Jillian R.
Eric folded up Scarlett's co-sleeper this morning. It might not seem like anything but to me, it was really emotional. Since coming home from the hospital as a little bundle of pinkness, she had been sleeping in our room, next to me, in her little co-sleeper, which I quickly realize was a very very essential item for a new mother. I remember getting up every hour to nurse her that first night and I don't think it would have gone very well if I had to walk across the hall to get to her each time. Nursing at night gradually stretched from two to three hours to only once a night to her sleeping through the night at four months old, but through it all, she was right next to me, in her little cot with a mesh side so I could easily see her.

The Arms Reach Co-Sleeper (Image from BN.com)

She started sitting up without any support when she was six months old, in fact it was the second day in New York while we were visiting family. I propped her up on some pillows that morning and instead of flopping over after a few minutes, she stayed there playing happily while we were still trying to recover from the 14 hour flight.

By May, at seven months she needed the littlest push to get up to sitting position but from there she could easily stand up by holding on to something; a coffee table or the bars of her crib. So we knew that it was about time to put away the co-sleeper for safety reasons. The problem is, she can't really be left in her room to fall asleep because she keeps trying to stand up and look for us!

This morning however, I woke up to her kneeling on her co-sleeper watching US sleep! Thank God she didn't stand up because she could have easily toppled over and hurt herself on the tiled floor. So, it was time.

She loves looking over her crib too

As I'm writing this, Scarlett is sleeping in her crib, in the nursery and I'm fighting the urge to run over there and smell her soft cheeks.

Ahhhh, babies. They do things to people!
Jillian R.
Scarlett is now two weeks shy of turning eight months old. If you have been a long time follower/reader of my posts, you will know that I am all for the environment. However, because we live in a country where the greener option is not always available or if it is, costs at least three times as much; many times, I'm forced to go with whatever that is available.

Diapers happen to be one of my environmental concerns as far as I can remember. Way before I was even pregnant I decided that I was going to use cloth nappies at home and only use disposable diapers when we go out. However, since bringing the baby home, it quickly dawned on me that between cleaning up after two very active doggies, being a chef who makes three balanced meals a day, at least five days a week and pack a work lunch for the husband, make the majority of my cooking ingredients from scratch, do laundry without a dryer (I prefer air drying my clothes anyway) and ironing (I know, nobody irons anymore but I like crisp, fresh lines on my clothes), and a gardener who has to rake up leaves from our garden everyday leaves (Aha! Managed a homograph here!) me with very limited time for washing and drying cloth nappies.

So, Plan B quickly became finding a good diaper that does not cause nappy rash and could take a good amount pee pees! I really did not even want to try any of the local brands so we were left with only two choices (yay!); Huggies and Pampers. Huggies are about twice the price of Pampers, so Pampers it is!

It turns out that these Pampers Premiums (these are called Pampers Swaddlers in the US) are amazing! They have a "wetness indicator" which turns from yellow to blue when wet and no matter how wet it gets, baby's bum stays dry! And, never gave Scarlett a nappy rash, not once!

Although clearly a winner in my eyes, diapers however amazing are not environmentally friendly. So I really wanted to get her out of diapers as soon as I can. I decided very early on that as soon as she can sit up unsupported, we were going to potty train her. We decided that she was ready when she started crawling around the house and getting into everything!

Crawling from one end of the tunnel to the other is a very good workout, by the way

We've seen some fancy, expensive training potties but I kept telling Eric that I wasn't ready to spend so much on something that she might or might not like. So I set out to get the cheapest potty I could find. Of course, where else but at IKEA, I found the perfect one.

At $4.99, this is clearly the one! IKEA also has a $9.99 option but nah, the cheaper the better.

So, Day 1 of potty training; I sat her down on it, told her to go potty while I went potty myself and flushed. Nothing. Repeated the process an hour later, nothing, but by the third try, voila! I saw a little trickle! I clapped, hugged and showed her how happy I was. She laughed too.Throughout the day, even though I didn't have to go, I pretended to and I used the eco-flush (this is the small button on the toilet) because I think Scarlett associates the sound of flushing water to going potty!

She even made #2!

Today is Day 2 of potty training, it's 9.30 pm and baby has gone to bed. We've only used TWO diapers! Two!

I'd say potty training is a huge success, don't you think? 

Jillian R.
We're currently taking a break from life in the desert and visiting family in New York. If you have never flown 14 hours on a nonstop flight with a spoilt rotten, bratty, screaming toddler in the same flight cabin with no chance of escape, you will never know the mental anguish it causes. 

No, said spoilt brat isn't our Scarlett, who at six months did not cry throughout the entire flight, NOT ONCE! We arrived at the airport three hours early AND there was a two hour delay before we could get on board, bringing the total number of hours to 17 hours (of being a good baby)! The weeks leading up to this trip, I've been reading online forums, trusted literature about flying with young babies as well as asking our pediatrician for any tips we could apply to minimize fussing and crying while on board - something which most parents we've flown with obviously neglect to do. Anyway, with the knowledge I gathered, we set off on our adventure!

A sleeping Scarlett while waiting for our delayed flight

These are a few tips that might help in your next long haul flight with a young baby:

We had the usual things you will need in a diaper bag plus a few extra items (which we never ended using anyway). I had a tablet which we loaded up with an hour or so of nursery rhymes; our daughter LOVES watching nursery rhymes. At home, she gets to watch a few minutes of rhymes here and there up to a total of about an hour a day. So if she was fussy on the plane, the rhymes could keep her occupied at least for a good few hours. 

Another thing I would strongly recommend flying with a baby who might start teething at any moment is teething oil which you could rub on the baby's cheeks. Of course, you might want to try it out at home first for any signs of allergy before the flight. I used a lavender scented one which we rubbed on her cheeks right before we took off even though she is not teething to help soothe her.

I've posted before about struggling with breastfeeding and having to resort to bottle feeding expressed breast milk because Scarlett developed nipple confusion and I refused to give up and use baby formula. With the help of a very knowledgeable lactation consultant, I was able to revert her back to the breast about two months before this trip. Breastfeeding helped A LOT! Just as we were about to take off, I started breastfeeding her. It turned out that the changing altitude did not bother her and after about five minutes of suckling she was already asleep. Throughout the flight whenever she woke up from a nap she would want a few sips of milk to quench her thirst from the dry cabin air. I CANNOT imagine pumping milk then storing it for the next feeding and only using a little and having to discard the rest and how much milk do I heat up? And how?! I didn't want to slosh around hot water on basically a moving vehicle! So I am beyond grateful that I could breast feed without any issues.

Apart from the convenience, breast feeding meant that I could give provide the antibodies needed for Scarlett to flight off any sickness that she might have picked up from the recycled cabin air. I was so worried that she might catch a cold or fever from breathing all that dry, germ infested air on board, I have an unopened bottle of baby cold medicine as I type this - but she never did need it!

Anyway, for at least 10 hours out of our 14 hour flight, two aisles away from us sat a family with three young children who looked like they were the ages of two, four and five. The two year old spent the entire time sitting on the father's chest (not his lap!) and using his face as a toy (which they should have brought). She randomly shrieked high pitch screams that the father would try to soothe but that only made her scream louder. The five year old had his own seat but he too would yell randomly while wildly jabbing his screen. He seemed to have some anger issues. I never saw the other child but we all could hear him. What was the mother doing the entire time? Nothing. NOTHING at all. Ninety percent of the people on our flight were Indian and they were extremely experienced and polite travelers, the kind of people you would WANT to fly 14 hours with, but this one family (who happened to be Indian too) annoyed everyone!

Ok, so I started this post while we were in New York and it was never completed, now it seemed pointless to continue on, so I'll leave this as it. I'll write a bit more about our travels in a separate post.
 Scarlett's first yuca rellena. Nah, just kidding, she didn't get any *nom*nom*nom*

Jillian R.
I'm sorry, I know I just posted a rant yesterday but I can't leave this one um, un-ranted!!

Before I go on, let me just say that this group post strikes a chord in me because I'm of Chinese descent, I'm not from China, but still, I'm Chinese, therefore, I often feel offended when I'm being associated with embarrassing behavior by other Chinese. It's a rather racist but common assumption that the Chinese are cheap. However, I've never seen cheap until I witnessed the following incident:-

It was 2009, my first trip to New York with Eric. We flew Cathay Pacific, therefore, the layover was in Hong Kong and from there, we flew to the US with a Chinese tour group, I don't know which part of China they were from because I don't speak Mandarin to ascertain their dialect or accent. Throughout the flight there were LOTS of open mouth coughing and sneezing and even though I loaded myself up with Vitamin C, I was still sick for the first three days whilst in NY. 

And now, are you ready for this? While waiting for our bags at Baggage Claim, about 10,000 sacks started rolling out on the carousel. Okay, it was about 50 bags, but they all rolled out at once, these bundles were each wrapped in a black sheet, tied with a red string/rope. I happened to be standing quite close to the Chinese tourists who were waiting for their bags (it was their's because I saw them picking the sacks up - no idea how they were going to determine which sack belonged to whom) and I quickly moved away; because I didn't want to be associated with them, it's not racist, this is BEYOND cheap. I mean, I think they were trying to save weight (can't waste a single kilo on the luggage!!) but c'mon! I saw airport authority changing looks with each other and I remember feeling deeply embarrassed by this.

So, today, when I saw the following post on said the said Facebook group I'm in, I couldn't believe my eyes!

REALLY?! Where is this mom travelling to? The middle of the ocean? Why? Why would one want to bring fresh vegetables, soup stock and FROZEN meat on the plane? Not only is this completely crazy but it could potentially be a health hazard (nice and warm in their bags for bacteria to breed over many hours, cool!).

See how people like "theses" are giving us Asians a bad rep? See, what did I say yesterday about the amazing standard of English on the group?
Jillian R.
I was going to write a quick rant while the baby took her morning nap; usually a quick 20-min one if I'm lucky. However, as soon as I hit "New Post" she woke up and now I have to type with a baby strapped to my chest. Anyhow, it doesn't affect the positive energy of the following rant...

First of all, I know I might not be the best person to give parenting advice, being a little bit of a hypochondriac, mildly OCD and a first time mom. However, what I lack in experience, I make up in heaps of reading during the pregnancy and beyond (now!) - yes, I am a stay-at-home-mom but I think even a working mother could fit in 30 mins to an hour of reading about caring for your baby! Between house chores and two very highly energetic dogs, I was only reading for that amount of time every day - and sometimes none! Even so, I think I pretty much got all the basics (and more!) of baby-rearing.

Yes, initially I was afraid of the physical aspects; bathing the baby scared me tremendously at first, because oh boy, they are slippery when wet! I was so afraid the first few days, y'know, floppy neck, soft skull and all that I only mostly washed her front and not so much her back. Well, I'd soap my hand then kind of rubbed it over her back in the bath water, can't be that good a job. Anyway, after a week, I got the hang of it and moved on. And yes, carrying her up and down the stairs was VERY scary; what if I tripped and rolled down the stairs along with her? So, up to a month an a half, we (Eric was scared too!) carried Scarlett up and down the stairs with a baby carrier. Sometimes if I was feeling extremely lazy and the basket was upstairs (while I'm downstairs, or vice versa), I'd carry her clutching tightly with both arms and literally watch my feet take every step so I don't trip and fall, smashing both our heads into our marble stairs. 
(Image Source: vminnovations.com  http://bit.ly/1eT6nt1)

So, yes, I was (am still) a total wreck when it comes to the physical parts of being a mom, but at least I make up for it by gathering knowledge that I think is essential for a baby's survival. I've recently joined a couple of Facebook groups of (mostly) Malaysian moms - one being a breastfeeding advocacy group and the other is for moms to share ideas about making healthy food for babies/toddlers. It is becoming more obvious to me every day when I see the questions posted by some moms on these groups that these moms have completely ZERO knowledge on how to care for their babies. Everything they ask seems shrouded in superstition, old wives' tales and plain stupidity ignorance.

Here are a few things I remember reading in wonderment:-
  • On a package of baby rice (labelled clearly: BABY Rice) - Can I give this to my 9 month old baby?
  • How do I stop my baby's night feeds? - Really? Your baby is hungry, feed him/her!
  • Can a breastfeeding mom drink a whole bottle of confinement wine? - Chinese old wives' tale dictates that after a woman gives birth the body gets "cold" and therefore one needs to drink/eat "heaty" drinks/food to warm up the body. Wine and ginger being the only "heat" inducing things I know of. There are many more, but I never bothered to find out.
  • How do I thaw frozen breast milk? - And MANY many more questions about breast milk handling is just mortifying! How could a new mother not know how to handle or store breast milk? Wouldn't this be the FIRST thing you'd find out if you were planning to breast feed your baby?
  • Can I feed my 7 month old baby beetroot? Must I steam it first? - Really? How do you expect a semi toothless baby to gnaw on beets? Heck, I wouldn't gnaw on beets if I don't have to!
  • My mother-in-law gives my 6 month old son SODA, what should I do? - Need she ask?!
  • My 2 month old daughter has the flu/fever/jaundice, my mother-in-law gave her Chinese herbs, she puked it all out - Great parenting right there!
Okay, I think you get the point, I mean, I have tonnes of questions myself, but I try my best to find out from trusted resources and books and if all else fails, I seek advice from my lactation consultant or the pediatrician! You don't just do it and THEN ask questions on Facebook! It's true that every baby is different and every parent ALWAYS has questions but these are the very basic things, no, you cannot give SODA to your baby!

Sometimes reading these ignorant questions irritate me to the point of wanting to leave the group(s) but I always stop myself from clicking the button, because from time to time there are mothers who share legitimate questions and answers or useful information that is not an old wives' tale. Recently I read an article about the many good nutritional values of virgin coconut oil which I personally hate but would be definitely something I would consider giving to my diabetic husband and baby every day.

So, rant over, going back to making the baby laugh!

p/s the command of English and grammar on these groups are horrendous too, and I mentally correct them in my head every time I read a post and it's driving me crazy - but this is something I am working on fixing as part of my OCD management.
Jillian R.
I proudly proclaimed in my last post that I was going to do a daily post again. I thought I could blog on the phone during my many nursing sessions but I was quite wrong. Firstly, I don't really like blogging on my tiny touch keypad, I'm a traditional keyboard-tap-tap-tap girl and secondly my failure to do so lies in Scarlett not being a regular baby and she does not take long naps. She spends most of the day wanting attention and eye contact - yes, my four month old baby wants eye contact while nursing so I can't do very much during the day anymore.

Don't be fooled, this is the face of terror!

Anyway, with the little time I have, I still make food as healthy as I can, pack the husband a work lunch (there's no cafeteria where he works, and it's in the middle of the desert, the poor man!), I juice a delightful blend of fruits and vegetables everyday with our amazing Omega Slow Juicer (which every household should have, because it does so much, I'll get to that in a second), and make sure the fur around the house doesn't build up to an inch thick.

So, the slow juicer does not only extract pure juice from mostly any fruit, vegetable, nut (milk), and/or legume, in two months' time I'm all set to make baby food with it. The advantage of a slow juicer over the conventional kind(s) is that because it slowly grinds the juice out, we don't lose any nutrients to oxidization. And oh, it makes pasta (and bread sticks) too! I'm not getting paid to write any of this of course, I'm writing this because it is awesome!


So anyway, I still want to blog as often as I can though, because I'm starting to feel like I'm losing my ability to speak like a normal person after baby talking with the baby and dogs all day, every day. Tell me, how are you supposed to talk to dogs in a normal, adult voice? You can't.

In my last entry I said I was working on organizing my very crowded kitchen. I hadn't been able to because we have an extra refrigerator in the way and I hate things laying out all disorganized in plain sight so I stashed everything into the very little cabinet space (the said refrigerator became a weird storage box too)  I have and -- let's just say it's not working out!

Now that the shelves are up, I have a bit more room to work with, here are the before and after pictures as promised.

The rest of the kitchen is still not up to my standards and quite honestly I'm embarrassed by it. I think kitchens and bathrooms most of the time very accurately depict one's character, and I'm certainly not what my kitchen says about me right now. Hopefully there will be more redecorating of the house.

Until next time, let's just call this a once-in-a-while/every-other-day blog.

Jillian R.

We moved into our new place when I was seven months pregnant, with the help of a part-time maid (Eric had to work and he isn't much of a decorator. Anyway, the maid was not much help and we had to let her go after two weeks), I decorated the place the best I could but I had to deal with many challenges;

1. We're renting, therefore major renovations are out of the question
2. The house came with a very basic refrigerator, so we're keeping ours which is bigger and is just...better. So already facing space constraints, I have two refrigerators to deal with!
3. We had more cabinet space in the kitchen in our old place, and I have a lot of kitchen utensils and appliances that I can't give up


4. This new place has an open kitchen, so if it is not kept neat, the mess could be seen from the entire house and I just cannot have that.

Anyway, things just never really got done and organized perfectly but today, I decided that enough was enough. So, off we went to IKEA for some shelving, some men will be here tomorrow to install them. I cannot wait to clean up the mess in my kitchen. Sometimes when I'm in there with the mess, I just feel like hacking whatever I'm cooking into bits. I will share some before/after pictures - hopefully soon.

I also got some herbs and some organic soil to start a little garden on my balcony just like when we were living in Korea!

Busy, busy, but I just love productive days!

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Jillian R.
Hello, I'm back after yet another long hiatus. Baby Scarlett is almost 4 months old now.

I'm never one to take the easy road (okay, I sometimes take the easy road), take making food from scratch, even though it's easier just to buy something, like soy milk for example, homemade soy milk is so much healthier without the added stabilizers and palm oil - why must they add oil to milk? Moreover, I really hate processed food because I always want to know what we're putting into our bellies. It is even more crucial now that we have a baby, I was not raised on processed food and neither should Scarlett.

Anyway, as a first time mom, I struggled with breastfeeding since the day she was born. After reading so much about the pros and cons of breastfeeding (there are no nutritional cons, by the way), during the pregnancy, I'm very determined to breast feed, even if I only make it to 6 months. The first month, I struggled with supply and lots of pain (engorgement, etc). I remember one night where the baby was screaming because she was hungry and I didn't have much milk and as I was holding the squirming, screaming baby, I was crying because it felt like a thousand needles were stabbing me in the chest. I then had to resort to supplementing with formula, I felt guilty even though it was just an ounce a day. I made the mistake of giving her the bottle for a couple of days and so by the second month, on top of supply issues, I was dealing with nipple confusion. Luckily, she was still latching at night so I at least my milk was still tailor-made for her. Scarlett has never been under the weather and I would like to think  that breast milk has something to do with it. By the third month, she was off formula but I was pumping all the time with what seems like no improvement in supply. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, we engaged the services of a lactation consultant which helped tremendously! Within a couple of days, Scarlett was no longer confused, so to speak. of which nipple she should drink from and fast forward to today, I haven't pumped in days and everyone is happy.

As a breastfed baby (no bottles at all), Scarlett seems much happier and even though I can't measure how much she drinks per feed anymore, I know she must be getting her fill because she doesn't need to feed as frequently. Nowadays I leave her in her Bumbo Seat or her bouncer, which we all refer to as The Bouncy Bouncy and she just sits there watching me cook or clean the house. It also helps that we have an open kitchen now, instead of that kitchen room at our old apartment in the city. Oh, I hated that kitchen with a passion! If one of us was in there, and the other one is somewhere else in the house, we had to scream so that we could be heard. The washing machine was also in there, a loud one at that, so we called that horrible kitchen The Engine Room.

Scarlett in her Bumbo

So, with an extra hour here and there, I think I could see myself writing again. I should have more stories soon.
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