The Perfect Maclaren: Will We Make It?

When I learned that I share one thing with Julia Roberts and Jennifer Lopez, I was excited: the Maclaren Twin Techno double stroller. So it’s not more glamorous than that, but hey, it’s something.

I “upgraded” from our well-used Twin Triumph only a few months ago. The first time I used it I was ecstatic. Maher couldn’t get over my emotional “life-safed” phone call.

I was out strolling it for the first time and explained how, finally my Arnold Schwarzenegger arms might shrink back to normal. These wheels rolled on their own.

The childrens feet didn’t reach the foot strap, which meant we didn’t have to stop every few minutes because their feet were on the wheels. A few months on, a few inches taller, they are at it again.

The design didn’t allow L and R to scratch or pull each other’s hair as easily. What a relief.

And there are were two cup holders, for my water, or tea.

However, travel has a way of slowly very quickly damaging property.

We are at the Vancouver airport on our way home. If our calculations are right considering the time-zones, three flights, and long lay-overs, the trip is almost 30 hours.

As Maher was checking us in at the start, at the counter in Calgary, I was with R and L buying balloons. They were parked outside the store. I was inside paying.  I saw two little black things roll to the floor next to Leila. I didn’t realise it at first, but they were part of the mechanism that screws the main frame of the stroller to her seat. We lost the part that would fix it up somewhere in a stuffed car boot, or washroom floor when the stroller fell back because the hand luggage hung up on it is much heavier than L, R, and the stroller put together….

Still in Vancouver, soon on our way to HK. So far it’s holding. For how long, I’m unsure. It’s unstable and probably uncomfortable.

We got to make it home. Drop the glam.

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Dear Dr. Seuss,

…Today’s like every other Chengdu day.

“Guys, should we go for a walk, around the block today?
Oh dear! It might rain, the clouds are so grey.
But hey, isn’t it like this here every day?”

Ten minutes into our walk, long, heavy drops landed.
R was asleep.
I peaked. We had the rain cover.

A few minutes later, many drops rushed down.
L was on the verge of sleep.
The plastic cover was that of the single stroller.

MacGyver and Bolt were summoned.
L fell asleep,
Just as the downpour turned into a drizzle.

Healing on the island of Samui

This is an update I wrote over a week ago, a couple of days before we left for Paris. It is interestng how it relates to the post about parks in Paris, and also to a comment about the same post.

In February over the Chinese New Year break, we spent about ten days in Koh Samui. L and R had been sick on and off for a few weeks. Our close friends gave birth to their baby girl only a few days before we were to leave, and I wanted to spend some time with them. Then L got high fever. We debated whether to go or not. We waited until the last possible minute for her fever to break. It didn’t. We really needed to get away, to relax, breathe some cleaner air, play in the grass and on the beach, eat delicious Thai food, and just be the four of us. Our friends had everything under control with their new born and I had the feeling that they needed to bond. L was feverish. We took the flight anyway.

The trip was tiring. After CNY line-ups in the airport, we spent four hours waiting on the plane before take off. We missed our connection but made it to Samui the same day around midnight. No luggage. No stroller.

Nevertheless, in two days the sicknesses and weaknesses we had all been dealing with evaporated with the bright sunshine. We chased butterflies, listened to chirping birds, swam in the sea, sipped on coconuts, and ate not too badly. It was the first time we spent a holiday together, just the four of us. I was happy. So was Maher. The children laughed a lot, ate more than usual, and slept better.

We are ready for a repeat. We need a repeat to pull us out of the rut. L and R have been sick almost continuously for the last two months. It started with a bit of a runny nose, cough and fever. They recovered. In a few days it transformed into gastroenteritis type vomiting and diarrhea. They recovered and then it recurred. Over and over. About a week ago, we had another bout of diarrhea which their ayi (nanny) seemed to suffer from as well. It comes with terribly painful nappy rashes. Then ayi’s son had high fever and a very bad cough for a few days. Ayi got it. Inevitably L and R. followed.  Maher also had high fevers, chills, sweats- the works every few weeks. I have my one day here and there. Luckily I haven’t been hit too hard so far.

It has to stop. They haven’t gone more than two or three days with full energy. The pollution is not supporting their immune systems. TodayI am having one of my low days with fever and a head ache myself. So this is my rant of how hard it is to get a clean outdoors space where L and R can play. They want to explore and be outdoors like typical eighteen month old toddlers.

We play outside everyday. The park we went to a few weeks ago exhibited dead fish floating in the contaminated water. So did the beautiful West Lake we visited in Hangzhou last weekend. They play in the mud and grass areas that look more like marshland, thick clumps of grass, smelly mud, mosquitoes with fluorescent stripes. They want to play with crispy leaves on the ground and draw in the mud with sticks.

Rahul now picks up cigarette butts in our up-scale housing complex. He has had enough of our “NO’s”. I saw him put two in a dustbin the other day! The playground in our complex is always quite dirty and the swings broken, with rust on the sharp metallic ends. The floor is black and slimy. Since I was not allowed to take them out of the apartment for the first four months of their lives, I refuse to lock them up now. I am done with being paranoid about everything they touch. They have to live a little. Yes there are consequences I suppose and we are bearing some of them now. Two cooped up toddlers is no fun at all.

With the two air purifiers working full blast over the last few days being indoors is no better than being out. When I walked into L and R’s room a few nights ago I thought one of the appliances was burning. I looked and couldn’t figure it out. I rushed out of their room. The same smokey smell was in the living room. I woke Maher up to see if he could figure out what was burning. We both thought to open the bedroom window and sure enough it came from outside. Apparently some hay is being burnt on the outskirts of the city. Every night for the last five days regardless of all the windows being shut, we sleep in smokey air.

In my first two years here I met more doctors than in my entire life. I visited many clinics and hospitals. I did treatments for my bones and joints, tests in gastro intestinal and endocrinology labs, gynaecology hospitals. I developed a number of food allergies – including to milk, and MSG. I buy mainly organic now. Maher is having his fair share of doctors and hospitals since his stroke three years ago. Now he is in a bit of an up and down phase, in and out of clinics and labs trying to figure outr the recurring flu like symptoms. A good friend told me that she took much longer to heal from sickness when she lived in Chengdu. She spent about 5 or 6 years here.

We have to get over the fatigue and weakened immune systems. Today all four of us were ill. Five including ayi. Not so sure how to do it. We have a big trip to Europe in a few days. Fatigue from the long travel, jet lag and the endless appointments won’t help. Seeing family and friends, eating good food, and playing in the parks will certainly do us some good.

I spent my childhood in Zambia barefoot in the grass, climbing trees, playing with dogs and caterpillars, eating default organic food. I imagine it has changed a little since my last visit a number of years ago. I wish to give L and R some of that. A little freedom outdoors. In a few months we will return to Samui. Just the four of us. As commercial as the island has become with its bars and hotels, it is known to be a spa, detox, and yoga island, especially in the more remote parts. It is the closest to a home I have had in a while. Since I moved to Chengdu, Samui is where I most frequently travel both for yoga retreats and getaways. I always return rejuvenated and centred. A trip back to our healing island “home” can’t come soon enough.

Me…start a blog?

Over the last two years my world has revolved around taking care of Leila and Rahul, my almost year-and-a-half twins. So to start a blog now, seems a bit strange. What could I possibly have to say? I don’t know which regimes are being toppled over, I haven’t seen photos of the effects of the recent earthquake in Japan, I don’t know what yoga workshops are on in the region, don’t know if Federer is still kicking ass, or who presented at the Chengdu Bookworm literary festival; or anything for that matter. Outrageous, I know.
Only a few years earlier I didn’t even know what a blog was until friends in Chengdu complained that they couldn’t access blogspot. Facebook, YouTube, and a number of blogging sites can’t be accessed in China.
After some complications in my pregnancy while in China, I ended up spending 4 months in bed including 7 weeks in hospital, split into 4 different hospital stays.
A number of foreign doctors here, in Shanghai, and Beijing recommended that we leave for the birth, due to the high risk of going into preterm labour and possible lack of high level care for premature babies.
So went to Hong Kong at 26 weeks gestation. L and R came at 31 weeks, and were cared for at the Queen Mary NICU.
The bed-rest, high-speed internet and open access to all sites meant lots of time on the internet, and my initiation to blogs. But it was only when L and R were five-months-old, after my mum who had spent 9 months with me left, and both of those things coincided with our return to Chengdu that I really got into it.
I came upon some blogs that MoT’s wrote. For the first time in a long time I felt like I could relate. They wrote how exhausted they were, how they only bathed their babies a couple of times a week, rarely dressed them in anything other than pyjamas. I didn’t feel as guilty anymore that L and R didn’t go out everyday. They weren’t the only ones. To have them both ready to go out meant nappies changed, both well fed, not too tired, and a big diaper bag full of provisions.
I remember a post by a father of twins about how his two-year-old girls were finally sleeping through the night, most of the time, anyways. So my two waking up a few times each and every night means I can still be considered in the norm.
One mum wrote about her birth story; similar to mine – it included flights, hospital stays for both mum and babies, pumping pumping pumping, stress, fear, pain, relief.
Then there was one couple that blogged about their micro preemie twins birth, NICU stay including all the medical details, the obsession with weight gain, the monitors, breathing, digestion, good days, bad days. It wasn’t the most fun blog I ever read. They were born much earlier than L and R, but I could relate to much of it and realised that I would have to deal with this part of R and L, and in fact all of four of our lives one day, and to be at peace with it somehow.
Reading these stories was like holding a mirror out in front of me. a way to see what we had been through, a way to realize we were not alone – and importantly to let go of it.
There were honest, touching posts as well like the one HDYDI MoT, rebecca, who wrote One Baby Envy ( http://hdydi.com/2008/03/02/one-baby-envy/ ). Others complained about the silly questions (  http://multiples.about.com/od/familyissues/tp/aatpquestions.htm) they got when they took their twins out. If I get started on the questions and comments I got in Chengdu it would never end.
Sometimes the comments were funny – MoM’s bitching about how J Lo (on the cover of People Magazine March 2008) could possibly look as perfect so soon after she had her twins.
I related to these parents and it helped with the isolation I sometimes felt being in China without my family and with no experience with babies whatsoever. Neither of my brothers or brothers-in-law have children. One of my childhood friends has a son in Zambia who I haven’t yet met. I had held one of my friend’s tiny babies in Lebanon a couple of times last year feeling clumsy and incapable all the time. So yes, I had that experience.
I had a few parenting books. They only briefly covered twins if at all.
But, we were together again, the four of us in Chengdu. That was our main source of strength. I had help from people here. L and R ‘s nanny or “ayi” meaning aunty as she is called endearingly is a superwoman, a great source of real support and help.
A friend as close as I imagine a sister to be was strong and present when I needed her most.
Another friend lent me lifesaving books at every stage along the way. And there were many others who made up my “village”, both in real life and in my blog life. The crazy thing now is that sometimes my kids both sleep for a few hours at the same time, but silly me stays up to blog.
In addition to relating to other mums and dads on blogs, I found tips, such as this post ( http://hdydi.com/2008/04/05/product-review-double-strollers/) that gives advice about choosing a double stroller that works for you depending on it’s use, tips like store big quantities of diapers, wet -wipes, food etc. so you don’t need to go out to the stores until really necessary. Obvious, but hey at least I don’t feel crazy when I walk into my pantry and see the hoarding.
There were videos of calm mums simultaneously feeding their babies. R and L were rarely on the same schedule, so it didn’t apply, but still nice to see how others do it.
So even though I live in this tiny world of eating, playing, bathing, trying to schedule, exploring and sleepless nights, I feel like I am above water, some of time at least.
So now I have the occasion to share my own stories and maybe get some interaction going. Perhaps a new mum, even a MoT will come across it and feel she can relate, find some useful information, or just have a laugh. I would be glad to contribute to that somehow.
These are stories for R and L to read one day if they want to. And if nothing else a way for friends and family to keep up with our lives in China, or wherever.
The other day I read a blog about the therapeutic effects of blogging. That did it for me, a few minutes later I signed up! Not really, but it made me realise that every time I put down my thoughts they rarely came out negative or depressive, but rather I manage to find the “funny” in things, now that I am not sinking all the time, of course.
It reminded me of a phrase from a song my dad often used to say to his not so smiley teenage daughter, “When you smile the whole world smiles with you. When you cry, you cry alone.”