Marching forward

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Last night was a funny one.

It’s 3am and I’ve been awake for about an hour. I was all for us going out for a drink or two at a nice bar and AW said she was too tired. I don’t remember anything, so am guessing that what actually happened was that I then fell asleep for the night. At 7.10. Rock And Roll.

I have been sleeping quite late as it’s my holidays, but because I have been having clandestine reading sessions as well. Am hooked on Any Human Heart (Boyd).it’s great. But it must be tiring me out!

Had a lovely day out with my friends over at the babysearching blog and they took some really cute pictures of our monkeys. I’m really sorry it is going to be hard for us to hang out with their little one when he arrives. I’m in love with our girls. They were both on pretty adorable form that day.

Discipline:
I am really keen on trying to discipline the girls through a strong connection with them, and not through the traditional naughty-step etc. There are several directly contradictory approaches- I think a combination would be extremely difficult. I think, that having been left to ‘stop crying by myself’ as a small child, it will be hard for me to constantly demonstrate understanding for the causes of the misbehaviour. However, I do do that in my teacher role at work. We’ll see. It’s tough to decide on an approach before you see it’s efficacy, as you’ll have no point of reference or for comparison. How would you see that your child would be better or worse behaved if you’d disciplined them differently? Impossible. Pffffffffffffft.

Visa:
This visa is hassle-free, as far as visas usually go. The biggest headache is supplying the embassy with “evidence of our intention to travel together”, whilst not actually booking any flights. You’re never advised to actually book flights till after the visa decision. But that means you need to show themmmmmm…. What? We have some screen shots of flight reservations (all our details entered, but the actual purchase still not made) and some (cancellable) hotel reservations in Prague. This seems silly as both items are completely meaningless. But, hey ho. We’ll have to see what the lady says. I really hope they don’t pull us up on being lesbians. That would SUUUUUUCK.

New tricks:
Walking on tiptoe (Olive),
climbing from chairs to dining table, ‘flipping’,
‘drawing’,
looking at books and babbling,
going to get their shoes, putting legs /arms out to get dressed etc.
Pointing at things, waving at each other and saying ‘hi!’
Getting the air out of bottles (in the bath) to fill them with water. Tipping and pouring.
Going to throw something in the bin (on being instructed to do so)
Swing on swings (well, sit and be pushed).
All manner of peekaboo games
Biting and pinching each other, really not being able to share.
:/

We made muesli cookies (Ivy was sleeping, and Olive wasn’t, which is often the case during the late morning):

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Bedtime and nights are really improving. I still get disturbed, but usually just once. And the breast feeding is still going on, but I think I can feel a slight detachment from the breast lately. She is taking only short feeds during the night, and has gone to bed without the breast or with just a very brief feed. I feel well rested, relatively. I’m enjoying spending this time with them, and doing lots of babywearing and fun stuff together.

We also went to crazy Silom road this week to pay homage to songkran – I wanted the girls to ‘experience’ it a little bit this year as next year they won’t be here:

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The girls are growing up so fast. It’s sobering. They are real little people now and we will be shaping them by the example we set and by the depth of our connections.

Book-wreckers

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Look at this cute coat we got the girls from eBay. Trouble is, there is always just one. Still searching! The heat is becoming intolerable again here, so it is a bit funny to be on the lookout for warm stuff.

So. What can the girls do now?

Well. I realise this is about as interesting to the general reader as the colour shirt I put on this morning, but I don’t have anywhere to record these things; a book never happened what with the blogging and my nice app (which crashed anyway!) . So, here you have it (I hope the rest of the blog will be more entertaining, if you can stick it through this paragraph):
Speaking:
consistent, both girls
- ja-ehhhhh! (“peek-a-boo” in Thai).
- mummummummum (“I want to eat that!” In Thai).
Consistent, Ivy- maew “cat” in Thai when reading a book with a pic of one in.
*edit: everything which is an animal is a Maew.

We think Olive has also said “poopoo” about her dirty nappy and “sky” when we were looking at it. Ivy is saying “g-g-lo” or similar when reading the Gruffalo (which she is asking for).

Climb up everything

Follow instructions like “go and put that away” in Thai and English.

Kiss us with a proper little sound

Copy gestures and faces, sounds etc.

They can now also enjoy books. They like to be read to and also to turn the pages, pointing at the pictures and babbling to themselves.

On that subject, I’m really ashamed about the state of the first books we gave them. We definitely made two mistakes:

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1) gave them too early + 2) gave them too much independence

These are survivors of that experimental “reading” phase. Some (especially flappy) books have been consigned reluctantly to the big book shop in the sky. There is no other place for them. No other child could enjoy them unless it were for the enjoyment, comprehending or otherwise, of unadulterated destruction. Newer books have escaped this fate, I’m happy to say. The instruction not to bite them is now understood, and largely obeyed. However, it is a bit difficult to get them to stop picking at the already horrific wounds they’ve inflicted on other books. So today in the second day of my holiday, after several weeks with no free time outside sleep, I have tried to fix all those wounds, and save the books. I don’t want our girls, now they are finally interested in books’ contents, to think they should be treated with anything but the greatest of respect. My own books get dog-eared, but only because while I’m reading a book, I’m in a love affair with that book. It’s taken everywhere, and read every second I’m alone (often to the amusement of those around me, while I’m walking somewhere). The pages are bent to mark my place, and the cover bashed and dulled from being pulled in and our of my bag at every snatched opportunity. But I’d never hurt a book. I’d never tear it or pull pages out. I’d never use the pages to keep the kitchen clean (but I know someone who does).

After a crazy final week of term, I have two weeks holiday. MAAAAN, do we need them?! On the first day we went to a 1st birthday party of my friends’ little boy.

Today, Rma is here. She is supposed to come tomorrow, and yet arrived in our house before 8am. Today.

I think the biggest single issue we are going to have is the TV. I don’t let the girls watch TV. Not at all, unless it is something I have picked out. Rma likes to have the TV on constantly, whether she is watching or not. I know LOADS of people do, and in their own house, that is fine. But not in my house. I don’t judge anyone’s parenting, or TV preference, but I never watch when something I’m interested in is even half way through. There are some good movies on on Thai TV, but I’m never sure when they start, and as I always got it wrong, I just stopped bothering. Who wants to watch a movie when it could be 5, 30 or 50 mins in and you have no way of telling? Anyway. We have already had a set-to about that and she has turned off the “news” in a huff.

So, I am trying to feel relaxed on the first day of my hol. We have loads to do and organise, so we have decided to stay in Bkk. I think i’m ok with that.

I think. We need to be careful for so many reasons. So it’s money-saving which is what’s happening.

The Hub B-Boy dancers came to my school to perform at my international day assembly. I was too nervous to video that performance, but they can’t in and did it again for the littlest kids. Here is the link. The head-spinning was a total surprise. The Hub is a children’s centre near the city’s main train station, and it’s the organisation through which I did my running club, before the girls were born.

This holiday means I am only one term away from finishing here at SHB. I will miss the kids here. Such a dream. And the families.

Donor dedication:

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(Image credit, Guardian.com)

Yesterday, when I sat down to write a blog post, it was not supposed to be a poem. My intention for the last few days has been to pen a post about our good fortunes in terms of our donor.

Since beginning our process, I have had contact with many dozens of women and same-sex couples, and there are no other couples I know who have been able to have their sperm-cake AND eat it in the way that we have.

I want to say, not for the first time, that we are in a wonderfully fortunate position. We found a real life man, with whom we have some acquaintance, who is bright, talented and full of character. He is also very easy on the eye. We got to know lots about his health, his past, and his quirks. We met his parents. We were invited to his wedding (but couldn’t attend, unfortunately). With nary a complaint, he took our sterile little pots into sterile little rooms and every time he managed to deliver his little loads. He accepted no payments, and we did not have to have anything shipped from California or Copenhagen from a man-catalogue (I make no judgements about this- but it would have been comparatively difficult and expensive to find an Asian donor).

He has been to visit us with his wife 4 times since the girls were born, and each time he and his wife have been absolutely delighted and delightful with the girls. Even though they are now beginning to struggle with their own lack of conception, neither he nor his wife has ever, ever suggested or shown that they are saddened by the strong, healthy girls they have given us. Now we will leave the country and we hope that he will send them birthday cards and have the role of a distant uncle.

The only drawback to our situation is that because we didn’t name him on the birth certificate, despite their Thai heritage, the girls do not (and cannot gain, at present) Thai citizenship. this saddens me, and AW and I both hope that in the future this may change with the possibility of legislation to protect same-sex couples and families here in Thailand.

I want to say tho the world, to the heavens and to him, THANK YOU. You have enriched our lives beyond measure, and there are not many men who would do as you have done.

Creative corner: the 4 story shophouse.

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I wrote this this evening about the streets I have travelled to and from my work for the last 4.5 years. They are not beautiful but possess a grubby, bustling… magnetism. And a LOT of smells. I write here about the shophouses. They are an Eastern concept, and the old ones are fascinating. The newer ones are less charming, and unfortunately those are they I pass daily. In the mornings, the pavements are clear and the grills are closed. In the afternoons, you can barely walk on the pavements at all. I have a lot of pics on my Instagram feed of this route.

Shut tight like sleeping eyes,
metal-lidded and unseeing
hums pass them at speed.
under them, the path is clear of debris, of hazards, of merchants.
their sour stench remains, ripe in the nose.
Under them, the path is blackened and smeared;
a butcher’s apron; an oilcloth.
Soon the lids will rattle open
not eyes after all, but mouths and throats
coughing and spewing matter out, out!
A sense of cloying, crowding, a tang and a yell.
Rows of silent yawning mouths,
indifferent to long hours gaping, lazily propped wide and deep
packed with a cacophony of coloured pipes, poles, papers, hogs heads
hanging inside, crooked and jammed as teeth.
Breathing. Alive.
as in their hundreds
bees, ants, humans, rats
go about their unending minuatae;
making, moving, consuming

Blood and kisses

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I am going to begin, like all good blogs with TMI. Look away NOW!

I got my period.

It has been 15 months to the day since the cold December morning I entered theatre to have my lopsided belly lopped open. It has been 15 months to the day that I last hauled 99kilo heft and grossly swelling feet up onto a stretcher. It was 15 months ago today that my spine was punctured by a huge surprisingly painless needle and I was expertly opened up by a scalpel. 15 months ago I tried not to look up the bright red reflection of my insides in the giant surgical lamp above me. And 15 months ago my lovely little girls were whipped off into the hospital nether regions without much explanation or empathy for a new mother. You get the picture. WHERE DID THE TIME GO?

Ugh, so I am offically a normal woman again; a mum who has periods. I knew it would come, but not YET. Less than thrilled, to be frank. It’s easy to forget the horrible mega-period that comes after birth (not sure if it’s worse or the same after a C-section?). There was a lot of clotting – spectacularly foul congealed lumps that plopped out. That was all pretty gross. Fascinating too. At least I didn’t have to look at it all. That can’t be a nurse’s favourite job, can it? Still, as they say, they have seen it all before (unless they are a trainee on their first day?).

Since then I have been breastfeeding breastmonster O and I am a bit cross that in addition to being sucked dry, I am now going to be menstruating. Lactating and mensturating. Not thrilled at all. But there isn’t any cramping yet. Just you wati for the pity party post I will give you when period pain makes its reappearance.

Cosleeping / breastfeeding
I am in a real quandry now about sleeping / feeding. I just can’t imagine not having them here with us I am completely out of control of any daytime schedule because auntie doesn’t value having one, and there isn’t a clear trend for one or two naps. I haven’t felt this to be a huge problem at all as I have felt the nights have been on a definite upward trend. Lately though, O’s feeding has changed in that she likes to come off the boob, wail, and haul her 11.5kg (about 24lb) self across me to the other boob. She likes to do this over and over till she’s asleep again. This makes it far tricker for me to sleep through. So that is the first thing. Secondly, she really likes to do this at some point before 5am, but fully awake. Sometimes it’s at 4, sometimes at 4.30. But when my get-up time is 5.30 (now I’m pushing it back to 6 in the hope I might get another half hour if O goes back to sleep), that’s it really. It’s Good Morning for me. Or just plain Morning. Soooooo, I am knackered. AW is knackered and fed up with all the calls of despair (from both O and from me!). I don’t want this to go on indefinitely, but I’m just not sure how I can go about night weaning (which would be full weaning) and/ or transitioning them to their own bed/ mattress. Still, the way things move and change so quickly, I generally manage not to get too wound up over it. Still, if we don’t want 4-in-a-bed till they are 10, it’s all a matter of when, not if. Should we coordinate such a change with our continental move, so that we have one change? Or stagger smaller changes before they are 2?

Here is some more boring new stuff our very ordinary amazing girls are doing:
- Ivy has pushed out 4 whopping molars – no fuss.
- Both girls are doing absolutely heart melting kisses.Last night Ivy woke at about 8.30pm and I went in to lie with her a bit so she would be calm. I put my face quite close to hers and closed my eyes to encourage her. She was quiet and spent some time just looking sleepily at me. Then without warning she took out her dummy and moved her face closer to me to kiss my nose. Then she popped the dummy back and closed her eyes.
- O is developing quite the temper, and clearly feels RAGE

Not sure whether there’s anything else…

Oh… The air here is so foul. Since late last year there has been a terrible haze. It wasn’t here when I moved to this area, and might appear for a day or a night occasionally. Now it seems to be clear occasionally and smoggy all of the rest of the time. Now there has been a huge rubbish tip fire, and officially, the air is toxic. Yeah, see you later, Bkk!

Oh and the school show was amazing. I was so proud of the kids, and I think I can say it here, proud of myself for writing the script. I put one of my class-member’s paintings up as the image for this post. I’ll really miss these kids when we go.

Here are mugshots of our two in the first week of their lives, and now :)

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More stuff

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Wow,

So we are totes leaving Bkk.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!

We have had quite the saga with getting my contract drafted up. Firstly, when they offered me the job it was the first night of my half term, so my reference (I am the referee, right?) was not in school all of that week. He was also in the UK until about half way through the following one. Then I continued to wait patiently until it transpired that all my references claimed not to have been asked for a reference by my school-to-be. For two out of three of them, this was indeed the case. But the third person had been asked for several all at once and most atypically sent only two out of three, one of them to the wrong school. So it took quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to correct that mistake – that was stressful as I had declined other interviews for a job which was still not secure… and still not secure… and STILL not secure… It’s hard when your head is already building itself into that country and city, not to be sure that that’s the place you’ll be going to. I didn’t receive even a glimmer of an apology from the persons responsible either. In the meantime I had an interview for a nice school in Budapest, and a bilingual school in Barcelona, both of which went really well (I got offered the Budapest job) and Barcelona told me they would be in touch in a few weeks. Anyway, after the zillionth email treading a fine line between the conveyance of urgency and the conveyance of annoyance, the reference finally went off on Tuesday, so the process is off the starting blocks.

I am with contract* in hand!
(*draft)

Where are we going? Well, to Prague in the Czech Republic. In almost all respects, I’m really happy about this, and AW, with characteristic industriousness, has already been looking up organic foodie contacts, and I have been trying my hand at some Czech basics. Talk about unusual languages to collect; Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and a bit of French -very run of the mill – but Thai… And now Czech…? I think that’s pretty eclectic (and not as useful as German, mandarin, etc).

I have some reservations- 1. that AW will be isolated (but we are both of the mindset that we have to make the most of the experience, including actively making friends); and 2. What happens if we want to stay and the girls need schooling? We can’t afford the astronomical fees for English-speaking nurseries. In other EU countries, I’d be happy for them to attend state schools, but I don’t want their learning language to be primarily Czech. So it’s two years’ max, or we strike some kind of affordable deal if (once!) the school decides it wants to keep me!

I was thinking of starting a Prague Lesbian Blog / website, but there is a good gay scene in the city already, with gay civil unions and even a recent exhibition of photographs of two-mummy families. It’s all in Czech, but for we have google translate ;). When we get there and settle in, we can check out the extent of the English-speaking lesbian scene.

We are really looking forward to a liberal, legally protected European context for our “rainbow” family. It has been generally such a… struggle? challenge..? identifying as lesbian in Bangkok. There is no coherent scene; Tom-dees and lesbians don’t seem to identify as the same group; there is a surface acceptance which masks incredibly old-fashioned attitudes, which no one challenges. Well, they do, but the mind boggles. LGBT are such a visible social group here, often clearly signalled by dress – but those who want to speak out about protecting the rights of this group are but a tiny fraction. The preferred action seems to be to bury their heads in the sand.

Pride parades have been a massive failure, and in Chiangmai I believe had to be cancelled due to violence. The whole notion of ‘pride’ in this context is a total (western) anathema here. It’s a shame, coz pride is fun in the UK, where all the rights it was originally seeking are already won. Here, where the campaign still needs fighting, and loudly, pride doesn’t exist. Campaigners are still largely underground, and my feeling is that campaigners here are seen as anything but equals . The system here rather views any concessions to LGBT people as an enormous favour being granted to some pesky freaks who won’t back down. Our friend is one of the campaigners I write about, and when presenting draft legislation, the authorities flatly refused to consider same-sex parental protection; she was told “you people are lucky to get ANY concessions” and not to push her luck. It is odd, as I think if a poll were taken on which country was more pro-LGBT out of Thailand and the Czech Republic, people would tick the wrong box! Still, I know my friend has been working tirelessly for LGBT rights here for more than 20 years, and I don’t see her giving up any time soon!

Got to get going with a Bangkok bucket list because July is going to come around VERY quickly. My biggest bucket list item
can’t happen now as it’s seasonal: diving in the Similans WITH AW. Season is over for this year, and the next year we won’t be here! :O

The girls:
The girls are doing well. They are regularly outrunning me around the garden now. It is a badly designed lovely place with beautiful foliage and water features no clear lines of vision and several drowning hazards. There are loads of other kids who share fight your babies for their toys and play cycle and rollerblade into your toddler with the girls. There are lots of other adults around with whom I have a total culture clash to keep an eye on them tell me my girls should not be here, there or that whatever I’m doing is terribly dangerous. Yesterday I was NOT alone with them (usually I am), but they had their first scary accident. It turned out to be very superficial, but there was a big audience (if aforementioned women who already of the opinion I’m irresponsible), a lot of baby screaming, and a lot of blood (Ivy hit her mouth on a concrete step :( ). It was really scary for a bit, bit the bleeding and crying stopped really quickly. It has to happen, right? Toddlers topple.

We think Ivy is beginning to talk (in Thai), and says the Thai word for peekaboo when playing. Sometimes. I think she’s starting to say “mummum” (Thai for eat when addressing babies) when she is hungry.

They also blew whistles last week, and yesterday Olive had a good go at blowing bubbles. They’re growing up so fast.

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My job is manic at the moment- it’s the big performance of our year-group show tomorrow: Goldilocks, Innocent or Guilty. My class are in it, but I also put the concept together for our school I.e. For 5 scenes each using 20 children. We could only use a few of the (great) songs from the script we bought in. My kids did me so proud at the dress rehearsal today. We have b-boying chefs. What could go wrong?!

;)

The countdown begins….

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I have had this post as a draft since last summer – I don’t think it will ever be finished, so here it is. Things have already moved on significantly in terms of the Big Move – I have handed in my notice etc, and have some progress on a job (though it isn’t cast in iron yet!!! More on that in my up to date post).

The post below is a little down on BKK – you can look at my (sadly defunct) photoblog here for some positive perspectives on Thailand>

…………………………………………………
Time is really flying. Our plan is to leave Thailand for somewhere in Europe next July. This post has taken a long time to put together (finding /taking pics etc) and when i began it we were still not 100% sure that we’d be going. More like 90%. In the meantime, I’d say we have made up our minds. The details are fudgy to say the least, but we are going. The remaining 11 months will go in a flash. The major stress comes from the fact that I have to tell my school here my decision by January 10th. So we have five short months to bite the bullet and commit to the change, and know that we’ll have to do so before we have a clue what we’re doing or where in the EU we’ll be going.

For those of you new to the blog, the right wing UK government has tightened up family immigration routes substantially, meaning that 47% of UK working citizens could not afford to sponsor their spouse if they are from outside the EU. Women (mothers) and young people are among the largest sectors affected due to child care issues and lower salaries. Even if granted a visa, the probationary conditions now last 5 years and require that you maintain a certain level of earnings for that period or face penalisation. We might be able to earn that amount consistently for 5 years; we might not. What if I decide to have another baby? What if one of us faces redundancy? What about putting down roots? Which bank is going to lend us a mortgage if one of us is on a temporary and perilous visa?

If we go to Europe first, we don’t need to worry about any of these things. A tougher transition to the UK is worth being left in peace once we are home.

The clock though is ticking. The BBC ran an article (listen to the radio report) on couples using this EU route (named Surinder Singh after a landmark court case) and the UKBA have been alerted. If we leave it longer than this coming July, we could miss the window: This ______ (insert expletive here!) government will hold a referendum on leaving the EU. Much of the electorate has been brainwashed by the gutter press that Britain’s current woes are the fault of its immigrant component. There is much actual evidence to refute this claim; but that is not reported so loudly. The scapegoating is being used purely to win votes and sell papers, and genuine loving families are being separated – lives are being ruined. We are staying focused. This time next year, we’ll be somewhere else; I’ll be looking around my new school, or I’ll be going from bar to bar trying to get a job making cocktails. Either way it will be สวัสดีค่ะเมืองไทย

Pros and cons of leaving Thailand for Europe

Pros:
Real streets! No more MALLS, and pavements you can walk /run /push a buggy on. Here are some examples of what I won’t miss about Bangkok’s public thoroughfares:

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Me running home from work in the middle of the road because I cannot run on the pavement:

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-Outdoor spaces. In Thailand, in towns it’s simply too hot to hang out or walk for long distances outside. It might be remedied by more mature trees, but that won’t happen any time soon. Here it’s taxis on flyovers to malls:

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Here is our local Mall in its picturesque setting. Note  the substantial greenery around. Ahem.  (photo credit Panduan Wisata)

Effective urban cleaning and less pollution (the streets are kept pretty clean but all the much gets swept immediately into the nearest drain, klong (canal) or the river. This means that the water’s condition is, well, eye-watering):

ElephantjournalEnvironmental responsibility

pollution ater

Respect for heritage and architecture in European countries -beautiful buildings! In Bangkok, beautiful old buildings sit in disrepair until someone buys the land to build a condo. Or a mall.

derelict house

(photo credit David Barlow, Barlow images)

-Accessible and respected Arts / cultural scenes in European countries
-Parks
-Seasons – here it’s hot, hotter or hot and wet. I like the weather, but it’s too much after a while. I love the rain too, but not what it does to the city – you’re stuck wherever you were when the rain started for at least an hour.
-Government Infrastructures – I think it’s fair to say that whatever the laws are in Thailand, the lack of infrastructure prevents many of them being adhered to. This is attractive in some ways (mostly superficial ones), but actually hamper things quite severely.

-Responsibility for own housekeeping – I THINK* it will make me feel a better human being for being capable of running my own home.
-Things to do apart from shopping
-Better salaries
-Return to real world
-Close to my family and friends

-No more weird smells (well, less – street food ‘clean up’ really stinks!)
-Reliable info on food origins/ farming methods/ food safety
-Shop assistants who don’t follow you around
-No more buildings covered in cages and advertising hoarding:

hoarding

advertising
More choice of home than condo or bedsit. the latter with hollow plastic door and balcony for cooking on.

Less traffic:

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buildings

buildings traffic

Cons:
Weather and miserable dark winter days
Expense
Responsibility for own housekeeping
Childcare expensive
Food expensive (and will MISS THAI FOOD!!)
Weak economies
Loss of great shopping opportunities
Language barrier /isolation for AW?
Return to real world
Far from AW’s family
No more awesome street food for less than a dollar/euro /pound
No more affordable taxi travel in neon taxis

No more motorbike taxis:

motorbike taxis

 

 

-No more 7-11 (but they do only sell crap so not so much of a loss!)

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*let me get back to you later about this!!