October 2013


Here’s what the mornings like like around here: Hazel with her shake-shake, Miles spooning fruit, yogurt & granola into his mouth, and kindy bags on the table:

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This month was all about the verbal skills.  We’ve got a little chatterbox on our hands!

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  • Talking in Paragraphs.  About a week into her 22nd month, Hazel abandoned her several words strung together sentences and started talking in paragraphs.  Spend a few minutes with her, and you’ll understand why we call her ‘chatterbox’.
  • Communicating is exciting.  Hazel gets super excited when she’s talking to you, talking becomes a full body event.  She’s stamping or waving her hands in the hair and her eyes are always HUGE.  It’s exciting talking to her!
  • Why?  Oh, yeah.  The why-phase has begun!  It’s long, drawn-out and nasal: Whyyyyyy??  This part, not so exciting, but I still like to answer anyway.
  • Hay!  She’s still all about calling herself Hay, even though she knows (and can clearly pronounce) her full name.  Given that she is still not so into pronouns, a recount about what happened might go like this: “Hay go sleeping with Hay’s baby pinkie and Hay’s blanket in Hay’s bed.”
  • Reflections.  Hazel knows where the mirror is, and how to use it.  What she discovered this month is there are reflections of herself in every shiny surface.  As we were getting into the car, she exclaimed: “A little picture of Hay!”
  • Big Girl.  Hazel’s weighing in at 12.5kg (27lbs) and is getting long and lean.  Thanks to some very generous big sisters (my friends’ girls), she is always extremely well dressed (see above).  The hair is coming, wisp by wisp, but we’ve been at a standstill with 11 teeth for months.
  • Chinese!  Tim has been reading Chinese stories to the kids at bedtime and Hazel is picking it up pretty well.  She can count to 10, get through a lot of the foods and vehicles and has perfect pronunciation.  In January, she will start a Chinese-immersion preschool with Miles.  Let the fun begin!

This is the last “baby” update for Miles.  I suppose someday I will compile these monthly updates and make a baby book of them.  Once I finish our wedding album that is.  In the meantime, our baby is a real boy now (thanks for the tips, Pinocchio!).  Check it out:

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  • Word Play.  The English language  fascinates and stumps Miles at times.  Recent favorites: “If traffic is tight, when will it loosen up?”; trying to figure out what role the plant bamboo has in getting bamboozled; “If I eat these mussels for dinner, will I get really strong?”.  I need to write them all down, classics.
  • Natural Vegetarian.  Upon realizing the food on the table was once alive and roaming/swimming, Miles worries about the state of the families of these animals, and (rightly in the case of seafood) that we made sure to leave some behind to continue the population.  It seems OK if we eat “grandpas” though.  Look out, Bob & Wally!
  • Independence.  Miles can dress himself, use the toilet (wipe, flush & wash hands!), put on his shoes and tidy up.  By independence, I am talking more about mine!  It’s wonderful.
  • Role Model.  Miles makes sure he shows Hazel the right behavior and lets her know what is the right way to act.  However, he is quick to point out her faults and so enjoys the aftermath that he has been known to whisper the bad behavior into Hazel’s ear to try to get her in trouble.  Oh, brothers.
  • Fire Fighting.  This boy loves his rescue.  Our days are full of fire-engine, -helicopter, -boat and -fighter play, and at night he dons his fire engine jams.  Guess what he’s going as for Halloween?
  • Sensitive fellow.  Almost anything precious can set Miles off, and we have to be careful to explain sensitive situations.  A small looking animal without a mother at his side, anything less than a tooth-baring grin on a cartoon figure, and almost all our bedtime stories have the potential to send his chin quivering and tears running.  For now, we’re calling this high EQ.
  • Palate.  Miles will now eat just about anything, and lately massive quanities of it.  He is OK with raw onions and even chilis, ingredients he previously stated would wait until he’s 4.  I love a kid who can enjoy a nice salad!

It is such a joy to watch and interact with Miles as he grows.  He is truly an interesting person and has a great heart.  So very proud to have him as my big boy!

One of the most disorienting things about living in Malaysia is managing the passage of time.  If time is relative, my Michigan-born brain is hardwired to relate it to snow on the ground vs. jumping in the lake.  Neither of these things happen here, and so it takes me longer than it should to determine the time of year.  Just this morning, someone posted a picture of their patio covered in snow.  My initial thought: “Snow in JUNE?”.  I searched, seconds passed, and eventually realized it was October.

Aside from snow vs. lake, there are a lot of clues missing for the passage time.  Clothing for instance, white pants and shorts are always OK.  The only shoes I have with closed toe are running shoes.  I own one pair of long pants, and I need to search and borrow if I am going to take the kids somewhere cold (like the mall).

There’s the shortening and lengthening of days that acts as a preview of what’s to come – totally absent at the equator.  Each day starts between 6:45 and 7:15 and ends 12ish hours later with the setting of the sun.  This is actually really convenient with kids, I’ve never had to put them to bed when it was bright as day outside. Wonder how it will go when I finally do.

Holidays are usually something to look forward to and mark time by.  However, with 18 public holidays spread pretty evenly throughout the year in one- and two-day sessions, it’s not too much help.  The two biggies over here are roving; Hari Raya (the end of Ramadan) shifts up by 11 days a year and Chinese New Year can be any time from January to March.  I am not complaining about 18 public holidays a year.  Not at all.

One thing that is obvious here is knowing the time of day.  Our neighborhood muezzin acts as our church bell tower, with the “man singing” five times a day.  Even Miles can tell time like this:

  • 6am: Time to get up
  • 1pm: Nap time
  • 4:30pm: Pool Time
  • 7:30pm: Kid’s bedtime
  • 8:30pm: Momma’s bedtime

As much as I will miss the pool every day of the year, and even the man singing, we are craving seasons.  Even Austin seasons are pronounced compared to here.  We’ll continue to enjoy our holidays, summer clothes, easy potty training (who needs clothes?), flip flops, warm rains and consistent days until the indeterminate amount of time passes and we are back to seasons-land.  I’m thinking it will be a bittersweet day.

What this blog has become: the kids get older and we go away.  Oh, well.  Thanks for watching.

A few weekends ago, three of my mother-of-2 friends and I headed to Borneo (again! again!) with no kids, no husbands and no makeup.  What we did have: backpacks, hiking boots and our sights set on the highest point between the Himalayas and Timur.  We headed off on Friday morning on a three hour flight.  Two of us forgot to bring reading material, not associating flying with time to ourselves.  Obviously, we really needed this time away.  Upon landing, we bused up into the foothills of Mount Kinabalu National Park, and were greeted by folks in parkas!  It was maybe 69 degrees, but cold to us islanders.  Our cute little lodge that was home for the evening offered a deck to appreciate the breeze and views of the mountain.

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The next morning, we set off after breakfast, collected name tags and our guide Joe (who, with his scraggly goatee, reminded me of Du Fu or some other ancient Chinese poet, a stereotype he further perpetuated with his answer to my question if it would rain: “here, we don’t say rain, we call it tears from the sky”) and headed to the Timphonon Gate for take off.  Six kilometers of steps and 1,500m of elevation later, the temperature had dropped 20 degrees and the breeze had intensified to gale force thanks to Typhoon U in Hong Kong.  We were glad to be the first to check into our little guesthouse room, cozy with 4 bunks and a stunning view of the vistas below.  We had an early dinner and an early bedtime.  Tomorrow would be a big day.

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Sunday we were awakened at 2am and quietly munched toast in our warmest layers and headlamps before starting the ascent.  Joe held us back and we were the last group to leave the shelter of the dining room.  The moon was almost full, and while the wind was fierce, we had clear skies as we followed the ant-trail of headlamps up the bald face of the mountain.  We walked slowly and took few breaks to find the sweet spot of staying warm but not summiting too early.  It was worth it, we reached the top at 4095m for the apex of the sunrise and a photo before scurrying down out of the freezing wind.  We wandered down, and were met halfway to the huts by our Via Ferrata guide.

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Via Ferrata means iron road, but is basically a cable attached to a rock face that you can clip a climbing harness into so you don’t plunge to certain death while you scurry along the at-times near vertical mountain.  Of the four of us, two were definitely keen (that was me & Tica), one was going to do it, and the last our guide tricked into it.  We were all glad for the experience, and completed the 450m path of ladders and cable bridges in about 1 hour 15 min.

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We took a 30 minute break at the lodge to eat and pack up, then started back down the 6km of steps, hoping to make good enough time to ensure our attendance on our flight home.  We started down at 10:15, and at 11:30 I stepped down funny on a rock and sprained my ankle.  Grr! Frustration!  I had jinxed myself by being so proud of my body for the work so far that day, and Tim jinxed me with a text message saying “don’t turn your ankle”.  Luckily, my girls were the emergency response team: my shoe was off and ankle inspected by the guide; a water bladder came out for icing; an ankle support was fished out of a bag; I swallowed the two anti-inflammatories that were presented; my pack was hiked on Joe’s back; and I took the walking stick and was up and moving about 5 minutes after the incident.  I limped down, and we arrived at the bus at 2pm, 12 hours after our start of the day during which we only had a 30 minute break.  Whew!  We made our bus and our plane, and I fell into a deep sleep when I finally crashed into bed shortly before midnight.

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I’ve been buzzing with the excitement and sense of accomplishment from the weekend, it was just what I needed.  And just in case you were wondering, the boys all did great with the kiddos at home!