of Hong Kong by virtue of her being a "Chinese citizen" and being born here, so we are in the process of applying for that passport and her HKID card. 

Finally, because schools in Hong Kong are so competitive, we've already lodged applications for her kindergarten at a few schools that accept applications as soon as the baby has a birth certificate, and she's already on the waitlist for a few popular bilingual playgroups that accept applications at birth because there is such demand. 

I'm slowly amassing a library of both English and Chinese picture books to read to her, and this has been such a fun project and a lovely trip down memory lane.  I love books and I hope I pass on my love to her.  I can't wait until she's old enough to enjoy some of the books I adored as a child, like Mrs. Piggly-Wiggly, Amelia Bedelia, Frog and Toad, Cam Jansen, Nate the Great, Encyclopedia Brown, Caddie Woodlawn, Little House on the Prairie...

Friday, January 19, 2018

A Photo Comparison

There have been lots of differing opinions as to whether Lola looks like me or Michael.  My mom dug up some old pictures of me from when I was a baby.  What do you guys think?  Does Lola currently take after her mom or her dad?  Of course, babies change so rapidly that who she looks like now has no bearing on who she will resemble throughout the ages!

 And where I'm a little older:

And one snap from present day!  She was side eyeing me like nobody's business last weekend...

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

BabyBjorn Bouncer Photo Series

Lola continues to change every day!  She's clearly the most popular attraction on the blog thus far so I will put aside my boring ramblings and other life updates (just kidding, there aren't any other life happenings) and just keep posting pictures of her.  She is growing so fast and every day brings about a new occurrence or development.

We've brought out the Skiphop playmat (Lola's takeover of our living room space continues without mercy!) and she loves staring at all of the little objects while she plays/exercises and does tummy time.

She loves her babybjorn bouncer (this thing has been a godsend), and can often be found chilling in it during the day or in the evening.  As you will note, Lola has so many expressions!