Category Archives: Posts with photos

Sometimes you try

Saturday was a long day. There was a 5AM start, a flight to Thailand, four doctors appointments, three immunizations, two X-rays and a cast removal. We’d known it would be a hard day, so Mike and I had planned a special treat for after it was all over – we booked into a nice hotel with a pool and took Dominic for his first swim.

The result? Well, let’s just say the photos belong in Mike’s “Sometimes You Try” facebook album.

Me: “Dominic, guess what, we’re going swimming. Swimming is fun!”
Dominic: “You also said the needles would only hurt a little bit. I totally don’t trust you on this one.”

Family kodak moment fail. Here are a couple of other photos that belong in that “Sometimes You Try” album:

“Just for the record, totally not enjoying this sightseeing trip up Phousi Hill.”

“You want to know what my wish is for when we release the birds? I’ll give you one guess and a hint – it has to do with going home.”

“Are you two kissing me again? Do you have no concept of personal space at all?”

“Grandparents? Boring.”

“I love me some Zulu.”

“And Zulu loves himself some baby spew.”

Mike: “Dominic! Smile for the camera!”
Dominic: “I don’t know who these two are, never seen them before in my life.”

Finally, a bonus “sometimes you try” video: Dominic’s introduction to vegetables (and don’t worry, despite all appearances to the contrary at the end of this clip, Dominic was not seriously choking).

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Best of 2011

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.” (Annais Nin)

Happy New Years Eve! In the spirit of celebrating roads already travelled on this last day of the year here were your favourite posts of the year, my favourite posts of the year, and Mike’s favourite photos from 2011.

Your favourite posts

The most popular posts from this past year (judged by traffic) were all pregnancy related. I guess there’s a reason why so many “mommy blogs” become big deals.

  1. Ten Great Gifts for Pregnant Women and Thirty Great Gifts for Pregnant Women and New Parents
  2. Introducing Dominic McKay Wolfe
  3. Koi Maan Luuk (or “I am pregnant”)
  4. Push it: Music for labour and delivery
  5. Ten good things about boys: Attaining synthetic happiness one gender stereotype at a time

My favourite posts

Some of the posts on the list above are near and dear to my heart, as well. But here are five other favorites of mine from the past year.

  1. A Baby-Shaped Hole In My Heart: In which I write about my growing love for my unborn baby.
  2. Dear Dad, Love Dominic: In which a three week old Dominic writes a letter to Mike about how he’s sad to be apart on his first father’s day.
  3. Looking Like Love: A Letter To My Parents: In which I write a letter to my parents about how wonderful it’s been to stay with them for five months over the period of Dominic’s birth.
  4. T’is The Night Before (A Children’s Story): In which I make lemonade from lemons by turning a string of awful, sleepless nights into a rhyming children’s story.
  5. More than a brighter shade of happiness: In which I think about joy, happiness, and the fruits of motherhood.

Mike’s favourite photos

 I asked Mike to pick five favourite photos but he came back with nine – one for each, long month of pregnancy. So with no further ado, here they are:

Thanks for reading this blog and following along with my (our) story! If you blog, leave a link in the comments section to your own favourite post or two from your blog this year, or let us know how you’ll be celebrating New Years Eve. 

I hope 2011’s been a great year for you and that 2012 promises great things.

With Love from Laos,
Lisa
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Things to love about coming home

We’ve been back 48 hours, and I’m way too tired to write anything deep on the current theme of love, so I thought I’d just offer a look at things I’ve loved about being back so far…

The power went out before 9am the first morning we were back, so instead of unpacking and organizing necessities like change tables and diapers we spent three hours mostly trying to stay cool. Well, Mike and I tried to stay cool. Crazy baby didn’t want to lie on the tiles for some reason so he lay on Mike and sweated his way into a bad mood. A really bad mood.

Oh, wait. I was supposed to be talking about things I’ve loved. My bad.

OK, lets talk about the stroller. I love this stroller. Seriously. I spent more time researching this stroller than I spent researching the first and only car I ever bought. Way more time. The car decision (a silver jetta) was based on two qualities – shape and colour. The fact that VW’s are pretty safe was an incidental bonus. The stroller decision, on the other hand, was made after hours of online research, the waylaying of total strangers to check out the model they were pushing and solicit their input, and much cruising of e-bay.

The stroller I finally chose and bought second hand (a City Urban Baby Jogger) is a BMW of baby prams. It has suspension and sturdy rubber wheels to deal with Laos streets, mesh panels to keep things cooler, and a swivel front wheel you can lock straight when needed. The thing slides as if greased with astroglide when you give it the merest nudge. Not for the first time, I find myself jealous of my own baby. I wish someone would put me in this stroller and push me around while I did this…

Luckily for us, Dominic seems to love the stroller almost as much as I do. We’ve taken him out and about a couple of times now as we’re reacquainting ourselves with our favourite restaurants, and he hasn’t cried once. Well, not while the stroller’s actually moving. We’ve managed one meal out of three with him asleep in the thing. The other two meals have been eaten in shifts – one of us gobbling while the other walks the grumpy munchkin.

I’m not sure Dominic likes the heat. When he hasn’t been fussing he’s spent an awful lot of time looking something like this since we arrived home:

"Gosh, life is exhausting. I could really do with a big ice cream right now"

But he hasn’t been grumpy the entire time we’ve been back. Sometimes he does this.

"Did you SEE that??? It's a red and green COW!!!"

Awwww, isn’t that cute? I love that too. I haven’t got to see that face too much in the last 48 hours, but lets not dwell on that, it’s awesome when it comes to visit. Or when he snuggles down in my arms at 4am and spits out his dummy for the sole purpose of smiling up at me. Yeah, that’s almost as good as sleep. Almost.

So what else have I loved about being back? Cinnamon buns and a mint lemon freeze at Joma. Walking the familiar streets here with Mike and not coming home absolutely dripping – the cool season’s not here quite yet, but it’s on its way. Seeing trees near the house that were knee-high when I left which are now taller than I am. Feeling our little dog lick my hand, searching for affection. Sorting and stacking baby clothes – a weird one, I know, but even though I’m absolutely exhausted there’s something fun about organizing our own space to make it baby friendly. I think they call this nesting. I think most people do it before they have a baby, but hey, I’m not always the fastest player in the game.

Have you been away lately? What’s one of your favorite things about coming home?

Holidays in Noosa

Hello from the sunshine coast! I figured that after all the stress of being born Dominic deserved a holiday, so I packed him up and we’ve spent the last four nights at Noosa (also, the fact that some of my closest friends had planned to get-together for five nights up here may have been additional motivation). I was a little nervous about taking him away by myself at four weeks old, but it’s turned out to be a great decision to come crash this party. Three of my friends up here also have babies younger than nine months old so there have been many willing hands to cuddle little D, and lots of other parents to watch and learn from.

Learn I have. After some tutoring I’ve even graduated to bathing Dominic solo, and after an unfortunate poo explosion at the markets I’ve definitely learned to pack spare clothes in the diaper bag. Luckily for all concerned we’d just picked up Auntie Michelle at the airport and she was carrying a brand new outfit for him in her suitcase. Win. Well, except for the part where I had to strip off Dominic’s clothes in the park while he screamed so hard at the shock of the cold breeze and the general indignity of public nudity that he went purple.

We head home tomorrow and hopefully Dominic will behave as well on the four-hour car trip back as he did on the way up. And, look what we have waiting for us when we get home… Dominic’s first pet. He lives in and around the shed and Dad calls him Bruce. He’s not as big as the giant snake in Laos, but he’s still a good size. Big enough to play with, anyway.

Sorry, it’s been a while since we had a snake photo on the blog and I couldn’t resist. Here’s a couple of other less reptilian photos of what we’ve been up to lately. Hope you’ve had as much good quality time with friends as I have this week.

"I don't want kisses right now"

When I'm feeding in Ballina I can sometimes see wallabies in the garden

Hanging out with Dominic in Noosa. Do I look tired?? Yeah... I am.

Walks on the beach with friends at Noosa

Dominic - happy as a clam in the sling on the beach

Out for brunch with baby in tow

Introducing Dominic McKay Wolfe

Dominic McKay Wolfe

Born Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 1:14 PM

3.62 kg (8.0 pounds)

53 cm (20.9 inches)

More to follow after I get some more sleep and Mike and I figure out which way is up (so maybe you should check back in a couple of years). But in brief:

  • Mother and baby are both well.
  • After being very skeptical about whether I was capable of natural childbirth, I surprised myself by making it through the eleven and a half hours of labour and delivery without any pain relief.
  • Dominic surprised me by coming out with one hand up beside his head – a surprise that has granted me an unhappy number of stitches.
  • I still think marsupials and birds have it all over mammals in the birthing department, but my body has surprised me by what it is capable of enduring and how quickly it can transition from “incubator” to “milk factory”.
  • Mike has not surprised me – he’s been calm, supportive, enthusiastic, and capable during and after the birth. For this, and for many other things, I am extraordinarily grateful.



Ten things I learned this weekend

1.  Many people hold very strong views on circumcision. More than 30 people commented on my facebook status: “To circumcise or not to circumcise, that is the question. Thoughts?” Several more sent me private emails on the topic.

2.  The white mushrooms we buy from the lady down the street who sells vegetables off a tarp on the pavement are enoki mushrooms – originally Japanese and highly prized (and priced) by Western specialty food stores. We can buy a whole plastic bag for 60 cents.

3.  Don’t cook enoki mushrooms for longer than five minutes or they go tough and chewy.

4.  You can grill Japanese eggplant in a toaster oven.

5.  Commercial tomato-based pasta sauces must have enormous amounts of salt in them because when you make it from scratch it takes more salt than I think is reasonable to make it taste good.

6.  The neighbors are feeding Zulu pork ribs, which might be the reason why he is spending half his time whining at their door, begging them to let him in.

7.  Osama bin Laden is dead. While I do not mourn that fact, the sight of the midnight celebratory cheering and flag waving on the streets in the US also makes me a bit uncomfortable.

8.  The lovely afternoon storms we’ve been having that break the back of the heat of the day are worryingly early. Several years ago when a similarly premature rainy spell hit Laos many farmers planted their rice early, only to watch the seedlings sprout and then die when those early rains stopped.

9.  The Shinta Mani hotel has the best pool in Luang Prabang. It was the setting for today’s perfect swim – the water was just cool enough, we had it all to ourselves, and all you can see in almost every direction from pool level are the green mountains encircling Luang Prabang.

10.  If someone is going to take a photo taken of me when I’m six months pregnant and wearing a bikini it’s really best for everyone concerned when 80% of my body is underwater.

P.S. And discussing the pregnancy photos Mike took outside the front of our house this afternoon:

Lisa: “I look really pregnant in photo 590.”

Mike: “You look really pissed off in 593. Actually, you look really pissed off at me in a lot of these photos.”

Lisa: “I wasn’t pissed off at you. Really. I was more worried about the fact that when you told me to think about how excited I am about the baby it made it harder to smile nicely for the camera.”

Around Town in Luang Prabang: Climbing Phousi Hill

The sky here is grey at the moment – a dense, dull, iron grey. You can’t see the mountains in either direction. Black and white flakes of ash have been drifting down for the past two days, coating everything from plant leaves to laundry. Everything smells of smoke and we’re all sneezing. Even Zulu’s exuberance has been dampened. Every time I go downstairs he’s curled up in his crate or by the door and half the time he doesn’t even bother to raise his head and invite me to play. Luang Prabang is not at it’s finest at the moment.

We were warned that this was coming – March is traditionally the start of the slashing and burning as the fields are prepared for the rice planting. But as March came and went with only minimal haziness I’d thought people were exaggerating. Alas, it seems that the bizarre rain of recent weeks just delayed things a little. People were not exaggerating.

The grim gloominess of the past couple of days reminded me of a very different Luang Prabang – the town we were walking around on the first Saturday in January. On that Saturday we decided to climb Phousi Hill as a pilgrimage of sorts – an opportunity to look out over the town, reflect on the upcoming year, and burn enough calories to justify eating a heaping bowl of ice cream from Café Mekong Fish afterward.

(Well, that last was a significant motivator for me, anyway).

Phousi Hill is pretty awesome, so today I’m going to take you up there on a brief, sunny, and entirely (for you) sweat-free jaunt.

My favorite way up Phousi Hill is from the Khan side, which during the first week of January was decorated by a stack of beer crates announcing that it was now 2011, in case we’d forgotten.

About halfway down this road are a set of white stairs leading up the mountain.

On your way up the 320 plus stairs you walk past a monastery and a number of commanding Buddhas. There’s this fellow, who would seem to be forbidding entry but for the smile on his face, and a corps of them guard the steps.

Then there are the weekday Buddhas. Of these, the Tuesday Buddha looks to have the easiest gig.

Then there’s my favorite group of statues, nestled into a cleft in the rock, Buddha teaching his disciples.

There is a small temple up near the top of Phousi Hill, but the crest itself  is unadorned save for a few tall golden spires, visible all over town. People leave offerings of flowers at the base of these spires.

However, when you are up there the real grandeur isn’t those golden spires, it is the view. On a perfectly clear day (which this wasn’t, though the haze had nothing on the current grey pall) the rivers are spread out below you in crisp detail and the mountains hem the horizon with sharp stitches. If you look in one direction you see the Khan.

If you look the other way you see the Mekong.

Before we descended Mike and I bought a pair of caged birds to release from the summit. Tradition here holds that you’re supposed to say a prayer as you release the bird. As we watched the tiny birds dart away into the blue I thought of the baby within me, so little at that stage we hadn’t yet gone public, and prayed that it would fly (metaphorically speaking, of course).

After you’ve marveled at the view and looked up at golden spires and released birds there’s nothing for it but to go down again. So that’s what we did, down the Mekong side this time. At the bottom of the drop a long straight sweep of steps leads out onto one of the main roads in town. And right across from the stairs stands the National Museum. Partnered by an imposing gold-plated temple and gleaming white amidst lush tropical gardens, the museum used to house the monarchy that ruled Laos before the communist revolution in 1975 relocated the royal family to re-education camps.

That’s it today from this edition of “around town in Luang Prabang”. Let me know if there’s something you’re curious to see and I’ll get out there with our camera (once this smog clears) and see if I can track down some pictures for you. Happy Wednesday!

Back at Home are Mike and I: Jottings on art, parenthood, and home

Well, we’re back from Thailand and we hit the ground running this week. Although, after a full week of looking at this on Koh Tao…

And this on Koh Samui…

And strolling through resorts…

And buying satay off the beach…

And dining in lovely seaside restaurants as the full moon rises over the ocean…

Well… let’s just say I wouldn’t expect any sympathy from anyone if I tried to complain that we’ve had some re-entry shock with getting back to work. So I shall just say that we’re well and truly back at work.

Mike returned to scores of emails and the usual collection of unruly work-related campfires needing to be tended (and, in some cases, extinguished). I have returned to a new schedule of memoir work in the mornings and consulting work in the afternoons.

I’m jotting this down in between switching from memoir to drafting a distance learning chapter on personal resilience. I have ended this morning’s memoir work without much idea about how to fix a tricky chapter transition. Or, maybe more accurately, how to fix a tricky whole chapter.

That would be chapter, uh, two.

Sigh. I hope something shakes loose on that front this week as I am determined to finish this edit before the baby arrives. Because, of course, after the baby arrives my life as I know it now will end. I will never again find the time or energy to write anything worth reading, and Mike and I have probably just gone on our last truly relaxing holiday and enjoyed our last meal out at a lovely restaurant.

OK, so maybe I’m being just the tiniest bit melodramatic. But I have to admit that stalking my genuine happiness about this coming baby is no small army of fears – fears clothed in thoughts similar to those above. So, as I get into a serious creative writing rhythm again, I was particularly delighted to stumble across a great article recently called The Parent Trap: Art After Children.

Frank Cottrell Boyce writes:

There’s a belief that to do great work you need tranquility and control, that the pram is cluttering up the hallway; life needs to be neat and tidy. This isn’t the case. Tranquility and control provide the best conditions for completing the work you imagined. But surely the real trick is to produce the work that you never imagined. The great creative moments in our history are almost all stories of distraction and daydreaming – Archimedes in the bath, Einstein dreaming of riding a sunbeam – of alert minds open to the grace of chaos.

Writers have produced great work in the face of things far more stressful than the school run: being shot at, in the case of Wilfred Owen; being banged up in jail, in the case of Cervantes or John Bunyan. Yet that pram is lodged in our imaginations, like a secret parasite sucking on our juices.

While I would argue that it may, in fact, be easier to write while locked up in prison than while trying to get kids ready for school every day, I loved this article for standing in opposition to some of my fears. Well worth reading if you are an artist with a family, or thinking about having one.

In addition to all things babies I’ve also been mulling on all things home as I start to pick up the threads of my memoir once again. I stumbled across this poem by Emily Dickinson recently and it intrigues (and baffles) me. Anyone want to help me out by offering their thoughts on it? I am particularly confused by the last two lines – about feet retiring and faces remaining.

Away from Home are some and I

Away from Home are some and I —
An Emigrant to be
In a Metropolis of Homes
Is easy, possibly —

The Habit of a Foreign Sky
We — difficult — acquire
As Children, who remain in Face
The more their Feet retire.

Thanks for dropping by!

Ten good things about boys: Attaining synthetic happiness one gender stereotype at a time

As we’ve been mulling over the fact that we’re having a boy this week, Mike and I have been talking about all things little boy and little girl. It started right after the first ultrasound.

“OK, tell me three good things about little boys,” Mike said to me while we were sitting in the white, tiled hallway of the hospital in Chiang Mai.

“Well, you wanted one to start with,” I said, tired, and not really ready to begin processing the news we had just been handed.

Mike laughed. “Is that the best you can do?”

“Yes,” I said, then pointed to the television on the wall. A news presenter speaking Thai was sounding rather frantic while footage of destruction marched across the screen.

“Is that a tsunami?”

It was. We watched footage of what was unfolding in Japan silently for a while. Then we talked about how we sure hoped the coastal area wasn’t too populated. And what we could make out of how the tectonic plates had shifted. And about the 2004 tsunami and what we’d seen of its aftermath. After that we weren’t much in the mood to talk about gender.

But as the week has progressed in a relaxing blur of pineapple fruit shakes, warm seas, and Thai food, we’ve found ourselves circling back to the topic repeatedly.

“Three good things about boys are…???” Mike will tease me at random intervals.

In response to this I usually pretend to think hard, then shrug my shoulders and shake my head.

“Good things about boys?” I might say. “I’m really trying here, but I have to say I’m drawing a blank.”

(I usually only say things like this when we’re sitting at a table in a restaurant or in some other public place where I run less risk of being tickled unmercifully or pestered with a shower of kisses.)

But the fact of the matter is, I have come up with some good things about little boys. And as I’ve been busy synthesizing happiness this week, I’ve also spent more than a little time mulling over the issue of gender stereotypes.

What ideals and expectations do we consciously or unconsciously hold about little boys and little girls? How many of these are grounded in fact? How should we let them influence our parenting? Do we even have much of a choice on that front – is it possible to be gender neutral when raising kids?

I know the answer to that last question is no – it’s not possible to be completely gender neutral in how we approach raising kids. Nor, am I convinced, would that be totally desirable even if it were possible. As for all the other questions… Well, I have some more digging and thinking to do.

But before I spoil things by doing too much research and finding out too many actual facts on the subject, I thought I’d share my rather unscientific and less than rational list of good things I’ve so far come up with. In no particular order, here are ten good things about boys:

1. Boys burn more calories on a daily basis than girls, so it stands to reason that boy babies in utero also need more calories than girl babies. The doctor in Thailand also told me that I should be drinking multiple glasses of milk every day. This all means that I can safely (nay, I should) be eating at least one extra scoop of ice cream every day that I am pregnant.

2. Mike’s aunt Kathy assures me that boys make excellent weed-pickers, rock-pullers, and wheelbarrow-pushers. I am assuming this also extends to carrying my luggage in airports. Bonus.

3. Mike tells me that not only are boys born without poo shame they also tend to hang onto this quality throughout adulthood – hence saving themselves a great deal of social angst. (For more on poo shame see, The Existence of Poo).

4. In one backed up be medical research, a little boy is much less likely to suffer down the track from my oh-so-fun medical condition, lymphedema, than a little girl.

5. Boys tend to have better spatial orientation than girls (I do believe this one is also backed up by science). On a practical level this will mean that with two men in my family I can almost entirely abdicate navigation responsibilities.

6. A boy may be less drama in the long run than a girl. (Think teenage years and, really, most of early adulthood).

7. Boy clothes are easier (and often cheaper) than clothes for girls, and boys’ hair is easier to care for.

8. There will be fewer princess movies, princess costumes, and all things princess in our house.

9. Hopefully our little man will grow up less burdened by an acute awareness of his physical appearance than little girls can be. I hope he’ll wage fewer battles in the hero’s journey towards the realization that self-esteem must be built on something more than being thought beautiful and desirable by others.

10. Finally, as my good friend, Danielle, pointed out, “Dads toilet train boys easiest.” I’m doubly thrilled on this front, as it means Mike will get to use his water and sanitation training and I just love to see him living in his strengths.

Cheers from Southern Thailand, where this list is a work in progress. In fact, Mike, I, and little Mango McWolfe may just go sit by the pool now and work on it some more. Have a great weekend! Catch you next week from Laos.

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Dead cats, working elephants, new schools, and other tidbits from Laos

It’s a public holiday here in Laos, so Mike and I are celebrating by working together at the kitchen table. Yeah, we really know how to do public holidays in style.

Actually, one of us does, anyway. Mike let me sleep in until nearly eight this morning and then woke me up with a tray loaded with cheesy scrambled eggs, grilled tomato, mango, dragonfruit, and half a cup of coffee (I’m just easing back into coffee after going off it overnight the minute I was afflicted with pregnancy nausea). So we had breakfast in bed together before we set up our two laptops downstairs and started typing away like disciplined little nerds.

Though if I really were a die hard nerd I’d be working on my consultancy, drafting the next chapter for this distance learning course instead of having spent the last hour perusing my email and google reader, looking at photos we’ve taken this last week, and now writing a blog post.

But this next chapter, you see, is on Wellbeing Economics (how and whether governments and managers should be paying attention to improving their citizens and employees wellbeing) and I feel clueless. So since it’s International Women’s Day I figure I should put off the hard work of getting less clueless until after lunch when I’ll be hot, and sleepy, and cranky because my back (which decided yesterday for no apparent reason that it wanted to really start hurting) is getting worse and worse throughout the day.

Yup, I’m a smart one all right.

But, today, instead of doing the smart thing I’m going to do the fun one and show you some of the things we’ve seen here in Laos this past week. I really wish I had a photo of what I saw yesterday afternoon but, alas, I was without camera when I took Zulu down the street to buy some Japanese eggplants from the woman who sells vegetables from a tarp on the sidewalk.

She had eggplants all right, and right beside the eggplants was a basket with two dead cats in it. The cats were crawling with flies, which the woman helpfully waved off with a coconut fond when she saw how interested I was in the cats. The flies rose up in a thick, dark, cloud, then promptly settled over all of the vegetables. I made sure to wash the eggplants thoroughly.

That was a first for me. I regularly see this woman selling birds (that’s what Zulu’s so interested in in the photo above), rats (sometimes dead, sometimes live), and occasionally dead bats tied in handy bunches. But I’ve never seen whole kitties for sale before.

So here are some images we did take this week of life here in Laos:

Palm tree at sunset from the deck of our house

Zulu, doing his new favourite thing (bringing a big clump of dirt into the house and chewing it to bits)

What Zulu lacks in leg length, he makes up for in ear size

Mike at a cafe on the Mekong on his birthday

Lanterns hanging above the Mekong

Checking out the construction around town on Saturday morning

Building roads and drains, the hard way

Burning rubbish around town – it’s going to get smokier and smokier throughout March as the farmers burn the rice fields after harvest

Rice fields on the way out to Phonxai

The brand new school that we went to see in progress together just two weeks ago – finished now and standing proudly beside the old school

The village surrounding the school

A working elephant alongside the road out to Phonxai

Is International Woman’s Day a holiday where you are? How have you celebrated it? And what cool things have you seen in the past week?