Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Our first visitors arrive in about 24 hours

My parents are coming for the holidays. Christmas is slow time for the Rabbi, so this is a good time for them to get away - and spend 2 weeks with us. We've been talking up to Leah that she will get to sleep in the bed in Will's room - in his brand new sheets - very exciting. And we've been putting final touches on getting Will to sleep through the night. He goes to bed between 6:30 and 7. He has been waking up between 4 and 5:30, having a bottle, babbling for a few minutes, and going back to sleep. That's not going to fly with Leah in his room. So this morning when he woke up at 5, we didn't go in. He talked and fussed and talked and fussed - and around 5:30 started to scream - and at 5:50 he finally fell back to sleep. It was a long 50 minutes for Shafi and I...but then he slept until 6:30...and we're hopeful that tomorrow he'll just sleep straight through. And if not, then starting Friday we will be bringing him into our room for his morning bottle and hoping that whatever commotion in the process doesn't wake Leah - or at least that she goes back to sleep.

Meanwhile, I've been doing a bit of re-reading the tour books we have on Hong Kong. It's a whole different read now that I'm somewhat familiar with the city. I've copied some info on walking tours of Central, Western, and Kowloon. I've made mental notes of other things we'd like to do - Peak Tram, Star Ferry, Ocean Park. No doubt we'll spend some time exploring Stanley. I'm sure we could spend some extra time wandering in Wan Chai, maybe take an extra trip to Kowloon to check out the night market and also to catch the view of the light show in Central. My mother and I are going to Shenzhen on the Tuesday after Christmas. We probably will do a day trip to Lantau to see Ngong Ping 360, the Big Buddha, and the Po Lin Monastery. I had thought this was going to make it a busy trip, but now that I look at the list, I think we can still find some time to relax, check out some restaurants, and whatever else my parents want to see.

There's really not much else to report from the last couple of weeks. No major milestones for the kids. We've hit the beach, Ocean Park, playdates with neighbors, a little shopping. Leah is on winter break this week and next...she misses school...but I think we're managing to keep busy enough. Will is a very solid sitter but still rejecting tummy time. He really just wants to stand all the time - but thankfully he is not yet pulling up, as his balance isn't so good on his feet.

Tomorrow Shafi is taking the day off and we're taking a family trip to Macau. We thought it would be fun to take the ferry (about an hour each way) and explore some of the sights. It's got a Portuguese history. Should be some interesting architecture, museums, and restaurants.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lots to catch up on...

I've been so busy with the move into our new apartment and getting settled in that I have not had a chance to write about it...and everything else that's been going on for the last 6 weeks or so.

Leah continues to love school. She is still working on potty training - usually pooping on the potty and sometimes peeing on the potty. She comes home with dry pull-ups after school but is not quite as diligent about getting to the potty the rest of the time. Will is growing fast and doing more every day. He's been sitting stably for several weeks now, and he plays with toys with both hands. He also continues to love solids. He eats at least an 8 ounce bowl full of pureed fruits and vegetables at each meal - breakfast, lunch and dinner - and often 2 bowls full. He certainly prefers fruit but willingly eats almost everything we've given him. He also gets protein at most meals now - lentils, avocados, yogurt.

To catch up since my last post:

End of October:
We had a nice Halloween. Leah had a costume party at school the Friday before, we went to a costume party at The American Club the night before, and we went to a party in The Repulse Bay on Halloween. Leah definitely enjoyed some brief trick or treating.

Early November - the move to Stanley:
Our shipment was delivered to our new apartment on November 1. I was there to watch them open the container. Everything arrived...only minor damage done...our 2 large speakers have some cracks to the wood and 2 framed prints had cracked glass. The moving company already took care of replacing the glass and it looks like we'll be getting a check for the replacement value of the speakers.

Everything fit into our new apartment. I would say that the living room is not quite how I would have designed it - but it works. We filled in a few pieces with Ikea furniture - twin beds in the kids' rooms, a desk and bookshelves in the study, and an entertainment center. And I've done a bit of shopping for other odds and ends, electronics (voltage difference between the US and Asia meant that we had to leave behind lamps, kitchen electrics, etc.), and other decor items.

Leah was very happy to have her bedding and toys. And Will didn't necessarily miss his things while they were gone, but I think he was glad to be back in his crib. And I was certainly glad to have toys for him to play with. The kids love playing together. No one is more interesting to Will than Leah and she loves to entertain him...if not always to see him play with her old toys.

We have met some very nice people in our apartment complex, Ho's Villa. There is an American family above us with a daughter about 9 months older than Leah, Scarlett. There is a French family in House 2 with a daughter a year older than Leah, Macha. There is a German family next to the American family with a 4 year old son, Finn. There is an English family with a 3 year old son who goes to the same school as Leah, Oscar. Oscar and Leah ride the school bus together and more recently have started to sit together on the bus - very cute. There is a half-French, half-English family with a son a few months older than Leah who is in Leah's class at school, Auri. We have also socialized with some of the other parents in Ho's Villa and are definitely happy with where we have chosen to live.

Mid-November - settling in:
We celebrated Shafi's 39th birthday on the 12th. We were actually invited to a dinner party at a neighbor's that night, so that became our celebration - I brought a small cake. And I got him an iPad - something he had really been wanting but probably would not have splurged on himself. He's enjoying having that for the bus ride to and from work - which can be anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour, depending on traffic.

We have tried some of the local restaurants in Stanley, including a dim sum place near Stanley Market that we think is pretty good. There is also a pretty good authentic Chinese restaurant in the market that we had a nice dinner at. There are several restaurants with mostly European cuisine along the waterfront - but we've found that generally they have better location than food.
We took Will for his first haircut in Hong Kong to a little place in Stanley Market. It was only HK$40 (about US$5) but they did not speak any English - luckily I'm not too picky and just asking them to cut his hair turned out just fine.

We have really been enjoying living so close to the beach - just 1 block away from Stanley Main Beach. When the weather is warm, Leah and I often go down to the beach with others from Ho's Villa in the afternoon. Will also likes to sit in the sand and watch - but Leah loves to play in the water and in the sand. We're putting our many sand toys to good use. We also often play in the driveway / carpark area of Ho's Villa in the afternoons. Usually other kids are out with their mothers or helpers. It is really great for the kids to have a convenient area to play, ride their scooters and bikes, and run around.

We have paid a few more visits to Ocean Park and are definitely glad that we got annual passes. But more momentous than that - we visited Hong Kong Disneyland on the 21st. Leah definitely enjoyed seeing Mickey Mouse and the other characters, riding rides including Winnie the Pooh and Dumbo, and watching the parade.

Our new helper, Nilda, started on the 1st of November. She and Anna May really helped us getting settled in the new apartment. We actually had 5 days overlap between the Stanley apartment and the serviced apartment in Repulse Bay, which was really helpful in easing the transition. Nilda has been a great help. She is good with both kids and manages to balance helping with them, grocery shopping, cooking, and keeping the apartment nice and clean. She has only worked for Chinese families in the past, so she only makes Asian food. We have been enjoying that, but soon I will need to spend some time with her to teach her some basics of Western cooking (like using an oven) so that we can have a bit more variety.

Late-November / early-December - life in Hong Kong:
Shafi and I went on a night out with the American Women's Association to the horse races in Happy Valley. We were in a private box with its own betting counter, bar, and a nice buffet dinner. We met some nice people there and enjoyed watching the races. We also got to go down to the track to watch one race up close, which was lots of fun.

We went on a junk trip that was organized by some neighbors. A junk is a type of boat here, and renting one out for a junk trip is a popular activity. It was a Friday night - boat left from Stanley's Blake Pier at 7:30 for the hour or so ride out to Lamma Island, where we had a good seafood dinner before getting back on the junk and riding back to Stanley. We enjoyed the evening and getting to know some neighbors better.

Leah has definitely been a bit upset by not getting to see Shafi much during the week. One Friday after school I took her into Central on the bus to meet him for lunch. She was really excited to have lunch with Baba and see his office. And then I took her to the Botanical Garden and Zoo, which was fairly nearby. It's not much of a zoo - small cages and not all that many animals. We spent some time watching various monkeys before heading home. We'll have to go again to see the rest of the gardens and animals, but I don't think it will become a favorite destination.

With the start of December came the start of Hanukkah. I managed to get to Toys R Us the week before to get gifts for the kids. We enjoyed lighting the menorah and opening presents each night. We even invited some friends and neighbors over to join us some nights. Leah also had her first game of dreidel, which she enjoyed even without quite understanding the game. We went to the family Hanukkah party at the UJC - the reform synagogue on Sunday. It was mostly arts and crafts type stations for the young kids. Leah had a good time, but we felt like they didn't do much to create any community or socializing, so we did not really meet anyone while there.

I went in to Leah's school one day during Hanukkah and told her class the story of Hanukkah, lit the menorah, and made candy dreidels with them. It was fun for Leah and I, and I think the rest of the class also enjoyed it. I also sent them all home with a dreidel and bag of gelt.

I took my first trip to Shenzhen last week - the first stop in mainland China. I went with other from Will's baby group (sans babies, of course). We drove to the border and took the train across. It takes about an hour and a half each way. We spent several hours there shopping. I actually really loved it. You can get clothes tailor-made (which I'm not ready for until I finish losing the baby weight and getting in shape) and buy all sorts of knock-off and inexpensive items. I got quite a few handbags and DVDs. I'm definitely looking forward to future trips - I'd like to look at shoes, watches, sunglasses, and jewelry, as well as jeans for myself and clothes for the kids.

In the meantime, I have been exploring Stanley Market a bit more. There are lots of hidden gems in there, but it would be nice to go with someone who knows the shops a bit more - I'll have to work on that. There are lots of options for kids clothes - something which I will definitely have to start looking for soon, as both kids are growing like weeds. I've also come across lots of fun gift items - from silk outfits to jewelry to carved wood to T-shirts. And soon I'll be going to buy clothes / gear for dragon boating. I joined the AWA Dragon Boat Team. It's very challenging but a fun team sport. After 3 pre-season practices, I'm working on getting in better shape before the season starts in January. Practice will be Tuesdays from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and Saturdays from 8:30-11:30 a.m. The commitment is a bit daunting, but I know it will be good for my physique and social life. In fact, I went a couple weeks ago to lunch and for foot massages with several women from the team.

Leah had her class Christmas concert on the 8th. Shafi and I both went. The kids were very cute, with the boys dressed as santas and the girls as angels. Leah was not the most boisterous singer/performer, but we could see her lips moving and knew she was singing.

We have been regularly attending Will's baby group, which gets together one morning a week. And I have been regularly attending the weekly lunches, which are mommies-only. I've also been trying to get a playgroup started for Leah. There are 7 people on the list from the AWA, but only 4 of us have actually participated so far. We've met twice. Hopefully we can gain some traction there in the new year.

The kids had check-ups at the pediatrician a few weeks ago (November 12 actually). Will needed his 6 month check-up and immunizations and Leah needed a form filled out for school. Will was a trooper, hardly fussing from the check-up or the shots. He is 28 inches – grew an inch in 2 months. And 17 lbs 14 ozs – gained almost 1.5 pounds. That puts him around the 50th percentile for weight and 90th for height. Leah is 33.5 pounds - she gained 1.5 pounds in 2 months - and 39 inches - so she grew about 1/2 an inch. That puts her off the chart in height and around 80th percentile in weight. She's still tall and thin.

I think that is about all there is to update at the moment. I will try to post more often. You can see pics on Picasa -

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A tooth!

I have been neglecting this blog terribly...just been too busy. But I promise to get to it sometime this week with updates on the last couple weeks.

In the meantime, I need to note an important milestone - Will has his first tooth!

Yesterday he was a bit fussy - didn't eat all that well, definitely did not nurse well. And when I looked I could actually see the top of the front 2 bottom teeth - but with a thin layer of flesh still covering them. And when I touched it - he yelped. But as of this morning, one of them has officially broken through the gums - the right one. I don't think the left has joined it quite yet, but it's obviously on the verge - so in a few more days I may be able to get a picture of his first pearly whites.

Now I just have to hope he doesn't bite me!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

School glorious school

Leah had her first day of preschool yesterday! And she loved it!

I took her to school in a taxi and figured I would see after that whether we want to try the school bus or the public bus or what. We arrived a few minutes early so that I could meet her teachers - Miss Ruby and Miss Alifya. They were all ready for Leah. Her name was on a hook in the hallway for her to hang her backpack and on a laminated leaf cutout in the classroom for her to stick on the back of the door when she arrives in the morning.

She pretty much walked in like she owned the place. And the school director told me there was no need for me to stay because Leah seemed comfortable. I watched through the window of the classroom for a few minutes and saw that she was fine. And I came back and picked her up at the end…she was happy to see me but had nothing but positive things to say about school.

So this morning I took her on the school bus. Parents / caregivers are allowed to ride along. We got on the bus about 8:20. It picked up several more kids on the way and pulled up to school about 5 minutes to 9:00. I tried to hang back a bit to let Leah follow along and make sure she’d be able to handle it on her own. She was fine. The “bus mother” Miss Polly helps the kids get on and off the bus, puts their seatbelts on and their backpacks hanging on the seat in front of them. When the bus gets to school it pulls into the parking garage underneath. The kids all get out and walk to the elevator and go up together and Miss Polly helps them to their classrooms where the teachers take over getting them settled.

At the end of the day the bus mother comes around and puts the kids backpacks in the rooms – they hang in the hallway during school. Then she comes back around to collect them and they walk down the hallway holding a rope so that they stay together – with another assistant from the school at the rear to make sure they all hold the rope. The bus driver helps them all up onto the bus and Miss Polly helps them all into seats and seatbelts.

When the bus comes for pick up they call if you’re not there – rather than just driving off without you – although I’m sure they won’t wait too long. And when it comes for drop off, the kids can’t get off the bus unless there’s an appropriate person there to collect them.

Leah loves riding the bus. She sat with Lily, who she knows from the building. And she told me that tomorrow she doesn’t need me there – she will do it by herself. So I am free from about 8:20 a.m. until 12:15 p.m.! When we move to Stanley she will get picked up around 8:35 and dropped off around 12:05 – and there is another kid on the bus in our building, so it’s already a scheduled stop for the bus.

We’re all so happy that this is working out so well. Leah loves school and is thrilled that she gets to go every day. Hopefully she won’t be too disappointed when the weekend arrives!

Pictures to come soon…we’ve only got 1 home computer at the moment – and my time is up.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Home alone...

Well, not quite - the kids are asleep - so it just feels that way. Shafi has been working pretty long hours, so once I get the kids in bed, I more or less have the place to myself. Anna May leaves as soon as she's done cleaning up from dinner, so she's gone by the time I'm done with Leah. Then I can sit in peace and quiet and check email, pay bills, upload pictures, blog, etc. In some ways I am enjoying actually having the time to myself...and in some ways it's lonely night after night. And now for the next few days I'll have even more of it. Shafi is off on his first business trip since we got here. He's going to be in Delhi for 2 nights and Mumbai for 1. Sounds like he won't really have time to see the sights, as he'll be working a lot, but I'm sure he'll at least get some good curry.

The kids and I are keeping very busy though. Sunday the whole family went to the Pumpkin Festival at the Hong Kong International School (HKIS - which is the American curriculum school here on HK Island). We had a good time - saw some people we'd met before and met some new people. There were games and such for Leah and it was nice to see that there's a real community surrounding the school - which we could be part of in a couple years - potentially.

Yesterday morning Leah had a playdate with Caden and Vera, which I took Will to baby group. Caden and Vera both have younger siblings in the group - so it worked out well for everyone. Then Leah had swim class in the afternoon. She has made huge strides in just a week. She wasn't clinging to me for dear life like she had been last week. She was able to really let herself enjoy the class this time. She can now do the "monkey walk" - hands on the edge of the wall and feet against it and walk along it - very quickly - keeping up with the rest of the class. And when we did the passing back and forth from me to the teacher, she was willing to go under the water some of the time - and she figured out how to close her mouth and hold her breath so she didn't come up spluttering when she did. She was incredibly proud of herself afterwards and has been telling everyone that she "goed under the water." We've only got 1 more swimming class before we move, but I definitely need to see about putting her in another one soon. The timing on this one isn't so great once she is in school, so I'll need to see if there's another option with an indoor pool nearby. And maybe I'll be able to find one for Will too.

In other exciting news, Leah has been continuing to work on potty training. Yesterday she pooped on the potty - this was her 10th one - so she finally got up to 10 stars on the chart and earned herself a prize. We went to Ocean Park this morning, so I let her pick her prize there. She chose a mechanical stuffed animal seal that scoots and turns and barks and flaps - it's very cute.

We had a nice time at Ocean Park. We took the bus there - took only 10 minutes and cost less than US$1. We got there right around opening - 10 a.m. - and stayed until just after 1 p.m. - 3 hours is just about the right amount of time - and that included lunch. It would have been fine to leave at noon and come home for lunch too - might do that next time. Today we took the cable car over to the other side of the park. We rode a couple of rides and saw the acquarium. The aquarium was very cool - as were the nearby seals and sea lions. The highlight might have been the "raging river" - what I would call the log flume. We got a little splashed - not too bad - but Leah thought that was very cool. The ride was nice and she giggled - until we got to the big drop at the end. The picture they snapped when we were about to go over the edge showed some sort of amused terror on Leah's face. And when we came to a stop at the end I could not tell if she was laughing or crying. I asked her and she said, "both." As we were walking away I asked if she wanted to do it again and she said, "Maybe next time, I think." So cute.

Will has really taken to Anna May now. She can easily feed him and put him to bed and play with him - the whole package. I feel very confident leaving him with her for several hours like I did this morning. And when we got home he was sitting playing with a toy and smiling happily. He also took 2 2-hour naps today - so it seems that she's doing something right!

Will is continuing to prove to be a great eater. Last night he ate about 90% of a jar of stage 1 pears. And tonight he finished that one and ate at least 3/4 of another. And they seem to have done him good, as last night he had an enormous poop after a full week of not pooping. I'm hoping a couple more days of pears will be good for him! If so, I may mix in some rice cereal next.

He is also getting really good at holding on to toys - and playing with them - or at least chewing on them. It's definitely amazing to see how much he has changed in the 3 weeks we have been in Hong Kong.

Leah and Caden have become fast friends:
A special treat - Leah got her nails painted at the HKIS Pumpkin Festival:
An open-topped bounce house provided lots of fun - and good photos:
Mmm - tasty clown toy - and you can see Will multi-tasking - chewing on a toy while watching Leah play:
Will enjoyed his 2nd solid meal:
Watching the real Nemo at Ocean Park:

Aww - a hug from a friendly shark at Ocean Park:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Growing Hong Kong...

Most of our news lately is less related to us being in Hong Kong and more just raising 2 kids - the location is not all that relevant.

On the Hong Kong front - Shafi went and signed the lease on Friday - so we are indeed moving to Stanley in a couple of weeks. Yay! He continues to find his job interesting and challenging. He's working long hours - leaving at 7 a.m. and coming home around 9 p.m. - but hopefully that will scale back a bit once he gets ramped up. Leah definitely misses seeing him during the week. And since the apartment was settled, I took Leah to Sunshine House in Tai Tam and paid for her first month+ (last week of October and all of November) of preschool. We also got her uniform and backpack while there. She stayed for about an hour - just went in and joined the class like she belonged - while I filled out paperwork and such. She is in the Moonbeam room with 14 other kids. And she's the only American - the other kids are all white but a mix of European and Australian (maybe a Canadian too). There are Americans in some of the other classes - so I guess it's just a coincidence. Leah was so excited about school that she wore her uniform home (we were just trying it on to make sure the size was right) and also has been wearing her backpack around the apartment quite a bit.

In general family life news...

Leah is making huge strides in potty training. She's been wearing pull ups for a couple of weeks, because that's what the preschools prefer. I also told her that when she's potty trained and wearing big girl panties she will get a Becky and Buzzy - the puppets from the Kids Club. I ordered them and they will be brought over from the US by a friend of my parents who will be visiting Hong Kong at the end of the month. I also offered Anna May a 1 week bonus if she helps get Leah potty trained by the end of the month. This morning Leah peed and pooped on the potty. And while we were at lunch she asked to go to the potty twice. Both times I put her on the seat and she peed right away - so she really did need to go - as opposed to some past experiences where she really just wanted to go check out the bathroom. Tonight at the beginning of dinner she told us she was going to go pee pee on the potty before bed. Then after finishing her grapes while Shafi and I were cleaning up she said, "Mommy, I need to go to the potty now." I took her right up and she sat down and peed right away - quite the volume in fact. That seemed to be to be a good sign - her diaper had been dry for about an hour and she requested the potty. Not sure whether school is the motivation - she will be starting a week from Monday - or if it's other factors. But whatever it is - I hope it continues!

And Will is eating solids! He hasn't pooped in almost a week again - so I decided to try adding some food and see if that helps. Yesterday I watered down some stage 1 applesauce - about 50/50 applesauce and water. He loved it. After the first few bites he seemed to really get it - started opening his mouth for the spoon and trying to "drink" the contents of the spoon. If I put much in his mouth he definitely dribbles most of it out - but with very small spoonfuls he seems to really eat it well. Tonight I didn't water down the applesauce - and he ate about 1/3 of the jar with very little mess. I also bought a jar of pear, so assuming we finish the apple tomorrow, we'll try pear on Monday. And if all of that goes well, I think we'll try rice cereal. We're slightly fearful that it will make his pooplessness a bit worse - but it's also possible that the added heft will actually make it better. Let's hope!

Leah had her 2nd ballet class on Wednesday. This time she asked me to stay in the room, but I sat by the door, and after a few minutes when I could see that she was doing fine without me, I told her I was going and I walked out. It was nice to get to sit and chat with the other moms - I even got a couple phone numbers for making playdates. And I peeked in a few times - and Leah was following right along! When she came out at the end she came running up with a huge grin and said, "I participated, Mommy!"

Leah has also started to get bold in the pool. She can "swim" all over the pool, including the deep end, by herself while wearing arm band floaties. But the same child who earlier in the week would not even loosen her grip on my arm in the pool suddenly decided on Thursday that she could swim. She got out of the pool, put her floaties with the bag, came back and walked right on down the steps into the pool...and not the baby pool. Luckily I was standing just a couple feet away in the pool. I thought she would walk down the steps and maybe be able to stand. But when she got to the next to last step, she sort of dove in. She then more or less crumpled down under the water. I pulled her right out and she was totally fine - but she was incredibly freaked out - cried for several minutes. So then I put her floaties back on and coaxed her back into the pool. And I showed her that I have to move my arms and legs to stay afloat and when I don't then I sink and that she needs some lessons to learn to really swim - so for now she promises to keep the floaties on!

Today we went exploring in Stanley a bit and had a nice lunch with a couple friends of mine from college - Jen and Jason. They moved to Hong Kong about 4 months ago. Jason grew up here until age 8 and had been wanting to come back, so they found jobs and made the move. They are still settling in but seem to be enjoying it. It was nice to see some familiar faces and the kids took to them right away.

Leah after ballet class:
Leah in her new preschool uniform:
Leah swimming:
Will's first meal:

"Mmm - applesauce - I want more!" - Will's 2nd meal:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Finally...we have an apartment...we think

The last one we thought was ours fell through...that's 3 we lost. Our offer was submitted and accepted yesterday and we signed the offer letter and sent the deposit today. We should receive the tenancy agreement tomorrow. Once that is signed and submitted along with a check for a 2 month security deposit, then it will truly be a done deal.

This is a large 3 bedroom in Stanley. It's in a 3 story low-rise called Ho's Villa - and it's a 1st floor walk-up. There are 6 units in each of 3 buildings and there is a pool in between them. It's a great location - just 1 block from the beach, a few blocks from the Stanley Market and Stanley Plaza, and close to the bus depot, restaurants, etc. Stanley seems to be the only part of the city that is really a walking area - it's even got nice sidewalks and is stroller friendly. We are really excited about the place and the location. It has great closet space, a nice kitchen, fairly large rooms, and big windows. Of course the location and the low floor means there's no view...but I'd rather be a block from the beach than farther from it and looking out at it.

I will be checking out the preschools in Stanley, but most likely we will stick with the one we liked before - Sunshine House in Tai Tam. It's very close by...just a 5 minute drive or so.

You can see pictures and floor plan of the apartment here:

Leah started ballet class last Wednesday. Week one did not go so well. She was very shy and timid - just sat and did not participate - until the end when the teacher gave them each a piece of candy and they walked out of the room in a line on tiptoe. Leah promised that she'll participate tomorrow - and I told her she doesn't get the candy if she doesn't at least try. Meanwhile, we went to Stanley Market on Thursday and bought her a proper ballet outfit and ballet slippers so that she'll feel like part of the class - we'll see if that helps.

We also got Leah some cute new sandals and a ladybug costume for Halloween while we were at Stanley Market. I'm excited to live close by, as I think I could have lots of fun exploring there - but it was a bit tough running through with a 2 year old and trying to find the things we needed in a short time to get back and feed Will after. No doubt a few more visits and I'll feel like a pro.

Last Friday I took Leah to meet Carter and Caden at Ocean Park. It's an amusement park that is actually on the south side of Hong Kong Island - just a 5-10 minute drive from us. It's free under age 3 and I bought a season pass for myself for a little under US$100. I figured that since it's so close, it can be a frequent afternoon destination. We had lots of fun exploring. There are animals and rides and performers. We were there for about 4 hours - which was pretty tiring for both of us - I could see even going for shorter visits than that.

Sunday we all went exploring in town. We started with a shuttle ride to Wan Chai, where we went to an American style diner called The Flying Pan. It's a bit hard to find the restaurants here sometimes as they are often on the 2nd or 3rd floor - we walked right past this one and had to ask for directions to find it. The food was pretty good and it was nice to get some comfort food. Then we walked from there to Causeway Bay and Times Square. It wasn't a short walk, but it was fun to walk along by all the bars, shops, etc. and explore the area a bit. We had planned to walk up to explore Happy Valley as well, but the weather didn't cooperate and we never made it. We went back in to Wan Chai for dinner and ate at a pretty good Chinese restaurant - we all enjoyed and it was actually pretty cheap - which was a nice change as we have been finding most of the groceries and restaurants to be quite expensive here.

Today we finally had some nice weather after over a week of overcast and scattered showers, so I took Leah to the pool. She was very timid at first, but by the end she was all over the baby pool and even jumping in by herself. Even with arm floaties on, she's afraid to let go in the deep end, but I'm sure she'll gt there eventually.

Mmm - Leah ate noodles, pork belly, chicken soup, pork dumplings and a pork bun:
Will's first restaurant highchair - at The Flying Pan:
Will is really discovering his limbs - these rattles are really fun now:
A little green screen fun with Caden & Carter at Ocean Park:
Leah's first midway game - she got the ball on one of the red holes and won a flying cow:
Leah with the Ocean Park red panda:
Mmm - Will doesn't get out as much - but he's having fun at home:
Leah trying on her Halloween costume:
And her ballerina outfit:
Leah carrying her purchases and wearing her new sandals while shopping in Stanley:
Leah shyly watching the other ballerinas:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Slowly but surely...

Well, we did not get the apartment we were excited about. But we decided we did really like the building - Pacific View in Tai Tam. Our real estate agent pulled a list of other available apartments and already negotiated on our behalf on another apartment with the same layout. This one does not have the contemporary touches that we had liked about the other one. But it is a good size 4 bedroom (technically over 2000 square feet - but they count the square footage a bit differently here - so I'd say it feels more like 1600 by our standards) and it is in good condition. It's owned by a major landlord here called Sun Hung Kai - supposedly the best landlord in Hong Kong. We're getting it for the same price as the other. It will be newly painted and floors freshly polished with new appliances. It's not quite a done deal yet - but more or less it is going to be our new apartment.

So with that in mind, I set out to find a preschool for Leah. There are 3 preschools in Redhill Plaza - which is in Tai Tam. I was able to make back to back appointments to see all 3 this morning. I brought Leah along but left Will home with Anna May. Leah and I both picked the same one. Yes - she really did have an opinion without my prompting her. The first one we saw was called Sunshine House. It really was bright and airy and everyone was incredibly nice. We recently met some people in our building whose 2 girls go there, and we had already heard good things about it. They were very welcoming - even offering Leah to sit and join the circle where the teacher was reading a book in the class she would be in. She happily joined them and even stayed while I went off to see the rest of the school and talk further with the director. They brought her back out to me at snack time because they weren't sure if she should have the snack. The director offered for her to stay for snack, but we said no as we had another appointment. I just did not have the same feeling at the other 2 schools, so I feel pretty confident that this is the right spot for Leah. We are going to see one more tomorrow, but it is a bit more expensive and a bit further from where we'll be living - so unless it's miles ahead, I think the decision has been made. And with that in mind - I am scheduled to go in on Friday to fill out paperwork, provide a check, get her uniform (yes - uniforms in schools are very common here), and have everything ready for her to start school on Monday. She's incredibly excited.

In the meantime, she will be taking a swimming class here at The Repulse Bay for the next 3 Mondays and a ballet class here starting tomorrow for 4 Wednesdays. And she loves going with friends to the American Club - so hopefully we'll get more invitations there....and hopefully we'll join soon.

We're getting more and more used to having a helper. I still need to find a permanent helper, but for now we have Anna May - and I think we can continue with her for as long as we need - but she is "live out" and we'd like to find someone to coincide with our move to "live in." I have now left Will with her a couple times and he's getting used to her. She's done great with getting him to nap and giving him a bottle. And she continues to be great with Leah. She is definitely not a fabulous cook, but she is more or less capable in the kitchen. And as long as it's edible, I'm more than happy to have her take care of all the cooking. This morning I asked her to have eggs and toast ready at 8:30 and she did. When Leah and I got home midday, she prepared our sandwiches for lunch. And I asked her to have dinner ready at 6:30 - and she did. Not to mention that she is taking care of laundry and dishes and will do the grocery shopping if I ask.

I am continuing to meet people. I did go to Will's baby group yesterday morning, although it was a small turnout with only 3 of us. And I called the American Women's Association (which I joined a couple months ago) to get the membership materials mailed to me now that I am here in Hong Kong. They are also going to officially put me in the baby group for Will and get me set up with the appropriate playgroup for Leah. I have also joined a Foon Ying (new members group) there which will meet for the next 3 Wednesday mornings.

So slowly but surely we are finding a routine...and I am starting to feel a little more settled and a little less overwhelmed.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Starting to see the sights...

I'll begin where I last left off - Thursday I went to lunch with a few moms from the baby group I've joined with Will. We had a nice lunch at the salad bar at the Marriott in Pacific Place. Pacific Place is a very posh mall in Admiralty, near Central. I took the shuttle from the apartment by myself with Will - with his stroller even - and managed to get there with time to spare to check out the mall. Lunch was nice - good food and nice to meet a few people.

Thursday afternoon we joined Lee and her boys at the American Club. The place is pretty nice. They have great facilities for kids' classes, a nice gym, a nice outdoor pool, and a huge indoor play area. Leah had a blast playing at the Eagle's Nest (the play area) with Caden. There is lots of obstacle course type equipment, a ball pit, an art area, a play kitchen...we didn't even get to explore the whole thing in the hour or so we were there. We'll definitely be going back...and probably joining.

Friday was a holiday in Hong Kong - National Day. Apparently there were fireworks at night - but we didn't make it out for that - it was past our bedtime. Although on a very positive note, Will seems to have finally adjusted to the time change. Both kids are still suffering from a sleep deficit, but we're getting closer to normal. Friday we decided to take the Star Ferry to Kowloon. We took the shuttle from the building to Central, which let us off pretty close to the ferry terminal. The ferry was a quick but fun ride with great views of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. We explored Kowloon - walking along the streets filled with shops ranging from high end to junk. We went to the park there, including a nice playground that Leah loved. And we ate at a Pakistani restaurant that Shafi had read about. Unfortunately the restaurant was not so good - but it was still a nice outing overall. And after getting back home and taking a nap, we spent an hour or so playing at the pool.

Saturday we decided to do another tourist day - we took The Peak Tram up the peak, went to the Peak Terrace, walked around, had lunch, and took the tram back down. It was a nice outing with great views and good food. And once again we spent some time at the pool after napping.

Today we decided it was time for a beach adventure. We'd been told that Big Wave Beach in Shek O is the best beach on the island. It is fairly far - all the way on the Eastern side of the island and a bit north. But taxis are so reasonable here that the approximately 30 minute drive was only about US$15 each way. We bought some beach towels and straw beach mats, rented an umbrella, got Leah some swimmies (inflatable arm bands) and sand toys, and picked a nice spot in the smooth sand. Unfortunately the water was very rough today - according to others it was the roughest they had seen it - the red flags were up and they were recommending no swimming. We did wade in to about our knees, though. Leah was a bit timid in the water but still had a good time splashing a little and then playing in the sand. We ran into a family who we had been introduced to at the American Club. They were very nice and encouraged Leah to play with their 3.5 year old daughter Nina. We also had a nice lunch at the beach - burgers and hot dogs and fruit smoothies. It was a bit hot for Will - we stripped him to his diaper and wrapped him in a very light muslin blanket to keep the sun off. He did manage to nap a bit, but overall we'd probably be better off hitting the beach without him next time.

Will sleeping on the beach:
Leah and Shafi on the beach:
Leah with Elissa and Will (under the nursing cover) at the Peak Terrace:
View from the peak:
Shafi playing with the kids Saturday morning at home:
View from the Star Ferry:
View of the Star Ferry:
Leah playing with her new friend Caden at the American Club's Eagle's Nest (indoor play area):

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Settling In

We are getting more settled in slowly but surely. We arrived here in Hong Kong on Thursday. We are staying in a serviced apartment in Repulse Bay - in fact it's in The Repulse Bay - in de Ricou. It's a duplex listed as over 2,000 square feet, but by our standards I would say it feels more like 1,500. The living/dining room is a bit tighter than we're used to but the kitchen is huge, it has 2 full baths, a large master bedroom, smallish 2nd bedroom and tiny office. We had planned to use the office as Will's room, but so far he's in the pack n play in our room instead...maybe we'll get him into his own room soon.

After Leah's vomiting incident I decided I needed to do laundry right away. The apartment has a small combo washer/dryer...definitely a new thing for me. It takes 5 kg in the washer and then no more than half that for the dryer, so there is actually a setting for it to stop while you remove half the load before drying. The longest drying time is 120 minutes...and it seems to need more than that much of the time. But I digress - Thursday night I went to the grocery store in the building and was immediately overwhelmed. It is a good size grocery store (bigger than what I was used to in Brooklyn Heights but not suburban large). The laundry detergent section included several Chinese brands but not a lot in English. After several uncomfortable minutes of trying to figure out the options, I stopped an American family and asked for some guidance. The woman/wife/mom - who seemed about my age with a young daughter - said she uses Tide because the Chinese stuff is harsh and beats up her clothes too much. So I bought Tide, some Downy dryer sheets, and a rotisserie chicken to eat for dinner.

We had some chicken, put some laundry in, and went to bed.

Now, in retrospect, I wish I had known that there is a Pizza Hut nearby that delivers, a delivery service called Dial a Dinner that delivers quite a few local restaurants, and 3 take-out options in the complex. That would have made life simpler on our first night. But we survived.

Much of our time since then is a bit of a blur. Will still has his days/nights mixed up. Leah is still a bit jetlagged, so she is a little cranky and is waking up at least once a night and then for good around 6 a.m. (frustrating since she was sleeping approximately 8 to 8 back in NY). Shafi and I are exhausted.

But we have been getting things done. Friday we took the shuttle bus from The Repulse Bay into "town." We are on the South side of Hong Kong Island and the action is really in sort of north and west of us. We went first to get our Hong Kong IDs in Wan Chai and then to Causeway Bay and then more specifically to an area called Times Square. We had some Chinese for lunch (pretty good) and looked at cell phones. Then we took a taxi home. Even though it was over 20 minutes, it was HK$70 (just under US$10). So we understand now why everyone says taxis are cheap...although of course our frugal nature keeps us thinking that we should take the shuttle bus (less than US$2 per person and free for the kids) or the regular bus (we haven't even investigated this yet) more often than not. We also took the MTR, which is Hong Kong's subway system from Wan Chai to Causeway Bay. It wasn't too intimidating but unfortunately it does not run to the south side of the island.

I'm not quite sure how it has already been almost a week, as it still seems like we just arrived. We spent the weekend trying to get our bearings, get some rest, run some errands, etc. We have been to the grocery store a couple of times. We met up with my friend Lee and her family. We went down to the Repulse Bay Beach a couple of times. We're trying to get lots of sunlight during the day to help get adjusted to the time change.

This week has been all about finding an apartment. On Monday we went out with one of the agents that was recommended by Citi (and gives a discount - 30% of a month's rent instead of 50% of a month's rent). She took us to several places in our price range in our preferred district (Repulse Bay) but not meeting our other criteria of wanting a view, modern fixtures, facilities in the building (pool, playroom, shuttle bus, etc.). We were feeling very discouraged. But Tuesday we went out with Jill - a recommendation from a friend - she is an American who has been in Hong Kong for the better part of 17 years. She took us to a range of places so that we would be able to get our bearings, understand what's out there, etc. But she was right in her estimation of what we would go for.

Today we went back with her to see more places in a building called Pacific View. It is in Tai Tam - which is a few minutes drive to the east from Repulse Bay. It is across the street from the American Club (which we probably want to join). It's a huge building - actually 5 towers - with nice facilities, lots of expats, and moderate sized apartments for reasonable prices. We really loved one particular apartment and put in an offer...we should know tomorrow whether it will work out. Just in case, we also put in an offer on another apartment that we would also be happy with. Our favorite is a 4 bedroom / 2 bath with nice modern fixtures. The other is a 3 bedroom / 2 bath that isn't quite as nice but is significantly cheaper. I think we'll be happy enough with either - so hopefully one will work out.

On another exciting note, it will probably take us a little time to hire a helper. But our real estate agent has an "extra." Her helper's niece lives with them, sometimes works for them and sometimes works for others. It's kind of complicated and may or may not be totally legit, but she offered us the option of hiring Anna May. We said yes...pending meeting her of course. We are so glad it has worked out so well. Anna May is 25, cute, perky, sweet. She's from the Philippines. Her father died 4 years ago and she came to work in Hong Kong to send money back to help raise her 6 younger siblings. She is fabulous with kids both from her experience with her siblings (the youngest of whom is 15 years younger than she) and from her experience working in Hong Kong. Leah took to her immediately - sees her as a friend more than a babysitter.

We have hired her until we find a permanent helper. She lives with our real estate agent but works for us from Monday through Saturday. We have arranged that she will arrive around 9 a.m. and stay through the preparation of dinner, but she prefers to eat on her own rather than with us, so she has been leaving around 7, give or take. She's been really great with Leah - playing, reading books, taking her to the beach, the pool, the building's playroom - and also giving her baths, helping with potty training, feeding her, etc. She also does household chores like laundry. The serviced apartment includes maid service, so there's not much else to do around the apartment. Tonight she made dinner for the first time - I bought the ingredients for a simple lemon garlic sole and rice and broccoli to go with it. She did a great job preparing it. And she stuck around long enough to do dishes and put out fruit for dessert (as per Leah's request). She seemed a bit less confident about her cooking abilities, so we were pleasantly surprised at how well dinner turned out. We have asked her to make us something of her choosing tomorrow night. We have some plans in the afternoon, so while we are out she will do the grocery shopping and make dinner - plus she's going to iron Shafi's shirts that are a bit wrinkled after having been packed for our flight.

So - for approximately US$160 per week we have full time help here 6 days per week. I do see the allure in this lifestyle. I spoke to my friend Lee today and asked what the moms do all day. It seems that most of the kids have school and activities and such to keep them busy. She said the general schedule for a lot of women is gym in the morning, or running errands, and then lunch out (yes - ladies who lunch - my dream come true), and then spending time with the kids in the afternoon. We see that the pools around here seem to be empty until after about 3:00.

Tomorrow I will get my first taste of meeting the other moms, as I am joining Lee for lunch with the baby group her youngest son Quinn is in - which will be the appropriate group for Will, as well - April through June 2010. And then later in the afternoon, we are going to join Lee and her family at the American Club to see the facilities, play in the playroom, swim in the pool, etc.

I'm sure I have left out lots of great details that I will try to fill in when I have more time. In short, we are still jetlagged and tired - primarily because it is so hard to adjust Will's clock - but we are starting to feel a bit more settled. Hopefully we will have an apartment officially picked out by the end of tomorrow and then will feel more free to do more exploring and acquainting. Shafi starts work on Monday, so we have a few more days to get more settled first - but it is fast approaching. I am so thankful to have Anna May to help me out. This is definitely not a stroller friendly city, and without her I think I would feel pretty trapped in the apartment with 2 kids.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hong Kong!!!

On July 23, Shafi told me he was about to get a job offer in Hong Kong. Of course I responded with shock...and a bit of disbelief. Sure enough he got the offer the following week, had final negotiations and accepted it on August 2. Since then it has been quite a whirlwind. We had about 7 weeks to prepare. During that time we closed on a refinance of our mortgage and opened a home equity line of credit (to have just in case of emergency). We had water damage in our living room and decided to have our floors completely replaced with new hardwood after our move. We found renters and rented out our apartment starting October 15 for 18 months - a nice young couple who were recently married.

And of course we hired movers, we found a serviced apartment for the beginning of our stay in Hong Kong, we organized, we donated lots to Salvation Army, we spent extra time with friends and family as much as possible.

And now we are in Hong Kong. Our movers came and packed our stuff on the 20th, loaded it into a 20 foot container on the 21st, and we flew out on the 22nd, arriving in Hong Kong on the 23rd.

I've decided not to rename the blog as this is still mainly about my family and the adventures of Will and Leah - but no doubt it will be very Hong Kong focused for awhile.

We packed our things into 4 large suitcases, 2 medium suitcases and my large backpack (from my trip to Europe in 2000). Those and the pack n play were our 8 checked bags - along with 2 strollers and 2 carseats. We carried on 2 small rolling bags, a big tote of snacks and toys, a diaper bag, a laptop bag, and a gym bag with other miscellaneous items for the trip.

We actually chartered a van from Super Shuttle to get to the Fairfield Inn at JFK, where we stayed for our last night in New York. Everything went mostly smoothly with the pack/load of the container - they had to muscle it closed at the end but everything made it in - we'll see what condition it arrives in. If all goes well, it's on a ship that left NY on the 24th and arrives in Hong Kong on the 25th of October. We don't have confirmation of the load onto the ship yet, but the container was delivered to the port - so we've got our fingers crossed that it all went smoothly.

We flew business class on Cathay Pacific - Leah had her own seat and Will was in a bassinet in front of my seat. The 16 hour flight was not too bad. Leah was a bit restless but loved watching lots of TV. Will slept quite a lot and wasn't too much of a handful when he was awake. Shafi and I each got about an hour of sleep and each got through 1 movie. Leah stayed awake until 9 p.m. NY time and then slept about 3 hours. She woke up just in time for descent and was incredibly cranky, but we managed to keep her awake.

Immigration and customs was uneventful and our things seem to arrive unscathed. Our cars were waiting for us - a sedan to ride in and a mini-van to carry our belongings. We arrived at The Repulse Bay, where we are staying for about 6 weeks, pretty quickly and they were ready for us, as well. Our only complication was that something upset Leah's stomach and she vomited in the car. Luckily for everyone she hadn't eaten much the 2nd half of the flight and so it was pretty much just water - no smell - and it was all in her carseat and did not cause any issues for the car/driver - although he was obviously much less friendly after that incident than he had been at the beginning of the drive. Fortunately she was fine after that - not sure what caused it but at least she's not sick.

That's a long enough post for now...I will write more about our first few days here when I get another free minute. I've posted some pictures on Picasa -

Quick update on the kids

I have been seriously neglecting the blog - an explanation on that will be in the next post.

But for a quick update. Will is now 4 months old. He weighed in at 16.5 pounds and measured 27 inches - that's 74% for weight and 96% for height - definitely a tall kid! He's all healthy and doing great. He started to roll a bit here and there. I believe his first official front to back roll was September 9. He has done it a few times since, but overall he just doesn't seem to be that interested in rolling. He does, however, like to sit. If you put him in a tripod position he can stay up for a bit - and if he's on a soft surface (like the bed or couch) he seems to actually like falling over and being propped back up. He has started to play a lot more - holding on to toys, grabbing and kicking things in the activity gym, etc. He "talks" quite a lot - babbling on in vowels.

Leah had a height and weight check at Will's 4 month appointment. She's still 38.5 inches tall but has put on 3 pounds and is now about 31 - that's a good thing as she was looking awfully skinny for a bit. She's continuing to talk up a storm, climb on everything, and become a real "big girl."

Will and Leah both had haircuts - her 2nd and his 1st on 9/8. They both behaved very well and looked quite cute after.

We enjoyed the rest of summer in Brooklyn - playing with friends, at playgrounds, etc.

Will and I took a trip to DC in August to see GG's new apartment and so she could meet him. We stayed there for a long weekend and had a really nice time.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I have big kids!

We went for Will's 2 month check-up and Leah's 2.5 year check-up this morning. Leah had the cosackie virus this week and thankfully is fully over it now. She checked out all healthy - hitting all her milestones. She's now 38.25 inches tall - still off the charts. And she's 29 pounds, remaining in about the 60th percentile. She grew 2 inches and gained 1.5 pounds in 5 months. Her BMI is only 14, which sounds low to me, but the doctor was unconcerned and said she's a healthy growing toddler. Will is also all healthy and hitting his milestones. He's now 24.5 inches long and 14 lbs 6 ozs. He grew 1.5 inches and gained almost 3 pounds in 4 weeks. He's in the 95th percentile for weight (up from 83rd) and the 92nd percentile for height (up from 88th). But he's tracking well - he's just a big boy.

The big discussion though was that Will still has quite a lot of gas and it seems to be causing him pain, waking him up, etc. I mentioned that the gripe water may or may not be helping - we thought it was but then it didn't seem to consistently help, so maybe it was a fluke. The issue seems to be getting worse, not better. So Dr. O'Connor recommended that I try removing dairy from my diet.

I have done some research on this in the past couple weeks and more intensively today. I had been reading that the most likely culprit if the problem is something that I am eating is milk proteins. If that's not the problem then there are other things to try - but no need to go more extreme to start. The issue with the dairy is not the lactose, so lactaid is still off limits. I am going to try cutting out all milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, etc. - including milk derived ingredients that are found in many baked goods and even cold cuts and such. I've been reading up on it so that I can avoid it all - and then if it does the trick I can try to reintroduce the smaller amount items (bread, cold cuts) and just stay off of the big dairy items (milk, cheese, yogurt, butter).

I'm going to try this for 10 days and see if it makes a difference. If not we will try eliminating other foods. If so then I guess I'll be dairy free for awhile. I can try to reintroduce it every month or so, but it seems that 6 months is the magic mark for many babies to be able to process the milk proteins. As annoying as it will be to go without dairy, I am hopeful that it will help. I hate seeing Will in pain - and I also hate being awoken a couple times a night because of it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lots has changed

I've been having trouble finding the time to write. Taking care of 2 kids is busy! But there is a lot to report from the last few weeks. Will continues to grow - not sure his height or weight but he is wearing 3-6 month clothes and he doesn't have a lot of room in them. Leah has definitely grown too - her friend Avery is 39" and I think she's at least as tall - we'll find out when they both have check-ups on July 9.

Leah has also gotten 2 more teeth - her bottom 2 year molars are almost all the way in and her top left has just begun to break through. The top right is not yet visible but I think it's getting close as well. Luckily her night wakings from it seem to have subsided. We did have a period of several nights a couple weeks ago where Tylenol or Motrin were necessary to get her to sleep.

Will is starting to play a little, which makes Leah very happy. He does a little tummy time without a fuss. He looks at things in the activity gym. Today I thought he might be batting at things too - but I'm not quite positive. He definitely follows a noisy toy with his eyes, so Leah can enjoy moving rattles around in front of him and watching him react. She's been showing him some of her toys and stuffed animals and seems to believe me when I tell her how much he likes them.

But the biggest news is that they are now sharing a room. A couple weeks ago I decided to experiment with that at naptime. We had one really successful nap where their naps coincided but didn't quite start/end at the same time - and neither woke the other up. A couple more days of trying that were not quite as smooth, but the important discovery was that Will sleeps better in the crib than the bassinet. Not sure if it's the mattress or the space or what - seems silly since he is sleeping in a swaddle, but I don't think the experience was pure coincidence. So since we wanted to stop having him sleep in the carseat at night, we decided to bite the bullet and try it out. We started it last Friday - a day after his 6 week birthday. Overall it is going very well. He has woken her up several times, but about half of his wakings do not seem to wake her at all, and only a handful of times have we had to really work to get her back to sleep. Usually I can just tell her I'm going to feed him and she should go back to sleep and she does. We have had a couple mornings made earlier by him waking her at 5:30 or 6 and her not really going back to sleep. Now we've decided that if he has a feeding after 5 a.m. or so then he goes into our room - either in the carseat or our bed - to avoid waking her at a time that she thinks is morning but is much earlier than her day would usually start. She has also woken him a few times. A couple nights ago she woke up with a nightmare and we were able to get her back to sleep relatively quickly, but the commotion was too much for him, and once he was awake he was not going back to sleep without a feeding.

For the most part we seem to be on a decent schedule, although of course I'd love for him to sleep longer at night - or to sleep through the night. He's usually having a last feeding around 8 p.m. We do his bath and then top him off and he is asleep somewhere around 9 p.m. Once we are sure he is asleep we put him in the crib. Leah has been going to bed between 8 and 8:30, so she is asleep before we put him in the room. The one time that we brought him in and it turned out she was still awake we just told her to be quiet because we were putting Will in the crib. She was quiet...and went right to sleep as far as we could tell. Will usually wakes up around 2 a.m. for a big feeding. Then he is up anywhere between 4:30 and 6 a.m. for the next feeding. He will go back to sleep at that point, but he's usually up again around 7 a.m. - not that he necessarily needs to eat then but I guess he wants to get up for a little morning activity.

During the day Will is still sleeping most of the time. He has brief periods of awake/alert time before or after a feeding. And his naps are anywhere from about half an hour to about 3 hours. He seems to take his longest naps while parked in the stroller at the playground - as long as it's not too hot out. He's also starting to be able to hang out on his own for a bit. He will lie on the couch or in the crib or on a blanket on the floor for up to 20 minutes now - although sometimes much shorter. That does give me time to do things like make lunch (although not enough time to also eat it). I have still been having to hold him or wear him in the Bjorn at dinner time, but occasionally he'll nap for part of it. Unfortunately getting naps to coincide is still hit or miss. Today it looked like it was going to work out and then Will woke up about 15 minutes after Leah went to sleep.

Will has been having some gas issues. He kicks his legs and screams in pain. Usually I can help him work out gas/poop by pushing his legs up into his belly or rolling his lower body up to above his head - like a roly poly. But sometimes it takes awhile to help him get through it. Poor guy. It seems to be worse lately, and we're not sure whether there is a cause other than just an immature digestive system. Hopefully it will begin to subside soon. We think it's likely to resolve on its own by the time he is 3 or 4 months old.

And last but not least, we've been encouraging potty training more with Leah. I have asked her several times if she wants to try wearing her big girl panties and using the potty. Today she actually said yes. She peed on the potty around 8:30 a.m. and again at 9:15 a.m. But then around 11 she had a big pee accident all over the couch, despite my having asked her approximately every 15 minutes if she needed to use the potty. We cleaned up and put on clean undies - along with some rubber pants. About 15 minutes later she told me she leaked. I tried explaining to her that a diaper leaks but without a diaper it's called an accident. Luckily it was a small one and the rubber pants caught it all. At that point she was as frustrated as I and she told me she wanted to wear a diaper. After naptime we tried again. She picked out some Dora panties and tried using the potty around 3 p.m. (no success). Then around 4 p.m. she told me she needed to poop on the potty - but in fact she had already pooped. Luckily it was fairly solid and I was able to clean her up fairly easily. But I was out of patience for it for the day - so we put on a diaper. Next time we will be spending some time at home we will try again. I think she knows when she needs to pee/poop, but I'm not sure she quite gets the whole potty usage concept.

No time for pictures today - see Picasa for lots of those!

Friday, June 11, 2010

My baby is huge!

Will's 1 month check-up was today. He is growing like a fat little weed! 11 pounds 8 ounces - yes, that is a gain of 4 pounds in 4 weeks! 23 inches long - a gain of 2 inches. He's in the 90th percentile in height, 85th in weight and 75th in head circumference. I can't believe the scrawny little thing I gave birth to has become such a chunk! Of course we're very pleased that he's growing so well.

And we are very hopeful that his size will lead to longer stretches of sleep very soon. He did one 5 hour stretch this week, but generally he does one or two stretches of 4 hours overnight and the rest of the time he's pretty consistently eating about every 3 hours. We are going to try to get him to spend more time in the bassinet - less time in the carseat. That will help when we transition him to the crib - hopefully in a couple of months. And it's good for his development - in addition, we need to start doing some more tummy time so that he can work on rolling.

I've been feeling like his 0-3 month clothes were getting small. He's filling them out pretty well now. But more than that, it is hard to snap the onesies - some brands are already too short. He seems to be long in the torso. I think we may be moving him up to his 6 month clothes in another week or two. Some things he can stay in longer - pants and t-shirts - but the onesies and sleepers are on the way out.

Nothing else too eventful from his check-up. He's healthy...hitting all the milestones. We go back in a month for his first round of immunizations.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Will is 1 month old!

I can't believe how fast the month has gone by. He is definitely growing quickly. His face has really filled out, as have his belly and limbs. And so far that thick black hair seems like it's here to stay! His eyes are still a bit gray, so it's too early to tell what they'll look like - of course they'll be brown but whether they'll be light like Leah's or dark like Shafi's - we'll have to wait and see!

But along with turning a month old, Will has woken up quite a bit in the last week or so. We now get a fussy period from late afternoon through until about 8 or 9. We've instituted a bedtime routine for him now. Either after Leah goes to bed or while Leah has a bath, Will gets a bath. Then he gets his pre-bedtime feeding, dressed and swaddled, burped and down in the carseat for the first "night" sleep. He usually goes about 4 hours from that feeding until the next one. Tonight he ate about 8:10 - so I expect he'll be waking up around 12:10, give or take half an hour.

When we go to bed we will take the carseat into our room with us. And then after his midnight feeding I will try to get him as close to asleep as possible before putting him down in the bassinet next to our bed. If I'm lucky he'll only stir and grunt for a few minutes before sleeping for a couple of hours - generally he goes about 3 hours from that feeding until the next one. Unfortunately he's been a bit more awake after the feeding that's around 3 a.m. But if possible he'll be in the bassinet then too. If a few minutes of trying to soothe him and get him to sleep fail then we either bring him in the bed with us or put him in the carseat. Generally after the 6 a.m. feeding he's more or less up - he knows it's morning. Sometimes he'll doze on top of me or I can get him to conk back out in the carseat swing, but even though Leah has mostly been sleeping until 8 a.m., my day seems to begin around 6 with Will.

He tends to sleep pretty well in the carseat on the stroller when we're out and about, which is great because it means I can take Leah to the playground or wherever else and have some quality time with her. But when we're home, it's a bit harder to get him into a sound sleep...which means it's getting harder for me to get a nap in during Leah's nap...and it's been pretty much impossible for me to make dinner.

So - as always, an infant's schedule is constantly changing, and we'll be rolling with the punches. Fortunately the little cold that Will has had seems to be subsiding. He's still got an occasional wet raspy sounding cough but we're not hearing the congestion in his breathing anymore.

His 1 month check-up isn't until Friday, so stay tuned for his growth and healthy update!

Due to being really busy and really tired, I haven't been able to blog as much as I would like to. And I haven't been posting any pictures here - but check out my Picasa site for lots of photos.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Busier Than a Bee

Life as a stay at home mom to 2 kids is more than twice as busy as it was with one. This may improve when Will is eating a little less frequently - or maybe when Leah gets potty trained. But for now my day is a constant stream of feeding and diaper changes. And if I'm lucky enough to time everything right, we all nap at the same time and I get an hour or so to snooze.

I've been doing well keeping up with the normal activities. I managed to get to Leah's last gym class on time and keep Will happy enough in the BabyBjorn while participating in class with Leah. We've been going to music class - Will happily sleeps in the car seat through the entire class. And we've spent lots of time at the playground - also a favorite napping spot for Will. The double stroller has proven to be key - I can easily transfer Will from swing to stroller and wherever else while he sleeps in the carseat.

It definitely takes awhile to get us all ready and out the door in the morning. Will nurses best at home - versus being out and about, which means less comfortable and under the nursing cover. So getting ready involves changing diapers, getting dressed, washing faces, making/eating breakfast with Leah, feeding Will, and packing up whatever we need in the stroller and diaper bag. If I'm lucky and don't have any diaper blow-outs, extra messes to clean up, or tantrums I can do all of that in about an hour and a half.

Leah is continuing to adjust. She's still acting out some with Shafi and I, but it seems to be lessening. And she is very sweet with Will. She wants to cuddle him and see him, and she's glad to help in any way she can.

And Will is still a pretty easy baby. He sleeps most of the time. He nurses well. He had his first bottle last night. I pumped just over 4 ounces and he took the whole thing. He did fight the bottle a bit along the way, but he took it. Shafi gave it to him. When I tried for a bit about halfway, he absolutely refused it, but then he took it again when we shifted him back to Shafi. He is a bit more awake the past few days than he was his first couple of weeks - no more putting him down wide awake and letting him fall asleep on his own - he needs a bit of help. And he seems to be having some gas pain, especially late night and early morning. I've been giving him Mylicon, but I'm not so sure it's making a difference.

I'm definitely getting a bit tired - between the 2-3 night feedings and keeping up with both kids all day - not much time to rest. But luckily it's a 3 day weekend, so hopefully I can catch up on sleep a bit.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Announcing William "Will" Zain Imran

Will is now 12 days old and I'm finally getting around to updating the blog. Two kids is definitely more than twice the work of one...and Will still sleeps most of the day, so I imagine that's not changing any time soon.

Here's the recap of the last 12 days:

On Thursday, May 6 I started to get "real" contractions around 3 a.m. I timed them for an hour and they were pretty consistently 12 minutes apart, then 11, then 10. I called my OB's after hours number and got Dr. Schweitzer. He told me to come on in to the hospital rather than waiting for my contractions to get closer together since sometimes 2nd kids come quickly. I called Jackie, the babysitter, and asked her to come out. She was expecting the call to come at some point, so she wasted no time in getting ready and hopping a car service to our place - she arrived about 4:40 a.m. We had her cab wait for us and take us to NYU. The timing worked out great, as Shafi and I had time to get ready without rushing and we were at the hospital around 5 a.m.

I was admitted right away but was only about 3 cm dilated and about 80% effaced. Still, that was progress from just a few days before, so at least I was right that I was actually in labor. Dr. Schweitzer suggested that I go ahead and get the epidural and once it was working he would break my water. I got the epidural around 6 a.m. Unfortunately I had almost as much trouble as last time. The anesthesiologist said my vertebrae are close together so they kept hitting bone when trying to get through to the epidural space. They stuck me 3 times before finally getting in. Not fun at all! But eventually it was working and I was numb. Dr. Schweitzer broke my water just after 7 a.m.

Things progressed fairly slowly for awhile after that. My contractions were a bit irregular and not getting much stronger. Then suddenly we started to run into some complications. The baby's heart rate kept dropping during contractions. It didn't happen every time and as soon as the contraction was over his heart rate went back up. But it was very scary to see the heart rate go from 140 or so down to 50-60. Every time it happened the nurses and doctors came running in - suddenly there would be 5 people in the room. I would be asked to turn over and get on all fours.

After awhile they decided to monitor the baby's heartbeat by putting a monitor on the top of his head and also to monitor my contractions internally. Dr. Ho took over for Dr. Schweitzer just before all of this began. She was very calm and said that this seemed like an umbilical cord issue - either it was kinked or it was wrapped around an arm or leg or something. They tried adding fluid to see if that would relieve the pressure but it did not seem to make a difference. Dr. Ho told us she would give me some time to see if my labor began to progress on its own but that we couldn't use Pitocin to speed it up because of the umbilical cord issue and we couldn't keep going for more than a few hours - at some point we'd have to move on to a cesarean section.

Dr. Ho suggested that I stop the epidural meds to see if my labor would speed up. At around 11 a.m. I still had very irregular contractions and was only 4-5 cm dilated. Shortly thereafter my contractions started to get stronger and closer together - every 2 minutes and then even more frequent than that. I was starting to have a lot of pain but we were still seeing a drop in the baby's heart rate several times an hour, so I opted to continue without the epidural meds. At about 11:40 a.m. his heart rate dropped down very low again and everyone came running in. At that point I felt the pressure and the urge to push. Dr. Ho checked and sure enough I was fully dilated. Everyone was shocked that I had progressed so quickly at that point.

Dr. Ho scrambled a bit to get her gear on. The nurse scrambled to get everything ready. And a few minutes later I was ready to push. Two sets of pushes - about 4 minutes - and Will was born at 11:59 a.m. The umbilical cord was wrapped twice around his neck. Luckily everyone was prepared and it did not cause any complications at that point. He cried after only a few seconds and his APGAR was 8/9. Because of the wrapped cord, Shafi did not get to be the one to cut it, but of course we were just happy that Will was healthy.

He weighed in at 7 pounds 6 ounces and measured 21 inches. He's long and skinny - and he has a fairly thick head of black hair. From the moment I held him he was ready to nurse - and it seems like he hasn't stopped since.

Since Will and I were both healthy and I was recovering well, we only stayed 1 day in the hospital - we were discharged 24 hours after he was born. His discharge weight was 7 pounds 4 ounces. We had his first pediatrician appointment on Monday the 10th. He had only lost another ounce and was doing great overall.

Last week already seems a bit of a blur. He ate well and slept well. We had his bris on Thursday and that went well. Friday we went in for a weight check and he was already up to 7 pounds 9 ounces. The doctor was thrilled with that and we don't have to go back until his one month check-up.

Leah has had her ups and downs since Will was born. She is very sweet with him...but she's very jealous and has been acting out with Shafi and I a lot more than usual. I've been making an effort to spend some good quality time with her to try to help get past this stage. Shafi took a week and a half off of work, but while usually she would be thrilled by that, what she really wants is time with me. Obviously the 3 or so hours a day I spend nursing Will is quite noticeable to her.

She was very excited and sweet when we first came home from the hospital. But about an hour later she told us to go put Will in his crib. Smart girl. Luckily he has been a great sleeper so far, so we've been able to tote him around with us.

My parents have been here since last Wednesday and Leah has definitely enjoyed the extra attention and time with them. My father left this morning and my mother leaves late Thursday, so after that we will see how it goes.

You can see lots of pictures of the last couple weeks on my Picasa site. And hopefully I'll be able to blog a bit more over the next few days/weeks/months so that I can document more about Will.