A day in the life of The Engineer’s Baby

Before I had a baby, I didn’t really know what raising a baby actually looked like.  I saw glimpses with my nephew and my friends’ kids and the blogs that I read.  But I never really “got it”.  I wouldn’t say I even really “get it” now, but since we’ve been back from New Zealand, our days have mostly developed a little routine.  And so I at least somewhat “get” what raising my particular seven month old looks like.  Of course every baby and, maybe more importantly, every age is different, but this is our life as it currently stands.

Note: all times should come with an -ish.  I do nothing to enforce a “schedule” per se, this is just the rhythm that has naturally developed.

6:00am: we wake up.  I say 6am, but honestly, we’ve been awake a couple of times during the night for feeds/settling.  And some mornings 6am is a dream e.g. this morning I think it was more like 4:30am.

6:30am: we eat breakfast with The Engineer before he leaves for work.  On mornings where we were up early, breakfast is accompanied by a BIIIG cup of coffee.  After breakfast, she has a nappy change and gets dressed. I usually sneak in a shower.

7:45am: she has her first nap.  This is usually in a carrier, and we often go for a walk around town to start it off before it gets too hot. If we’re home, I do some laundry or something while she sleeps.

9:00am: she wakes up.  She has some milk and we get ready to go out.  Most mornings we do something out of the house.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are playgroups.  Fridays is yoga class.  Mondays and Wednesdays we might go for a swim or meet a friend for coffee or occasionally play Bridge.  If we have no plans, we just hang out at home.

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11:30am: we get home, and she is ready for another nap.  She usually has more milk, often a new nappy, and we try to have her sleeping on her bed.  She often resists that, but we persist…

12:15pm: The Engineer comes home with takeaways for lunch.  She usually joins us, and tries some rice and maybe a curry if it’s not too spicy! I try to time it so that he gets the nappy change.

1:00pm: The Engineer goes back to work, and we just hang out at home.  She roams around and finds interesting things to play with.  I sometimes do some reading, or follow her around keeping her out of rubbish bins (we are still looking for a gate to keep her in her rubbish-binless room).

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2:15pm: she is ready for another nap.  While she sleeps I might write a blog post (like today) or muddle around on Facebook or read or start cooking dinner.

3:45pm: she wakes up, has some more milk, another nappy change, and then entertains herself while I start on dinner.  Sometimes we go outside and paddle in our little pool, or run some errands in town.  Usually we just hang at home.

4:45pm: she gets a bit sick of entertaining herself, so I get involved.  We sing (her favourite is King of the Road by Roger Miller.  My favourite is Raffi.) or watch out the window, or walk around outside.

5:15pm: The Engineer gets home.  He hangs out with the baby while I finish off dinner.

5:30pm: we all eat dinner together.  She makes a total mess, so when she’s done, it’s shower time.  The Engineer takes her for her shower, and I take a wee breather.

6:00pm: shower is done and it’s time for bed.  She has a story with Dad, a feed with Mum, and then goes into her room for bed.  This used to be a total nightmare, but the last wee while she has really settled into it, and is usually asleep by 6:30pm.

Once she’s asleep, The Engineer tidies the kitchen, I finish off the laundry or clean the bathroom, or whatever needs doing.  Then we have a decaf coffee and dessert while we watch TV.  At the moment it’s Breaking Bad, but we’re nearly finished with that (OMG, it’s SO INTENSE!) We go to bed early, because we know that the baby alarm might choose to go off at 4:30am again tomorrow…

And that’s it.  Our little life.  I like its quietness and predictability, but I have to admit that it is occasionally lonely/boring as well.  It’s not always easy to get out to activities or to travel or whatever.  But at the end of the day, I know that the predictability is exactly what she needs.  So we stick to it and I try to stay in the moment, enjoying what we have now, rather than wishing for the freedom we used to have.  Because when I stay in the moment, what we have now is more amazing than all the travel and activities I can imagine.

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Visas

The Engineer has renewed his contract. This means that we are currently going through the process of renewing visas and are constantly reminded about the process of getting said visas in the first place.  And it’s quite a process. When we first went through it, we were moving and settling and all sorts, and it all felt like a bit too much to write about.  But this time around we’re used to Brunei, we’re used to the bureaucracy, we’ve done it all before, and it doesn’t feel quite so overwhelming.  But it’s an important part of living in Brunei as an expat, so today I thought I would write a little bit about it.

I live in Brunei as a dependent, and The Engineer works for a pretty small company with relatively few expats. Your mileage may vary when it comes to getting a visa sorted.

  1. Dependent pass approved
    This step was fortunately done by The Engineer’s work.  I don’t quite know what they do, but it involved The Engineer writing a letter to sponsor me, and sending off his contract and some other information.  This meant a decent wait (over a month for us) between The Engineer arriving in Brunei and me being allowed to move.  Eventually, they sent me a letter, which meant I could move to step 2.
  2. Single-entry visa
    To move from that letter to an entry visa, I had to visit the High Commission in Singapore.  This was a pain because it meant a longer wait until I got to see The Engineer, but it was kinda cool because I got a company sponsored trip to Singapore. The process at the High Commission was super easy, but I did learn that with all visa type things you should bring exact change.
  3. Health check
    Once I was in the country, one of the first things to do was to get my health check.  This sounds simple, but isn’t so much.  The first time I tried, I couldn’t complete it because they were out of forms.  The second time the forms were in, but a health check still involved: two visits to the first counter, a visit to the payment counter, another visit to the first counter, a blood test, a final visit to the first counter, a drive across town to the x-ray place, a wait at the reception, a change into an x-ray gown, x-ray, waiting for a check of the plates, changing again. With some of those waits being 15-20 minutes, it was a whole morning gone.
    This time around, the health check was a lot easier.  It still involved the same process, but all our waits were a lot shorter.  We wondered if it was because we brought a baby along…
  4. Multiple-entry visa
    Again, this step was completed by The Engineer’s work.  I can’t remember it really, but I think fairly quickly we had a multi-entry visa, so that we could actually leave the country.
  5. Dependent pass and visa
    Once again, we didn’t have to manage this part.  We have visited Immigration a few times for The Engineer’s Baby’s passes, so we’re pretty glad that we avoided this step! On our initial arrival though, this was quite delayed.  Not sure what the hold up was, but I do know that we had about six months before we had our long term passes were completely sorted out.  We’re hoping this time around is a little bit easier!
  6. Identification card
    The last step of the process was getting an Identification card (or IC).  To get this, we had to visit Immigration pretty much as soon as it opened. Even though we thought we were really early, I think we were about 50th in line.  So basically, the process for this was to wait and wait and wait.  In amongst the waiting there was some form filling, some picture taking, and some fingerprint taking.  It wasn’t too painful, but it was long.  Then, one month later, we went to pick up our cards and we were official.

I don’t know how this compares to other countries, nor how the written process appears to an outsider.  But some things to consider are: every piece of paperwork is handwritten, even the receipts, it’s not entirely clear to me that my information is in a computer system at all; a lot of the process is not signposted or laid out, and we frequently had to be helped by friendly locals to know what was going on; the information is often not in English, and at times we were basically clueless.

But, we should also consider that it eventually worked.  We are here, we are together, we are official, and it seems as if the renewal will be a lot more pain free than the initial process!

And if we’re going to get Pollyanna-ish about it, I’m definitely glad that we didn’t have to do that initial process with a newborn baby.  (Seriously, don’t even talk to me about getting immigration passes sorted for The Engineer’s Baby!)

Reunited in Brunei, March 2013.

Reunited in Brunei, March 2013.

Happy Chinese New Year!

From The Engineer’s Family to yours, we wish you a Happy Chinese New Year!
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This is my second Chinese New Year in Brunei (The Engineer’s third), and I am starting to get to know some of the traditions. I even recognise some of the carols songs that play in the stores.  I know that it’s all about red and gold and oranges. I know what some of the foods are, and that they are shared with family and friends at open houses.  I know that children are given red envelopes/ang pao that contain money (The Engineer’s Baby received her first last year, before she was even a baby). I know that it’s a lunar holiday and moves each year. I know that people decorate with lanterns and watch lion dances. I know that there are fire works. Oh boy, there are fire works.

These things may be small, but before I came to Brunei, I knew nothing.  I had a vague idea of the Chinese zodiac (I was born in the year of the Rat).  But I didn’t know much of anything about the celebration.  Small town New Zealand doesn’t have a very large Chinese community, so it doesn’t really make an appearance… And I may be learning slowly, but I’m learning.

This is one of the things I love most about living in Brunei: the chance to learn more about different cultures and the world. Because it’s not only local culture we learn about. I have friends from France, Lithuania, Turkey, Belgium, UK, Netherlands, Canada, Malaysia, and more, and little by little I learn about traditions, food, and culture from all over the world. New Zealand is fairly multi-cultural, so I always felt l was reasonably culturally aware. But being here has made me realise just how wrong I was.

So in this new year, I am pledging to make the most of the opportunity I have here, and to learn as much as I can about the cultures I am exposed to. By the time we ring in the year of the monkey, I hope to know more about not only Chinese New Year, but about all sorts of other traditions from around the world. It’s a goal I’m so excited about. And maybe I’ll even teach some people about New Zealand in the process.

Bring on the year of the Sheep/Goat! Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Growing and changing

EngineersBabyGrows

Every month we take a picture of The Engineer’s Baby with her moose and her sheepskin. And every month I think about how much she has grown and changed.  This month she has:

  • grown 3 cm
  • gained 400 g
  • seriously increased the speed at which she can stand
  • improved her eating in leaps and bounds
  • added lots of new consonants to her babbling
  • “grown up” in that intangible way

This month she has also challenged more than any month previously.  In my last post, I talked about all the things that have been going on since we came home.  The couple of weeks since have added even more to the mess in the form of terrible sleep, a first cold, and a not-so-fun Valentine’s trip away.

But as I look back on the month, I actually look at it as one of my most positive months of parenthood.  Because here’s the thing: it’s through the challenges that you grow and learn.   I’ve had some moments, for sure, but this month I’ve also learned so much about who I am and the parent I want to be.  I’ve thought about my own childhood.  I’ve thought about our relationship.  I’ve written and made lists and read and thought and meditated.  And at the end of that, I feel so much more confident.

I don’t know everything, but I know that rather than teaching her, I want to provide an environment in which she can learn.  I know that I want to meet all of her needs, but that I don’t necessarily want to meet all of her wants.  I know that I want to set a positive example, and be a person she would want to emulate.  I know that she needs challenges and frustration to grow and change, even though it’s not easy for me to watch her struggle.  I know that in allowing and encouraging her big feelings, I am setting good foundations for her.  I know that as the person she trusts the most, I will bear the brunt of most of those big feelings.  And I know that although that is hard (hard hard hard), that is also love.  Love isn’t just the easy, the warm and fuzzy, the adorable.  Love is the struggle, the acceptance, the working through.

I know, of course, that these will be lessons I will learn over and over as a parent.  I know that her big feelings now have NOTHING on the big feelings of a toddler.  I don’t anticipate this making me a perfect parent (or even close).  But for now, these are the lessons I needed to learn, and I like to think they will stand me in good stead for the craziness that is parenting.

Blogger’s block

I seem to have a case of blogger’s block. I have been here so long that it just seems like home. And life at home, especially with a baby, just goes on (fairly repetitively at that). Things happen, but nothing seems interesting enough.

So today I’m putting it out there and asking what people want to know. What do you want to hear more about? What interests you about Brunei? About me? About our life here?

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I can’t guarantee I’ll write about everything, but I’ll do my best.

So you can leave a comment below, join me on Facebook (the link’s on the right), or send me an email, and let me know what you want to read!

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This gorgeous baby and I would really appreciate it!

Hot Mess

Life in our house has been messy lately.  Since we got home from our trip to New Zealand really.

With a newly eating baby, and no cleaner, it has been literally messy.

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But it has also been figuratively messy.  The Engineer’s Baby had jet lag.  Then due to her newfound crawling and standing skills, she got a little separation anxiety.  Then we had a few days where her sleeps meant we missed some of our favourite activities.  She got her immunisations. Aforementioned new skills led to a few bumps and bruises.  Then she got a sunburn.  A mild fever.  A biting habit.  Possibly a new tooth about to emerge.  She hates medicine, and the ensuing screaming is not fun either (though it does seem to help).  Basically, we’ve been struggling to find our rhythm again at home.

I would like to say that I have dealt with it all calmly and gracefully.  But if I said that, it would be a bald faced lie.  There have been tears and tantrums (not just the baby’s).  There have been desperate phone calls to my Mum and The Engineer.  There have been worries and doubts and negative feelings.  It has been hard.

But in amongst the mess, there have been lovely moments.  There have been loooong naps (a revelation in this house).  There have been new clothes, new toys, and new skills.  There have been smiles and giggles.  There has been a whole lot of attention from the public (people here LOVE babies).  There have been relaxing coffee mornings.  There have been swims and walks.

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And these are the things I want to focus on.  I want to focus on her learning to use her teeth, and the fact that she tries everything we offer.  I want to focus on her determination to pull up on anything and everything.  I want to focus on her snuggling in when I carry her in the sling.  I don’t want to ignore the challenges, but I don’t want to let them take over.

It bums me out that at least half my posts are this way – having to try so hard to find and focus on the good.  I really wish I could post more positively about this amazing baby.  I really wish I could talk about how well I roll with the punches.  But it’s more important to me to be honest, and for now this is the reality of my parenting journey.  At times, it’s really fucking hard.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not amazing. It’s both. SO both. And I’m going to embrace that (or at least try to…)