Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I've started taking daily walks through the neighborhoods around my apartment building. Since the boys don't seem to sleep in past 6 am, I have decided to embrace their early morning wakings with a daily ritual that involves a little exercise for me, a little sleep induction for the kiddos, and a tiny glimpse into the local life around me.

As a foreigner living here in Shanghai, it is incredibly easy to live a sheltered existence. All creature comforts are fairly attainable. Unlike other countries, you never really have to learn the language to survive and thrive. If you have a driver, it's likely that you never have to take the metro or get lost walking around trying to find that one store a friend told you about. You can shop exclusively at Western stocked grocery stores buying Quaker Oatmeal, Breyers Ice Cream or whatever other things you ate back home. In fact, after the initial settling in period, finding a community of friends, and recovering from culture shock; most of us are a year into our 2-3 year assignments and find little desire in expanding our comfortable routines to include anything more Chinese than that cute silk top we had made at the fabric market.

Don't get me wrong, I don't claim to be living among the locals here. I like my comfy four bedroom apartment, and after 3 years of taxis, metros and hoofing it- I love having a driver. I also enjoy buying my breads at various European bakeries and I look very forward to my morning breakfast dates with my hubby (I usually order the pancakes). I don't speak Mandarin well enough to have any truly meaningful conversations, and with 6 month old twins, I don't have any illusions that I will be furthering my Mandarin skills either. 

With that said, I do miss China sometimes. It's weird to say that given the fact that I live here, but it's true. I don't have the China experience that some of my more adventurous (childless) friends have; and I do see a value in soaking in the culture to the best of my ability, so the best of my ability happens to be my daily walks. I head out with the boys in the wee hours of morning and I wind their carriage through the alleyways of various hidden neighborhoods.

As women wash their hair and children brush their teeth over street drains, I provide them with an equally amusing picture- a foreigner walking through their neighborhood pushing a stroller with not one, but TWO babies! I can barely walk 10 feet without hearing the words shuangbaotai uttered beneath a persons breath. The occasional brave soul actually attempts to speak to the foreign anomaly (that's me); and they ask if I do in fact have shuangbaotai tucked within the massive stroller before me. I smile and nod in confirmation that I do indeed have what they suspect- shuangbaotai...twins.

I tell you if I were Angelina Jolie walking down the street (minus her own twins); she would not get as much as a second glance from most of these local folks. 

So step aside Angie- the shuangbaotai are coming!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Sleep Fairy

What a difference a little sleep makes! This is one of those obvious statements people throw around without much thought; and until you have lived with so little sleep over such a long period of time, you don’t realize just how true it is. In fact, you begin to forget what it feels like to be human at all.

I was blessed last night by the sleep fairy; though I am referring to my husband so perhaps I should say something like the sleep manly- man or the sleep king. Whatever I call him; he took two dream feeds and the boys had their biggest stretch of sleep in months… a whopping 4 hours! All things combined and I had collected more sleep by 1 am than I normally do in an entire night.

Armed with my super human powers, I awoke with the boys at 5:45 this morning and felt as though I could conquer the day; so conquer I did. I let Phil sleep in while I got them ready and took them for an early morning walk through the city.

Big deal you think; but huge milestone for all of us. Let me give you a wee bit of background so you can appreciate the milestone along with me.

For the last 6 months, life has been a blur at best. Between recovering from a high risk pregnancy, a premature delivery, 5 days in the hospital trying to hold off labor, an eventual c section, caring for premature twins, going from bottle feeding to breast only feeding, and then reflux to top it off- I have felt like a shell of my former self; no, not even a shell. A shell implies the remnants of shape and form, and I am not even sure I have felt that. A trip out with the help of another is a daunting task in itself; so a trip out on my own, though seemingly unremarkable is quite remarkable indeed.

As I strolled through some of my favorite alleyways enjoying the beautiful day, I felt particularly empowered and entirely capable. It was in that moment that I realized capable is not a word I would use to describe myself in this whole parenting process. After too many months of very little sleep combined with the challenges of living in a foreign country with no family nearby, raising twins, and dealing with reflux- I’d forgotten what it was like to even feel capable.

I must say it feels pretty good...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Where Has All the Mayonnaise Gone?

It's that time again in Shanghai when all of the foreigners who traveled home for the summer break have returned. Along with their return comes a certain loss of food comfort and security. Being one of those foreigners who doesn't really travel home over the summer, I am lulled into a false sense of shopping security over the months of June, July, and August. I only purchase what I need because I know it will be there when I return. Every September smacks me back into reality when I am faced with empty shelves for weeks on end.

With the returning herd having consumed a variety of items into oblivion, I am forced once again into the ugly habit of mass purchasing; a survival tactic in which we purchases our favorite goods in quantities that rival Y2K stocking.

If I happen to find mayonnaise one of these days...I'm buying a case.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Accidental Parent

I have become an accidental parent. Despite my best efforts, I have unknowingly created patterns and behaviors in my children that have complicated our sleep lives. After what I swore was the last night of sleep insanity in my home- we started "sleep training" the boys. We settled on the pick up; put down and shush pat method, and away we went. I crammed in a few chapters of the Baby Whisperer that afternoon and Phil got a crash course in how we would approach the night as soon as he walked in the door. He had about 10 minutes (our sleep window of opportunity) to eat and change his clothes before he was thrown into the trenches for what had the potential to be a very long battle. Though I have read a fair amount on this method, we really were winging it a bit. But winging it or not, I was desperate to do something- anything. My sanity was hanging on its last remaining thread and I figured there was no time like the present for making some serious changes.

Isaac and Naaman are just shy of 6 months and their night waking had increased to a level where I was not sleeping, they were not sleeping well, and everyone was suffering. After dragging my feet a bit too long on starting the process- I drag them no more.

So armed with ear plugs, a full stomach and an empty bladder- I was ready for a long stint in the nursery; ready to help my children learn to fall asleep without the aid of the bouncing ball (killing my back), the rocking chair, or any other jiggling motions. I was shocked to find that a mere 20 minutes later- I was exiting the nursery with a sleeping baby. I've read stories of babies that needed to be picked up and put down as many as 140 times in one go; and I was sure my guys would be close to that. It turns out that Isaac only needed 5 or 6 pick ups and he was working his own way to dream land with nothing more than my hand patting him on the chest.

Morning came, and we were all a bit more rested. Though the boys still woke frequently (I will tackle the issue of night weaning a little later), they slept better between wakings and went a bit longer than usual. All in all- it felt like a bit of a victory for us. When morning came- I wondered what the daytime nap situation would be like. I got my nanny on board and we approached the daytime naps in the same fashion as bedtime and... so far so good. 

I definitely have a lot of work ahead of me, but it feels so good to have purpose in the process and light at the end of the tunnel.