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Friday, April 29, 2011

The impact of travel on personal life

Travel impacts life in a thousand ways. It's hard to quantify the full impact to one's personal life. Suffice it to say, life does not progress. Every evening away in another country means one less night to do important things like:

Bills, filing and updating receipts in ledger - one comes home to an ominous pile of mail.

Van still needs oil change.

Car still needs repairs.

Computer broke right before I left, it sits waiting for me to make a decision on what new model to buy.

Kitchen floor sits, with the same dirty spots as when I left, not having had time to clean it.

Dining table has the same Mickey Mouse Clubhouse stickers, waiting for some Goo Gone or other cleaner.

Empty glass baby jars and spice jars sit where I left them, needing to be boiled to have labels removed.

Kids room sits with the same sheets on the beds, needing to be changed.

Parents room sits with the same sheets, needing to be changed.

Laundry baskets sit with the exact same laundry in them as when I left.

Recycling sits in the pantry, waiting to be taken to it's special drop off.

Outgrown kids clothes need to be put away meaning a reorganization of closet to fit everything.

Sam has suddenly learned to crawl and will be on the floor frequently meaning the following changes must be made ASAP!!!
  • Carpet to be steam cleaned
  • Toys divided between kids and assigned in separate toy boxes
  • Tile floors moped and cleaned - ur more regularly
  • Tiny toys taken away so Sam does not choke on them
It's exhausting coming home!!! On top of all that I got a cold and jet lag has been especially tiring this time.

And by the time one full week rolls around, there is a mountain of laundry and today is the day the washer stops working - right in the middle of wash cycle :(

Sam 9 months old, totally cooler than a Royal Wedding


18.75" long

Favorite Foods: just about anything we put in front of him! He prefers the ultra silky smooth gerber foods over mom's homemade connoctions. He will eat smashed up banana and today we introduced peach yogurt. Ymmmmm.

Favorite Activity: ramming the dogs water bowl over and over with his walker.

Favorite Saying: Bah Bah Bah Bah

Naughty behavior: pulling sisters hair, pulling cats tail

Friday, April 22, 2011

Already missing Asia? I must be completly bonkers!!

I've opened work email to find tons of meeting requests. Meetings to talk and talk and talk about product development. It's exhausting. When I'm in Asia, I'm working directly with the pattern makers, pointing out improvements, teaching, sharing ideas for plush toy pattern improvements. In the states, I'm back to creating elaborate art boards to demonstrate the corrections - and meetings to discuss the state of sample development.

I like being involved in the actual process. For all my complaining and grumbling about the long drives into China/Vietnam, the lack of air conditioning in the factories I'd still rather be there doing the actual work then sitting in a pristine office and sending it all through email.

Ah well, can't have everything perfect.

What does Stress accommplish? Or plans for that matter??

After 24 hours of traveling I was quite intense about getting to my hotel room and sleeping as long as possible. I emerged from the plane at 10:15 in Dallas, TX and immediately marched to the train, aiming for Terminal C which I remembered being home to the Hyatt.

Somewhere along the way, while finally chatting with husband without worrying about the enormous cost or dealing with used up phone cards, I noticed Terminal D had the Hyatt. Must have gotten confused. Jumped off and ran in all the way calculating in my head how much time I had left to sleep before 8:30am flight. Got to the ticket counter and they said, you're at the wrong Hyatt, go downstairs and we'll send a bus.

I waited 20 minutes, getting more and more agitated as time crept past 11pm. How could there be TWO Hyatt's at one airport?

I finally land in my room at 11:30pm, order soup, pump, quickly email out some files I had done on the plane and drop into bed. Sleep solid for what seems an entire night but was only 1.5 hours. Back to sleep to wake every hour. After 4 hours it became clear my body had received sufficient sleep. So here I sit, wondering why I bothered to get all stressed and counting the hours remaining, wondering how I'd get through my day on 5 hours of sleep.

So in summary, don't worry, life has a way of doing it's own thing without your permission.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

You will not defeat me Vietnam Airport!!!

On my first trip here, I was astounded by the fierceness of Vietnam ticket counter ladies. They made me check a bag that was a common carry on even though I was getting into Hong Kong at 11pm at night and had roughly 6 hours to sleep before catching a morning flight. All because it was 12 kilos.

I got smart, learned the max carry on weight was 10 kilo's and packed my entire trip around this one airport.

It's common knowledge that one purse (personal item) and one carry on is permitted.

Look at this sleek yellow hard shell carry on, with bulging purse on top. Granted it's a very big purse, the biggest I could find but it IS a purse.

Today I managed to get through the ticket line with no questions asked. With great glee I proceeded to waltz through customs when suddenly I was stopped by a group of vultures - "this way madam, we need to weigh your bag".


But I'm OKAY, I followed the rules, 10 kilos for carry on.

Ah, but the rule changed, it's now 7 kilos TOTAL for personal and carry on!


Stay calm and negotiate.

Please madam, I've flown here 4 times and the rule has always been 10 kilos, please let me go. I have to fly all the way back to the US and Vietnam airlines LOST MY BAG on the last flight. I cannot risk checking it in again! I've planned so carefully for this trip, you cannot defeat me now!

Well I said something like that.

She looks at me with big eyes and I solemnly promise to never over pack again. I see her crack, she's going to let me go. Reluctantly she tells me to wear the purse on my arm so it "Looks like a purse" and not luggage. Yes Yes I will!

Off I go, to sit in a little internet cafe and eat fruit before the flight.

How I'll ever get luggage down to 7 kilo's is a mystery. I did watch many travelers go through with bags the size of mine but the trick seems to be one bag, anything else is slung onto the body with casual care. In fact, the hippi next to me has a backpack, a carry on and another small bag! What???

Must learn to walk into customs with large crowd so I can hide!

Duly noted Vietnam Airport!

On the plus side, Vietnam security does not make me remove shoes, take off my sweater, take my laptop out of purse or remove 3 ounce liquid bottles. That's nice!

Day 2 in Vietnam

It's grueling - because it's hot! No aircon (air conditioner). They keep telling me to go work in the other room on the other side of the factory that has aircon, I will not. I want to work with my R&D team, in their working conditions so I understand them better when I come back to the US.

BUT - I will NOT come back for the entire summer. Sorry. I will pray for you all, every day. I promise.

On a separate issue, I'm on a mission to get soap installed in the bathroom. I see my complaining and picture taking of last trip did wonders. The bathroom sink, mirror and tray for holding cosmetics and such has been updated. Wonderful! Now let's add a soap dispenser and I'll come back more often.

That last line was not a threat. You love me, I'm sure you do.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 1 in Vietnam

Today went progressively better than yesterday. I know what it is, I hate to be alone on a trip. It's true! I get cranky and upset on the weekends when I'm alone too long and fantasize about sudden illnesses that might result in immediate departure.

I woke at 6am, snoozed for 30 minutes, then decided I might as well get started with the day. If I really try hard I could be waiting for my ride on time at 9am, which is exactly what I did.

Breakfast was non-eventful and boring. Why didn't I buy more Starbucks banana bread when I had the chance? There were no decent pastries in the breakfast bar.

Spent the morning lecturing everyone in sight on the need to improve everywhere. Tried really hard to tone it down when two girls looked at me with big doe eyes and I swear they were looking teary eyed. I'm not a mean person - REALLY! I just want to get samples at a reasonable time, not one week before the ship date, in wrong condition while being told I must push for final approval.

Had lunch with the dynamic duo who run our facilities. Afterwards, they dropped me off at the hotel for an hour to pump. But I only need 15 minutes I said. We'll be back in an hour, they said. Well okay, I guess I could get a super strong latte in the restaurant afterwards. Which will be delivered without sugar in sight and I'll wait another 5 minutes while that's located along with investigation on the potential of dessert to which I'll finally be told cannot do because kitchen is closed. It's really my own fault, I'm sure I confused everyone by walking in mid-day and demanding things out of the norm.

So we finished our day in the sample room. I made sure to find all sorts of things wrong with every toy in sight, because that's what I do. Then at dinner they told me to be more critical and that I'd gotten soft in my old age and they expected more of me. A challenge! Sounds like fun!!

Finally back in the hotel room, I have no phone service so can't call husband. He has no computer to SKYPE back. So in the absence of any form of communication I think I'll just go to bed. Well it IS 11:26pm.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Coming to Vietnam

This is typically the hardest part of my trip. Coming to a developing country has it's challenges, first being a lack of ability to move independently.

In Hong Kong, I can catch a taxi, train or bus to and from the airport - or limo if my boss were so inclined :)

In Vietnam I must wait in a dusty airport for a driver who speaks no English to show up and find me in a crowd. Today he was 30 minutes late. It's a Sunday and the factory staff I plan to work with in the next few days appears to be too busy to answer the phone and answer where the driver might be. I assume they are playing soccer or golf - it's a Sunday. Why bother being professional and calling to make sure I've arrived safely.

So I call my boss, who's traveling in Shanghai and phones me back just as driver shows up. Nice to know I can count on someone over here!

We take off on a 2.5 hour road trip to the hotel where I'll be dining alone tonight. Apparently factory staff are too busy with personal plans to meet me tonight. I'm starting to wonder why I even bother making the trip out here again. See this happened before when they were stationed in Korea. Being that it was a 1.5 hour drive, they would ask me to get the bus into the hotel and the more often I came, the more often they'd ask me to dine alone. This is now a clear sign that I've come once too many times this year. Duly noted.

To add further aggravation, my right breast has gotten swollen and lumpy. Maybe it's a stuck duct? I don't know, after massaging it upon arrival to hotel room and pumping it seems to have deflated. Slightly freaking out that I might get mastitis again and not have any antibiotics but now that I've finished dinner it's feeling better.

Apologies for the lack of cheer, it's just that there are so many places I'd rather be than one that isn't offering much welcome. Here till Thursday morning. Just 3 full working days left. Then there is no chance in hell I'm coming back until mid-September at best.

PS. unloaded bag to find shampoo has exploded over the back end. Glad I'm relegated to 3 ounces for carry on. Electronic keys may be the only casualty because I stupidly held them under water - briefly. Maybe they will be okay.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Last Saturday in Hong Kong

Desperate to get out of spending the day with boss and our Hong Kong general manager because they had plans for Dim Sum lunch and all day shopping trip - in part because I loathe carrying breast pump equipment for hours, I hate shopping crowds and I don't care for Dim Sum. So I politely declined, stayed in hotel room for a while longer and worked on quotes for next week's time in Vietnam.

Around 2:30, I finally ventured out with a mission for 3 things:
1. People Magazine at Star Harbor - there's a guy who's been selling it for years, it's the only US magazine I can get over here and it makes me feel a little closer to home.

2. British Afternoon Tea - there's just something magical about the picture with all the little pastries and sandwiches while reading "Unbroken", by Laura Hillenbrand.

3. A bar of soap at Aveda to replace the one left at last hotel I hurriedly checked out of. Hate hotel soap.

It's nice to have some alone time in a trip that's been full of work activities!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Flying with kids under 3 - part 1

I wasn't going to write about my last plane trip with the kids because - it was rotten! But then I realized blogging is not just for the good times, a fellow blogger, Unpolished Parenting reminded me of that. Sometimes this is the best way to learn no one is perfect in the world of parenting.

As many of you already know, I'm a meticulous planner. Bags will be laid out a week before the trip, Excel spreadsheets will list out all items required so as to minimize packing to one carry-on and one purse for an entire Asia trip. Add to that packing for two small children under 3 along with entertainment and plan for transporting both throughout airports and one must have a very clear plan in place.

Except that things can still go very wrong.

I went to bed later than desired because the kids could not seem to get to sleep, they see packed bags and know a trip is coming the next morning. Once they go down I buzz around charging electronics and going through my checklist.

I can't sleep, every snore from husband jolts me further from sleep so I kick him out of the bedroom - that's right! Sorry dear, I only had 4 hours left.

4:30am I wake to a serenely quiet house and get myself completely ready before waking husband and kids at 5:30. One hour seemed sufficient to get everyone out the door but it took more like an hour and 15 minutes, plus running back inside to clean up a doggie accident.

We were a tiny bit late for the airport, down to precisely one hour before flight departure. I can handle this.

We pull into airport parking lot, Charlotte ask for water in a pitiful voice. No water to be found. Airport rules are so complicated, they will test your water but it adds 5 minutes so we always buy it in the airport after security. After minutes of frantically looking for water, she throws up - EVERYWHERE!

5-10 minutes are spent digging out new clothes, stripping her, redressing her, assessing the situation - is she really sick, just nervous, can she fly?, then running for the flight. Now down to 45 minutes before flight departure.

Husband had been requested to get security pass so he can help us get through security (ie. carry stuff) but he's so distracted with kids that he forgets to offer identity to get the pass.

Walking to security I PANIC. I CAN'T DO THIS. Down to 30 minutes before flight boarding and I'm facing a line in security with a stroller, 20lb baby in front pack, backpack, laptop bag and sick two year old. Husband looks me in the eye and says, you CAN do this. Go.

I immediately look for the shortest line and follow a wheelchair couple, only it's confusing because they don't end up at their own special line and they are taking scads of time to work into a longer line. I stand there, right in the middle of a long line of which I'm not officially part of until a kind gentleman says hey get in front of me, and even helps get all my stuff on the conveyor belt! In all this, Charlotte has not once run off, she STAYS in the stroller!

We get through security without problems, repack, stop at bathroom for self and convince Charlotte to get out of stroller so I can put Sam down to use toilet. Stop at store for water and we are the last to board the plane with bags attached to my body in strange angles. The first class flight attendant tells me to fix my bags so they don't hit people in the face. Um really? How about helping me to my seat lady? I still have a 20lb baby attached to my front, backpack and laptop bag + 2 year old walking quietly in front of me. Duly noted American Airlines.

We get to our seats and a friendly well dressed business women smiles and says, I've been waiting for you to arrive. What? No matter, we pile in and she coos over how cute the kids are. Well that's a welcome sight. I always dread my seatmate will be a child hater but this lovely lady proceeds to offer any help needed throughout the entire flight. I think she's an angel!

To be continued.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lamma Island

Well my one Hong Kong friend has moved back to England for the summer but I managed to see her the day before departure. It involved leaving work "on time" and waltzing out of the office away from CEO and HK GM announcing I'm off to see my hippie friends. byeeeee.

Two ferry's later and I'm surrounded by Grit and family along with their new friend, a single mother archaeologist who is joined by her 11 year old daughter.

Such an interesting night, I can't remember much of what was discussed, still tired from jet lag in the evenings but it was a lovely night.

Now I just need to convince my boss that I DO need to visit our client in England so I can also visit Grit and family in the summer. :)

Snails in Texas Flowerbed, or as Charlotte says "cute snails"

Monday, April 11, 2011

A post where I get very self-centered and grumpy

A day in the factory is like purgatory, there is absolutely no way to know when one will be freed. One might as well resign themselves to eating dinner after 9pm, going to bed after 11pm and rushing back to the same hot sweaty office the following day in China after ironing one’s outfit to look semi-presentable.

Then one must expect another day of sitting in hot sweaty office waiting for people to give quotes, and those quotes will be unreasonable. Next there will be the obligatory KFC lunch which resembles nothing seen in the US – it’s confusing. Eat rapidly with attention focused elsewhere and dream of fresh veggies and fruit.

Onto the next factory in which they made all the samples wrong from misinformation and found all the colors are off so can’t figure out how they got approved. Travel partner promised a one hour stop but she’s addicted to her new Mac and spent an extra half hour reading/answering emails.

Packed up and stood behind her to indicate time to go! Went to bathroom and forgot tissue pack, fortunately had a random few in purse (factory bathrooms lack toilet tissue)

Finally leave factory at 5pm.

Get back to hotel at 8pm.

Too late to have dinner with friends having blast at night market with Indian food. Boooooo.

Um, otherwise everything’s going fine.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

To pump or not to pump, that is the question

I'll be the first to raise my hand and say breast pumping on a two week trip to Asia is HARD! I got through the first trip in Feb/March and returned to a happy baby still willing to breast feed but as he reached 8mo old he got more and more distracted to where it only really worked in the mornings and evenings.

So why do I keep doing it?

I've noticed my supply go down, the evening after the flight was 2 ounces, last night the same after dinner, then this morning after a responsible dinner of salad, fruit and sleep I'm back up to 7 ounces! Shame to throw it away but I'm in China and no way to really store it properly and get it back to the US safely.

Pumping has the benefit of continuing to knock away at my waist line without any exercise, combined with climbing factory stairs I tend to lose 3-5lbs per 2 week trip! That's also due to my ban on meat while here because I can never be sure on what I'm being served.

Pumping also gives me the excuse to leave long office situations for a 15-20 minute break to just be alone with my breast pump and iPhone to play games. Some people take a smoke break, I take a breast pump break.

This morning I was a bit worried that my Lansinoh pump had run out of battery juice & I had none in the luggage but fortunately the hotel had an adapter and I was able to use full power.

So while it may seem like a hassle at times and baby only wants to feed morning and evening, it is still a money saver and just as importantly gives me a great excuse to take a well deserved break. How else am I going to win every level of Angry Birds on my iPhone???

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Back in Hong Kong for the week, survived another flight with 2 kids and laptop died

In Hong Kong this week and then it's on to Vietnam next week from Sunday - Thursday. I made it a requirement to get back in time for Easter so hopefully all planes and automobiles will cooperate.

Apologies for the lack of status updates. Last weekend I finished my taxes and cheered as refund turned out triple what I thought it would be. Then my computer died almost immediately after hitting send for the refund. Sooooo, I guess this means a new computer when refund arrives??

The dead laptop has been complaining of aches and pains for quite some time. It seems every year it dies of some issue and we have to take it to the computer tech. This time it seems as if the battery is dead, I've ordered a replacement and it's coming through the slow US postal service. Meanwhile I'm in Hong Kong and can't SKYPE with husband. Booooooo.

Just prior to coming to Hong Kong I dropped the kids off in Texas with their grandmother (Mema). The trip with both kids is getting better on some fronts but more stressful on others.

  • Charlotte immediately buckled her own seat belt on both flights! Win!!
  • I can't seem to keep her occupied for the entire 3 hour flight and the flight attendants get nervous when you let them in the hallway even if it's just to wait in line for the bathroom which took an entire 25 minutes! But people helped, the flight attendant sat and chatted with Charlotte while I changed Sam's diaper and then some random stranger mom volunteered to hold Sam while I took care of Charlotte. During which she continued to try and press the flight attendant "help I've fallen" button. Sigh!
  • Sam is getting to active to hold for an entire flight. He jumps and jumps and flips around in all these crazy positions to show he's not pleased with sitting still. 3 hours of that minus a tiny 1/2 hour nap - exhausting!
  • We had 55 minutes to reach our connection in Dallas, on the plane the gate was announced so we went promptly there with a tiny stop at Starbucks. It took all of 45 minutes to walk there! Only to be told the gate had been moved to 17 stops back!!! I almost cried but fortunately there was an airport guy right next to me and he called a cart to drive us to the gate. Charlotte had fallen asleep in the stroller, the guy unbuckled her, placed her started self next to me and packed our remaining stuff on the cart. What a sight!
  • I took Cat's advice and put all the kids stuff in a backpack, had Sam in Bjorn front pack and was quite balanced even through I had 20lbs in the front and maybe 10+ in the back.
  • Husband had bought a $1.00 SpongeBob dry erase board that fit into the backpack and that turned into a lifesaver when SB episodes on the iPhone got boring.
We had one day together in Texas. Charlotte discovered snails and bugs in Mema's flower bed and called them all "cute". The below is a dead "cute bug".

We got a pedicure together (her first), it was totally a whim, we asked the lady if she would also paint Charlotte's nails and surprisingly she sat still till it dried.

Sam was dressed in a really cool orange and white outfit so I edited him to look like Nemo while everyone took a nap. The outtakes are actually funnier than the above because he got really mad that I wouldn't let him mess with the computer while I took his photo through a computer program.

When I tried to use my phone to take his picture he kept turning to smile at the camera. Such a ham!

It was a really nice day with family, hate to leave for another 2 weeks!!!

After all this travel I need a vacation! The first quarter of this crazy year has been two trips to Hong Kong, two trips to Texas, one to California - I think a long break is required!!!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

I can tell from my stats you want me to write more

So here's the latest in reverse:

4:45pm - 8mo has not napped ALL DAY! The entire house is dark, fish tank is off, only the light of my work laptop glows to light up my face - yet baby boy sits in his bouncer smiling up at me saying "ya ya ya, ba ga ga ga". Big sister still sleeping.

4:40pm - I typed the following into twitter "scrolling through twitter feed, hoping he will sleep already ". Surprisingly, no one has put this tag into a tweet - like ever! I am positive there are people out there ignoring their babies in hopes they will sleep.

4:15pm - fed baby boy 8oz bottle, assuming I'm not making enough milk to fill him up. Still didn't go to sleep after another 15 minutes in dark bathroom.

3:35pm - breast fed baby boy, then bounced him in pitch black bathroom for over 30 minutes trying to rock him to sleep and he's not buying it! "Ra ra ra, goo goo, ga ga", he says.

3:30pm - tied our adorable and extremely annoying Cavalier King Charles dog to the porch. Hoping someone WILL take him. Contemplating putting a sign around his neck that reads "FREE". Neighbor dogs are in heat, apparently it's driving him a bit crazy and me as a result.

3:25 - put big sister to bed

3:25 - finally home from Costco