Snapshots

Oh dear. A month between posts has to be a new low for me. I feel like I’ve been stuck in a bit of a trance – not enough sleep combined with the unpredictable schedule of my tyrannical new boss has led to a lack of motivation for doing anything other than eating sugar and trying to manipulate my computer’s VPN address so that I can watch the Winter Olympics. Nothing like watching the world’s best athletes compete while you try to complete the extremely physical task of remembering where you left your baby.

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“You left me in this pile of Canadiana”

Here are a few snapshots of our life over the past month:

1. Good news! I’m not having a heart attack

I have been experiencing pain in my sternum since Zoe’s birth. I kinda suspected that it is due to my bad posture (hauling 15 lbs of baby fat* around tends to drag the ol’ shoulders forward), but since my ribs did take a bit of a pummelling during my c-section, I thought I’d get it checked out. I made an appointment with my OB/GYN, and when I arrived, he seemed quite pleased to see me. Imagine a small, old, uncle-y Thai man who wears suspenders so his pants don’t fall down when he’s rushing to a delivery, and who talks in a sing-song voice when he’s in a good mood.

“Ahh. Ruth! Here for your last check-up! Please, please, let me poke and prod you in the most painful and awkward of places so that I can assure you that you are capable of going through this whole miraculous experience again!! Tralala.”

“Uhh… Actually, I’m here because of my rib pain. Andthethoughtofproducinganotherchildatthismomentishorrifying.”

“Rib pain? Haha! Beyond my jurisdiction! I will refer you to my colleague. Now, please, please, allow me to examine you!”

After he ascertained that I am (physically if not mentally) still capable of bearing children, I ended up in a cardiologist’s office. Before I knew what was happening, a nurse was strapping these weird suction things to my chest and administering an EKG. When I saw the doctor, he had a confused look on his face.

“Uh… Miss Ruth. Your heart is fine. You are only 29, you know. Still so young. You are not having a heart attack.”

What a relief. My rib pain and I will just mosey on home, secure in the knowledge that at least my heart is still ticking.

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So relieved.

2. First-time parenting neuroses

Todd and I both experienced some pretty strange dreams during pregnancy (well, I was pregnant. Not sure what Todd’s excuse was). A real fun surprise during these last few months is that these middle-of-the-night episodes have continued into parenthood. They’ve now slowed down somewhat, but during the first month, Todd and I would have this conversation in the middle of the night, EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.

Ruth “Where’s the baby?!”

Todd “I’ve got her right here!” (as he squeezes one of the pillows on our bed hard enough to decapitate it – just one of the reasons we don’t co-sleep).

Variation:

Todd “Where’s the baby?!”

Ruth “I’m just nursing her” (as I fumble through the sheets, unable to find the baby)

In both these scenarios, Zoe was happily grunting like a goat in her own crib while her parents lost their minds.

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Glad you find this so humorous, bobblehead.

3. Travelling with a baby

Todd had a week off for Chinese New Year, and we made the brilliant** decision to pack up our 2-month-old, and head for the closest island. We’ve been to Koh Samet many times, and have always considered it an easy jaunt from Bangkok. Doing it with a baby would be simple, right? We packed Zoe up (ie: tried to shove her into her carrier, which she hated, because her boneheaded parents couldn’t figure out how to use it properly), and headed for the bus terminal, where we encountered the first glitch in our plans – the bus was leaving an hour later than anticipated. So we picked Zoe up (no packing this time) and went across the street for a coffee.

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“I wonder if I could ask for my latte to be made with human milk…”

We finally boarded the bus, and tried to ignore the people glaring at our baby. I can understand why people aren’t fans of travelling in the same confined space as babies, but I have to say that Zoe behaved like a champ. She hardly made a sound. This, however, was because I was so afraid of disturbing people that I would neurotically nurse her as soon as she gave any indication that she was even alive.

“Gah!! She opened her eyes! Slap her on, quick!”

This made for a gruelling 4 hours, especially as the bus never stopped for its requisite noodle break. In Thailand, it is widely understood that humans cannot go more than an hour or two without a break for food, so we planned accordingly: we would eat lunch and change Zoe when the bus stopped. As the trip dragged on, it became increasingly obvious that we would not be stopping. It also became increasingly obvious that Zoe’s diaper was not going to last. All I can say is that it is amazing what you can accomplish in a moving vehicle. And I am very grateful that Zoe is no longer operating like a SuperSoaker filled with poop.

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At one week old. That pack of wipes was a write off.

When the bus finally arrived at the pier, I was famished and feeling pretty done with the whole trip. But we still had a speed boat ride to look forward to. Todd and Zoe camped out on the dock while I bought us some nasty pad Thai, which we ate on the pleasantly diesel-scented dock.

We finally boarded the boat for our destination, and I was overwhelmed with the knowledge that we were the worst parents on the planet. How could we subject Li’l Ham Hocks to the turbulence and danger of a speed boat ride?! How selfish could we possibly be?! Nothing like a heapin’ helpin’ of parental guilt to help you relax and enjoy your vacation.

When we finally arrived, we realized that we didn’t really have a place to set Zoe outside of our hotel room. At mealtimes, one of us would hold her while the other ate (when she was happy) or one of us would sit with her in the room while the other ate (when she was not happy). We also got to enjoy taking turns on the beach (“would you rather stay in the room with Zoe first, or hang out with too many acres of aging European flesh on the beach?”).

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Zoe’s only trip to the beach: carefully timed to be after the sun went down, but before the bugs came out

Zoe seemed to realize that she was in a different place at night, and grunted extra-loud and woke up extra-often in response. We didn’t have our usual white noise with us, so this translated into her parents waking up extra-often.

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But don’t worry – we’ll still keep you.

After two nights of this, I was “relaxed” out of my mind. Fortunately, I had a long bus ride home on which to plan our next “relaxing” trip.

Maybe I should book another appointment with my OB/GYN to discuss my sanity. I wonder which specialist he would refer me to…

 

*When I say “baby fat” I actually mean “fat baby”

** Boneheaded

Frigid Travels in the Curry Mothership

Well, T-bone and I made it to India. The trip has already been wonderful, horrible, and everything in between – par for the course in India. Anything other than dramatic extremes would be a disappointment. It had also been surprisingly frigid. After dusk, the temps hover at around 5-10 degrees Celsius, and we were not exactly well prepared.
Blog posts will be short’n’random for the next two weeks. Best Christmas wishes to you all!

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Todd exploring the Red Fort in Delhi

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Freezing my buns off/drinking chai on a frigid train ride.

My Little Bird Learns to Fly! (aka: Todd gets older)

Well, it’s just been a week full of birthdays around here! First the Queen, then Todd, and then the Queen again, because her birthday celebrations last for a week. I told Todd that we should head over to the palace and combine celebrations, but he insisted on having his own special day. He was certainly well feted, because half the contractors in the apartment building showed up to air hammer our doorframes at the same time that 15 of our teacher-buddies showed up to celebrate. There was probably one person for every year of his life present (I won’t mention the precise number of years, but let’s just say that it rhymes with “dirty-tree”).

Todd and his favourite Siamese twin, David, try to extinguish a trick candle

Now, birthdays around here mean one thing, and one thing only: birding time! Nothing brings joy to Todd’s heart like the twitters’n’chirps of his fine feathered friends. The birding began with a special cupcake from Michelle and Lisa.

These teachers know what a birder needs

I showed my support for Todd’s birding habit by eating the beak off his bird cupcake.

Always happy to help

I also planned a surprise Birding/Birthday trip to a national park three hours south of Bangkok. This necessitated staying at an adorable beach resort* in Prachuap Kiri Khan province. The things we do for our little cluckers….

It wasn’t too shabby

We spent Saturday swimming in the creepily warm water (“there are no sharks in Thailand, right Todd?”), where I got stung by a jellyfish. This was a new and not entirely enchanting experience. Coming from Calgary, I’m used to dealing with threats that are either minuscule (mosquitoes) or monstrous (grizzlies)**, with pretty much nothing in between. Getting stung by something that you can’t see felt unfair. They should at least have given me a sporting chance.

Life hurts

The only thing to do was to drown my sorrows in a vat of ghee, presented in the form of Indian food. I may be Canadian, and I may be living in Thailand, but my gut is loyal to one country, and one country only. Don’t worry, Mother India. No amount of pad thai will ever come between us.

I can’t even begin to convey my joy

The feather action began the next morning. Because this trip was planned by me, not Todd, we only had the roughest idea of where we were going. The helpful owner of our hotel drew a map for us: “drive up a random dirt road, turn left at the shrine, pass the ruined shrimp farm, hurtle down the steep hill, and stop at the ranger’s station. Someone should be able to take you out into the marshes on a boat.” Say no more. We rented scooters, and headed off early the next morning.

Hand-drawn map? Check. Birding shirt? Check.

When we arrived at the rangers’ station, we wondered if we were in the wrong place, because no one was around. We hiked through the forest to try to get a better view (“there are no spiders in Thailand, right Todd?”), and wandered around a bit. After some time, a ranger showed up. When we asked if he would take us out on a boat, he started laughing, and gestured that there was no water in the marshes. Funny how we missed that detail…

A good birder doesn’t sweat details like water

Todd still had a good time checking out storks’n’who-knows-what-else, while I sat and contemplated life, got into an altercation with a pack of dogs, and tried to converse with a local rooster, who didn’t seem to be feeling it.

Humans are depressing

That afternoon, we decided to take out our hotel’s tandem sea kayak (I don’t mind doing the conjoined thing if it means that Todd does all the paddling) and explored one of the islands in the bay. I initially regretted not bringing my camera, but in retrospect, perhaps it’s for the best. The island was covered in monkeys, and the acts in which they were engaging scarred my eyeballs and would not be appropriate for a PG blog. Here’s another picture of the bay instead.

So pensive

All in all, Todd had a great birthday weekend, even if it was a little light on the birds and heavy on the jellyfish and copulating monkeys. Once again, as we drove home, the Queen beamed benevolently at us from numerous highway shrines, because it is still her birthday.

*No, this is not a paid endorsement – just wanted to put in a good word for a friendly place.

**Grizzlies’ motto: “We may maul you, but at least you’ll see us coming”

Happy Mother’s Day!

It was The Queen’s Birthday this past weekend, which meant that Thailand had a stat holiday on Monday. In Thailand, not only is The Queen’s Birthday a holiday, it serves as Mother’s Day for the entire country. Now that is royalty with real power! In case anyone forgot that it was The Queen’s Birthday, there were displays along all the major roads, and, more importantly, in all the malls to remind them.

The birthday shrine outside Todd’s school’s gates

Most of the new teachers decided to celebrate the three-day weekend by travelling to Ayutthaya, the site of Thailand’s historic royal city. 16 of us crammed into a mini-van with seating that will forever after make economy class feel spacious to me. Every time we clambered out of the mini-van, I could hear most of the teachers counting us off – they just can’t help it. Herding adults is infinitely worse than herding students – you can at least threaten students with detention, and I’d bet money that they have better impulse control when confronted with food carts.

At our first stop in Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya was an intriguing place to visit. We learned about it in Thai Culture Class, and it was great to see it in the flesh. At our first stop, Wat Phra Mahathat, Todd and I decided to enhance our historical experience by renting an audio tour that came with two headsets. This lasted for about 5 minutes, after which I gave up on the history and meandered off by myself. I prefer to absorb information via osmosis. This tends to leave me with fewer facts but fonder memories.

I don’t care if I’m in the land of Siamese twins – I just can’t handle the conjoined thing.

We wandered around the first site for a while, and admired the ruins. If I remember correctly, the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya in the 1700s, and sacked the joint. Check Wikipedia if you want more facts.

Oops! Buddha is missing his head

Found it!

After lunch we visited Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit, a temple that houses a massive bronze Buddha.

Nearby were the partially restored ruins of another temple complex called Wat Phra Si Sanphet. In my wanderings, I somehow missed the ruins, and found myself in the opposite corner of the large complex. I was confused, as there didn’t seem to be anything of archaeological interest going on, although the bathrooms were extremely clean. While I was gone Todd found himself a much nicer friend than me, and spent the rest of the tour congenially conjoined.

David is a very friendly soul, and told me that I can include anything I want about him on my blog. This is naturally extremely exciting to me.

Our final stop of the day was the reclining Buddha. The government of Thailand allegedly draped him in a saffron robe to represent wisdom, thus creating a national mystery about what exactly is hidden under his robe. I tried to convince Todd to crawl under his robe and reveal said mystery, but he refused.

Aww. You look tired. Why don’t you just curl up in his robe, Todd?

After visiting three sites, the educators couldn’t handle any more education, and we crawled back into the bus. This time, my seat was without both legroom and headroom, so I pulled out my best not-so-secret talent, and scrunched myself into a pretzel in the back row. The Queen beamed benevolently at us from multiple highway shrines as the bus crawled back to the Big B.

My Life Is SUPER-FANTASTIC!!!

I think that social media often presents a one-dimensional view of a person’s life, making it seem more perfect than it actually is. One of my friends jokes that most of the images on Facebook are actually posed shots that people have taken of themselves: “Look at me! I’m soooo happy!! And my life is super-fantastic!!”

An example. Generally, this style of photography is more successful if you
a) photoshop the camera out of the picture, and
b) avoid taking photos that are obviously in your bathroom

Sometimes, however, life really is one-dimensionally super-fantastic. This past weekend, we left our sewage-scented apartment and headed to an island off the coast of Pattaya with a group of other teachers. Koh Larn has numerous stray dogs and cats, beautiful beaches, and accommodations that don’t wreak of raw sewage: a recipe for success!

Look how much I love puppies, Todd!! So much!! Why won’t you buy me a puppy, Todd??

Interestingly, the entire island was populated with a combination of Thai locals and Russian tourists. An ice cream vendor asked Todd if he was a Russian model. Maybe if the teaching thing doesn’t pan out… We spent most of our time swimming in the giant bathtub that is the Gulf of Thailand. Not to make generalizations about the apparel choices of other nationalities, but the speedos and thongs were out in force. We were also treated to several lengthy photo shoots involving ample curves amply exposed.

The beach, including a fully dressed Thai man, but minus the naked Russians.

On our second day on the island, we rented scooters and took a tour of the island. I realize that the legal system may not impinge on fun in Thailand as much as it does in Canada, but even so, I was surprised at the scooter rental process: Todd signed his name to a contract that the shop handed to us, and they gave us four scooters. No identification or deposit or credit card number required. I guess the fact that we were on an island limited our escape routes, but still…

This was a photo op: Todd had his own MANLY scooter (complete with MANLY helmet and MANLY murse).

It was great to get out of the city, and a super-fantastic time was had by all.