Posted in a-spoiling we will go, oh, hcmc!, saigon, baby

Saigon-Related Throwback Thursday – so you moved here with small children. now what?

The following is an un-finished post that I started in April 2013!

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So, when we left Bangkok, I wrote up a few posts (largely on my other abandoned blog) that kind of summarized all of the things that I ended up liking about our life there. I'm not really sure that I'm going to feel sentimental about anything here in Saigon, but I figure that since our moving day is coming up, I'd put something to together about living here with small kids. 

Firstly, googling "things to do with kids in HCMC" isn't going to produce a lot of hits (as I write this in April 2013 (particularly, if you're looking for a website in English)). We find out about family-friendly events through more traditional mediums, like notices posted at cafes, local-interest magazine like The Word, and advertising posters at the schools our kids attend. The Word has actually been a really good resource for us over the years – the back section has a large listing of restaurants, places to shop, and this "Generation V" category that has information on where to buy baby gear, shop for clothes, shop for schools, and so on. 

There are also a few message groups that are used for finding out all manner of things about living here: Vietnam Parents Network, An Phu Neighbours, and Phu My Hung Neighbours (and there are probably more of these for other communities with a decent ex-pat population  that I don't know about!). 

I'm not a great authority on areas of this city beyond the one that I live in, but there appears to more indoor playgrounds here than outdoor ones (though there is a very nice one in Pham Ngu Lao – the backpacker area). We've always found them very affordable (like, one dollar per hour affordable), but the quality does vary. The newest one in our area put a trampoline right up against a glass window, for example. The funnest one might have been the one with the zip line that I blogged about here, but there's a very tidy and well-maintained one called "Joymax" across from the British International School in District 2. 

I ran into a suprising problem clothing my children here. Places like Saigon Square and the markets are fantastic for buying inexpensive clothes for babies and toddlers (and American brands like Carters, BabyGap, Old Navy, etc. are easily found), but finding items in larger sizes (Madeline's worn sizes 6 – 8 while we've been here) has been more challenging! Once I even resorted going to the newly-opened Gap Kids in the Vincom shopping center to buy her a pair of jeans (seriously, it's like blasphemy here to buy Gap clothes at the actual Gap store when you can buy Gap clothes cheap at the markets). We haven't had to buy Madeline much clothing here in Saigon, thanks to the school uniform policy, but there's a chain called DLS (outlets across the city) where we've found some lovely pieces in her size, and a newer shop on Xuan Thuy (D2) called Pure Heaven that carries this European Copenhagen Delights line of apparel (up to size 12, I believe), and Madeline's really liked the quality of the outfits she has. 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in a-spoiling we will go, Idle Chatter

there is a seven year-old girl inside of me

I am pleased to say that the first thing that springs into my mind when I remember 1984 is an incredible dystopian tome by George Orwell that I read in twelfth grade, but some people may remember that year as the one when our parents battled in the toy section of Sears to score one of these:

IMG_1259These are Alphonsine Clarissa and Glen Reuben, the two survivors of the 2010 Cabbage Patch Kid purge at my parents' house (four of their "siblings", as it were, didn't make the cut). Each of my kids brought one of my old dolls back to Saigon with us after our summer holiday. 

Over the last quarter-century, this pair has undergone a couple of changes. Alphonsine has been nicknamed "Nell" after the daughter of a friend of mine, and Glen, as it turns out, is gender-fluid. He's wearing cute hand-sewn coveralls in this pic, but I often find him lounging about in a frilly dress. This is probably because the majority of our extra outfits are traditional girl clothes. Still, the kids and I support his lifestyle choices whole-heartedly, and I've been advised that "fashion has no gender."

It's actually really fun for me to see Madeline and Sadie playing with my old dolls. The Cabbage Patch Kids and my collection of My Little Ponies are the toys that I remember playing with the most when I was little. My birthday and Christmas wish lists must have been crammed with CPK items because I know that I had a good collection of accesories: the knock-off Snuggli, a highchair that attached to a table, a playpen, a CPK diaper bag … 

Nearly three decades later, my fondest memories of my Cabbage Patch Kid obsession are about these:

IMG_1260
Somehow, somewhere in the mid-80s, my mom found to time to sew tons of tiny little outfits for the dolls that my sister and I had. Our dolls had fuzzy winter parkas. There was even a tiny pair of turquoise stirrup pants that matched a pair that I owned! Anyway, I think that I have to record "sewing little outfits for my Cabbage Patch dolls" as one of the awesome things that my mom has done. And they still look good on Alphonsine/Nell and Glen. 

Posted in a-spoiling we will go, saigon, baby

old navy read my mind, obviously

So, remember a couple of weeks ago when I posted about scoring some terrifically cute fabric with little monkeys frolicking in toques and earmuffs and mittens? And how it would make awesome pajamas for my kids? Well, apparently, I am not the only person who thought so. May I present Exhibit A:

Jama

I was at one of the Saigon Squares last week, and many of the stall were selling monkey-print pajamas. So, in addition to me, an executive at Old Navy/The Gap had the same idea! I picked up a pair in 3T because they were cheap and I'm lazy and would now not have to worry about not having enough fabric to cover both of my kids in monkey pajamas. 

I normally don't like shopping here much, but Saigon Square is growing on me. I'm not sure how it all gets there (cough, cough), but there is a lot of American-brand clothes for sale there, at a decent discount.  One of the long-sleeved tees that I bought for about $4.50 had a price tag from Kohl's still attached and it read $66. And probably most importantly: the vendors leave me alone to look without harassing me!

And before I log out: If anyone knows where to find child-sized fake Uggs in HCMC, give me a shout, okay?

 

Posted in a-spoiling we will go, madeline vs BKK, Vent

second guesser

Cameron Behold the imitation replica PBK Cameron shelving unit
that we had made from Mother Goose. I think it's really
cute and am indescribably pleased that Sadie's books and toys are no
longer permanently living on the floor of her bedroom. I wish that
there was space in her room for an entire wall full of Cameron shelving units. 

However. 

I am not sure that I
made a good choice with the finish. I was aiming for something that
matched the finish on her DIKTAD changing table/chest of drawers, a colour
that IKEA describes as “Antique”. The colours are pretty similar.

However. 

Well, the colour looks appropriately
rustic on the changing table/chest of drawers, but on this shelving
unit, it kind of looks like the old mahogany cabinets that my parents
tore out of their kitchen about ten years ago. Argh.

Chris hasn't yet seen Sadie's new
furniture, but I am anticipating that he won't be won over. He's gone
sour on Madeline's bedroom furniture, not liking the finish that I
chose for it. I think that this piece will be the same story. I had
to admit that I am trying to envision it painted red or white or navy
instead …

Posted in a-spoiling we will go, madeline vs BKK

the harder to find

Only after living in the Bangkok area for two years did we realize that there is a small treasure trove of lovely children's shops in the vicinity of Sukhumvit Soi 49/Thonglor 15. Mother Goose is now on Thonglor (decor and furniture), as is a very similar shop called Tiny Tots, which only seems different to me in that they also have a small stash of Gymboree and BabyGap clothing (score!). I saw one store from the window of my car that had a line of Stokke Tripp Trapps in their front window, but I wasn't in a good position to stop, get out, and investigate. I didn't even catch the name of the business! 

This weekend Chris and I were on Sukhumvit 49 to visit a yarn shop and I noticed that Lottie & Max was in the Terrace 49 building across the street. I wish this shop had a website because it was so full of lovely things and I cannot possibly describe them well. They carry crib and bed linens for children, decorative pillows (including cute ones shaped like letters of the alphabet), bunting, bath towels and face clothes with pretty cotton trim, swim cover-ups, and on the other side of the shop was clothing. The sales associate said that they sizes up to nine years. The clothes were largely woven cotton, and they had many styles for boys and girls. Madeline scored a knit nightgown, which we are all thrilled with because it hasn't exactly been easy to find her sleepwear that doesn't have Hello Kitty, a Disney Princess, or Minnie Mouse on it here … 

I am kind of tempted to go back there and pick up a couple of Christmas gifts … 

Posted in a-spoiling we will go, madeline vs BKK, sadie the sequel

small audience

In order to somewhat alleviate the between-the-naps blahs that Sadie and I seem to have succumbed to, I've been investigating what was available in our corner of Thailand in terms of scheduled classes. All summer long, I was anticipating the arrival of August, when I could take her to the local (and inexpensive) children's music class held in the room above the local coffee shop. And then the registration email was sent out, requesting kids fifteen months old and older, and I was rather crushed. Sigh. So, I had to spread my horizons and willingness to commute. 

In the past couple of weeks, Sadie and I have "previewed" classes at both The Little Gym and Gymboree Play and Music, and there has been a surprising similarity between them that goes beyond the bubbles and parachute time. First, we've been the only pair in the classes, which left me feeling rather awkward and self-conscious. Second, the classes have been led by shaggy-haired twenty-something Thai men who can play musical instruments, which is pretty much the opposite of every other single parent-and-child class I've taken in the last five years. 

Sadie, on the otherhand, seemed to rather enjoy the bubbles and her private musical serenades …

Posted in a-spoiling we will go, madeline vs BKK

sweet dreams


Madeline's new bed
Originally uploaded by goingdomestic.

Madeline's six months of sleeping on a mattress and box spring on the floor of her bedroom came to a close this past Thursday, when her new bed frame and chest of drawers were delivered.

This project was a little tricky. Her mattress and box spring are the double size, and that's not sold here in Thailand, so it wasn't like I could just hop over to Index (the fake-Ikea) and buy a new bed frame. We had to find a company that could make a bed frame to fit her mattress, instead.

We received quotes from three companies, and ended up going with Mother Goose. They make lovely nursery furniture, as well as having some nice gifts for babies and small children in their store. I merely went to the store with mattress and boxspring measurements and this photo of the Morigeau Lepine bed that we really liked. About eight weeks later, two pieces of incredibly solid furniture were installed in Madeline's bedroom.

Chris and I are thrilled with the results of this project – it's kind of nerve-wracking to be waiting on furniture that is going to recreated from a photograph – and Madeline seems to be, too. We've decorated her bed with bows and a string of colourful dragonflies in the tradition of Fancy Nancy, and she's reserved one of the drawers in her new bureau for her "secret treasures".