Posted in ex-pat confidential, Vent

so, we’re still in calgary

Not supposed to be.

We had tickets to fly out on December 29th, but the company who is moving us failed to notify the actual moving company until it was too late to actually schedule our pack-out. So now we're out of here during the first week of February.

Moving prep is really frustrating. I am not sure why this company bothers to offer a household goods shipping allowance when we've had to donate, dispose of, or put into long-term storage over half of our belongings. On Wednesday the local movers are back to pick up our sofa, computer desk, bookshelves, patio furniture, and our kitchen table and chairs. They'll go into storage and we'll get to enjoy two weeks of indoor picnics for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

One of my nightmares is that the international mover will finish loading our remaining belongings and then tell us, "Your container is only half-full!" 

I know that that our stuff is only … well, stuff, but I am kind of attached to it and can't help but think that settling into a new foreign country would be a little smoother when surrounded by the things that have made our home our home for many years now. 

Speaking of our home (and since this is a ranty post), it's not quite as described at Chris's job interview and subsequent offer letter. The three-bedroom house on a secure housing compound with a school, library, movie theatre, and grocery store has been swapped out in favour of a two-bedroom apartment in town.  At this point in the game, the only response is … of course




Posted in ex-pat confidential, Vent

dumb reasons indeed

A heavy package from FedEx arrived a few days ago. Sadly, it didn't contain the early birthday presents that my five year-old was hoping for. The contents inside were from the company that Chris has a job offer with; there's probably a dozen forms due back at different times. There are several more boxes that Chris needs to have checked before we're moving for sure, and thankfully, I've been minimally involved with the paperwork. 

Last week, I posted that I only had a dumb reason for not moving overseas with this opportunity. This week, I kind of feel that I only have an dumb reason for actually going: family vacations in cool places. 

Yeah. That's it. The only thing left that seems positive (from my point of view, of course) is traveling to places like Turkey and Jordan and Cape Town with Chris and our kids. I'm not sure what else there is to look forward to?

Initially, we thought that all company housing was in compounds, which sounded good (and maybe more than good – these ones are like small towns with grocery stores, bowling alleys, movie theatres …). I've lived in a large compound before and it was awesometo have a safe place for the kids to play outside and ride their bikes, live near the school, and it was easy to make new friends in that sort of environment, too. I met other people just by being out and about. It sounds like the community atmosphere that Chris was told about during his interview. We've now learned that compound housing is incredibly scarce and we're more likely to be placed in another town in a furnished apartment, and that just seems a lot more … isolating (this housing situation would have been isolating in the other places I've lived, t00). So, this is something that I have to remove from my "postives about moving" list for the time being while "apartment in another town" goes onto the negative side, and it makes me feel rather blue to see that "awesome family vacations" is all alone. 

There should be more here, shouldn't there?

Posted in Vent

a monday is a beautiful thing

"This is too boring and it's making me TIRED!" comes the whine from the little blue table where the weekend homework assignment is spread out (it's writing seven sentences about an interesting plant or animal). I hear this every Sunday. Over and over again. What should take ten minutes takes about one hundred and twenty. Homework is one of the reasons why it's hard for me to remain in a positive mood on the weekend. I can be cheerful over homework whining for about fifteen minutes, but then I want to start tearing my hair out. Especially if I hear a whiny "But weekends are supposed to be for FUUUUN things!" too.

Today, I snapped back with a tirade about how much I loathe the weekends. If you're me, they aren't particularly fun. I loathe being stuck in homework support hell (described above), and I loathe the increase in work that I have to do with having two people home all the time who usually aren't home all the time. Most Saturdays and Sundays, I seriously feel like I spend the majority of the day washing dishes (easily five loads, all washed by hand) and sweeping up crumbs and coffee grounds. It looks like everyone else has a good weekend – playing Scrabble or Starfall on the computer, watching movies, leisurely reading picture books or newspapers – but sometimes it's really hard for me to remain cheerful, working behind the scenes with a dish towel or a broom, ensuring that my three favourite people have ample clean dishes for their next meal and clean floors for their feet.

Monday mornings, when the usual weekday routine starts up again, are so very welcome. The week resets, and instead of spending my time washing extra loads of dirty dishes or hearing how my daughter cannot possibly divide eight by four "because she hasn't learned that yet", I can spend my time enjoying my family. We'll read books, take the scooters around the block, and open up our playdough bakery again. On Monday, the next weekend is a long way off.

Posted in Vent

when life gives me lemons, sometimes I dwell …

So many things that make me want to stab my eyes out of late! For example,

  • My Co-Room Parent who forwards me copies of emails from the PTA Head (which I already have in my inbox, because we're on the same mailing list), onto which she's added, "Laura, please do this." Since we have elementary-aged children, "You're not the boss of me!" is an appropriate response, right? It's just not cool to volunteer other people for things that you could do yourself. 
  • Grief over grocery shopping. Like when we lived in BKK, sometimes household products that we know and love disappear from the shelves here in Saigon and aren't replaced as quickly as they are back in Canada. I had nothing to do with the Kitchen Towel Famine of the Last Seven Days, and I did valiantly check at Metro for them and the local supermarket as well. 
  • Parents with a poor handle on control issues. Your three year-old's preschool teacher taught him the names of the letters of the alphabet instead of what the sounds are, which is all you wanted him to know? Um, what is going to happen when your kid goes to kindergarten? A parent brought in The Giving Tree and/or Rainbow Fish to read to your child's first grade class, and you're "devastated" because of the "inappropriate themes"? Seriously, your six year-old is not thinking as much on those books as you are, and probably has a positive take-away or two. 

There. I feel better now. Sometimes a good vent does a load of good. 

This week hasn't been entirely cranky – my toddler is starting to pedal her bike independently, and she can steer decently if there is someone directing her. I hope that this doesn't mean that she'll be wanting a tw0-wheeler for her birthday; there is a perfectly good Kettler trike sitting in our garage!

Posted in Traveling with Madeline, Vent

hitting turbulence

Dear Singapore Airlines

Last Wednesday, my two children and I flew on your afternoon flight out of HCMC to Singapore. A little over halfway into the flight, my two year old crawled into my lap, laid her head against my arm, and fell asleep. The seatbelt sign was off, so I thought this was fine (and preferable to her being tired and irritable, trust me!). 

About ten minutes later, one of your flight attendants came over and insisted that I put her back in her seat and secure her seatbelt. I was sad to do this, knowing what was coming, but like any good passenger, I complied. Sadie promptly woke up and began to howl. She didn't want to watch anything on the inflight entertainment system, she didn't want anything to eat or drink, she didn't want anything to do with anything that I'd packed in my carry-on bag to pass the time. She wanted to be held, obviously still sleepy, and fought with all her strength against her seatbelt. 

She didn't, as the FA suggested, "get up too early this morning". She's little, and takes an afternoon nap.

The FA came by about half an hour later to offer more assvice about my unhappy toddler, and I noticed something strange onboard our aircraft. "You know," I said, "I don't understand why I had to put my daughter down half an hour ago. The "FASTEN SEAT BELTS" sign hasn't been on at all during this time!" 

She looked surprised, offered some weak comment to the nature of "preparing the cabin for landing" and scurried off to turn on the darned seat belt sign (to vindicate herself, I presume). We landed about fifteen minutes later, with my child unhappy for every one of those minutes.

Singapore Airlines, I usually heart you, but I am kind of angry that my sleeping toddler was the first item onboard to be "prepared for landing". A more compassionate FA might have taken care of collecting the headphones, drinking cups, and raising the window shades before picking on a tiny sleeping child who was not in violation of the seat belt policy. I am not sure what sort of service to expect the next time my family flies with you (but we might just opt to spend our $$ on Air Asia instead). 

Regards,Laura the Still Upset

Posted in Vent

let the goat times begin

CrunchyVTMommy Without further ado, things that have gotten my goat this week:

Room-Parenting. I am a room parent for M's class along with a couple other individuals. I volunteered to be the one to put together a class list to share contact info for scheduling playdates, invites for birthday parties, etc., and I was a little surprised that only eleven families cared to share their info. Maybe I just feel this way because last year (when I also room-parented), M's teacher assembled the contact info at orientation and basically gave me and my co-room-parents a competed list with everyone's email. So easy to proceed that way! Also, next Friday is Vietnam's version of Teacher Appreciation Day, and the PTA folks sent a note out last week saying that it's tradition for all teachers to get a gift from their class. So far, none of the other room parents have done anything to organize a collection. I'm sort of hoping that one of them will; I kind of feel that I've taken my turn already.

Paying Bills. When will Vietnam soar into the 21st century and offer online bill-paying? The bills for our electricity, garbage collection, telephone line, etc. are all tiny little slips of paper that are usually delivered by hand. I have misplaced two of them in the last four months, which apparently makes be unfathomably careless as it's a major hassle to call up the company and find out how much we owe. I also am not fond of hearing, "Oh no, Madame. Office is closed now." when it it 2:30 in the afternoon and I actually want to pay one of those bills. Makes me really miss being able to log into my bank's website and pay our electricity bill with a few clicks. 

Todder vs Bedtime. Man, this sucks. My biggest regret about parenting my children as infants was that I wasn't a successful advocate of good sleep habit and sleep train them. Thus, am I stuck with a two year old who largely has no idea about how to fall asleep on her own. Milk and lullabyes for forty minutes to two hours every night and by the time Sadie finally conks out (for the next 2-4 hours, ugh), I am usually right on the edge of freaking out on her. It's time to go all hard-core on her. If I recall correctly, it was in the fall of Madeline's two-year-old-hood when I felt the urge to radically overhaul bedtime as well. I guess I know where my limits are. 

Thank you to Crunchy VT Mommy for bringing this very smart Things that Got my Goat link-up to the internets. I feel that my venty self is a lot more legit now :) 

Posted in madeline vs BKK, sadie the sequel, Vent

international incidents

Sometimes I am not sure what to think about parenting in a foreign culture. There are so many things that I experience with my eyes alone, as I don't understand the language to add hearing to my level of understanding.

For example, I've been getting a weird vibe from Sadie's music class. Today there were three new toddlers in attendance, with their moms. And their nannies. I tried not to stare in curiosity, but I really didn't get it. What did those moms expect to happen during a 45 minute music class that they could not handle alone? Could they not deal with a diaper change, or a tantrum? I spent most of the class ruminating on that instead of focusing on shaking maracas. 

Also, those other toddlers pretty much sat politely in their appropriate parental laps for the entire class, while my little girl alternately would wander over to offer her drum/shaker/scarf to her instructor, investigate the row of cabinets along the wall to ensure that they were indeed locked, and well, sometimes she sat in my lap. Or near my lap.  I know that some of Sadie's interactivity is appropriate for the class, such as running over to the shaker container to drop hers in at the end of the activity, and jumping up to push the large gathering drum into it's storage cabinet (someone has to demonstrate those things, right?). But the rest of it was acting out of turn, even though it's typical toddler behavior from my own cultural perspective. Her need to explore and investigate is something that I encourage, and something that my Canadian and American friends who are parents encourage. But in Thailand? I'm not sure. The way that those other toddlers sat around and let their moms direct their hands up/down/around to emulate the instructor perfectly makes to think that Thai parents value something quite different in their toddlers.  And now I really wonder what Sadie's instructor was saying when he'd switch back to speaking Thai and be looking in her direction …