We fly home to New Zealand tomorrow (tomorrow!!) for a month. I absolutely cannot wait to be back. I cannot wait to walk during the day, to see family and friends, to eat Vogel’s bread, to drink coffee, to go tramping, to show the baby her home country (not that she will care), to have big delicious burgers and beer, to drink a cold cider. I am excited about Christmas, and camping, and shopping, and relaxing. Although I had a quick trip in March/April, it feels like forever since I’ve been there, and I miss it desperately.
But in order to go home, we have to leave our home. Because let’s be real, Brunei is home too. Our little apartment is the only house The Engineer’s Baby has known. Our routines are here, (some of) our friends are here, our lives are here. And as much as I’m excited to see New Zealand, there are things I will miss from Brunei as well.
I will miss our weekend morning breakfasts of noodles or roti with teh tarik. I will miss our playgroup, and seeing all those babies grow. I will miss the local market, with its wonderful watermelon and cheap vegetables. I will miss visiting the town centre and having people recognise us as “the ones who walk with their baby in a front pack”. I will miss the “so cute baby” and “baby boy, baby girl?”s that The Engineer’s Baby gets almost everywhere she goes. I will miss the pool at the club, and our new paddling pool. I will miss the chicken rice from the food stall near The Engineer’s work.
It’s only a month, so not a huge deal. But a month in the life of a baby is a very long time. And this month out of our space, out of our routine, out of our time zone, could be quite a big deal for her. She loves new people, and new situations, so I think we’ll be fine, but it’s still a bit weird to just not know what to expect at all. Then again, she’s a baby, so even if we’re home, we don’t know what to expect at all!
“Oops, I forgot” the pedicurist said, and giggled.
What she had forgotten was the green glittery nail in my pedicure. A little shiny nod to Christmas amongst my red toes. A dab of polish remover soon set things right, and my first real nod to Christmas was complete.
I was inspired to add a Christmassy touch by the Christmas carols that played as I sat in the salon and by the Santa hats that all the staff wore. Before that, I hardly realised it was so close. Living in a Muslim country, it just doesn’t take over in the same way. And having a busy baby to look after doesn’t leave much time to think about it. So the holiday has really snuck up on me this year, and I’m not feeling very prepared or festive (although Boney M Christmas on my phone, and an afternoon of carol singing (complete with mulled wine) a couple of weeks ago have helped a little).
We may not have nailed that sense of festivity that starts to hit during December at home. But today we pretty much nailed expat life.
The Engineer’s Baby had her first nap while I walked around the block and listened to podcasts.
When she woke up, we headed out pretty much straight away to the pool. She had a little dip, then some friends arrived, and one kind friend watched her while I swam some laps. We all chilled out in the sun for a while, and when all the babies were tired, we headed off. The same kind friend saved me from driving off with the swimming bag still on the roof, and we got home for a second nap.
Just after she woke up, The Engineer arrived home with our Friday lunch (murtabak and curry), and we ate while she practised her sitting.
As she fell asleep for nap #3, we called The Engineer’s parents on Skype and chatted about plans for our trip home. Once we hung up, and the stores were open again, I headed out for the aforementioned pedicure, and I am currently writing this post and sipping coffee as my nails dry. And once they are dry, I will head home for a Christmas “photo shoot”, and some baby playing.
The thing is that life may be different now to our life at home, and the holidays are a time that makes it quite obvious. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. We may not have a Christmas tree. But we’re still enjoying our family, which is the most important thing about Christmas for me.
And next weekend when we arrive back in New Zealand and enjoy our first Christmas as a family of three, along with our extended families, I am sure that will more than make up for the un-Christmassy lead up.
Plus, we might be able to snag some decorations in the sales to prepare for next year when this baby might actually understand Christmas! (if we can fit them in our luggage that is; I’m not convinced!)
After yesterday’s mini-meltdown, today was kinda perfect.
I talked about it over at The Engineer’s Wife, but the Cliff Notes version goes like this:
– Morning walk
– Lovely swim
– Hanging with The Engineer
– Christmas “photo shoot”
What a difference a day and a change in attitude makes. Rollercoaster, I tell you!
Life has been a bit of a rollercoaster lately (as I suppose life with a baby generally is). At nearly five months old, The Engineer’s Baby is amazing. She is curious, and is really good at commando crawling a metre or two to get a toy or someone’s foot. She smiles a big laughing grin at new people, and charms almost everyone she meets. She is fascinated by the baby in the mirror, and can be entertained for ages with a tissue box or a plastic container filled with rice.
But on the flip side, she is so curious that sleep doesn’t always come easy. And while commando crawling is working quite well, she seems to really want to crawl properly or maybe even walk, so she is frequently frustrated that her body can’t quite match her ideas. She needs attention, but doesn’t like to cuddle or sit with me. She hates to be restricted, and the car seat is necessarily restrictive, which makes car rides the opposite of fun. She is often quiet and charming to the rest of the world, and saves her grumps for me.
When I write it down, or really analyse it, it doesn’t sound so bad. Objectively, I know I am very very lucky and I know I have it easier than many parents of four-month-olds. But when I’m in the thick of the grizzles, it’s not so easy to detach and see past the challenges. I am sleep deprived. I am not eating well or drinking enough water. I am stuck inside by the heat, and if it’s not the heat it’s the crazy rain. My immune system has gone to pot after a couple of colds and a stomach bug. I am struggling to look after myself, and as a result, I am less able to look after her. And that just makes me feel worse, which makes it that much harder to look after myself (and so on, and so on).
Unfortunately, when I do get a snippet of time that I could dedicate to myself, I don’t tend to use it wisely. I have forgotten the things I used to do to look after myself, and the ones I can remember aren’t so easy to do with a baby in tow. I spend too much time on the internet, which I know full well isn’t the best plan, but is the first thing that comes to mind and is sometimes the only thing I have the mental energy for.
That all makes it sound pretty negative, which it really really isn’t. Parenthood is actually rather wonderful, and I think Baby Engineer and I have a wonderful relationship. It just happens that my rollercoaster is in the dip at the moment, and it’s not always easy to get that forward momentum. I suspect our trip to New Zealand will be the little push this car needs. But it isn’t always easy for me to stop analysing and just go with it. I know that this will pass. The good and the bad. And in the meantime, I’m going to work on following Ronan Keating’s sage advice:
Life is a rollercoaster,
Just gotta ride it
Unfortunately, that’s not easy for me. (Seriously – when I was nine years old, I waited and watched for ages while my sisters rode the roller coaster at Rainbow’s End because I was scared of the upside downs; when I was twenty-three, I waited and watched for ages while my boyfriend, sister, and brother in law rode the big drop because I was scared. Me and roller coasters are not the greatest combo.) So I’m also going to make an effort to get out and about and do things, even if it means dealing with a bit of grizzling. If there’s one thing that drives the roller coaster down to the dips, it’s staying home all day alone!