Happy Birthday Little A!

I know I only wrote a blog entry yesterday but Little A is two years old today so I’m writing another one.

In celebration, I gave him Sprite for the first time (he calls it “bubbles”) and watched him run around in circles screaming “Hakuna Matata” for the next two hours. When I poured him a second cup he said “Xiexie Mummy” (Thank you Mummy) and gave me a kiss. It was worth the sugar induced mania just for that.

We had a party last Saturday which was mostly a photo-op so that I could prove that I made him a cake for his second birthday. This will come in handy when he’s scouring our iPhoto accounts for proof that we’re bad parents later in life. I made him a Ladybird Cake - he really likes ladybirds. He also really likes tigers but a ladybird seemed like less work. It was still quite a lot of work.


Parenting comes with a lot of unnecessary stress. I used to be one of those people who would be of the view that a 2 year old will not remember any birthday party you have for him, barely knows what a birthday is (apart from being acutely aware of a connection between birthdays and cake) and doesn’t really like other children anyway. So why bother getting all het up about it? This, I now know, is not the point.

The point is that two years ago, I made a human being. That was pretty cool (well, actually it was very uncomfortable but no one needs to hear about that today). And for the last two years, we’ve watched him progress from a tiny baby (although at 9.9lbs, maybe we should use the term ‘smallish’ rather than ‘tiny’) into an actual person with opinions and emotions and a strong manipulative streak. He’s wild and funny and amazing. I think that deserves cake.

At bedtime, when he goes through his goodnights - Goodnight Mummy, Goodnight Daddy, Goodnight Nana, Goodnight Uncle Pat, Goodnight Postman Pat, Goodnight Mowgli, Goodnight Doggie, Goodnight Ladybird, Goodnight Bill (Clinton)… - I noticed that Goodnight Chocolate Cake has also now made it onto the list. That’s a sign of a birthday well had.


Wuxi Hookers

Let us say that you’re in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China. I know, why would you voluntarily be in Wuxi, right? I think we know how I feel about Wuxi - but just suppose you’re a German engineer and your company has sent you to spend a few long, desolate months in the town Lonely Planet described as a “typical Chinese urban wasteland”. I thought that was quite a polite depiction actually, I would have been less forgiving.

Anyway, you’re depressed (and why wouldn’t you be?). You’re desperate. You’re lonely. Did I mention that you’re a man? You probably also have a substantial pot-belly (if you haven’t already wasted away from abject melancholy). So, one night, you think you’d like a little company. You sit down in front of your computer and you google “Wuxi hookers”. What do you find? Well, you find a few gaudy looking sites promoting the many charms of young, nubile Chinese women in a similar state of desperation (although their desperation is driven by circumstances more fundamentally unpleasant than yours). You open a few and consider their offerings. Unconvinced, you click on the 7th or 8th link in the search results. You find yourself, not on a website selling sex at very reasonable prices but rather surprisingly on the blog of a pregnant Irish woman in Shanghai. You have no idea what happened. She doesn’t appear to be located in the immediate vicinity and she may or may not be an actual hooker. There are no photos by which to assess her suitability. She is likely to be overpriced anyway - European mother type is a very niche market. Either way, there is no contact number so you read a bit and learn all about gestational diabetes, toddler tantrums and the trials of hiring home help in Asia.

This maybe-hooker’s blog makes you think about your own wife and six children back in Gelsenkirchen - oblivious to the depths of your misery and isolation. You suddenly feel shameful and homesick. You abandon the idea of engaging the services of a hooker and decide to watch Despicable Me 2 on HBO instead.

And that, my friends, was my good deed for the year.

It is an alarming reality that if a person searches for ‘wuxi hooker’ on Google they will find my blog. It is alarming both for me and also, presumably, for them. At least it’s not the top result but rather a little way down the second page. This said, at least one person looking for a hooker in Wuxi has instead ended up reading my blog. I have been reliably provided this information by Google Analytics.

Google Analytics, for those of you who aren’t familiar with this most interesting and useful of things, is a free service where Google keeps track of how many people read my blog, where they’re located and how they come across it. In the beginning, almost everyone who read I’m a Grown Up had a direct link from me and at least 90% of these people were my mother. Now, as I write more about random things, the blog is starting to pop up on people’s search results. This means that more and more of the people who read the blog have never met me and have no idea how small my feet really are. People have read my blog in such far flung places as Peru, Iran and Kenya. A special big shout-out to my peeps in Russia’s Sverdlovsk Oblast.

And while the majority of people who stumble across my blog ‘organically’ i.e. via a search engine, have their privacy settings set-up in such a way that I can’t see what it was they were looking for in the first place…a few people (less than 5%) don’t have this feature activated and have given the Google (and me) full-access to the nature of their queries. This is a bit like looking into a stranger’s brain and, sometimes, it’s really quite disturbing.

For example, in the past six months, people searching for the following pieces of information have ended up at my blog:

‘wuxi hookers’
- the reason for this is presumably because I have mentioned both ‘Wuxi’ and ‘hookers’ at some point although, I would like to stress…not at the same time. It is very possible that after this entry, I might be the top result for ‘wuxi hookers’ in the future. Yay. My one piece of advice for people looking for a hooker in Wuxi is not to bother with the internet - just go down to your hotel bar and sit there for five minutes. Much more efficient.

‘can you eat percy pigs when pregnant’ - now while I have discussed both Percy Pigs and pregnancy extensively in my blog, I will admit that I have never directly addressed the question of whether they should be consumed during pregnancy. And for all those hungry ladies out there with a sugar craving I would like to put your minds at ease…of course you can eat Percy Pigs when pregnant. They are, after all, made from fruit juice. At the risk of insulting my readership I would also like to note that this was a pretty stupid question. If you can’t decide yourself whether or not it’s safe to eat Percy Pigs when pregnant, are you sure you’re ready to have a child?

(In a similar vein)
‘I am in my 33 weeks of pregnancy is custard and cake healthy for me’ - eh, no. Custard and cake is not suddenly healthy just because you’re pregnant although it’s unlikely to put your unborn child at risk unless, perhaps, you have gestational diabetes like me. Again, are you sure you’re ready (mentally equipped) to have a child? Are you the same person who was asking about Percy Pigs the previous week?

‘beak ka av neck sneer’ - I have no idea what this means but can only assume that it is Klingon which, bizarrely, does go some way to explaining why it might lead to my blog.

‘can you rub cod liver oil on your face’ - this is a perfectly valid question and I’m going to say that it’s a matter of personal preference although my own personal preference would be that I don’t smell of cod liver throughout the day.

‘flies and cool rooms’ - this is no doubt related to the post I once wrote on why flies circle in the middle of rooms. I’m afraid some things are just destined to be mysteries.

‘i am a 26 year old woman and for the past three days i have been extremely tired, fatigued and crave soft serve ice cream’ - this is like the story of my life, except for the 26 part.

‘how to let my inner child shoot herself’ - oh dear.

Based on the analytics provided by Google, I’m not exactly overwhelmed by the calibre of person reading my blog. Present company excluded. I love you all. xxx

Collective Malaise

We’re a crock. Last week - between me, Little A and Mr Oh - we saw six separate doctors. Seven if you count my chiropractor. Jury’s still out on that one although her card says she’s a “Dr.”, it’s possible she just has a PhD in pre-Byzantine literature.

One of my previous bosses used the title “Dr.” on a regular basis and not-infrequently, when people asked me the subject area of his PhD thesis, I had to squirmingly inform them that his PhD was, in fact, honorary. This was usually followed by stunned silence as the outrageousness of the situation clanged loudly around the room. As for people with actual PhDs, I think it’s become uncool to put “Dr.” on your business cards, email signature etc. It might imply that you’re showing off. Why the hell not, I say? If I had the attention span to research and write more than 500 words on an obscure, niche (and let’s face it…frequently boring) topic, I’d have “PhD” tattooed on my knuckles. I would sign my text messages “Dr B” and I would give my mother a handful of business cards to pass to loose acquaintances she bumped into at the local supermarket (my mother tends to baulk at such boastful behavior but perhaps she would be less reticent if my academic achievements were more impressive).

I have to take a break from this ramble to note that I am sitting in a coffee shop (while Little A screams in a nearby kindergarten) and the man beside me has just stood up and departed from his companions with the farewell greeting “Namaste”. I think it’s time to change neighborhoods - clearly, once again, I am not alternative enough to live here.

Anyway, back to the plague. So about a week and a half ago, I watched in horror as a dark red rash of spots and blisters began to spread across the beautiful skin of my precious toddler. Mr Oh thought he looked a lot like Viktor Yushchenko. I am deeply ashamed to admit that my first thought was not, “Is he in danger or pain!?” but rather “Can he still go to kindergarten?!”. I love Little A very much but I’m 8 months pregnant and he’s a 16kg human tornado of destruction and mayhem. My two great fears were that he had either Chicken Pox or the dreaded Hand, Foot and Mouth. Incidentally, Hand, Foot and Mouth has nothing to do with the Foot and Mouth disease that commonly affects cattle…and not just because cows don’t have hands…apparently it’s totally different. Anyway, Hand Foot and Mouth (HFM) is an incredibly mild illness but incredibly contagious and is infectious for about ten days which would mean….that’s right…ten days at home with the toddler equivalent of WWF Summer Slam.

The first pediatrician we saw decided that it ‘probably’ wasn’t chicken pox and it ‘probably’ wasn’t HFM. I was like “Probably doesn’t cut it for me, lady, I need to send this child to school”. She held firm though and her final verdict was that she didn’t have the first clue what was wrong with Little A. After the first 72 hours at home with Little A, I took a taxi across the Huang Pu River (something I try to avoid doing whenever possible) to get a second opinion. Doctor #2 told me that it definitely wasn’t chicken pox (encouraging) and that it was probably a non-contagious auto-immune disease with a long and frightening sounding name. For the first time during this whole affair, I was confronted with the possibility that Little A’s condition was a threat to something other than my mental health. I found, for the first time, wishing that it was HFM and silently promised to keep him home with me forever and ever. One blood test and one urine test later (do you know how hard it is to collect urine from an almost 2 year old?) the doctor said he had no conclusive evidence that it either was or was not above mentioned freaky disease but said that he could not rule out the possibility that it was contagious so I should keep Little A away from all children for a further week, after which point, he cheerfully told me, everything would be fine even though he didn’t have a notion what was wrong with Little A. He charged me €300 for his lack of information and sent us back into quarantine with a friendly wave.

Last week was also the week that Mr Oh partially and inexplicably lost the hearing in his right ear (falling asleep in front of a fan didn't help). In his case, it took three doctors and substantially more money before the "yes, you appear to have partially lost hearing in your right ear and we have no idea what's wrong with you" verdict was delivered. Although one of his doctors did note that foreigners in Shanghai lose part of their hearing quite commonly (?!).

As for my contribution to the general familial medical collapse, I pulled a muscle in my bump which means that I could not lift, control or play with Little A during our ten day confinement. The only one bucking the trend was the Unbornicle who had happily swung round into an upside-down position in preparation for The Long March. It was refreshing not to hear the Chinese ultrasound doctor alarmingly shout “BREEEEECH” during my bi-monthly scan. She looked a bit downcast that she couldn’t find anything wrong. I think I saw the Unbornicle making a rude gesture at her.

So, it was a week best forgotten, but at least Mr Oh couldn't hear me very well when he arrived home each evening to my weeping and wailing. His temporary hearing loss may have saved his own mental health and happily a dose of "suck 'em, and see" steroids opened his auditory faculties to the domestic racket again.

Thankfully, it’s now Monday again and Little A is back in his new kindergarten although his week at home with me has totally undone all the good we did settling him into school and there were many, many tears and much leg-clinging when I dropped him off this morning. I can still hear his plaintiff screams of “Mommy…please….” reverberating round my head as I sit here in this café waiting to pick him up again. It’s now time to go. Cheerio!



I’m back. I’m sorry. Turns out that pregnancy is exhausting. Chinese is exhausting. Toddlers are exhausting. When given the choice between sleep and writing…I chose sleep. Ok, sometimes I chose watching Borgen. After two seasons of Borgen, my Danish vocabulary now includes the words for ‘thank you’, ‘sorry’ and ‘Prime Minister’. I have a long way to go before I’m conversant but the Danes seem to have lovely English so I might just learn the word for ‘bacon’ and leave it at that. I don’t actually know very many Danes and I’ve never been to Denmark so I’m thinking I should probably stick to the Chinese considering the fact that a) the Chinese do not have lovely English and b) I live in China. This may necessitate replacing my new hobby of watching engrossing Danish political dramas with something more conducive to Chinese language learning. Watching Chinese tv perhaps? I could get into a Ming dynasty Chinese soap opera? Or a talent show looking for the voice of Chinese folk singing? They appear to be my only two options.

So, update on life. I am now 33 weeks pregnant and I finished my exams last week. It all got a bit uncomfortable towards the end. Not even stealing the better chairs from neighboring classrooms could make sitting through a 4 hour lecture on Chinese grammar bearable when one’s inner child (actual inner child) is kicking one’s bladder. It also became increasingly difficult to navigate the squat toilets when one’s legs were not capable of lifting both one’s self and one’s inner child back up from the squatting position. A few times I had to hang onto the wall for support and, if we’re honest, the last thing one wants to do in a Chinese university toilet is touch the wall.

The excellent news is that I passed all my exams with flying colours. It’s all a bit suspicious though. I managed to get 95% in my oral exam despite not actually being capable of speaking on my randomly chosen topic (‘the benefits and disadvantages of the internet’) for more than one out of the five allocated minutes. I think, given the Chinese approach to pregnancy, I got 90% just for turning up at the exam in such a clearly advanced state of pro-creation and an extra 5% for saying “Ni hao”.

Whether I deserved it or not, it’s now over and I am positively rolling in free time and unallocated minutes. The only problem is that I’m now almost entirely devoid of energy, mobility and comfort. Also I installed this game on my iPhone called Two Dots. Don’t do it. I haven’t been this addicted to a game since the Angry Birds Christmas Special. I need someone to delete it from my phone and then change my App Store password before I can re-install it (“Mr Oh, this is a hint”).

In other news, as well as an incredibly successful Chinese scholar, online gaming addict and immobile penguin…I am also now a diabetic. It is a well known medical fact (statistically proven) that every time I go for a pre-natal check-up without Mr Oh, they find something wrong. So when I rang him from the hospital telling him that I’d failed my glucose test for gestational diabetes, he actually thought I was just playing a nasty trick on him designed to elicit maximum guilt and sympathy. Even I would not sink that low - well, I would but on this occasion there was no need as I actually did have diabetes and, as my doctor put it, ‘not even the borderline kind’. I failed spectacularly. My body apparently has just given up processing sugar. It now courses wildly through my bloodstream straight into the arteries of my unborn child.

Thankfully, gestational diabetes is both temporary and not really that bad. I have to test my blood sugar levels four times a day and eating has become a complex game of beating the numbers but at least I don’t have to take insulin. I’ve discovered multiple ways to cheat diabetes. For example, I can eat dessert if I slip it into a meal laden with protein and fat e.g. avocado, ice-cream, Babybel. Yum. Spoon of nutella, spoon of cashew butter. Yum-yum. When I finish with the diabetes, I may have coronary heart disease.

Essentially, I’m living off guacamole, natural yoghurt and cheese. There are worse ways to pass a few months. My inability to eat anything other than dairy products and chickpeas has led to a complete cessation of weight-gain. The baby is gaining weight which is good but I’m not which means that the part of my body that will remain part of my body after the baby has exited my body is getting lighter. I was concerned initially that I should surely be gaining some weight in pregnancy but my doctor tactfully reassured me that I put on more than enough weight in the first two trimesters to sustain a litter of baby elephants through the final few months.

So, there you have it. Life update complete. Also I shaved Little A’s head when Mr Oh was having a lie-in one morning. He now looks like a mini Navy Seal. It suits his commando personality. Nice haircuts are for toddlers who don’t pretend to parachute jump off the highest piece of furniture they can find on every given occasion. Nice haircuts are for toddlers who don’t smear mushy be-honied Weetabix on their heads as a primitive signal to their mother that they have finished eating. Nice haircuts are for toddlers who will sit in a chair long enough for their entire head to be evenly cut by a man wielding scissors - toddlers who don’t throw a tantrum halfway through the process and emerge with an asymetrical mop reminiscent of 1980s underground pop culture. Nice haircuts are not for Little A.