Happy Birthday, Maggie!


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Maggie Birthday Collage 1Happy 1st birthday to our amazing baby girl. This has absolutely been the fastest year of my life. I feel like I was just pregnant (coincidentally, that felt like the slowest year of my life), now all of a sudden Maggie is walking and babbling and feeding herself and playing keepaway games with Avon.

She may have had her moments (the first month was tough with regards to sleeping, and she seemed to cry whenever we took her anywhere outside in her stroller or carrier, and then there was the brutal 4-5 month sleep regression), but on the whole Maggie has been a pure delight (knock on wood/hopefully I’m not jinxing myself for a particularly terrible toddlerhood or teens).

Maggie Collage 3

Every morning she giggles and smiles when we go in to get her (she now stands at her crib and babbles to herself to announce that she’s woken up), and each night she contentedly cuddles with me as I feed her, read her a story, sing “Baby Beluga” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “Margaritaville” or “The Joker”, and put her down to sleep.

In between she eats her oatmeal on the balcony with LL, pulls her board books off the low shelves (and sometimes eats them), opens drawers and tosses clothes over her shoulder, shakes her bells and maracas, brings Avon his toys to play tug-of-war (and sometimes tries to eat them), toddles around the playground while the older kids give her hugs, accompanies me to the kopitiam (where the aunties pinch her cheeks and play peekaboo), tears up magazines, gobbles up her lunch and dinner (favorites include salmon, yogurt, and broccoli, which she double fists and stuffs in her mouth like Cookie Monster), shakes her hips and dances to my terrible singing, pushes (or drags) her walker wagon across the apartment, bounces “bolls”, tries to eat my phone, chews on coasters, splashes in the baby pool, plays peekaboo in a flower pot, crawls under the dining table to cuddle with Avon, points out the window at the big kids swimming in the pool, and tries to roll off the bed as we dry her off after her bath.

Maggie Collage 2

On Tuesdays she goes to swim class, where she’s the youngest by a year but is also the happiest, and loves to swim underwater and ride down the slide. At the playground she determinedly climbs up the steps to go down the slide, and plays with her friends Lucas, Yasmine and Luke, whose families each come from a different continent. It’s one of many reasons I’m so happy to be raising her in Singapore.

In the early days I marveled at how she did little more than lie on her baby gym, sleep and eat, yet the days still seemed to fly by. By comparison her days are now action-packed, but in the scheme of things I suppose they might seem small and repetitious. And yet every day she does something new to wow me, and somehow I’m always exhausted by the time I put her down for bed at 7pm. I’m lucky enough to have the indispensable help of LL, to whom I will be forever grateful. I think she’s the number one reason Maggie is such a happy, content baby, for she not only cares for her as if she were own, but has alleviated so much of the stress that would normally weigh upon parents so I can freely focus upon Maggie (or leave her to deal with work stuff, knowing that she’s safe and content).

Maggie collage 4

At 18 months Maggie will be old enough to go to school here, but I’m still not sure I’ll be ready to send her off (though I don’t doubt she’d be ready for it). She is fearless and determined and curious; she loves meeting people (and dogs even more so) and playing with other babies. I hope she never loses her marvelous sense of wonder.

In her first year she traveled to Indonesia, Malaysia, the United States and Hong Kong, her white-blonde hair, chubby legs and goofy grin leaving a trail of fans across the globe (we’ll never forget the SQ flight attendants carrying her off the plane in London on our way home in December; it got a little awkward because we had a connecting flight to catch and yet they didn’t want to give her back). In July I’m flying back to the U.S. with her on my own; now that she’s mobile (in fact she seems to never stop moving during her waking hours) I’m a little bit nervous, but she’s so damn happy that I somehow think it will be ok.

Maggie collage 5

She’s gotten better about riding in the car, but it is a strange and eclectic bunch of songs that soothe her and often make her dance, including “Fly” by Sugar Ray, “Hip Hop Hooray” by Naughty by Nature, “Jamaica Farewell” by Dan Zanes and Angelique Kidjo, “Hungry like the Wolf” by Duran Duran, “Baby Beluga” by Raffi, and a somewhat obscure reggae song by the Meditations called “Carpenter Rebuild”. Whatever works!

Every day I feel my capacity for love has expanded to unknown heights and depths. Only now do I properly understand the meaning of “joy”; with every giggle, every mischievous grin (followed by a mad dash for Avon’s dog dish), every goofy scrunch face, every “bop!” and “Lo-la”, every time her eyes widen as she peers at expansive palm fronds or bubbles floating over head, my heart swells, and sings.

Maggie collage 6

It’s been such a fantastic first year, and I look forward to our universe expanding and growing in in the years to come (though I’m also terrified of exposing my sweet, happy child to a world that can be scary and mean and unfair). For now I will continue to cherish the small changes that we see on a daily basis: how suddenly she went from tipping over to sitting, then she was crawling, then two days later she was standing, then the next week she was walking. She’s basically done everything at a rapid pace except grow hair.

Maggie months 2to11

I think 99% of what I’ve experienced and felt in this first year is probably common among all first-time parents (and babies). When she smiles or laughs I feel happier than I’ve ever felt; when she bumps her head and cries I feel like my heart’s been ripped out. But within that 1% of specialness is the truly good stuff. Watching her bend down to gently pet Avon (thanks goodness, because he was getting pretty sick of her pulling his tail). Watching her determinedly stack books so she can stand on them to reach a higher shelf (so proud of her problem solving skills, but dismayed by her mischievousness!). Hearing her (sort of) sing “Baa, Baa Blacksheep” back to me. Within the space of a year Maggie has gone from being this helpless, alien-like little creature to a fully formed, truly awesome person, and I can’t wait to see how she continues to grow and come into her own. I can’t wait until she can run, and climb trees, or tell me about her favorite book, or ask questions about the world around her. Part of that truly terrifies me, but part of me is truly excited to be the best mother I can possibly be to our amazing little girl.

Maggie, you have made life more wonderful than I ever thought it could possibly be, and your Daddy and I love you so very, very, very much. Happy birthday, babygirl, and to many, many more.

Photo credit: Red Bus Photography

Photo credit: Red Bus Photography

Doggy Daycare & More Comes to the East Coast


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IMG_9822 (edited)

Photo courtesy of Wagging Rights

I generally find that I get lots of reader feedback pertaining to two areas: 1) People asking for contact information for our real estate agent extraordinaire, Grace and 2) People asking about doggy daycare on the East Coast.

When we adopted Avon in 2012, I had a hard time finding dog walkers and doggy daycare spots in our area — most seemed to be located around Novena, Orchard or Holland Village. I was so thrilled when we connected with Woofy Nanny (which Avon adored), but sadly that business shut down in early 2013. There is Super Cuddles Playhouse on Tanjong Katong, but they don’t take medium-big dogs (i.e. dogs like Avon), and I don’t believe they have a pick-up and drop-off service.

Anyway, the point of this longwinded introduction is to say that I’m THRILLED that Wagging Rights, a new doggy daycare facility, grooming salon, gourmet kitchen, and “pet concierge” has arrived in Joo Chiat. And what a cute name! Avon and I were recently invited to their grand opening at 337 Joo Chiat Road (how fun is it that Avon received an event invitation from a PR company?) and I’m happy to report that it’s a beautiful facility.

Upon entry I immediately noticed the clean, bright finish. There are a few products (mainly for grooming) for sale in the nice seating area, and beyond that is the gourmet kitchen lined with food, much of it freshly prepared. They were actually doing a cooking demonstration when we visited, but I was holding a screaming baby so I didn’t want to interrupt!

The schmick entry area. Photo courtesy of Wagging Rights.

The schmick entry area. Photo courtesy of Wagging Rights.

Beyond the kitchen was the wide open doggy daycare play area. There were dogs of all sizes – Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, Shelties, Pugs, and Miniature Schnauzers among others – running around, happily chasing each other up and down the play structure in the middle of the room. Check out the fun wallpaper and art:

photo 4 photo 1-3

While Avon happily played with the other dogs, I was impressed to see that they also have a doggy treadmill. That’s a fantastic way for athletic dogs like Avon to get exercise, but I’ve never seen one in Singapore before. Beyond the play area is the grooming salon; I didn’t go in, but two extremely fluffy Pomeranians emerged and seemed quite pleased with themselves.

Avon loving it

Avon loving it

I also have to give a shoutout to this hilarious greenery in the corner:

photo 3-2Wagging Rights offers both full and half-day doggy daycare, including pick-up and drop-off (which is key!). Their prices are as follows:

Full Day:

  • Small dogs & puppies (3-6 months): $35 per day
  • Medium dogs: $45 per day
  • Large dogs: $50 per day

Half Day (4 hours)

  • Small dogs & puppies (3-6 months): $20
  • Medium dogs: $30
  • Large dogs: $35

When I was looking for dog walkers and doggy daycare places, a lot of people quoted me $20+ just for a 30-minute walk, so the cost of all-day care is pretty good value. By the way, I noticed on Wagging Rights’ Facebook page that they’re currently offering a free 2-hour trial for doggy daycare. I might even look into that myself!

There are also going to be “canine good citizen” classes, led by trainer Michelle Chan of Pup, Pup ‘n’Away (again, super cute name!).

Wagging Rights is open 7 days a week, from 9am to 6pm.

Wagging Rights
337 Joo Chiat Road
Phone: 6447 0335

Please note: While I was invited to this event and provided with photos, I would not endorse something like this without checking it out myself, and I had full editorial control over what I chose to write (or not write).



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I'm so lucky to have this smiling face waiting for me when I get home from work

I’m so lucky to have this smiling face waiting for me when I get home from work

I’m hashtagBLESSED [/sarcastic You’re the Worst reference] in so many ways, but over the past month as I’ve been back at work I’ve thought a lot about how lucky I am to have such a fantastic support network.

I’m lucky to have an amazing helper who is kind, caring, and responsible, with whom the hubs and I feel safe entrusting our baby while we’re at work . 
I’m lucky to have a fantastic boss and co-workers who understand I have to duck out every few hours for a breast pumping session, and don’t make it weird or awkward. (Or at least if they are grossed out, they keep it to themselves.) 
I’m lucky to have an office with a conference room where I can comfortably pump in private while continuing to do my work. I have a lot of friends who have to pump in toilet stalls. 
I’m lucky to have a breast pump that was 100% covered by my insurance (and by mandate of the Affordable Care Act). 
I suppose I’m more aware of these things than I used to be, but I feel like there have been so many stories out lately that highlight how impossible it can be for women to both work and have kids.
I count my lucky stars I had paid maternity leave when it’s embarrassingly not a given in the United States. I feel lucky to be appreciated by my company when I read about the “Motherhood Penalty.” 
In July I read about the mother in South Carolina who was arrested for letting her 9 year-old daughter play alone in a park because she had to go to work . Quality childcare in the U.S. is prohibitively expensive, and this woman essentially had no other option. Isn’t it better for her daughter to play in a nearby park than to spend all day sitting in McDonalds?
Yesterday my friend posted this story on Facebook, about a mother working at the Dollar Store with a 1 month-old baby (because again, paid leave schmaid leave) needing government assistance to buy formula. It’s heartbreaking. The lack of education, the lack of support, the lack of financial assistance, the fact this woman had to go to work rather than be with her brand new tiny baby — all of it is heartbreaking.
In a rare bit of good news on this front, MIT recently held a hackathon to build a better breast pump. It’s about friggin’ time! As this fascinating New Yorker article by Jill Lepore points out, current models aren’t really so different from what they use on cows. On cows! This summer I was struck by this article in the New York Times, which pointed out “If men could breastfeed, surely the breast pump would be as elegant as an iPhone and quiet as a Prius by now.” Each time I schlep my cumbersome pump into the office, or hand-wash its various plastic parts after use, or listen to its laborious motor drone on, I roll my eyes and think of that quote, because it’s so true!

I think the term “War on Women” gained popularity during the 2012 elections (who could forget good old Todd Aiken or the guy who advocated that ultra-reliable form of birth control, putting aspiring between your knees?). And I feel like it hasn’t let up since then. All of the above are examples of the impossible situation so many women face. In June the Supreme Court’s staggering ruling in the Hobby Lobby case set a scary precedent for the control an employer can have over female employees’ reproductive choices. As of yesterday, the 5.4 million women in Texas now have just eight clinics where they can explore a full range of family planning options. WTF America?! 

This post started as an acknowledgement of how lucky I am to have so many advantages that enable our family to thrive and our baby to receive what we feel is best for her. I feel like it’s become a bit of a rant, because all women should have these advantages! In fact, they shouldn’t be advantages at all, but rather givens: paid family leave, affordable childcare, education and support for feeding your baby — how are any of these things bad or detrimental?
There are only the tiniest inklings of progress being made. As aforementioned, the Affordable Care Act covers breast pumps and is meant to provide lactation consultation (though of course many Americans remain uninsured). The Department of Labor  is conducting a feasibility study on mandatory paid leave. (A whole $500,000 to be spread across four testing areas! How generous!). But where is the outrage?!
I want to do more than feel lucky — I want to make a difference and help other women who aren’t as fortunate as me. Sure I was aware of these issues before I had a baby, but I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it took going through it to fully understand the plight of so many working women and to see how fucked up the system truly is. That’s the only way I can fathom why our male-dominated Congress has abjectly refused to act on this important issue, because they simply don’t get it. Other than calling my Congressperson though, what can I do? Please share thoughts and ideas in the comments, because I don’t want to be at such a loss.